Game of Thrones’s Emilia Clarke tells her journey with brain injury. It will break your heart.

Emilia Clarke Charity

If you feel you need yet another reason to admire actress Emilia Clarke, here it is. In this very person essay that runs in The New Yorker, she recounts her near-death experiences with two aneurysms—all while filming Game of Thrones.

Her candor is refreshing. Her response to her injuries—the creation of Same You, a foundation that raises money for treatment of others who are recovering from brain injuries and stroke—is nothing less than you'd expect from a woman who is the queen of so many hearts.

—Josie

BLAH! It’s raining. So here are five things you could be doing until it clears up.

It's been a non-stop rain deluge here and, frankly, it's depressing.

Worse yet, it makes me lazy.

I chide myself to get out of my doldrums and do something—anything—that will make me feel better. Here are five things I've come up with:

Clean A Closet1: Clean out a closet.
You no longer have an excuse. You can't use the fact that you'll get more exercise by walking, so dig in.

(By the way, this is not my closet…but it could be.

Ergo, those are not my legs…but they could be—if I took longer walks.)

Pie2: Bake a pie.
After your closet work out, you deserve some reward, am I right?

Pie fits the bill perfectly.
You may not have the right ingredients for your favorite.
That's okay. You're creative, so improvise! The smell wafting through your home will be great!

(By the way: this is not my pie.
But it could be…if my oven had more than one setting: burned.)

Call a Pal3: Call an old friend.
You've had every excuse to put this off. Well, now's the time. You'll feel good about it and so will the person at the other end of the line.

(By the way, this is not me. And not because I don't own a cell phone or because my hair doesn't coil lushly past my shoulders. I just don't have a window seat. However, if I had, I'd perch on it pertly, too!)

Read a Book

4: Read a book.
Admit it: this is what you really want to be doing anyway. With a cup of something hot beside you. Oh, and maybe a nice, warm piece of that pie you've just baked.

5: Cuddle.
Because you don't really want to get out of bed. Heck, it's too cold!
Time to warm things up before you can turn on that oven and make that pie (yeah, right, sure…)

Cuddle In Bed

By the way, this is not me—but it should be.

Whattya think, did I put this in the right order?

Is there something you'd like to add to this list? Hey, I'm all ears. All I'm doing is listening to the rain.

—Josie

Martin and I found this antique musical Santa snow globe at an old curiosity shoppe.

Christmas Snow Globe 2015

At the time it was a splurge for us—thirty dollars—but how could we resist? Turns out the shop owner had just polished its brass base that very morning before putting it in the shop window. "I knew it would go quickly," he said, chuckling. The shop is gone now. Still, I'm sure he'd be happy to know it's given us many years of joy. Every time I hear its version of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," I have to smile.

—Josie

My five New Year’s resolutions…

Butternut-squash

Resolution #1:
Stay healthy.
(Note to Self: eat more root vegetables, and less sugar!)

HappyEggs

Resolution #2:
Stay happy.
(Note to Self: much more sex, much less [caloric] sugar!)

I2i_holagraphic

Resolution #3:
Acquire a new language.
(Pig Latin does NOT count.)

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Resolution #4:
Experience new things, with total abandon!
(Unless they include black-outs, tattoos, or joining a cult.)

 

 0703_writing_cog

Resolution #5: 
Two thousand words a day! 
(More writing. Note to Self: skipping martini may do the trick…)

10 Things You Should Never Say to a Novelist

ApiringWriters_LoRez_colour

(c) 2005 Alex Steuart Williams  (FLIP) and Erica Rothschild

 

I'm being serious.

Okay, here goes:


1. "I'd write, too, but I can't stand the thought of all the trees I'd be killing." 

Yes, I've heard this one. My response back then was, "Don't worry. You won't sell enough books to raze a sapling, because your pub house won't push you that hard to begin with."

Today, I'd add, "And besides, most books are digital, so you can't use the tree-killer bullshit as an excuse not to write anymore."

 

2. "I'd write, too, but I just can't make the time."

Good. Stay busy. The world doesn't need anothor author. Here's a hint: It's not a hobby. It's a profession.

3. "Why don't you kill off your series' villian?" Because then I wouldn't have a series. And if I don't have a series, I don't have the rent money. I'll make you a promise: when and if he quits paying the rent, I'll quit writing about him.

 

4. "Honestly, what do you really do to pay the bills?"

 
I write novels and I'm proof that not all writers live a life of poverty.

Then again, I'm not JK Rowling, either.

If a writer is persistent and lucky, he or she will find that their income is somewhere in between minimum wage and unimagined wealth.

I'm not saying it's an easy way to make a living. It took years to crawl my way up beyond the government set poverty line. To make the rent, I wrote other things: game questions, greeting cards. magazine articles, even horoscopes. (No, I was not a licensed astrologist, just a mom with two growing kids who could go through money like the Pentagon).
 

 5. "The best authors–like JD Salinger, or, say Margaret Mitchell– only wrote one, or maybe a just few, books in their lifetime."

Oh, really? I guess that leaves out Dickens, Twain, Wharton, LeCarre, Dreisher, Trollope, James, Chandler, Christie, and Doyle, to name a few–all of whom are on my favorite authors list–along wtih Salinger and Mitchell.  

And by the way, some of the worst writers only wrote one book as well.

I'd say the odds are with those who get the most chances at the plate. Don't forget, Babe Ruth broke records for hitting home runs and for striking out. 

Not to mention, a writer's skill level rises each time up to bat. 
  

6. "When am I going to see you on the New York Times Bestsellers list?"

Maybe never–and that's okay with me. A Times review won't necessarily pay the bills. 

For that matter, a Times review won't necessarily be a good one. Just ask any author who has been scorched, panned, or ridiculed by one.
 

 7. "When will I see your book reviewed in the New York Times?"

Again, maybe never–and that too is okay with me. I write commercial literature–romantic suspense, funny mysteries, contemporary women's fiction–and those books usually don't get a NYT review unless they're deemed such a cultural phenomenon that even the Times can't ignore them. 

As for those authors who are waiting for some news outlet to review their books, all I can say is, good luck. Even the best New York publishing house publicist rarely scores a major newspaper review for a mid-list or debut author, let alone a segment on the Today Show.  Now, if you're willing to change your first name to Snooki, or your last name to Kardashian, you may actually get that review, or some air time.

It's just the way of the world: a ghosted celebrity can garner more air time for a mediocre book than a gifted author will receive for a notable work. 

So suck it up. 

Better yet, don't reach for the stars when that is not the lasting definition of success. You're better off working the crowd instead of waiting for the crowd to come to you. In fact, I know many authors whose books have gotten better–and substantially more reviews–than those I see in the Times–

From readers.

Rude awakening: many major newspapers have done away with book reviews–and book reviewers–altogether. That being said, the voices that are ever more important to authors are avid readers, especially those readers who are willing to write a review on the websites of the bookstores (both online, and brick-and-mortar) where they buy their books. Even better is when they chat up your books to friends.

In today's book market, a four-plus star reviews by hundreds of readers on an online bookseller's site can generate more sales than a few kind words in a Times review on any given Sunday.

Bottom line: word of mouth means everything.
 
 

8. "You can write more than one book a year? Hmmm. You're not an artist. You're not even a craftsman. You're…a hack!"

Here's the scoop. Even painters have to produce more than one painting in a lifetime–let alone a year–in order to eat, pay rent, and pay for their kids' braces.

The same goes for musicians. They have to play more than one gig. And songwriters have to write more than one song.

No one wants to be a one-hit wonder.

In fact, even one hit is akin to winning the lottery.

