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26. Timeless Truths in Fiction

He offered the honest terms that a sound concern and an honest man had to offer. But that was not what people wanted nowadays. They wanted their hypothetical arrangements, their wild rumors, their manipulated booms with nothing behind it all but hot air....He could see them now at that very moment--all these many-colored and frivolous articles of fashion which captivated the world on the persons of equally frivolous young girls.
How fresh and contemporary, eh? This is from the 1931 edition of GRAND HOTEL by Vicki Baum, published in Germany in 1929 as MENSCHEN IM HOTEL ("People in a Hotel"). There's one thing that's dated, though: the casual use of n*gger in the narrative. Blech.

Oh, and Greta Garbo's famous line, "I want to be alone," was lifted right from the book.

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27. Quotes for a Month

Eek! Did I really not post at all in August? I was busy and distracted; some day I'll tell you about it. In the meantime, here are some choice nuggets I've come across in the past month. (And yes, in case you hadn't noticed, I'm an Anglophile.)

From an interview with Hilary Mantel, winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize for WOLF HALL, and whose memoir GIVING UP THE GHOST I'm happily devouring:

You don’t ask a plumber, what makes you plumb? You understand he does it to get his living. You don’t draw him aside and say, “Actually I plumb a bit myself, would you take a look at this loo I fitted? All my friends say it’s rather good.”
From OUR TRAGIC UNIVERSE, the latest novel by Scarlett Thomas (my other new favorite author), which should get a prize for book design:
You can identify someone who works in publishing because they tell every anecdote as if for the first time, with the same expression as someone giving you a tissue that they have just realised has probably already been used. [p67]

Almost everyone who came along to spend the week [at the writers' retreat] in the hotel in Torquay seemed to have the idea that all novels possessed the same sort of value, and took roughly the same amount of effort from the author, and that Tolstoy was a 'a novelist' in the same way that the latest chick-lit author was 'a novelist'. 'How do you even begin to write eighty thousand words?' someone would always ask, admiringly. And I'd always explain that 80,000 words is not that much, really, and that you could do it in eight weekends if you really wanted to, using Aristotle's Poetics as an instruction manual. Making the 80,000 words any good is the hard bit: making them actually important. [p115]

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28. I ♥ Anthony Weiner!

Sometimes histrionics are The Right Thing:

Unconvinced? Read this NYT editorial: Feckless and Cruel.

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29. Quote for the Ages

...novels should not be honest. They are a pack of lies that are also a set of metaphors; because the lies and metaphors are chosen and offered shape and structure, they may indeed represent the self, or the play between the unconscious mind and the conscious will, but they are not forms of self-expression, or true confession.

--Colm Toibin, New York Times Book Review

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30. Mother's Little Odalisque

Left, by Eugène Delacroix. Above, by moi.

After fighting the family dog for bed space all through my teen years, I never allowed my subsequent dogs on the furniture. Putting end tables on the couch at night always kept them off.

And then last month along came Abby, who pulled the tables onto the floor so she could sleep on the couch. That lasted about a week, till I gave up and covered it with a sheet. As you can see, she finds the arrangement just to her liking. (I kick her off in the daytime.)

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31. Roundup

Unused illustration for The Yellow Book, by Aubrey Beardsley

Tess Gerritsen explains "Why the hell won't they review my book?!!!"
(She neglects to mention that the Washington Post reviews crime novels every Monday.)

Susan Henderson gives The Truth About Blurbs at The Nervous Breakdown.

Following in the footsteps of Lazlo Toth, Sean Ferrell tells how to get an author blurb, in four installments. Part 1: Paul Auster. Part 2: Thomas Pynchon.

And then there's Slush Pile Hell. My favorite: July 6.

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32. Top of the Morning!

I thought I'd seen everything; then the above item showed up on eBay. Yes, that would be Lionel Stander as Max in "Hart to Hart" on a child's spinning top, made in Argentina. Bizarre, huh?

I'll pass (the image is enough for me), but you can bid on this precious objet here.

