NaNoWriMo Tip #25: Do you really need a literary agent? Maybe. Here’s when.

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Now that National Novel Writing Monthis almost over and your novel seems so real to you (50,000 words will do that, right?) you must also be thinking about how your book will find readers.

Traditionally, you'd be tossed onto a publishing editor's slush pile and pray to be discovered.

With the shrinking of publishing house staffs, that slush pile is now the domain of the literary agent.

But many an author will ask: are agents still necessary in a day and age of independent book publishing?

I've been published both ways, and my thought is this:

Yes.

Many of the authors I know feel this way, too. Like me, they have their feet in both worlds: they still sell to “New York” (where most of the major publishing houses have their offices) but they also independently publish their solely-owned backlists, or novels that have never found homes, or a variety of experimental projects.

Frankly, it’s the best of both worlds.

Why? Because to publishing houses, you are only as good as the sales of your last book. I’ve known previously best-selling authors who have been kicked to the curb by their publishing houses, just because their sales numbers fell short of what they had done two years before.

Is it fair to blame the author? I don’t think so, considering all the marketing factors that are out of their control. Most don’t get any say-so on their covers. And the publishing industry isn’t as progressive as other industries in creating brands for their authors – let alone developing brand awareness with key target audiences. Rather, they have relied on a narrow retail channel (big chain bookstores for most books; and independent bookstores for a smaller, select group of books).

And sadly, they have been slow to build awareness to their own brands: their name, and the various imprints within their houses.

In the larger marketplace of the Internet, branding and name awareness is key. Knowing your audience and reaching it will make or break a brand.

Every author is a brand. You are the biggest cheerleader for your brand and your manuscript.

But no writer is an island. It takes a village to sell a book: you (to write it) an agent (to sell it) and an editor, or producer, or whoever to buy it, and (prayerfully) market it properly—

So that you sell lots of copies to readers.

Which brings up the question of the day: what is the role of the agent in this brave new world?

Here’s how I see it:

First and foremost, your agent will be making your deals with publishing houses.
Doing so is an agent's bread and butter. They work on commission. The more sales they make – and the more costly the acquisition – the happier they and their clients will be. It is also the best way for them to grow their own reputations.

Agents know what editors are looking for.
Agents know what genres are aging out, and which genres are getting hot (again). For example, if you write westerns, you’re probably hitting the reader zeitgeist just about…

NOW.

Well, guess what? Even if you were bought today, your book wouldn’t be hitting the bookshelves for another eighteen months —  just when you’re genre is, hopefully, due to be hot again.

Your agent will have great insights on what will make your manuscript even stronger.
The best agents read what you write, and give copious notes on how to make it stronger. Why? Because you don't need a yes man. You need a partner in selling your book to an editor.

Your agent will be making your deals with other media platforms.
The explosion of television networks is a great opportunity for authors. Even if your agent hasn’t sold you to a publisher, s/he may be able to get you in the hands of a producer who is actively seeking to adapt books for film or TV. In fact, most literary agents are smart enough to network and co-venture with talent agents who work in the fields of movies and television.

Here's a perfect example: my wonderful literary agent, Holly Root, thought my novels would translate well in other media. There were several talent agencies — and agents within those agencies — she could have paired me with. She felt the best match was CAA. She was right. My agent there was diligent in sending my novels out to producers whom he felt would see their potential. A year and two months after my novel, Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, hit bookshelves, it was optioned by movie and television producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who promptly pitched it to ABC television as a dramatic series. It will be hitting the airwaves next year. That is pretty quick turnaround. Some novels take years to get that kind of notice from Hollywood.

A great agent is a great sales person. S/he will always be looking for opportunities to sell your book. And your next. And your next.

As technology forces the world of publishing to change, the role of the agent will change as well, too. The services they provide their clients will have to get broader. My guess is that these services will include all other things that help expand brands in other industries: name awareness (promotion) and  product positioning.

So how do you get an agent? That will be tomorrow’s post…

Picture: You may not want ENTOURAGE'S Ari Gold as your agent, but your literary agent might co-agent with someone like Ari who can help you sell  your manuscript into television or the movies. It's the way we live now.

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP HERE…

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I've got a question for you: Have you already tried to get an agent? How did that go?

— Josie

NaNoWriMo Tip #15: Recognize these three ways in which you sabotage your writing goals.

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Yay! It's November 15th, and that means you've made it to National Novel Writing Month's half-way mark.

If you've been hitting (or exceeding) your daily word count of around 1,650 words, then pat yourself on the back. You drank the Kool-Aid and thrived.

If, on some of those days, you've found yourself staring at a blank screen, my guess is that your problem isn't that you don't make the time or effort, but that some subliminal self-sabotage is at play.

Here are three ways in which you may be holding yourself from reaching your NaNoWriMo goal — and more importantly, your life dream of writing a novel:

1. You haven't done your (creative writing) homework.
Like every task, there is a skill set to learn. In creative writing, this includes plot structure and character development, not to mention such basics as sentence structure and grammar.

Words are your tools. The artistry of fiction comes with knowing how to use them: when to chip away at paragraphs that ramble, how to use less words to create more nuance. 

Take time to read other authors who have succeeded with these skills. (My personal favorites, to name a few, are Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Margaret Mitchell, Martin Cruz Smith, and John LeCarre.) By immersing yourself in their stories, the art of word play will soon be second nature to you. Eventually you will develop that sixth sense all great writers have: to craft moving sentences from the simplest words.

 2. You are writing during a time when you can be easily distracted.
The best time of day to write may not necessarily be when it is available to you. That said, consider the time of day (or night) in which you have the fewest distractions.

If it's while your children are at school, chances are you'll be at work. Make your lunch hour that time—but get out of the office, so that co-workers can't distract you.

If it is at night, turn off the TV and write, write, write. If, like me, it's late at night when everyone else is asleep, take a nap, then set the alarm for midnight and write for a couple of hours. By accepting the fact that your creative clock is different from the rest of the world's, you'll make your goal after all.

3. You are afraid of failing.
Most of the never-been-published authors I know have written wonderful stuff. The writing part isn't their problem. It is fear of rejection.

What they tell me is, “It isn't perfect…yet” or “I'm still tweaking.”

Bullshit! Their manuscripts have been tweaked to death: every word scrutinized, every phrase agonized over.

In fact, they have read other author-pal's manuscripts — those who have been published, and continue to succeed — and have given great feedback to make those unpublished manuscripts even stronger. They have the chops. We've read their manuscripts, too.

Whereas they consciously know that writing is a subjective art and that everyone gets rejections, they don't feel they can bear that rejection themselves.

