Thursday, May 31, 2012

Women are just like men

 Women notice big boobs and pretty faces of other women just as much as men do. Maybe even more. They are just like men. They notice looks. That wont ever change. To judge men for doing it is to ignore that women do it just as much, if not more. 

  To read more, click on the link below. You can also leave a comment there.

Sunshine Award! by Michelle Franco

Sunshine Award! Woohoo!! 

 First, I have to apologize. This blog is way overdue. I was given this award several months ago by my amazingly talented friend and fellow author Roberta J. Gordon. She is always so generous when it comes to handing out blog love, and I am so thankful that she often thinks of me and my random, sometimes bizarre blogging. The feeling is mutual because I love her blog as well. Congrats to her for recently publishing her first novel called Gemini Witching: Elements 101. 

  To read more, click on the link below. You can also leave a comment there. 

My Memorial Day Thoughts by Benjamin X. Wretlind

I don't have many friends--never have--and when one passes, it takes a toll on who I am, like a piece ripped out by the lion of time who ravages our souls.  Nathan J. Nylander was a friend, and during the time I spent with him in Arizona in the late 1990's and again in Hawaii after he became an officer, I felt better about myself.

That's what friends do.

To read more, click on the link below. You can also leave a comment there.

Rev. Ron's Movie Reviews: Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter

Vampire hunter?  More like's synonymous with "boring" and rhymes with "hunter?" 

Captain Kronos:  Vampire Hunter is a 1974 film about a expert swordsman (according to all online synopsizes) who--you guessed it, hunts vampires.  The film follows the hunter and his hunchbacked assistant who arrives in a small village that is under attack.  Young women are having their youth taken from them by the unholy beasts of the night...or, in this case, the day because these aren't your Hollywood vampires in classy capes and pale faces.  

To read more, click on the link below. You can also leave a comment there. 

Easy-Bake Oven Deprivation Syndrome by Matthew Turcotte

 Over the last few months, I’ve done quite a few blog entries on toys of the past.  And why wouldn’t I?  Like most kids, I loved playing with all sorts of different toys and games.  In fact, I reckon that I played with some toys that some of my peers never played with, simply because a good portion of my toys growing up were hand-me-downs, secondhand, or bought at garage sales.  I don’t remember too many kids my age who can say that they ever played an Intellivision, a Merlin, or an authentic Fisher-Price record player. 

To read more, click on the link below. You can also leave a comment there.

Lexulous Life Lessons: See the value in all things. It's there

That friend you think does nothing for you. They might be the one with the friend who has major contacts. The one who leads you to that place you want to be. Or not. 

To read the whole blog, click on the link below. You can also comment there.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Pop Culture Addict Guide To Life - 5/29/1997

Today’s blog subject died under mysterious circumstances on today’s featured date.  May 29, 1997.

May 29, 1997 was supposed to have been a great day for this singer-songwriter.  On this date in history, he was in Memphis, Tennessee, awaiting the arrival of his band at the recording studio.  He was in the midst of recording material for his second album, “My Sweetheart, The Drunk”.  While he waited for the band, our singer was getting a bit antsy, and he made the decision to go for a swim in the nearby Wolf River Harbor, which was near the Mississippi River.  It had been a favourite activity of his since he moved to Memphis just three months earlier.  With a roadie standing on shore as a witness, the man dove into the river still fully clothed, singing the chorus to a Led Zeppelin classic.  The roadie turned his back for just a few minutes to move a radio and guitar, and when his gaze fixed back on the river, the swimmer had vanished.

Almost one week later, on June 4, 1997, the body of 30-year-old Jeff Buckley was found by a couple of people near a riverboat.  With that discovery ended the promising career of a young man just starting out in the music business.

This blog is about the short life of Jeff Buckley.

To read more, click on the link below. You can also leave a comment there.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Pop Culture Addict's Guide To Life: Bette Davis Eyes by Matthew Turcotte

Here’s a question for everyone reading this blog.  What was the #1 the day that you were born?

To read more, click on the link below. You can also leave a comment there.

Rev. Ron's Movie Reviews: Henry's Crime

Henry's Crime is a romantic comedy heist film about a guy (Henry) who is framed in a bank robbery and ends up paying the price by serving hard time.  After he is released, he decides he going to actually go through with the crime he paid for and rob the bank.  Along the way, he falls in love with an actress trying to make it big (that's where the romantic comes into in this comedy heist).  And did I mention that Keanu Reeves plays Henry?  That's right...this is a romcom that stars Neo from The Matrix.

To read more, click on the link below. You can also leave a comment there. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Tips for bloggers

Remember why you read a blog. Others do the same.

You want to read fun and interesting blogs. Yours better be one or both of those things. If it is not, just like you, nobody is going to bother reading it. Baby pictures and photos of your vacation are great..once..but if that is all you keep bringing to the table people will get bored with it. Content is key. Whether that is opinion, story,  entertainment or whatever it is that you do, it has to be interesting to the reader.

If they cant read it in 10 minutes, it is too long.

When people come to a blog, they are looking for something fairly quick. We live in a sound bite world. They want you to get to the point fairly fast and grab their attention right away. This isn't a novel, or War And Peace. If you ramble on and lose them early, they simply will move on. "Next". You got them to start reading, don't lose them by rambling on.

If you don't have photos or videos to jazz it up your words better be great.

Most of us grew up in the age of television. We are very visual. Sure, a lot of us still like to read, but we read books when we want to read. You need to break up the words with pictures and/or videos. In that way, they stay interested and get a break while maintaining interest.

The title must be catchy. It means everything.

There are thousands of blogs that any reader could choose to read. Even in my blogger group, there are 15 to 20 to choose from each day. Nobody is going to read them all. The title is going to make them look. If they don't like your title, they will just pass it by. If they like it, they will at least start reading to see if you maintain their interest. If you do one thing right, do this. Put some effort into a catchy title.

You must network but don't tag anyone unless they ask you to.
Find places to post your blog. Find the types of people who want to read what you write,  what you have to say. But don't smother them and annoy them like some overzealous telemarketer.  Don't go and tag your entire friend base. Find out who consistently likes your blog and then ask them if they want to be tagged. Target those that want to be targeted. Let the others decide on their own. Being pushy only gets you pushed out the door.

