Train Etiquette

Okay, that’s it! If you are planning to take a train in any major city, especially the one I live in, there are some basic rules you need to obey.

  1. Deodorant is not optional!
  2. Phone calls should be not audible twenty seats away.  Nobody cares that your boyfriend is banging Tawanna!
  3. Turn down the freaking volume on your iPod! If I can hear your entire Taylor Swift playlist, you are missing the point of ear buds.
  4. You only get one seat! Man spread during shorts season should be a felony.
  5. If your bag didn’t buy a ticket, it doesn’t get a seat of it’s own.
  6. Sitting directly next to a person when there are ten empty seats around her is creepy.
  7. Vomiting on a crowded subway is an act of aggression.
  8. There is no need to get up before the train actually stops, and when it does, you are  likely going to ….. crash into that guy who was unlucky enough to have to sit by the door. Sigh.
  9. You don’t need to push your way onboard. The train is very unlikely to leave while passengers are still getting off.
  10. Read the map and train schedule before you embark. It’s not a random kind of thing.

AND … here’s my stop.  Have a nice day.

The Author Bio

So, I was about to do this talk radio show, and I was getting ready by checking out the interviews other authors have done, when I noticed their author bios. They all had one thing in common; they were all warm and personable! My bio, in contrast, read like a poster on the wall at the D.M.V.

Apparently, everyone else is a “book lover” and lives with a cuddly animal. I have a “humorous cast of characters” and have held various rankings. I sound about as fun as a proctology exam. The problem is, I don’t collect lip gloss. I collect empty wine bottles. And the only thing fuzzy in my apartment is a container of yogurt from 1989. But surely there must be something I could say that would capture the real me?  This is what I came up with:

N.M. Silber is a lawyer, nerd girl, conspiracy theorist, wine whisperer and all-around good egg. She lives in an overpriced studio apartment with the dust bunnies under her bed and no regrets. She writes books that have sex, banter and a little mystery in them. People apparently like them.

I thought about tossing in that I can do the Electric Slide and I know all the words every Duran Duran song ever recorded, but I was afraid I would date myself too much. Adding that I was the president of the Nancy Drew fan club might have been cool. Except that I was in college at the time. Do you think anyone would be impressed that I’m STD free? I could add that.

Here’s a question, does anybody actually read the author bio? Maybe I could just use someone else’s, like Hemingway’s. I wonder if anyone would notice.

My Angst Allotment

Not judging, but I’m not one of those chicks who digs sparkly vampires … or anything intended for an audience that still uses Clearasil. I’m forty-something, and I’m a busy woman. Thus, I have decided that I only have very limited time for angst.  Just so we are all on the same page, I would like to lay out my angst allotment for the people who populate different areas of my life. You’re welcome.

  1. To everyone in book world, I write for myself and for the people who like my books.  I do the best I can, and my loyal readers are willing to wait. They’ve told me that I don’t need to allot any angst to this area and I thank them for that.
  2. To everyone in law world, I went to law school to fight the good fight, and that’s what I do. I wouldn’t represent underdogs if I didn’t care about people. Deeply. But I leave it at the office and in the courtroom. Thus, no actual angst for you, but genuine concern during all working hours.
  3. To my friends, I’ll be there to ask you if you’ve lost weight when you are feeling like the afternoon show in the “big tank” at Sea World, and I’ll be there to buy the first round if you get passed over for that promotion. That you totally deserved!  Your angst is my angst. No limits.
  4. To my children, I will never worry about anyone on this planet more than I worry about you. But I also believe that you can fly.  I love you more than you’ll ever know.  Unlimited amounts of everything for you.
  5. To everyone else I’m related to, I love you too. Most of you. Okay, some of you, and others I’m fond … ish of. I will be there for you too, but some of you tend to be a bit on the, shall we say, neurotic side. Kind of like a Pekinese on Meth.  You know who you are.  Just make good choices and don’t push me too far. I want to support you and I certainly don’t want to serve time in prison. Limited angst, on a probationary basis, for you.
  6. To the men I date, I’ll continue to worry about you thinking that I’m in my apartment playing the aria from Madame Butterfly and making plans to boil your house pet.  I’ll continue to wonder if you ever think of me when I’m not texting you 500 times a day. And I’ll continue to wonder if you like me as much as I like you. But I’m too comfortable with myself for much more than that.  A little angst for you, but thankfully, a much smaller allotment than the one you got when I was younger.

The Enticement of Uncertainty

There is a tide in the affairs of women, which taken at the flood …  could lead to a fairly stable, or at least not too terribly unstable, romantic relationship. Or at least a fun, flirty friendship, with a few butterflies in the tummy, great sex, and no emergency calls to your therapist, your best friend or your AA sponsor.

