Saturday, September 24, 2011

Storytelling Instincts vs. Formulaic Expectation


As an author, I have come to trust my storytelling instincts... so much so that I allow my characters a lot of leeway to make decisions that threaten to ultimately change the landscape of my best-laid plans.

This means that sometimes I go outside of convention and buck genre rules; I'm here to write the story true to my vision and my characters and I can tell you even with my romances you may get some payoff, but I can't guarantee you a Happily Ever After.

Some of my romances are more traditional, but others involve triangles where I give the characters what they need, rather than what you may want for them. In fact, I always aspire to fill my characters' needs more than their goals, and sometimes it ain't pretty.

Apparently this could prove very problematic for me finding an audience among those who love the romance genre, as an overwhelming majority of readers prefer and demand a Happily Ever After (HEA) which often includes a major commitment between the two characters.

I have a problem with this particular demand considering sometimes this makes sense for the characters and the worlds I've created, and sometimes it just doesn't.

This was especially the case in my latest book, GROUPIE. When I started out, I aspired to write the typical "romance" where girl falls in love with her fantasy guy, they have a wild relationship full of ups and downs, and ultimately she gets her absolutely completely belief-suspending and unrealistic happy ending.

As much as we want to believe it, there is nothing realistic about an average girl getting the womanizing rock god who juggles a handful of relationships to commit and be devoted after 300 pages.

He may love our heroine... but the question is does he love her MORE than he loves himself?

As long as fame is driven by ego this is an iffy proposition at BEST. There's a reason that long-term romances and marriages are the exception rather than the rule in "Hollywood." I know these guys and I know people who have loved and been seduced by them. It's exciting and titillating, but generally it's the kind of thing you enjoy for the moment, rather than a lifetime.

The whole reason I chose this particular sandbox to play in was to dig down deep behind the weird, seductive and often completely fabricated world of celebrity. I love to turn expectation on its ear; that will prompt me to write quicker than anything.

So I set out to bring something real to the illusion, and do it in a way that everyone could connect to regardless if you've spent time following around a rock band on the road.

Odds are many of us will never get our chance to be with our celebrity crushes; but I'm guessing most of us know what it's like to be cheated on and lied to by a womanizer. I'm also guessing most of us have fallen for the one we couldn't truly have, and hung in there through imbalanced relationships.

Girls think having the celebrity would be glamorous, sexy and exciting. But there's a dark underbelly of that world where you have to share your man with the world - and a litany of other women (both sane and insane) that hate you and are almost literally gunning to take your place.

(This is the B-plot of GROUPIE, which makes it more than just a genre romance from the opening chapter... thus strict genre conventions don't necessarily apply.)

Having said that, I should probably confess that until the book was about three-quarters done I was still willing to grit my teeth and do it to give my audience what they wanted. My characters, however, had a mind of their own. I found myself going the more Danielle Steel route by torturing my heroine and putting her through a variety of near-misses to make HER grow and become the person she needed to be happy all on her own.

Like with any of us, then and only then can we truly be happy with anyone else. (It's not easy being a feminist romantic.)

Needless to say this put me in QUITE the quandary of following genre convention vs. my own storytelling instinct. I found my original plot not serving the characters as they were written, which was as honestly as I dared write. Each decision that they made had natural, organic consequences that escalated their conflict (rule #1 in dramatic storytelling.) The further down the rabbit hole I went I realized the story simply could not tie up in a happy little bow. To do so would have robbed the story of its integrity, and cheapened all the characters I came to love.

I would have to bend my own rules and undercut my own standards to Macgyver it to give it the HEA the romance genre often demands. Some feel that the absence of the HEA invalidates the whole story leading up to the end, but to me cheating the ending cheapened the story that came before it.

So I could either sell my soul (and principles) to sell a few more books and avoid harsher, more negative criticism OR... I could stay true to my vision and let the characters reveal the story for all of us.

What to do, what to do?

After some agonizing soul searching I realized I just couldn't do it. Sorry, folks. I'm always going to default to story over genre. Genre may be how I sell it to you... but story is how I sell it to myself.

Granted there are plenty of romances that do not have a true "happy" endings, but modern readers prefer to see the girl get the guy of her dreams even if he is the absolute worst thing for her in the shape he's in.

I've reprogrammed a few frogs into princes in my day, and this is not an easy task. To quote Roseanne, "You think they come out of a BOX that way?" This can take years... and to say that Vanni is a fixer-upper is putting it mildly.

But I get it that a majority of romance readers couldn't give a rip how "unrealistic" it was to complete a miraculous conversion for my romantic hero. The general understanding is that women don't pick up romance novels for realism but I will let you in on a little secret: I have more faith in my readers than that. If you make it to the end of this book then I've already done something right by giving you characters in which you could invest yourself. If you're mad at me, then I've done my job as a romance writer; you WANT the characters you love to get together.

Guess what? I want that too. But it has to make sense.

In the case of GROUPIE, the leading man is an up and coming rock star whose need for fame and all its trappings, particularly LOTS of female attention, affects how he thinks and the decisions he makes. As far as he came within the three year time frame I covered in 300 pages he still wasn't evolved enough to give the readers - or the leading lady Andy - what they wanted (and deserved.)

Simply put there was more to this story than could be told in one book. To chop it off just to hang the ending on a HEA would have been a band-aid on a gaping wound. This guy has a lot of issues (which is why he was so fun to write,) but no real impetus to change. He gets too much of a payoff with his current behavior - which is further facilitated and encouraged by his growing fame. Changing that to make him a one-woman romantic hero would have felt like an abrupt cheat to his character and their story. At least to me.

And frankly I'm the person I write these books for in the first place. I'm glad (and often ASTONISHED) that other people love these stories and characters as much as I do. But in the end, I have to do what is right for me.

I'm the parent. These are my babies. And I have final authority on how they "grow up."

(Interestingly enough those readers and consultants who have actually had relationships with celebrities and musicians were the ones who advocated the strongest against a cliche HEA. And it was with great consideration that I weighed their advice and experience when crafting the ending of this book.)

That means I deliberately crafted each part of GROUPIE, even if I ended it differently than I originally planned. This was thanks mostly to the introduction of Graham, a character wrote himself in and created UTTER CHAOS by being the kind of man Vanni is just unable at this point to be.

As a writer, and a woman, I was torn myself between TEAM VANNI and TEAM GRAHAM.

Despite this, I am very happy with the way that it ended and think it's a much stronger story because of his presence and triangle that resulted.

And I'll even tell you this: this wasn't the first or even second or third ending that I crafted for the book. When I realized the story would have to go on past the end of this book, I tried to cheat a sorta HEA ending. My early readers (editors, consultants, friends AND husband) let me know that kind of ending fell flat and rang inauthentic... which proves once again that if I can't sell it to myself I just can't sell it to anyone else either.

So I wrote the ending that made sense to me. The characters all stayed true to their character and made their decisions accordingly, especially Andy. She made conscious choices based on the integrity of her character rather than her need to be in a relationship. This kept all the strong, wonderful qualities that attracted Vanni to her in the first place intact.

Because of this, it makes any possible HEA from upcoming books starring these characters pack a stronger, more organic emotional punch.

Bottom line, I knew when I published GROUPIE that I'd make a lot of enemies from those who prize the HEA as part of their romance reading experience. It's your payoff, and I realize that depriving you of it doesn't make you happy with me. I accept the consequences of that. All I can really do is ask that you trust your storyteller, even if you aren't crazy about some of the twists and turns I may take you on.

I'll repeat Vanni's melodic plea, "Don't give up on me yet."

I have a plan. This isn't the ending... just a new beginning.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Confessions of a "Groupie" - Author Backstory

For anyone who knows me even remotely, especially my work within some celebrity fan circles, you really don't have to wonder what prompted me to write the romantic, sexy, fantasy-filled backstage romp I affectionately and appropriately named "GROUPIE."

Truthfully, this is a book that has been in the making since roughly 1979, when I first had my first celebrity crush. I was about nine years old when Cupid’s arrow hit from a console television set. That was when one of the local stations in Abilene, Texas fortuitously began playing reruns of The Monkees.