 Post an excerpt to give them a taste.
Having a great, catchy title is one thing, and that is important as mentioned above, but in addition, post something interesting from the blog to give them a taste of what you are talking about. Make it short, 20 to 30 words. Just enough to make them want to read it, but not enough to make them think they don't have to.

If you are blogging, you are a writer. You aren't just posting aimless status's and threads on facebook. Spelling errors are not acceptable. It is very easy to catch spelling errors. I write my blogs on google and it highlights any spelling mistake.  It takes me less than 30 seconds to fix them all. If you aren't willing to do that, then you should not be blogging. People who read blogs expect you to put out that kind of effort. The odd mistake will happen, but it should be very rare. If you spell check then it won't.

Build your blogs. It takes time.

Good blogs start from a simple idea,  thought or rant. But, it takes time to build them into more than that. As busy writers we don't always have the time to do that right away. A part here, an idea there, a sentence here and there. You need to build that blog into something that will keep the reader reading and coming back for your next one. That takes time. Take the time to build the blog. When it is ready,  or almost ready, then you can go ahead and finish it, edit it, polish it and present it as something that gets you noticed,  admired and ultimately followed.

Store ideas.

People who write have lots of ideas. A great blog starts from a great idea from which you can frame around to produce an entertaining and interesting blog. You get many ideas from many places. Just store them all and go back to them when you feel like it. I have hundreds of ideas stored. Some I write up same day. Others I go back to in a week or two. Others sit for months or years and I go back to them when I feel I have something fresh to make them viable. Store them all. Deal with it later. You never know when that great idea from way back  is going to come back up to the surface and be worthy of a complete blog. In that same vein, if you are storing them and they sit forever and never get used,  think about trimming and deleting those that just never went anywhere. Not every idea is a good one or works out. Some of the best blogs are the ones you just didn't bother with. Use your energy for the winners not the losers.

Know who your readers are.

If you want to write political or theoretical blogs based on long arguments with lots of proof go ahead and do that. But make sure the readers who follow you are interested in that. If they are looking for humor and light topics that is what they respond to. If you want to change directions then build a different following. You don't neccesarily write for others, but if you want to be read then you have to consider who your followers are.

Proofread it or don't post it.
Proofreading the average blog takes about 2 or 3 minutes. If you aren't willing to take the time to do that then don't blog. The readers can sense that. You might get away with it once or twice,  with the odd small mistake or typo,  but long term you won't. Sloppy work shows and readers will go elsewhere. This is the work you show others. Take pride in that and don't give them a stupid reason, like lack of spelling or grammar, to go elsewhere.

Make it personal. But not too personal. Just a taste or snippet.

People who read blogs want to get to know you. Some part of it should be personal. Maybe a quick story relating to the topic you are discussing. They don't want to know intimate details, and it should not be the focus of your blog, but if you give them a taste they feel like they know you and are more likely to read that blog and come back looking to know more about you and why you blog about what you do.

 Variety. Mix it up.

Don't blog about the same thing every day. Sure, everyone has their niche topic and genre. But mix it up. Do something different every now and then. The different thing you bring is your spin on it. You can only spin one topic so many ways. After a while you just begin to sound like a broken record. If you have talked about a subject and you have nothing new to add, move on. If you don't, the readers will.

Story. It is not a story it is a blog unless you are promoting a story.

A blog is a blog. Don't write a short story. If you have a story to promote, put that in the title and let the readers decide if they want to read your story. Generally, those that read blogs aren't looking to read a story when they go looking. If you are going to do this, perhaps just give a small sample of the story, and give them the link if they want to read more later or at another time.

You are not Hemmingway and you never will be. So just write it. It is a blog not War and Peace.

It is highly unlikely that you are Hemmingway. In the unlikely event you are Hemmingway, Hemmingway wrote novels. You are writing a blog. If you want to be a novelist, go write a novel.

Don't be a copycat.

Do what you do best. Don't start copying others because you see they have lots of followers and get attention. Just like any other form of art, the copycat only gets attention because they copy, not because they bring anything of value to the table. In most cases,  they do inferior work and what they are showing has been done before. To death. Do what you do, not what others do.

 Marketing is a must.

Just like anything, your blog is not going to get noticed right away. Secondly, if you don't promote it nobody will read it. Find ways to get noticed. Seek out those who are avid readers. Build a base of followers and get them to hook you up with others. They will likely do that willingly. You yourself should be reading blogs and networking with those people. They will lead you to more followers. As long as you have the content to back up the promotion, the blog will grow in following. But you can't let up. You must network and market your work daily. It is hard work to market your blog successfully, but if you don't it simply won't grow.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Michael Shinafelt interview

 Michael Shinafelt is a freelance writer currently living in Los Angeles. Born and raised in Washington State, he moved to Los Angeles approximately 23 years ago to pursue his childhood dream of being an actor. He writes a blog, mostly interview based with very interesting, some famous,  some not yet famous people he knows.
We discussed how he got to L.A., what he has done there and where he is going from here.!/michael.shinafelt
I know very little about you. Where were you born and where did you grow up?

I was born in Tacoma, WA - and raised mostly in Gig Harbor, WA which is a beautiful suburb on the water.

Young Michael in college

 How did you find your way to L.A. where you live now?

 Ever since I can remember I have always wanted to live in Los Angeles - it was my dream since I was in grade school, and guess what? Now I do.

 At what point in your life did you make that move?

 About 23 years old

Why L.A.? What was the your mind at that time?

The Entertainment industry, I initially wanted to be an actor.

If that didn't end up happening, on the level you wished..why didn't it?
I'm not really sure, I really hated the business of acting, but I love acting itself, after a few years I moved on from it, a friend told me I did not give it enough time to hit...she may have been correct as I actually did a few acting jobs last year, one was my dream job, getting killed in a horror movie.

Did you study acting at all, either back home in Washington or in L.A. and were you in any plays or theater when you were growing up?
I studied acting in LA and the theater productions I was in in Washington were my training there. I did plays growing up, community theater, High School productions...plays, plays,

Describe your parents to me.

Hmmmmmmmmmmm...typical hard working middle class people, who encouraged my sister and I to be our own people and to chase what we wanted in life.

