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Monday, June 30, 2014

Game of Thrones – It’s Not Too Late To Join The Party - by Susie Grissom

Nikolaj Coster Waldau as Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones has become rather a phenomenon, gaining in popularity and acclaim as the HBO TV series is now into its 4th season. Based on the Songs of Ice and Fire novels by George R R Martin, they are set in a fictional fantasy land and follow the trials and tribulations of its inhabitants, mostly from the vantage point of the positions of power, the various royal families and those in charge. If you’re a nerd girl who enjoys fantasy novels or TV shows, especially those that are set in fantasy realms in bygone times, then this show is definitely for you. Not for the faint hearted or easily offended, as both the show and books contain very strong language, violence, and can often be exceedingly gruesome, what it also has in great supply is a wonderful set of characters, great plot twists and turns, and the show is superbly acted.

Do not underestimate these ladies!

Emila Clarke and Nathalie Emmanuel in Game of Thrones
What is really great about the show from a woman’s point of view is the large number of very strong female characters it possesses. These women are seeking control of their own destinies and making just as many strategic power plays as the male characters. From the manipulative and calculating Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley), to the brave and courageous Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), they do not simper over their sewing; they take control and assume roles equal to those of the men. Even the younger girls are empowering themselves as they come into womanhood. These are women and girls to inspire, fear, and sometimes despise or pity, but never dismiss. Indeed, you definitely would not want to cross the powerful queen Daenerys Targaryen (Emelia Clarke), who has amassed a huge army and has a flock of dragons at her command. These women don't take prisoners, and you wouldn't find them consulting any self help books, or if you did, it would probably be titled "How to Crush Your Enemies in 5 Easy Steps".

Is it a bit hot in here?

Game of Thrones does not shy away from some pretty racy sex scenes either. The battle between the sexes is often played out this way, with the barbaric acts of rape perpetrated against certain characters, and then the extraordinary sexual appetites of characters like the Red Viper, Oberyn Martell. In fact, at times it would appear as if many of the characters were in need of some kind of help. The writers don't shy away from any type of sexual issues and seem keen to explore many forbidden areas. Certainly the incestuous relationship between the twins Cersei and Jaime Lannister is one to raise a few eyebrows. With both the women and the men exerting their sexuality all too frequently, it is a wonder they have much time for anything else.

Want some eye-candy to go with your swashbuckling?

Kit Harington in Game of Thrones
Not only does the show have a whole host of beautiful women playing powerful characters, but there’s something else for us nerd girls to enjoy, and that is the array of attractive men in the show. The gorgeous Pedro Pascal is the Red Viper and his swarthy charm and amorous exploits are something to behold. If you prefer your men darker and more brooding, then Jon Stark (Kit Harington) is your man. The bastard son of Ned Stark, Lord of Winterfell, Jon has to fight not only for his name, but has the misfortune to fall for a wildling girl who is part of an enemy clan, so you just know that that particular relationship is not going to end well! 

Books first, then show?

There are two types of people when it comes to films or shows based on books, those who want to read the book first, and those who read the book after already seeing a screen adaptation. Both have their merits. Some people feel that the book is always superior to the screen adaptation so should be read first, others want to enjoy the spectacle of a film and not already know what is going to happen and be disappointed if it is different or changed. Others love to see a good book ‘brought to life’ on screen and will forgive any changes if the essence of the book is the same. Whether you choose to read the books first or check out the HBO show before deciding if the books are for you, if you crave high drama, complex plots and shocking storylines, you really need to watch Game of Thrones or read Songs of Ice and Fire. Think four seasons in is too late to catch up? It’s never too late to start watching a great show!

Susie Grissom is now a freelance writer, but before she took to putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) she worked in the travel industry. When she started her family, she decided to concentrate on being a stay at home mom and indulging her passion for good literature and films. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

George Clooney: More Than Just a Pretty Face

George Clooney was just within my reach. No, I wasn't in the running as a marriage candidate, but I came very close to meeting him in 2012 at a Q&A for the film Argo - one of the benefits of being a New York City gal, member of the Screen Actors Guild, and entertainment reporter about town. Ben Affleck was there, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, (not to drop names :) and Clooney of course. Sometimes the actors, directors, etc. hang around after those events to meet and greet but not so this time - they were out the door as soon as it was over. But someone spoke to Clooney and detained him. He was standing right at the edge of the low stage. My plus one for the night hustled me over to him, knowing how much I would love to meet him. But I just froze, overcome with shyness. I just couldn't do it. Where were my reporter chops when I needed them?  Before I could summon my courage, Clooney fled into the night.

