Sunday, March 19, 2017

Movie Review: Logan



If you ever wanted to know what a superhero is like in old age, this is it.

Hubby and I had a much-needed kid-free night to see something our son was definitely not going to be allowed to see (for several years yet, at least). Being an enormous fan of Hugh Jackman and Wolverine, I've been looking forward to this one. I'd heard it gave "Deadpool" a run for its money in the ratings department, but while "Deadpool" is funny and wildly inappropriate, our favorite Canucklehead takes things in a much darker direction.

"Logan" is bitter, angry, hard-bitten, and believable. Logan has lived a very, very long time and seen a lot of horrible things. I can completely buy that he'd spend his twilight years simply existing, in a detached, brooding sort of way, until forced to interact with humanity again. His scenes with Charles Xavier were some of my favorite: two mutants eking out their elder years together simply because the world refuses to understand or accept either of them. While Charles retains his compassion, Logan has all but shut his off.

Enter Laura. A child mutant on the run, she has no one and is practically feral when Logan meets her. At first, he doesn't want to help her, either, but that hero is still in there under that thick, scarred skin, and when the chips are down, he can't resist standing up for her. Their scenes together are sad, resentful, sometimes funny, and always intriguing. While this film is not my usual cup of tea, I was not bored. Just watching a mutant at the end of his character arc, and one not yet in her prime, was fascinating. It was especially thought-provoking to see the damage that could come from a child with that sort of power, who'd never been shown any kindness or constructive guidance. If only Charles had found her a few years earlier, she might have become a new X-Man. Dafne Keen is terrific, and frankly, frightening, as a mutant "little girl lost" who's finding her feet in this dangerous world. I wouldn't want to mess with her, that's for sure.

Fans of Wolverine will appreciate this rendering of Old Man Logan, but there are still some unanswered questions. What became of the other mutants? Why did they not find a way to better manage the problems that occur when an aging mutant begins to lose some of his faculties? What if the safe haven they're looking for doesn't really exist? (Perhaps that's a question that may be answered in a future film.)

I love Hugh Jackman, and always will. There will never be another Wolverine for me...but Dafne Keen just about stole the show. Moral of the story? Don't piss off the little girl in the unicorn T-shirt.

RATING: 4 of 5 stars

Monday, January 23, 2017

Music, the Five-Minute Story


Today, I'm going to talk a bit about one of my favorite things to do with storytelling: music! I often write to a soundtrack, or at least compile a soundtrack that inspires me for each book and listen to it before writing. I've learned recently that it goes either way, too, and it's not predictable. Sometimes I have to have the soundtrack on while I write, and others, I need to have silence, and just let the music inspire me, pre-writing. Whatever gets words on the page!

I'm going to give you a couple examples, and I want you to listen to the songs and see if you can pick out the storytelling rhythms within them.  The first is a good one for us romance writers, because the arc is beautifully written in the song, and just as we would tell the story.

Example One: The Love Story

This is "Forbidden Friendship" from the "How to Train Your Dragon" soundtrack. By now, most of you know that this movie is the story of a friendship between a Viking boy and a dragon. Hiccup has been told his whole life that dragons are bad, and along comes Toothless the dragon. The song in this clip goes with the scene in which Hiccup and Toothless begin bonding. It is a love story, a friendship, and the song reflects that. Give it a listen.



Halfway through a romance novel is what we romance authors call "the point of no return" - the point at which the hero and heroine are actively invested in one another in spite of the odds. I'm sure that it's no coincidence that halfway through this song, the tempo picks up, and what was a tentative song becomes fuller and more melodic.  By the last fourth of the song, we have a rich, symphonic tone that shows how wonderful this relationship can be. John Powell knew what he was doing when he wrote this song, and it remains one of my favorite pieces. It's pure magic.

Example Two: The Epic Adventure

This is "Lure of Adventure" from the "Uncharted 4: A Thief's End" video game soundtrack. This song is particularly exciting for me as a storyteller because it's even laid out in three acts, the way most classic stories and plays are done.



