How the bottom line rules what you see on TV

 Francis SJ Shattered Lies coverToday I’m delighted to welcome my first guest blogger in several years, and I hope to have many more in the months ahead. S.J. Francis found my contact information on the Sisters in Crime website and asked if I’d be interested in a guest post promoting Shattered Lies, their new book.* I said I’d be delighted, especially since this author has extensive experience in the television industry. Hope Dawns Eternal, my vampire soap opera thriller, is set at a major TV network, and I’m constantly trolling for new information on the behind-the-scenes world of television. Here’s what they* sent me:

The TV Industry is a Fickle Business

When Julie asked me to write about something in the TV industry, I immediately thought, why? Even though I worked in several areas in television in different positions, from an intern to an executive producer, from network TV to community TV, I couldn’t think why someone would want to read a post about it. When I worked in television in the dark ages, TV shows were mostly scripted shows, which called for all industry professionals. TV was like that for a long time. Now TV consists of some scripted shows and a great deal of what is called, “reality TV”, which utilize mostly ordinary people and industry professionals. Eventually, reality TV will go to the wayside, when the public gets tired of it and the networks aren’t making any money from it. That’s just the way the industry is.

The TV industry is a fickle business. As with any other business, money keeps the momentum going. When the profits slow down, the networks change things, sometimes drastically. As the saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. What may work for five years may not work for the next five years.  A lot of people go into daytime television for the security, stability and normal schedule. However, even daytime TV is not really that secure. Up until a few years ago, daytime television consisted mainly of talk shows and soap operas. That is until the networks decided to terminate soap operas in favor of more talk shows. I never saw so many talk shows on television before. Soap operas unfortunately were not able to compete with the growing popularity of reality TV.

During the 1990’s there were twelve daytime soap operas on the air, fluctuating between nine and eleven until the 2006 to 2007 seasons. The number of soaps started declining to just eight during the next season and then just seven during the 2009 to 2010 season. One of my favorites, Guiding Light, was a casualty of this new scheme in television. After seventy two seasons on the air, on both radio and television, this soap came to an end in September 2009. Other victims of this new scourge were ABC’s long running All My Children and One Life to Live.

As anyone involved in the TV industry can attest, working in television, whether as a performer, an executive, or a crew member is not for the faint of heart. There is no real security. It’s a high pressure, dog eat dog world. Stress is a constant. Deadlines and pressure is a never ending force. Politics play a huge role. Anger someone, put their nose out of joint and you’re out of a job, out of the game, and out of the industry.

At present, just four soap operas remain on network television. The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful, Days of Our Lives and another favorite of mine, General Hospital, are the remaining survivors from the cut to soaps, but even now, these soaps are still in a precarious situation.  Television is a changeable industry.  More so than any other industry. Soaps are on the decline due to ratings. They’re also no longer money makers. Reality TV is where the money is at. Ratings and money run everything. When money talks, and ratings decline, soap operas lose out and go by the wayside. How many shows have you seen come and go? I definitely don’t miss the stress of it all.

S.J. Francis

S.J. Francis

S.J. Francis is a freelance writer with over three hundred publication credits, a University Lecturer with doctorates in English, Mass Communications and Law, and most recently, a novelist. Francis writes for many publications, as well as regularly contributing to the local newspaper. Francis’ background also encompasses working as a television producer.

A frequent traveler, Francis has resided in thirteen states and three countries. A confirmed bibliophile, when not writing, Francis can be found reading a good book, or spending time in the outdoors. Francis currently lives in Mississippi, where a major part of Shattered Lies takes place—but grew up in New York City, where the latter portion occurs—and has a great respect and fondness for both places, and considers the world a notebook full of endless ideas. Francis’ first novel, Shattered Lies, is a women’s fiction/mainstream/family saga novel. As in all the stories Francis writes, in the end, it’s all about family. Future projects include a sequel to Shattered Lies and a novel about the dynamic relationships in Hollywood. Shattered Lies was just released this October by Black Opal Books.

