Friday, July 22, 2011

The Hazards is Here!

Please forgive me for veering off topic today, but I'm thrilled to announce that my debut novel, The Hazards of Hunting While Heartbroken, is officially available on Amazon!

Fear not. I promise that I am not going to turn this space into a blog about writing and book sales. Though I will probably note when it trickles into other sales outlets. And today, I can't resist sharing the text from my book's back cover:

Zoë Clark thinks her world will implode when her fiancé dumps her on the eve of their splashy wedding. After nearly a decade with her college sweetheart, Zoë feels like a teenager about to be eaten alive by the New York dating scene. And her problems don’t end there. Zoë works a less-than-ideal job, managing other people’s careers while her own ambitions wither.

Enter Oscar Thornton. He’s handsome, charming, attentive and rich - the perfect boyfriend. But does he harbor a dark secret? Or will Zoë torpedo her newfound happiness by indulging a far fetched suspicion?

The Hazards of Hunting While Heartbroken tells the story of a young woman who sets out to find a man to solve her problems. Instead she finds herself facing her own shortcomings, testing her oldest friendships and realizing that she has the power to make herself happy.

Packed with snappy dialogue and playful wit, The Hazards of Hunting While Heartbroken will strike a chord with any woman who’s ever allowed herself to think, My life would be perfect, if I could just meet the right guy.

I'm incredibly excited to see my novel in print. It's been a long road. I wrote the first draft of The Hazards several years ago, after writing a suspense novel that garnered rejections in the vein of "too complicated for a debut novel," and "I like this, but the world isn't ready for a female Jason Bourne." So I reluctantly put that novel away, and started work on a more mainstream women's fiction manuscript, which became, through several rounds of edits, the book that launched this week.

I shopped it, collected rejection letters, re-wrote extensively. Two days before my son was born, I thought I had sold The Hazards. Then life got in the way. Distracted by the Grape's health and my own, I couldn't get the necessary revisions done. Honestly, I slept so little in those months that I couldn't remember what I'd had for breakfast most days, let alone what changes I had inflicted on my book.

The deal slipped through my fingers. I put the manuscript away for a year, got healthy, learned to sleep again. One day I decided I had put so much work into The Hazards that I was going to kick myself if I let its moment pass. So I undid the crazy revisions I'd done from my sick bed, re-wrote several scenes, and confiscated the characters' flip phones in order to issue them iPhones. Here it is at last - and just a few weeks shy of the Grape's second birthday. I hope, if you decide to read The Hazards, that you'll take a moment to stop back and tell me what you think.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mourn, but please don't panic

I had all kinds of light material to write about this week, but somehow it felt wrong to ignore poor Leiby Kletzky. In case you've been living in some kind of weird and absolute news outage, Leiby Kletzky was an eight-year-old Brooklyn boy who asked the wrong stranger for directions while walking home from his summer camp, made the tragic decision to get in that stranger's car, and was found two days later, suffocated and dismembered. The suspect, who has confessed to kidnapping and murdering the little boy, has no prior criminal record.

It's one of those crimes that shocks the conscience, makes strangers oceans away cry, and sets off a frenzy of media attention. It's also incredibly unusual - the last time NYC saw a crime with a similar fact pattern was thirty years ago.

I shouldn't have been shocked when CNN's "crime analyst," who annoyed me so intensely that I won't give her a plug here, breathlessly barked that "No place is safe!"

But I was shocked. So much so that I almost careened right off the treadmill.

Why? Because, first of all, inciting panic is idiotic. I would love for someone - anyone - to give me just one example of a circumstance in which the absolute, best course of action is to panic.

Secondly, because hysterical squawking about this rarest of dangers in an evil world implicitly places blame with the boy's parents.

Who did nothing wrong.

Anybody else remember what it's like to be a kid?

Didn't you want to do things yourself? Didn't you roam your neighborhood on long summer days, often in the company of a gang of children, but sometimes on your own? Don't those memories still make you smile? I know that I wasn't monitored 24/7 at Leiby's age. And neither were any of the kids I knew. We were sent outdoors to play and no, we didn't stay in view of the kitchen window. By the time I was ten, I biked a couple of miles to meet friends. We got off school buses and walked up to half a mile, sometimes alone. And all this was a normal part of growing up.

Guess what? Monstrous individuals existed back then, too. Sure the internet makes predators' lives easier. But if your kids are playing outside, wandering with gangs of other children, I would argue they're safer from the odd freak than they would be hunkered over laptops at home. I worry that a generation of privileged kids, raised in lockdown, will not develop street smarts.

