Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thursday Movie Review--The Conspirator

The Conspirator  Rated PG-13  2 hours 2 min  2010

Robert Redford directed and produced this historical drama that follows the efforts of a young lawyer, Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy), who was a northern civil war hero, as he defends Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), a confederated sympathizer accused of conspiring to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.

Realizing that Surratt may in fact be innocent, Aiken defies public opinion and risks everything to get her acquitted.

Such a poignant and incredibly dramatic film. The makers of this movie claim to have gone to great lengths to make this film as historically accurate as possible down to the smallest details. I believe it. I felt like I was in the middle of it. I could understand the pain of a nation losing a truly good man in the President of the United States, and the need of some to obtain retribution at the risk of slaying justice. The politics of the situation are swirling around you in every aspect, the traditions of the day where Mary Surratt was not allowed to testify in her own defense, to the effects on the career of this young attorney. It was political suicide to defend her. Aiken not only risked his career but he risked the love of his girlfriend.

Mary Surratt owned the boarding house where John Wilkes Booth stayed and where he and other men planned three attacks in concert. Aiken is reluctant to defend the only women accused at first until he realizes that she is a pawn, bait to draw out her son, who is the only accused to escape capture. She refuses to betray her son although he does not do as much for her.

The tension and feelings of a post-civil war portrayed here reminded me a lot of the type of fervor experienced after 9/11. It is only natural to seek for justice and retribution. It is easy to see how those desires for justice can quickly turn into a witch hunt. It is a good reminder for us to take a step back before we make justice the next casualty of offense.

I give it 4.5 stars out of 5.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tuesday Tips--Show your "Tells"

Writers are supposed to "show, don't tell." This post is about showing your "Tells".

According to, a tell is any physical reaction or kind of behavior, or habit that "tells" the other players information about your hand.

So, if you have a character who's lying show us his tells. They might exhibit any one or combination of the following:

A change in pitch.
A change in the rate of speech.
A sudden increase in "ums" and "uhs".
A change in eye contact--he stares, eyes widen, or he looks away.
Turning his body away from the person he's speaking to.
A hand reaching, even if momentarily, to cover part of the face, especially the mouth.
Shaking hands.
A tug at his collar or loosening his tie.
A change in respirations from rapid breathing to holding his breath.
Face flushing.

When the average, good person lies they experience an increased heart rate, and a raise in blood pressure. As a result the character may perspire and feel his face flush. He may even feel palpitations depending on the strength of the conflict.

Describe mixed signals like the character who says she loves your MC but is not smiling, may even clench her fist or her eyes appear blank.

More experienced liars can lie with no emotion like holding a poker face. They may be past feeling, even sociopathic.

Have fun catching your characters in their lies.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book Review--Darkness Within by Sara Fitzgerald

Darkness Within by Sara Fitzgerald   YA Paranormal 99 pages

16-year-old Samantha Van Skyhawk has been oblivious to her family's--situation--for some time. A week before her 17th birthday her mother suddenly uproots Samantha, and her younger brother Josh, in the middle of the night and takes them to a small town a thousand miles away, Shadow Falls, in a desperate attempt to avoid the family curse.

Shadow Falls, like Samantha's family, has many secrets. It's where her parents grew up, where it all began. Josh has certain abilities and is able to teach Sam about her own abilites. Two love interests manifest themselves as light and darkness and she loves them both, but can she save them both?

As a war between light and darkness looms over Shadow Falls, Samantha faces a similar war within herself. It is a story of love and sacrifice.

What I liked about this book: First, is the pacing. It is a fun, quick read. It has great pacing that steadily builds to the climax. The action is intense and left me guessing right up to the last page.

Second, it is a story full of witches, vampires, and werewolves, but with a new twist on the rules. There is an alternative to the curse of living as the undead. If only they can find what they need in time.What I liked most is this alternative mainly depends on choices.

