Thursday, August 2, 2018

One of the most important things a writer can do, to me, is to create characters we care about, that we want to see more of, and read more and more about long after their story ends. In that vein, I'm reviewing a movie that does exactly that and helped me inject more life into the series characters I created for Weddings by C &C. Enjoy!


Review: Mamma Mia!!! Here We Go Again

WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THIS MOVIE! DO NOT READ IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW!

My daughter dragged me to see Mamma Mia 1 way back. She literally came to my workplace, where I was putting in dozens of unpaid hours for an upcoming huge monitoring review and said, "We are going to the movies. Now."

I'm glad she did. It was fun, silly, and just what my overworked brain and body needed at the time.

So when Mamma Mia 2 was announced, there was no question my daughter and I would go see it. Only this time, with my granddaughter, too. Three generations, just like in the movie.

I'm glad we did.

Let me also say we were the youngest in the theater. It was filled with senior type couples. A group of senior ladies, obviously doing a 'girls afternoon out' sat about three rows behind us. They were almost better than the movie! The SANG (one was WAY off key, and made me feel better about my shower-only singing) and laughed, gasped and cried. I loved their reactions.

But to the movie...which upfront, is fluffy, fun, and not plot heavy. It's not going to win 'serious film' awards. And it's not meant to do that. It's meant to reunite us with our favorite ABBA performing megastars. And give us a whole lot of fun.

And damn if it didn't make me also sob like a bloody baby and leave the theater with my face a mess.

There are several inconsistencies from the first film, such as the order in which young Donna meets her three young lovers. There are definite variations from the pictures MM1 Sophie was shown of the three men in MM1. 

The young Donna, Rosey, and Tanya are PERFECT. They play the roles so well they could actually BE themselves 20 years younger or older. It's truly incredible and a delight to see.

Many characters return, including the stick bearing older woman from MM1 and the cameo piano playing actual ABBA band member. Almost all the main characters are there, in their 5 (actual 10) yr older appearances but I missed Tanya's young suitor, Harry's Greek paramour, and especially Sophie's two best friends from MM1. And I missed the 'big' hits...though I do love how the movie plays the instrumental songs from MM1 in the background as we see the older versions.

The 'present day' story picks up around five years after the ending of Mamma Mia 1. Sophie and Skye have traveled the world and now she's back on the 'little island'. Skye is in New York, training at the 'finest hotel' available (it's not named, probably a wise diplomatic intentional move). Sam lives on the island as well. Bill is in Sweden receiving and award and Harry is contract negoiating in Japan. Sophie has worked hard to make the hotel Donna bought with money Aunt Sophia (and Sophie's namesake) left her. She's made it the perfect 'romantic getaway' discussed in the first film. It's really gorgeous and made me want to take a Greek vacation.

And during a breakup phone call between Skye and Sophie, we learn a shocking twist that literally made our entire theater scream, "NO!" MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD>>>>>

Sophie and Sam especially, are in deep mourning. Sam plays this so very well, to the point you feel his pain. Sophie plays her grief and reasons for staying on the island forever, fulfilling her mother's dream, also very well. Some at the start, in the middle, and particularly at the end. We see Tanya and Rosey experiencing and dealing with their sorrow with Rosey crying anytime a certain name is mentioned.

Donna, you see, has died about a year ago. And Sophie is determined to make her proud and finish the work Donna began making the hotel all Donna dreamed it could be. As Sam recalls his 'dancing queen', we go back 20 years, to the very young Donna, Rosey, and Tanya at their college graduation.

The ceremony is a HOOT. Shocking, surprising, and would never be allowed now. We hear the song, 'I Kissed the Teacher", a lesser known (at least to me) ABBA hit. Then Donna decides to go off and see the world, with a bit of reference to finding places for the girl band to perform.

Paris is first, where she meets young Harry. The scene where they perform 'Waterloo' in the middle of a Paris cafe made me giggle. Waterloo didn't go so well for the French as I recall, so singing a song about it in Paris...well. The inclusion of all races, genders, and abilities is shown in the dance scene, with a solo of a woman in a wheelchair (which to me looked way too modern to be in a 1970's cafe, but that's nitpicky). 