I, like women all over the world, wept when his engagement to Amal Alamuddin was announced...as if any of us ever had a chance! (Besides the fact that I'm, um, married.) At least he's ending up with a really smart woman, a human rights attorney, as a matter of fact, as opposed to a supermodel or sexy actress. It shouldn't really surprise us though, because even though his track record of dating hot young things pointed to the fact that perhaps he was a tad shallow, he's made a lot of meaningful decisions in the past several years about which films to act in, produce, and direct, including O Brother, Where Art Thou, Syriana, Good Night, and Good Luck, Up in the Air, The Descendants, and Argo to name a few. Not only that, but his record as an activist for social justice is impressive, especially the work he did in, and on behalf of, Darfur, using his celebrity to bring attention to that dire situation, and forming the organization Not on Our Watch to raise money for the cause, along with Don Cheadle, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon. It turns out he's a man with principles who wants a woman who shares them. Good for him.

I will admit, I did briefly buy into the rumors that he might have been gay, especially after the night of the Argo screening. It wasn't that he was effeminate, it was just that he was so genuinely handsome, well-dressed, and charming - I don't know many straight men like that. But I guess he's put that rumor to bed (so to speak) once and for all.

As he ages, he's taking on a certain Sean Connery vibe, something he exuded in his 2014 film The Monuments Men. In other words, he's not losing his sexiness, it's simply evolving. However, there's another reason I mention The Monuments Men. Directed and co-written by Clooney, and produced by him and Grant Heslov, it was notable for more than the fact that it was an interesting and touching film. It was released in February, during awards season, the absolute worst time for a film to be released because everyone will have forgotten about it by the time nominations are announced for the following awards season, and way to early for it to be a summer box office hit: kind of a purgatory for mediocre films. And while it's true The Monuments Men may not be awards caliber, it stars some heavy hitters who are all excellent in it: Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville, and of course Clooney. I got the impression that Clooney and Heslov really didn't care if it won awards or if people went to see it in droves. It was a story they were passionate about telling and so they told it. That spells sincerity and conviction to me. 

I used to feel silly admitting that George Clooney was one of my favorite celebrities, but no more. He's a man with a conscience who backs up his beliefs, and has finally found a woman who is his equal. After all, if I can't have him, somebody really great should. He has, indeed, turned out to be a lot more than just a pretty face.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Unique Experience at Tucson Festival of Books

On Saturday, March 15th, I attended the Tucson Festival of Books as an author, signing copies, giving away pins and bookmarks, and generally engaging the percentage of the 100,000 attendees that dropped by my table. I have never seen such a huge festival dedicated almost exclusively to books and literacy. There were several food vendors, a couple of science venues for kids, lots of author presentations and events, but mostly booth after booth and table after table of authors and publishers selling, signing, and talking about their books. I was incredibly impressed with Tucson's dedication to and interest in reading, as most of the folks I talked to were locals, there to find favorite authors and discover new ones.

Why is Tucson such a reading town? I credit a couple of things: one is the presence of service groups such as Altrusa and Rotary who, for years (in Altrusa's case 40), have dedicated themselves to the cause of advancing and funding literacy programs in Tucson and around the world. The Tucson Festival of Books has been participating in this effort since its inception in 2009, having donated $900,000 toward the cause. Also, I credit the presence of an amazing business called Bookmans, which has 5 stores in the Tucson area, each one a paradise of used books where you can go and hang out, read, relax, and generally soak in the atmosphere of literature. One of the friendliest places I have ever set foot in, Bookman's has a huge influence in Tucson.