Third, the life lesson taught in this book is when Samantha realizes the power is in her. Amidst continuing doubts she finally makes her choice, for better or worse. The other life lesson taught is when Samantha is grateful for all of the sacrifices that have been made for her by everyone around her, but will it be in time to save her family?

Like to know more about Sara Fitzgerald? She is the author of four other books:
Mine for Keeps, Anything for Charity, Just what the Doctor Ordered, and Yesterday's Wish. Check out her website at

If you'd like to purchase Darkness Within you can find it at or

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday Tips--Writing Metrics

The Triangle of Writing Metrics by Rachel Aaron (remember I'm paraphrasing here) aka "How to go from 2K to 10K words per day."

1. Knowledge--know what you're writing before you write it. Write a quick description of what you're going to write. If your scene starts to make a wrong turn, you can get it back on track without wasting a lot of time and words.

2. Time--keep good records. Record the date, start and stop times, how many words written or what you accomplished, and your location when you wrote. The author did this to see if location made a difference in her productivity. Here's what she found out: first, her productivity was higher in places without the internet. Second, her productivity increased if she could manage blocks of time of 4-5 hours. She was more productive than if she used small blocks of time. She got faster the longer she worked. She knew it was time to quit for the day when her brain fried. Third, she also found that she was more prolific in the afternoons rather than mornings or nights. Her main point here is to track your productivity and time spent to make sure you're not wasting your precious writing time on avoidable inefficiencies.

For myself, I have found that just by writing down my time spent and work completed makes me more accountable and I spend less time wasting away.

3. Enthusiasm--the days the author's word counts soared were the days she wrote scenes she was really excited about. By contrast, her slow days corresponded to the days she wrote scenes she wasn't crazy about. She realized that if she had scenes that were so boring she didn't want to write them, who would want to read them?

This not only had a profound effect on the quality of her writing, but her daily word count shot up again.

I like how all three of these elements are inter-related, maybe even co-dependent. Ms. Aaron's main point is that you can increase your word count by concentrating on any one of these elements, but you can soar if you corner all three.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Quote of the Day

"Laughter is the shortest distance between two people."
~Victor Borge (One of my favorite entertainers of all time)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thursday Book Review--The Ember Gods by Andrea Pearson

The Ember Gods by Andrea Pearson 
Book #2 in The Key of Kilenya Series

At the end of book one, fourteen-year-old Jacob Clark returns from Eklaron. He frustrated the evil plans of the Lorkin and returns the Key of Kilenya to its rightful owners, but for some reason, the key only works for Jacob.

When he escaped the Lorkin, he had to leave his friend, Aloren behind in order to save another friend, Akeno, who is seriously wounded. Jacob is haunted by this decision and vows to return for Aloren.

The Ember Gods begins with the beginning of a new school year for Jacob. He now has to balance the demands of high school, trying out for the basketball team, friends and family, and the responsibility he feels to the Makalo and the world of Eklaron being pulled between both worlds.

Jacob learns patience and obedience the hard way (don't we all?), and learns the consequences of not listening to the adults who care for him, and his inner voice. If he had listened he not only would've saved himself and his brother, Matt some severe consequences, but he would've had more information and more protection that would've made his mission go much easier. Isn't that what we all do? We strain against obedience only to find out our lives didn't have to be so difficult if we'd have only listened. Jacob learns more about himself and his new-found abilities and learns to trust the wisdom of others.

There are several things I liked about this book: first, I really liked the development of the relationship between Jacob and his older brother, and I look forward to finding out more. Second, I enjoyed the pacing of this book more than the first. I was able to keep up with the new information. Third, there are a couple of surprises that made total sense and explained some of my questions from book one, while leaving a couple of questions for book three, August Fortress, to answer. Fourth, the action is never-ending in both worlds. Fifth, the journal entries become everything. I wonder if Mr. Coolidge turns out to be a problem in book three. He knows too much.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars for a fun read and life lessons taught. I'm looking forward to August Fortress.

