Sunday, November 6, 2016

Sneak Peak Sunday: SUPERHERO IN SUPERIOR!

Hello all!

I know it's been a long time since I've blogged here, but I have a very good reason!

I've just published my NEW Nora Hill Mystery:  Superhero in Superior!  

As of today it's available in print form only at the Createspace store or on Amazon. (Remember, indie authors get more of the purchase price back if you order on Createspace!)

Digital form will be available in about another week.

I'm so excited about this series and especially this book,and I hope you are too!

So today, after a long absence, I give you a sneak peak into Superhero in Superior!



The woman at the front desk is deeply engrossed in what’s on the TV in the lobby, so when I step up to the counter, I’m basically breaking her trance-like direct connection to the thing.
            “Hello. Welcome to the Super 8. Do you have a reservation?”
            “No.” I wait for her cheery manner to change. I’m surprised when it doesn’t. Her smile and the twinkle in her eyes doesn’t fade one whit.
            “Okay then, let’s get your information. Name?”
            We go through the list of personal information questions and by the end of it, this woman, Mary, and I are best buds. Sort of. She’s a chatty lady, somewhere in her late fifties or early sixties, with one of those very comfortable figures that reminds a person of a pillow and a very soft blanket piled in the corner. I study her, hoping to find some outstanding feature other than her dress size and general softness. It’s not like I can call her “Blanket lady” the whole time I’m here.
            Mary breaks into my thoughts. “Oh would you look at that? That poor child.”
            She’s back in her trance, staring at the TV, and I join her, watching a news story about a boy, who looks like he’s someplace between eight and ten, walking out of a courthouse. He’s crying and he looks like he’s being dragged.
            “Looks like the parents lost their rights. Good,” Mary says.
            A whisper of a headache starts behind my eyes. I try to blink it away, but I know it’s too late. This is a child I’m going to have to care about. My headache, which is getting worse every second, tells me this child is going to be missing and in danger very soon and I’m going to be the one to find him
            Not again.
            This trip to Superior keeps getting better and better.
            I check the seating in the lobby, looking for a soft place to land. If this headache gets any worse, a black out is sure to follow.
            “And would you look at those two, walking out in tears like they’re sad. Sad they won’t have that precious boy to punch around anymore.”
            Mary’s tone is sharp and cold which surprises me because in the short time I’ve interacted with her, she’s been nothing but an overwhelming voice of kindness. I look at the TV again, squinting because I’m also fighting a bulldog of a headache now, and I must have missed the parents because all I see are the boy and the two older people who seem to be shepherding him away from something off screen. I blink, able to ease to pain a little, and relieved that I’ve staved off the blackout, at least for the moment.
            Some people get a series of warning signs before they faint. Not me. I get the headache and then I’m out. Next thing I know I’m on the floor someplace and someone, invariably, is trying to call for an ambulance. I’m not a fan of hospitals, doctors, medical personnel in general, having spent so much of my early years being poked and prodded and stared at like some kind of lab experiment.
            “That’s quite the story,” Mary chatters, breaking me out of my drift back in time. “The family is new to town. That boy, James or something his name is. He started at Northern Lights Elementary just after Christmas. He started showing up with bruises on his face and arms, poor child. He kept saying it was nothing, but the school called Social Services and they took him away from the parents for abuse. Now, finally, they’re keeping the parents away from him. The foster parents are filing for adoption, I hear.”
            I can’t take my eyes away from the TV screen. The camera is now firmly on the child and I have to say, I’ve seen my share of kids who hate their parents, and this does not look like one of them. This kid is reaching out, behind the foster parents, who could be his grandparents, they’re so old, and he’s reaching toward two people I surmise are the parents in question. I can’t tell for sure because I only see their backs as they walk away from the camera. It’s hard to watch the raw emotion on the boy’s face. But this is local news and it’s the lead story, so they run that clip over and over while reading the report about the court case.
            “Now maybe he’ll be able to live free from fear,” Mary says.
            There’s something else that bothers me about that kid: he’s wearing a long sleeved shirt. It’s a long sleeved Green Bay Packers’ shirt. Granted, it’s not exactly Miami Beach up here in the north woods, but it’s easily too warm for long sleeves. I sense I’m pretty close to black out mode. I’d like to pass out on a bed, rather than on the tile floor.
            “Is that my key?” My voice sounds very far away.
            “Oh yes, where is my brain? Here you go, you’re in 204, at the top of the stairs.”

            “Thank you,” I manage before making a bee line up the stairs. I struggle with the key card, but I make it to the bed for a safe landing as everything around me goes black.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Olympics are over...but what is that to writers?

Good evening all!

Sorry it's been a while. I've been wrapped up most of the summer with the updates on my Rock Harbor Chronicles plus I've been working my way through the first draft of "Superhero in Superior."  (Follow up to Missing in Manitowoc, I'm very excited about it!)  Plus, I've been working at farmer's markets getting the word out and getting ready for my very first book club talk in a few weeks.

(Want me to come speak to your book club?  Are you in the Milwaukee/Madison Wisconsin area?  contact me! Otherwise, I can skype a book club anywhere!)

Also I've been wrapped up in the Olympics big time.  How wrapped up?  Well, It's been almost two weeks since the closing ceremonies, and I still have Olympic coverage on my DVR I need to watch.  I mean, I kept up on the stuff USA was good at because it's impossible to not hear the results. But handball, sychronized swimming, table tennis, these are all sports that the USA is NOT good at and therefore if I watch it now or if I watch it in six months, it'll still be a surprise to me.

As I look back on my life, I know the Olympics have been a big influence. My first early memories were of Olga Korbut wowing us all in gymnastics in the 1972 games in Munich, and Nadia Comaneci  in Montreal.  

Granted their routines look laughable today...although Olga's flip was outlawed as being too dangerous.