Of course, I didn’t understand the concept of a rerun back then. I wasn’t even convinced that singers weren’t actually showing up in the radio station to sing songs throughout the day. All I knew was that the guys in the band were cute and made me laugh.

One in particular looked especially young, and in my nine year old brain that meant he was accessible. (I've always had lofty aspirations.) He had a baby face and deep, brown eyes and an accent completely foreign to my West Texas ears.

I had fallen like a brick for Davy Jones.

Imagine my devastation when I learned that he was actually about twenty years older than I originally thought. This, in my mind, meant he was no longer accessible. Not that he was a celebrity, not that he wasn’t anywhere remotely close to Texas, but that he was twenty years older and married.

These were hard and fast rules when I was nine years old. Needless to say, I was crushed.

Eventually I would move on thanks to a timely Christmas gift from my parents. My Bert & Ernie AM/FM radio allowed me the freedom to discover my own music. Because my nearest sibling was a decade older than I was, I spent most of my childhood as an “only child” – one that would have to come up with creative ways to pass the time.

Most of this I did in my bedroom, where the burgeoning storyteller began to take shape courtesy of my Fisher Price Little People and my growing population of Barbie dolls. My constant companion was my radio, and 1979 was probably my favorite year in music. It was new, it was exciting and most of all it was completely different than the Country & Western stuff my parents loved.

I sold my soul to rock and roll.

One of my favorite songs that year was a tune called “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’” by Journey. I loved the more primal beat, even though I was much too young to understand the overtones of the lyrics. It took me a good decade to understand the barrage of “nah nah nah nah nahs” at the end of the track were virtually the singer saying, “Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah” to a cheating ex.

At the time I just loved the beat of the song and the pure vocal of the lead singer. I would belt it out with vigor every time it played on the radio.

A couple of years later I was staying up late waiting for my mom to come home from work, and much to my surprise (and delight) I found out Journey would perform said hit on a rerun of “The Midnight Special.” I perched in front of the TV in my jammies and waited with bated breath.

When I first laid eyes on the lead singer, I didn’t know quite what to think. He had long dark hair, something I wasn’t used to seeing around my military town. He had a prominent profile and a face full of character, an ethnicity I found exotic and strange. From the way he dressed to how he sang, I really didn’t know what to make of him. Then he went down into the first row of the crowd and sang directly to one of the girls, which tattooed itself immediately onto my 11-year-old brain and even eventually made its way into “Groupie.”

I still loved the song and couldn’t really get the lead singer out of my head, even though my initial response wasn’t the starry eyed infatuation I felt for Davy Jones.

I continued as a fan of the music mostly, but nothing could prepare me for that one summer night in 1983 when I would fall completely and hopelessly in love with a man I’d never met.

Back in the early 80s my mom was raising me as a single parent, and as such didn’t see much need for things like cable. I may have wanted my MTV like any other self-respecting teen of the decade, but I settled for Friday Night Videos.

When I saw that a Journey video for “Faithfully” was coming on, I remembered with a bit of a rush about the last time I had seen the band perform. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the lead singer’s hair was shorter and he now sported a mustache.

I never cared for mustaches for traumatic personal reasons, so I found the new look a bit jarring. Eventually he ditched the 'stache during the course of the video, and I found myself heave a sigh of relief that he looked more like the guy I remembered.

I listened as he sang about an undying, faithful love and after the second verse he turned to face the camera as he sang. A breeze lifted a tendril of his dark hair away from his face and his potent eyes stared deep into my soul as he sang, “I’m forever yours, faithfully.”

I was a goner. My heart fell down somewhere near my feet and I think for a brief second there I forgot to breathe. Forget getting struck by Cupid’s arrow – I had been leveled by a bolt of lightning. Within a week I had the Frontiers album in my hand and I showed my mom the man I knew I was going to marry.

These were big words for a thirteen year old. Like I said... lofty aspirations.

Over the course of my teen years Steve Perry would come to define my ideal. I was kissing a lot of frogs in those days, so it was just easier to put all my hopelessly romantic fantasies onto a person safely at arm’s length.

He was a safe outlet to love until I met my first husband and fell in love “for real” when I was about 18.

But I can still feel my heart soar whenever I hear Steve sing, and I know down deep that this celebrity crush actually helped get me through some very painful and difficult years as an outcast, with nowhere to belong and no one to choose me.

I’m still a fan, although I’ve given up on the marrying part. (Those who know me did tease me about my second husband being a “Steve” though.)

(Steve did, however, heavily influence a short story/novella called San Francisco Serenade. I guess I still have those lofty aspirations, I just leave them to my fictional characters these days.)

Many years later I would meet another celebrity who would have the same sort of impact in a more significant way. It started rather innocently while watching VH1 in 2002, when I caught a series that featured various celebrities waxing nostalgic about the 1980s. Some of the celebrities I knew, but one in particular, the one that stood out the most, I had never seen before.

To my surprise, I found his comments were the funniest. It seemed like my best friend of 20-something years and my second husband were all rolled up into one cute, comedic - dare I say - accessible package.

I found myself looking forward to comments from actor/comedian Hal Sparks the most, and over the course of the next few years (and several “I Love the” series) I became sort of what you would call a semi-fan. I was pleasantly surprised when he showed up in Spider-man 2, and I never purposely sought out "Dude, Where's My Car" or "Queer as Folk." But it was undeniable... each time I saw him I liked him a little bit more. It took me a year or so to get on the computer and find information about him. At this time I was still fairly content to keep celebrities behind the velvet rope. In 1998 I had attempted to meet a couple of my teen idols and was treated very poorly by one of the members of a band I had loved throughout my adolescent years. This rejection was directly due to my larger size, and this individual made sure I knew that he wanted nothing to do with me because of it.

When my friend tried to get a picture of me and this person, he made sure he grabbed a random stranger passing by to put right in the middle of us so he wouldn’t have stand next to me. (Look for me to get even with this individual in the next book. I think I shall name him.... NEAL.*)

(*Edited 2012 to clarify, I ended up naming him Leo. He's a dickhead based on a douche bag with absolutely no redeeming value. Kind of like the fucko who inspired him. But I'm not bitter. *Anymore.* Muahaha.)

Needless to say I was ready to keep all the celebrities I *really* liked under glass so I wouldn’t risk this type of painful rejection in the future. I never went to see Davy Jones in concert, I didn't stalk Steve Perry (much) and I was content just to catch Hal's appearances on random VH1 specials.

The more I read about Hal, however, the more I thought about going to one of his comedy shows. Everyone who had gone to see him had nothing but glowing comments about how wonderfully he treated his fans. Still, I was unsure and stayed mainly on the fringe of the fandom. I didn’t even get involved with individuals on the message boards because whenever I tried that in the past it always ended poorly.

I had yet to learn that some groupies and fans are a breed all their own.

So I missed out on things like Hal’s Sparksvision, where about 80 of his fans convened on Los Angeles to enjoy a movie premiere, a comedy show and a chance to see his band play live.

I was way too gun-shy to even think about participating in such an event in September of 2004.

But a mere few months later I would get another big surprise. In November, just days before my birthday, I opened up my email inbox to find an email from Hal himself. Initially I thought it was an auto-reply to let me know I had successfully joined the mailing list for his website. But when I opened it, it read, “A little birdy, and by little birdy I mean that big birdy you’re married to, said that it was your birthday!” He wished me a happy birthday and a great year and I sat thunderstruck at my computer desk that this person I hadn’t even tried to meet could reach out to contact me, this (figuratively speaking) little nobody from small town Texas.

I would come later to learn that was just the kind of guy Hal was. Even at his Sparksvision event he would go seek out those fans too shy to meet him so he could connect with them in some way.

I met Hal for the first time eight months later, when I made sort of a pilgrimage to see one of his comedy shows in San Francisco. I was still nervous that I would be rejected, especially since Hal is a good looking guy who makes no bones about appreciating good looking women. This is an equation that has NEVER really worked out in my favor. So I even shied away from going up to meet him in between the two comedy shows because I thought just seeing him perform in person was enough to make me happy.

