Friday, April 18, 2014


We read on Passover that Moses was a stranger in a strange land. 

So were some of these TV aliens who came down to earth. Conversely, humans were the strangers when they ventured out "where no one has gone before."

In honor of the holiday, check out this list of TV's Top 10 Aliens, by clicking the link.

(For soap fans, see how many soap actors you recognize in the round up.)

Thursday, April 17, 2014


The Dallas reboot went on mid-season break this week with a very familiar cliff-hanger. I'm so old I remember the last time Southfork went up in flames with a drunk Sue Ellen inside. And John Ross just a teeny, tiny tot (my, how fast they grow) who needed Ray to rescue him by jumping into the pool (see photo).

But, it's doubtful any cliff-hanger will ever measure up to the one that had the whole world talking, 1980s "Who Shot Jr?"

Many primetime soaps did try to match the frenzy Dallas generated. Dynasty shot up its entire cast in a make-believe, Eastern European principality (there actually is a Moldavia, by the way, but, at the time, it was a Soviet state. Whenever someone on Dynasty announced, "I'm the King of Moldavia, my mother would reply, "And I'm the Princess of Ukraine.") Falcon Crest sent a Valley-shattering earthquake. And today's primetime soaps are upping the ante even further.

Click here for a round-up of Primetime Soaps' Top 10 Cliffhangers!

Friday, April 11, 2014


The break out star on this year's break out sitcom, Brooklyn 99, is Melissa Fumero. Along with the realization that Andre Braugher can be deadpan funny, is just how funny - and adorable - Amy Santiago's portrayer is.

Of course, soap fans remember Melissa from her role as Dorian's long-lost (yes, another one) daughter on One Life to Live.

To check out other actresses who started on soaps, including which show can boast the most big-time alumni, and which prime-time soap currently features a Daytime Emmy winner, and much, much more, go to:

And for a list of actors who also got their start on daytime (which soap star lied about his age to get a movie, role, which two future Star Wars actors shared a role?) go to:

Wednesday, April 02, 2014


Whether you first met Louise Sorel as the pigeon-puff making Augusta on Santa Barbara, the nemesis-burying Vivian on Days of Our Lives or as the imperial Judith (who, alas, neither cooked nor buried) on One Life to Live, you know that she can play a character!

Well, now she's playing several of them in a new, stage revival of I Remember Mama, running through April 20 at The Gym at Judson in New York City, where ten actresses assume all twenty-five speaking roles.

Tickets to the show are regularly $59 dollars, but soap - and Louise Sorel - fans can click this link and enter code: IRMRRM to purchase the same seat for only $39.

Or, if you're really feeling lucky, enter the Soap Opera 451 giveaway! I've got two pairs of tickets to give away to two lucky winners. Just email with the subject line "Win Tickets" to be entered in our drawing. Winners will be notified by email on Friday, April 11, 2014.

In the meantime, to get you in the mood, enjoy our interview with Louise Sorel about I Remember Mama... and soaps, too!

Soap Opera 451: In this production of "I Remember Mama," you are playing more than one character. Which ones are they, and how would you relate them to all the different characters you've played on soaps throughout the years?
Louise Sorel: I can't relate them to soaps - this is a play and the roles are from another time in life. Although the grandeur of Florence Dana Moorehead is close to Vivian Allemain - in a small way.

SO451: How is acting on stage different from acting for the camera?
LS: Stage work is larger and more complicated in that we are onstage for two hours and constantly involved.  It's never piecemeal on stage.

SO451: "I Remember Mama" explores a variety of family dynamics. So do soaps. How would you compare the way this show deals with family relationships to how soaps tackle them?
LS: I am hesitant to answer this - "Mama" is a tender, poetic familial piece and deals with historic beginnings for a family - who is poor and close - with some sibling rivalry and deep love among all of them. I don't really want to get into the difference because they are different mediums and are expressed for different reasons.

SO451: Why would soap fans in particular enjoy this production of "I Remember Mama?"
LS: This is filled with wonderful actresses and very moving - I don't know what more someone would want from the theater?  Plus it's got lovely humor.

Read more about the play at:

Monday, March 31, 2014


I know, I know... Sheyl Samberg wants us to ban bossy because she thinks it keeps little girls from striving
to be leaders.

I'm sorry, Sheryl Sandberg, but those of us who grew up watching soaps know that bossy women rule (Y&R's Eric Braeden knows it, too; that's why he's always complaining about how women on daytime are so much stronger than the men - boo-hoo, Eric Braeden).

