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Scranton Library (Madison CT) Needs You!

Scranton Library’s Parade of Parties invites you to “The Secrets of an Author’s Mind!” on Wednesday, October 27, 7 to 9 pm

Have you ever wondered where an author gets her ideas? Or whether her plot and characters are based on real life? Or whether she knows the ending before she starts to write? Join us on October 27th to hear six writers discuss these questions and many more–and then enjoy dessert and champagne. Authors will include Katharine Weber (TRUE CONFECTIONS), Ann Hood (THE RED THREAD), Kristan Higgins (ALL I EVER WANTED), Hallie Ephron (NEVER TELL A LIE), Sandi Kahn Shelton (writing as Maddie Dawson, THE STUFF THAT NEVER HAPPENED), and moderator Roberta Isleib (ASKING FOR MURDER).

Seating is limited. Tickets are $25 per person; $100 Bestsellers and $250 Classics patrons have preferred seating. Classic patrons also receive a signed book of their choice.

All proceeds go to the Parade of Parties fund which supports Library services including book purchases and book club services. With the town budget cuts this year, the library needs our help!

R.J. Julia Booksellers will be on site to sell books from the panel. 10% of the proceeds will go to the Scranton Library’s Parade of Parties.

You may pay either using PayPal or by writing a check made out to Scranton Library (note that the check is for the book club event.) and deliver to or mail to Scranton Library, P.O. Box 631, Madison, CT 06443.

Or call 203-245-7365

Everyone Else’s Girl

Today I’m delighted to introduce my cybergirlfriend Megan Crane with her new book, Everyone Else’s Girl.

everyone-elses-girl-uk-coverAbout the book:

Meredith does things for other people. She irons clothes for her boyfriend, she attends her ex-best friend’s horrendous hen party for her brother (who’s about to marry the girl) and she moves back to her parents’ house to look after her dad when his leg is broken. She’s a good girl and that matters. But when she gets back home, all is not as Meredith remembered. Especially Scott, that geeky teenager from her old class at school. He’s definitely different now. And so, it seems, is she. One by one, her family and old friends start to tell her some home truths and Meredith begins to realise she’s not so perfect after all. Maybe it is time she stopped being everyone else’s girl and started living for herself…

Praise for Everyone Else’s Girl:

“Megan Crane rules! Cancel your evening plans: You won’t want to stop reading until you’ve devoured every delicious word.”
—Meg Cabot

“Amusing, heartfelt and emotionally sophisticated chick-lit.” —Kirkus


What got you writing in the genre in which you write?

I started writing chick lit/women’s fiction because I was living in England at the time and had discovered Anna Maxted and Marian Keyes, and I thought: yes.  And then: I wonder if I could do something like that?  I’d grown up on romance novels and the first person, confessional tone was like a light being switched on for me.  I had to try.

Favorite thing about being a writer?
I get to make up stories in my head, and then tell them, and make my living that way.  It’s more than a dream come true.  And I don’t, in fact, need algebra, as I told my math teacher in high school long ago!

Least favorite thing about being a writer?
The blank page is usually filled with all my doubts and fears, and that’s not a whole lot of fun to sift through to get to the words I need to write.  And you can never really take a vacation, because the work is always in your head.  And I become a little bit of a crazy person as a deadline approaches.  But I wouldn’t give any of it up.
Which comes easier for you – beginnings or endings?
Definitely beginnings.  I like to launch myself into the beginning and write until I hit a wall, then go back and figure out what I’m doing.

