Monday, September 30, 2013


Last week, in honor of director Doug Wilson's new book, The World Was Our Stage: Spanning the Globe With ABC Sports, I featured an excerpt from my book, Inside FigureSkating, where I interviewed Doug.

To find out who Doug considers to be a skater's best friend (hint: It is neither man not dog), click here for Part #1 of the interview.

And read on for Part #2, where Doug explains the secret for getting on TV, how broadcasting fundamentally changed the sport, which skater got her first - and only - standing ovation thanks to television... and more....

For Wilson, the process to becoming the conduit through which television viewers feel like they're on the ice with the skater, is one of "doing your homework."  He first came up with a strategy for plotting a skater's program out on paper, when, in 1979, he watched Peggy Fleming drawing a diagram of her Olympic program, planning to send it out as a Christmas card.  Realizing he could use analogous diagrams to plan his camera shots in advance, Wilson began inviting top skaters to draw their routines while their music played, and he made notes on the timing of their elements.  Unfortunately, Wilson found that what he often ended up with at the end of the day, was a stack of scribbles.  When directing "Pro Skates" in 1983, a lack of time to sit with the skaters and review their programs compelled him to ask his assistant to monitor the clock and take notes while Wilson watched the skaters rehearse, and called out camera-cues on the fly.  This improvisation developed into the two-person system Wilson, and practically every other skating director, uses today.

For him, it's a labor of love.  His motto is,  "The moment a director is about to display to the person in their living room a Triple Axel that Todd Eldredge has rehearsed 40,000 times for that moment -- then, by God, that's worth attention, it's worth caring, and the value of that better be respected."

And the skaters genuinely appreciate his efforts.  In 1986, three-time U.S. Dance Champion Jim Millns, practicing for a multi-generational commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of the Memorial Fund, indicated his colleagues along the ice, and asked Wilson, "Do you know who these people are?  They all grew up with you."

One promising newcomer Wilson had pegged as a star from the start, was Janet Lynn.  And, together, Lynn and television would pave the way for one of figure-skating's greatest revolutions.

In 1972, when Janet Lynn competed at the Olympics, compulsory figures counted sixty percent of a skater's score, the free skating forty percent.  Janet Lynn was a brilliant jumper and spinner, and a mediocre tracer of figures.  Her closest competitor, 1972 Olympic Champion Beatrix "Trixie" Schuba of Austria, was a lethargic free-styler.  And arguably the greatest figure skater the world had ever seen.  By the time the televised portion of the event, the free-skating, rolled around, Trixie was usually so far ahead, that all she had to do was remain alive to capture the title.  Viewers at home, however, could not understand why Trixie was the winner, when Janet Lynn had skated so enchantingly only moments earlier.  As a result, following the 1972 Olympics, a Short Program, worth twenty percent of the score, was added to all skating contests, while the value of the figures was reduced, making the final tally: Figures 30%, Freestyle (combined Short and Long Programs) 70%.

By 1990, the figures would be tossed all together.  As skating grew in popularity, feedback from television viewers vocalized that figures were dull.  So figures were out.  But, before evicting them from competition, television would give Trixie Schuba the memory of a lifetime.  At the 1972 Worlds, the champion finished skating her exhibition -- a freestyle program that received lukewarm applause from the crowd -- when Wilson instructed Dick Button to ask Trixie to perform a figure.  Button passed on the message, but a confused Trixie went out to do another free-skating encore.  The crowd was definitely getting restless, when Wilson sent Trixie out on the ice for a third time, urging her to skate that figure.

Trixie Schuba took her spot at center-ice, put out her hands, and pushed off to perform the figure.  The crowd fell into a hushed silence.  Then, when the audience realized what she was doing, the arena erupted into applause, building and building until it turned into a standing ovation, into Trixie's first standing ovation ever.

For years, whenever producers of ABC's "Wide World of Sports were asked by eager athletes, 'how do I get on TV?' their standard response was always, 'Either win or be spectacular.'  At long last, Trixie Shuba got to be both. 

