Category Archives: Books vs.Movies

“It’s not brave if you’re not scared.”

 PJ here. I was watching an old movie the other day with a great premise, snappy dialogue, and excellent performances from Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow. The movie was BOUNCE, cir. 2000. It’s essentially a romance, but the premise is that a young mother of two becomes a widow when her husband dies in a plane crash after exchanging tickets with an ad exec. The playboy ad exec—played by Affleck—then goes off the deep end with guilt, and in an effort to redeem himself, sets out to help the widow, never imagining he’d fall in love with her.

The movie didn’t do well at the box office, and I won’t try to convince you there were Oscar worthy performances involved, but I appreciated the nuances. The evolution of the romance was sweet and entertaining, the individual character arcs were well executed, and the black moment was satisfying—if not predictable. But my favorite line of the movie was, “It’s not brave if you’re not scared.”

Again, this isn’t a new concept or an original line, per se, but it sums up so much of what we look for in our heroes and heroines. Heroism is in admitting your fear and acting anyway. Doing the right thing and not always the easy thing. Choosing to become the person you’re meant to be, rather than a shadow of your true potential. Growth is hard. Most days, it’s downright scary.

Sometimes fear paralyzes us, but it can also be a prime motivator. It pushes us to change, to step out of our comfort zone, or maybe even forces us to face a part of ourselves we’ve been hiding from for whatever reasons. The result–when we can manage to face our fears head on–is that we become stronger…better. It is in those moments of overcoming our fear through action that we become heroes. Examples of this can be seen in almost any romance novel or movie. We lovers of the genre live for that transformation and can’t wait to see our protagonist find the courage to change from scaredy-cat to hero by the end of the story.

Have you read any books lately or seen any movies that showcase this transformation particularly well?

Speaking of heroines facing their fears, if you haven’t read WANING MOON, book one in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael Trilogy, it’s now available for free download on all major e-retailers. Here is the blurb and links.

PJSharon_WaningMoon__200In the year 2057, in a post-apocalyptic world where a polar shift threatens the survivors of a widespread pandemic with extinction, sixteen-year-old genetically enhanced Lily Carmichael has more immediate problems. Her uncle is dying of cancer and her healing abilities are ineffective against the blood ties that bind them. In order to find a cure, Lily must leave the protection of her quiet town and journey to the trading city of Albany, all while avoiding the Industry, an agency that would like nothing better than to study and exploit her abilities.

Seventeen-year-old Will Callahan has been searching for his father since severe storms blasted through the Midwest, killing his mother and sister. When he learns that his father may be in the city, he catches a ride with Lily, a girl who has come to his rescue more than once. As the two embark on a dangerous journey, the tension between them grows. But the secrets Will’s keeping could put Lily in far more danger than traveling to the city with him, and if he was any kind of man, he would have told her to run the minute she found him.

Amazon     Amazon UK     BN     I-Book Store     Kobo      Smashwords 

Enjoy!

Peace and blessings,

PJ

Up In The BLues

Sometime ago, my husband was buying seasons tickets for the NY Rangers, up in the (then – we haven’t seen the new Garden configuration) blue seats. Those were the ones practically on the ceiling, but I always thought you got the best long view of the action.

But what he found there was not only like-minded fans; he found a comraderie, a Garden” family,” if you will, whom he didn’t need to see or confer with outside the arena, but who he knew would be there week after week and they could share whatever sports and personal information they cared to, and whether they were renewing for the following year

This went on for several years and then — the commute got to be too much, the ticket prices too high, the losses made the whole thing not worth it. But the reminiscences were interesting. It was like the “family” had moved away. They barely knew each other, so there wouldn’t be any kind of contact. And yet the memories of the good times, the great on-the-ice triumphs, the family atmosphere live on and are resurrected every now and again with great nostalgia.

Like family memories of long-gone neighbors, relatives, cousins, friends. People you meet at conferences. Family from whom you’re estranged. Or who are so long distance, you can’t manage any kind of relationship.

Do I not hold in my heart the memory of my Uncle Manny, my Aunts Gladys and Mary? They were not relations — they were neighbors in my toddlerhood who lived across the hall and upstairs. But forever, they will be my aunts and uncle: I never remember or speak of them any other way.

Is it any wonder that “family” is the bedrock of almost every tv drama, movie and novel these days? Arguably, it is one of the most important fictional memes, given how dislocated families are and people feel.