Last week, I wrote a piece for BlogHer about TV's Top 10 Female Bosses. You can read it, here.

If it were up to me, I'd have filled the entire list with women from prime-time soaps, everyone from Alexis on Dynasty to Angela on Falcon Crest to Abby on Knots Landing to Amanda on Melrose Place.

And then I would have moved on to daytime: Lucinda on ATWT, Brooke on AMC, Anna on GH, Alexandra on GL, Ashley on Y&R, Stephanie on B&B, Dorian on OLTL (and Viki, too), heck, even Maeve on Ryan's Hope ran a bar!

The list is nearly endless.

So let's show the world who's boss.

Who are your favorite TV bosses from Daytime and Nighttime soaps? Tell us in the comments below, and then drop by BlogHer and tell them Daytime Still Matters!

Don't be afraid to get bossy about it, either. ;)

Friday, March 28, 2014


The 2014 World Figure Skating Championships continue through the weekend and, to celebrate, I've got another excerpt from "Skate Crime: A Figure Skating Mystery," and the story of a skater who got much too tense before a competition... and the coach who came up with a most unique solution to the problem....

Unlike 99 percent of the students who came under Lucian's — or, frankly, any skating coach's — elite tutelage, Gina Gregory possessed something the rest did not. Gina genuinely and completely and unabashedly loved to skate.
She loved it when she stepped onto the ice for the first time at the age of three. She loved it through group lessons and private lessons and reconstructive surgery on her elbow after she broke it trying a Double Axel when she could barely do a single. She was always the first girl at the rink when it opened in the morning and the last one off the ice, even as the Zamboni was rumbling out of the gate to signal an end of session for the night. She was always the one eager to try a trick once more to get it perfect, never complaining about injuries or not having enough time to do other, normal-kid things. Gina Gregory would have been the perfect student.  Except that, like 99 percent of the students who came under any skating coach's elite tutelage, she also had something the rest of them did — a mother keenly interested in her child's progress.
Tina Gregory was the reason Lucian Pryce initially refused to take on Gina. Yes, he saw how talented the girl was. Yes, he saw how teachable she was and how easy to deal with. But her mother was a horror. And Lucian was no fool.
It wasn't until Gina was twelve years old and picked one morning when Lucian was teaching another skater to circle him incessantly and keep doing Double Axel after Double Axel after Double Axel until Lucian was dizzy — even if she wasn't — that he threw up his hands, laughed, and gave in.
For the next decade, he had cause to regret it every day of his life.
Not because of Gina. Gina was exactly what he'd expected. But because of Tina. Because Tina was exactly what he'd expected, too. (When a woman tells you she named her only daughter after herself—G[regory] + [T]ina = Gina — you kind of know what you're in for.)
Tina Gregory wasn't just content to, like the other mothers, sit rinkside every day and coach her daughter from the sidelines — even though she was ostensibly paying Lucian good money to do the same thing. Serious money. Top dollar, as a matter of fact. (Lucian believed customers understood they were getting the best only if they were also paying the most.) No, Tina prided herself on cornering Lucian each and every time he stepped off the ice, so they could have a little confab about Gina's progress and potential. And when Lucian came home at the end of the day, more often than not, the phone would already be ringing, and it would be Tina on the other end, with yet another question or notion. They talked about Gina's programs. They talked about Gina's music. They talked about her costumes and her diet and her ballet lessons that Lucian insisted she take to lose some of the coltish qualities that judges tended to disdain in their international-level skaters. But, most of all, they talked about the fact that Gina thought too much.
The older she got, the more it became a problem.
By the time she turned sixteen, Gina was, even in the opinion of her fiercest (and cattiest) competitors, the World Ladies' champion of the practice ice. Fortunately for her competitors, however, about half the time now, her championship moves remained right there on the practice ice. All because, when it came time for competition, Gina started thinking.
She thought about which girls might be able to outskate her, and she thought about which moves she was most likely to miss. As a result, she missed the moves and the girls she most feared did, in fact, outskate her.
Lucian realized soon enough that Gina's best performances took place when she didn't have time to overthink them. Most girls hated to draw first to skate in the Short Program. Common wisdom held that judges "saved" their marks, meaning that the skater who went first could never hope to score as high as the one who went last, even if their actual performances were identical. Lucian believed "saving" marks to be an actual phenomenon. But he also knew that it was better for Gina, and so he rejoiced when she pulled her arm out of the sorting hat with a single-digit number. Unfortunately, Gina skating so well in the Short Program meant she was usually scheduled to skate in the final group for the Long. And that left more thinking time than anybody felt comfortable with.
