Thursday, May 29, 2008
History making. With the exception of Neil Diamond, Elton John is by far the biggest star to grace the stage of Anchorage's Sullivan Arena. (We were living "Outside" when Neil came through.) And did he ever grace it. Just him and a grand piano. A simple but effective light show to back him up. And I'm in love with his music all over again.
I first learned of EJ in 1976. I hate to admit I was in Jr. High then, but alas, it's true. I'm old. Anyhow, that summer I listened to EJ albums at my friend's house. It was also the summer of Gary Wright's Dreamweaver, a song popular with the older high school girls who lived a few doors up the street and graciously let me hang out with them. Music, cruising and hanging out at the pool. What a summer.
Through the years, other Elton songs accompanied parts of my life. Like the summer I worked for a tour company and my friends fell in love with his song blue eyes and sang it to my cat, the one with really pretty blue eyes. Silly cat.
Last night was an extravaganza for this little big city. The big limos were out in force including the stretch Hummer, Navigator and Suburban along with the usual assortment.
Tickets for the first concert sold out in a record 52 minutes. I was online and ready when Tickmaster turned on their website at 10 am and managed to snag four tickets on the floor in just six short minutes. So there, you people who camped out over night and didn't get tickets. Modern technology wins.
For a short person, tickets on the floor generally aren't wise. Thankfully the arena provided closed ciruit TV screens on either side of the stage. We took our son and a friend of his. The friend of mine who wanted the fourth ticket couldn't get out of work. Her loss and she's probably still crying over it.
Well, needless to say, the tallest person in the building, I swear he was 6'7", sat four rows in front of us, DIRECTLY in my line of sight. Fate, right? Anyhow, thanks to the screens I was able to see EJ's little smile just as he put his fingers to the keys to play Tiny Dancer. And the fabulous facial expressions as he expanded on Rocket Man. Those two were my favorite performances of the night. Well, except for the encores of I'm Still Standing and Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me.
The filming was incredible. They had a camera at the end of the keyboard and we were treated to close-up shots of his hands tickling the ivorys. I hate to say it, but the man's hands are not sexy, but damn, he can play piano. It's easy enough to close your eyes and listen.
Before the encores, EJ strolled along the edge of the stage and signed autographs. The funniest was when he held up a white underwire bra someone handed him. He laughed, signed it, and handed it back while shaking his head in bemusement. At that point I leaned over to my son and said, "Go back to playing the piano and someday women could be handing you their underwear too." He rolled his eyes and shook his head. So shy for 17.
And the people, well, they didn't disappoint. One woman showed up wearing a red satin gown and tiara, her date in a tux. There were also the usual assortment of jeans, shorts, miniskirts and EJ period costumes. Platform shoes painted and sparkled. Souvenier glasses with red LED lights. Tour T's (I spent $80 on shirts for the two boys - ouch. I was tempted by the leather jacket for $400, but they didn't have my size - cough.) and glow sticks were popular. In fact, on person in our section was so enthusiastic with swinging their glow stick around that eventually the string broke and the stick made a spectacular show as it sailed over heads into the next section over.
It was one hell of a way to celebrate the fading pain from my recent bout with shingles. Yes, I'm doing much better, thanks for asking.
So was it worth the $700 we spent by the time all was said and done? You bet. I'm only sorry I don't have tickets to the second show he added for tomorrow night. My friend Liz will be at that show. She and her husband have tickets a few rows off the floor. She also has orders to get photos.
Available Monday June 2 ~ FROZEN
Monday, May 26, 2008
Thirty years ago I fell in love. No, not with a girl, but at that age I’m sure I had a few crushes running rampant. I fell in love with my first author, three of them to be exact. My addiction to books I think started there. So who were my first loves? Robert Asprin, Anne McCaffery and Christopher Stasheff. These three writers affected me more than anyone else in those youthful years. One gave me the wonder of new worlds and flying dragons. Another filled me with the wonder of magic and science. The last gave me laughter.
