Sunday, October 19, 2014

Down on Love Blog Tour Stop: The Fabulous Jayne Denker

Greetings, y'all! I have a real treat for you today. My good friend, Jayne Denker, has stopped by for a chat about her fabulous book, Down on Love. It is the first book in her Marsden series, a collection of books based in a delightful town in the Catskills which is full of, well, busybodies. (Please reference the above signage.)

I thoroughly enjoyed Down on Love and am now addicted to the series. Ms. Denker's books are bursting with charm, wit and sincerity, just like Ms. Denker herself. Are you ready to meet her?

Tour of Marsden, Day 6
There’s More to the Catskills Than Dirty Dancing

Hey there! Happy Monday! ...What, no love for the beginning of the week? But we’re not toiling away in the workplace—we’re on a tour bus in the Catskill Mountains, heading for the fictional town of Marsden, NY, where my small-town rom com series takes place!

Don’t know much about the Catskills? Well, I can help you out there. I’m a native (western) New Yorker and have spent most of my life north of New York City and west of the Hudson. I was born in Rochester, I’ve lived in the Finger Lakes and downstate near the Pennsylvania border, and I went to college in the Catskills.

And I can tell you that there’s nothing more beautiful than an autumn afternoon in that weathered mountain range in the middle of New York State.

How about some Catskills trivia? 


·         The Catskills Mountains are 100 miles north of New York City and the region extends from Albany in the east, down the Hudson River, and westward into what’s known as the Leatherstocking Region. It’s made up of 6,000 square miles, six counties, nearly 100 mountain peaks, and 700,000 acres of parkland (nearly half of which is designated as forever wild).

·         The area was once an inland sea.

·         The name has nothing to do with killing cats. In Dutch, “kill” means creek, so it was known as Cat Creek, possibly because of the mountain lions in the area at the time the Dutch explored it (1600s).

·         Howe Caverns is located in the Catskills.

·         The classic novel My Side of the Mountain is set there (Delhi, NY).

·         The Woodstock music festival took place in the Catskill town of Bethel (no, not Woodstock, NY, but that’s a famous artists’ colony).

·         The first Christmas trees sold in New York City came from the Catskills in 1851.

·         The Baseball Hall of Fame is located there (Cooperstown, NY).

·         Washington Irving’s Rip van Winkle is set in the Catskills.

·         New York City gets nearly half its water supply from the region.

·         In the mid-20th century, part of the Catskills was famously known as the Borscht Belt, an area filled with resorts and “summer camps” that hosted families from New York City all season.

·         Movies set in the Catskills: Dirty Dancing (of course!), A Walk on the Moon (mmm...Viggo Mortenson...), Woodstock (double of course!), Manny & Lo, and the documentary Stagedoor, just to name a few. Scenes from Tootsie were shot there, and several movies like You Can Count on Me were set there but not filmed there.

Most important of all (koff): my Marsden series is set in the Catskills! Although you won’t find Marsden on any map, there’s a little bit of other towns in it...and a whole lot of the Catskill vibe.

Here’s an excerpt that’ll give you a feel for the place; it’s when our heroine, Georgiana (George) Down, comes back to town after being away for years:


They crossed a side street, and George did a double take at the sight of a picture of a garden spray-painted on a brick wall. She glanced at Casey with a smile. “Banksy crossed the Atlantic when nobody was looking?”

“What, the street art? Local version. We call him Marsdy.”

“Who is it?”

“Nobody knows—haven’t caught anybody in the act yet. And that’s some feat.”

“Keeping a secret around here? You’re not kidding.” They hurried past a mime on the corner, avoiding catching the person’s eye so they didn’t have to stop and watch the invisible box thing. “When did you move back? Sera didn’t tell me—well, why would she, you know? But I didn’t—I mean . . .”

“It’ll be two years in October.”

“She hasn’t mentioned you in two years? Not that we talk very often, but . . .”

“I’ve been keeping a low profile.”

“‘Working hard on the farm?’” It seemed like everything came back to that.

“Yeah.” Before she could ask for details, he went on, “And speaking of working, what was that Mrs. P said, about a blog . . . ?”

“Girl’s gotta make a living.”

“Well, aren’t you wired—” Casey paused as a cell phone chirped. “Yours?”

George stopped walking and pulled her phone out of her pocket. “Nope. You?”

Casey was checking his. “Not me.”

They stowed their phones and started walking again, but their path seemed to be blocked more frequently, and by individuals who were looking at them rather intently.

George whispered, “Do I have spinach in my teeth?”

“When was the last time you ate spinach?”

“Two thousand eleven?”

“When was the last time you brushed your teeth? And please don’t say two thousand ten.”