Every four years, and now, every two, the world gathered to watch athletes compete in games that boggled our minds.  Here in the US we saw a lot of swimming, track, and gymnastics.  (Mostly because in the days before DVR and multi channeled networks, you only got three hours of coverage a night.  In the winter we saw skiing, skating, and, of course in hockey in 1980 Lake Placid, hockey.

I still weep when they play the Olympic hymn and when they light the flame.  I watch intensely (and become and expert at) athletes whose names I will not remember in a month, if I ever learn them doing things I've never heard of.  (human steeplechase?  It's a thing!)  I'm mesmerized by the different nations, so many nations now, which is different from when I was a girl. The USSR of my day is now, what, a dozen different countries?  And guess what?  They all RULE at rhythmic gymnastics.  

My parents gave me their take on world politics when I was a kid.  If a Soviet gymnast fell off the balance beam, my mother would say, "That little girl won't get dinner tonight." And I'd look at those wan, dark eyed girls and think, "Oh I hope they win so they get dinner!"  

I was four when the terrorists shot the Israeli athletes, and while I remember Olga Korbut, I think my parents may have shielded me from that.  But looking back to that, and every time politics worms it's way into the Olympics, I'm enraged.  1980 Summer Olympics, President Jimmy Carter put himself on my list of people I don't like when he boycotted the Games. 1984, Summer Games, Soviet Union, same thing.  Stupid politics.  Munich 1972, and act of terrorism brought on by...politics.  1996 Atlanta Games bombing.  And the 1936 Games...pretty much anything Hitler touched. We could keep going, but those are some of the highlights.

See, it's my belief that the Olympics are the one thing on this planet that should be devoid of anything political.  It's a rare time for the world to come together and play games and cheer and maybe realize that hey, we may not look the same, we may not speak the same language, but we all want fair competition, we all want good Games, we all want to get to know those who are different from us. We want the stories about this runner from South Africa whose mother wasn't allowed to compete outside of her country because of apartheid.  (Wade van Niekerk, for those of you struggling to remember the name.)  We love the story about the US shot putter whose father's customers put together a crowd funding account so he could watch his son.  (Darrell Hill.)

As a writer sports fascinate me because I don't think people get whipped up and passionate about things as much or as often as we do about sports. I mean, I don't watch track and field coverage EVER.  But there was a girl from my home town (Gwen Jorgensen) who won a gold medal in the women's triathalon an no US woman has ever done that, so yes, I was howling at my TV the whole time she was swimming and biking and running.  (I should have been doing anything else.) I was elated,

Writers often try to convey passion. It doesn't matter the genre you're writing.  You try to get passion on the page.  In sports, I think the Olympics is possibly the last best place where pure passion reigns.  Gone are the days of wide eyed amateurs competing. Sports is a huge business.  We won't have a "Miracle on Ice" again any time soon.  Except maybe in men's basketball.  (Which is a farce I will not condone.  Basketball, tennis, golf...they can all go away or become an amateur game again.  It's boring watching the same people you see on TV all the time go for gold when it's so much more fun to watch someone you've never heard of win.)

But still, if you want to see passion, look away from the cynical super pampered pro athletes and look to the Olympics where there is still fire, there is still a true competitive spirit and there is PASSION.  From Michael Phelps down to the tiny little Brazillian gymnast who could barely see over the balance beam (Falvia Saraiva) you know they are going to give it everything because win, and you get the gold. Lose, and you get nothing.

I think we writers can be inspired by that attitude. Give it your all, shut out the noise, shut out everything that has nothing to do with what you're doing. Write that perfect scene, that perfect moment, that perfect line of dialogue without thinking about the naysayers.  Be passionate, give it everything you have.

And, maybe you're not going to be the next Stephen King. Maybe you're not going to make millions on your writing. then what?

At least give us a great story.  Like my two heroes, two young runners one from the US and one from New Zealand. Abbey D'Agnostino and Nikki Hamblin.  They may fade from the annals of track and field.  I doubt anyone remembers their names now, other than their family members and teammates.  I had to look it up and I swore to commit their names to memory. (But to be fair, I had to look up everyone else's name, too.)  But you know what they gave us? They gave us the best story from the Olympics, not one of winning, but one of passion for the sport and love for our fellow man.

It was a perfect story no matter what the ending was.

And isn't that what we're all striving for, as we write?  Not for money, not for gold, but for that perfect moment in our writing that will be remembered long after our names are forgotten?


Friday, August 19, 2016

7 years,7 novels...and 1 blog with Ilona Fridl!


Hello all!

As you know, from time to time, I invite my fellow authors to come in here and do my work for me.  My friend and fellow romance writer, Ilona Fridl  has been a guest a couple times, but never quite like this.  Over the last seven years, this remarkable author has written and released SEVEN novels, all of them really, really, really good.  So today I'm having Ms. Fridl take over and give us an idea of what that much awesomeness looks like!  

Take it away Ilona!




Celebrating Seven Years-Seven Novels

Thank you, Sarah, for allowing me to crow a bit on your blog. I really don't want to turn this into a advertisement, so I'll just tell you about each one of my books that I love so much.

To my mind, The Wild Rose Press is one of the most supportive publishers in the industry and they should get more credit for the fantastic novels they put out. They are celebrating their tenth anniversary, so they must be doing something right. I've been with them for seven years and have had a novel out every year. The staff of editors, artists, and all the behind the scenes people are hard working and there when you need them. I'm so happy they discovered me! Lol

Anyway, here's a list of my children and some background on the books:

Silver Screen Heroes was actually my second story. I decided to write a series, Dangerous
Times, because that seemed to be what was selling. I always had been interested in the silent movie industry and I grew up around Hollywood, so I had been to places where all this happened. Just added a dose of gangsters and a cup of prohibition, and a suspense story baked to perfection! This was the start of the Shafer family saga with Zeke and Addy.

