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Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Film vs The Novel

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. How has your week been?

I thought I would tell you about something that happened this past weekend. For Good Friday, my wife and I took a rare day together, leaving the kids at home (not that they noticed). We started with a late breakfast, did some shopping, saw a movie, did a bit more shopping and then completed the evening with a great Italian dinner. It was a wonderful day and something that my wife and I should do more often; especially having been together for nearly 23 years.

It's the film that we saw that I want to discuss. We saw The Lincoln Lawyer.

I'm not the biggest Matthew McChonaughey fan in the world and, thankfully, he only removed his shirt the one time (Lol!), but I enjoyed the film. It had an all-star cast that included Marissa Tomei, Ryan Phillipe, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Bryan Cranston, Francis Fisher and William H. Macy. For someone my age or older, you'll also be surprised to see a familiar face as Michael Paré makes an appearance. Country music star Trace Adkins also co-stars as does Michaela Conlin who plays Angela on the hit series, Bones.

On top of the great cast, it is a good story, based on the novel by Michael Connelly: Criminal defense attorney Mickey Haller(Matthew McConaughey) operates around Los Angeles County out of a Lincoln Town Car. Haller has spent most of his career defending garden-variety criminals, until he lands the case of his career: Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), a Beverly Hills playboy and son of real estate mogul Mary Windsor (Frances Fisher), who is accused of the brutal beating of a prostitute. But the seemingly straightforward case suddenly develops into a deadly game of survival for Haller.

I thought the film was very good. In many films we spend most of the time trying to figure out what is going to happen, and who the guilty party might be. In this one, we find out who is guilty very early on, and then need to watch and see how Haller must get out of the corner that he is trapped in.

My wife, on the other hand, was not a fan. Why, you ask?

It was because she had just read the book...

The book is almost always better than its film version. Basically, the only ones who might dispute this are people who refuse to read. However, regarding those who love both mediums, this is hardly a debate at all.

Rather than spoil your viewing of the film, if you have yet to see it, I won't take any time to reveal what was so different or altered from the book. I only want to discuss the two mediums. What are your feelings with regard to this subject? Do you read the book first or watch the film first when there is a choice? Why?

Are there some examples where the book wasn't better than the film? I'll stir things up right away by declaring that, since I did not grow up with Tolkien, my initial experience of LOTR came from Peter Jackson's vision. I did finally read the books, but I did not like the staggered approach to time. I didn't care for reading about half of the Fellowship, only to have to go backwards in time and see what the other half of the Fellowship was doing at the same time. It was disconcerting.

I would love to hear what you think.

We'll talk soon.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Menopause in Manhattan

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. I hope you had a fantastic Easter, a great long weekend or both. I know I did.

As promised I would very much like to tell you about this fantastic book that I finished a little over a week ago. As you can see the novel is entitled, Menopause in Manhattan. I'm afraid that there are no vampires in this one, nor are there werewolves, ghouls or serial killers of any kind. Instead, there are simply men and "women of a certain age".

Why, you may wonder, did I read such a book? Well, frankly, it's because of many of you. You see, being a writer myself, I know how hard this business can be. I know the odds of writing that "Great American Novel", if my friends from other countries will excuse the expression. So, I try and keep an open mind when it comes to my friends and their books. If nothing else, I know that buying a copy of your novels helps you...and I like doing that.

Unfortunately, it isn't often that I manage to find the time to read.

Thankfully, I found the time to read this one. If you have yet to meet Author Anne Kleinberg, please allow me to introduce you to her.

According to her website which you can find here, Anne Kleinberg came to the writing of Menopause in Manhattan through an altogether different route. A friend and editor suggested that she write a murder mystery, with a cook at the center. Although Anne was reluctant at first, an idea was hatched.

The attempts to fulfill that original request soon became a story about a 50-year-old woman who goes through some major changes in her life.

Anne grew up in Laurelton, Queens New York. Her junior year was spent overseas at Tel Aviv University which sparked her love of Israel.

A few years later, she went back to school (Fashion Institute of Technology) in Manhattan where she earned a degree in interior design.