Visit S.J. Francis at or

S.J. sent the author photo posted here, and I asked if there was one that actually showed the author’s face. I got this reply:

Ah- another question about my author badge. Basically, Julie, I’ve been writing anonymously for years now. Mostly, because I don’t feel it’s important to know my identity. If someone likes my stories and articles I write, does it really matter what sex I am, or race? For me, it doesn’t. It’s all about the writing and the reader connecting with it. Besides a little mystery never hurt anyone.  It keeps life interesting, don’t you agree? 

An intriguing answer, but one I find hard to fathom. I crave recognition for my work, and that includes letting the world know who I am in hopes of having my ego stroked. I realize many authors use pen names, but this degree of anonymity is rare. The topic is worth a blog post of its own.

*S.J.’s answer forced me to resort to the words “they” and “their” to refer to a singular subject. I pride myself on my grammatical skills, and I can picture my high school English teachers, Miss Fuller and Mrs. Hadley, writhing in their graves. But I recently read a column by a syndicated grammarian saying that this usage has become acceptable. We need better alternatives, but he/she and all those weird new words like xer are even worse. Any suggestions, folks?



Never too old to rock out to country music!

Keith Urban

Keith Urban

Friday night I took a nasty spill at Hunter Mountain, and I wasn’t even skiing. No, I was obeying the command of a sepulchral voice booming over the loudspeakers: “Everybody off the mountain immediately. Severe thunderstorm approaching with dangerous lightning. Get to your vehicles and take cover.”

Along with thousands of others, I was at Taste of Country, a three-day country music festival, awaiting the performance of the opening night’s headliner, Keith Urban. More precisely, I was on my way back from the portapotties, where I’d been photographing the trucks with their enormous tanks and hoses sucking out the shit while festival goers used the facilities.

At first I was too far away to understand what the voice was saying. People were

The calm before the storm. Note the man on the left with the giant hose. Shitty job!

The calm before the storm. Note the man on the left with the giant hose. Shitty job!

streaming down the hillside in droves, and when I saw the warnings on the giant video screens, I understood why. I didn’t want to abandon my folding chair and backpack, so I forged my way up the slope and packed up my gear. As I headed back down, lightning was flashing in the western sky.

The descent was orderly. No one was panicking, much less stampeding, probably in part because they’d been guzzling beer all day. But suddenly I slipped, falling hard on my left hip and thigh. I’m abundantly padded in that area, and I didn’t feel any damage, so I scrambled to my feet, with the help of a solicitous and shirtless young man who made sure I was alright.

When I reached the area of the base lodge, staff were urging people to head for their vehicles, since there was no way for the multitudes to take shelter in the buildings. But I went against the current, confronted a security guy at the entrance and played the age card: “I’m 73 years old and it’s impossible for me to get to my car in time.” He took pity on me, took hold of my arm and escorted me to a corner, where he ordered a young woman to yield her Adirondack-style chair with a back made from old fiberglass skis.

There I reclined in comfort for the next hour, reading a Joyce Carol Oates novel and sipping beer while the storm descended as threatened. The rain came down in torrents, and I could see flashes of lightening, but the thunder was drowned out by the uproar in the base lodge, coming chiefly from the drunken young men shouting and throwing beach balls, punctuated by the shrill screechy voices of young women. I was safely ensconced behind a few baby boomers who had set up their folding chairs, so I didn’t worry. Nor did anyone else; the mood was remarkably cheerful and upbeat. All in all, the event inspired confidence and hope for humanity, since most people were considerate and cooperative in a situation that could have become chaotic and dangerous. There were a few belligerent young drunks who got confrontational with each other, but the happier drunks quickly got them under control.

Keith Urban at the CMA Festival las night in Nashville.

Keith Urban at the CMA Festival las night in Nashville.

