Monday, January 12, 2009

Neil Diamond Concert in the Inland Empire

The Citizens Business Bank Arena is an 11,000-seat multi-purpose arena in Ontario, California. The arena was constructed on Turn 3 of the old Ontario Motor Speedway property. This is a project that I, being a resident of Ontario (residing near the ‘white elephant’ of a convention center), was opposed to. And now Neil Diamond was performing on January 4th in said arena.

While internal conflict is good for a heroine in a writer’s story, its not so good for a writer. Should I order the tickets as a Christmas gift for my husband? What about my principles? I spent three day clicking on the Ticketmaster website before finally doing the deed. When, I rationalized, could attending a Neil Diamond Concert be so easy?

My husband was excited and assured me that even though I had selected tickets on the second level, I did not purchase ‘nose-bleed’ seats. I was only semi-reassured because the tickets had cost me the equivalent of three-weeks’ worth of groceries and the arena map indicated colored section of seats—my seats were located at the edge of oblivion.

Parking was ample and included in the ticket price, the drive to the arena was only minutes from our home. Entrance to the arena was organized and the employees and attendees were polite and excited about the concert. Having never attending a sporting event outside of an academic setting, or a concert in a building designed for any other purpose, I was disconcerted by the ‘bleacher’ type of seating and the arctic bite in the air.

The chairs were padded, but bolted in a proximity that shouted: you better love your neighbor! I’m five-foot-four and wear a size 7 shoe, but the way I was crammed into my seat you would have thought I was Big Bird. This lack of aisle allowance was a hazard whenever you stood to allow another patron to pass, or if you tried to alleviate the cramp manifesting in your calf or thigh.

Once I accepted my lack of comfort, I admitted we had a great view of the stage (complete with two large screens), well-behaved neighbors, and the Dolby sound system that was galactic in size.

Between songs at his concern, Diamond quipped: “I always wanted to play in Ontario, but I had to wait until someone put up a building first!”

The crowd was engaged during the sing-along during Diamond’s "Sweet Caroline''. When it ended, a laughing Diamond methodically surveyed fans of all ages and he launched into the song one more time.

One of the most successful touring acts of the last 40 years, Diamond can still put out when it comes to an arena-sized show that snaps, crackles, and pop-rocks. His 11-piece band and three backing singers – several members whom have been with him for decades – helped drive songs like "Cherry, Cherry'', "I'm a Believer,'' the horn-infused "Solitary Man'' and an apropos "America'' for the encore.

His muscular voice in fine form and his acoustic guitar always within arm's reach, Diamond tackled gentler fare off his new "Home Before Dark'' release, effortlessly wringing every nuance out of the title track and "Pretty Amazing Grace.''

Still a rock star at 67, he made his entrance 15 minutes late for a seamless performance that ran an hour and 45 minutes. He worked a sprawling, stage. When you're Neil Diamond, you don't clutter it up with bottled water; you drink from four crystal goblets strategically positioned on stands around the stage.

His signature arm gestures were many and his every move seemingly calculated to garner screams. He sat a café table, complete with table cloth and bud vase, at a corner of the state when he sang "Love on the Rocks''. He danced with backup singer Linda Press on their duet of "You Don't Bring Me Flowers.''

A masterful entertainer, he made sure to get around to the back of the stage to serenade those with seats behind it on "Play Me.'' (He did comment that the seats were the worst he’d ever seen and questioned why the arena had sold those seats to patrons).

Before launching into "Man of God" from his 2005 disc "12 Songs," Diamond made a plea to assist survivors of Hurricane Ike in Texas. He announced that "every penny" of the souvenir and merchandise sales in the lobby would go to build homes, adding that he, and the promoters were donating their shares of the sales.

Diamond is a grand showman, giving the audience the excitement, the light-show, and songs that blended into a magical creation of art, memories, and what-might-have-been.

I’ll concede the City of Ontario should be proud of building such a fine arena for the citizens of the Inland Empire.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Tips from the Creative Muse

By Connie Vines

Good fiction starts with—and deals with—someone’s response to a threat. It is the nature of writers and readers to be fascinated by threat. Start that story with someone dangling from a mountainside, a truck careening down a mountain road (with your hero at the wheel), or your heroine’s first track race where she pitted against someone famous for their foul play.

Although many writers of action books have thrived by writing fiction dealing with literal, physical threat and danger. You don’t have to write about physical catastrophe to have fascinating threat to your story.

Think back in your own life. What were some of the times when you felt most scared, most threatened? Perhaps it was your first day of school. Or when your cherished grandparent died, or a divorce. It could have been your first speaking part in a church play. Or when you tried out for a sports team. Maybe your first date? When you changed schools or jobs? When you were engaged, or married?

All stressful events. All threatening, even though many of them were happy occasions.

Nothing is more threatening than change.

From this, it stands to reason that you will know when and where to start your story—page one, line one—when you identify the moment of change. Because change is where the story starts.

Your heroine climbs off that bus, suitcase in hand.

Your hero’s ranch is in desperate straights. His elderly aunt, how is running the house and takes care of his motherless children, has died.

Your heroine has run away to the streets of Portland when her stepfather tries to rape her and her mother won’t intervene.

Your choices are endlessly creative because they are uniquely your own. Good friends, bad clothes, explosive chemistry—the choice is yours—come on find that perfect opening hook!

Connie’s current release: THE WAY TO A RANCHER'S HEART, Hard Shell Word Factory. Visit her website:

or;;; or to order her novels and short stories.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Mysterious and delicious potions have long been brewed along the bumpy road to true love.

These potions are meant to be shared and enjoyed on a warm summer evening. While the tea is brewing, or you are waiting for one of your 'love charms' to cure, remember to order a copy of my latest book in my Western Men are Made for Lovin' Series--"The Way to a Rancer's Heart"!

Love Potion

#12 hibiscus tea bags (brew in 2 cups water, cool completely.

1 cup papaya juice, chilled (add tea and juice to 1 qt. pitcher).

1/2 tablespoon honey (add to pitcher, stir with wooden spoon).

Sparkling water, chilled (top off the pitcher).

Pour into 2 chilled glasses and top with a sprig of mint.

Love Charms

In Hungary, a woman traditionally seals her love by tying a strand of her hair to one of her lover's hairs and binding it with a red ribbon. The charm is worn near the heart.

Flowers- the secret language of loveIn Victorian times public wooing was constrained by social mores. Send an 'unspoken' message to your honey.

Apple: temptation

Clover: promise

Gardenia: ecstasy

Jonquil: desire

Hyacinth: admiration

Iris: passion

Orchid: comfort

Rose: love

Tulip: vow

In response, one may receive:

Almomd: hope

Hollyhock: consumed by love

Wormwood: love returned

Sadly, one may also be presented with:

Daffodil: no

Flax: thank you

Ah, love is eternal--so, never give up hope. And if worse comes to worse, there are always chocolate massage bars!

(See my next blog).