Friday, November 26, 2010

Win a $40 Gift Certificate to CSN Stores

Happy Thanksgiving, readers! I'm thankful for you. And for stuffing. Mmmm, stuffing.

Just in time for the holidays, CSN Stores has done it again-- they're offering one of my super readers a gift certificate that you can use in any of their stores. And those stores are mighty diverse. You can get just about anything there, from a stool to a bed.

To win, all you have to do is leave a comment here telling me something that's made you happy this week.

For extra entries, you can do any of these things (leave me a separate comment for each thing you do):

1. Follow me on Twitter at

2. Follow my blog on Google Friend Connect. (Look over there in the right sidebar for the follow button ---> )

3. Tweet about this contest. Use whatever wording you want, but here's one example: Win a $40 GC to CSN Stores from @GhostwriterJG at

4. Review any of my books on Amazon, Goodreads ,, or your own blog for 5 extra entries. (Leave 5 separate comments to tell me you've done so.) (You can find a list of my books over there on the right or on to see if you've read any of them.)

Contest closes on December 13 at 11:59 ET and I'll announce a winner on December 14. Make sure I have a way to contact you if you win-- either have your e-mail address visible in your profile or leave your e-mail address here.

Good luck!


Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Spirit of Les Miserables

My mom called last week to tell me that there would be a one-night-only showing at my local movie theatre of the 25th anniversary concert of Les Miserables at the O2 Theatre, and she asked if I wanted to go. Of course I did; I lost count of how many times I saw Les Mis on Broadway, but it was approximately 8, sheerly because I could not afford to go every weekend. All but the last were spectacular. (The last one was an off-Broadway revival, and it was pathetic.)

The first time I saw it was around 1987, which made me either 11 or 12. Colm Wilkinson was starring. The dynamics of the show are a big part of its magic-- from the booming, rousing group songs to the pin-drop moments between phrases of "Bring Him Home." I am convinced that anyone who isn't moved by that song is clinically deceased.

Tonight's showing was sold out, and my parents, brother, and I had to sit separately from one another (though close enough for me to lean forward and tap two of them, at least).

Nick Jonas played Marius, the young male lead. Turns out that about 1/4 of the audience were girls who squealed every time he made a pained expression and complained bitterly when he kissed Cosette. And that was fine. It was even sort of endearing. But it was the rest of the audience who created the atmosphere that made me want to envelop all of them and take them home with me and beg them to create a commune with me, and...

Sorry, I'll back up. It's that all of us-- ALL OF US-- were singing every word, politely, quietly, because we couldn't help ourselves. We breathed together. I got chills right to the top of my scalp. At the end of every song, we applauded, though there were no actors there to receive our applause. It didn't matter-- we had to applaud anyway, or our heads would pop off from trying to bottle it up.

The man next to my mom was mentally challenged, and couldn't quiet his excitement. He sang every word, spoke the actors' names aloud, and sobbed so hard that he choked and sputtered at every emotional moment. When it came time to introduce the writers, the lyricist, the producer, he shouted enthusiastically, "Look! He's here, too!" He knew every one of their names, and the names of each of the members of several different productions.

There were teenagers there who had done Les Mis in their high school productions. There were parents and grandparents and couples and singles.

I sat there in this theatre feeling very at home for the first time in a long time. THESE ARE MY PEOPLE. After all these years of being away from performing, there is still nowhere on earth I can remember feeling as near to God as in a theatre. There are moments when everything else falls away except for that perfect note, that silhouetted spotlight, the echo of the orchestra. Moments when I forget to breathe.

The end of the concert came, and the cast bowed. Then they showed the two London casts. Then came a sign on the screen that said, "Original 1985 Cast." Out came the performers-- a dozen? Two dozen? I was too excited to pay close attention. I giggled with joy and tapped my dad. "Oh my God! They're all there!" It was like seeing old friends, all in one place again.

We both leaned forward in our seats, just loving this moment, getting to see the original cast up there on stage with their younger counterparts, smiling and waving. There was wild applause until it petered out. A moment of silence. And then it happened.

The opening notes sounded out on the piano.

It's happening. He's going to... it can't be true. It is. He is!

It was that moment when you know that a wonderful thing is about to happen-- it's really going to happen, and you can't even stop it if you wanted to, but why would you want to? He stood in front of the microphone.

God... on... high...

Colm Wilkinson, 25 years later, in the role he created. There were gasps. There were sobs. A good portion of them were mine. I didn't even bother trying to stop the tears as this man rang out in perfect falsetto one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Others joined him, but I tried to block them out (sorry, others). For me, it was an awakening of a part of me I'd forgotten even existed. A spiritual part. my need, you have always been there...

"If I had known that was going to happen," my dad said, "I would have flown to London."