And maybe it’s not your conventional family. Maybe it’s a hospital’s sexy doctors, your office cohorts, a newsroom, an FBI behavioral unit, a quartet of high school girls, the staff of a high powered “fixer.” A group of romance authors. Or your neighbors in a small town in anywhere USA who always have your back.

Rediscovering family, going back to your roots, finding the people who anchor you, coming finally understand the place where you belong — even if it’s “up in the blues” … are powerful underlying themes that will always resonate, themes on which you can build or rebuild a plot, a novel, your heroine’s — or, for that matter, your own — life.

Who’s in your family, not directly related to you? Do you feel that “family” thing in the tv and movies you see?

Thea Devine is currently working on her next erotic contemporary romance — and several other projects. She’ll be speaking at NJRWA’s Put Your Heart In A Book Conference. She was among those honored as a Romance Pioneer by RT Booklovers last year.

Are you a Holiday Movie fanatic?

PJ Sharon here on this fine and busy Tuesday. I’ll keep it brief today since I’m doing double duty. In addition to my Scribes post, I’m hanging out with my WG2E Beach Book Blast buddies who have a slew of new Christmas stories for sale today and tomorrow, all for under $5. We’re calling it a BeachBookBlast e-Book Extravaganza!

HIFH Book front cover 2 jpgSince two of my YA romances culminate with a Christmas surprise and a heartwarmingly sweet ending, both Heaven Is For Heroes and On Thin Ice are part of this great sale. I hope you’ll stop by the site and check out the fantastic selection.on thin ice front cover jpg Rest assured, we have plenty of uplifting Christmas stories to keep you in the holiday spirit. Speaking of uplifting stories…

One of my favorite parts of December is watching all my favorite holiday movies. Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life are two of my favorites, but I have to admit I’m glued to the Hallmark Channel’s 25 Days of Christmas. I know; the movies are sappy, unrealistic, sticky sweet, and totally romantic, and I love them. A cup of warm cocoa and a box of tissues are a must, however. So far this season, my top three Hallmark Channel movies have been, A Christmas With Molly, Come Dance With Me and A Princess for Christmas.

What about you? Are you a holiday movie freak? What’s your favorite classic? Have you seen any new ones this year that you’ve added to your favorite’s list?

Save the Liver! Happy Birthday, Julia Child!

Bon jour, my darlings! Suze here.

Yesterday was a special day. Julia Child would have turned 100 years old on August 15, 2012.

I said, “Dance!”

I grew up watching reruns of Julia on WGBY. Our small town in the boondocks didn’t have a lot of stations until later in my illustrious television-viewing career, so public television it was. Even as a kid, I understood on some level the magic that Julia had. In my real-life experience, women cooked to put food on the table and keep the kids and menfolk satisfied. It was a chore (granted, my grandmother on the dairy farm had ten children, and my mother was the oldest daughter–so they were cooking for and cleaning up after a small army three times a day). They did not enjoy it.

Then along came Julia, a six-foot-two preppie wearing an industrial-looking dress and pearls, wielding a giant cleaver, gleefully making a dead chicken dance on the small screen. Her joy came through, just short of palpable, for more than 30 years.

She inspired me to learn to cook something beyond the basics my mother produced for our family of seven. (One of Mom’s specialties was “Spanish Rice,” which consisted of hamburger browned with onion, cooked Minute Rice, and a jar of spaghetti sauce. Not sure where the “Spanish” part came into play)

In my adulthood, as I understood more of Julia’s story, my admiration for her grew. A child of privilege, she worked in Europe for the OSS, met and married Paul Child, the love of her life, and trained at the Cordon Bleu in Paris as a chef when women simply did not do such things. If you haven’t seen the movie Julie and Julia, do it now! The Julie storyline is completely forgettable (sorry, Amy Adams!), but Meryl Streep’s performance as Julia Child is nothing short of mind-boggling.

Here’s a link to the Smithsonian’s virtual exhibit on Julia Child. You can hear that famous warbly voice, see her kitchen recreated, and even look at some of the individual tools and gadgets she used.

And click here to watch one of the funniest parodies of all time: Dan Aykroyd playing The French Chef. Julia Child was said to have loved this so much that she kept a VHS tape of it. Note: you may want to watch this after breakfast!

So, in honor of her birthday, how about a small gift for all of you loyal readers? Here is my Secret French Toast recipe. No liver required. Bon appetit!

