Fantastic Beasts, and were to find them on TV.

carnival-row-amazon-trailer-release-date-cast-news

As the days get cooler, the nights grow longer, our imaginations run even wilder, especially with All Hallows' Eve right around the corner.

No better time to discover some new fantasy TV series.

Amazon Prime has created a beautiful alternate universe—Burgue, akin to 1880 London— in which humans reluctantly co-exist with fairies (“faes”) and other fantastic beasts: gremlin-like kobolds, werewolves, and my personal favorite, “pucks,” who are saytres (half man, half ram).

These fantastic beasts, called “crits” by the humans, are war refugees in Burgue, which was its ally against the barbarous Pacts. Even so, except for those who have secured jobs as servants, they are confined to a ghetto called “Carnival Row.”

When a renowned Fae is murdered, a soldier-turned-police inspector,  Rycroft Philostrate (“Philo”; one of Orlando Bloom's best roles to date) is put on the case. It brings him in contact with his long-lost love: a fae called Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne). Both thought the other dead in the last great battle between the faes and the Pacts. Both feel betrayed by the other. Their attraction and animosity for each other ramps up along with the killings of crits by some unknown mystical force.

Great stuff indeed.

Click below to see a trailer.

Or click the photo above to read a Vanity Fair article about the series' shoots-and-ladders journey from concept to greenlight for series.

Another interesting television series on Netflix, The Frankenstein Chronicles, does a realistic twist on Mary Shelley's famous novel.  This is not a love story, but historical crime suspense about redemption for the early 19th Century London police investigator charged with finding a serial child murderer.

FrankensteinChronicles

Or is it?

Starring a Game of Thrones head honcho, Sean Bean, the series takes place in the 1820s (as bleakly post-Jane Austen as you can get), a time when corpses were considered public property and legally dug up by “immortalists” (I LOVE that period-appropriate word for “grave robbers!”) for the scientists and doctors who are pushing Britain's political leaders to approve “the Anatomy Act” so that cadavers can be legally used for medical study.

The world-building is sublimely authentic. Even indoors, the poor actors seem to be freezing, if their chilled breath is any indication.

This show has already gone into a third season and promises more head-spinning plots based on things that go bump in the night.

Click the photo above for a great recap article; or the video box below for a trailer peek.

Scared and Bemused,

Josie

Judy, Judy, Judy…and Renee.

 

JudlyMovie1200

I'm a fan of Old Hollywood. And the fact that Judy Garland's rendition of Over the Rainbow makes me cry every time I hear it was reason enough for me to see Judy, the feature film bio-pic starring Renee Zellweger.

I'm also a VERY big fan of Renee's. As Roxie Hart in the musical movie, Chicago, I thought she knocked it out of the park: she was THE triple threat: singing, dancing, acting.

And it's because of Bridget Jones's Diary that I write humorous women's fiction. (By that I mean the novel, by Helen Fielding, albeit the movie version reinforced my love of romcoms.)

I was NOT disappointed. If you go to see it, I don't think you will be, either.

Can she sing like Judy?

I'll answer that with a question: Can anyone?

What you'll appreciate about Zellweger's performance is that she captures all the gestures, the vocal inflections (Judy's resonance and vocal depth was incomparable), the timing, and the pathos of one of the greatest performers to grace the silver screen, or for that matter a live stage.

I'll be shocked if she doesn't wind the Best Actress Oscar for it.

Below is a trailer of the movie.

Garland once famously said, “If I'm a legend, then why I so lonely?” This is aptly illustrated in the movie. One of the most touching scenes in the movie is how Judy asks two fans to grab a bite to eat with her for just this very reason: with celebrity comes awe, which creates a crevice between the famous and those leading normal lives.

I saw this first hand,  when interviewing celebrities for feature articles.

Debbie Reynolds came to San Francisco, to make the movie, Mother, written, directed, and co-starring Albert Brooks. At that point, and that time in her life, movie roles had essentially dried up for her. She realized it was a great break, perhaps even a comeback role. In fact, it garnered her a Golden Globe nomination.

At the beginning of our interview, she was nervous enough that her hand was shaking as she sipped her coffee.

When she heard that, as a little boy, my son insisted on watching Singing in the Rain over and over again, she kindly replied, “Did you bring a cassette tape? I'd sign it for you.”

Silly me, I didn't even think of doing so.

By the end of the interview, she hinted that she'd like company for a meal. Again, I was so stupidly awestruck that I didn't say, “Sure, let's grab a bite.”

I've always regretted it.

If you get that opportunity, take it.

Here's to those bright lights that entertain us.

—Josie

 

I write daily. I must. Creators—painters, photographers, musicians, and writers too—are like athletes: to keep in the game, you must stay fit. In order to strengthen our plots and dig deep into our characters, authors have to stretch their minds.

We can't do this by sitting in front of a computer for five to eight hours (or more) a day.

For me, even a hour or two's worth of scenery allows me to rethink work in progress. And because I have the great blessing of being married to a writer, we do our best to take our breaks together.

When we do, we walk.