I met countless wonderful people on the day I was at the book festival, and wish I could talk about all of them. But one really stood out. It was about 3:45 in the afternoon, almost the end of my 2:00-4:00 time slot. The crowd had begun to thin and I was starting to pack up. A gentleman approached my table. He was a salty-looking guy of indeterminate age with a full beard and the aura of a real desert denizen - not someone I'd peg as my target reader. He picked up The Time Baroness, book one in my romantic, time travel series, and looked over the back cover. Then he used a sort of sign-language to ask me: "How much?" Not knowing whether he was deaf or not, I indicated with my hands that the book was $10. He picked up a pen and wrote on the back of my email sign-up sheet: "I like to think of time travel back to 1905." Assuming now he could hear but not speak, I asked him why. "Because of old coins," he wrote. I was intrigued. He gave me the 10 bucks and I told him to write his name so I could sign the book to him. He did, along with his email address. For the sake of privacy, I'll simply tell you his name was Dave. After I had signed the book to him, He wrote on the sheet, "You live in Tucson?" I said that I grew up there, but that I now lived in NYC. He wrote, "I've been to NYC in 1958." I said, "No, it's not possible. You're not old enough." He wrote, "I'm 73." We laughed and shook hands. He trundled off with his book and I packed up my stuff, thrilled that my final sale of the day had been so remarkable. The experience perfectly sums up my magical day at my first book festival ever. I'm so glad it was in beautiful Tucson, where the people are even warmer than the weather.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Wonderful Interview!

Since the third book in my series, The Time Contessa, is a potential nominee for Romance book of the month, Book Divas interviewed me about this romantic, time-travel adventure to Renaissance, Italy. Please enjoy the interview, then go to the top of the page and the button that says Diva Awards, and nominate The Time Contessa! Thanks, everyone!

http://www.bookdivas.com/interviews/2014/02/interview-georgina-young-ellis-author-time-contessa

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Matt "Mad Genius" Posner Talks About Writing...For Readers and Writers

On Amazon
I recently interviewed author Matt Posner, whom I like to refer to as "The Mad Genius," about his School of the Ages Series, and about a book of his that I contributed to called How to Write Dialogue. I believe you'll find he's in no way mad, but you may come to agree he's a genius when you do read his books. Writers, stayed tuned 'til the end of the interview. I think you'll find his discussion of How to Write Dialogue very interesting.

Georgina: Matt, you are an incredibly prolific writer with a four book young adult series, School of the Ages, under your belt, as well as How to Write Dialogue, other non-fiction credits, and shorter works. I know you are also a full time high school teacher! Tell us about your writing schedule. Where do you find the time and discipline?
Matt: Thanks for asking, but being productive is no longer my strong suit. I used to write when commuting to and from my college job, but I don't work at the college anymore; I wrote during down-time at work, but I don't have too much of that anymore; and I wrote in the bathtub some mornings, but now that's the only time I read. My schedule has gotten a lot more hectic in the last year or so, making it difficult to find time and energy. I squeeze in writing where I can, but I am somewhat less prolific than I would like to be. I learned my lesson in 2012, when I scheduled myself to publish four books and only got out two of them, the other two appearing in 2013 instead. I have three projects to work on this year, too, and I will be lucky to finish just one, I think…
Stress and fatigue are serious enemies to creativity, unfortunately. School of the Ages is four novels, with one to go, and two shorter books, which should be more than two by now given all the unfinished short stories I have about the kids.

On Amazon
Georgina: Where did you get the idea for the School of the Ages series?
Matt: I've been writing about magic and wizards since my teen years, trying to find the right way to approach the topic. I had a near-miss in 1993 when seeking traditional publication for a novel about an aging necromancer and his teen apprentice. Around 2002, after some years of trying to write literary fiction, I resolved to return to fantasy. I was originally going to write about a magician and two or three apprentices. (The scene in The Ghost in the Crystal about Ogopogo is the only vestige of my original notes, which had the legends of cryptozoology appearing as elemental spirits.) However, I was then working at a mesivta -- a private Jewish high school -- and the culture of my students and their parents was relatively new to me, and very interesting. I thought it would be nice to incorporate that into a fantasy book, and so I conceived of School of the Ages as a place where Orthodox Jewish kids would study Jewish magic alongside other kids studying more traditional European magic, which is called Hermetic magic after legendary founder Hermes Trismegistus. I mixed in some of my knowledge of Asian traditions of meditation, and my love of elementals, and got started. I wanted to have a truly American magic school book, which at that time had not been written:  I wanted to reflect the melting-pot multicultural environment that New York City is. Readers can judge whether I managed it.

Georgina: I really enjoyed book one, The Ghost in the Crystal, and have the others on my to-read list. Your books are certainly as intriguing for adults as they must be for teens. Tell us a little about your mental process as you write. Are you thinking specifically of a young-adult audience?
Matt: That's a good question. Actually, the only things I do to specifically suit the young adult audience are to minimize profanity and sexual references and to avoid expressions that are better known to my own generation. Otherwise, I think I am writing ABOUT young adults rather than writing FOR them. I write what I want to read. I write stuff that I think is cool that no one else has come up with. I don't know how many teens read my books, but I would like to hear from those who do.