Eventually, thanks mostly to the two-drink minimum (times 2,) I was able to go up and meet him for the first time. When he looked at me I didn’t feel rejected, if anything I felt completely “seen” for the first time ever. He has these dark, soulful eyes that reach right down into your core and immediately put you at ease. I nervously teased that I had driven through a tornado to meet him (true story) and therefore I deserved a hug. He gave me one freely, and not one of those wimpy side hugs but a full body head-to-toe hug.

Then he pulled me close for a picture, where he smiled big as though he were happy to do it, and made sure to give me another hug before I left.

I was hooked from that moment on. He didn't just treat me well as a fan, he made me feel valued as a person. There is NO ONE I've ever seen that has this much consideration for his fans, who will stand in line for two hours straight and still be as genuine with the last of the group as he was with the first.

This affirmation came at a point when I didn't feel that from a lot of people, particularly men, and helped me grow in confidence and self-esteem. It even gave me the courage to chase after yet another idol who had the same kind of impact on me that Steve Perry once did, turning me into a screaming teenager whenever he looked into the camera.

If anyone knew me from those days, you probably get a good idea who inspired Vanni – right down to the similar-sounding nickname.


Imagine that kind of swagger and intensity and you have Vanni, except he's Italian instead of Greek. (And of course Vanni likes those fat bottomed girls, which makes us love him even more. ;) )

Because of how well Hal had treated me I jumped headlong into promoting him and even getting involved in the fandom, which were filled with more normal people than I had found in fandoms previously. I figured that like attracts like, and the people that Hal attracted were just at a more evolved state as human beings.

Of course they weren’t ALL that way, and over the years I’ve spent in Hal’s group of fans I’ve seen quite a cast of characters come through.

And it is through all of these experiences that I finally decided to write a story from the fan point of view of that fantasy relationship with her favorite rock star.

I think this is a common fantasy that many of the women I’ve known have had a time or two. It was fascinating to write it from the perspective as the groupie who gets the star because I myself have never experienced this phenomenon, nor do I think I ever would even if I were single. The fantasy is a fantasy because real life can never creep in with all its disappointments and heartbreak.

The groupie experience from what I’ve seen is quite similar to the experiences I’ve had as the “fat girl,” who had the good looking guy give her attention behind closed doors but never had the opportunity to be the gal on his arm, and it is that emotional integrity I brought to the book.

There may be those who think that this book is about any one person in particular, but this is not the case. Vanni is a mix of what attracted me to my idols, with my own spin on what I would have wanted from them if I had pursued anything. The groupies, including Andy herself, were more a combination of the people I’ve met and known throughout the years, but most of the people present were basically enhanced for effect within the story. This includes Talia, the stalker-groupie, who encompasses all the negative things I’ve seen regarding some of the more aggressive (and questionably unhinged) folks who didn’t quite recognize or understand boundaries.

Essentially I took everything I’ve seen and learned and turned it up to “11.”

Hence the dedication of the book, for anyone who sees themselves in these characters and thinks that I have used them or their likenesses for the story. There are only three people in the book based on real people, and those people were acknowledged with special thanks for all their help both with the story and with research.

That means if I didn’t specifically tell you a character was based on you, it wasn’t. This book wasn’t a tell-all vindictive piece. It was a book of fiction based on fantasy, with a plot crafted for effect.

(But I’m willing to wager I’ll still be on several people’s shit list regardless of this disclaimer, which kind of makes this fantasy world within my book so much fun to twist around for my own purposes. ;) )

Now, for you readers who want to throttle me right now because of how the book ends, all I can say is hold off burning me in effigy until after the trilogy is complete with “Rock Star” and "Mogul." The “journey” is far from over, and could not be summed up in one book.

There’s more sex, love, angst and scandal to come, and then I'll do another blog to tell you what inspired the ultimate direction of this saga. Until then, enjoy the fantasy. I know I sure did.

Monday, September 5, 2011

"Dirty Little Secrets" backstory. An author insight.

I conceived the idea for Dirty Little Secrets way back in 2002. It was the second screenplay I endeavored to write and I think I wrote it in about a week; the last 40 pages I wrote in one complete stretch. It changed somewhat over the years, but never more than in the novel version. In 2009 I decided to make it into a book via my annual NaNoWriMo writing marathon, and because I had the room to grow and explore some of the things I didn’t in the script I went into some deeper history to what made my characters tick. I also got to add a ghost, which is always fun. I personally like learning more about the characters and story by digging a little deeper. We writers like to think we can “control” the worlds we create but sometimes characters have a mind of their own.

This was never more true than with Mike, the antagonist of Dirty Little Secrets. Originally the story was going to be a glimpse inside what it would be like to grow up gay in an extremist religious household, and how denying oneself could lead to self-destruction. My protagonist, Grace, was 19 years old and pretty far gone in all kinds of addictive behavior, using her body to get the slow poison meant to kill her.

That’s all I had, really, when I set out to write. These were the pre-outline days when I just couldn’t wait to jump right into a story. I had a vague idea where I was going, but no real “plot” to speak of.

I was ready to let the story reveal itself to me.

A few pages in, Steven told me that she needed someone in her world she could talk to. As the story starts, Grace is fairly isolated, and he felt that giving her someone – a friend or someone she could commiserate with – would be a good thing for her and for the story.

I agreed and I write the introductory scene for Mike, who – the minute I hit the return key to give him his first lines of dialogue – turned sinister within the first few words he spoke. Essentially, Mike becomes the physical embodiment of all the ways she was abusing herself.

That piece of the puzzle connected to the major plot point, where Grace causes the accident that would kill Mike’s pregnant wife – that would literally blow up the small, conservative town of Jonston, Texas with all the dirty little secrets everyone had been keeping.

No one was safe from the literary shrapnel that came from that first, fortuitous meeting of a character I never knew was going to be a part of the story.

I love it when stuff clicks like that.

Eventually I did give Grace a friend, a person I originally meant for her to fall in love with and discover her own personal truth. But as it turns out to write Grace as gay actually didn’t feel authentic to the character. I allowed her to find love, but it was with the person she always needed to love… herself.

I put Grace *through it* in DLS. This is not a light read by any stretch. It tackles pretty much every dark secret one could have in a southern town that prides itself on spiritual superiority. It was a bit of a an odyssey for me as well, given that I grew up the product of sexual abuse at a young age, similar to Grace. There’s an unspoken shame that comes from the condemnation of stout religious fundamentalism. I was bad. I was forsaken by God and thus had no real purpose or worth after being “tainted” or “stained.”

I knew a lot about Grace’s journey, except in place of drugs I used sex and food.

The similarity of her name, Grace McKinney, and my maiden name, Ginger McCandless, struck me only after I wrote it.

And it makes the dramatic ending of the story that much harder for me to read. It’s no wonder I regurgitated it all out in a 40 page writing frenzy. It came from a pretty dark place.

As a matter of fact, the original story was way, way more depressing. But a fellow writer, who told me after he read it that it was an important read even though he’d have to have a fifth of whiskey to read it, immediately pleaded Grace’s cause that I had to change the ending. I had to keep it her story all the way through to the end.

I agreed to a point – but the fact was it wasn’t just her story. The story is equally her father’s, and he, in fact, needed to change the most through the story.

So I kept what I thought was a necessary, albeit sad/shocking/depressing/crushing climax of the story… but I did change direction in certain areas that I hope to be a more satisfactory ending for those who fell in love with Grace throughout her painful journey.

Above all it’s a journey of hope – of rebirth… of salvation and self-realization.

In that way it is very fitting that it is my debut novel.

Enter to win one of five "Dirty Little Secrets" paperbacks through Goodreads, contest ends September 30.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Piers Morgan vs. Steven Retchless on AGT

On that "other" talent show "America's Got Talent," caustic Simon Cowell wannabe Piers Morgan prides himself as being the one to tell it straight.

In the case of Steven Retchless, the male pole dancer, he prefers to keep it VERY straight.

Ever since Steven first auditioned (in heels, no less) Piers has buzzed EACH and EVERY performance (aside from the Vegas one, which he couldn't), all the way to the semi-finals. He has maintained that Vegas is no place for a male pole dancing act (which is kind of like saying Vegas is no place for a slot machine or shrimp cocktail.) More truthfully Piers himself wouldn't want to go see a male pole dancer, so therefore none of us would pay the money to go see it.