As for being a craftsperson: the proof is in the satisfaction of the buyer.

I'm very proud of my body of work. Every book has received an average of four or more stars. And every day, I get  letters from readers who were kind enough to take the time to tell me how much fun they had with my books, or how much they love my characters. I love to hear that it kept them up at night (it certainly did for me when I was writing any one of them!) or that they laughed so loud that it woke their spouses. 

That, my dear friends, is satisfaction.
 

9. "It must be nice to be able to set your own hours."

I write at least ten hours a day.

Believe it or not, some chapters are written in my sleep. 

When I'm not writing, I'm plotting. Or researching.

The creative process is the most important aspect of my profession. But the marketing of my books are just as important. That being said, when I'm not writing, plotting or researching, I'm concepting covers, going over edits from my proofers and editors–

And promoting, promoting, promoting.

In any regard, I'm thinking about my books twenty-four/seven.

None of it is easy. But it can certainly be rewarding. I guess that's what makes it a "job," and not a hobby.

10. "It must be great to have such a fun job."

I wouldn't be doing anything else. And I'll do it, as long as I please my readers–and myself.

But like any job, it's not always fun. Sometimes it's frustrating. Sometimes I disappoint myself with how slow I am at it. It takes time to craft a sentence, let alone a paragraph, a scene or a chapter.

Then you have to do it time and again, until you have a cohesive story. Creating a work that even you enjoy, despite having read it so many times, you want to scream.

I remember the reaction my sister had when I told her I'd sold my very first novel. "In fact, the contract is for two books," I proclaimed proudly.

This was met with a look of horror. "You mean, they can make you write another?" 

"God, I hope so," I declared.

 Eight years and seventeen novels later, I still feel that way. 

And, now a bonus comment…

11. "I've got a great idea for a book! Why don't I give it to you, and we can split what you make, 50/50?"

Ha ha! I get this one a lot! I've even gotten it from my sister.

Thank you, but I respectfully decline your offer. You see, I have so many ideas already, that I wonder if I'll have the lifespan in which to write them all.

And besides, at best, a concept is a one-liner (at the most ten words). Even if it's the best book concept in the world, but then you're leaving me with the heavy lifting–that is, coming up with the other eighty thousand words that makes it a book.

You see, a book may start out as a high concept, but it needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. That's a lot of sweat equity–especially if the concept doesn't resonate enough with you to (a) spend the time to research the era or topic, or (b) create characters who go through the motions to bring it to life–and make readers laugh, cry, or write you to tell you how much your words meant to them.

That being said, go ahead and write it, as only you could do.

And let me know when it's published. I look forward to reading it, and supporting you, just like you read and support me.

 

HA Prequel The-Housewife-Assassin's-Deadly-Dossier-FinalJosie Brown is the author of The Housewife Assassin's Handbook series, as well as the Totlandia series. Her next book, The Housewife Assassin's Deadly Dossier, will be released in June 2014.

My guess is that she’s reading Pride and Prejudice…

Keira-knightly-as-elizabeth-bennett

 

Or maybe "The Housewife Assassin's Handbook."

I'll go with the latter.

–Josie

From "Pride and Prejudice, the Musical"

Music and Lyrics by Rita Abrams; Libretto by Josie Brown

The song: 

Bingley_2#3: IT IS A TRUTH (Complete Song)
(Sung by Bingley, Darcy and Caroline)

 Darcy and Bingley banter about the pressures on single men–particularly wealthy single men–to marry.  But while Darcy is disgusted by it, Bingley's attitude is more benign–perhaps because he is already in the throes of enchantment with one of the local beauties, Jane Bennet.

 

_________________________________

 

 


HA1 Handbook 768x1024

THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK
978-0-9740214-0-9

FREE! 
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An excerpt, not my own: the poetic prose of Proust.

JSS 1
These passage, about the power of fiction, comes from Swann's Way, the first volume of French novelist Marcel Proust's epic masterwork, In Search of Lost Time. It is voiced by his narrator, a young Marcel, while sitting in a garden at his parents country estate, outside the small French town of Combray.


This long passage comes in the form of a single paragraph. The punctuation is all Proust's work. He was given to paragraphs that could run up to five pages and sentences,
at times, of up to a thousand words. My husband, Martin, put reading Proust on his must-do list.

"At sixty-one,  I've already outlived Proust by ten years so I thought it was time to get started," he explained to me.

Already Martin has move on to his second volume, Within a Budding Grove.

He recommends that you read this passage more than once. "I've read it a half dozen times, and I think I've absorbed Proust's meaning…mostly."

See if you feel the same way.

Enjoy,

–Josie

 "Next to this central
belief which, while I was reading, would be constantly reaching out from my
inner self to the outer world, towards the discovery of truth, came the
emotions aroused in me by the action in which I was taking part, for these
afternoons were crammed with more dramatic events than occur, often, in a whole
lifetime. These were the events taking place in the book I was reading. It is
true that the people concerned in them were not what Françoise would have
called 'real people.' But none
JSS2of the feelings which the joys or misfortunes of
a real person arouse in us can be awakened except through a mental picture of
those joys or misfortunes; and the ingenuity of the first novelist lay in his
understanding that, as the image was the one essential element in the
complicated structure of our emotions, so that simplification of it which
consisted in the suppression, pure and simple, of real people would be a
decided improvement. A real person, profoundly as we may sympathize with him,
is in a great measure perceptible only through our senses, that is to say,
remains opaque, presents a dead weight which our sensibilities have not the
strength to lift. If some misfortune comes to him, it is only in one small
section of the complete idea we have of him that we are capable of feeling any
emotion; indeed it is only in one small section of the complete idea he has of
himself that he is capable of feeling any emotion either. The novelist's happy
discovery was to think of substituting for those opaque sections, impenetrable
to the human soul, their equivalent in immaterial sections, things, that is,
which one's soul can assimilate. After which it matters not that the actions,
the feeling of this new order of creatures appear to us in the guise of truth,
since we have made them our own, since it is in ourselves that they are
happening, that they are holding in thrall, as we feverishly turn over the
pages of the book, our quickened breath and staring eyes. And once the novelist
has brought us to this state, in which, as in all purely mental states, every
emotion is multiplied ten fold, into which his book comes to disturb us as
might a dream, but a dream more lucid and more abiding than those which come to
us in sleep, why then, for the space of an hour he sets free within us all the
joys and sorrows in the world, a few of which only we should have to spend
years of our actual life in getting to know, and the most intense of which
would never be revealed to us because the slow course of their development
prevents us from perceiving them. It is the same in life; the heart changes,
and it is our worst sorrow; but we know it only through reading, through our
imagination: in reality its alteration, like that of certain natural phenomena,
is so gradual that, even if we are able to distinguish, successively, each of
its different states, we are still spared the actual sensation of change."

 

Both of these paintings were created by John Singer Sargent. The first is called Rose-Marie Ormond Reading in a Cashmere Shawl, and the second is, simply, Man Reading.

Pretend it’s the last day on Earth. Now, what would you say?

Old friends
I was speaking to an old friend the other day. She was dreading a very public run-in with some guy she who she had once been attracted to, dated, fell in love with, felt passion for…

Then they broke up.

The break-up wasn't a "good" one. (The term "good break up" has to be an oxymoron, am I right?)

"So, what do I say to him, if he's there?" she asked. "Or should I say anything at all? Should I just ignore him? I'm sure he'd prefer that. I'll bet he'll ignore me, too."

I nodded. "Good question. But everyone there knows both of you. And they know you used to date."

