So, This Happened

It’s been a crazy week or so. I completed edits on ALWAYS RIGHT (the last volume of the Diamond Brides Series), only a couple of days later than I planned back in February. I drove up to Baltimore and participated on two panels at the Baltimore Book Festival with the Maryland Romance Writers. I attended the Crafty Bastards craft show and bought more yarn than any human being should buy (also enjoying a great lunch with a close friend I never have enough time to see.) I enjoyed lunch with my cousin, catching up on all sorts of family stories.

And, oh yeah.  I BECAME A USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR!!!

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Ahem.  I hit the list with PLAYING FOR PASSION, the limited time collection of twelve sports-themed romances that includes PERFECT PITCH (the first volume of the Diamond Brides Series.)

I am over-the-moon thrilled with this recognition.  PLAYING FOR PASSION is a great set, and eight of us authors had never been on any national bestselling list in the past.  You can buy the collection until October 14.  After that, it disappears forever!  (Amazon | Apple | B&N | Kobo)

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A Vacation By Any Other Name

Oh.  Wait.  I *was* on vacation.  That *was* its name :-)

I spent last week in Ashland, Oregon, attending the Oregon Shakespeare Festival with my husband, my college roommate, and her family.  We saw seven plays in four days — a matinee and evening show every day but one (when we just had an evening performance).  The plays are all performed in repertory, so we got to see many of the actors multiple times.  (We also saw two understudies who did amazing jobs!)  It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I’ll try to sort the shows:

  1. THE GREAT SOCIETY:  This was the best play — a sequel to ALL THE WAY, which we were lucky enough to see in New York, with Brian Cranston *channeling* LBJ.  SOCIETY picks up immediately after the events in ALL THE WAY.  The actor who played LBJ, Jack Willis, was very different from Cranston — he wasn’t as tall (Cranston wore lifts), and he was heavier; he didn’t have the same physicality, and he didn’t present a caricature of the president.  Rather, he delivered his lines with emotion and skill, *acting* to resemble the former president.  The script was wonderful as well — over and over again, I was struck by how similar to a Shakespearean tragedy it was — LBJ could have been any king in the histories, seeking counsel from his advisors, receiving some good advice, some bad.
  2. INTO THE WOODS:  This was the best musical (see what I’m doing here?) — great performances with some difficult music, staged well with minimal sets and lots and lots of doubling of actors.  Many of the musicians were students, playing with the professionals; they sounded perfect to my ears.
  3. RICHARD III:  A very close second to best play.  Dan Donahue’s Richard was utterly unredeemed evil (per the script); he brought the audience in as co-conspirators, sharing his plans with us with wicked, conniving joy.  He was the most disabled RIII I’ve ever seen — he needed to use a leather strap around his neck to hold his contorted left hand, whenever he needed those fingers.  I didn’t remember the women’s roles being as prominent as they were.
  4. A WRINKLE IN TIME:  This was a world premiere adaptation, and it was an earnest attempt to make one of my favorite children’s books come alive.  Alas, it wasn’t entirely successful — mostly because the book is so *vivid* in my mind, with such wonderful otherworldly settings…  I was always aware that I was watching a play, instead of getting involved in the characters.
  5. THE TEMPEST:  I’ve never liked this play — it has a lot going for it (magic! books! enchanted isle!) but it never really manages to deliver, and the clown scenes go on for *way* too long.  That said, this production had some good things going for it — an otherworldly set, cool fairies that assisted Ariel and Prospero.  The best thing about the production, though, was the romance between Miranda and Ferdinand.  The actors who played those roles played the title roles in the best ROMEO AND JULIET I’ve ever seen, a couple of years ago — they have amazing chemistry, and they truly sold their scenes.  (Another high point — the music and dance number in the second act was kept short — sometimes, it turns into its own endless spectacle!)
  6. TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA:  This all-female production was confusing at first — it wasn’t clear whether the performers were supposed to be women playing women or women playing men.  (They were women playing men, it turned out.)  There was some odd doubling, with a very distinctive actor playing Launce (a clown) and Sylvia’s father.  The dog, Crabbe, was played by a wonderful Great Pyrenees who was very fun to watch :-)
  7. COMEDY OF ERRORS:  Another play that isn’t one of my favorites.  This highly edited performance (1.5 hours, no intermission) was set in Harlem in the 1920s.  The actors who doubled the leads did a good job of bouncing back and forth through their many fast costume changes, but the play itself is silly (and there’s no good way to stage the ending, when other actors need to come on to perform the final confrontation scene.)  Some of our group thought that this was one of the best plays, so it was obviously a matter of taste!

In between going to plays, we ate massive amounts of very good food.  We also spent a lot of time talking, reading, generally relaxing…  And I couldn’t pass up the yarn at Webspinners — I came home with two new projects.  (That yarn shop has the most different (textures, types, etc) yarn I’ve ever seen collected in one place!  I ended up with several small skeins of mercerized cotton for one shawl and some beautiful hand-dyed silk-and-camel for another shawl…)

And now I’m home, a bit shocked to realize that none of my to-do list got done while I was gone :-)

 

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Twelve Books for Less Than a Buck!

