Monthly Archives: January 2011

An update on the updates…

Some readers may have noticed a slight increase in the number of posts I’ve been making recently. January is the time of year when many of us look back at years past and consider where we’re going. Time is a limited commodity and we all have responsibilities that demand our attention. But beyond that, we must decide how we chose to spend the rest of our minutes. A TV show here, random web surfing there, they all start to add up and erode away the hours, the days, the years. To accomplish anything we have to work at it, to focus and set priorities on our time. There will always be an excuse, a reason to procrastinate, but we must decide what’s most important to us.  And with that in mind I’ve set myself a few goals for the year ahead. They include staying better connected with friends as well as reading, writing and blogging more.

For years many of the people I know have been on Facebook and Twitter. Until now I’d resisted jumping in, certain it would be one more thing clamoring for my attention. I’ve come to discover these social platforms are, in fact, a wonderful way to stay connected, and in some cases even reconnect with old friends I’d lost track of without consuming my day. I’ve even made some new friends along the way.  Imagine that! And I make sure I carry my Kindle at all times, so even while I’m waiting at the deli counter I can sneak in a few pages of reading. As for writing more, I know I get my best work done in the earliest hours, so I’ve made a point of not sleeping in another hour (or two). I get up early, brew some caffeine and get to work. And as for blogging, my intention is at least 2-3 posts a week, and among those posts I plan to share the books I’ve enjoyed.

You won’t find any New York Times best-sellers here. For one they’re not the types of books I normally read and second, enough people are talking about them as it is. No, the books I’ll be spotlighting are primarily ones from less well-known authors. For the most part they’ve published through smaller presses or gone the independent route. Some will be current reads, others may have been read months or even years earlier but remain among my favorites to this day. I won’t be giving ratings or awarding stars; none of these reviews were requested and I’m not looking to be a review site. There are many wonderful blogs that provide superb reviews; you’ll find links to the ones I follow below.  The titles I’m mentioning here are simply ones I’ve enjoyed, stories that struck me and I believe deserve a closer look. I’ll include the author’s blurb but these won’t be book reports that rehash the plot turn by turn. I’m simply going to tell you what the book is and why I felt it may be one readers should consider.

Recommended Book Review Blogs:

Book’d Out

CMash Loves to Read

Curling up by the Fire

Minding Spot

My Reading Room

PodPeople

Red Adept Reviews

Socrates Book Reviews

Tea Time with Marce

Tiffany’s Bookshelf

It’s 1:00 in New Jersey…

A.M.?  P.M.?

Actually, it doesn’t matter. Want a cheeseburger at 5:30 in the morning? Waffles for lunch?  A Taylor ham, egg and cheese sandwich for dinner? Well then, you’re in the right place.

I’ve heard that outside Jersey the diners don’t stay open all night. The rumor is that in other regions of the country you must order breakfast at breakfast time, lunch around noon, and dinner in the evening.  I don’t quite understand those restrictions, as I’ve lived my life in a state where all items listed in extensive menu are available at any hour of the day or night. I’ve read that the Garden State boasts more diners than anywhere else in the nation, many of them gleaming vintage stainless-steel classics with glass blocks, porcelain enamel and neon signs.

Soup of the day, daily specials, and all the while pastries rotate enticingly in a display case by the counter. The food is great and the price is right. It’s just one more thing I love about New Jersey.

So, whether you’re in Jersey, Oklahoma, Maine,  Texas or anywhere else, what’s your favorite diner, and why?  Do the diners stay open all night in New Mexico? Do they serve breakfast at midnight in Ohio?

It’s a Jersey thing…

I’ve always known my home state has a bit of an image problem. For years, whenever I’d say where I’m from I’d be met with smirks and replies of “Oh, you mean JOISEY.”

No.

Let me repeat that: NO.

I’ve never met a single native who pronounces it ‘Joisey.’ Period. And as for the ‘What exit’ routine, give it a rest. The entire state doesn’t reside three blocks from the Turnpike, and no, my book’s title isn’t a play on that overused expression either

New Jersey has been called ‘The Armpit of America” and the butt of countless jokes. Sadly, it’s unlikely we’ll be shaking perception that anytime soon. The U.S. seems to need somewhere to laugh at and it looks like we’re it. We get that. We’re from Jersey, we have a sense of humor. When your home is the punch-line for constant depreciating jokes, a thick skin and the ability to laugh it off are vital. Most everyone I know thought South Park’s ‘It’s A Jersey Thing’ was brilliant, especially because it ripped into the very shows we all detest. But between The Sopranos, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Jerseylicious, MTV’s Jersey Shore, the media seems to be profiting quite nicely on making us look bad.

