Monday, October 20, 2014

Splinters--Matt Carter and FJR Twitchnell on shapeshifters!

Another book for this spooky season---and it's about shapeshifters. You'll want to pick this one up! 


Husband and wife writer team have done it again. 



Under ordinary circumstances, Ben and Mina would never have had reason to speak to each other; he's an easy-going people person with a healthy skepticism about the paranormal, and she's a dangerously obsessive monster-hunter with a crippling fear of betrayal. But the small town of Prospero, California, has no ordinary circumstances to offer. Inorder to uncover a plot set by the seemingly innocent but definitely shapeshifting monsters-that-look-like-friends-family-and-neighbors, the two stark opposites must both find ways to put aside their differences and learn to trust each other.






The authors: 




     F.J.R TITCHENELL and MATT CARTER met and fell in love in a
                   musical theatre class at Pasadena City College and have been
inseparable ever since. Though they have both dreamed of being
writers from a very young age, they both truly hit their stride after they
met, bouncing ideas off of one another, forcing each other to strive to be
better writers, and mingling Matt's lifelong love of monsters with Fiona's
equally disturbing inability to let go of high school. They were married in
2011 in a ceremony that involved kilts, Star Wars music, and a cake
topped by figurines of them fighting a zombified wedding party.
Titchenell and Carter live in San Gabriel, California.




Thursday, October 16, 2014

That's a mom's job, isn't it?

Janet Kay Jensen's photo.
Our youngest
During the first Gulf War (during the presidency of George H.W. Bush) I was home and CNN was on the television. I was watching events unfold in the middle east, clueless about the events unfolding two miles away, at my children’s school. They attended Edith Bowen Laboratory School on Utah State University’s campus.
It was an ordinary drab winter day—very cold and gray, with last week’s dirty snow piled at least a foot deep on the side of the road.
An anonymous phone call was made to administrators, warning that a bomb had been set on campus and would explode in two hours. Hasty evacuations took place, and the university’s antiquated phone system broke under the strain of the unprecedented number of calls to and from campus as faculty, staff and students made hasty arrangements and left campus. I am told traffic was crazy, and I believe it. This was long before cell phones were available, so everyone was dependent on land lines. 
The principal at Edith Bowen School, ever unflappable, entered the lunchroom. She silenced the children and told them in a very calm voice that they should return to their classrooms, gather their coats and backpacks, and follow their teachers to a nearby church. Though the children were puzzled, they followed instructions and an orderly evacuation took place as they walked to the church and were ushered into the gym. Church offices were unlocked so administrators could phone parents to pick up their children.
For some reason, I wasn’t called, and I had no idea what was happening until my husband came home from lunch and told me about the bomb threat that had emptied the campus. Where were the boys? I asked, and he didn’t know. A call to a friend clarified their location, and I drove to the church to pick them up.
My fifth grader had played basketball, but when the numbers of students dwindled as their parents arrived, he admitted he’d become apprehensive. “I was okay until you didn’t come,” he said in a quiet voice. My kindergartener, always talkative, was relieved to see me, too, and we headed home, talking about the events of the day. I tried to reassure them that the call had been a hoax and that sometimes “things like that happen. People make bad choices. And there actually wasn’t a bomb. But your principal and the teachers knew exactly what to do to keep you safe, and they did it.”
Spring came, and then summer, and before we knew it school was about to start again. My youngest began to express anxiety about school. This was puzzling, as he loved school. He was never specific about his worries; he just said wasn’t ready to go back to school.
The inevitable first day of school dawned, and with some reluctance he got ready, donning his new clothes and shouldering his backpack. Just before we reached the parking lot he said, “Mom, if there’s a bomb...” and I realized he’d been more shaken than I'd known by the experience of the past January, and was worried that something like it, or worse, could happen. So instead of checking in to his new classroom, we went straight to the principal’s office and explained that Jeff wasn’t happy about school starting because he was concerned about the possibility of a bomb. His principal (he’d always said that “she knows the children in her heart”) quickly recognized his fears and spoke frankly to him. She didn’t promise him that nothing bad would ever happen at school; instead, wisely, she simply told him that, just as they had the previous winter, in case of any emergency, all of the teachers knew exactly what to do to keep everyone safe.
That seemed to allay his fears and first grade went smoothly. Soon he was in fifth grade, his last year in elementary school, and his class was preparing to travel to the Teton Science School near Jackson, Wyoming. As their departure neared, he said he didn’t want to go. This was puzzling again, as he was a confident traveler and his class had prepared for Science School all year. Again, I consulted his principal, this time in private.
“We’ve left them with sitters before,” I said, “so I’m not sure why he’s feeling anxious about going to science camp.”
“Yes,” she said, “but has HE ever left YOU before?” Bingo. No, he’d never left us, and she had recognized exactly what was causing his apprehension. Again, she talked with him calmly and assured him that if he wanted to come home at any point during the week, all he had to do was call her, day or night, and she would drive to Jackson (about four hours away) and bring him home. He relaxed visibly and happily packed for camp. His week at Teton Science School came and went and he had a great time. All he needed was some reassurance from an intuitive person he trusted.
Soon after he got home, I emptied his backpack to sort out the clutter and found a note: “Remember, if you need me, call me, and I’ll come to Science School and bring you home,” the note said. “Love, Miss Rhees.”
Thank you again, Miss Rhees.
Janet Kay Jensen's photo.
Edith Bowen Laboratory School

