Category Archives: Interviews

The Playground

Howdy folks, today I’m lit (that’s uber-cool young people speak for fired-up and excited, because I’m so down with the kids) as we have a special guest. Please join me in welcoming the very gorgeous Lisa Burton! Lisa is author C.S. Boyack’s spokesmodel, and let me tell you, she is one glamorous and feisty chick. You may recall that Craig Boyack previously visited me himself, and we made bread rolls together  while chatting about his book, Will ‘O the Wisp. Lisa and I aren’t going to do any baking today, but I do have a little challenge for her. Hi Lisa, welcome…wait, is that a bust of Craig himself you’re leaning on there?

Lisa leaning on bust of Craig Boyack

Hi Vanessa, yes it is, I miss him when I’m travelling. Sigh. Thanks for inviting me over to talk about his newest book, The Playground. But what’s all this about a challenge?

Don’t worry about that Lisa, it’s easy. In the meantime, I hope you don’t mind taking the lime?

Taking the lime? Is that more cool kid-speak?

No. Notice how I’ve made your words lime green? L is for Lisa, and L is for lime, see? This is a clue about the challenge coming up.

Oh I see…I think.

Well let’s crack on Lisa. What can you tell me about the book?

Book cover of The Playground

This one is another paranormal tale, but Craig’s making me tell people it’s paranormal with science fiction sprinkles on top. There is a bit of near future technology in this one. Mainly the Playground Dolls, and the social network they contain.

A social network contained in dolls? Why dolls?

The network is marketed to children. They tell parents their kids can make friends all over the world, get help with homework, and learn from other cultures. That’s a bunch of bull though. The man behind it all is using the network to brainwash the children, and grow his own army.

Oh my goodness, sounds chilling. What are the characters in the book like?

Craig went with three main characters this time. It’s almost like three short stories, but they weave together to tell a bigger story. Chloe is a little girl who gets a Playground doll for Christmas. Her job is to illustrate what all the children are going through.

Gina is a doctor who just had her own brush with the paranormal. She really doesn’t want anything to do with it, but could be the only person who can bring down the network.

Then there’s Clovis. He’s a giant of a man, and he’s calculating and brutal. He’s working for the bad guy, and has a head start on Gina. He grows on you after a while though.

Sounds great Lisa. I can’t wait to read it, in fact, do you mind waiting while I read it now?

Waiting while you read the whole book? Erm…well…ooh! I can’t believe I’m bringing this up myself, but didn’t you say you had some kind of challenge for me Vanessa?

Oh yes, the challenge. Okay, we’ll do that first. Then I’ll read the book while you wait. Right, so the book is called The Playground, what I want you to do is tell me something about the book for each of the letters of PLAYGROUND.

Okay sure, let’s see…

– P is for parasite. There is only one, but it’s really important to the story.

– L is for Gina’s lamp. It allows her to see what people are really like.

– A is for angel — of death.

– Y is for youth, that passes for the children.

– G is for GTO, as in Pontiac GTO.

– R is for regents, the kind that are in charge.

– O is for oracle, there isn’t one, but– well, you’ll see.

– U is for the underworld.

– N is for New Orleans.

– D is for the dog. There’s only one of those too, but he makes a great sidekick.

That was tough. I could have used some of the letters multiple times, and others were hard.

Well done Lisa, you passed the challenge! Very intriguing, I guess we’ll have to read the book to understand some of those. Speaking of which, you sit quietly now while I read it all…

Well er, before that, part of my job is to hand out posters for the book. I brought you a picture of me hanging Gina’s blunderbuss up in the writing cabin. Craig thought it was so cool he had to display it permanently. I’ll just put the poster up shall I?

Lisa Burton poster

Ooh, what a lovely poster, please do! Wait…you’re not trying to distract me from reading the book right now are you?

Not at all. Can I just say though Vanessa, I love your hair. Ours is almost the same color. Would you ever consider playing me in a book trailer? Craig has a book of short stories coming this Fall, and you could read one of the micros.

Me? You guys would want me to do that? Oh wow, oh YES YES YES!!! I would love to! What fun, I can’t wait, shall we set a date now before you go? We’ll be best friends, we’ll have sleepovers and braid each other’s hair, it’ll be so much fun! Hang on a minute…wasn’t there something else I was just going to do?

I don’t think so Vanessa, that was it, well I must go, thank you so much for having me over, bye!

Bye Lisa!…I’m sure there was something I was going to do before she left…what was it? Oh yes, read the book! Lisa! Lisa come back, I haven’t read the book yet! Darn it, she’s gone, she’s going to be SO disappointed when she remembers.

