How Many Books Do You Read a Month?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Reading all the Books in the World

Tonight I was at Barnes & Nobles in Dearpark to support Reality Theatre's gift wrapping fundraiser. Reality Theatre's a great organization. They chose twenty-one teenagers from all over the Chicagoland area to improvise and perform anti-drugs, anti-drinking, and anti-smoking skits at schools throughout the area. The least I could do was support the cause.

It's exciting to meander through a book store, dabbling in book ownership possibilities. Perusing the titles in a book store in search of a particular item is quite opposite from my goal-less adventure tonight. This time, I was just killing time. My wandering was a free and lucid journey through the recesses of my interest inventory.

I daydreamed down the psychology and children with special needs aisles, although my main interest was discovering new mystery authors, as well as authors with whom I had done booksignings at mystery conferences throughout the country.

In college, I set out to read as many new authors as possible, this in a library setting as my pocketbook was far less accomodating than my imagination. I'd pored through Ann Rand's the Fountain Head and Atlas Shrugged and learned about the affect of pure capitalism on society from the point of view of a female architect.

Later I moved on to Theodore Dreiser, an author who wrote fascinating, introspective novels about the impact of science, economics, and chance on our humanity. After all these years, Sister Carrie sticks out in my mind. In it, the author explored a young woman's attempt to make it in the outside world at a time when women were either homemakers or harlots.

These days, I'm lucky if I get to read two pages of a book before fading off into la-la land. I am humbled by the ambitious reading goals that held me when I was unencumbered by career or family. Yet tonight's journey through the book store refreshed my spirit. My soul sparkles in the night, as if it just returned from a star spa.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Book Revisions

Serious authors realize that a plethora of revisions are necessary before submitting their completed manuscript to a literary agent or book publisher. While some writers dread that tedious task, others like myself savor it! It's a real adrenalyn boost to discover the exact word or phrase that describes an emotional reaction, setting, or dialogue you wish to convey to your readers. 

The caveat in revision: Don't devote an inordinate amount of brain cells to "fixing" the chapters you've already written when you should be staggering towards the finish line. In my first suspense novel, the award-winning Deadly Choices ( , I revised each chapter each time I sat in front of the computer. Then I'd move ahead to my writing of the day.

By my third novel, I'd resolved to plug ahead until I was three-quarters of the way through the manuscript. What pain and guilt I felt in that process! Like being unable to scratch a series of mosquito bites because your hands are tied behind your back!

I did plug on, however. Window of Guilt, my third novel is almost completed. I'll be searching for an agent or a mid-sized publisher once my "who done it" character comes clean. Yesterday, I tried to urge her on but she led me on a different course! Manna for another blog....

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Couples Retreat Movie Offers Insights for Today's Busy Couples

Last night we went with another couple to see Couples Retreat. We were in the mood for "funny" and this movie fit the bill -- with a little couples therapy thrown in for good measure. Vince Vaughn plays the main character; a married guy who works twelve hours a day, attends his kids' sports games, and is main problem solver/money man for his friends. He has little time for his wife. His wife is into remodeling their house, as well as making sure the kids are fed and homework done before driving them to their sports activities. Although their life is a maze of activities, they don't see themselves as having marital problems.

Their friends, however, are experiencing all kinds of emotional turmoil, from extramarital affairs and divorce, to disillusionment at not being able to get pregnant. The infertile couple force their friends to sit through a Power POint presentation on an exotic Get Away that pledges to improve a couple's relationship with their spouse. The other couples initially offer up excuses as to why they can't attend, but eventually all eight men and women are stepping off the wonder boat and onto the fertile island of Bali. They assume fun and games are in their near future, but surprise, surprise. Drinking and partying are on a sister island that's meant fo singles, only. The itinerary they receive is work, work, work, spelled "Therapy."

It's difficult to imagine that such a topic could be so hysterically funny. Yet the reactions of each couple as they deal with their own personal therapist and explore the implications of their actions hits home. I don't want to give away the ending. Let it suffice to say that you'll recognize yourself or a family member or friend in at least one of these couples. Let me know what you think....

Friday, November 20, 2009

Even Book Authors Experience the Blues

There I was, re-editing my third suspense novel for the zillionth time, when I realized I didn't know where to set my third to last scene. At this point in the story, my amateur sleuth is in the hospital after being attacked. She's just been visited by her best friend as well as interviewed by a police detective. She's about to come face to face with the one person who can unlock all the answers. However she needs a new setting for this encounter-- and she can't be recouping at home.

It's natural for a writer to peer over the precipice and wonder what lies beneath. At times there are a vast array of choices in which to paint the setting, at other times not nearly enough. This was one of those other times. Thus, the frustration.

