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Hector and the Search for Happiness March 22, 2016

Posted by heidi skarie in Movie reveiew, Uncategorized.
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urlI recently saw Hector and the Search for Happiness about Hector (Simon Pegg), a quirky psychiatrist, who has a good business, a beautiful girlfriend, Clare (Rosamund Pike), who does everything for him, and an expensively furnished apartment. Yet he isn’t satisfied with his life. Everyday he listens to his client’s problems, yet he feels like a fraud because he’s giving them advice and they aren’t getting happier.

The pressure within Hector builds as he listens to a client’s seemingly “trivial” problems until finally he explods and yells at her.

After another incident where Hector overreacts, he decides he needs to take a journey to figure out what happiness is and to resolve some issues from the past. Clare is too busy at work to come on the trip with him and her immediate reaction is that he wants to break up. He says he doesn’t and asks her if she’ll be there when he returns. She asks him how long he’ll be gone. When he replies that he doesn’t know, she says then she doesn’t know if she’ll be there or not.

Clare gives him a journal as a parting gift and he uses it to write down his own insights into happiness. He also asks the people he meets what they think happiness is and jots down their answers. His journey takes him to different places in the world with his focus being on interacting with people not on seeing the sites.

The story is told with humor mixed with some real insights into life and the different ways people look at happiness. In the journey Hector is confronted with life, death, illness, love, wealth, poverty, sex, family, and nostalgia.

The movie is good in that it makes you reflect on what happiness means to you. It shows how each person defines happiness differently and how some people aren’t happy now but think they will be in the future after they make a lot of money or retire or are healthy etc.

As I watched it, I thought about my own concept of happiness and how to live a happier life. I realized I have many good things in my life, but I often don’t see them. For me being happy should be in the moment, in the here and now, not in some time in the future. I don’t have to wait for something to happen to be happy. I also don’t have to let other people’s actions control my happiness. I’m happier when I see the blessings in my life and the gifts that are all around me. I also realized love is the key to happiness.

We’re all like Hector in that we are each on our own journey of self-discovery to find the meaning of life and happiness.

What makes you happy? Have you ever longed for something thinking it would make you happy and when you got it, discovered that it didn’t give you the joy you thought it would? What does happiness mean to you?

Here is the official trailer of the movie.

 

Louie Schwartzberg: An Amazing Videos February 4, 2016

Posted by heidi skarie in photography, Uncategorized.
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For the new year I want to share a special video called Gratitude by Louie Schwartzberg. What better time than the beginning of the year to think about all we have to be grateful for. Schwarzberg talks about being present and celebrating life as he shares his amazing time lapse photography. He has captured some flowers unfolding, the movement of clouds in the sky, and butterflies. His talk and films are both inspiring.
The second part of the video is called “Happiness Revealed” and is from the point of view of a child and elderly man. One of the things the elderly man says is to look at the faces of the people you meet. Each one has an incredible stories behind their face.

I hope you are uplifted as much as I was by this wonderful video

The Martian January 29, 2016

Posted by heidi skarie in Movie reveiew, Uncategorized.
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Being a science fiction writer and hearing that The Martian was a good film with Matt Damon as the star, I had to check it out. I’m glad I did. It was an enjoyable movie with an urlinteresting premise and lots of drama.

Astronaut Mark Watney is thought to be dead when he’s caught in a terrible storm on Mars and ends up being left behind by his crewmates when they head for home. He finds himself stranded on Mars without enough food to survive until a rescue ship can come for him. He has to use all his skills to find a way to signal earth, stay alive, and grow his own food.

The story is based on real science and the Watney is a funny, smart man who we enjoy being with as the viewer.

The film won two golden globe awards for best motion picture and best actor.

The story behind the movie is also interesting. The book, the movie was based on, was written by Andy Weir, an American software engineer. It was written to be as scientifically accurate as possible. It was first published as a free serial on Weir’s personal blog and received feedback from the readers. At the reader’s request it was eventually made into an e-book that sold for 99 cents. It shot to the top of Amazon’s best-seller science fiction list. An agent contacted Weir and it was sold to a large publisher. Four days later Hollywood called for the movie rights. It all happened so fast even the author had a hard time believing it.

Here is the trailer of The Martian.

Another Youtube I ran across was an interview with Matt Damon, Andy Weir, and Dr. Jim Green (from NASA). In this interview we find out that elements in the movie are already being developed by NASA. The people who made the movie visited NASA to make it as real as possible. Here is a link to the youtube.

Do you think we’ll someday go to Mars and set up settlements? If we do, would you want to go there?

Weir’s first work to gain attention was a short story called The Egg that was adapted into Youtube videos. Here is a link to one of the youtubes if you’d like to see one. It’s an interesting story exploring soul’s experience after a person dies.

