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.

I need a Valentine. Or a martini.

Valentine’s Day is approaching and being a Romantic Comedy writer creates certain expectations.  Specifically, one is expected to be romantic and comedic. Now, the comedic part I have down. Just by virtue of the fact that I have no physical coordination, I’m a veritable walking one-liner. Throw in the fact that I’m socially awkward, and you’ve got plenty of laugh-out-loud moments.  Romantic moments, though, not so much.  Romance has always been my achilles heel.  I’m just not very good at it.

I have made some progress over the years. When I was in my twenties, for example, many guys told me that I was “adorable.” My response was usually, “Bunny rabbits are adorable.” Followed by “Bunny rabbits don’t attend Ivy League universities.” Then I went through a few “Junoesque” years. (I ate my emotions until I got fat enough to float down 5th Ave. on Thanksgiving). Suddenly, being called “adorable” didn’t seem so bad.  But after some time in a torture chamber (gym) with Torquemada (a personal trainer) I recovered my girlish figure. Now, when someone tells me I’m “adorable,” I say “thank you.” I think that’s progress.

Despite being somewhat kinder and gentler to gentlemen attempting to compliment me, however, I’m still not good at romance. And it worries me, because now I’m re-entering the dating scene, and I’m several years older.  Will people still be willing to overlook my lack of romantic prowess? Let’s face it, when a man writes me poetry, I edit it.  When a man gives me flowers, I note how illogical it is to give someone a gift that will be dead in a few days.  (Seriously, it’s like giving someone one of those goldfish you win at the fair).  When a man takes me out to dinner, I discuss how pollution has made virtually every food available to humans toxic. Will guys continue to overlook how odd I am now that my boobs are much less perky?

Okay, I’m pretty sure I had a point when I started this, although I’m not really clear what it was. I think it had something to do with Valentine’s Day though. Or alcohol. In conclusion, always practice safe sex and remember to vote.  Drive safely and have a good night.

Time to Get Healthy

It’s a new year and a lot of people are making resolutions to pay more attention to their health. I would like to make an appeal to the people who I come in contact with through my writing to adopt that resolution. What I describe below does not apply to everyone, of course. I’m hoping that if it applies to you, though, you’ll want to be healthier this year.

We live in a world FULL of political, intellectual, sociological, cultural, DIVERSE literary ideas, works and events.  Every day I go to Facebook to check my messages, and in my newsfeed there are interesting articles, and often, I share them with the over 3000 “friends” who see my Timeline. The posts that have to do with history, culture, literature, art, psychology, world events etc. typically don’t generate many comments or likes.  The funny memes and the posts about giveaways, in contrast, often do quite well. I encourage those who see my Timeline to read some of the articles in the former group. Just see what they’re about. You might really find them interesting. Growth is healthy.

Having diverse interests can also impact in a positive way on the the world around you. Likewise, in my newsfeed, I see plenty of teasers these days with very explicit language, for example, the word “cock” used three or four times in as many sentences. I suspect that the reason that things are becoming more and more explicit, is that people are becoming desensitized, just like porn addicts. There is no shame in liking erotic or sensual books, but when a person has no outside interests other than erotica, the chances are they are at least becoming addicted. Soon, an author must become more and more extreme to create the reaction addicts are craving. Then it’s not about storytelling anymore, and that was always what separated erotica from porn. Addiction is not healthy.

I also see many people in the book world who exhibit extreme behavior. I have been attacked by a couple, and it’s kind of scary.  These people acted as if they were emotionally unbalanced, over perceived slights that were not based in reality. Further, I’ve seen women interacting in ways with male authors, models, even waiters and busboys at author events, that would likely be considered sexual harassment if gender roles were reversed. I’ve also seen them compete with each other to gain proximity to authors, male and female, become territorial and possessive, all over a person who they don’t even know in real life. That type of behavior is most definitely unhealthy.

So, let this be a year of balance and good health. Let it be one in which you explore new interests and log off whenever you feel any extreme emotion tied to a book or an author. You’ll be doing yourself an even bigger favor than losing those 10 lbs you’ve promised yourself that you’ll shed.

Join me at this @Tugginc screening of Muffin Top: A Love Story!

muffintop

Join me at this @Tugginc screening of Muffin Top: A Love Story!.

This movie is amazing!!!! And it’s coming to Franklin Mills in Philadelphia in February!!!

Nadine’s Year-End Motivational Speech

I spent ten years becoming unhealthy, physically and mentally.  Because I was depressed, I ate to comfort myself. Then before I knew it, I was 40. While I didn’t look very good, I still seemed okay on the outside. I laughed and made others laugh. I wrote some books that people seemed to enjoy. On the inside, though, I was pretty numb in a lot of ways, but I felt like it was too late to change anything.

I almost gave up and decided to just be content with how things were. Then something happened; an anthology I was a part of hit a big Bestseller list back in August. There I was, a former public defender, who had always dreamed of writing, and now in my 40’s I had just become a USA Today Bestselling author. That was when I realized that AMAZING things can sometimes happen if you work hard.

So, I started eating better and walking on my treadmill a few minutes a day, and then a few minutes more etc. I also started reading again, good books – the kind that didn’t just provide me with an escape, but instead also made me think, and made me want to write that well myself. I took steps to learn to write that well, reading books written by master editors, studying the technical aspects of good writing and so on.

I started surrounding myself with supportive people. I began mentoring new authors, and I met some experienced authors who became good friends who have been there for me in many ways. I made new writing goals, and decided to measure success by how happy I felt about a book. Little by little, I started to become healthy again.

So now it’s December, and while I still have a way to go, I’m ON my way. Physically, I may not be a twenty year-old supermodel, but I don’t need to be one to feel beautiful. I’m a woman in her forties who is much healthier and feels attractive because of it. In fact, I’m going out for a Girls’ Night on the town next month for the first time in over a decade. When I go to sign at Wicked Book Weekend in February I will pose proudly for pictures instead of trying to hide behind other people.

I’m still reading good books and studying the technical aspects of writing. I’m not content just to hit a Bestseller list anymore. My new goal is to become a great author – the kind people remember. I’m not announcing release dates anymore until a book I have written is nearly complete and I feel like it’s ready.

I’m also starting to speak up about issues that I am passionate about again, Feminism, Zionism, Neurodiversity, Environmental concerns etc. Although I used to be an advocate, and even an activist, for a long time I remained silent. While I will always do my best to be respectful, and I will never try to force my views on others, I plan to discuss issues that are important to me. I have a voice and I want to use it in many ways.

The point of this post is not to brag; it’s to motivate. It is never too late to turn things around, not in ANY decade of life. If you are still breathing, you still have a life to live. Get out and live it. Start slowly – set yourself up for success, one step at a time. Celebrate your victories, no matter how small. Pick yourself up and dust yourself off and start again when you fall. Think positively and surround yourself with others who lift you up. Believe that anything is possible, but be ready to work hard for it.

I hope that you have a wonderful 2015 and that your dreams come true.

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