Are you this person? If so, I want to give you a mantra: “If I don't let an agent read it, it will never be sold, and read by millions.”

Yes, you are holding your book hostage.

I've just played hostage negotiator with you. Set your manuscript free, and enjoy the accolades it is bound to receive.

One issue, which is not self-sabotage, can still get in your way: when the rest of your world is in crisis.

I've known many authors who have been under deadline to deliver a manuscript, but before they could do so, real life got in the way. Let me make this clear: this is not a form of self-sabotage.

It happens to all of us. The fact of the matter is that real life (as opposed to those lives we create on the page) brings with it some real problems. And real life takes precedent over your creative writing goals.

Some of my own deadlines had to be met during a time in my life when those closest to me were going through major health perils. Forget the word “distraction.” During a life-or-death situation, all you can think about is the pain your loved one is suffering, and the heartache you'd feel should you lose them.

As much as you may want to write every day, you have to face the fact that you may not be able to accomplish this goal.

Time to punt.

Deal with the ordeal. Take a breather. Then get back to your writing.

Because, like a true friend, it will always be there, waiting, for you.

IMAGE: F. Scott Fitzgerald, with his wife, Zelda. Talk about a man who wrote, despite adversity! His wife's mental illness was always a distraction, as was his alcoholism. And yet, Fitzgerald wrote until his dying day. Even his unfinished manuscript, The Last Tycoon, is a masterpiece. Talk about consummate word play!

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP, HERE…

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— Josie

NaNoWriMo Tip #8: Why every story needs a beginning, a middle and an end.

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I make it a point to peruse readers' reviews: not just of my own novels, but those of best selling authors as well.

Doing so allows me to process what it is that readers look for, when plucking down precious dollars on what they hope is a satisfying read.

Ironically, most complaints stem from something that goes awry in the structure of the plot: say, a great beginning and end, but a sagging middle.

Or maybe it's the end that fizzles out.

The worst thing that can happen is when the book doesn't grab the reader from the start. Book reviewers may slog through in the hope that there is light (or a plot) at the end of the tunnel, but the average reader will toss it aside if there is no there, there.

You can't just presume that your wonderful characters are going to carry the book to the end. You have to give them SOMETHING TO DO. You have to give them real conflict and hard choices.

It's even better if those choices are wrong. This allows them to redeem themselves later in the book.

When I moved to California from Georgia, I thought it was cute that so many of the folks I met out here were seeking a “higher consciousness.” Usually that meant following some guru who handed out mantras like M&Ms, to be chanted for hours on end.

If his accent made it hard for the acolytes to get it right, they'd write down what they thought they'd heard, then compare notes–

Only to discover that while Fred was chanting “Aw wah no dah cal ah”, Barney had been mumbling “Aw no dah wah cal ah”….

Go figure.

If you don't understand the goal, no amount of gibberish is going to get you where you want to be.

I'm going to make it simple for you. Throughout this 30-day process, repeat this mantra:

Beginning, middle, end. Beginning middle, end. Beginning, middle, end…

To get there:

Your beginning must make your reader feel for your hero/heroine.

Your middle must be filled with twists, turns and dilemmas; it must ratchet up the action on every page.

Your ending can't be a cliffhanger. It must satisfy your readers' need to know that the journey meant something….

Even if they don't want it to end.

Because if they want to stick around for more, they will read your next book, too.

(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All rights reserved.

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP, HERE…

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I've got a question for you, and be honest: does your story have a soggy middle? If so, what will you do to fix it?

Mantra this during National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie

NaNoWriMo Tip #7: Chapter doesn’t work? Fix it in “post.”

Microphone ready to present at a book store

Both my husband and I have broadcast backgrounds. One very important lesson we learned in those previous gigs serves us well when we're editing text articles or, in the case of National Novel Writing Month, novels:

Should you feel something isn't working on your project, you can always fix it later.

Broadcast producers can always rely on post-production: the time spent in the production booth, editing the footage shot or recorded for the project. If, while shooting the segment, what you're getting on camera runs too long (exposition; needless scenes, etc), or the subject stutters or talks too much (dialogue) — you rarely say “Cut” and start over. Instead, you'd wait until you were in the studio and saw the raw footage to determine which scenes needed to be trimmed.

The same goes for your manuscript. You job over the next few weeks is to put the story on the page. Afterward, you'll go through it page by page, chapter by chapter. If something reads false, go ahead and chop and dice it, until it reads to your satisfaction.

This won't happen in second draft either. You'll go through several drafts before you're truly pleased with your work.

Even after it sells to a publishing house (YES IT WILL SELL; YOU MUST BELIEVE THAT) you'll get notes back from your editor on how a scene or character should be tweaked. Then it will go through copy edits, where someone with a better grasp than you of grammar and syntax will take a shot at it, as well.

Because when it's ready for its public debut, your readers deserve the best story possible.

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READ YESTERDAY'S  TIP, HERE…

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I've got a question for you, and be honest: How many times do you read a chapter before you write the next one?

— Josie

NaNoWriMo Tip #6: When your “backstory” should be the story.

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During National Novel Writing Month, many an aspiring novelist will start with a great character. He will know his hero backwards and forward, as if he is his very best friend.

He'll describe how the hero looks, down to the cleft in his chin. He'll know about his childhood, his teen angst, his tribulations and his desires.

But now that it's time to give his hero something to do, the writer stalls out.

Why does this happen?

Because in this case, the backstory is the story.

So why not move it front and center?

If you can answer yes to these four questions, then the Muse is trying to tell you (HELLOOOOO!) that the better book to write starts where your hero first intrigued you:

1. When describing your book to others, do you find yourself spending more time describing your hero's past, but get stuck on telling what will happen to him in the book?

2. Is half of what you wrote in your synopsis his backstory?

3. Did it take all of Chapter One to describe your character before you realized you had nowhere to go with Chapter Two?

4. Do you find yourself rewriting the details of your hero's past, because it's more interesting than considering his future?

Take a broad hint: There is gold in the hills of his backstory.

Harry Potter is a perfect example of this. Can you imagine if J.K. Rowling had started her epic story with, say, Book 6 The Half-Blood Prince — when Harry was already at Hogwarts and just realizing his true role in a world turning darker, more sinister? Surely this book in the series and the seventh, could  have been tweaked to stand-alone…

But consider how much was gained by knowing so much more of Harry's backstory.

That's because it was never just his backstory. It was the story.

Bottom line: start at the real beginning: when you first realized that your hero intrigued you.

Maybe it was when he did that old-soul thing at age three. Or when he had his first kiss. Or when he accidently drove his parent's car into the lake.

