Susan Sloate: Stealing Fire Sunday, Aug 18 2013 

Please welcome guest Susan Sloate, multi-genre author, who has two new books coming out in 2013. She’s describing the genesis of her novel Stealing FireStealing_Fire_Front_7

My Cousin Fred & the Power of the Broadway Musical

By Susan Sloate

 

     Let me tell you about my cousin Fred. Fred was the failure of my family. (And no, I didn’t plan all that alliteration.)  This is my father’s side I’m talking about now. On my father’s side were all people who came from poor backgrounds, who determined they weren’t going to be poor in the future, and in the 1920’s, ‘30s and ‘40s rolled up their sleeves, started their own businesses, worked long hours, sacrificed, and yes, became very wealthy. (And God bless them; I didn’t realize for many years how much I owe them and how hard they worked to make my life wonderful. But that’s another story.)

     My cousin Fred, however, wasn’t a start-your-own-business kind of guy. He had another dream. To support that dream, he took a job in a shoe store in New York in the 1950’s.

     None of my relatives had a problem with the shoe store. They understood starting at the bottom. What they had a problem with was Fred’s dream: he wanted to be a (gulp) songwriter.

     What was worse, in my relatives’ opinion, was that he didn’t even want to write the music. Oh, no. Fred wanted to write just the words for these songs. Seriously.

     “You call that a career?” my aunts, uncles and grandparents would bellow. “What are you thinking? You got a good job at the shoe store; if you work hard, who knows, someday you might become the store manager. Think big, Fred!”

     I don’t know how Fred felt, hearing that ongoing vote of confidence, but he persevered anyway. He teamed up with a composer friend and they wrote their little songs. And eventually they met a young girl with a big voice who had lots of energy and ambition. She wasn’t all that pretty, but she could belt out a song.

     So all three of them worked together and eventually got their big break, with an off-Broadway show they wrote the score for and their singer friend starred in.

     Flop.

     I know; you thought it was going to end with their all showing up my relatives, right?

     My relatives took that failure as proof that they were right; Fred needed to focus on the shoe store. Fred took it differently.

     And my relatives finally did stop bugging him about his career in feet on the night he got them house seats for his new Broadway show … CABARET.

     Seriously.

     My cousin Fred was Fred Ebb, half of the musical team of Kander & Ebb, who also wrote the scores for CHICAGO, ALL THAT JAZZ, and the movie FUNNY LADY. And that energetic young girl they worked with? Her name is Liza Minnelli, and she introduced their most famous song, “New York, New York”. Start spreading the news, indeed.

     Kander & Ebb are not just a Broadway success story; they are legendary. (And I promise, all of the above is true. How can you not believe a family story?) Fred Ebb, sadly, is no longer with us. But for the purposes of this blog, what’s important to know is that by the time I was old enough to hear Fred’s story, he was already a Broadway superstar. Also, my mother had studied voice and planned to sing on the musical stage herself, and that was my first career dream as well. So I was raised with Broadway musicals—old ones, new ones, famous ones, not-so-famous ones, hits, flops. I knew their stories, I knew their stars, producers and creative teams, I knew how they came to be hits or flops. To this day, I can still sing more than a hundred show scores from memory. I’m praying someday someone invents a game show entirely about Broadway musicals. I’ll be a million-dollar winner. Guaranteed.

     So many years ago, when I sat down to write about a complex love affair I was living through and didn’t want my characters to have the same jobs or lives as we did, it was natural for me to set the story in the musical theater. I’d grown up in it; I’d actually written a musical at the age of 14 (book and lyrics), with a close friend. And yes, I still dream of writing for the musical theater. If you should really ‘write what you know’—well, it was something I knew, all right.

     The beginning of what I called for years my ‘baby novel’ was about two characters much like my love and me. I didn’t consciously think about it, but within just a few pages of starting to write, I found he had become a Broadway lyricist (no, not modeled on Fred, but I’m sure his story was at the back of my mind). I became the girl who was studying to be a singer on Broadway (which I’d once desperately wanted; funny how things change when you realize you have no talent). In real life, the guy was a novelist/screenwriter and I was working at becoming a novelist/screenwriter. It wasn’t the same thing, but on the other hand, it was.

