Tuesday, November 14, 2017

How Do Writers Build Authentic Characters? / Emma Hartley @theemmahartley

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How Do Writers Build Authentic Characters?

How do writers build authentic characters?  How do we come up with our ideas?  These are the questions I am most often asked by aspiring writers and readers alike.  I will venture here to discuss some of the motivations and inspirations I use for story and character development, with the caveat that everyone does this differently.  These are my methods—they are not for everyone.

Most of my characters grow from seeds.  They might start out with a vague characteristic such as hair color or an unusual mannerism, then germinating into a more fully developed person as the story grows.  Elwyn, in THE NATURE OF ENTANGLED HEARTS, for instance, grew from the seed of my own insecurity.  She avoids mirrors and dreads her reflection.  Those simple characteristics allowed me to grow Elwyn into the dynamic, complex and nuanced character that she is.  Writing in her voice allowed me to show her feisty attitude, her temper and her creativity.  Her inner landscape is rich.  These characteristics blossomed as I wrote in her voice.  To continue this growth, I asked a million questions.  Who is she?  What does she love about life?  What bothers her?  Is she clumsy or graceful?  Is she smart?  Is she driven?  Does she question the world around her to the point of incapacity sometimes?  Why would she sabotage her relationships with men?  As I asked myself these questions, and as Elwyn grew into the character she is, I realized many things about her.  Her past was illuminated, her motivation to create her artwork became clear.  She grew out of that tiny seed into a person as real as you or me.

My plots grow in much the same way.  They germinate from small ideas – tiny moments from my own life that perplexed me or vexed me, moments that made me ask questions about the nature of love, of consciousness, of the universe around us.  These essential questions helped me grow my stories into fully formed plot lines.  I weave many threads together into riveting conclusions.  I don’t always see the endings until I am close to them.  It’s rare for me to see the ending of my story at the beginning.  My writing style is linear, and the story grows with my characters.  Once I get to the mid point of my work, I can start mapping out the trajectory of the plot and I will often make a rough outline for it. 

I love working in this organic manner.  Growing stories and characters from seed is a fulfilling and rewarding aspect of writing for me.  It’s like watching a child grow up – I am so proud of the people my characters become.  Even if they have made some iffy choices along the way, because let’s face it, who hasn’t?  Part of the fun is letting the characters’ lives unfold authentically, which, in turn, drives a riveting plot.

About the Author:

Emma Hartley is an author and artist living in picturesque Maine. She has been writing and making art since childhood and has been insatiably curious and industrious her whole life. Emma was a double major in English and Fine Arts and she received her Masters in Art and Design Education. She is a specialist in ceramics and includes much of this expertise in her novel The Nature of Entangled Hearts. Her other interests include playing drums, making art and exploring every square inch of the Maine coastline. The Nature of Entangled Hearts is her first novel.

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About the Book:

The Nature of Entangled Hearts is a fast-paced, edgy, romantic thriller, with a subtly supernatural twist.  Enter the story of Elwyn and James, two strangers entangled by their past-life experiences,
who are mired in an unquantifiable present.  Throughout the novel they work to understand the bonds that hold them together, just as an unforeseen danger threatens to tear them apart.
                                                   
Elwyn “Derrin” Derringer is a ceramic artist and a professor at the local college of art in Portland, Maine.  She has always felt insecure and disconnected, unsure of how or why she fits into the world, seeking through her art to fill in the missing pieces of herself.  When Elwyn’s eyes lock on those of a stranger across the market, everything she has taken for granted as reality is thrown into question.  Understanding blooms in fits and starts, interrupted by her fears of attachment and eventually by the unwanted attentions of an obsessed and disturbed art student.

Throughout the novel, Elwyn discovers reservoirs of strength and independence as she faces these challenges, endearing the reader with her feisty nature and her fierce desires to create authentically, to love intensely and to transcend the destructive links to her past.  “The Nature of Entangled Hearts” takes us on a thrilling ride through past and present, through love and dread, through loss and reclamation, leaving us thankful that we don’t understand all the mysteries of the universe just yet, and reminding us never to take our lives - or our loves - for granted.