Martin and Josie Cascade Falls MV

We are very fortunate in that we live in a beautiful place: San Francisco, California. If you're not opposed to taking in a few hills when you come upon one (a great cardio workout) it truly is a very walkable town. They say San Francisco is seven miles long by seven miles wide. On a normal day, we'll walk four to five of those. On a day in which we really want to get out of our heads, we'll walk as many as ten miles.

During that time, we talk: sometimes about our three wonderful kids, but mostly about our plots.

If you're a writer and you have a critique partner, you know the drill: you've chosen someone who knows and appreciates your work, understands your characters, and with whom you feel comfortable enough to explain the plot hole you may have fallen into.

Maybe they'll come up with an insight that you somehow missed. Maybe not. But just hearing you explain the concern out loud, you'll work through it. You'll have some sort of “Eureka” moment. 

Even if you don't, you'll be in sunlight. You'll hear others' conversations as you pass them. Something in the sky will catch your eye. Or maybe it'll be something on the bay. Or a front door of a house you've never seen before. Or wisteria is in bloom, and you it stops you in your tracks.

By the way, if you write but have not yet found a critique partner—and for that matter, if you are just dipping a toe in the process—check out the writers' collective known as the 85K Writing Challenge. There, you'll be inspired and challenge to come up with a daily word count that may result in the book you know lives within you. It is the brainchild of Author Julie Valerie, whose debut novel, Holly Banks, Full of Angst, will be out Fall 2019.

If we have the time, sometime we cross the Golden Gate Bridge and take in one of the many hikes in the trails in and around the tiny gem-like towns of Marin County. One of our favorites is in Mill Valley, California. Many of the houses are built on the lanes that zig and zag through the foothills leading up to Mount Tamalpais—or, as the Miwoks (first people of the area) called it, “the sleeping lady.”  This time of year, especially after a rainy season, a few of the falls that in the area are at full strength. The most accessible, and perhaps the most beautiful waterfall in this town is called Cascade.

I want to share it with you.

If you click onto this video you'll enjoy a tiny moment of zen.

—Josie

9780989558822 Smaller CoverSpring has sprung—with a Great price on my two-book set.

The Housewife Assassin's Killer 2-Book Set / Only $3.99!

amazon-2-icon  unnamed AppleBooks kobo-blue

An avenging assassin. The spy who loves her. In this two-book set, find out why readers are addicted to this deadly duo.

Want to bake a great cake? 8 Things that can go wrong—and how to fix them.

I just found this GREAT article on the Beebs (BBC) that answers these eight common problems with baking a cake.

1: Thick as a brick, and tastes like one too.

2: Flatter than a pancake.

3: Sinks deeper than the Titanic.

4: Cracked open on top.

5: Dry and over-baked.

6: Raw and tastes doughy.

7: I can't seem to time it best for pulling it out of the oven.

8: It always breaks when I take it out of the tin.

If you have any of these problems, click here, or onto the photo above.

And while you're waiting for your cake to cool, you can read this excerpt below,  of Book 6 of The Housewife Assassin series, “Recipes for Disaster.”

Enjoy both!

—Josie

 

 

HAH Book 6 KBL

THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S RECIPES FOR DISASTER (Book 6)
Signal Press
eBook: 9780989558839 ($4.99 US) / Trade Paperback: 9781942052159
amazon-2-iconimgres copyunnamedkobo-blueIndieBoundBlue
Donna must stop the assassinations of both US political parties' presidential candidates. But when she discovers she has a long-term vendetta with one of the targets, can she put aside her animosity long enough to save the candidate's life?

 

 

 

EXCERPT

It is a truth universally acknowledged that politics is the second oldest profession—and that, sadly, it resembles the oldest profession in too many ways to count on a gentlewoman’s properly sheathed pinkies and toes.

Being the epitome of reticence and decorum, she must strive to stay out of politics at all costs—

Unless, heaven forbid, it is necessary to sully herself in the pursuit of liberty and justice for all.

But before trotting out onto the campaign trail, she must remind herself about the difference between a lady, a whore, and a politician: whereas both the whore and the politician will perform unseemly acts with the strangest of bedfellows for money (in the case of the politician, this is euphemistically called “campaign donations”), neither the lady nor the whore equates money with power because she holds all the power she needs in her dainty (if not always properly sheathed) pinky.

Speaking of strange bedfellows, the culinary combination of chocolate and peanut butter was popularized with the invention of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup back in 1928. This take on a pie version will have you crossing party lines to get a slice:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie (From Courtney Wade, Gillett Pennsylvania)

Ingredients

• 1 crust made from chocolate graham crackers

• 1 1/2 pints vanilla ice cream, softened

• 2 cups creamy peanut butter

• 1 jar of hot fudge

• 1 container of whipped cream

Directions

1. Mix ice cream and peanut butter with mixer on low speed.

2. Pour into pie crust.

3. Freeze 3 hours.

4. Add hot fudge topping. Return to freezer.

5. Serve each piece with whipped cream.

* * *

I lay on a large table, naked except for the sushi that has been placed strategically on and around my body.

It’s not a great look, but this doesn’t stop three Chinese diplomats (I use the term lightly; in truth, they are spies) from plucking raw fish wrapped in seaweed and rice, while staring at my naughty bits.

