A Little Help From My Family and Friends

As a writer, a lot of people ask me about my influences.  What inspires me to write?  They often ask how I come up with the humorous situations my characters get themselves in.  Now, I guess I can throw out a few names of authors who I really love and it would be fair to say they have had an influence in my professional life in terms of writing but if I have to be really honest, my greatest inspiration are the people who are around me day in and day out.   My family and friends are by far the greatest influence in my writing.  They are my idea generators.  They are my characters (with names changed to protect the innocent, of course). I can watch them all day long and come up with tons of ideas for plots, dialogues, scenes, and unbelievably funny moments in my books.  For example, my mother is the inspiration for Marty Peter’s mom in my book And The Winner Is.  My mom, just like Deandra Peters, is caring and loving.  She is the center of our family, the glue that sticks us all together, through the good and bad times.  But, my mom can also be sarcastic, unforgiving and the best dispenser of guilt I have ever seen in my life.  I really am convinced that the FBI could use a girl like her on their team.  Forget interrogations!  A half-hour in a padded cell with my mom and criminals would be spilling their guts out, doing anything to get away from her, begging on hands and knees for mercy.  I’ve seen her technique.  Let me tell you, it isn’t pretty.

Then there are my friends.  What can I say about them?  They litter my books with material.  I have one very good friend of mine that is the model for all of my main characters.  She is strong, smart, sassy, beautiful, opinionated and would go out of her way for a friend or anyone in need.  She is a true friend and I can count on her for anything.  But what I love most about her is that she is funny.  And when I mean funny, I mean “laugh out loud, hand over my stomach, stop it I’m cramping” kind of funny.  She has no filter and says anything she wants and does the most outrageous things I’ve ever seen someone do that allowable under the law.  I treasure her because her adventures are mine.  I tell her all the time that I borrow from her.  She is my Marty.

So yes, I absolutely adore Sophie Kinsella and Cecilia Ahern.  I admire Jane Green and Kristin Higgins.  I am a fan of Emily Giffin. But my true inspiration?  My family and friends.  They are loud, obnoxious, ‘in your face’ kind of people and I love them to death.  Without them, my life would be boring and my characters dull.  Let’s face it?  I wouldn’t be a writer without them.

Who Took The Comedy out of Romance?

I’ve just noticed that despite the plethora of chick lit books out there, there are very little offerings in terms of movies.  I wonder why that is?  Are we so obsessed with big budget action movies that we’ve skipped over the need for a good laugh and two people pushed together by fate?  I tried to remember the last good movie I went to that did this and none sprung to mind that has been memorable or even worth a glance other than Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve and possibly Bridesmaid.  Where have the Harry and Sallys gone?  The Bridget and Marcs?  The Becky and Lukes? Seriously, is there really no one who wants to see two people fall in love without a waterwork of tears or the world coming to an end?  I can remember when Julia Roberts made at least two movies a year where she either played a prostitute in love, a best friend in love, or a movie star in love.  What happened to the Julias of the movies?  I miss you, Julia!

Don’t get me wrong. There have been a few romantic movies released in the past year but it has mostly been romance dramas, not comedies.  Dramas such as Lucky One, The Vow, and a re-release of the Titanic (which every time I hear the opening notes to “My Heart Will Go On,” I start to bawl).  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy those movies too.  Everyone needs a good cry into a box of popcorn every once in while but I miss my comedies. I need to laugh.

And because of it, I am a women in mourning, practically wearing black every day over the tragedy of it all.  Although, as a New Yorker, most of my wardrobe is black.  I’m not trying to be witty; just honest.

I think back to all of the really good chick lit books I’ve read this year and at least a dozen of those can easily be made into good romantic comedy movie that I would pay good money (or at least $10) to see.