We’re a proud state for good reason. We’re a state of diversity, both in population and geography, rich in history and heritage. Such notables as Thomas Edison, Buzz Aldrin, Frank Sinatra, Anne Hatheway, Meryl Streep and Kevin Smith all hail from NJ. But these days we’re more associated with Snooki, and that little train-wreck is, in fact, a New Yorker. People snicker at the title of ‘Garden State,’ unaware of New Jersey’s miles of woodlands, marshlands, mountains, farmland, creeks, rivers, lakes and barrier beaches. I live 25 minutes outside of New York City and regularly see eagles flying overhead. Foxes are common, deer even more so. Seal sightings on the Hudson River are not unusual this time of year. Yet much of the U.S. insists our state is one giant stretch of needle-strewn beaches, oil refineries, chemical plants, and toxic waste dumps.

I’m not the only one speaking out against my home state’s negative image these days. Others are voicing this sentiment as well. And I’ve noticed that my site draws in many visits from people searching things “New Jersey” related, so I’d like to call out to my fellow residents to speak up about what you feel makes your corner of this state great. If you have a Jersey-positive site, Facebook page or blog, let me know and I’ll add a link. If you’d like to guest-post I’d love to hear from you. Let’s fight the bad stereotypes and show the world what we’re really about.

The real places are real…

There’s one comment I’ve heard on occasion from readers: they love the locations I created in Last Exit In New Jersey. Most of these remarks are from beyond the Garden State borders, though even a few natives think I’ve made up some of these towns and places. I’ve even been asked how do I come up with this stuff. I mean, seriously… Bivalve? Cheesequake? Really?

Yes, really. Every location in my story actually exists, pretty much as described. There is in fact a Bivalve, New Jersey, a Maurice River, a place called Cheesequake. There is indeed a Holy Sepulcher Cemetery and it is in fact divided in two by the Parkway. The numbers in the chapter headings are the actual latitude and longitude for each specific location; if you plug them into Google Earth or any GPS navigation you’ll find yourself at the Route 9 White Castle or an empty stretch of beach… or twenty-three miles offshore. Or one of these places:

Bivalve NJ
Brielle NJ
Point Pleasant NJ
Piermont NY
Paramus NJ
Parlin NJ
Millville NJ
Trenton NJ
Rumson NJ
Elizabeth NJ
Camden NJ
Little Ferry NJ
Hillsdale NJ
Maurice River
Hudson River
Harlem River
Spuyten Duyvil Creek Bridge
East River
Hackensack River
Cheesequake Creek
The Pinelands
The Meadowlands
Sandy Hook
Vince Lombardi Service Area
Cheesequake Service Area
Montvale Service Area
White Castle
Great Adventure
Newark Airport (Okay, now they call it Liberty.)
Teterboro Airport
Raceway Park
Route 9
Route 46
Route 4
Route 17
Route 80
Route 9W
Route 1 and 9 (NOT Route 19!)
New Jersey Turnpike
Garden State Parkway
Holy Sepulcher Cemetery
Nike Missile Base (located on Sandy Hook)
Paramus Park Mall
Garden State Plaza
…and so much more.

Yes, I may have added a dock here, a building there, I may have fictionalized specific boatyards and homes, but other than that every town, highway, tackle shop and shopping mall I featured exists as described, both in appearance and any history mentioned. Even the nautical headings, speed and distance are correct and accurate and the specific buoys are the very ones currently rocking and gonging away along the coastline. There’s only one geographic detail I took a writer’s liberty with: the water depth in Piermont, New York. Sadly, Piermont has shoaled in further and further over the years, so docking a boat with any significant draft at anything other a high moon-tide is nerve-wracking at best.

In the coming weeks I plan to post details, pictures and the history of some of these places, as well as some of the locations I’ll be featuring in No Wake Zone. Get ready… you’re going on a tour of the REAL New Jersey! (And it’s not what you see on MTV.)