One of the city’s premiere sushi chefs slices and dices away at his workstation. Because his chef’s jacket and hat are insulated, he is oblivious to the cold air blowing in from a block of dry ice below the floorboards, which flows into a tube on the tabletop beneath me.

This is supposed to keep the sushi fresh. Unfortunately, it has also turned my lips blue and numbed my bum. Beneath parsley pasties, my nipples stand at attention, whetting the diners’ appetites for hanky-panky, if not nigiri-maki.

I’m in a private penthouse which crowns a sixty-story building on San Francisco’s Embarcadero, its stunningly romantic waterfront district. It is owned by one of the diners—Professor Hong Li, whose status as a world-renowned mathematician gives him the prestige he needs to hide in plain sight. My mission has me working undercover as a nyotaimori. In Japanese, the term means “female body platter,” but it is universally interpreted as “go ahead and cop a feel between bites of your dragon roll.”

The dining room’s other major attraction is its well-appointed vodka room—a large glass freezer in which hundreds of premium, obscure vodka bottles are stored at 28° Fahrenheit. Forget sake. If the way these guys have been blitzing themselves on the fermented potato juice enjoyed by their comrades to the near west is any indication, international relations with Russia are thawing at North Pole speed.

My geisha-like role demands that I lay here stock-still. I mustn’t shiver or move a muscle. This is particularly difficult whenever Li’s chopstick grazes a breast on its way to pick up yet another piece of gunkan-maki.

Either he needs lessons on how to hold his utensils, or he presumes I’m on the menu, too.

How do you say, “Be careful what you wish for” in Chinese? Will a jab in the jugular with a chopstick get my point across?

My mission’s team leader, Jack Craig, is located in the apartment directly below this suite, where he listens and watches the video bugs smuggled into the suite’s various air vents by tiny drones, just last night by our tech operative, Arnie Locklear. Jack must have guessed how annoyed I am with Li because he whispers through my concealed ear bud: “I guess it’s a bad pun to warn you to keep your cool.”

He’s right, of course. My reason for being here has nothing to do with the fantasies of these slobbering men, and everything to do with our country’s national security. Through its encryption circumvention project, Bullrun, the NSA learned that Chinese cyber-hackers have somehow pirated the Department of Defense’s secure satellite feed for its Middle Eastern battlefield data networks—the heart and soul of its network-centric warfare.

Experts predict the Chinese economy will reach one-hundred-twenty-three trillion dollars by the year 2040—or almost three times that of the entire world’s economy a mere decade ago. Now that China is building itself into a consumer nation, it is looking to curry favor with those who can help it with its skyrocketing oil demands—including the Iranians, with whom the old saying “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” is doubly true when it comes to the United States.

The mandate of my employer—a CIA-sanctioned black ops organization that goes by the name of Acme Industries—is to stop the hand-off of this very valuable intel before it leaves the country. But the Chinese are smart enough to go old school in the delivery process: hand-to-hand, as opposed to e-mail or texting.

For the past week, we’ve been trying to infiltrate Li’s sumptuous penthouse suite, to no avail. He has stayed holed up here the whole time. Body guards are posted outside the steel-enforced, double-door entry. Even the maid who cleans the suite has been vetted by the Chinese embassy employees, as are the well-paid escorts who sleep with Professor Li.

The word sleep doesn’t begin to describe what he does with these unlucky ladies. And the way he eyes me, I’ve no doubt he wants me to experience his bedside manner first-hand.

Should I be worried? Nah. I don’t have time. This dinner was our one and only chance to stop Li’s plot. And from the chatter we’re hearing in our targets’ native language, we realize time is running out. The handoff is supposed to take place at this meeting, but the guest of honor—the person who will be taking it out of the country—has yet to arrive.

I hope he shows up soon. Otherwise, I may be too frozen to stop him.

My only way to answer Jack’s warning is to sigh, ever so slightly. When I do, a slice of fatty tuna roll slides off my midriff and onto the table. Professor Li smirks and mutters, “Zuòwéi tā de dàtuǐ, tā de rǔfáng fēngmǎn. Hǎo yīgè biǎo, dàn wěidà de, dàng zuò'ài. Wǒ jiù zhīdào jīn wǎn shāo hòu, shì ma?”

The sushi chef in the corner must get the gist of Hong’s remark because his eyebrows roll to the ceiling. Abu Nagashahi, Acme’s translator on this mission, snickers.

“Don’t tell her,” Jack and our tech op, Arnie Locklear, warn him in unison.

After a long pause, Abu mumbles, “No kidding.”

Oh, really? And what nasty little aside could our supposedly diplomatic friend here have said to earn my desire to wring his neck with my frigid fingers?

Whatever it is, he is saved by the gong announcing the visitor we’ve all been waiting for.

The men leave the table for the private dining suite’s reception room. The rooms are separated by a solid glass wall. Despite closing the glass door behind them, the mirrored ceiling and walls allow me to watch along with my mission team as two workmen roll in a large, beautiful black lacquer box. It stands vertically, and has beautiful Chinese characters on the door.

Hong Li snaps his finger at the sushi chef—the universal language for “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll get the hell out of here.”

The man is no fool. He bows slightly and hurries out after the delivery men. The click of the door closing behind him sends a shiver up my spine.