Today, twenty years later, an anonymous email was sent to a number of departments and individuals on campus. The sender wrote that if tomorrow’s the scheduled speaker, an outspoken feminist, was allowed to give her planned speech, a killing spree would ensue. Administrators decided not to cancel the event, but to add security personnel and to ban backpacks from the building where the speech would be given. But when the speaker learned that Utah law allows concealed weapons to be carried on school campuses and grants permits for this, she canceled her speech.
Janet Kay Jensen's photo.
Utah State University's Old Main Building in the snow
I wonder, before the cancellation, how many students phoned home for reassurance and said, “Mom, if there’s a gun…”
I wish I could sum this up with a profound statement that would link these three events together and provide insight and wisdom and possible solutions. And above all, to give reassurance. But I can't. And that's a mom's job, isn't it?
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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Watch out for Little Dead Riding Hood!


When you’re the new kid at school, you know things are going to suck; but when you’re the new kid and a vampire, it bites.





Unlike most kids, Scarlet Small’s problems go far beyond just trying to fit in. She would settle for a normal life, but being a 12-year-old vampire for an entire century is a real pain in the neck. Plus, her appetite for security guards, house pets, and tomato juice is out of control. In order to keep their vampire-secret, Scarlet’s parents resort to yet another move. At her new school, Scarlet not only has a strange skeleton-girl as a classmate, but a smelly werewolf is intent on revealing her secret. When Scarlet meets Granny—who fills her with cookies, goodies, and treats, and seems to understand her more than anyone—she’s sure things will finally be different. But with a fork-stabbing incident, a cherry pie massacre, and a town full of crazy people, Scarlet’s O+ positive she’ll never live to see another undead day.

 October 14, 2014  9 - 12  4 - 7

About the Authors

AMIE BORST, a long-time writer and self-proclaimed graduate from 
ULE (University of Life Experience), is a native New Yorker, now 
residing in Northern Virginia. Originally, she aspired to be on Broadway, 
but her teen years were filled with too many "angsty" poems and short 
stories to let them fall to the wayside. She enjoys eating chocolate while 
writing and keeps a well-stocked stash hidden away from her family.

BETHANIE BORST is an all-rounder. She is a spunky 13-year-old who 
is an avid archer with Olympic dreams, enjoys the outdoors, loves 
reading, and is quick to make lasting friendships.