So to save you some trouble, I’ve listed potential good romantic comedies that have come out this month or are coming out later on in 2012:

  • Hope Springs-August 2012
  • Hit and Run-August 2012
  • Celeste and Jesse Forever-August 2012
  • Bachelorette-September 2012
  • Hello I Must Be Going-September 2012
  • The Big Wedding-October 2012
  • This is 40-December 2012
  • Playing for Keeps-December 2012

Romantic Comedies-My Favorites

A few weeks ago, I wrote about romantic comedies and how much of a huge fan I am of them. After I signed off, I tried to write down some of my favorites romantic comedy films. As I was making the list, I thought I would limit it to just the top ten but I found as I started jotting down my faves, that there are much, much more than ten and I couldn’t narrow it down. It would be like choosing your favorite among your own children. I also discovered that I watch way too much T.V. but that’s the topic of another blog.

So here is the list of my top 60, which you’ll see is a mix of the new and old, the classics and contemporary, the musicals and the straight dialogue. The films that really capture my imagination are the ones with the couple sparing-duking it out, a hate to love relationship. I can’t help it-I love a good war of words. Hey, I’m a writer-did you expect anything differently?

They are listed in no particular order. Please feel free to add your own to the list as I am sure I missed a few good ones. Enjoy!

(1) When Harry Met Sally;
(2) Philadephia Story;
(3) Bringing Up Baby;
(4) Groundhog Day;
(5) While You Were Sleeping:
(6) Four Weddings and a Funeral;
(7) Bridget Jones’ Diary;
(8) Love Actually;
(9) The Gay Divorcee;
(10) Adam’s Rib;
(11) It Happened One Night;
(12) You’ve Got Mail;
(13) My Big Fat Greek Wedding;
(14) Shakespeare in Love;
(15) Sleepless in Seattle;
(16) His Girl Friday;
(17) Breakfast in Tiffany’s;
(18) Leap Year;
(19) Easy A;
(20) Pretty Woman;
(21) Can’t Buy Me Love;
(22) Sixteen Candles;
(23) Two Weeks Notice;
(24) Some Like it Hot;
(25) My Best Friend’s Wedding;
(26) The Princess Bride;
(27) The Wedding Singer;
(28) Adam’s Rib;
(29) Confessions of a Shopaholic;
(30) French Kiss;
(31) Knocked Up;
(32) Annie Hall;
(33) Hannah and Her Sisters;
(34) He’s Just Not That Into You;
(35) The Wedding Singer;
(36) Jerry McGuire;
(37) Moonstruck;
(38) Vicky Cristina Barcelona;
(39) First 50 Dates;
(40) Top Hat;
(41) Mamma Mia;
(42) Valentine’s Day;
(43) Never Been Kissed;
(44) Clueless;
(45) Fever Pitch;
(46) Shallow Hal;
(47) Nottinghill;
(48) Knight and Day;
(49) 13 Going on 30;
(50) Sweet Home Alabama;
(51) Splash;
(52) Arthur;
(53) Moonstruck;
(54) Kate and Leopold;
(55) Something About Mary;
(56) Only You;
(57) Serendipity;
(58) Runaway Bride;
(59) Ever After;
(60) Just Like Heaven;
(61) Gone with the Wind (OK, so I know I said 60 and this is a classic drama set in the Civil War but the scenes between Vivian Leigh and Clark Gable are priceless and the sparing between the two earns a spot on this list:-))

Not Living In Reality-Who Wants To?

I’ve heard the saying often that you have to live in reality. I’ve heard  this from my parents when I announced after my high school graduation that I wanted to live in Europe for a year, backpacking it with my best friend before going to college.  I’ve heard it from my brother when I confided in him that I had an overwhelming desire to join the circus at the age of ten.  I’ve heard it from my friends when I said I wanted to get married to the perfect man, have the perfect family and lead the perfect life. Their reaction to me was to ‘get real.’

Now that I’m older and I think wiser (at least, I’d like to believe all the hype that Oprah, Dr. Oz and Betty White are feeding me about aging gracefully), I wonder what’s wrong with NOT living in reality?  What’s wrong with dreaming?  What’s wrong with chasing after impossible goals?  If you look back at the biggest success stories of all times, each and everyone one of them had someone behind the scenes balking that it will never work, it will never happen, stop living with your head up in the clouds, start living in reality.

