Summer Television

I used to watch so much television it was like a second job. I blamed it on my friend in London who taught me, while he lived in New York, that one should never be ashamed of loving television. (This weekend he innocently got me hooked on UK Big Brother by sending a clip of houseguest Charley. Like a train wreck, she is so deliciously neurotic and egotistical you can’t look away even though you know you should.)

Summers have always been a welcome break from television for me. Lately, however, the smaller cable channels have become competitive players in this game of original programming, so I find myself looking out for new shows like Damages on FX (starring Glenn Close) and Saving Grace on TNT (starring Holly Hunter).

Right now, I’m watching three shows: The Closer, Big Love & Entourage.

Of the three, The Closer is my favorite. I’ve been a Kyra Sedgwick fan since I saw the movie Singles. In The Closer, Kyra plays Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson, a CIA-trained interrogator with a weakness for junk food. When I saw a couple of repeats of season 1 earlier this year, it was Brenda’s penchant for Ding Dongs (or whatever those cakes are she eats) at the end of a long day that made the show (and character) a true winner for me. (Yes, sometimes that’s all it takes.) Not that I have a love for Ding Dongs. It was Brenda pulling open her desk drawer and biting into a chocolate cake as all the stress from the day eased off her face that did it for me.

The day after Father’s Day, I sat back and watched TNT’s The Closer marathon – every episode of season 2 leading into the 9PM season 3 premiere – and I figured out what else I love about Brenda. She’s hysterically funny without meaning to be. I really do adore people with huge, quirky personalities that are so natural they look baffled or embarrassed when you laugh at something quirky they’ve done. The rest of the cast is also pretty fantastic. The show airs Monday nights at 9pm on TNT.

Honestly? I don’t know why I tune into Big Love on a regular basis. I like Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Mary Kay Place a lot, so I knew I’d tune in when I heard about it. But it’s about a polygamist family of Mormon fundamentalists in Utah

Actually, that is precisely why I tune in on a regular basis. Doesn’t that sound disturbingly intriguing? I hate to be narrow-minded about it, but I’ve always believed polygamists use religion as a cover to be able to have sex with, and dominate, several women without consequences. I can’t say Big Love has changed my mind about that since it’s fiction, but I have learned that Bill Paxton’s character, Bill Henrickson, truly believes plural marriage is the way to get into Heaven. People who choose to live and dress a certain way because they believe it will give them passage into Heaven fascinate me. I don’t go out of my way to understand them, but I do wonder what kind of mind follows a word that says you must marry many women to be righteous, or whatever.

After watching the entire first season and what has already aired of the second, I still have no clear idea what the difference is between Mormon fudamentalists and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One group (or both?) believes black people are inferior. I think about that when I watch the show, but I keep it far back in my mind. (Like when I watch the 1996 version of Pride & Prejudice and Colin Firth as Darcy says “Every savage can dance.” As much as I love Darcy, that moment brings me back to earth and reminds me Darcy would whip a black girl, not kiss her.) This week’s episode addressed Nicki’s (Bill’s second wife) loathing of Catholicism when her son brings home a rosary from his Catholic school. She dumps the cross in the garbage and visits the school to chastise the nun for protheletizing. Obviously, I have absolutely no understanding of Mormon fundamentalists since I was shocked by Nicki’s behavior. I just assumed the cross symbolized the same thing for Mormons as it does for Catholics. Nicki asks the nun what, exactly, they believe and it was at that moment I spaced out and missed the nun’s answer. Big Love airs Monday nights at 9pm.

I sat through the entire first season of Entourage before I decided I liked it. I want to say it’s Sex and the City with boys, but that wouldn’t be accurate. It is different, despite being about four single best friends. The boys have different goals than the girls of SaTC, though they do share the desire to get laid on a consistent basis. The one thing that keeps me coming back to Entourage is Jeremy Piven. I’ve loved Jeremy since his small parts in Singles and Grosse Point Blank, and his big part in PCU. In Entourage, his talent really shines and I’m often tempted to buy the DVDs just to be able to watch all of his scenes over and over again. I do like the overall story of a New York kid making it big in Hollywood and taking his two best friends and brother along for the ride. It’s a fantasy a lot of us have. Vince is way too cavalier about his money and popularity – he leaves everything for his best friend/manager, Eric, to handle. That really gets on my nerves and diminshes his character for me. But I assume many young celebrities are like that. The other big draw (besides Jeremy Piven) is that, like Sex and the City, Entourage shows me a side of LA I don’t think I’ll ever experience. I don’t enjoy nightlife the way I used to and I certainly can’t afford to party the way the boys do. Oh, and I’m not as fabulous. So it’s really cool to watch that lifestyle on the small screen knowing I won’t have a hangover in the morning.

Next up: Damages and Saving Grace. It’s small things that make these decisions for me. Like the angel who looks like he needs a bath in Saving Grace and this exchange (an homage to former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor?) between Glenn Close and a guy in the Damages trailer:

Man: If you were a man, I’d kick the living crap out of you.

Close: If you were a man, I’d be worried.

Astroland

I was raised in Coney Island, near the boardwalk and Astroland, the Cyclone and Nathan’s. We went to the beach every single day during the summer months. Our friends’ father worked one of the counters at Nathan’s and we’d visit him on our way to spend the day at the beach. In high school, I’d sometimes visit the boardwalk with friends during our free periods. We had to take the train from our school in Bensonhurst, but on nice days it was worth it. A couple of times we had beach parties. In college, we always walked the boardwalk during school breaks. It was the best way to catch up on the months we had been separated. Even if the boardwalk was iced over or covered in snow, there were people walking.