——————
Well folks, I hope you enjoyed Lisa’s visit, I know I did. And finally, here are all the essential links:

The Playground on Amazon and on Amazon UK
The Playground on Goodreads
Find out more about Craig and follow his blog
Check out the rest of his novels here
Follow him on Twitter
Craig’s Facebook
Lisa Burton’s Facebook (Oh yes, she has her own)

The cover for The Playground, and all the Lisa Burton images were created for Craig Boyack by artist Sean Harrington.

Is Your Attention Span in Need of Attention?

I was commenting to someone recently about how short my attention span is, and how consequently I often have trouble following the plot of movies if they’re any more complicated than a rom-com. My mind wanders off somewhere else, and then…er…then…what was I saying? Something about cats was it? Or milk, yes I need to buy some milk. No, movies! Anyway, I decided to create a little comic strip to illustrate what it’s like to watch a movie with me, so that you can see what poor Neil has to put up with (you’ll probably need to click on the picture to make it bigger so that you can read it) –

Vanessa comic strip

Anyone else have this same trouble?

By contrast, here is a really cool video of somebody who has a super long attention span. In 1977, At the age of 18, this guy video’d himself interviewing his older future self, and then waited 38 years to film his older self replying. It’s really worth watching, very poignant in places. It’s 3mins 58secs long.

How’s your attention span? …Hello? You still there?

Will O’ the Wisp

Vanessa pointing at Will O the Wisp book

Today I’m joined by blogging author friend extraordinaire, Craig Boyack. He’s here to talk about his wonderful latest novel, Will O’ The Wisp. Well he thinks he’s here to talk about that, but we’ll have to see how that works out. Welcome Craig!

Thanks Vanessa. What did you mean we’ll have to see how that works out?

Don’t worry about that. Now, I thought it would be fun for us to do a little activity while we chat. So, if I say “Book” to you, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?

Reading.

Wrong!

But you asked for the first thing that comes to my mind.

I know I did Craig, and you got it wrong. Try again.

Erm…writing?

Wrong!

Ok Vanessa, well why don’t you tell me what the first thing is to come to my mind when you say “Book”?

Baking.

Baking?

Yes baking. Book begins with ‘b’, baking begins with ‘b’. You and I both like baking. So books make you think of baking. See how it all makes sense now?

Well…er…I guess so.

So we’re going to bake some bread rolls while we chat, yay! Come on Craig, let’s get stuck in. You measure out the flour and tell me this – In Will O’ the Wisp, your protagonist Patty Hall is fifteen years old, but what were you doing when you were fifteen?

Patty is about a year older than I was at the time the book is set. I’m also from a small agricultural area, but it was all ranching in my hometown. We used to camp under the stars, and watching satellites was a regular thing. My friends and I were very close, and there are similarities in the story. Patty wasn’t a band geek, but I was.

Ok great, now you measure out the rest of the ingredients and start mixing it all together while you tell us something about yourself that you’ve never mentioned on your blog, and then you can start kneading the dough.

That’s quite a challenge, because I’m pretty open. I’ve discussed medical issues and all kinds of things. As a blogger, I’m always looking for something to post about. I’m going to have to go back in time for this one. In 1990, I was in the desert northwest of Las Vegas. I found a desert bighorn skull and brought it home. I used one horn to make some pretty grips for a Colt six shooter I own. My brother and I worked on them together, and I treasure them.

Gosh! Now come on, I said to start kneading the dough.

Out of interest, which part of making the rolls are you actually doing Vanessa?

It’s not about who does which part, it’s about sharing the experience. Now come on, put some effort in, and then you can leave the dough to rise. While you’re doing that, I’d like you to select three adjectives to describe your book.

Only three? Here we go: suspenseful, magical, and thrilling.

Rather like making these bread rolls with me then. Don’t forget to time the rising of the dough, then it’ll need a second rising after you’ve shaped it into rolls. I always say you can tell a lot about a man by how he shapes his rolls. Also by what he has on his desk, so tell me something you have on your desk that doesn’t really belong on a desk?

I have a live shamrock on my desk. I also have a couple of stress balls, but those probably belong there.

I was going to guess a shamrock and stress balls! I’m very intuitive like that Craig. Now, every story has some kind of moral, so what would you say is the moral of your story?

Me? Write a story with a moral? This is a coming of age story, and it’s a very big part of the story. Patty has to deal with all the issues any teenager has to deal with, plus deal with something that wants to kill her. She isn’t allowed to hide behind her parents and let them deal with her problem. The moral is that nothing good can happen until the hero acts. I know two specific people who could benefit from less analysis of problems and more action, so I’ll stand by that moral.