Anne pursued that design career in New York City; however, she suddenly decided to start over in Israel. "Call it epiphany (or) call it lobotomy," she says, but she packed up her shih tzu and her drafting table and off she went.

A restaurant review that she wrote for the Jerusalem post led to a career as a lifestyle journalist, where she wrote about food and people. That led to editing and translating books which then led to writing cookbooks. She’s written four to date, and Menopause in Manhattan is her first novel.

The following is the blurb about the book:

"Welcome to New York City, and the world of publishing, interior design, fashion and food. As Elie Sands turns 50, she seems to have a charmed life. Executive editor of a top design magazine, she’s married to Philip, a furniture tycoon, and she’s the mother of two accomplished young women: Lexi, the “good” daughter, who’s newly married and living in Jerusalem and Chloe, the “wild” one who’s a marketing maven in her father’s company. Elie is an avid cook, lives on Central Park West and owns a house in the Hamptons. Syd Sorenstein is Elie’s mentor and upstairs neighbor. A chic, opinionated financial adviser, widowhood has not extinguished her lust for living. She’s a workout fanatic and world traveler who does exactly as she sees fit, with little interest in what others think. Elie’s other dear friend is Michael Delmonico, partner of Daniel. He’s entertaining and flamboyant, self-centered and hopelessly disorganized, but has an eager list of clients waiting for his interior design services. Syd and Michael despise each other, but they both adore Elie. Life is good. Or is it? Elie makes a distressing discovery, Syd’s reputation is threatened and Michael gets shocking news from his past. Instead of easing comfortably into middle-age, each is forced to deal with unforeseen challenges, unresolved issues and reassessing what lies ahead."

I met Anne on the blogosphere last year and followed her progress as she worked on editing and then the formatting for this novel. Upon its release, I found myself purchasing a copy due to several factors. The first was wanting to support a buddy. The second was my desire to read something new. Lastly, with lingering memories from having just visited New York City this past March, I was intrigued by a return to that wonderful city - even if only within the virtual pages of her book.

Perhaps because it was from an author I know or because I'm just a big softy, I don't know, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. With life-like characters that I loved being surrounded by and some of the most realistic dialogue I have ever read, I just couldn't get enough of this novel.

Kleinberg wove her wealth of experience and learned skills into a story that I found to be rich in detail. Consistently, we get the best and worst of interior design, food and fashion; as well as the feel of both New York City and Israel, which all work together to enrich the plot and transport us right into the heart of this tale.

When I informed Anne on Facebook about how well I enjoyed her novel, she told me that she worried that there might be too many Jewish references, but I thought it was handled very well. Did I understand every little thing: no. However, I wanted to read something fresh and new and I got just that. The Jewish culture presented in the novel was just one more beautiful strand of detail.

It is difficult to pin down just which genre this novel fits with. It gives you the tender warmth and emotion of Nicholas Sparks, but also a flavor of things that perhaps only Kleinberg herself could deliver with such a diverse background.

If you find yourself in a place where you'd like something new to read, you'll find this gem over at in the Kindle store for only .99 cents. I was intrigued from the first chapter, loved the way she handled flashbacks, laughed aloud several times and felt as if I had gone on a grand adventure. It may be if you're anything like me, you'll feel as if you are stealing and want to give this great writer more money. Hopefully she's hard at work on the next one!

We'll talk soon.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter Week

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. Whether you observe Easter or just celebrate the break this week provides, I’d like to wish you all the best.

This week has been crazy busy for me at my day job. I work as a supervisor of the First Shift in the Packaging Department for Sun Maid Raisin Growers of California. You know, the raisins with the lady on the red box? Yeah, that’s me. In any event, the employees had to use up their 2010 vacation before April (for me, that is about 120 of them), which never happens, so we had to stretch as thin as we possibly could, which made things rather stressful; attempting to run production with a skeleton crew. I survived the experience, as I always do, but there is always concern until the week is over. The last week before the Christmas shut-down is much the same - in that we are trying to squeeze in so much production and special projects in before the two week break.