Is your sister involved in the arts in any way?

 No, she is a soccer coach and a teacher, she also played soccer in college, she is the jock in the family lol!

Any of your immediate family members writers?

None, just is my natural gift.

Describe your childhood. Anything interesting happen?

Not really..nothing out of the ordinary really. It was pretty typical I would say.

 What is it you do, for a day job?

I do some internet PR as well as write and am getting back into acting again.

Michael and Margaret Cho, out and about. 

You seem to know a lot of very interesting people around L.A., how did that come about?
Putting myself out there and networking. I did not know anyone when I moved here, now I know lots of people : )

 How long have you lived in L.A. now?

 23 years I believe

How did you happen to meet Traci Lords?

Through an interview I did with her a while back, and then we really connected when I chatted her up for her return to the music scene "Last Drag" she even follows me on Twitter.!/MShinafelt

Michael and Traci Lords

What does blogging do for you?

It keeps my name out there at all times and allows me the autonomy to write what I want. I get pretty well known names on my blog because a lot of interview subjects are my friends and they will talk to me for it, it helps keep their names out there too.


Describe your musical tastes, if they can be described?

Well not everyone I write about is my taste, that being said i tend to gravitate towards rock, alternative & the indie music scene. 

You do a lot of interview blogs.  Why that mode for you?

Because it is my strong suit and I enjoy doing them. Also people like to read interviews a lot more than someone posting an opinion, there is nothing wrong with doing that, but interviews are the thing.

Who is one person that you want to interview that you have yet to get?

Good question. I've never really thought about it to be honest...I would have liked the chance to chat with Elizabeth Taylor, she had an amazing life. One of my favorite interviews that I landed was Pamela Anderson, so sweet, funny and a good time!

You list yourself as a freelance writer on facebook. What does that mean in real terms for you?

I have no steady job, lol - well Chorus and Verse is steady right now, but it means I need to get out there and find other writing jobs.

Michael and Terri Nunn of Berlin

You write a blog. Do you write short stories? Novels? Scripts?

None of the above. At some point I will write a novel though, I am sure. 

What were some of your favorite books, movies, tv shows growing up?

Oh I am the worst at remembering these things when put on the spot. I used to watch horror movies on the weekend with my Dad, things like Dracula, The Wolfman....I liked "Three's Company" initially when it first started, oh and "Happy Days" as well. "Where the Wild Things Are" and "James and the Giant Peach" were two books I liked.

You don't write about many issues. What is a hot button issue for you?
That is true I write to entertain, we need that now more than ever. There are so many hot button issues for me in the current climate it isn't even funny. I can not believe a woman's right to choose is coming under fire again, and that people's civil rights are being denied.

Do you think that is a sign of the changing political climate, that people are willing to accept that in this day and age?

I'm not sure what to make of it, I find it confusing, there are so many things that are "issues" that really are no one's business but the individuals.

 What is a typical day for Michael Shinafelt?

 Get up turn on the computer, work on the Internet PR for my client, write, look for writing jobs, the gym, yoga keeps me, call some friends...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Matthew Turcotte Interview

 Matthew Turcotte is a soon to be 31 year old aspiring writer from Brockville, Ontario. He works by day at Walmart and diligently by day and night at home preparing his pop culture blog, of which he produces one a day. We discussed his roots, how and why he has managed to produce one blog a day for more than a year, his future writing goals and a variety of subjects that he blogs on regularly.

You live in Eastern Ontario. You were born, raised and have always lived there?

 Yes. I was born in Brockville, Ontario, and have lived in the area all my life (barring a two year window where I attended school in Ottawa).

Brockville, Ontario gives you access to the Thousand Islands. You can take a boat ride from the Marina.

 Describe life in Brockville. Many don't know it is a border town and you can see the States from right across the river.

Yes, that is correct. If you go down to Block House Island or Hardy Park (both of which are located right next to the St. Lawrence River), you can see America.

Brockville is a town that compared to some of the other areas in the province of Ontario is a bit on the small side. At last check, the population was 22,000. As far as the town itself is concerned, there is a lot of history surrounding it. We are home to Canada's first railway tunnel, and some of the buildings in the city's downtown core were built during the 1800s. Aesthetically, the town is absolutely beautiful...lots of parks, the court house square that is paved with cobblestones, the fantastic view of the riverfront. These are all things that make Brockville stand out. The only downside is that Brockville has been hit hard by the economy, and there aren't a lot of jobs available for people, so many have left to find employment elsewhere. But other than that, it's a nice little town.

Hardy Park Waterfront Trail. The other side of the River is the United States.
Would you ever consider moving to the big city, Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto or any other place?

I probably wouldn't live in a major metropolitan city, just because it would be a bit too overwhelming for me. I lived in Ottawa (though on a university campus), and, I've visited Toronto and Montreal, and found the experience as a tourist fascinating, but completely different from a small town. One perk of larger cities is that there is never a shortage of transportation options, and there certainly is a lot more to do. But the trade-off is that you are constantly surrounded by noise, and I admit I like my quiet time to myself.

As far as my foreseeable future goes, I'll likely be sticking around Brockville for now, but Kingston (which is about five times larger than Brockville) is a beautiful town too, and I could see myself living there as well. The Kingston/Brockville area has that balance between country and city living down pat.

 You have a french sounding last name. Do your parents speak french and is french any part of your life?

 My name is indeed French, but nobody in my family speaks French. I'm semi-fluent in French myself. I know enough to get by if ever I was lost on the streets of Quebec City, but I couldn't write an entire story in French. I took French all through my elementary and high school years, so that's how I picked up a bit of the language.

 You talk a lot about your sisters in your blog. Do either of them write?

 Not professionally. One works as an addictions counsellor, and the other one works at a financial services building. My sisters are also a bit older than I am. One is 15 years older than I am, and the other one is 9 years older. I often joke that my parents believed in the one child per decade rule, as all three of us were born in different decades.

You know, come to think of it, my sister did have something published through her workplace. She helped bring in a new addictions recovery program in the area, and she had to co-write the manual for the program. In fact, I assisted her in helping her type it out years ago.

Although all three of us are fairly skilled in writing, I'm really the only one who would like to do it as a full-time career.