That’s an excellent moral, exactly what I would expect from a shamrock and stress balls type of guy. Right, I’ve saved the best question till last. This one will take some thinking about, so you can finish off making the rolls and putting them in the oven while you think. I want you to choose one sentence, just one, from Will O’ the Wisp that you think will really pique people’s interest.

Ouch, Vanessa. You said these would be challenging, but I thought it was in a “ha ha, let’s have a drink” kind of way. I pride myself on short direct sentences too. Here you go:

“The tea leaves left the shape of a perfect open book, like someone pushed them that way with a spoon.”

Ooh, intriguing. Let’s have a look at those rolls now…

Vanessa and Craig with bread rolls

Well Craig, seeing as you were such a good bread roll making assistant, I will now let you give us the book blurb and relevant links.

Thank you Vanessa, here goes…

There is something evil up Bergamot Holler, and it’s been targeting the Hall family for generations.

Patty Hall is fifteen years old. She loves stargazing, science fiction, and all things related to space exploration. This leaves her perfectly prepared for the wrong problem.

Patty is afraid her mother will send her to a care facility if she tells her what she’s seen. If she doesn’t figure things out soon, she’s going to join her father in the Hall family cemetery plot.

Patty has to come to grips with her own physical handicap, survive the wilderness, and face an ancient evil all alone if she’s going to survive.

Will O’ the Wisp is suitable for young adults. It involves strong elements of suspense, and is set in the mid 1970s.

– Follow my blog: http://coldhandboyack.wordpress.com

– Check out my novels here: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00ILXBXUY

– Follow me on Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/Virgilante

– On Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9841203.C_S_Boyack

– Buy Will O’ the Wisp here (for those in Northern American Continent) http://a-fwd.com/asin-com=B00UPH6BNS

– Buy Will O’ the Wisp here (Rest of the world) http://a-fwd.com/asin-com=B00UQNDT2C

What fun we’ve had today, thanks for coming by Craig.

Thank you Vanessa.

Homophobia and Suicide

Matt and Naz
On 30 July 2014, my (real life) friend Matt lost his partner of 13 years, Naz, to suicide. Two days earlier Naz had emotionally “admitted he was gay” to his family. Naz had felt unable to tell them before that because of their religious beliefs.

Matt was determined to make some good come of this tragedy, and has campaigned tirelessly since then to raise awareness of the devastating human impact caused by religion-based homophobia. He set up the Naz & Matt Foundation, now a registered charity, to provide free support to LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Intersex) individuals, their friends and family, to help resolve challenges linked to sexuality or gender identity, particularly where a religion is directing the situation.

Matt is a peaceful campaigner, he is not looking to spread hate, just understanding, love, and acceptance. Matt has appeared on both BBC news and Sky news to talk about the Naz and Matt Foundation, and Naz and Matt’s story was published in The Guardian last Saturday. The least I could do was to give him a platform here to talk about their latest project.

Matt, over to you…

Thank you Vanessa. To highlight the issues to the wider public, and encourage them to take action, we are planning a 130 mile, 8 day sponsored journey from London to Birmingham in April this year. “The Journey to Find Acceptance”, will carry a message of love and acceptance as we travel through each town along the way. The majority of the journey will be walked. We will be filming the journey as we engage with religious communities in each town that we walk through – to gauge public opinion and explore individual attitudes towards acceptance if their own children were to come out as being gay.

Matt with camera strapped on head

Matt trying out his film equipment for the walk

Do you have a plan for the journey Matt?

We have a rough plan, it may change as we finalise the details:

Friday 17th April (evening) – London
Opening Party at Club Kali

Saturday 18th April (meet 10am, 11am start) – London
Start of walk – from West Hampstead Cemetery

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, 19th-23nd April
The main journey, travelling through Hendon, Watford, Luton, Milton Keynes, Milton Manor (Northamptonshire), Rugby and Coventry

Friday 24th April (evening) – Birmingahm
Closing party at Saathi Night (@Nightingales)

Saturday 25th April (approx 10.30am) – Birmingham
Final walking leg of walk, from the Nightingale Club to Handsworth Cemetery

We will celebrate all the beautiful people who have struggled, and continue to struggle, to find acceptance from their families and the communities they live in. And to remember the life and soul of Naz (Dr Nazim Mahmood) who spent his whole life helping other people.

Matt and Naz on a sunny day

That sounds like quite a journey Matt. How can people help?

There are a few ways people can help:

1) They can join us for any part of the journey, particularly the start in London on 18th April. Please dress fabulous or in drag to make a statement! Like our Facebook page to keep updated on plans for the journey.

2) They can sponsor the journey through JustGiving – follow the ‘Donate’ link on the Naz & Matt Foundation site.