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33. Sea Monsters in the Hudson!

Cecil the seasick sea serpent, from Beany + Cecil.

While doing research for the Bella Terra Northwest Lighthouses map, I happened across a 19th century New York Times article about a sea serpent off the coast of Oregon. Whereupon I searched the Times online archives for "sea serpent" and found a treasure trove. Apparently summer brought sea serpent sightings from around the globe, which the Times often covered with tongue firmly in cheek. In 1904 correspondent F. Carruthers Gould wrote, "It used to be called the Silly Season because of the perennial appearance at this time of the sea serpent..." (So Obama's talk of the "silly season" was nothing new!)

Some nearby sightings:
August 31, 1886, Wednesday

RONDOUT, N.Y., Aug. 30.—Fifteen minutes before the steamboat Daniel Drew caught fire on Sunday afternoon a sea serpent was seen in the Hudson River between Coddington’s Dock and Kingston Point by a number of Rondout boatmen and boys who were in swimming. Capt. R. Brush, of the schooner Mary Ann, also saw it. All hands unite in saying that its head was raised about 6 feet out of the water, and it was of the shape and general appearance of the well known anaconda or water boa of the Amazon, but much larger, being about 2 feet in diameter on a line with the eyes. The throat is described as being dirty white, while the back appeared to be mottled with light and dark brown. From a point about 6 feet back of the eyes a fin appeared which extended the entire length of its body, or rather that portion of the body visible, which was about 55 feet. Half a mile below Coddington’s Dock Capt. Brush said the serpent lashed the water with its tail. The serpent was also seen by persons on the Dutchess County shore. The parties say it was not seaweed they saw, and that they were all “perfectly sober.”

September 11, 1886, Wednesday
NEWBURG, N.Y., Sept. 10.--R.H. Randolph, of Rhinebeck, in a communication to a local newspaper says: "For the past week the New-York and country newspapers have been circulating the story of the 'Hudson River serpent' that was seen in the river at various points between Catskill and Poughkeepsie. I was one of the eye witnesses of that serpent. While the steamer Daniel Drew was burning, a gentleman and myself were sitting on the bank of the river at Rhine Cliff. We saw a long black log floating down with the ebb tide. The log was apparently about 30 feet long, with a number of knots projecting that gave it the appearance of a row of fins. A root about 5 or 6 feet long at the end of the log would occasionally roll up with the swell and might to a person of strong imagination look like a head or neck. I made the remark at the time that if it was only a little later in the evening that would be taken for a genuine sea serpent. This is what was seen on Aug.

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34. Bellylaugh of the Day

Trailer for Gary Shteyngart's SUPER SAD TRUE LOVE STORY. Take notes; it's filled with bons mots.

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35. Roundup

On Booksquare:
The Future of Print
(Disclosure: Kassia Kroszer has spoken at my Book Promotion 101 workshops in L.A.)

On Huffington Post:
One Author's Journey From Twitter-Clueless To Organizing A 48-Writer Social Media Giveaway
For all her raving about Twitter, author Leah Stewart omitted her username: @leahcstewart. And she states that Twitter is "like going to a writers' conference without the booze and ill-considered affairs." Perhaps that's true for her, but some of us (my lips and keyboard are sealed as to who) are having a Real Swell Time.

On Editorial Ass:
The Mystical Blue Yonder (Or, Book Publicity)

On The Book Publicity Blog:
How do you track online “buzz”?

Just for fun (and thought), on "The Daily Show" website:
Women of The Daily Show Speak

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36. The New View from Here: Same as the Old View

Out my front door, 2:47 pm. Can't wait till the temperature goes down (!) to 90°, as forecast for tomorrow.

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37. The View from Here

As seen from my front door. FEH.

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38. In Memorium

Jenny, March 2007. (Her tongue was mauve on top, pink underneath.)