Georgina: Did being a teacher influence your writing for young people? If so, what in particular inspired you?
Matt: Surprisingly, I'll say no to this question in general. I think my characters, while millennials, are more like the kids I grew up among than they are like my own students.
There is an exception:  when I was planning the second novel in the series, Level Three's Dream, I was working with learning-disabled students (as I still do daily) and I wanted to include a learning-disabled magician.  I felt like even the magical community should reflect the presence of learning disability, which from my perspective is an inevitable feature of American education. Thus I created Level Three, who has Asperger's syndrome.

Georgina: I know you love to travel. How do your travels influence your writing?
Matt: Julie, my wife, and I travel overseas whenever we can, and this definitely influences my writing, since I use the places we have travelled to as settings for adventures. As an example, School of the Ages 3:  The War Against Love moves from New York to Paris, Prague, and Hamburg, while School of the Ages 4: Simon Myth is set substantially in India.

Georgina: You teach English, is that correct? What is your biggest grammar pet peeve?
Matt: I do teach English -- in a Brooklyn high school. Here's a shout-out to my students:  STOP GOOGLING ME! (cough cough, pardon me.)
As for which grammar errors annoy me, there are too many to count, but I suppose comma splice run-ons are the worst. This happens when a comma alone is used to join two complete sentences. This sentence is a comma splice, people don't seem to know it's an error. They think certain words can follow a comma to make a good sentence, however these words don't help. (That was a comma splice also.)

Georgina: You strike me as a mysterious figure. Tell us something no one, except perhaps your immediate family, knows about Matt Posner.
Matt: Would you believe that I've been asked that before? But I already gave up my darkest dark secrets… Okay, I'll reveal another. I don't like vegetables. I am an extreme meat-and-potatoes eater, also devoted very much to sharp cheeses, and certainly no stranger to large quantities of bread. If you put a salad in front of me, I have only five to ten bites, but later I will eat the entire white of the baked potato and long for another. If I have milk and cereal, I need some cheese afterwards because it has a salty aftertaste that is better than the milk aftertaste. The ideal breakfast is bread, cheese, and iced tea. Horrified by my eating habits? I don't blame you.

Georgina: Okay, Matt, let's get to How to Write Dialogue! I enjoyed being part of it, but how did it come about exactly?
Matt: Like many writers, I'm never confident about my style, and always wishing to be better in certain areas (for me, mostly its description of setting that I keep forgetting to include). This has made me think about what I do well and where I need to improve. My stylistic strength has always been dialogue. It's my usual mode of storytelling, and generally, during a heated session of caressing the page with words, I have to force myself to do anything else than make characters chatter at each other. With this strength in mind, I decided to make a book about dialogue to share my perspective with others. My goal was to be as comprehensive as possible about how dialogue is put together and what it is for. I think I got everything in…   Most books about fiction writing have samples from writers other than the author, usually from authors arranged by the publishers:  thus the trad publishers provide some easy publicity for other trad authors in their stables. However, I am my own publisher, sort of, so I have to find another solution. That solution is obvious:  we indie authors like to promote together and socialize, so why not get those samples from other indies? That's how my bullpen came about, and as one of my favorite fellow indies and promotional partners, you were an obvious choice. You write dialogue well and in a contemporary style, but in a important genre very distinct from my own. I like the variety! My bullpen is quite diverse and multicultural, just like School of the Ages is.
How to Write Dialogue is good for not only new writers who want to build their skills but also experienced ones who know what's what but would like some ideas as triggers to fire their creativity. It's also a good way to encounter the work of a lot of interesting authors who are also very cool people. Besides you, Georgina, there's also Stuart Land, Ey Wade, Junying Kirk, Rochelle Rodgers, Cynthia Echterling, Marita A. Hansen, Mysti Parker, Chrystalla Thoma, J.A. Beard, and my writing partner and best buddy Jess C. Scott, who also wrote one of the two essay/prologues. The other is by bestselling thriller author Tim Ellis. The book is also illustrated with droll character sketches by fine artist Eric Henty.