3) They can help spread the word in any way they choose.

Thank you for coming by to tell us about this Matt. I knew Naz to be an incredibly kind, generous, warm-hearted man, and it’s a truly wonderful thing you’re doing here in his memory. I wish you all the luck in the world.

Thank you Vanessa, and thank you for having us here.

Matt and Naz's initials in the sand

An SEO Expert Walks into a Bar, Bars, Pub, Tavern…

Cortana and SiriThe SEO joke was told to me by Cortana, it’s not a joke she made up herself, she’s not THAT good, it’s not a new joke either, you may already have heard it in fact.

Before I carry on, I should first say that this post was inspired by one on Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride, she had a quite a scoop, an ACTUAL interview with the ACTUAL real person who provided the voice for the ACTUAL Siri. Oh yes! If you didn’t see it, you must hop on over and read it, but not yet, read my post first, ok?

Well, it got me wondering. There is much fun to be had interacting with Siri or Cortana, but which one of them is funnier? We have both Cortana and Siri in our house so I wanted to find out which one would be funnier if I put them to the test.

I started off by asking Cortana to tell me a joke, and you’ve seen the result of that, so what did Siri come up with when I asked her for a joke?

SIRI: What did one iPhone say to the other…hmm, I used to know this one.

Ok, I’m not sure if it’s a very funny joke that I don’t really get, or if the joke is that Siri can’t remember the joke? Or if she just really can’t remember. I went for another round and asked them each for another joke:

CORTANA: What kind of underwear do clouds wear? Thunderpants.

SIRI: If I told you a joke in my language, I’d have to explain it.

So again, Cortana told an actual joke, whereas Siri didn’t, unless what she said is meant to be funny, in which case, well, humour is in the eye of the beholder, or something like that right?

I tried again, tell me a joke!

CORTANA: Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

SIRI: The past, present and future walk into a bar. It was tense.

Well that round goes to Siri. Sorry Cortana but it’s really stretching things to call that a joke. Siri, you gave us a chuckle – I have heard that joke before, but that didn’t stop me chuckling again.

I tried for some more jokes, Siri decided she didn’t want to play anymore and kept saying that she didn’t know any jokes, personally I think she just feels that joke telling is beneath her, she has a point. Cortana was happy to oblige though with a couple more…

CORTANA: What did the zero say to the eight? Nice belt.

CORTANA: The barman says, “We don’t serve time travelers in here.” A time traveler walks into a bar.

Those aren’t bad, but really, I was hoping for more. I then rephrased things, rather than asking for a joke, I said “Tell me something funny.”

CORTANA: What do we want? Time Travel! When do we want it? It’s irrelevant…

SIRI: Siri, get Siri-ous. Ha ha!

Cortana clearly likes time travel humour. Siri, well, I expect she was just being ironic.

Then finally I went in with the ultimate question. I asked Cortana if she was funnier than Siri, and I asked Siri if she was funnier than Cortana…

CORTANA: I suppose the answer’s yes in at least one parallel universe.

SIRI: I’m afraid I can’t answer that.

Sorry Siri, but Cortana’s answer was way better than yours there.

Well there we have it folks. My sophisticated piece of research concludes that overall Cortana wins when it comes to being funnier. Or at least when it comes to being specifically asked to be funny, which is not necessarily the same thing.

Do you use Siri/Cortana or any other similar voice assistant? If so, do you actually use it for useful things, or just for entertainment?

Come and Play with Lorna to Win an Amazon Gift Card!

Lorna Lee talking

Would you like to meet Lorna? Would you like to play a game called Truth or Fiction? Would you like to win a £10 (approx $16 USD) Amazon Gift card? Of course you would!

Lorna Lee has just written and published her second book, a wonderful novel called Never Turn Backwhich I LOVED. 

Never Turn Back

It is based on the life of her grandmother and is part fiction, part reality, which is what led Lorna and I to come up with this genius idea of playing Truth or Fiction. I’m SO excited to play this!

First, let’s meet the lady herself. Hello Lorna, welcome, could you please tell everyone about the game?

Hi Vanessa, thank you, yes certainly I can, but first maybe we should tell them about…

Hang on! Sorry to interrupt, but I’m too excited! I’ll just tell everyone about the game myself! Is that ok?

Er, well yes, but maybe first we should tell them about the bo…

Wait! First we should tell them about the book. I’m surprised you didn’t think of that Lorna!

Indeed, glad YOU thought of that Vanessa. Ok, here’s the book blurb:

Meri Vaarsara had a dream and something to prove. She also had incredibly bad fortune and even worse timing.