One of the amazing things about the so-called ebook revolution is how readers have access to more amazing books for less money than they ever have before.  Case in point:  PLAYING FOR PASSION.

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This limited edition collection (available for only one month!) gives you ***twelve*** sports-themed romances by New York Times Bestselling authors, USA Today bestselling authors, and some of the leaders in the sports romance field — including, um, me.  For $0.99, you can read books that range from sensual to erotic, following characters who play baseball, football, soccer, or hockey.  PERFECT PITCH, the first volume of the Diamond Brides series, is included in the set.

Come on.  It’s less than a buck.  At that price you can buy a copy for yourself and four friends and still not spend more than you would on that extra-large pumpkin spice latte.  And PLAYING FOR PASSION will keep you warm a whole lot longer than that cup of coffee!

Buy the book!  Spread the word!  And revel in the power of ebooks!

 

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A Call to Retreat

I just spent the weekend at a writers retreat, and it was sheer, unadulterated heaven.

Once upon a time, I used to sandwich writing time in between all the other aspects of my professional life.  I woke up at 4:30 in the morning to write before going into the law office.  I sat at ergonomically torturous hotel desks late at night after long days on the road as a librarian.  I hoarded my vacation time, and I used those “free” days to write, write, write.

Now, writing is my day job.  I write all day every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (and I do career support activities all day Tuesday and Thursday.)  So why would I ever bother to go on a writing retreat now?

Part of it is the socializing, of course — the chance to chat with “co-workers” about the trials and tribulations of our “office”.  (And, yeah, to chat about movies and books and families and all those other things you gossip about with co-workers.)

An even larger part of it is the chance to learn more about my job.  This weekend, I picked up some formatting tips from one colleague.  I learned about new online tools to help with newsletters.  I heard about some great how-to-write guides that sound like they might help with some specific problems I’m working on.  In short, there were lots of ideas being tossed around, all weekend long, and a lot of them were pertinent to my work.

But the largest part of why I go on writing retreats is because they make me productive.  Yes, I have large chunks of uninterrupted writing time at home.  But when I go on retreat, there’s a certain level of friendly competition — everyone else is working, so I’d best keep my butt in my chair and my hands on my keyboard so that I can be as productive as they are.  Also, I need to make the time away from my husband and our home (and our very needy cats) worthwhile — I need to accomplish a *lot* to justify (to myself — my husband is always very supportive) the time away.

This weekend, I accomplished three major tasks.  One of them would typically have taken me an entire work day to do.  One of them would typically have taken me two to three days to do.  And one of them would have taken at least three days, maybe more, because it was boring and full of fiddly bits that I most likely would have procrastinated about for far too long.

So, yeah.  Retreats are still worthwhile.  And now my to-do list is so long that my eyes are bugging out of my head.  Small price to pay!

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The Best Sort of Theater

Make that “the best sort of ‘theatre’” because virtually every acting company in DC that has the-a-ter in its name uses the British spelling…

Friday evening, we headed downtown for Studio Theatre’s (see?) production of BELLEVILLE by Amy Herzog.  Why, yes, you might have noted we shifted our subscription to Saturday matinees.  Why, yes, you might have noted that a Friday night is not a Saturday matinee.  Why, yes, you might have noted that when the schedule arrived, we had a conflict for “our” Saturday — and for every other Saturday matinee the play was showing!

In any case, we headed downtown for the evening performance, and we hassled with parking, and with a less than stellar dinner, and with having extra time before the show, and, and, and…

And it was all worth it.

We saw another Herzog play last year — 4,000 MILES.  We knew that she could write realistic dialog spoken by people in crisis who are trying to conceal parts of their pasts to protect themselves in their presents.  But that didn’t prepare us for BELLEVILLE.

The play is set in Paris, in a neighborhood inhabited by many immigrants, including a young American couple who have moved their so that Zack can help children with AIDS.  His wife, Abby, has had trouble making the adjustment to her expat life.  The entire action of the play takes place over a 24-hour period, as the couple confronts each other about the problems in their relationship.

BELLEVILLE follows in a long line of “relationship” plays.  For me, it resonated most closely to WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF and AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY — Herzog’s play has the same vicious use of language, the same domineering thrusts and parries by people who aren’t afraid to fight with words.  About 15 minutes before the end of the play, I realized that I truly did not know how it was going to conclude — there were at least three very realistic, fully supported directions the play could have taken.

Despite my years as a litigator, I am not a Warrior of Words — I hate the type of brutal confrontation that takes front and center in BELLEVILLE.  But as a theater-goer, and a student of people, and a general admirer of beautiful words, I’m in awe of the play and its performance.

(One minor flaw — two supporting characters primarily speak French to each other in their dialog.  I understood what they said, but my theater-going companion felt that he missed almost all of a crucial late scene.)Perhaps my admiration for Herzog’s work is based, at least in part, on a scene in ALWAYS RIGHT — the first knock-down, drag out verbal fight I’ve ever truly written.  (Zingers, yeah, I’ve got those down.  But all out warfare?  That was a first for me…)Sigh…  Off to edit now!P.S. The rest of our weekend was relatively quiet, marked mostly by the death of the power of the baseball cap — the Nats finally lost a game while I wore it to the park.  Oh well.  Time to start a new streak!

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