You can find Amie and Bethanie Borst online here:

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Brothers Washburn: At it Again with Mojave Green


 Mojave Green 
Available October 1


Book 2 in Dimensions of Death Series


Andy and Burk Washburn

In Trona, California, an isolated mining town deep in the Mojave Desert, an unearthly creature once preyed upon the town’s folk for decades. Armed with secrets from a puzzle box, Camm and Cal stood against the creature and believed they vanquished the monster. But when they hear that Trona’s children are still disappearing, the teenagers, with unsuspecting friends in tow, return to warn the innocent townspeople of the true nature of the creature. However, things have changed; death has come in a new form and the balance between dimensions has been altered. Only a band of few misfits can stop the coming desolation—but it may already be too late.



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Strange Case of the School Teacher by Day, Plagiarist by Night





They say everyone has a book inside them.....and as authors, we hear many readers tell us they've always wanted to write a book. My advice? I think they should. Go for it! Your work may only be read by your mother or friends or family who are sure to like it, or you may find a serious calling to write. You may discover a talent and develop it with time and hard work and sometimes a little bit of luck. You never know until you try. 

It's not certain who said it first, but some authors throughout history have insisted that writing is easy. You just "open a vein and bleed."  

One modern wannabe author tried to find an easier way to get published, but in doing so she committed multiple felonies. 

Plagiarism has never been easier. With books in digital format, an aspiring plagiarist can cut and paste, change a word or phrase here and there, change the title and cover, and sell it as their own original work.

Rachel Ann Nunes, a prolific and successful author of clean romances, who is also a friend of mine, was recently targeted by one such enterprising individual. With some technical assistance, the alleged plagiarist was identified, and through correspondence with Rachel, gave numerous implausible explanations for how Rachel’s book ended up with a new title, cover, and author, as well as some added smutty scenes. In an effort to stop the plagiarist, Rachel did not threaten legal action. Not at first. She just wanted it to stop. She requested that the books be taken down and all profits made by the plagiarist refunded. No deal.

And this is where it gets even more interesting. The alleged plagiarist established at least twenty “sock puppets” or false identities on book review sites and then systematically trashed Rachel’s work with vicious one-star reviews in an effort to discredit Rachel and her work,in retaliation, because the criminal behavior had been revealed. 

The person in question has still refused to cooperate in any way. Now, in court documents, the alleged plagiarist has been identified as an elementary school teacher with twenty years of teaching experience and credentials in special education, reading, and English as a Second Language. On the school’s website she looks like the teacher we all want our children to have---devoted, competent, experienced, current in her own education, and a happily married mother of three children.

Newspapers and television stations ran the story. Again, Rachel insisted, all she wanted was for the plagiarism and smear campaign to stop.

When the names of the teacher's false identities were posted on the internet by concerned authors who hoped to expose the situation and protect other writers from this individual’s schemes, parents at her school were shocked to see that the teacher had, in some cases, used the names of her own students---their children. Rachel and other authors who had posted about the situation then received threatening letters from these parents, who demanded that blogs be taken down and all mention of the children’s names be eliminated, and threatened legal action. Well, this is the Internet, and once posted, nothing really dies.

And then, in another truth-is-stranger-than-fiction twist, it was found that those indignant, threatening letters originated from none other than---you guessed it---the alleged plagiarist/teacher herself, and not from parents at all.

Soon another author came forward, having been alerted to plagiarism of his own work. This particular writer, a decorated military veteran, had written about combat action in Afghanistan. It was the first time he had even been able to relate certain details relating to his horrific experiences. The writing exercise was part of a workshop designed to help veterans cope with post traumatic stress disorder. 

And the person who apparently took his work, changed a word or phrase here and there, added numerous profanities, and passed it off as her own, thus victimizing the traumatized veteran a second time? You guessed it.

Unbelievable.

Finally, Rachel saw no other recourse than legal action. 