"Don't remind me," she sighed. It's going to be like the OK Corral. Who takes aim first? Who ends up wounded, or dead and buried?"

"But isn't that the point? Wasn't whatever happened between you buried, long ago?"

She shrugged. Obviously not, if she's still digging it up now, so many years later.

"Okay," I said, "Here's a thought: why not treat him as if this is the last time in your life you'll ever see him? If doing so means getting out your feels, so be it. If it means pretending anything he said or did to get you upset is long forgotten, do it. Ask yourself this: do you really need to hold a grudge this long?"

"No, of course not." The tears rolled in even lines, down her face. "We've both moved on."

Next week, she'll have a chance to prove this, to herself, if not to him as well.

Frankly, I hope it begins and ends with a hug, and a chance to catch up on the life journey each took separately, even as their paths cross once more.

Grudges keep us from being happy.

Grudges don't hurt others, only ourselves.

You may not forget, but yes, you can forgive.

And you're not doing it for anyone but yourself.

–Josie

The Housewife Assassin's Handbook

Murder. Suspense. Sex. And some handy household tips.

 

HAH-Hanging-Man-New-BlueThe Housewife Assassin's Handbook

Murder. Suspense. Sex. And some handy household tips.

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"This is a super sexy and fun read that you shouldn't miss!"
–Mary Jacobs, Bookhounds

"…If I was a housewife, I would want to be Donna.  I'm not kidding guys, the girl can shoot, seduce, and kill, all while balancing the demands of carpool and managing the suburban mommies and their opinion of her and her kids.  Her hostess skills are to die for, and many have fallen for her seduction routines.  So what if the neighborhood busybodies think she's cheating on her husband?  The reality is, he's dead, and she can't even mourn him in public.  They can get over it.nter Jack, who is a fantastic and well known agent, and sexy to boot.  The chemistry between the two of them is enough to set water on fire…" — Cat's Thoughts

"This book totally reminded me of the movie Mr & Mrs. Smith. Not that it is a copy of the movie, but that it has all of the thrills and enjoyment of the movie. It's a fast-paced read, the gadgets are awesome, and I could just picture Donna fighting off Russian gangsters and skinheads all the while having a pie at home cooling on the windowsill. As a housewife myself, this book was a fantastic escape that had me dreaming "if only" the whole way through. The book doesn't take itself too seriously, which makes for the perfect combination of mystery and humour…"  –Curled Up with a Good Book and a Cup of Tea

Impossibly Tongue Tied gets its village…in Europe, Australia, and Japan, anyhow.

Impossibly_Tongue_Tied_1024x768For novelists, all of our books are our children. As a parent of nine of them (and counting!), I can honestly say that I don't play favorites, even if one or more has done better than the others.

Until recently, authors shared parenting responsibilities with their publishers. We write the books and in many cases promote them as well, while the publishers edit, create covers, print, distribute and promote the books to bookstores and readers.

Sometimes it's a wonderful collaboration. The book is nurtured by both, and flourishes out in the hard, cold world. But in many cases, the book is neglected by one parent or the other.

Sadly, this was the case with Impossibly Tongue Tied, my second novel. The publisher admitted they had no plans other than to toss the book onto the shelf.

Hearing this broke my heart.  At the time I wrote it, I was going through a family crisis, and put all my energy and angst into creating a fun, dark farce on the world of Hollywood fame and celebrity. I cried and laughed the whole time a wrote it. (Sort of like Diane Keaton, as she processed Jack Nicholson out of her system via her play, in Something's Gotta Give; I've got that clip, below…)

From the letters I received from readers, I was happy to hear I'd accomplished my goal.

Thankfully, the publisher only has rights to the book in North America (for now, anyway; my publisher will only allow me to  buying leftover inventory at a price that is worse than wholesale, and shipping above that; bookstores get free shipping, whereas the authors do not; go figure).

For those of you who live in other parts of the world, I've created a digital eBook version of Impossibly Tongue Tied, and I've priced it at a very reasonably. In Amazon.uk, you'll only pay £1.96 and throughout the other Amazon online stores, EUR 2,68.

If you enjoy it, please do review it within Amazon (it will be up soon, in the Apple iTunes Bookstore as well) and on GoodReads.

My baby deserves to be loved.

It takes a village to love a book,

Josie

Reviews:

"Brad, Angelina, Britney and Kevin may want to check out Josie Brown's new novel, Impossibly Tongue-Tied, for its ripped-from-the-headlines plot that mixes their scandals together…"
– PAGE SIX, New York Post

"Josie Brown gives us another page-turning guilty pleasure." – Marin Magazine


SYNOPSIS:
All over Hollywood, men are dialing O—for orgasms. Her steamy naughty talk fills them with lust and longing, and helps them perform like the studs they claim to be.

In truth, the industry's favorite "erotic phone operatrix" is Nina Harte, a struggling actress who has put her career on hold so that her husband, Nathan, can pursue his own dreams of stardom.

When Nathan's career takes off, so does he, leaving Nina and their four-year-old son, Jake, for his diva costar, Katerina McPherson. Then "Kat 'n' Nat" are crowned the media's newest celebrity sweethearts, and Kat labels Nina an unfit mother in order to win custody of Jake, just so that she can have that highly-coveted celebrity accessory—an adorable child—sans any unsightly stretch marks.

The one person who does care about Nina is Nathan's agent, Sam Godwin. In fact, he's in love with her. And because he has both a heart and a conscience, Sam feels guilty for having put Nat in Kat's path in the first place . . .

So, how will he feel when he learns that Nina and O are one and the same?

Read an excerpt here…

 

 IMPOSSIBLY TONGUE-TIED  (Signal Press, 2006, 2012)

Order it here, from

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I’m not going to let 2012 be my “bad hair day” of years, and you shouldn’t either.

AvedonMartin and I used to think that our best years ended in odd numbers.

In hindsight, I think we'd flip that analogy to fit any year in which we weren't having a great year.

For us — and I guess a lot of you, too — 2011 was a mixed blessing. I'm not an avid baseball fan, but there is something to say about "times up to bat": the more you put it out there, the better chance you'll have of scoring a hit, as opposed to an error.

And every now and then, you also hit it out of the park.

Granted, for Team Brown, there were enough errors for 2011 to turn us around on the assumption that odd years are our best. But we also had our fair share of hits, including the launch of four books. My two were The Baby Planner and The Housewife Assassin's Handbook. Martin's books were Fit in 50 Days, and on the last day of the year, The Ultimate New Year's Resolution Diet.

Not only that, but I saw one of my titles, True Hollywood Lies, achieve the ranking of 411 in Amazon Bestsellers, as well as #9 in Amazon's category of Books/Literature & Fiction/Comic.

On the first day of every new year, Martin starts off by saying,  "It's a new year, and we're still here."

He means this, literally as well as figuratively.

It's an inside joke:

One new year's day, just after we moved to Marin County, we were walking our children into Mill Valley's Old Mill Park when the skies opened up. As the rain poured down, an elderly gentleman, standing in his garage called out, "You can stand here with me, if you want, until it blows over."

We were happy to take him up on his offer.

Standing there, we made small talk. I don't know how the subject of the man's wife came up. I guess it had to do with the fact that we'd just started another new year. With the openess  that only comes with fresh emotional wounds, he said, "Yep, just this past new year's day, as we sat down to breakfast, she said, 'Well, it's a new year, and we're still here.' Then she dropped dead of a heart attack."

What a way to start the year: losing the person you love the most, whom you've spent a lifetime.

Any other issues are miniscule. They are a run in the pantyhose of your life.

To put things in perspective: he hadn't had a bad hair day. He had a bad hair year.