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Why Did I Write My Book? / C.S. Taylor @TinyFoxPress

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Why Did I Write My Book?

Some nameless, late night many moons ago, I was doing what I do best when trying to write, namely surfing the web and finding every excuse—and inventing a few more—I could to not look at MS Word and actually type something out. Somewhere between articles telling me that “These ten unexpected, cuddly things will kill you” and “which type of mason brick are you?” I stumbled upon an article dealing with the Night Witches and was mesmerized.

For those who know little or nothing about them (and most don’t) the Night Witches were a group of female pilots in the Red Army Air’s 588th night bomber regiment during World War 2. The group was one of three all-female regiments that had been put together by Major Marina Raskova, a national heroine at the time and a fantastic pilot. The young women of the 588th flew the Po-2 biplane, which was made in the late 1920s and was really only good for training and crop dusting. It wasn’t a combat aircraft by any stretch of the imagination. But they flew it nonetheless to drop bombs on the Germans. They got the name Nachthexen (Night Witches) by the Germans because the girls quickly learned to cut their engines just before they went on a bombing run, so they were completely silent until the bombs exploded.

Fascinating stuff, I thought, and something that deserved a book or two. Also, since I love flying and in a prior point in my life, I was intent on flying for the USMC, I thought writing a book that centered around the Night Witches seemed to be a great idea.

So with that thought in mind, I began fleshing out a plot and characters, but the more I did my research into the Night Witches, I realized that their sister regiment, the 587th (who flew the Pe-2 medium bomber), met my needs in terms of the story better. So I shifted my focus to the 587th and kept at it.

I kept at it for a few weeks and soon discovered that some of the historical characters I wanted in my book didn’t survive the timeline I was after as the 587th didn’t see combat until 1943. And since I was writing historical fiction, I couldn’t exactly have one of them pop up in the story when he or she was supposed to be dead.

It was about that point when I realized I really wanted more dogfights in my book overall, and thus, settling on the 586th fighter regiment was an easy choice. My decision to go with the 586th was reinforced even more when I realized that there weren’t any books on these women at all, at least on the historical fiction side. There were a few dealing with the Night Witches and some female pilots who were in male units, but the 586th was untouched, which is very appealing as a writer.

So with the 586th firmly settled, it was just a matter of changing a few things from my rough outline because my main character, Nadya, was going to be a fighter pilot and not a bomber pilot.

Building Nadya as a real person took a lot of work, and the details of her life came from a variety of sources, mostly interviews that had been recorded with surviving members of the 586th, 587th and 588th.

The stories I read were not only from the pilots, but the navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, and ground crews, and I drew a lot of inspiration from all of them as their tenacity and bravery was nothing short of legendary. I really wanted to capture that with Nadya’s War with not only Nadya herself, but with all of the supporting characters, too. Most of all, I wanted to ensure that Nadya was crafted in such a way that her story would slide neatly in between all the others I read, not overshadowing any of them in terms of what she goes through, heroics, etc., but accurately mirroring what each young woman in all three of these regiments dealt with day in and day out.

I like to think I managed to pull that off. Hopefully readers will agree.

About the Author

C.S. Taylor is a former Marine and avid fencer (saber for the most part, foil and epee are tolerable). He enjoys all things WWII, especially perfecting his dogfighting skills inside virtual cockpits, and will gladly accept any P-38 Lightnings anyone might wish to bestow upon him. He’s also been known to run a kayak through whitewater now and again, as well give people a run for their money in trap and skeet.

His latest book is the historical fiction, Nadya’s War.

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BOOK BLURB:

Nadezdah "Little Boar" Buzina, a young pilot with the Red Army's 586th all-female fighter regiment, dreams of becoming an ace. Those dreams shatter when a dogfight leaves her severely burned and the sole survivor from her flight.