With this in mind, I had little time to write anything this week until now. I will, therefore, be using this weekend to write that book review that I promised you that I would for Menopause in Manhattan. I’d like to start reading something else, too, but we’ll see. I’m still sitting on Patricia Cornwell’s latest as well as a few of your novels, my blogosphere friends.

Without getting all gushy on you about my favorite film from last year, my family picked up a copy of the Academy Award winning Best Picture, The King’s Speech on DVD. I saw it Thursday night. I should have waited for the weekend since I had to get to bed (you'll recall how I'm up at 3:00 am and am in the office by 4:00 am), but I couldn’t help myself. I reviewed this film twice last year; once for this blog and once for Kings River Life Magazine. If you have yet to see it, you can check out my review here. Or just see it! I won’t fault you for it. ;)

So, what else?

Well, I have several author/writer events planned for the month of May. I have a Street Faire in a neighboring small town near my own in Reedley, California. That one is for the magazine that I write for. After that I’ll be in Fresno, back in my own town for a book club that I’m doing, and then there is the annual Kingsburg Swedish Festival during the third week. If you’ve read my novel, Dance on Fire, then you recall that this is the big event for the year. With any luck there might be some vampires.

I have another author event in June; however, it’s going to be at this point that I think I’ll finally know whether all of this hustling is paying off or not. If so, I shall continue with some modifications. If not, then we’ll slow this train down... However, I don't want to end this post on a downer, so we'll just reserve judgement until then and see how things go.

In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your week. I know I will.

On the other hand, my sacrifices are nothing compared to His. Just sayin'.

We'll talk soon.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday Morning Musings

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. Happy Easter Week to you and yours, whether you are religious, simply enjoying a week off from school or work, or looking forward to a long weekend.

I thought that I would take a moment to do a bit of PR for a buddy of mine, Anne Kleinberg. She is the author of a marvelous novel that I just finished reading Saturday afternoon, entitled: Menopause in Manhattan. As the title may suggest, it is not aimed toward the teenager demographic; however, though it is about "women of a certain age", I found it warm, funny, engaging and moving. I liked it so much that I am going to give it an extensive review and just thought I would give you a head's up.

If you have a moment and think you might be interested in adding to your Kindle's collection, take a quick glance at the reviews that Anne is getting already. If you need a break from all things Paranormal, now's your chance. At .99 cents how could you possibly go wrong?

Now for a bit of hardward to give away. My good friend, Carole Gill over at Bloody Good Vampires, and the author of The House on Blackstone Moor just received a blog award that she is now sharing with me. It is called: The Liebster Blog Award. The idea is to recognize those who have contributed to blogging. It is geared toward those who have less than 300 followers.

So, with that in mind, I have selected a mix of older and newer buddies of mine who span the spectrum in terms of the subjects that they blog about. We've got a little bit of everything with this group and I hope you'll pay them a visit and get to know them.

Kelly Polark

Lorelei over at Lorelei's Muse

Maria Zannini over at Tales of Other Worlds

Michele Shaw


Thanks again, Carole. For anyone interested in a great, dark read, see my review of Carole's novel that I did over at Something Wicked This Way Comes here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Why Do You Write?

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts.

You know, it dawns on me that many of us who are writers are probably going through much the same kinds of trials and tribulations: there are those who pound away at the keys, hoping to complete their novels, but not entirely sure that they’re ready for public consumption; there are those who have a completed manuscript, but are struggling to land an agent who will give them the chance that their work needs; and there are some, like me, who already have a published novel in the marketplace, but struggle getting the word out.

Now, I didn’t write this post in order to enact some sympathy. What I really wanted to do was hear how others are handling whatever part of the game they find themselves in. This isn’t about me, it’s about us.

Why do you write?