Not all stories were meant to start where we want them to begin. Sometimes they start earlier, or later.

If you start your story at a point that is most interesting in your character's life, your readers will be sucked along on his journey, too.

So take them along for the ride.

It ain't the prequel. It's the beginning of a wonderful friendship between your hero and your reader.

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP HERE…

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I've got a question for you: Which character's backstory would you have liked to have read about, as a book?

For me, it is the character of Ethan Gage, in the wonderful historical suspense series by William Dietrich. We know that Ethan once studied under Benjamin Franklin. it would be a hoot to see his antics stateside, before we're introduced to him in Napoleon's Pyramids.

— Josie

NaNoWriMo Tip #5: Show, don’t tell.

whos-afraid-of-virginia-woolf

Because your goal each day of National Novel Writing Month is a word count, it's very easy to fall into a common trap: writing long passages of narration or exposition.

In other words, telling your readers, either via a narrator or the omnipotent third person, what is happening to your characters.

Do yourself a favor and FIGHT this temptation.

Why? Because what you're doing is “telling,” not “showing,” your readers.

Instead, craft your scenes with dialogue. It is much more interesting to your readers to have your characters talk to each other.

No doubt, narration or exposition is also important: for adding atmosphere, for setting up your scenes, for describing where the scenes take place, or how the characters look or feel.

And it utilizes takes more words than dialogue.

But if your characters don't verbalize their thoughts to each other, they aren't interacting normally.

For the majority of us, telepathy isn't an option: all the more reason your characters need to open their mouths to express their feelings.

If you're having a hard time moving from tell to show, pretend you're writing a play. What dialogue would you add to each scene?

Snappy dialogue. Snarky asides. Anger. Heartfelt revelations. All of these expressed emotions make scenes come alive, and make your readers laugh with — or more importantly, fall in love with — your characters.

This NaNoWriMo first draft may not be on par with Arthur Miller or Edward Albee or William Shakespeare, but it will go a long way to being completed if it engages readers.

Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf? Certainly not you!

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HERE'S YESTERDAY'S TIP…

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NaNoWriMo Tip #4: Meet your word count first; edit it later.

SpaghettiOne analogy about the tips you often hear regarding National Novel Writing Month is to imagine your your sentences as strands of spaghetti that you toss onto the wall of your manuscript.

As with any wall that gets covered with wet noodles and tomato sauce, at some point it either looks like a mess—

Or, like a work of art.

After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Remember: you are your own Jackson Pollock. This project is just the first of your many masterpieces.

You'll have a natural inclination to go back, re-read it, and edit what you wrote.

Don't.

Why? Because the whole purpose of NaNoWriMo is to put as many words on the page as you can in these precious thirty days.

If you're spending an hour — or worse yet, a full day — honing a specific page (or paragraph, or sentence) you will NEVER make your word count. The sheer weight of writing — and endless re-writing — are like ankle weights strapped onto a marathon runner: well before you reach the finish line, you will collapse in exhaustion.

Right now, you have only one goal: those 50,000 words, which is about two-thirds or half a standard manuscript submitted for publication, depending on the book.

After your thirtieth day, having reached your 50,000 words, most definitely you should re-read your story.

And re-read it again. And again.

And rewrite it. Continually.

Take note of misspellings, phrasing that is awkward, scenes that are deadly, and characters who don't move the plot forward.

The time you take to reshape your manuscript is what makes it a masterpiece, not how many words it is, or that you even finished it.

Your characters have to be engaging.

Your plot has to challenge them, give them moral dilemmas.

Your story has to be satisfying to your reader.

But your first step is to move that story from your head to the page.

Because ultimately, others want to read your masterpiece, too.

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP HERE…

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Okay, now, tell the truth: Are you meeting your word count? And tell me why, or why not…

— Josie

 

NaNoWriMo Tip #3: Don’t give up.

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Despite the fact that it is only Day 3 of National Novel Writing Month, I'm willing to bet that, before the clock strikes midnight tonight, one-tenth of everyone who began with high hopes of meeting their writing goals each day will have missed today's deadline…

And by tomorrow evening, they will have completely given up the ghost on the ideal of writing their book.

Don't let that person be you.

The only one who can defeat you from finishing your novel, then pitching it to an agent who sees its merit and wants to present it to publishers is YOU.

Yes, you heard me: you are your Boogie Man.

Your voice is the one whispering those niggling doubts that anyone will love your characters as much as you do.

No one taunts you more about your quirky sentence structure.

Only you think that your dialogue sucks, and that your plot has nowhere to go.

Do you see a pattern here?

Defeat comes from within.

Well, guess what? So does faith.

If you don't believe wholeheartedly in your book, no agent will, either.

If an agent never sees it, neither will any pub house editor.

And The Book That Never Was will be your greatest personal defeat.

It doesn't have to be.

Writing a book is not easy. Drawing from deep within that fantasy world within your brain and pouring it all out on (digital) paper is a skill that is honed one sentence at a time, and many drafts later.

In time, you will weave those sentences into the tapestry of your great story: one with tightly-woven plot threads that will awe all who have the chance to read it: first your critique partners, then the right agent, then an editor who is just excited about it as you —

And finally, a legion of fans, all of whom will be hungry to read your next book.

My first novel was sold as part of a two-book deal. When I broke this wonderful news to my sister, she was very excited for me, for all of about twenty seconds. Then, in a hushed voice, she asked: “But–they can't make you write another one…can they?”

Make me? Write another book?

Hell yeah, twist my arm…

Because it's what I do.

Whether anyone else believes I can do it or not, I write.

Hey, trust me: I have my own Boogie Man.

He fills me with doubts that the muse will some day kick me to the curb.

He tries to convince me that I'll lose my ability to tweak some real-life situation into a great “what if.”

And that, one day, I'll just not care; that I will give up the need to write, to practice my art.

His stale breath has been wheedling doubts in my ear through three agents, four pub houses, and at least a dozen unsold manuscripts.

In fact, he was there last night, taunting me about a book proposal that went out just yesterday. He wants me to believe that it will be laughed out of every publishing house it's been sent to…

Well, he's wrong.

I may not have a magic force field to keep him out of my life, but I have a silver bullet that stops him dead in his tracks, every time:

I believe in my book.

Just like I've believed in all my books, even when others didn't.

I've now got a body of work to prove it. My books have found avid, appreciative audiences.

Yours will, too.

How about you?  Do you believe in your story, your characters, about your vision of a life as a writer?

Then start writing it. Again.

Put those words down on the page. Set a daily goal for yourself, and meet it. Trust me, you won't be writing REDRUM REDRUM REDRUM over and over.