A couple of months ago I walked the boardwalk and sat on the pier for a few hours. It was a weekday, but it was crowded with locals, tourists and a film crew. The locals ignored the film crew and the chiseled pretty boys dressed like naval officers. I tried to ignore them too, but I’m a sucker for a tight uniform. And the boys were very pretty.

A group of men were sitting at the tables outside Cha Cha’s Bar shouting at each other congenially. “They think they’re going to run us out of here. We ain’t going nowhere!” They were white, tanned, shirtless, and tattooed. They were talking about the new owners of over 12 acres of land in Coney Island. The corporation about to replace Astroland with luxury condos, a hotel and entertainment area. (I shudder to think of what that will do to the current landscape.)

astroland-sign.jpgI laughed as I listened to the men, wishing I agreed with them. But how many people have said the same thing about wonderful little neighborhoods in this city? Gentrification always wins.

I didn’t walk to the end of the pier. I stayed where the water was shallow. The end of the pier always made me nervous. We used to fish at the end. Boys would grab us and pretend to try to throw us over the rail. When I was younger, I didn’t believe they were joking.

I read for a while on the pier, and I watched people. Black, White, Puerto Rican. I hope it isn’t destroyed completely, though I don’t have much hope. Luxury condos will ruin it. I’m not against improvements, but I am against displacing locals. (My other old Brooklyn neighborhood, Park Slope, is like Manhattan’s Upper West Side and that’s utterly depressing. One of Brooklyn’s charms was that it wasn’t Manhattan. )

Coney Island may be rundown, but to me it’s beautiful. You may want to have a look at it now before it changes, but I would suggest avoiding it on weekends.

Whiskey Road: A Love Story

ARCs for Whiskey Road: A Love Story became available at the end of May. Readers of the ARC will take note that the description in the front of the book isn’t entirely accurate and shouldn’t be used for promotional materials. I was lucky enough to work on a new description with my editor. I took a quick look through my papers and realized I didn’t keep a copy of the new description for myself, so I’m unable to post it here. Sorry!

My short and sweet description for Whiskey Road, the one I still plan to use at parties, goes like this: The relationship between a black city girl and a white small town boy takes a dark turn in rural New York.

The “black city girl” is Jimi Ann Hamilton. She’s a paparazza and rides a BMW K 1200 LT. The “white small town boy” is Caleb Atwood. He’s a contractor and repairs motorcycles in his spare time. He drives a pickup truck. He also rides a Harley Davidson, occasionally.

I think it’s difficult to master the one sentence book description, but the four paragraph book description isn’t a walk in the park either. I do hope the one we settled on works – grabs your attention without giving away too much. I’ll post it here (and on my website) as soon as I receive a copy of it.

From the description, I’d like readers to know Whiskey Road is different from my previous novels. I happily labeled His Insignificant Other and Such a Girl chick lit. I don’t find the label offensive. I think it’s catchy. But it’s important to know Whiskey Road isn’t chick lit. I don’t want anyone picking it up, expecting one thing, and feeling annoyed because they got something else. Whiskey is a bit darker.

I hope my established readers enjoy it as much as they enjoyed the others. And I hope new readers decide to give it a shot, too.

Where I’ve Been

Seems a long time since I’ve had any Internet presence. I attempted to maintain a couple blogs last year and I still can’t connect with my Amazon Connect account. No new books since 2004…I guess this was an unintentional vacation. I finished Whiskey Road (my third novel) in 2005, but as my buddy SP says, “People plan and G-d laughs.” Or, as I say, “Stuff happens.” Publication has been pushed to 2008.

Possibly for the best? I’ve been unwell for much of the past year since we moved from Brooklyn to Manhattan. From our Brooklyn apartment I brought with me a lung infection, picked up from our previous neighbor’s construction above. I still have the annoying cough. Other things (from stomach viruses to mind-numbing headaches) have zapped my energy and left me feeling like a different person. I’m determined to feel better next year and get back to smiling.

Meanwhile, I’m working on my next three novels and a script, hoping to avoid another four year hiatus. The progress is both overwhelming and slow. Each day I gain more respect for prolific authors. (Nora Roberts/JD Robb has published 175 novels since 1981. There are nearly 300 million copies of her books in print. 300 million. And I hear from friends that her In Death books are still fabulous. Her recent vampire trilogy received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly.) Each of my new projects is very different and somewhere in there are ideas for an adult series and a young adult series. Could be pipedreams, but I hope to turn them into reality.

So, Whiskey Road is out May 2008 as a trade paperback original. It’ll be an even $13 bucks according to my ARCs (ARC= advanced reading copy). I’ve already been invited to do an event in Charleston, SC in October 2008 with Literary Sisters on the Go. If you’re in South Carolina, drop me a line. Maybe I can visit your bookclub or local store while I’m there.

Why Blog

Someone asked an author I like what the point of her blog is. The question reminded me why I’ve decided to blog again.

It’s mostly about sharing.

I try to keep my website up-to-date. There you can learn all of my latest publication news, view my book covers and read excerpts from my books. A blog allows me to share things like pictures and opinions. (I don’t have a digital camera, but eventually…) One of the things I really enjoy about my favorite author blogs are the pictures they share with their readers when they’re at conventions and book festivals. (I especially love authors who post weekly beefcake photos to help kickstart a reader’s Monday.)

Also, keeping a blog gives me a chance to publicly answer questions readers ask about my stories, and questions no one asks except me. I can comment on comments about my work – the nice ones and the rude ones. And I can gab about TV.