For the latter half of 1942, she struggles against crack Luftwaffe pilots, a vengeful political commissar, and a new addiction to morphine, all the while questioning her worth and purpose in a world beyond her control. It's not until the Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad that she finds her unlikely answers, and they only come after she's saved the life of her mortal enemy and fallen in love with the one who nearly kills her.

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Friday, November 3, 2017

The Inspiration Behind The Mirror Said You're Be-You-Tiful by Austiage @austiage

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The Inspiration Behind The Mirror Said You’re Be-You-Tiful
by Austiage

The inspiration for my book came from the most extraordinary scenario, it was during a visit to the Children’s hospital I met a girl named Julianne who proposed the question “When you look in the mirror does it tell you you’re ugly?” I remember being instantly taken aback that such a young and beautiful girl was asking such a question. I instantly responded “Of course not the mirror always tells you you’re beautiful.” But Julianne was not convinced and from there we began to chat I shared my experiences the good and the bad. I shared with her what I had learned through living my life in both the public eye as well as out. It was captivating and beautiful because my conversation with Julianne reminded me of those that I often have and had with my Mother sitting on the kitchen countertop and just chatting about anything and everything. Julianne and I’s conversation had a level of authenticity and consideration that is rare in todays society. Finally a few hours after chatting our conversation came to an end and as I got up to leave Julianne asked me if I had a mirror, so I gave her my compact that I always kept in my purse she looked in the mirror and said “Now I see it the mirror does say you’re beautiful.” In that moment a sentence clicked for me, and it was the mirror said you’re beyoutiful. But instead of spelling beautiful the traditional way I chose to spell it beyoutiful to represent that one will only feel beautiful when you decide to be no one but yourself. Knowing that my conversation with Julianne had an impact beyond what I could have ever imagined led to want to share that conversation with more people, so I thought what better way to do so then to write a book. My conversation with Julianne left me inspired and it was in that instant and all that followed. I broke down and analyzed my conversation with Julianne and figured out how to translate that authenticity, warmth, and impact to paper. Five months latter my book The Mirror Said You’re BeYouTiful was a completed manuscript.  

About the Author
Austiage is a former national-level champion fencer who was born in Washington, DC. She speaks seven languages, attended American University, and is the founder of the Star Individuality Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports youths in developing their unique individuality. Her book The Mirror Said, “You’re Be-You-Tiful” explores the societal pressures that many people are faced with today and offers a game plan for nurturing individuality and owning one’s beauty.
You can visit Austiage’s website at https://www.austiage.com/.

About the Book:

In her motivational self-help book, THE MIRROR SAID, “YOU’RE BE-YOU-TIFUL, former elite athlete Austiage offers readers a foundation for embracing their unique beauty in a world that doesn’t always value diversity and individuality. Writing in a welcoming, conversational style, Austiage outlines a plan for embracing a positive self-image that develops from the inside out.
An unexpected question (“Does the mirror make you feel ugly?”) was the spark that led Austiage to pen THE MIRROR SAID, “YOU’RE BE-YOU-TIFUL.” She met the young girl, Julianne, who posed the question while donating supplies to a children’s hospital. After talking with the girl about beauty and what it means, the author felt moved to share her thoughts with others on this delicate subject, which many people—young and old, male and female—frequently struggle with. The book has a powerful message that begins by focusing on the individual.
Austiage asserts that beauty is much more than aesthetic. She emphasizes that character is an essential component of beauty and encourages readers to bolster their character by being positive and kind to themselves and others. The author repeatedly stresses the importance of having a strong belief in one’s self and explains how this belief affects how people see themselves, the type of people they invite into their lives, and the manner in which they take care of themselves and pursue their goals.
THE MIRROR SAID, “YOU’RE BE-YOU-TIFUL” takes an in-depth look at the necessity of self-care including eating well without foregoing pleasure, incorporating fitness and relaxation in one’s daily life, using makeup to highlight and enhance one’s beauty, discarding fear and doubt to follow opportunities to find one’s passion, and reevaluating relationships to make conscious decisions about the people in one’s life.
Austiage says, “In my point of view, my book is about helping those who are at the point in their lives that they want to feel better about themselves. I think my book will help people understand that they aren’t the only contributing factor in feeling good or bad about themselves. Rather, the everyday lifestyle choices they make, the people they surround themselves with, and the words they use all merge to develop a feeling unique to how they feel about their identity. Learning how to break down different aspects of daily life and to reevaluate them will dramatically change the way they perceive themselves.” Austiage wrote THE MIRROR SAID, “YOU’RE BE-YOU-TIFUL” “to help everyone understand that they have the ability to feel beautiful. Ultimately, I want readers to step away from my book feeling happiness, beauty, and pride from the inside out.”

