Saturday, February 21, 2009

An Oscar Movie Marathon!!

"Cinema should make you forget you are sitting in a theater." ~Roman Polanski

Well, I am spending the entire day in a dark place with strangers... an Oscar movie marathon where they're showing the 5 nominated Best Picture movies, back to back. We start at 10:30 am, and the last one begins at 9:45 pm. Am I crazy? Will I actually make it? Check back here tomorrow to find out! In the meantime, here are the 5 movies:


The Reader

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Slumdog Millionaire


I'll see you here tomorrow with my opinions and award predictions~

Friday, February 20, 2009

Pee in Dangerous Places

I was reading the latest issue of Writers' Digest last night and came across this excerpt (from Pep Talks, Warnings and Screeds: Indispensable Widsom and Cautionary Advice for Writers by George Singleton) which I just loved. So here's your Friday word of advice:

I fear that there's not enough danger in everyday life. I'm not talking about gang-related violence and how the ease of buying handguns in America causes everyday danger. I'm talking about public restrooms. In the old days, there weren't fast-food restaurants at every intersection. In the old days, if a traveler had to use the restroom, he had to go into strange Texaco and Gulf stations or roadside rest areas. There was always graffiti in these places that read something like, "Want to have a good time? Meet me here at 4:30." Then the traveler would look at his watch and see that it was 4:28 or thereabouts.

Such anxiety and tension causes good fiction. It's a different kind of tension than when the automatic hand dryer is broken. So my advice for beginning writers is to pee in dangerous places, always. Then give your characters that feeling of imminent danger.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Today's Featured Author: Barbara Levenson

Welcome's Writers' Wednesday on Thursday this week! Today I have the pleasure of interviewing mystery writer Barbara Levenson, whose novel Fatal February just released. At the end of this interview, Barbara will be sharing how and where you can win a signed copy of her book, so pay close attention. And enjoy the chat!

Barbara, thanks so much for being here today. Can you tell us a little about your background?

I began my legal career as a prosecutor in the office of the Miami-Dade State Attorney. My first boss was Janet Reno, who later became the Attorney General in the Clinton administration. This was in the wild 1980’s, the era of the “cocaine cowboys.” I was promoted rather quickly to the narcotics division. We were facing well known criminal defense attorneys, so I learned to litigate under fire.

After a few years, I opened my own law office, specializing in criminal defense and civil rights litigation. I had many interesting clients including representing several people who had their boats confiscated under the “Zero Tolerance” policy of the Reagan administration. Guys out for a Sunday fishing outing were hauled over and told miniscule seeds of marijuana were found on the deck, and the boat was then seized. These cases became famous enough to land me an interview on Night Line and several NPR reports.

One day my husband looked at me and said, “Why don’t you run for a judgeship?” I thought he was crazy. There were only a few women serving as judges at the time, and the election campaign would involve the entire Dade County which is larger than the state of Delaware. But we like a challenge in our family. I served on the bench for twelve years and now still sit occasionally as a senior judge.

Wow, sounds like an exciting time! But when did you first begin writing? Was there an event that triggered a desire to write?

I began writing in elementary school. I wrote stories to entertain my friends. It was in junior high school that I realized that my humorous stories made my peers smile and the scary ones made them plead for more. I was hooked.

What are your latest writing projects?

Fatal February has just been published. It is the first in a mystery series whose protagonist is Mary Magruder Katz, a Miami criminal defense attorney. She is the epitome of the real Miami. She is half Jewish and half Southern Baptist. Her hot Latin boyfriend is half Cuban and half Argentine. The real Miami’s melting pot usually begins in the wedding chapel. This series of books takes readers into the way life is lived in Miami; not the usual South Beach tourist picture. The second book in the series, Justice in June, will be published in June, 2010. (Oceanview Publishing). I am also working on a book for middle school boys who seem to be left out of the mystery genre.

I think the idea of targeting middle school boys is a terrific one! Now, what advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

The first piece of advice is one a writing teacher gave to me. If you want to write, sit your behind in the chair and write. Do not stop in the middle of your book because you don’t know how to finish it, or you are bored. Don’t be one of those people who tell you, “I was writing a book but I didn’t have time to finish it, or I have too many other commitments now, but I’ll do it later.”

My second piece of advice is to write about things you know about or have thoroughly researched, and write what you like to read. Then you will find your own authentic voice. Finally, go to seminars, conferences, and join organizations where you will network with authors, publishers, book sellers. Learn everything you can about the publishing industry. For me, writing a book is the easy part. Knowing how to sell it is much harder.

Describe your writing space.

