Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Les Miz Love Affair

Show of hands. How many of you have seen Les Miserables on stage or some performance of its music on public television? Do you love it? An incredible 25th Anniversary concert that took place last fall in London has been airing on public television several times in recent weeks while the stations drum up donations. For me this has been like the rekindling of a decades-long relationship. Les Miz first hit Broadway in the mid-80s. I'd never heard of it until one night I was watching the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and the actress portraying Fantine sang I Dreamed a Dream. (For those of you who have never seen Les Miz, might at least have seen the YouTube clip of Susan Boyle's performance. It's that song.) My mother and I were transfixed by the actress and the song. It inspired me to surprise Mom with tickets to the play as a Christmas present. The show was so popular that there was a six month wait for seats, but sooner or later, summer rolled around and we were off to New York. I've never been so moved by a show and its music as I was that summer night on Broadway. Drama, pathos, heroism, the battle between poor and wealthy, justice versus persecution, love at first sight, unrequited longing, tremendous honor, scurrilous thievery, lost hope, enduring faith -- Les Miz has all that and more. The epic story is told mostly with huge, dramatic songs and very little dialogue. Oh, those songs, filling the theater and our hearts. Do you hear the people sing, singing the song of angry men? This is the music of a people who will not be slaves again. When the beating of our hearts echoes the beating of the drums, there is a world about to start when tomorrow comes! Les Miz isn't what you'd call a happy show. Considering that most of the main characters die, some could consider it an absolute downer. When we first saw it on Broadway, Mom was worried that I wasn't enjoying it because every time she looked at me, tears were running down my cheeks. Yes, characters die, but before each one passes on, he or she gets at least one fantastic solo. As soon as we saw the show, I had to get the soundtrack. I used to cruise the Jersey Shore with the top down on my convertible, belting out the songs at the top of my lungs. My range is closer to the deep tones of Inspector Javert than Fantine's soprano, so I'm sure anyone within hearing distance appreciated that the wind carried away my strained notes. I've worn out a few sets of cassettes and CDs over the years, for sure. Fifteen years ago, the PBS stations ran a 10th Anniversary special. I lost count of the number of times I watched it and was positive there'd never be another tribute that great. There wasn't, until this 25th anniversary concert. Words fail me. I recorded it on the DVR and am in danger of overdosing on the magnificent performances. Several times in recent weeks when there wasn't anything else worth watching, I hit the buttons, called up the recording and lost myself in the music. I Dreamed a Dream, Bring Him Home, On My Own -- they fill my heart tonight (Yes, it's playing again while I type this blog.) every bit as full as they did 25 plus years ago in that New York Theater. I have to admit that I've formed a bit of a fangirl/cougarish crush on the British tenor who sings the role of Jean Valjean. I never heard of Alfie Boe before I saw this concert. Now I want to get all of his recordings. I swear, hand to God, that my crush is not because he's a fairly handsome man. It's all about the power of his singing. Seriously, if hearing him sing Bring Him Home doesn't move you to the depths of your soul, I'll be shocked. So, there you have it. My enduring love affair with a theatrical extravaganza. This relationship means a lot to me, but don't worry. I'm willing to share.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Daily Journey

I'm watching American Idol. No recaps this year. Basically, the performers are all so good and none of the judges are drooling drunks, so there isn't enough material to snark on. Okay, except I think that Steven Tyler could be Rachel Ray's secret father. It's in the smile. Instead, I listen to these singers every week and I'm amazed. Most of them are really, really young and at the tender ages of 17, 20, 21, they're taking on the biggest opportunity of their lives. They want to be professional singers more than anything. It's their dream and they're going for it at ages when most young people are more excited about getting into bars legally. At their age, I knew I wanted to write a book someday but I was content to let someday happen down the road. Other things -- rock and roll clubs, concerts, being cool - were more important. Sometimes I wonder where I'd be today if I'd completed that first book at 20 and managed to sell it. Then I think back to an Advanced Creative Writing workshop I took when I was 26 or 27. I remember talking to the professor one night and saying, "I know I write well, but right now I don't know that I think well enough." In my 20s, a lot of things were jumbled inside me. I was mature and professional at my job, but not so much in my personal relationships. I didn't have the confidence or belief in myself to shoot for the stars the way these A.I. contestants do week after week. I wanted, but didn't comprehend that need is more powerful. I'd experience all this angst and emotion over guys I thought I loved but couldn't have, or relationships I had that didn't last. That sense of loss felt like the most all encompassing pain in the world -- until my father died when I was 25 and I experienced the worst of the worse. I don't think that all young people are callow, or that they're immature in all matters. I only know that whatever I needed inside to truly create, to pour heart, soul and life into characters, to write stories that honestly touched and resonated with readers, I didn't have back then. Now, it's different. I have more substance and understanding. The years and experiences have added layers. A more complete sense of self allows me to imbue "self" into the people I create. To some extent, regret is a waste because it doesn't change our reality. So, instead of regretting what I didn't achieve years ago, I just want to make the most of today. I know that I have what I need living inside me and have the power to pour it out onto the page. Now. Today. The tomorrow that becomes the next today. That's the daily journey.

Friday, March 25, 2011


By way of explanation for my long absence from this blog, I offer up my newly updated, freshly re-covered, and digitally converted books as evidence. Presenting the all new works of Mary Stella:

Because this was my first venture into epublishing, I think it took me longer than I expected. I was determined to read through both books and fix some glitches. (Those of you who are supreme copy editing experts, I'm sure there are still things that I missed, so please don't hold it against me!) I enjoyed working with a talented artist to capture the beauty and sexy mood of the books. (Thanks, Carl Graves of

Realizing that I know nothing about electronic formats like .mobi or .epub, I was delighted to hear about a new company that, for a very reasonable fee, would convert my files into those formats. was easy and professional to work with and they turned out a great finished effort.

I'd heard from other friends that the actual uploading was pretty easy, so before I paid someone else to do that service, I resolved to try it myself. Wow, was I pleasantly surprised. Both Amazon and have designed their online systems to be simple, step-by-step, and very user-friendly. Without any trouble at all, I set up my accounts, linked to a bank account, and uploaded the files. There's a little bit of a wait while the companies review and queue up your books, but within 24 hours, the books were up in the Kindle Store and NookBooks! (I'm tackling Smashwords for other ereaders this weekend.)

This adventure means so much more to me than book sales. When I first saw the books with their beautiful new cover images, I nearly cried. Regaining the rights and control of my books meant the world to me. I feel like I rescued them from complete oblivion and have given them a new shot at life. Talk about empowerment. I'm rolling in it right now.

Do I also help that they sell well? Of course. I'm a working writer, so that's important. I'm not expecting to hit the bestseller lists, but every copy is one more than my books would have sold if I did not believe in them enough to take them back and invest in their future.

If you haven't read them and are interested, they're very reasonably priced at $2.99 each. Here are the links:

All Keyed Up: On Amazon On

Key of Sea: On Amazon On

If you've read them and are so inclined, would you please consider writing and posting reviews up online? Your reviews help draw attention to the books. I'd greatly appreciate any help.

Now that I've completed this project, I'm on to new writing. I promise to post more often on the blog and fill you in on more Postcards from Paradise!