According to blogger and author John Doppler, who has investigated and documented many aspects of this case, the alleged plagiarist has been charged with multiple counts including: “copyright infringement, defamation, false light, injurious falsehood, harassment, false advertising, and deceptive trade practices. If the suit is successful, she faces statutory damages of $150,000.00, plus damages for each sale of the infringing work....the compensatory damages could be tripled due to the nature of the offenses. Additionally," Doppler writes, "the Plaintiff's attorneys have requested a string of injunctions prohibiting (Defendant) from using fake accounts and identities to promote herself, prohibiting further disparagement of Rachel or Rachel's works, prohibiting her from using any name other than her own online, requiring a retraction of all her attacks on Rachel, and publicly admitting her plagiarism." 

And he concludes, "It's likely that (Defendant) will declare bankruptcy to avoid paying the judgment, which makes the injunctions critical."

This individual’s actions have caused significant pain, loss of time, and financial stress for those authors she has targeted. Will the wronged authors realize a financial settlement? It's doubtful. They're not after the money. There probably isn't any money to be had.The defendant has yet to respond to the formal charges, though one legal deadline has passed. 

Many authors have joined fundraisers to help defray Rachel’s legal expenses. 
Check Rachel's website to participate and to see how their efforts are helping the cause: http://www.ranunes.com/

These offenses are felonies. It’s a mind-boggling case. Yet Rachel has requested that no one contact the defendant or harass her in any way. She only wants the crimes to stop. Because repeated overtures to deal with the situation out of court have simply been met with more lies and attempts to discredit her, she felt there was no other option. She is an author who simply wants to protect her good name, her good books, and her readers.

If you'd written a book, which takes time, talent, courage, and sacrifice, and someone stole your work and smeared your reputation, what would you do?

Read John Doppler’s article here:  http://johndopp.com/plagiarism-sam-taylor-mullens-busted

Google “Rachel Ann Nunes” for updates and news articles concerning this case, and check her website http:www.ranunes.com.  It may take a few clicks to find what she's posted lately about her legal issues. She's all about the books she's writing and the loyal fans who read them. 



Friday, September 26, 2014

Teri Harman's Black Moon: Just in time for Spooky Reading

Black Moon by Teri Harman
Black_Moon_Cover


































Black Moon by Teri Harman is a New Adult paranormal thriller with a romance twist sure to delight readers 16 and older. Published by Jolly Fish Press, it’s available in trade paperback and eBook from AmazonBarnes & Noble, and other sellers of fine books.

Here's a synopsis, c/o Amazon: Simon Howard accidentally killed three people. Four months later, the nightmares won’t stop. Willa Fairfield, his girlfriend, his soul mate, wants nothing more than to help him move on. But guilt isn’t the only thing getting in Simon’s way. When unexplained earthquakes hit the small town of Twelve Acres and dozens of people go missing, the Light witches discover their most feared enemy, Archard, is still alive. Employing the twisted, dynamic magic of a legendary witch known as Bartholomew the Dark, Archard plans to exact his revenge and take control of the Powers of the Earth on the night of the black moon, a rare lunar event infamous for Dark magic. As the Light Covenant fumbles to defend against Archard’s sadistic intentions, Simon’s magic grows inexplicably more powerful—even dangerous. Willa throws all her efforts into solving the mystery of Simon’s transformation, but when the events of the past storm into the present, the couple’s future changes forever.
teri_photo

Connect with Teri Harman

Monday, September 15, 2014

My Annual Post about Fiction and Football


Introduction: About a year ago I posted this essay on football.It seems timely to post it again.

Our #2 son, who played high school football and is now the National Junior Team head coach in Finland, offered some thoughtful words of rebuttal to my original essay. I should note that this is American-style football, not European soccer (which is also known as ‘football’ across the pond). I thought his comments were well worth printing.