I live in two houses. Miami is home base for the last 33 years, and the Miami house is the house we have lived in for 33 years. Now that our children are grown, I have a small study on the second floor. I always have my computer (I always write on a computer) facing a window. What I see from the house in Miami is a landscape of trees, with something in bloom all the time, birds including wild parrots that scream to each other in their own language, and the South Florida sky that is a blue that cannot be duplicated.

Now that I am not confined to full-time judging, in the summer and fall, we retreat to a house in Vermont. The house is built on a hillside. My writing space is in the lowest level where I look out of two sets of sliding doors. Here I can see woodlands and mountains in the distance. One day a family of wild turkeys trotted down our walkway and peered at me through the glass. They were a great audience as I read aloud from the scene I was working on. They didn’t offer one criticism.

Miami and Vermont - what a great combination! What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

My husband and I bred and showed German Shepherd dogs for many years. We still have two German Shepherds. We did all the training and traveling with them and finished eleven champions in the show ring. Now, with only the two aging dogs, I like to just have fun with them. Fatal February has a German Shepherd named Sam who is based on my male dog, Ned. Sam is Mary’s constant companion and stress-reliever.

My other passion is ice hockey. We have a National Hockey League in South Florida and we go to as many home games as possible. You can’t think about any problem when you are totally into the fast action of a good hockey game. I am also involved in many activities at the University of Miami where I went to law school. We live near the campus. I have become acquainted with the members of the women’s basketball team and have them all over for dinner once each season, for some home cooked food and home cooked conversation. Some of them are very far from home for the first time. This year one is from Alaska, and one from Eastern Europe.

Barbara, thanks so much for sharing your story with us today! OK readers, here's the skinny on how to win her book:

Barbara Levenson is giving away a signed copy of her book, Fatal February, to one lucky tour visitor. Go to Barbara’s book tour page,, and enter your name, e-mail address, and this PIN, 8181, for your chance to win. Entries from Allie's Musings will be accepted until 12:00 Noon (PT) tomorrow. No purchase is required to enter or to win. The winner (first name only) will be announced on Barbara’s book tour page next week.

Thanks for joining us...and have a great day!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The February Samhellion is Up!

"Make a list of important things to do today. At the top of your list, put "eat chocolate." Now, you'll get at least one thing done today." - Gina Hayes

Hey all, the February issue of The Samhellion is up, with all things romance and Valentine's Day...including a yummy recipe sent in from Yours Truly. Give it a look!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Do You Read Your Own Books?

"I see the notion of talent as quite irrelevant. I see instead perseverance, application, industry, assiduity, will, will, will, desire, desire, desire." ~Gordon Lish

Back at the Borders signing a couple of weeks ago, a fellow author asked me if I had read my own books. I blinked, thought about it, and then realized...No.

Here's the thing: you write a book. You edit it a couple (or 10) times. Your editor sends it back with suggested changes, which you make. Your editor sends you 1-2 rounds of edits, which you make. Your editor asks you to read it through one more time before the FLE (Final Line Editor) gets it. And then before the print release, you read through the galleys one more time to catch any glitches.

So once those books come out in print, I for one am not at all interested in picking them up and reading them yet again. I've read interviews with movie stars who say they've never seen the complete movie they just filmed, and I always thought that was strange. Not anymore. (OK, this is not to say I'm comparing myself to Reese Witherspoon or anything...just the similar abstract concept...)

It's a weird sort of phenomenon. And having just finished the 2nd round of edits for One Night in Napa, I will say I feel the same way this time around. I still love the story, but I don't think I'll be picking it up in print and reading it page by page.

Hey, authors out there - what about you? Have you read your own books?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Two New Websites

"All good things are wild, and free." ~Henry David Thoreau

Hey readers, here are 2 websites I recently discovered that might interest you:

For readers: PaperBack Swap Book Club is a website where you can list the books you own -- and browse the books that others own -- and then swap them by mail if you'd like! Instead of dropping off the books you've read at a library or used bookstore, you can get credits and swap them with other readers, for books you'd like to have. Seems like a pretty neat concept -- I'll be trying it out later today.

For writers: Blazing Trailers is another place to upload your book trailers. Looks like it's similar to Preview the Book, and it's FREE! So check it out -- another place to spread the word about your books.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Release Date!

"The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed." ~Martina Navratilova

Well, I think I have an official release date, anyway, for One Night in Memphis (print). Originally, when I got the galleys to proofread, Samhain told me May 26th. I wrote back asking if it could be pushed up at all, since I have a signing at my local Borders scheduled for May 16th. I never heard back, so I figured that was a No. I mean, I know they have their schedule pretty much set, week by week.'s available for pre-order right now at Amazon, with a May 1st release date listed, so I'm hoping that's the true, new one.

Exciting! (And if you pre-order it now, it's on sale...)