     The novel which finally emerged from many years of writing, putting it down, and picking it up again is titled STEALING FIRE, and it’s just been published by Drake Valley Press. And the reason (apart from plain old fear and procrastination) that it hasn’t been published till now is just that I really had no idea how the story was supposed to end, and for a long time I wasn’t sure it mattered. I told myself for a long time that this was just therapy for myself during a tough period long ago, that it didn’t have any relevance for me now. It had nothing to do with the me of today.

     But it kept nagging at me. It’s hard to ignore 275 pages of passionate pleading, especially when you wrote the passionate pleas to begin with. You can’t just throw all that stuff out. But after it had languished for awhile, I took it out again when I stumbled on the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest (nothing like a contest to spur you to do something you should have done anyway). I had one week to get in my entry, and in that one week, I cut 100 pages, wrote 100 new pages (new scenes, connections between scenes) and basically finished it, though I still wanted to clean it up a little.

     I got it in with about 30 minutes to spare, panting all the way, and was thrilled when it was named a Quarter-Finalist in 2012. I promised myself I’d publish it, and when Drake Valley Press and I found each other earlier this year, all the stars seemed to align.

     STEALING FIRE is about the musical theater, yes, but it’s mostly about a love affair between unlikely soul mates, but soul mates nonetheless—people who have no business understanding each other so well, but because they do, they change each other’s lives. It’s about a love most of us only dream about, but few of us ever know. I’m grateful that what I lived through all these years ago is now down on the page for readers to experience along with me, and I hope they’ll believe such a love is possible—because I know from experience that it is.

     I think what I loved most about writing it was that since Beau was a lyricist, I got to write song lyrics again, something I hadn’t done for many years. The challenge, of course, is that I set up Beau as a really superb lyricist, far above other lyricists in the musical theater. So the lyrics I wrote for him had to be, of course, superb.

     Well… not sure I nailed that, but there are three song lyrics that Beau ‘wrote’ in the novel. Whether you’ll think they’re good or not is debatable. But wherever he is, I hope my cousin Fred is proud.

Susan Author Photo 2013HOW DO YOU RECOGNIZE YOUR SOULMATE?

In glittery 1980’s Los Angeles, Beau Kellogg, a brilliant lyricist now reduced to writing advertising jingles, yearns for one last Broadway hit to compensate for his miserable marriage and disappointing life.
Amanda Harary, a young singer out of synch with her contemporaries, dreams of appearing in Broadway musicals while she holds down a day job at a small New York hotel.
When the two meet in a late-night phone conversation over the hotel switchboard, it’s the beginning of something neither has ever found—an impossible situation that will bring them both unexpected success, untold joy and piercing heartache… until they learn that some connections, however improbable, are meant to last forever.
STEALING FIRE is, at its heart, a story for romantics everywhere, who believe in the transformative power of love.

 

   SUSAN SLOATE is the author of 20 books, including her latest, Stealing Fire (which went to #2 in its category on Amazon the day it was published), the upcoming JFK time-travel thriller Forward to Camelot: 50th Anniversary Edition (with Kevin Finn) and Realizing You (with Ron Doades), for which she invented a new genre: the self-help novel. The original 2003 edition of Forward to Camelot went to #6 on Amazon, took honors in 3 literary competitions and was optioned by a Hollywood company for film production.
     Stealing Fire has autobiographical elements, including Susan’s love for the musical theater. She is proud to be distantly related to Fred Ebb, the legendary Broadway lyricist of Cabaret, Chicago, All That Jazz, and “New York, New York”.
     Susan has also written young-adult fiction and non-fiction, including the children’s biography Ray Charles: Find Another Way!, which won the silver medal in the 2007 Children’s Moonbeam Awards. She has been a sportswriter and a screenwriter, managed two recent political campaigns and founded an author’s festival in her hometown outside Charleston, SC.

