Romantic Life Lessons, Writing Tips

Hamilton

When Hamilton first appeared on Broadway, I didn’t care. My historian parents would soon discover its existence and make us see it anyway. As a late-forty-something and new iPhone addict, I no longer had the band-width for academic things. Plus, it seemed manipulative for a play to feed me American history. Why did I want to know more…about anything?

The buzz grew. As presidential candidates began their tap dancing, I heard you, Hamilton, and your room where it happens. Obama even went to see it, blessing it as the best thing to exist in this galaxy. At the office and on Facebook, friends treated Hamilton seats like winning the golden ticket in a Willy Wonka chocolate bar. OMIGOD, you’re seeing it in eighteen months? You are so lucky! (You could die before then)

I rebelled against this peer pressure, which meant I had a budding interest. What a great time to be in theater ticket estate planning. When I croak, my nieces could inherit my Broadway tickets. Smug in my non-history-play-seeing (but still alert), I returned for my tenth viewing of Frankie Valli vowing to pay off his bandmate’s tax lien in Jersey Boys. Meanwhile the scent of 250-year-old treasury secretary wafted its way down to the West Village, at which point my mother, a famous historian, said, “Get us 6 seats, orchestra, anything in the next month.” Sure, Bonnie. I’ll do that.

For my mom, I’ll snooze my way through a history lesson with its creative rethinking of the birth of our nation. For Mom, I’ll even accept that Hamilton has a man-bun. But alas, my computer laughed me silly as I tried to purchase 6 seats together in the same year. That’s not only impossible, it’s the price of a Honda Civic circa 1991 (fact).

Mom and I said, “Whatever” to these results. We didn’t want to see it anyway. What’s this about non-Classical music in a period piece? We don’t even listen to hip hop (My iTunes purchases say differently). So, American history, hip hop, and a scarcity of tickets. No thanks!

All around me, the hype continued and I saw Lin-Manuel Miranda on shows, being happy and excited, not the least bit tired or jaded over being a sensation–again! He was in the thick of that wonderful genius bubble where you create something meaningful for the world. Damn him!

My friend from work finally went to see it and came back saying, “It’s nothing you’ve ever seen before. Another level.” Her review weighed on me. Another level means another level. I bought Ron Chernow’s book and started to read. The text was engrossing, as was LMM’s adorable book of uplifting tweets (600 pages shorter, tho). Add to this the synchronicity of my giving a Hamilton bill to my takeout delivery person multiple times per week.

But, people, my fever broke. I gave up pursuing the secret dream. Sort of like when I knew I wouldn’t be able to score a ride, shelter, and Duran Duran tickets in 1984.

When LMM did Hamilton in Puerto Rico, I saw it as a sign of renewal. Go. I even entered the contest to win a chance to fly to PR (I don’t like to fly) to see Hamilton. The realization took years to appear like a banner in my brain: I have to see Hamilton. I really have to see it. Over and over, I thought this. Tickets still too much. But I still have to go. I checked calendars. Asked my husband wouldn’t it be nice. No, he said. When the play Charlemagne opens, he’ll be there (he likes France).

Weeks went by. After a couple years of not wanting to go but secretly wanting to go. I started to think about going by myself. No follow through.

Last weekend, Sam and I were dying of boredom (it happens even when you love each other). He looked through the plays and clicked a few icons and said, “We’re seeing Hamilton tomorrow, 3 pm.”*

So.

Everyone was right. I won’t go into detail because I’m running out of ink. Just know that it’s a masterpiece. I am still thinking mostly about the labor involved in creating those three hours of joy. Hamilton is what happens when you work harder than anyone else. Great works take work. Writers who are stuck or crawling toward that agonizing finish line–answer that call to witness someone else’s talents. It might be the motivation you need at the exact right time.

The Hamilton ear worms are brutal, though.

(Okay, Mom. Now it’s your turn.)

*Yes, he’s really nice.

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Important Starspotting Update

Let me talk about great books I’m reading. And by books, I mean stars I’m spotting in the neighborhood. Someone needs to see them. If you think about it, without us, celebrity dies. We can’t have that happen so I will carry my fan flag high.

December 18, 2018. 5:30 pm. Upper West Side. 

I happened to be in a building and who gets on the elevator but Peter Riegert, the pickle man himself! If you haven’t already, rent Crossing Delancey immediately and etch it in your brain. Peter (I can call him Peter) is also the judge or bitchy lawyer on every single crime show. “Brrr, it’s getting cold,” he said to me that night. “Hahahahaha!” I said a little too loudly. But then someone interrupted our intimate conversation, apparently a friend of Peter. Whatever! I had to move on…

January 4, 2019: Noonish. Chelsea

Headed to Duane Reade for more Swiffer items, I saw, not for the first time, a very tall Ken Paves, hair guru to the stars, with lush gold locks walking his dog. And then I got home, Googled him, and realized it wasn’t really Ken. Of course, my public statement is that I totally saw him.

January 6, 2019: 3pm. Midtown

Sam and I went to see The Cher Show (so much fun). Not only do you get one Cher, but three dynamite Chers. Hello, Stephanie Block! Do you remember how you liked my gushing Tweet? And so did Jarrod Spector, who played Sonny (who also played Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys on Broadway–you see how I wind up in celebrity rabbit holes). During intermission, I heard this dude on the phone saying things only a son of Cher (Jesus?) would say. I turned and confirmed the sighting of Chaz and lovingly put him in my little notebook of stars. It was hard for me to snap out of it that day.

January 19, 2019: Afternoon. Chelsea

I was coming from Duane Reade, having purchased the orange Palmolive dishwashing liquid, and crossing 19th street when I saw a white-haired man in gym clothing (lycra). I knew that face so I stared, hard. It was Dan Abrams: Author of must-read Lincoln’s Last Trial and famous legal analyst on TV!  He passed me and I think he might have been scared–of me or Barry’s Boot Camp. Truth be told, he has breezed by me before in the same fashion. As if we are strangers.

I deserve a lot of applause because I see a celebrity every week, and not just by following her/him on Twitter. Do I talk about it endlessly? Not even once (except to three people). I am one of those fans who dares not interrupt the celebrity space by conversing naturally. Don’t mind me hiding in the bushes as Lady Gaga walks by. Sure, these are normal people, and I realize we all go through the indignity of colonoscopy prep, but celebrities are my one weakness. Along with many other things.

More updates to come because the stars can’t help but cross my path. Especially when I go looking for them.

 

 

 

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Why You Need to Write a $*#(%@-ing Synopsis

Ah, Twitter: the place where one goes to complain and tell others what to do. But for editors, it can be an informative hub. I remember the day(s) when writers raged about the sweet, innocent synopsis and told it where to go. Why did I need to write one? They are pointless. We don’t even use them. Seriously, I’ve written a gazillion books. I’ve got better things to do.

Don’t we all?

It is a seasonal rant, and often goes up into the ether unchecked. I vowed after the last one to take it seriously and list all the ways a synopsis helps the writer. Since it is a New Year, and I have told myself to Be Awesome every single day of 2019, here is my reasoning for why a synopsis is sacred:

A synopsis can be like the literary version of showing your work. If you can tell your story in short form, you really know your story. It’s a different kind of writing but valuable nonetheless. To write one effortlessly (agents/editors will love you for them), follow my plan and write a synopsis in a day. It is not the stomach flu.

An agent/editor uses the synopsis to see if the book could sell or work for a specific imprint. We may love your writing, but to know for sure if the story has all the bells and whistles, we need an idea of the plot, even the spoilers.

On the editor side, I use the synopsis (sometimes cutting and pasting) to explain to others why we need to buy this book or as rationale for why I bought the book. It is the ultimate butt-covering device.

Five months later, after reading a hundred other books after yours, I reread your synopsis to jog my memory so that we don’t put the wrong characters on your cover or mess up the back cover copy.

On some occasions when the book isn’t quite finished, a talented copywriter will piece together a gem of a blurb from your synopsis.

Overseas markets may become interested in your stories. To tantalize, say, Germany or Spain or France, we give them snippets of information, some of which comes from your synopsis, which we have to reread again.