So here is the original essay, updated with his responses in italics and bold:


When our second son began to play high school football and I heard the sound of two solid bodies colliding with a resounding thud, my stomach flip-flopped quicker than a politician's viewpoint. A dedicated mom, I sat through good weather and bad, and good games and bad, watching intently to see what #9 did. In one game, using perfectly legal moves, he caused one opponent to have a concussion and another a dislocated kneecap. I was heartsick. His coaches were euphoric."I didn't order this!" I wanted to protest to the parents of the injured boys, as if the waiter had brought me the wrong dinner. But there he was, my own darling little boy, a hero on the football field.

# 2 son’s response: Since day one my coaches taught me that when playing zone defense, anyone who came into my zone was fair game. Well, on that chilly night a certain individual from the opposing team decided to test my will and entered my zone. Not only did he enter my zone, but he had the nerve to catch the ball which had been thrown to him.

Since he had clearly entered my marked territory I proceded to protect my domain with a perfectly legal hit. In realizing I was coming at him with a full head of steam, the opposing player chose to duck and cover, which is a great tactic when dealing with a river of molten lava coming right at you, but not the most effective way to violate another player’s territory. Needless to say, I believe he learned his lesson about entering #9’s area again.

The second individual, also known as a running back, had repeatedly violated #9’s space during the course of the game. After #9 came at him with a full head of steam and collided with him numerous times, opposing player still chose not to vacate the premises. After enough of these hits it seems he had a vision, a vision that showed him stars and a nice trip to the sideline via help from two other players and a nice ovation from the crowd. I like to think I gave him the attention and cheers he had always dreamed of.


Since I didn't understand the game at all, I began taking a small sports radio to games with me so I wouldn't have to ask Husband, "What happened?" every three minutes."It was an offsides play," I told him smugly during one time-out. He was so impressed with my new-found knowledge, I finally had to show him the radio. Now that the boys are all away at universities, Husband wants the pleasure of my company at our local university’s home football games. He owes me about 35 Shakespeare plays and ten book club meetings in return.

One particular Saturday was not a good day for the home team, though the weather was splendid. At the last moment, before heading to the car, I grabbed a paperback book and tucked it into my coat pocket. Husband's best friend and brother-in-law were with us, so there was plenty of male bonding material available for them. I thought it was only fair that reading material was available for me.

"You didn't see the game!" Husband protested on the way home. "Oh, yes, I did,” I replied smugly. “I saw it when we sacked the quarterback, when our punt got blocked, when they had a 50 yard kickoff return . . . " He was impressed, as well as convinced that I had indeed seen the game. It was in between those brief moments of action on the field when I could get a solid page or two read.

That's what football is all about. They all line up opposite each other, in various formations. Then one big guy in tight white pants kicks the ball or throws it, and all the others try to get it. In the process they tackle, knock down, dive at the opponent’s feet and basically flatten each other on the artificial turf. Refs in zebra striped shirts throw out yellow hankies and blow whistles, peel the players off the pile one by one, and talk to each other in sign language. Guys with big orange stakes measure yards gained or lost. Then the head ref turns on his microphone and talks to the crowd, using that secret sign language I have yet to decode. The crowd reacts accordingly. Then the refs blow the whistle and the players all line up and go at it again.

Bands from each school play while cheerleaders do scary pyramids. During halftime the marching band manages to play and march at the same time without collisions. The cymbal players even turn cartwheels when they aren’t clanging away at their shiny copper-colored pan lids. During all of this the band’s spokesman gives a lively narration so you can understand the all-important plot enacted by the musicians and dancers and flag-twirlers. Usually it’s a saga, a tribute to somebody or other, but I can assure you, the Beatles did not write their music for marching bands. Anyway, if the narrator didn’t explain all of this to the crowd, I'd understand even less about the halftime entertainment than the game itself.



Throughout the game someone sitting in your row decides he/she needs refreshment or other forms of relief every ten minutes or so, which means everybody stands up to let them by. When they come back, we all stand up again. Sometimes the rest of the crowd interprets this as a standing ovation and jump to their feet, too. It's a form of spectator aerobics.

