Friday, July 30, 2010
At one point in my novel, Sloane Hall, the old cinematographer Leo asks John Doyle, now a chauffeur for starlet Pauline Sloane, if his boss needs any musicians for parties. That's because Leo knows "some good piano players. Out of work organists, really. No need for them in the theaters much now."
Odd-voiced actors weren't the only ones losing their jobs when silent movies shifted to sound; many musicians also found themselves out of work. Music had played an integral role in silent films, with even small theaters hiring a pianist to accompany the flashing images.
Larger theaters in major metropolitan areas actually supported full orchestras. Such was the case with the old Capitol Theater in New York, where a house orchestra rehearsed twice a week for three-and-a-half hours each.
Not only did these orchestras accompany the showing of the film. They often also played overtures from the classical repertoire before the film began.
"In larger theaters," writes Scott Eyman in his excellent history book The Speed of Sound, "the orchestra conductor had the responsibility of compiling the musical score for a film from large libraries of sheet music: light classics or source music composed especially for stock situations, agitatos for actions scenes, and so on. . . Very early, the showcase theaters provided music of considerable sophistication. Accompanying the premier engagement of Cecil B. DeMille's Chimmie Fadden at the Strand Theater in 1915, audiences heard the overture from Cavelleria Rusticana, a duet from La Forze del Destino, and the sextet from Lucia Di Lammermoor."
According to Eyman, the Capitol Theater orchestra conductor would regularly log over nine hours on the podium on a Sunday and also conduct evening shows. The matinees were left for assistants.
The eighty-five piece orchestra at the Capitol, by the way, employed a young concertmaster by the name of Eugene Ormandy, who eventually became the theater orchestra's conductor before moving on to bigger things.
In 1931, Ormandy's really big break into mainstream classical conducting came when he was asked at the last minute to conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra, filling in for an ill Arturo Toscanini. After this auspicious debut, he went on to become the conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra until 1936, when he returned to Philadelphia and began his 44-year tenure leading that esteemed ensemble. He was known for being a quick study, often conducting from memory.
Years later, he reminisced about his debut with the Philadelphia. Stepping in for Toscanini on such short notice had actually been easy, he commented. "Of course," he said, "I knew Till Eulenspiegel very well. We played it at the Capitol."
Sloane Hall by Libby Sternberg, a story set in old Hollywood and inspired by Jane Eyre, tells the tale of troubled chauffeur John Doyle, who falls in love with his starlet employer Pauline Sloane, only to be repulsed by secrets she hides from the camera and the world. It is available for preorder on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble, among others.
Check out Libby's blog for more posts related to old Hollywood, Sloane Hall, and its inspiration, Jane Eyre.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Will Tuttle's agency and their friends find danger, fun, newly wed joy, and get their experience broadened by a varmint that presents a real(?) challenge.
I didn't intend to write more of these but the characters insisted. LOL
ONCE BURNED was about an arson case, VARMINT is about the exclusion dealing with things like squirell's in the attic etc. There will probably be one more insurance novel (making it a trilogy) which will be titled ACTUAL CORPSE VALUE (guess what problems this one brings up for our multi-line adjusters?
Go to Amazon.com, click on books and type in Jackie Griffey to see a current list of my characters' adventures from $0.99 e-books to hard covers.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
It's hard. Writing is hard any time, under any conditions. Not as hard as handling a jackhammer in 110 degree city heat, mind you. And not as hard as chasing toddlers around the house after working all day. And not as hard as dealing with a boss who's dumber than a bag of hammers. But it's still pretty hard.
Monday, July 26, 2010
1) When my agent sold my first book to Five Star, she didn't make much of a commission, but she continued guiding my career , submitting proposals to other publishers, and giving me advice on how I could branch out into other genres.
2) My agent often contacted me when she was contacted by publishers in need of proposals. I spent the next two years writing a lot of proposals. I never turned her down, because I wanted her to know I was willing to work to "make it." Publishers contact agents when they need something fast, when they have a "slot" open up, or when they need a writer-for-hire. We received a lot of rejections, but my agent - - -
3) kept encouraging me! She still hadn't made any more money. My agent kept working with me, kept directing my career. It began to feel like she was a harder boss than my real boss, but I was learning to trust her.
4) My agent always returned my emails. I never called her, as I never had any urgent questions, but she always returned my emails promptly. She also sent me regular correspondence showing which publishers had rejected my manuscripts and proposals. We were/are a team!
