Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Women of a certain age: Stylish and sexy? Or frumpy and dumpy? Go ahead. Guess.

Ralph Marino, at sixty, is handsomer and sexier than ever. Women of all ages notice Ralph, they swoon over him, they hit on him.

But what about Ralph's wife? Blake Weston is 56, the age when women become invisible.

  • No one listens to her even when she knows more about the subject under discussion than anyone else in the room.
  • Taxis don't stop for her.
  • Waiters ignore her.
  • Salespeople look through her even though, within reason, she can buy whatever she wants.

Is Blake happy about the situation? No way. Is she about to give up? Never.

I loved writing about Blake and Ralph, their relationship, and the deadly mystery they must work together to solve. Finding a cover image turned out to be, as they say in biz-speak, "a challenge." To put it mildly.

Since the story is told from Blake's point of view, I wanted her on the cover, front and center. I used search terms like "mature woman," "adult woman," "beautiful mature woman," "lovely adult woman," "attractive mature woman,"and here's what I got:

Inspiring, right? Grown-up women, the smart, savvy readers I write for, will love it, right? Because this is exactly what they look like and the way they see themselves, right?


What I ended up using was a woman too young to be Blake but, after hours of searching, it was the best compromise I could come up with. :-(

I kept looking. And kept looking. Trudging my way from site to site. Wracking my brain for different search terms. Getting nowhere. Until—

At long last I finally found something I hadn't seen before: a sexy, stylish grown-up woman. Like my heroine. Like my readers.

So here she is, the beautiful mature woman—and the smart, savvy reader I write for—in all her glory:

Kindle  |  Nook  |  iBooks  |  Kobo  |  GooglePlay


A quick guide to the characters:
Julia, Blake's BFF from boarding school, has embraced Mindful Living and just made the switch from hetero to homo.
Barbara Salem is Julia's Pilates teacher and Wellness Facilitator.
Ralph is Blake's husband. They've been married for twenty-seven years. He's freaking out about turning sixty and has transformed himself via a strict diet and killer exercise regime.
Melanie is Melanie Bradshaw, a flak-jacket-weariing, gung ho war reporter and possessor of a spectacular pair of 36 Double D's.