“Stay perfectly still, Donna,” Jack murmurs. “It seems they’ve forgotten you’re there.

Easier said than done. The cold is tickling my nose. I hold my breath in the hope that I can keep from sneezing.

A man enters the room. He’s in his late thirties, with a full head of long, blond shoulder-length hair. He wears wire-framed glasses over his large brown eyes.

“Arnie, tilt the living room camera down and left, so that our facial recognition software gets a better look at him,” Jack whispers. “Donna, you’ve also got him in your line of sight. Can you turn your head, just a bit to the right?”

I do so, ever so slightly. Thank goodness all eyes are on the stranger, even those of the professor’s personal body guard, a hulk I’ve nicknamed King Kong. At six-foot-three-inches tall and over two-hundred pounds, should the occasion arise, it’ll be a challenge for me to take him. I mean, let’s face it—it’s not like I can hide my Glock under the pickled ginger garnish in my belly button.

If that time comes, failure is not an option—not if I want to walk my children into their new classrooms on the first day of school tomorrow.

Hong Li smiles at the man and gives him a slight bow. His two associates follow suit.

The Chinese spies smirk at the man’s hesitant, unsmiling nod in return.

I don’t like the feel of this.

“I presume you want to inspect my handiwork?” The man’s hushed question comes out in a stutter.

Li tempers his curiosity with a shrug. “Please, do us the honors.” His English mimics his guest’s Southern inflections.

The stranger purses his lips as he twists the latch on the door of the exquisitely painted box. Inside is a clay figure—an ancient Chinese warrior. With the push of a lever, the platform on which the statue sits rolls out.

His hosts are awed enough to murmur and clap.

“Wow! What exactly is that?” Arnie asks.

“It looks like one of China’s ancient terra-cotta warriors of X’ian,” Abu answers. “Back in the 1970s, while digging a well, a couple of farmers in the Shaanxi province unearthed a similar clay figurine. When all was said and done, eight-thousand of them were uncovered. They’d been buried in the necropolis of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. In fact, there’s an exhibit of them here, at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum.”

“So, how old do you think it is?” Jack wonders.

“Qin ruled around 209 BC, so it’s at least that old,” Abu responds. “But this one is a replica.”

“How do you know?” Jack asks.

“Because it’s the spitting image of Xi Jinping, China’s current president.”

Darned if he’s not right.

“Nailed him!” Arnie yells in my ear. “The dude who brought the box is the sculptor, Carolus Duran.”

I recognize that name, too. Known as “the Twenty-First Century’s Rodin,” Duran’s works can be seen in many great art institutions, including the National Gallery in Washington, London’s National Gallery, and the Met in New York.

“Your president should be quite pleased with the resemblance,” Duran declares.

“When will it be delivered?”

Duran glances down at his watch. “In half an hour, it is to be transported via train to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, along with the rest of the soldiers in the exhibit now at the Asian Art Museum, just in time for the presidential reception tomorrow evening.”

“President Xi will be honored to receive such a unique gift from your president.” Li’s smile is too wide to be genuine. “I presume you’ve done as I asked?”

Duran nods. “Yes, of course! I’ve hidden the secret compartment, here.” He points under the left arm of the soldier, which is raised slightly from the torso, as if it’s holding something. “There is an indentation, here. Press slightly, and it opens, like so.”

To prove his point, Duran presses a panel in the armor directly under the soldier’s armpit. Apparently he has pushed a spring lock because it appears to fall into the opening that has magically appeared. Duran’s hand disappears into the statue as far as his wrist. He shifts it slightly, and then pulls it out. The panel drops back into place, as if the clay has never moved.

“Excellent,” Li murmurs. “Now, we shall toast your masterpiece—and the release of your parents from our hospitality in Chengdu.”

Duran winces at Li’s joke at his expense.

“Arnie, what’s he referring to?” Jack asks.

Arnie’s research is fast and furious. “Apparently Duran’s folks disappeared about a month ago, while on a group tour of China. Chengdu is one of China’s largest cities inland—much too rainy and overcast to be a major tourist stop.”

“In other words, they were kidnapped as a way to coerce Duran to alter the statue for their needs,” Abu surmises.

“I have a bottle of Russo-Baltique, for just this occasion.” Li nods at one of his associates, whom I’ve nicknamed Snapped Fingers because that is exactly what will happen to him the next time his chubby paws grab at anything on me that isn’t wrapped in seaweed or rice. I call Li’s other toady Poked Eyes, because he seemed mesmerized by my Telly Savalas, and I’d like to alleviate him of that fixation.

“Donna, don’t move,” Jack warns me.

He’s preaching to the choir. I shut my eyes tightly before Snapped Fingers passes me on the way to the vodka room, knowing full well that Jack will warn me if I need to open them again.

“He’s found the bottle,” Jack whispers. “Okay, he’s walking out now … He’s gone. You can open your eyes.”

Arnie whistles. “That vodka is worth a million and a half dollars. The flask is solid gold, made from old coins from the turn of the last century!”

I watch as Duran adamantly shakes his head at his host’s offer. “No, really, I must be getting back. The museum’s curator and transportation director are expecting me to deliver the piece as soon as possible.”