At long last the worst of the storm blew off to the east, and we were given the all-clear to go back out to the mountain. The crowd was much smaller now, and I set up camp much closer to the stage. Light rain was still falling as another half hour passed while the crew swept water off the stage and set up the equipment. The giant digital signs thanked us for our patience, and finally, at about 10:30pm, Keith Urban and his band took the stage. I feared for his safety, with all that water and electrical equipment, but he seemed unperturbed. “What’s a little rain?” he shouted as he launched into a blazingly brilliant set. A gorgeous guitar god in in his tight jeans, in a bygone era he would have been a rock star, but times change and music evolves.

I last saw Keith Urban at the Times Union Center in Albany ten years ago. His romance with Nicole Kidman was new then, and I later learned that she was there in the audience incognito, hidden beneath a hat. I’m glad their marriage has endured and that they’ve been blessed with two daughters. His music has thrived since then, and he’s a better performer, though less angsty than in his dissolute single days.

Nicole Kidman singing along to Keith's music at the CMA Festival last night.

Nicole Kidman singing along to Keith’s music at the CMA Festival last night.

But I digress. I meant to write about whether it’s age-appropriate for me to attend events like this. There were lots of people with lined faces and gray hair, but most probably younger than me. It took physical endurance and stamina to traipse on and off the mountain and hang in there for the duration, but it was a hell of a lot easier than downhill skiing. I skied many times at Hunter, but in recent years I’ve skied mostly at Jiminy Peak. Last year, because of the bitter cold, I didn’t ski at all, and I’m not sure I ever will again. Not that I’m too old, but I know my legs aren’t in the condition they used to be, so I don’t want to press my luck. On the other hand, I didn’t break my hip at Hunter, though I fell on hard rocky ground instead of cushiony snow. So who knows – I’m not giving away my skis just yet.

I’ve got lots more to say about my Taste of Country experience vis a vis aging, but I’ll save it for the next post. Please subscribe to this blog so you won’t miss it. And please leave me a comment so I’ll know you’re out there!

Here at last – Hope Dawns Eternal!

A Hope Cover 4mbAt long last the formatting and cover art are done for Hope Dawns Eternal. Now comes the daunting part – pulling it all together and publishing it! I’ve already hit my first roadblock – Kim Killion sent me five versions of the cover illustration in various jpeg sizes, but I can’t seem to copy them to display the whole thing on Facebook or here on this blog. I’m sure I’ll figure it out eventually, but meanwhile, I can’t resist sharing!

For the cover, I found the photos I wanted on Shutterstock, and she put them together as per my suggestions. Strangely enough, the images I chose all came from Russia or Romania. Those Slavic folks really know how to create dark, passionate art – think Rachmaninoff, Dostoyevsky and all those cats. I like this male model I found – he makes a great vampire, don’t you think? And he looks like a soap star, but not any specific one, which is a good thing.

By the way, the tag line, which is cut off at the top, is:

In a world of TV soaps, the deadliest dramas are unscripted.

I’m writing this at the Denny’s in Latham – scene of Sunday night NaNoWriMo sessions, but at 5 pm on a Wednesday, the room we usually use is totally deserted. I came here a couple of hours ago after seeing my shrink, who keeps my biochemistry on an even keel. He told me he’s phasing out his private practice, concentrating increasingly on nursing homes, and suggested it might be time for me to start shopping around for another drug dealer, aka psychopharmacologist, though he did give me an appointment for July. The fact that I took it in stride shows just how leveled out I am!

More later – I need to finish my Caesar salad, then head over to choir practice at FUUSA. I’d hoped to get in a couple of hours on Sunlight and Shadow, the sequel to Hope Dawns Eternal, and then hit the mall, but I’m running out of time. Time enough to tackle S&S when Camp NaNoWriMo starts in April.

Subscribe to this blog, and you’ll be the first to know when Hope is published – probably within the week.