This past week the laughter died. To my eternal sadness Robert Asprin passed away. If any one writer can be held to blame for my comedic bent, it is him. I’ve read other comic geniuses over the years, but none were as close to my heart as he was. Asprin showed me a book could be funny. You can fall in love with characters so odd and surreal that you can’t escape from them, even thirty some odd years down the road. I couldn’t let today pass without noting his passing and eulogizing him in my own feeble way.
There is a certain sadness when a writer dies. The world is forever deprived of the wonderment they had yet to create and share. I have a host of books on my shelf that stand as a testament to Robert Asprin’s greatness but I will always be filled with an empty spot where his next book should have gone. I’m not sure if everyone feels like this, but I’m sure you do. I had the same feeling when Louis L’Amour passed away years ago, another one of my first loves.
I know this blog is normally about Romance, but I think first loves have a place here. They deserve a place here! More so in Robert’s case, because he brought something to the literary world that few can, laughter. For those of you who have never dipped into his pool, please hunt down one of his books and share in the madness. Whether it’s Myth, Phule, Thieves World or any of the other series he gave birth to, his pen has made a mark that will never be erased.
Ah, Jmo, this is highly appropriate. Great writers need to be acknowledged, I don’t care what genre they write in. I was in college when I first discovered Robert Asprin. By then I was already a fan of Anne McCaffrey and had read The Hobbit and LOTR nine times. I’ve converted many people into Asprin readers, not the least of which were my husband, and then a few years ago my son. After I gave him the first myth book, oh somewhere around fifth grade, he’s fought me to be first to read any of the newest releases. Same thing happened starting with Harry Potter book three. He wasn’t buying the “I’ve got to read it before you to make sure it’s appropriate” line anymore.
It was a sad day when we heard the news. I know we normally say, Long Live Anne McCaffrey. To this is I add, Long Live Robert Asprin. And he will. In our hearts.
Monday, May 19, 2008
By Annette Blair
Published by Penguin
Beautiful bad girl Storm Cartwright can be charming when she wants to be. So when she hears the sound of a baby crying every time she’s near Aiden McCloud, she turns on the charm. Because she sure the weeping means a child is in need – and that the handsome antiques restorer is the key to finding that helpless child…
From the start, Aiden is attracted to Storm. Yet this gorgeous goth girl won’t stop talking baby nonsense. Then Storm sets up a seductive trap, kidnapping him in his very own RV! While Storm follows the sound of the cries, something magical starts happening between her and Aiden. But can they keep the magic alive once Storm finally finds what she’s looking for?
Jmo: I feel that I have an unfair advantage in this review. I started reading Annette Blair way back with The Kitchen Witch. This newest addition to the series is by far the best and most original. The story just kept twisting me around. I think I lost a night’s sleep trying to get to the end.
MorganO: It was my first book by AB and I did lose sleep to finish it. And I tell you, DH was not happy about it.
Jmo: Great minds definitely know what they like. I've been waiting for Storm's story since the triplets showed up in The Scot, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Blair has set up a world beyond just romance. She's created a family atmosphere in her books. With the introduction of each character you get a well developed part of this world, not just some add on accessory. Blair is one of the few writers who can do that with secondary players and make you WANT to know the rest of their story.
MorganO: I got a good sense of the secondary characters and their stories without feeling buried in backstory. That's a tricky thing to handle and she did it very well. Of course, I want to read the rest of her books and will seek those out in order when I can scare up the funds to purchase them.
JMo: Yes, the books are part of a whole, but you can read them separately. A lot of writers who force you to read their backlog to make sense of the book.
MorganO: I appreciate that, but I'm also a linear kind of reader. I WANT to start with the first one and adore publishers who put the list in the front of the book. Especially those who list them in order. Some publishing houses don't and then it falls to the author to do it on their website. Of course, not all authors are accommodating there either which drives me up tree. (BTW, Annette's website is very helpful with this problem http://annetteblair.com/)
JMo: Let’s get on with the story. I’m a big fan of a bad boy, good girl story. Of course in Gone with the Witch we get a bad boy bad girl story. You know it’s going to be a fun ride when Storm handcuffs Aiden to the bed and kidnaps him with his own motor home.