Since Lucian couldn't very well (no matter what his own competitors believed) fix the draw to assure Gina going early in the Short, and since he couldn't change the rules to keep her from ending up in the final group for the Long, Lucian went with the factors he thought he still might be able to affect, and banned Tina from attending competitions alongside her child. He'd believed for years that Tina and her never-ending need to discuss every bit of minutia surrounding her daughter's career was what filled Gina's head with the stress and anxiety that then tripped her up. So Lucian gave Tina a choice: Either she stay away from Gina at competition (and that meant far away; not in another room, not in another hotel, but preferably in another state) or Lucian would walk away from coaching her. After several years of having paid top dollar for every lesson, Tina was adequately convinced that Lucian was the best coach available, and so knew enough to back away when faced with such an ultimatum.
Initially, Lucian's gamble worked. Without her mother constantly whispering in her ear, Gina did grow more relaxed about such issues as her program, her music, her costumes, her competition, and her chances. She trusted that she could skate as well when it counted as when it didn't. But, without her mother to take care of the associated details like she always had, Gina replaced her previous performance anxiety with a new list of worries: What if she didn't fill out her entry paperwork correctly, what if her plane wasn't on time, what if her luggage got lost, what if she misplaced her room key, what if she missed the practice bus, what if she misread her schedule, what if, what it, what if... The girl was a twitching bundle of nerves and Lucian was getting sick of it. So he went with yet another Plan B. Lucian always had a Plan B in case things didn't go according to plan. He'd learned it from coaching Toni.
To execute Gina's Plan B, Lucian sent in Chris Kelly.
Chris, at this point, was the undisputed king of the Pryce skating stable. Having won Olympic Gold two years earlier, then followed it up with a World Championship that year and the next, Chris was, at age twenty-two, the best-known name in Men's skating. In addition, having obviously gotten over the death of his wife from a year before, he was the acknowledged catch in the very small pool of male skaters who were successful, good-looking, and most important, straight. And Chris knew it.
He'd gone through at least a half dozen girlfriends since Lauren, including media personalities, heiresses, and fellow skaters. He'd never given eighteen-year-old Gina a second glance. Until he showed up at her hotel room at the World Championship under strict orders from Lucian to "For God's sake, son, get that girl to relax. I don't care how you do it."
Having placed first in the Short Program and then drawn to skate last for the Long in a record field of forty-seven girls, Gina had several hours with nothing to do but think about what could go wrong before she was finally allowed to leave the hotel, catch the appropriate shuttle, arrive at the arena, change into her competition outfit, and do the one thing in the entire process that she still loved to do — skate. Equally unfortunate was the fact that these particular championships were being held in Amsterdam. Which meant they were being shown on Eurosport. Which meant that, at any time, Gina could turn on the TV and watch, live, all the lucky girls who'd already gotten their programs over with.
           Gina, as it had already been established not only by Lucian but also by the U.S. figure skating press corps as well as the fans who liked to discuss such matters in grave detail each time they gathered at yet another championship, did not know how to relax.
          It was up to Chris to show her.
         At first, when he kissed her, Gina had no idea what he was doing. (Well, she had some idea. She wasn't a complete innocent; in fact, she had read a great deal on the subject and fully intended to explore it further once her busy schedule allowed.) When he peeled off her robe, she was, momentarily, utterly befuddled. But that didn't seem to bother Chris much. He apparently had no interest in her actively participating beyond not getting in his way. Which Gina had no intention of doing, in any case. To be honest, she wouldn't have known how. And to be really honest, she was too curious.

Read more by clicking the link below:

Or save over 30% by buying all five Figure Skating Mystery novels in one volume:

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Congratulations to Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy for winning their career fifth gold medal at the 2014 World Figure Skating Championships taking place right now in Japan.

A profile on the pair in 2010 stated:

Robin Szolkowy, born in the town of Greifswald to his mother (an East German nurse) and his father (a Tanzanian medical student), who returned to Africa before the birth of his son.

Although black athletes are extremely rare in the former East Germany, Szolkowy told the New York Times before the Games that he never experienced racism or discomfort.

Skating is hardly America's most colorful sport, either. (Well, at least not racially speaking.)