Her dream was to become a famous fashion designer in Paris, a dream born from a need to prove herself worthy of love and a happy life, something her stern Finnish mother never fostered but her seafaring father always knew was hers for the taking. So at the tender age of eighteen, Meri left the security of her family and her home for a country where she didn’t speak the language and she didn’t know a soul.

Paris in the late 1920s was not friendly to immigrants, even those with extraordinary talents. Forced to find work as a domestic, Meri forged ahead through turns of fate and misfortune as Paris braced for Hitler’s invasion. By choice, Meri becomes a single mother caring for her half-Jewish daughter throughout the occupation of France. Once the war was over, she used her feminine wiles to find her way to America, the land of milk and honey, with the hope of finally being able to work as a designer in a New York fashion house. But that too was not to be, until fate and a kind stranger stepped in to help.

Great, thanks Lorna. Now do you want to tell them about the game? Oh no wait, I’m too excited! I’ll tell them! No, you tell them…go on!

Ok, well if you’re sure. I’m going to read out eight statements about myself, and some of them will be tr…

Hush now Lorna, I need to tell them about the game!

But you sai…

Sshhh! Some of the statements will be true and some will be fiction, and all everyone has to do is guess which are which! The person who gets the most right wins, and if there’s a tie then we’ll do a random drawing from those! Anyway, go ahead with the statements Lorna, we haven’t got all day.

Whatever you say Vanessa, right…

POST UPDATE: As the deadline has passed, I’ve put the answers to the statements below in red.

1. I hate chocolate and never eat it. TRUE

2. In my spare time, I crochet afghans (the blankets, not the people). FALSE

3. I have been struck by lightning twice. TRUE

4. My biggest phobia is of worms. TRUE

Worm saying he won't hurt Lorna

5. I am so enamoured with gorgeous blonde cultural icons, that my engagement ring is a replica of Princess Diana’s ring. TRUE

6. As someone who loves and respects language, I ensure that I always use proper English in my blog posts. FALSE

7. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted to have a large family. FALSE

8. I am a non-violent, Buddhist who happens to be a great shot with a pistol. TRUE

Thanks Lorna! Now, tell them that regular followers of your blog, and those who have read your memoir, may be at an advantage with some of those.

Erm, well I think you already…

Also tell them that they have until Monday, November 17, to submit their answers using this form (nobody else will be able to see what is entered and submitted using the form) –


Again Vanessa, I don’t think I need to tell them because you already tol…

Tell them that the contest is open to anyone, from anywhere in the world, and the winner will receive a £10 (or equivalent in their currency) Amazon Gift Card. Go on, tell them!

You want me to repeat what you just said?

Oh I’m so excited! Anyway, no need to tell them those things Lorna, I already did, why would you want to repeat what I’ve already said?

Good point Vanessa, good point. Sigh.

And finally, tell them where they can buy Never Turn Back from. Never mind, I’ll tell them, you’ll probably just get it wrong:

amazon.com
amazon.co.uk
amazon.fr

And they can also read my review of the book on those links.

Well thank you so much for stopping by Lorna. A little bit of advice for you – in future try to be a bit more prepared, I had to cover your back a few times there, I don’t think anyone will have noticed though.

Sure Vanessa, I’ll keep that in mind, thanks for having me, and good luck with the contest everyone!

Waffling With Mike

Mike 3-D

Today the fabulous author, Mike Allegra, has invited me over to his place to stuff my face with waffles and have a little chat with him. Do come on over and chat with us!

I’ve closed out comments here so that you’re not faced with the dilemma of where to comment – Here? There? Both? (Psst, the answer is ‘there’). See you over there…

Popcorn and Making the World a Better Place…

…are just two of the five things that my lovely blogging buddy, The Hook, asked me about when he interviewed me as part of his 5×5 feature. To see what I had to say, hop on over there.

Yep, that’s right, for the second week in a row I’m sending you off somewhere else. Next week I shall attempt to post some content over here again!

Thank you to The Hook for having me over there and being such a wonderful host.

Mike and Vanessa Give Thanks, with Pumpkin Pie and Ballet Tights

You’ve read the blog, you’ve seen the book, now meet the author, it’s Mike Allegra ladies and gentlemen! He’s here to shoot the breeze with me and to give away a copy of his wonderful children’s book, SARAH GIVES THANKS, to one lucky blog reader – it could be you!

Mike 3-D

Mike Allegra – he writes, he blogs, he draws, he looks fabulous in a pair of 3D glasses.

