Friday, May 26, 2017

Can the pen be mightier than the sword...or the suicide bomb?

Good afternoon!

Normally I don't get deep into world events and politics because I believe politics and religion are topics that should be discussed only if two parties have agreed to discuss them. I believe what I believe and I'm perfectly happy to live in a world where other people worship and vote differently than I do, so long as we all understand that we still have to be kind and polite to each other.

That said, I feel like I have to say something touching on the horrible terrorist attack in Manchester at the Ariana Grande concert.  What hit home for me in this story is that some ten years ago this could have easily been me with my daughter at a Jonas Brothers concert.  Every parent whose taken their child to a concert aimed at teens, I'm sure, felt the pain when they heard the news about this specific attack.  

See, what makes this one different is that it specifically targeted young people.  This was not an attack on a shopping mall or a political building or a bank.  This was an attack where the vast majority of the victims were very young, people who had barely begun to live, children who may not even understand what evil there is in the world.

Regardless of what religion you are or what your politics are, or even what your opinion of teen agers might be (and having raised two of them, yes I know...they can be less than a joy to be around) you have to understand that this is a dark, dark event.  When we as a species turns our violence onto our young, we are doomed.

What can we do?

As writers and authors, we've heard the whole "Then pen is mightier than the sword" many, many times.  And that might be true.  But I'm thinking we have enough flame throwing reporters and editors out there raging against violence and injustice.  And the world keeps getting angrier and angrier.

I propose this:  Maybe a different tactic, which might seem weak and silly, but it goes hand in hand with another cliche we writers know very well:  Laughter is the best medicine.

I've long said in this life you're going to face bad things and you can cry or you can laugh and I chose to laugh.  Believe me, I've seen enough fear, sadness, illness, anger, pain, and loathing in my personal life, I could dwell on it and never leave my house and never smile again.  But I think the courageous thing is to find the sliver of humor, that glimmer of joy and focus on that.  Only if we are able to find the good in anything will we be able to look at each other, no matter how different we are, and still be peaceful.

Those who laugh are often discounted as out of touch, silly, unintelligent.  I disagree.  I'm not talking about shrugging off these attacks and saying, "Well the world sucks and we're all going to die, but hey, isn't that hilarious?"  I'm talking about saying, "Yes, this is horrible.  But what is there in life that is good?  I'd like to focus on that."

I know it seems naive, but I think that we, as wordsmiths, call pull readers up from despair by
offering an escape into joy, humor, fantasy.  It's not running away from the issues of the world, it's offering a moment of respite and relief.  Books have long been the haven for those who wish to escape.


In doing personal appearances at odd places, like Farmers' Markets or Craft Fairs, believe me, I've
seen how many people simply do not read anymore. They just don't.  But maybe that's our fault as writers. Maybe there's just too much dangers and evil and negativity on bookstore shelves now.  I mean, how else do you explain Food Network's popularity?  An entire network devoted to cooking?  And yet, I know when I turn on "Chopped" I'm not going to see images of blown up arenas or angry mobs, or people protesting everything.  It's a moment away from it all.


So here's what I want to encourage both writes and readers: Let's find something funny and grab on to it.  Let's find joy and relief in words. We can do that.  We writers, we can offer humor, love, escapism, entertainment and joy.  And readers, even those of you who aren't readers, you can dip a toe back into the written word and see where it takes you.

Maybe escaping into a book won't stop suicide bombings or other acts of terrorism.  Probably not.  But still...if we are able to find joy in our lives, how much better are we equipped to reach out to others who are different from us and find common ground?  And if we have common ground, how much more likely will it be that we can find peace with each other?

Isn't it worth a try?

To that end, check out the comedy book listings on Amazon.  Maybe your favorite is in this list. (My personal favorite is Jim Gaffigan's "Food, a Love Story."

And yes, I have a couple humor books of my own. I've long been inspired by the works of the late, great, Erma Bombeck, and I write my own brand of humor with joy in her honor.  You'll find the links there on the right of this blog.  

Again, friends, think about it...finding a happy place might make us look on each other with a better frame of mind.  "Laugh and the world laughs with you."  Right?

I don't know...it might just work.  I'm willing to give it a try.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Don't you just love that new cover art smell?

Good afternoon!

