Thursday, November 6, 2014

Interstellar - Not Just for Nerds

Un-nerd girls and non-sci-fi freaks, don't be scared off by the title and topic of the film Interstellar. Though I might hesitate to recommend it to those friends who violently eschew all things space related, most people will find the spectacular effects, nail biting thrills, and deeply moving, personal story immensely satisfying.

The film begins by depicting our planet in the near future, depleted of the resources needed to support its citizens. To great effect, director Christopher Nolan intercuts actual footage from Ken Burns's documentary, The Dust Bowl, with fictional characters talking about the depletion of soil in America's heartland and the resulting massive dust storms. The people of Earth need solutions, but space travel has been put on the shelf decades ago and is no longer a viable option for finding a new home…or isn't it? Matthew McConaughey stars as a grounded astronaut, who, once presented with the previously discarded possibility of either finding an inhabitable home for the current population of earth, or one where the seeds of new generations can be planted, has no choice but to go with a small, dedicated team of astronauts and one empathetic robot, to evaluate the data of explorers who had gone before looking for life-sustaining planets. To fulfill such a mission, it may be necessary to leave his children with their grandfather, possibly for good. There are too many cinematic secrets within this film to tell more of the plot here, so I won't. But all the wormholes, inadvertent time travel, (something readers of my novels know I'm extremely fond of), and 2001, A Space Odyssey homages, don’t overwhelm the palpable emotion of this film. Oh, you’re gonna cry.

All of the actors, including McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Michael Caine, David Oyelowo, Matt Damon, Topher Grace, John Lithgow, Ellen Burstyn, young Mackenzie Foy and more, are at their finest here. I, personally, had a hard time imagining McConaughey as an astronaut―to me, he’s always kind of a cowboy―but he more than pulls it off. As he proved last year with Dallas Buyers Club, this artist is one to be reckoned with. He and the rest of the cast are simply wonderful.

I’ve heard it said, and have to agree: see Interstellar on the biggest screen possible. Please, for the love of God, don’t watch it on your IPad. If you can see it on IMAX, spring for the pricier ticket and do it. It will immerse you. I haven’t yet seen many of the big films out this fall, but this one is sure to take many, many awards. Opening Friday, November, 7th, get out there and see it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Time Traveler’s Take on Outlander - Author Matt Posner Interviews Me (Georgina Young-Ellis)

The best selling time travel series, Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, has just been made into a Starz series. I was interested in finding out what blogger Georgina Young-Ellis, of Nerd-Girls, Romantics, and Time-Travelers, has to say about it all. Georgina also writes The Time Mistress series, three, soon to be four, romantic, time travel novels.

First of all, Georgina, have you seen the Starz series? 

I’ve seen the first three episodes and am eagerly anticipating the fourth. So far, this television series focuses only on the first book, Outlander. There are several more books that follow it, of different titles, but I’ve only read the first. I’m re-reading it now, as a matter of fact.

So, what do you think of the TV series, and how does it compare to the book?

I have to say, it follows the book in great detail. And that’s the thing about Gabaldon’s writing, it’s very detailed. So, to skim over things too much would be a disappointment. It seems like the makers of the TV series are taking their time and getting all the historical features right. The acting is excellent, the dialogue mostly right from the book, and the quality of the film-making fantastic overall. I almost want to say I’m enjoying it more than the book, but Gabaldon still gets the credit for that, because she’s the consultant for the show.

Could you give us a glimpse into the story?

Sure. Basically, it’s about a British woman, Claire Randall, who is on a second honeymoon with her husband, post WW II, in the Scottish Highlands. They are reconnecting after having been separated for most of the war. She’s a nurse and he’s been working in intelligence―but he’s really a historian, and he’s brought her along as he pokes into all these historical places near Inverness. While exploring an ancient druid structure, she stumbles into a rent in time that pops her 200 years into the past, into the middle of a skirmish between British Redcoat troupes and Scottish rebels. The Scots rescue her from the clutches of the evil Captain Randall, an ancestor of her own husband, Frank Randall. After that, you have to see for yourself because it gets very interesting.

The previews I’ve seen look rather sexy. Is Outlander a bit of a bodice-ripper?

I wouldn’t categorize it as that, though some of the reviews I’ve read of the book do. It’s far more subtle than that. Gabaldon is a writer of the highest caliber, something you don’t always get in a true bodice-ripper. It is very sexy however, and gets more so as the book progresses. Still, there’s something that disturbs me about the story that I wish Gabaldon could have handled differently. Without issuing a spoiler alert exactly, let me just say that there is a very, very graphic and long description of male rape that dumbfounded me when I first read the book. For a long time, I felt negatively about Outlander as a result. I felt the author had sprung that on me and I was scarred by it. Now I realize Gabaldon needed a cathartic event at that point in the story, something that changed the character’s lives. I’d just rather she would have chosen something else. There’s also a scene wherein a woman is beaten and comes to see it as something she, on some level, deserved. I’m afraid that some women may be disturbed by that situation, especially those who have dealt with abuse in their own lives. I think it’s fair warning for readers to know those scenes are there. I, for one, skipped over the male rape scene this time around and I don’t think you’d miss that much to do so.