Located on a quiet side street just off Sutton Place, the Lancaster Hotel was housed in an ivy-covered brick building that whispered of Washington Square and Henry James. It looked discreet, refined. Which it wasn’t. What it was, was a sleazy hideaway for cheaters.
As I approached the entrance, a white-gloved doorman in a dark green uniform with polished brass buttons opened the door for me. I entered a small lobby whose fresh flowers, period furniture and Oriental rugs reeked of old money, good breeding and illustrious family trees.
The illusion ended right there.
A comb-overed old galoot with his hand on the thigh of a women young enough to interest Donald Trump sat in one corner. Opposite was well-barbered forty-year-old in a $3,000 suit wearing a wedding ring and nibbling on the ear of a woman wearing a nightgown under a mink coat. The rest of the room was empty. All the other guests probably upstairs in their rooms screwing their brains out.
I made my way to the reception area, asked for the Spa, was told that it was located off the small passage that led from the foyer to the elevators.
I followed the direction and knocked on the door.
Barbara Salem presided over a tranquil area of blond wood, shoji screens, aromatherapy candles and a sound system playing Buddhist chants—according to Julia, an essential for those seeking enlightenment or, as she was currently calling it, samadhi.
Makeup-free except for lip balm and smelling of sandalwood, Barbara was wearing a t-shirt printed with a lotus flower, flowing black yoga pants and alterna-lifestyle-approved Birkenstocks.
She had a gentle smile and biceps like Mike Tyson. She welcomed me with the smile.
I took a deep breath, then I plunged in. “Julia said you might be able to help me. It’s about this man,” I said, extracting from my HBO tote a snapshot of Ralph taken the previous year. In the photo, the pre-Improved Ralph looked pale, tired and a bit pudgy. “I wonder if you’ve seen him here? He’s lost weight since this picture was taken. And replaced his glasses with contacts—”
She examined the picture and then handed it back. “That’s Mr. Piretta,” she said. Piretta was Ralph’s mother’s maiden name and I was (slightly) disappointed that Ralph, ex-detective, was so unimaginative. “He just rented a suite—”
”A suite?”
”For a month—”
“‘A month?’” I repeated, over the nauseating lump that had developed in my throat.
”He’s already moved in some clothes,” she said. ”Pants, a few shirts, some mini skirts—”
I almost choked. ”Mini skirts?”
She nodded. ”That’s what the maid told me,” she said. “He drops in every few days or so along with his guests—“
My mouth went dry. “Guests?”
She nodded. “Tough-looking guys,” she said. Ralph is into rough sex?, rough gay sex?, I wondered as Barbara went on. “Kids, too. They look like students. You know, jeans and t-shirts—”
“Boys?” I said, thinking of Julia’s late life sex switch as my stomach lurched greasily and dive bombed. “Girls?”
“Both,” she said. “Two or three at a time—”
I was speechless. Ralph was into threesomes and rough sex? Or was it group sex and orgies? More effective than goat’s milk yogurt for reviving a flagging libido, I supposed.
“Sometimes a woman joins them,“ Barbara said. She cupped her hands in front of her chest to indicate an Everest -sized pair of knockers. “If you want, I’ll let you know next time he checks in—”
“Please do,” I said, barely able to get the words out. I gave her my cell phone number and rose to leave. As I reached the door, I almost tripped over the Pilates machine in the corner. Between the adjustable metal bar, heavy-resistance springs and long leather straps, it looked like something left over from the Spanish Inquisition.
“I’d probably kill myself on that thing,” I said, trying to regain my balance.
“Don’t worry,” she smiled, extending a helpful hand. “We haven’t lost anyone yet—”
Yet,” I said and we laughed.
Or, I should say, she laughed. I was thinking of kinky threesomes and group sex, of orgies and mini skirts, of Melanie, her Mammoth Mammaries and her Raunchy Red lipstick.
I managed to make it to the office without puking.
And wondered what godawful catastrophe Fate had in store for me next.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

8 Tips For Writing A Killer Blurb

In another life, I wrote paperback blurbs, probably thousands of them over several decades. Back in TradPub days, blurbs had to be short (paperbacks only have so much space on those covers) but comparing the reader who’s browsing in a bookstore to the person who’s surfing the net is the difference between a leisurely stroll and NASA rocket flight.

You'll find my current thinking about blurbs + hints, advice, links and news of a big sale over at Anne R. Allen's.

See you there!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Big sale! And, yes, I'm pimping a book. :-)

Big sale right now on LOVE AND MONEY.
Now 99c. Usually $4.99 so you could definitely do worse.

 Find a copy at all the usual suspects: Kindle, KindleUK, KindleCa, Nook, NookUK, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play.

Lots and lots of good reviews:

“A page-turner…Plausible and entertaining, Love And Money reads fast and the time frames ring true.  Harris doesn’t miss a trick, her characters are often shaped by circumstances…and her characters change, as do the years.  Ruth Harris is a talented writer who has come up with a novel so entertaining and interesting you won’t have to hide if someone asks you what you’re reading.” —West Coast Review of Books

“A skillfully written, highly commercial “page-turner” LOVE AND MONEY is also a series of carefully drawn character studies, insightful psychological portraits of people driven by the need for love, the hunger for money and the fear of death. 
“LOVE AND MONEY focuses on three major characters.  Deedee Dahlen is a million dollar heiress, ‘born late, as if she knew ahead of time how complicated her life was going to be and needed all the time she could get to prepare for coping with its difficulties.’
“Lana Bantry, Deedee’s illegitimate sister, was born ‘six weeks prematurely, as if she couldn’t wait to get out into the world and take charge.’
“Slash Steiner — he invented the name because he thought the word sounded ‘invincible, invulnerable and unconquerable’ — a ‘man from nowhere who makes it big and becomes Deedee’s husband and Lana’s lover and business partner.
“Harris makes these characters and the joys and tragedies of their lives exciting and believable.  With a narrative style that is crisply precise and descriptive, an unerring ear for dialogue and an overall tone that is strongly reminiscent of Susan Isaacs, Harris has written a terrifically satisfying ‘good read.’” —Fort Lauderdale News Sun-Sentinel