UPDATE 1/26/11: Check out Highlands Blog; it’s a highly enjoyable hyperlocal blog about Highlands, NJ and its surrounding areas.

$100…

Yes, everyone, as of this evening Mysteries for Mutts has raised $100 for the NJSPCA. December was a slow month, but I’m happy to say that so far January is more than making up for it. Thank you to everyone for your support.

Me? Really?

A few weeks back I met with a reporter from my local paper. I wanted to speak about my Mysteries for Mutts fundraiser I’m currently doing for the NJSPCA. She arrived with a long list of prepared questions, the majority of them about my book and myself. It was a friendly meeting, very conversational and relaxed. I have no trouble talking about Last Exit; that’s my work and I’ve put much work into it. I was amused by her interest in me… really, I’m not that interesting. I’ve come to realize people are fascinated by my background though I can’t see the big deal. I’m just me. Yes, I’ve spent much of my time around boats, I’ve always said that, and I realize that’s somehow made me a bit… shall we say, different. But that may have been the case, boats or not. I figured most of our conversation was just her getting an idea of who I am. So we talked – about the book, about me, about, at last, the NJSPCA. We wrapped everything up and she told me the article would appear at some point in the coming week or two.

Fast forward to this morning. Then sun isn’t up yet; the horizon’s still dark, but there’s the paper in the driveway, tucked just beneath the truck. I bring it in, make a cup of tea and sit down at the kitchen table to read the usual run-down of community news. An apartment fire, still under investigation. Lights are going up in a town recreational field. The winners of the annual ‘Holiday Lights’ competition have been announced. Newly elected officials are being sworn in all over the valley. And… YIKES!!! There’s a cropped picture of ME grinning back from the header of the Community Living section. Arts & Leisure: Local author publishes book Page 34. Flip past the Shoprite sales flyer and… whoa. There’s me again, along with a nice big picture of my book’s cover. I’ve got a full page and then some… it continues for another column on page 36.

The headline: DIY writer publishes first novel, her way

Uhm… okay. But I thought it was going to be about Mysteries for Mutts, not me. I read through, seeing my words in print. Did I actually say THAT? This is weird. Yes, those are my remarks. So many of them. It’s odd to read them in print, pulled from the context of the conversation and slipped into the paper I’ve read for years. Weird. I honestly figured I’d get a quarter of a page, tucked between the advertisements for local banks and pizza coupons. There’s plenty about me and about the book, and me again, and the book. The fundraiser is mentioned, though the majority of the article is focused on the author and the book.

As the caffeine settled into my brain a bit more I realized something about this article was bothering me. It isn’t a bad article at all – in fact it’s quite nice; the only area where I saw any issue was a minor point: my reference to Evanovich was regarding her accuracy on certain details, not her female leads, which I know are not hardened and tough characters. That’ll probably get some of her fans riled up, but it’s likely my original statement would have as well. The reporter went into great detail about me, my writing, the story, and the fund-raiser as well as NJSPCA received mention. It took me a bit more caffeine before I could put my finger on what seemed wrong, and it wasn’t the article itself. I was me.

For one, I prefer to avoid notice. I’m a text-book introvert; I can deal well enough with one-on-one interactions but in the grand scheme of things I really prefer to stay off the radar. I don’t mind when the focus is on my book, the fund-raiser, my boat, you name it. Just pay no mind to the person behind the curtain. There are enough other people in the world who want the spotlight; I’m not one of them. And I suspect a portion of my discomfort is seeing my spoken words in print. People tell me I’m well-spoken, though I’ve never thought so and this only cements that belief. Writing is my preferred medium; I can select my words then return to edit and refine them further. I chose each and every word with great though, weaving them together in precisely the manner I deem fitting, even at this hour of the morning. I could care less how I’m dressed or what my hair looks like, (and there’s a photo of me as proof!) but my words? I’m very self-conscious of my words, even more so than I realized.

Oh well. Off to start my day, no longer quite as anonymous as usual.

On an aside, there’s been another very nice review posted today at Tiffany’s Bookshelf. And in Red Adept’s Annual Indie Awards, she named Last Exit In New Jersey as one of the top three mysteries of 2010!