I ask myself this question, too. I love to write. I have many stories that seem to want to come out of me. My problem is I don’t have enough time to do everything. I work eleven hours a day. It’s a day that begins at 3:00 am with the alarm, 4:00 am in the office and one which doesn’t end until about 3:00 pm. Considering that I need to get to bed at about 8:00 pm, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for the fiction writing that I do, the blog posts I do every week, the articles I write for a local magazine, plus housework and relationships with my wife and teenage sons. I’ve been attempting to do it all since I started so late in life (this began after 40 years of age), but I can’t possibly keep this up forever.

How about you? Are you writing because you love it and can’t dream of giving it up? Are you writing because you are trying to live the dream of being published?

Thankfully, I wrote the sequel to Dance on Fire while I was going through the process of editing and preparing it for publication. It is titled, Dance on Fire: Flashpoint. Soon, I will have to make some difficult choices. As I write this post I have yet to receive my edits, but they will be arriving any day now. When they do, I am going to have to clear some time for making those corrections, as well as to do some rewriting that my publisher and I have discussed. When that part of the job has been completed, I will need to immediately turn my attention toward writing the next novel.

What difficult choices have you had to make? Can you see some point of decision on the horizon which will cause you to hit the brakes and head in another direction?

I’m not as of yet sure what my next project will be. I have a third book in the Dance on Fire series that I would like to begin writing; however, having lived with these characters for twenty-plus years, I would very much like to venture off the beaten path and go in another direction. It would still be horror, but it would have nothing to do with vampires. Yet, that brings us to another point of decision: do I have a choice what I write next? Perhaps either my publisher or my audience will dictate what is next. Were I Uncle Stevie (Stephen King), I could do whatever I wanted, because of the sheer size of my audience. I hope I get to choose my next project. On the other hand, being forced to write book 3 would be a good thing, wouldn’t it? It would mean that my audience is growing and demanding more… *sigh*

There’s so much to consider.

We’ll talk soon.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Wicked Writers

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. How's Monday so far? Not a fan? Me, neither. I like them only when they are holidays...or when it's 3:00 pm and my eleven hour day is over. That's when I usually like them.

As some of you know I am a member of the Wicked Writers Blog. One of the first things I did when I got started doing PR for my writing last year was to do a guest post. It was a huge thing for me. Back then I didn't know what in the world I was doing. Now I mostly know. *grins* Sometime thereafter I was asked to join as a regular and handle the every other Friday duties.

In any event, I have met some great people over there and I thought I would take a moment to give them a shout-out, not only for the confidence-building and inspirational stuff that they are doing for writers all over the globe, but also because my partners in crime are a great bunch of wonderful people.

Writing from seemingly every Fictional Genre, coming from every imaginable background and bringing varied styles and tastes are the following writers:

(Ladies First)
Anastasia V. Pergakis
Carole Gill
C.J. Ellisson
J.D. Brown
Sharon Hamilton

I have a school-boy's crush on them all. Thankfully, they all live so very far away...except Sharon. ;)

David Sartof
George Allwynn
Gregory Marshall Smith

I was going to say that I have a man crush on these guys, too, but I'm not quite liquored up enough for that!!

Everyone of these talented writers inspire and hold me accountable, whether they know it or not. Sometimes this writing game is too much and I feel like pulling the plug; however, each and everyone of them has a similar story which keeps me going. I thank them for this.

If you haven't heard of the Wicked Writers I hope you'll surf over and give us a look. Our writers go from Romance to Fantasy to Horror to Erotica and everything else in between. I try and stay away from the Erotica, myself. I giggle too much! Okay, not really. We follow a prompt all week long and our goal is to help others with their writing...hopefully helping our own writing at the same time. Beginning Monday, we will ask where the best and worst places are to write. I'm up this coming Friday. I just looked up our prompt Sunday afternoon. I like to give myself a day of so for inspiration to strike. It usually doesn't take me very long...

I hope you'll come by and make yourself at home. We'd love to see you there.

We'll talk soon.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Who's Your Team?

Some of you Fire Enthusiasts may have noticed that it is baseball season once again. In spite of everything that I know, I find myself continuing to place both my heart and soul behind a team that seems destined to break both. We have essentially the same starting line-up as last year where we didn’t hit at all, losing more games than we won. In fact, the team was never over .500 which gives you a great indicator as to how the season ended up. There are so many more things I could list, but for now let me simply give you the bottom line: my beloved Chicago Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908.

Yes, you read that correctly. It’s been 102 years. Not only this, but they haven’t even been to a World Series since 1945. You remember the year World War II ended, right? It was in all of the papers…

Some of you might be wondering how in the world it could be that a California kid could end up following the Cubs. Although I grew up following the New York Yankees, along with my Dad, something happened in my teens that caused me to place my allegiance with another team. It was called Cable Television. When cable came to my little town it gave me an opportunity to catch baseball games more often. There were two stations that showed nearly every game: TBS and their Atlanta Braves or WGN and their Cubs.

During the 1990’s, the Braves were perennial winners, winning division after division and going to the series many times and ultimately winning one of them, if memory serves. However, during the late 1980’s, they were a very sad team and their stadium attendance reflected this fact: the place was deserted. On the other hand, though the Cubs were not exactly winning anything, Wrigley Field was always packed. Couple this with the fact that they played most of their games during the day, one could see how I could find myself hooked.

If you wonder why it is that this team could be so pathetic over the years, rarely even winning their division, I can only tell you that it is a very long and sad story. They have had some opportunities, but something always seems to impede them. In 1984, before I was a fan, they won the first two games of their play-off by wide margins, only to lose three straight in San Diego. In ’98, they won a one game play-off with San Francisco to get into the play-offs, but lost to the Braves.

In 2003, the team had a great year. They went to the play-offs, once again playing the Braves, but this time beating them handily in their own house. The party stretched from Atlanta all the way back to Chicago, and in fact all across the country as Cubs fans rejoiced. Little did we know the horror that awaited us all. That year the team blew a 3 games to 1 lead in the best of seven series. Five outs away from the World Series, a fan, Steve Bartman, reached out for a foul ball that probably couldn’t have been caught by the left fielder anyway, causing the team to lose their composure and their focus, and ultimately giving up 8 runs that inning. Then they lost game seven.

If I seem a little grumpy as 2011 progresses, you can safely assume that it has more to do with the Cubs than it does dismal book sales!!

Before I go, what baseball team will your household be rooting for? Perhaps I’ll be rooting for your team this year.

Lord knows, I end up having to choose some other team to root for during the play-offs.

We’ll talk soon.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Special Agent Seeley Booth & Riley??

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. I just thought that I would share a little something with you. I do what I can to keep the virtual spiderwebs off of this blog, but, as I've said before, it isn't easy when I'm up at 3:00 am, in the office by 4:00 am and work 11 hours a day.

So, while I was contemplating what I could do for a post, we suddenly received a text from our son...

You see, Riley traveled from our home in Central California with the Kingsburg High School Concert Choir, Women's Choir and the Jazz Choir (of which our son is a member) and traveled down south to Anaheim. It is the spring trip and it is called: Music in the Parks at Disneyland.

As of the time that I am writing this note, I assume that the trip has been great fun, but my son won't be arriving home until very early in the morning, when I am too deeply into my R.E.M.'s to notice. Mean, right? We'll be leaving the truck at the school and he will be driving himself home at 2:00 am or so.

However, as you can see from the photo, while the kids were having free time at Disneyland, he ran into a familiar face at the California Screamin' ride. We watch all of the "Bones" re-runs religiously in our home, so he knew exactly who the actor was when he ended up in line with him; he just couldn't pronounce his last name...

"Excuse me, Sir," my oldest son asked. "Aren't you David from 'Bones'?"
"Would you mind taking a picture?"

And the rest is photographic history.

We just went on the New York trip with his Wind Ensemble last month. See an earlier post, if this is the first you've heard about this. We've gone to Disneyland so many times that we decided to stay home for this trip. He doesn't need mom and dad hanging around all of the time, so we pick and choose when to go. In any event, we were sitting in a restaurant in Fresno, having lunch, when my wife's cell phone vibrated with a message that we would be buzzing about for the entire day.

Just thought I'd share it with you.

We'll talk soon.