Second is Greece and the 'little island' where Donna finds the 'old farmhouse' (which is literally falling apart) that will become the hotel, a trapped horse, plus Bill and Sam. Bill she meets after she misses the ferry and he sails her to the island, doing his best to 'score' and failing. There's an adorable scene of 'true love' with another couple who come back later in the movie.

Donna and Sam have instant chemistry, and she ends up spending his week with him. Then Sam leaves to fulfill his engagement and she's broken. In every way. She finds Sophia, Sophia's bar & band owning son,(they are...not great, and funny as heck) and wrangles a gig for the girl band. 

Rosey and Tanya arrive for the gig and do their best to cheer up broken hearted Donna, including Tanya shoving her toward Bill (who has returned) even as Rosey lusts after him for herself. We learn here Rosey wanted Bill from the start, and only stepped aside for Donna. THAT's a TRUE friend. Rosey solution to disappointment and heartbreak? CAKE. 

Did I mention I most identify with Rosey? She's a writer, after all, and she thinks a cake is an answer to everything. I love that woman.
(See, I think of them as people, as a reader/viewer should, not as a 'character' even as my logical mind tells me they are simply characters, I still feel I KNOW them. THAT, my dears, is the mark of great writing).

Bill is her 'rebound'. It's obvious, but she also likes him, in a friend type way. I was disappointed Rosey didn't get her chance, to be honest, but then that would have been a huge deviation from MM1.

Donna learns she's pregnant as Sophie, present day, learns she is, too. Present day is a mess, with the planned huge re-opening Gala for the hotel canceled and ruined by a huge storm. All seems lost...then Bill and Harry arrive with dozens of local fishermen. The scene with the two of them recreating the iconic scene from Titanic is one of the funniest of the movie.

Here is 'Dancing Queen' and it's spectacular. The hotel folks are bobbing and dancing and the those in the ships are moving and grooving. Those in the hotel join those from the boats on the dock, where Sophie and Sam reunite with Harry, Bill, and Skye. Rosey and Bill are on the rocks: she just can't abide his roaming eye any longer.

The party is on...and an unexpected visit from Grandma (Cher) makes it complete, with tons of music, a lost love found, 2 characters on the rocks achieving smooth sailing again and Skye declaring Sophie is more important than anything, and the announcement of Sophie's pregnancy.

As Sophie gets her lifelong chance to be part of 'Donna and the Dynamos', we see young Donna giving birth aided by Aunt Sophia. It's powerful, tear-jerking, and really makes the movie more special and less 'fluff'.

Cher performs 'Fernando' aided by epic fireworks.

But the best scene to me, though I sobbed through it....

As Donna in the past walks to the little chapel on the top of the hill to christen baby Sop, Sophie and all in the present do the same for Sophie's son. It's powerful and absolutely heartbreaking as Donna, from MM1 appears seen only by Sophie. She and Sophie sing together as mothers.

Oh. My. God. Tearing up again as I type this.

Stay for the end scene song, with the whole cast, including Cher and Meryl S. There's also an end fo credits scene that is cute and funny.

So all in all, go see Mamma Mia 2, and take tissues. 

Now I'm off to create characters who make my readers feel they are real.....

Friday, June 8, 2018

Featured Author Today: In her 'real life', she's battling cancer. Please help support her fight and enjoy some great stories at the same time!

Lorelei's Lyric (Southern Elemental Guardians Book 1) is currently free on Amazon:






Blurb:

If Lorelei sings, someone will die.

Her beautiful voice once cost a life. Still, music is her passion. What’s a mermaid to do? Runoff and live vicariously through mortal musicians!

Unfortunately, gorgeous rocker Vance Idol almost succumbs to her siren call after his show in Nashville. Not that Vance cares—not since his girlfriend’s fatal overdose left him with a supersized death wish. Lorelei makes it her mission to undo the damage and help this talented and charismatic man on the eve of his band’s big break.