I'm not saying kids should be allowed to go wherever they want, whenever they want. But a little freedom is healthy, and I would argue, necessary to the growing up process. Leiby's parents did everything right. They rehearsed the route. For Leiby's maiden solo voyage, they agreed on a meeting place halfway between the camp and their home. When Leiby was late, they mobilized the neighborhood and authorities to search for him.

Leiby was just profoundly unlucky. In fact he wandered into a perfect storm of horrendous, abysmal luck.

So what's the right take away here? I've already said I don't believe in helicopter parenting, or keeping mid-to-late elementary age kids in lockdown. But I do see a teaching opportunity, and it's not as simple as "don't talk to strangers." The Grape sees me and R. chatting with strangers all the time: at the playground and dog park, most frequently, but in other places too. I don't want him so terrified of the neighbors that he's unable to function.

Instead,kids should have it hammered into their heads that they must NEVER, under any circumstances, get in a vehicle with a stranger. No matter what that stranger says, offers or promises. If someone grabs them, they should scream, kick and fight like hell to cause the biggest scene possible.

If they're lost, they should go to a crowded store or business and ask to use the phone, ask a woman (ideally one with kids) for help, or even call 911 and stay on the line with the dispatcher until the police arrive.

Why do I feel so strongly about this? Because I think a confident kid makes a much less appealing target to the rare psychos of the world than one who's been raised to fear his own shadow.

So please, let's mourn Leiby Kletzky, but not paralyze ourselves with panic.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Grape will keep his wings (and leg room)

Sometimes it pays to complain.

I forwarded last month's post Meatheads: Please Let the Grape Vacation in Peace to the manager of the Fairmont Hotel in Southampton, and received a very nice letter in return. He apologized for the uncouth behavior of the State Farm entourage and enclosed vouchers for four free nights at the hotel, saying that he was confident our former high opinion of the establishment would be restored.

Indeed. The Grape will fly to Bermuda once more.

Which brings me to a different kind of complaint. Last week Malaysian Airlines (not a carrier I have ever had occasion to patronize) announced it would ban children under two years of age from its first class cabins. They're a private company; they can do what they want, and frankly if they want to make first class a quiet cabin on long haul flights, I see merit in that idea. Amtrak does it. Why not the airlines? Though I doubt that many newly minted two-year-olds will be much quieter than their 23-month-old counterparts. Children of all ages remain welcome in business class on Malaysian Airlines.

The news set off a lively discussion in The New York Times and other publications that deal with parenting issues. I had no idea people had such strong feelings about where kids belong on planes.

Several commenters said kids don't belong in business class, for the same reason they don't belong in nice restaurants.


Dining out in style,as opposed to eating in a family friendly restaurant, is a choice. I know of no city in the developed world that boasts ONLY five star restaurants. I would NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS take the Grape to any of the city's finest eateries, because I feel his presence, even with his halo affixed firmly to his head, detracts from other diners' experiences. R. and I take him to loud, busy, casual non-chain restaurants, but we always eat at the blue-hair and high-chair hour. By which I mean, we are gone by seven.

Flying is different.

Flying on a commercial airline is like using any other kind of public transportation. You pay your fare and they take you from A to B.

If you don't want to see and hear children, loud snorers, verbose religious fanatics, drunken boors, or other members of the unwashed public, then here's what you do: You get your own plane.

I've sat near screaming kids and it was no fun. I've also sat next to people who think the plane is their own personal keg party, a man who tried to convince me for six hours that the world was only five thousand years old (even though my nose was in a book the whole time) and a man my father's age who apparently suffered from a deviated septum and violent intestinal trouble.

Trust me, I don't want the Grape to scream all the way across the ocean either. So I fly him overnight whenever possible, in the hopes that the white noise of the plane, his normal biorhythm and a generous dose of Benadryl will konk him right out. When he's awake I carry him and/or follow him up and down the aisles so he doesn't get fussy and restless. And I'm fully prepared to spring for new toys and exempt him from our no television rule if things look like they could turn desperate.

Frankly, as long as I have the requisite miles and/or willingness to spring for business class when traveling with the Grape, I am going to do so. Why? More space to maneuver. Better service. Cleaner facilities in airports. Priority handling of crucial luggage such as the stroller. Flight attendants in long haul business class have been very welcoming of the Grape, and ground crews on flights with two business class cabins (such as British Airways) do their best to keep one cabin kid-free.

I can understand that.

But I also understand that it pays for major carriers to cater to families with kids. On our last trans-atlantic flight, there were seven small children (including the Grape) in the business cabin. I talked to two of the moms as we passed in the aisle. Consensus: worth every penny.