“This morning.”

“All right, then.”

“Are you getting the feeling we’re missing something?”

Casey looked grim, but he said, “It’s nothing. Come on, we’re here.”

The hardware store looked exactly the same as it always had—clapboard front, two plate-glass windows, swinging sign overhead reading “Smithson’s Hardware” even though Tony Smithson, the previous owner and proprietor, had died twenty-five years ago. Because it was June, the window display featured a wheelbarrow, a Garden Weasel, bags of fertilizer, a small stretch of picket fence, and a carpet of fake grass. Just like every year. If you’d just woken up from a coma and didn’t have a calendar handy, you could tell what month it was by checking the hardware store’s window display.

Inside, it was as though time had stood still. The dark wooden shelves were still twenty feet tall (it seemed), the lights high and dim, the farthest recesses dark and dusty, the bins of odds and ends and bits of metal parts, screws, nails, washers, and clamps organized in such a way that only the employees could find anything. Probably, George thought, to ensure job security. You couldn’t fire any of the old fossils who’d manned the counter for decades; if you did, nobody would be able to locate anything they needed.

And sure enough, there were the three of them right now, in various states of apronage, two older gents with eyeglasses flashing, reflecting the lights overhead, the third a bit younger, with more hair and less stomach—the next generation, a future fossil. They all watched Casey and George walk in and raised their hands in greeting.

“Welcome home, George,” the senior fossil said, as George, still refusing Casey’s help with the stroller, worked hard to navigate it around cardboard displays and bins of stuff on sale. “Heard you were coming in.”

She stopped short, stunned. “Thanks . . . ? Henry, how did you—”

He waggled a cell phone at her. “Missy called.”

“Of course she did.”

“Help you with the plumbing fixtures?”

Apparently Mrs. Preston had been listening to their excuses—and had filled in the hardware store crew so they’d be prepared. But Casey didn’t break his stride, just waved over his shoulder. “We’re good, Henry. But thanks.”

George followed, pushing the stroller between the tall shelves, the aged floorboards creaking under her feet, to a far corner where a few faucet sets were on display.

She wrinkled her nose as she examined their options. “Home Depot has, like, fifty different kitchen faucets to choose from. Maybe we should—”

Casey shushed her. “Do you want to get run out of town on a rail? Do not speak a big box name within the town limits! Now get over here and pick one, city girl.”

“They all look the same.”

“Then it’ll be easier to choose.”

George made a face at him and pointed at the middle set. “That one, I guess.”

“If your sister doesn’t approve, it’ll be on your head.”

“Isn’t it always?”

As they approached the counter with the faucet and some other plumbing-related items Casey had grabbed along the way, he ventured, “So how did you end up offering to be Amelia’s nanny, anyway?”

“Didn’t, did she?” senior fossil Henry said as he rang up their purchase. “Sera called and begged.”

“No, she didn’t,” argued the junior fossil—Pete, if George remembered correctly—as he bagged each item after Henry rang it up. “I heard she blackmailed George, threatened to reveal some ancient family secret. She couldn’t refuse after that.”

“Guys. I’m right here.”

“So you know what I’m saying,” junior fossil Pete said with a pointed look at her, as though he shared her secret.

“Why don’t you set these geezers straight, George?” Mike, the future fossil, suggested, resting his elbows on the counter and giving her a wink. “Otherwise they’ll be arguing about it for days.”

“Well, that’ll give them something to talk about besides the weather, won’t it, Mike?”

And George smiled politely before turning her attention to getting Amelia’s stroller back out the door.

“What’re you grinning at?” she snapped at Casey as he held the door open for her, although she couldn’t hide her amusement either.

He grasped the front of the stroller to help ease it over the threshold. “You.”

“Well, that’s quite . . . blunt of you.”

“You seem . . . different.”

“Everybody keeps saying that.” She stopped short as Casey studied her. “What?”

“Just trying to figure out what the recent version of Goose is like, that’s all.”


If this bus isn’t traveling to the Catskills fast enough for you, grab Down on Love, on sale for only 99 cents, all e-formats, all month long, and dive right in! You might just fall in love with the place.

Next stop, tomorrow (Tuesday, October 21): I’ll share some Marsden secrets over at 1 Rad Reader (!

Now that you have experienced her charm first hand, here is the lowdown on the fabulous Ms. Denker's first Marsden novel, Down on Love. 

When it comes to love, she's a professional skeptic. Is it too late for a career change?

If there's one thing Georgiana Down is an expert in, it's bad relationships. That's what inspired her blog, Down on Love, where she gives snarky advice--usually along the lines of "dump him." In fact, George is abstaining from men all together. At least that's the plan--until she makes a trip back to her tiny hometown in the Catskills, where meddling is an art form. . .