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How Acting Led Me to the Write Road / Marguerite Ashton

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How Acting Led Me to the Write Road
During my two-year attempt at acting, I had the pleasure of meeting actor Dan Lauria. He was a guest speaker at an actor’s workshop held by my agent at the time in Colorado.

If you are not familiar with him, he was the dad on the family show The Wonder Years, and I loved him in it. A while back, I got to see him in a 1988 movie called David.  He played the role of a disturbed father which was a huge difference compared to his role as the grumpy and caring dad on the show. After the movie was over, I realized how frustrated I’d become watching him play this character. It had distorted my view of the guy I looked forward to seeing each week.

Once I’d gotten over that the movie was based on a true story, I told myself that Dan Lauria was doing his job as an actor. He’d honed his craft. That was one of the moments that helped me decide that acting wasn’t for me. I wanted to be behind the camera and write. The similarities in each artist’s performance, whether it is on screen or paper, are meant to touch an audience. But to make any of it real, I had to do what Dan did—make my writing a priority.

Fast forward to today. As I look back and reflect, it has been a long, long road. Going to conferences and treating my writing like a business on an author budget was tough. Except my desire to be a writer was stronger than my addiction to avocados. With all of the ups and downs, the easiest thing for me would have been to give quit. But that’s the one thing I refused to do. When my books weren’t selling, I kept writing. When the rejection letters poured in, I kept writing. When I reached the point of exhaustion, I took a nap and started a new chapter.

I’ll never forget what my writing mentor told me. She said, “Keep your head low and just write. And that’s what I’m doing.

About the Author
When Marguerite Ashton was in her twenties, she took up acting but realized she preferred to work behind the camera, writing crime fiction. A few years later, she married an IT Geek and settled down with her role as wife, mom, and writer. Five kids later, she founded the Crime Writer’s Panel and began working with former law enforcement investigators to create; Criminal Lines Blog, an online library for crime writers who need help with their book research.

She’s a workaholic who hides in her writer’s attic, plotting out her next book and stalking Pinterest for the next avocado recipe. 

A member of Sisters in Crime, Marguerite grew up in
Colorado, but is now happily living in Wisconsin and playing as much golf as possible.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

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About the Book:

Title: HER FINAL WATCH
Author: Marguerite Ashton
Publisher: Endeavour Press
Pages: 296
Genre: Crime

BOOK BLURB: 
Speaking second-hand truths can be deadly …

Detective Lily Blanchette will stop at nothing to solve a murder. Her current case involves the killing of an undercover cop working to bring down the mob for prostitution and drugs.

But Lily's usual laser-like focus on the case has been disrupted.

Two weeks earlier, she learned she was pregnant by her murderous husband whom she'd killed in self-defense. Unsure whether to keep her baby or place the child of this cruel man up for adoption, Lily keeps the pregnancy a secret from her colleagues.