Right then Mike, let’s get the boring…er, I mean…the exciting biography bit out of way first…

Thanks Vanessa…what do you mean boring? Well nevermind, here goes – I have earned my living as a writer and editor for the past 15 years. My first picture book, SARAH GIVES THANKS, was released in September 2012 by Albert Whitman & Company. The book has earned a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, is an Amelia Bloomer List selection, and is now in its second printing. As a playwright, I have had my work read and performed around the U.S. and was the recipient of a New Jersey State Council on the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship. A former journalist for North Jersey Newspapers, I am currently the editor of The Lawrentian, the alumni magazine of The Lawrenceville School (Lawrenceville, NJ). During my tenure, The Lawrentian has won a dozen regional and national awards, including Gold and Silver honors from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

There, that wasn’t boring was it? Vanessa? Vanessa?! Are you asleep?

What? No, of course not! I was just…well, let’s move on to the book. In one sentence, what is SARAH GIVES THANKS about?

Sarah Gives Thanks cover

One sentence? You gotta be kidding me.

OK. Fiiine. Here goes:

SARAH GIVES THANKS is the story of Sarah Josepha Hale, a 19th century New Englander, who led a 36-year, grassroots campaign to turn Thanksgiving into a national holiday.

If I had more than one sentence, I would’ve also mentioned how Sarah was the first female magazine editor in America. And her magazine eventually became the most widely read periodical in America. And she founded charities. And she raised money to preserve historic landmarks. And she became a tireless advocate for women’s education. And she wrote and/or edited dozens of bestselling books. And she is the author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” And she did all of these things while raising five children as a single mom.

Well I’m only allowing one sentence Mike, so you can’t say that other bit. Sorry. Now, I’m always interested in how long the writing and publishing process takes, so how long was it from the time you first thought of the idea for the book, until the day it was published?

Too long. But the circumstances were unusual. Partway through the process, my editor quit her job. Also, the first illustrator, after much hemming and hawing, decided not to sign her contract. This delayed the book for a year. In the end, however, this hiccup turned out to be a huge blessing because my new editor, Kristen Ostby, shared my vision for SARAH GIVES THANKS in a way my first editor never did. And the illustrator Kristen selected, David Gardner, had the exact same artistic style that I had imagined for the book.

So it took a while, but everything worked out perfectly. I couldn’t have asked for a better situation.

You’re not really answering my questions are you Mike? Let’s see how you do on this one – for the benefit of us Brits, what’s so great about Thanksgiving?

I don’t know how much Brits know about Thanksgiving, so forgive me if what’s below is common knowledge.

Way back in the early 1600s, a group of religious zealots were tired of being persecuted by the British king. So they sailed to America and set up a colony at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts.  Once there, they immediately began to persecute themselves with far more zeal and enthusiasm than your king could’ve ever imagined. These folks were the Pilgrims. They dressed in black and liked wearing buckles on their hats and shoes. They also liked accusing each other of witchcraft.

The Pilgrims had a tough go of things on these shores, and many of them died during their first New England winter. In 1621 however, with the help of the indigenous Native Americans, they managed to have a decent harvest. So Pilgrims and the Native Americans had a feast where they thanked their Maker for the food, their friendships, and their good fortune.

The Pilgrims were not America’s first colony, and they certainly weren’t the most successful or the most forward thinking, but that Thanksgiving feast did tap into America’s sense of idealism. The idea of a special feast to thank God for all the blessings in one’s life captured the imagination of many New Englanders.

The rest of America’s colonies, however, which had their own unique histories, generally ignored the holiday.

That is until Sarah Josepha Hale came along.

Thanksgiving meant a great deal to Sarah, not because of the Pilgrims, but because the holiday forced people to put their lives in perspective. Then, as now, it was so easy to get bogged down with all the aggravations in life. It was so easy to dwell on the negative. Thanksgiving, however, was all about reflecting on the positive. Or, as Eric Idle once wisely sang, “…the bright side of life.”

In Sarah’s case, the holiday helped her to cope with the death of her husband and find a way to support her family. If Thanksgiving could help her, Sarah reasoned, it might be able to help others. And so Sarah began her campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. Thanksgiving, she believed, was good for America’s soul.

So that’s why Thanksgiving is important to Americans. People also use that day to get a day off from work and watch football.

Well I was looking more for something like “It’s so great because we get to eat lots of turkey and pumpkin pie.” Something like that, you know? But ok. Let’s go a bit wild and crazy now – can you tell us a random fact about yourself; something that you’ve never mentioned on your blog, and very few people know about you?

I recently took a test online to see if I was an introvert. Out of 23 questions posed, I provided 22 introverted responses. And that lone remaining question was sort of borderline. I think I will go hide under my desk now.

Well that certainly was wild and crazy Mike, thanks. Let’s find out now a bit more about what makes Mike tick. What are your favourites of these…

You’re just asking these questions so you can spell favorites, with a “U,” aren’t you Vanessa? Admit it!

