Friday, December 26, 2014

Okay, time for a Giveaway!

Good morning!

Christmas is over.  How did that happen?  Weeks of frantic wrapping and shopping and baking and
celebrating and now...done.

Well, friends, fear not!  The holiday fun is NOT over.  

As some of you know, earlier this year my original writing blog, "It's a Writer's World" was hacked and I had to rebuild from scratch to create this blog, my new writing home.  As with any new project, it's been a slow and steady process, reaching readers old and new.

Now, we are on the threshold of a great milestone.  (How's that for mixed cliches?)

I'm quite close to 1000 views on this blog, which is exciting for me since it's still a little seedling.  

Here's what I'm going to do.  We have, counting today, 6 days left in the I'm going to encourage you and your friends to view this blog and leave a comment.  Any comment.  Just a "Hey, hi there!"  Or a "Howdy."  Or, for my more international readers, a "Guten Tag," or something along those lines.

On January 1, if we've reached 1000 views, I will randomly pick one viewer to receive a PRINT, AUTOGRAPHED copy of one of my books.  It can be any of them, (take a look at the book covers there on the right.  Click on them...go ahead, it won't hurt!)

Or, if you wish, (and you already have all of my books) you can instead select to wait until "Missing in Manitowoc" comes out in 2015 OR pick a new romance I currently have in preproduction.  

So okay, don't be shy.  Christmas might be over, but before the clock strikes 12 and ends this year,
someone who sent out a greeting is going to get one more present!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My very short Christmas message.



For one night, and one day,

let's forget about our differences and focus on what we have in common;

love, family, faith (whatever your faith may be).

Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, you can celebrate loving your neighbor.  You can celebrate being kind and gentle to those around you. You can celebrate being filled with music and joy and warmth and giving.

There is so much in this world that is good, pure, loving, wonderful, and precious.

For one night and one day, let's focus on that, and take a break from all the rest.

Who is with me?

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Review you can use: Exodus: Gods and Kings.

Good evening and Merry Christmas to all!

Christmas Day has fast become a day when people go to the movies, and why not?  We've done it.  I mean, once the church is done, and the presents are done, and you've eaten everything you can possibly hold, why not head outside and be around people you AREN'T related to and DON'T make you crazy?

To that end, Christmas is a time when a lot of movies get released so that people who do want to escape the family fun have something to watch.  This year we have a movie offering of Biblical proportions:  Exodus:  Gods and Kings.

After "Noah" last spring I admit, I was skeptical.  Let's face it, "Noah" is hardly a Sunday School lesson. As a devout Christian that bothers me but as a person who likes to be entertained at the movies, I was entertained. Still, if you're using a book, any book, as source material, how about sticking to the book? That's been a gripe of mine for a long time. I mean, do movie studios just think, "Hey, we have a great book...let's change a bunch of stuff and make a semi crappy movie out of it."  

Why bother using the book at all?  

This is especially true with the Bible because, okay, if you were making a movie out of the Book of Mormon or the Quran or something, you'd try and get it right, right?  But for some reason, since time forever, Hollywood has taken liberties with the Bible.  It's annoying because believe me, the book is BETTER, especially the Old Testament where all kinds of good stuff went down.  You just don't need embellishment, believe me.  and the pressure is higher because so many Christians today are looking at movies like this and saying, "Yeah, great. What are those heathen Hollywood types going to screw up this time?" 

This time around the director is Ridley Scott and I love Ridley Scott. And Christian Bale is Moses, and I love Christian Bale.  So let's go see Exodus!

For those of you who aren't sure, the book of Exodus in the Bible is the history of the Children of Israel 400 years after Jacob moved the family from Canaan to Egypt to live under the protection of Joseph.  400 years later, things aren't so great because the Pharaoh no longer remembers his history, has no idea Joseph saved Egypt during a pretty decent famine, and so the Hebrews are now slaves building all sorts of big statues and buildings.

Moses was born in a time when Pharaoh thought population control was a good idea for the Hebrews, so he made a law that said every male baby born to a Hebrew family had to be killed immediately. Moses' mother put Moses in a basket and sent him down the Nile where he was found by the daughter of Pharaoh, who raised Moses with the help of Moses' real mother who came to live in the palace as Moses' nanny.