A Happy New Year, Safe at Home

New Year's Ball Times SquarePhooey! Only a couple of hours left till midnight, and it’s highly doubtful that I’ll finish my novel, Hope Dawns Eternal, this year. I’ve got one more climactic scene to write, but I’m sorely tempted to switch on the TV and watch the ball drop. If past years are any indication, ABC will cut away from the actual ball with its thousands of Svarowski crystals and focus on Ryan Seacrest or a crowd shot instead. I’ll end up swearing at the stupid editing and wishing Dick Clark were still alive to ring in the New Year.

I’ve been watching that damn ball drop for practically fifty years. Living in Manhattan in the 1960’s, I was too hip to own a TV, much less make the trek to Times Square to be squashed in a crowd of thousands, but I usually ended up at the apartment of some unattached friend who was throwing a party to welcome in the New Year. Invariably I drank too much and welcomed in New Year’s Day with a vicious hangover.

In the nearly forty years I’ve been married, I recall venturing out on New Year’s Eve on only a handful of occasions. New Year's clock midnightBack in the 1990’s, Albany had a First Night celebration with music, dancing and other entertainment in multiple venues, and we went a couple of times. More than anything, I recall the biting wind chill, which felt well below zero, and weeping over a beloved hat I left at the Palace Theater. (I was in a major depression at the time, and I cried at the drop of a hat – literally, on that occasion.)

A decade later, my husband and I read from our novels as part of Saratoga’s First Night. My friend Marilyn Rothstein, aka M.E. Kemp, booked our mystery writers’ group into an art gallery for the night, and as participants, we got free passes. It was a festive night, and the fireworks at midnight were spectacular, but we’re leery of sharing the Northway with a bunch of drunks, so we’ve stayed home ever since.

Anyway, nothing could ever equal the annual New Year’s parties my parents threw in Milwaukee in the 1950’s, beginning sometime in the McCarthy era. My father was Managing Editor of The Milwaukee Journal, and the invitees were a fascinating mix of the city’s intellectual and artistic elite, including lots of journalists. There was singing around the piano, and the liquor flowed copiously practically till dawn of New Year’s Day. In those days, no one had heard of DWI, and yet somehow they all survived.

New Year's Eve Times Square overviewIn the ensuing decades, we’ve grown increasingly austere when it comes to alcohol, or at least my friends and acquaintances have. On the other hand, when I stopped at the local liquor store around five o’clock this evening, the place was more mobbed than I’ve ever seen it, with cars overflowing the available spaces and creating a minor traffic jam. It’s good to know there are still those among us who plan to toast the coming of the New Year.

As I write, I’m sipping some Pinot Noir out of a Corbett Canyon box. I bought it primarily to flavor the beef stew that’s simmering in my Crock Pot. The aroma that’s wafting up through the floor boards is making me ravenously hungry, but it won’t be ready till around 11:00pm, when I’ll be ready to tune in to the festivities on TV. No need to tune in sooner, because the entertainers featured this year are too damn young and over-exposed. I’ve already heard and seen more than enough of Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande, not to mention Meghan Traynor singing about her big butt and how it’s all about the bass. Elton John is the only star advertised who’s from my generation, but hey, time moves on.

On Christmas after dinner at my daughter’s house, I danced with her, my granddaughters and their friends to a program called “Just Dance,” where the person holding the Wii remote gets scored on how closely they can mimic the moves of the computer-generated dancers on screen. There are dozens of songs to choose from, most of them by new groups I’ve never heard of, but they did have some oldies, like Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell singing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and everyone loved that one too. The dance style is that jerky, angular stuff I’ve seen on TV but never attempted before, but it’s great exercise, and I’m tempted to get the program.

The thought of exercise conjures up notions of New Year’s resolutions, but hey, I’m not going there – not tonight. Instead I’m going downstairs for some wine and cheese followed by that stew. And I’ll probably be ready for bed soon after the ball drops.

Have a wonderful New Year’s, everyone, and thanks for reading my blog. See you in 2015.

New Year's cat in basket

November: The Most Depressing Month?