Suze’s French Toast

6 slices white bread (potato bread is delicious, if you can find it)

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk or half and half

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla (orange or almond extract is also delicious)

1 tsp. cinnamon

In a shallow bowl or pie plate, mix up the eggs, milk/half and half, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. No need to drag out the mixer–a fork or whisk works fine. Dip the bread into the egg mixture, coating both sides. Don’t leave it to soak too long, or the bread will fall apart when you try to take it out.

Preheat an electric griddle or a skillet on the stove. Medium heat is best. Plop on a generous glob of butter. You want it sizzly, but not burning.

Take the bread slices out of the egg mixture, let them drain a bit, and place them on the griddle or skillet. Cook until golden brown and fragrant on one side (usually takes a couple of minutes), then flip and cook for another minute or two on the other side.

Serve with lots more butter, real maple syrup, and some berries or sliced bananas.

The Men Who Make My Heart Beat…

I saw Magic Mike today for um… research purposes. Was it well written? No. Did the male and female lead have any chemistry whatsoever? No. Did it have a satisfactory ending? No. Did I like it?

Hell yes!

There was man booty in it.  And Channing Tatum is probably one of the most physically perfect men I have ever seen. He’s got beautiful lips, and eyes and …. sigh… everything. But as yummy as he is he just doesn’t do it for me.

So in honor of Gratuitous Man Monday I’m going to share with you my list of men that I would sell my mama for.

1 The Rock. AKA Dwayne Johnson.  I fell in love with this man when I was fourteen years old. Not a girly crush. Not an ‘Oh I think he’s hot.’ But in total absolute LOVE LURVE LOOVVEE. Up until that point boys had merely existed. I had crushes on some, even liked others but when I saw The Rock on Smackdown asking the world if they could smell what he was cooking I was a goner. He was a man. A thick muscular man with pretty brown skin and perfect white smile and calves. Gorgeous calves! (I hate men with chicken legs.) I didn’t even like wrestling but I watched every damn show just for a glimpse of him. I bought his poster and even read his biography cover to cover. I’d watch him talk and get all flushed. He was my first and only celebrity crush and if it came between saving him or my mother from a burning building I’d have to think about it for a little while.

Jamie and Dwayne sitting in a tree K I S S I N G!

2. Simon Baker. I’m not usually a fan of blond men. But this man is so DREAMY. He’s the kind of guy you want to wake up looking at for the rest of your life.

What would you like for breakfast? French Toast or Waffles?

3. Old School Hottie Marlon Brando. Because before he began a love affair with food he was pretty damn yummy himself.

4. Javier Bardem. Because everybody needs a latin lover in their life

5. I haven’t ever seen an episode of his show but Joe Manganiello has got it going on. The man has got a twelve pack and if he let me I would count every one.

What about you? What man makes your heart beat?

Obsession

Hello wet campers!  It’s pouring here in CT…well it’s supposed to be pouring by the time this post goes live tomorrow am.  J Monkeys here on another happy Saturday.

If you’ve read any of my posts over the past year, this likely won’t come as a shock to you, but I’m just a tiny bit obsessed with True Blood.  Eric Northman, specifically.  I love him.  Especially in season 4, which I bought on DVD yesterday.  As soon as my kiddies nod off, and I’m finished with responsibilities like this post and getting stuff ready for an event I’m doing tomorrow, I’ll be right back in front of the TV.  I’ve got about 10 minutes of episode 5 left to watch – I had to turn it off when the school bus arrived this afternoon.  While I LOVE True Blood, I’m sure we can all agree that it’s wildly inappropriate for anyone under age…well…16ish at least!  And then there are 7 more episodes and some bonus features.  Yippeee!

No, your math skills haven’t failed you.  Somehow I’ve managed to watch 5 hours of TV in the last 24 hours – no mean feat with my brood.  Why am I obsessed with this show?  Aside from the obvious reasons,

Eric Northman
Alcide Herveaux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

as a writer, I love how the screenwriters manage to end every episode in a dear-Lord-what-will-happen-next kind of cliff hanger.   It’s very difficult not to watch the next DVD.  And it’s not just the beefcake.  This same thing happened with the first few seasons of 24.  I remember laying in bed at night thinking to myself, “Just one more episode,” at 3:00 in the morning because I needed to know what would happen next.