In this, we have several of the highlights. Right at the beginning, you hear the whistle indicating the Call to Adventure. Then there's that hesitant tempo, indicating Refusal of the Call. After that, it jumps right into Act II, and the tempo increases. There's a palpable give and take of call and answer, and then we move on to Act III, where the tempo increases yet again. Now, you can sense the hero's forward movement to meet whatever comes. Again, no coincidence, I'm sure. Henry Jackman has composed lots of film music, and it's obvious he's familiar with storytelling.

Using Music to Learn Arc

Music is a wonderful shorthand for getting a story arc laid out correctly. The best songs have that full arc, and even if you don't understand the exact pinpoints, you will sense the rhythm and how a story rises and falls within them. The only difference is, music uses notes and sound, and we writers use words.

If you like to listen to music while you write, pay special attention to the songs you choose and how the rhythm flows up and down to match your scenes. You'll know it matches up when you get that little "thrill" while you're writing. Until then, Happy Reading (or Writing)!

Friday, January 06, 2017

Office Redux



Remember my beautiful rolltop desk (which, strangely, I blogged about exactly two years ago)? Well, the bug has bitten me again to streamline my space and maybe get a couch in my office (or a big comfy chair) where I can kick back, so Hubby and I swapped desks. As much as I adore my rolltop, I needed some breathing space in my office if I plan to get some comfortable seating in here. This is the first of what will probably be a process for me ... but an enjoyable one! (After all, now I get to pick out new desk accessories, and what writer doesn't love that?)

Hubby is already settling in with the rolltop, and frankly, it suits him because it's a good size for him, with lots of storage. He still has a desktop PC, so the rolltop is ideal for that, too.

As for me, the new, smaller desk forces me to live minimalist, and I'm enjoying it! I've still got lots of stuff to work out, as far as what I plan to keep, what to do with my walls, and what I can live without. I want to cut down on the knick-knacks and smaller pieces of furniture in favor of just a few things: one bookshelf, my file cabinet, the desk, the couch, and fireplace. I think I need a new chair, too, 'cause this one seems a little short for the desk height now that I sit here. If that seems like a lot for a small room, you should have seen how the rolltop ate up the space. It's practically empty now!

I'll keep you posted as I continue the cleanout. Happy winter!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy 2017!



Happy New Year!

I would like to take this time to wish you all a safe and enjoyable New Year, and especially to take a moment to thank all of my wonderful readers for making 2016 such a treat. I am thankful for your support in helping me to do what I love to do: share stories of adventure and hope with all of you!

In 2017, I hope to keep doing just that, but in a slightly different direction. My goal is to get a brand-new book out the door in a totally new genre: New Adult. For now, it's under wraps as I get underway with writing the rest of the book. I hope you'll stick with me in this new venture, and rest assured, there is more romance in my future as well! Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Movie Review: Assassin's Creed



**SPOILER ALERT**

Happy Holidays, everyone! Last night, the boys took me out to see a movie at Movie Tavern (and if you haven't been to a Movie Tavern, you totally need to try it). Rogue One was already sold out for the two shows that evening, so we decided on Assassin's Creed.

I've never played the video game, but I've watched some cut scenes, and they're totally cool. I didn't know much of anything about the mythos of the video game, and I'm sort of glad about that, because I went into the film cold. That meant I didn't have any preconceived notions about what the film should be, and could look for a complete story.

Remember "Movies for Guys Who Like Movies?" You'd probably see this one in that lineup. The visuals in this film were really cool, and what I would expect of something based on a video game about assassins, i.e. lots of action, violence, etc. There were spots here and there where the motion capture was clearly CG, rather than a real body, and unnecessarily so, giving the film enough of a surreal look to grab my attention and draw me out of the plot. My ten-year-old had some trouble following the plot here and there, but a quick explanation was enough for him to keep up. And speaking of plot, that brings me to my real negative about the film.

Here There Be Spoilers

Sadly, the plot is rather shoestring, just enough to hang the movie on, and no more. Michael Fassbender plays Cal, a man who has grown up on the wrong side of the tracks and lands in Abstergo Industries, a company who seems to be hoarding criminals for the purposes of putting them in a machine that will somehow lead them to the film's MacGuffin, a device called the Apple of Eden. This Apple supposedly holds the key to ending free will, and the Assassins have sworn to defend it from the nefarious Knights Templar, who want it in order to bend the world to their will. The scientists at Abstergo learn that Cal is a direct descendant of the Assassin last known to have the Apple, and here is where I thought the plot fell apart.