To paraphase Winston Groom, author of  Forrest Gump, writing is a bowl of cherries.

Now, in a paraphrasical mashup of Mr. Groom and Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather:

Drop the Boogie Man. Take the bowl of cherries.

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Here's yesterday's  Tip #2…

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— Josie

 

 

 

NaNoWriMo Tip #2: Outline the plot of your story.

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I am forever amazed at authors who tell me that they write their books without first outlining the plot of their stories.

Usually the conversation goes something like this:

Would Be Author: “Plotting? NOOOOO! I'd never do that! I'd be crushing my muse! My characters take me on their journey, not the other way around….”

Me: “Yeah, right, whatever….Um, how long have you been working on that book?”

Would Be Author, after a long silence: “Well, let's see…I started it in the third year of Obama's second term in office…”

You get my drift.

Dear NaNo Newbie: I never want to have that same conversation with you.

I never want to see the pain in your eyes when you hear that NaNo Pal Such-and-Such just finished his novel/got an agent/sold his book to Random House. Why? Because I know you'll be thinking, “That could have been me, had I only (a) gotten beyond the first chapter (b) figured out where my story was going (c) hadn't run out of steam….”

By the way, “steam” is a euphenism for “plot.”

Which gets us back to the iceberg at the bottom of this tip: Create an outline for your story — so that you actually have a plot.

Non-plotters are what we scribes call a “pantser”: someone who writes by the seat of their pants.

Even published authors do it. Many of my writer pals, in fact (Hey! Yeah, YOU! You know who you are…)

They are the ones who (a) work 10 hours a day for the same 3,000 words it takes a plotter to do in, say 4 hours, or (b) turn in their manuscripts after their editors deadlines, and yet (c) still stubbornly insist it's the only way they can write….

WRONG.

Writing is a discipline, and plotting is the foundation in which your wonderful book will be built.

Don't get halfway through it, then kick yourself because it needs a character who should have entered 40 pages earlier, or because you have to substitute more action in place of all that middle-of-the-book navel gazing…

Admit it: YOU were navel-gazing, too…weren't you?

That's because you got lost in the wilderness of your wonderful mind…

The breadcrumbs are your plot.

You will still see all those wonderful characters on the way to your final destination, but your novel's outline is the map that takes you there.

Think of it as your GPS system, that tells you the next turn—the next waypoint— on your journey, to your final destination: YOUR NOVEL.

This outline will route you through many twists and turns. Along the way, you'll write in many interesting characters that actually DO something in the story which moves the plot forward: up some very challenging plot hills, and down into scary abysses–

All the while allowing the reader to care–no, to LOVE–your hero or heroine.

Bottom line: give your story a great beginning, and page-turning middle, and a satisfying ending.

Think 30 chapters (estimate) in 300 pages (again, nothing written in stone) —

And write something on each page — in each chapter — to make readers want more of your hero(ine).

You may argue, “But doing an outline confines you to those plot points!”

I disagree!

Your outline is the path that takes you from Point A (your first word) to Point Z (The End). Along the way, feel free to stop and smell the roses you find there, be they a character who comes to you out of the blue, or an incident that allows you to meander in a field along your way to your final destination–

The completion of your book.

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP, HERE…

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Okay, now, tell the truth: Do you plot, or pants? And tell me why…

— Josie

 

 

NaNoWriMo Tip #1: Treat writing as if it’s your career.

 

Writing Clarity text made in the office close-up on laptop computer keyboard. Business concept for Clarity Message Workshop on the black background with copy space

My first tip: Treat writing as a career.

Why? Because those of us who call ourselves writers don't see it as a hobby.

It is how we spend the bulk of our work day.

It is our primary source of income.

It is a way of life.

As such, the term “avocation” fits it well. But so does the word “vocation.”

That's because writing is also our chosen career.

It can be yours, too — if you choose to make it such.

Fate (zeitgeist, fairy dust, whatever) has a lot to do with any writer's success. But so does determination. That thing called inspiration happens to everyone–but not everyone puts in the hard work to take a high concept and develop it into a full-length story that plays out page after page, and keeps readers intrigued until the very last sentence.

I truly believe that those of us who take the time and make the effort can be published.

I believe that person is YOU.

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TOMORROW, I'LL HAVE ANOTHER TIP FOR YOU…

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If you think so, too, comment below as to why. What drives you to write?

 

— Josie


Check out my website for my latest releases and contests…

 

When You Wish Upon a Star…

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They like me. They really, really like me.

Now I know how Sally Field felt.

Film and television producer Jerry Bruckheimer – one of Hollywood's best at getting the job done – has optioned my novel, Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, and sold it to ABC Television as a dramatic series.

You can read about it here…

People, this so RARELY happens. Yes, there have been some hit-it-out-of-the park novel-to-TV-series adaptations. Charlaine Harris's True Blood is a perfect example.

But they are few, and far between.

So, yes, I know: I could not be more blessed.

Wow. ABC! I remember Sunday evenings, sitting in front of our television set waiting anxiously for Tinkerbell to sprinkle me with some of that Disney magic.

 Better late than never.

And I could not have asked for a better Prince Charming to take me to my very first Hollywood ball.

Everything I've been told about Mr. Bruckheimer makes me happy that he's whisked me out onto the the dance floor. Through his production companies, he has built a great team of executive producers. He looks for strong, hardworking writers, and he builds stellar casts from actors who work hard to breathe life into their characters.

Now my characters — Lyssa, Harry, Ted, DeeDee, and their motely crew of neurotic neighbors — will be brought to life.

And if our show is lucky enough to catch the zeitgeist left in the final season stardust trail of ABC's very popular hit series Desperate Housewivesmy characters will have a chance to live long and prosper.

To all the readers who loved Lyssa and her story, I thank you for writing me to let me know, and telling me how much she (and I) touched your lives.

To all the book reviewers who sang the praises of Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, I love you, too, and will always appreciate the role you played in encouraging readers to buy my book.

That said I'll let you know what I know, when I know it: who will star, when the show premiers, how well it does– hey, we can even watch together! You'll find me Tweeting and Facebooking every week a new show runs, so I hope you'll join me.

And I'll certainly be running a VERY SPECIAL CONTEST through the night of its premiere. More on that later….

In fact, if after doing so you answer this question correctly, I'll include your winning entry in a contest for one of 5 autographed copies of my latest novel The Baby Planner

Until then, I hope you'll  pick up a copy of Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives. Start by reading an excerpt here and then write and tell me:

What is the name of Harry's son?

Email your answer to: MailFromJosie@gmail.com
no later than 11:59 pm PDT, Saturday December 10, 2011.

 

Thanks for helping me reach my star.