Thank you, everyone involved with Les Miserables through all these years, and thank you, audience, for an extraordinary night.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Dropping Out of the "Mompetition"

For the past 20 minutes or so, I've been inwardly huffing and puffing about a post I read where a non-parent denounced child harnesses (usually cute backpacks with "leashes"), calling them cruel. She insisted that parents who use them are lazy and that the kids will grow up to be rebellious, drunken teens who can't wait to get away from their parents.

First, I don't use a harness on Sarina. But I do know something about the absolute terror of having your little child outrun you at an amusement park, resurfacing at the top of a ride she didn't belong on. I would never judge someone for using a harness. Others who do just can't get past the "leash" imagery, but you know what? It's less restrictive than holding a child's hand firmly or placing a child in a stroller or baby carrier. Where are all the insulting outcries about how children are being oppressed because they're in strollers? A harness gives the child some range of movement, some autonomy. It shouldn't be used as an excuse for inattentiveness or lazy parenting, but it also shouldn't be discouraged because some adults will tsk tsk and snoot all over the parents who use them.

Which brings me, of course, to the "Mommy Wars" and the "Mompetition." That's when moms negatively judge other moms' decisions and preferences, playing a game of one-upmanship about whose methods are the "right" ones. It's ugly, and it starts before a child is even born-- did you get a flu shot while pregnant? Then you're either probably injecting your child with poison with unknown long-term effects or being irresponsible for putting your child at risk of brain damage when you get the flu. Are you eating peanut butter? Then you're either doing a great job to lower your child's risk of getting a peanut allergy, or you're so damn selfish that you won't even avoid peanut butter for 9 months to lower your child's risk of a peanut allergy. (That's right. The experts have flip-flopped.) Are you getting an epidural? A c-section? A homebirth? Well, do you even KNOW how much you're abusing your unborn child by getting him stoned/doing an unneccesary procedure/not being in reach of emergency medical personnel?

(Funny video about the Mompetition)

It's not even limited to moms-- women who don't have kids will often start their judgmental nonsense with, "I'm not a mom, but I've been a [babysitter, aunt, teacher, nanny]." Sorry, not the same. Not the same.

Once the baby is out, it's like a fountain of new things for moms to get all mompetitive about. Circumcision and breastfeeding are just the most obvious ones. Then there's cosleeping, babywearing, canned vs. homemade baby food, pacifiers vs. thumb-sucking, developmental milestones, vaccines, whether or not to ban all television, whether it okay to go back to work and when it's okay, and so on.

You have the OMG! You gave your child a french fry? moms, and the Kids today need more discipline! moms. The ones who say, "Boys will be boys" and the ones who say, "If your child pulls my child's hair, I will sue you."

This is totally different from the legitimate reasons to be judgmental. If you smoke around your kids, I am going to judge the hell out of you, because you are full of suck. If you leave your kid in front of the television for hours so you can gossip on the phone with your cousin, I will judge you. If you leave your baby to "cry it out," I will judge you, because it is proven to harm children, period, full stop. If you hit your kids or verbally abuse your kids, I will hope you land in the hottest corner of hell. Oh, and I'll judge you. Oh yes, I will judge you.

But all those hoity-toities who like to give sharp glances because they see a child having a tantrum, or a mother who gives in and buys the candy at the checkout line, those people can bite me. Other moms' decisions don't have to match up with ours, and we do not know how we would act were we in someone else's life. I don't know what it's like to have five kids. Maybe you don't know what it's like to be a single mom. There are things about each of our lives that affect our decisions. As long as we're all offering a lot of love and attention to our kids, and not purposely putting our kids in harm's way, then there's no reason to get into the mompetition. It's stressful enough being responsible for a child without all the added bitchery by fellow moms who should be our friends and confidantes.

So I'm dropping out of the mompetition. Don't try to drag me back in, either. I'm going to make the best decisions I can for my child, and I'll expect you to do the same, and we can send each other nothing but the best wishes. Okay?


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Amazon Boycott: The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure

I love Amazon... or at least, I did, until today.

Today, Amazon took a stand! For pedophilia!

Uh... huh?

No, seriously. Amazon is selling this in their Kindle store: The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure. (UPDATE: as of Nov. 11, the page is down. I've captured screenshots of what the listing looked like, and you can view them as a .pdf file here.)

This is the author's description:

"This is my attempt to make pedophile situations safer for those juveniles that find themselves involved in them, by establishing certian rules for these adults to follow. I hope to achieve this by appealing to the better nature of pedosexuals, with hope that their doing so will result in less hatred and perhaps liter [sic] sentences should they ever be caught."

Now, anyone can publish anything on Amazon's self-publishing platform, mind you. I don't blame Amazon for not catching it immediately. What I DO blame them for is their deplorable response to the situation once they were made aware of it... over and over and over.