Do your parents write?

 No, they don't. My father worked for CN Rail for 31 years, and my mother was a stay-at-home mom.

 You work at Walmart, and you aspire to be a writer. Did you ever have any other careers in mind?

 Oh, sure. When we're young, we all daydream about what jobs we'd like as adults. Before the age of ten, I think I wanted to be a fireman, an actor, a teacher...I even think at one time, I wanted to be the guy who pulled the lottery numbers out of the drum on television...LOL.

But one thing that remained constant in my childhood was that I liked playing with crayons and pads of notebook paper...even more than the toys that I had in my toy box. So, I guess at an early age, I really had an interest in creating things, even if I didn't know it back at the time. 

 You write a pop culture blog. Why pop culture?

 There's a couple of reasons why I chose pop culture. We all have our favourite movies, television shows, musical groups, and Saturday morning cartoons, and I think that by having a blog on these topics, it opens up some discussion about the topic itself, which is always nice to see.

But I think a bigger reason stems from the fact that when I was growing up, my childhood was sort of a lonely one. I was bullied in school, and lived on a street that had mostly elderly people living on it. I mean, I certainly wouldn't recommend television or toys and games as a substitute for social interaction, not at all...but for me, it helped to think of the television shows and films that I enjoyed whenever I was feeling bad. I mean, everyone has memories of watching television with family members. One of my earliest memories was watching The Price Is Right at my grandmother's house, so any time I watch The Price Is Right, I think of her, you know?

 I do. I also have memories of watching The Price Is Right at my grandmothers house. It seems grandmothers watched a lot of Price is Right.

Yes, they did...and my grandparents were also a fan of daytime dramas and talk shows, so I ended up watching them just because they did. I didn't necessarily know what they were talking about, but because they liked them, I watched them. And, the one thing that I find great about that is because I have these experiences with my grandparents, it gave me more topics to talk about in my blog. That was one goal I had with the blogging project...I wanted to have a wide array of topics so that a larger group of people could read and comment on them.

 You write one blog a day and have done that for over a year. How have you managed to keep a full time day job and pull that off?

 It's not easy, I'll tell you! The one blog post a day was a challenge to myself. I wanted to test myself to see if I could do it, and so far, I've been making it work. I do most of my writing on my days off. In some cases, I'll work on two blog entries at once if I know that my schedule will be hectic. It's hard work at times, but I find I'm getting better at it.

 If you had to show one blog to anyone to show what you can do, what blog would that be?

 Now there's a loaded question...

I suppose if I had to choose a particular entry to showcase what the blog is all about, I would probably go with any of the ones that talk about overcoming a challenge, or one where you learn a life lesson.

There's one entry that I wrote back on August 7, 2011 that talked about the Coolio song "Gangsta's Paradise". It had some info on the song itself, but it also ended up being a significant song in my own life. In that entry, much like other ones I've done, I bring up a personal life story and tie it to the pop culture item itself. And, that's just one example. I have others detailing health scares, job stories, and other miscellaneous items. But the one I pointed out is probably one of my better accounts.

 You usually mix several elements into every blog. Facts about the topic,  an introduction which relates your personal interest in the topic and a point or anecdote which you setup for the end. Any thoughts to why you do it this way and how that developed?

 The blog is basically an exercise in self-awareness and self-taught life lessons that stem from these pop culture references. Whenever I do a blog entry, I try to highlight these lessons in hopes that other people will be able to see it too. But even if they don't, that's okay with me, because if I can find at least one life lesson that I can apply to my own life with the topic of discussion, then I call that a success. The trivia points and bonus questions that I sometimes include are to encourage discussion about either the topic itself, or the life lesson included within.

Do you have the aim to be a story writer as well, and if so do you have anything in the works?

 Oh, absolutely. I'd love to have a novel published. I've written a few stories in the past, and have entered some writing contests. But, here's something that not a lot of people know. When I was seventeen or so, I actually wrote a couple of manuscripts. Even more shocking is the fact that I didn't own a computer back in those days, so they are all handwritten. However, fourteen years have passed, and re-reading the only one that I've found, it's nowhere NEAR ready to be published. It's true what they say...we are our own worst critics. Maybe I'll pull it out again and rewrite it, just to see if the end result would be worth reading. :D

 You have talked extensively about your experiences with bullying. In the present, other than writing,  do you do anything to try and stamp out bullying?

 Oh, absolutely. Aside from talking about it in my blog, I started up a Facebook group which is called the "Gallery of Healing". It was originally designed as a creative outlet for people to express their thoughts about bullying, or just to talk about their own experiences. It's not a very big group, but it's there in case anyone needs a place to go where they won't be judged.
  I also have joined other groups on Facebook to talk about my own experiences, and I find that the more I talk about it, the more I can accept that it happened, and I can begin my own healing process.

Do you have any formal training as a writer?

 Other than attending a few college classes, not really, no. When I was in high school, my course load was more English/History based than Math/Science, so I was definitely exposed to more writing than some other people at my school. 

 Describe a typical blog, from start to finish. What's involved for you? How much time does it take? What methods do you use for research?

 Well, first, I check and see what day of the week it is...I know it sounds strange, but because I have different theme days for my blog, it makes a difference. It takes me longer to do a Thursday Confession than it does a Sunday Jukebox entry. And, Tuesday Timelines are the entries that involve the most research, so they take a while to do.

Typically speaking, the average blog entry takes me a few hours to write. Some I've done in less than two hours, while others have taken me at least eight.

As far as research goes, I tend to hit Internet Movie Database a lot for background information, and sometimes I'll use reference books or pop culture themed magazines for info. But the best research I can do is actually watching the film, or reading the book, or listening to the song that the topic is about. I did an entry on "My Girl" recently, and I was watching the movie while I was typing the entry.

 Other than facebook, how do you promote your blog?

 Well, I did have a Twitter account for about six months as a tool for promoting the blog, but I gave that up, as I am not a fan of the site. But, I admit that I have posted links to my blog on discussion forums (with the webmaster's permission, of course). Other than that, I'd say that Facebook is the main source of promotion for my blog.

 You have discussed your illness from 2011.  How has that changed you, if it has at all?

