Category Archives: Movies

Happy Groundhogs Day

Today is February 2nd, and like everyone else across the United States, I have been wondering if Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow.

What is Groundhogs Day and how did it get started?

Like so many of the holidays, it appears to be a cross between Christian customs and local lore.  The date, February 2nd, falls midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Pagans called this day Imbolc and as Christianity spread, Christians called this day Candlemas.  If the day was sunny, Christians believed it meant there would be many more days of winter.

On February 2, 1887, a local newspaper editor named Clymer Freas in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania declared Phil, a groundhog that lived at Gobble’s Knob the one true forecasting animal in the country.  According to legend, the same groundhog is still alive and will turn 132 years old this year [2019].

In 1993, Bill Murray starred in the movie Groundhog Day and since then Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, gets many visitors each year to see if Phil will see his shadow or not.  If he sees his shadows, it means another six weeks of winter.  If he doesn’t see his shadow, it means an early spring.

What about the groundhog (Marmot monax)?  It is also called woodchuck, land-beaver, and whistle-pig. It gets the name whistle-pig because when it gets alarmed it will emit a high-pitched whistle to warn the rest of his or her colony.

The groundhogs live in underground burrows, usually buried five feet deep.  These burrows can be elaborate: up to twenty-four feet long with two side chambers.  One side chamber is used as the groundhog’s restroom area. The other side chamber is used as a nesting area.  There are usually two to five different entrances into the burrow that provide different routes of escape from predators.

So how correct is Punxsutawney Phil in his predictions?  According to his handler, Phil is one-hundred percent correct.  It is the president’s, of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, interpretation of Phil’s prediction that is not always accurate.







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The Lottery

No, I am not talking about the lottery where you buy a PowerBall ticket every couple of days or so.  And no, I am not talking about the state lottery you might play, nor am I talking about those scratch tickets you buy at the Mini-Marts.  I am talking about Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery,” that was published in The New Yorker magazine on June 26, 1948.

If I am not talking about lottery tickets as we know them today, then what is “The Lottery?”

The story described a fictional town where an annual lottery takes place to ensure a good harvest.  HUH!

How can a lottery ensure a good harvest?

On June 27, every year, children gather stones while the townspeople gather for the event.  Slips of paper are placed in a box for a drawing.  One slip of paper has a black mark.


Doesn’t this remind you of The Hunger Games

Anyway, once a family draws the slip of paper with the black mark, the members of the family must draw to see which one of them gets a slip of paper with a black mark.

Once a family member draws a slip of paper with the black mark, they become the scapegoat or the sacrificial lamb that will cleanse the town of its bad doings.  The townspeople gather around the unlucky person and stone them to death.

Not quite like The Hunger Games, but similar.  In The Hunger Games, teenagers are selected from a district to compete with other districts in a game of “to-the-death.”

If you travel to one of the districts from The Hunger Games, the dates on the tombstones might be close, but probably not exactly the same day.

How would you like to browse a cemetery and realize that someone died on the same day every year for many decades?  What would you think about that?

Well, I don’t know about you, but that would be one lottery I would not want to participate in.


*** Note, both Shirley Jackson and The New Yorker received hate mail over this story.***

***This short story was made into a movie.***


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Featuring Children, Tweens & YA Authors

Are you a Children’s Author?

Do you write for tweens?

What about Young Adults?

I am paying it forward in 2017 by featuring authors on my blog.

Sign up for me to feature you on the Feature Calendar page!feature-md

Occasionally, there will be bonus material, giveaways, reviews and more!


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Review: Men of the Cross by Charlene Newcomb


Title: Men of the Cross, Book 1 of Battle Scars

Author: Charlene Newcomb

Published: May 5, 2014

Published By: Blue X Entertainment

ISBN-13:  978-0692205945

Number of Pages: 354

Cost: $10.99 (Paperback)

Genre: Historical Fiction


There have been many books written about and several movies made about the crusades. Some movies include: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), Arn-The Knight Templar (2007), Saladin, The Victorious (1963) and The Crusades: Crescent and the Cross (2009).  Books written about the crusades include: Jan Guillou-The Knight Templar (1999), Sir Walter Scott – Ivanhoe (1820), Angus Donald – Holy Warrior (2010) and now Charlene Newcomb – Book 1, The Battle Scars Series Men of the Cross.

In Book 1 of Battle Scars Men of the Cross, author Charlene Newcomb created a mixture of war, action, adventure, post-traumatic stress disorder and a same sex relationship with a dash of romance and a subtle pinch of politics and religion.