There, I've caught you up.

The movie opens when Moses and Ramses are adults, brothers really.  This is part of the history the Bible does not tell us, whether Moses and the future Pharaoh were brothers or enemies or what.  It is commonly held that there was some rivalry, but that Moses was beloved of the old Pharaoh.  Okay, anyway, in the movie Moses heads on down to where the Hebrews are working. Why he gets there is not important, neither in the Bible nor for the purposes of this review.  He comes across Ben Kingsley. Yep, I have no idea who Ben plays, but he's there looking like, well like himself.  And he reveals to Moses that he's Hebrew.  

So far so good.

On his way out of the Hebrew camp, Moses kills an Egyptian, a fact that is explained well in the Bible, but not at all in the movie, and he goes home.  Huh. Weird.

The old Pharaoh dies and that's when we depart from the Biblical account for a while.  Moses is actually driven out of Egypt, not because he killed someone as it says in the Bible, but because he's Hebrew, and hey, it's his sister who was his nanny.  

Okay, okay, I'm willing to over look that little thing.

Moses meets up with a semi nomadic tribe who seem to think tattoos on the women's faces is wonderful but the men have no tattoos at all.  Moses marries one of the women and has a son.  Okay, back on track.

Chasing some sheep one day, Moses gets hit on a the head, buried in mud, breaks his leg, and has a vision of a young boy making tea next to a burning bush.  

What follows for the next forty minutes is all very entertaining, but if you're basing it on the Biblical account, it's complete crap.  I very nearly walked out because according to Ridley Scott, Moses decides he's going to just go in and blow stuff up and declare war on the new Pharaoh.  It actually felt for a good long time that we were getting the story of the Exodus with no mention of the ten plagues.  The couple behind us actually walked out.

Bible believers, take heart.  If you get through the 40 minutes of explosions, you'll get to something that's not only entertaining, but actually follows the Bible a bit more carefully than many others. The Plagues are depicted very well and they actually got the crossing of the Red Sea just about right, which is amazing since many Bible scoffers have long held that the crossing was no miracle but instead just a bunch of people marching through a swamp.

One thing Hollywood again gives us that I'm okay with is a doubtful, then fanatical religious hero.  Russell Crowe did well with Noah and Christian Bale gives a very good performance as Moses.  After teaching Sunday School for more than twenty years one of the things that I have to remind my students is that these heroes of faith were first and foremost people.  They had doubts, they had failures.  Ridley Scott gives us a warrior who battles his faith, so he gets it half right.  (Biblically, Moses had very little confidence when told by God to go free the Hebrews, plus he had a speech impediment.)

Overall, I was not displeased with movie.  While the first hour can be troubling for a purist, the rest of the movie (the movie is 150 minutes long, so get the big bucket) does keep close to the Bible account and is still brilliant and beautiful.  I rather enjoyed God being depicted as a young boy who likes to make tea. Not everyone does, but I believe in a God who takes all forms and so why not that of a young child?

 Some reviewers gripe that the Plagues are all explained away scientifically, therefore God is marginalized.  That's not my take on it.  Remember, the magicians tried to mimic the plagues for Pharaoh as a way of calming him.  The scene where the plagues are being explained away is not an explanation so much for the audience as a moment of comedy because the magnitude of the plagues is so beyond the simple explanations, its humorous. That's how it's presented in the movie and I believe that's correct.

So no, this is not the "perfect" Bible movie.  And if you are taking your children to see it, I caution you. There are scenes of violence that would be disturbing for the younger children.  I feel this one is actually better than "The Ten Commandments" because, well, it just is.  I think there's more of the spirit of the Bible in this one.  So maybe skip the first forty minutes and then come in.

Oh, and side note. We saw this in 3D. Skip the 3D.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Why books make excellent gifts all year 'round.

Good morning!

When I was six I wrote my first book.  It was called "The Civil War."  It was four pages long, I illustrated it, and I wanted to charge five cents for it.  I figured if it was a good price point for Lucy on "Peanuts," it was a good price point for me.  I planned to write a monthly historical magazine called "Historical Times."  