I know it's months away from the actual release of the new Nora Hill Mystery:  Warning in Waukesha, but I'm super excited about the cover...mostly because it came together SUPER quickly and while I thought it would be the rough draft, I might just keep it!

The fun part of doing my own publishing is that I have quite a bit of control when it comes to cover art and many cases I do my own.  The Nora books have taken on a theme of a single point of light in a fairly dark picture.  I love this one because of the purple hues, and because the image reminds me of the Fox River in Waukesha.

The book itself isn't quite done and I'm thinking it'll be a Thanksgiving release provided I stay focused and finish it in reality and not just in my head.    But I needed to share this with you!

Meanwhile, if you haven't read the first two Nora Hill Mysteries, check them out!




Nora Hill is a woman in search of many things: Plots for her series of best selling young adult novels; the perfect place to leave her father’s ashes; a reason why God would expect her to come to Him when He’s given her prosopagnosia, face blindness, and can’t recognize anyone’s face, least of all God’s.
Along the way, Nora finds herself searching for something else: Every time she turns around, there’s a child missing and Nora knows she has the ability, the gift to find endangered children who can’t, or don’t want to be found. Uncomfortable with the notoriety this ability gives her, Nora still answers the call to search for children because her beloved father told her this was God’s gift to balance out the face blindness.
Visiting her old hometown of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, Nora hopes to send her father’s ashes into Lake Michigan and leave town before anyone recognizes her. Major car trouble dashes her hopes, and she finds herself trapped for a weekend in a town full of terrible memories. When the manhunt for a former classmate’s asthmatic daughter turns up empty, Nora must battle her own personal feelings and do her best to find the girl before it’s too late.


Nora Hill is a woman who likes to keep the people in her life at arm’s reach both from her and from each other. Her family knows nothing about her literary agent. Her literary agent, Connie, thinks she’s an orphan. And no one knows about her friendship with Jack Terrell and his daughter, Sam. Keeping them separated makes Nora’s life less complicated. Living life with face blindness and an unwanted, yet undeniable, ability to locate at-risk missing children is enough for Nora to manage.
All she wants to do is prove to her mother that Lake Superior is not too cold for swimming. But, when Nora loses her cell phone she sets into motion a chain of events that sends these separate segments of her life crashing into each other. Suddenly, everyone in her life has questions only she can answer.
Under strict orders to stay in Superior, Wisconsin until Connie can ship a new phone to her, Nora wants to pass the time as anonymously as possible. That hope is shattered the minute she checks into her hotel and she realizes she’s meant to use her ability to find Jamison Thatcher, a young boy who recently removed from his home when school officials discovered bruises on his body and accused his parents of abuse. One problem: Jamison Thatcher is not missing. He’s on TV, he’s at restaurants, he’s everywhere.
It’s a long holiday weekend and while Nora tries to unravel the mystery of a missing child who isn’t missing and clear the good name of Jamison’s parents, she accidentally uncovers a secret about her own past. While she’d prefer to stay in Superior and never face what’s lurking in the deep recesses of her locked memories, Nora knows she has to move forward and keep searching for the truth.





You can get either book in print or e-book form at amazon by clicking here!

Friday, May 5, 2017

First Weekend of the Season...First Novel FREE!

Good afternoon!

This is going to be short and sweet:

In honor of my first out and about appearance at the Waukesha Farmers Market this Saturday, I have decided to make my FIRST NOVEL ever published, the romantic comedy "DREAM IN COLOR" available as a FREE download starting today and running to Tuesday!

This book is sort of a love letter from everyone who ever had a crush on someone out of reach like a celebrity, an actor, a sports figure, anything like that to that crush...and back.  There are moments of laughter, tears, and one very gassy dog.




Here's a bit of what it's about:


Approaching middle age, Ramona Simms doesn't live a colorful life. She has a dead end job, a gassy dog, and a mother who believes marriage is the only measure of success for a woman. She dreams her childhood idol, the retired rocker Jesse Alexander, will take her away from everything someday, but the only Prince Charming in her real life is her coworker, the persistent, colorless, Virgil.

Then Ramona learns Jesse is coming out of a retirement to do a series of concerts. Convinced this is her destiny calling, Ramona sets out on the journey of a lifetime, dreaming to turn her black and white life to something far more colorful.






FREE DOWNLOAD THIS WEEKEND ON AMAZON!

And remember, if you read it and like it, please leave a review!  We indie authors live and die by word of mouth!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

It's personal appearance season!