Speak for yourself, dude. People who don't mind looking at the beautiful lines of a fit male body kinda prefer it. When I do my armchair judging for AGT my main criteria is if I would pay $50-100 a ticket to see it in Vegas.

I'd pay to see Steven over some of the acts that have already made it through to the top 10, and *easily* over about eight of the twelve featured tonight.

Let's break this down a bit. Though pole dancing is traditionally considered more seedy and X-rated, what Steven does on the pole is not inherently sexual. It does demonstrate the art of the entire male body, but what he does has more to do with strength, poise, grace, and agility. In truth what he does on that pole is nothing short of poetry written by the body. He has taken what the male form can do and stretched it to every conceivable limit, and it is a beautiful, amazing thing.

BUT... Piers has decided that it isn't appropriate and there's no place for it.

This is a position he maintains even though Steven has been voted through to the semi-final around (and I hope on to the top 10.)

Here's my problem with his argument: It's bullshit.

He says that he buzzed Steven (even though the performance was flawless) because it has no chance to be a million-dollar act.


He doesn't buzz The Kinetic King (another favorite but let's be honest... he has 0 chance to win,) he doesn't buzz Snap Boogie even though he claimed to hate everything about the act and then he gives a standing ovation to Anna Graceman, who butchered "Home Sweet Home."

For the record, THIS is how you vocally blow apart that song: Carrie Underwood

Compare that to this version and you can clearly see how many times she missed notes, particularly in her lower register: Anna Graceman

(For the record I like Anna and have been a fan from the beginning, but if you're going to claim that you're keeping it real, by God... keep it real.)

So why, then, would Piers opt to buzz Steven each and every performance? The excuse that it couldn't be win or be an act in Vegas - not consistent. The argument there are no clubs or audiences for male pole dancing - bald-faced lie, as evidenced by the fact that is what Steven does FOR A LIVING. You can't support yourself with your talent unless there is an audience, and where BETTER in this country to do it than in the Anything Goes atmosphere of Las Vegas?

What seems far more likely to me, at least from where I'm standing, is that the act makes him uncomfortable. If that was a female pole dancer, doing the same kind of act and the same kinds of stunts, would he buzz her?

I don't think so.

For your consideration, I present exhibit A:

The very first time we saw Steven, note that Piers buzzed him when he spread his legs:

If he performed like this:

Piers' head might actually explode.

I think that seeing the male form in such an open and raw way challenges what he thinks about sensuality. In other words... it may be stirring the little Morgan, and that's why he has decided to be consistently critical of an act that by all his other standards is not only up to par but exceeds them.

He hasn't fallen, he doesn't mess up the routine, he accomplishes great feats of strength and agility AND he's doing something completely original. So that means the reason Piers continues to buzz him when he lets other contestants off the hook is completely personal, rather than objective.

And because of that, Piers Morgan has officially lost any credibility when it comes to objectively judging the acts on AGT.

Which is a shame, because that's really the only credibility he had left.

Being pissy to a talented dancer just because he makes you feel oogie doesn't make you a hardass.

It just makes you sound like a frustrated Queen who lost the keys to her closet.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fright Night 2011

For as much as I feared vampires throughout my teen years (thank you ever so much Stephen King,) the original Fright Night remains a not-so-guilty 80s pleasure.

Sure it's cheesy now but that was the essence of 80s horror. So I didn't know how I would feel about a Fright Night makeover - UNTIL I saw who was cast.

Colin Farrell as Jerry, the next door neighbor quite literally from hell? My doctor, David Tennant, as the cheesy, cowardly Peter Vincent?

I would have bought my ticket last year when I first heard it was filming if I could have.

Needless to say, even though I am one of those frustrated screenwriters who grits their teeth at every remake that clutters the cinema, I was looking forward to this movie.

The good news is it was money and time well spent.

The bad news is I have to wait until tomorrow to watch it again.

Jerry is a vampire we haven't seen much since the Twilightification of the vampire mythology. He's not brooding. He doesn't sparkle. He's a cold blooded killer who rather likes what he does to the point he'll keep his victims for days on end to draw out their deaths for his own amusement.

He also has no patience for a dead guy. There is no slow build to this movie, as Jerry has a substantial appetite that doesn't discriminate. He doesn't just separate the weak from the pack and then strike, he'll take down entire families at a time. When he catches the scent of Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin,) his clueless mother (Toni Collette,) and his too-hot-for-a-nerd girlfriend (Imogen Poots,) it doesn't take him long to make his evil intentions known. The movie only lasts the span of mere days, which means the stakes have to raise exponentially by each ominous setting of the sun.

Farrell literally sinks his teeth into his role as super nasty Jerry, who is long on menace and short on seduction. This separates him from Chris Sarandon, who originated the role in 1985. He brings a bad boy swagger to the role as an unapologetic beast with zero humanity. This makes him a very scary guy, so much so that I, who normally likes to see that CF bad boy persona, wanted to look away and cringe my way out of my seat every time he was on screen.

Unlike William Ragsdale before him, Anton Yelchin has a lot more moxy when it comes to immediately doing something about the vampire threat in his neighborhood. Turns out there appears to be a beneficial side effect to LARPing in that it prepares you in dealing with the undead. Unless, of course, you're Ed (Evil Ed from the original, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse in the remake.)

It's not easy being a geek.

There are some surprises despite the rather well-tread vampire lore, one of the more surprising surprises was how our mild-mannered 10th Doctor turned into a foul-mouth, cowardly douchebag. But it's David Tennant, so there's still a lot to love, not the least of which he screams my name no less than THREE times. (I COUNTED.)

(Although being Ginger on screen doesn't necessarily work out much to HER advantage...)

My only complaint was that some of the storytelling felt a little convenient, and those things I originally praised about the new movie (lack of human servant for Jerry, no need for back story for the connection between Jerry and Amy) ended up an unnecessary plot point which made the story more hokey than it had to be. I cringed for the wrong reasons during Peter Vincent's "reveal". But even that quibble is minor. It certainly wasn't a deal breaker by any stretch because HELLO... it's David Tennant.**

**Hubby says that the plot point didn't seem convenient to him and actually helped explain the Peter Vincent character. I still think it doesn't fit the Jerry character, hence how inorganic it came across to me.**

"Fright Night" doesn't break any real ground for a more traditional vampire movie, but it's a helluva lot of fun. In that respect it is much like the first Fright Night, with a lot more "Fright" for your buck.

Four out of Five stars.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Speak" - a novel by Laurie Halse Anderson

"Speak" tells the story of a young teenager who teeters on the precipice of that tenth circle of hell - High School - as the one thing no teenager entering high school wants to be: a social pariah. The whole unfortunate chain of events that ripped Melinda from her comfortable circle of friends began at a end-of-summer party that started with booze, and ended with a call to the police.

Melinda makes the 9-1-1 call that would bust up the festivities, but it was the last cry for help this traumatized girl would make over the next nine months. In fact, she stops speaking almost entirely over course of the school year, treacherous terrain she navigates as the weirdo loner. There are no friends left who would dare speak to the snitch who broke up the party, which makes the natural dissolution of middle school friendships much more painful.

Instead Melinda is trapped in her own head, where she is free to say, often with acerbic wit and wry observations, what her mouth can no longer say. It is there we meander through the tightly woven recesses of her mind to untangle what has rendered our heroine mute.

The book hit my radar during "Banned Books Week." This YA title tackles very adult material in the inciting incident that propels Melinda onto her journey to rediscover her voice. This seems to upset some folks who would prefer to whitewash information handed to impressionable teenagers, to reinforce this facade that nothing bad can happen to you until you hit that magical birthday that makes you old enough to deal with your circumstances.

If only we could so easily "ban" the behavior that facilitates the need for such a book.

When I was in ninth grade, much like Melinda, I found my voice right in front of my speech class, where I acknowledged that I was a survivor of rape. My season of silence lasted nine years before I finally just let it erupt out of my soul like a painful volcano. It was a moment that shocked the entire class into silence, because I'm sure many in the class could never have expected that one of their classmates withheld such a painful secret.

Maybe many believed the facade that such a thing could never touch the sweet sanctity of childhood. They were fortunate enough that such a concept was blissfully foreign to their own particular experience.