Share your suggestion for a setting. We're talking straight mystery here, not fantasy, sci fi, or romance. If I use your suggestion, I'll put you in the acknowledgement section of the book!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Falling Behind

Ever feel like you're falling behind? Bought a couple of condos as investments when economic times were good. After all, I'm a Realtor as well as a writer. I should know the score, right? Wrong. Not even the big whigs knew the true height of the cliff from which we were soon set to plunge. Yesterday's Tribune said fifty percent of homeowners have run in the other direction rather than phone their mortgage lenders to ask for refinancing assistance. Not me, baby! I picked up the phone and dialed my new lender. the person I needed to talk to wasn't available but the person who answered the phone was so courteous and caring that I went away feeling that I'd made the right decision to leave my message with him so that he might pass it on to the appropriate party. Just to make sure that, in fact, my message did reach the appropriate party, I hinted that I wouldn't be making my next mortgage payment until I spoke to that person. The young man assured me that he'd e-mail his supervisor ASAP. Now that's what I call service!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Driving to Bouchercon 2009, Indianapolis

I initially felt uncomfortable about driving the four hours from Chicago to Indianapolis but popped in an audio tape of Kill Me by Stephen White and was good to go. The idea was intriguing: if, while in good health, you could specify the physical and mental state of being that would make your life no longer worth living, plus you had all the money in the world, would you take out an "insurance policy" instructing a private company to kill you once you reached that stage? What would the implications be, not just for you but for your family and friends? The book definitely kept my interest on the way there and back. What do you think about this concept??

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween at Firefighters' Swap Meet

After several days of co-habitating with a low-intensity virus which left me tired and headachy, I got it together for my book signing at the Firefighters Swap Meet at Mundelein High School. I've been doing the Swap Meet for three years and I didn't want to break my stride. I was worried on four accounts::

1) Had the majority of EMTs and firefighters who frequent the fire fighting equipment antiques fair already purchase autographed copies of my Chicago-based suspense novel Deadly Choices?

2) Would the other vendors be decked out in Halloween costumes or those shirts with the cute little pumpkins or scary black cats? I hadn't had the time or energy to drum up a costume.

3) Should I make a touchy/feely bag with gross things to touch as folks walked by my table?

4) Was one bag of candy plus a tupperware container of homemade chocolate chip cookies enough to lay out on my table?

All that worrying took up the early part of Saturday morning. By the time I arrived at the High School, it was 10:00 a.m. -- would have been there earlier but for a McDonalds sausage biscuit and pancakes attack --and the event was scheduled to close up at 1:30 p.m.

Sure enough, there were different people here from last year and the year before. Heard some great EMT stories for my next book. The Citizens' Fire Academy polo shirt I sported produced more interest than if I'd worn a costume. None of the other vendors dressed in costume. My homemade chocolate chip cookies made a better hit than my individual chocolate bars -- in fact a 7-year-old girl waved the chocolate away and told me she was "pacing" herself for trick-or-treating later that day! She then proceeded to rearrange my Halloweend doo-dads on the table, but that's another story!

Due to lack of time, planning, and energy, I'd foregone the gross touchy/;feeling bag. Nobody was worse for wear on that one!  All in all, it just goes to show: We can't orchestrate every moment in life. Sometimes we just have to sit back and let life unfold  How was your Halloween??

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Interviewing Your Characters

Yesterday, I did a workshop at the Schaumburg Public Library entitled Interviewing Your Characters. Participants molded a protagonist -- that person being me since nobody else wanted to sit in the role-playing chair -- by brainstorming answers to my "characteristics of a protaganist" questionaire. My husband got to the event just in time to play antagonist. Since he's not the most game-loving individual, he really leaped out of his comfort zone to sit in the role-playing chair.

The protagonist turns out to be a nursing home volunteer whose grandmother, a former arts & crafts volunteer at that same location, was knocked off by either an employee or a relative of a nursing home resident. Our volunteer asks too many questions of the residents, who wind up complaining that she's being too intrusive. This results in a confrontation between the program supervisor and the volunteer.

The antagonist is a married man whom our volunteer is dating. The arrogant SOB has something to do with the deaths of the volunteer's grandmother, as well as several other residents, but we couldn't explore that relationship in a fifty-minute time frame.

It was lots of fun. Maybe you can attend one of my workshops next time!

Jennie Spallone,
author of
Deadly Choices

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Most Wonderful Birthday Weekend

Had such a great time for my birthday, which theoretically isn't until tomorrow. My husband took me to Pheasant Run Resort, wehre we ushed for Married Alive! As I've mentioned a thousand times before, get hooked up with the Saints if you love seeing plays!