At those same Worlds, another skater, one who didn't win, fulfilled the second half of the command.  Doug Wilson remembers being so smitten by a little girl with a big pink bow, that he broke precedent and, in the middle of the dance event, "flashed back" to show a ladies' competitor who hadn't won a medal.  Because she was the future.  "The horizon."  Thus giving the world their first glimpse of a teen-age Dorothy Hamill.


Read all of Doug's stories by clicking on the link below:


I first got to know Doug when I worked at ABC as a figure-skating researcher. I turned that experience into a series of figure skating mystery novels, where any resemblance to real people living or dead is completely coincidental (that's my story and I'm sticking with it):

Friday, September 27, 2013


After my personal review of "The Goldbergs" at, I tackled the new ABC series from a more academic perspective at BlogHer.

Of course me being me, I could pass up the opportunity to slip a little soap talk into the mix:

Developed for the radio in 1929 and making the switch to television in 1946, The Goldbergs was the brainchild of the amazing Gertrude Berg, who initially not only wrote and directed every episode, but also played the lead role of Molly Goldberg, the Jewish mother from the Bronx who, when not fussing over a husband, children and live-in uncle, loved nothing more than to gossip out her window with the neighbors –- and then fuss over them, too.

At one point, the show aired daily and was even considered by some to be as much a soap opera as a
sitcom (putting Berg in the same league as another Jewish-American broadcasting pioneer, Irna Phillips, who, more or less, created the soap opera genre and also wrote all her own scripts –- though she only produced, without acting and directing. Slacker.)

Read the entire piece, here.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


An excerpt from my review of "The Goldbergs," which premiered this week on ABC:

Instead, if I want to show my children a sitcom about Jewish family life, I’ll show them the other Goldbergs. The black-and-white television show that ran from 1949 to 1956 (after 17 successful years on the radio). The one that featured an unabashedly Jewish family, complete with an uncle who spoke with a Yiddish accent and a mother who had plenty of outside friends and interests, didn’t yell (unless she had to), who was respected by her husband and children, and whose accentless English nevertheless carried the syntax, phrasing–and wisdom–of the old country.

We tend to think of the 1950s in America as repressive and white bread, populated by traditional, “Leave It to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best” families; conservative and unaccepting of any deviation from the norm. We pride ourselves on being much more open-minded now, on acknowledging that there are many different kinds of families and cultures and lifestyles.

And yet, over 50 years after the original “Goldbergs” went off the air, I can’t imagine any network–not even the self-proclaimed “edgy” ones like HBO or Showtime–airing a sitcom where the whole family can be openly, unapologetically Jewish, without it becoming their singular, defining trait and/or the subject of “A Very Special Episode.”
Read the entire piece explaining why I feel this way at:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Long before I worked in televised figure skating, I knew the name Doug Wilson.  Doug Wilson was the man who, more or less, invented televised figure skating.  Or, at least, televised figure skating that we now take for granted as: The Way It Should Be Done.

I was privileged to work with Doug at ABC Sports, when I was a Figure Skating Researcher for a few years.

Now, Doug has written a book, The World Was Our Stage: Spanning the Globe with ABC Sports about, well, his spanning the globe with ABC Sports, which includes figure skating, gymnastics, and much, much more.

In 1998, I interviewed Doug for a book of my own, Inside Figure Skating, especially the chapter entitled Lights, Camera, Axel: How Television Changed Figure Skating.

In honor of Doug's new projects, I'll be excerpting that chapter here today and in the weeks to come.

Part #1:

In June of 1996, "Skating Magazine," the official publication of the USFSA, delivered to every one of its 125,000 members, asked their readers to vote on which development had the greatest impact on figure skating in the U.S. in the past 75 years.  In last place came the "Harding/Kerrigan" incident of 1994, often cited by those outside the sport as the key turning-point in skating's transformation from a once-every-four-years curiosity to the second most-watched athletic endeavor (after football) in America.

1994 Olympic Silver Medalist Nancy Kerrigan herself, resents such talk, taking offense at the idea that a person being hurt is judged, by some, as "the best thing that ever happened to skating."

And the readers of "Skating Magazine" agree with her.  When asked to name the recent development with the greatest impact on skating, nearly 40% chose "Television."