What I didn't expect were the girls who came to me later in private to tell me their own stories - stories of incest and rape and the same binding shame that had kept us all silent until one brave voice decided to speak up.

We were all in this bubble of silence, thinking we were alone, never knowing we were part of a growing, muted society who didn't get the memo such things just weren't supposed to happen to young kids.

That's the real facade.

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 44% of sexual assault survivors are under the age of 18. More than that, "girls ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault."

When you factor in that 60% of rapes go unreported, that means that there are teenagers out there struck just as mute as "Speak's" heroine. These are victims locked deep in the recesses of their own mind, told by those whom they trust that childhood is a safe place where these things are simply not up for discussion.

In a shocking demonstration of perfect irony, those who would ban such a book indeed silence a character who fought so hard and so bravely to find her voice... the only thing that would help her heal.

I have to admit, I made the same mistake. Though my novel, Dirty Little Secrets, features a similar painful coming-of-age for a 19-year-old girl, I did not market my book to the YA market. I felt the subject matter too dark, too traumatic. But in all fairness I did wallow a bit deeper in the mud than Anderson, whose book balanced a 13-year-old (PG rated) point of view with very adult subject matter.

My book is more in-your-face and not quite as delicately self-censored. If my book was banned, I'd understand.

"Speak" being banned makes no sense to me.

The story itself is well-crafted and a very quick read (I finished it in a matter of hours.) Anderson gives you enough detail to understand the pain and isolation without making it too sensationalistic. "The Event" is delivered over a couple of paragraphs, like ripping the band-aid off of a healing wound. It isn't explicit, just very matter-of-fact.

She uses imagery like the seasons turning and visuals like seeds and trees to demonstrate growth and the passage from one growth period to another. I would have preferred to see the turning point at the end of the book more foreshadowed as to how she finally resolves her silence in a very dramatic, yet almost non-organic way. It was satisfying, but there was that very slight kernel of non-plausibility that stole some of its thunder.

It's the only real complaint I could muster for this important piece of work, which should never be silenced to "protect" our kids.

To really protect your kids, give them a safe haven where all discussion is allowed and welcomed.

Always, always, ALWAYS give them the permission to speak.

**** - highly recommend.

Friday, June 17, 2011

"The Green Lantern"

2011 promises to be the Year of the Comic Book Movie, AKA The Year The Coolest Wife Ever Will Be Dragged to the Movies for Stuff She May Or May Not Like Just To Make Her Fanboy Husband Happy.

So far we've had "Thor", "The Green Lantern" and "X-Men First Class". Still to come: "Captain America" and "Cowboys vs. Aliens". Aside from "X-Men First Class", I plan to see all of them. As the wife of a Fanboy Geek, it is my solemn duty to attend such movies in support of my loving husband's dorkdom, and generally I have a good time doing so, though there have been some real stinkers along the way.

Amidst the rubble arise such gems as "Iron Man", "Spider-Man" and even "The Dark Knight". Even "Hellboy II's" nod to Barry Manilow gave me a geeky fangirl moment of my own.

Generally my enjoyment of said popcorn fare depends on two things: It's either got to take the silliness of the genre very tongue-in-cheek, or seriously enough to make me buy the outrageous concept.

This means the hero has to be irreverent and fun, or the villain has to be extremely dark and maniacal, i.e. "Iron Man" and "The Dark Knight."

Gauging my comic book movie criteria above on the trailer for "The Green Lantern," I was generally excited about opening night.

The character of Hal Jordan promised to be irreverent, cocky and funny, and let's face it...Ryan Reynolds is not hard on the eyes. He's also got a charming quality about him that makes him highly watchable, so allowing him to carry the movie was a-okay with me.

Just give him the opportunity to take his shirt off and I'll be there opening night... gar-on-teed.

I realize going into these movies that the plots are going to be absurd, and the story will depend more on special effects rather than character development. Why critics continue to bash these popcorn movies for being anything other than this is beyond me.

The good news is that "The Green Lantern" is a good time. The plot is a little cluttered and scattered, and the character development plays second fiddle to the heavy-handed theme of "Will vs. Fear," but the audience I shared this midnight showing with didn't seem to mind much. They laughed at all the right spots, and there were no grumblings of discontentment as the credits rolled. Most even stayed through the credits for the special tag at the end (which made absolutely no sense in the context of the story BUT was a toss to the diehard fans and sets it up for a sequel.)

Yes, it was heavy on the exposition - much like "Thor" before it. I suppose it's hard to get around given that we're covering decades worth of information to get the non-geekboy audience members on the same page.

Still, it's a little boring and wish we could find a better way to do it as it definitely treads on the "show don't tell" rule. Had I been writing it I would have been tempted to keep the otherworldly stuff till Act II just to juxtaposition this new information with Hal's character development. I think it would have been more spectacular that way, but unfortunately I was not one of the five or six writers they had tossing spices in the opinion was not a factor.

(But to its credit, "The Green Lantern" doesn't do an unsuccessful bait-and-switch at the beginning like "Thor," which tried to cash on in Jon Favreau's ingenius "Iron Man" scene sequencing but failed miserably.)

Hal Jordan is a lot more interesting as a character than Thor as well - and certainly experiences no shortage of wiseass quips to keep the audience entertained as he stumbles through poorly defined character development. Frankly I don't buy that the thing standing between Jordan and his duty as a Green Lantern is fear. He's far too reckless (as demonstrated in the opening scene where he has a dogfight with unarmed jets) to be that compromised by fear. None of his interactions with other characters were fleshed out enough to support this theory, either.

Another character who suffers from a lack of focus and development was Hector Hammond, as played by Peter Sarsgaard. From the absolute glee he derives out of portraying this character you know immediately something big is going to happen - and it does - but his character suffers from a lack of foreshadowing that would have given the Big Event a little more punch.

And speaking of punch...

There are some definite cringe-worthy cheese moments throughout the story. The minute the narrator attempted to explain that green was the color of will I turned to my husband with a, "You gotta be shittin' me, right?" woeful glance of wifely tolerance. No offense to the fans out there but the color thing was a big cheese sticking point for me, as were some of Hal's constructs* when trying to fight the bad guys... i.e. the big green fist used to knock out a bad guy.

I mean, really?

(I know it's a comic book thing like "HULK SMASH" but ooooboy. Serve me up some wine to go with that big ol' block of cheese.)

*For those who don't know, the ring gives the Green Lantern power to create anything from his imagination to use in battle to defend the universe from evil. So as you can see, criticizing such a movie for being cheesy would be like getting mad because a camel's back is all lumpy.

It's just really hard to be mad at this movie for not being more than it was set up by its source material to be. In the end, despite it's flaws, I had a good time. Some movies are just meant to entertain, and this hit that mark for me.

Audiences are going to like it more than critics, but I'm okay with that... especially when the steaming pile of movie mush that is "Superman Returns" rates at more than 70% on Rotten Tomatoes where my own not-so-guilty pleasure "Pirates of the Caribbean" has an ugly green splat next to its name.

I know what I like.

And I liked the The Green Lantern.

It didn't earn the five-star review I gave "Iron Man" - but I'd watch GL again before "Thor."

It ranks up there with "The Incredible Hulk" as pleasantly re-watchable, and a movie ticket not wasted.

Plus it has Ryan Reynolds without a shirt.

What else could a non-geekboy dutiful wife want?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

"My Immortal" - the new Kindle release from Ginger Voight

“If you love him, you will do it.”

These vague words had haunted reporter Adele Lumas for nearly as long as she could remember, in fractured dreams where she was pursued by an unknown but threatening entity. She believed the disturbing phenomenon a by-product of her mental ailments, such as schizophrenia, where hushed voices plagued her waking life as much as the monsters in her dreams tormented her.

This, compounded with the devastating events surrounding her origin, kept Adele in a lonely cocoon where she had but one purpose: she tenaciously pursued every human monster that dared rear its head in her small Massachusetts town.

Things take a turn for the worse when Adele begins to have different dreams, where she is no longer the hunted. Instead she stalks children in a relentless pursuit of blood. As disturbing as these dreams were, nothing could have prepared Adele for the shocking discovery that the victims in her dreams were real children being systematically hunted by a mysterious serial killer who would drain their tiny bodies of blood, and then steal them from the grave.

