Saturday, May 31, 2014

An end to a very good month

First I wanted to thank the awesome bloggers who participated in the Soaps Blog Hop. I loved all of the posts, and we spiked some conversation about some of our favorite shows, past and present.

And...even though I already shared this on my social networks, just wanted everyone to know that two days ago I finished the first draft of the fifth installment in The New Pioneers, tentatively titled The Golden Boy Returns. When I wrote the first four manuscripts of the series, I did it over an intense three month period, something only possible because all four of my children were in school. Since then, I made the decision to homeschool. While I don't regret that, I was worried about being able to get another book done when I had my children underfoot.

File:Leopard tortoise.jpg
The Joy of Being a Tortoise
Well, I did, and the key to doing so was a really unromantic requirement to write a minimum of one thousand words per day, first thing in the morning. Once I buckled down to that, it took me about three months.

I still have some editing to finalize for Let's Move On and I need a little reading break, so it's probably going to be another three weeks before I get into the reeds with TGBR, but considering that it took six years to get to that point with the first two books I wrote, I think I can handle that.

Onward to June!

Friday, May 30, 2014

What I Learned From...The Ones That Didn't Make It (Soaps Blog Hop)

I'm not one of those writers that suffers from Writer's Block. My philosophy is that it's better to write something that you have to change later than to stare at a blank page. But here's the catch: you have to change it. Your first draft might have the beginnings of a fascinating story, but you have to develop it. If not, on.


While many soaps included supernatural elements in their stories on occasion, Passions went all the way from the beginning, including a witch who brought a doll to life and a family with magical powers. It also included an obsessive teenager who mooned over a local celebrity and a number of deep, dark secrets.

Ethan & Theresa
Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald and Ethan Crane, just one of the early reasons to tune in to the show
For a while, this worked, in no small part due to the chemistry between rich girl Sheridan Crane and hard working Luis Lopez-Fitzgerald (similarities to Eden and Cruz of Santa Barbara are not coincidental) and Luis' sister Theresa and Sherida's nephew Ethan. The campiness and humor also kept a number of fans glued to the screen. But Passions was that rare daytime show that went too far: mocking the elderly and disabled, making a joke of the murderous and, bizarrely, a father who unwittingly impregnated his hermaphroditic child (that is not a typo). Mean-spirited racist characters were just one more element that could have used some relief. By the time it was canceled, many were wondering what had taken the networks so long.

The lesson: don't push the envelope so far it falls off the table.


The pilot of this show started off with great promise: Lloyd Bridges played patriarch Johnny Forbes who shared a dark past with a madam played by Geraldine Page. By the end of the show, both characters were dead, but married Roger Forbes had just fallen in love with journalist Merrill Vochek. The tension between the two carried over when the show began in earnest the next day, and as we got to know his wife Ann Alden and their children Jack and Lorna, plus Merrill's fiance Doug Donovan, we knew it was only a matter of time before they would begin an affair that would ruin many lives.

Bryan Cranston Talks Hayden Panettiere Connections On LIVE!
Before Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston was the nice guy who took years to finally find the right woman
It was all great drama- but within two years Roger Forbes had died in a plane crash and Merrill had moved onto greener pastures. The show shifted focus to other members of the Alden family and added new characters, none of which were as well-fleshed out or tethered to existing characters as well as they could have been.

The show changed storylines so quickly that it, with a few exceptions, it was difficult to get a hold of who was a character worth investing in and who wasn't. The skill of the actors became essential in drawing that distinction, but the talent of the cast was wildly uneven.

The show morphed from Loving to The City after the majority of the cast was killed off by a character who had a psychotic break. However, The City had the same trouble maintaining a consistent narrative and the show was canceled within three years.

The lesson: every story needs to be about something.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What I Learned From Days of Our Lives and Santa Barbara (Soaps Blog Hop)

I grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and by the mid-Eighties these were the only two soaps on our NBC affiliate. (When the CBS and NBCs stations swapped in the Nineties I finally got to see what Another World was all about, but that's another story). In the Eighties, the good money was on Santa Barbara even if their ratings were worse than Days of Our Lives'. And yet...