Did this make you hesitate to watch the Starz series?

A little bit. But I was curious to see how they handled the translation from book to film in general. So far, I’m really enjoying it, though it’s not nearly as action-packed as something like Game of Thrones, of which, by the way, I’m not a fan, specifically because of the sexual violence.

Aside from the violent aspects, would you say Outlander is steamier, or less steamy than your books?

I’d have to say Gabaldon’s are steamier. Like me, she doesn’t get too graphic (at least when it comes to the male/female sex), but I think there’s more of it in her book.

Can you compare the time travel element in Outlander and your books?

In Outlander, the time travel is accidental. In my books the time travel is absolutely deliberate. It involves technology that’s very precise. But I love how various time travel authors deal with it differently. You deal with time travel in a really interesting way, Matt, by having an entire building transport the characters to the past and back. I love that.

Thanks! So, I’ve been hearing some tidbits about the fourth book in your series. How close to being finished is it, and can you tell us a little bit about the story?

Optimistically, I’d say it’s about four months out. Maybe six. I’m not one of those authors that can knock a book out in just a few months, and I think you’re the same, Matt. Especially because this fourth book is requiring such extensive research. It’s called The Time Duchess, and it takes place in Elizabethan England. I always thought I knew my stuff when it came to that era, but I’m realizing there’s a lot I don’t know, so I’m reading, and re-reading book after book on the time period: stuff about Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth, London, and of course what people wore, ate, how they lived, how they spoke, etc. It’s extremely specific.

Can you give us a hint about the plot?

Okay, here’s the official blurb for now, though I’m sure it will change over time: “‘I think I may have killed Shakespeare:’ the words that plunge Dr. Cassandra Reilly into a perilous time travel journey to Elizabethan England. Her son James has been attempting to solve the mystery of whether the greatest playwright of all time actually wrote the words attributed to him, but a vicious animosity between him and the Bard have forced her take on the challenge herself. As she investigates, she becomes intimate with the key players: Shakespeare and his troupe, Queen Elizabeth, Ben Jonson, Robert Cecil, and the Earl of Oxford. Navigating the dangers that lie around every corner of London, as well as the whims of the unpredictable queen, make it a harrowing undertaking, especially when more than one of the men the time traveler meets becomes intent on wooing her, and a mysterious presence seems to be stalking her.”

Sounds really interesting. I think all your readers are looking forward to it.

Sorry to turn things around for a second, but since we’ve moved off the topic of Outlander for now, what’s your next project, Matt?

Thanks for asking, Georgina. My real focus right now is on my job as a teacher, so I'm writing slowly. Fortunately, however, at the end of the summer, I got a lot of work done on a collaboration with one of your fellow contributors to How to Write Dialogue. If you like, I'd be glad to have your blog be one of the first to announce this new project when it's ready! May I come back? Oh, and by the way, I STILL urge you to write a time-travel book featuring the Austrian Empress Sissi -- a perfect counterpart for Cassandra, in my humble opinion. Please tell me you'll consider it?

I'd love to be among the first to announce the project! And I will consider your suggestion. After all, there is an Austrian connection in The Time Duchess, so it may make perfect sense.

Again, thanks for the interview -- it's been a pleasure as always.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My Summer Love Affair

From Under the Umbrella at Coney Island
I spent the summer falling in love again. All winter long, my lover endlessly betrayed me. There were long, cold days in which I felt only inches from complete despair. Icicles grew on my heart like stalactites. I was stuck in a terrible cycle of frigid sadness, waiting and waiting for some glimmer of hope from my dear love, some sign that the misery would end and we would once again experience the joy of renewal. No! My lover said to me over and over, you must endure pain in order to have gladness, feel agony in order to find elation, experience blackest midnight before the dawn of hope.

Finally the ice melted, the sun came out, and my lover, New York City, rewarded me with the most sublime summer anyone in recent memory could recall. A summer as mild as sweet as the winter had been terrible and cruel. The worst winter in decades followed by the loveliest summer I've ever known in this Master which is my city, the shaper of my destiny, my dear love and my sometimes foe.

