Scary Movies

Last night I had a terrible dream about Oculus, that super scary movie about a haunted mirror. I haven’t even seen this movie. I don’t even have the balls to watch the whole trailer when I’m home alone and yet it’s already messing with my head.

When I woke up this morning I realized that a project I’ve been working on for little kid readers about magical realism actually makes much more sense as a really scary story targeted at grown-ups. There’s a very, very fine line separating magic from horror. I actually find the topic of old-timey magicians during the age of vaudeville to be kind of terrifying.  Most of the famous guys, Houdini’s competitors, were grifters and tricksters in addition to illusionists, like the super shady Alexander C. who was rumored to have married over 14 ladies, some of them at the same time (wasn’t life grand before computers prevented us from breaking laws)?

These fathers of conjuring and optical tricks have always fascinated me, and their legacy lives on today in our fascination with reality TV mediums.

Said Joseph Dunninger, famous illusionist and friend of Harry Houdini, “There is one primary rule in the fakery of spirit mediumship. That is to concentrate upon persons who have suffered a bereavement.”

It came just the same

I spent this past weekend in Chicago visiting my family before the big rush of holiday airport traffic, which gives me severe agita. My family is blessed to have my three-year-old nephew Declan, the most charming rascal you’ll ever meet, with a glint the size of Texas in his eye. “Thanks,” is how he replies when he’s told that he’s cute. “I know,” is how he replies when he’s told that he’s funny.

Declan and I settled down on the couch to read his holiday favorite, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. I got through the whole book, performing goofy voices for him at his insistence, and then I came to a line that I just couldn’t get out without my voice cracking:

Somehow or other, it came just the same!

The reason why this line in a children’s book makes me stop cold has little to do with the Grinch, himself. On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was standing at the corner of 29th and Fifth Avenue, surrounded by co-workers. I’d gotten up late for work that day and was not only annoyed with myself, but annoyed with whatever craziness was going on in the city as I trudged, head down, toward my office near the Empire State Building. In 20o1 I didn’t own a cell phone yet, and hadn’t bothered turning on my television set that morning in my haste to get to work. I heard sirens and saw people rushing around, some standing on corners, pointing and gawking, but I had no idea that the World Trade Center had been attacked. After a summer of consistent tenement fires in my neighborhood and construction accidents across the city, I just assumed that the usual urban nonsense was to blame.

I didn’t have the slightest clue what was happening until my walk from the East Village brought me to the top of Madison Square Park, where the National Guard had cut off access to anyone trying to go further north on Fifth Avenue. Several of my co-workers, banished from our office building, were lingering there, not sure whether to walk home or stick around. Cabs had pulled over on both sides of the street, and cabbies leaned out of the open doors of their vehicles blasting news radio. It was then that I finally turned downtown and saw smoke billowing from the towers. My co-workers informed me of what had happened, or at least what little they had been able to piece together. A plane had hit. No one knew what was going on. Everyone was making sarcastic assumptions about how dang long it would take to fix the building, how subway service would be messed up. It hadn’t occurred to any of us that there had been casualties.

And then, much to the horror of the thousands of people who’d been ambling around at the little intersection where we’d been collecting, the first tower fell as we helplessly watched.

Three months after that horrible day (three months that were filled, in New York, with the inescapable stench of burning jet fuel, tattered photographs of the lost taped to buildings by loved ones, and in my own personal case, a dangerous case of strep throat that had resulted in a brief stay at the hospital), I was really not in the Christmas spirit. I was daily waffling through a full range of emotions, as I think a lot of city dwellers were that year. On a walk past the holiday windows at Lord & Taylor, my attention was caught by robotic models in a diorama spinning to the tune of  “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and I burst into such a violent torrent of misery for families that had lost someone in the tragedy that I gave up on my errand (I’d been on my way to buy tickets to see Cynthia Nixon in The Women on Broadway) and walked home for the afternoon to sit alone in the dark.