How many drafts until the final draft?
I am one of those desperately linear writers, who can’t go forward if I know what’s behind me is a big mess.  So I usually write the day’s words, then set it aside to pick up and read the next morning.  I revise it before starting the next day’s writing.  So when I have a full draft, it’s usually pretty tight, and then I go over that at least once or twice.  So…  three?
What is one thing you’ve learned about the publishing industry since getting your first book deal?
There is writing, and then there is publishing, and there is only one part of that I can control: the writing.
What is your advice for those who looking to get their novel  published?
Just write.  No one can tell your story the way you can, and no one will get to read it until you write it.
What’s your favorite food?
Chocolate.  Seriously.  I’m a complete addict.  I like it dark, rich, and life-altering.
Do you have a muse, good luck charm, writing vice?
I am pretty sure my extremely fat and ill-behaved cats feel that they are both muses and charms; they are not.  I don’t really have either, I don’t think.  Though I have written every single one of my books on this very same desk, and I’m kind of attached to it, if that counts.
What’s your writing process/writing environment like?
I’m pretty fierce about my daily word quotas, which are really the only way I can write as much as I do.  (I wrote five books last year and will write at least four this year.) I usually write 2,000 words a day–although at a certain point last fall I had to write 3000 a day to hit a particular deadline, and I found that dizzyingly difficult.  The internet is my greatest time-waster.  I’m starting to use Mac Freedom to turn it off for stretches here and there, because I can’t be trusted–and I will often look up to see that hours have passed and there I am reading Jezebel and hitting refresh on Twitter…  Not good.
I have written all my books (I’m on number 15!) on the same desk, which I’m a little superstitious about these days.  It’s currently located in the office I share with my husband, overlooking a pretty sweep of trees and mountains and the Hollywood sign here in Los Angeles.  It’s filled with books and pictures, and somehow, helps the words come.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten about writing?
Just do it.  Just write.  Everything else is smoke and mirrors.
Thanks Megan for taking the time out of your 2000 words a day (!!) quota. Read more about Everyone Else’s Girl at her website.

A new “girlfriend”

51agtfj4ngl_sl160_aa115_I got such a kick out of a message from fellow author Chris Knopf, wondering if he could become one of my cybergirlfriends. How could I resist? I asked him to send me a short blurb about his brand new series debut, so I could pass it on to you!

“So, Roberta, my new book is called SHORT SQUEEZE, and it’s told from the 1st person point of view of Jackie Swaitkowski, lady lawyer/sidekick of Sam Acquillo, the hero of my original series.  So it’s a spin-off.   As I told one interviewer, “I’m not a woman myself, but I’ve known a few.”   In fact, I dedicated the book thus:
“To all my favorite female friends.  None of whom were spared in the making of this book.  You know who you are.”

Good luck with the new book Chris!

Catching Up

The past few months have been busy ones and now I’m taking a breath to catch up before the rush of the holidaze. Last month I attended the world mystery convention in Indianapolis (skillfully coordinated by Jim Huang of the The Mystery Company.) For my final duties on the national board of Sisters in Crime, I organized “SinC into Great Writing”, a day devoted to what else, writing mysteries. sinc-workshop-2009-13Donald Maass gave a terrific presentation on writing the breakout novel–basically four hours of soul-searching questions on developing a richer character. Hopefully, I’ll have used some of that in my latest manuscript, which is sitting on my agent’s desktop, ready for action. And I’m noodling around with new ideas for the next project.

I’ve got some great events coming up–a visit to the Southern New England Women’s golf association to talk about how bad golf changed my life. I’ve been missing Cassie Burdette, so it will be fun to bring her back–at least for the day. And then a mystery month discussion at the Farmington River Literary Art Center next Sunday. After that comes the New England Crimebake with guest of honor Sue Grafton.

And as the chair of the Mystery Writers of America best novel (Edgar) committee, I’m reading, reading, reading…can’t say anything more about that though, because then I’d have to kill you! The announcement of the top five finalists will be made early next year, with the banquet to follow in April.

Farewell Bill Tapply

wgtapplysm_tnWe’re sad in the New England mystery community because Bill Tapply, one of our best writers, died this week at the age of 69–too young! Here’s a terrific article from Bill’s website on the power of invisible writing, as taught to him by his father. And when you’re done with that, click on Bill’s last letter to his fans. He was planning to be in Martha’s Vineyard this week enjoying his family and the summer. We could all use that kind of reminder to enjoy the present.

