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Friday, May 8th 2009

10:15 PM

We're Moving!

Please find new blog posts at: 

www.marystella.blogspot.com.

If you're one of the many, generous people who have a link to this site on your own blog, please update the link.

Thank you!

Mary

61 What's Been Said / What Do You Think?

Thursday, May 7th 2009

9:21 PM

Read Afraid -- BE Afraid

 

When I was 18, I read The Exorcist.  I then slept with all of the lights on for several nights.

I used to read Stephen King and Dean Koontz.  Then Twilight Eyes made me wonder what if ghouls and goblins really were all around us but most of us couldn't see them behind their human faces.  I was so freaked out by The Stand  that I stopped reading when everyone was in the Lincoln Tunnel and never finished the book. 

I've never seen a Halloween movie, Nightmare on Elm Street or any version of Friday the 13th.   Less you think I'm a total wuss, I read a lot of psychological thrillers and mysteries with plenty of evil serial killers and psycho villains, but given the list of things I won't see or watch, you might correctly surmise that the horror genre generally scares the shit out of me.

So why did I demand to read Afraid by Jack Kilborn instead of running far from the author's table at the RT Booksigning?  Well, during Kilborn's March-long blog tour, he all but dared readers.  Challenged us even, with his description of the torturous evil and relentless string of murders he promised his book would inflict.

You know me.  Can't back down from a dare.  Besides, I love the Jack Daniels mystery series by Kilborn's alter-ego JA Konrath.  How horrific could this book be?

Very.  A red-ops team with scientifically-enhanced brains and bodies honed in Spec Ops warrior skills crash lands near a small, isolated town in Wisconsin.  The fighters are programmed to fight terrorist strongholds with a very clear, three-point mission -- Isolate.  Terrorize.  Annihilate. 

So what if there isn't an Al Qaeda operative to be found.  So what if these are innocent people?

Imagine sick, twisted, psychopaths that achieve maximum pleasure from inflicting torture and fear on a target before killing them in the most painful way possible.  Think about them showing up in a neighborhood with the freedom to do whatever they want to whomever they find.  Then imagine them doing all that to hundreds of people... while you read about it in evocative, gut-twisting detail.

Wouldn't that scare the hell out of you?  Really, if anybody started to do to me what some of those sick bastards did to characters in the book, I'd pray to die of a heart attack first.   So why, I hear you wonder, did an admitted horror-weenie continue to read this book? 

Simple.  It's terrific.

Kilborn is a master storyteller.  Even while he served me a severe case of the heebie-jeebies with the bloody descriptions of what happened in that high school locker room, told through the terrified eyes of a woman desperately hoping to escape the same fate, he compelled me to find out what happened on the next page after page after page after page.

He weaves in a number of twists and sets up an ever-increasing tension.  He gives us characters to root for that we pray will survive.  We have to believe in our guts that heroes will rise to defeat the evil.  So we embrace a core group of people and hope that they'll be the ones still standing at book's end.  This continues to propel us through the story.

Are our hopes realized or are they crushed in merciless detail?

I'm not telling.  You'll have to read the book for yourself.

Leave the lights on.

Find out more at www.jakonrath.com/kilborn.htm

 

 

54 What's Been Said / What Do You Think?

Tuesday, May 5th 2009

10:29 PM

American Idol -- Rock, Slash and Burn

The biggest surprise for me tonight was that Slash actually strings together entire coherent paragraphs of speech.  He was more clearly spoken than Randy and Paula put together.  Not sure if he was a big help to the contestants or not, but I enjoyed what appeared to be his honest appreciation of their talents.

Kris and Danny must have felt like the set crashing down before rehearsal was the least of their worries.  They are the two "non-rockers", but they not only had to sit and listen to Adam and Allison nail their performances, but they also had to team up for the duet.  They had to rearrange chairs on the deck that was stacked against them.  (For you writers out there, I know that I mixed my metaphors.)

I couldn't possibly say anything more complimentary about Adam's performance than was already said by the judges, the audience, and hundreds of thousands of bloggers and message board afficionados who meet to discuss AI every week.  Slash understated it beautifully when he said, "Adam's got pipes."

I didn't love the song that Allison chose either, but I still thought she did a great job.  I'm glad she didn't pick Piece of My Heart.  In addition to nailing the song in performance, she also spoke up for herself when she heard Simon's comments.  Best of all, she did it without whining.  Her answer to Simon earned his respect, too.