Unfortunately, it could also lead to eating 3 quarts of Ben and Jerry’s Boom Chocolatta while dressed in flannel cow pajamas, listening to Adele singing Make You Feel My Love on continuous replay and drinking wine out of a box. Okay, not that last one. Nothing could make me drink boxed wine. But I think you get my point.

You know that moment ladies, the one when you realize that despite being intelligent, empowered and a regular reader of Jezebel, you are probably going to take a chance on a guy who could be great, or could very well be dangerous to your peace-of-mind.  I’m not talking some loser; in fact, he’s likely quite impressive, or why would a chick like you be willing to roll the dice? He’s probably attractive and quite accomplished, but for whatever reason, you suspect that he might not being ready, willing, able or just plain interested enough, in treating you as well as you clearly deserve to be treated.

Let’s say, hypothetically, he’s a busy guy. But you are a busy woman too. You tell yourself, “I’m nobody’s second priority. If he cancels on me this time, I’m done.” But inside, you know that the chances are far too great that you’ll whip out that calendar app and reschedule. In fact, you might as well have “WELCOME” tattooed across your tuchus.  And even though your girlfriends, your sister, your former college roommate, that old woman who makes change at the laundromat, all said “No good can come of this,” you’re still keeping Saturday night, (okay and Sunday afternoon, but just until four), open “just in case.”

And you know it’s wrong. And if he cancels there will be a bit of self-loathing, but at least your apartment will be spotless. And why do we do this? Why do we defy logic, cast aside that fine education that we’ll be paying off until we’re ninety, ignore the sound advice of people who care about us and the old lady at the laundromat? Because what Oscar Wilde said was true, “The very essence of romance is uncertainty.” Damn.

Announcement Endorsement & Enticement

The Announcement

I don’t beta read often. Actually, while I’m writing I don’t even get to read often, but it just so happened that all the stars were aligned last November.  I was in between books when an author who I knew casually asked me if I was available to beta read and that’s how I came to discover The Syrian Virgin by Zack Love

I hadn’t had a chance to read his other books yet, but they were on my list because they looked both original and interesting and that’s the kind of book I like.  In this case, looks were not deceiving, as I quickly discovered. After reading this novel, I went on to read everything he had written in rapid succession. I was positively delighted by the diversity of his work and the range of his writing ability. Frankly, I couldn’t believe that an author this talented wasn’t better known.  That’s when I decided to tell everyone who would listen and a few people who wouldn’t. (They tell me that the restraining order is only good for 90 days).

So, now the sequel to that book Anissa’s Redemption, is about to be released (March 23rd) and the book itself is on sale for $0.99, which in my opinion is about $10 less than it’s worth. Thus, I am taking it upon myself to once again tell people that this is a book worth reading, and I have included supporting evidence! (I am a lawyer you know).

The Syrian Virgin Book Trailer

TSVadimage1   Amazon    Barnes & Noble     iTunes        Kobo   Scribd          Paperback             

The Endorsement

A Review of The Syrian Virgin by Zack Love (5 Stars)

N.M. Silber

Well-written, poignant, timely and relevant, this book held my interest from the beginning until the end.

As the plot unfolds, the reader follows a young Syrian woman on a journey, both literal and figurative, as she leaves the familiar behind and faces the world, essentially alone. I felt invested in the story early on, experiencing feelings of tension and frustration along with the female protagonist, and sympathizing with her as she tried to cope with, and overcome the trauma in her past.

There are two male protagonists, and both men are powerful, but flawed, in different ways. That fact doesn’t detract, however, from how interesting they are. In fact, at one point, I caught myself feeling guilty for having misjudged one of them.

The book was clearly well-researched, and accurately portrayed the political climate, and the history of the region. The plot was engaging, and I looked forward to seeing how it unfolded, developing my own theories along the way. Which is not to say it was at all predictable. In fact, it was quite original, and the end left me eager to read more about these characters.

All in all, the level of the writing was well above average, and I honestly enjoyed it more than any novel I had read in quite a while. Highly recommended.

The Enticement

                Anissa’s Redemption Coming March 23rd.

Anissa Toma fled war-torn Syria after narrowly escaping the massacre of her Christian family by Islamists. Fortunate enough to rebuild her shattered life in New York City, the young refugee gained admission to an elite college, where she excelled. Her beauty, brains, and purity soon captured the interest of two powerful men: Michael, an activist working to establish Antioch, the first Mideast Christian state, and Julien, her professor and one of the city’s wealthiest bachelors.