MorganO: Loved that scene. Once had someone threaten to do that to me. Some kind of fantasy there!
JMo: Didn’t you love the stopover at the diner?
MorganO: I think I really loved the carnival best. The clown. I think it was the blue hair that did it for me. Or was it the elephants?
JMo: Gone with the Witch is more than just a romp around New England. Blair gives us a solid plot that draws you along with the story. And the way she let the characters and their relationship develop floored me. By the end she stripped them both down and laid them bare. You rarely see characters so humanized in that way.
MorganO: I liked how it all pulled together, angst right up to nearly the last page.
JMo: I loved the interplay of the paranormal with the real world. She made it all so believable.
JMo: Which is not as easy as it sounds.
MorganO: I also loved the surprises. The mother who didn’t fit anybody’s idea of a dream mom. I also liked how they kept trying to call her someone else’s mom. No one wanted to claim her. I won’t give it all away, but there were plenty of twists I didn’t see coming and if I did think I had it figured out, there was one more little twist to throw me off. I like that in a book.
I know you’re going to give this a 5, Jmo, and since we round up, I’ll agree. Would have given it a 4.5, but the kidnap and witty dialogue tips it over for me. I’ll be looking for all the books leading up to this one, for sure.
JMo: You called that one right. 5 all the way. Solid story. Characters you can't get enough of. Twists that kept you guessing and an ending that had me sniffly. If that's not a 5, I don't know what is.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Some times you have to ask yourself, what’s going on with this world. that time happened to me Monday. This past week I’ve done everything from seeing my only child graduate from high school—thank you, I am very proud—to going to the doctor, which I hate. It was nothing serious sinus infection in case you were worried. All those things were topped when I got a call from my brother.
Let me back this up a bit. The entire brood, all four of us grew up reading. Out of four boys, I was the only one bitten by the Romance Bug. Until now. Yes my brother
How did this happen? Well let me tell the story. Pull up a virtual chair and let me spin the tale for you.
It was a bright spring day. All was right in the world. Baseball season was finally lining itself out. The football draft had seen another successful completion. The fish were biting.
And how did I find all this out? He called me of course. Being the big brother, I know all. So, he grills me for the next fifteen minutes on everything Dark Hunter. By the end of our little conversation, he has a list of books to buy and places he can pick them up. Ain’t romance grand? Now the world has another he-man romance reader, who is probably sending my sister-in-law to pick up the books for him, so he doesn’t get caught in the romance section of the
I come now to the end of my story. Is there a moral to this tale? Yep, never underestimate the power of
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Or How to Get the Most Reading Time Out of the Baseball Season!
Reading time is important, perhaps more important than anything except… sports! Ha! You thought I was going to say something else, didn’t you? *wink* Baseball season has arrived but there’s no sense in losing valuable reading time.
Some people are under the misguided perception that you have to actually WATCH baseball to enjoy baseball season. And let’s face it folks, baseball season lasts a LONG time and takes up many, many pages in the sports section of the newspaper. Horrors! Fantasy baseball is the only way to enjoy baseball season without losing out on your reading time.
Still not believing me? Well here are a few guaranteed reasons for why fantasy baseball is better than real baseball:
1. In real baseball, it matters if some guy is using steroids. Why? Because that’s cheating! But in fantasy baseball, hey, it’s only statistics and statistics win every time!
2. A real baseball game can last hours. Hours! Do you really want to be busy for that long when you could be reading the latest book by J Morgan and/or MorganO (shameless plug!) instead? In fantasy baseball, it only matters when your fantasy players are busy so that leaves PLENTY of reading time for enjoying the latest from J. Morgan (another shameless plug).
3. How many times in your life will you get the opportunity to sit men making millions of dollars on the bench for not performing?? Only in fantasy baseball… or perhaps in a Morgan O’Reilly book (will the shameless plugs ever stop? Um… no!).