Whenever we're coming off a bad year, or we're trepidacious as to what the new year will bring, we remember that man and the wife he mourned.

And we count our blessings. Here are the ones I cherish most:

– We have great health, as do our children.

– We are still as madly in love today as we were on the day we married.

– We saw many of our far-flung family this year, making new memories even as we remembered the old ones.

– Our friends are loving, appreciative and a joy to be around. If only we could see more of them, more often!

– We love what we do, which is write.

You've got to love the fact that life is just one big tease,

— Josie

*Photo: Uber-model Jean Shrimpton, by Richard Avedon. Talk about helmet hair!

 

HAH Hanging Man V2
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Thanks, Publishers Weekly, for Loving THE BABY PLANNER

I'm honored to have this fabulous review in the book publishing industry's trade magazine,PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.

What a great way to start a Monday!
The Baby Planner

Josie Brown. S&S/Gallery, $15 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-4391-9712-7

 

 

Brown (Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives) takes baby mania to its illogical, hysterical extreme in this bubbly romp. Thirty-seven-year-old Katie's biological clock is ticking like a time bomb, and she turns her baby obsession into a wildly successful consultant gig planning nurseries for pregnant women too rich, clueless, bedridden, or busy to do the task themselves. Even grieving widower Seth, who works with Katie's child-shy husband, Alex, on a demanding new business venture, needs Katie's services to help him manage his perplexing new role as a single dad. But what begins as yet another vanilla chick lit foray into Bugaboo country turns into something bigger than a satire of status-obsessed Bay Area yummy mummies as Brown takes a dark look at the fears of parenthood and family, with Katie's heartbreaking longing for a child unveiling a disturbing reality about her marriage and family. Still, the message from the somber realities is one full of hope: love makes a family, commitment keeps it together. (Apr. 2011)

 

Want to read an excerpt? Click here. You can also enter my contest, for a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice.  

Enjoy and good luck!

 

I have mine, now you have a chance to have yours, too,

— Josie

Halloween Horror Story: a Divorce

Scary Pumpkin eats its young! I love Halloween. When my kids were younger, one of the thrills of living right off Caledonia Street in Sausalito, California, was that you were at Ground Zero for the town's trick or treat chicanery. The evening would start with a parade of li'l ghosts, goblins and costumes-du-jour, a costume judging contest, and then a promenade through the grid of streets that flank Caledonia Street before snaking up into the hills of Sausalito's weather-blessed banana belt.

Our street, Locust, was only one long block, filled with small cottages, or duplexes, some on flag lots. We lived there for almost six years. Except for us, the Pierracinnis next door, and one other family, most of those living on Locust were inhabited by people whose children had left the next, or house-sharing young adult renters, so they didn't necessarily see the need for decorating their homes for the occasion, let alone handing out candy.

On the other hand, one street over — Turney — was Halloween heaven. Everyone put out carved pumpkins. Some went overboard, decorating this beautiful street of Victorians with the haute of haunted house accessories. One guy went so far as to deck out his garage as Transylvania, an jump out of a coffin as a vampire. As yo ucan imagine, the line went around the block to enter his freak show.

Not to be outdone, Martin and I would create a diarama by putting scary full-head masks on the heads of  a couple of scarecrows made by stuffing old pants and plaid shirts with plastic bags filled with newspapers. We'd then pose them on a couple of chairs on the porch. They'd be reading THE SIGNAL, the newspaper edited by Martin. Scary music would be emanating from loud speakers perched on the window sills. Coffins of political candidates were in our postage stamp of a yard, underneath the camellia bushes that were so large that they were pruned into trees. Usually a body hung there in effigy.

All in good fun.

So many trick-or-treaters stopped by that we'd go through 500 pieces of candy before nine o'clock. I have to admit that I'd make the kids go through their candy sacks and kick back anything they felt they wouldn't eat, so I could feed the angry mob seemed to never end.

By the time we left Locust Street, I'm happy to report all the neighbors were into decorating on Halloween. Maybe they saw how much fun we'd had, and wanted to get into the act. Or maybe they were tired of Turney being the go-to street, and wanted to show some street pride.

Besides, how do you stop a swarm of trick-or-treaters?

You don't. You just go with the flow.

When I concepted my book, SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES, the one thing I knew for sure was that I was going to start the story on Halloween. Not because the book is scary–although its topic, divorce, is a horror tale for those who live through one–but because, to me, it is one of the ultimate family experiences. By their nature, children love to play dress up. Halloween celebrates that, and parents celebrate any and all things that make thier kids happy and excited–even if it is induced by sugar. Just think of all the pictures we take of them as they go from toddler to teen–or I should say, from cute costume onesies, to some 'ho couture that even Lady Gaga would be too shy to wear (as if).

Yes, a perfect place to start a book about a family–husband, wife, thirteen-year-old boy and five year-old girl–who mask their emotions during the divorce, and their neighbors' fears that their personal failures are somehow contagious.

Enjoy the excerpt, below.

Happy Halloween,

–Josie

Josie's Latest Book: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

In bookstores June 1, 2010. Order it TODAY!

"Hollywood's got nothing on the cast of characters living in the bedroom community of Paradise Heights, who have the secrets, sex, money and scandal of an OK! Magazine cover story. Josie Brown is a skilled observer whose clever dialogue and feisty style make for truly entertaining reading." –Jackie Collins, Hollywood Wives

 

Order today:

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SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES / by Josie Brown

Chapter 1

 

“Getting divorced just because you don’t love a man

is almost as silly as getting married just because you do.” —Zsa Zsa Gabor


Thursday, 7: 32 p.m.

 

“You know how I hate to gossip, but . . .”

 That is how Brooke Bartholomew always begins before she launches into a piece of hearsay. She knows and I know (for that matter, everyone knows) that she is the most notorious gossipmonger in our gated community of Paradise Heights.

 So, yes, this will be juicy.

 “Don’t be such a tease,” I answer. “Just spill it.”

 “It’s about DeeDee and Harry Wilder,” she whispers. “They’ve split up. For good!”

Preschooler as Halloween Fairy Her tone has me looking around to see if the leads in Brooke’s drama are within hearing distance. But it’s hard to tell because it is dark, and everyone, even the adults, is in costume. Witches, Harry Potters, Shreks, and vampires zigzag across Bougainvillea Boulevard, lugging king-size 300-count pima cotton pillowcases filled with all kinds of individually wrapped miniature candy bars. For Brooke, it is not just Halloween but Christmas too: her husband, Benjamin, is Paradise Heights’s dentist and will reap what Hershey’s has sown.

 I check to see that my daughter, Olivia, is out of earshot but still within sight. To my chagrin, she and her posse of five-year-olds are racing up the circular staircase of the Hendricksons’ New Orleans‑style McMansion. All the girls are dressed as fairies, which in HalloweeSpeak translates into gossamer wings and long tulle skirts over leotards. It is inevitable that one of them will slip, fall, and cry, so I cannot take my eyes off them, even to gauge the veracity of Brooke’s raw data. For the first time tonight I notice that Temple, DeeDee and Harry’s youngest, is not one of the winged creatures flittering in the crush in front of me.

 The nickname given the Wilders by my very own clique, the board of the Paradise Heights Women’s League, comes to mind: the Perfect Couple. Until now, it fit like a glove. Both DeeDee and Harry are tall, golden, patrician, and aloof. They are Barbie and Ken dolls come to life. Rounding out the family is their thirteen-year-old son, Jake, the star of the Paradise Heights Middle School basketball team. Our oldest boy, Tanner, is part of his entourage, as is Brooke’s son, Marcus. Temple is exactly Olivia’s age. With those gilt coiling ringlets and that dimpled smile, Temple is not just the kindergarten set’s unabashed leader but beautiful as well, which is why all the other little girls aspire to be her.