#2 son’s response: In life you need a few things to survive: food, water, and live college football. The camaraderie felt between trusting supportive fans who pass hot dogs and beer down the aisle to people they probably have never met, and then are kind enough to also pass the change back without stealing it, shows the amazing bond us fans have. 



At least they’ve abandoned the cannons. In past years when we would score, some anonymous person who likes to scare old ladies would shoot off cannons. No matter how prepared I would be for this unpleasant jolt, I’d always jump halfway out of my seat. You should see me in the theater when one actor pretends to shoot another and the sound of a fake gunshot echoes throughout the building. It’s downright embarrassing but that’s just the way my brain is wired.

Back to the game and the cannons. Our sweet old cocker/beagle Molly was particularly sensitive to certain noises. Since we live only a mile away from campus, the poor puppy suffered during home games. If we’d left her outside, we would come home to a ruined basement window screen, evidence that she’d tried desperately to find a way inside, where it was safe. Inevitably, after I’d recovered from the first “booms!” of the game, Husband and I would turn to each other and ask, “Did you put Molly inside before we left?” If not, it was too late anyway, and a new screen would have to be ordered.

Now, I must admit that the students add to the entertainment factor. There is a stalwart group of young men who go shirtless and paint their chests with the letters of the university’s name, in the school’s color. In our case it’s blue, which comes in handy on a frosty afternoon, when the poor fellows are turning blue anyway. This season, two dedicated students attended every game and held up signs, one next to the other. One sign was the letter “D” and the other was a white picket fence. It took me half the season to interpret them. “ ‘D’ plus + ‘fence’ . . . defense! They mean defense!” I exclaimed, quite pleased with my discovery, but unfortunately the clever signs didn’t help the players, who probably never even saw them.

#2 comments: The only thing more contagious than bird flu and the common cold is the ever-present and fan favorite “the wave” which can even move those unhappy book readers to a moment of bonding with the other 20,000 fans who have decided to put all racial, religious and political differences aside to work as a united front in executing “the wave.”

Every time I attend a home game, I stare at the score board and wonder how it can take twenty minutes to whittle two minutes off the game clock. This goes on for four or five or six hours on a perfectly nice Saturday afternoon until the final horn blows and we are excused from detention. Sometimes it rains or snows and those games last about seven or eight hours.

And that is how, one lovely Saturday afternoon last fall, I read 150 pages of John Grisham's The King of Tortswhile the visiting team whopped my alma mater 52-0.

#2’s indignant response, including a comment on my choice of authors: As for reading a book and then watching the replay at a live game, this also has been known as an act of terrorism. A live football game, regardless of how horrid the team is, should never be insulted by fans reading novels of insignificance.


Go, Aggies!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Independence Day!



Headed to fireworks tonight. Everybody, keep your pets inside. The noises can terrify them. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

An Acquired Taste and a Song about a Sandwich


In honor of this summer's successful opera season, a column on the subject seems timely.


I’m told that opera is an acquired taste. I’ve sampled a number of operas by now and for the most part, my taste buds haven’t matured. In fact, I’ve concluded that I am a Broadway Musical person. I truly love musicals. But I do like classical music, too, very much, and there are many splendid themes I recognize from great operatic works. I guess the “wasted” piano and violin lessons and music appreciation classes in childhood did pay off in adulthood, in the form of simple enjoyment of the music, and in some absolutely memorable moments I will always cherish.


I suspect that with me, appreciating opera has something to do with attention span and bladder capacity. I can even quote an authority on this subject. Alfred Hitchcock said, "The length of the film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder." I just wasn’t meant to sit through long, long afternoons of opera.


The sad moment of truth,the knowledge that I probably wouldn't develop a passionate love for opera, manifested itself during a performance of Handel’s Julius Caesar several years ago. Before that I had tried, truly tried to understand opera. Besides, how could we go wrong with Handel, we thought when we purchased our tickets? How, indeed? We learned that with Handel's Julius Caesar we could go wrong. Very, very wrong.