November road fallen leavesNovember’s probably my least favorite month. This year I’m feeling great, in part because I’ve begun work on the sequel to my vampire soap opera thriller Hope Dawns Eternal. But in November of 2010, I was mired in a deep depression. I wrote this poem in Julie Gutman’s class at the Arts Center of the Capital Region. The assignment was to write a poem modeled after Wallace Stevens’ Twelve Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.

I write my strongest poetry when I’m depressed. It’s a wonderful form of therapy. Lots of the imagery I used still applies, but the way I’m looking at it now is much sunnier. Still, I dedicate this poem to those readers who are prone to doom and gloom at this time of year. Trust in the sunny days to come!

Eleven Ways of Looking at November


Rusty crimson leavesNovember smoke tree

Cling to my smoke tree

Breathing in pale November sunlight.



The dead oak’s gray-brown branches

Hollowed by woodpeckers

Past Halloween

Sway outside my window

Waiting for November’s winds

To tear them down at last.



My mother died in late November.

I crafted a comforting casserole

From the dregs of Thanksgiving dinner.



I savor the cold November breezeNovember crooked tree

Wafting across my body from the open window.

Swaddled in Polar Fleece to save on oil,

I’ve learned to welcome the encroaching cold.



Election Day’s finally over. News is bad

This chill November morning.

A hard freeze frosts the fallen autumn leaves

Ushering in years of deadlock and decline.



The slanting sun casts shadows on the siding

Of the house across the way, silhouetting

A scrawny maple shedding yellow leaves.

Its roots snake unseen beneath our basement.

November’s high time to take it down but even so

We’ll probably let it be.



A friend my age is failing. A housebound invalid,

She measures out these cold November days

In solitude, refuses visitors.

She longs for death, having a valid reason

To succumb.



Weeds have repossessedNovember dead thistles

My withering November garden.

Only stonecrop thrives

Among the shriveled thistles, chicory

And Queen Anne’s Lace. In my depression,

I let them go to seed.



Daylight savings’s over in November.

Fall back and gain an extra hour

To while away in bed

Dreading another day

Of uninspired ordinary options.



November rain falls hard and cold

Grave of my golden retriever Lucky

Grave of my golden retriever Lucky

On my neglected garden

Nourishing buried bulbs of daffodil and crocus.

In spring they’ll bloom again around the graves

Of late beloved pets.



People are prone to seasonal affective sadness

In this the eleventh month, so says my shrink.

But still I hold firm to nearly barren branches,

Stubborn as rusty crimson smoke tree leaves

In the November rain.


©Julie Lomoe

November 4, 2010



Russian Ballet and the Mysteries of the Dance Belt

Bolshoi Ballet's Don Quixote

Bolshoi Ballet’s Don Quixote

On my birthday last Thursday, I treated myself to a matinee performance of Don Quixote by the Bolshoi Ballet at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. I’m not a huge fan of classical ballet, but I figured this might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Besides, I viewed it as an homage to my mother, who enrolled me in ballet classes and took me to performances at the Pabst Theater whenever a major touring company made a stop in Milwaukee.

Most often, that company was the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, featuring the great principal dancers Frederick Franklin and Alexandra Danilova. To refresh my memory, I Googled them and discovered a fascinating tale my mother never told me. They were founded in 1938 when their founders Leonide Massine and René Blum split off from the original Ballet Russes. Blum was arrested by the Nazis and died at Auschwitz. During and after World War II, they toured the United States extensively, bringing classical Russian ballet to many cities where it had never been seen before. As its dancers – including George Balanchine – spun off and founded their own troupes, they taught Russian ballet to generations of Americans.

I recall seeing many of the classics, like Swan Lake and Les Sylphides, and I enjoyed them, but as a naïve preteen girl growing up in the postwar Midwest, I was most fascinated by the mysterious bulges under the men’s tights. The principle male dancers of the Bolshoi sported similar bulges, and I decided to Google those as well.

WARNING: The following paragraph contains sexually explicit descriptions of the male anatomy, and prudish readers may wish to skip over it.