Hello everyone!  It's that great time of year again when I emerge from my winter cave and go out into the public and do all kinds of personal appearances!

This year I'll be most notably at the Waukesha Farmers Market just about every Saturday (Except June 17, July 29 and whenever it's raining) from 8-12.  I'll be there not only signing and selling all of my titles, but also talking about self publishing and how to get started in the e-pub game.

While I have really nothing else planned at the moment  (because every Saturday out and about is a lot for me!)  I will say this:  I am available for in person or Skype events.  If you are a local book store, a book club, or a writers' group, I'm happy to come out and talk  to you, and I bring my own books!
I have TWO NEW titles out this season, if you haven't already caught them.  The first is the second book in the Nora Hill Inspirational Cozy Mystery series, Superhero in Superior!  

The second new title is the second book in my movie review series with my writing partner Linda Schmalz, and this one is called OH, the Drama!  This time Linda and I are reviewing dramas head to head.  We rarely, if every agree!  So much fun!


By the way,  you're a church group, I do presentations on growing up Lutheran, and I also discuss Christian/Inspirational fiction in our time.  (Ties in with my Nora Hill Series.)

Head on over to my WEBSITE for my contact info.

As for me, I'll be out THIS SATURDAY, May 6, at The Waukesha Farmers Market!  Look for a black Nissan Cube and a Red Wisconsin Badger tent.  I'm so excited that the season is starting!  can't wait to see you all there!

Friday, April 21, 2017

GET "Not While I'm Chewing" for FREE!


Heads up all!


Today, tomorrow, and Sunday ONLY get my latest release, "NOT WHILE I'm CHEWING" for free when you download it from Amazon!



CLICK HERE TO GET IT FREE!



Need to know what it's about?  Here you go:

My name is Sarah. I work in a small office.

The only other woman in the office is an unintentionally hilarious disaster of a human being. Every workday, I witness and chronicle her complete lack of social awareness, her non-stop eating, and her skewed concept of a work ethic.

I call her Elsie W.

These are her stories.

What you are about to read is true. Only the names and locations have been changed to protect the innocent (namely, me).




Oh, and unlike the Coen Brothers and their wonderful series "Fargo"...when I say it's all true...I MEAN IT!  

Friday, February 24, 2017

A review you can use: More best pictures?

Hello all!  

So I wasn't able to see all 9 films nominated for best picture, but I did manager to catch two more, to get my total to 7.  I'll review "Arrival" and "Hacksaw Ridge" and then make my pick for best picture.



Arrival:

This one is a thinker, to be sure.  But let's start with the acting.  Amy Adams takes the lead here as a linguist enlisted by the US government to talk to a pod of aliens who have landed in Montana, and in a number of other places around the world.  She tries to work together with international linguists and one skeptical mathematician (Jeremy Renner) to find out why the aliens are on Earth and what they want.  This might be the best I've seen Adams, who has become somewhat of a one note for me lately. Here she tackles a plot that is on a fine line between clever and second rate sci fi  (and it falls on the side of very clever, BTW) and she handles it with a depth I've not seen from her.  Jeremy Renner is serviceable, although the point of his character is pretty much lost until the end, and then it's a little bit of a "Well he had to be there because the script said so" moment.  This is far deeper than some run of the mill sci fi flick, and it's going to appeal to a far larger audience.  Possibly the most cerebral of all the films nominated for Best Picture, this one will spark heated debates about time and the future.  

Hacksaw Ridge:

I have no problem saying this is my favorite of the movies nominated for Best Picture, and it
shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who reads my reviews with any regularity.  The TRUE STORY (check!) of a Wold War II hero (CHECK!) told in a no holds bar manner (think "Saving Private Ryan" BIG CHECK!) and staring Andrew Garfield as a Conscientious Objector who was the only American soldier sent to the front lines without a gun...and he managed to save 75 soldiers' lives serving as a medic during the battle of Okinawa.) Desmond Doss, our hero, is the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  RING A DING DING.  So yes, I loved the movie, warts and all (this not for the faint of heart.)  War buffs, history buffs are all going to love this and if you're an Andrew Garfield fan, this is a MUST WATCH.  He's my pick for Best Actor.  The depth of emotion and strength of character it took to make this film work is on his shoulders. Watch for a surprisingly good performance by Vince Vaughn.