In my 5th Figure Skating Mystery novel, "Skate Crime: Enhanced Multimedia Edition," I told the story of African-American Toni Wright, and her white pairs partner, Lucian Pryce. I based Toni on the legendary Mabel Fairbanks.

Read about Mabel, here, and enjoy an exclusive excerpt from "Skate Crime," below:

"You got a lot of money?"
He was about twelve, maybe thirteen years old, with hair so blond he might have been a ghost and eyes so blue they looked like mirrors reflecting the summer sky. His chin had a point at the end, and with every word he spoke, it looked as though he was jabbing it right in Toni's direction.
"What's it to you?" Toni asked, knowing that she sounded common, and happy that Mama wasn't around to hear her.
"I heard you going around asking everybody for lessons. You got money to pay for them?"
"Not that it's any of your business, but yes. Yes, I do."
"Where'd you get it?"
"From my daddy, of course."
"Ha! Never heard of a rich colored man."
"That is likely because you are ignorant" Toni heard Mama's voice coming out of her mouth and decided that made up for sounding so cheap earlier.
"Where'd he get all his money? He a thief?"
"Of course not! For your information, my father runs the Wright Funeral Homes of New York City. Two in Harlem, one in Queens, two in the Bronx, and we're opening another in Brooklyn next month!"
"So he's a vampire!"
Toni knew she should be offended. But the image of her daddy with bat wings and sharp teeth just made her giggle.
"So you're really rich, then?"
Toni shrugged. Well-brought-up young ladies didn't discuss money in public. It was even more common than bad grammar.
"I have an idea," the boy said. "About how you can take skating lessons."
She knew she shouldn't be listening to him, but Toni couldn't help it. She said, "How?”
"Okay, well, see, here's the thing: I could teach you."
"You're just a boy!"
"I'm almost thirteen! And I've been skating, well, since I was a baby almost. See, my ma and dad, they run the Arthur Murray Dance Studio on West fifty-ninth — that's practically right down the street, in Hell's Kitchen. So I've been dancing since I was a baby, too. I'm good. Ma says I could be a ballroom champion, maybe. But dancing, that's nothing like skating. Skating is everything you do in dance, but harder and faster and... and... better. It's just better, you know?"
"I know," Toni said softly.
"Now, my folks, they can afford a lesson for me here and there, but if you want to be a champion, you need lessons every day. My folks don't have the money for that. So I thought, it's like this... I thought I could give you lessons on what I know and you don't, but since I can't take money or I wouldn't be an amateur skater anymore, your daddy can pay the money for my lessons to my coach for her to teach me. Then I take what I learn and teach it to you, you understand?"
Toni thought she did. But... "Your coach doesn't want to teach me."
"No, she doesn't. But I bet she wouldn't mind taking money from you for me, especially if she knows it's the only way I could afford it."
When Toni later told her daddy what the boy had proposed, he chuckled, but he didn't look particularly happy when he agreed, "No, I suspect she wouldn't mind, at that."
"So can we do it, Daddy? Can we do it this way?"
"Well, I would like to speak to this boy first. What did you say his name was?”
Toni had to sheepishly admit she had no idea.
The next day. Daddy came to the rink in person. Toni pointed out the boy with the pale hair and mirror eyes. He was on the ice, running backwards at top speed, then leaping into the air and splitting his legs so high, his toes were nearly up to his shoulders when he touched them with his fingers.
Daddy beckoned him over and the boy came instantly. He said his name was Lucian Pryce.
"Lucian, huh?" Daddy noted. "That's quite the mouthful."
"My ma is French, sir. Well, first Russian, then French. She's from a long line of ballerinas that ran away from Russia between the wars and ended up first in France, then America. Dad's just a regular mick, though. Nothing fancy there."
Toni wasn't sure if Daddy actually heard the gist of Lucian's explanation. He still seemed a bit dumbstruck that a white boy had called him "sir."
Daddy told Lucian he would speak to his coach, but if she agreed with Lucian's idea to pay for his lessons, then Daddy was for it. Lucian grinned and winked at Toni. She knew that winking was very common. But she couldn't help winking back.
Lucian's coach did Daddy the great favor of taking his money. She hesitated a bit before actually, physically accepting it but in the end, like Daddy always said, "The color green wins out over any other."
And Toni began taking lessons from Lucian.
Their first day, he taught her the backwards crossovers.