There’s also that time when I have to edit a book and I’m not certain if it’s the one I think it is (you’ve written three more books since). So I read the synopsis for the fifth time. I give thanks to the synopsis gods for clarifying and saving me from embarrassment.

Ten years go by. I might be assigned to conjure a list of twenty of your past books to reissue in four box sets, but I don’t know which ones I’d put where. My brain isn’t as sharp as it used to be. Perhaps, organize by theme? This involves reading your synopsis or some version of a summary (which would be a distilled version of your synopsis) pronto. Another lamb sacrifice to the synopsis gods for showing me the way.

You may ask via Twitter, Why can’t the editors just write the synopsis for me? Because we don’t know the story as well as you do. Maybe we haven’t read it yet. Maybe we just don’t wanna. And writing a synopsis for the 20-30 authors (20 x at least 2 books per year) we work with means asking the FDA (AMA, FCC, ADA, ABA?) to approve human cloning. While synopses are not the most thrilling things for us to read, they are necessary and help ensure the sanity of your editor and the immortality of your books.

Thank you in advance for writing them.

Romantic Life Lessons

Happy Date-iversary! Let Me Count the Ways…

Happy First-Date-iversary to my beloved Sam. It’s been nine whole years since I went to JFK to pick him up for our first date. We hadn’t seen each other in almost three decades, since high school. Now, so many years later, it is easy to love Sam. Here are just a few reasons why…

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He loves a buffet, food spread, or five-course meal. A real foodie. The joy on his face is so worth my constant fear of food poisoning.

He is handy–and works hard to learn new tricks. Home Depot is his friend. His forays into TV installation are legendary. At first, he mounted our TV near the ceiling, then realized this wasn’t ideal.

It is fun to live with him. I’m not sure why. Is it his good nature? His non-smothering way? He’s just lovely, even in small spaces. In fact, I’m more comfortable when we’re in the same room. He makes really good coffee, too.

When he has time, he cooks and his meals are heavenly, except for the stuffed cabbage but I eat it anyway.

He is a book-worm and reads international news. A total smarty-pants.

He really loves my mother and brother (my deal breakers).

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Three times, he came with me to see Duran Duran in concert and even acted ecstatic for this picture.

When I am enraged or mean to him or having a meltdown, he takes it seriously but also isn’t freaked out by it.

Except for his camo shorts, which his nieces loathe, he dresses nicely for every occasion.

It is highly entertaining to hear Sam talk to customer service on the phone. He will go on for hours and get to the bottom of a problem–and get that $5.00 refund from a vending machine.

He is fearless. I mean, he might have anxieties, but if you want to jump out of a plane, he will do that, too. He can also tell you in minute detail how to put your butt through a glass shower door and get thirty-six stitches in your butt.

Sam has a strong moral compass. He does the right thing, helps people, and feels endless guilt if he causes harm. He just cares, even if the person is a shitbag.

Obviously, he is good-looking and charming. That’s only a fraction of why he’s so special.

In all the dating manuals, we’re encouraged to act a certain way. With Sam, the more attention he gets, the happier he is. It’s that simple, and so refreshing not to withhold the urge the text him with lots of emojis.

I love listening to him, even if he is ranting about things I don’t believe. The intellectual or emotional slant is always fascinating. Then he will change his mind a week later.

Sam is close to his brother and their daily conversations are a play in three acts with one twenty-minute intermission while Warren finishes shopping at Publix. The best theater around.

He doesn’t tell me about the near misses on his bike rides to and from work–and he wears a safety jacket and helmet. I just pray he comes home every night in one piece.

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He makes everything more fun! Travel, walking around the block, getting ice cream, dinner out, exercise, and even illness.

He will chase Yossi around the apartment, play fetch with him, and wrestle. The cat has him wrapped around his paw.

His anal retentiveness is adorable. I thought I was bad, but yeah, not even close.

Sam is one of those people who brightens up a place. He’s always good to have at a party and at home. If it’s open bar, do not have a karaoke machine.

When he walks down the street, he usually has a smile on his face, which is why people stop him to ask a question/directions.