The clock hasn't struck twelve yet, so let's all get in one more dance,

 

— Josie

 

Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

In bookstores now!

"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

 


 

Did Celine Dion Names Her Twins After An American Idol?

CelineDion.jpg Okay, now seriously, how hard is it to name a baby boy or two?

You can pay homage to his grandpa; or perhaps your teen crushes (Marky-Mark? M&M? Nahhhh…)

For pop star Celine Dion and her husband, Rene Angelil, it wasn't an easy call. Seems that they struggled on what to call their two-month-old twin sons for at least a week.

In hindsight, I guess their final choices were good ones. The boys are called Nelson, and Eddy.

Which led me to a very wrong presumption: That she named them after the singer, Nelson Eddy.

For those of you who are too young to remember, Eddy was a baritone whose fame and fortune came from the many musicals he made in the 1930s and 1940s, with co-star Jeannette MacDonald. He also had super-star appeal with bobby soxers, allowing him to cross over into pop music in those decades.

Celeb watcher Lori Shewbridge set me straight (see her comment, below). She points out that, according to PopEater.com, the names are tribute of music producer Eddy Mornay, who worked on Dion's first five albums, and former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.

Thanks, Lori! In fact, your Li'l Ms. Know-It-All remark wins you a free copy of SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES.

Celine began her singing career at age twelve. Does she have similar tiger mother aspirations for her little guys?

If so, first she'll have to be able to tell them apart.

Or as she jokes with Oprah Winfrey's talk show tomorrow (Monday, February 21, 2011): “Rene said, ‘Listen, people are starting to call me. What's their names? I can't tell them A and B again – that's not working…It's like, ‘Was the hat switched? I thought this was Baby A'. And I'm like, ‘Stop [with] the As and the Bs. I'm going to do C [and] Ds right now. My name is Céline Dion with a C and a D, so don't push me, because I'm close to the edge!'”

We hear ya, Celine.

By the way, it doesn't get any easier. 

Wait until they both get their driver's licenses,

–Josie

__________________________________

Baby Planner Low Res Don't forget to enter the contest for my novel, THE BABY PLANNER. Here's your chance to win a $100 gift card from you favorite bookstore! 

_

Thanks, Multnomah County Public Library, for putting me on your shelves.

Multnomah fallsMultnomah County (OR) Library has nine copies of SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES on its shelves, and I feel honored that it does.

It's doubly sweet to me when the library is based in one of the most environmentally awe-inspiring places on earth.

If you have not yet visited Multonomah, County, you're missing some eye candy. It is home to the spectacular falls that carry the county's name, as well as the famed Columbia River Gorge.

It is county seat is Portland, OR.

My husband and I discovered Multnomah County late this summer. After a reading in the Seattle Area, we took to the road to play there (its only a couple of hours away) because Multnomah Falls was on our bucket list.

Every drop lives up to its reputation for breathtaking beauty.

That night and the next we hung in Portland, the county seat and one of the most laid-back food-tastic cities in the country. The restaurants we tried were innovative and reasonably priced. We tried Davis Street Tavern and Clyde Common.  Both: To. Die. For.

Of course, no stop in Portland is complete without also perusing the famed Powell's Bookstore. Yes, it had a few copies of SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES–among the multitude of others in its block-to-block-to-block-to-block humongous store! Not to mention its technical bookstore, and academic branch…

It was mid-September, and yes it was drizzling…but that didn't stop us from walks to the riverfront. We weren't the only one. It was also the weekend of Portland's Race for the Cure. Seeing so many pink ribbons makes your heart swell.

Portland truly is a city with a big heart,

–Josie

 BabyPlannerCoverIn Bookstores April 5, 2011!
THE BABY PLANNER – A Novel by Josie Brown

(Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books)

ISBN#: 9781439197127

"I loved it! Josie Brown captures the highs and lows of love, lust and marriage with heartwrenching  pathos. I'm recommending it to all my friends as the perfect beach read!"
Lisa Rinna, actress, and author of the novel, Starlit

Order your copy today: 

From Amazon / Amazon Kindle

From Barnes & Noble / 

From Books a Million

From Books Inc.

From Borders

From Your Local Independent Bookstore

From Powell's


And you though you had holiday travel problems…

Holiday Travel Trouble As for holiday travel, I'd say this takes the cake: get a look at these poor folks in the Xi'an Railway Station ticket center, in Northwest China's Shaanxi province. 

It was taken yesterday (January 5, 2011). Or As China Daily explains:

"Chinese railway doesn't start until Jan 19 this year, but people who're eager to get a seat on the train have already started their struggles. During the 40-day Spring Festival travel rush, from Jan 19 to Feb 27, about 230 million trips are expected on Chinese railways, 5.75 million a day. Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, which starts on Feb 3 this year, is China's biggest holiday, during which people return home to be with family."

*[Photo/Xinhua]

 

If your holiday travel was worse than this, I want to hear from you. Feel free to comment below.The best sob story earns the commentor a signed copy of SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES.

Just 'coz you deserve it,

–Josie

 

 BabyPlannerCoverIn Bookstores April 5, 2011!
THE BABY PLANNER – A Novel by Josie Brown

(Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books)

ISBN#: 9781439197127

"I loved it! Josie Brown captures the highs and lows of love, lust and marriage with heartwrenching  pathos. I'm recommending it to all my friends as the perfect beach read!"
Lisa Rinna, actress, and author of the novel, Starlit

Order your copy today:

From Amazon

From Barnes & Noble

From Books a Million

From Books Inc.

From Borders

From Copperfield's

From Your Local Independent Bookstore

From Powell's

From Target

Hugh Hefner and Marriage

Hugh-Hefner-Engaged-to-Crystal-Harris You've got to hand it to Playboy founder/editor-in-chief Hugh Hefner: he makes great headlines.

From that standpoint, it pays to have a journalistic background.

No doubt about it: his third marriage — at eighty-four, to twenty-four year-old Playmate Crystal Harris — is hot news.

Sadly, for all the wrong reasons.

Don't get me wrong. Pesonally, I'm all for marriage. I just feel that the best reasons to tie the knot are emotional ones, like love and commitment, as opposed to upping your Twitter followers, website stats, or magazine circulation.

I guess Crystal is getting something out of it, too — that is, if they are still a legal couple by the time Hef's will is being read. I hate to be so blunt about it, but come on already: if she isn't a gold digger (or as Twitter account @BestWorstAdvice puts it, grave digger), then she's got one helluva daddy complex.

Make that Grandpa complex. If that isn't a cry for help, then I don't know what is.