Days of Our Lives

When I started watching this in the Eighties, this was a tough show to get into. The writing was very quick paced and while the show focused on the dramatic love lives of certain couples, the direction seemed to be changing constantly. Most of the time I couldn't tell who to root for and I only watched sporadically.

That all changed in the Nineties when longtime Executive Producer hired writer James E. Reilly. He's remembered by many for his controversial possession story, but he also invigorated existing families by fleshing out new generations (particularly the conniving and tormented Sami Brady) and brought in new
families by establishing ties to others in the show. He also doubled down on his villains, particularly the ruthless DiMera clan.

Alison Sweeney as Sami Brady (2013).png
Alison Sweeney as Samantha "Sami" Brady, one of the most complicated characters on daytime television
While they've had their share of super couples (Bo and Hope, Jack and Jennifer and Marlena and John) and sell romance like no other show on television, they are arguably just as well known for their rivalries, whether it's families or romantic adversaries. The prize, however, should probably go to Sami Brady and the grandmother of her children, Kate Roberts.

The lesson: strong family ties and intense relationships will keep an audience glued even when they have to suspend disbelief.

Santa Barbara

This show lasted less than fifteen years, but it had a loyal fan following. It started out focusing on four families, but by the end of the second year the action was firmly focused on the patrician Capwells, with some attention on the fallen Lockridges. The show opened with the question "who killed Channing Capwell?" years before, but the resolution of that mystery gave birth to more characters and more story lines, most famously the continuing romantic adventures of Eden Capwell and Cruz Castillo.

Almost every character was compelling (and casting Dame Judith Anderson as matriarch Minx Lockridge didn't hurt), but the story revolved around the Capwells: controlling patriarch CC, ne'er do well Mason, adventurous Eden, sweet and vulnerable Kelly and trusting Ted. The large family and the challenging dynamics were rich enough to ground the show, but even from the beginning it had trouble reining in all of its ideas. At times it seemed to suffer from an embarrassment of riches, both in cast and storylines.

Lionel and Augusta Lockridge: best dysfunctional couple ever
What kept them from achieving the ratings they deserved was a constant change at the helm, which finally affected some of the characterizations. Still, the way many fans mourn the loss of this show, that might not have been fatal if the choice had been left to them.

The lesson: taking chances on storylines can work- but only if it's seen all the way through.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What I Learned From The Bell Soaps (Soap Opera Blog Hop)

The late Bill Bell and his wife  Lee Phillip Bell created two of the most successful soaps in the world (literally), The Young and The Restless and The Bold and The Beautiful. They wrote and produced both shows, which today is almost unheard of. By 1995 their son Bradley Bell had taken over those duties for The Bold and The Beautiful.

Those soaps may be known for their glamour and, at times, camp, but Bill Bell cut his teeth on decidedly more realistic fare such as The Guiding Light, As The World Turns, Days of Our Lives and Another World.

But...let's get this out of the way now: this show used to be derided by industry insiders as, er, something that rhymes with "young" and The Useless. One of the requirements for any actor or actress on the show seems to be "gorgeous" (David Hasselhoff, Eva Longoria, Shemar Moore, Tom Selleck and Paul Walker are just some of the stars that got their start on Y&R)- but Emmy-worthy acting doesn't. None of that, though, has stopped The Young and The Restless from being the top-rated soap for over two decades. Why do people tune in? Because of the consistency of the writing. Bell's vision of where each story needed to go was unyielding, and he knew that a story was better when all of its aspects were played, not when it was simplified. Audiences were mesmerized by suspense and slow builds, knowing that the longer a story waited, the better the payoff was going to be.
Eric Braeden
Eric Braeden as Y&R's ruthless Victor Newman, a character you root for in spite of yourself

If the ratings have slipped (they are still the number one show), it's due in large part to the death of Bill Bell and the constant changing of the writers' guard. However, the legacy established by Bell earned the show enough good will that the audience has faith the show will improve.

The lesson: sticking to your guns is usually a good idea.