But saving a mortal man is a dangerous proposition. Lorelei could far too easily lose her heart, and quite possibly her immortality, during her American holiday. Bad boy Vance might be worth the risk.

Can their love survive his attitude, her fins, and an evil Pixie with a grudge against them both?

***

Winner of InD'Tale Magazine's 2016 Recognition of Novel Excellence Award, Paranormal Romance

Honorable Mention in the 2017 North Street Book Prize Competition

Lorelei’s Lyric is brilliantly clever with its unique blend of Southern humor and poignant mermaid mythology. Modern-day Siren, Lorelei, traveling to The Music City of Nashville? One helluva great premise that hooked me at page one! I fell in love with this shape-shifting Siren and her romance with aspiring rocker Vance Idol. One of those rare books that will have you laughing and sighing and crying, touching your heart just as great music touches your soul. A must read!

—Debbie Herbert, USA Today bestselling author of the Dark Seas series (Siren’s Secret, Siren’s Treasure, and Siren’s Call)

Lorelei's Lyric made me swoon! A perfect blend of mermaid magic and rock-star grit, Sieders' charming, irresistibly sexy tale gives us a love story to believe in. I can't wait to read more!

—Jeri Smith-Ready, Award-winning author of Requiem for the Devil, the WVMP Radio series, and the Shade Trilogy

***



Chasing the Dead: is a 99c UF story


Blurb:

SHORT STORY OF THE SOUL BROKER SERIES
The Reaper Hungers Like No Other.
An old enemy from the other side of afterlife management cheated him out of his last soul. Now the Reaper seeks an ordinary meal of desperation, anguish, and despair from the next human on his docket. Unfortunately, interference in the way of a meddlesome mortal woman thwarts his plan.
Naturally, this woman must pay. But Vivian Bedford is no ordinary mortal. Her interference in his reaping is decidedly supernatural. Lazarus Darkmore has been on the hunt for a challenge, an exquisitely damaged soul from whom he can siphon darkness. Vivian could be that soul.
Then again, if she possesses the power of a Soul Broker, she could prove more valuable—if she survives the Reaper’s gauntlet.
***

Lazarus Darkmore is a Reaper and is looking for a meal of desperation, anguish, and despair by a mortal woman called Vivian Bedford gets in the way. He is intrigued and looking forward to finding out more about her as she appears to be useful with the power of a Soul Broker.

This is a short story prequel to the Soul Broker series. It very nicely sets the scene for what is to come and having read the first two books in the series it was nice to have a bit more of the background. It was well written and I think gave a great taster for anyone who is new to the series. If you enjoy this you will definitely enjoy the series.

—Mandy Parmenter, MP Book Reviews





Thursday, May 31, 2018

Book 4 in the 
Weddings by C & C Series!

TAKE ON ME

It's with great pleasure and delight I introduce you to the next Weddings by C & C book. These two found their way into my heart and patiently bore with me through the months and years, a complete rewrite, and several twists and turns to their tale being told.

And they tell it well if I do say so myself -s-

While Books 1-3 in the series focused on the Founders of C & C and their children, the next few books are focused more on friends and families. 

In 'Take on Me', you meet six very handsome cowboys and a landscape much different from tiny Abbyville, NC or Hilo, Hawaii. You'll also meet one determined 'runaway bride' and the World's Sexiest Man.

Cowboy, anyone?


But I jump ahead...

Tom Williamson defines 'megastar'. At the top of his field, his face, body, and lifestyle is known to millions. He appears to have it all, and more. It takes a literal woman falling into his lap to realize all is not what it seems.

Tom just needed a brief dip...


Kirsten is Tom's ultimate fangirl. His face decorates her fantasies, sleeping and awake. Him, in the flesh, asking her for dinner is a dream come true. The undeniable chemistry between them leads to a series of spiraling events that charts the globe and could, maybe, possibly, lead to the love of a lifetime.