 While the Wilders seem friendly enough during the social gatherings that put them in close proximity to the rest of us mere mortals, they never engage, let alone mingle. In Harry’s case, I presume he thinks his real life—that is, his office life—is too foreign for us to grasp: he is a senior partner in the international securities division of a large law firm, where every deal trails a long tail of zeros.

But DeeDee has no such excuse. She doesn’t work, yet she pointedly ignores our invitations to lunch, preferring to spend the precious hours between school drop-off and pickup gliding through the posh little shops on Paradise Heights’s bustling Main Street. Heck, even the Heights’ working mommies try harder to fit in. The overflow crowd at the Women’s League Christmas party is proof of that, as are the numerous corporate sponsorships they secure for the school district’s annual golf tournament fund-raiser.

 Proving yet again that mommy guilt is the greatest of all human motivators.

 And now that the Wilders’ crisis has been exposed to the masses, DeeDee’s force field will stay up permanently, for sure.

 “No way! The Wilders?” I say to Brooke. “Why, I just saw them together last weekend, at the club. He didn’t leave her side even once. And I know for a fact that DeeDee was at the school yesterday, for the Halloween costume contest.” Although I wasn’t there, Ted, my husband, mentioned seeing her. I stayed home with our younger son, Mickey, who has a nasty case of head lice, the scourge of the elementary school set. Not fun at any time, but doubly distressing to a nine-year-old boy on a day in which all class work is suspended in honor of a candy orgy.

 To get his mind off what he was missing, Mickey and I spent the morning carving two more pumpkins to join the family of five already displayed on our steps and spraying a spiderweb of Silly String on the porch banister. Ted, who is too fastidious to have appreciated our haphazard handiwork, has elicited promises from us both that all of this sticky substance will be pulled off first thing tomorrow morning, before it has time to erode the nice new paint job on our faux-Victorian.

 Now, as I keep watch over Olivia’s raid on the neighbors’ candy stashes, Ted is at home with Mickey, parsimoniously doling out mini Mounds bars. Despite having purchased forty bags of the stuff, neither of us will be surprised if we run out long before the last trick-or-treater has come and gone. That is the downside to having a house that is smack-dab in the middle of Bougainvillea Boulevard, where all things pertaining to Paradise Heights begin and end. Because of this, poor Mickey will have to share whatever goodies Tanner and Olivia bring home. I don’t look forward to the fight that breaks out over who gets the Godiva candy bar and who is left with the smashed caramel apple.

 “Yeah, well, apparently it happened yesterday morning. From what I heard, he came home early from work so that he wouldn’t miss the Halloween parade—and found her in bed with another man.” Brooke waves her little hellion, Benjamin Jr., on toward his older brother, Marcus, who has been trying all night to ditch the kid. Having been an only child, Brooke cannot accept the notion that a thirteen-year-old wouldn’t want to hang with his only sibling, especially one seven years his junior.

 Frankly, I think all of Brooke’s energy would have been better spent on some therapy over her own traumas. “My god! That’s horrible! Do you think it’s for real?”

 “Who knows? For that matter, who cares?” Brooke arches a cleanly plucked brow. “Anyway that’s the rumor, and it’s too good not to be true, so I’m sticking with it. Besides, Colleen was behind Harry in line at Starbucks. She overheard him bickering with DeeDee on his cell. Seems she’s asked for a divorce, but he’s fighting her for everything: the kids, the house—even the dog! In fact, he also told one of his partners that he planned back cut back his hours at work to prove he should be the one to get full custody. Look, I say ’where there’s smoke, there’s fire.’”

 And they say that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? Bullshit. What guy wouldn’t go for the throat, particularly one who’s just been made a laughingstock in the neighborhood?

 Frankly, I can’t really blame him, since I’d do exactly the same thing. Still, I wonder what he’ll do if he does get it all. I’m of the theory that househusbands are born, not made. And they are certainly not made from high-powered corporate attorneys like Harry Wilder, who live for the thrill of the deal.

 But I don’t say this to Brooke, who wears her sistah solidarity on her silk Cavalli sleeve. If what she says is true, then there is no reason to feel sorry for DeeDee in the first place. Harry is the one we should pity, since he has no idea what he’s in for. I’m willing to bet he’ll reconsider his stance the first time Jake needs to be carpooled to basketball at the same time Temple has to be at ballet and it’s not until they are halfway there that she tells him she’s forgotten her tights.

  “So, who is DeeDee’s boyfriend?”

 Frustrated because her reconnaissance is incomplete in this one very important area, Brooke’s perfect moue of a mouth turns down at the sides. This is what passes for a frown when your social calendar revolves around standing appointments for Botox and collagen injections. “Since neither of them is talking, your guess is as good as mine. But don’t worry, I’ve got my spies working on it.” She winks broadly.

 That trail might be cold right now, but she is a good enough gossip hound that I’ve no doubt we’ll know the answer by the end of the week.

 As we pass DeeDee and Harry’s authentic-looking Tuscan villa, I notice that all the lights are off and the bougainvillea-wrapped wrought-iron gates are locked. The Wilders did not even leave out the requisite consolation: a plastic pumpkin filled with candy and sporting a sign that begs visitors to Take Just One and Leave The Rest for Others.

 Once again, Brooke is right: there is trouble in Paradise Heights.

 (c) 2010 Josie Brown. Published in June 2010 by Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press. All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

For the Love of Sisters

Darien at 18My sister, Darien, was on the homecoming court, and president of our high school's chapter of the National Honor Society. Geeks, freaks, and football quarterbacks all fell in love with her because she made every guy feel as if he had her full attention and undying admiration. She also had a cadre of BFFs, some whom, to this day, still are close with her.

I was the rebellious little sister, the one who felt as if she were an outcast. And yet, I was never jealous, just proud to call her my big sis. Maybe because, despite all she had going for her, she made me feel as if I were the most special person in her life.

Although we now live some 2,855 miles apart, we try to talk frequently, and to see each other at least once a year. Our chats are what you'd expect. We discuss the latest glories of our children, our current worries, a triumph or two, and every now and then a shared memory.

Would I say that we're close? I'd say close enough to love and appreciate each other, and know our boundaries. She lives the life she wants, and I do, too. We respect that about each other, and don't try to meddle in each other's lives.

So, yeah, this article from the always insightfull Deborah Tannen, which ran recently in the New York Times, resonated with me.

Read it and enjoy. Then scroll below to watch Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen sing the song, "Sisters," from the movie "White Chritsmas".

Then call your sister,

–Josie


(ISBN: 9781439173176)

In bookstores June 1, 2010. Order it TODAY!

"Hollywood's got nothing on the cast of characters living in the bedroom community of Paradise Heights, who have the secrets, sex, money and scandal of an OK! Magazine cover story. Josie Brown is a skilled observer whose clever dialogue and feisty style make for truly entertaining reading." –Jackie Collins, Hollywood Wives

October 25, 2010

Why Sisterly Chats Make People Happier

By DEBORAH TANNEN

“Having a Sister Makes You Happier”: that was the headline on a recent article about a study finding that adolescents who have a sister are less likely to report such feelings as “I am unhappy, sad or depressed” and “I feel like no one loves me.”

These findings are no fluke; other studies have come to similar conclusions. But why would having a sister make you happier?