Her sanity is ultimately questioned when she encounters the killer face to face and she realizes the killer isn’t human at all. It is a vampire… and it is getting much too close for comfort by attacking those who are close to her.

As Adele struggles to maintain her perspective in this impossible situation, a beautiful man enters her life and makes her feel anything but odd or weird. He makes her feel beautiful, desired… loved. It was the first such time in her life where she even entertained the idea of romance, mostly because there is a connection to this man she cannot explain. Even more disconcerting, it is almost impossible to resist – as though she and this stranger are tied together by an unbreakable bond.

Adele begins to piece together the puzzle, which suggests she has a connection to the vampire in ways she could have never imagined. Painful revelations force her to reckon with the ominous request of her dreams. What is she willing to do for love?

And who is she willing to sacrifice?

“My Immortal” is a paranormal romance that blends vampire lore with reincarnation, which explores the idea of soul mates and sacrifice. Written by author Ginger Voight, “Love Plus One,” “Under Texas Skies,” it blends her two loves of the romance and horror genres into a sensual, spooky suspense.

Read the top rated novel excerpt here.

Friday, June 3, 2011

June Giveaway - Romance Package Worth Over $60

The June Giveaway Package features a little romance and a little luxury.

The first part of the Giveaway is my new book "My Immortal," set for release in June 2011 in both paperback and for your kindle. The paperback, valued at $12.99, will be included in your package, and will be signed by me.

You can read the top rated excerpt here.

Because this novel is a paranormal romance, and if you're like me you like to luxuriate while you read romance novels, I've decided to introduce some of you to one of my favorite places EVER... Lush Cosmetics. This green, organic company makes all kinds of beauty products out of fresh, natural ingredients to turn a regular bath, shower or beauty regimen into a fragrant, luxurious spa experience.

They've got patchouli... they've got glitter. They've got fizzy bath bombs that turn bath time into something special, whether you're alone or with someone.

*cough* Sex Bomb *cough*

Some of my favorite goodies from Lush:

I could go on and on, but I'd rather just go take a fragrant bubbly bath. ;)

Check em out, they're awesome. The winner of this package will get a $25 gift certificate to either introduce you to their wonderful products OR let existing fans indulge in some of their favorites.

To top it all off I'll include a $25.00 Amazon gift certificates so you can buy even more romance novels, like...oh... I dunno....


This allows the winner to spend some time reveling in a little R&R. (Romance, and more Romance.)

This brings our Romance package to a value of over $60.

There are unlimited entries to this month's contest. You can enter by commenting on this blog, by retweeting the contest on Twitter or by joining my fan page on Facebook.

Thanks for playing and good luck!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

And the May Giveaway Winner Is.....

{{Drumroll please}}

Rebecca Graham!

{{Wild Applause!!}

I'll be sending you an email to let you know when to expect your Kindle to be shipped.

Thanks to everyone for playing.

For all her hard work reviewing my books, Paula Love wins a $25 Amazon Gift Certificate. Thanks, Paula!

Be sure to check back next month for a Romance Package giveaway worth more than $60. Unlimited entries! Also stay tuned for another big prize package that will be offered before the end of the year.

Congrats to our winners and thanks again to all who played. Come back next month and we'll do it all again. :)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May Giveaway: Kindle Package Worth Nearly $200!!

Okay, my lovelies. This is one giveaway you do NOT want to miss. I'll announce the winner of a brand new Kindle 3G reader with FREE 3G and Wi-Fi, valued at $189.00 to one lucky reader by the end of May.

As you may or may not know I have several ebooks available for the Kindle currently for sale at Amazon, so this month I want to award a book lover the opportunity to enjoy these ebooks and many others on the widely popular reader.

Since this is a big prize, we're going to play the game a bit differently this month. Everyone can earn one entry towards the grand prize by leaving a comment on this blog telling me the title of your favorite book.

If you want to earn additional entries, you may do the following over the course of the month:

RT this blog on Twitter to all your family and friends earns you one additional entry. Be sure to use @geevie in your RT so I can record it properly.

Joining my Fan Page on Facebook gets you another entry. If you're already a fan, don't worry. You can earn your extra entry just by leaving a comment on the discussion page for this giveaway.

That means everyone interested can earn up to three entries for this contest.

But wait. There's more.

Some folks think you can't enjoy Kindle books if you don't yet have a Kindle. Au contraire mon frere. Amazon allows you to download a program for free for your computer (PC and Mac) and your phone so that you may enjoy the ebooks available on Amazon. Should you wish to purchase one of the books I've listed below BEFORE the end of the month AND are generous enough to review it for me on Amazon, Goodreads or Barnes and Noble - I'll give you *5* - that's right, 5 - extra entries for each ebook you purchase/review.

Just leave a comment on this blog linking back to your review.

Not only will you be able to transfer your books over to the Kindle should you win it, any reviewer who wins this grand prize will get a $20 gift certificate to Amazon as a sign of my appreciation for your pre-win purchase.

All entries must be completed by May 26, 2011. I will announce the winner by the end of the month. Follow me on Twitter to hear how we'll be announcing the winner. :)

So that's it. Have fun and good luck!

Play Instant Win and win Sweepstakes

Here are my current available ebook titles:





Saturday, April 30, 2011

And the April Giveaway Winner is....

Odds were REALLY good for the April giveaway as there were only a handful of entrants.

Due to some health issues I opted not to do a live drawing. Instead I assigned each entrant a number and asked my best friend, who does not know anyone involved nor the order of the names pertaining to their number, to pick a number. That was how we chose this month's winner.

Congratulations to LINNEA!!! :)

Send me your information via Facebook and we'll organize a time frame to get you your goodies.

Thanks everyone for playing!

BIG BIG BIG giveaway coming. Stay tuned. ;)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

American Idol Season 10 Top Six Perform Songs from Carole King...

Or how we can take a perfectly decent season thus far and make it annoy and frustrate Geevie in one short episode with one of her LEAST favorite themes. Of all time.

I was SO unenthusiastic about this particular episode I didn't even bother doing a wish list. Out of the scores (?) of songs in Carole King songbook I like maybe three or four tunes, and none of those are actually performed by her. The earth does NOT move under my feet when I hear songs from "Tapestry," and in fact I wish it would go so far away.

It's just not my cup of tea. I don't listen to James Taylor or Carly Simon or any other of this genre.

So there was really no point in giving out a wish list when the deck is so stacked against me on a show that will no doubt bore me, frustrate me and otherwise have me with a quicker FF trigger finger than my ballad-hatin' hubby, Mr. Geevie.

Having said that, this review is based on maybe a couple of bars of different songs - most of which I sailed right on by. It may be unfair but there's really nothing you can make me do to go back and try to watch most of the performances in their entirety.

So nyah.

Jacob went first and sang "Oh No Not My Baby." I don't know who was styling Lusk this week, and I'm not sure whether to like it or mock it. On one hand it was quite shrewd to stand out, and with this bunch that is rather necessary. He's in the curse of first, with a long ass show (thanks to the premature finalist duet performances this season) it was necessary for him to do everything he could to stick into the audience's memory.

On the other hand he looked like got lost on his way to Let's Make a Deal. Or Clown College.

Apparently he did really well. I don't know because even though I love Jacob I had to FF right on to the next performance, which was Lauren and her version of "Where You Lead." I noted that with this group, taking on an individual artist can be a positive because everyone has their own individual stamp on things. We can get gospel/soul, blues, rock and country all from the same songwriter just based on how the songs are arranged.

That's one of the few positives to this particular episode, and although Lauren is cute and talented, I'm concerned where her own insecurities will end up cutting her off at the knees.

She's sixteen, and this is a lot of pressure. Her downfall will be that she's not really sure who she is as an artist yet.

The same criticism does not apply to Scotty, who decided to go with "You've Got A Friend." I hear that he toned it way back and had one of his best, non-hokey performances. Sadly I couldn't tolerate much more than the opening note because I hate, hate, hate this song. I'm not going to add insult to injury by country-fying it Scotty-style. I'm sure he did well, and it wouldn't even matter if he didn't. The boy is finale bound. We'll get to that in a minute.