Jenny, The Best Dog died one year ago today. I still miss her, even though Abby, whom we adopted a month ago, filled the dog-sized hole in my heart. Abby likes to bound into the water to fetch a stick or ball, whereas Jenny's favorite activity was The Pebble Game. See it below (I was still pitching lefty 4 months after the 2nd surgery on my right arm).

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39. Quote for the Day

From Outspoken Is Great, Till It’s Not in today's NYT:

And if you dumped every reporter who ever sent a snide message or talked smack in private, there would be nothing but crickets chirping in newsrooms all over America.

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40. So You Want to Publicize Your Book?

Beyond the Margins unveils their bright new site design along with this: Toot It, Don’t Blow It: Interview with Book Promotion Expert Bella Stander. Included: My list of what should be on an author website.

On SheWrites, Lori Tharps (whom I met at this year's VaBook Festival), offers Countdown to Publication: My PR To Do List for her new novel, SUBSTITUTE ME.

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41. A Day in the Life of a Book Publicist

Below is an email exchange between a book publicist (BP) and a publisher (PUB), who advertised for publicity help on Craigslist.

* * *
I do book publicity - but one would have to know what exactly these books are before knowing if one could help. Can you send more information? BP

Hi BP and thanks for the email. I checked your site out. Anyways, if you are able to do some book publicity, I do have a few authors who need the help, but right now, I was hoping you could focus on just one for now. My author is also a [local] author and her debut novel is a fiction based narrative called, [TITLE]. It's about a woman who [is remarkably similar to a character in "Heroes"]. The book also is about a guy who [is remarkably similar to another character in "Heroes"], but that's all I will say for now! Their lives intersect and well....it becomes a sad surrealistic tale of craziness and love. I love it.

Anyways, I would love to hear your thoughts on what to do with [Author]. My idea would be to get her ten bookstore interviews/book signings in the [local] area, and/or 5 book club meet and greets where she has a chance to direct sale her book.

After this, I was thinking to get her twenty interviews on talk radio/online radio/ and reviews on websites across the net.

So this is all I would need for now. I would like her to maybe hit up some comic shops too....her book kinda falls into the super hero power category.

What do you think? If you are interested, please let me know most of all what you CAN ACTUALLY do and by what time frame and finally what that would cost. Do you accept payments/commission, or a combination of these and a flat fee maybe? If you work with me, I got four other authors who will need your services.

Let me know and thank you so much for responding to my ad either way. Take care. PUB
I hope to hear from you very soon!!

So, all very interesting. Perhaps I can help - but I must see the book first - can you send me a copy? I will return it to you if you like. I just can't start jobs without knowing more about what I am getting into. Let me know what you think, BP

I would love to send you a copy of the book. I am attaching it as a .pdf format. Please do me a favor and even if you can't do anything for her on a marketing basis, would you provide a small review or opinion so that I can use it on her amazon book listing and my website? Let me know. Thank you> PUB

Hi, started reading it - it did keep me going. But I need the actual book - are you sending that? BP

I can send the actual book once we are in some kind of agreement. I hope you understand I just gave you a free copy and once we are in agreement with a pay, I'll send you a copy of the book and subtract it's cost out of your price for work. If you need a book cover, I can send you that as well, unless you have some other reason for wanting the book? Let me know. I am glad to answer any questions you might have and thanks so much for reading it!!! :). I appreciate that and I know [Author] will too. Be kind and give her a review if you get through it and that would be awesome. Take care. PUB

PUB, it is traditional in doing publicity to see and have a copy of that which you are publicizing - content is of course king, but how the book itself looks and is designed are important as well. If I were to help you, I would need several copies to use - we can't expect people to read a pdf all the way through.
Best regards,

Ok, fair enough. I understand. I will send you what you need once we are in contractual agreement and also you can let me know exactly what the books are going to be used for. I hope that m

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42. BookExpo Wrap-Up

Airily attired ladies hawking THE BURLESQUE HANDBOOK (HarperCollins/ItBooks) across from the Saudi booth, whose all-male staff and visitors kept their eyes averted.