The absolute best line on Twitter:

@pattonoswalt: Hope when I turn 60 I can think, quietly, "My wife is being born somewhere." #hefner

The most ironic thing I've heard about it came from The Son, who said: "He's eighty-four, and he's been married only three times? Well, I guess that's something."

Interesting perspective. Just goes to show that there's an upside to everything, even this relationship.

Running the original lad mag, there's no doubt that The Hef has certainly slept with enough beautiful women. And certainly progeny isn't an issue, what with golden daughter, Christie, and son David (from first wife, Mildred), and spares Marston and Cooper (from second wife, Kimberley).

So, is it true love? Nah. It's strictly a numbers game.

If you want in on it, here's a heads-up: The New York Stock Exchange symbols for Playboy Enterprises are PLA and PLAA.

Short-term gain, all the way around,

–Josie

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

Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

In bookstores now. 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

And the winner is…

 Okay, this was the game plan:

1. Type out the name of every contestant to my Secret Santa Contest –multiple times, if they entered multiple times — and put it in a bag.

CHECK.

2. Take the bag over to my local Barnes & Noble — the Corte Madera, CA store, where, by the way, they still have two autographed copies of my book — so that a bookseller there can pick the winneSanta Gift Bagr.

CHECK.

3. Take along our new Flip camera — and the Hub — so that he could video the actual event.

CHECK.

4. Invite one of the booksellers to do the actual drawing.

Okay, that's where the plan went off the rails.

Like, who knew B&N had a corporate policy that (a) you can't video their booksellers, or (b) use their names, or even (c) photograph them?

However, the bookseller was kind enough to participate in the drawing, and for that we thank her.

And the name she yanked out of the hat?

Melissa A.

So, yes, Melissa, there IS a Santa– with a gift card to your favorite bookstore!

I'll email you for your deets.

To the other contestants, I want to say thank you for letting me know how much you enjoyed the excerpt. I hope the book was on your holiday gift list. If so, and you've got other gift cards to use, here's a list of stores around the country, where you may still find signed copies of SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES.

Here's to a happy and healthy 2011,

–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

“I Want To Be Your Secret Santa” Contest

Secret+santa The best thing about the holidays is giving, not getting. I feel very blessed this year. One way in which I plan to give back is to play Secret Santa for one lucky reader. The prize: a $50 gift card to the book store of your choice.

Here's how it works:

1. Read this excerpt of my latest novel, Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives. The set-up: a holiday potluck at the local country club of my heroine, Lyssa Harper. She's befriended Harry Wilder, a recently separated stay-at-home father, to the consternation–make that envy–of the women who were once her closest friends: Brooke, Tammy, Margot, and Colleen. 

After you read the excerpt, below, everything you do, also listed here, gives you yet another chance to win this gift. For example, you can:

2. Comment below about one character, and how his/her actions made you, smile, laugh, cry, or shake your head in wonder. (earns you 1 chance)

3. Post about my Secret Santa Contest on your Facebook page, this way (1 chance per post, per day):

Want a chance to win a $50 giftcard to your favorite bookstore? Just enter @Josie Brown's Secret Santa Contest: http://bit.ly/fK1Uy3

4. Post about my Secret Santa Contest on your Twitter page, this way (1 chance per post, per day):

Want a chance to win a $50 giftcard to your favorite bookstore? Just enter @JosieBrownCA's Secret Santa Contest: http://bit.ly/fK1Uy3

5. Friend me on my Facebook Fan Page (1 chance)

6. Friend me on my Twitter Page (1 chance)

7. Blog about it! (2 chances)

I'll be keeping a running list of all entrants, here, and updated every evening by Midnight PT of Christmas Day, December 25, 2010, when the contest ends. The winning entry will be chosen out of a Santa hat, by one of my favorite booksellers, sometime on December 26th. That person's nickname will be posted here, and on the Entrants page.

 Good luck, and have a happy merry holiday!

–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

____________________________________________________________

EXCERPT:

Pot_300 The clubhouse is buzzing with polite laughter and forced cheer. Everyone is there, even the Undesirables. What better way to elicit envy than to open the red velvet rope to the wannabes every now and then?

Crammed onto the tables lining the center of the room are a myriad of leftovers, which are more than the sum total of a few carefully chosen, specifically measured ingredients. While these dishes are served up with pride, they are also leavened with memories both fond and wince-worthy.

I speak for myself. Yesterday left a bittersweet taste in my mouth.

I’m only here to eat up time until Ted and I can talk things out later this evening. Does he have reason to be jealous? Not on Harry’s account. I appreciate Harry’s friendship, and I know this feeling is reciprocated. But let’s face facts: he has never come onto me.

Okay, yeah, I’ll admit it. That disappoints me. It’s not that I’m looking for an affair. I wouldn’t trade the friendship and respect Harry and I share now for that. . .

But hell, if Ted is going to accuse me of it anyway —

Not to mention Tammy and the others on the Heights Women’s League Board.

Just what the hell are they staring at, anyway? Seems they can’t keep their eyes off us.

But of course not. Because they want validation that what they suspect is true.

This is why they assess—make that obsess—over every move we make.

They take note of the way in which Harry hovers over me protectively. How his asides are addressed to me alone. How he scans my face appreciatively.

Then they wait for my reaction. I’m fully aware that, if I dare lean into him, eyebrows will be raised. If, involuntarily, I laugh out loud, they’ll poke each other knowingly. And heaven forefend I should allow my eyes to meet his! If that happened, rumors would race through the room almost as quickly as the children here, who are hopped up on soda, pie and ice cream.

“Hey, you haven’t heard a word I’ve said, have you?” Harry says this as if it were a joke, but the sadness in his eyes is proof he knows he’s right.

“Sure I have. You were—something about . . .Okay, sorry, I give up.” I force a smile onto my lips.

“If I’m boring you, feel free to play with your girlfriends. I won’t be jealous.” He flashes a knowing smile, but I reel in my tendency to punch him in the arm for it. Instead I shake my head. Anything more obvious will give them reason to presume they’re onto something:

That what we have is more than just wishful thinking on their parts.

And on mine.

“Go up to Margot and her court? Thanks, smart ass, but I’ll pass on the honor.” Oddly, that thought is liberating.

“Eventually you’ll have to say something. In a month’s time you’ll be their new queen. Won’t it help if you cozy up to Margot?”

 “You know, I could say the same to you. Shouldn’t you two kiss and make up?”

He derisive guffaw has them all aflutter. “The price is too high.”

Yeah, well I feel the same way.

“Hey, wait here I’m going to see if I can take care of this stain.” I head off to the lavatory, but when I get there, I find the door locked. I hear a weird pounding on the other side, so I wait a few minutes before knocking again.