5) My agent had her pulse on what was going on in the publishing houses. The last proposal she told me to write, I told her no. I was tired. I have a full time job, I was working on a sequel to THE COST OF LOVE, and I didn't want to do another proposal. She responded to my no, with an "I understand" email. This was quickly followed with a "let me tell you why you're wrong" email. I decided to follow her advice.
6) My agent was able to negotiate contracts for another 4 books with 2 publishers. She was able to negotiate the due dates on these books, and she was able to increase the number of free books I'd receive as well as a few other perks.
I'd say my agent is valuable to me. One of those 4 books we sold because the publisher had a "slot" open up and needed to fill it quickly. She went straight to my agent. Good writing can be noticed by a publisher without an agent, but you don't always know where those "open slots" are. Personally, I think an agent is worth her 15%. I know this isn't every one's experience, but it certainly has been mine. I hope if you have an agent now, or have one in the future, that it's your experience too.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
The Bar, The Desert and the Range--that's the blog title I wanted, but it seemed a bit long.
I think most novels limit themselves to a few main settings. This is where the bulk of the action takes place and where the reader is comfortable watching your characters develop.
In THE COST OF LOVE, E.T.'s Bar is where Dean and Lucy work undercover. It is also where the community gathers to shoot the bull (not figuratively-that would be messy). This is where Lucy first meets the larger cast of characters, and where Dean was embedded before the novel began. It's where the main attack against the town is staged and where the people of the town finally must decide if they're going to pull together or not. It's also where the "mole" is hidden. The bar is a main setting in the novel, and it's important my reader feel comfortable and intrigued by it from the first time they step inside.
The desert around Roswell, New Mexico represents the larger world and to some extent what is at risk should Lucy and Dean fail. It's wild, it's beautiful, and it's the setting for the more out-of-control scenes. The reader isn't sure what's going to happen when my characters are set loose in the desert. There are love scenes, death scenes, fight scenes, even party scenes--all within the setting of the great southwest desert.
White Sands Missile Range is the largest military installation in the world at almost 3,200 square miles. It's where my story opens and where it closes. I have such an abiding respect for our military men and women, and I wanted to emphasize that by showing the importance of this facility. In my novel, the base has been compromised, which sets up the conflict, creates the opening murder, and leads to the closing conflict.
There are plenty of other settings in this novel--exploding airports, loud dancehalls, intimate bedrooms, lonesome highways . .. . but the bar, the desert and the range are the three places where I've set Dean's boot down and claimed the reader's attention. Every novel has anchor points. Those were mine.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Recently on my own blog, I hosted a discussion of favorite scenes from Bronte's Jane Eyre, the inspiration for my own September release, Sloane Hall, which is set in old Hollywood as films shifted from silent to sound.
A favorite Eyre scene for a bunch of folks was when Jane first encountered Rochester, not knowing who he was, on a walk near Thornfield Hall.
Here's how I handled that scene in Sloane Hall, when chauffeur John Doyle encounters his starlet employer for the first time, not knowing who she is:
In a refreshed state of mind, I decided one Thursday afternoon to set out on a dirt road just north of the house, one that led away from the fields and into more barren land. I'd traveled nearly five miles by my reckoning and just made my way to the crest of a hill when I saw a tiny ball of fur in the middle of the road, trying to scamper to the side with no success.
Pushing my hat back on my head, I bent forward to help the poor creature. It was a baby rabbit with a leg cramped tight against its body, and it wouldn't last long. Not in this land with sun and wind and other creatures aiming to hurt it. I felt the need to do something, so I took my hat off to scoop it up and into the brush where it could at least rest peacefully before death surely claimed it. Before I had a chance to touch its downy back and soothe its fright, I was put into a fright myself.
Heehaw, heehaw! A motorcar horn split the air, as out of place in that barren region as a snow-draped Christmas tree. I jumped back, just in time to save myself from being run over by a spitting new Duesenberg J, its long nose jutting down the road like a ramrod.
"What the . . .?" My head twitched as I saw the large wheels crush the animal into the earth. Damn that driver! Damn him to hell!
My gaze turned up to the vehicle, careening into a ditch while its driver cursed with a vocabulary I thought only my fellow reform-school inmates had mastered.
My hands clenched into fists. I marched toward the car, ready to give that driver more than just a piece of my mind. Out here on this sun-baked road, I could pound that rascal's head into the ground, and no one would know but me and God. And I was sure, at that moment, that He was on my side.
But that feeling faded as I took long strides toward the car and . . . damn. Damn if the driver wasn't beautiful. Soft and pretty like the small thing she'd destroyed.
A porcelain doll. A translucent face, too pale for California's savage sun, and eyes as piercing as old Milqueton's but blue instead of brown. Blue ice. Or blue flame, I suppose, depending on your perspective. Now they burned with anger, and her small rosebud of a mouth pursed in annoyance. Her hair was blond -- white blond, like blinding sun--in one of those new short, wavy styles all the girls were favoring, and she wore a long-sleeved dress--something yellow and silky that gave the impression she had nothing on underneath. I was beaten back by all that, by the softness and the beauty. . .
. . . Opening the door, she jumped onto the road, but the car was leaning at an angle that made the distance from running board to ground farther than she'd counted on. Her knees buckled for an instant and she herself would have fallen had I not stretched out my hand to catch her arm.
Here was Eve herself. Soft skin, even though she herself was thin and bony, and sweet scent. . .
. . . I had to steady her with both my hands, while she latched onto my arms with her slender fingers. It was then that she looked me in the eyes and laughed. Here was the apple. That laugh. A silvery sound that rippled into the empty space like birds trilling in the distance, jangling my nerves. . .
"Dear boy, you look like you've seen a ghost."
I hope you enjoyed this little excerpt. What scenes from favorite books do you like to re-read?
(For more about Sloane Hall, be sure to visit my blog at www.LibbysBooks.blogspot.com! Or to pre-order the book, go to amazon.com or bn.com!)
Monday, July 12, 2010
Recently, an interview with author Alice Duncan was posted to this blog. As some of her books take place in the 1920's I decided they might count as research or at least as encouragement for my own story so I read Lost Among the Angels and Angel's Flight. The heroine of these books is Mercy (Mercedes Louise to her Mother) Alcutt. Mercy is a properly brought up, wealthy young woman from Boston who has chosen to move to Los Angelos and take a job (gasp) as a secretary with Private Investigator Ernie Templeton. (And if you happen to read this, Alice, I hope you are not finished writing about Mercy and Ernie. I absolutely loved the first two books.)
I was glad to see that Mercy seemed to have studied Emily Post or a similar source. I saw many details, such as the way she introduced people, that matched up with Mrs. Post's advice. I'm sure Etiquette will be an important resource for me, but it is a bit of a dry, dusty read. It was more fun to watch Mercy try to reconcile her proper Boston manners with relaxed Los Angelos standards.
And really, isn't this one of the wonderful things about fiction - that it makes learning so enjoyable and effortless. Get lost in a story and come out with a bit more knowledge or understanding. It doesn't mean we don't need the more scholarly works. Sometimes you just have to plow through the dull and the boring to find out what you want to know. But when you can mix the two, I've found the result to be invariably good.
I'm about to start Alice Duncan's latest release Hungry Spirits. It's also set in the 1920's but the main character, Daisy Gumm Majesty, is a pretend spiritualist and a far cry from a proper, wealthy young lady. But still...I wonder what I might learn from Daisy? Maybe I'll need a seance scene in my new work. You know what they say - learning is never a waste.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
When it's time to revise your draft, do you start at the beginning of your piece over and over again? Do you spend hours revising paragraphs, and then like Dali's clock on the left here, realize your writing time is gone? Do you read what you've written, and with a general idea that it doesn't "read well", start shuffling sentences, words, ideas and story flow?
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
by Jacqueline Seewald
Good beginnings are crucial in capturing a reader’s attention. Every writer knows that a narrative hook is needed in any successful type of writing. Readers pick up a book, glance at the first page, and if it doesn’t grab them, they’ll simply toss it aside. Of course, creating a good narrative hook for a novel is easier said than done. However, here are a few suggestions that I believe will help to interest readers in your novel:
Point of View:
One of the most important things in writing a successful novel is to develop a unique voice. That does not mean that you must write from a first person point of view.
It is important to create a central character that your readers can both sympathize and identify with. Whether writing a realistic or fantasy novel, if the reader can't care about the main character, than the reader won't believe or accept what follows.
Regardless of whether or not you use first person narration, try to stick to a main point of view which makes reader identification more likely. This viewpoint should be from the perspective of a major character in the story. This is one way of hooking your readers from the beginning. And it goes without saying that the main viewpoint character must be either the heroine or hero or both in a romance novel.