Their first year, she had mastered every single revolution jump, up through the Axel (which was actually one and a half turns in the air). By the second year, she could spin so ferociously, Daddy said it was like seeing a spool of movie film slip out of its projector. By the third, Lucian told Toni he thought she was ready for real U.S. Figure Skating Association competition. There was only one problem. In order to compete, she had to join the USFSA. And the USFSA did not — Lucian had actually called their headquarters and asked; he would apply for her father to cover the long-distance bill later — have any colored members.
Toni asked Lucian for a copy of the form to join the USFSA. She read it closely. She said, "It doesn't ask anywhere if you're colored or not. It just says what the dues are to join."
Lucian read the form, too. "You're right," he said.
At eleven years old, Toni was a dues-paying, official member of the U.S. Figure Skating Association. Now she could take the necessary figure and freestyle tests to qualify for competition at the Regional, Sectional, maybe even the National Championships. When she filled out her paperwork to take the test, it didn't ask whether or not she was colored, either. But when the three judges assigned to mark her test arrived at Wollman Rink, they could see for themselves. One refused to look at her figures at all. The other two simply marked her "Failed" before she was even through demonstrating.
"This is a problem," Lucian said.
"Is it a problem that can be solved with money?" Daddy asked him.
"Then I expect you to let me know how to solve it."
Lucian called the USFSA headquarters — this time, he simply used the Wrights' phone, to make the reimbursement easier — and asked for a list of every qualified judge in the country, plus their contact information. He then proceeded to call over two hundred of them, until he found three willing to judge a little colored girl's tests.
On a warm April morning a few weeks before Toni turned twelve, as the outdoor rink's ice was beginning to melt in the spring thaw, three USFSA judges — one from Maine, one from Vermont, one all the way from the aptly named Great Falls, Montana –
arrived in New York City — plane fare courtesy of Wright Funeral Homes — to judge one Antonia Wright's figure and freestyle tests.
Daddy told her, "I don't plan to do this regularly, so you best make sure you get this right the first time, you hear me, Antonia?"
"Yes, sir," she said.
"That goes for you, too, Lucian."
"Yes, sir," he said. And Lucian made sure that when Toni took her tests, they were loop and bracket and Choctaw perfect, so that, in the space of that one morning, she passed all of her tests up to the Junior level.
"That means you're qualified to compete at Nationals!" he told her excitedly.
"Don't I have to place at Regionals and Sectionals first?"
“Technicality," Lucian said. "I'm going to go to Nationals in Senior Men, and you're going to go in Junior Ladies. It's all over but the medal ceremony, really."
Toni was the fifth girl in her group of twelve at the Regionals. She skated in a purple velvet dress and white tights to music from Broadway's Showboat. Lucian had picked and edited the tunes himself on a special record. The first, fast part was to "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man," the slow middle section was to "Ol' Man River," and then for the big, dramatic finish she skated to a Charleston. Toni landed all of her double jumps and wrapped up with a change-leg camel/sit/scratch spin. She placed twelfth out of twelve in the free skating, just as she had in the figures.
"This is a problem," Lucian said, looking at her scores.
"Is it a problem that can be solved with money?” Daddy asked.
"I don't know, sir," Lucian admitted.
"Then you'd best figure it out and tell me. Soon."
"Yes, sir."
To Toni, Daddy said, "Now, the only solution I personally can see to this problem is for you to get yourself twice as good, three times as good, whatever it takes, so that those judges can't keep on ignoring you like this. You think you can do that, Antonia?"
"I don't know, sir."
"Then you'd best figure it out and tell me. Soon."
After a few days of thinking about it, Lucian said, "I think I may have a solution."
"What is it?"
"You're going to skate Pairs." It wasn't a question. It was a pronouncement
"With who?"
"With me." Another pronouncement
"You know, Lucian, even in a Pair, I'll still be colored."
"Yes. But it will matter less. Trust me. Plus, the judges have already shown they like me. I won my group on all seven cards, and by a wide margin, too. If they like me by myself, they'll like me with you."
"Why would you want to give up skating Singles to skate Pairs with me?"
"Because I'm good by myself, but I can be great with you." Lucian smiled. "What do you say? Have I ever steered you wrong before?"

"Skate Crime: Enhanced Multimedia Edition" features all the text of the original, Berkley Prime Crime paperback release, as well as videos by the Ice Theatre of NY to compliment the story (I even managed to find video of an African-American woman skating with a white man to represent Toni and Lucian - no easy feat, let me tell you - read all about it, here). Get a free preview of "Skate Crime" by clicking the link below: