What a Happy Day!

Anyone who knows me knows I love movies. That line, said by Eddie Murphy in Trading Places, is one of my favorites. I was mixing up a new batch of homemade laundry detergent when I realized I was 1/2 cup short of washing soda. I thought I'd moved an extra box from my car trunk into the garage by the door. I didn't find the washing soda, but I found something I'd been looking for for quite some time...a case of old 3.5 computer disks that contained my original manuscripts for my older, pre-laptop titles. I immediately pulled out my old 3.5 external USB drive, hooked it to my computer, and tried to open the file. I got an error message that said, essentially, that files in this older version of Word are blocked by my registry policy settings. It sounded like something terribly complicated, but I nevertheless clicked on the provided link for more information. There I discovered that the files weren't so old that they couldn't be opened; I just had to set up a Trusted Location on my computer. Following the steps provided, I did just that, moved one file to the new location, and just like that it opened in Word 2007!

I've had the rights for my first two books for about two years, and I've planned on re-publishing them as eBooks since I started Bunderful Books at around the same time. The delay came in locating the disks, which had been in storage in Florida for two years before we bought our home up here and were somewhere in the garage. Then there was the worry that once I found them I might not be able to open them, even with an external drive that reads the now-outmoded 3.5 disks. I decided to leave it to Fate...if it was meant to be, it would be.

I love happy endings, don't you?

Now it's off to the store to get that washing soda.

Have you ever come across something important while searching for something else?

Life imitates art imitates life...

There's nothing new about TV shows and movies basing their plots on what's been in the news lately, as any fan of the late original Law & Order franchise knows (that show covered the Central Park Jogger, the Lisa Steinberg murder, the James Byrd dragging murder, the O.J Simpson "If I Did It" book, the Chandra Levy disappearance and murder, the Bernhard Goetz subway shooting, the Michael Jackson child abuse trial, and others). But what is interesting when actors whose own lives parallel the lives of the characters.

One such situation that comes to mind is Judy Garland, who is widely accepted to be the basis for child performer turned drug-addicted superstar Neely O'Hara in Jacqueline Susann's blockbuster Valley of the Dolls. This unflattering portrayal did not stop Garland from accepting a role in the 1967 film version, not that of Neely O'Hara, for which she was too old to play, but that of of big-voiced Broadway legend Helen Lawson (a character said to be based on Ethel Merman). In the end Judy was fired because her pill habit caused her to miss one too many days on the set, and the producers got Susan Hayward to do it.

I saw two such situations this evening on Turner Classic Movies in films starring Jean Harlow, whose centennial is this month and who is the featured Star of the Month. The first, Bombshell, featured Harlow as a big movie star who had a conniving agent, a friend/assistant who embezzled her money, a sponging family, and a man who came to her rescue...for a while. This story was actually inspired by 1920's star Clara Bow, known as the It Girl, who had a conniving agent, a friend/assistant who exposed her sex diary in a series of lurid headlines and a nasty court trial, greedy relatives, eventually finding happiness in marriage that failed. But Harlow also had a family notorious for sponging off of her and trying to control her life, arranging for husbands and abortions. In a scene in the movie she screams at her family, calling them a pack of leeches. One has to wonder how she felt saying those lines.

The other movie they showed was called Reckless, which was inspired by 1920s torch singer Libby Holman, who married into the wealthy Reynolds tobacco familiy in 1931. Seven months later her young(er) husband was dead of a gunshot wound, some months before his 21st birthday and the $17 million inheritance that went with it. Orginally thought to be a suicide, the coroner eventually determined it was murder. Holman and a friend were suspected as murderer and accomplice, but not charged at the request of the scandal-fearing family. It's said that Harlow didn't want to make this movie because of her own similar experience; her second husband shot himself just a few months after their wedding.

I've got a partially worked out story that was inspired by the untimely death of Michael Jackson (and yes, I started outlining at the time of his death nearly two years ago). Have any of you writers been inspired been real-life incidents?

The Publisher Also Rises

It didn't come as a surprise to me to see that another major publisher is jumping on the eBook bandwagon. Harlequin, of course, launched their eBook divion, Carina Press, last year. Now Avon Books has started Avon Impulse, an eBook (with option for readers to get the books in print form if they prefer) program especially for fiction. Their 25% royalty rate on eBooks is considerably higher than the 6% or 8% being offered by some other places I won't name. In what I think is a stroke of genius, all unagented writers will now be required to submit through this imprint's website. Whether their manuscripts are ultimately chosen for Impulse or another imprint at Avon will be at editorial discretion.

Interested? Visit their website for more information. And good luck!

My prediction: Other publishers will follow.

Joy to You and Me

I've been doing quite a bit lately...I mean, quite a bit. I won't go into a whole lot of detail; let's just say I've been extremely busy with work, busy with household chores, busy writing, and busy doing line editing for a couple of fellow authors. I have so much on my plate that at times I ask myself how the heck it all gets done...but strangely enough, it does, although I should probably be crying from frustration and feeling like I'm drowning rather than soldiering on.

The other day it occurred to me why I'm doing the latter rather than the former.

I take time out for joy.

When I spend a difficult day lugging a 35-pound carpet shampooer to clean three floors worth of rugs, the next day I'll meet a friend for a leisurely lunch. A full day of running errands is followed by baking biscuits or cookies or a coffee cake for my husband, enjoying a few pages of an eBook while they bake. Blowing the snow from the driveway and shoveling areas where the snowblower won't work, like the front steps, and I get in the tub and turn on the whirlpool jets. Rushing to get a birthday greeting with a gift card in the mail so it's received on time, even though I can barely fit it in to my schedule, is followed by my spending an hour chatting with my mother in Florida. It might put me behind schedule, but a surprising number of chores can be put off to the next day without serious consequences.

These may be little things, sure, but they go a long way toward keeping me on track and maintaining my emotional health.

Feeling overwhelmed? Try to put some balance in your life and make time to do things you enjoy...just for the joy of it.

Research, research

I'm currently working on a multigenerational story of family secrets, which I knew from the beginning would present numerous challenges. There are always facts to confirm, little things like names of the local schools or pertinent local history (i.e., you can't write about Boston in the early 1970s without mentioning the busing crisis). It's tricky to write about a timeframe when you either weren't born yet or were too young to have memories.

Case in point: I read a book a few years back that was loaded with errors, references to songs before they were recorded, stating how the characters "finally" got a color television (in the late 1950s, when these were very rare), etc. Since this book was published by a mainstream publisher, a good line editor should have caught these errors, but that's a column for another day.

An ambitious project like this is going to require plenty of research, and even seemingly simple things have to be questioned. When mentioning what is today known as the Kenosha Chrysler plant, it occurred to me that maybe this was known by another name in 1952. I checked, and sure enough, at that time it was the American Motors Corporation.

Just a few pages later I was writing a scene at a graduation party when I suddenly realized that I haven't the faintest idea what music was popular in 1952. I do know that this pre-dates the rock-and-roll era, which began around 1954. Since this scene is set on the South Side of Chicago, I figured blues would have been the "in" thing. A little digging and I found that one of my favorites, Big Mama Thornton's version of Hound Dog, was out in the early 1950s. Then more digging found that Big Mama didn't record this song until the spring of 1953, over a year after the party scene in my story, so I skipped it in favor of a hit by Ruth Brown and another one by someone I never heard of that apparently topped the Billboard R&B charts that spring.

I kind of hope that my next reference is to a movie. I can come up with a movie title from just about any year without having to look it up! But something tells me I'm going to be doing a whole lot of research...