Red, White and Blue

It finally feels like summer here, just in time for the fourth. Fireworks, bonfires, blueberry pie, the town parade…dsc00656dsc00655dsc00652dsc00679and yesterday, a wedding on the beach–bride and groom stepped into the Long Island Sound and took off on a jet ski. Now that’s an interesting beginning…

Summer Beach Read from the GCC

iohh-finalSummer’s on the way, and just in time, Judi Fennell’s new book IN OVER HER HEAD debuts on June 1. When Erica Peck, one terrified-of-the-ocean marina owner, finds herself at the bottom of the sea conversing with a Mer man named Reel, she thinks she’s died and gone to her own version of Hell. When the Oceanic Council demands she and Reel retrieve a lost cache of diamonds from the resident sea monster in return for their lives, she knows she’s died and gone to Hell.
When they escape the monster and end up on a deserted island, she amends her opinion – she’s died and gone to Heaven.
But when Reel sacrifices himself to allow her to return to her world, she realizes that, Heaven or Hell, with Reel, she’s In Over Her Head.

judi-fennell-comJudi Fennell has had her nose in a book and her head in some celestial realm all her life, including those early years when her mom would exhort her to “get outside!” instead of watching Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie on television. So she did–right into Dad’s hammock with her Nancy Drew books.

These days she’s more likely to have her nose in her laptop and her head (and the rest of her body) at her favorite bookstore, but she’s still reading, whether it be her latest manuscript or friends’ books.

To celebrate the release of each of her books, Judi Fennell and the Atlantis Inn and the Hibiscus House bed and breakfasts are raffling off three romantic beach getaway weekends. All information is on Judi’s website.

And last but not least, I like to ask visiting authors what their characters would have to say to my psychologist character, Dr. Rebecca Butterman. But Judi went one better–she wrote the entire therapy session! Have a look:

Dr. Butterman: So, Erica, why are you here today?
Erica: Well, Doctor, I have this stupid phobia.
D.B.: Why is it stupid?
Erica: I’m scared of the ocean. Well, what’s IN the ocean. There’s a difference, you know. The water doesn’t scare me, nor does the deep, but what’s in it? Yeah. Totally freaks me out.
D.B.: Do you know what instigated this fear?
Erica: (Nodding). Yes, but I can’t talk about it.
D.B.: Erica, if you can’t talk about it, you won’t be able to resolve it.
Erica: That’s not a bad thing, is it? I mean, I don’t need to go in the ocean to live, right? I’m fine on land so it’s a non-issue, really.
D.B.: But I thought you helped out at a marina?
Erica: I own the marina. With my brothers. But they’re off serving our country so it’s up to me to handle the business.
D.B.: Do you do charters from the marina?
Erica: Yes.
D.B.: So how do you manage that? I would think that running charters would entail having to go out on the ocean.
Erica: (Squirming in her seat). Well, that is, I… I did take out a charter. But that didn’t work out so well.
D.B.: What happened?
Erica: (Biting her lip and fiddling with the fringe on the sofa pillow) I… uh… accidentally threw some diamonds overboard.
D.B.: Diamonds? What were diamonds doing on your boat?
Erica: (Huffing) My stupid ex-boyfriend hid them in my grandfather’s urn. Can you imagine? Who hides diamonds in someone’s urn? That’s just gross. But I guess he knew they weren’t going anywhere, since I have this phobia and Grandpa was still in that urn. It’d been a… while.
D.B.: So then what happened? How did your ex react?
Erica: (Sits up straight and folds her hands in her lap) The bastard forced me in the water to go after them. At gunpoint.
D.B.: And how did that make you feel?
Erica: How do you think? I was totally p.o’d. How dare he!
D.B.: But you went?
Erica: Well, yes. I mean, he had a gun.
D.B.: And then what happened?
Erica: (biting her lip again and fidgeting. And playing with the pillow fringe) I… I met a merman.
D.B.: A merman. (arches eyebrow).
Erica: Yes.
D.B.: And did this merman have a name?
Erica: Reel.
D.B.: Were there any other mermen?
Erica: Oh, yes. His brother. Rod.
D.B.: (Her pencil falls onto her notebook and the good doctor interlaces her fingers and rests her hands on top of the notebook.) Rod and Reel. The mermen. Who’s their father? Fisher?
Erica: (Smiling) Oh, you’ve met them, too!
D.B.: (Stands) I think that’s all for today, Erica.
Erica: (watching the doctor leave the room) What’d I say?