The lead scientist, Dr. Sophia Rikkin, is the daughter of the company's bigshot. She claims to be doing research that will end mankind's propensity for violence, and she thinks the Apple is the key. This anti-violence woman is the first to greet Cal upon his traumatic arrival at Abstergo. She then proceeds to put him into the machine, an uncomfortable and frankly scary device, with zero explanation, and subject him to scary, violent images. I'm not sure how this is supposed to hang together, logically. I certainly doubted it could rid Cal of violence, and I don't know how the writers thought Sophia would think so. Plot logic is important, as is a logical motivation for your characters.

Cal's genetic memories of his ancestor, brought on by this machine, are super cool, though. I really wish they had just done a whole story in the past about Aguilar, instead of hopscotching back and forth between past and present. I know the video game spans different times, but I think they could have done much better at conveying that on film.

Everything comes to a head when the Templars learn where the Apple has hidden all these years, and it's up to the Assassins to stop them from using it. The criminals from Abstergo turn out to be other descendants of Assassins, and that left me wondering why Abstergo kept them around. You'd think they'd have these Assassin descendants killed, since they were of no use to Abstergo, not being actual leads to the Apple. Nope. Let's just hang onto those liabilities, and house and feed them and spend money on them until they turn on us. That makes sense, doesn't it?

There's so much backstory going on in this movie that the characterization suffers. We don't know much about Cal or Sophia, and nothing at all about Cal's fellow inmates of Abstergo. Frankly, in his few lines, Baptiste nearly stole the show in terms of characterization. I would have liked a little more about each of these would-be Assassins, so I could care more about them if they were in danger. Good characters make even a bad film memorable.

The good guys win, of course, and look badass doing it, but when I thought about why I didn't thoroughly love this movie, the answer was simple. In fiction, we are told that flashbacks kill pacing, and that's just what happened here, aside from lack of meaty characterization. It's really too bad. Boiled down, those of us who spent our hard-earned cash to see this movie simply sat around and watched Cal remember stuff.

Conclusion

The story is left wide open for a sequel. I'll watch followups to the film, but maybe wait for video to do so. It's a fun popcorn movie, if you're up for an afternoon of Matrix-like action. Until next time!

RATING: 3 of 5 stars

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Guest Author: Becky Lower!


Happy Holidays, and please welcome author Becky Lower, who joins us today with her newest contemporary romance, just released December 7th! LOVE'S IN THE CARDS is a sweet, engaging holiday romance set in the fictional Maine town of Lobster Cove.

1) How did you get started writing?
 
Like most authors, I've been writing since I could hold a pencil. At age 12, I decided I didn't like Little Joe getting all the ladies on Bonanza when brooding Adam was the real hottie, so I wrote a screenplay and sent it in. Fortunately, the writers, after they quit laughing at my attempt, sent me back a very encouraging rejection letter. I majored in Journalism in college, but news writing wasn't my thing. It took many more years before I found my way back to writing about brooding heroes.

2) What interests or excites you most about your genres?


I like to cleanse my writing palate between books, so I write one historical followed by one contemporary. At least that's the way it's supposed to work, but sometimes deadlines intervene. With the historicals, I love finding an obscure fact in history and weaving it into a story line, building an entire book around it. My contemporaries don't require the same amount of research, but I still like to add something to the story, a rare fact that most people don't know, like the steps you have to go through to build a patio. It excites me when I learn something new, so I hope my readers learn from my books as they enjoy them.

3) Who or what is your favorite inspiration when writing?


My three all-time favorite authors are Nora Roberts, Julia Quinn and Jude Deveraux, although there are a ton of newer authors who are making waves in the romance world. My biggest influencers in my writing are Stephen King, Blake Snyder and Margie Lawson.

4) Tell me about your latest book or work in progress.