Li’s smile hardens. “We will take care of its delivery.”

Duran’s eyes open wide. “But—but that would be considered most unconventional! The artist must always be present when our president commissions a welcoming gift, specifically for another head of state—”

Snapped Fingers pours the vodka into two glasses on the sideboard, and then places them on a tray. In no time, he is standing in front of the sculptor.

“They will understand that you’ve been called away early, to Los Angeles, to meet with your president,” Li’s tone is gentle, as if he’s talking to a child. “No one keeps great men waiting, am I right? Now, let us drink up.”

The fear doesn’t leave Duran’s face, even as he watches Li take one of the glasses. Finally, he takes the other glass from the tray; he raises it to his lips.

I would wager it’s a cocktail of succinylcholine—a paralytic agent—and potassium chloride, which stops the heart. As he falls backward, Snapped Fingers is ready to catch him, and ease him onto the floor.

Li takes something from his inside jacket pocket and places it into the statue’s hidden compartment.

“That’s it—the intel!” Jack declares. “The president won’t even know that he’s handing it over to President Xi, along with the statue.”

“And should word leak out, he’ll be disgraced,” Abu adds. “His detractors can use it to call for his impeachment, maybe even his resignation—or worse, call him a traitor, and ask that he be tried as such.”

Just as Poked Eyes wheels the box out the door, I let loose with a squeak of a sneeze.

“Oh … hell.” The dread in Jack’s voice tells me all I need to know: That slight movement caught the attention of Hong Li.

He waves at his bodyguard. “Take care of her.”

He’s out the door, too, with Snapped Fingers on his heels.

I am left with King Kong.

Jack shouts, “Hang on, Donna, I’m on my way.”

I’m hanging on, alright—to the far side of the table, which is now the only thing between King Kong and me. It’s too wide for him to reach over it, but the platters I throw at him bounce off, like beer caps in a pong game between two drunks.

He tilts the table on its side and rushes towards me, swatting off my kicks as if they’re raindrops until he’s got me backed up against the wall—really, against the chef’s workstation. He grabs one of my legs and jerks it up, so that I’m now flat on the countertop. He has one hand on my throat. He smiles when he sees my eyes grow big at the realization that he’s cutting off my oxygen with his broad thumb.

Gasping, I grasp at anything, and come up with a chopstick.

When I jab his eye, he howls and backs off. He hesitates only a second before yanking it out. A torrent of blood pours forth. I’m a mother of two tweens who play sports like kamikazes and their little sister does anything they say on a dare, so granted, I’m no stranger to blood, but this has my lunch climbing into my throat.

King Kong has me cornered in front of the door to the vodka freezer. He’s only six feet away and rushing right at me when I throw my last weapon—the chef’s Blue Steel Ao-ko Mioroshi Namiuchi knife.

The good news: as it hits his chest, it stops his forward momentum.

The bad news: when he falls over, it’s forward—and on top of me.

Even worse news: As I fall backward with him on top of me, the force of our weight pushes open the door to the freezer and propels me into it—

And clicks shut behind me.

I try shoving the door, but it won’t open. King Kong’s body is, quite literally, a dead weight blocking my only way out.

My situation is dire. I’m naked, I’m freezing, and for once I’m in no mood for a vodka martini.

Despite the fact that the glass wall between me and the dining suite is tempered and thick, I pray I can penetrate it somehow. Shivering, I stalk the room, looking for a way out of my predicament.

My eyes scan the backlit vodka case. Like the antique gold Russo-Baltique, all of the bottles in Hong Li’s personal stash are works of art. Belvedere’s bottle is encased in a glass bear. The Diva bottle is especially stunning: a clear cylinder with a tube of precious gems in the center.

But neither of those will give me what I need: freedom.

However, a bottle encrusted with diamonds may just do the trick.

There are several here. Oval Vodka’s bottle is covered in them, but unfortunately its shape plays off its name. The cask-like Alizé Vodka bottle is studded with pink crystals. I slam it against the edge of the table, and most of the crystals fall to the floor, so that’s of no help.

The next bottle I grab—a brand called Iordanov—is so embellished with diamonds that it glistens in the light. Holding it by its long neck, I once again whack the center table with all my might.

I’m left holding a piece of very expensive glass still encrusted with diamond crystals, where it counts most: around its jagged end.

By now the cold is getting to me. I can barely feel my fingers or toes, and my muscles ache. I drop to my knees against the wall with my homemade glasscutter, which I hold tightly as I etch a square in the glass. Here’s hoping it’s large enough for me to fit through, and that it’s not just the size I wish I were. (Note to self: pinch that inch, then get rid of it for good.)

I don’t have much strength, but still, I kick at the etched square. I hear it give way—

Then I pass out.

BLAH! It’s raining. So here are five things you could be doing until it clears up.

It's been a non-stop rain deluge here and, frankly, it's depressing.

Worse yet, it makes me lazy.

I chide myself to get out of my doldrums and do something—anything—that will make me feel better. Here are five things I've come up with:

Clean A Closet1: Clean out a closet.
You no longer have an excuse. You can't use the fact that you'll get more exercise by walking, so dig in.