When King Richard the Lionheart put out a call for brave men to join the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Henry de Grey believed it was his duty for God, king and country to answer that call. While he had never been to battle, he was ready, if it was God’s will, to die on the battle field defending the cause.

Stephan L’Aigle, a seasoned and hardened Knight had been seventeen years old when he took up the Cross for Richard, not the Pope or the Church. Readers get a hint of Stephan’s character early in the story: “He ignored the throng of men around him and focused on Henry.  That gaze unnerved Henry…” “You should stay and keep me warm.”  And later when a woman propositions him: “I can help.”  “I am afraid you have the wrong man, dear lady” Stephan replied.

While Henry and Stephan are the two main characters in Men of the Cross, readers will be introduced to Robin du Louviers, Little John, Allan and Marian.  If these names sounds familiar then rest assured they are who you think they are: Robin Hood, Little John and Allan (the outlaws and Merry Men) and Maid Marian.

The book reveals the amount of research that Newcomb put into her writing. A bit of her research included clothing of the time, sights and smells, behavior of the horses, the clank of swords, the sound of stone throwers and the nightmares of the Knights.

I give this book “5 Stars.”  I found Men of the Cross to be very different from other books that I have read about the Crusades and absolutely different from any movie that I have ever seen about this time period.

I recommend the Battle Scars series for anyone who is interested in the Crusades, historical fiction, same sex relationships, action, adventure or just a different kind of book all together.  I believe you will enjoy the characters Henry de Grey, Stephan L’Aigle and Robin du Louviers.

Movie producers and directors looking for a new twist on the Crusades should read the Battle Scars Series and turn it into a movie or a mini-series.  Personally, I believe this to have BLOCKBUSTER potential.

Book 2, Battle Scars Series, For King and Country now available.

Book 2, Battle Scars Series, Swords of the King, available 2018.




About the Author: From the Authors Amazon Page

Navy vet.
Mom to 3 grown, amazing children.
I live in Kansas. Yes, Toto. Kansas.

Born & raised in South Carolina, I wanted a life of adventure and travel. I realized my dreams of hitting the big time with the all-girl rock band Liberation were just that – dreams. And becoming an astronaut wasn’t in the cards. So I joined the Navy to see the world and spent six years as a communications technician/voice language analyst. I fit college into my life (BA in History, and many years later an MA in Library Science). That desire to travel in space translated into writing science fiction: I published 10 short stories in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. I have written two novels, one a contemporary drama, Keeping the Family Peace; the other, Men of the Cross (book 1 of Battle Scars), allows me to share my love of history with readers.

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Don’t Assume, Let Book Readers and Movie Watchers in on the Historical Facts

HOBBIT-dvdI have not seen the movie The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  Some of my family and friends have seen it.  So imagine my surprise when they turn to me and say, “You are a historian, so answer my question.”

Uh, Oh.  Here it comes.  I know what they are going to ask because while I have not seen the movie I do read magazines and newspapers and The Wall Street Journal even showed it online.

“What question is that?” I asked.

One family members starts.  “Okay.  Bilbo Baggins’ Uncle left him the ring and the home.  Is that the Uncle’s bathrobe that Bilbo wears in the movie?  And where would the Middle-Earth have gotten china as in a china teapot and china plates?”

Now, how would I know that?  I have never seen the movie nor read the Hobbit books.  I did see Lord of the Rings, but do not recall that movie explaining anything more than the ring and the home.

My silence brought forth more comments.  “Come on historian, you should know these answers.”

Just because I am a historian does not mean that my field is historic textiles.

Recalling The Wall Street Journal article I read, I said, “Did Bilbo’s mother leave him the China?”

Shoulders around me shrugged.

I continued, “I think that is what an article I read stated.  Anyway, let’s say that his mother left him the China.  As a historian, I would take it that his mother came from a middle upper class or  upper class family or worked at one time for a wealthy family.”

“How did you come to that conclusion?” someone asked.

“Well, Bilbo was left a precious gold ring and a home.  A gold ring indicates wealth or trust of wealth.  Owning a home, such as the one left to Bilbo, that had more finer things than most is a representation of being wealthy.  And if the Uncle who left the ring and home was a brother to Bilbo’s mother, then surely she was just as well off as he had been or at least had some finer things.”

“What about the quilted bathrobe?” another person asked.  “Where would they have gotten velvet and the other material to make such a nice bathrobe?”

“Where would they have gotten the china?” someone asked.

“History has shown that people and places got finer things through trade,” I explained.  “Since I do not know the location of Middle Earth, I do not know who the Hobbits would have traded with.”