I had braced myself for as searing a summer as the winter had been brutally cold. Planned my escape to some cool and refreshing clime. But the heat never came. We had, perhaps, four days when the temperature hit 90, but not enough of them in a row to constitute a heat wave. Nearly every day dawned mild and breezy: 82 degrees, crystal blue skies, dry breezes. Enough rain to make the flowers and grass flourish. And then more sunny days and balmy nights. We went swing dancing outdoors at Lincoln Center and barely broke a sweat. The Fourth of July required a light jacket. We dozed on the beach at Coney Island in perfect comfort. I opened my arms to my beautiful city, bathed in delight, and received its kisses, its embraces, its repentance. It said to me, "Forgive me, my darling, for the suffering you endured at my hands. To show you how much I care for you, I will reward you now with my bounty, my beauty." And so I did not leave. I canceled any plans to go away. As August wore on and school started in other parts of the country, the tourists fled and the town was ours alone. All the happiness I needed was right here. 

Now, as summer draws to a close and what is usually the best season in New York, autumn, comes upon us in all its glory, I pray that when the winter solstice follows, bleak and forboding, when the short, dark days are upon us, and when the north winds blow, my lover will remember the sweet carresses of summer and will not desert me again. I pray he will spare me the punishment of the previous winter, and show me how kind and how dear he can truly be. Please, New York, be faithful, be true.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why I’m Still Geeking Out About Mad Men - by contributor Susie Grissom

Jon Hamm as Don Draper
Like every other Mad Men fan in the country, I am waiting impatiently for 2015 to arrive. Why? Because that is when Mad Men will return to the air for their final episodes, and we will finally learn how it is all going to end. The final episodes have been filmed, the cast have gone their separate ways, and all there is left to do is wait. Don Draper and co. have rather unexpectedly entered our lives and left a permanent impression that will last far beyond the end of the final season. What began as a small niche show quickly spread and grew in popularity until it was a worldwide phenomenon. What was termed at ‘the Mad Men phenomenon’ has led to the current revival of all things mid-century in terms of fashion and style, and interior design. Never seen the show and not sure what you’re missing? It’s never too late to jump on board and catch up. Here’s a quick overview of some of the show highlights that make Mad Men must-watch TV:

Here Come The Girls!

Peggy, Joan, and Betty in the early days of Mad Men
Despite its title, Mad Men is a show about men and women, and some of the most interesting issues it deals with are the dramatic changes in women's lives in the 1960s. From women that are glamorous to women that are ambitious, to women that are homebodies and women that are mothers, the whole spectrum of female life in the era is covered in the show and the way those women deal with societies changing expectations of them is truly fascinating. Joan and Peggy are two of the most interesting female characters, as they represent women truly striving to forge ahead with their careers for the pleasure of it, rather than due to financial need: something that was relatively new at the time.

Hello, Don Draper!

Don Draper is almost single handedly responsible for the renaissance of men wearing slick slim fitting suits and slicking back their hair. He oozes charm and sexuality; as cliché as it sounds, and despite his misogyny and other obvious problems, men want to be him and women want to be with him. Watching him in action is certainly one of the highlights of the early shows. In these early days of free love he regularly has extra marital affairs and indulges in one night stands outside the confines of his relationships. Throughout the series, we see Don divorce his original wife Betty, marry the effortlessly elegant Megan, and indulge in affairs or short-term relationships with at least twelve other women. It's no wonder that Don Draper has  been listed as one of the men on TV most likely to have a sexually transmitted disease. Despite all of this, Don is a nuanced and occasionally vulnerable character that it's difficult not to like and watching him in action is one of the highlights of the show.

Mind The Pay Gap
Mad Men office cronies

Office etiquette and work place behavior has changed dramatically since the Mad Men era, but watching the show really does make you appreciate the work place changes that have happened in a relatively short period of time. Can you imagine that just 50 years ago the only role available for women in an office was as a secretary? We’re still a long way from gender pay equality, but at least in most offices and other workplaces women are treated as equals and can strive to reach the top of their chosen career ladder (even if, in certain situations, this is something that is still made much more difficult for women than it is for men). However there certainly are lessons that ambitious professionals can glean from the show. The show has dealt with issues such as ambitious women executives, fist fights between colleagues, and even the perils of attempting to build a second career outside of your office hours. When accounts man Ken Cosgrove reveals that he is also writing sci-fi novels as a sideline, for example, Don threatens to sack him unless he gives up his second job: A problem that many aspiring writers have to deal with at any given time.

Mad Men is a fantastic show and one that it is really easy to geek out about. If you haven’t seen it yet, now is the perfect moment to catch up before it’s all over.

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.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Cover Re-Reveal and Interview from Contemporary Romance Author Donna Fasano!