 It's changed me a lot. For those reading this interview that may not know, in February 2011, I had my gall bladder removed. The surgery was incredibly complicated, as my gall bladder was so infected that it started to infect other organs. Had I let it go any further, it would have killed me. When you're in a situation like this, it changes a person. Physically speaking, I'm doing fantastic aside from a huge scar on my chest. But emotionally speaking, it made me realize that life was short and that I really should start living it more. Slowly, but surely, I'm getting better at not sweating the small stuff and living the life the way that I want to...not the way anyone else did.

I think as well, the health scare showed me just how much people liked me, and what real friendship was. Before the surgery, I wasn't sure if I had such a thing, but all the phone calls and visits, and get well cards that I received during my recovery made me realize what the true value of friendship was. So, while the surgery was one of the worst things that happened to me physically, emotionally, it was one of the best. 

 You focus a lot on music in your blog. What does music mean to you and do for you?

Well, I'm sure you've heard the saying that music is a universal language, and I tend to agree. Music has the potential to awaken every possible emotion out there. Fear, Joy, Love, Pain, Sorrow, Anger. Most everyone I know listens to music in their daily activity, so I wanted to really put a special focus on including a lot of music in my blog.

And besides, some of the craziest stories out there in pop culture involve the music industry, which makes for more interesting reading.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Wow...let's see. Richard Marx, Tom Petty, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Steely Dan, U2, Duran Duran, Queen, some of Madonna's early works are quite good.

I also have Kylie Minogue as a guilty pleasure artist...her songs are catchy and have a good beat, and she's very nice to look at...LOL.

A lot of the artists I've named have either been featured in the blog or will be featured in upcoming entries.

You have a love of comic books,  tell us about that.

 Sure. My comic book tastes didn't involve the superhero comics like Batman or Superman, though I did read a few growing up. I tended to gravitate towards Archie comics in particular. My mom bought me my first one when I was five, and I was hooked instantly. I now have a collection in the thousands. It's one part of my childhood I refuse to give up. The world of Riverdale (where the Archie universe is) was always a positive place where everyone accepted each other no matter what kind of person you were. It was comforting to know that whenever I had a bad day in school, I could always escape into the world of Archie comics and feel like I belonged. And, certainly everyone does belong. There are African-American characters, Asian characters, characters with physical disabilities, and a couple of years ago, Archie comics introduced their first openly gay character. And, the common theme is that everyone gets along no matter what. It's a lesson that sometimes I wish the whole of society could get at times.

 That is all the questions I have. Anything else you wanted to bring up?

 I actually just wanted to take the time and thank everybody out there for reading "A Pop Culture Addict's Guide To Life". It's been a great experience for me to do this blog, and I hope that everyone has had fun reading it! If it wasn't for my readers, I wouldn't continue to do this blog, and I'd personally like to appreciate all of them for the topic suggestions and comments.

Stay tuned to the blog for the remainder of the month of May. May is the anniversary month of the blog, and I have some surprises planned.

Thanks again, everyone.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Michelle Franco Interview

Michelle Franco is a married mother of two from Stockton, California and step mother of another two. She works in the health care field by day, mainly in the psychology field. She started out gaining a degree in Writing but switched to Psychology for various reasons covered in this blog. Her first book, Where Will You Run? came out last year and the 2nd installment, Where Will You Hide? is currently in the works.  There are excerpts from both books at the end of this blog. 

We discussed a wide range of topics, including her childhood, family, inspirations for writing, her process and various writing related topics. As well,  we discussed a topic she is very involved in...bullying. 
Below is that interview.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Bakersfield, CA. We moved to Stockton, CA when I was very young, and I have been here ever since. 

 You are a Miami Dolphins fan, but you live in California, how did this happen?

 That's funny! I guess that does look strange with 3 teams in CA. When I was in junior high, my parents got my younger brothers football jerseys and helmets for Christmas - one Raiders and one 49'ers. I got bashed by those helmets so much that I can't stand either team. Just one look at a Raiders or 49'ers helmet can send me into a Guess I picked a team as far away from California as possible. Plus, I had a mean crush on Dan Marino.

Where is Stockton in relation to other major cities in California?

Stockton is about 45 miles south of Sacramento which it the capital of California and about 70 miles northeast of San Francisco.

Anything about Stockton that brings something to your writing that you might not other include?

Not really. Stockton is an amazing city and had the chance to be the capital at one point. It is an inland port and has a rich history of shipping and agriculture. It is a cool combination big city surrounded by farmland. Unfortunately, many of the city planners tried to keep Stockton small pushing the agriculture side, so the downtown area and port suffered and there is a lot of crime. They are trying to revitalize it, but it has been hit and miss and Stockton has been devastated by the housing crash and downturn in the economy. Growing up here, I guess I take the city for granted and don't really notice what I have around me.

You are married. For how long and how old are your kids?

This August, we will have been married 19 years, and we are still crazy in love. It has been a wild ride, but I am extremely blessed to have found and married my best friend. I have two step-children who are 25 and 23. We also have 2 children together. They are 14 and 11. We had custody of the older two, so we used to joke around and say we had to deal with algebra and diapers at the same time. 

Are there any other writers in your family?

I'm the only writer, but my siblings are all very talented as well. Both of my brothers are incredible artists. I would love to be able to draw and create the way they do. One of my brothers is an architect. Sometimes we tour the houses he designs, and I think how cool it would be to create a house or a building that you could actually use and would be around for years to come. My youngest brother is also a talented musician. He works in the field of computer graphics and designs my book covers. My sister is an amazing photographer and does my author promo pictures. 

Does your husband write?

LOL...not at all. He is a voracious reader though. He's a huge sci-fi fan and mows through books. I finally got him a reader because we were getting buried in paperbacks. He has been incredibly supportive of my writing and doubles as my tech support. 

When did you get the writing bug?

I have been writing for years. I was lucky enough to be chosen in high school to participate in the creative writing program in English honors based on my essay writing skills. Then I went on to college as an English major taking classes in literature, poetry, and writing. I entered the teaching credential program with the idea that I would teach high school English. After spending some time in a high school classroom, I realized I was not cut out to be a I decided to take a semester off and work on my minor which was psychology. I loved it so much I switched my major to psychology and kept English as my minor. I continued to write poetry and short stories and even had some of my poems published locally.