“Why don’t they explain these things in the story?” a family member asked.

“Ah, ahhhhhhh,” someone said.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

The person replied.  “In his books Tolkien did say where the shire was located.  I think he wrote it was located at a crossroads of a couple of major trade routes.”

“That would explain it,” I replied.

Again, “Why don’t they explain these things in the story?”

“Apparently, Tolkien did in the books,” I said.  “And perhaps Peter Jackson just assumed that those who watch the movies also read the books.”

“That’s wrong!” someone shouted.

Now, that is the point of this blog.  The person who did the writing, of the script in this case, probably assumed most people had read Tolkien’s work.

While it seems that Tolkien explained things in his work, it doesn’t necessarily mean that when it was interpreted that the clarity stayed with the story.

I would argue that it is the job of the person doing the writing to make it clear for the reader and in this case movie watcher, to understand the history and facts of the story.

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The Grateful Games leads to memories of Bogie and Bacall

My husband and I were playing the “Grateful Game.”

Never played it?

The game goes like this:  one starts with “I am grateful for (fill in the blank)” and then the other goes.  Do this until you cannot think of anything more to be grateful for.  We usually play this on our way to our 40 hour week job as we have a 30-35 minute commute.

At the end of our game on Thursday (March 28, 2013) morning, we simultaneously said “We have it all” and I continued with “Like Bogie and Bacall.”  My husband smiled because he knew what I meant.

Do you know what I mean when I say “Like Bogie and Bacall”?

If not, you are probably younger than 40 years old.

bogie weddingBogie and Bacall refers to Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

When the name Humphrey Bogart comes up, I automatically think of the movie “The African Queen.”  And Lauren Bacall is the legendary actress who was married to Bogie.

Bogart died in 1957 from cancer.  Bacall is still alive.  They had it all – a real love of life and each other.  That is what my husband and I have – a love for each other that at times seems bigger than life itself.  We are the best of friends and greatly enjoy each others company.

So, what does Bogie and Bacall have to do with writing?

For me it brings to light love and life and it brings back old memories and this song –  Key Largo.

For you who are reading this blog, perhaps learning about Bogie and Bacall will help charge the grey cells and inspire you to write something about them.  Or perhaps one of their movies will inspire the writer inside to come out and play with words that will create a masterpiece, just like Bogie and Bacall.

These photos of Bogie and Bacall were taken from Google Images.

55281_lauren_bacall3BogieBogie1Bogie2lauren bacall1lauren


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Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

Me Before YouJoJo MoyesBritish author, JoJo Moyes is now doing book tours here in the United States.  She will be at Watermark Bookstore in Wichita, Kansas tomorrow, Tuesday, January 8, 2013.  For me, she is so near, yet so far away.

I entered a Twitter contest and won an Advance Reading Copy of Me Before You.  It was actually mailed to my home!

Even though I have an enormous reading list, I had to put the book I was reading aside to read this one.  And I am not sorry that I did.

JoJo Moyes’ writing grabbed my heart strings and pulled me right into the story.  It is a story that creates a wide range of emotions, so before you start reading grab that box of Kleenex, Puffs, whatever your brand and keep it by your side.  You will need it.

While reading the story and as it progressed I kept thinking about another athletic person who faced a devastating accident: skier Jill Kinmont.  Some of you may remember her story as The Other Side of the Mountain.  This story drew attention to the plight of  paraplegics and quadriplegics.

Moyes must have done an extreme amount of research on quadriplegics as the story is loaded with the detail care a quadriplegic needs.  I knew some of the basic care needs, but had never heard the care about respiratory problems and high fevers.

Me Before You deals with a highly controversial issue here in the United States.  The same issue that Jack Kevorkian fought for and was imprisoned for: the right to die.  We do it to our pets all the time, yet when it comes to people the topic is taboo/prohibited.

Other issues the book deals with is the lifestyle differences between the rich and the poor.  The rich family lives in the Castle and the poor only a short distance away. Then there is the issue of education and culture.  While the rich are well traveled, the poor never leaves the village where they are raised.  And there is so much more to the book, such as: do you remember the first movie you watched with sub-titles?

I would like to continue, however, I do not want to spoil the story for you.

I rate the book at 5 stars.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes love stories, yet this is not the typical romance novel.

It is my hope that some film producer will read this book and realize that it would make a wonderful tear-jerking movie.

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Cheat River Three: A Paralell to Stand By Me


Cheat River Three by Scott Baker Sweeney (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse), 2012.