The orchestration was gorgeous, as we expected from Handel, featuring the musical instruments of the period, but when it came to the plot and vocals and artists, oh, my! We spent a very long afternoon listening to a series of very accomplished singers perform a very long series of vocal gymnastics, one after another, while others stood perfectly still on the stage, holding torches and palm fronds. We knew they had wonderful voices too, these scenery-holders, as we'd heard them sing in another production, but for most of Julius Caesar they were relegated to assistant sword-carriers, which was a waste of talent, we thought. The production lasted for about seven hours. Husband will insist it was eight hours, but he is prone to exaggeration.


To add to our great confusion, the part of the great general, Julius Caesar, was sung by a true male soprano. The male soprano was authentic, too, in Handel’s day, we have since read, but this particular voice and the concept of a man singing in the the female soprano's territory were simply jarring to our uneducated eyes and ears.


The first portrayal of Julius Caesar I recall seeing on film was by Richard Burton, and Mr. Burton was no soprano. He didn’t even really sing (as we learned when he appeared on Broadway in Camelot), but who really cared? He was, after all Richard Burton, with that beautiful, rich Welsh-bred voice and articulate delivery, and he was undoubtedly and thoroughly masculine in presence. I have since read a biography or two mentioning him, and there was evidently no question about his masculinity, according to the many women who kissed and told. And kissed again.


On the other hand, the gender of Mr. Handel’s operatic Julius Caesar onstage that afternoon wasn’t all that obvious until we finally confirmed the presence of facial hair. When he opened his mouth and those first elevated notes poured out, well, as Husband protested, no self-respecting soldier would have followed that high C into battle, and I was inclined to agree. I’m sorry, I just didn’t buy it, and neither did Cleopatra, evidently; they didn’t come to a good end, and it took them two hours too long to reach that very unhappy conclusion.


I suppose that sometimes I can’t quite lose myself in the moment, as you must in opera, because I’m an author and editor, always striving for concise, clean language. It's important to be able to suspend belief in order to appreciate the opera, I think, for it is meant to be bigger than life. There are no small emotions, no small moments or gestures or steps, and surely no small notes, even, in opera. It’s all enormous in scope, to be acted and danced and sung and played out before our bedazzled senses.


Our local opera company is marvelous and deserving of all the many accolades it receives. The historic theater in which they perform is a jewel, and visiting performers often get misty-eyed when they experience its acoustics for the first time. We usually attend several of the opera productions each summer, though we choose the light/comic/operettas/Broadway musicals over the more ponderous Tales of Hoffman types.

One summer’s lighter offerings included the musical The Most Happy Fella. I’d heard of it many times but had never seen it, and I was looking forward to the evening. After seeing it, I'd have to say that The Most Happy Fella has a charming plot with a raggedly-stitched patchwork quilt of mismatched songs, including the haunting “Joey, Joey,” the fingersnapping showtune “Standin’ on the Corner, Watchin’ All the Girls Go By,” and a few others that feel more pure in the operatic sense, as if they’d wandered in from the wrong production and decided to stay anyway.


Some songs were in performed English, some were in Italian; the older sister from the Old Country did not have an accent, but her younger brother, the Most Happy Fella, well-a, he sure did have-a an accent. Nobody explained that one to my satisfaction. In fact, nobody even attempted to, that I recall.



The point in the musical that I’m finally reaching here, the moment when time stopped in the theater and I lost myself in the opera, comes now. It was a song performed by a delicious trio of waiters. I don’t think they even had names, because, after all, though they were happy fellas, they weren’t the Happy Fella, even though their voices were richer and more powerful than The Happy Fella. Their names, as listed in the program, were simply Waiters One, Two, and Three. They wore white aprons tied just below their armpits, and held various articles of food in their hands, and from their energetic pantomimes even I could tell that the whole village was preparing for the joyful wedding feast to be held that night, and these three waiters were right at the heart of it.