Under mounting pressure to solve the case, Lily arranges a sit-down with a local mob boss only to find out her suspect is also wanted by them. But before Lily can warn her team, she and her new partner, Jeremiah, are shot at, and another body is found.

When she discovers Jeremiah has a connection with the underworld, she is pulled into a conflict that swirls around the boss's son who's hell-bent on revenge.

To add to the complexity of the situation, Lily learns that her victim might still be alive if it wasn't for opportunistic Assistant District Attorney, Ibee Walters, who has a twisted vision of justice.

As Lily gets closer to finding the killer, she unravels ugly secrets that point to Ibee and Jeremiah - placing Lily's life and her unborn child in danger.

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20 Questions with Legal Mystery Author Ken Malovos

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Ken Malovos has been practicing law in Sacramento for over forty years. He spent twelve years with the Public Defender’s Office and twenty-five years as a business litigator. He now serves full-time as a mediator and arbitrator. Ken has written two previous Mike Zorich novels and both have been recognized by Chanticleer Book Reviews. Contempt of Court was a First Place Category winner in the legal genre of the Mystery and Mayhem competition in 2014. Fatal Reunion was a finalist in the Thriller and Suspense competition in 2016. Ken and his wife live in Sacramento.

His latest book is the legal mystery, ONE NIGHT IN AMBOISE.

Visit his website at www.malovoslaw.com.


1. Are you a morning writer or a night writer?
 
Neither. I write during the day, when I find time between my regular job of being a mediator and arbitrator. I do try to write in sequential days, just to keep everything fresh in my mind. 
2. Do you outline or are you a pantster?
 
I am a little of both. I am moving toward being more of an outliner, but I started as a pantster. This is my third novel and I am seeing the importance of planning things out in advance. Being a true pantster is a lot of work with editing.
3. Which comes first – plot or character?
 
Plot. I have to have an idea of something that works over the long haul. The characters will come along right with it, but for me it starts with a plot. 
4. Noise or quiet when working on your manuscript?
 
Quiet. I work in a very quiet environment and cannot imagine anything else.
5. Favorite TV show?
 
The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.
6. Favorite type of music?
 
Oldies (50’s and 60’s), followed closely by light classical.
7. Favorite craft besides writing?
 
Reading. 
8. Do you play a musical instrument?
 
No. I used to play the piano and the clarinet but now I get to enjoy listening to my grandchildren play the piano and guitar.
9. Single or married?
 
Married. 
10. Children or no?
 
Two grown children, each with their own families. 

11. Pets?
 
None now. Used to have dogs, Shelties. 

12. Favorite place to write?
 
At my computer, at my office, away from everything.

13. Favorite restaurant?
 
Firehouse Restaurant in Old Sacramento. Best wine selection in California. 

14. Do you work outside the home?
 
I do. I am a mediator and arbitrator, after having practicing law for over 40 years. I spend quite a bit of time as a mediator and arbitrator and absolutely love the idea of helping people resolve disputes without going to court. 

15. What was the name of the last movie you saw?
 
Dunkirk. I love WW2 and everything about it, so I loved seeing this movie. A small moment that almost gets forgotten, as it happened so early in the war.

16. Favorite outdoor activity?
 
Walking, especially along a river or the ocean. It is such a special time to just think and put ideas into some kind of logical order. 

17. Pet peeve?
 
Bad drivers, especially those who drive on your rear bumper on the freeway and then pass on the right. I have been driving for a long time, but this still really gets me. 

18. Your goal in life?
 
To help people in any way I can. My life as a lawyer was and is an effort to assist people who are in need. Now that I am a mediator and arbitrator and no longer practicing law, I try to help people resolve their disputes before they go to court. It brings me great satisfaction. 

19. Your most exciting moment?
 
Two events: 1)  Driving a car in a motorcade with Robert F. Kennedy in the front seat with me, when he was running for President in the California primary (June of 1968).. Unfortunately, he was killed one week later.2) Arguing a death-penalty case to a jury, asking the jury to spare the life of my client who killed two people. Fortunately, they did. 