Male dancers, especially when in tights, wear a garment called a dance belt, a specialized athletic supporter that supports and protects the genitals. It most resembles a thong, and is designed so that no telltale seams appear under those form-fitting tights. It’s made in varied flesh colors, nowadays with Spandex, and the front panel is reinforced so as not to provide too much information to fellow dancers and the audience. Unlike other athletic supporters, it is designed to hold the dancer’s package upwards, so that dangling genitalia don’t get squeezed or injured during vigorous dance moves.

That’s probably more than you needed to know, right? But if this whets your appetite for more information, just Google “dance tights,” and I guarantee you’ll find more graphic details than you could ever imagine. Anyway, it explains the rationale behind those bulging crotches that so fascinated me as a child and filled in the gaps in my sexual education. It was well over a decade before I gained a more accurate knowledge of the male anatomy.

I got off on a bit of a tangent here, didn’t I? I’d planned to write about more elevated topics like the



contrasts between classic and modern dance, the questionable value of making klutzy young girls study ballet, and how dance can actually be fun, for example in my Nia class. But I’ll save all that for another post. For now, I’ll search out some delectable images of male dancers to share with you. Enjoy!

Nijinsky in Afternoon of a Faun. Costumes weren't quite so revealing back then, before they invented Spandex.

Nijinsky in Afternoon of a Faun. Costumes weren’t quite so revealing back then, before they invented Spandex.

New Year’s Resolutions – to do or not to do?

New Year's clock midnightWishing all my friends and readers a joyous New Year! I wrote this poem yesterday afternoon, in the nick of time to read it last night at the Albany Poets’ POETS SPEAK LOUD open mic at McGeary’s Irish Pub. Nothing like a deadline and the prospect of a friendly, enthusiastic audience to get the creative juices flowing. Once I publish this post, I’ll make a run to the store for egg nog and other sundries, then kick back at home with my hubby for New Year’s Eve.

Cat New-Years-Resolution-Memes- 



Twas the night before New Year’s and all through my mind

Skittered thoughts of tasks undone and goals left behind.


Those fifteen new pounds I acquired this yearNew Year's apple and tape measure

Mean a new resolution to diet, I fear.

Those favorite noshes I thought wouldn’t matter

Have gone to my hips and I’m looking much fatter.

But giving them up? No, that’s out of the question,

So don’t give me all those nutritious suggestions.

No fasting, no juicing, no broccoli or tofu,

No counting of calories – to that I say screw you!

So bring on the pizza, the cheddar and brie,

The yummy dark chocolates to build more of me!

And bring on the box wines, the reds and the whites,

To lessen the chill of these cold winter nights.


Still, I can lose weight if I work out a lot,

Hit the Y every morning, get rid of my pot.

But it’s so much more pleasant to languish in bed

My cat Lunesta on my snowflake flannel sheets

My cat Lunesta on my snowflake flannel sheets

With my cat on my lap and my tummy well fed.


And my house is still messy, it only gets worse,

And probably will till they come with the hearse.

With cobwebs and closets with clothes overflowing,

And huge piles of books that I can’t resist stowing.

And everywhere paper is stacked up in hills,

Unread magazines, catalogs, unopened bills.

I solemnly vow that I’ll throw stuff away,

But what if I need it some bleak rainy day? 


I could banish the clutter if I hired a maid,

But sadly I guess she’d expect to get paid.

Still, I could afford it if I sold more books,

But marketing’s harder by far than it looks.

And I still haven’t finished my brilliant new story,

Remember Port Charles?

Remember Port Charles?

The first of a trilogy destined for glory.


So many distractions, they tempt me away

From the tasks I’m determined to tackle each day,

From the far better person I know I could be

If I didn’t procrastinate, weren’t so damn lazy.

So this New Year’s, once more I resolve to do better,

Rise early each morning and be a go-getter.

Lose more weight, sell more books, become famous and rich,

So by this time next year there’ll be no need to bitch.

New Year's Eve Times Square cleanup



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