The usual answer — that girls and women are more likely than boys and men to talk about emotions — is somehow unsatisfying, especially to a researcher like me. Much of my work over the years has developed the premise that women’s styles of friendship and conversation aren’t inherently better than men’s, simply different.

A man once told me that he had spent a day with a friend who was going through a divorce. When he returned home, his wife asked how his friend was coping. He replied: “I don’t know. We didn’t talk about it.”

His wife chastised him. Obviously, she said, the friend needed to talk about what he was going through.

This made the man feel bad. So he was relieved to read in my book “You Just Don’t Understand” (Ballantine, 1990) that doing things together can be a comfort in itself, another way to show caring. Asking about the divorce might have made his friend feel worse by reminding him of it, and expressing concern could have come across as condescending.

The man who told me this was himself comforted to be reassured that his instincts hadn’t been wrong and he hadn’t let his friend down.

But if talking about problems isn’t necessary for comfort, then having sisters shouldn’t make men happier than having brothers. Yet the recent study — by Laura Padilla-Walker and her colleagues at Brigham Young University — is supported by others.

Last year, for example, the British psychologists Liz Wright and Tony Cassidy found that young people who had grown up with at least one sister tended to be happier and more optimistic, especially if their parents had divorced. Another British researcher, Judy Dunn, found a similar pattern among older adults.

So what is going on?

My own recent research about sisters suggests a more subtle dynamic. I interviewed more than 100 women about their sisters, but if they also had brothers, I asked them to compare. Most said they talked to their sisters more often, at greater length and, yes, about more personal topics. This often meant that they felt closer to their sisters, but not always.

One woman, for example, says she talks for hours by phone to her two brothers as well as her two sisters. But the topics differ. She talks to her sisters about their personal lives; with her brothers she discusses history, geography and books. And, she added, one brother calls her at 5 a.m. as a prank.

A prank? Is this communication? Well, yes — it reminds her that he’s thinking of her. And talking for hours creates and reinforces connections with both brothers and sisters, regardless of what they talk about.

A student in my class recounted a situation that shows how this can work. When their family dog died, the siblings (a brother and three sisters) all called one another. The sisters told one another how much they missed the dog and how terrible they felt. The brother expressed concern for everyone in the family but said nothing about what he himself was feeling.

My student didn’t doubt that her brother felt the same as his sisters; he just didn’t say it directly. And I’ll bet that having the phone conversations served exactly the same purpose for him as the sisters’ calls did for them: providing comfort in the face of their shared loss.

So the key to why having sisters makes people happier — men as well as women — may lie not in the kind of talk they exchange but in the fact of talk. If men, like women, talk more often to their sisters than to their brothers, that could explain why sisters make them happier. The interviews I conducted with women reinforced this insight. Many told me that they don’t talk to their sisters about personal problems, either.

An example is Colleen, a widow in her 80s who told me that she’d been very close to her unmarried sister throughout their lives, though they never discussed their personal problems. An image of these sisters has remained indelible in my mind.

Late in life, the sister came to live with Colleen and her husband. Colleen recalled that each morning after her husband got up to make coffee, her sister would stop by Colleen’s bedroom to say good morning. Colleen would urge her sister to join her in bed. As they sat up in bed side by side, holding hands, Colleen and her sister would “just talk.”

That’s another kind of conversation that many women engage in which baffles many men: talk about details of their daily lives, like the sweater they found on sale — details, you might say, as insignificant as those about last night’s ballgame which can baffle women when they overhear men talking. These seemingly pointless conversations are as comforting to some women as “troubles talk” conversations are to others.

So maybe it’s true that talk is the reason having a sister makes you happier, but it needn’t be talk about emotions. When women told me they talk to their sisters more often, at greater length and about more personal topics, I suspect it’s that first element — more often — that is crucial rather than the last.

This makes sense to me as a linguist who truly believes that women’s ways of talking are not inherently better than men’s. It also feels right to me as a woman with two sisters — one who likes to have long conversations about feelings and one who doesn’t, but who both make me happier.

Deborah Tannen is a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University and the author, most recently, of “You Were Always Mom’s Favorite! Sisters in Conversation Throughout Their Lives.”

 

Saturday Share: This captures beautifully why I love San Francisco Bay

After being away for a few weeks, it's great to be reminded of why I call the San Francisco Bay Area home. This video, by Simon Christen, does just that.

Thanks, Simon!

 

Yes, you can go home again,

–Josie


(ISBN: 9781439173176)

In bookstores June 1, 2010. Order it TODAY!

"Hollywood's got nothing on the cast of characters living in the bedroom community of Paradise Heights, who have the secrets, sex, money and scandal of an OK! Magazine cover story. Josie Brown is a skilled observer whose clever dialogue and feisty style make for truly entertaining reading." –Jackie Collins, Hollywood Wives

 

The Secret Lives of My Toyotas

ToyotaHighlanderHybrid My husband and I don't consider ourselves car people. We consider ourselves Toyota people.

Car people are fickle. They want the latest/greatest/hottest/fastest/newest car on the market.

Toyota people are smart. They want reliability, dependability and safety. And they want a great-looking car.

We bought our first Toyota, a Corolla, just a week before our firstborn, our son, was born.

That was a momentous day for two reasons: It was also the day I decided to follow my dream and write novels.

One Toyota (the Corolla) led to another (Camry) and then another (Camry)….

Two kids and a move cross-country later, we are still Toyota people. We went on our family vacations in these cars. We taught our children how to drive in them. We went to every major life event in them: weddings, graduations, funerals.

So you see, it's habit-forming. Something about never having to worry about unnecessary fix-it issues (like my sis-in-law and her Volvo…).

In fact, I love our Toyota so much, I wrote the Highlander Hybrid into my latest book, SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES. You can read the excerpt below.

Oh, and by the way: I'm participating in a Toyota/TwitterMoms campaign, which inspired this
post. My opinions, thoughts and feelings are my own. As a TwitterMom,
I'm eligible for a courtesy gift from Amazon.com of $50.

So, what will I do with that gift certificate? Sharing it with some lucky winner! I'll be sending her/him an autographed copy of my book ($10.20 in Amazon.com), along with a $25 Amazon gift card.

Here's how it works:

1. Read this excerpt, below, that comes from my book SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES.

2. After reading it, answer the question below it, and email me the correct answer to SecretLivesBook@gmail.com; Put “Toyota Excerpt” in the subject line;

AND

3. Comment below about why you love your own Toyota, or something about the excerpt (below) that resonated with you.

BONUS (gets you another freebee entry in the contest!):

4. Give my “auto-biography” a thumbs-up on the Toyota Facebook page, here…

All correct entries received no later than 12 midnight PT on Tuesday, July 20, 2010, will be eligible for the autographed book, and the $25 gift card.

No purchase necessary. You must be over 18 years of age to participate.
This prize is applicable to the US and Canada only.

Good luck, and happy driving this summer,

–Josie


* photo of the Toyota Highlander Hybrid 2010, the car driven by my heroine, Lyssa Harper.


EXCERPT – SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES

Chapter 6

“The majority of husbands remind me of an orangutan trying to play the
violin.”

—Honore de Balzac

 

 

Monday 4 Nov, 10:13 a.m. It is true
that the Highlander Hybrid goes from zero to sixty in around 9.6 seconds.

 

However, the
inverse of that—say, you’re driving at sixty miles an hour down Highway 101 in
a rainstorm when you blow a tire—happens a little slower.

 

I am
experiencing this now, as my Highlander hydroplanes out of control as yet
another rain wave rolls under its chassis.

