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.