The Egg:

The How and Why of Author Newsletters January 27, 2016

Posted by heidi skarie in Uncategorized.
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If you’re a writer you will want to read this post by Steena Holms about newsletters: why you need them, how often to send them, what to say in them. And most important– remember newsletters aren’t about you, they are about your readers. Good luck with your writing.

Writers In The Storm Blog

Steena Holmes Steena Holmes

by Steena Holmes

In my last post, I talked about Street Teams and using my newsletter to connect with my readers. It raised a few questions about newsletters to which I replied “but that’s another blog.” The ladies at WITS took me up on that. So today we’re going to talk about …

Newsletters.

Some authors groan at the thought while others smile. But when used correctly, a newsletter can be your new best best friend.

Why? Because it’s your number one method of communication with readers.

What can you use your newsletter for?

  • Announce the release of your latest book
  • Promote when you have a special deal on your book
  • Get word out about a special contest
  • Boast about a great review or that sparkly new award you won
  • Tease your readers about your latest project

However – and this is a biggie – your newsletter isn’t…

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10 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer January 5, 2016

Posted by heidi skarie in Writing.
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Flower

  1. Write regularly. Like practicing the scales on a piano, anything you want to be good at takes time and effort. The more you work at it, the better you will become. Dedication to your writing is more important than natural talent. You can learn to write just as you can learn to draw, play an instrument or play golf.
  2. Keep a journal. A journal is a great place to write down your goals, dreams and ideas. It’s a place you can write without worrying about whether anyone will see or like it. You can learn about yourself, heal from hard experiences and write down stories about your life.

I was inspired to become a writer after having a series of six movie-like dreams. My dream journal entries of the story filled 100 pages. The story was so enjoyable I learned the craft of writing.

  1. Keep a notebook with you. You never know when you’re going to have an idea you want to jot down such as an inspiration for a character or scene. You might overhear an interesting conversation that sparks an idea or see a building or park or woods you want to use for a scene of your novel.
  2. Join a critique group. Find a group of writers that are on the same level as you or more experienced. Meet with them on a regular basis—once a week or once a month. Exchange your work ahead of time and so they can comment on your writing. Be open to criticism. Listen to all they have to say without defending yourself. When they are done, you can ask them to clarify their comments if there’s anything you don’t understand. When you go home, you can decide if their comments are helpful. I pay special attention when several people in the group feel the same way about something. In the end it’s up to you to decide what criticism is helpful.
  3. Take a writing class. College classes, night classes, or community center classes—all can be helpful. Find a writing class on the type of writing you want to do whether fiction, nonfiction, poetry or articles.
  4. Go to writing conferences. Conferences are a great way to meet other writers. There are many different types of writing conferences. The romance, science fiction and mystery writers offer big ones every year. Agents are often at conferences and may offer sessions where you can pitch your book to them. Local or regional conferences for all types of writers are also beneficial.
  5. Join local writing groups. Look for ones with people who write literary fiction or in the same genre as you do. My area has romance, speculative fiction, mystery, library, church, and women writers groups.
  6. Read regularly in a variety of genres. Read fiction and nonfiction, past and current best-selling books. Read the genre you write. Read with a critical eye. What makes the book good? Where could it be improved? In a novel do you like the pacing, plot and characters?
  7. Read books on writing. Start your own writing reference library. I have an unabridged dictionary, thesaurus and several books on grammar in my library although now I use the computer mainly as a reference. I have books on character, plot, dialogue, description and scenes. I have books on writing science fiction since I write in that genre. I also write historical novels, so I have books on Native Americans and Vikings. Other books include inspirational, getting an agent or publisher, The Writer’s Market and books on marketing.
  8. Never give up. Just keep writing and submitting to agents and publishers or self-publish. You’re never too old to start writing. You’re never too busy to write. Write when you can and where you can. You don’t need a special time to write or special room to write in. All you need is a piece of paper and a pen or a computer or word processor.

Share your tips for being a better writer.  I’d love to add to the list

Annoure and the Dragon Ships by Heidi Skarie December 21, 2015

Posted by heidi skarie in Book Review, Uncategorized.
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cover DS smaller file

Author Notes about Annoure and the Dragon Ships.

I’m excited to finally see Annoure and the Dragon Ships make its entrance into the world of literature. Annoure and Thorstein are finally getting a chance to share their story.

I carefully researched this period of history and did my best to make it accurate. Although the Norsemen had runes for writing on stone and labeling things, they didn’t have books that would have left a more detailed picture of their lives.

Much of what we know about them has comes from archeologist and the people who they invaded who didn’t portray them in a favorable light.

We do know the Norsemen’s longships were an important part of their culture. They were fast, sleek and shallow-drafted, which allowed them to travel up rivers and come into shallow water.