My first Lobster Cove book is a novella called Love's In The Cards. Two sisters own a greeting card/gift store in Lobster Cove and are gearing up for the mad Christmas selling season when the book opens. Their shop is chosen from all the shops in which the company has outlets to unveil the mystery artist of the newest line of cards. Then, the romance begins. It's a cute, quick read, perfect for the busy season coming up. I'm also working on another book, also set in Lobster Cove, which incorporates the shop, the sisters, and introduces a cousin to the mix. Each time I get to the polishing stage of a book, I declare it's my favorite book ever, but this time, I mean it. I've tentatively titled it Sweet Caroline, and it's due to the publisher soon.

5) Please share with us the first paragraph of your latest work.


This is from Love's In The Cards:

Penny cringed as her sister, Abbey, sang at the top of her lungs in her off-key voice. Her voice might have been muffled behind the life-size figure she manhandled, but her intention rang out loud and clear. “Hark The Herald Angels sing, something, something, something.” The remaining lyrics were merely hummed, since Abbey had memorized only the first line.


About LOVE'S IN THE CARDS:

Penny Beedle's outlook on Christmas, as her favorite holiday, was destroyed by a messy breakup years earlier and a botched wedding last year—both on Christmas Eve. But since she and her sister now own a greeting card store, and the holidays are their crazy selling season, she has to put on a happy face.

Del Madison has loved Penny since kindergarten. Commissioned by a big greeting card company for a line of Christmas and Valentine's cards, he has to emerge from behind his alter ego and unveil himself to the public. He chooses Penny Beedle's shop for the big reveal. If he plays his cards right, he just might gain Penny as part of his life.



About Becky Lower:

Amazon best-selling author Becky Lower has traveled the country looking for great settings for her novels. She loves to write about two people finding each other and falling in love, amid the backdrop of a great setting, be it on a covered wagon headed west or in present day small town America. Historical and contemporary romances are her specialty. Becky is a PAN member of RWA and is a member of the Historic and Contemporary RWA chapters. She has a degree in English and Journalism from Bowling Green State University, and lives in an eclectic college town in Ohio with her puppy-mill rescue dog, Mary. She loves to hear from her readers.

To learn more about Becky or LOVE'S IN THE CARDS, check out links below. Happy Reading!

Buy LOVE'S IN THE CARDS: https://www.amazon.com/Loves-Cards-Lobster-Becky-Lower-ebook/dp/B01M4J150Z
Website: http://www.beckylowerauthor.com
Facebook: http://facebook.com/becky.lower
Twitter: http://twitter.com/BeckyLower1
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/authorbeckyl/
Newsletter: http://beckylowerauthor.com/contact.html#newsletter
Blog: http://beckylowerauthor.blogspot.com
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6159227.Becky_Lower
G+: https://plus.google.com/103332938863838564766
Amazon page: http://amzn.to/1FOy3Sd

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Author Joe Cosentino on Mysteries


Good morning, readers! Today, author Joe Cosentino returns to discuss the release of his newest novel, RAG DOLL, and the writing of a genre I particularly love (being a Sherlock Holmes fan), mysteries!

What attracts you to writing mystery novels?

I had terrible insomnia as a kid. Believe it or not, what finally got me to sleep was reading cozy mystery novels. And I've read hundreds of them. So it was clear to me that my novels would also be page-turning mysteries with clever plot twists, engaging characters, romance, enticing locations, and lots of clues leading to a shocking conclusion. Since coming from a funny, emotional Italian-American family, I also knew humor and romance would play a role in my novels.

Who is your favorite mystery author, and why?

Besides me? Hah. Of course Agatha Christie is the queen of murder mysteries. Armistead Maupin has an amazing flair for writing eccentric, loveable characters with engaging and realistic dialogue. Mary Higgins Clark blends mystery and romance so beautifully.

What advice would you give to other mystery writers?

I love reading and writing stories with engaging characters who I want to spend time with. Just as I did improvisation as an actor, I recommend letting your characters talk to one another and seeing what happens! An outline is simply an outline. Don't be afraid to deviate from it. A writer should create an entire world of suspense above and beyond "who done it." When a reader finishes a book, he/she should be satisfied that the various parts equaled the whole. Finally, don't forget the humor and romance!