As Anissa’s saga continues, the refugee-turned-rising-star must navigate between Michael and Julien, while trying to help her surviving relatives and other vulnerable Christians in Syria. As she gets closer to both men in a complex and evolving love triangle, can she unlock Julien’s traumatic childhood to open up his heart? Or will Julien find greater solace from his nightmares and other demons in the sessions with his intriguing therapist? What will Michael do for Antioch and for Anissa, and what will Julien’s role be? How far will each person go to help Anissa’s remaining family and other persecuted Christians at risk in Syria? Find out in this stunning sequel to “The Syrian Virgin.”

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A Word About Confidence. And Baboons.

I recently broke my nose (long story) and when the doctor took the splint off and handed me the mirror, my first thought was “Thank God I don’t look like Rocky Balboa.” And if it were twelve years ago I would have stopped there, but it’s not, and I didn’t. So my second thought was, “Oh my God, I’m starting to look like I’m in my 40’s,” which makes total sense because I’m in my 40’s, but it just feels so … wrong.

I have never been a classic beauty, and I know that. I look more like Bette Midler than Bar Rafaeli. Still, when I was younger I never seemed to have problems meeting guys who were brave enough to date me despite the fact that I talked about toxins at dinner and fell down occasionally while dancing.  I really didn’t stress out about my looks very much then, at least not as much as a lot of others did anyway.

In college other women often took great care to look good and started getting ready for Friday night dates on Thursday morning.  In contrast, I even went to my afternoon classes dressed in sweats, with no make-up, and with my hair falling out of my pony-tail. And I also might have gone on some dates looking like that if my friends had not intervened by threatening to lock me in my closet and make me listen to a recording of my roommate singing The Wind Beneath My Wings at her bat mitzvah.

In law school other women spent their rent money having their designer suits tailored perfectly for job interviews, but not me. I unthinkingly wore an old blouse with loose buttons to an interview to be the research assistant to a nationally respected expert on the First Amendment. Luckily, the First Amendment addresses pornography, and so I got the job even after accidentally flashing him.

Frankly, I was kind of oblivious. When I went out with female friends, they often had to swoop in and “rescue” me even though I had no idea why they were doing it. I honestly thought that a lot of guys just shared my fascination with subjects like early Twentieth Century mountaineering, the history the shtetl, and Latin American fatalism. Who knew that men were willing to listen to me lecture for an hour about how polar ice core studies have demonstrated the environmental impact of the industrial revolution just so they might have the opportunity to sleep with me. Personally, I think that shows a lot of determination.

I’m a very “visual” person and sometimes I have “ah ha” moments when presented with a graphic demonstration of a concept. I’ll never forget the day that I was strolling down the street chatting with a male friend when he suddenly started laughing. I asked what was so funny and he said that it was amusing him to watch guys do a double take when I walked by and risk their lives to check me out.  I had never noticed that reaction in anyone, so I immediately looked down to try to figure out if my blouse was open or my skirt was stuck in my pantyhose again, but nothing seemed to be amiss, so I just surreptitiously started looking around a little as we walked on and he was right. How weird was that?

Unfortunately, that epiphany signaled the beginning of the end of my self-confidence and a great escalation in my social anxiety. I finally really understood why so many people found me attractive even though I was uncoordinated and socially awkward; something in my “not beautiful but kinda interesting” looks appealed to them. Then I worried because while your IQ would not get flabby, your ass certainly could. And the more I worried, the less attractive I became on the outside and on the inside.  The anxiety made me want to eat to comfort myself, and as I gained weight, the anxiety about that made me depressed. When I got depressed I didn’t feel like being active anymore so I got heavier and my self-esteem got worse. And it took a real hit in other ways too, because I suddenly didn’t believe that anyone really liked me as a person very much.

And then came the baboons.  I read about a study in which scientists observed that young studly male baboons were more attracted to older female “cougar” baboons than young hottie baboons. That didn’t make any sense to me since the younger females would have obviously been more fertile and surely had much perkier boobs. The results had been replicated several times though. The conclusion was that the older females demonstrated more sexual confidence and it was that confidence that made them attractive to the males.

Not to sound cynical, but I have certainly seen the opposite type of behavior many times among humans, and I asked a friend of mine who was a neuropsychologist why that was.  After a ninety page disclaimer about how she was not stating anything specific about any particular individual, and this was only a general observation, yada yada yada (as a lawyer I get this preface from every friend who carries malpractice insurance), her conclusion was that confident men liked confident women. Men who had self-confidence and self-esteem issues of their own preferred women to whom they felt superior, and thus, the younger the better.  That really made me think. I found confidence sexy and so did guys. Well, guys who didn’t belong to the Humbert Humbert fan club anyway.