ABC-TV's director Doug Wilson concurs, "Nothing significant happened in the evolution of figure skating that was not influenced by television.  Skating changed because of the size of the audience witnessing it.  How many spectators attended the U.S. championship in Cleveland in 1964?  It was a grey, cold, unfilled site.  Peggy Fleming was a new name."

Four years later, however, following ABC's first-ever in-color broadcast of the 1968 Olympics, Peggy Fleming was a household word.

Recalls Wilson,  "The popularity of skating on TV was caused by the genuine, extraordinary qualities of the sport.  TV not only showed that it was a sport that had extraordinary requirements, but that it was star-oriented, (with) dedicated, terrific, and, for the most part, interesting people.  Because in order to be very good in figure skating, you have to be an extraordinary person.  I remember the first time I realized Peggy Fleming had this great, marvelous, quiet sense of humor.  It was 1967, and I wanted to do a piece on school figures.  I thought, I'll get the camera over the ice, and have Peggy do her figures.  We stepped on the ice.  She had skates on, I didn't.  And she says, with that devilish smile, 'You better take my arm.  You might fall on your... ear.'"

Starting with Sonja Henie and up through coverage of the 1998 Winter Olympics, television has perceived that skating is a personality driven sport.  And that they were the perfect medium to bring those personalities to the attention of the international public.

Wilson stresses, "The moment a skater steps on the ice, their best friend is television.  We're there to enhance what the skater is trying to say emotionally with their program.  Each camera is an extension of the choreography.  Television is better than a twelfth row center seat at the ballet.  Television puts you on stage with the dancer.  It becomes a pas de deux." 

Check back for more updates, and definitely check out Doug's book at the link!

Alina Adams is the author of the Figure Skating Mystery series, including Murder on Ice, On Thin Ice, Axel of Evil, Death Drop and Skate Crime.

Monday, September 09, 2013


Vicki Boykis (Woman. Legend. Blog - it says so right at the top of her page) interviews me and asks the following question:

Vicki: How did you get into writing romance?

Alina: Alas, I must confess that I was one of those girls who, while other middle-schoolers were reading “Sweet Valley High” and Judy Blume in the children’s room at the library, went straight for the Sidney Sheldon, Judith Krantz, Belva Plain et. al… in the adult section  (I also did my homework on the floor while watching soap operas; shhh, don’t tell my parents).

I knew that when I grew up, I wanted to write big, sprawling novels about rich people behaving badly while dressing very well and jetting off to exotic locations.  This is because I grew up in the 80s. Unfortunately, because I actually started trying to get published in the 90s, I was informed that those stories were “out” by an editor (a mystery I still can’t answer is: Where did all those readers of 80s trash go?  Was there a tragic accident I’m not aware of?).

So my big, sprawling, 80s style novels kept getting rejected. Until I received a call from an editor who told me she’d read a book I sent in (those were the days when it was still possible to be picked out of the slush – unagented – file), and she didn’t like it.  (Wasn’t it nice of her to call and tell me that?) But, she liked my writing style and was wondering if I wanted to try my hand at writing a Regency romance.

“Of course!” I said.  Then hung up the phone and asked the air, “What in the world is a Regency romance?”

I went to my favorite place – the adult section of the pubic library – checked out a stack of Regency novels, reading enough to learn that Regency romances are romances that take place in England during the Regency period.

Got it.

I wrote three chapters and an outline of a Regency and sent it off.  The editor called again, this time to say she loved it and wanted to see the entire manuscript on her desk by the end of the week.  I said, “It’s… not… polished, yet.”  Because it beat the truth, which was that it wasn’t written yet.  Nevertheless, I wrote it, sent it in, and it was accepted and published as “The Fictitious Marquis.”  I even managed to sneak some Jews into it.  Yes, into Regency England!

Read the entire interview, including how I feel Obamacare will impact ER Romance and whether or not men who are tidy is a fiction invented by romance novel writers at:

Wednesday, September 04, 2013


The lovely Anna Bowling over at Typing With Wet Nails interviewed me about my short story in The Mammoth Book of ER Romance, as well as my other romance, mystery and skating titles.  And, as regular readers of Soap Opera 451 well know, it all comes back to my love of daytime drama....