And that year, my wonderful friend Paul, a talented artist who had made a habit of sending hand-illustrated Christmas cards every year, sent a simple card with that line from the Grinch:

Somehow or other, it came just the same!

Despite the fact that no one in the city was feeling festive, the holiday arrived.  Despite all that had happened, it came just the same. And that year, Christmas gave us a reason to be especially thankful for our lives, our safety, our families, our jobs. As a city, in the months between September and December, we had pulled together. We had witnessed something unspeakably awful in each other’s company. We had hugged strangers in the street. We had shed tears over people we’d never met. We’d donated blood for survivors who never arrived in emergency rooms. We shook the hands of the men and women in the National Guard who arrived in tanks to protect our neighborhoods, who gave us a sense of security that we desperately needed even if the  actual danger had passed.  Paul’s card had been an emphatic reminder that even though we weren’t ready for Christmas, there was no avoiding it. It was time to start healing.

Even now, twelve years later, the simple line of that children’s book for me carries with it a profundity that surpasses a statement on materialism. Christmas comes once a year as a gentle reminder to look around, be grateful for our lives, and to take the time to  enjoy them. I may never again read all the way through The Grinch without my throat closing up, and I’m not sure that I’d ever want to, because Christmas for me is a time of peaceful remembrance. If you have a three-year-old in your life this holiday season, spend half an hour with him or her and read a book together. The time you spend with him or her is worth far more than any gift you could buy.

A Christmas chance to win stuff.

If you love Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board, here’s your chance to WIN this holiday season!

The junior class at Weeping Willow High School is playing a game of Secret Santa.* If you’d like to play, leave a comment on Facebook, and I’ll assign you the SECRET student from Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board for whom you have to get a holiday gift. You don’t REALLY have to buy a gift, just pick something out online that costs less than $50, and post the gift you’ve chosen in the comments on the contest post on Facebook (if you want to post a picture, Facebook is easier than here). You can mention the gift by name, post a link to it online, or post a picture. With your post, mention the name of the student you were assigned, and why you thought the gift was perfect for them.

From all of the entries received, ONE lucky winner from in between Wattpad and Facebook will be chosen at random and win:

1) a new pair of Sleepover Cotton Pajamas from Victoria’s Secret

2) a selection of TEN holiday nail polishes by Formula X for Sephora

TWO runners up will be chosen at random and win 3 bottles of Formula X each.

Formula X for Sephora

Winners will be chosen on January 1, 2014.

Let’s get this holiday party started!!

For Facebook entries:

*If you’re unfamiliar with this game, it’s when everyone puts their name on a piece of paper into a box (or a Santa hat!) and draws one. You’re the “secret Santa” for the person whose name you’ve drawn, and on Christmas, you give them a special gift based on their personality. Usually there’s a cash limit on the prizes so that people don’t go too wild with spending.

** If you live outside the USA & Canada and are chosen as a winner, we may have to substitute your prize as it might not be possible to ship nail polish and we don’t want you to have to pay duties on your prize.

It’s snowing, and the gnome socks are on

It’s snowing in Brooklyn and it’s almost Christmas, which means two things:

1) Christmas tree “farms” have popped up on sidewalks all over my neighborhood (see below)


2) I’m rockin’ my gnome socks, a snow day tradition (also see below w/cameo by Silvio the cat).Xmas tree farm gnome socks Verandah Pl.If this street looks a little familiar, it’s because it’s the street where the scene from Season 1 of Damages was shot where the crazy cop-turned-bad chases David’s sister, Katie, intending to kill her to keep her silent about what she saw in Miami, but then she turns around and confronts him and he chickens out.

I know, I watch too much TV. But this street’s 2 blocks away from my house, and I think about Arthur Frobisher every time I walk past it.


Last chance for a free Kindle copy…

This is it, guys. I mean it this time. For real and realsies.

Today’s the last day you can get a free copy of Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board for Kindle. It doesn’t matter what country you live in, as long as your country has Amazon. What are you waiting for?


Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000030_00036]

McKenna Brady thinks her junior year of high school is going to be the best ever when she’s welcomed into the elite group of popular girls at Weeping Willow High School led by blond, gorgeous Olivia Richmond. Prior to junior year, McKenna was known in her small town as the girl whose twin sister died in a tragic house fire, and she’s overjoyed at the prospect of redefining her identity. She has a date to the Homecoming dance with Olivia’s handsome older brother, and a good chance of being elected to student council. For the first time since McKenna’s parents divorced, things are looking up.
But everything changes the night of Olivia’s Sweet Sixteen sleepover birthday party. Violet, the shy, mysterious new girl in town, suggests that the girls play a scary game called Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board, during which Violet makes up elaborate stories about the future ways in which beautiful Olivia, brassy Candace, and athletic Mischa will die. The game unsettles McKenna because she’s already escaped death once in her life, but she doesn’t want to ruin her friends’ fun. It’s only a game, she reminds herself.
But it doesn’t seem like a harmless game a week later when Olivia dies unexpectedly in a violent car crash, exactly as Violet predicted. And something begins haunting McKenna’s bedroom at night, leaving her clues that all seem to point to Violet. McKenna enlists the help of her cute next-door neighbor Trey in finding out exactly what kind of curse Violet has put on all of the popular girls in the junior class. As Violet rises to popularity and seemingly steps into the life Olivia left unfinished, McKenna and Trey know they only have a limited amount of time to bring an end to Violet’s game before more lives are lost.
Readers of this book can follow @VioletSimmonsWW on Twitter to continue the story, hear about what’s going on in Weeping Willow, and learn about contests.
For readers ages 13+.

Feeling all the feelings right now

Sometimes, I love Wattpad so much.  There are many days and nights when I know there are more pressing matters in my life that I should be attending to instead of writing, but my readers on Wattpad force me to prioritize my creativity above everything else.

Comments on Chapter 25, Light as a Feather, Cold as Marble
Comments on Chapter 25, Light as a Feather, Cold as Marble

So this is what it’s like on the Amazon Bestseller List

Oddly, life isn’t much different than before, when I wasn’t on the Amazon Bestseller List.

But seeing that people are interested in my book is pretty exciting, I’ve got to admit. And surpassing Twilight Book 1 in the paranormal teen romance list was very gratifying, even if it only lasted a few hours!

Light as a Feather, #3 Paranormal

TV Shows I Volunteer to Executive Produce

1.  The F Team

A reboot of the A-Team. A group of really shitty special ops guys bungle every assignment they’re given in the greater Los Angeles area.  The only casting requirement here is that Kathy Griffin must play Murdock. I think it would also be pretty great to see Jay Baruchel as a bumbling explosives expert.

2. Eugene Hwang: Food Poisoning Hunter

In a classic reality show format, a panel of personalities who serve as authorities on bad food experiences (my friend Spencer Wong, maybe Bourdain–what show wouldn’t benefit from a little Anthony Bourdain? maybe Johnny Weir because why not?) challenge my young friend Eugene to eat the most disgusting dishes in the dirtiest, C-rated dining establishments in NYC. There’s no gamification element here; we just wait and watch Eugene suffer.  This is a show that probably only my friends would truly enjoy, but it would be ridiculously easy to produce since it’s a slice of our daily lives.

3.  Tha Hood

This is a reverse concept show based on Diff’rent Strokes. A rich white dude dies and his spoiled brat kids go live with their family’s black maid and her kids in Crenshaw.  All joking aside, I actually wrote a pilot for this situation comedy and won tickets to a weird event at which I met Robert Smigel and Norm MacDonald told me all about his pee saved in bottles when I bummed a cigarette off him. Truth.  I couldn’t even make up the kind of stuff that happens in LA.