You have mentioned in a blog the intense criticism you experienced in college had affected your desire to write. Talk about that.

That was rough. I had so much support and encouragement in high school and junior college that I was fairly confident I was on the path to a writing career. When I transferred to a 4 year college I was really surprised at how harsh the instructors were. They were so critical, and it wasn't just me. They bashed everyone. The message they pushed was "There will never be another Chaucer, Hemingway, Browning, (etc. enter classic literature author here), so don't even bother. Everything you write is crap." I was used to constructive criticism and even welcomed it if it improved my writing, but it wasn't even constructive. They were absolutely the most pompous people I have ever known. They just wanted students to vomit back their opinions, and God help you if you didn't agree with them. Apparently, I asked too many questions. I hadn't learned yet that sometimes in college it is better to keep your mouth shut and do what is expected to get to the end goal. In the end, I got my degree and those professors are just a memory, but a lot of us came out of those classes so discouraged. Many other students changed their majors as well because of it. I wonder how many talented people they missed. I can't speak for all English professors, but this was my experience. I continued to write, but I was not as eager to share as I had once been. 

Who were (are) your inspirations in the writing field?

Despite the problems in college, I really love classic literature. I have a wide range of authors I admire, but I can't really say that anyone in particular has inspired me. I have tried to learn something from everything I read - good or bad. Lately, I will have to say that I have been inspired by indie writers. I love the energy, enthusiasm and support. It reminds me of when I was writing in high school and junior college. It is more like a community of artists; celebrating learning and success without being so competitive and critical. Of course I have met some jackasses; but by far, the indie writers I have met through this process continue to surprise me with their generosity and support, and it has done a lot to heal those old college wounds. 

You switched to Psychology after you got discouraged about writing in college. What have you done with that education?

I paid for my education by working at the state hospital here in Stockton, so I had been interested in psychology long before I changed majors. After I finished my B.A., I got hired to work in a new program for severely mentally ill adults through the psychology department at the University of the Pacific. I was able to go to graduate school there and complete my M.A. in psychology with an emphasis in behavior analysis. I worked there for 10 years - 8 years in administration in their various programs for mentally ill adults. I really loved that job. After I had my children, it became more difficult to manage and child care costs were insane, so I left and started my own business. I work as a Behavior Analyst consultant to care homes for severely developmentally disabled adults. 

You have said you like to see the conversations between people,  especially on Twitter. How does that creep into your writing?

I love the way people interact. Conversations can say a lot about a person if you pay attention. Most of my stories are driven by character dialogue which I really enjoy writing. 

Michelle's dog Samson.
You post a lot about animals. Where does that love come from and what causes, if any, are you involved with in that respect?

Many of my relatives lived on farms and ranches in the Bakersfield area, so I was raised around many different animals and learned how essential they can be. At our house, we always had dogs growing up, but I also had pet rats, birds, fish and even a raccoon. My husband also loves animals, so we have always had pets as well. Currently we have two dogs, three cats, three guinea pigs, an aquatic turtle, two fish and Mr. Fluffington the hamster. It's a great way to teach kids about compassion and responsibility. I'm not officially involved in any animal causes, but I do donate to our local shelters when I can.

Mr.  Fluffington

As opposed to most writers on facebook, you keep your friend list number relatively low. Why is that? Is that a conscious decision?

Good did your It's true, I have been very selective about my Facebook account. When I started on Facebook, it was a way for me to keep in touch with close family and friends. I didn't want to use it for anything else because it was personal for me. I tend to be a little paranoid about sharing information, and I liked being able to be a goofball and say what I wanted without having to monitor myself and make it more "professional." That's what I used Twitter and my blog for. However, I talked about it with another author who is very social. She said that if I am going to write and publish books then I just need to put myself out there and let people get to know me. I have struggled with that and continue to struggle as I add on more "friends." On the upside, I have met some incredible people and have not regretted anyone I have added so far.

T-Shirt Michelle's sister made for their boat cruise trip

You recently took a boat cruise. Where did you go and how did you find that experience?

My sister surprised me and booked a Disney cruise to Mexico for the two of us. It was amazing! We had the best time. I had never been on a cruise before, and I was really impressed with the food and the entertainment. It was nice to be able to spend time just relaxing and reading. I don't get to do that very often. We stopped in Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. Mexico is beautiful, but the vendors can be really annoying. Also, having the tourist areas patrolled by soldiers with machine guns made things a little uncomfortable at times.

Do you think elements of that cruise will seep into your writing in the future?

It's possible. I had a really good time and will at least write a blog about it if nothing else.

Your book is called Where Will You Run? What is it about?

Mari Lucas is a homicide detective in San Francisco. She has been raising her sister who has had some problems with law enforcement. After making a wrong turn trying to drop off an illegal package, her sister overhears an incriminating conversation and believes she may be in danger, but Mari doesn't believe her. When her sister goes missing, Mari is forced to take a second look at her sister's crazy accusations.

How did you come up with that story?

When I'm bored (which doesn't mean I'm not doing, I make up stories to entertain myself. I make up movie-like scenes in my head especially when I'm exercising. If I like the story, I think about it more often and may take notes and add more detail. My sister, best friend and I love to read paranormal romances and share books. One night, we happened to be talking about some of the books and authors we liked, so I shared a few of my story ideas with them. They really liked the plot I developed for Where Will You Run? so I wrote that one first. 

How is the second book blues working out?

Ugh...Bad time to ask. I have been working with the public library here, and they are going to do a local authors day on June 16th for me and another author who is a very good friend of mine. They bought several copies of our books to keep in the library and bought one for us to sign and raffle off at the event. They are also making our books part of their adult summer reading series, so I really wanted to have the second book done in time for that. I am trying very hard to meet that deadline, but sometimes life has other plans. I still haven't learned that I can't control everything. 

Other than facebook, what modes of social media do you use to promote yourself and network?