Thanks for stopping by Judi and very best wishes with the new book!

A poem for Mother’s Day by Billy Collins

I love this–he’s brilliant!

The Lanyard by Billy Collins

The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the pale blue walls of this room,
bouncing from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one more suddenly into the past–
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breast,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sickroom,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift–not the archaic truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
that two-tone lanyard from my hands,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.
by Billy Collins

Why I’m behind in my WIP

Up until last week, I was plugging along pretty well on my new book. Then the local arm of Habitat for Humanity, Madison Cares, asked me to help out with their fundraiser by writing a mini-mystery for our town. They gave me a list of merchants and personalities to work into the story and off I went. Here’s the dope–it should be tons of fun!  rearwindowposter-2

Support Madison Cares while you Love Your Local Merchants at ‘Murder Mystery Night’ April 30

Yellow crime scene tape, chalk body outlines and mug shots of local suspects are just some of what you will find in downtown Madison during this year’s Madison Cares’ Movie Night April 30.

The theme for this year’s event is “Murder Mystery Night in Madison,” and will feature a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, Rear Window.  To set the scene, Madison’s own murder mystery author Roberta Isleib will be writing a short mystery that takes place in Madison and includes town personalities. Copies of Isleib’s story will be available at local merchants starting April 23.  The mystery will also be published here on Madison Cares’ web site.

Isleib has published eight mystery novels. Her latest series stars a Connecticut psychologist and advice columnist, including Deadly Advice, Preaching to the Corpse and Asking for Murder (Berkley Prime Crime.) A clinical psychologist by trade, Isleib took up writing mysteries to justify time spent on the golf course. Her first series, featuring a neurotic professional golfer and a sports psychologist, was nominated for both Agatha and Anthony awards.

Beginning at 5:30 pm April 30, participating merchants will host receptions in their stores, where visitors can sample wine and hors oeuvres as well as gather clues to solve the mystery. Each store will provide a different clue. Participants can visit as many stores as they wish to collect clues and enter their guess of “whodunit” before the movie begins. One lucky sleuth, drawn at the theater from among the correct entries, will win a weekend getaway for two.

The evening will culminate at Madison Art Cinemas at 8 pm for a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954), starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly. In keeping with the theme, this year’s movie will be Alfred Hitchcock’s, Rear Window (1954), starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly. The movie is about a photojournalist confined to a wheelchair with a broken leg, who believes that a murder has been committed by his neighbor.

Tickets are $35 and can be purchased in advance at participating Madison stores, including RJ Julia Booksellers, Given Fine Chocolates, Peter Indorf Jewelers, Jolie Boutique, Anna Mia’s, bella Perlina, Walker Loden, Maggies of Madison, Frances Amerique and Ciao Bella Moda International.

A limited number of Patron tickets are available for $50. Patron tickets include reserved seating at the theater and admission to a private event at R.J. Julia Booksellers, “Behind the Mystery,” at 7 pm by Isleib and bookstore owner extraordinaire Roxanne Coady.

All proceeds from the event will benefit Madison Cares.

Alzheimer’s on my mind

My father suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and trust me, it’s an ugly path. So as I was perusing the new books in the library the other day, I snatched up THE ANTI-ALZHEIMER’S PRESCRIPTION by Vincent Fortanasce, MD. Although Dr. F admits there is most certainly a hereditary component to the disease, he urges his patients and readers to take charge of what they can change. You will have heard this before–diet, exercise, good sleep, lower stress, social support, and brain neurobics (exercising those gray cells)–but it makes a lot of sense. And the author is very specific about how to tackle each angle. Pick up a copy today and make a few changes.

This article from today’s NY Times also reports on a study following incidence of Alzheimer’s related to diet, specifically the Mediterranean diet. Have a look!