The Boy Who Stole the Leopard’s Spots by Tamar Myers Sunday, May 27 2012 

Tamar Myers is the author of two extensive mystery series set in the US, but in her newest tale, she brings her personal history and knowledge of the Belgian Congo to the forefront. Born and raised there, this is the third in her Belgian Congo series, following The Witch Doctor’s Wife (2009) and The Headhunter’s Daughter (2011). Myers parents were missionaries to a headhunting tribe who used human skulls for drinking cups. Her family was the first white one to live peacefully with the tribe. These rich and searing experiences all come to the forefront in this compelling novel.

Myers’ deft hand mingles superstitions, rites, and evil omens with an historical look at changing life in colonial Africa and the social changes of that time as colonial rule neared its end, as she moves her story moves back and forth between two eras.

In the Belgian Congo of 1927, villages thrive in an era filled with witch doctors, headhunters and cannibalism and wild names given to children, often based on their physical attributes, such as Protruding Navel. After the chief of a Bapende village slays a man-eating leopard that has terrorized his village, he returns to find his favorite wife had given birth to twins. The superstition around twins means an evil spirit has entered one of the infants–but how to tell which one? The village witch doctor would have both boys left to die after torturing them, but the chief manages to convince the tribe that the spirit of one of the twins has stolen the dead leopard’s spots, so both twins are spared, only to have one molested by a white man. When this is revealed, a young priest must take part with the tribe in eating the offender.

Fast forward decades later to 1958, and these same twins are now known as Jonathan Pimple and Chigger Mite, and become the central figures in a secret that will shock the residents of Belle Vue, a scenic town whose inhabitants are separated by much more than the bridge crossing the Kasai River that separates whites and natives.

All the clashes of culture, religion, language, superstition, and discrimination rear up in the various factions trying live together. There’s the voluptuous Colette Cabochon, born in the Congo to Belgian parents and living the life of other wealthy whites. She is bored and unfulfilled, residing with her alcoholic, abusive husband in a villa that sprawls the top of the hills. There is the Protestant missionary, Amanda Brown, whose growing attraction to the police chief, Capt. Pierre Jardin brings out the worst in Colette. Amanda  and a few of the other character’s appear in the first novels in the series.

Amanda’s pregnant servant Cripple is one of the most interesting characters, a wise, clever woman married to a failed witch doctor. There are also Roman Catholic priests, determined to save what they see as heathen souls in sometimes unorthodox ways, and one who arrives and is thrown into the rich mix is a childhood friend of Colette, a Monsignor Clemente.

Despite the growing resistance to decades of oppression by the indigenous people, tired of being used as personal servants or as workers in the diamond mine, when a murder occurs, this wild tale becomes, after all, a mystery to be solved.

This is a highly unorthodox novel that paints a vivid picture of a society far removed from what readers are used to and what they can imagine. The lush, tropical feel of the place is reverberates off the page; the characters are drawn with wit and a heavy dose of acumen relating to human nature.      

Mary Alice Monroe, author of Last Light over Carolina, says of this book: “Only an author with an intimate knowledge of the Congo–its people, landscape, and culture–could write … with such confidence and authority.” Myers experiences of living in Africa, where she grew up eating elephant, hippopotamus and monkey, make this book glow in a vivid and compelling manner that will delight fans of historical fiction who appreciate a mystery laced with a hint of romance and dry humor.

 

 

 

Carolina Girls Sunday, Mar 25 2012 

Auntie M had the good fortune to meet a lively bunch of “low country”  North and South Carolina authors a few weeks ago at the Cape Fear Crime Festival.

She came home loaded down with new books to interest readers. Here are a few you might want to check out:

Sin Creek is Susan Whitfield’s fourth mystery featuring North Carolina SBI agent Logan Hunter.

Logan is called from her bridal shower to attend the crime scene of a murdered woman, found on the nature preserve on the campus of UNC-Wilmington. Maeve Smoltz’s badly beaten, naked body has been shredded in the groin area with a razor-sharp Sawzall, her genitals found in a separate bag.