The Bold and The Beautiful is The Young and The Restless on steroids: everyone really is beautiful, and the build can be even slower than on The Young and The Restless. However, this show is half the length of The Young and The Restless.

Shorter episodes, or shows that run on a compressed schedule, have almost universally found that they eat not less story but more, and many find themselves running at breakneck speed and verging into storylines that can quickly run out of steam. B&B, as the show is known to its fans, has bucked that trend for the most part. They put themselves on the map by focusing on the (questionable and dysfunctional) romance between Ridge Forrester, the scion of a well-to-do fashion dynasty and Brooke Logan, the ambitious and brilliant woman from "the valley" who had to fight for every advantage since her father walked out when she was a little girl. But that one story has included plenty of material, including Brooke's marriage to Ridge's father Eric (!) who had had a college romance with her mother Beth (!!), her longtime rivalry with Ridge's powerhouse mother Stephanie and Ridge's vacillation between Brooke and the cool but needy Taylor Hayes. All characters have their fans and detractors, but the commitment to the story is what kept fans coming back for more.
Brooke Ridge Taylor
Brooke/Ridge/Taylor: the little love triangle that could

The loss of two of the original actors forced Brad Bell to shift focus away from the Forresters and onto the Logans and to expand the Spencers, a family that had fallen off the canvas after the show's first decade. It also increased the need to shift more of the drama to the next generation, particularly the rivalry between Brooke's daughter Hope and Ridge and Taylor's daughter Steffy for the love of well-meaning but callow Liam Spencer. Bell's biggest risk? Giving Brooke another love interest in the form of Bill Spencer, her sister Katie's husband. Can Bill be a genuine rival for Ridge the way Taylor was for Brooke? And how long can Ridge sustain a romance with Katie before Brooke works her magic on him again? And…

The lesson: repetition can work if history is used and not ignored.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Polliannah Got Married! (Sémya Slotin Mystery, #3) by Danielle-Claude Ngontang Mba (Cover Reveal)

Polliannah Got Married! Cover
Title: Polliannah Got Married! (Sémya Slotin Mystery, #3)
Author: Danielle - Claude Ngontang Mba
Release Date: June 16, 2014
Series: Sémya Slotin Mystery series
Genre: Romantic suspense/ international thriller
The truth this time, and nothing but the truth…

Polliannah Koch Guryev is in trouble and her boyfriend is dead.

It's not the first time amateur sleuth Sémya Slotin finds herself on the first plane to rescue her best friend, but nothing's prepared her for what she finds in Toronto. Polliannah is a widow and her late husband John Allen was a hit man for the powerful Dovos family. What did they want from her? Why is this happening? One thing they do know: their carefree life back in London is officially over.

Sémya’s long-time boyfriend Josh Heinz knows more than he lets on, but as usual he’s not telling her anything. In fact, everyone knows more, but nobody’s talking. But that never stops Sémya Slotin, Detective Extraordinaire, from finding out the truth beneath the lies…

But at what cost? Old conspiracies and secrets resurface that put them all in peril. Sémya’s worst fears about her relationship with Josh and his past are confirmed, and the rift between them may never heal.

Sémya and Polliannah’s world is falling apart. Will they be able to come out of this stronger?