Andrea Pearson
To purchase on Smashwords:

To learn more about the author:

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thursday Media Review--A Simple Twist of Fate

A Simple Twist of Fate  rated PG-13 1 hour 46 min 1994

Michael McCann, played by Steve Martin feels totally betrayed by the world after his wife reveals that he's not the father of their unborn child. Five years later we find him living alone in a small town. He becomes miserly and reclusive. He works at home building furniture. Everything changes when he adopts a little girl whose mother died outside, in front of his house.

This movie is very touching with a pinch of melancholy. I worried that something bad was just about to happen all throughout the story. It is a heart-warming tale produced by Steve Martin, definitely worth your time.

A Simple Twist of Fate is based on the novel Silas Marner by George Eliot, screenplay written and produced by Steve Martin. We even see him play the banjo in this movie. I tend to overlook the many talents of Steve Martin. I give it 4 out of 5 stars for a job well done.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Eat Healthier Granola

One of my on-going resolutions is to eat healthier. Making granola can be tedious, but so worth the benefits. I adapted this recipe from my neighbor and friend, Linda.

You need a really large bowl to mix this in.

10 cups oats, quick or rolled
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup flax
4 cups rice krispies
3 cups coconut
2 cups nuts chopped (any kind)
1 cup sunflower seeds (unsalted)
1 cup cooked Quinoa

Mix dry ingredients well. Mix the following ingredients well before adding to the dry mix:

2 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar (may substitute honey)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Make sure the sugar and salt have dissolved before adding to the dry mix. Add gradually while mixing. Continue mixing until all of mixture is equally moist. Spread half of the mixture across a large cookie sheet (I use 2 jelly roll pans with 1 inch lips). Bake at 200 degrees for 30 minutes. Take pan out of the oven. Stir and break up clumps. Return to the oven and bake another 20 minutes. Stir again. Let cool. Add raisins, craisins, or other bite-sized dried fruit. Place in air-tight container (two 5-quart ice cream buckets work well). Repeat for the second pan.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tuesday Tips--De-clutter

Yes, you've seen my messy desk before. This is how I work. I also, have several pages open on the Internet while I research. Sometimes clutter is the way, but sometimes I need to clean house.

Get rid of the clutter that is no longer relevant. Reduce and Simplify. Whatever is left, stack in priority piles. The 'have tos' then the 'want tos'.

A good desk calendar with big enough squares for me to list my obligations on is essential for me to establish my priorities.

The same holds true for my life. Sometimes I get too involved in 'clutter', and it's time to clean house. My priorities shift from time to time so I need to be flexible, take inventory, and re-prioritize. There's no need to stress over this. Sometimes I think I have to fix or change things right now and all by myself, when time alone will fix things.

I think the important thing is to do the best you can, not someone else's best. Never lose sight of the joy of your priorities. If your priorities don't bring you joy, then it's time to re-think them. I don't mean the fanciful type of joy that fades but the type of joy that comes from investing your time and energy, and working hard on something worthwhile--families, faith, and writing, of course :o)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Everyone!!

Ah, that blessed time when we take inventory of our lives and goals.

I recently read a lot of negative comments on Facebook regarding goals. Making goals then falling short of them causes disappointment and discouragement. Many people stop making goals all together because they feel like failures.

I'm here to tell you that you only fail if you give up. I will continue to make goals and strive to achieve them because even if I don't accomplish those goals I am still further ahead than if I never set goals.

We don't have to be failures. Use The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, "At the end of every day, before you go to sleep, go back through the events of the day (good time to sort things out in a journal). The moments that didn't go the way you wanted, replay them in your mind the way you wanted them to go."

Here's my challenge to each of us for the coming year whether you set goals or not:
"You cannot help the world by focusing on the negative things. As you focus on the world's negative events, you not only add to them, but you also bring more negative things into your own life. Instead of focusing on the world's problems, give your attention and energy to trust, love, abundance, education, and peace."
                                                                           ~Rhonda Byrne The Secret