Monday, October 24, 2016

Romance: The Great Equalizer

A Lack of Balance

I've noticed a sad trend lately, and it only appears to be on the upswing. Since the Nineties, more and more popular media are jumping on the bandwagon of misandry. From sitcoms to commercials to popular films, we are given examples where the male character bumbles along beside a much wittier female lead.

I've blogged about this before, but the explosion of films where men are maligned has pushed me over the edge of tolerance for it.  I recently watched "Ghostbusters" (the new one, circa 2016) and was mortified to find that, once again, Hollywood has presented the public with a story where men are marginalized to the extent of pointlessness. The men in this film are either hopeless bad guys, irritants, or witless eye candy. The script could have done so much with Chris Hemsworth, who has scads of talent, but it left him to hobble around as a constant joke. The original "Ghostbusters" had Bill Murray portraying a womanizing layabout, but we at least had the satisfaction of seeing him step up to the plate by the end.

Instead of fostering a gender balance, Hollywood has somehow decided that in order to empower women, it must now belittle men. I was embarrassed for my gender as we watched the female characters in the film ogle his character while shaking their heads at his stupidity. Switch genders in this film. If all the leads were male, and that poor, dumb, attractive secretary was female, women everywhere would be in an uproar.

What does this kind of movie say to my nine-year-old son who watched it with me - that he is only worth what he looks like on the outside, and that it's okay not to strive for a more meaningful part in society? What does it say to women - that it's okay to drool over a man and ridicule him if he isn't brilliant? Come on, Hollywood: stop pandering and start telling a story that requires real work!

Romance to the Rescue

One of the reasons I love writing the romances I do is the equality between the sexes. Romance writers know what Hollywood seems to have forgotten: that it takes balance to build a strong relationship, and anything less is not worth fighting for. Balance between a hero and heroine is what makes a powerful story. Each brings something to the relationship, helping to form a solid whole that is greater than its parts. There is no ridicule, no "I am better than you." The hero may be strong. He may be an alpha male to the core. He may say he needs no one, but eventually he finds himself seeking out the heroine for her own strengths. The heroine can be strong in her own right, able to lead a corporation or captain a military unit, but she still comes to rely on the hero for his strengths to augment her own. A relationship that lacks such give-and-take will never last. I keep waiting for Hollywood to get this into their heads and write me a comedy where the hero and heroine stand on equal footing.

Until then, I'll do some writing of my own.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Guest Author Joe Cosentino on Audiobooks

Today, I welcome back Joe Cosentino, author of the five popular Jana Lane mystery novels. Joe brings us a special treat, his first Jana Lane mystery, PAPER DOLL, now released for audiobook! Good to have you again, Joe!

Thank you for being such a gracious host, and even serving cyberspace tea.

After writing five Jana Lane mystery romance novels (RAG DOLL releasing November 16), you just released the audiobook of the first novel, PAPER DOLL. Please tell us about this decision.

Audiobooks are slowly becoming more and more popular. PAPER DOLL has been out as an ebook and paperback for nearly two years. I wanted to reach the listeners who prefer an audio experience. Also, until the TV series happens (I can dream), an audiobook is the next best thing. By the way, if the Jana Lane Mysteries are on TV, I want to play Jana’s comical old-world agent, Simon Huckby. Make me an offer, TV producers!

Tell us about the process of creating an audiobook, and how it differs from print publication. Were you given input on the reader?

When writing a book, I generally wake up at 3:00 AM with an idea for a shocking twist ending. The next day, if I can read the notes I wrote on my night table, I write an outline, character biographies, clue list, red herring list, and markers for the plot twists and turns. Then I let the characters talk to each other in my head. They say the most amazing things. After the first draft, my spouse gives me notes. The second draft goes to the publisher for an ebook and paperback. Audiobooks are generally created after the publication of a book. The book is posted on requesting narrators/producers to audition. The author receives the auditions, generally the first five minutes of the novel, electronically via Audible. After listening and selecting a narrator/producer, the author makes an offer to the preferred narrator/producer. In the case of PAPER DOLL, ten seconds into Charissa Clark Howe’s audition, I knew she was Jana Lane. I asked her if she would audition again with some of the other characters’ lines, especially the male characters. Charissa nailed every character perfectly. I was thrilled when she accepted my offer to do the audiobook.

That's fantastic! Were you given input on the voices, etc.?

The author has to approve the first ten minutes, and eventually the entire audiobook, before it can be listed for sale. So the author generally asks for corrections regarding text accuracy, character voices, and pronunciations if/when necessary.

What is the storyline of PAPER DOLL?

PAPER DOLL is the fictitious story of Jana Lane, America’s most famous child star until she was attacked on the studio lot at eighteen years old. Now a thirty-eight-year-old beauty and mother of two living in a mansion in picturesque Hudson Valley, New York, Jana’s flashbacks from her past turn into murder attempts in her present. Jana visits the California movie studio she once called home. This sends her on a whirlwind of visits with former and current movie studio personnel. It also leads to a romance with the son of her old producer—Rocco Cavoto—the devilishly handsome filmmaker who is planning Jana’s comeback both professionally and personally. Jana uncovers a web of secrets about everyone she loves, including the person who destroyed her past and threatens to snuff out her future.

It sounds like, once again, you used your background as a professional actor in creating this story.

I sure did. I love it when readers tell me that my insider knowledge of the world of show business comes through in the Jana Lane mysteries. I love it even more when they write about how much they love Jana’s strength and courage, the humor in the novels, and how they didn’t figure out the endings.