George loves helping out with her new baby niece, but she's counting the days until she returns to Boston. Then she runs into Casey Bowen, her high school crush. The boy she once loved is now a handsome grown man--and suddenly George needs a little advice of her own. She's in the right place, because when she drunk posts on her blog, everyone in Marsden has something to say about George and Casey. It's like high school all over again--but maybe this time she'll get things right. . .

Ready to buy it? I know you are! Here are your options:

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About the Author

Jayne Denker divides her time between working hard to bring the funny in her romantic comedies and raising a young son who's way too clever for his own good. She lives in a small village in western New York that is in no way, shape, or form related to the small village in her Marsden novels Down on Love and Picture This. When she's not hard at work on another novel, the social media addict can usually be found frittering away startling amounts of time on Facebook (Jayne Denker Author) and Twitter (@JDenkerAuthor). She’d like to say she updates her Web site,, quite often, but most of the time when it crosses her mind, she shouts “Can’t you see I’m writing?!” and puts it off till another day.

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

I Have Become My Mother

I’m really not sure when the transition happened. I don’t think it took place from the moment my first child was born. I believe it gradually took hold of me since I didn’t notice until it was already over. The relatively relaxed person I used to be was replaced by a stringent, rule enforcing dynamo filled with pithy instructional phrases. I’m still taken by surprise by the speed at which these sayings fly out of my mouth (I swear I don’t even think about it anymore; it just happens) and have resigned myself to the fact that it will take multiple repetitions to achieve the desired result.

You know exactly what I mean. “Brush your teeth.” “Put on clean underwear.” “Wash your hands after using the bathroom.” “Put your toys, shoes, coat, dishes, penis (It happens!), etc. away.” And let’s not forget the omnipresent, “Remember to say ‘please and thank you.’” I sound like a broken record because I have to say each of these things at least twenty times a day (I have two sons and each action takes four to five requests to ensure completion. This is an excellent math problem in the making...)

As I child, I was convinced these phrases were meant to stifle any type of fun I was having. Mothers have a wonderful ability to break the flow of fun, don’t you think? You run home from school, throw the front door of your house open (you may or may not remember to close it) deposit your belongings on the floor just inside the door and high tail it to whatever activity you had your heart set on doing once you got out of the prison everyone else called “school.” You got about halfway up the stairs by the time your mother called out to you, listing each action to be completed before your eager little patootie could go anywhere it actually wanted to go. With a deep sigh, you would flounce down the stairs, whine about how unfair life was and then sulk your way through each instruction. And you probably threw in a few sighs and eye rolls too. Just for fun.

I am now the lucky recipient of the eye roll/sigh combo. My nine-year-old son has achieved master status with this particular skill. Some days, it’s all I can do not to channel Bill Cosby and say, “Son, I brought you into this world; I’ll take you out.” I’m not proud of this thought, but I do manage to restrain myself, which should count for something. As parents, we spend all day every day juggling the mundane tasks necessary to keep our families safe and happy. Of course, our kids have neither the understanding nor the inclination to help us with any of it. They prefer to kick and scream their way through their young lives, shouting, “It’s not fair!” at the top of their lungs. And so it should be. We know one day they will understand.

And so I have come to the conclusion that my mother, with all of her nagging, was right. I’m dealing with my comeuppance like a big girl (I drink wine and eat chocolate), but it makes me sad she is not here to see it. I can only hope she is out there in the universe somewhere, taking comfort in the knowledge her youngest daughter FINALLY gets it. So when I tell you I have become my mother, it is not with the chagrin you may be expecting. Becoming your mother is actually not such a troubling thing. Sure you may end up with some of her less than stellar habits – ridiculous dance moves, singing off key, misusing current slang, etc. – but you will also gain her wisdom. In the end, you take the good, you take the bad, you take ‘em both and…you know where this is going. (Don’t you miss the wisdom of the 80s?) It is simply a fact of life that many of your mother’s qualities will become a part of you one day – when you need it the most. 

80s Movie Wisdom

There are certain moments in our lives that we remember with absolute clarity. One of mine occurred when I discovered that many important lessons could be gleaned from the stellar collection of movies that I watched in the 1980s. I was writing my first book, French Twist, and I found my mind continually wandering to my favorite John Hughes and Cameron Crowe movies from my childhood.  I giggled as my fingers flew over the keyboard, peppering the dialogue of my characters with indelible quotes from these cinematic gems. Suddenly, I realized that these movies were jam packed with critical life lessons for future generations to come.