When I was seven I started reading the "Little House" series and when I found out 1) Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in 1867 and I was born in 1967 and that meant something and 2)  Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her books on lined notepads, just like I wrote my "Civil War" well I figured it was in
the stars.  I was going to be a writer.  Or a poet, since I really liked writing poems, so long as they rhymed.  (Hey, I was seven.)

In grade school I read Margaret Mitchell, Edgar Allan Poe, the Brontes, and Judy Blume and I realized that perfectly lovely people could write perfectly awesome stories about the dark side of humanity.  (Okay, Poe might NOT have been considered "lovely."  That dude was messed up!)

When I was twelve one of my short stories was published in the local...very local...newspaper.  I'd entered a writing contest sponsored by the local 4-H communities.  I was the only one who wrote a fiction story...something about summer camp, snotty girls, and horses.  

In eighth grade I developed a deep love for two newspaper columns:  Erma Bombeck and Ann Landers.  Erma is, even now, my hero because she took every day things and made them funny.  (My blog It Can Only Happen to Sarah! is my way of honoring her memory and the impression she made on my life.)  Ann Landers, with her advice column, showed me that people screw up, break hearts, do stupid things to each other and sometimes common sense and tough love is all that will fix it.

When I was thirteen I started writing my first novel.  This novel, these characters, would live with me
for the next thirty years and would eventually become "Lies in Chance."  But in my high school years, Bryan, Shara, Drew, Molly, they were my very best friends, and Rock Harbor was the place I lived because my real life was...less satisfying.  In my adult years, before I finally published the book, Those same people brought me through pregnancy, birth, debt, job changes, and depression.  Even now I return to Rock Harbor  (ala "A Hero's Spark" most recently) and visit my friends.

When I was twenty-one, inspired by a college course in children's literature, I took a correspondence course in writing children's fiction.  I got an A.  I wrote a murder mystery set in Upper Michigan that I'm still proud of.

What I'm saying is that books and writing have been a part of my life all of my life.  Books can take anyone to places they've never been and may never see.  I've never been to France, and certainly not during the Revolutionary period.  But I've read (yes, I've read the book) "Les Miserables," so a part of my brain has been there.  Iv'e never lived on a plantation in the Deep South in the days before the Civil War.  But I've read "Gone with the Wind" probably a dozen times, and I'm rereading it now.  

Books can be your best friends because books can show you that there are others out there just like you.  Judy Blume's books, escpecially, "Are you there God? It's me, Margaret." got me through one of the biggest life events a girl can go through.  And "Blubber," a book I read many times long after grade school, reminded me that bullying was evil.  (And gave me hope during the years when I was bullied.)

Cheaper than a plane ticket, more readily available than a time machine, books are never a bad thing to have.  My house would probably be six inches taller if it weren't for the shelves and shelves of books.  And now, with the explosion of self publishing and e-books, there are so many more stories, stories that would never have been available when I was growing up because the only books anyone read back then were books the publishing houses wanted us to read.  This is a golden age for reading.  There is, truly, a book for everyone out there.

Right now we are in the frenzy of the gift giving season and I could add my voice to the throng and say, hey, I have six books and a novella out there for your ready pleasure and if you want to check them out...CLICK HERE for Amazon and print...or click HERE for the Nook...or click HERE if you read your book on some other device, like Apple!  And look, there I did.  But books make a great gift any time.  There is never a bad time to give someone a book.

Want to give the gift of romance?  Give them a romantic book like
anything by Jane Austen or Adriana Trigiani's "Valentina" books.  Of course, you can also check out newer authors like Stacey Joy Netzel or Linda Schmalz or Kelly Moran!

Want a thriller?  Stephen King anyone?  J.A. Konrath, who is another personal hero, 

Need to go to another world where magic and mythical characters rule?  J.K. Rowlings, Tolkien, and yes, Stephanie Meyers.

Just want a homey book you can curl up with and never put down?  Billie Letts, and Jon Hassler should fit the bill.

So, after all the holiday parties are over, after all the presents are wrapped and unwrapped, after it's all over and we're in the doldrums of winter...pick up a book or a book reading device and give yourself or someone else the gift of magic, beauty, romance, adventure, travel, history, action, mystery, thrills, and new best friends.  Give the gift of a book.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

One song to sum it all up. We authors may be doomed.