Tell us about the Jana Lane mystery series and your latest novel.


As a child, I loved child stars like Shirley Temple, Hayley Mills, and Patty Duke, seeing their movies over and over. So I created a heroine who was the biggest child star ever until she was attacked on the studio lot at eighteen years old. In PAPER DOLL, Jana at thirty-eight lives with her family in a mansion in picturesque Hudson Valley, New York. Her flashbacks from the past become murder attempts in her future. Jana ventures back to Hollywood, which helps her uncover a web of secrets about everyone she loves. She also embarks on a romance with the devilishly handsome son of her old producer, Rocco Cavoto. In PORCELAIN DOLL, Jana makes a comeback film and uncovers who is being murdered on the set and why. Her heart is set aflutter by her incredibly gorgeous co-star, America's heartthrob Jason Apollo. In SATIN DOLL, Jana and family head to Washington, DC, where Jana plays a US senator in a new film, and becomes embroiled in a murder and corruption at the senate chamber. She also embarks on a romance with Chris Bruno, the muscular detective. Jana rubs elbows with senators on both sides of the aisle, a lobbyist, and a Washington reporter. Her husband also goes through a personal crisis. In CHINA DOLL, Jana heads to New York City to star in a Broadway play, enchanted by her gorgeous co-star Peter Stevens, and faced with murder on stage and off.

Now in RAG DOLL, Jana stars in a new television series, The Detective's Wife, opposite Chris Bove, the hunky detective who got away in SATIN DOLL. Guest starring on the show is young ingénue Christa Bianca, a rags to riches story who has flooded the press. Life imitates television as Christa's loved ones are murdered, and Christa and Jana could be next. Once again it's up to Jana to save the day before the lights fade to black.

You've had lots of contacts in the entertainment world. You worked on television as an actor with Holland Taylor (My Mother Was Never a Kid ABC-TV movie), Charles Keating (NBC's Another World), David Paymer (Ruffles Potato Chips commercial), and Jason Robards (Commercial Credit Computer commercial). Did you use any of those experiences in writing about Jana and company's shooting of The Detective's Wife in RAG DOLL?

Definitely! As one reviewer of PAPER DOLL wrote, I used my knowledge of show business to devilish ends. Actually, I used my background in each of the Jana Lane novels, since I know the ins and outs on a movie set, television set, and theatre stage. Thankfully nobody was murdered on my shows. I've been told the television shooting sequences in RAG DOLL are realistic, exciting, and fun to read. I'm sure that's because I know my way around a real television set, and I tried hard to incorporate that knowledge into those scenes.

Jana uses the skills she learned as a child star to solve the crime. How do you remember all of Jana's old movie titles and storylines?

I keep really good notes on Jana's old movies, and on each room in her Hyde Park, New York mansion.

Was it difficult writing a book that takes place in 1985?

Since I was around back then, and the internet is a wonderful research source, I enjoyed writing about the political and social events, music, movies, television shows, and fashion of that era. Jana is right in line with her hair, makeup, and wardrobe.

Which part of the novel did you enjoy writing the most, and why?

I loved writing Jana's banter with Bove. It still makes me laugh. I also get tears in my eyes when reading the story of Christa's rise from impoverished, mocked child (the other children calling her "Rag Doll") to upcoming star.

Everyone in RAG DOLL seems to have a secret. Thank you for revealing them by the book's end.

Yes, each Jana Lane mystery is its own story. Readers get a complete mystery with each novel, as you said, full of revealed secrets.

You play fair in your mysteries, meaning the clues are there, and so are the plot twists and turns, and white knuckle shocking ending.

I don't like mysteries where characters are introduced and the writer arbitrarily picks the murderer at the end. The readers feel cheated. At the end of a mystery, the readers should say, "Of course! How did I not see that?" I agree about the ending. It still makes my heart race when I read it—and I'm still surprised.

Do you have another mystery series besides the Jana Lane mysteries?