(By the way, this is not my closet…but it could be.

Ergo, those are not my legs…but they could be—if I took longer walks.)

Pie2: Bake a pie.
After your closet work out, you deserve some reward, am I right?

Pie fits the bill perfectly.
You may not have the right ingredients for your favorite.
That's okay. You're creative, so improvise! The smell wafting through your home will be great!

(By the way: this is not my pie.
But it could be…if my oven had more than one setting: burned.)

Call a Pal3: Call an old friend.
You've had every excuse to put this off. Well, now's the time. You'll feel good about it and so will the person at the other end of the line.

(By the way, this is not me. And not because I don't own a cell phone or because my hair doesn't coil lushly past my shoulders. I just don't have a window seat. However, if I had, I'd perch on it pertly, too!)

Read a Book

4: Read a book.
Admit it: this is what you really want to be doing anyway. With a cup of something hot beside you. Oh, and maybe a nice, warm piece of that pie you've just baked.

5: Cuddle.
Because you don't really want to get out of bed. Heck, it's too cold!
Time to warm things up before you can turn on that oven and make that pie (yeah, right, sure…)

Cuddle In Bed

By the way, this is not me—but it should be.

Whattya think, did I put this in the right order?

Is there something you'd like to add to this list? Hey, I'm all ears. All I'm doing is listening to the rain.

—Josie

As I took a shower, I looked out my window and saw large crows gathering on the rooftop…

…of the apartment building behind me. #HitchcockMoment 

Thebirds

Psycho_Shower_Scene

Puddle Jumpers

Martin-Munkasci-and-Richard-Avedon

Love this! The first photo is called "The Puddle Jumper"
and was taken by the photographer Martin Munkácsi, for Harper's Bazaar, in 1934.
The second was taken by Richard Avedon, also a fashion shot, and also in Paris, but in 1957.
Beautiful!

–Josie

Getting to know the artists. In this case, the Sirens: Andree Belle and Molly Miller

 

Fabulous little video about one of my favorite musical duos, the Sirens,
featuring Andrèe Belle and Molly Miller.

If you're in Los Angeles, you can catch them at the Hotel Casa Madrona (Santa Monica) and Perch (Downtown LA). Call for dates and times.

Their music is filled with heart, soul…and mambo! Check out what they have to say about it.

–Josie

My five New Year’s resolutions…

Butternut-squash

Resolution #1:
Stay healthy.
(Note to Self: eat more root vegetables, and less sugar!)

HappyEggs

Resolution #2:
Stay happy.
(Note to Self: much more sex, much less [caloric] sugar!)

I2i_holagraphic

Resolution #3:
Acquire a new language.
(Pig Latin does NOT count.)

Tumblr_lvypsd5Jbc1r03wcgo1_500

Resolution #4:
Experience new things, with total abandon!
(Unless they include black-outs, tattoos, or joining a cult.)

 

 0703_writing_cog

Resolution #5: 
Two thousand words a day! 
(More writing. Note to Self: skipping martini may do the trick…)

Yep, Jersey Boys, the Movie, is definitely worth seeing.

Jersey-boys-clint-eastwood-530x352

Click here to listen to "Sherry Baby"

Enjoy!

— Josie

 

 

HA1 Handbook 768x1024

THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK
978-0-9740214-0-9

FREE! 
ORDER NOW,  from

Amazon.com (US)  / Amazon.UK 
Also in all Amazon countries!

BN.com (99 cents)

Apple iTunes Bookstore  / Apple iTunes Bookstore (UK) 
In all iTunes countries!

KoboBooks

 

 

10 Things You Should Never Say to a Novelist

ApiringWriters_LoRez_colour

(c) 2005 Alex Steuart Williams  (FLIP) and Erica Rothschild

 

I'm being serious.

Okay, here goes:


1. "I'd write, too, but I can't stand the thought of all the trees I'd be killing." 

Yes, I've heard this one. My response back then was, "Don't worry. You won't sell enough books to raze a sapling, because your pub house won't push you that hard to begin with."

Today, I'd add, "And besides, most books are digital, so you can't use the tree-killer bullshit as an excuse not to write anymore."

 

2. "I'd write, too, but I just can't make the time."

Good. Stay busy. The world doesn't need anothor author. Here's a hint: It's not a hobby. It's a profession.

3. "Why don't you kill off your series' villian?" Because then I wouldn't have a series. And if I don't have a series, I don't have the rent money. I'll make you a promise: when and if he quits paying the rent, I'll quit writing about him.

 

4. "Honestly, what do you really do to pay the bills?"

 
I write novels and I'm proof that not all writers live a life of poverty.

Then again, I'm not JK Rowling, either.

If a writer is persistent and lucky, he or she will find that their income is somewhere in between minimum wage and unimagined wealth.

I'm not saying it's an easy way to make a living. It took years to crawl my way up beyond the government set poverty line. To make the rent, I wrote other things: game questions, greeting cards. magazine articles, even horoscopes. (No, I was not a licensed astrologist, just a mom with two growing kids who could go through money like the Pentagon).
 

 5. "The best authors–like JD Salinger, or, say Margaret Mitchell– only wrote one, or maybe a just few, books in their lifetime."