Tom and Kir's story is, I admit, partially grounded in real life, as all good stories are. Don't we wish the object of our dreams would look at us, talk to us, give us an unforgettable night? Maybe, just possibly, a kiss or a LOOK?

My fangirl crush. One of them -w-


For me, it's the actor who plays Sherlock and Doctor Strange. If he EVER turned those eyes on me....*fans*. The odds are greater for me to win the Powerball lottery than for that ever to happen.

But for Kir...it becomes all too real, all too fast. And it's not a dream.

I also have a big family. It's rewarding, loving, infuriating and hell on earth sometimes. For Tom, who has never truly known what 'family' is, meeting Kir's 6 brothers is eye-opening. And when events turn tragic, Family is created in ways no one could foresee.

Bit of a subtle (as a brick) hint...


Like Tom, I reinvented myself to escape a pain I couldn't face. It takes courage to start fresh from nothing. It takes compassion to understand a person who could.

And I may not be a 'megastar' but I realize how life on the 'other side' of the spotlight is NOT fame, glory, and gold. It's intrusive, it's demeaning, and it can be deadly. Many relationships can't survive the glare of the media. Tom and Kirsten will be tested in ways neither could imagine.



And I have dreams and goals. Don't we all? I freely acknowledge what I saw for myself at age 20, even age 30, is FAR from where I actually am. Dreams and Goals can, and really should change. 

As one of my favorite Doctors says, (sorta paraphrasing here) "We all change, move on, become different people, and that's okay. As long as we don't forget the people we used to be."

I'm not who I dreamed I would be. I'd like to think I'm better. I didn't meet all my Goals (yet!) but I also took paths and found people, experiences, places, LIFE I never expected. And I'm a better person for it all.
But I never forget that girl who once lay on a hot Summer ground under a Carolina blue sky and dreamed. Because even if she grew up, she's still very much alive and kicking inside me.

I'll always seek the Love Story -s-


And that girl is jumping up and down screaming with delight at giving you 'Take on Me' to read. Let me know what you think of Tom and Kirsten's incredible journey. 

Now...find a quiet place, fix the pillows, have some chocolate nut clusters at hand, and take a wild flight with Tom and Kirsten. We've got a story to share with you.





Sunday, May 20, 2018

Royal Wedding!!!!!

It's the Day after THE Wedding of the Year! 

Is there anything as spectacular as a Royal Wedding? As one commenter stated, "This will be the last Royal Wedding of this scale, and this close to the throne for many years to come". The next 'close to the throne' Royal Wedding will be when William and Catherine's kids get married... or when Harry & Meghan's do. (Yes, Princess Eugenie gets married in 5 months, but she's 8th in the line, and unlikely to be Queen). So we all HAD to enjoy this one, right?

Just a few of my thoughts on the Royal Wedding:


·         William and Harry are really Thor & Loki in disguise. 
Seriously, think about this a second:
                ~~ William is going to be King, just like Thor
                ~~ Harry is a jokester, just like Loki
                ~~ They are both sons of the King
                ~~ Heimdall (Idris Elba) was at Harry/Loki’s wedding



·         William looks most like Diana but Harry has the most personality like Diana

And she would be so, so proud of her boys


·         Harry is going bald the same way William and Charles did!
See?

·If Your Groom/Husband/Boyfriend/Partner doesn't look at You like THIS, get rid of him:

· If You don't look at your Husband/Groom/Boyfriend/Partner THIS way, you should leave:



·         LOVED the flowers and the tributes to Diana



· The Queen and Prince Phillip...wow. In their 90's and the LOOKS:
Married 70(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and a half years and the way she looks at him like he hung the moon just for her. Bodes well for the new royal couple, doesn't it?
England has a Class Act in their Queen. 

·         It’s a WEDDING, not an ‘event’ and they made it a WEDDING not an event

Whether you like the address from the Minister or not, whether you liked the informality, or venue, or order of service, or the way the bride walked herself down the aisle, or anything else, it was first and foremost Harry & Meghan's Wedding. And it ROCKED because they made it theirs.