Contrary to her parents impression, the preliminary examination by the coroner shows Maeve to have been highly sexually active. A search of her room reveals pricey boots, a Prada bag and Jimmy Choo shoes she couldn’t possibly have afforded on her meager salary from the college canteen.

Maeve’s roommate, Antonella Beaujue-Dufour, sets Logan’s instincts on edge, and the girl’s evasiveness coupled with the people she hangs out with soon plunge Logan into the heart of an investigation that reveals a pornography business built on deceit and coercion. Logan manages to squeeze in her beach wedding to the love of her life, Chase Railey, also an SBI agent, with the help of her two best friends. But that doesn’t stop her from tracking down an unstable killer as the deaths mount up.

Whitfield captures coastal NC area details just right. The storyline will capture your attention, but nothing will prepare you for the dramatic ending that will irrevocably change Logan’s life.

Whitfield has done a ton of research into the chilling aspects of the porn business and how it endangers the lives of young women on college campuses.  A former high school administrator, the story was one that has lingered in her mind since hearing from one of her students how her older sister coped with college life by her lucrative sideline. Whitfield, a lifelong NC resident, also compiled recipes from mystery writers for the cookbook Killer Recipes. Its proceeds go to cancer research. Learn more about Susan and her book on www.susanwhitfieldonline.com.

 

In Dear Killer, Linda Lovely has given us a protagonist who has been sorely lacking from today’s mystery world: an attractive 52 year-old,  woman who wants a relationship and all that entails.

After retiring from military intelligence, widow Marley Clark has chosen to security on South Carolina’s low country Dear Island to keep busy.

On night patrol, she notices the pool gates have been left open at the Dolphin Club and sees a pile of clothing on a chair beside the Jacuzzi. The naked man floating in the spa has apparently drowned, but Marley still tries to resuscitate him, even as she realizes the dead man is a friend, Stew Hartwell.

It’s only when she’s waiting for help to arrive that she notices carrots, celery and whole onions bobbing in the water with him. Trying to take in the confusing scene, she sees a trail of folded towels, pointing to a message scrawled in the sand: “STEWED.”

This is only the first grizzly pun a sadistic killer will use as the killings continue. Marley soon becomes the liasion on the case with the lead investigator on the case, Deputy Braden Mann. It doesn’t hurt matters that romance sizzles between the two as the investigation ratchets up.

Marley’s independent streak but soft heart soon lead her deeper into the web of suspects on this small island. Her courage and skills will be put to the test as she and Braden are both put in jeopardy in their race to find a killer.

Sprinkled with a lively sense of humor and characters, Marley is a delightful creation and one to watch for in future offerings. Iowa native Lovely has been in the south for over thirty years and brings her readers a dose of Gullah history and a firm sense of place. You can read about Linda on her website: www.lindalovely.com.

 

Ellis Vidler’s romantic suspense Cold Comfort  starts off with a bang. She takes us to Virginia, where Claire Spencer runs her aptly-named Williamsburg Christmas shop, Mistletoe. The charming shop has been written up in Southern Living, which proves to be an important plot point down the road.

Still recovering from a broken engagement and the death of her mother, Claire’s entire world is hit with a heavy dose of violence when she’s mugged in her own driveway.

Her house and the shop are burglarized shortly after, and still sporting the stitches in her scalp from her mugger, Claire agrees to contact her assistant’s brother, Ray, who offers up the help of his own friend, Ben Riley.

Riley clearly isn’t happy to be involved, but he owes Ray a favor and reluctantly agrees to meet with Claire. When he has to keep Claire from being run over in the alley behind her shop, he starts to take the menace in her life seriously.

It soon becomes obvious that hired goons are trying to murder Claire, but neither she nor Riley can find a motive or a reason for someone to want her dead. As they try to search her history and follow clues, they also try to ignore the chemistry between them, complicating matters as they track down her killer who seems to know their movements before they make them.

Vidler moves the action around and never lets up on the chase, with characters who are vivid and well-rounded. This is an action-packed romance with a fast pace that doesn’t let up.