4. Where else can someone strike out 138 times and still have a multimillion dollar career? You think if Nora Roberts struck out on 138 of her books that the NY Times Bestseller List would care about her books? Nooooooo… she’d be traded to the Spartanburg Phillies for two authors to be named later!
What if romance authors had to fit into a baseball line up? Who would be the lead off hitter, pitch, or even catch? Here’s my fantasy romance author team lineup:
Outfielder/Lead off hitter: Christine Feehan
Outfielder: Sherrilyn Kenyon
3rd Base: CJ England
1st Base/Clean Up Hitter: J.R. Ward
2nd Base: Laurell K. Hamilton
Short Stop: Nora Roberts
Outfielder: P.C. Cast
Catcher: Shiloh Walker
Pitcher: MaryJanice Davidson
So now that we’ve talked about fantasy baseball, who would be your starting line up of romance authors for your team? And who would be your Rookie Author of the Year?
Monday, May 5, 2008
When inspiration hits, you got to run with it. Simple as that. The bad thing, inspiration is a fickle master or mistress depending on how you view things. It’s one of those half-full or half-empty situations. You’re either totally on, or dragging bottom wondering where the hell your muse has gotten to and who they’ve run off with. Cuz, they sure as hell ain’t helping you. I think
A flowing story is a beautiful thing to behold. All is right in the world. The birds are singing. You never have to pay taxes and your children pick up after themselves without you having to tell them. The last one is a pipe dream but I had to get it out of my system. I needed the laugh. But, it’s true. When you’re writing and the book just seems to write itself that is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Nothing can beat it.
Now unless you live in some dream world of perfection, a self-writing book almost never happens. I’m not talking about throwing out a perfect book in a first draft. That never happens. I don’t care who you’re listening to. It NEVER happens. You might come close in a second draft but I dare you not to take a third go at it.
Another funny thing about inspiration, it hits you in the most unlikely of places and at the oddest times. Case in point. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve shut down my computer for the night and stepped into the shower, only to have the rest of a scene come pouring out, I’d be a millionaire. Well, a thousandaire. Inspiration is like that. I mean you’ve struggled half the night for one word, a sentence, and a frigging character to open their mouth and say, I’m going to do this. And nada, nothing but some channel surfing and some random IMing to see if you can drum some inspiration off someone else. The minute the water hits the back of your neck, slot A goes into slot B and you’re off. I’m waiting for a water friendly laptop to come out.
Did I forget to tell you, inspiration loves a car ride? Yep! You’re tooling down the highway and here comes your hero doing something well heroic. Have you ever tried to scramble for a pen and a napkin doing 60mph down the interstate? It’s not a pretty sight. I tried the whole digital voice recorder thing. It only works if you like the sound of your own voice, which I don’t and have a stock pile of batteries on hand, which I rarely do.
Notepads you say? I’m sorry but if it’s not typed on a computer I can’t read it, especially if it’s spanked out in my own handwriting. And don’t even get me started on asking the family to remember what you’re telling them. They give you the crazy look, and start dialing padded room 911 on speed dial.
Basically as a writer you’re on your own. Inspiration only loves you, if you’re willing to feed it and we can barely feed ourselves, because we’re trying to trap lightning in a bottle or drowning in one. That isn’t to say it never comes by for a visit. Inspiration loves to stop in, and drop a few subtle hints before leaving. You know, just enough to keep you hanging around waiting for another dose of the addictive stuff. Inspiration is addictive, don’t fool yourselves. It’s like writing. Once you get a taste, you might as well give up. You’re hooked for life. The secret is pamper your muse while it’s there and promise it anything to come back. First borns aside of course. Not even inspiration wants that headache.
In conclusion. If you have any questions, ask somebody else. I used all my inspiration up for the week writing this blog.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
The Morgan Diaries offices have been invaded! A horde of editors have descended upon us. I’ve hidden all the Oreos and any loose manuscripts lying around, but they can smell those things out. Manuscripts I mean. The Oreos I hide on general principles.
