Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Snapshot in Time

I have a copy of Trisha Slay's Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away to give away (only two more days left!), and the setting of the book reminded me a lot of the time I worked in a movie theater in high school. It was a fun job and I got to see so many free movies during that year, which thrilled the movie buff in me. I will always hold that time--and the people I worked with then--near and dear to my heart. But I also had an experience there that taught me an important life lesson I will never forget.

The lesson wasn't that unlimited refills of Cherry Coke and hot popcorn were a great perk of the job, although I still have fond memories of devouring those snacks while I worked on homework in the box office in between showings. An experience I had at this movie theater taught me to forever be aware of my surroundings and to always, always, trust my instincts.

I was working a late shift in the box office that night, and when I had arrived to work earlier that evening, the parking lot was already full. After circling the lot several times, I finally gave up and parked at the very end of the lot, thinking that I would make sure I got a co-worker to make sure I got to my car safely later that evening.

I can't exactly remember what time my shift ended, but it was well after the 9 and 10 p.m. showings. I noticed that a group of young men entered the lobby and loitered around the pay phones, but they never approached the box office for tickets. One of them made eye contact with me and smiled, but I felt uncomfortable. I was gathering my things and saying goodbye to a few of my friends that also worked with me, and sometime during that period, the guys left. It wasn't until I got into the parking lot that I remembered how far away my car was. The parking lot was pretty well lit, but I was still nervous because there weren't a lot of people around. I hesitated, trying to figure out if I should go back to the theater and ask one of the ushers to walk me to my car. I decided against it, because I was 17 years old and probably thought I was invincible.

Around that time a van pulled up next to me and the doors slid open. The guys I had noticed in the lobby a few minutes earlier were grinning at me and laughing. One of them leaned out of the van and asked me if there were any good clubs around, because they were in town visiting and didn't know the local scene. My intuition told me they were lying, and that I needed to stall them. I could barely speak because my mouth was so dry. I am five feet tall and probably weighed about 90 pounds back then, so I was no match for them. I remember stumbling over my words and telling them about a few clubs for teens that were close by, all while a voice inside my head was telling me to get out of there. The guy who seemed to be the ringleader was inviting me to get in the van and go with them when I finally took a deep breath and said, "You know what? I forgot I left something inside."

I turned around and sprinted back toward the theater as fast as I could (thank you, hours of cross country practice!) Luckily, one of the ushers was standing just inside the lobby when I got there. I told him about the van, and he walked with me to see if it was still in the parking lot. As soon as the driver of the van saw I had someone with me, he took off out of the parking lot.

I am so grateful that I listened to my instincts that night and finally did get someone to walk me to my car. Those guys could have had only the best intentions, but I doubt it. If you are in a situation and you feel the hair on the back of your neck stand up, get out of there as soon as you can. Don't hesitate. These days I avoid getting myself in those types of situations if at all possible. Some people might call me paranoid, but I prefer to err on the side of caution. I encourage you to do the same.

Thanks to this post by Jane Hertenstein for giving me the inspiration to write a piece of flash memoir. You can learn more about this interesting type of writing in her book Freeze Frame: How To Write Flash Memoir.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Review and Giveaway: Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away

There were two specific reasons I was excited to read Trisha Slay’s young adult novel, Not So LongAgo, Not So Far Away. First of all, my husband is a huge Star Wars fan. And like Slay, he admits that the original Star Wars is not his favorite in the franchise, but rather, The Empire Strikes Back holds that place in his heart. Second, I am a huge movie buff and like the main character in the book, Erika, I too worked in a movie theater in high school. Mine didn’t quite have the historical charm of The Bixby Theater, but it was an amazing experience nonetheless and one I will never forget. It’s a fantastic backdrop for a novel.

When Erika’s best friend, teen beauty queen Cassandra Abbott, disappears during the early hours of Memorial Day 1977, Erika isn't exactly surprised. After all, they’ve been plotting and planning Cassie’s escape for months. But then Cassie’s departure unleashes a whirlwind of questions, suspicions and accusations that Erika never expected. She’s lying to the police. She’s being bullied by older students. Worst of all, she’s starting to doubt she ever REALLY knew Cassie Abbott at all. Under the weight of scrutiny and confusion, Erika struggles just to breathe...until a strange new movie transforms her summer with A New Hope

For Erika, Star Wars changes EVERYTHING. So she volunteers to do chores for a local theater owner to gain unlimited access to a galaxy far, far away from her current reality. At the Bixby Theater—a beautiful but crumbling movie palace from a more civilized era—Erika discovers new friendships, feels the crush of first love and starts an exciting new romance with Super 8 film making...but she can't hide in a darkened movie theater forever. As the summer wears on, tensions escalate over the unsolved mystery surrounding Cassie’s disappearance. Someone seems to think Erika knows too many of Cassie's secrets. Eventually, Erika must step out of the shadows and, armed only with her Super 8 camera and the lessons she's learned from Star Wars, fight to save herself and the theater that has become her second home. Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away is a quirky, contemporary, coming-of-age novel set during the earliest days of the Star Wars fan phenomenon.