Speaking of finale bound, the judges loved how Durbin changed things up a bit with his own version of "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow." This is one of the few songs on my "like" list. I also wouldn't have minded Pleasant Valley Sunday - which sadly didn't make an appearance from anyone... I guess there's always the group number. (Which, frankly, scares me more than it excites me.)

I loved what James did with it and as usual he managed to save the night for me entirely. Truth be told, his unpredictability and his showmanship is the only reason I didn't skip this episode entirely. Which thanks to a couple of the contestants, I was actually glad I tuned in.

The Old Casey was back in his bluesy form with "Hi De Ho." Like I said it was the versatility of these contestants that saved this from being a one-note kind of night (and not the note I usually like.) This performance proved he was well worth the save. Like Durbin he takes risks - and we're (usually) the better for it, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" not withstanding.

Haley sang "Beautiful," and like Durbin and Casey she really brought her A-game to the show last night. Of all the performers left I think she's grown the most, tied probably with Scotty (who, btw, would grow MORE if he was given more criticism like last week.) Her performance I sat all the way through and thought she could bring it to the top of the night, but given three of these folks are bound to hit the bottom of the pile I think Scotty will skate right into the top three performances of the night based on his fan base alone.

This doesn't bode well for Haley, who has ended up in the bottom three several times, most recently last week.

For me the top three were Durbin, Casey and Haley - which leaves the bottom three the contestants I couldn't even be bothered to sit through. (This says something in and of itself.)

I'm not sure if the duets were set to do anyone any favors. Fan/judge favorites were paired with those who might be the most in trouble, and I think Jacob being most oddly paired will be the thing that finally kicks him free of the competition.

Having said that I think the bottom three will be Haley, Lauren and Jacob, with Jacob going home.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

American Idol Season 10 Top Seven Perform Songs of 21st Century

Since showtime is in about an hour and fifteen minutes we're going to make this short and sweet, kids:

We started off the show with an Idol first: The performance show showcased the castoffs in a rare, but grating, pre-finale musical number that made it all too clear why they were no longer in the running.

And this continual pimping of Pia is really starting to wear on my nerves. In fact, it's making me kinda start to hate her when I was content just to not like her before.

If the audience still wanted her to wail her way through songs, she'd still be there.

I don't care who she is dating, she really kind of needs to go away now.


Scotty decided to go with "Swinging" - which wasn't all that contemporary when it was originally released in the early 1980s. The judges used rare critique, even Steven, to let Scotty know that while he's a solid contestant time was short for him to have his "big moment." Given this rather ho-hum performance, unusual judge critique and the fact he went first, if this doesn't land our good ol boy in the bottom three, I'll know for sure he's finale-bound. He's got the fan base to carry him through no matter what he does (or doesn't do.)

Durbin had a much earlier slot this week than he normally has enjoyed in the past, and he opted for Muse's "Uprising" for his song choice. I was good with it - I don't know much more about Muse than what I learned playing Guitar Hero... but what I have heard I liked. I would even go so far that his vocal (before the octave challenge change in the latter part of the song) was smoother and more melodic than the original singer. (No disrespect to any Muse people out there.)

That he made it much more of a performance means he'll most likely be safe, and it was definitely one of my favorites of the night. The hubby liked it so much he watched it three times in a row before he allowed the rest of the show to run.

Haley chose an Adele number, and while I'm not familiar with her music I really liked Haley more this week than pretty much any other. She wasn't relying on kitsch and actually performed like she meant it. She connected to the song in such a way that I believed it entirely and felt bad about suggesting something more low-brow and one dimensional.

This was Favorite Performance #2.

Jacob had a rough start but pulled it together to sing "Dance With My Father" by Luther Vandross. It was probably too easy to call, but he did well enough with it that even I welled up with tears on the sentiment of the song. I really think he's going to have to dig much deeper to make it more exciting - because he hasn't been able to match the moment he had during Motown week. This could land him in the bottom three.

Casey opted for Maroon 5, which wasn't half as much fun as the Blue Man Group song would have been. This is the drawback of trying to handicap what songs would work out best for them - if they go off the beaten track the disappointment can overshadow the performance, even when it's pretty good.

Problem was, it wasn't anything *special* - even with the stolen smooch at the end.

He was also wearing plaid.. which is the Geevie Kiss of Death.

S-Teflon-o sang a Neo song that was upbeat and contemporary, but I still would have liked to see him do Justin Timberlake. I don't see the whole flirty/woman's man thing but apparently enough women do - Twitter was aflutter last night after his performance.

Lauren brought up the rear of the show in the much coveted pimp spot and chose to sing a country song... sadly it wasn't the kind of fun one that I wanted and I thought the judges and Jimmy actually had a lot of insight as to why the performances have lost some of their luster. She feels intimidated, and understandably so. She's very young so she may equate those big voices as better than her... and it can't have escaped her notice that as one of the few girls left in the competition she really has to bring it.

Personally I don't think she's as compromised as she thinks she is. I can totally see the top three coming down to Lauren, Scotty and James.

At least it better.

As for the bottom three I think this is where we break down between the top three and the bottom three and have the unenviable choice given to one contestant to choose between the groups.

I predict it'll come down something like this:

James, Lauren and Scotty in one group...

Stefano, Haley and Casey in the other...

Jacob gets to choose but it doesn't matter where he goes (though it's pretty obvious he'll try to go to he first group)... because he'll be the one going home.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

American Idol Season 10 Top Seven Last Minute Songs of 21st Century Wish List

When I first learned the new theme for the week was Songs from the 21st Century, I thought I'd skip this part of the proceedings altogether. I'm not that familiar with a wealth of music from the 21st Century - or so I thought - and so I felt woefully and unusually ambivalent.

By about Sunday I perused through several "Top 100" song lists through the new century and feel at least somewhat qualified to make a few recommendations and interject my overweening ego into song choices that were probably picked two weeks ago.

But when has that ever stopped me?

It would tickle me silly for Jacob to pick something more upbeat and playful:

But that's a bit risque and he's already made it plain he prefers more inspirational stuff. So he could add a little gospel the following, which - as sung originally by a female - could actually be bent a little more interestingly to fit his particular style.

Another who may pick that song would include Lauren, even though I think she'd play to her strengths (and her audience) by revving up the fun again with:

(Or is that too obvious?)

(Still be fun though...)

Speaking of country, I'm not too familiar with the new songs and acts from today's country megastars, but I wouldn't mind seeing Scotty singing something along the lines of:

He could also pick something a little more mainstream like:

I don't know much about current heavy metal but my sons would absolutely flip out in metalhead glee if Durbin picks the likes of Bullet for My Valentine. I wouldn't mind something like Velvet Revolver. Again, with James I'm pretty content to let him pick whatever he thinks would be best. My only request? Don't sing this:

As for Casey and his Bassy, he could bring out something a little harder with:

Or stay eclectic with the likes of:

Which would pretty make both the hubby and me freak out in BMG fanboy and fangirl glee.

I think S-Teflon-o should stay true to his boy band roots by bringing sexy back with a lil JT:

This would give him the opportunity to scratch all the jazz hands and Broadway arms with an actual contemporary pop performance.

Somehow, though, I fear he'll pick something more obvious like:

Haley can also benefit from something more contemporary, and since she has that whole sex kitten thing going on some of the more risque music would play to her strengths. These are half-joking, half-serious suggestions:

But she could also add a lil sauce to:


Or all seven can do songs I've never heard before - and the odds of that happening this week are fairly high.

In fact... finding that one nugget of a song I'm familiar with may indeed be the treasure hunt of tonight's show.

I think I'm ready....

My only real request with any of the contestants, aside from the Darkness prohibition I mentioned above, is that none of these folks should even THINK about doing songs released by prior Idols.

Instant Zeros for any JHud, Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Daughtry or a host of others who launched their claim to fame on the Idol Stage.

Trust your Idol Mama... and just say no.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

American Idol Season 10 Top Eight Perform Music from the Movies

Like I predicted in my Wish List blog, the music for last night's movie theme was wide open with songs no one could really fully accurately anticipate (except for Scotty doing country... that was pretty much a given.) Despite that, except for a couple of notable exceptions, the night was rather ho-hum.