·         OMG Princess Charlotte is a total doll!!!

How can anyone not go, "Awwwwwwww"?

·         Keeping the small kids in a separate room probably helped them behave so well
They were in the back room, not the front venue, and probably allowed to fidget and talk and move...all the things young kids naturally do. If you have young kids in the wedding, this is the way to do it.


·         Everyone should have a moment that makes them look like the pageboy when the trumpets played

Just look at his expression! He's delighted and surprised and amazed and happy. We ALL deserve a moment like this, don't you think?
         
·Horses are like kids and they don’t always do what they ‘should’

"I ain't gonna do it and you can't make me! Come on, let's party a little, shall we? I've been standing at attention for two %^&* hours!!!"


·         GINGERS RULE!!!
Always :)

I didn't like her dress. Sorry, folks, but it was plain, and to me, sort of ugly. Not at all 'Princess-y', but if she liked it, that's all which matters :)
I didn't like the cake either. It looked like someone forgot how to make LAYERS and so they had to be separated. NOT my idea of a wedding cake at all. And where was the topper???
I sorta liked their 'real' names were used only right at the beginning and then their 'go by' names were used after. It was 'them'.

What did You Like/Dislike about the Royal Wedding?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Wedding, Volcanoes, and MORE


It's Royal Wedding time (again!). Congrats to Prince Harry and Meghan M!

 I write about weddings. And brides, and grooms, and married life. I love them. Not my own, of course, but weddings in general. the dress, the cake, the attendants. All the drama which goes on behind the scenes. What made this couple decide to take a huge leap and join together forever.

And there's just something about a Royal Wedding. As a kid, I got up way early, sat on the floor with a bowl of cereal and watched Lady Diana marry Prince Charles. What little girl didn't want to be Diana at that moment? Marrying a real-life Prince! And her gown...and flowers...le sigh.

I watched Prince William marry Ms. Catherine while on my internship at work. And sighed. And thought how happy they looked. How very much in love. And how Diana would have loved it.

And a series was born.

I wonder what new stories Prince Harry's wedding will bring me?


A couple of years ago, I visited Australia and had an unexpected stopover in Hawaii (read more about that in 'Take a Chance on Me'). As we took to the air to fly to LA, the pilot did a 'flyover' of the Big Island. Through the crystal blue water, the huge underwater volcanoes could be seen, reminding me the Paradise Islands that compose our 50th State is actually a work always in progress, the true Never Ending Story, always being destroyed, rebuilt, and remade.

I had an amazing Hawaiian friend who patiently answered all my questions about Pele, the Goddess who lives in Hawaii's Mount Kilauea. When she is angry, the volcano erupts. When she's at peace, the volcano is somewhat calm. Since Mount K has been erupting continually for years, Pele must be upset about something.

And a story was born.

Based on my Hawaiian friend, Charlie came to sit by my desk and tell me all about his friend Harry. And his sister Alyssa. How they had been friends all their lives and now Harry had finally decided to make a move. Then Aly had to tell her version, Harry added his, and to my surprise...I dreamed of Pele and she told me her side!

So two years before the now erupting Mt. K (this is written in May 2018), I wrote of Pele's anger and Mt. K erupting. That story releases in a few weeks.

Maybe I should write how I win the lottery next?



So yes, after a three-year absence, the 'Weddings by C & C' series is finally going to continue! 

First up: Tom and Kirsten. Much more from them later. Book 4: Take on Me

Then later this Summer... meet Harry, Aly, and Pele. Book 5: Let Me Know

Return to Abbyville and meet Monica and Daniel (and a whole town of...um, nice way to say...odd... characters in 'When You Believe'.

And I'm kicking off a new series of fairy tales with a modern edge: Leave Your Hat On.

Stay tuned for more! Cheerio now, I've high tea to prepare and a wedding and volcano to watch.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Write What You Know...Or RESEARCH





We've all heard the saying, "Write what you know". There's a reason for this. If you write what you know, presumably, you are creditable. Because you know what you are talking about.