I wish I could say that from that day forth I felt amazing and I became a Twenty-First Century Gloria Steinem/ Mae West hybrid but that didn’t happen. You can’t really feel attractive if you feel unhealthy and I felt unhealthy.  So, slowly but surely, focusing on how I felt rather than how I looked, I started exercising and eating better.  It worked and I felt much better health-wise both mentally and physically but THEN, just when everything was rolling along, and I was starting to sing Tina Turner songs in the shower, I wound up facing the prospect of dating again, but this time (dum dum dum!) … as a woman in her forties. And the worry came back.

It really does seem to me that baboon males must have fewer issues than human males because human males do seem to like very young women a whole lot.  It would be easy to wish that I was in my twenties again. The fact is though, that when I was that age I was not nearly as interesting, as laid back, as patient, as wise, as giving, or as anything else frankly as I am now … except for confident.  I was confident. So, that’s the one thing I had to get back.

I’m working on it. I continue to strive to be healthier and to make sure I take care of myself.  I do some things just because I want to, not because anyone else does.  I insist that people treat me with respect and afford me dignity. I celebrate my friendships and don’t stress out about romance. Whatever will be will be.

I do mess up sometimes. A male friend recently pointed out that I sometimes seek validation based on external factors.  And after a brief period of indignant denial I realized he was right. (Hey, I’m only human, not a baboon). But I am getting there! I just wish that I hadn’t ever started to worry about it.

So that brings me to my final point. Oh, okay it brings me to A point; while it might sound trite, beauty really does come from within. You need to love yourself.  (Not that way, but you can do that too).  And if you ever forget what an amazing person you are, start reminding yourself daily, taking care of yourself, and if you need to, getting healthy one step at a time.  When your inner light is shining it will make you even more beautiful and life is too short to spend hiding away because you don’t feel good enough to get out there and embrace your crazy.

In short, be a baboon.

I thought Gone Girl Was Great And I’m Not Afraid To Admit It.

I don’t get to read a lot anymore because it’s hard for me to read while I’m writing. And I’m always writing. Occasionally, though, I treat myself to a book reported to be a particularly good work of fiction.  I finally got around to reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and I loved it.  Then I watched the movie, and to my pleasant surprise, I loved that too. Thus, I was shocked to find out how much criticism they have generated.  They have been called “misogynistic” and have been said to be filled with “unlikable” (gasp) female characters. So, I’m going on record as an intelligent and empowered woman – I thought Gone Girl was fantastic.  So there.

Some claim the female characters of Gone Girl are “stereotypical” and go on to list examples like Go’s “daddy issues” or Ellen Abbott’s “brazen” personality.  I beg to differ. Stereotypical female characters, in my view, don’t have flaws. They are drawn like Disney princesses. They suffer. They survive. And if they are utterly sympathetic, someday their prince will come.  The women of Gone Girl are not serene. They are not perfect or lovely.  They have issues.  So what? I think their issues make them interesting.  Their flaws make them realistic. Their depth and their darkness make them memorable.  Since when does a female character have to be “likable” or even “redeemable” to be well-drawn?  What does that say about how society views women?

Detective Rhonda Boney is one of my favorite characters.  Flynn has been criticized for making Boney sympathetic to Nick Dunne, who is accused of killing his wife. Since when is it a sign of “stereotypical female weakness” to believe someone is innocent until proven guilty? Margo Dunne (Go of the “daddy issues”), is another brilliant female character who has strength and depth and honor.  The contrast between her and the two dimensional and utterly forgettable female protagonists that populate so many novels these days is profound.

The primary female character Amy Dunne, is a complex woman to say the least.  I found her fascinating even though she freaked me out. She’s a brilliant woman with much more going on beneath the surface than one would guess, to put it mildly. I was drawn to her in much the same way I was drawn to Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs – who I also liked by the way, despite the fact that he ate people.  Parts of me got her, and parts of me found her completely wackado, but I feel that way about a lot of people.

And what about the primary male character? Yes, Nick Dunne cheats on his brilliant wife with a needy twenty-year old former student.  And yes, it’s annoying that he’s that emasculated by the fact that his wife’s money supported them. But those things happen every day because, once again, people are flawed. I’m not convinced he wouldn’t have come to realize what a huge a mistake he was making. Let’s face it, Andie would have gotten boring fast to a guy with Nick’s intelligence. Even if he didn’t though, making stupid choices and being annoying doesn’t make Nick Dunne a horrible character either. It also doesn’t make him deserve what happens to him.  You don’t have to sympathize with Nick, though. You don’t have to like him either.  That still doesn’t make it a bad book.

In sum, great characters don’t have to be likable; they don’t even have to be redeemable. They just have to be memorable. And the characters in Gone Girl are most assuredly memorable.