As someone on Twitter commented after a day spent slogging through BookExpo, the book industry won't be dying anytime soon. However, BEA management wasn't on the ball, because many people were unaware that the show was down to 2 days (Wed & Thurs) from its usual 3. Thus they were miffed--to put it mildly--when they stayed at hotels Monday night and arrived for Tuesday appointments to find the show floor closed. That happened to 2 people I'd arranged to meet on Tues., who had missed the post-9am email "reminder" that the exhibition hall wasn't open till Wed. Due to popular demand (aka "complaints"), next year the show will go back to 3 days: May 24-26.

On Tues., after viewing Philippe Halsman's wonderful "Jump" photographs at the Laurence Miller Gallery, lunching with a literary agent and poking through fabric shops, I arrived at the Javits for a 3pm confab about the Virginia Festival of the Book with a Crown publicist. Fifteen lonely minutes later, I discovered that I was 24 hours early. Oops.

To console myself, I grabbed an ARC of Jennifer Donnelly's new YA novel, REVOLUTION, which entranced me until the 4:30 Editors Buzz Panel--and for the next 3 nights. It comes out in October. Don't miss it! I reviewed her first YA novel, A NORTHERN LIGHT, which deserved every prize it received, and then some.

As for the Editors Buzz, which unlike last year was SRO, I tweeted: "I see white people. They're all around me. And they're klutzy with microphones." Once again, most of the 6 panelists apparently hadn't practised their speeches beforehand, and droned/babbled on till I wanted to scream. Moderator John Freeman asked questions to help them out, but some were beyond saving. One notable exception was Cary Goldstein of Twelve, who--surprise!--started out as a publicist. He made a great case for THE EVOLUTION OF BRUNO LITTLEMORE by Benjamin Hale, a novel narrated by a talking chimpanzee who has an affair with a woman and commits murder. (I know: ICK! Goldstein says the book's fantastic, but I passed on picking up an ARC.)

After that I met Kevin Smokler, chief evangelizer for BookTour.com, for drinks & nosh at Hudson Yards Cafe. (Decent food! Reasonable prices!) Whether you're an author or a reader--but especially an author--you MUST check out BookTour.com. It's already good, but from what Kevin told me, it's going to get even better in the next few months.

On Wed. morning I attended an excellent program: "Designing & Executing an e-Strategy for Authors: A Publisher & Agency Perspective." No danger of being put to sleep by moderator Charlotte Abbott or panelists Kathleen Schmidt (Director of Publicity & Digital Media, Shreve Williams Public Relations), Ron Hogan (just laid off as Director of E-Strategy, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and Jason Ashlock (principal, Moveable Type Literary Agency). They said a lot of the same things about online publicity that I've been telling my clients, only better, plus offered much information and thoughtful analysis. See highlights on Twitter: #eauthor.

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43. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Bigmouth

My latest find is a perfectly preserved copy of the June 7, 1936, issue of newspaper supplement Screen & Radio Weekly. It contains a profile of my father, who at age 28 had recently appeared in his first feature film, "The Scoundrel." Apparently he was the same loud dresser and talker--and spendthrift ("Anyone who lives within his means suffers from a lack of imagination.")--in youth as he was in his later years.

I didn't scan the fuzzy photo that headed the article; the one just below is a 1936 publicity still from "More than a Secretary." However, the cartoon is within the same section of text as the print version.

Who IS That Guy?

The Name Is Lionel Stander and Here Is His Story, Which Should Answer a Lot of Fans’ Questions

By Barbara Barry

“Madam, what you think of my work is exquisitely unimportant.”

His voice has all the romantic timbre of a rip-saw howling its way through a stubborn pine knot. But, since his pioneer screen appearance, as the dogmatic poet in “The Scoundrel,” men, women and children have been nudging one another, pointing (in a manner that would certainly upset Emily Post) and demanding: “Who IS that man?”

Lionel Stander is the name, folks, and it’s almost as surprising as the Broadway hillbilly suit he was wearing the first time we caught up with him on a Columbia studio set.