Golden North picks up with Zeke and Addy escaping the gangster family and going to Juneau, Alaska Territory to join Zeke's brother, Josh. Josh had purchased an old theater building and needed help fixing it up. Addy's cousin, Muriel, was a young widow of the crime family and ran up to join them when the family wanted her baby. Let's just say, that the crime family eventually finds them. This one is mainly Josh and Muriel's story, but two minor characters steal the show, Sheriff Amos Darcy and Detective Sarah Lakat.

Bronze Skies is the third book in the series, and it takes place
twenty years later with the next generation of the Shafer family. Tom Shafer is the son of Zeke and Addy. He is in the Army Air Corp when WWII breaks out. Pam Wright is his childhood sweetheart and, through her eyes, we see what it was like on the homefront during the war.

Prime Catch was a spin-off of the Dangerous Times series and features Sheriff Amos Darcy and Deputy Sarah Lakat. I loved those two characters from Golden North and wanted to give them their own story. In this one, they had to solve a series of murders at Alaskan canneries. They finally admit their attraction to each other.

Iris Rainbow was the first story I completed. It didn't fit the romance genre, so I put it out as women's fiction. Tim Olson and Teri Darden meet when they are young and foolish then circumstances split them up. They meet thirty years later after other marriages. This is set in California during the sixties, so I didn't have to research very much, because I grew up in the Los Angeles area in that time frame.

That Monroe Girl is the western I always wanted to do. It's set in Tombstone, Arizona Territory in the 1880s. Jake Spencer is a newspaperman and Cat Monroe is a girl from Virginia in search of her family. I have visited Tombstone before, so I had the advantage of visualizing the town in the story.

A Sacrificial Matter is my first novella. It was a visit back to Amos and Sarah after they opened their detective agency in Juneau, Alaska. Spiritualism was a fad during the 1920s and this one has a sinister twist to it. I want to write more mysteries with the Darcys, so stay tuned.

A little teaser about my work in progress, it's set in 1880s Waukesha, Wisconsin during the resort era. No title for it yet, but my heroine is disabled. Fighting a disability myself, gives me empathy for what she's going through.

If you want to see blurbs, excerpts, and reviews for these books, go to my website by clicking here!

I know I said, I didn't want to sound like an advertisement, but if you go to The Wild Rose Press site (CLICK HERE) and click Specials, my books are being featured two weeks at a time for a $.99 download.

Get to my Facebook page by clicking here!

If you go to Amazon by clicking right here you will have a list of my books and my author's page.


Ilona Fridl is a transplanted Californian to Wisconsin and lives with her husband, Mark, and her computer. She belongs to Romance Writers of America, and a student of Kathie Giorgio at AllWriters. She has written articles and short stories for magazines plus her seven novels.


Thank you so much for guest blogging today, Ilona!  I know some of your readers and mine are going to have questions for you!  READERS!  Ilona will be checking in through out the course of the day, so feel free to comment and ask questions below!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Judging Books by their NEW Covers!

Good afternoon!

It's been some time, I realize I'm woefully behind my blogging these days.  What can I say?  I took my own advice and started writing.  A little.

The last couple weeks have been dedicated to making some BIG changes in my writing life. Not the least of which is this:

If you are reading this blog at It's A Writer's World! please stop. That page was hacked two years ago and chances are you're seeing more spam and weird images than you're seeing actual content from me.  Please move over to It's Just a Writer's World! where I have freshened things up big time and best yet...hasn't been hacked!

When you get to It's JUST a Writer's World you'll notice something is super different on the right hand side of the page.  Yes indeedy.  I updated and upgraded my book covers!  Well, to be totally honest, my friend and fellow author (Although she's a true genius with the romance novels, you should check her out!) Author Kelly Moran gave me several pointers recently and then created my new covers for most of my books because, as she put it, (The books that are in a series should LOOK like they're in a series!)

I could NOT agree more!

You'll also notice THREE new books!  WHOOT !  No, I haven't been writing THAT MUCH, but  again Kelly Moran assembled all three of the Rock Harbor romantic suspense novels into one awesome downloadable books.  (All of my books are available in print and where ever you buy e-books.  Check your favorite e-book store!) 

Then, Ms. Moran created a new, and very awesome cover for my BRAND NEW Nora Hill Novel  Check out Nora's FIRST novel!
(which came out last November, but as I said, I'm a bit behind things.)  You may see different covers for book and e-book, but never fear, Createspace is just a tiny bit behind.

Finally, we have assembled into one book or e-book, all three  Rock Harbor novellas. I'm super excited about this because I actually helped in this process of this project!  I've been saying for a long time that I was going to put these three short, sweet love stories  (REALLY can't call them all romances, sorry.) into one volume and I finally have, with a cover, thanks to my friend Kelly!


I know all the links take you to my amazon author page.  Don't fret!  All the links you could want when it comes to finding me on the web are up there in the top right hand corner.  Oh, and again, all of my books are sold in print on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and on the Createspace book store!  (PSST!  If you really want to help an indie author out, buy your print books at Createspace.  Book prices are the same as anywhere else online, but the author gets roughly 100% more in royalties than on Amazon.)


So yes, I've been busy with the writing...but now I should probably go and actually, you know, RIGHT!  Meanwhile, I hope to see you all at the Waukesha Farmer's Market in Waukesha, WI this SATURDAY (July 30) from 8-1.  I'll be there signing and selling my books and just generally hanging out and having a great time!  Special Market pricing on all print books!  10% off ALL BOOKS Before 10 AM!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Blame it on whatever you want, you still have to WRITE!

Hello all!

I collect magnets. The snarkier the magnet the more likely I am to have it on my fridge.  I especially like magnets that talk about a writer's life.  I recently picked up one that says, "Write Drunk, Edit Sober." Now of COURSE I do both in a sober condition.  (I found out long ago I can't type when I'm inebriated...to say my drunk typing looks like monkey's work is an insult to monkeys.)