I admit it! But let’s do it anyway:

 a) Your favourite joke –

I don’t care for jokes, really. I’m more of an amusing anecdote person. But I do like this one:

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Interrupting cow.
Interrupting co–
MOOOOOOOOOOO!

b) Hehe, MOOOOOOO! Now, what’s your favourite fast food –

I try to avoid fast food at all costs. My very first job was manning the broiler at a Burger King. I only did it for one summer, but the work left me with severe emotional scars. Also grease burns. If I were forced to pick, however, it would be Roy Rogers’ roast beef sandwich. It doesn’t taste exactly like roast beef – the texture is all wrong – but it’s close enough.

c) First you make a joke about a cow, and now you want to eat it! Nice. Right, what’s your favourite TV show –

I am a new fan of Breaking Bad, which just ended its run on TV. I have been buying the old seasons on DVD, however. It is, in my view, one of the most sharply written and superbly acted shows ever.

d) And the final one in the favourites round – Who is your favourite person from England who is funny, charming, and intelligent, whose name begins with V, and who has interviewed you?

Dang. There have been so many. Vanessa Redgrave… Lord Voldemort…

Oh, Vanessa, it’s you. Definitely you!

My goodness Mike, that’s so unexpected, I don’t know what to say! Thank you. And the very final question, going back to your playwriting, if you were to write a play where you would take the lead role, what type of story would it be, what type of character would you be, and who else would you like to be in it with you?

Years ago I wrote a comedy/drama titled Rebounders. One of the characters, named Sean, is a complete and total pig. I had so much fun writing for that character. Audiences find him hilarious and the actors who have tackled the part over the years loved the opportunity to say and do such gleefully offensive things. I’m too old for the part, really, but that would be the one I’d pick. As for other people I would want to act with…? There is a good part in Rebounders for a talented actress. Interested?

Oh Mike, yes, it would be so wonderful to be on stage with you again! Do you remember the last time we were on stage together…

Mike and Vanessa as ballet dancers

I certainly do Vanessa, what a memorable performance that was.

Ok, well, we’re done here, except to say that to be in with a chance of winning a copy of SARAH GIVES THANKS, just leave a comment below by the end of Wednesday 6 November, and one lucky winner will be randomly selected after then. Oh, and if you don’t follow Mike’s blog already, you really should – heylookawriterfellow.

Thanks Mike!

Thanks Vanessa! I wonder where I put those ballet tights, what with Halloween coming up…

Mike Allegra

Mike Allegra

The First Day of the New Tomorrow

thefirstdayofthenewtomorrow-banner

This gal is becoming a regular around here, and that’s ok by me! I’m thrilled to welcome back author extraordinaire, Jennifer M. Eaton, yippee-dandy-do! (Hey, I just invented a new cheer!). You may remember Jennifer first stopped by for a chat last year when her story ‘Last Winter Red’ was published as part of the Make Believe anthology. I was then delighted to have her back last month to speak about her book ‘Paper Wishes’, and I’m now beside myself with excitement to see her back here with her new book, ‘The First Day of The New Tomorrow’, published by MuseItUp.

Let’s get the official bits done first, and then we’ll get down to the interview…

Jennifer, you’re up, give us your biography…

Jennifer M Eaton

Jennifer M. Eaton is a contemporary blender of Science Fiction, Dystopian, and Romance.  Her work ranges from the sweet contemporary romances of Paper Wishes, to the dystopian society of Last Winter Red and Optimal Red, with a dusting of young adult paranormal just for fun in The First Day of the New Tomorrow.

While not off visiting other worlds, Jennifer calls the East Coast of the USA home, where she lives with her wonderfully supportive husband, three energetic boys, and a pepped up poodle.

Full time team leader, full time mom, and full time novelist… what more can you ask for?  Writing help did you say?  Well, sure!  Jennifer hosts an informational blog aimed at helping all writers be the best they can be. Stop on by and chat. She loves to hear from fans! – http://www.jennifermeaton.com/

Excellent! And now the book blurb please…

the-first-day-of-the-new-tomorrow book cover

Maya dreams of perfect skin, beautiful hair, good grades, and Eric Brighton—the boy she’s been crushing on since elementary school. But no matter how hard she tries, these things elude her.

Until Now.

In the space of a day, her acne clears, her hair thickens, and Eric finally takes notice. As everything she wishes comes true, happiness is finally in reach—until a man posing as a college recruiter informs her that her newfound abilities come with a price. She will be expected to use them to stop a catastrophe.

Frightened of playing superhero, but thrilled that everything she desires becomes reality, Maya tests the limits of her power—until someone gets hurt.