 

I eat up the
first few seconds with some freaking out and swearing at myself for forgetting
Ted’s warning about going too fast on bald tires. Then, oh possibly another six
seconds goes to slamming on the brakes and praying up a storm as the Highlander
spins out of control. By the time it comes to a complete stop and my heart rate
goes back down to normal, I’m guessing I’ve lost another twelve seconds.

 

Okay, I lied.
My chest is still heaving twenty-two seconds later, when I hear the tap on my
window.

 

“Lyssa, are
you okay?” Harry Wilder’s face stares back at me, blurred and contorted through
my rain-spattered window. It’s
been a couple of days since we saw each other in the park.

I nod slowly
and roll down my window. The cold air feels great on my face because it reminds
me I’m alive. “I—I was very stupid, going that fast.”

 

“I’m just
happy you’re alive. Look, would you like me to call someone?”

 

“No, that’s
okay, really. I have Triple A. I’ve got the card here somewhere . . . ” My
hands shake as I rummage through the deep, unfathomable well of my bag, but I
can’t find it. DAMN DAMN DAMN Olivia’s been playing in my purse again . . .

 

I look up
again just in time to see a raindrop roll off the tip of his nose. “Oh, my God,
sorry! Why don’t you get in?” I fumble with the auto-lock. When he hears it
click, he jumps into the passenger seat behind me.

 

He’s wearing
a rainproof jacket, but he’s shivering nonetheless. With his hair coiled into
damp curls, it strikes me how much more like him his daughter looks than like DeeDee.

 

“Listen, by
the time you find the number, I could have already changed your tire. Do you
know if you have a spare?”

 

“Yes, but—you’ll
get wet!”

 

He laughs
heartily at the obvious. “At this point, I think I’d say that’s a moot
issue.”

I’m happy to
hear no pain in his voice, like the first time we met. Maybe DeeDee’s shopping
spree put things in perspective for him. “Okay, sure, it’s there, somewhere.
Let’s look together. The least I can do is hold the umbrella.”

 

We both jump
out of the car and head toward the hatch. After moving the kids’ basketball and
soccer gear, with some finagling we’re able to shift the backseat forward and open
the compartment, which holds a fully inflated tire, thank God, and a jack.

 

He heaves
both out and crouches down to set up by the blown tire. As I stand over him
with my umbrella, I’m given a different point of view of Harry Wilder. I take note
of how thin his hair is at the crown of his head, and the way in which his
shoulders expand and roll beneath his jacket as he cranks the jack and twists
off the bolts. A few moments later, when he stands up to move the flattened
tire out of the way, he forgets how close I’m standing and bumps his head into
the umbrella. I’m caught off guard and topple backward, but he grabs my arm
before I fall into a puddle.

 

“Sorry!” we
say in unison, then, “Don’t be—” and then together we laugh. That breaks the
tension. But then a mist of awkwardness envelops us again.

 

I find it suffocating.
Apparently he does too, because he clasps my hand with his even tighter.

 

 My hand lingers in his just long enough for me
to appreciate its warmth.

 

And to feel
his wedding band.

 

Yes, Harry is
still in mourning.

 

As
nonchalantly as I can, I take my hand out of his. We stand there in the rain,
letting it pull us back to reality. Finally I realize that one of us should say
something. My attempt is feeble but sincere. “You know, I’m forever in your
debt.”

 

“Don’t be
silly. I’m just glad you weren’t hurt, and that Olivia wasn’t with you, or your
boys. That spinout was pretty scary.”

 

I shake my
head in wonder. “I don’t know what I would have done if I had hurt them.”

 

“We can’t
protect them against everything.” He frowns. “All we can do is make the
judgment calls we feel are best, at any given time.”

 

“But that’s
just it. We’re only human. Sometimes we get it wrong. Sometimes we screw up.
Ted warned me about these tires being bald. I just haven’t made the time to buy
new ones. Well, there’s still a couple of hours before school is out. I was on
my way to the bank, but I think it’s best that I head over to Costco now and
get them changed out.”

 

He laughs. “Hey,
do you think that place has something called Lunchables? Temple is finally
burned out on my peanut butter and banana sandwiches. That’s top of the list of
my household duties today: bring home these Lunchables.”

 

It’s my turn
to smile. “You’ve never been inside a Costco?”

 

“DeeDee did
all the shopping. She even picked out my suits.” He grimaces. “But
hey, I’m game for anything now.”

 

A Costco
virgin? This should be fun. “Tell you what: you follow me over, and while they’re
changing my tires, I’ll give you a tour. And by the way, Olivia loved having
Temple over. Do you think she’ll be up for it again, maybe later this week?”

 

“It’s a deal.”
He reaches out again to shake my hand.

 

I take it
again. But why do I have such a hard time letting it go?

_______________________________________________

 
Copyright
© 2010 by Josie Brown. Published in June 2010 by Simon &
Schuster/Downtown
Press. All rights reserved. Excerpted from SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES. This work is protected under copyright laws
and
reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the
material in
any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher
.

CONTEST QUESTION:

Where is Lyssa headed before Harry comes to her rescue?

Email your correct answer to SecretLivesBook@gmail.com.
Please put “Toyota Excerpt” in the subject line.
Must be received no later than 12 midnight PT, on Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Judging a Book by Its Cover: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

PosterSee that messy desk?

Ooops! Let me start again…

See that colorful poster over the messy desk? The one of the eye-catching book cover?

That book cover is mine.

It belongs to the novel you'll soon see in bookstores–June 1, 2010, to be exact–all over the country.

It will also be inside Target, which makes me very proud, because I feel that the story–about a marriage disintegrating, and what others who are close to it project their own fears into it–would relate to many of us who shop there.

This cover was blown up to a size that is close to 2 feet by 3 feet. Since a book's cover is the first consideration for a book lover's impulse buy, unfortunately for me (but fortunately for you, since, hopefully, you'll be lugging it to the beach with you I hope I hope) it won't be that big when see it in the store.

When you see it, will you pick it up?

My publishing house, Simon & Schuster, is betting that you will. And since they're the horse that I"m riding in on, here's hoping they're right. They created a cover that implies people in a very public neighborhood setting, in close proximity–husbands, wives, lovers and other strangers–and yet they are aloof. As Woody Allen would say, "friendly, but not familiar."

And that's the crux of the story: does, as the adage goes, familiarity breed contempt? Does it kill passion?

Do we fall out of love when we reach the point that we know too much? If our partner's actions are mundane, are we boring, too, for putting up with it?

In this book, the divorce of a community's "perfect couple" sets off a rash of soul-searching for those who are on the outside looking in. These neighbors reason: if it can happen to them, how about me?

The only one who doesn't want to consider this is my heroine, Lyssa. She gets close enough to witness the destruction, and feels immune to the arrows of outrageous partners behaving badly–

Maybe because it hits too close to her own marriage.

Which brings me back to my cover. On the bench (which wraps around the whole book) are these four people. The middle two are in each others' arms, but what are they thinking about? Are the other two who share the bench with them strangers, or acquaintances?

The cover lends itself to the darker side of the story, although there is a lot of humor as well. (That's just the way I write.) Divorce is not murder or mass destruction, but it is still the death of trust and love; it is the destruction of a union that held hope.

What does it say to you? I'd love to hear your comments. 

At first I didn't like it. I wanted something softer. In time, though, I
grew to appreciate its edginess. And in person, the colors are rich,
which make it eye-popping as well. 

A note: for those of you who presume that authors get to choose their book covers, think again. Maybe if your first name is Dan, or your last name is Grisham you do, but for the rest of us, when it comes to a book contract, you may get "consideration" — in other words, they may take your opinion as to what you'd like to see on the cover — but the publisher has final say. His/Her decision takes into account the reaction from the sales team, which is out in the field pitching it to their accounts (who, by the way, swing a big stick, too, when it comes to covers).