A few years back a friend of mine gave me a magnet that says, "I hate writing. I love having written." That's a quote from my sound bite sensei, Dorothy Parker.  I have found that quite true the last couple months. The early spring found me tapping away furiously at three separate book projects.  Now, in the last several weeks, I haven't written more than a few thousand words and I probably won't keep any of those.  Two of the three projects I want to have published by year's end.  That may not happen if I don't get my butt in gear.

Sure, I've had a lot going on.  I had hand surgery....twice.  We moved our daughter, our youngest out of town, out of state, to another city to be closer to her fiancee. Oh, and yeah, she also got engaged at 19, so there was that.  I continue to worry and pray for those in my family who are struggling with
mental illnesses, and I struggle with my own sense of purpose and self worth.  

It's when I let all of this pile up in my brain that my couch and Netflix are my solace and the very idea of writing becomes an actual, physical pain.

This summer, however, my mother and I are back on the Farmer's Market circuit, her selling her art and me selling my books. As I talk about my writing I find myself thinking about that quote from Dorothy Parker.  I love talking about the things I've written. The projects I have sitting on my desk, in my inbox, those are the things I need to write and those are the things I loathe and hide from when I get home.  I bury myself under a blanket. I run errands that really don't need doing. I actually cleaned one of the bathrooms in my house...willingly.

My lack of willpower (and that magnet) make me think of so many other talented people, some of whom are reading this blog and some of whom I've parted ways with long ago because I chose one path for my writing and they chose another and somehow that made me evil in their eyes.  There are so many talented story tellers out there who have shelved their work and moved on to simply live life and think, on occasion, about writing they once did.  (And yes, E, I'm talking about you! Finish the book!)  There are others who continue to live the writing life. They go to conferences, they meet people, they drink wine and talk about writing but they never quite finish that project. 

Why?  Why does this happen?  We writers, we have stories in us. We have the tools to take those stories from our brains and share them with the world. Why don't we do it?


Writing itself is a pain in the butt. There's no other way to put it.  Well, wait, there is. Rick Springfield, believe it or no, was once asked how he felt about writing. The person asking the question was talking about writing lyrics, but I believe Rick's response fits all writers:
Preach it, Rick.

"Writing is actually like having a lover.  Sometimes it's incredible and sometimes it can give you a headache." 

I couldn't agree more. Actually, someone needs to put THAT on a magnet for me. There are thousands of stories out there that will never be told because the act of sitting down, focusing, and then actually putting words to paper or screen is actually really, really difficult.  Some shut it out completely.  Some dabble, and put on a great show.  Some take time off and come back to it. And some, and these are the people I really admire because they succeed, very much like my friend Ilona Fridl (who will be guest blogging in the near future again as she has given the world another lovely book) who soldier on, who work every day, and who get it done.

So yeah, I had hand surgery. I moved my young daughter far away.  I got tired. I got sick.  I got worried.  I let that stand in my way.  And I can't do that anymore. I may be on the verge of a new chapter in my writing career and now is not the time to let myself be weighted down by how difficult the job is. I need to get the job done.



Friday, June 3, 2016

A Review you can Use: The NIce Guys

Good Friday evening!

It's the summer movie season and the multiplexes are full of animated critters and wise cracking superheros.  And that's fine.  But if you want something that doesn't involve either, I have a winner for you:

The Nice Guys.

Set in 1970's Hollywood, "The Nice Guys" is a rare gem these days:  It's a comedy that's actually funny and a buddy movie that makes you think more of bickering with your brother in the back seat of the family station wagon on a hot summer driving vacation than of polished, prepackaged Hollywood buddy pairs.

Russell Crowe is Jackson Healy a muscle for hire guy living on the underbelly of Hollywood and hurting people for a living.  Ryan Gosling is Holland March, a less than attentive private investigator and single dad to Holly (played charmingly by young Anguorie Rice).  This team of unlikely mystery solvers comes together to find Amelia, a young girl who is somehow connected to a missing porn film and a string of deaths involving everyone else involved in that film.

I'm a huge Russell Crowe fan, I've never made any bones about that. However, I've NEVER been a Ryan Gosling fan. Ever.  I always thought of him as something mildly attractive movie directors used to try and pretty up a set.  Not this time out. Gosling is hilarious and his timing is great. He and Crowe play off of each other as if they'd been doing it all their lives.

Is this the next "Citizen Kane?"  Hardly. "The Nice Guys"is what a summer movie should be:  frothy fun with a bit of naughtiness that gets you out of the heat for a couple hours. Given the prolific vulgar language and the nudity, violence, and all the other whatnot in the movie, this is one to get the sitter for.  But grown ups, especially grown ups who lived int he 70's and don't mind a little slapstick with  their crime movies, this is a winner.

One should note that once again, Russell Crowe did what he does best:  He fit the role.  Literally.  He gained some sixty pounds, putting in a very physical performance at a whopping 268 pounds.  (Most of which, 52 pounds, he's lost since filming wrapped.)  He wanted to be the polar opposite of Gosling physically, and he managed that.  Speaking simply from a health vantage point, as someone who
struggles with losing weight, I hope 1)  That there's a sequel next summer and 2) that Mr. Crowe opts for a fat suit or something that'll be easier to shed.

All in all, however, this is a fun movie that doesn't pretend to be anything other that what it is: a good time with a few solid laughs.  That's what movies used to be before they all tried to change the world or be all "aware."  

Four out of five stars kids. Go see it if you still can find it in theaters.  Support fun at the movies!  Support men wearing something other than tights!  Support characters who solve crimes without superpowers!  Support movies that don't have talking animals!

Bring on the sequel!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A review you can use: "Creed" and "Southpaw.

Good morning!

I am not a boxing fan. I do not watch boxing. I do not understand boxing. It's the one sport during Olympic coverage that I get up and go do housework.  (2016, Rio...can't wait!)

That said, I can't leave boxing MOVIES alone. I love them.  I've seen many of them.  All the Rocky movies, check. Cinderella Man, one of my all time favorite movies, check.  And most recently I've watched two, "Creed" and "Southpaw."