If the Wright Brothers had listened to the naysayers, I would be taking a two week trip on a steamer across the Atlantic, likely getting sea sick, instead of listening to music on my headsets in my comfy coach seat for six hours (OK, well not comfy as in first class but still better than a sea level cabin on the Titanic) on Air France going to Paris.

If Alexander Graham Bell had subscribed to the “half empty” rather than “half full” mentality, I wouldn’t be texting my husband that I need him to pick me up some milk from the store on his way home from work or calling my best girlfriend on my cell phone to let her know I’m running late for our happy hour ritual on a Friday afternoon.  I’d be sending out my messages using smoke signals, a pigeon or some guy on a horse.

And if Jane Austen had believed, like so many in her day, that only men had a place in writing great literature, I would not be typing this blog today.

So, I have resolved to stop living in reality and start reaching for the stars, stop walking with my two feet on the ground and start floating in the clouds.  The view is much better from there anyway.

Love and Shopping

Love and shopping? Do the two words go together? Should they? I say they do. Why? Well, if you’re like me, you love shopping and can’t wait to do it over and over and over again-sometimes a few times a day, if you’re lucky.

And just like any relationship you’re in, there are different reasons for why you love the whole shopping experience. For some of us, it’s a matter of economics. We obsess about how to get more bang for our buck, how to stretch out our dollars so that we have everything we need (food, clothing, shelter). For others, it’s all about the fun-the fun of finding the perfect outfit to wear to go out to dinner, the right handbag to go with the outfit, the right shoes to go with the handbag (well, you get the point). Shopping can also be social-the bonding and small talk that happens when you are with your best girlfriends, scouring the racks at a department store, trying on jeans in a fitting room or window-shopping as you walk down a street filled with boutique stores. For me, it’s all of the above and so much more.

Whatever the reason, all I can say for sure is that shopping is a high. I can feel it-the excitement surrounding it-just like the high you get when you fall in love (or read Fifty Shades of Grey-it’s a toss up).

If I’ve had a bad day or feel just lousy because my hectic life is getting way out of control, more than I can handle, I go shopping and suddenly and almost instantaneously, I feel better, notice the corners of my mouth turning up into a smile and feel my back straighten out as I walk with a spring in my step.

I’ve read all about the medical reasons behind my physical reaction to shopping-that shopping releases the same endorphins from your brain as when you fall in love. And I so believe it because I get the same reaction from ‘love at first sight’ with a man as I do with ‘love at first sight’ over a pair of designer shoes-the tingling sensation, the flutter of the stomach, the anticipation of taking your shopping bags home with you and going through all of your purchases, showing it off to your sister, calling up a friend and gossiping about the bargains you got, sharing the heady moments together.

It is heady. It’s just like the beginning of any romantic relationship. The beginning of a commitment. Let’s face it, I’ve have shoes that have been with me much longer than some of my boyfriends. I’ve had clothes that have come into and have gone out of style-been considered new, then old and then vintage chic, all within a few years-but nevertheless have stayed with me through thick and thin (sometimes more thick than thin). I have clothes that go with my many changing moods-clothes that I slip into when I want to feel sexy, youthful, athletic, professional or playful. Then there are my comfort clothes that see me through ‘that time of the month’ or when I just want to crawl under my covers and never see the light of day again. Regardless, all of it would not be possible if I didn’t love shopping.

So do love and shopping go together? Absolutely! And just like love, I either go in all the way or not at all and 9 out of 10 times with both, I take the jump and enjoy the journey (and bargains) along the way!

P.S. I Love You

Just like the friends you had and the kind of sports or school activities you were involved in while growing up, books define you.  I have always been a book lover since the very first day that I learned to read.  To me, it was the secret passage that opened up a world of magic, possibilities and imaginary wonders.  All you needed were the pages in front of you and time…time to enjoy the adventure, time to savor the journey.  Things have certainly changed from when I was a kid and I may not be flipping through actual pages but rather swiping my finger on an electronic screen, but the end result is still the same: Reading is pure magic.