Anyway, we started off the evening by eating at a fabulous chinese restaurant on North Avenue just east of downtown St. Charles. It was right next to Dominicks. Sorry, I don't recall the restaurant name, but if you really need to know, just contact me.

After dinner and the play, we went dancing at the bar next to the gift shop at the Resort. Okay, so I'm lousy at remembering names. The band was amazing; they played everything from R & B to old school rock.

Today we relaxed by the outside pool, then drove into downtown St. Charles and went for a long walk along the river. Beautiful big park there! Have a good labor Day weekend.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Review of Unglorious Bastards

Tonight my whole family went to see Unglorious Bastards at the movies. I was scared it was going to be too scary. Instead it was violent. But the plot line was terrific and kept me guessing.
As a mystery author, I kept drawing up different scenarios while I was watching. Fortunately, the writer was so creative in his or her sub-plots, there was never a dull moment. Best of all, my guesses were all wrong. I call that Glorious, Bastards!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Youngest Kid Starts High School

I'm depressed. My youngest kid just started high school. He's become so distant lately and I no longer know how to relate to him. Intellectually, I know this is part of the growing up process; growing up is growing away. I also know intellectualy that it's going to take awhile for both of us to land on a soft cushion with a new lining. But right now, in my gut, I feel as if I'm turning summersaults above the clouds with no view of the ocean below. Can anyone identify??

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cabaret Was Amazing!

Was I wrong about Cabaret! Drury Lane did an amazing job!! Nothing like the movie. Too bad I had two extra tickets that went unused, though! We and our friends started off at Maggianos where we ordered from the Light Fare family style menu. The Linguini with Clam Sauce was delicious.Brushetta (spelling?) was a little heavy for my taste buds. But the salads had just the right amount of spices. A wonderful time!!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Free Tickets to Cabaret!

I'm a Saint. Not religious or morality-wise, although I do try. We're talking here about The Saints; people who usher for plays, concerts, operas, etc. I pay $45.00 a year to register. That entitles me to usher for as many or few gigs as I desire to see throughout the year. sometimes I get free tickets, which happened for today! Six free tickets to see Cabaret at the Drury Lane in Oak Brook. While Cabaret is not one of my favorite musicals, it will still be fun. Best of all, the price is right! So I'm getting a little group of folks together and heading on out for a good time!
If you're interested in joining the Saints, let me know!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Publishing my First Suspense Novel

I've written two other suspense novels besides Deadly Choices, but it's been hell getting them published. I think that's because I wrote Deadly before starting my ADHD meds. Thus, my first novel was one mad dash to the finish line in only 211 pages! The premise was simple: A female paramedic kidnaps the baby she just delivered, then gives it to her best friend, a Born-Again Christian foster care mom, to raise as her own. Friendship, trust, betrayal. It was fascinating to explore how easily a person can tiptoe over the line of legality to reach their heart's desire.
Deadly Choices won Third Place for Mystery Fiction at the Police Writers Association Conference (currently the Public Safety Writers Association) in Las Vegas, 2006.

Fatal Reaction and Window of Guilt have been more complicated sells. Although previously represented by a Florida literary agent, I pulled both manuscripts after a handful of months because I felt they needed re-editing. We're talking 300 pages per book, here. Ideas need to be clear, concise, and there needs to be lots of red herrings -- fake leads -- in the plot line progression.

Now I'm ready to start again. Looking for an ambitious agent to get me there. I do lots of my own marketing and speak throughout the country so it shouldn't be a problem. Hopefully! And I am on my ADHD meds now!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Author Jennie's First Blog

This is my first blog ever. I want to devote it to Julia and Julie. This is the new movie in which Julie, a bored government worker, resolves to teach herself to cook by preparing each of Julia Child's 524 French cooking recipes in just 365 days, then blogging about the experience. Fascinating to contemplate whether this yummy movie will inspire us to toss our frozen pizzas in the trash and begin cooking healthy meals from scratch.

When it comes to this Movie, the word "healthy" is really an oxymoron. "Butter" is the Numero Uno word in this movie, as in "Everything tastes better when it's cooked in butter." That cooking theme doesn't do much for food lovers with clogged arteries or three-hundred pound thighs. But it sure causes one to reflect on how these French dishes would taste with low fat ingredients sauteed in butter-substitute.

I should tell you that before becoming a published suspense author, I was a freelance journalist for newspapers and magazines. I'm used to asking questions. Thus, each of my blogs will pose a question for you to think about or discuss with me or a friend. My first question is: Are you the type of person who would feel comfortable messing with the printed instructions of a recipe in order to change the nutritional value of that recipe? Or maybe you popped open a cookbook, found a tantalizing recipe, but realized that your pantry was missing one or two ingredients. Would you prepare the recipe anyway? Why or why not?