"CREED" is the next installment/continuation/sequel in the Rocky movie series. I know people are going to disagree with that, because this is a whole knew chapter in a whole new story...except Sylvester Stallone is in it and they call him Rocky and there's boxing in the movie. So yeah, it's the next chapter in the Rocky series.  Anyway, "Creed" follows the youngest son of Apollo Creed, Rocky's rival and friend.  Michael B. Jordan is Adonis Johnson, Apollo Creed's unknown illegitimate son.  He's living in a children's group home when Apollo Creed's widow, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad) finds him, takes him in, and raises him.  Boxing is in his blood, however, and Adonis wants to make it on his own without invoking the name of his father, so OF COURSE he heads to Philadelphia and searches out the aging Rocky Balboa for training.

The plot might sound tired and far fetched, but the end result is a touching, exciting, heartfelt film with some great boxing sequences.  Michael B. Jordan walks a fine line with his portrayal of a man whose father is a stranger to no one but him.  And Sylvester Stallone is a revelation with a surprisingly sensitive, layered revisit to the beloved Rocky Balboa.  It's a role that garnered Stallone another Oscar nomination in 2015. Tessa Thompson rounds out the leading cast as Bianca, the nearly deaf musician who becomes Adonis' love interest.  As inspiring and tearful as any of the Rocky movies, "Creed" is a solid outing and I look forward to any more chapters in this new story.



"Southpaw" is about boxing as well, but this time we start at the top, slide to the bottom, and then work our way up.  Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal in some spectacular shape) is 43-0 and the reigning light heavy weight champ and he has it all:  Wife, child, massive house, expensive gifts for everyone in his posse, cars and cars and cars.  When his wife (Rachel McAdams) dies unexpectedly, however, Billy loses it all in a fast slide to the bottom.  His posse leaves, his money dries up, he loses the house. None of it matters until Social Services takes his daughter, Layla (Oona Lawrence...adorable!) and he is instructed to get a job and prove he can be an adult.  he finds hope in grumpy boxing coach Tick Wells (Forest Whitaker) and the two of them learn to fight their demons together. 

It's really not as schmaltzy as it sounds.  Told with grit and very little sentimentality, and a lot of really graphic boxing scenes, "Southpaw" is a little bit of a different view as boxing movies go.  Gyllenhaal turns in what might be one of his best performances yet and Forest Whitaker is his usual magic on screen.  With a score written by the late great James Horner (who did the work for free since the budget for the film was a tiny $30M, and the producers couldn't afford to pay him much, but Horner loved the plot.) "Southpaw" is a solid outing, definitely worth a look if you enjoy boxing movies or good family drama.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Why do I live in Wisconsin?

Good afternoon!

Wow!  Where did March and half of April go?

I realized I've been MIA from this blog now since the Oscars.  Maybe it's my shock that "Spotlight" took best picture instead of "The Revenant."  I didn't feel either one was best, so whatever, but still I was surprised. Not enough to neglect my blog, however.

It's finally Spring here in America's Dairy land. After a couple brief false starts, we've finally gotten a weather weekend that's amazing.  I was reminded how precious and surprising days like these are around here this morning at my favorite coffee shop. Hubby and I walked down and the young man behind the counter started up a conversation with us about how amazing the weather was today.  He is from Oregon, and the winters here are far harsher, more uncomfortable than they would be up in the Pacific Northwest.  

Hubby and I continued the conversation while we sipped coffee at a table on the sidewalk. He'd recently spent the week with a coworker who lives in Houston, Texas.  Recently Houston has had a spate of baseball and grapefruit sized hail. We marveled at some of the pictures Hubby had gotten from other insurance adjusters of the damage to property and cars.

This got me to thinking:  Why do I live in Wisconsin?

Out of state people ask this of Upper Midwesterners all the time.  Minnesota, Iowa, the northern part of Illinois, the Dakotas, what on earth possesses us to live here where the winters are no joke six months long and the summers are as hot and humid and bug infested as anything Florida could offer up?

The last couple days have answered that question.  There are brief, shiny moments here in the northern parts of America's Heartland that are so beautiful and fleeting and precious...if you blink, you'll miss it and then you'll have to wait until next year.  

Spring is a very short season and sporadic. You can't point to a span of time on the calendar and say, "This is Spring." More likely, you'll find a day when the sun is shining, there's a lovely breeze and everything smells alive. Tiny little flowers of blue and yellow pop up out of grass that's so green it makes your eyes water.  All the colors are bright, as if trying to beat back the thought of so many days of dark, dreary, cold rain.  These spring days are rare, and a gift, and breathtaking.  People put shorts on and walk around outside even though it's probably only 50 degrees (Fahrenheit) because it's 50 degrees more than it was for the last five months and it feels so good.

The snow is gone, except for those black mountains of filthy ice lining the sides of some parking lots. Some of those frozen dirt piles might be there until June.  The ground is soft, just like the air. It's not yet packed down with the heat of summer.  Rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks all skitter about in a frantic choreography, looking for food, playing with each other, mating, birthing.  Birds sing, their beaks upturned in joy after a spring rain has brought the worms to the surface.  

Spring here in the northern world comes later than it does for the rest of country.  I have coworkers in the South who are running their central air, while I just today turned off my furnace. Not for good, I'll probably need to turn it on again before April and May come to a close.  But the anticipation of that beautiful weekend is savored.  And once that weekend comes....

Well, we all get outside and rake up the rubbish that's been building under the snow. Discarded cigarette butts, soda cans, fast food wrappers, all rustle in the matted grass.  Homeowners clear out yard rubbish and hazardous materials from their garage and take them to the recycling center where they wait in line with all of the other spring cleaners.  Back yard bonfires light the night skies as we all realize that the mosquitoes aren't out yet and we're safe to sit outside for a little while. 

We wave at neighbors we haven't seen since September.  We chat about the winter and how we're glad it's gone and we blow the final fuel out of the snow blowers before we, in great hope, put them away not to be touched again until, again in great hope, December.