I thoroughly enjoyed NSLA. The book is narrated by 15-year-old Erika Williams in the wake of her best friend Cassie’s escape from an abusive father and chief of the police. Hopeful that the beautiful and charismatic Cassie has made it safely to California, Erika also writes letters to her friend as she narrates a surprising turn of events in her small Ohio town during the summer of 1977.

The book showcases a colorful cast of characters, from Erika’s “Mother Monster” Anita to the corrupt members of the local sheriff’s office to the endearing yet tough motley crew at The Bixby. I especially loved the Bixby employees Sonny, also a student at Erika's high school, and Alex, the mysterious female theater projectionist and Vietnam vet. Throw in the enigmatic Cassie and a blockbuster summer movie that changed the lives of many fans all over the world, and you’ve got a recipe for a page turner. So many times the members of our workplace become like a surrogate family and this holds true in Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away. The pop culture references in this book added to the charm, from the bottles of Tab to the record players to the Super 8 video camera. I loved watching Erika transform from a scared young girl living miserably under her domineering mother’s roof to a blossoming filmmaker who stands up for the things she holds most sacred, including her self worth and the theatre that helped her reclaim her identity. 

About Trisha Slay:
Trisha Slay is a writer with a passion for storytelling. She has studied at the Institute of Children’s Literature as well as furthering her skills through online workshops. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and the Atlanta Writer’s Club. She enjoys participating in writing groups and spends a great deal of time improving her craft. Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away is her first novel.

Tricia hopes Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away would be compared to Looking for Alaska by John Green and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. She has said that "If those two books had a Star Wars-obsessed little sister, I'd like to think she would be my novel."

Tricia lives between the Atlanta metro area and the North Georgia Mountains, but hails originally from Ohio...by the way of the San Francisco Bay area. When she is not working on her next book (tentatively titled Sometimes We Strike Back), her interests include: 70s pop culture; unsolved mysteries; Star Wars (original trilogy); historic movie theaters; haunted history; reading (especially YA novels); nutrition/weight watchers/healthy vegetarian cuisine; hiking (exploring the National Forest trails with her guy); yoga/meditation; miscellaneous crafting projects (that rarely turn out as envisioned); and writing letters she never intends to mail.

Find out more about the author by visiting her online:

Trisha’s website: http://trishaslay.com/

Twitter: @SlaytheWriter

Thanks to Trisha and Crystal over at WOW! Women on Writing, I have one copy of Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away to give away. You know you want to win a free book, so enter at the Rafflecopter form below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 22, 2013

Turn Your Hobby into a Blog

Photo courtesy of Lisa Thomas
Today I'm pleased to bring you an interview with Liz Parker, who runs the blogs Books I Think You Should Read and Yes/No Films. An avid reader and movie watcher, Parker works full-time in addition to running both of these blogs, a juggling act that I find very impressive! If you love freebies, you definitely need to check her blogs out, as she always has some great giveaways in the works. She took time out of her schedule recently to discuss ways to increase traffic to your blog, what types of books she likes to read and her obsession with movies. You can find Liz on Facebook and Twitter @yesnofilms.

Is blogging your full-time occupation?
No. I'm an Online Support Coordinator at a local company that produces trade magazines, which is full-time job. We have a variety of trade magazines, and I'm assigned to nine of these - my job is to put what's in the print editions online, as well as to create custom pages for the sites. Basically, I'm the "webmaster" for the sites for content, and I work with everything except its advertising.

You run two blogs, Books I Think You Should Read and Yes/No Films. How did you get interested in blogging?
I started a Xanga site for myself back in 2003, when I was in high school, and used to blog about my daily life - I think I had maybe five readers, and they were all my friends! The summer after I graduated from the University of Michigan (2009), I was unemployed, and I started writing down my thoughts about books I had read, since I love to read, and that became Books I Think You Should Read.
Yes/No Films was started with a friend - the name of the blog was his idea, actually - in January 2009, since I see so many free movies through local area movie screenings.