From concept to cover,

—Josie

http://twitter.com/JosieBrownCA




Secret-Lives400w
 
Josie's
Next Book: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

In bookstores June 1, 2010. Order it
TODAY
!

"Hollywood's got nothing on the cast of characters living in
the
bedroom community of Paradise Heights, who have the secrets, sex, money
and scandal of an OK! Magazine cover story. Josie Brown is a skilled
observer whose clever dialogue and feisty style make for truly
entertaining reading."

Jackie
Collins
, bestselling author of Hollywood Wives and Poor Little Bitch Girl

In bookstores June 1, 2010. Pre-order
today
:

From Amazon

From Barnes & Noble

From Books a Million

From Borders

From Copperfield's

From Your
Local Independent Bookstore

From Powell's

From
Target

Mother’s Day: What It Really Means to the Rest of Us

MomDancer Two years ago on Mother's Day weekend, I buried my own mom.

It was a bittersweet occasion. She'd been ill for the last two years of her life: with a myelodysplasia, a disease that hinders the longevity of your red blood cells.

The downhill process was not pretty. She was not ready for the abyss of the great beyond, and fought to live until her dying breath.

I'm guessing I'll do the same.

It would be wonderful to say that she had been one of those moms who made every one of her children feel as if they were her favorites, but that wasn't the case. While growing up, winning her approval was a constant endeavor. Even as adults, her three kids tiptoed around any issue that might throw her into a tizzy, or have her worrying to the point that she'd call the other two siblings to espouse her views on the problem child du jour's issue at hand.

Eventually we trained ourselves not to do her bidding: that is, to reiterate her advice to the odd-kid-out—something that we knew she'd already expressed in her very direct manner.

I know her worries on our behalf was her way of staying close to her farflung children. And I have no doubt that it also gave her something to focus on, other than her own problems: specifically her bouts of depression.

Her mood swings were notorious. If one of us had the misfortune to be caught in the black maelstrom of one, all we could do was resign ourselves to wait it out.

Or to disappear from her life, sometimes for months at a time. 

Eventually, each of us came to the decision to live our lives without worrying "What would Mom think?" about the careers we chose, our spouses, and most importantly of all, the way in which we raised our own children.

Our kids also had their learning curves with their grandma. Their attitudes toward her ran the gamut: one lived for her approval. Another realized quickly that there was no pleasing her, and tuned her out completely. The third saw that her love was unconditional no matter what, and learned to laugh through any discomfort her suggestions and declaration caused.

I'd wished we'd all been that smart at that young age.

I don't wish to leave you with an image of a woman who didn't love her children. On the contrary, she loved us all very much: unconditionally in fact, despite her actions that, at the time, had us doubting this. It is why she worked all her life at jobs that didn't give her professional satisfaction, but put food on the table, clothed us, and allowed us to be raised in tidy houses within safe neighborhoods. It's why we all appreciate the need for a good education, even if she couldn't pay for it for us.

It's why we've always felt as if we were "special": a cut above everyone else, despite having no financial legacy, or renowned surname, or obvious talents.

We are special because she told us so, from the very beginning.

And at the end, she realized that we all loved her unconditionally, too.

So yes, everything I am—driven beyond reason, loving every moment of life, prideful of my children, and able to recognize the true love of my husband, Martin—I owe to my mother, Maria, God rest her soul. 

It is a parent's goal to teach their children the lessons they feel are important. What I don't think parents realize is that sometimes the most important things they teach us are what we've witnessed from their mistakes. 

For the most part, parenting is often trial by error.

In that regard, my mother taught me a lot: that in truth, none of us are the embodiment of perfection. Rather, we endeavor to rise above our faults and fears in the hope of making ourselves the very best we can be.

[My mom, at nineteen]

—Josie

http://twitter.com/JosieBrownCA




Secret-Lives400w  
Josie's
Next Book: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

In bookstores June 1, 2010. Order it
TODAY
!

"Hollywood's got nothing on the cast of characters living in
the
bedroom community of Paradise Heights, who have the secrets, sex, money
and scandal of an OK! Magazine cover story. Josie Brown is a skilled
observer whose clever dialogue and feisty style make for truly
entertaining reading."

Jackie
Collins
, bestselling author of Hollywood Wives and Poor Little Bitch Girl


My Misspent Youth: It Was Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, but I LOVED it

Rockstar
(…Or 2 degrees of Deborah D….)

Long time no write. Well, I hope you feel this was worth the wait…

In my early twenties, I worked in radio. It was a great way to catch close-up glimpses of the hottest acts, score freebee tickets to concerts, and if I were lucky, a backstage pass, too.

My BFF was in a different part of the music industry. Deborah D worked for a record company. For sure, her bennies included all of the above, along with an album collection that rivaled the one in the radio stations I worked for. If a band she liked wasn't on her label, she'd swap demo LPs or concert tickets with grunts at other labels for the coveted vinyl.

Deb collected her boyfriends that way, too. Bass players were her favorites, but drummers ran a close second. Rarely did she date "civilians."

It was on one of those few occasions that I met my hubby: he lived next (to her revolving) door and swung in one night when she'd just traded an album or two for four free tickets to a movie. My arm charm, (believe it or not, straight) male model. Since Hubby was more into symphonies than Springsteen — they soon parted ways.

But the spark the was kindled that night, between him and me, flashed even hotter the next time we saw each other: Deborah D's New Years Eve par-tay, which was  always a who's who of music industry celebs,  pros, hangers-on, has-beens, up-and-comers . . .

And a usual galaxy of long-legged, straight-haired groupies.

To my delight, Hubby was oblivious to everyone but me.

Then again, the poor guy didn't know that the Allman Brothers were Georgia's official band. So what were the odds he'd recognize the guy whose foot he just stepped onto belonged to Cher's talented, sloe-eyed ex?

Warp speed a couple of maritally blissful decades later — 

Recently 60 Minutes was interviewing the Eagles who, now in their sixties, have reunited after more than a decade for one more album.  Despite a few sags, bags, and wrinkles, to the most part they've held onto the visages of their youths.

So successfully, in fact, that one tweaked a long-dormant brain cell. "If I remember right, Deborah D dated that dude. The one on the left there," I said to Martin.

He snorted at my quaint euphemism for balls-to-the-wall sex. "There were so many, so yeah, that could have been…"  He stopped mid-swallow. "Hey! That means I've actually made it with someone who's made it with–with  HIM."  He stared up at the screen in awe.

"Yep. Him, and about a dozen or so other guys who have hit the Billboard Rock Chart with a bullet at least once."

He stared at me as if I were speaking Greek. "Don't you get it? That's only two degrees of separation."

Which, considering the time and place, could have translated into one degree of the clap, I thought to myself as he strummed his air guitar.

Whatever he was playing, I could only imagine it was off-key.

Rock on . . .

Have a Heart! Give to a Worthy Cause

India_childrenThe mission of Healing Hearts, Inc. is to assist Sri Narayani Hospital and
Research Centre in the Vellore
District, Tamil Nadu, southern India, in
raising funds to subsidize
medical and health services to the poor. It also supports on-going
research and educational programs in the hospital's in-patient and
outpatient programs, including heart surgery for the needy children
patients in the region. In fact, whether it's a heart bypass operation, a kidney transplant, a lung operation, brain surgery or eye surgery, every operation is done at the subsidiary price. This was decided upon from the start of the project. SO GIVE NOW! 

Click here to learn more, and to make your donation…