I am on Twitter @MEFranco1. I haven't had a ton of success with book sales on Twitter, but it has been a great place for me to meet other authors who I have since moved to my secret Facebook inner circle. I was invited to join a Triberr group of authors who promote each other's blogs on Twitter. They have been a great resource for advice and support. I'm also scheduled to do a podcast interview that I am obviously nervous about. I will be answering questions without having time to think ahead which is never good for me. I tend to say things I shouldn't. Thankfully, it isn't live, so they can always edit it later. I have my blog as well which has been more helpful than I had originally thought. I am looking into some other options as well, but I don't want to spread myself too thin and not be able to keep up.

You tell very funny stories in your blog. Why don't you do more of that?

Humor is my favorite thing. I love to tell funny stories, and I will continue to do that in the future. I hate to say it, but the reason I don't do it more often is simple: blog statistics. My blogs about writing, other authors, social media and my opinionated rants have the most views. The funny stories are often only read by people who know me and like to read them because it's me. I imagine it has a lot to do with the fact that my blogs are more often promoted on Twitter and most of my followers are other authors who are more interested in subjects that have to do with publishing and not necessarily interested in me personally.

You have mentioned to me before that you like my blogger group because the blogs are not just simply promotional vehicles to sell books or promote work. Talk about your strategy to both promote while not being pushy.

That's true. I get so bombarded with writers constantly trying to promote stuff that I get tired of seeing it. I hate when the first interaction I have with an author is "Buy my book" or "Read my blog." That shotgun approach by some people has really shaped the way I promote my own book and blog. I won't tweet promo stuff more than once an hour, and I break that up by talking to people. I NEVER directly ask anyone to buy my book or read my blog. I post or tweet the link and people can buy/read or not. When I published Where Will You Run? last August, I wish I had known then what I know now about promoting and platforms. The problem was that I didn't know enough then to know what I didn't know. If that makes any sense. I thought finishing and publishing my book was the hard part. Nope. My next book release will be completely different. I haven't been promoting my current book at all the last few months because it takes up so much time. I took the advice of a fellow author/blogger who recommended tweeting less and writing more. I have been trying to finish the next book and then I will do a big promo push for both of them this summer using what I have learned. I forgot - I am also on Goodreads, but I don't use it very often. 

Relaxing by the pool with her book.

When you are not writing, working or tending to the kids, what does Michele like to do for fun?

I love to read whenever I get a chance, and I like to catch up on movies and television programs I enjoy. My number one preferred free time activity is date night with my honey!
That's pretty I need to pick up some hobbies or something! 

You speak out on bullying quite a bit. Is there an incident that makes you so passionate about that subject?

I had to deal with bullies when I was a child until I was big enough to fight back, and that was tough. Then I had to protect my younger brother from neighborhood bullies as well. When it started happening to my kids, it was competely different. I had a very hard time dealing with my own rage. The schools have that whole "No tolerance" policy for bullying, but when it comes right down to it, they really can't do much. I have always said that while bullying was hard on me, it made me a fighter. Some people may argue with that, but it's true for me. It made me a stronger adult. Bullying now is so different though. It is a whole new kind of cruel. You add in social media and it can happen around the clock. It doesn't stop when you leave school. They also bully in packs. You can't just beat up the one kid being mean to you and be done with it like I did in school. It is out of control and parents need to step up and be responsible for the behavior of their kids. I didn't even share the problems with my son. He has special needs and between the bullying and the inability of the school staff to deal with it and his educational needs, I am now homeschooling him. 

If you had a magic wand,  what is the solution you would like to see to this problem,  if you think there is one?

That's a tough question. If I had a magic wand, I would just wave it and make the problem go away. As far as real solutions? I wish I had a good answer, but I don't. Unfortunately, my experience has been that the parents of bullies are sometimes as bad if not worse than their children. Why should the kids care if the parents don't? Compassion is something that has to be taught, and it has to start at home. If kids have to wait to learn to be good humans at school, it's too little too late. I can tell you what I'm doing with my own kids. I talk to them all the time. We are very open about bullying, and I go out of my way to emphasize all the things they do well. I tell them how amazing they are hoping to give them some confidence when they face others who might say otherwise. I talk to the school whenever my daughter tells me anything that is problematic, so they at least have a record of it. My children do not have Facebook accounts or personal cell phones. I have an emergency cell phone available if they need one. Their online time is limited and supervised. And since it's me, we often use humor to lighten the mood.

What is your writing process?

You know the writer who is highly organized and well disciplined? The author who has outlines, separate files for each project, research notes and scheduled writing times? Yeah, that's not me. It's actually the anti-me. I wish I were that kind of writer, but my brain doesn't work that way. I tend to write in chapters. Sometimes one, sometimes several. I never know. When a chapter comes to me it literally gushes out, and I have to sit down and write it. I have tried to put it off thinking that I will be able to write it later, but it will never be as good if I do. I write out of order which drives me crazy and makes for a lot of editing work. My outline is more like a timeline. I put chapters in where I think they are going to fit in the story. Sometimes I don't even know what is going to happen until I write it. I jokingly say that my characters keep me on a need to know basis. It's very frustrating. I don't trust it, but I am learning to work around it. I have talked to several other authors who suffer from the same annoying writing process, and they have given me some good advice. Based on what they had to say, my goal is to set aside time every day to write. If I have a chapter in my head, I write it. If not, I work on a blog, or do research, or something that requires me to write. I am trying to learn to be more disciplined as a writer even if the writing process for my books is chaotic. Hopefully, that will help me focus, and I will be able to finish my projects on time. That's my goal anyway.