Soon it will be summer. Time for festivals with music and beer and fried foods.  Soon it'll be time for central air and humidity and wearing sweaters in stores and movie theaters because it's always so cold in there.   But right now, in these magical days scattered through out April and May, we have Spring and it's just NICE outside.

And that's why we stay. That's why we tolerate being considered second rate states and why our votes rarely count in elections and why we don't mind that our baseball and basketball teams haven't won a darn thing in two lifetimes.  Because of these blessed drops of gold that are our days of Spring.

And now, if you don't mind, I'm going out to enjoy mine right now!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Best movies of the year? Who will win, who will be robbed, and are the Oscars racist?

Good afternoon!

I've finally done it. I've managed to see all 8 nominated films BEFORE the actual airing of the Oscars on this Sunday night.

There are 24 categories of awards that will be handed out, but I'm only concerning myself today with Best Picture.  There are 8 nominees and a ton of controversy, so here are my brief reviews of each nominated picture and who  I believe should win and who will win.

I'll review the films in the order in which I saw them.


Mad Max:  Fury Road

Color me surprised when this summer flick got an Oscar nod.  Not that it's not a good film, it is. "Fury Road" is another chapter (I wouldn't call it a continuation or a sequel) of the Mad Max Franchise from the late 70'sand 80's.  This is the fourth Mad Max Film, and is directed by George Miller, as the other three were.  "Fury Road" is a bleak, violent look at a post apocalyptic Australia where rain water and fuel are the currency and women are bought and sold.  So, basically nothing different from now, except people wear a lot more spiky leather and war paint. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron lead the cast of this high octane, low dialogue explosion heavy testosterone fest.  I enjoyed the film fully.  For sheer entertainment value I give it a 4 out or 5.  Best Picture?  Not a chance.

The Revenant

Director Alajndro G. Inarittu give us a thrill ride with the story of a frontiersman who is left for dead and spends quite a lot of time and energy trying to get revenge on the one who left him.  Tom Hardy (In another Oscar nominated film!) garnered a best supporting actor nod for his work, but this film is all Leonardo DiCaprio.  Dialogue is sparse, but cinematography is magnificent.  Westerns are typically not my cup of tea, but there's so much more going on here.  The opening fifteen minutes remind me of the opening  "Cold Mountain of my very favorite movies.   Leo hasn't gotten an Oscar.  This will probably be his year.  Give this one a 5 star rating..Best Picture?  Odds on favorite.  also, if Inarittu can win Best Director for that steaming pile of elitist nonsense that was "Birdman" then he's a shoe in for the award this year.

The Martian

Make all your jokes about how much the world has paid to rescue Matt Damon from places in movies. This time he's stuck on Mars all alone and everyone thinks he's dead. Based on what is turning out to be a brilliant novel by Andy Weir, "The Martian" is funny, dramatic, suspenseful and is probably the first movie that makes you really, really care about a potato crop.  Director Ridley Scott (one of my favorite directors ever) uses a light touch on a storyline that could have gone the super explosive testosterone route.  Golden Globes called this a comedy probably because they wanted to give it an award and were limited to five films in the dramatic category.  Oscar doesn't have that limitation. 5 out of 5 stars.  Best Picture?  Probably going to be "The Revenant's" biggest competition.

The Big Short

The story of the 2007 housing market collapse doesn't sound like a rollicking comedy and yet this brilliant movie based on Michael Lewis' book does just that:  It makes us laugh in the midst of a story
that infuriates all of us because most people who live in the US (and around the world) lost money as a result of this.  (My husband and I lost 25% on the value of our house and a huge chunk of his 401K, but we didn't lose our house so we were one of the lucky ones.)  "The Big Short" explains exactly what happened and who's to blame in a way that's clear and interesting and funny.  The acting here is spot on with Steve Carell and Christian Bale leading a huge all star cast.  This is a 5 out of 5 stars and will more than likely go on my list of favorite movies ever.  Funny, informative, dramatic, and heartfelt.  Best Picture?  Should be.  Could be.  Won't be.

Brooklyn

A young woman leaves Ireland to find a new life in Brooklyn. She finds a good job, a place to live, and a young man to love.  And then she's called back to Ireland where she faces temptations of the homeland.  That's my synopsis.  And now I have a question:  What is this movie doing on this list?  I'm not saying it's a bad movie, it's not. It's lovely.  There are moments that are funny and sweet.  But...what is this movie doing on the Best Picture list?  I could classify this as a romantic comedy, although it's light on the comedy, but it's rather structured that way.  The problem with that is, well, we just do not like the main character, Ellis. That's a big problem when you're trying to tell a love story from the point of view of the main character.  This movie, like pretty much all of the other Best Picture noms is based on a book. I have zero interest in reading the book if it's ANYTHING like this movie.  I should not HATE the main character in a love story.  And it's not just me.  The gentleman sitting behind us said at one critical point in the film, "That bitch!"  It's a cute movie, it's well shot, but I'm giving this one a 3.5 out of 5. Best Picture?  Not a chance.  Will Saoirse Ronan win Best Actress? No, and her ticket to the Oscars should be taken away.

Bridge of Spies

What do you get when you put Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and a compelling story about the high water mark in Cold War history together?  Well, I know what you SHOULD get and this isn't it.  Don't get me wrong. "Bridge of Spies" is a fine movie.  It's interesting.  And it's pretty forgettable.  I expect more from Spielberg and Hanks, and maybe that's unfair.  I realize their hands are tied because when you do a biopic you can't just add aliens or blow stuff up for fun.  Still, this film is gray, and not just because much of it takes place in the newly minted East Berlin.  Hanks gives us the same idealistic good guy we know and love, but he barely breaks a sweat.  The shining moment is Mark Rylance in his understated portrayal of  Rudolph Abel and he should win Best Supporting Actor.  3 out of 5 stars.  Best Picture?  Nope.