Kris picked up the guitar, determined to give it the Slash treatment on the Beatles's Come Together.  Instead, he gave it the crash treatment.  The attempt at edginess came off as sharp as a cake icing spreader.  Talk about a mismatch between artist and song.  If he'd gone to church and wailed out those lyrics, someone would have shouted, "Hallelujah.  He's speaking on tongues."

This brings me to Danny. Ahh Danny.  Asking you to rock out to Aerosmith is like waiting for John Denver to perform a Metallica medley.  All screaming and no soul.

I'm going out on a limb with my prediction.  Kris and Danny in the bottom two with Danny going home!

 

 

25 What's Been Said / What Do You Think?

Sunday, May 3rd 2009

1:00 PM

Greensboro Becomes Steensboro

I freely admit that this is the greatest effort I've ever put out to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in concert.  Driving 2 1/2 hours to Miami for a 2 hour flight to Greensboro, NC.  Some might think that's crazy.

Another Bruce fan totally understands.  Last night's show was the 14th full length Bruce show I've seen in 31 years.  Yeah, I go wayyy back with the Boss.  We're all older now -- a fact that brings new resonance to the immortal lines from Thunder Road "so you're scared and you're thinking that maybe we ain't that young anymore.  Show a little faith, there's magic in the night..."

Truer words.  The Springsteen faithful show up and, without a doubt, there's magic in the night -- from the blistering opening song Badlands to the final song of the last encore Glory Days.

The band is as mighty as ever, with a few surprises.  Max Weinberg's son Jay took over the drums from his father for most of the show.  He pounds it out as forcefully as his dad and you could see  that Bruce gets a kick out of it.  I read an article that said guitarist Nils Lofgren had both hips replaced last fall.  You'd never know it from the way he whirled around on stage during a raging solo.

The Big Man, Clarence Clemmons had both knees replaced, too.  Clarence was never the dancing fool, but it's good to see him standing as strong and tall, his presence commanding in its stillness.

Bruce.... well, for a guy only a couple of miles away from 60, he hasn't slowed down much.  Maybe he isn't leaping on and off speakers as often, but he's still all over the stage.

People who aren't big Bruce fans usually ask me to explain what's so special about his concerts.  Last night, one of the people in our group was a musician who revered the music but had never been to a live show.  He came out of there, awestruck and moved and said, "I've never seen a rock performer so generous and connected to an audience."

That's the magic.  The connection between Bruce, the band, and the fans.  Symbiotic  as we feed energy back and forth.  Electric, in synch, and power-packed right to the heart.  Whether you're all the way back in a nose bleed seat or up front on the floor, you feel it within and around you.

The music matters.  There are lines and lyrics that hit you where you live, no matter what your life experience, background, economic or educational status.  On the surface, the song might describe the story of a desperate factory worker or a rebellious street racer, but the motivations, the spirit, or the despair can be felt by anyone.

Then there's the fun.  In recent tours, fans have started to bring signs with song requests.  Bruce gathers them up and decides which he'll add to the set.  Last night some young kid handed up 7th Son.  Somebody else suggested, of all things, Hang On Sloopy.  That turned into an amazing moment with the house lights up and everybody singing their lungs out.

I could go on and on and on, raving about this song or that, this special moment or the one after.  Rather than continue, I'll end it with a lyric from Badlands...

For the ones who had a notion, a notion deep inside

that it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive!

17 What's Been Said / What Do You Think?

Saturday, May 2nd 2009

3:17 AM

Southern Sensibility

Even though I live in the Florida Keys, which are about as far south as you can get in the U.S., the island chain isn't what you'd call the Deep South.  Too many of us are transplants -- freshwater conchs -- from all over the country.  The native born Keys people are different, too, all in their own way. 

When I think Deep South, I think of Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, the Carolinas -- pretty much any place south of Maryland.  I haven't spent much time in these states, except for a couple of weekend trips to New Orleans.  Most of the time I've driven through on Highway 95.

Right now, the dogs are home with a dogsitter and I'm in Greensboro, NC.  I flew up to join friends for the Springsteen concert tomorrow night.  Wait -- it's actually already very early Saturday morning, so that should be tonight for the concert.  More on that experience after it happens.

This isn't a long trip, so I'm only getting a little of the flavor of the South, but it's been a sweet taste so far.   There's a difference in the energy and mannerisms that comes across slow and easy.  I don't have a sense of laziness, more of ease and a confident attitude that things get done without anyone making themselves crazy.

You know how when most flights land, it's like people cannot wait for that jet door to open so that they can rush out?  The man in the seat before me jumped up pretty fast -- and then proceeded to get everyone else's bags out of the overhead compartment for them.

