Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Welcome, Shirley Goldberg!

 The old cliche about readers asking writers where their ideas come from? No one’s asked me that question. What they do ask is, “Did you really date 25 guys like your character in your book?” 

They’re curious about how much of my book is autobiographical. 

It’s complicated.


Some of Middle Ageish is based on real online dates I’ve––cough––enjoyed. So yes, I did meet a man who talked about his son way too much. (See the excerpt from the book, below.) As anyone who’s indulged in online dating knows, talking about one’s son is nothing more than an irritation when compared with the criminal acts perpetrated on well-meaning daters. (Now I sound like my Aunt Patty, who watched a lot of cop shows.)


What did these guys do? Everything from canceling at the last minute to the guy who waited outside the restaurant to look me over before introducing himself.  


We writers draw, in part, from our lives. But it’s call fiction for a reason. 


You get to lie. 


Lawrence Block, a crime writer with a column in Writers Digest for many years, wrote a book titled, Telling Lies for Fun and Profit. It’s a collection of his columns with highly entertaining tips about writing and the publishing industry. 


Lying is the fun part because…well, I’m not writing a memoir. 


I’m a reader. All writers are readers. Although I read across genres––recently dipping into paranormal and fantasy––my favorite is women’s fiction. Now that’s a broad category, and it ranges from the serious to the super light and fluffy. 


These days, I look for humor in my reading life with an occasional detour into more substantial reads. What grabs me? Relationship stories of all kinds. A believable meet-cute that’s not over the top. Conversations between characters that are realistic yet entertaining and show why they’re attracted to one another. Subtle yet playful. A great break-up scene where the guy deserves to be kicked in the nut sack––metaphorically, of course. Or telling off the big boss and walking away, corny as that sounds. Haven’t we all wished we’d had the nerve? Also love relating to the changes a character undergoes as the story unwinds. These are the elements that resonate for me in a story. 


So back to the autographical stuff. 


I’ll admit it, I exaggerated in the Donald scene. I took a mediocre date with a man who talked way too much about his son, and added a frustrated woman who grabs her chance to get back at him, if only a little bit. In real life, there was no phone call from another date, and I didn’t cut the evening short. 


Many times I’ve wished I had the guts to follow my instinct, or my character’s example. 


The thing about using real life experiences as a foundation for a scene is after a while I tend to forget what really happened. The more I read over and edit the fictional version, the more it becomes, in my mind, the real thing. 


The teaching scenes in the book came from my experience as a teacher, and anyone who spends time with adolescents, especially fellow teachers, will identify with Sunny, my heroine. Kids are masters at finding your weaknesses. 


Last, there’s the M word. Marketing. The hippo in the writing room. 


Although most readers don’t think about it, marketing––getting your book in front of readers––is tough. So many platforms, so little time. Learning how to market is like taking a series of graduate courses without the teacher. 


So, dear readers, one suggestion from an author who’s also, of course, a reader. 


If you love a book, take a few minutes to write a review. Reviews are the gift to authors that keeps on giving. 




Sunny Chanel's marriage is circling the drain when her husband marks his colonoscopy on the calendar and ignores their anniversary. With divorce papers instead of roses on the horizon, she says "au revoir" Paris and croissants, and "hello" cheap New Haven apartment and ramen noodles.

With the encouragement of her friends, Sunny jumps into online dating, twenty-three years and twenty pounds after her last date. To her surprise she discovers dating might require a helmet, and occasionally armor to protect her heart, but after years of being ignored, her adventurous side craves fun and conversation. She’s middle-aged not dead. Then suddenly, on the way to reinventing herself, life takes a left turn when the one man she can't forget calls with an unexpected request.


Excerpt:  “The Donald Scene”             


It was after six. In the last fifteen minutes, I’d checked my watch three times, holding my wrist at lap level so Donald, my latest meet, wouldn’t notice. 

Nope, too busy texting. 

On my second glass of wine—we’d hit the early bird special, Donald’s suggestion—at a new fish place on the water, The Fin and Tater. The air surrounding us held the briny scent of fresh tuna and their specialty, fifteen potato dishes, from sweet mashed to curly and deep fried in olive oil. 

“One minute, almost done here,” his thumbs operating at warp speed on his phone, an oversize smart phone. 

Would Donald ever get off his phone? I salivated. An appetizer, however small, would do the trick. 

“Sorry about that,” he said. “Don’t like to be unavailable to Johnny. So. Where was I? Oh, did I tell you he just turned twelve?” 


His phone dinged, signaling another text. “Sorry, one second.”

The urge to gulp the wine was almost overwhelming, but I forced myself to sip slowly, realizing my whole face was clenched. 

And here I was in the shortish red skirt to my red suit, feeling pretty jazzed. For what? So Donald could text-date his son on my time? 

Plus, there was the hunger factor. 

My phone pinged with a chat alert from the dating site. Since it was easier to text, and I was twiddling away here with a few popovers for company, I sent José my phone number. Twenty seconds later, he texted. 

Are you busy? Wanna talk?

I took another sip of wine. Wasn’t chatting with one guy while on a date with another bad form?

Um hmm. I’m not busy, I texted. 

I headed for the door, waving my phone in the air so Donald would know I was stepping outside for my own phone call. 

“Hey, Sunny. Glad you can talk.”

His voice was a purr, and my whole body reacted in a jumpy adrenaline mini-rush. 

“Me too,” I said. “You caught me at a good time.”


About the Author


Shirley Goldberg is a writer, novelist, and former ESL and French teacher who’s lived in Paris, Crete, and Casablanca. She writes about men and women of a certain age starting over. Her website offers a humorous look into dating in mid life, and her friends like to guess which stories are true.  Middle Ageish is her first book in the series Starting Over. Her character believes you should never leave home without your sense of humor and Shirley agrees. 





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Monday, October 5, 2020

Another Speaking Engagement

 I was the guest speaker at my Temple’s Sisterhood breakfast and I had so much fun!

Anyone who knows me, and reads the above sentence, is now convinced I lost my mind. But I didn’t. I really had a good time.


It quite possibly could be due to the pandemic. This was the first organized activity with people other than my family that I’ve attended since March. But keeping everyone’s safety in mind, the breakfast was held outdoors in the parking lot. We all brought our own chairs (and our own breakfast) so no one was touching anything or anyone. We all wore masks, except when I spoke to the group (although I double checked with the ladies sitting in front of me, about ten feet away, to make sure they were okay with me taking off my mask).


I wasn’t expecting a huge turnout. I mean, I was advertised as the featured speaker and I don’t think I’m that exciting. But there were about 20 people (two per parking space—we were really spread out), which was great. Just the right size for me to not freak out over speaking in public. And my friends were there, so even though I was speaking, I was talking to nice people.

Since I have done this before, I put together a twenty-minute speech that touched on a little of everything—what it’s like to be a romance writer, information about the industry, what my writing process and style is, and of course, the Jewish angle (see location of speech, above). I mentioned a few of my books and took questions at the end. People laughed in all the right places, which was also gratifying. 


I did not sell books. First of all, this event wasn’t billed that way. And second of all, I really don’t know how to sell physical books to actual people in a safe way during Covid. But hey, that’s the beauty of my books being available online. At the end, I directed them to my website and to Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If they’re interested, they’ll buy.


My one screw-up? At the beginning of the breakfast, we were asked to introduce ourselves and to name an item starting with our first initial that we’d bring to the “campfire”—since we were sitting outside and all. My name is Jennifer, and I did NOT think to say Jewish romance. Sigh.