4. Situation: California

A nuclear reactor has some kind of scientificky malfunction on the coast of California (just like in Japan) and a weird zombie-like virus infects all of the residents who were exposed to the radiation. The US government seals off the state to prevent the infection from spreading, and those who are trapped within state boundaries have to battle zombies as well as other survivors for power. Think Point Break meets World War Z with a dash of Private Practice and a hell of a lot of guns.

5. Chance and the Big Guy

Chance Munroe, a down-on-his-luck, aging bit part actor in LA, teams up with his college roommate, a divorced single dad living in his ex-wife’s basement, to make a living as bounty hunters.  The first time I started half-heartedly writing a pilot for this, I thought, no one will ever want to see a 1-hr drama about two unsuccessful guys trying to get money. Now, after the wild success of Breaking Bad, I’m not so sure about my original hypothesis!

My fans are the best.

Please allow me to take a moment to brag.

My readers on Wattpad are so creative, industrious, and intelligent that sometimes I can’t believe that most of them are still in high school. I don’t know what I was doing in high school (OK, I do know, I was drawing cartoons of my teachers and watching Last of the Mohicans starring Daniel Day Lewis at the video rental store where I worked, remember those?) but I sure wasn’t editing book trailers or drawing elaborate graphic novels.

Check out this amazing book trailer for Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board made a girl who’s 16 and in high school.


And these incredible illustrations made a girl who’s 14 and in high school in the UK:

Tatiana's drawing of Trey & McKenna
Tatiana’s drawing of Trey & McKenna


5 Things I Did Not Know When I Moved to New York

I’ve been here a while now, so it’s okay to admit these things. I am pretty sure I am not alone in these rather humbling experiences. Correction: I really hope I am not alone in these experiences, because if I am, I am a far greater nerd than I thought.

1. I did not know about wasabi. In my defense, I also had never had sushi before moving to New York, so I was a victim of the oldest trick in the book (which is the one where your sushi expert friend tells you to eat a big gob of wasabi straight up, because they insist it is delicious, and then fire comes out of your eyes and nostrils and you pray to Jesus for sweet relief and can’t wait to try that trick on some other unsuspecting doofus).

2. I didn’t know that you’re supposed to pronounce Houston Street like Howston Street. Naturally, now when I hear tourists repeat my mistake, I become enraged.

3. Drugs are everywhere. Growing up in the Midwest, I honestly thought drugs were like, super duper hush-hush items of secrecy and that police wearing riot gear with giant German Shepherd dogs were lurking around every corner in the big city just waiting to bust people with drugs. I did not know that approximately 97% of New Yorkers keep marijuana stashed away somewhere in their kitchen. I could not have imagined the possibility of a drug dealer riding his bicycle to your apartment at any hour of the day or not.  The 14-year-old Vanessa Huxtable tattletale that still lives inside me wants to say “awwwwww” in a you’re-gonna-get-it voice every time I smell ganja on the sidewalk.

4. Midtown is not cool. I was under the impression that, thanks to pretty much every single movie I saw as a kid set in New York, all the action was in Midtown. As it turns out, Splash!, Tootsie, Working Girl, and Kramer vs. Kramer were all liars. As it also turns out, my parents probably should not have let me seen a lot of movies I was allowed to see at an impressionable young age. True fact: Kramer vs. Kramer was almost directed by Francois Truffaut. Imagine.

5. There are no secret underground nightclubs featuring magic shows, like the one in Desperately Seeking Susan. Trust me, I’ve searched. This, to me, is a serious failure on behalf of every nightclub owner in this city. I’m sick of fake burlesque shows and “speak-easies” (people, there was this thing called the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment, and it’s been legal to drink alcohol in this country for 80 years, so enjoy that $17 “secret” martini). If you want to really buy an alcoholic beverage and consume it illegally, buy a Tecate and drink it in the alley behind my apartment building with all the other dudes who hang out at the taco stand downstairs.  And let me know if you know how to do any magic tricks or if Rosanna Arquette stops by.