Sunday, December 16, 2012
In an attempt to provide readers with a unique and compelling experience, author John Shors is making unheard-of efforts to connect with book clubs across the country. Shors is the author of "Beneath a Marble Sky," a work of historical fiction based on the remarkable story behind the Taj Mahal's creation. "Beneath a Marble Sky" has been hailed by book reviewers as a "work of art," is being made into a major motion picture by Hollywood and won a "Book of the Year" award from ForeWord magazine. For the past two years, Shors has been asking book clubs across the country to invite him to participate in their meetings. By his count, he's spoken (via speakerphone) with about 200 book clubs. Says Shors, "I grew up reading several books a week and after finishing many works wanted to ask the author questions. Unfortunately, I only had a few such conversations, usually at a book signing with a roomful of strangers. Feeling that readers deserved more, I promised myself that if I ever had a novel published that I would go to great lengths to connect with readers." "Beneath a Marble Sky" was published as a hardcover in 2004. As his book hit best-seller lists, Shors created his book club program, through which he called into book clubs across America. Clubs needed to simply contact him in advance and have a speakerphone handy. Shors promoted his program via his Web site (www.beneathamarblesky.com) and was soon chatting with several book clubs a week. "My book club program has been extremely enjoyable, both for me and readers," Shors says. "Readers are able to ask me any sort of question about my novel, the publishing industry or the process of turning 'Beneath a Marble Sky' into a major motion picture. They get to talk with me among their friends and in a manner that is extremely casual and open-ended. Most every group, as our call winds down, tells me that this has been their all-time favorite discussion."
Very few female artists in the world today combine the stage presence, searing lyrics and sultry style that Fiona Apple brings to life in all of her work. Apple has gained a wide-ranging and extremely loyal following, and she is set to perform live in several cities around the United States this summer. Early Life Fiona Apple Maggart was born in New York City on September 17, 1977. She was seemingly born to perform, as her parents are actors Brandon Maggart and Diane McAfee. Apple’s childhood consisted of several difficult twists and turns, the first of which occurred when she was only four years old, when her parents split. Fiona was raised by her mother in New York, and was introduced to the world of music by learning to play the piano at the age of eight. Her lifelong independent streak began to show itself at this time, however, when she decided soon after starting her piano lessons that she was better off teaching herself, which is exactly what she did, working mostly with a keyboard as opposed to a classic piano. Fiona’s internal childhood problems began to manifest themselves outwardly only three years later, when at age 11, she confessed to a friend that she wanted to kill herself and her older sister Amber. This led her mother to put Fiona through several intense therapy sessions, which only led Fiona’s dark side down a more advanced corridor, as her attitude towards these sessions was that she must really have something wrong with her in order to need therapy as a child. Her greatest personal tragedy occurred at the age of 12, when she was raped by an unknown assailant as she came home from school to her mother’s apartment building in New York. Given her troubled psychological past, this incident could have easily sent Apple “over the edge.” However, she actually turned this tragedy into a positive, as would be seen in her future work, where she alluded to the incident in order to provide a message of overcoming obstacles in several of her songs. Career Beginnings The notion of “random chance” had not been kind to Fiona during childhood, but this same notion was the very thing that helped launch her successful music career. Fiona had put together a demo tape, but hadn’t had much success with it up to that point. One of her friends had a copy of it, and her friend served as a baby-sitter for Kathryn Schenker, a music-industry publicist whose clients included Aerosmith and Sting. Her friend gave the demo tape to Schenker, and she was impressed enough to send it along to Andrew Slater, a prominent producer. Slater signed her to her first record deal. Time of Success From there, the rest is history. Her debut album, Tidal, released in 1996, sold 3 million copies in the United States. One of the singles on the album, “Sleep to Dream,” won an MTV Award for New Artist Video of the Year in 1997. Apple created quite a stir during her acceptance speech by ripping the image-conscious entertainment industry and urging young women to be comfortable with themselves. Apple has never expressed any regret for her statements, and her independent streak was once again on display. Apple has since released two additional studio albums, and each of them climbed to within the Top 15 on the US Album charts. She has also won two additional MTV Music Awards, and her work is recognized around the world. Apple’s live shows are known not only for their musical and acoustic quality, but also for the intimacy that Apple creates even with large audiences. Apple is truly a unique character in any sense, and her attitude and strongly-held beliefs are a breath of fresh air from the mainstream, mass-marketed world of music.
Gossip and scandal are everywhere when it comes to stars and celebrities around the world. And no matter how much you deny that you don't pay attention to celebrity news, how often do you find yourself joining in a hot discussion at work or around the dinner table? Keeping your eye on the stars is one way to amuse yourself and keep smiling. Not many people can resist a bit of gossip about the celebrities that make the news. Award ceremonies are a great way to see what everyone is wearing and how bad or good they look wearing it. Watching a popular starlet stumble her way to the podium wearing an unflattering dress can lead to weeks of gossip about what not to wear when the cameras are hot and ready. Magazines are filled with the latest fashion mistakes that the stars make when they venture out into public places. Celebrity relationships continue to baffle most of us. What makes motion picture stars such as Brad Pitt leave one relationship for another? Celebrity gossip has followed Mr. Pitt as he baffles the media with his behavior. The scandal of celebrity relationships gone wrong is always at the forefront of the news, covering the pages of serious newspapers all the way to gossip magazines that line the shelves at the grocery store. Stars range from movie starlets such as Meg Ryan to music icons such as Madonna. Society loves to follow their actions whether they are performing in front of a camera or on stage. And when these stars are caught at their worst, even more gossip hits that media. Celebrity news and gossip can be found in magazines, on the radio, and on the television screen. Gossip is a great way to take a break from the more serious news that is found both locally and around the world. As a society we like to follow the actions of those people we see in the media light. After all, do you really want to miss out seeing the next outrageous outfit that Paris Hilton is going to wear?