Room

If you haven't read the brilliant novel by Emma Donoghue then the minute you finish reading this blog go out and buy the book and read it.  A mother's love, sacrifice,and implosion are seen through the eyes of her five year son who has never been outside the small room he calls home and his mother calls her prison.  The movie does a more than admirable job bringing the story of a young woman abducted and caged by a man for seven years, five of which she spent protecting her son.  A thrilling escape gives the young Jack a chance at a real life but may prove to much for Ma.  Bri Larson is nothing short of genius and heartbreaking in this emotionally taught drama. She should, and if I'm predicting, will win Best Actress.  5 out of 5 but be ready to weep.  Best Picture?  If I got a vote it would be YES!  This one should win.


Spotlight

The shocking priest sex scandal in Boston is brought to light by a handful of reporters battling the Church, local authorities, and their own neighbors and family.  This is a story that has rocked a generation of church goers and a blight on the Catholic Church or any church.  As a movie, however, I may have to blame director Tom McCarthy for a lumbering start. I almost turned this one off, not because of the content, but because it took FOR FREAKING EVER to move. Granted, it's a drama about crimes that are not witnessed and witnesses that mostly bear no visible scars. Still...have a thought about pace!  Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams are nominated for supporting roles and neither one should win. McAdams is boring and Ruffalo is down right awful in the fist hour of the movie. Now, granted, Ruffalo gets better. Enough so that by the time the movie is over you pretty much feel relief that he no longer looks like his fake Boston accent is painful for his mouth.  The final forty minutes or so are excellent and everything a movie goer looks for.  But awards should not be given to movies that are only good for forty minutes. Oh, wait, sure...but then they're called documentaries.  3 out of 5 Best Picture?  No, although this one should have had more potential.

And finally, the big question:  Is Oscar racist?

The Oscars broadened their Best Picture category to contain up to 10 pictures each year. This year there are two films I felt were ignored and should not have been.

The Hateful 8

Quentin Tarrantino's Western is brilliant, beautiful, and hard core. Every actor in this film is golden
on completely on point, (Except for Channing Tatum, why was he even in this film?)  This is a tense, fast, heart pounding film with a wildly long run time, but you'd never ever know it.  Tarrantino has matured into brilliance and with all the magnificence in this film it should have been nominated. Its' a 5 out of 5 and if you haven't seen it, find the biggest TV you can and watch it.

But the bigger overlook:

Straight Outta Compton

The story of ground breaking rap group NWA. I'm not a fan of rap music and I'm not a fan of nudity or foul language. I am a fan of movies telling me a story that rivets me to my seat and makes me feel something. This movie is no more vulgar or violent than "Wolf of Wall Street" and has many parallels in its story to the great "Citizen Kane."  (Think I'm crazy?  Watch the movies side by side and see if Kane and Easy-E's stories don't feel similar.)  Blunt, harsh, vulgar, this is not a film for everyone, but this white woman from the suburbs thinks Oscar should have given it a nod, especially when they had more nominations available. Shoot, they could have dumped "Brooklyn  5 out of 5 and it's every bit as strong as most of the films that got nominated.

That said, I do not believe Oscar is racist. I  believe Oscar is narrow. Oscar can only handle maybe a couple "controversial issues a year and this year it's LGBT.  With acting nominations for "Carol"  (A BAD MOVIE YOU SHOULD NOT SEE ) and "The Danish Girl" (A VERY GOOD MOVIE)  and with the whole taking on the Catholic Church in "Spotlight" I think the old farts in the Academy felt they'd done their duty by special interests. Except none of this should be about being special interests.  Movies should be about story telling and good story telling should be for everyone.  Straight Outta Compton is a well old story. Brooklyn is not.  Spotlight is not.  It's not about racism.  It's about not being afraid to say, "We think the best stories this year dealt with these issues."  

Oscar needs work, but we still love him!

Meanwhile, if you're looking for more of my in depth reviews, I have a book!  

You can check out reviews written by my friend Linda and me by clicking RIGHT HERE!


finally, Sunday is the Oscars!  I'll be watching, will you?

Monday, February 15, 2016

10 Questions with Author Ilona Fridl!

Good morning friends and fellow readers!

Nothing like starting a Monday morning out bright and early with a brand new book, or, also, an interview with an author who has a brand new book out!

I'm so excited to welcome back my friend and fellow romance author, Ilona Fridl, author of multiple romantic page turners offered to you through a number of channels by our friends at The Wild Rose Press.  Today we are talking to Ilona about her newest novel, That Monroe Girl.


Here's a nibblet to whet your whistle.  (Oh yes, and it's historical...so I'm getting into the mood.)

Cat Monroe arrives in Tombstone, Arizona searching for her father and brothers, who left Virginia for the West right after the Civil War.  With the help of newspaper reporter Jake Spenser, she finds her family and a whole peck of trouble. She's falling for the newspaperman, but she discovers his family and hers are feuding over water rights. When he father finally accepts that she is his daughter, he wants to marry her off to a rich neighbor who has a dark past.

Scandal and murder are catching her in a snare.  Who can she possibly trust in a town too tough to die?

And now, my friends, it's time for TEN QUESTIONS WITH AUTHOR ILONA FRIDL!


Ilona:  First of all I'd like to thank Sarah for hosting me on her blog.

Sarah:  You are very welcome, Ilona!  I'm always excited to alert folks to indie and e-pubbed authors
who are putting out excellent reads!  Here we go with the questions!

1)  Tell us about the book!  What would you like readers to take away from "That Monroe Girl?"

Mostly I wrote the story for pure entertainment, but there seems to be an underlying message of the struggle a woman had to endure i the 19th century.


2)  What book ,movie, song or character inspired you to write this book?

I've always loved Westerns.  Growing up, I watched movies, TV, and read books about the times in the Old West.  Writing a Western was in the card for me.

3)  Best/worst movie based on a book.