Allow me quite a bit of literary license as I describe the scene:


The tables are heavy with food — every kind of food imaginable, including meat, breads, cheeses, fruits, vegetables,multi-storied pastries taller than I am, and, since the musical takes place in wine country, of course there is plenty of alcohol, which in the end causes its usual mischief, but I won’t give away that plot twist. Anyway, now comes the glorious song from the waiters, at least my version of it, and since it’s in Italian, I'm pretty safe offering my translation to most readers who don't speak Italian.


Verse One:


Waiter One: (holds up a loaf of bread) The hoagie!
Waiter Two: The hoagie!
Waiter Three: The hoagie!
Waiter One: The hoagie!
Waiter Two: The hoagie!
Waiter Three: The hoagie!
Waiters One, Two and Three: The hoagie, oh, the hoagie, yes the hoagie, oh, the hoagie . . . . . . . . (instrumental interlude) . . . ta-da!


Verse Two:


Waiter One: (holds up the mustard, but we can’t see a brand name) The mustard!
Waiter Two: The mustard!
Waiter Three: The mustard!
Waiter One: The mustard!
Waiter Two: The mustard!
Waiter Three: The mustard!
Waiters One, Two, and Three: The mustard, oh, the mustard, yes, the mustard, oh the mustard . . . . . . . (instrumental interlude) . . . ta-da!


This goes on for about ten splendid minutes as the three prepare what any clueless opera-goer can see is a sandwich, and we’re all getting very, very hungry, but we don’t notice the hunger pangs, because . . .


Waiters One, Two, and Three could be singing about raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens or the Dow Jones or Obamacare. It simply doesn’t matter. The actual assembling of the sandwich is a nice visual, of course, but those three marvelous voices, and the way they blend - - - even better than the mayo they praise so richly in Verse Three - - - well, if we could have specified an encore number (and we did applaud Waiters One, Two and Three very enthusiastically after that number, and again at the end, when they took their bows), it would have been that one. I would even have happily bought another high-priced ticket just to hear them sing what I called “The Sandwich Song” one more time.

I may not be a connoisseur of opera, and I don’t even like mustard, but for the chance to hear those three happy white - aproned waiters sing the praises of a garden-variety sandwich, well, I’d toss a bouquet of fresh parsley on the stage just to show my appreciation. The Sandwich Song was simply one of those exquisite show-stopping numbers you don’t ever want to end.


Several years later, those three rich, soaring voices still ring in my mind whenever I pass a Subway sandwich shop.


When art moves us, as this song did, it stays in our minds and gently colors everything else that’s there, for our lasting benefit. I felt that overwhelming joy when I stood before a Van Gogh painting for the first time in my life, and I felt it that afternoon when those waiters sang the praise of onions, among other ingredients; and perhaps that's why I had tears in my eyes, even all the way back in row M.


Ann Patchett, a lyrical writer, offers this beautiful paragraph in Bel Canto, a book I am now devouring for the second time just for the pleasure of it. Listen to her description of a group of people who have just heard the most famous soprano of their day perform for them, in a small intimate party setting:

Some of them had loved her for years. They had every recording she had ever made. They kept a notebook and wrote down every place they had seen her, listing the music, the names of the cast, the conductor. There were others there that night who had not heard her name, who would have said, if asked, that opera was a collection of nonsensical cat screechings, that they would much rather pass three hours in a dentist’s chair. These were the ones who wept openly now, the ones who had been so mistaken.



For me, that’s another one of those wonderful moments I'll remember, and it will gently color everything else that’s there—simply reading that graceful passage from a truly gifted writer. And that's how I felt when Waiters One, Two and Three graced us with their splendid voices. 




I’m sure Ms. Patchett would have loved my singing waiters, too, and their lusty Sandwich Song.




originally posted June 2008