Oh, really? I guess that leaves out Dickens, Twain, Wharton, LeCarre, Dreisher, Trollope, James, Chandler, Christie, and Doyle, to name a few–all of whom are on my favorite authors list–along wtih Salinger and Mitchell.  

And by the way, some of the worst writers only wrote one book as well.

I'd say the odds are with those who get the most chances at the plate. Don't forget, Babe Ruth broke records for hitting home runs and for striking out. 

Not to mention, a writer's skill level rises each time up to bat. 
  

6. "When am I going to see you on the New York Times Bestsellers list?"

Maybe never–and that's okay with me. A Times review won't necessarily pay the bills. 

For that matter, a Times review won't necessarily be a good one. Just ask any author who has been scorched, panned, or ridiculed by one.
 

 7. "When will I see your book reviewed in the New York Times?"

Again, maybe never–and that too is okay with me. I write commercial literature–romantic suspense, funny mysteries, contemporary women's fiction–and those books usually don't get a NYT review unless they're deemed such a cultural phenomenon that even the Times can't ignore them. 

As for those authors who are waiting for some news outlet to review their books, all I can say is, good luck. Even the best New York publishing house publicist rarely scores a major newspaper review for a mid-list or debut author, let alone a segment on the Today Show.  Now, if you're willing to change your first name to Snooki, or your last name to Kardashian, you may actually get that review, or some air time.

It's just the way of the world: a ghosted celebrity can garner more air time for a mediocre book than a gifted author will receive for a notable work. 

So suck it up. 

Better yet, don't reach for the stars when that is not the lasting definition of success. You're better off working the crowd instead of waiting for the crowd to come to you. In fact, I know many authors whose books have gotten better–and substantially more reviews–than those I see in the Times–

From readers.

Rude awakening: many major newspapers have done away with book reviews–and book reviewers–altogether. That being said, the voices that are ever more important to authors are avid readers, especially those readers who are willing to write a review on the websites of the bookstores (both online, and brick-and-mortar) where they buy their books. Even better is when they chat up your books to friends.

In today's book market, a four-plus star reviews by hundreds of readers on an online bookseller's site can generate more sales than a few kind words in a Times review on any given Sunday.

Bottom line: word of mouth means everything.
 
 

8. "You can write more than one book a year? Hmmm. You're not an artist. You're not even a craftsman. You're…a hack!"

Here's the scoop. Even painters have to produce more than one painting in a lifetime–let alone a year–in order to eat, pay rent, and pay for their kids' braces.

The same goes for musicians. They have to play more than one gig. And songwriters have to write more than one song.

No one wants to be a one-hit wonder.

In fact, even one hit is akin to winning the lottery.

As for being a craftsperson: the proof is in the satisfaction of the buyer.

I'm very proud of my body of work. Every book has received an average of four or more stars. And every day, I get  letters from readers who were kind enough to take the time to tell me how much fun they had with my books, or how much they love my characters. I love to hear that it kept them up at night (it certainly did for me when I was writing any one of them!) or that they laughed so loud that it woke their spouses. 

That, my dear friends, is satisfaction.
 

9. "It must be nice to be able to set your own hours."

I write at least ten hours a day.

Believe it or not, some chapters are written in my sleep. 

When I'm not writing, I'm plotting. Or researching.

The creative process is the most important aspect of my profession. But the marketing of my books are just as important. That being said, when I'm not writing, plotting or researching, I'm concepting covers, going over edits from my proofers and editors–

And promoting, promoting, promoting.

In any regard, I'm thinking about my books twenty-four/seven.

None of it is easy. But it can certainly be rewarding. I guess that's what makes it a "job," and not a hobby.

10. "It must be great to have such a fun job."

I wouldn't be doing anything else. And I'll do it, as long as I please my readers–and myself.

But like any job, it's not always fun. Sometimes it's frustrating. Sometimes I disappoint myself with how slow I am at it. It takes time to craft a sentence, let alone a paragraph, a scene or a chapter.

Then you have to do it time and again, until you have a cohesive story. Creating a work that even you enjoy, despite having read it so many times, you want to scream.

I remember the reaction my sister had when I told her I'd sold my very first novel. "In fact, the contract is for two books," I proclaimed proudly.

This was met with a look of horror. "You mean, they can make you write another?" 

"God, I hope so," I declared.

 Eight years and seventeen novels later, I still feel that way. 

And, now a bonus comment…

11. "I've got a great idea for a book! Why don't I give it to you, and we can split what you make, 50/50?"

Ha ha! I get this one a lot! I've even gotten it from my sister.

Thank you, but I respectfully decline your offer. You see, I have so many ideas already, that I wonder if I'll have the lifespan in which to write them all.

And besides, at best, a concept is a one-liner (at the most ten words). Even if it's the best book concept in the world, but then you're leaving me with the heavy lifting–that is, coming up with the other eighty thousand words that makes it a book.

You see, a book may start out as a high concept, but it needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. That's a lot of sweat equity–especially if the concept doesn't resonate enough with you to (a) spend the time to research the era or topic, or (b) create characters who go through the motions to bring it to life–and make readers laugh, cry, or write you to tell you how much your words meant to them.