Good afternoon!

It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words.  And often that's the case, a picture can say, with one picture, what poets and authors try to capture in pages and pages of writings.  It's not a hard and fast rule, however, because if you're an English teacher trying to get kids to read books, you know that all the movies in the world do not capture the completeness, the poetry, or the essence of a book. I have two exceptions to that rule, but that's a different blog.  

4 hours,...fantastic costumes in
every scene...Scarlett has 1 kid.

1000 pages, tons of description and additional
characters...Scarlett has 3 kids.
Looking at one of my favorite books and movies, Gone With the Wind, I can tell you the experience is vastly different from book to movie.  Both great, (I'm currently rereading the book, and it's like a whole knew experience because it's been awhile.) Both quite different from each other.

Music, musicians, tend to be less like their poetic and literary cousins and more like painters and movie makers. Try listening to any masterful piece of music, from the "Hallelujah Chorus" to "Stairway to Heaven"  WITHOUT bringing images and colors and scenes to mind.  Could be why so many musicians in the last 40 years have written such completely indecipherable lyrics.  It's the image brought to mind, the snapshot memory, that makes a song so enduring.  Oh sure, "867-5309 Jenny" is a song most people of a certain age turn up (and not because they're getting hard of hearing.  I can hear just fine...I can....I CAN!  Wait, did you say something?)  But most of the time they turn that song up, sing along and picture themselves as teens, going to the nearest payphone...yes, there were these things called payphones where you put a quarter in and dialed a number and people talked on the other end of the line...and dialed that number.  Ah, memories.  For me it was some unsuspecting woman who may, or may not have been in Wisconsin.  We had fewer phone numbers back then,  Area codes were sort of cute things you used if someone lived on the other side of the country, not in your own state.

Anyway, I was reminded in church this morning, thanks to our hand bell choir, that there's one piece of music that so completely and totally sums up the Holiday/Christmas season, we storytellers need not put one more word on paper  (see, kids, back in my day, we wrote things on paper...with pens or pencils...or maybe we typed them....on a typewriter.  It was like texting, only with a machine that weighed 50 pounds and if you made a mistake you pretty much had to start all over again because everyone knows those ink removing pen erasers never worked.) which means, fellow authors, as far as Christmas is concerned, we might be doomed.

What is this piece of music?

Carol of the Bells

With or without the lyrics, it matters not.  The Carol starts out calmly enough...and then builds and builds and builds with layers of instruments or voices until it's a fever pitch threatening to spin right out of control.  Then, at the end, it returns to calm.

It's a much redone carol.  

The traditional vocal version.

The acapella version.

Solo piano?  Same music, Same frantic pace.

The amazing John Williams...from "Home Alone."
  You can almost feel the frantic season in the voices of the singers.

And then there's this one...probably the one we
all turn up in our cars.

I could go on there are hundreds of these on youtube.  But it's one song that IS the holiday season.  No need, really, for lyrics, although there are lyrics. All you need is an instrument, or maybe a bell choir, and you're set to tell the whole holiday season story again in under five minutes.

Can't put any of that on paper.

We storytellers, we writers, we authors....we may be doomed.

Nah...there will always be that group of people who say, "The book was better."

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Sneak peak Saturday!

Good morning!

I thought I'd share another bit of my most recent novel, A Hero's Spark.  Remember, books make a great gift!  If you want any of my books in print or for the Kindle, click here.  If you read your books on the Nook just click here! And if you read books on any device at all check out smashwords!

Meanwhile, enjoy this bit of A Hero's Spark!