ISBN:  978-1-4685-4388-9 (e)

ISBN: 978-1-4685-4390-2 (hc)

ISBN: 978-1-4685-4389-6 (sc)

Throughout his life Scott Sweeney listened to his father’s stories of growing up in Point Marion, Pennsylvania to heading off to college and beyond.  Sweeney describes Cheat River Three as “a true life adventure immersed in circumstantial fiction.”

Cheat River Three begins in 1946 at Point Marion where we are introduced to ten year old Eugene Briggs and his friends James Wilson and Katrina Garretson. This story chronicles the bond of friendship and how it and life changes with the passing of time.

Sweeney does a good job showing a reader the setting of southern Pennsylvania along the Cheat River.  He also adapted a writing style close to the writers of the late 1940s and 1950s even using the same terminology such as ‘pigskin’ for football.

I personally believe that if Sweeney would have used more ‘active voice’ writing, the novel would have soared to the top of the book selling list as it would have been more readily recognized as a parallel to Stephen King’s The Body more commonly known for the 1986 film version as Stand By Me directed by Rob Reiner.  As it reads with ‘passive voice’ the story leaves little to the reader’s imagination because every detail is given in the book.

As a historian I could not overlook this particular fact:  Sweeney stated that Harry Truman was President during the summer of 1953.  This is a fact that is easily checked with a simple Google search.  Dwight D. Eisenhower was inaugurated as President in January 1953.

A copy of this book was provided by Scott Baker Sweeney for an honest review. I rate Cheat River Three with 4 stars.  I deducted one-half star for historical inaccuracies and one-half star for the ‘passive voice’ writing style that I believe took away from the overall story.


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Hard-working, fun-loving authors wishes you “A Great Christmas!”

vickielorettaweb1_pifp_yqzw Unmarked GraveQ:  What are your names?

A:  Loretta Jackson and Vickie Britton, co-authors.

Q: What country do you live in?

A: U.S.  (Junction City and Hutchinson, Kansas).

Q: What is the title of your current book?

A: Unmarked Grave, Stealer of Horses

Q: What holidays do you celebrate during this time of the year?  Which one is your favorite and why?

A: We like Thanksgiving, but love Christmas because of the big crowd here and the fun.

Continue reading

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Debra Jayne East, “love and inspiration from a crooked heart-shaped stone”

Q:  What is your name?

A:  Debra Jayne East.

Q:  What country do you live in?

A:  United States.

Q:  What is the title of your current book?

A:  Radiance:Love after Death.

Q:  What holidays do you celebrate during this time of the year?  Which one is your favorite and why?

A:  Thanksgiving and Christmas. I think both holidays are very special, but Thanksgiving is my favorite because I love the theme of thankfulness and gratitude. Every day we live is a gift and should never be taken for granted. The gathering of families in celebration of Thanksgiving is amazing and one of my fondest memories as a child.

Q:  What colors would you use to describe the holiday season?

A:  I would use red and gold. Red is for the holly berries and the beautiful red cardinal bird, which is my mothers favorite. Gold is for the shinning Christmas star and the gifts the three Kings brought to Jesus birth.

Q:  What is your favorite holiday movie & song?

A:  White Christmas simply because Bing Crosby is in it!My favorite song is Silent Night which is the heart of Christmas.

Q:  What is your favorite holiday book?

A:  The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans.

Q:  What do you enjoy most/least about the holiday season?

A:  The rush of madness in buying gifts. People spend money they don’t have for people who don’t want what they give.  Donate money to the homeless and poor instead.

Q:  If you were given a superpower, as a gift for one day, what would it be and what would you do?

A:  To heal the sick. I’d go to every children’s ward and hospital I could find.

Q:  Do you call the jolly old fat man – Santa Claus, St. Nick, Kris Kringle, or something else?  If something else, what do you call him?

A:  Just plain old Santa. We’re very informal here in the South, tehe…

Q:  If Santa was real and lived at the North Pole, would you want to visit and why?

A:  Well, er..he is real and well, I don’t like the cold so I probably won’t visit but actually I have his e-mail address. He’ll be getting a long letter from me, let me tell ya.

Q:  If time and money were no problem, where would you go and what would you do during this holiday season?

A:  I would visit the seven wonders of the world before they disappear. I would go to Africa and see all the animals and then to England to see my ancestors birthplace.

Q:  What message would you like to send to those reading this blog?

A:  This holiday season is a special time for friends and family. I hope you will enjoy reading my paranormal love story about second chances, love and inspiration from a most unlikely place:a crooked heart-shaped stone.


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