Amazon has received complaints about this book for at least the past few days. I found out about it this morning, as did thousands of others, who flooded their customer service phone lines, e-mail support, reviews, and alerted the media.

I called Amazon twice and got nowhere-- the first (outsourced in India) support person who answered told me he couldn't do anything because their systems were down and I should call back later. I told him I didn't need anything in their "systems." I just wanted to voice my concern that they were stocking this book. He acted confused and told me there was nothing he could do while their systems were down. So I called back later and the second support person "accidentally" disconnected me when I mentioned the Pedophile's Guide and asked if they were planning to remove it.

I've since e-mailed and used the "feedback" form, to no avail. Others have gotten this response:

As a retailer, our goal is to provide customers with the broadest selection possible so they can find, discover, and buy any item they might be seeking. That selection includes some items which many people may find objectionable. Therefore, the items offered on our website represent a wide spectrum of opinions on a variety of topics.

Let me assure you that does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts; we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions. believes it is censorship not to sell certain titles because we believe their message is objectionable. Therefore, we'll continue to make controversial works available in the United States and everywhere else, except where they're
prohibited by law. We also allow readers, authors, and publishers to express their views freely about these titles and other products we offer on our website.

However, doesn't endorse opinions expressed by individual authors, musical artists, or filmmakers.

Several problems with this statement.

1. "As a retailer, our goal is to provide customers with the broadest selection possible so they can find, discover, and buy any item they might be seeking."

And that includes books on pedophilia. Thank you so much, Amazon, for this noble goal of yours to make it easier for pedophiles to find the how-to guide they might be seeking.

2. "Let me assure you that does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts."

In fact, Amazon, you do. You are supporting a criminal act against children-- and even promoting it-- by advertising and selling this book. No one is forcing you to carry this book. You are doing it. You are encouraging people to buy this guide and learn how to be a better pedophile.

3. believes it is censorship not to sell certain titles because we believe their message is objectionable.

That's not in any way censorship. Amazon is a private company and can choose what to stock and what not to stock.

4. We also allow readers, authors, and publishers to express their views freely about these titles and other products we offer on our website.

Liars. Dozens of people complained that their reviews were removed when they posted negative reviews this morning. When I first looked, there were only about 12 reviews-- despite others saying there were more than 100 earlier. Now there are more than 500, so it appears Amazon has either lost its grip on deleting all the reviews as they come in, or are rethinking this strategy. But, if you're going to call "censorship," THAT is much closer to the definition. Removing negative responses to a book while claiming to allow open reviews is censoring.

Free speech doesn't apply here, either. It was this creep's right to write and publish the book, but that doesn't mean that anyone has to sell it. Choosing to do so implies that either (1) you actively support pedophilia and would like to encourage others to try it, or (b) you don't give a shit and just want to make money. Or both.

Jeff Bezos, I thought better of you.

When writers self-publish on the Kindle, they also have to agree to the Terms of Service that says, among other things, that their book is not pornographic. So let's get this straight: pornographic material featuring consenting adults is not okay, but manuals about how to rape or molest children and get away with it are A-OK!

I have never boycotted anything, ever. Today begins my Amazon boycott. That hurts me... I shop at Amazon every week, I have a Prime membership, and I get terrific bargains for my family. But I can't support a company that is actively helping teach people how to molest my daughter... and defending their right to do so.

If you agree, here are some ways to make yourself heard:

  • Use the blue "Feedback" box on the bottom of the book's page to report it.

  • Amazon customer service: 1-800-201-7575 (or 1-206-266-2992 from outside the U.S.)

  • Kindle support: 1-866-321-8851 (or 1-206-266-0927 from outside the U.S.)

  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos:

  • "Community help" e-mail:

  • Call and write to your local media: newspapers, magazines, television news programs, and radio.

  • Boycott Amazon until they remove this book.

My own book links (on the right sidebar and elsewhere) point to Amazon. I'm not removing those links yet because it would be very tedious to take them all down and put them back up if Amazon does the right thing-- which I very much hope they will do, quickly. But I will ask that if you do buy my books, please buy them from or elsewhere in the meantime.

I am a rape survivor. I was 10, and I was asleep in my own home, and so were my parents. If you think pedophiles can't strike you or your kids, think again. This isn't just something that happens to "other people." It happens to us.

UPDATE: 11:55 p.m. Nov. 10

My friend Foinah Jameson called customer service and wrote, "They assured me that this item would definitely be removed within the next few hours. The rep I spoke with said that there had been hundreds of tickets logged regarding this matter in the last hour -- he had personally done ten himself. He was horrified by this book. Take a moment to call customer service. It's worth it."

I was very glad, and called customer service again. Their response to me was the opposite: that Amazon would NOT stop selling the book, but that they would put up details in 24-48 hours stating that they don't endorse or promote its content. They don't believe in censorship. And they hoped I would be happy.

