Category Archives: Entertainment

Atlanta, RT and Booker T.

Jillian here.  I just got back from Atlanta, Ga where I attended the Romantic Times Convention. The convention itself was fun and it was good to see other writer friends as well as chat and interact with readers. I had two pretty awesome things happen in the reader arena – with the same book. I wrote a story called Rex, the Ex and the Hex– first draft was done in 12 days – it was such a fun story to write as the hero believes himself to be hexed and visits a number of hoo-doo folks to try to get rid of the hex (like a witch doctor, a haruspex, a tarot reader, etc).

One reader mentioned she read it and thought it was really good and she could tell I was having a blast as I wrote it. That made me happy as I was glad that shone through.

Another reader saw the cover on a magnet on my table at the signing. She grabbed it and said, “You wrote that?” When I said yes, she said, “I loved it so much, I read it twice and I never do that.” – Her words were worth the trip to Atlanta for me.

The other best thing about the conference wasn’t really related to the conference. My friend Sandra and I went to a concert at a local winery/cafe where they serve tapas and their own wines. I love 1960s music and when she said she wanted to go see a man named Booker T. Jones, a Grammy winner, I was all on board for that. I said, “Booker T. and the M.G.s?”

Well, these days, he travels with his son and two other guys. The music is still wonderful. He and his son played a ballad version of Purple Rain by Prince and it was so moving it brought me to tears.

We got a chance to chat with him in the lobby afterward. What a nice, humble, kind man he was. I could’ve stayed there all night. It was that amazing.  If you get a chance to go, do!

here’s one famous song  and another with his son on guitar.  I tried to upload one of the videos I made but for some reason, the computer said no.  We were seated right by the piano. It was awesome.

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Wings Over…wherever you are

Recently, my husband and I took the bus up to Seattle. We don’t drive in that city often. Too many cars, too many pedestrians, and too many one-way streets. But we do occasionally like to take the bus up and play tourist. Last year, we went twice.

This time, we went for a specific purpose. We did this ride called Wings Over Washington. It’s one of those theme-park type rides where your seat moves but you never really leave the theater and I hear they have them in a bunch of cities. This one was supposed to show great views of our state…of it’s mountains, rivers, fields, cities, mountains. Yes, I said mountains twice.

You see, as I’ve mentioned once or twice, I’m afraid of heights, although I’m  trying nowadays to not give into it. So…we got seat-belted into our seats. Yes, they put seat belts on us. That should have been an omen for me, but no, I innocently let them belt me in. After all, there was a big wood structure right in front of me and my feet were on the ground.

Then the theater went dark. And our seats moved. Up, up, and over that nice, safe wood structure I’d seen. And my feet were dangling! I don’t do amusement park rides where I can’t hit my imaginary brakes, so this was not good.

The full room video screen lit up with scenes of Washington. They took us up, down, up, swooping down, over cliffs. An eagle led the way, so we had some altitude. And the chair? It shifted, of course. Up, down, sideways.

I was five feet off the floor and completely FREAKED out. I had a death grip on the chair handrails and my husband was talking me calm through the whole thing. Not that it worked. I could not convince myself I was safe. It was insane how well my phobia had me locked in.

I saw, well, most of the video ride. I didn’t get my eyes shut as we went over the first cliff, so I made sure I missed the drop-offs after that. It really was a great ride and view of the state, but geesh, do that have to make it seem so real??? I haven’t had a height issue that bad in a long time, and I wasn’t even really “in the air.”

Afterwards, and since, I’ve been laughing at myself. Guess this is one phobia that isn’t going to leave gently. I’m going to have to kick it to the wall a few more times. Until then, no more video rides. No thank you. I’ll go back to gondolas where my fear is real, not imagined.

To finish off, here’s a couple pictures from Pike Place Market in Seattle, always a fun place to wander through.

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Singing with Macapello Choir

One year ago I told you about my Macapello Choir at a singing day at a big Choir Convention in Bristol, I cannot believe a year has passed but then it has been a challenging year.  Macapello Choir’s latest performance was on Sunday 9th April 2017 at this year’s Choir Convention.  Some of you may remember reading about last year’s Convention where we performed the song we had written ourselves, When Will I See the Sun. This year we managed to be slightly different to all the other choirs by walking onto the stage singing, yes singing and walking! Risky!!  We performed four songs in total. First walking on, two songs whilst on the stage, the fourth as we walked off again, singing! Wow despite our reservations it went down a storm!

The Convention brings together 16 choirs from the south west of England for a day’s singing.  The first part of the day consists of combined singing, about 500 people together, in four part harmonies.  We learn the songs on the day so it is always fun and a great way to meet new people.  We have a lunch break then same format applies.  Four experience musicians lead the day but in the evening each choir performs a variety of songs.  Some choirs were ambitious this year which added to our anxiety levels.  One large choir performed a piece by Bruckner another a piece by Elgar, this is the level of choral societies rather than community choirs so we were suitable impressed.  One group sang a tribute to David Bowie, other performances range from Gospel through Swing to Classical.  Standards vary of course but everyone is enthusiastic and enjoy the performance.  Accolades from one’s peers always feel special.