Jmo, be quiet. It’s only one editor and we invited her. In fact you invited her.
Oh, sorry, that’s right.
Now get off the top of the bookshelf so we can greet our guest.
We are proud to welcome Cindy Davis, editor extraordinaire, to our palatial offices. We’ve brought you interviews from across the publishing world, but finally we have the meat and potatoes of writing right where we want them. Writing a book is only the first step in bringing a novel to life. It takes hours of hard work and polish to turn a good manuscript into a great book. You may not believe this, but editors are the unsung heroes of our biz and we’ll glad to finally let our readers in on the secret. Okay Jmo, tie her in before she realizes what she let herself in for.
TMD: Don’t tug. It only makes the ropes go tighter. Now, Cindy, we are so happy to have you with us today.
CD: Thanks. After that introduction, I wonder if maybe I’ve brought the wrong equipment. Should have a set of shears and a cattle prod.
TMD: Before we get to grilling you within an inch of your life, could you tell our readers a little about yourself?
CD: I live in the White Mountain state of New Hampshire. Married with eleven kids, all grown and gone. My husband and I like to travel—my job is very portable—in our motorhome. Sometimes we bring along a grandchild but since we’ll only take one at a time, grin, it takes a long time to give all 25 of them a turn. I enjoy gardening, reading, hiking, boating, reading, Red Sox, and reading. I raise exotic finches in an aviary in my office. Did I mention I like to read?
TMD: What inspired you to become an editor?
CD: I had my first book published in 1996 by Whiskey Creek Press. In ‘99, they were in a bind for editors. The owner said, “I know you can write, would you consider editing?” I did, and found out I loved it. Loved helping authors see what’s really inside their stories. I love teaching them why their characters do the things they do—and refuse to do what they want. I love it when an author says, “Gee, why didn’t I see that?”
Anyway, in 2000, I sent resumés to two other houses and was hired. In 2006, I branched out on my own. I’m known around the net as the Fiction Doctor. I’ve dealt with some awesome people from all walks of life, from mafia memoirs to one from a sex dominatrix.
TMD: Like we said above, readers don’t realize how much of a book’s success is really the result of a good editor. Mind outlining the editing process for them in a nutshell?
CD: I told one of my authors I was being interviewed and that I thought it was hard to outline this job on a page, forget about a nutshell. Here’s what he said to say, “I take writing and I make it sound like less crap." Anyway, I’ll try to tell what I do. The process differs somewhat depending on whether I receive an already-contracted ms from a publisher or a free-lance one where it’s my decision whether to work on it or not.
I begin with a synopsis. I hate writing the things, but find them essential when editing because I haven’t the time to sit down and read each manuscript. The synopsis tells me whether the author has a grasp of plot. It tells me whether the plot has unique elements that are likely to appeal to an audience. Occasionally I ask for character sketches. This tells me whether there’s a depth that makes them compelling, whether there’s a distinct difference between them or there are too many to keep straight. Then it’s on to the editing process. Oops, forgot a step. If it’s a free-lance job, I write out an estimate.
Editing begins with a compelling opening. Statistics say a potential reader gives the author less than three minutes to hook them. That means the first paragraphs are like magnets. Give the reader a taste of the story, of the characters, but whatever you do, compel them to read on, to have to find out what’s going to happen.
A question you didn’t ask is, what do I see way too much of? The answer is backstory. Many authors think the reader has to know a character’s entire history, or the reason something happened plot-wise. Backstory slows down the forward motion of your piece. A famous agent whose seminar I once took, said, “If you have any backstory in the first 100 pages, take it out. Paste it into page 101. If, when you get to that point in the rewrite, if you still need it, use it. But I’ll be surprised if you do.”
I take into consideration things like character motivation. Is his/her reaction to the plot elements logical or does it feel contrived? Is there action in this story? Whether physical shoot-‘em-up action or cerebral I-gotta-think-on-this action, it must induce the reader to turn pages.