The taxi driver dressed like he was ready for Sunday church in neat, pin-striped trousers, with a sweater over his collared shirt and shined shoes.  He touched the bill of his cap (not a baseball cap) when I arrived at his vehicle and greeted me with almost courtly politeness.

I'd booked my hotel room online last week.  When I checked in, the desk employee looked at the rate I was paying for tonight and told me it was too high.  She changed it on the spot to one $40 lower.  I stay in this chain on a regular basis and have never had that happen.  Coincidence or a different sensibility?

After checking in and catching up on some personal business for a few hours, I walked over to a local barbeque restaurant.  Maybe I've just grown accustomed to expecting less, but the waiter was almost too attentive.  A few minutes after delivering my blueberry mojito and taking my dinner order, he stopped back to ask me if my drink was okay.  Once my meal arrived, he checked back at least twice to make sure I was happy and didn't need anything, and then a third time to ask if I wanted dessert.

Up home in the Northeast, you'd assume the waitstaff was rushing you so they could turn over the table and get another check going.  Not here.  He really was just providing caring service and I felt like I could have stayed there another hour without anybody urging me out the door.  The food was delicious, too.

It's going to be interesting to see what else I notice about the local residents.  I've been to many Springsteen concerts, but never one in North Carolina.  I'm used to the hard core fans from the Boss's home turf, myself included.  I wonder if the other people in the arena tomorrow will be as hard core, but just seem a little less intense about it.

13 What's Been Said / What Do You Think?

Tuesday, April 28th 2009

9:26 PM

The American Idol Rat Pack Recap

It was Rat Pack meets the Mousekateers on American Idol this week.   Kris Allen said it all in the beginning.  "The Rat Pack.  They're all ... like... dead."  No shit -- and so was the pace of the whole program.

Does the fact that Jaime Foxx won an Oscar playing Ray Charles and acted in Dreamgirls make him a musical expert?  At least it's a step up from Quentin Tarantino.

Kris came out and performed a version of The Way She Looks Tonight so soulfully and slowly it was practically sonambulant.  I expected to see the band sleepwalk across the stage.

Now for something completely different, instead of crushing on a guy, Paula just might have a thing for Allison.  This creeps me out more than if, say, Simon looked like he might be ready to take a trip on the Lolita express.  That said, I thought Allison was fantastic when she sang Someone to Watch Over Me

Matt Giraud is sort of a journeyman at this point,  His rendition of My Funny Valentine was just sort of -- meh.   Either that or three ballads in a row flashed me back to the last set at a Holiday Inn Lounge after too many drinks on a date with a really boring guy.  Paula loved what he did with the song.  Did he actually do something special? 

I swear Simon says some of the things he does just to stir up trouble.  Did he really think that Matt's performance was better than the first two? 

I was out for dinner with friends tonight so I'm watching this courtesy of my DVR.   Honest to God, this is one of the most boring nights of AI ever.   Thank God I can zap through the commercials and speed it up a bit.  

Danny Gokey -- Come Rain or Come Shine.  Another ballad.  Yawn.  Does he usually squint like Mr. Magoo?  Ooh, the band kicked it up a notch.  Danny's moving, oozing soul.  Darn.  Song ended.  Brief exciting moment over.

All night Simon commented on whether the contestants had confidence and if they thought they could win.  I'm watching Adam Lambert and thinking, "No question about that guy's confidence.  It's in his walk, his eyes, his voice, his face."  Very fitting that his was the final performance.  That's where the headliner belongs.

My standings in the AI pool took a big hit last week when Lil was voted off.  I lost my bonus points since I picked her to win it all -- back when she was actually great.  Statistically speaking, an ideal scenario for me now would be o the finals.  Ideally for me, it would be an Allison/Adam final with Allison taking the title.  That could put me in a winning position.  The only way that's going to happen is if Adam is kidnapped.

3 What's Been Said / What Do You Think?

Monday, April 27th 2009

9:34 PM

Fifteen Reasons I had a Great Time at the RT Convention

I could fill up all 15 reasons just by listing the names of friends with whom I danced, drank, laughed and hung out with, but that would be cheating.  (Besides, if I started to list them all, I'm afraid I'd forget to name someone and then I'd feel bad.)  So, in no particular order, here are the top 15 reasons why I had a blast at the RT Convention last week in Orlando.