Yes, the Nicky and Noah comedy mysteries published by Lethe Press. Each novel is loaded with wacky humor and romance in a fast-paced whodunit. Since I am a college theatre professor/department head, and theatre departments are havens of mystery, secrets, romance, and high humor; the series takes place at an Edwardian style New England college. In DRAMA QUEEN (Divine Magazine's Readers' Choice Award for Best Mystery, Best Crime, Best Humorous, Best Contemporary novel of 2015) theatre college professors are dropping like stage curtains. With the inept local detectives, it is up to Directing professor, Nicky Abbondanza to use his theatre skills (including playing other people) to solve the murders, while he directs a murder mystery onstage. Complicating matters is Nicky's intense crush on Assistant Professor of Acting, handsome Noah Oliver, the prime suspect in the murder. In DRAMA MUSCLE (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention) Nicky and Noah have to use their theatre skills to find out why musclemen are dropping like weights in the Physical Education department while Nicky directs the Student Bodybuilding Competition. In DRAMA CRUISE (releasing December 1) Nicky and Noah go on a cruise to Alaska, and discover why college theatre professors are going overboard like lifeboats while Nicky directs a murder mystery dinner theatre show onboard ship.

I also have an M/M series with lots of mysterious elements, Rainbow Award Honorable Mention COZZI COVE: BOUNCING BACK, COZZI COVE: MOVING FORWARD, and COZZI COVE: STEPPING OUT (releasing in January) taking place on the Jersey Shore and published by NineStar Press.

You're certainly prolific! What are you writing now?

I've taken a break to do interviews like this one, which I really enjoy!

Thanks for joining me today. How can your readers contact you or find your book?

I love hearing from readers. They can contact me at: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com

Find RAG DOLL at:

The Wild Rose Press: http://catalog.thewildrosepress.com/all-titles/4671-rag-doll.html
The Wild Rose Press (Paperback): http://catalog.thewildrosepress.com/paperback-books/4753-rag-doll-paperback.html
Amazon: http://myBook.to/Rag_Doll
AllRomance EBooks: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-ragdoll-2126977-367.html
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rag-doll-joe-cosentino/1124742578?ean=2940156928002


About Joe Cosentino

Bestselling author Joe Cosentino won Divine Magazine's awards for best mystery novel, best humorous novel, and best contemporary novel of 2015. He is the author of the Jana Lane mysteries: Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll, Satin Doll, China Doll, Rag Doll (The Wild Rose Press); the Nicky and Noah mysteries: Drama Queen, Drama Muscle, and the upcoming Drama Cruise and Drama Luau (Lethe Press); the Cozzi Cove beach series: Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back, Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward, and the upcoming Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out (NineStar Press); and the romance novellas: In My Heart anthology (An Infatuation & A Shooting Star), A Home for the Holidays, and The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Dreamspinner Press); and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (Eldridge Plays and Musicals). As an actor, he has appeared in principal roles in film, television, and theatre opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O'Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. Joe is currently head of the department/professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com

Web site: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JoeCosentinoauthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoeCosen
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4071647.Joe_Cosentino
Amazon: Author.to/JoeCosentino

An excerpt of RAG DOLL by Joe Cosentino, published by The Wild Rose Press:

Jana and Bove did the scene again with a thin piece of gauze over the camera lens aimed at Jana.

Ah, the plight of a middle-aged actress.

Jana felt even better about that take. Their relationship worked, and the energy bounced back and forth between them almost effortlessly. Again Jana wondered what it would be like sharing her days with Bove and kissing Bove in bed before sleep each night.

Herm's call for action brought Jana back to the scene. Bove's close-up was even better than the first two takes. It was as if they had been married for years with an easygoing yet emotional rapport.

"Cut!"

"Good job, partner."

Bove smiled at Jana. "Right back at you."

As she started to rise from the bed, Jana spotted Christa in the distance with a look of horror on her face.

The young woman screamed as a lighting screen headed straight for her. Stu Silverman, standing next to Christa, noticed and pushed Christa out of the way in the nick of time. The screen crashed to the floor inches away from Christa's feet. Standing on the other side of her, Andrew Bianca took his wife in his arms, and she wept on his shoulder.

Bove whispered to Jana, "Here we go again."