He has his bad days, but understands how things shift. His self-awareness and overall understanding helps those who might have stormier outlooks (I’m not naming names).

I am so grateful that I get to spend every day with this special human being. Happy Nine Years, Cookie aka Love of My Life! When this picture was taken in 1984, I had no idea that you would be my husband someday….

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Romantic Life Lessons

The Blooms: Amateur Starspotters

Most of my loved ones know how obsessed I am with celebrities, and yet you won’t see me interrupting their lives* or asking for a selfie. That’s where my husband comes in. We are a team.

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I’m the one who spots the celebrities, and I gauge whether it’s too dangerous to point him/her out to Sam. Once I mention it, Sam will tap the star on the shoulder and burst into a song of love.

Call me the one who hides in the bushes while he makes his approach, say to an unsuspecting Will Arnett. Yeah, I did that. Sam acted as if they were old rugby friends until the jig was up and the man rushed away. My husband managed to get in an “I love your work.” And he really does.

More recently, I hid in the cheese section of West Side Market, wondering if Sam would wind up in jail. Instead, he got a selfie with CNN host Richard Quest.

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Sam is a delight, though you have to admit, my restraint is admirable, especially when you consider that my mother lives on the same floor as two megastars. Do I knock on their doors? Never. It’s a very Remains of the Day relationship where I am Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson is Star 1 and Star 2–except they don’t know I exist. My mother refuses to do the neighborly thing and invite them over to meet her daughter.

I can forgive her because every month Sam and I have a new celebrity adventure. In November, we went to see the Broadway version of Network, starring Bryan Cranston, Tony Goldwyn, and Tatiana Maslany, among many others. We had tickets on the stage, which meant we were very close to the celebrities. It was a thrill, and not just because Bryan Cranston is The God of Acting. Sam and Tony Goldwyn had a moment (Sam always gets his moment).

Last week, Chris Meloni “liked” my tweet, headline news that I promptly texted to my brother. Soon after, at an office lunch in Tribeca, I noticed John Heilemann, the MSNBC commentator and co-creator of The Circus, at a nearby table. Sam would have gotten a selfie, but I am not an interrupter. Plus, my boss was sitting next to me. It was tough enough to keep from tweeting about it. Eventually, I couldn’t resist.

Hopefully, in the new year, more stars will cross our path. They will be lucky to encounter Sam. Just ask Sonja Morgan, from The Real Housewives of New York. My husband accidentally called her “Nyla” but he got a good pic.

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*I did approach “Nyla” because she was standing alone at a party, looking around. Who am I kidding? I had to say hello to her.

Romantic Life Lessons

Crash Course from July to December

I didn’t expect to go so long without posting. Either work/life kept me offline or my mundane activities (too much time on Twitter, dammit) were too uninteresting. Not that there’s anything wrong with this. As I look back, I’m still kind of amazed at how much I packed into five months.

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In July, I turned 50! My husband threw me an amazing surprise party. Friends and family showed up to celebrate a milestone that is, so far, strange for me. Like,  where did my brain go? And those extra pounds just won’t go away. I thought I was an insomniac before–this is another level and with dreams…of me eating large rats. I cope by visiting Sephora, Barneys, and Old Navy often.

August brought the death of my uncle, whom I didn’t know that well, but who gave me some sweet memories: spending time with me as I dealt with my grandfather dying, tolerating my crabby barbs, and then surprising everyone by coming to my wedding and being Mr. Charm. Uncle Bill, I hope you are playing tennis in Heaven with Arthur Ashe.

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In September, I learned again how to be ready for an emergency. 9/11 was a big, tragic lesson in running away or facing whatever you’re running toward. In love, you run toward your loved one. One night in September, I woke up to my husband in pain. I made the decision to call 9-1-1 and rode in an ambulance with him. I was terrified that something serious was wrong with him but pushed away those thoughts until I could break down. In the end, he had had a nasty case of e.Coli and the norovirus at the same time. I don’t want to go through anything like this again, but I do know for sure that if he’s ailing, I am a good Florence Nightingale. Just another chapter of happily ever after!