Georgina: Thanks for appearing on my blog, Matt! Can you share some links for my readers?

Matt: Absolutely:
For How to Write Dialogue:
viewbook.at/DialogueBook

To start School of the Ages:
viewbook.at/ghostinthecrystal

My website:
http://schooloftheages.webs.com

Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/schooloftheages

Twitter:
http://www.twitter.com/schooloftheages

My home phone number:
(ha ha, just kidding)

I'm a reader-friendly author, so feel free to get in touch!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Nerd-Girl of the Year, 2013

Drum roll, please...my nerd-girl of the year is...Zooey Deschanel!

Now, before you get all up in arms about whether Zooey is truly a nerd-girl, let's first go over the criteria.

A nerd-girl:
-is abnormally obsessed with at least one of the following, and possibly more than one: science fiction, fantasy, classic literature, English grammar, Renaissance fairs, comics, classical music (or some obscure musical genre), or math and science in general.
- is involved (or was once) in some school activity that others find weird, i.e. drama, chorus, band, chess club, debate club, save the whales, etc.
-does not follow obvious fashion trends - in other words, she's either hopelessly out of fashion, or she makes her own trends along the lines of vintage, goth, librarian chic, etc.
-is not "the popular girl," in whatever world she finds herself: jr. high, high school, college, or the work place beyond. And though she may dream of being the prom queen, or whatever, she knows she's better off with her bizarre friends and strange little world.

Getting back to Zooey, she may very well have been the popular girl in school - she's certainly pretty enough - and that popularity itself ought to disqualify her. She's also more privileged than most nerd-girls tend to be. Her father and mother are both movers and shakers in the film and television industry. As a matter of fact, her sister Emily plays a hard-core nerd as Dr. Temperance Brennan on the hit TV series Bones - a character so nerdy she's probably a little on the Asperger's spectrum (I'm sorry, but sometimes those things go together). But it's Zooey character of Jessica Day on the TV show The New Girl, glasses-clad, quirkily dressed (see 3rd criteria above), kindergarten teacher, who truly charms us into believing she can identify with our nerd-girl reality. Jessica is always a little out of step (even though she's also quite sexy with her big blues eyes and ample cleavage). Her best friend may be a super-model, and she may date some hot guys, but she's always doing something clumsy or odd that make people think she's slightly off-beat. A perfect example is the episode in which she gets a job at a new school and can't quite get in with the teacher's clique. We are treated to a flash back from the days when she was an awkward teenaged school girl, singing in the acapella Renaissance choir - a moment that would make any nerd-girl proud.

It's not just her character on The New Girl that qualifies her though. As a successful film actress (her role in 500 Days of Summer caused both my husband and son to fall hopelessly in love with her, something I've learned to live with), she's obviously into "drama" - perhaps not theatre per se, but drama yes - and so meets the criteria in the second category above. Additionally, she's a musician with the band She and Him, in which she sings lead. Though I can't say their music belongs to an obscure musical genre, the band is not widely known among the average population, and their music is sort of unusual. I think this places her firmly in the first category as well.

Yet it's really the image she lends to being a nerd-girl on her show that makes me so appreciative of her and her work. She must have the nerd-girl spirit if she's able to pull her role off so successfully. So, Zooey, whether you're a died-in-the-wool nerd-girl or not, thanks for giving us a good name. We all hope we can grow up to be you.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Kindle Fire Giveaway!

Kindle HDX NOvember This is a joint AUTHOR & BLOGGER GIVEAWAY EVENT! Bloggers & Authors have joined together and each chipped in a little money towards a Kindle Fire HDX 7".
The winner will have the option of receiving a 7" Kindle Fire HDX (US Only - $229 Value)
  Or $229 Amazon.com Gift Card (International)
  Or $229 in Paypal Cash (International)
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  Sign up to Sponsor the December Giveaway (starting around December 2nd) http://www.iamareader.com/2013/10/december-kindle-fire.html   Giveaway Details 1 winner will receive their choice of an all new Kindle Fire 7" HDX (US Only - $229 value), $229 Amazon Gift Card or $229 in Paypal Cash (International). There is a second separate giveaway for bloggers who post this giveaway on their blog. See details in the rafflecopter on how to enter to win the 2nd Kindle Fire HDX 7". Ends 11/30/13 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer http://iamareader.com and sponsored by the participating authors & bloggers. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.   a Rafflecopter giveaway