“Racing to a shocking climax, this glittering novel is first-class entertainment…a story of love and money, and how both are made, lost, and found again.” —NY Times Book Review 

“A powerful contemporary novel of…passions, jealousies and secrets…Love and money.  Ultimately they seemed to be all anyone really understood.” —Michael Joseph

LOVE AND MONEY featured on Bookbub and  Kindle books and tips

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Notebooks (Part II)

There are notebooks on my night table, in the kitchen, on the dining room table, in the living room, my office (obviously!) and in my purse. There is even a notebook in the bathroom for those nights I wake with a "brilliant" idea I absolutely have to write down. By flashlight. So as not to disturb my DH who already knows all too much about what it's like to live with a writer.

I'm always on the lookout for new notebooks. (You'll find my first notebook post here.) These are the latest additions to my delightful, never-ending quest:

Castelli Notebook

Made in Italy with Italian style.
Muji Notebooks

Stylish and inexpensive, Muji notebooks are an everyday necessity.


For the notebook and caffeine-addicted! 
Made in Portland, OR, USA.
Stillman & Birn

High-quality sketchbooks because sometimes I have to draw a scene
before I can write it. I bet I'm not the only one!


This va-va-voom pink notebook is from Smythson, the elegant and pricey English stationer.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Know the difference between the edge jumps and toe jumps? The flip, loop, toe loop, salchow, lutz and axel—a gif guide to jumps—in figure skating.

2010 olympic gold medalist Kim Yu-Na performs her textbook Lutz

The lutz, loop, toe loop, Salchow and axel explained.

Figure skating is the sport I loved as a kid. I spent a few summers on the ice in Lake Placid working on my spins and jumps and getting better and better although not nearly as good as I wanted to be. Still, skating is the sport I know most about and, as the Olympics gets under way, I thought some of you would enjoy this excellent gif guide to the jumps.


Michael's memoir about his days on the Ed Sullivan show and meeting the Beatles on their first trip to the U.S. is on sale now—99c reduced from its normal $4.99. So if you like celebs and inside showbiz gossip, now's the chance to snap it up cheap!

Kindle  |  Nook  |  Kobo  |  iBooks

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Reference and Research—the World Beyond Google

This post originally ran on Anne R. Allen's always illuminating and informative blog. I'm reprinting it here for those who might have missed it there. :-)

Which president came before Theodore Roosevelt?

How do you revive a dying orchid?

How fast can a rhino run?

What does SPECTRE stand for?

In the course of writing a novel, a writer—one who will never indulge in an info dump!—will often need to find the answer to all sorts of oddball questions, some of them basic, others esoteric, still others trivial but nevertheless important.

Google and Wikipedia and YouTube are the basic go-tos but there are many other sites (just about all of them FREE) that will answer your questions and, even better, give you answers to the questions you didn’t even think to ask.

Here is a brief round up of sites I have found indispensable for research including a few that aren’t usually thought of as reference sources.

The New York Times maintains a massive searchable archive containing more than 13 million articles dating from 1851. You can search by author, section, or time periods from past 24 hours, past year or by specific dates.

The Washington Post maintains a searchable archive dating from 2005. (For dates prior to 2005, there is a paid archive search.)

USA Today, New York’s Daily News and the BBC also offer valuable search options.

Time magazine’s archive extends from 1923 to the present and includes the weekly’s covers for a visual look at what made the headlines week by week during most of the 20th Century and all of the 21st. 