We had to wait until the second half to perform our songs again making us nervous.  The adrenaline kicks in once we start but our leaders keep reminding us to breath, smile, relax, focus – all at the same time! We began with Well I woke up this morning with my mind set on Freedom … a lively, uplifting gospel song.  We settled ourselves down then sang Your Children which I have told you about before.  Next was our ambitious  Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold one of the themes from the film The Hobbit. The Basses have the lead in this and as we only had 3 we were apprehensive, especially the three guys! Well, we earned a standing ovation.  In shock we walked off the stage singing Famba Naye a rousing African song which many of the audience knew so they sang along with us.  We  managed to keep within the time limit – just – 8 minutes for the whole thing! Our choir leaders Dave and Lisa were over the moon as the other choir leaders congratulated them on our achievement. Sadly I’m not able to share all the sound files.

What a night!  We sang on the coach home although we were exhausted. I love being in my choir as many of you know but an occasion like this makes me feel so proud of a group of people of all ages (top heavy on over 50’s at moment!), backgrounds and skill levels who come together to make such wonderful music.


The venue is beautiful with great acoustics.

 

 

Click here to hear Far Over The Misty Mountains Cold

Gallery

Take Me With You

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Goodreads rates this story 4.12 stars and has excellent reviews for it. I found it by a recommendation from a friend. Fortunately Catherine Ryan Hyde has a backlist because I just ordered two more of her books. So give me … Continue reading

Mamma Mia!

Mamma Mia!Has anyone had an opportunity to see the movie or stage play, Mamma Mia? The play has been on my bucket list for a few years and when I saw they are in their farewell season, I knew I HAD to go. I just took a look and they have a global tour going on also, including the UK.

The movie is great. Who knew (before this movie) that Meryl Streep could sing so well! In fact, I know she must had had to work really hard to not sing well in the Florence Foster Jenkins movie. But I digress.

Mamma Mia, in my opinion, is fun for any age. It’s uplifting, FUNNY, poignant, and energetic. For me, it carried a huge dose of nostalgia, too. I grew up in an era when ABBA’s music first gained attention. I cannot tell you how often just about any of ABBA’s songs would come on the radio and my friends and I would break out in song. Yes, we even had hairbrush microphones on occasion. 🙂 It makes me smile each and every time I think about it, so when the tickets came available, I snapped a couple up.

I live near Seattle, but rarely, if ever, drive into the city. It’s crazy busy, as you can imagine, and I’m a small town girl at heart. So my sister and I took the bus into the city so we didn’t have to drive. That didn’t mean that we didn’t have ABBA blaring in the car on the way to the bus depot, though. (And home.)Waiting for Mamma Mia!

After a couple hours shopping, we settled into our seats. Once the curtains opened, we were transported to another time and place. We laughed, cried, and yes, sang! One of the best parts of this play was the ending, which turned into a dance party. We were all standing, clapping, singing, and dancing, not easy to do in a theater filled with seats.

It was totally AWESOME!

So I hope, if you smile when you think of ABBA’s music, that you get (or have had) an opportunity to see this stage play. If you don’t, or if ABBA isn’t your thing, I hope you put on some music that is and dance around the house with a hairbrush for a microphone. Because sometimes, we all need to feel young again, eh?

Thank you, ABBA, for all the wonderful memories!

If you want more information about Mamma Mia!, click here. And here’s a piece from the movie to lift you up for the day:

Venice

On Monday 20th February I set off for the airport to fly to Venice Marco Polo Airport. Very excited! I met Rhiannon, my niece, we had lunch and flew off at 15.20 in fog. We were assured by Easyjet staff that our plane had extra sensors so no worries.  We landed at Marco Polo safely on time at 18.30 Venice time.  Only had hand luggage so cleared quickly and went to the Alilaguna Water Bus to Lido.  I had done this in the past but all was changed, much larger and modern!  Very exciting but dark of course and yes misty.  With the help of a handsome young official we boarded our vaporetto (water bus) at Lido for our hotel at St Elena. He was concerned that “it was dark there and did I know my way!”  Rhiannon was slightly disconcerted by this conversation (in perfect English) but I quickly reassured her that I knew where we were going.  We arrived at the hotel and I explained who we were BUT I was speaking bad Spanish instead of bad Italian!  The Reception Staff were amused by this but it set the tone for our whole stay of friendly, helpful service.  We had a wonderful supper in the hotel restaurant, with our first bottle of Prosecco of the stay, and an early night.