Tootan Finally it opens. Masha Shriver struts out. Her crass brass locks flares out from her head, like Medusa’s snakes gone wild. Her winter white dress defies gravity. It’s strapless and boasts a neckline that plunges below her navel. Considering the amount of rain we’ve been getting, her deep tan is unexpected, not to mention unusual in color. (For the record, I am of the opinion that bruised papaya is not a good look.)

Masha is not alone. Despite his guilty look, I recognize the man who is still zipping up his pants as he maneuvers past me as one of our friendly neighborhood bankers.

Apparently the Shrivers’ account is paying off with some unexpected dividends.

“Oh . . . I’m sorry. I just needed to . . . You’re Masha, right? I’m Lyssa. I’m a friend of Pete’s.” At a loss for what to do next, I stick out my hand.

Very awkward. Pete’s name does not elicit the response I’d expected. Instead she glares at me, as if I’ve just cursed her firstborn. (Despite the hickey Tanner received the night of the poker game compliments of her daughter Natassia, I don’t feel that would be necessary. It was bound to happen sooner or later.)

“Pete? Ah, LYZZA. Yez, I know of yooouuu!” I don’t know if it’s her Slavic accent that has her slurring her words, or her vodka intake, but I’m willing to guess the latter. The fumes from her breath have me reeling. As she grabs me by the shoulders with both hands and hugs me to her chest, she whispers in my ear: “Streep poker, yez? Not to worry. I not mad. You see, I have ’hobby,’ too! But, hey, not one verd to my Pete, dah?” She pushes me away.

I stumble into the bathroom, bruised from where she held my shoulders. I’m sure I have two contusions on my chest that match whatever nipple armor she’s bearing.

I’ve been marked in another way, too: Thanks to Masha’s spray-on tan, my brand new sweater has been tagged with her fingerprints and a faint V that matches her neckline.

“Damn it! Damn it!” The soup has already dried into a dark, impenetrable shadow, while dabbing at the new stains only spread them into a treacly Orangina.

Stain My new outfit is ruined. Would it help if I bang my head against the wall? Nah. But if I’d die, they’d have an obvious clue for a murder suspect.

Then there’s the issue about Pete. He is a buddy after all. If he were a girlfriend, of course I’d speak up. But what is the mancode about such things?

Harry knows the code. And since I don’t need any more enigmas in my life, tag he’s it.

I find Harry chatting up Biker Mom. When he sees me, he waves me over. Instinctively I glance around to see if Brooke is anywhere around. Oh great, she’s glaring at him from across the room. Between this and my most recent introduction to a supposedly friendly face, I don’t need to a frantic call later from Brooke, calling me a traitor.

Seeing my concern, Harry excuses himself and casually meanders over. “What, you’re not into making new friends?” As he plucks a cookie off a dessert tray, he does a doubletake at the new stains on my sweater. “She promised me a ride in her Maseratti. I was going to ask if you could tag along, but now I don’t know. I mean, what if you stain her seats?”

“Forget the joy ride, Andretti. We have bigger fish to fry. I just caught Masha in the lady’s room with First National Bank of Paradise Heights.” I tilt my head in the direction of Masha’s boyfriend, who is scurrying after her into the clubhouse’s coatroom. Even from where I’m standing I can see a large orange streak on his sweater. He is a marked man. “What’s the protocol? Do we tell Pete?”

“Jesus.” Harry closes his eyes for a moment. And shakes his head. “Yeah, well, I’d want to know. Wouldn’t you?”

“Of course!” Harry was right. Yesterday’s tiff with Ted now seems silly. I can’t wait for him to come home.

Harry tosses the last crumb of cookie into his mouth and wipes his hands. “Well, when you tell him, be gentle—”

“Whoa, whoa, wait . . . who, me? Think again, slick. You’re his closest friend.”

Harry groans. “If I remember correctly, that was your doing.” It takes a while, but he nods. “Okay, but I don’t think this is the time or the place.”

“I leave it to your discretion.” I give him a thumbs-up. “Oh great, Brooke is coming over, I guess to call you a traitor.”

He laughs. “Is that better or worse than an Undesirable? I forget.”

“In your case, it’s one and the same.” I glance around the room for our salvation. It comes in the form of Cal, who is standing uncomfortably beside Bev. True to form, Bev is oblivious to this. She has trapped the Emersons in a corner. No doubt she’s giving them a pitch about a house she knows would be perfect for them, now that they’re pregnant again and will need the extra space.

“Why don’t we save Cal instead? The girls are downright afraid of him, so that should keep them away for while.”

Immediately I move in, tapping Bev lightly on the shoulder. “Hi, Bev! I just want to thank you for putting in that call to the Heights Market regarding the Food Drive. It’s what made the drive an over-the-top success.”

As Bev turns to me to say something, the Emersons see their opportunity and scurry away. I see by the look in her eyes that she’s is tempted to run after them, but realizes this is bad form, even for her. “Oh yeah, hi, Lyssa! Glad I could be of some help. Really, it was Calvin’s idea, but hey, all in the family, right?”

“You know Harry Wilder, right?” I move to the side so that Harry can shake her hand.

“Yes! I mean, of course I know of you—” She looks at him curiously. “—Well, about the . . . you know–”

"My poker games? I hope Cal attending doesn’t interfere –”

Cal? Oh, yes! Not at all! So sweet of you to have him over! But what I meant is that, with the way the divorce is going and all, you’ll probably need this—”

She pulls out a refrigerator magnet. On it is her profile and name, with that patented Bev Bullworth slogan: Great Service, No Bull—

Harry stares down at it. “Thanks . . .I guess.”

“It’s so you’ll remember to call me! You know, when you’re ready to buy your condo.” She expresses just right amount of sympathy. “Cal tells me you’ll want to stay in the neighborhood and keep commuting in, so that you can be close to the kids. You know, one of those new units they’ve built off Main have come available. It isn’t so roomy, granted. But the HOA is very small—”

“Why would I want a condo? I already have a house.” He glares at Cal, who backs away from Bev, horrified. Whatever hole she’s digging for herself, he is not going to jump into it with her.

“Yes, but not for long. You know how these things usually go. DeeDee’s got the natural edge—”

“Is that what you think? That, just because she’s the woman, she’s a better mother than I am a father?”

“Well . . . I . . . No, of course not!” Bev’s backpedalling is insincere despite her cheeriness. “But it never hurts to be prepared, right? Eventually, when the court rules on the situation, you’ll have to give up the ghost—”

I put my hand on Harry’s arm so that he remembers where he is, but he shrugs it off. I’m too late anyway. Slackened jaws, including many stuffed with leftovers, hang open as everyone tunes in on our little drama. Margot smiles triumphantly. To her mind, Harry’s comeuppance–at the hand of Bev Bullworth, no less!—is just dessert.