Oh, and did I mention that Polliannah got married?
Note: This book is part of the series and is not a complete standalone. However, it could be enjoyed without reading Bird of Prey and The Plot Thickens first.  
Sémya stretched out her body long enough to get Josh’s attention. “Don’t you even think about it…” she said when she noticed his eyes glittering. “Thank you for the business class seats, very private.” He caressed her cheek and leaned down, “That was the whole point.” The third seat next to their pod was empty. “It feels like we’re alone here.” She stopped him only mere inches from her mouth. No distraction, even if this one was the sexiest of them all. She got distracted with the Cartier case and she didn’t pay enough attention to Polliannah and her mysterious John. She should have insisted on meeting him, a photo or even a fucking last name! Now she was on her way to Canada again after some many years. She should be packing for Cuba! A well-deserved vacation for the three of them, it would have been their reward for closing that Cartier case. “We need to talk, Heinz.” He looked at her, but said nothing. “Are you in any ways linked to this case?” He’s going to lie to me “I don’t know, Sémya. I honestly don’t know,” he told her. “Okay, let’s rewind. Does this have anything to do with your reason for being in London?” she asked then. “Sémya…” he started to say. “Don’t Sémya me! You’re obviously one bad bodyguard if you couldn’t catch the fact that Polli and I had a stalker for more than two months,” she told him. She saw the anger flashing through his eye. Well, he did let her down! She had secretly always thought that he was this man who had been there to protect her from… herself and the big bad world even though she didn’t need it. “Are you done, Slotin?” he said. “Not by a long shot if you have anything to do with all this,” she said and picked her laptop and the file Ally gave her. She made sure that the other file stayed hidden. “I’m not your bodyguard, Sémya. I never was,” he told her. “Whatever you say, Heinz,” she mumbled back. She opened her John Smith file and added what she knew about him. John Allen, Irish or Northern Irish, works for the Dovos family. She didn’t know a lot about the Dovos family, but she knew enough to discern that if they wanted Dmitri Guryev it wasn’t a good thing. She kept typing in silence for another hour, sending a few side-glances to Josh from time to time. He was reading… a book without a care in the world. “I think he targeted her because she was the single one,” she told him and closed her laptop. Polliannah was the one with the answers, all she could do now was try to relax and get some sleep. Another glass of champagne would be nice right now. “I rarely come to the store. How would he know?” he asked her, closing his book. “I bitch about you all the time to Manuel. That lad deserves a raise for all the things he’s heard his bosses say,” she told him. “I see…” Josh said. He took her by the chin, “He approached her the day you went to Paris, Sémya.” Polliannah told her about John the night she came back from visiting her mother in Paris. It was supposed to have been an easy case of stolen sketches from one fashion house to another, but it became the Johanna Cartier’s murder. “He kept taking her to her favourite restaurants and plays.” She grabbed his hand and squeezed it, “I do love the way you think, Heinz.” She really did… He kissed her, “We’ll talk after we land, I promise.” He slowly ran his hand through her hair. Sémya tried to think about all her new rules about distraction, “Come here…” “But how about Sergey? We didn’t discuss it in the store at all,” she moaned, pushing him away a little. They went to Maska for information on the Cartier case. Gary Finch, Johanna’s accomplice, was living in London under an assumed name and Maska was the place in London for fake papers. The truth was that they were completely isolated with a lot of free time until they landed in a few hours.  
Sémya Slotin Mystery series
Bird of Prey (Sémya Slotin Mystery, #1)
99¢ Sale May 26 - 27th Only at Amazon!
The Plot Thickens (Sémya Slotin Mystery, #2)
About the Author

Meet Danielle-Claude Ngontang Mba The Author, The Blogger, The Cheeky Reviewer “My life journey is like my playlist, amazingly unique but full of contradictions with surprising joys with every song...” In the past two years, while living in Canada, England and France I wrote four novels: This Could Have Been Our Song! A coulda woulda shoulda ballad... (Book one) currently available on amazon, iTunes, Kobo, Barnes and Nobles and Smashwords. The sequel This Would Have Been Our Song! Catchy tune and dancers’ tales has been in January 2014. Bird Of Prey, my first mystery romance novel has been released in October 7th, 2013 and its first sequel The Plot Thickens (a novella) in December. The second one Polliannah Got Married! will be released in June 2014 and the final one in July 2014. It won’t be the last book of the series.
love p

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Murder and Emotional Anguish- What's Not To Love? (Soap Opera Blog Hop)

Readers of this blog know that I love Caroline Fardig, author of the hilarious chick lit mystery It's Just A Little Crush. Given what happens to her characters, perhaps it's not a surprise that the lessons she took from the soaps were the importance of a good murder and, even when you keep your characters alive, putting them through some serious emotional anguish.

You know what I love most about this post? She calls out Game of Thrones for being a soap. Take that, tv snobs!

Sheridan Crane of Passions- just one of the many times she was kidnapped