That being said, go ahead and write it, as only you could do.

And let me know when it's published. I look forward to reading it, and supporting you, just like you read and support me.

 

HA Prequel The-Housewife-Assassin's-Deadly-Dossier-FinalJosie Brown is the author of The Housewife Assassin's Handbook series, as well as the Totlandia series. Her next book, The Housewife Assassin's Deadly Dossier, will be released in June 2014.

“I don’t mind living in a man’s world…”

Marilyn-monroe-reading

 

"…as long as I can be a woman in it."

— Marilyn Monroe

 

____________________________

 

 

HA1 Handbook 768x1024

THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK
Murder. Suspense. Sex. 
And some handy household tips.

978-0-9740214-0-9

FREE! 
ORDER NOW,  from

Amazon.com (US)  / Amazon.UK 
Also in all Amazon countries!

BN.com (99 cents)

Apple iTunes Bookstore  / Apple iTunes Bookstore (UK) 
In all iTunes countries!

KoboBooks

When it comes to a boat, what’s in a name?

Harbor1

The boats in the San Francisco Yacht Harbor have wonderfully whimsical names: Irish Whisper. Calico Dragon. Sea Hawk. Kookaburra. Nai'a. Daisy. Escapade. Effie Jane. Portola.

Then there's the one named, simply, "Sailboat."

Talk about putting things in perspective.

— Josie

 

 

HA1 Handbook 768x1024 FREE!
THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK 
Over 150,000 downloads.
Find out why readers love it.

Read more about Donna at www.HousewifeAssassinsHandbook.com

 

Goodwill toward all customers, for sure. WestJet airline does it right.

Westjet-holiday-promotion

 

I think this is possibly the best public relations campaign I've ever seen an airline come up with. When you get to the end of the video and see the tears of joy and gratitude in the customers' eyes, you'll know what I mean.

 

Way to go, WestJet!

–Josie

 

 

 

HAH 1 - size 200 X 300

Murder. Suspense. Sex.
And some handy household tips.


FREE! Now in

Amazon.com (US)  / Amazon.UK 

BN.com (99 cents)

Apple iTBooks  / Apple iBooks(UK) 

KoboBooks.com

Woman gets her jollies on a San Francisco Cable Car. One hundred lovers and a $50K settlement later…

Judy-st.-louis

l love this article, from the archives of the San Francisco Chronicle. Brings to mind one of my favorite Judy Garland classics,  "The Trolley Song," from the musical, "Meet Me in St. Louis:"

Love this lyric: "I went to lose a jolly".

I'll just bet you did,

— Josie

"Cable Car Nymph"

Excerpted from

"San Francisco's Top 10 Sex Scandals"
Kevin Fagan, San Francisco Chronicle 
Published 4:00 am, Thursday, May 28, 2009

It was supposed to be a routine trip on the Hyde Street cable car in 1964, the 29-year-old woman said. But when the car lurched and she was heaved against a pole, the collision "somehow unleashed emotions hidden deep in the dark closet of her mind," The Chronicle reported – and thus was born "The cable car nymphomaniac" who took a trip on the "Cable Car Named Desire."

The woman sued Muni for $500,000 six years later, saying her injuries had triggered an insatiable sexual desire that drove her to take 100 lovers, leaving her perpetually unsatisfied. Reporters left her name out of news accounts, to protect her privacy, referring to her instead by her nickname, or as "the buxom blonde" from Michigan.

She was awarded $50,000 by a jury, whose members said they hoped she would use it for counseling.

(c) 2009 San Francisco Chronicle

 

 

With my high starched collar

And my high topped shoes

And my hair

Piled high upon my head

I went to lose a jolly

Hour on the Trolley

And lost my heart instead

 

With his light brown derby

And his bright green tie

He was quite

The handsomest of men

I started to yen

So I counted to ten

Then I counted to ten again

 

Clang, clang, clang went the trolley

Ding, ding, ding went the bell

Zing, zing, zing went my heartstrings

From the moment I saw him I fell

Chug, chug, chug went the motor

Bump, bump, bump went the brake

Thump, thump, thump went my heartstrings

When he smiled I could feel the car shake

He tipped his hat

And took a seat

He said he hoped he hadn't

Stepped upon my feet

He asked my name

I held my breath

I couldn't speak because

He scared me half to death

 

Buzz, buzz, buzz went the buzzer

Plop, plop, plop went the wheels

Stop, stop, stop went my heartstrings

As he started to go

Then I started to know

How it feels

When the universe reels

The day was bright

The air was sweet

The smell of honeysuckle

Charmed you off your feet

You tried to sing

But couldn't squeak

In fact, you loved him

So you couldn't even speak

 

Buzz, buzz, buzz went the buzzer

Plop, plop, plop went the wheels

Stop, stop, stop went my heartstrings

As he started to leave

I took hold of his sleeve

With my handAnd as if it were planned

He stay on with me

And it was grand just to stand

With his hand holding mine

Till the end of the line

 

Clang, clang, clang went the trolley

Zing, zing, zing went my heart

 

Songwriters: HUGH MARTIN/BLANE, RALPH

Published byLyrics © EMI Music Publishing