Is the manuscript overwritten? Does the author use an economy of words to describe something? Is it loaded with passive voice? Another question you didn’t ask was my pet peeve in editing. There are two: passive voice and the word ‘that’. Most of the time ‘that’s’ unnecessary.
TMD: Have you ever run across a book that no amount of editing could save?
CD: Twice. Once I was right, one time I was wrong.
If the submission was sent to me by a publisher, I eat a bag of potato chips while praying the book wasn’t contracted already (99.9% of the time it isn’t). Then I write a note to the author explaining the good points (that one time I couldn’t find anything to say) and providing a detailed outline of what the story needs to be acceptable. If it’s a free-lance submission, I do the same, but decline the job. Sometimes I offer to look at the piece again once the rewrite has been done. (That time I mentioned where I was wrong? The author rewrote the book using most of my suggestions. It hit 12 on Fictionwise after its release! Hey, I can admit when I’m wrong!)
TMD: And diva authors. We know you have at least one. How do you deal with their ego and their ambition? (Is it Jmo? Enquiring minds want to know)
CD: Here, being a fellow author helps because I know what it’s like when someone criticizes what I do. Writing is a very personal endeavor. We put our souls on those pages. On rare occasion I find an author who’s impossible to handle, but as I said, it’s rare. Sometimes it’s just a matter of a clash of personalities—hard to believe about me, I know. I simply ask the publisher to reassign the manuscript to another editor. It’s better for all concerned. On the free-lance side, I try to speak with potential authors before taking them as clients. I haven’t had one I couldn’t bring around by some judiciously placed accolades (in editing jargon—kissing ass)
TMD: Deadlines. We all have ‘em. Do you love them or hate them?
CD: I’m proud to say I’ve never missed one. I’m the kind of person who’s haunted by a manuscript in my files. I cannot let it sit there waiting for me to work on it. As for my authors, some work better if I give them a deadline. Others are quick on the edits and have them in my inbox before I’m finished with the next set of chapters.
TMD: Tell us about your greatest triumph as an editor. Was it a particularly good review for your author? An award? Likewise, what was your greatest disappointment to date?
CD: All my jobs are triumphs in one respect or another. I love when an author says, “Gee, I didn’t think of that!” or “I really learned something from you.” But two recent events stand out in particular. One author wrote and told me what she learned from me during our process, she’d applied to another manuscript and received a contract from Avalon Books. Another author wrote to the senior editor at one house touting my ‘talents’. On the downside, I once got a note from an author for whom I’d done a free-lance edit. He’d received a contract from a publisher and a whole new set of edits. Not that mine were wrong, but the new editor and I obviously had different agendas regarding what’s interesting to readers.
TMD: As is a time honored tradition here at The Diaries, we got a crazy question with your name written all over it. Seriously, Jmo wrote your name all over it. I had to take the crayons away from him before he moved on to the walls.
If you could get any classical work of literature into your Word program for a good edit, which book would you chose and what would you do with it?
CD: Ooh, good question. I’ll have to think on that.
TMD: What fuels the editor in you best? Oreos or chocolate chip? Dove or Hershey? French vanilla ice cream or double dutch chocolate? Vodka, rum, or gin? (Personally MorganO prefers a good Zin or champagne best.)
CD: Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food washed down with a glass of DiSaronno liqueur.
TMD: If you could offer one bit of advice to up and coming authors, or those already in the business, what would it be?
CD: DON’T SUBMIT YOUR FIRST DRAFT! Oops, did I yell? Sorry. It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking the first draft is ready to be viewed by the public. You’ve poured yourself into that story for months, perhaps years, but I’ve never seen one that was finished. Before I’ve read a page, it’s screaming at me for a rewrite.
TMD: Before we let you go, Jmo be ready to cut the ropes off her and run, let our readers know where they can find you on the web. Urls, emails, MySpace…the usual methods. Thank you so much for joining us. Send us the bill for your dry cleaning if those wrinkles don’t come out.
To answer the classic literature question. There are two books I’d really like to edit. One is classic literature, one isn’t. Dickens’ Bleak House and Janet Evanovich’s Metro Girl.