Did the storyline present any difficulties in terms of creating the audiobook?

The story takes place in 1980 with flashbacks to 1960, during the Hollywood studio system. I had a great deal of fun with the clothes, makeup, hair, music, and attitudes of those wonderful eras. Charissa did a great job making it quite clear when we were in 1980 or in 1960. Her clear diction enables the listener to hear and understand each word. The quirky characters like Jana’s agent, biggest fan, hammy has-been actor father, jealous sister, gay best friend, and more gave Charissa the opportunity to play unique and wonderful personalities. Charissa also did a fine job highlighting the clues, red herring, plot twists and turns, and powerful confrontation between Jana and the murderer ending in a shocking conclusion.

Now we need to know: will the other Jana Lane mysteries be made into audiobooks?

I hope so. They are published by The Wild Rose Press. So it is their decision. The other four books would make terrific audiobooks. In PORCELAIN DOLL, Jana makes a comeback film and uncovers who is being murdered on the set and why. Her heart is set aflutter by her incredibly gorgeous co-star, America’s heartthrob Jason Apollo. In SATIN DOLL, Jana and family head to Washington, DC, where Jana plays a U.S. senator in a new film, and becomes embroiled in a murder and corruption at the senate chamber. She also embarks on a flirtation with Chris Bruno, the sexy detective. In CHINA DOLL, Jana heads to New York City to star in a Broadway play, enchanted by her gorgeous co-star Peter Stevens, and faced with murder on stage and off. In RAG DOLL, Jana stars in a TV murder mystery series, and once again life imitates art. She is also reunited with Chris Bruno, the detective who got away.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: To purchase Joe's newest paperback, RAG DOLL, see the following links:

AllRomance Ebooks
Barnes and Noble
The Wild Rose Press

To order PAPER DOLL on audiobook, see below!]

Do you have other audiobooks for sale?

The hysterically funny Michael Gilboe narrated my first Nicky and Noah comedy mystery novel, DRAMA QUEEN (Lethe Press), beautifully playing all twenty-two characters. Since Michael is a college theatre professor, like me, he connected with the mystery, secrets, romance, and high humor of this novel set at an Edwardian-style New England college. In DRAMA QUEEN (Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award for Best Mystery, Best Crime, Best Humorous, Best Contemporary novel of 2015), theatre college professors are dropping like stage curtains. With the inept local detectives, it is up to Directing professor Nicky Abbondanza and Acting professor Noah Oliver to use their theatre skills (including playing other people) to solve the murders, while Nicky directs a murder mystery onstage. Hopefully audiobooks will follow for the other Nicky and Noah mysteries. In DRAMA MUSCLE (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention), Nicky and Noah have to use their theatre skills to find out why musclemen are dropping like weights in the Physical Education department while Nicky directs the Student Bodybuilding Competition. In DRAMA CRUISE (releasing December 1), Nicky and Noah go on a cruise to Alaska, and discover why college theatre professors are going overboard like lifeboats while Nicky directs a murder mystery dinner theatre show onboard ship. The fourth book, DRAMA LUAU (not released yet), has Nicky and Noah putting on a luau show as muscular male dancers drop like hula skirts. As the series progresses, Nicky and Noah fall deeper in love, and the readers hopefully fall deeper in love with Nicky and Noah.

Was working with Michael different from working with Charissa?

They were both delightful to work with and totally open to any of my requests for changes in pronunciations. Since Michael had so many characters to create, he welcomed my input on some of the voices. I still laugh when I hear that audiobook, and I’m surprised by the ending when the murderer is revealed!

Do you have any other audiobooks in the works?

Actor Joel Leslie, who has quite a following, is doing my Dreamspinner Press novellas THE NAKED PRINCE AND OTHER TALES FROM FAIRYLAND and A HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS (which takes place on the gorgeous and romantic island of Capri in Italy), releasing in November and December respectively. Joel is quite gifted with accents. Again, he was quite open to my requests regarding pronunciations of names.

My other two Dreamspinner Press romance novellas, IN MY HEART/An Infatuation & A Shooting Star (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention), loosely based on my high school and college years, are currently listed on Audible for audition. I’d also love to see my four Cozzi Cove beach romance novels (NineStar Press) as audiobooks, and I hope that will happen soon.

Where do you see the future of audiobooks?

Since people’s lives get more and more active and hurried, I assume the popularity of audiobooks will continue. Hearing a book in your car, while jogging, at the gym, or at work will probably become the norm.

PAPER DOLL has already received many accolades. Fresh Fiction has called it "superbly crafted," and I'm sure you'll have many new readers in this new audio format. Best of luck to you!

Click Here to Order the PAPER DOLL Audiobook

About Joe Cosentino

Bestselling author Joe Cosentino won Divine Magazine’s awards for best mystery novel, best humorous novel, and best contemporary novel of 2015. He is the author of the Jana Lane mysteries: Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll, Satin Doll, China Doll, Rag Doll (The Wild Rose Press); the Nicky and Noah mysteries: Drama Queen, Drama Muscle, Drama Cruise (Lethe Press); the Cozzi Cove beach series: Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back, Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward, Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out (NineStar Press); and the romance novellas: In My Heart anthology (An Infatuation & A Shooting Star), A Home for the Holidays, and The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Dreamspinner Press). As an actor, he has appeared in principal roles in film, television, and theatre opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. Upcoming novels are Drama Luau and Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings.

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