How regularly do you post? Where do you get the content to keep both blogs consistently up-to-date?
You'll mostly see posts on my film blog on Fridays, because that's when movies are released; occasionally, a children's movie or other movies will be released on Wednesdays due to holidays, though. I post on my book blog whenever I finish a book or have other content (giveaways, etc.) to post, so I'd say maybe once or twice a week.

I already know that you read a lot! Do you have any specific authors or genres that your favor more than others?
I'm a huge fan of the YA (Young Adult) genre - most of the authors are actually 30+, and it's really not just for teens. I also like a good mystery or legal thriller - Mary Higgins Clark and John Grisham come to mind.

How often are you at the movies? Do you prefer the theatre experience or do you get the same pleasure from renting and watching movies at home?
I see a LOT of movies. Usually at least two screenings a week, but sometimes three, and on one crazy week I saw four, back-to-back (Mon/Tues/Wed/Thurs) which was a bit much! I love the theater experience, and a lot of the same people go to the screenings, so it's nice to be able to socialize with them weekly. At the same time, I do enjoy catching up on movies I missed in the theater at home, or watching some of my favorites that I own. I'd say overall I prefer the theater experience, though.

What is your best advice when handling giveaways on a blog as you do?
Say yes to everything, but at the same time, don't overbook yourself! I've made a lot of contacts by agreeing to host or post a giveaway, but if its a giveaway that's in no way applicable to my site, then I usually don't accept.

What are some tips you can give bloggers who are just starting out or are looking to increase traffic to their blog(s)?

  • Some of the same advice as above - if you can do a giveaway or an opportunity, then go for it.
  • Publish at least once a week, and make sure it's quality content - not just contests.
  • Also, try looking around on Twitter (for users with similar interests) or on Facebook (for groups with similar interests, like a blogging group or a niche group). I've joined a few of these in the past year and it's fun to connect with people; it also provides a good venue to talk about your most recent posts.
What are five of your favorite movies released in the last five years? (I tried to narrow it down for you!)
That's a really hard question!
I'm going to narrow it to just the last three years, actually (2010-2013), so that I can use my blog for reference. I would say:
The Help (2011) - I'm a huge fan of the book and the adaptation was fantastic.
The Way, Way Back (2013) - This just came out, actually. I saw it twice and really enjoyed it.
The Social Network (2010) - I'm a Facebook addict, and I thought this was so interesting, and it had fantastic performances too.
Despicable Me (2010) - Such a cute movie! I saw the sequel recently too, and although I liked it, the original is better, in my opinion.
Django Unchained (2012) - I really didn't expect to like this one so much but I ended up seeing it twice in the theater. Compelling story and great acting.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Sailing Through Summer

Wow! It's been awhile since I last posted, and I apologize. I can honestly say that I can barely remember the month of June, which was a whirlwind of end-of-school-year activities for my kids, one very special little girl's birthday, and of course, work!

Yes, my very lovely and inquisitive daughter Mia turned 10 on June 10. As cliche as it sounds, I really can't believe how fast the first 10 years of her life passed us by. I decided to also embrace this particular birthday for a different reason. I began freelancing after she was born and my career path was forever changed, for the better I do believe. It's been a roller coaster ride trying to juggle writing and editing jobs while raising two kids, but we make it work. I am happy to be at a stage in my life where I'm creatively fulfilled, earn regular paychecks and still get to be in the audience during my children's school plays throughout the year. I may not be rich but I'm definitely happy, and that's the most important thing.

Here's just a peek at what I've been up to this summer:

I contributed "How to Write a YA Psychological Thriller" to the latest WOW! Women on Writing e-zine. It doesn't get much better than getting the chance to interview some published authors you really admire!

I've written a few blogs for The Muffin and am working on my next one scheduled to run on July 10.

I've helped indie author Destiny Allison launch her blog tour for the novel Pipe Dreams through WOW! Details here. Congratulations, Destiny! (Review to come soon).

You can also find an interview with me in the Behind the Pages section of Lake Norman Currents Magazine's July issue (I'm on page 9). It was fun to be the subject of an interview for a change!

Also, I've been working diligently on turning the first novel I wrote into a YA book. I invested in a children's writing workshop and have gotten some valuable feedback on my progress. I also officially registered for the SCBWI Carolinas Conference in September and can't wait to immerse myself in the workshops and get the first 10 pages of my manuscript professionally critiqued. I spent many years thinking that I wasn't talented or even prosperous enough to invest in my writing career. I've moved on from that mindset and have made so much progress in my work once I decided I was a worthwhile investment. More to come soon!