Next morning we were up refreshed and raring to go.  Had a good breakfast for 9 Euros each and set off. We bought 3 day Vaporetti passes which were so useful in that we could hop off and on as many times as we wanted without hassle of buying tickets each time.  That morning we walked into San Marco alongside the Grand Canal, sadly still in fog, but in good spirits. We passed the Giardini Gardens, the site of the Biennale Exhibition featuring International Artists shown in 1920s Pavilions representing the different countries staged every 2 years. It is also the start and finish of the Venice Marathon, yes a full Marathon!  We passed The Arsenale where the great shipbuilding industry was based helping support the power of Venice.   It was Carnavale which is a very special time in Venice, lots of people in elaborate costumes posing in the hope a photographer will feature them.  I spoke to several international photographers over our stay who said people queue up to be photographed free and just want a copy.  For the photographers it is an ideal opportunity to expand their portfolios.  Two of our favourite subjects are featured below, in many ways it was like stepping back in time.  Venice was packed and buzzing with excitement.  We walked miles that day until we were exhausted and went back to the hotel for another superb dinner and yes more Prosecco.  Our hotel was on the tip of the main island but in a less crowded residential area with a park and small restaurants.

I was pleased to remember my way around and Rhiannon enjoyed being guided to familiar sites including St Marks Square, the Campanile, the Doge’s Palace and less famous parts which featured Venetians going about their daily lives including the police boats, ambulances, garbage collections and delivery men all on the canals.  Everything is transported in by boat which adds to the traffic on the Grand Canal.  We walked through the Fish Market and Rialto Market, hence the statutory photo of Rhiannon on Rialto Bridge.

One morning the hotel arranged a special water taxi for us to Murano to a glass factory.  It was fascinating to see glass blowing skills in the tradition which dates back to at least the 15 century.  We didn’t buy any but it was wonderful to see.  Sadly our video didn’t come out well enough to show you.  That day we also visited the Guggenheim Museum as an antidote to the beauty of La Serenissima.

A high spot of my trip was meeting up with a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen for 18 years.  We studied together for our Masters’ Degrees, although Louisa was 30 years younger we became firm friends.  She married a Venetian after returning with her degree and now has three beautiful daughters and lives on Lido.  She lectures to Art Tours, Cruise Ships, at the Biennale Exhibition and to various visiting University student courses so continues the experiences we had.  Louisa took us to a wonderful Venetian restaurant, Anice Stellato, which was hidden away where we had one of the best meals I’ve had for a long time.

Sadly it all ended too soon.  Rhiannon will return with her boyfriend Jon and take a trip on a gondola, not something to do with your aging aunt! I think it will be my last trip but one I will treasure.  We took off on Friday 24th February in fog! Whilst I had wanted Rhiannon to experience Venice set against a bright blue sky the misty, foggy conditions added to the glamour and mystery of this beautiful city.

I’ve attempted to give you a flavour of Venice but please try to visit yourselves if you haven’t been already, if you have I hope it brings back good memories.

 

When they actually can hear you scream!

Okay, so November has sort of passed in a blur that is NaNoWriMo, but happy to say the end is now in sight and on the home run. Yay!

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience of NaNo and it seems to have had the desired effect of getting me back into the writing mindset. The story has absorbed me, and the best part of all, I’m enjoying writing again. But November hasn’t been all work and I’ve made time for some fun along the way.

Every month a nearby town holds a community theatre and movie night, which has turned into a girls’ night out. We four do the whole thing: popcorn, wine (for those who aren’t driving), ice cream and a shared box of chocolates. Last night’s movie was Me Before You which was really excellent. I haven’t read the book (being a happy-ending kinda gal) but absolutely loved the movie. Excellent acting, a good story, and although a sad ending it wasn’t mawkish. Highly recommended for those who might not have seen it.

We also had a theatre trip into Bath to see The Woman in Black. This was billed as being ‘the most terrifying live theatre experience in the world’ which, for those of us who love to be scared witless by such things, was impossible to resist. So off we went, the fearless four, armed with fortifying chocolate and comments such as “bet it’s not as scary as they say” and “whose idea was this anyway?”

The play was the stage adaptation of the movie of the same name and is based on Susan Hill’s story of a lawyer obsessed with a curse he believes has been cast on him. In the stage play, he employs an actor to help him exorcise his demons, but soon what is real and what is make-believe begin to blur with spine-tingling results.

One British newspaper gave the play five stars and said: “The atmosphere is so charged up that on more than one occasion, the entire audience screamed in terror”  Well, I read that with a little scoff…until I actually did. The play was spooky and I lost count of the number of times I jumped out of my skin. It was incredibly well acted, with excellent sound effects and visual aids. During one loud and blood-curdling scream which seemed to come from right behind us, we all instinctively grabbed for each other and yes, actually screamed right back. Since most of the audience were engaged in a kind of hushed nervous laughter, I don’t think we were alone in that.

So, two hours later we emerged, a little shell shocked and with the chocolates still in their unwrapped state. Testament indeed to a good night had by all.

 

(n.b. apologies for the formatting of this post – did something wrong somewhere and couldn’t work out how to get it back to normal!)