Briefly, Stander was born on the wrong side of the New York tracks, which doesn’t bother him a bit. His first job was that of office boy in a window shade factory, and bothered him even less.

Without in the least appreciating the honor, he found himself shoved into college plays at the University of North Carolina, where he was striving to polish off the rough edges of a Bronx education. And one sip of the thespic nectar was enough to send him galloping for home, to hang around the casting offices until the real reak came along.

“I played everything from thunder and lightning, off stage, to dead bodies falling out of secret panels,” he said. “One night, I landed on a carpet tack and they found out I h ad a voice.”

“Is that what you call it?” we wondered.

“And, in no time all,” he ignored us, “they handed me a part with one whole ‘side’!” Page, to you all.

That was the beginning of a colossal career. He met Ben Hecht, and Ben faithfully promised him a part in his new show, “The Great Magoo.”

But came the opening night, with Stander viewing the remains from a gallery seat. A lone, rugged individualist.

“It was a crushing blow to the Stander stamina,” he assured us. “But, when the show folded, seeral weeks later, I stowed my gloating in an old gloat bag that I usually carry in case of fire (shades of Joe Cook!) borrowed all the high-powered clothes I could find, and went down to sympathize with Ben.

“Ben was in his office, playing tick-tack-toe on the backs of his creditors’ statements, when I sauntered in, looking like a glorified chorus boy in my borrowed finery.”

With an ill-suppressed groan of anguish, Mr. Hecht looked at Mr. Stander. “What are you laid out for?” he asked. “A Mardi Gras? Why, I knew you when you were an unemployed actor, cooling your round heels in the lobby of the Billy Rose office.”

Mr. Stander looked right back at Mr. Hecht. “Yeah?” he said. “And I knew you ‘way back when you wrote ‘Erik Dorn’—and if you can sell out, why can’t I?”

So, on to “The Scoundr

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44. Displaced

Movers are packing up my life as I write. Tomorrow everything goes on a van. Friday we fly to New York. On April 2 we face the unspeakable pleasure of unpacking furnishings for a 1900 sq ft home into 1300 sq ft, plus a very large (dry!) basement.

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45. Gobsmacked

This NYT article, With No Jobs, Time for Tea Party, left me sputtering in disbelief & horror. Excerpt (emphasis mine):

When Tom Grimes lost his job as a financial consultant 15 months ago, he
called his congressman, a Democrat, for help getting government health care.
Then he found a new full-time occupation: Tea Party activist....

He blames the government for his unemployment. “Government is absolutely responsible, not because of what they did recently with the car companies, but what they’ve done since the 1980s,” he said. “The government has allowed free trade and never set up any rules.

He and others do not see any contradictions in their arguments for smaller
government even as they argue that it should do more to prevent job loss or cuts
to Medicare. After a year of angry debate, emotion outweighs fact....

Mr. Grimes, for his part, is thinking of getting a part-time job with the Census Bureau.

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46. At the Cinema with Dad & Me

UK film magazine The Big Picture has an article about my father, Lionel Stander (above in "The Loved One"):

Jez Connolly of The Big Picture also did an online interview with me: First Person

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47. About that Horse Leg in the Backyard...

Email exchange between me and the previous tenant of my Gracious Home in Rhinebeck, a British equine surgeon who relocated to France.

Me: While tidying up the yard, I picked up a rectangular white plastic bin that was sitting upside down between the stone wall & back fence, to the right of the shed. Underneath it I was surprised to find a horse's hoof and foreleg protruding from a pile of leaves (now buried under more leaves, capped by a rock). I was wondering whether you know anything about this.

Horse doc: Oh I am so very sorry about the leg in the yard. I put them out to weather and they have been there a very long time. I completely forgot. Very sorry. They could prob go in normal trash now.

Them??? I am so not digging any deeper. Nor will I be putting any horse legs, weathered or not, out for the Monday trash pick-up.