Now terrified of her own thoughts, Maya will need to choose between having everything she wants, or returning to normalcy. With Eric’s heart and the fate of her town resting on her decision, Maya makes the hardest choice of her life.

That sounds awesome, so where can I buy the book Jennifer? Please tell me, I have to know NOW!

Don’t worry Vanessa, all the links are at the end.

Well ok then, I guess I can wait. Ready for the questions?

I sure am.

What do you hope that readers will think and feel when they read ‘The First Day of the New Tomorrow’?

The First Day of the New Tomorrow is all about living up to your potential, even if the thought of that is a little (or a lot) scary. Many of us not only have dreams, but real, concrete talents that go unused because of fear. It is also about opening up your eyes.  Sometimes when you think something is true, it really isn’t.

When you are reading a novel, what are the three most important elements that make it a winner for you?

Well, explosions are a given. (And yes, there is a BIG explosion in New Tomorrow) I love a good detonation (as long as there is not a body count involved.)  Action and adventure are a big hit with me, too.  And a happy, satisfying ending.  I don’t care if I KNOW it will be a happy ending. It is all about the fun of the journey to get there. 

Speaking of journeys, your blog is always full of lots of helpful tips and advice for writers to help them on their journeys, but what is the one tip that you wish had been given to you when you first started writing?

Show, don’t tell… and also a magic wand to make me understand what that means.  This was the hardest concept for me to grasp, and I still struggle with it at times.  I have a few older novels that I wrote just for fun that are great stories, but the show verses tell issues are rampant.  They’ll need TONS of editing if they are ever going to have a chance of publication.

I hear you there. Now then, imagine you’ve chosen a three month solo retreat to a deserted island (nicer if it’s by choice than being stranded right?), you can take – one book, one unlimited food item, one tool, and a solar powered portable DVD player with a box set of DVDs of every episode of a TV show of your choice. What would you pick?

Book: Hmm.  Maybe Robert Jordan’s “The Eye of the World.”  I’d like to take the time to read that again to see if I can dissect why it drew me in so much when I first read it.

Unlimited food item:  Dark Chocolate.  That’s getting all your required nutrition in every delectable bite.

One Tool: A solar powered laptop so I could still write.

 TV Show: That would be a tough one.  I don’t currently watch TV (no time) but I have been watching “Game of Thrones” on-demand when time permits.  That’s a great story.  I might consider “Lost” because I never finished the series.  I think I missed the last three seasons.  I used to like “Friends” too.  I didn’t see the last couple of seasons of that, either.  I’d probably put the three of them in a hat and pluck one out.

Good choices. I’d go for Friends myself, laughter is important if you’re alone on an island, remember that. Back to the book – if you could pick one author to read ‘The First Day of the New Tomorrow’ who would it be, and why?

Jocelyn Adams, the author of the Lila Gray series (starting with the novel “The Glass Man”)  Her writing is fluid and enjoyable.  Of the recently published novels I’ve read, she is the most talented. I aspire to be as good as she is.  I’d love some pointers of how to get there. 

I’ll put a word in for you with Joss (as I like to call her). You’re welcome.

Right. Er…thanks Vanessa.

Well it seems like this writing lark has been such a whirlwind for you over the last couple of years, but what’s next on the writing front?

I just finished the first draft of “Optimal Red”, the full-length prequel to “Last Winter Red” which was published last year in the “Make Believe” anthology. This is a New Adult Dystopian that really fleshes out the Post-Apocalyptic world I created in Last Winter Red.  It is an exciting romp through the city of Terra, which we didn’t get to see in Last Winter Red. I’m really happy with the story, and can’t wait to get it out to the world.  I’m in the editing phase now, and then I’ll be looking for a publisher.

I loved Last Winter Red, so I can’t wait for this one…hang on a minute, first draft you say? First draft! Well what are you doing hanging around here chatting like you’ve got all the time in the world huh?! Get on with writing the second draft, your public is waiting! And do come back here and talk about that one when it’s published, ok? Oh and thank you, now go!

Thank YOU.  It’s always a pleasure to come hang out!

Yeah yeah, now GO!

I’m going already! Can I just…

No!

Well folks, that was Jennifer M Eaton, it seems she had to leave in a bit of a rush, not sure why. If you want to catch up with her, or buy the book, here are all the linky links she promised:

Email | Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook| Manic ReadersGoodreads | Amazon

Zoom to one of these links to buy First Day of the New Tomorrow, and other books by Jennifer M Eaton:

Zoom to Amazon.com to buy Jennifer M. Eaton’s books
Zoom to Barnes and Noble
Zoom to Muse It Up’s Website to buy “The First Day of the New Tomorrow”