1. Dancing, drinking, laughing and hanging out with good friends who flew/drove in from all over the country.

2. Getting Tweeted by Sarah of Smart Bitches Love Trashy Books. I actually learned something about Twitter, a service I previously scorned.  Jennif saw my picture and texted me immediately.  Technology - ain't it grand?

3. Acting in Comic-ula at the Vampire Ball hosted by Heather Graham and Helen Rosburg with Heather, Bryee-Anon, Jason, Shayne, Derek, Zhenia, Josh, Debbie, Caitlin, Helen, Ali, F.Paul, Juan, Dave, Roger, Harley, Alex, Beth, Mark, James & Terry. 

4. Dressing up in costumes.  License to be a goofball.

5. Actually selling copies of my books at the Wednesday Expo and meeting some new readers.  Almost made enough to cover my bar tab.

6. Meeting Mark's girlfriend Casey.  Knowing a good friend has met a woman he can give his heart to and finding out that she is a sweet, loving soul moves me to tears.

7. Getting to know some people better and meeting new people.

8. Laughing so hard over the split swimming cap and our other preparations to portray the synchronized swim team that I almost couldn't breathe.

9. Hearing good news from Gennita Low and Lori Armstrong!

10. Meeting JA Konrath/Jack Kilborn.  It would take three blogs to describe how funny this man can be.  He's also freaking smart and I learned a lot by listening to him.

11. Listening to Barry Eisler, F. Paul Wilson, Kathy Love and Erin McCarthy discuss sex from male and female perspectives.  The entire room was hilarious.  The cocktails probably had something to do with it.

12. Getting to take pictures of friends Mechele Armstrong and Marissa Alwin (aka Mo and Melissa) at the booksigning.  I knew that one day they'd all publish and it was great to see them there signing books.

13. Seeing little acts of kindness taking place all around me.  This includes the KICK-ASS job done by fellow members of Florida Romance Writers selling raffle tickets for gift baskets Friday night.  Almost $2400 were raised to donate to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

14. Going on a book buying binge at the bookfair on Saturday.  YEEEHAA!

15. Feeling like an author again and, more importantly, feeling like writing again. 

6 What's Been Said / What Do You Think?

Sunday, April 26th 2009

9:57 PM

Ink-credible!

I know I've been MIA and not posting for awhile.  I was away at the RT Bookreviews Magazine booklovers convention in Orlando.  For several days I shared excellent, quality time with good friends, met some authors I greatly admire, attended workshops and panel discussions, and danced my knees into needing nightly Motrin.

A good time was had by all.  I have the pictures as evidence.  I promise to share, but after I've caught up on my sleep enough to download and sort through them all.

In the meantime, my good friend Rick Roth started a new blog called The Ink Kitchen.  Rick has a terrific, creative, award-winning, screenprinting business called Mirror Image in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.  He's a terrific guy with a strong social conscience and a commitment to many worthy causes, as well as a staunch environmentalist.  Recently, he and his staff created a completely organic ink.  It's so organic, in fact, that it's edible as well as printable.  Don't believe me?  Check out the video!  You can also visit the blog at http:// www.theinkkitchen.com..

 

7 What's Been Said / What Do You Think?

Friday, April 17th 2009

9:58 PM

When is Too Much Enough?

All of the social media/ social networking stuff fascinates and annoys me in almost equal measure.  The only reason that I put up a MySpace page is because friends hounded me to do so and insisted that I HAD to do it to promote my books.  One friend actually built the page for me.  At first I went out looking for people to add as friends.  I accepted every friend request, except from ones who were definitely phishing for ways to target products that had nothing to do with books or reading. 

For a short while I even double-posted the blog entries I put here over there.

Pretty soon, MySpace became more of a chore and a time-sink than anything worthwhile for me personally.  It doesn't seem like anyone is using it for anything more than broadcasting announcements about their books.

Then again, maybe that's because I set it up to promote myself, so I attracted other people looking to promote themselves.

In recent months I heard more and more about Facebook.  "Oh no.  I learned my lesson.  Not for me.  Nuh uh."  At the same time, I see the value in it for promoting the company where I work, because it's different than MySpace.  We need a presence up there in the Facebook galaxy.  Given that I'm the one who will need to maintain the presence, I had to create a personal page to learn how everything works.

Surprisingly, I'm enjoying this process.  I don't much care for all of the easter egg hunts and quizzes, but they're easy to ignore.  I've gone so far as to download the FB application for my Blackberry and have posted from my phone.  I've uploaded photos, too, surprising myself with this advanced (for me) geekishness.