The Merry-Go-Round
by Donna Fasano
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: December 2, 2009

When Lauren divorces her husband, she has one thought on her mind...stepping off the merry-go-round. However, her life quickly turns into a three-ring circus: her hypochondriac father moves in, her ex is using her shower when she’s not home, and her perky assistant is pushing her out into the fearsome dating world. She also has to decide if the dilapidated barn and vintage merry-go-round she was awarded in the divorce settlement is a blessing or a bane. As if Lauren’s personal life isn't chaotic enough, this slightly jaded attorney is overrun with a cast of quirky characters who can’t stay on the right side of the law. What’s a woman to do? She can allow life to spin her in circles forever. Or she can reach out and grab the brass ring.

What are you working on now? 
I’m currently writing two projects at once. I've never done this before, and I can’t decide if I love it or hate it. I’m writing a Christmas Novella entitled Almost Perfect Christmas, the story of man who enlists the help of a woman in giving his daughter a perfect Christmas. Unbeknownst to him, his little girl has every intention of playing an angelic matchmaker. The other project is the first book of a 3-book series called Following His Heart, the story of a man who is eerily drawn to a woman, and after they fall in love, they discover what brought them together, and it just might tear them apart. Yes, the description is vague, but that’s just the way it has to be for now. I’m chuckling as I type this. Both books are contemporary romance novels and are due out this fall.

What are you reading now or what do you have in your TBR pile? 
I just finished Learning to Swim by Sara Henry. I’m currently reading Love Me Tender by Mimi Barbour. On my TBR pile you’ll find A Reluctant Hero by Jackie Weger, Creatus by Carmen DeSousa, The Neighbor by Dean Koontz, Three Junes by Julia Glass, One Way or Another by Elaine Raco Chase…should I go on?

What flavor is your writing style?
I always tell people I write cotton candy for the mind. Think back to when you were a kid and you took a bite of that delectable confection. What did you do? You smiled. That’s what I’m going for in my romance novels.

Was writing always the first thing you wanted to do in life?
No, I wanted to be a teacher, but then I met and fell in love with my husband. We married and began raising a family. It wasn't until my children started school that I started writing.

While you were writing, did you ever feel as if you were one of the characters? 
I believe there’s a lot of me in my protagonists. I write about women who are strong, yet vulnerable. My main characters and my secondary characters have flaws and make mistakes (don’t we all?), but then most of them do all they can to learn, grow and become better people.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
One piece of advice I often give to writers is to READ. Don’t just read in the genre in which you write. Read everything. And then figure out what you liked and what you didn't…and then think about why. Reading and analyzing the writing of talented people can help you perfect your own skills.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? 
I bow down to readers! I am so appreciative that they spend their hard-earned money on my books and then take the time to read my stories. I am so blessed to have a job I love, and I wouldn't have this job if there weren't readers who love romance novels.

What inspired you to write your first book? 
I came to writing through my love of reading. I spent many a Saturday as a kid in the local library. I loved books, but I never imagined I would ever write one. My husband gets the credit for my becoming a writer. When my children started school and I decided to find a part-time job, he looked around at the piles of romance novels in our home and said, “You've read a lot of those. Why don’t you try writing one?” So, you see. It’s all his fault.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? 
Not my latest book, but one of my titles—Where’s Stanley?—features an ending that I didn't come up with. I handed in the completed manuscript, and my editor suggested a different ending. I wasn't happy, but I did as she asked. Personally, I think the book suffered for it, but readers seem to enjoy it.

What books have most influenced your life most? 
Old Yeller, Sounder, The Bell Jar, To Kill a Mockingbird…how can people read these books and not be influenced? There are so many titles that inspired me and moved me, molded and shaped me, there isn't time to name them all. The characters in these wonderful books help young readers to decide what kind of individual they want to be.

Do you ever experience writer's block? 
There was a time when I’d have said no. I have a plant-your-butt-in-the-chair-and-the-words-will-come attitude. But I did suffer writer’s block while my dad was battling cancer. It’s difficult to write feel-good happily-ever-after when your beloved father is dying.

Do you write an outline before every book you write?
I do, yes. I equate an outline with a road made; how do you know where you’re going if you don’t have a map? I might write the first chapter or two on the fly, but I always take the time to plan out where I want the story to go. Now that’s not to say that the characters are going to stay on the straight and narrow. They decide to veer off the highway every now and then, and that’s when I have to do a quick reroute.

Have you ever disliked something you wrote? 
I've never published anything that I disliked. I have started projects that haven’t seen the light of day, either because I couldn't figure out where to take the story, or I couldn't make the protagonist sympathetic or likable. It’s a rare occurrence, and when it happens, I just set the story aside and hope I can someday come up with a solution.

USA Today Bestselling Author Donna Fasano has written over 30 romance and women's fiction books that have sold 4 million copies worldwide. Look for Ehefrau auf Zeit (German Edition) due out September 16th, published by Amazon Crossing, and the first novel of the brand new 3-book Ocean City Boardwalk Series called Following His Heart, due to be released at the end of October.

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 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!

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:

To start School of the Ages:

My website:



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

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