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48. Horse Leg Redux: Cadaverous

Further to my previous post--and egged on by my friend Stefanie, the artistic, cultural & now literary doyenne of Schuyler, VA--I sent Dr E the following message:

Inquiring minds want to know:

  1. Did you often cut off horse legs?
  2. Why must the legs be put outside to "weather"?
  3. Most important: Are there many more in the backyard?
Under the header "Cadaverous," Dr E responded:

Well, Bella, it goes something like this:

In human surgery, rubber cadavers are made to hone stereoscopic skills like arthroscopy. No such luck in equine field. As such, to hone and retain skills, cadaver limbs can be harvested off horses that have died for other reasons. They are typically frozen and then thawed for practice.

I thawed this limb for practice but made the mistake of doing so on a weekend when I was on call. I got called in repeatedly and as such the limb was past its best, so I decided that it would not go to waste if I allowed time and microbes to ravage the soft tissue, leaving me with a nice anatomic specimen that could then be further cleaned (with acetone etc. to de-grease). Such specimens are helpful when explaining to a client a problem with a structure in the limb, since the anatomy is so different from a human.

I am completely at a loss as to whether there would be another limb. I never thawed more than two at a time, and in the majority of instances it was one at a time only due to time constraints. The only consolation I offer you is that the extreme length of time and overwintering the bones have encountered will render them no more noxious that digging in the garden.

I trust that satisfactorily answers your questions. I was talking to a friend and expressing amazement that you had a blog. We then discussed how amazing it is that we become so familiar with various things in our lives (like the use of cadaver tissue for learning) that it becomes part of our 'normal' and that we fail to recognize how bizarre it is in someone else's 'reality'!!!

As my uncle would have said--all a matter of perspective--his famous example being: "The grass is greener on the other side of the fence due to the palisade effect and does not look so green when you look down at your feet and see a mixture of brown earth and green stems!!!!"

Murder mystery writers may be interested to know that the horse leg in question still has some hair on it and is a bit smelly. Hence I covered it with more leaves, capped by a large stone to deter critters. And just in case Dr E's memory is faulty, I'm not doing any more digging in the 3-foot strip between the stone wall and back fence.

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49. May Day 5: Healed at Last

 My new Twitterverse. Beyond the fence is a horse farm.

On May 1, 2006, Gomez the horse threw me into a steel-pipe fence outside Denver. My body was smashed and so was my psyche. (See 2009 posts Still Shattered, or The Never-Ending Story; The Never-Ending Story 2: Arm-ageddon and I'm Psychologically Distoibed!)

I'm happy to report that after 4 years and 8 surgeries--plus 2 bonus surgeries not caused by Gomez--I'm finally healed, if not all better. (There's a difference.) I owe it to therapeutic massage from the fantabulously gifted Dirk McQuistion, founder of MassageSpecialists.com, who gave me hope after the doctors gave up; Somatic Experiencing therapy from the wonderful Mel Grusing; and moving to Rhinebeck, where nothing reminds me of the last 4 years, and just going outside makes me happy.

Max is also happy to be here.

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50. Fun with Books

Diamonds Are a Reader's  Best Friend
Stephen Parris is promoting his debut novel The Tavernier Stones with an "armchair treasure hunt" that offers a 1-carat diamond for the lucky winner. See tavernierstones.com.

Per Booklist: Parris's "odd-couple protagonists (John Graf, the Amish cartographer, and David Freeman, the gemologist and jewel thief) make an interesting pair of heroes, and their jaunty relationship gives the novel an agreeable, lighthearted feel. The story itself, which involves a race against time...is intricate without being annoyingly elaborate."

Miss Austen Forever!
This just in from Laurie Viera Rigler, author of the delightful novels Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict:
I have some exciting news to share. There's a new comedy web series inspired by my Austen Addict novels, called SEX AND THE AUSTEN GIRL. In it, my two protagonists face off over the pros and cons of life and love and being a woman in Regency England vs. 21st century L.A.

SEX AND THE AUSTEN GIRL premieres on the broadband network Babelgum.com on May 17. In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy a peek at the teaser trailer:

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