The rain north of Green Bay fell mercilessly. By the time Collier reached the city limits of Rock Harbor, he was exhausted and unable to find the county highway address Archibald gave him. Collier eased the Mercedes into a muddy parking lot outside a bar called "Dirty Dog Dave's." He parked as close to the door of the hulking building as he could, and ran inside.
The inside of Dirty Dog Dave's was cavernous. The place seemed deserted, though the lights were on. Collier took a seat at the bar and tapped his fingers. "Hello?"
The only answer to his single word was the click of a handgun safety releasing. Collier stopped tapping his fingers, his blood frozen.
"Put yer hands on the bar where Ah can see them."
Collier squinted to the darkened end of the room, searching for the face to match the low, guttural voice and the completely fake Southern accent. He splayed his hands out on the dented bar, trying hard not to recoil at the sticky feel of the scarred wooden surface. "I'm not here to cause trouble. I just need directions."
"Ah'll just bet y'all do."
Despite the apparent danger he was in, Collier struggled not to smile. The hidden man's accent was simply too funny. "No, really. I'm trying to find Shara Jacobs' place."
As if his words were some sort of incendiary device, the man with the gun leaped from around the corner, and grabbed Collier by the collar. The man was enormous, and holding an even more impressive handgun. "Just what would y'all be wantin' with Miss Shara?"
“Oh, for the love of all that's holy, Dave, put that man down!"
Collier held his breath as Dave's grip on his collar tightened. He heard woman's quick footssteps behind him and in a beat a tall, beautiful woman the color of a perfect cup of mocha stood next to him.
"Chanel, now this doesn't concern y'all."
"It does when you're pointing a gun at a customer. Put that thing away and give the man dinner or something."
Dave didn't loosen his grip on Collier. "Chanel, this man is driving Mr. James' Mercedes. But look at him, he's no driver for Mr. James. So either he stole the car...or he stole the car. Plus, he's lookin' for Miss Shara."
Chanel turned her focus on Collier. "Did you steal Mr. James' car?"
"No." Collier tried to swallow, but Dave's enormous knuckle was in the way. "No, I'm his nephew."
"Ah don't buy it."
"You don't buy anything." Chanel frowned at Dave. "Look, Mister. Dave here just got his concealed carry permit and he's itching to use that beastly thing. If I were you, I'd say something a bit more convincing."
"My uncle, Archibald James, sent me here. I'm a..." Collier struggled for air.
“Oh, for heaven's sakes, Dave, put him down and let him talk."
Reluctantly, Dave released Collier. "Now talk...and Ah'd best like what you say."
"I'm a musician. I'm a singer, and my uncle thought I should work with Shara Jacobs. Said she's a client of his. He's letting me use his car because mine is back home."
"Where's that?"
Collier cleared his throat and turned a baleful eye on Dave. "Nashville. Tennessee. Where people have real accents."
Chanel burst out laughing. "Dave, you have to give this man free burgers for life or he may just blow your cover!"
Collier allowed himself a weak smile. "I don't want to blow anyone's cover or anything. I just...I'm looking for this address." He held up the piece of paper. "I can't find it in the rain."
"Of course you can't, Sugar." Chanel strolled behind the bar and filled a glass with beer. "Here you go." She slid the glass to Collier.
"Now just a minute! Since when do we give free beer to strangers?"
“Oh, about the same time we started pulling guns on people who show up looking for directions.” Chanel grinned at Collier. "Dave, you say one more word to this boy and I'm going to let him tell everyone that you've never been further south than Kenosha." Chanel turned back to Collier, her voice easing into a warm tone reminiscent of thick hot cocoa. "Now, go ahead and finish what you were saying."
Collier took a swallow of beer. "I'm a sort of traveling musician, but my band...broke up. So my uncle sent me here to do some recording work with Shara Jacobs. He said I could stay at her place."
"Probably means the loft."
Collier didn't miss the softening of Dave's features. "You know Shara Brandt Jacobs?"
Dave chuckled. "Know her? I discovered her."
Chanel clicked her tongue against her teeth. "You did not discover her, Dave. She had to beg you for months to let 'Teachers' Pets' play here, and you know it. Now, what's your name honey?"
"Collier. Collier James."
"Okay, Collier James, I'm about to open this place up for the evening, but I promise you, if you don't mind sitting here a bit and having the best burger you're ever going to eat, I'll see to it that someone gets you out to the Jacobs' place tonight." Chanel patted him on the shoulder.
“We’re giving him food, too? What, you’re trying to bankrupt me?”
“No, Dave,” Chanel rounded the bar and stood in the kitchen doorway, “I’m trying to keep him from suing us.”
Collier was amused by the couple. His initial fear of Dave melted. The smell of grilled meat emanating from the kitchen made Collier's stomach growl. "Ok, I guess I wouldn't mind a burger at all.”