Typing With Wet Nails: Over the course of your career, you’ve written historicals, contemporaries, mysteries, a coffee-table book, a biography, soap opera tie-in novels, as well as online soap opera continuations…so far. What would you say defines an Alina Adams book?

Alina Adams: I’m a plot and character girl. I respect authors who have beautiful prose and lyrical descriptions full of inner retrospection that prompt readers to reconsider long-held and cherished beliefs. But, personally, I write fast-moving stories with colorful (and hopefully) witty characters. My favorite romantic comedy of all time is His Girl Friday, where the dialogue and story points fly fast and furious… and nothing particularly (or, at least, traditionally) romantic actually happens.

I grew up watching soaps (and wrote three tie-in novels for “As the World Turns” and “Guiding Light,” as well as the multimedia continuation of “Another World”, so to me the most important question to answer (and one I hope the reader is constantly asking) is: And then what happens? 

Read the entire interview at:

Tuesday, September 03, 2013


One of the fringe benefits to contributing a short story for The Mammoth Book of ER Romance was finding out just how many of my fellow authors in the anthology were also soap fans.  First, Patti Shenberger confessed to basing her hero on a Days of Our Lives hunk, and now Lynne Marshall takes us behind the scenes of hospital life and reminds us of Port Charles' original nurse heroine, Jessie Brewer (though the stories she tells put me more in mind of Amy Vining)!  Check out her guest post below and see if you can guess why....

Soap Opera in the ER
By Lynne Marshall

The most famous TV soap I know is General Hospital.  It first aired April 1, 1963 and twelve-thousand-   I remember spending summer vacations getting hooked into the plot line.  Who can forget the super couple Luke and Laura and their wedding?  The Quartermaines, The Spencers, or the most famous nurse of all, Jessie Brewer.
Six-hundred plus episodes later, in my opinion, it still rules the day.

Having worked in a hospital for over twenty years as first a medical transcriber and then an RN, before moving on to the clinic setting for the last ten years of my medical career, I am here to testify that the hospital is a perfect setting for soap opera stories.  Hospital grapevine runs deep and intricately throughout the floors.  While busily caring for patients, the doctors and nurses, technicians and aides keep track of each others’ comings and goings. If you’re wondering who so and so is dating, all you have to do is ask and if this one doesn’t know, they’ll know someone else who can find out.  If you think a certain x-ray technician is cheating with the new ward secretary, just ask one of the LVNs!  News travels fast in the hospital.

When I was given the opportunity to participate in The Mammoth Book of ER Romance anthology, I asked a question that would have permeated the entire hospital from top floor downward: Can two ER doctors ever forget what happened IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE, forgive each other and finally move on?

The tragic news that leads up to the beginning of my story would have swarmed through the hospital grapevine. People would have gasped and cried.  Ellen and Adam Deeds, both doctors, were highly respected professionals and the perfect family…until…

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but drama is the key to any good soap, and I went the dramatic route with this story.  I tortured my characters by asking these questions: What one thing could tear a loving couple apart and make forgiving seem impossible?  What one thing could make Adam, a man devoted to his family, profession, and wife, turn to drinking and lose hope?  What would it take for Ellen to finally forgive Adam and let him back into her heart? 

I was limited by word count and decided that a slice of life could be sampled in three chapters.  The first chapter shows the reader how intense Ellen and Adams’ relationship is.  The second chapter lays all the tragic details on the line and forces Ellen, Adam and the reader to examine them.  And the third chapter turns the tables on the couple to drive home a point that Ellen had overlooked.  Finally she understands how one blink of an eye can change a life forever, and her hardened heart opens once again.

If you can’t get enough soap opera in your life, I hope you’ll pick up The Mammoth Book of ER Romance written by an international list of authors. You’ll be able to enjoy a story on your lunch break at school or work, or before you go to bed each night for seventeen days! 


Lynne Marshall writes contemporary romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance, and Harlequin Special Edition lines and loves to hear from readers.  Visit her website: or become her friend on Facebook to keep up with all the latest news.