Even when the reader thinks they know what’s happening, Vidler manages to throw in one more twist. And when we think it’s over, it’s really not.

You can read more about Ellis and her two other novels at: www.ellisvidler.com.

 

The Dark and the Light Wednesday, May 20 2009 

Auntie M found herself running to The Emerald City in a horrendous rainstorm the other day. (If anyone can ‘run’ to Greenville, NC, 1 hr 45 mins from us.)  My goal was a new twin mattress for the hospital bed for Doc from Sam’s, inexpensive but definitely a comfort level above the one he’s on.

I listened on the way in to the offerings on NPR; after Car Talk and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, I heard a great interview with Kenneth Branagh about his role as Kurt Wallender, the Swedish detective, in the Mystery series currently playing on our PBS station.  He filled out background of his approach to the role, which I appreciated when I saw the next installment later that evening. (He also mentioned he is now working on the next three in the series for those of you have become addicted to the brooding Swede and the sepia landscape.)

But on the way home, the offerings were slim and I hit the CD button.  Now I must mention I was driving Doc’s rather long, enclosed pickup truck so I could cart the mattress home.  So it would be his choice of music I listened to.  After surfing through the six slots, he only had one filled.  Leonard Cohen filled the cab, one of Doc’s favorites.  Maybe it’s because they share a birthday that he feels a kinship with LC, but he owns every one his recordings, plus two books he’s written.  I personally think it’s because they are both depressives–ever really listen to his lyrics, lovely as they are?  I’m the eternal optimist, the glass half-full person, but Doc needs the occasional elbowing to be up. We are the truism of opposites attracting.

The first time I really became aware of LC, Doc and I were in Quebec.  We’d traveled to Montreal for a medical conference and continued to the Old City for four days of vacation afterward as it was my birthday.  It was very special because although we had been seeing each other for months, we had done so discreetly outside the hospital where we both worked.  This was our first public appearance together in front of his colleagues, many of whom had driven up the Northway from Long Island, as we had, to attend this popular convention.  I don’t think we’d really fooled anyone in our reticence, but I was warmly welcomed at the convention and we left for our time alone in Quebec on a romantic high.

I remember being entranced with the old world charm of the Chateau Frontenac and the city itself.  We ate dinner there on my birthday in their elegant restaurant while a harpist played softly (my favorite instrument and the one I wished I knew how to play).  As the waiter brought our dessert, he placed a plate in front of me with a small silver case.  Inside were a pair of tiny vintage diamond earrings Doc surprised me with–you can believe I was over the moon.

The next day, wearing my new sparklers proudly, it snowed heavily and after a walk had turned out noses to icicles, we found ourselves lingering over huge steaming bowls of chocolat chaud, talking about our future, our three sons and how they were reacting to our new relationship, and listening to the background music.  A gravel-voiced man sang in English, and as the tape repeated itself, I realized his lyrics were very poetic.  I’d only known LC as the writer of Judy Collins famous song “Suzanne,” so to hear him ‘singing’ his own songs was intriguing.  I don’t think I noticed then how depressive most of them were; I was too in love with the man beside me and the moment.

Fast forward twenty some odd (and married for 18) years later, and this CD brought back that memory.  Forget that we have had our disappointments and our losses, our heartache and our pain.  Who in a marriage of any length hasn’t?  What we still have is an enormous love and respect for each other that has weathered the storms we’ve faced together.   That afternoon of romance and a new future stretching out before us, the hopes and dreams we shared, all are caught up for me whenever I hear Leonard Cohen.  And I realized it must be that way for Doc, too, as he had chosen to keep LC in his only filled slot.

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Navigating self-publishing without a net.

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The Graveyard Shift

Being Author

Book promotion & authors BLOG

S L Hollister, author

Welcome to Leeward

Liz Loves Books

The Wonderful World of Reading

The Life of Guppy

the care and feeding of our little fish

dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp the perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

K.R. Morrison, Author

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Indie Writer and Publisher

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Writers & Writing, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

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