20. The love of your life?

My wife, Michele. All my books are dedicated to her. We have been together for almost 50 years.

About the Book:

Title: ONE NIGHT IN AMBOISE
Author: Ken Malovos
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 289
Genre: Legal Mystery

BOOK BLURB: 
JIM HANSEN AND CORINNE LARSON are overseas college students at Amboise, France. After meeting at a local bar they leave and encounter a drunk. JIM hits him and the man may be dead. At the manor house where they live, they kiss and make love. The next day she accuses him of rape but does not formally charge him. He denies the charge. The police investigate the killing of the drunk.

After they return to California, CORINNE struggles with the whole incident, wondering if she was at fault. She talks to her sisters and then seeks professional help after turning to alcohol.  JIM goes to law school and becomes a deputy district attorney, always wondering if the allegation of rape will surface and whether he did the right thing. He marries another overseas student from Amboise.

ALICIA OBREGON contacts JIM and asks him to dismiss the criminal case against her husband. She informs JIM that she knows all about Amboise and threatens to expose him. He throws the case, thereby allowing a guilty person to go free. Over time he pays her money.

JIM is appointed a judge and ALICIA continues to blackmail him. CORINNE’s husband comes to Sacramento and confronts JIM in his chambers. JIM says he is sorry about the whole thing. JIM goes to a rehabilitation facility but in a few weeks he leaves, feeling he has resolved all of his concerns. 

ALICIA is found dead. ALICIA’s husband is charged with her murder but he implicates JIM because he knows all about the blackmailing scheme. JIM then is arrested and must stand trial for the murder of ALICIA. The prosecutor focuses on JIM’s motive. JIM asks noted trial lawyer MIKE ZORICH to represent him.  JIM turns down a plea bargain and a sensational jury trial follows. JIM is not truthful with his wife, his attorney or the jury. CORINNE’s husband testifies. The jury cannot reach a decision and JIM must live with a tarnished reputation amidst unsettled questions whether he killed ALICIA and raped CORINNE.

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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Sheila Roberts / Sheila's Never Miss'em Holiday Movies @_sheila_roberts

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SHEILA’S NEVER MISS ‘EM HOLIDAY MOVIES
By Sheila Roberts

I love the holidays – the festivities, the decorations, the food (heaven help me!), and the inspiring deeper meaning behind them. And I love a good holiday movie. I bet you do, too. We all have our favorites, of course. As a writer, there are some that really do it for me. Here are my never to be missed movies that I watch every year, no matter what.

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE
Indeed, it is. And this is a wonderful, classic. I was shocked when one of my friends told me her daughter has never seen the movie. Seriously? How could you not sit your offspring down to watch a movie with one of the best and most beloved actors of all time, Jimmy Stewart? Of course, there’s more to the movie than simply a great cast of actors. The plot of this story seems simple: a good man finds himself in trouble through no fault of his own. But the story goes well beyond that. We see the evolution of one life play out before our lives. One man makes noble choices that bind him to his small town even though he wants nothing better than to get out there and see the world and do great things. And, of course, the irony is, that he does great things right there in his own corner of the world. When we first meet George Bailey, our hero, he’s talking about wanting to build things. He never realizes that he’s building something more important than things. He’s building lives, helping people make their own small dreams of a home of their own come true. But he doesn’t see that and in his moment of crisis he sees himself as a failure and figures his best option is to end his life. The idea of showing this man how valuable that life is and what other people’s lives would have been like without him is simply brilliant. And in the end, George realizes that “No man is a failure who has friends.” This story never fails to inspire me and make me cry, and always leaves me asking the question, “What am I building with my one small life?”

PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES
I must kick off Thanksgiving watching this movie. I simply must. I love Steve Martin and John Candy and I still laugh at all the silly cinematic moments, especially the scene where these two wind up going the wrong way on the freeway. Anyone who’s ever started the wrong way down a one-way street can identify with that feeling of Aaaack. We have a version where the language is sanitized – I had no idea how many naughty words our hero could say when he was mad until I saw the original version – but language issues aside, this is a great story. We see two men trying to find their way home – one to a literal home, one to life that can replace what he’s lost. And I love that our man who thought he had it so together, eventually realizes that he has much to learn about what makes people valuable. (I still wouldn’t want to travel with that crazy curtain ring salesman though!)

A CHRISTMAS CAROL
The 1984 version with George C. Scott. Oh, yes. In my opinion, Charles Dickens wrote the best Christmas fiction ever. How brilliant! Let’s visit a skeptical, stingy man with three ghosts representing his past, present and future and open his eyes to what he should be doing for Christmas. At the end, of course, our hero learns the importance of caring for his fellow man and becomes a man who learns to keep Christmas and keep it well. George C. Scott is amazing in this and so are the ghosts. A great family movie with a message well worth discussing after the ending credits have rolled and the popcorn has been gobbled.

A CHRISTMAS STORY
This story doesn’t have the huge character arc the other three movies do, but it doesn’t need to. It’s a memoir, one man’s reminiscences of his childhood. And what fun reminiscences they are! I love the famous leg lamp scene, especially, with Richie touching the leg and his mother hastily removing his hand from temptation. Ah, how clever old Mom was in getting rid of the monstrosity she didn’t want in her house. A nostalgic glimpse of a simpler time.

NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION
We saw this movie on TV one year and got addicted. What can I say? I’m a sick puppy. I love the scene where the squirrel jumps out of the tree. This over-the-top holiday flick is silly from beginning to end and I love the way the silliness continues to escalate. While it does try to sneak in a moral – mean bosses should always give their employees Christmas bonuses – and not just Jelly of the Month Club membership (I always felt the real moral should have been, don’t spend money you don’t have. But that’s just me), the real reason to watch the Griswolds in action is simply to laugh and have fun.

THE POLAR EXPRESS
Beautiful, charming, well done. What else can I say, other than watch it with your kids. It’s simply elegant.

Of course, this is just the tip of the holiday iceberg, and if there’s time I’ll get to movies like THE HOLIDAY or WHITE CHRISTMAS. But, a girl only has so much time. These are my favs. If you haven’t watched them all, maybe I can convince you to do so this season. Have a chick flick movie night and watch a couple with your girlfriends. Remember, “No man is a failure who has friends.”

About the Author
USA Today best-selling author Sheila Roberts has seen her books published in multiple languages and made into movies. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, dividing her time between a waterfront condo and a beach home. When she’s not on the tennis courts or partying with friends she can be found writing about those things dear to women’s hearts: family, friends, and chocolate.
Her latest women’s fiction is Christmas in Icicle Falls.

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About the Book:

Title: CHRISTMAS IN ICICLE FALLS
Author: Sheila Roberts
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Pages: 368
Genre: Women’s Fiction

BOOK BLURB:
When Muriel Sterling released her new book, A Guide to Happy Holidays, she felt like the queen of Christmas. She's thrilled when the new tree she ordered online arrives and is eager to show it off—until she gets it out of the box and realizes it's a mangy dud. But rather than give up on the ugly tree, Muriel decides to make a project out of it. As she pretties up her tree, she realizes there's a lesson to be learned: everything and everyone has potential. Maybe even her old friend Arnie, who's loved her for years. Except, she's not the only one seeing Arnie's potential…

Meanwhile, Muriel's ugly-tree project has also inspired her friends. Sienna Moreno is trying to bring out the best in the grouchy man next door, who hates noise, hates kids and hates his new neighbors. And while Olivia Claussen would love to send her obnoxious new daughter-in-law packing, she's adjusting her attitude and trying to discover what her son sees in the girl. If these women can learn to see the beauty in the "ugly trees" in their lives, perhaps this might turn out to be the happiest holiday yet.