“Thanks for your concern.” Harry’s words are brittle and empty. “But do me a favor and give it a break, at least until the court ruling. Better yet, here–” He hands her back her magnet. “Save it for the next time you see DeeDee.”

Before she can say anything else, Harry walks off in the direction of the front door. I follow him out, as does Cal.

“Wait, Harry! Look . . .I’m sorry Bev said all those stupid things.” Cal hangs his head. “Sometimes she speaks before she thinks.”

 “She’s just parroting back the party line around here.” Harry shrugs. “Ah, shit, here comes Pete. I guess we should tell him about Tanner’s and Jake’s suspensions.” Harry shifts uneasily, but waves our friend over anyway. “Do you want to do the honors, or shall I?”

“By that long face, maybe he already knows.”

I’m poise to verify this, but Pete brushes me aside. “Anyone seen Masha?”

Harry gives me a warning nudge. He doesn’t have to worry. Since I’ll have to break the news about Tanner and Jake’s tomfoolery, the last thing I’m going to mention is Masha’s, too.

“Damn! She asked me to go home and get her sweater because she felt a chill. I guess she forgot her coat is right here, in the coatroom.” He rushes off down the hall.

Harry and I look at each other, then take off after him, with Cal trailing after us.

But we’re too late. We get there just in time to see him freeze over his wife, who is in a love tussle with the guy who doles out the cash from his trust fund.

In a flash he yanks Masha’s boyfriend up by his hair. What comes off in his hand has Pete turning white. Those who suspected BofPH sports a toupee can now collect on their bets.

Livid, the guy flails back at Pete. Unfortunately for him Pete’s daily workouts give him a leg up. Pete’s lip may be split, but it’s BofPH’s nose that’s pushed out of joint.

Cal and I brace for what Pete might have in store for Masha as he lifts her, naked, out of the coat nest she and her lover made on the floor. Seeing her that way only confirms what I suspected since our run-in: yep, she does indeed have an all-over tan.

At this point a good smack won’t make up for my stained sweater, but I have to admit it would give me some satisfaction. Instead, Pete cradles his wife in his arms. “Did he hurt you? I swear, if he did—”

She shrugs, but the look on her face reflects what we’re all thinking:

You poor, pathetic, fool.

Sad Guy Closing the door behind us, Harry shakes his head in disbelief. “Unbelievable! Now, that’s what I call ’denial.’ Doesn’t he see what’s happening?”

It’s on the tip of my tongue to say “No, because he doesn’t want to” but I keep quiet. What’s the point? I’m guessing we’ve all been there at one time or another.

Even Harry.

Especially Harry.

__________________________________________

Excerpted from Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives by Josie  Brown.

Copyright © 2010 by 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.

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

 

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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.

How the Publishing World Has Changed…or Not

Kirk-scotty While Googling myself (Hey, 'fess up! You do it, too!) I came up with this article, in LiveWires.com, dated April 3, 2009. In it, I was asked: "How do you see the world changing from a writer’s point of view?"

 My answer is below.

Do I still feel it hits the mark? Hell yeah. In a nutshell, my two cents: as online distribution of digitial books grow, the roles of publishers, agents, and book retailers will have to change, in order for these functions to survive. I the article, I  give my suggestionsas to how these change will benefit authors.

Warp speed, Scotty: has anything changed in the year and a half that's passed, to validate my predictions?

Nah. But then again, we all know that the book publishing industry moves as slow as a Ferengi returning a lost wallet. I hope that doesn't get lost in translation.

I'm givin' it all I got, Cap'n,

–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

 

JOSIE BROWN ANSWERS OUR QUESTION

LiveWires.com

We are asking a few author friends a question: How do you see the world changing from a writer’s point of view?

Here is Josie Brown’s answer –

“The literary world is beginning to look a lot like the music and entertainment industries, at least as it pertains to the future distribution of its products: online sales and downloads, as opposed to instore CDs and vinyl (music industry), DVDs (film/TV entertainment), or paper (book industry.)

As technology moves by leaps and bounds, all these media are struggling to establish a viable revenue model that fairly compensates those who create the product (writers, musicians, directors) and those who bring it to market.

That said, short of having your book written on Charmin toilet paper, I’m guessing most authors will welcome any and all new media that allows their stories to reach new and or loyal fans–

That is, if the fair compensation model can be upheld.

Aye, there’s the rub.

The advantage to technology is also its Achille’s Heel: pirating copywritten material is very easy to do when it’s put online. The Google lawsuit  and settlement opened up a Pandora’s box of legal issues that we all will be struggling with for quite some time,

The current compensation model used by the original eBook publishers is as follows:

(1) to attract readers, offer  books for a price cheaper than printed ones. This was something they’re able to do since they don’t have printing expenses. And because eBook publishers sell primarily online and promoted their books there as well, they have no shipping expenses, retail discounts, or returns: all of which gouge a publisher’s return on his investment .

(2) To entice authors, pay higher royalty rates: 40-50%,  as opposed to the print standard of 8-15%, depending on formats and formulas–albeit small or no advance. (“We’re all in this together, right? And besides, since New York won’t publish you, we’re your BFF….”)

(3) Pay authors on a monthly basis, as opposed to twice a year. (That’s the real advantage to the digital era.)

Now that eBooks are predicted to be the norm as opposed to the anomaly, traditional print publishers are seriously reconsidering the eBook’s role in their business model. However, this sea change change in product distribution will affect print publishers’ role in an even more profound way:

They will no longer serve as the gatekeepers of what is printed. Their role will shift to that of brand manager: that is build, promote, and manage the brands of their authors their books, both the front and the backlist.

Ideally, promotion will begin much earlier – perhaps even the minute the book’s contract has been signed – and continue much longer than 60 days beyond the launch date. This is a model used in both the music and entertainment industries (both of which have much more expensive production costs) – so why not for books?

(Oooooh…..sorry! I got tingles just THINKING about this!)

And much of this promotion will happen online as well – because much of the traditional media previously used to promote books  – newspaper reviews and magazine excerpts – is also disappearing.

Or going online.

An promotionally aggressive media-savvy author can use this to his/her advantage. Blogging daily and uploading content to your blog that entices daily visits from your fans, utilizing social networks to reach out to them, offering contests and excerpts, posting events  – all of these marketing endeavors define your voice and your brand.

And in partnership with a publishing house which see you as a viable brand and treats you as one, this brave new world will be a great place to sell our books.”

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.”