The service rep got an earful from me. She remained perky and unconcerned as I explained that selling an item IS endorsing it and promoting it, and that I am amazed that Amazon would take such a stance against its own customers-- alienating most of the human race for what? To stand up for a pedophile's "right" to teach others how to rape children?

She said, "If you honestly feel that way, then I'm sorry, but we don't believe in censorship."

If I honestly feel that way? No, I'm just kidding about it, lady. I'm just acting all mad, but I really think pedophilia sounds fun. Let's all try it!

This is not about censorship. It is not censorship to choose not to sell an item. If it were, then every other store on the planet could be accused of censorship, as none of them attempt to sell "everything." Corporate buyers make decisions about what to stock and what not to stock. Amazon can choose not to stock this, without having anything to do with the Constitution, the right to free speech, or censorship! It's just a simple business decision.

That decision should have been made much easier by the fact that Amazon's customers are speaking loud and clear about how much this is angering us. You just don't piss off the majority of your customers and expect to keep going with business as usual.

Until now, Amazon has had a clear lead in online sales of not only books, but just about everything. Were I a shareholder, I'd be very nervous right now. I really think today will have long-standing consequences.

Even if they pull the book now, I know my opinion of Amazon has changed permanently.

They've censored my reviews before (and yes, I do mean "censored"), but this is the book they're going to bat for. This is the one they're standing behind, willing to lose thousands of loyal customers, willing to spit in the faces of every one of us who's ever been affected by a pedophile.

CBS and CNN have run stories on this now, and the book's link temporarily went down during those broadcasts. The link and book are back now. And I'm more disgusted by Amazon every second.

UPDATE 12:36 a.m. Nov. 11

Here's a link to Amazon's own self-publishing guidelines:
(Thanks, Celina Summers!)

Here's an excerpt:

If Amazon Digital Services, Inc. determines that the content of a Title is prohibited, we may summarily remove or alter it without returning any fees. Amazon Digital Services, Inc. reserves the right to make judgments about whether or not content is appropriate.Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with some examples of prohibited content:

Pornography and hard-core material that depicts graphic sexual acts.

Offensive Material
What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect. Amazon Digital Services, Inc. reserves the right to determine the appropriateness of Titles sold on our site.

Illegal Items
Titles sold through the Digital Text Platform Program must adhere to all applicable laws. Some Titles that may not be sold include any Titles which may lead to the production of an illegal item or illegal activity.

That's right-- according to its own guidelines, the Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure should be removed immediately. Instead, it's currently the 65th best-selling Kindle title. Way to go, Amazon.


Thursday, November 04, 2010

I invented a thing (with egg salad)

It started when my new coauthor, Paula Bloom, posted a video where this guy shows us how to peel hard-boiled eggs just by blowing on them:

By the way, he's lying about the baking soda being "key." Totally don't need it. It's just easier to peel (or, er, blow) eggs that are not very fresh, so choose eggs that have been sitting around in your fridge for a few days.

Anyway, I had to find an excuse to try this, so I decided to make egg salad. Egg salad and I have a bit of a checkered past. See, I loved it when I was a wee one. My dad proudly told me a story over and over and over (still does) about how he got the "secret recipe" from a deli owner one day. He used to frequent a Brooklyn deli and loved their egg salad, and kept bugging the owner about the recipe. He knew there was a secret ingredient, but the owner refused to tell him what it was, because then he knew my dad could make it at home and stop coming to the deli.

Well, finally, my dad was about to move to Long Island, and he went to the deli one last time and begged the owner to tell him the secret now, considering he couldn't drive to the deli for lunch anymore anyway. The guy whispered to him, "Pickle juice."

I loved this story in the first grade. Pickle juice in my egg salad! What a great secret ingredient! (About a tablespoon per sandwich, if you're curious.) And for some reason, I thought it would improve my social status if I revealed this secret ingredient to my classmates. However, at least one got it in her head that this was disgusting, and told everyone else in the class that it I was a freak, and it was the very first thing I can ever remember being teased about. Every time I opened my lunch box, that girl or her friends would make scrunched up faces and ask me if I had any gross foods with pickle juice today.

I think that ruined my taste for egg salad for years. But now I'm all evolved and stuff, so screw them!

With my eggs all boiled, I tried the blowing technique. It was a success. (Don't worry-- I'm not feeding these eggs to anyone but myself.) Then I turned to the fridge and... no pickles. Rats! What good is egg salad without pickle juice? No good, I tell you. I had to improvise.

So I decided to try the lime juice. And you know what? It's good. It's no pickle juice, mind you, but in a pinch, if you ever find yourself with a batch of egg salad and no jar of pickles, squirt a whole bunch of lime juice over it. Just don't tell your first grade classmates. You're welcome.