I love what a favorite author says as well: "Write what you know and research the hell out of what you don't. Because there is ALWAYS someone out there smarter than you who lives it."

She's so correct! If you want to write about a nuclear scientist heroine who lives on a ranch in Colorado, please research Colorado Ranches. They are different from Texas Ranches. They are different near Denver than they are in Pueblo.

Texas Ranch
Colorado Ranch


And research street names. Town history. Customs. Facts. Best of all, find someone who has lived there a long time and pick their brain restlessly (with their assistance of course) about the area and anything that pertains, no matter how little, to your novel.

Why? Why? Why???


Years ago, I had the honor of judging an unpublished authors novel contest. I was particularly excited to read a story set in the same general area where I lived. Since names were NOT allowed on the novels, I have no idea who the author was, but here's what 'failed' her book for me:

She called the main Interstate which runs East-West through the USA and my whole state 'street' or 'highway'. Not a deal breaker for me, so I noted in comments she might want to change it to 'interstate' since the terms she used didn't fully encompass the Interstate.

 THIS was the book  'DNF' (Did Not Finish) point for me:
There's a section of this same Interstate that is extremely dangerous, especially in the winter. It twists, turns and basically drops in elevation with limited guard rails and visibility over 6-10 miles. On a clear Summer day it takes around 15 minutes to drive, because the speed limit is 25 mph. And the police enforce that speed like demons. There's dozens of 'ramps' for trucks to 'reduce speed' going down this way steep grade.



On winter days...it's often closed at the first sign of ice. It's just too dangerous. people have died there. A lot of people. When open, a state trooper and highway crews monitor it constantly 24/7 to assist motorists and make sure if an accident happens, they clear it fast so more accidents don't happen because cars can't see the wreck around a curve.



She wrote the hero drove in a 'blinding blizzard of snow and ice', at night, at 100 mph in a semi-truck over this section. He completed the feat in 3 minutes.

Her hero would be dead.

That one half page section took away every bit of credibility for me. The plot, her characters, all of it was not enough to draw me from the fact she obviously didn't live here, didn't ever drive that section, and didn't, most of all, RESEARCH.

Yes, I'm a picky reader. But I LIVE here. I KNOW that section of Interstate and there's not a Trucker on earth, space, or Heaven who would drive that section at 100 mph! If he/she could even get ON that section in a snowstorm in a semi. The troopers offer hotel rooms before allowing semis on that section in a blizzard.

RESEARCH fellow writers. For the Love of your Readers, RESEARCH.

Just today, a friend of mine posted an article about an activity here in my state. Several of the 'facts' were misrepresented, and could have been easily fixed with a 'search'. For example, the article writer (NOT my friend, just to be clear) had the wrong mountain here listed as the 'highest in the Eastern US'. She also had the times the activity began and ended wrong. Little things, maybe, but again, credibility that make me want to never read another article from this 'writer' again.

PLEASEEEEEEEEE RESEARCH.

And least anyone think I'm 'picking' on other writers:

I'm not perfect either (yes, feel free to GASP here. It's a shock ;).

For example:

I'm forever grateful to my editor who caught I had a second story on a house in Book 3 when there was no second story on the same house in Book 2.




I had a pregnant heroine wear a lei in a Hawaiian wedding ceremony. It is considered very bad luck to an unborn baby if a mother wears a 'closed lei' (a complete circle, as most leis are) while she is pregnant. I'd never considered or heard this, and my Hawaiian friend easily caught it for me.
Open Lei

Closed leis




A really sharp eyed reader called me on the spelling of a minor character's name. I had it spelled with 'K' in Book 1 and then with 'C' by Book 3. Completely missed it, because it was the 'same' name. But the reader was right: the spelling changed the name. And my credibility.



To be taken as a 'Serious Writer' regardless if it's novels, articles, notes, etc. Make sure you know your facts and RESEARCH.

Now please excuse me. I need to research if it's possible to kiss someone while flying an airplane......