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NEWSCHAT November 2007

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November 1, 2007

Dear correspondent,

An autumn day--be it glittering sun or soft clouds--is always a good time for a newschat. Quit obsessing on whatever's plaguing you and join me for a few minutes.

Questions pour over my transom daily, like:

Q: Do you have a release date yet for your new book?

My debut novel with St. Martin's Minotaur, THE ACTRESS, is scheduled for a June 2008 release in hardcover. This novel explores the appalling phenomenon of juries deciding guilt or innocence based on the appearance and demeanor of the accused. Rita Farmer, a struggling Hollywood actress, gets hired to secretly coach the (unsympathetic) defendant in a high-stakes murder trial. Rita's a single mom with a four-year-old son named Petey, who's exceptionally skilled at climbing dangerous objects. She also has an abusive ex-husband named Jeff, and a best friend named Daniel, who likes guys. Both she and Daniel are looking for Mr. Right, which makes for some nice common ground.

When Rita begins coaching her new pupil, a society mom accused of murdering her own infant daughter, she starts to wonder what really happened that night. George Rowe, a sturdy private investigator, has been wondering the same thing. Hey, what if his and Rita's paths converge? What if they start to make trouble for the wrong people? What if all hell breaks loose? Well, no novel is worth the name if all hell doesn't break loose somewhere before the end.

Other elements include a teen-scream movie audition, gemstone embezzlement, a guy on a morgue table who's either dead or not, a Brazilian document forger who wears pretty skirts, and a sinister kitchen gadget known as 'Le Cork Weasel'.

Q: What's next?

Yes, I'm writing the next in the series now, with Rita as our main character.

Q: How does it start?

While working as an extra in police costume, Rita gets dragged into a real crime scene. And, needless to say, beyond.

Q: What's your favorite color?

Today it's cerulean blue.

Q: What's the latest with WRITER'S DIGEST?

Pick up the current issue (December) to read my feature, "The Hunt for Deep Background," on how to dig for details for your novel. It's based on a research trip I made to Los Angeles while writing THE ACTRESS. Here's how it starts:
"My friend, a Mafia hit man, waved across the room to a buddy of his, a bronc rider. The bronc rider fell to talking with two other cowboys. A hockey goalie lumbered in carrying a heavy equipment bag, and a disheveled sales manager made room for him. The witches had clustered together, and in the distance, you could hear a crone's low chortle begin, then rise to bone-chilling intensity. The witches stopped in midsentence to listen.

"Hell's foyer?

"Actually, it was the waiting room of a Los Angeles studio where eight different TV commercials were being cast. I'd come as a silent support to my actor friend Phil, but my main objective was to soak up the atmosphere." . . .

I've just finished another feature for Writer's Digest called, "Off to a Good Start: A New York Lunch with Your Agent and Editor." That should come out about a year from now. (They've got a long lead time.)

Q: What is your method for toasting marshmallows over an open flame?

The key is patience and an upward angle, so the sides of the marshmallow get done evenly and slowly.

Q: In your last message, you mentioned writing a book about your local symphony.

Yes, PORT ANGELES SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA: SEVENTY-FIVE YEARS OF MUSIC ON THE STRAIT burst onto the scene a month ago, to wild cheers. It's essentially an oral history of the ensemble, which started as a few people playing classical music for their own pleasure. Today we have an 80-piece full orchestra, with an annual budget of a quarter million dollars. Our conductor is Adam Stern, an accomplished conductor, pianist, and Grammy-winning music producer. I play in the percussion section.

The book costs $15; all proceeds go to the orchestra. There's also a companion CD, recorded during two concerts in the 2006-2007 season. These items are not available on line. To purchase either or both, call the Symphony office and harass Mark Wendeborn at 360-457-5579. Locally, you can also find the book at Port Book and News on First Street in Port Angeles.

Here are a couple of quotes from the book's interview section:
"To have an orchestra playing behind you as a soloist is like driving the biggest, best car in the world. I'm up at the head and behind me is this thing that's better than any car motor ever was, because it plays music! I know the conductor's driving it, but I feel like I'm the one who's telling it where to go. That was a fabulous sensation." --Trombonist Jay Williams.

"I've seen some conductors who might was well have held up a starting pistol and shot it off, and when the last guy got through playing, fire it again! Holy smokes." --Clarinetist Otto Slehofer.

Local fans, don't miss this weekend's all-Beethoven concert, capped by the Ninth Symphony featuring the sublime choral work of the Peninsula Singers, led by Dewey Ehling. Yours truly on cymbals.

And that's the latest. I hope you have a wonderful winter.

Elizabeth Sims

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