So...who's going to win Best Picture, Sarah?

Well, I know I'd like to see Hacksaw Ridge or Hidden Figures win, but reality is that the Oscar voters are made up of Hollywood insiders and Hollywood has all but wet its pants over "La La Land."   I guess I'm okay with any of the other 8 films winning, so long as "Manchester by the Sea" gets shut out.  

As for the other race I care about...Best Actor...again, I would LOVE to see Andrew Garfield get the nod, but again, it's going to go to someone less deserving.  Denzel Washington is the crowd favorite, but the sick, sad fact of the matter is that Casey Affleck is probably going to win for his cardboard stiff work in "Manchester."  I heard someone on the radio say it took a lot of restraint to do what he did in that film.  I disagree. I think it took a lot of lack of talent to be that blank faced for a full 2 hours and 17 minutes.

Best Director...again, we have a couple Hollywood heavy hitters. Mel Gibson should win for "Hacksaw" but he's persona non grata in the Liberal LA LA Land, so I think the real race is between Denzel  Washington for Fences and Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester although Barry Jenkins may surprise everyone for Moonlight. The voters may split and give Damien Chazelle the Oscar for La La Land and then toss Lonergan the writing award for Manchester.  

So my picks, if you're betting:  

Best Picture:  La La Land

Best Actor: Casey Affleck  (gag)

Best Director:  Damien Chazelle

Friday, February 10, 2017

A Review You Can Use! Best Pictures?

Hello!  So it's that time of year, the time of year when movies we wouldn't normally go see become the center of the universe because Oscar says so.

Of the nine films nominated this year for Best Picture I've seen five, with plans to see the rest, although I may not because two of them (Fences and Moonlight) are currently no longer in theaters but aren't on video yet.  Meanwhile, Arrival and Hacksaw Ridge will be out on video before the awards, to I'll manage at least 7 of the 9.

That said, I've seen five and I'm here to review those that I've seen.  Ready?

Hidden Figures:

The pretty much untold story of three African American women who used their mathematical brilliance to help launch astronaut John Glenn in to orbit.

This is everything a movie goer could ask for.  Based on a true story:  Check.  Not a piece of history that's been beaten to death, but something that actually educates us on a moment in time that your high school history class didn't have time to teach you:  Check. Dramatic, entertaining, funny: Check.  Great music: Check.  Well written and true to the times: Check  Time flies by while you're watching it and you find yourself standing up and applauding:  CHECK.  In a perfect world this would be a perfect movie and honestly it's got to be a front runner for best picture.  Stellar performances (When Kevin Costner is a secondary character you know the picture's going to be great!) all around and Octavia Spencer gets the nomination for best supporting, (and I'm going to argue that Taraji P. Henson's performance FAR outshines anything Meryl Streep did in "Florence Foster Jenkins" so there's your snub.)  (Still in Theaters.)


Hell or High Water:

Fans of "The Big Short" and "99 Homes" are going to love this fictional "banks are evil" buddy picture. Ben Foster and Chris Pine are brothers who rob specific banks to save the family ranch.  Their reason behind the crimes will ring true with many Americans.  Jeff Bridges is nominated for best supporting actor for his role as a crusty almost retired Texas ranger.  Really this wasn't a stretch for Bridges, he's basically redoing his role in "True Grit."  Ben Foster is once again not nominated for his beautiful work.  (He should have gotten a best supporting nod for "3:10 to Yuma.") and Chris Pine shows us something we've not seen from him before: deeply emotional work that has nothing to do with the Starship Enterprise.  While this is every bit as worthy as any other movie on the list  (and more so than some) I don't think it has a chance in Hell  (see what I did there?) of winning best Picture. Still, it's an A+ in my book, and well worth a look.  (Currently on video.)


Manchester by the Sea: 


The death of his older brother brings a man back to his hometown to face his past.

Sounds like a good start, right?  Wrong.  THIS IS A BAD MOVIE.   I realize it's probably the front runner for best of everything, but this is a hot mess of a pointless movie.  I go back to the year "Titanic" was nominated for everything and people were losing their MINDS over the fact that Leo di Caprio wasn't nominated for best actor.    Well, said many of the geniuses  (Like my husband) the problem with Leo's part in that movie was that it was static. There was no growth, the character stayed the same from start to finish.