From hair dos to manicures, grunge to prep: If you need a clue about what your characters are or were wearing or detailed info about their grooming routines, Vogue is the place to go.

Need to jog your memory about books, TV, movies and music? Try Entertainment Weekly.

The dish on celebs? Need inspiration from human-interest stories? What about The Sexiest Man Alive? People is the place to go. And not to forget: James Bond trivia.

Want to ask an expert? Sign up with Quora where you can choose from over 400,000 topics to create a feed of information tuned to your interests. Google Plus has communities devoted to just about any subject you can think of.

Messing with the Mafia? From Omertà to La Cosa Nostra, from Al Capone to John Gotti, the answers are here.

For the raciest in bathing suits or a who’s who and what’s what in the locker room and on the gridiron, the skating rink, the baseball diamond or the tennis court, Sports Illustrated will clue you in. Writing for a younger demo? SI Kids has the deets.

Pinterest, eBay and Etsy are usually not considered research sites but they are gold mines of ideas presented visually and, in the case of eBay and Etsy, items described in detail—a big help when you don’t know what this or that knicknack or collectible is called or when you want to find a popular hobby or off-beat interest for a character.

Need a name for a Catalan or Chinese character? Want a name for a hillbilly, a witch, a rapper? A name with ancient Celtic, Biblical or literary allusions? Try the name generator at Behind the Name

Authors of Regency fiction will find information on law, language, clothing, and the peerage plus links to other relevant sites from Regency author Joanna Waugh.

The Pew Research Center offers a searchable database covering everything from demographic data and scandals to international affairs and global religious beliefs.

Seeking a “fact checker for the internet?” Check out RefDesk.com.

Streetwise slang? Here’s the guide to current lingo: urban dictionary.

Hung up for a movie or TV series quote? This site will probably know.

Consult the Oxford dictionaries in a variety of languages including: British English, American English, German, French, and Spanish. The Oxford biographical dictionary contains bios of almost 60,000 people, English and beyond.

A dictionary on steroids, WordHippo tells you the meaning of a word and also finds synonyms, antonyms, words that rhyme with it, sentences containing it, other words starting or ending with it, its etymology, and much more. Type in what you are looking for, choose the appropriate category and WordHippo will come up with the results, as well as give one-click links to other data for the word.

Setting your story during a particular day in a certain year? Get the scoop on what happened on that day the BBC News OnThisDay site.

There’s a research blog for the history of graphic design at the University of Southern Missisippi.

Contemporary art? Try MOMA in New York City or the Metropolitan Museum. In San Francisco, try the SFMOMA, or MOCA in Los Angeles.

Science? Get information about Mind & Brain, Plants & Animals, Earth & Climate, Space & Time, Matter & Energy, Computers & Math, Fossils & Ruins at ScienceDaily.

Health and medicine? Rely on the experts at the Mayo Clinic.

Still need more? Try the Smithsonian:

The US Army has an extensive, searchable site that covers American wars from the Colonial era to the current War On Terror in the archives of the US Army Center of Military History.

Stuck? Out of ideas? Don’t even know what to look for next? Tell this site what you’re interested in and they will recommend websites/photos/videos: StumbleUpon.

We are living in the information age. Just about anything a writer wants to know or needs to find out is just a few keystrokes away. No more trips to the library. No more scrolling through hard-to-read microfiche. No more searching through heavy tomes to find that one piece of information you're looking for.

Explore beneath the surface to find the pearl of info that will make your book stand out from the crowd: the right research, properly used, can make all the difference.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Writer's Toolbox #5. Research and reference: the world beyond Google.

This week I'm doing my usual number at Anne R. Allen's blog. Whether you're a writer, a student, a teacher, an executive in need of some data or just an info junkie (like me), I've pulled together a hot list of reference resources that go beyond the usual suspects.

From a dictionary on steroids to James Bond's girls, from Middle Earth to Modern Art, you'll find it here. And did I mention they're 99.9 % FREE?

See you at Anne's!