Paul went first and selected "Old Time Rock and Roll" - which I had kinda really wanted Casey to do. Instead of doing something more acoustic and songwritery like "Everybody's Talkin' at Me," he opted for something that would get his feet moving.

With Paul, this is not always a good thing.

The performance in and of itself wasn't bad, and for the most part his crazy, spastic Paul dance wasn't as awkward as I remember it being. The problem as I see it is that it wasn't anything spectacular and he had the misfortune of going first. As we learned from Jacob last week even someone solid can make it into the bottom three just by bad placement.

Lauren went next and sang, almost predictably, a Miley Cyrus song. I've never seen a Miley Cyrus or Hannah Montana movie (aside maybe from Bolt) so I would never would have been able to make this call. Having said that, this MC song doesn't make me involuntarily gag, especially when someone OTHER than Miley sings it. And Lauren has more talent in her little finger than Miley does in her entire body, so it was a shrewd move to actually take a song from a lesser singer and sing the heck out of it.

Better than that, at least for me, was the way she connected with the song. I believed every single word that came out of her mouth - something I wasn't quite sure she could pull off before last night. Everything worked, her look, her sound, her song choice... it was just a win all the way around. Girls may be a dying breed in American Idol Season 10, but I think she cemented her spot in the Top Seven with that performance.

Stefano/S-Teflon-o came out and predictably sang another ballad. It was a boy band cheese fest with Boys II Men's "End of the Road," and it pretty much illustrated why Stefano will not win American Idol. He was meant to be part of a group - not a solo performer. After last week's near miss, he might escape the bottom three tonight by sheer bounce-back alone... but the performance, while not necessarily bad, wasn't as stellar as the judges would have you believe.

In fact, it almost felt like the judges were using reverse psychology by overly gushing on *everyone.*

The lovefest continued with Scotty, who returned to his country roots with a George Strait song. Personally I never knew that he left them, this boy could perform a rap hit and it come out more Hank Williams than 50 Cent. The judges all crowed about his staying true to himself as an artist and never really encourage him to branch out and do more.

Some may think that this is unfair since these are the same judges who clamored for Pia to try something other than her successful ballads. I don't know how valid a criticism that is for the judges because I kinda see what they were going for. Despite her vocal prowess she was pretty one dimensional as far as a performer. It may all be country what Scotty does but it isn't all the same type of song. He can do something upbeat, he can do ballads... he's at least trying to own the stage in a way I'm not so sure Pia ever could.

Pop is a mix of ballads and of upbeat, peppy stuff. Just like Barry Manilow can do "Mandy," "Weekend in New England," and "I Write the Songs" he also pulled off "American Bandstand," and "Copacabana."

Keep it interesting. Mix it up.

The fact is according to producer Nigel Pia was never in the top no matter how much acclaim she got from the judges... so there's the huge possibility that the criticism she got wasn't just from the kind of song she was singing. The judges couldn't put their finger on why the performances, while technically good, left them cold.

Therefore it was as warranted as some of the criticism pseudo-judges like me level on the likes of Stefano that basically says, "Give me more than what you're giving me."

Note even when she sang that upbeat song Pia still got criticism from JLo. It wasn't just the ballad thing.

Although that certainly didn't help.

Casey brought his bass and a jazzy rendition of Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy" to the stage. It immediately had me wishing he would have stayed with Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" or a variety of other songs I picked for him in my Wish List blog. I had a sneaking suspicion that he would pull something relatively obscure out of his arse for the occasion and he most certainly did. The crowd loved it, the judges gave him a standing-O but frankly the whole thing left me absolutely cold. I'm not a jazz fan to begin with; it sounds a bit like they're making it up as they go along and I never could fit it in my head. I think this was a risky move for him in that his fans will no doubt love what he did with it but those he has yet to win over might opt for something a little more mainstream. That his fans may think he's safe from the positive reaction he got from the crowd and the judges, he needs every last one of their votes.

If they didn't bother because they thought he was safe, this could be Casey's swan song.

Haley tried to get funky with a Blondie tune, the sexy anthem from "American Gigolo." It just really couldn't get more perfect as far as a song choice goes. It suited her sex siren style, although last night it was more Debbie Harry than Marilyn Monroe (and that's a good thing.) Not to mention she looked sensational in her purple go-go boots I immediately coveted, though I could never look as good in them as she did.

Unfortunately for Haley those boots may have been made for walking because her off-key rendition of a rock classic was almost painful to grit my way through as a listener. I've come to grudgingly like Haley over the last few weeks but last night was not good - so not good it earned her the rare judge criticism heard through last night's praise-o-rama. It also no doubt earned her a spot in the bottom three, although it will depend on Paul's and Casey's fan base to decide whether she stays or goes home.

Jacob went next and was immediately reprimanded for the cocky statements he made last week by the love'im or hate'im Jimmy Iovine. He was also cautioned away from the cheesy songs he had chosen to sing. Duly chastised he gave in and decided to sing "Bridge Over Troubled Water" - which is a very difficult song for me to hear on a good day, due to some intensely personal memories I have with it.

For that reason alone I can't really say whether I liked it or not. He did very well, and made it his own - but it still felt like an emotional kick in the gut. In fact the better its sung the worse it hurts, which makes the entire thing bittersweet. I do think he earned his way out of the bottom three, though.

Durbin (which I've decided to call him now because he's just too badass to call just "James" anymore) closed the show - again - with a song I wasn't all that familiar with: Sammy Hagar's "Heavy Metal" from the movie of the same name. I was EXTREMELY pleased by the promise of such a title, though, and quite annoyed when Jimmy tried to talk him down from the choice that he made.

Again I wanted to shout at the TV to let the man do his thing. I've come to trust him over these past many weeks, you'd think that some of these folks who work with him week in and week out would do the same.

Lucky for us Durbin stuck to his guns and made it happen no matter what opposition he faced. He was determined to continue on with his crusade for America to "Give Metal a Chance!"

Nothing could have prepared us for how this show would end, or who would help Durbin in his noble quest.

None other than guitar god Zakk Wylde graced the Idol stage with a WICKED guitar solo in a pre-finale Idol FIRST that nearly had me come out of the seat, horns thrown and head banging away. It was the most exciting thing we've seen on Idol thus far this season without a doubt:

Now there are those who might say the producers are pimping Durbin with this unexpected boost to his performance, and in fact many people may have been so blown away by Zakk's solo that the vocal - which is supposedly what Idol is based upon - got lost in the mix. Maybe there were some folks who thought that they were voting for Zakk when they called in on Durbin's number.

Either way, it WORKED. This is what being an Idol is about IMO and it saved an otherwise lackluster Idol from being just another ordinary episode. I immediately went on Twitter and tracked Durbin down to follow him, whereupon I learned that he would love to do a Journey song (squee!) but unfortunately Steve Perry won't release any for the show. (Really, Steve? Don't force me to watch Glee to see people perform my favorite band's material... I beg of you.) He also said that Perry was one of his vocal influences, which endured me to him even more.

So if this is what it takes to make Idol exciting and bring about a finale that rivals - if not beats - Adam Lambert's season... COUNT ME IN.

That performance right there just sold a ticket for the summer tour.

For me the top three: Durbin, Lauren and Jacob.

I predict the bottom three will be shared among Paul (curse of first,) Casey (and his Bassy) and Haley.

It's not looking good for a girl to be in the bottom three this season, but it also could be the night that the lights went out in Nashville - or at least Paul McDonald's smile.

Personally I think Casey may have the highest probability to go, given the more obscure nature of his performance and song choice.

(Granted heavy metal can be equally as off-putting, but Durbin's performance was way more grab you by the throat and throttle you into rocking out than Casey's more subtle choice... and by sheer excitement alone will win over an audience it may not ordinarily have had.)

I really don't want *anyone* to go necessarily, as I kind of like most of them enough to want to see what they do next week.

But that is the yin and yang of Idol... and we're all just kinda along for the ride.

Thanks to Durbin (and no doubt Steven Tyler,) this year I can hear a lot of music that I wouldn't normally hear courtesy of American Idol.

For that I say...