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Day #19

Today was hard. We went out around noon. The streets were empty, even around Union Square, and we couldn’t wait to get back inside. Though, really, who is having a good day? Maybe China, the country seeing the other side of the curve with positive cases slowing down. In NYC, the virus is ramping up for an almighty wallop in 7-14 days. To me, it feels as if we’re already there so a bedtime story from Dolly Parton is the long-overdue crack that we need. I signed “our children” up for a reading this Thursday.

Chris Cuomo now has the virus and is confined to his gorgeous basement. How manipulative of him to contract it and woo me away from Rachel Maddow! He must know that this Bloom household thrives on hypochondriacal symptoms and surgeries on Youtube. Damn you, liberal mainstream media (I love you)!

Right this moment, my husband is teaching an online French class and tending to our meatloaf dinner. He is a patriot and a rock. We are lucky that we’re not destroyed by this virus (yet). But I’m also counting the seconds before we can launch back into The Tiger King, where drugs, cat prints, and murder-for-hire abound! After a day of answering emails, editing, and reading, I’m ready for some trash and a margarita.

My brother and I–both bad with money–decided to buy sewing machines and sew masks. We also talk about doing an uninformed history podcast (funny because our parents are historians and we’re pretty dim). Our sewing could go the way of the podcast. Or we could save the world!

Governor Cuomo urges us to find a silver lining in all of this. Here is ours: We are employed. I’m grateful to writers who write books that I love to edit and read. We don’t starve. Our family is fine. We have a lovely cat, who is now making sweet love to my fleece sweatshirt. He is fixed, we don’t really know what’s going on, except it’s sort of, you know, obvious. I’m sorry, that was indiscreet of me.

May you find your silver lining.

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Day #16

Greetings from COVID central! I didn’t step outside once today. As always, it’s my mission not to make things worse. There is irony to this staying inside thing.

Six years ago, I spent several months mildly paralyzed inside this apartment. It was painful to leave, almost Sigourney-in-Copycat bad. I thought I was dying. With time, it got a lot better. Now I *have* to stay indoors when all I want to do is go out! But it’s cool.

My new deadly virus schedule is the following: Go to sleep at 2:30 am after binge-watching Law & Order: SVU (there are 400+ episodes). I see New York through the eyes of Mariska Hargitay and Ice T. Wake-up time is around 8:00 am after COVID anxiety dreams. Chill for hours and hours, do work, check the news–repeat. This is luxurious compared to what health care workers and parents are dealing with.

Sam and I are conquering the minutia. Laundry. Squabbling over where to get groceries. Trying to keep parental units from the virus (some of them want to touch produce). My brother and his husband said there are hours of entertaining failed Zoom meeting nightmares. Google them! So bad but so good.

Hope you are all okay. Is anyone feeling productive?

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Day #15

I had one of those “If I die of COVD-19” thoughts. So I’ll document what I can in dramatic fashion–and eat a Cadbury chocolate caramel Easter egg while my taste buds still work.

The psychological effects of COVID-NYC are real. Like many, I can’t focus on anything except the dulcet tones of Andrew Cuomo telling us that we will “kick Covid-19’s ass.” To get stuff done, I am trying a new game: putting my to-do list items in a bowl and picking tasks, then absolutely doing them or else. So far, it’s been unsuccessful. Sam tiptoes quietly out of the room.

As a devoted treadmill runner, I’ve had a hard time transferring to running outside. There is the uneven pavement and I am self-conscious.

It is eerie out on the streets, also. You can feel the anxiety with people moving away from each other (as they should). Sam and I don’t stay out for long so we are woefully lacking in cardio. Basically, this is all turning into an Emile Zola novel.

Last complaint, I am not sleeping. Because there’s no place to be, this isn’t too concerning, just annoying. Eventually, sleep will happen. And it will be glorious.

Comforts:

Don’t tell my mother, but I sneak into my deli every few days, wearing rubber gloves and holding my breath. The two sandwich artists behind the deli counter are always there. I’ve seen them almost every day since 2005–and now they’re wearing gloves and masks. I can’t quit them or their turkey club.

If anyone needs a sleep aid, I recommend Jeff Bridges’s Sleep Tapes. My subconscious digs it tremendously. You will find oblivion.

We’ve instituted an earlier cocktail hour. 4:31 is okay. Or even noon. Whatever works, right?

I’ve been knitting a complicated sweater for Charlie, a fellow editor. I started two years ago and am 60% done. But now it’s moving along. I think.

Counting my many blessings! Hope your TGIF leads to an easy and safe weekend.

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Predators, Romance, and Customer Service

Often, my week exists in tidy list format, so much so that I’ve started to keep a folder. To balance my left-brain tasks, I’m adding what reading and pop culture items have influenced my thoughts, mood, and creativity. This list-thing might only last three days. Two tops.

Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill: There are few things I love more than when predators’ misdeeds come to light and we can shun them forever. You can imagine my joy over Ronan Farrow’s gutsy reporting on the victims of Harvey Weinstein’s reign of terror. I’m thankful for the women who told their stories (and the ones who didn’t, you’re so brave too and I totally understand–really). I’m only halfway through and soaking up Farrow’s bold adventure.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston: My colleague handed me this book and said, “This is how romance is done.” Since starting it, I have only put it down to read the Ronan Farrow book, which is an anti-romance. McQuiston’s story is a big love story on steroids. You will turn into a human heart emoji while reading. Needs to be made into a movie ASAP.

I’ve followed Cat Marnell since she wrote for XoJane. I may not be alone in watching voyeuristically her skirting what seems a bottomless pit of demises. I am afraid to get too invested but am always happy when she shows proof of life. She has many talents and I’m grateful for her lesson on how to do a smokey eye. The one time I was on TV, the makeup artist gave me a smokey eye and it looked amazing. I haven’t been able to replicate it without appearing demonic. But Marnell does way more than this! Her insights, her travels are wildly entertaining. If you follow her on Twitter, you know she has a new book, Self Tanner for the Soul, on Audible after her first one, How to Murder Your Life.

I love reading writing tips. A lot of them, I already know, but they can still refresh your process. Sometimes, there are things you haven’t tried. For me, mystery writing is a skill that has eluded me, so these tips gave me hope that I do could commit many homicides in fiction.

A happy story of the week: As a last resort for my hair, I turned back the clock twenty years and went to a nearby Aveda store in search of their humectant pomade, the product I used in my thirties. I know, this is way too pretentious for words. It gets worse. The saleswoman was so kind that I asked her advice if I was using the right things for coarse, dry tree bark in a desert hair. She said yes, but then asked about my shampoo and conditioning habits. Long story short, I walked out with a bag of product (including samples). Good customer service seduces me every time. The Aveda woman and I could become best friends. Her colleague told me that my purse was washable. Before I left, I donated to breast cancer research.

Including shopping the Aveda on Fifth Avenue and 19th, I recommend blocking off three hours to watch Amazon Prime’s Modern Love episodes. I only watched the first one, which unexpectedly made me ugly cry. I haven’t felt an emotion beyond mildly dead inside for a while, so this was amazing.

Happy new week to everyone!

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51? Okay…

I am about to enter my 52nd year. Here are the monumental things that I’ve learned in the past 370 days:

The news is still terrible. My daily goal is not to make it worse.

I put half & half in my coffee now. WHO KNEW IT WAS SO DELICIOUS?

Instead of dessert after every meal, I keep it to once a week. Apparently, sugar is bad for you.

If you’re depressed, it helps to read something outside your realm, maybe even out of your depths. For me, that’s been jewelry, economics, and French philosophy. This didn’t make me smarter. In fact, I would still fail economics today, but I am way more pretentious now.

I’ve kicked my bad habit of going to Old Navy and buying shit that I only wear once. I hear Brooks Brothers is nice.

What has happened to my hair? Please advise.

My parents drilled into me the importance of doing chores. But since I’ve given up my bad Old Navy habit and will try to cook, I bargained with God who said it was okay to pay someone to clean the apartment.

Now I understand what Nora Ephron meant about her neck, but screw it. I am not a moviestar (yet).

The colonoscopy was not so bad. Having the stomach flu is way worse than the prep, but it’s comparable to IBS. The propofol was AH-MAY-ZING and I’m lucky to have health insurance.

I complain about little things now and I hate it.

When crimes are committed by people in our government, are there any repercussions? Just wondering, since I’m planning how to live my next life.

Sandwiched between light-hearted issues is grief. One of my precious elders died this year. When I think about him, it dawns on me that he’s really gone. He won’t call me “Space-tience” or help me make parallels between now and Ancient Rome (see what I said about being pretentious). Luckily, I still hear him in my head. Hic, haec, hoc, Mr. Cobb!

More and more, I sound like my mom, but she’s hilarious so that’s okay.

The Americans is so good–and eerie as hell. Under no circumstances do I think about exercising to the extent that I could look like Keri Russell. Instead, I ponder the Reagan years and how they contributed to today’s geopolitical (?) distress. Discuss.

Leopard prints. So maybe I went to Banana Republic and bought some embarrassing new pants I’ll only wear once (BR lets you use Old Navy credit card!!!).

With each year, my list of errands seems to grow. Is this real or a fabrication? I wonder what would happen if I didn’t run errands for a week.

I think about the children in cages every single day. I don’t even know what to say about this. It breaks my heart every day. If I had any skills, I would use them. For now, I just write a check.

This thought began in my twenties. If suddenly I had to live on a deserted island, would I be okay? There are a few things I would have to pack. Am I packed? Oh God, I should pack just in case. Friends, this is why my purse is so heavy.

I wrote another book but I’m afraid to admit it.

Fear of flying is gone. Fear of before-flying is the same.

Every day, I still wonder how I lucked out with Sam as my partner in crime. I can’t believe it–STILL. He cracks me up daily and is just so dreamy. Do I love him more than I did when he first stepped off the plane on December 17, 2009 for our first date? Yes, 10 years more!

And this is where I say that I don’t care about my birthday so much. My best birthday gift is to keep hanging with my loved ones and not worry so much (that it could all disappear). I still want cake, though.

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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.

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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.