Best was the 1990s version of "Little Women."  That stayed most faithful to the story.  Worst was "Gone With The Wind." I think I would have liked the movie better if I  hadn't read the book first.  They left so much of the story out of it.  

Sarah's response:  I totally agree, the 1990's "Little Women" was really good and the production value was amazing.  As for "GWTW," I love both the book and the movie but I agree, the movie left way too much out.  

4) Of all your books, which of your characters is most like you?

That's easy!  Teri in "Iris Rainbow."  I made her the same age I was then and many of her experiences were similar. I didn't have to do much research about Los Angeles in the 1960's because I grew up there. And who wouldn't love to have a rock star fall in love with you?

Sarah's response:  I think those who know me know how I would answer that question!  LOL


5)  If you could live in any time period or be any person, when or whom would you choose and why?

I think coming of age in the 1920's would be fun.  That's where I set my "Dangerous Times" series. Working in Hollywood for the studios in that pioneering time always interested me.

6:  I've spent some serious time on this blog talking about the future of publishing and e-publishing.  You work with The Wild Rose Press. what are your thoughts on self publishing-e-publishing and the future of electronic books?

I think there will always be a place for paper books but you have to make room for the e-books as well. For books you want to keep and read over and over, paper is best. The e-readers is easy to take with you and you don't have to haul around bulky books when you travel.

7)  What are you reading right now?

"Magic's Price" by Mercedes Lackey. I love fantasy and maybe will tackle a fantasy book one of these days.

8)  Plain M & M's or peanut and why?


Plain. I like to put them in my mouth and let them dissolve into a chocolate gooey mess. Peanuts just get in the way!



9)  Who would play you in a movie about your life?

I'd need a curvy actress and there's not many of those in the industry. Melissa McCarthy?  Too much.  Kardashians?  no.  I'm rambling now.  Looks like I'll have to put out a casting call. That doesn't answer your question does it?  Oh well, I'm open for suggestions...

10:  What's next for you?

I have a novella mystery coming out with Amos and Sarah Darcy from "Prime Catch."


AWESOME!  

Thank you, Ilona!  Now, here's a bit more of a bio on our author: 

Ilona Fridl was born in sunny California where she spent the first twenty years of her life. Dreaming up stories took up a lot of her time. She then followed her parents to Wisconsin where she met her husband, Mark. They started a locksmithing business, but there were still stories in her head.  Finally she started putting them on paper, actually, a computer.  The rest is history.  She has an adult daughter and a granddaughter.



If you want to find Ilona online:

Her website!

Her Facebook!  

Her Goodreads!

If you want to buy Ilona's books (and of COURSE YOU DO!)

At the Wild Rose Press

On Amazon



Saturday, January 30, 2016

Saturday Give Away!

Hello all!

I was recently challenged to define what find of author I am.  Not by genre, because, as you may know, I tend to write a story and worry about the genre later. Romance, humor, mystery, inspirational, suspense, I love them all.  But that was not the question posed to me.  The person speaking at the time wanted all of us in the room to decide why we were writing.  Was it because we enjoyed writing?  Was it because we had stories we needed to tell?  Was it because we wanted to make pots of money?

Well, let me just say, if I were in it for the money, I'd have quit long ago.  The vast majority of people who write and publish do not do it as their main source of income.  All of the published authors I know personally have other jobs:  Teacher, nurse, stay at home parent, airline attendant, lecturer, writers' studio owner, manager, and chief instructor, museum employee, pizza delivery guy, locksmith. Me?  I work as a very small cog in the huge wheel that is workman's comp cases.  

No, if we are in it for the money, most of us are going to be sorely disappointed.  Writing, even in this day of self publishing and e-publishing is still not the sure fire way to make a fortune.  Oh sure, there are the fortunate ones, the J.K. Rowlings, the Stephen Kings, the John Grishams, who have captured the eye of readers across the globe, and their hearts and they can now write what they want

when they want and live their lives the way they want.  For the rest of us, we still write in the wee small hours of the morning, the dark of midnight, or furtively on our lunch hours.

As for my, what kind of author am I?  I'm a story teller.  Would I like to be on a best seller list?  Sure, who wouldn't?  But I've got 11 books out there right now with my name on them and it's not looking like the New York Times is coming to call any time soon.  I'm really okay with that.  I'm a story teller who gets to tell exactly the story I want to tell in the way I want to tell it.  I'm not pigeonholed, I'm not under contract (although I'm not ADVERSE to being under contract), I'm not guided by much more than my own instincts and comments from my writers' group and my lovely critique partners.  I'm free to tell my stories and that's what brings me joy in my work.

To that end, I'd like to put my money where my mouth is, so to speak.  While ultimately I would love to see more book sales, I'm really interested in connecting with my readers.  So I've decided to do a giveaway.  This is where it gets good for you, the reader.

I'd like to know what book you think is the most brilliant thing you've ever read and why. This is NOT a request for your favorite book.  (That's easy for me, "Wuthering Heights.")  What's the most
brilliant book you've read and why.  Here's mine:  Room, by Emma Donoghue.  (now a movie nominated for Best Picture.)  I find it brilliant because it is so simplistic: told from the view of a very young boy, set primarily in a single room. How can that possibly be good or entertaining?  It is. It is beautiful, it is mesmerizing. And I really wish my brain worked like that.  "Room"is one of those books that makes me want to write MORE.

So what's the most brilliant book you've ever read and why?  Leave a note for me here or contact me through my website here.  Or, if your prefer, message me at my Face Book page here. Leave your name and the country where you live. That's all we'll nee for now.

Today is January 30.  On March 4 I'm having hand surgery and
won't be able to type for a while. I won't take anymore entries after March 4.  I'll take that time to go through your messages and read about your books.  Then I will enter your names into a blind drawing.  The winner will receiver his/her choice of one of my 11 books, autographed. I will ship anywhere in the world I'm able to. (Clearly, this giveaway is going to take some time.)

So friends, let me hear from you. Someone is going to win a free book. Ready, set, GO!