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The month ended with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who brought back for many of us how it feels when you think you are going to die during a sexual assault. Her pain was heartbreaking. The end result should have been easy, but predictably, congress chose to push this not-even-good nominee to the Supreme Court. Anyway, Dr. Ford is my hero forever more.

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*photo credit Jeanne Dickson

In October, I realized this one thing: More travel is inevitable. You think you have couch time. Nope! I have made peace with the discomfort of moving from my couch and now can enjoy looking out the window of the plane (while I pray that it doesn’t crash). I attended two conferences–always a treat–then went to babysit my stepfather, which involves making sure we both eat and watching a lot of Madam Secretary.
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November taught me the valuable lesson that some doctors are a-holes. In 50 years, I have been blessed by the medicine gods. Then my Darling Doctors move away! My new one was glaringly insensitive and careless in his “care,” which shocked me. Because I’m 50, I am so into the idea of NEXT!

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Through all this time, I’ve been writing and researching for a new book. I won’t go into detail except it’s now a claw imbedded in my brain. I can’t go anywhere and leave it behind. I’m sure you know how that feels when a story takes hold of you. I’m excited to see where it goes…

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Vacation in Paris

It seemed indulgent to leave in the middle of U.S. chaos, but a vacation was on the books. As I boarded my plane to Paris, news of separation of children from parents at the border was gaining steam. My television had been on for months (okay, three years). I didn’t want to unplug from the coverage, but I had to.

Somehow, I managed to leave this heavenly being. A gifted care-giver named Edgar took over Yossi Care.

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Here is what I did…

I landed in France, where there was a sane president, great pastries, and for me, a six-day escape.

On the other side of the pond (the freaking gigantic Atlantic), a train strike was discombobulating Paris routine. They have strikes every year. You can almost set your calendar by them: mail and train strike. Deals are struck. Everyone goes back to work.

Because of the strike I took a taxi. My driver spoke only French and he wanted to chat, so we gabbed away for two hours. Why so long? Everyone took their cars into Paris since train schedules were off. Just so you know, “Patrick” waved away my concerns about the U.S. and said that, eventually, the Orange Slob would be gone.

The second I reached our hotel room, I slept…for six hours. I kept trying to sleep throughout my stay. Jet lag is a thing, by the way. I only slept four hours at a stretch. My mistake was that first nap.

But we did have a pretty view outside our room…

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I read an engrossing book by Sarah Dunn.

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And I got to see this guy who was teaching a French class…

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We dined in awesome restaurants because it’s France. Here he is finishing my bowl of soup so that we don’t insult the chef. I was saving room for Green Tea Tiramisu (interesting).

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I ate delicious pastries…and lost six pounds. Don’t get too excited because I gained it back within a day of being home (and eating salads).

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I love to pore over makeup and other beauty supplies, so I went to Monoprix every day. Superficiality is relaxing and underrated–and deep, if you think about it.

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If I needed an American news fix, I turned on European CNN and saw the delightfully theatrical Richard Quest…whom I see often in New York.

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I walked all over and said Hey to pretty places.

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Then, boom, it was over.

Right at this moment last week, I was on a giant A380 airbus with my husband, coming home. Sam sat next to an Unpleasant Passenger. Because Sam has a knack for pacifying difficult people, he spent much of the ride cramped and chatting up UP, cajoling him when the flight attendants didn’t give him exactly what he wanted (extra Camembert cheese).

Midway through the flight, a man had collapsed and was lying down in the small passageway between the bathrooms. His feet were up and several people tended to him. Normally, passenger distress would send me into a panic (What if he dies? What if we all die? What should I do? Is this Executive Decision?). Not this time. He was getting help, seemed on the mend.

I thought of the sickness I’d seen and felt the last few years. Living with another person puts you up close and personal to how another human being manages from day to day. Plus, I had been around collapsing people and hospitals. The best thing I could do was sit in my seat and wish him well, letting trained people do their work. Oh, and vacation had officially ended.

We are back in the middle of our normal (not normal) days and I’m tuned in again. I’m grateful for the break, all while knowing that so many don’t get that precious time away from real life.

Here’s hoping you all get to unplug this summer.