Excerpt from Where Will You Run?
“Sit for a minute, Mari.” Captain Martin looked tired. “I don’t want this to get awkward, but I am sorry about your sister.”
Mari nodded using every bit of will power she had not to let her eyes well up at the unusual show of emotion from her boss. Neither one of them had much experience in the feelings sharing department, so they both looked like they wanted to crawl out of their skins. He cleared his throat again as he often did when he wasn’t sure what he wanted to say next.
“Dr. Kimball told me a few other things as well.” He started cautiously.
Mari looked at the floor. She was afraid the doctor had a big mouth, so much for his sanctimonious speech on confidentiality.
“He couldn’t tell me specifics obviously.” Martin said as if reading her mind. “But he had some concerns because she was implicating Christopher Collins and he was afraid of any possible backlash. He just thought I should be prepared. For some reason, he thought you might take what she said seriously and try to go after Collins.” 
Mari just stared back at him with a determined look in her eye.
“Shit.” He leaned back in his seat. ”That’s what I was afraid of. Are you crazy too? You can’t go after someone like Collins based on the claims of some lunatic.”
“My sister is not a lunatic.” Mari said through clenched teeth. “I’m not saying I believe everything she said,” She hoped that dumbass shrink had kept his mouth shut about the vampires at least, “but I did promise to look into something for her, and I will.”
Martin leaned forward putting his elbows on his desk, and his head down while he rubbed his temples. His graying hair was thinning and Mari could see parts of his scalp shining through the patches of fuzz. He finally looked up at her with a strange, distant expression.
“Let me explain something to you. There are exactly two ways this can end. One, you go after Collins and he is clean and you commit career suicide. Life as you know it will be over because he will destroy you for implicating him in criminal activities and damaging his reputation. The second way it can end is that Collins is involved in something illegal and he can’t afford to let you expose him and, again, life as you know it is over because he will destroy you. To summarize, either way it goes this can only end with you getting crushed by a powerful, rich man. You can’t take him down on your own Mari. He has too many friends in high places.”
“What are you saying? You think I should back off Collins even if he is involved in something?” She was a little surprised that he responded the way he did since he never seemed to be afraid of anything or anyone.
“It doesn’t matter what I think. I’m saying that if you go after Collins without any real proof, you may be on your own. I can’t help you if you go out on this limb. No one can. If you’re wrong, you’re screwed. If you’re right, you’re screwed. This can’t have a happy ending.”

Excerpt from Where Will You Hide?

           She opened the car door and took off. Her jacket was soaked even before she had covered the short distance to what she now saw was a massive wood door. She knocked on it with her knuckles making a little thump sound that she could barely hear.

            Nothing happened, so she turned her fist sideways and pounded on the door. She could feel her clothes sticking to her as the water started soaking through. The rain started to run down her body, down her legs and into her shoes. Her hair was plastered to her forehead and face and the cold chilled her to the bone. She wrapped her arms around herself and started jumping up and down to generate some heat.

She was questioning her decision and considering returning to the car when the castle door creaked and opened a few feet. She squinted as her eyes adjusted to the light. She was standing in the shadow of a large man. She guessed he was about 6’5” and built like a wrestler. With the light shining behind him, she could see that he had blonde hair, but his face was shadowed.

            “What do you want?” he asked in a deep voice that tickled her chest.

            “What do I want?” she echoed. The fact that he left her standing in the pouring rain pissed her off. Memaw would be appalled by his manners or lack thereof.

“Well, gee, I was taking a tour of castles in the pouring rain and yours happened to be the next on the list.” She bit out sarcastically.

            “You need to leave.” He started to close the door and Kylee panicked.

            “Wait! I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you. Look, I’m lost okay? I need directions to get back to the main road. Can you help me?”

            He didn’t close the door, but he didn’t say anything either. Her patience had run out as her teeth started to chatter.

            “I’m standing in the freezing, pouring rain, think you could make a decision sometime today?” she yelled louder that she wanted to.

            She couldn’t see his face, but she could feel his eyes on her. He took a step forward

“Where are you headed?” His deep voice cut through the storm.

“Sc-Scarborough.” She said between shivers.

He pointed back the direction she had come from and started to tell her how to get back to the road that would lead her back to her warm, dry hotel room.

Kylee realized that he was going to leave her outside wet and freezing, alone in the dark with some sketchy verbal directions to somewhere she wasn’t familiar with when she couldn’t see the landmarks he mentioned and would most likely get lost again.

“You know what? I’ll find it myself.” She interrupted him and spun back towards the car.

“Thanks a lot jackass!” She flung over her shoulder as she tried not to slip on the wet grass and mud getting back to her car. She could hear him saying something, but she wasn’t listening. She got back in her car and turned it on blasting the heater. She held her hands in front of the vents and winced in pain as the hot air hit them. She continued to shiver and tried to think of her next move as she defrosted her hands.

It was no use. There was no way she was going to be able to warm up in her wet clothes. She looked up to see that jackass had closed the door. Nice. So much for chivalry. She cursed herself again for getting into this stupid situation in the first place. She should have just stayed in Burniston.

She would have to wait for the rain to stop and pray she didn’t freeze or run out of gas in the meantime. She hated to admit it, but she was going to have to stay put. She didn’t want to chance going down that gravel drive again. Jackass would just have to deal with it. She wasn’t going to make her situation worse just to make him happier by leaving his creepy castle.

She unleashed a few choice curse words and took her wrath out on the steering wheel before turning off the car to save gas. She looked in the back seat for a blanket or something, anything dry, but it was empty. She didn’t want to get out of the car and check the trunk or boot or whatever the hell they called it.

A flash of light caught her attention and she noticed that jackass had opened the door again. She squinted trying to see through the rain. It looked like he was motioning for her to come in. She started to open the door, but stopped. She knew it was the smart thing to do, but for some reason, she couldn’t do it. She would rather freeze out here than do what jackass said. It would serve him right if she froze to death in his front yard. Then she thought about getting out of her wet clothes and getting warm and reached for the handle again.

She could see by the outline that jackass was standing with his hands on his hips. He waved at her again. Her pride was going to be the death of her. She cursed herself and stayed put.

She thought he would close the door, but he shocked her by walking out into the storm. He came straight for her car. She fumbled for the locks but didn’t make it in time. He jerked the car door open letting out the small amount of heat she had.

“Come inside.” He ordered.

“No!” she yelled back.

“You can’t stay out here. You will freeze.”

“You should have thought about that before! Don’t worry. I’ll be gone in the morning. I won’t be bothering you again.”

He was just a shadow, but she could feel the anger coming from him. Good. She reached out to close the car door, but instead of moving out of the way, he grabbed her wrist and pulled her out of the car.

“Ow! Hey! Let go!” Kylee felt a stab a fear as he slammed her car door shut and literally dragged her towards the light. When they were safely inside, he let her go and slammed the wooden door before rounding on her.

“What the hell is wrong with you? Are you always so stubborn!” he yelled.
            “I don’t know. Are you always such a dick?” she yelled back.