Recently, I was reminded of this when I came across the series of books written by Barbara Conklin on www.goodreads.com.  If you were a young girl growing up in the 80s, like I was, you probably remember Barbara Conklin.   She was a young adult author and she wrote about teenage girls in the throes of first love. What young girl doesn’t want to read about that!!??

I know that I sure did. I read every single one of her series, simply devouring them because I could identify with the main character.  You see, they were just like me: dealing with parents, growing pains, boy craziness and everything else that comes with being a young girl who’s just trying to muddle her ways through the world.  Her main characters were strong young women, smart and ambitious, beautiful inside and out.

And I wanted to be just like them.

It was also  the first time that I realized what I wanted to do for a living.  Now Barbara Conklin certainly wasn’t a Hemingway or a Steinbeck but she did what every author hopes to do when someone reads her work: she captured my interest.  From that, I caught the “reading bug” and I have never recovered. Since then I tend to read everything from the classics to the campy, from the sentimental to the “laugh out loud,” from the mystical to the “real life.”  And now that my teenage years have come and gone quite some time ago, I have yet to slow down…and I don’t intend to either.

So, thank you, Barbara Conklin, for giving me a gift-my love of reading.   It’s something I hope to pass down to my daughter.  In fact, I just ordered your entire series! I can’t wait to share them with her.  I’m sure she’ll find the covers outdated and a bit cheesy but, I know that,  once she turns to the first page and starts reading, she’ll find that secret passage and discover the magic that is reading.

He Thinks I’m Always Right

So I have decided to take a short break in my blog from talking about writing romantic comedies and instead focus on relationships. And I guess you can say it is related to romantic comedies because relationships form the foundation and provide the feeder for the comedy and the romance in any book and/or movie, right? So, here goes.

I think I’ve explained in my bio that I have experience in finding love because it took me years to find it myself. That was fifteen years ago and now I am happily married to a wonderful man. In fact, he is the person I think about when I write the male leads in any of my romantic comedies. He’s got the right combo of sexy, cute, confident, stubbornness, passionate, funny all rolled into one (like a Snickers bar that has chocolate, caramel and nuts put together in a smart package. I express everything good in my life in terms of chocolate). But like I just said, we’ve been married for 15 years so you know that ours isn’t always roses and thrills of first kisses and picnic lunches in Central Park.

Since we’ve been married for so long, it’s inevitable that we fight. In fact, it’s absolutely normal (at least that is what I’ve been told by several generations of women in my family).

What do we fight about? We fight about a lot of things-it can be small, big and somewhere in between-we don’t discriminate. We fight about our children, about finances, in-laws, work. We fight because we are tired, exhausted. We fight because we need an outlet for our pent up anger at the driver who cut us off that morning or the boss who yelled at us because he is a prick. We fight because our baseball team lost that weekend or because the hairdryer stopped working midway through a blow out.

The other day, I noticed a pattern in all of our fights. My husband always ends our disagreements with a roll of the eyes and the simple statement: “You always have to be right.” Usually I dismiss this comment with a wave of my hand but while I was driving the other day, I thought about it and instead of getting angry, I actually agree with him.

I mean who actually goes into an argument thinking they’re wrong? Why would you fight if you knew you were going to lose? Like war, you pick your battles and you put your men on the front line and you fight as hard as hell for what you believe in. From Colonel George Washington to General Patton, we fight for our ideals. It is the American way. What would the world be like if we didn’t fight for what we believed in. Would we even be living in the United States of America if the colonists agreed with everything that the English King said or did?

So the fact that both my husband and I believe that I always have to be right when we fight may have been the first time in our many years of marriage that we both can actually agree on something. He may have something to say about that but am I right? Of course, I am:-)