At first, it may seem like a bit of a stretch, but if you really think about it, you will see that there is much knowledge to be acquired from your favorite movies from the decade of excess…

Lesson #1: Don’t Lie

This may seem rather obvious and is definitely one that our parents told us over and over again, but with his script for Pretty in Pink, John Hughes was able to convey this idea in a way that seemed decidedly less lame. Just cast your mind back to the wonderfully idealistic and honest Andie, played by Molly Ringwald. She is not na├»ve enough to miss the socioeconomic differences enforced en masse by the students at her high school, but she will not allow herself to be treated poorly by any of the “in-crowd” and values telling the truth above all else. In the end, Blaine, played by the gorgeous Andrew McCarthy, realizes what an idiot he has been, sticks it to his heinous best friend Steph, played with such delightful creepiness by James Spader, and begs Andie’s forgiveness. Even as a teenager I could see that the massive amount of lies told by the popular kids were bringing them nothing but pain. I was totally ahead of my time!

Lesson #2: Money Isn’t Everything

This is a lesson that takes YEARS to learn and some people will never truly take it to heart. Admittedly, it is exceedingly hard to grasp - especially when you are a kid and money appears to be a very simple solution to every problem. But again, our man John Hughes comes through with some serious brilliance in Some Kind of Wonderful. Here we meet Keith, played by the dreamy Eric Stoltz and Amanda, played by Leah Thompson, both high school students from the “wrong side of the tracks.”  While Amanda essentially sells herself to “run with the rich and the beautiful” (Thank you, Mary Stuart Masterson!), Keith is content to hang with his other economically challenged friends, stumbling through the usual teenage insecurities and big dreams for the future. Amanda picks up the scraps of her rich friends, but it is only after she sees the true nature of her revolting ex-boyfriend, played so effectively by Craig Sheffer, that she understands that money cannot buy happiness, only a very small approximation of it.

Lesson #3: Crazy Things Can Happen

Crazy things certainly happen far more often in the movies, but real life has its moments.  (French Twist is the true story of how I met my husband and it is full of crazy happenings!) Enter once again, the amazing Mr. John Hughes, with the Sixteen Candles. Here we find Samantha, played by Molly Ringwald, torn between being angry with her family for forgetting her SIXTEENTH birthday and mooning over THE Jake Ryan. Every girl had a Jake Ryan in high school.  You know, the incredibly hot guy, who was also sweet, charming AND athletic? Fictional Jake is also wealthy and interested in a moderately dorky girl rather than his smokin’ hot girlfriend; why wouldn’t we be enamored with the idea of such a thing?  OK, OK, so there is a degree of suspension of disbelief at work here, but Sixteen Candles reminds kids of the very important lesson that these crazy things CAN happen. Let’s not shatter their dreams with the fact that the odds are not ever in their favor. (Points for cross generational reference!)

Lesson #4: Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

I find this lesson a bit funny considering that at this point in time, I spend a lot of time thinking about cover design, since people most definitely judge them before buying my books, but we are going with the metaphorical sense on this one. In another of his cinematic triumphs, The Breakfast Club, John Hughes warns us about the dangers of stereotyping. We are presented with John – the criminal played by Judd Nelson, Andrew - the athlete played by Emilio Estevez, Claire – the princess played by Molly Ringwald, Allison - the basket case played by Ally Sheedy and Brian - the brain played by Anthony Michael Hall. Each character comes with a corresponding image and background and it would be easy enough to pigeon hole these kids based on their roles. However, as the movie progresses, we see why this is such a colossal mistake. We quickly learn that no one’s life is ever really what it seems – good or bad – and we all have a lot more in common than we thought. And though the future of John and Claire’s relationship is absolutely doomed, at least their short stint together removed the deep rooted animosity that was based on good old fashioned assumptions.

Lesson #5: Never Underestimate the Impact of a Grand Gesture

Now it is time for us to hand the reins over to Mr. Cameron Crowe and his extraordinary film, Say Anything. Simply hearing the title of this movie instantly evokes the image of Lloyd Dobler, played by John Cusak, holding a boom box over his head that is blasting the unforgettable Peter Gabriel song “In Your Eyes.” I can easily picture him standing in front of his blue Chevy Malibu in that borderline skeevy trench coat, with a look on his face that was part determination and part anguish. Whether you are a teenager, or perhaps a little, um, older you can easily appreciate the bravery it takes to put yourself on the line like that. And really, would we all swoon over magnificent scenes like this in both movies and books, if we did not desperately want them to happen in real life? I think not.

I hope that you enjoyed my musings on the wisdom of my favorite 1980s movies. I could have droned on and on for pages, but I know that you have a busy life to lead! If you have any interest in reading about a few real life grand gestures executed by my incredibly romantic husband of twelve years, please check out my French Twist series!