Element of Mystery:
Readers enjoy an element of mystery. Every good novel should have a plot that keeps the reader turning the pages, wanting to discover what is going to happen next. It's important to set up some sort of a question that can't be easily or immediately answered, a secret of the human heart that must be delved into. Prick your reader’s curiosity.
Start in medias res:
Start with a bit of intriguing, provocative dialogue or some piece of action. Get your reader involved in the plot from the beginning. Don’t begin with detailed description of people and place. You will lose your reader!
Don’t start with your main character getting up in the morning or doing anything mundane like tooth brushing. Long boring descriptions fine for Victorian novelists, but remember that Dickens was paid by the word; you aren’t! Plunge the reader into the heart of the story from the beginning words.
When you do need to use description, keep it pertinent. Don’t overdo adverbs and adjectives. Use active verbs. Replace your “is”, “was” and “are” with action words whenever possible. Vary your sentence lengths and structures. You want your writing to be dynamic and exciting. Your reader must be quickly involved, must be made to care about what is happening.
Get your reader focused, placing your heroine and hero as close to the main action and problem as possible. Build suspense from the beginning by getting your reader into the thick of things. Weave details and necessary background information into the story as you keep the action of the plot moving along. Introduce the romantic protagonists as early in the story as possible.
Make It Dramatic
Dramatize your story. Don't show, tell. I'm certain you've heard that advice before! How to do this? Create meaningful, realistic dialog for your characters. Each character should be an individual, talking a certain way to reflect a personal point of view, a unique way of thinking. Good dialog leads to action and conflict between people with different viewpoints and goals.
Avoid stilted dialogue by reading your writing out loud. Remember readers have to accept the characters in you novel as real people.
Setting the Scene:
Although you don’t want to overwhelm your reader with too much detail from the outset, settings need to be vividly described so that they seem real. And do create your novel in scenes as if it were a movie.
Above all, respect your readers; give them quality. Take the time to write and rewrite the beginning sentences and paragraphs of your novel, recognizing that this is crucial. Create the perfect narrative hook that will compel readers to read it from beginning to end!
Monday, July 5, 2010
Whether you’re an author or a reader or both, everyone has those special moments in their lives when they want to celebrate. To that end, I hope my readers will find this blog post helpful. My comments would apply just as easily to any kind of event, not just a book launch.
I think most every author feels like celebrating when a book is published, whether it’s their first or their thirtieth. For the release of The Tapestry Shop, my October book from Five Star, I decided I wanted to share the moment with my friends. When I started thinking of just where to have such an event, and how to plan for it, I ran into problems. Should I have the books available? Would that make my friends feel pressured to buy (although several have asked where/when they could)? How much could I afford to spend? Where could I hold such an event?
My first inclination was to go to the internet and google Book Launch. From this, I got some ideas—and learned that Book Launches run the gamut, from those hosted by book publishers at a pricey New York hotel, to smaller ones in a private home. So I set out to make my own way, because I’d found that anything goes.
My home won’t hold the number of people I wanted to invite, so I made a list of places in town. I soon found that renting most places was pretty pricey, and this is without refreshments or anything else. Most restaurants had a high minimum for their food service, too.
The more I investigated, the more discouraged I became, until I hit upon an idea that came like a bolt from the blue. We have two wineries near where I live. I had never been to either one, so set out to find them and see what they had to offer. To my delight, I discovered a treasure—a winery that I loved the minute I stepped inside. It was cozy, unpretentious, and had racks of wine along the walls, as well as a polished bar with stools and a few tables with chairs. It was the perfect place to launch my book, which is set in France. I knew right away that winery was where I wanted to launch my book.
My only investment is wine-tasting for my guests (after which they can purchase a glass if they like), and some platters of cheese and crackers, all reasonably priced. Even this wasn’t required, but I wanted to do that.
I’ll send out invitations (my web designer is a whiz at designing things like that which match my site design).The event is set for early evening, and I’ll do a brief reading from The Tapestry Shop. After that, the rest is party time. As for book selling, I’ve asked a local bookstore owner to sell my books at the book launch so I can enjoy the party like everyone else. So go to your local winery and see what they have to offer. After all, it’s helping them too, bringing in customers who might never have thought of buying their wine anywhere but in a grocery store!