This is an incredible skill for a writer – making a story a page turner, something that people can’t put down.  I haven’t actually read any of Charlaine Harris‘ Sookie Stackhouse books.  I don’t know why…maybe because I understand that the HBO series follows them fairly loosely and one favorite character from the series didn’t make it out of the first book alive.  So I can’t say if the books have this same incredible momentum that just pushes you along with the story, but on HBO, it’s a wonderful ride.

Today’s Secret: Writer friends, study how True Blood, 24 and other shows do this because it is a very valuable skill.  Constantly hook and rehook your audience to keep those readers coming back for more.

Today’s Question: What other shows, movies, plays, books do this well?

Dead Men’s Houses

Hi, all. Suze here. Happy Thursday!

There’s something sad going on in my neighborhood. A house is coming down. Not just any house, though. It is (or was) a classic New England saltbox built in the 1740s. The last owner of the house was an elderly woman whose family had lived and farmed there for generations. She died a few years ago, and the place has been vacant since then, a victim of the economy. Her absentee heirs managed to sell off one parcel of the farm, which fronts on a busy road on one side, and a large medical building went up. The parcel with the house, which fronts on the same busy road as well as my residential road, did not sell, most likely because the heirs were asking an astronomical amount of money.

The old girl’s got good bones!

I’ll be honest. Until the “For Sale” sign went up, I had no idea the house was that old. I thought it was a newer home built to look that way. At some point it had been re-sided with shakes over the clapboards, and the place was in darned good shape. It didn’t have one of those name plates you see all over New England showing the name of the original owner and the date the house was built. I’d never been inside, only knowing the owner to nod and say hello as one or the other of us was taking a morning walk.

Now the house is nearly gone, and it’s bittersweet. On the one hand, my town is losing one of its ancient homes, and my neighborhood is losing a piece of history. On the other hand, the house isn’t actually being destroyed. A post-and-beam company is  dismantling it, tagging each hand-hewn beam and support so that it can be reassembled somewhere else for a person who truly appreciates its significance. I have hope for the old place. Not so much for my neighborhood. I’m sure a subdivision will go into that acreage eventually.

I may lose some of you here, now that I’m about to wax literary. Everytime I go past what’s left of the house, I can’t help but think about a passage in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables. Bear with me, okay? Matthew Holgrave, the mysterious daguerreotype artist, is a boarder in the House. He is speaking to young Phoebe Pyncheon, the last descendant of a once-proud family:

I ought to have said, too, that we live in dead men’s houses; as, for instance, in this of the seven gables!”

“And why not,” said Phoebe, “so long as we can be comfortable in them?”

“But we shall live to see the day, I trust,” went on the artist, “when no man shall build his house for posterity. Why should he? He might just as reasonably order a durable suit of clothes,–leather, or gutta percha, or whatever else lasts longest,–so that his great-grandchildren should have the benefit of them, and cut precisely the same figure in the world that he himself does. If each generation were allowed and expected to build its own houses, that single change, comparatively unimportant in itself, would imply almost every reform which society is now suffering for. I doubt whether even our public edifices–our capitols, state-houses, court-houses, city-halls, and churches–ought to be built of such permanent materials as stone or brick. It were better that they should crumble to ruin, once in twenty years, or there-abouts, as a hint to the people to examine into and reform the institutions which they symbolize.”

The Turner-Ingersoll House in Salem
Now, I’m fairly sure Hawthorne/Holgrave is not actually advocating tearing down every building on the planet every twenty years and building something new in its place. What he is saying is that we should examine our beliefs about who and what we are as individuals. The histories of our families and of our communities should not shape or define us completely. Ultimately, each of us is responsible for creating her own “house” — whether that’s the physical building in which we live, or our own consciousness. Take what you can from the past, but build a new future on it.

Done with the literary criticism here! (You’re lucky. I could go on and on. I absolutely adore The House of the Seven Gables and can talk about it ad nauseum!) Click here for more information about the Turner-Ingersoll house in Salem, Massachusetts, Hawthorne’s real-life inspiration for his novel.  I’m pretty glad this place is still around. It’s one of my favorite places to visit. As for Hawthorne’s other most famous novel, The Scarlet Letter, I’ll tell you a secret. I’ve always thought that would make a wonderful musical. Can somebody call Andrew Lloyd Webber for me?

What about you? How much do you allow your history to influence your life? Or if you’re not feeling self-reflective, what book would you most like to see turned into a musical?