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How I Got a Publishing Deal and What's Next / Michael Okon @IAmMichaelOkon #monsterland

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How I Got a Publishing Deal and What’s Next
By Michael Okon

It’s a pretty incredible story that I have a hard time believing. I wrote Monsterland and self-published it in 2015. My mom is my publicity manager and she blitzed the bloggers with my book. That fall I was reading a book called Selling a Screenplay by Syd Field. In the book, there was an entertainment attorney named Susan Grode who seemed very knowledgeable about the publishing and film industry. I told myself, when I receive my first contract, I’m going to reach out to her to see if she could help me. About two months later, I received a post on Facebook from an agent in London who asked to represent me. I said sure and asked him to send me a contract. I emailed Susan and introduced myself and mentioned that I had someone who wanted to rep me and I was hoping she could read this contract. She told me before I sign with this London agent, why don’t I meet her friend in Brooklyn, an agent named Nick Mullendore with Vertical Ink Literary Agency. I met Nick for lunch and he signed me that day as his client. That evening, Susan brought me on as her client as well. 

Nick began trying to sell my book Monsterland to the big publishers and, as expected, it was rejected. Throughout his attempts of selling, he had a call with a film agent and he was pitching her a romance novel. She said she wasn’t really into romance and was looking for something with monsters. He sent her my book Monsterland, she read it over a weekend, and we had a call that Monday. She told Nick and me if we get the book published, she will get it into a producer’s hands to make into a film. Nick found a publisher called WordFire Press owned by Kevin J. Anderson, who has written all the Star Wars and Dune canon books. WordFire signed me to a two-book deal for Monsterland 1 & 2. After the deal was signed, my film agent did what she promised and got my book into the hands of a billion-dollar grossing producer who is now shopping my book to certain studios. 
In two years, I went from a self-published author, to a published author with a literary agent, an entertainment attorney, a film agent, a two-book publishing deal, a publicist, and a producer who is interested in turning my book to a film. It’s been one wild ride, to say the least. 

Now, what’s next? Well, one may just sit back and relax, and do nothing. Not I. I’ve already completed Monsterland 2 which comes out May 26, 2018. I’m knee-deep in Monsterland 3. I’ve already started beating out the stories for Monsterland 4 and 5. It seems that the next five years are going to be extremely busy with creating stories centered on monsters. What could be wrong with that?

About the Author

Michael Okon is an award-winning and best-selling author of multiple genres including paranormal, thriller, horror, action/adventure and self-help. He graduated from Long Island University with a degree in English, and then later received his MBA in business and finance. Coming from a family of writers, he has storytelling is his DNA. Michael has been writing from as far back as he can remember, his inspiration being his love for films and their impact on his life. From the time he saw The Goonies, he was hooked on the idea of entertaining people through unforgettable characters.

Michael is a lifelong movie buff, a music playlist aficionado, and a sucker for self-help books. He lives on the North Shore of Long Island with his wife and children.

His latest book is Monsterland.

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About the Book:

Welcome to Monsterland—the scariest place on Earth.

The last couple years of high school have not been fun for Wyatt Baldwin. His parents divorce, then his dad mysteriously dies. He’s not exactly comfortable with his new stepfather, Carter White, either. An on-going debate with his best friends Howard Drucker and Melvin over which monster is superior has gotten stale. He’d much rather spend his days with beautiful and popular Jade. However, she’s dating the brash high-school quarterback Nolan, and Wyatt thinks he doesn’t stand a chance.

But everything changes when Wyatt and his friends are invited to attend the grand opening of Monsterland, a groundbreaking theme park where guests can rock out with vampires at Vampire Village, be chased by actual werewolves on the Werewolf River Run, and walk among the dead in Zombieville.

With real werewolves, vampires and zombies as the main attractions, what could possibly go wrong?

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