 I've purposely kept FB much more personal.  I don't think I even mention my publishing history.  Sure there are a few other authors in my collection of friends but that's because they really ARE friends and I've confirmed them under their real names and not pen names. 

If I don't have an author or reader's name and number in my cell phone address book and actually call them from time to time, suffice it to say, they aren't going on my FB page. 

That's how I've drawn the line.  I want to keep this a personal space where friends and I can share snippets of our lives.  I don't want to read a lonnnnnggggggggg list of book promos or appearance announcements every day. 

I've even found a few old friends with whom I'd lost touch and it's been great catching up on each other's lives.

I guess you could say that I moved my line in the sand.  Oh well.  I can live with it.

Besides, I have a new line.  Twitter.  I refuse to tweet.  I know tweeting is short and sweet, but for me it's, well, for the birds.  I'm afraid that I'd get smothered in short bits from everybody else's life and in turn smother others with minutia.

What would I tweet? 

"Walked Nat & Pyxi.  Bagged some poop."

"Loaded dishwasher.  Snapped a nail.  Damn."

"New bras delivered.  Yippee."

Really.  Does that interest anybody at all?  I didn't think so.

If you're on Twitter, more power to you.  I know there are many who love it and to all of you, I say, "Go for it.  Enjoy.  Tweet to your heart's content."

I don't expect to join you.  Then again, that's the thing about lines drawn in the sand.  The tide so easily comes up and washes them away.

 

12 What's Been Said / What Do You Think?

Tuesday, April 14th 2009

9:09 PM

AI Recap - Movie Night.

So it was movie song night on American Idol and not one contestant sang anything from Disney.  Wouldn't you love to see how Adam interpreted Bibbity-Bobbity-Boo?  What about Allison rocking out Someday My Prince will Come

Maybe the thought only entertains me. 

So, to avoid running long and pissing off every viewer who sets their DVRs, they decided to only have two judges comment on each performance.  Ryan said, "Simon, wouldn't you call this an historic night?"

Gotta love Simon.  "No, I wouldn't.  Last week the girls talked too much."

They know they have to stay on schedule, so they waste precious minutes running a video tribute to Quentin Tarantino?  Who's big idea was it to schedule a movie director who is not a singer, songwriter or producer as this week's mentor?

Anybody else see Miami Steve Van Zandt in the audience looking about as comfortable as a tax dodger in an audit?  Yo, Steve, shouldn't you be rehearsing for the upcoming Springsteen/E Street Band tour?  I have tickets in two weeks and you better be on the top of your game, man!

Anybody think that Randy is stealing from Anoop's wardrobe rack?

On to tonight's performances.

Allison, you make so happy because you're so damn good.  You always make me so sad because I did not pick you as one of the two finalists in the AI Pool.  Oh well.  It's not about me, is it?  You go, girl!

Anoop - Everything you did, you did really right, at least vocally.  Someone, please, coach him on his wardrobe!

Adam, you are the contestant that every fan with multiple personality disorder can really get behind.  (Think of the votes if all of their personalities have phones and computers!)  You're a little non-bleached Billy Idol, a little Simon LeBon (Duran Duran), a dollop of Steve Perry (The real guy, not the Phillipino phoney), a hunk of burning Elvis and a big sweep of the lead singer from Rush.  Keep performing like this and you are definitely Born to be Idol!

Matt, call lost and found and see if anyone turned in your missing notes.  Tell me have you ever really, really ever listened to the original version of that song?

Danny, are your glasses like Samson's hair?  Take them off and you lose your true power?  I know that Endless Love struck a deep emotional place in your heart, but you flat out blew too many notes.  I can't decide if Danny's really getting more boring, or if Adam just makes him seem that way.

Kris, I have no idea what that song was and forgot it completely three seconds after you finished.  Kara thought it was one of your best.  One of your best what, I have to ask.  After showing early promise, Kris is now about as interesting as Wonder bread soaked in milk.

Lil.  Oh, Lil.  You just can't get it right and defiance does not help your case.  You butchered The Rose worse than a blind man with a dull cleaver.  The next sound you hear will be me saying goodbye to the bonus points I would have earned if you'd at least lasted to the finals.  Better pray that Matt or Kris has a less active fan base or you could go home tonight.

All in all, there were some good performances and the rest were just okay.  For Simon, the best performance he's seen in weeks was the 47 year old woman who blew them all away on Britain's Got Talent last Saturday night with a soaring, crystal clear, amazing rendition of I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables.

Click here to watch it on YouTube.

 

14 What's Been Said / What Do You Think?