Casey Affleck not only doesn't grow emotionally, he doesn't change facial expression for the ENTIRE MOVIE.  The run time on this is 2 hours and 17 minutes.  You would think that in that kind of run time there would be, oh I don't know, a moment where he's frowning, or a hint of a smile. Nope.  Nothing. He is a blank face the whole time.  The first twenty minutes are painfully dull. The ending is a head scratcher that tells me they ran out of money before the story was finished.  The editing is horrible. There are moments of dialogue that lead the viewer to the idea that something deeper is going on, that there's some big mystery of a back story...and yet nothing comes of it.  You walk away feeling like whole chunks of the script were cut out to make way for endless shots of BOATS ON WATER. WE GET IT.  THEY LIVE BY THE SEA.  THERE ARE BOATS! How about explaining what that woman meant when she said, "He is never to be allowed back in here."  WHY?  What did he do?  Why don't you want him hired?  WHAT IS GOING ON?

And as if that's not enough, the story is so depressing, so monotone, it feels like it's taken too much prozac.  Like the characters would get angry, but you know, they're too busy being depressed.  Oh sure, there are flashes of emotion. There's a breath here and there of a heartbeat, but then we all get back in that SUV and drive through the woods and look at boats on the water.

People said this movie made them cry.  Honestly, it's SO DARK it becomes a farce and my friend and I wound up laughing halfway through because it's too much.  There's grief, there's loss, and then there's this endless blather of red herrings, unexplained longing glances, pointless hints, and dialogue delivered like it's from a high school kid who was forced to be in the play.

If Casey Affleck wins best Actor for this complete waste of air, I may give up on the Oscars completely.




Lion:

You probably haven't seen this film, but you MUST.  The story of a young Indian boy who gets separated from his family and winds up on the streets of Calcutta. He is picked up by an adoption agency and adopted by and Australian couple.  Once he's grown up, he goes on a quest to find his birth family.

This movie is EVERYTHING "Manchester by the Sea" is not.  It's a true story, it's dark, it's depressing, and yet it's uplifting and at the end you're crying like a baby and you don't even care.

Sunny Pawar is the cutest person in the world  and draws the viewer in with his utter charm and honesty. You just want to take the kid in and make him a sandwich. This is a movie that catches you and won't let go. There isn't a moment that's not connected, there isn't a disjointed, out of place bit of dialogue.  Beautifully acted, beautifully shot, and utterly satisfying, THIS should be best picture!

LA LA Land:

I'm not as in love with La La Land and maybe the rest of the world is.  It's utterly charming, there's no denying it. Emma Stone/Ryan Gosling is a far more fun, less over exposed super movie couple than Jennifer Lawrence/Bradley Cooper.  (Not that anyone was asking me, but you know, I had to get that in there.)  Stone/Gosling are adorable, cute, emotional from start to finish. This is a joyful film, full of color, music, and light.  Where it falls short for me might be something outside the movie itself. The film was sold as a "love letter to Hollywood" so I sort of went in with a stale taste in my mouth because so much of Hollywood have become pretty self-righteous, humorless podium thumpers of late.  (For the record, I'm not political and I don't subscribe to a party.  I just think entertainers getting an award should say thank you and find someplace else to make speeches.)  Writing this nearly a week after I saw it, I realize the only real problem I have with the film is I felt betrayed by the ending.  Otherwise, this is a charmer.  Stone and Gosling may want to think about doing a few more musicals.  It's chemistry that just works. I feel like both will ride the Golden Globes wave to an Oscar. And if this is all that's standing between us and "Manchester by the Sea" being crowned best picture, then I say YES, make this best picture!


There you have the first five. I have four more to go and only a couple weeks to get there.  Let's hope I can make better Oscar pics than I have in the past!  (I would LOVE to win first place at my Oscar Party!_

Sunday, January 15, 2017

BIG BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT!

Hello all!  I know it's been more than two months since I settled down to chat with you.  I have a really good reason.



I'm super excited to announce the RE-RELEASE of my beloved book, "Not While I'm Chewing!"  This time around I've signed with Reji Laberji Writing and Publishing and they have done some amazing work to make Elsie W bigger, badder, and all around better!

If you're in the area, I would LOVE for you to come see me next weekend as listed above.  TWO DATES!

If not, the book with new edits, new cover art, and a whole new outlook is available On Amazon!