In writing the book I used some Norse words to make the story more authentic. Since the Norse language was before the time of dictionaries, the names given to words varies, as does the spelling of those words. I chose to take the most commonly used words and their spellings of the words such as “sonr” for son.

Even the word “Viking” is a more modern term to refer to the Norsemen. They didn’t call themselves Vikings. They said would say they were going “a-viking” when they planned a trading expedition or went on a raid.

The Viking Age began with an attack on the monastic settlement of Lindisfarne, an island off the northeast coast on England in Northumbria.

My story starts a year later when five dragon ships sailed up the River Thyne and attacked the St. Paul’s Church at Jarrow. They burned the two monasteries, killed or kidnapped the priest and monks, and fought the soldiers and villagers who tried to stop them. Their war leader was killed during the attack.

As the Norsemen left, a terrible storm arose and two of the dragon ships sank. The Norse warriors who survived the shipwrecks swam to shore and were then killed by the villagers and soldiers.

Historians disagree as to where the Norsemen who attacked Jarrow came from. For the purpose of my book I chose to have them come from what is now known as Norway.

While researching the book, I traveled to England and visited St. Paul’s Church. The church is still in use after over a thousand years. Beside it are the remains of the two monasteries that were destroyed in the Viking raid.

Nearby was an exhibit of a reconstructed medieval village complete with live animals. I was delighted to see what a village would have looked like back then with its thatched-roofed houses and twisted-branched fences.

Later I made a trip to Norway with my husband who is a one-hundred-percent Norwegian. I wanted to visit Rosendal where Thorstein’s family homestead was located on the west coast of Norway, an area famous for its fjords.

We flew into Stavanger where we rented a car and started our journey. We drove through a tunnel cut out of bedrock under a bay, traveled by car ferry, and drove on narrow mountain roads though some of the most beauty country in the world. Obviously the area has changed in over a thousand years yet the mountains, ocean, the nearby island (where Thorstein’s neighbors lived) and fjord are the same. Being there helped me write more realistically about the area.

I hope the story depict the Norsemen in way that shows their strengths and weaknesses and gives you a glimpse into their lives.

 

The Importance of a Beta Reader with Heidi Skarie December 2, 2015

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Here’s an interview on Stephanie Hopkins’ blog on “The Importance of a Beta Reader with Heidi Skarie”. The interview talks about the value of advanced reader who gives an author feedback on their novel before the final edit.

Layered Pages

Heidi Skarie BRAG

I’d like to welcome back B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Heidi Skarie today to talk with me about the importance of Beta Readers. She writes visionary novels that are an intoxicating amalgam of action, adventure and romance, featuring strong, spiritually inquisitive heroines. Star Rider on the Razor’s Edge is her first science fiction novel. She previously published Red Willow’s Quest, a historical novel based on a past life, about a Native American maiden training to become a medicine woman.

In the fall of 2015 Heidi plans to publish her new novel: Annoure and the Dragonships, another historical novel based on a past life, about a young woman kidnapped by the Vikings. In 2016 Star Rider and the Ahimsa Warrior, the second book in her Star Rider series will be published.

 Heidi, do you use beta readers?

Yes, it’s wonderful to get feedback on your book.

I know of…

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Alex & Emma: A Movie Review September 25, 2015

Posted by heidi skarie in Uncategorized.
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Alex & Emma

Alex & Emma

Alex & Emma is an enchanting romantic comedy. The description on the back cover of the DVD says it well: “Publish or perish! Alex has just 30 days to finish his romance novel and collect his writing fee—money he owes to loan sharks threatening his life. So stressed-out Alex hires Emma to be his stenographer and discovers she’s opinionated, direct, a cause of exasperation . . . and a source of inspiration.”

The description leaves out that Alex (Luke Wilson) has writer’s block, hasn’t even started the novel and is living in a dumpy apartment. The loan sharks hang him outside his second-story window by his legs and burn his laptop on the gas stove to encourage him to get the money he owes them.

Without a laptop, Alex is forced to hire a stenographer, luring her in with a false ad that he works at a law office.

Emma (Kate Hudson) shows up at the door and immediately realizes this isn’t a law office and is about to leave when anxiety-ridden Alex faints. She drags him back into his apartment by his feet—what decent person would just leave him collapsed in the hallway? she reasons. When he awakens, Alex shows her his hardcover, published novel to convince her that he really is a writer in need of her services as a stenographer.

Emma picks up the book, looks at his photo on the back cover, then immediately turns to the last page to see if she likes the ending. Alex is dismayed that anyone would read the end first. Emma explains she doesn’t want to waste time reading a book if it doesn’t have a good ending—thus the fun begins.

The fun affair between Alex and Emma takes place both in the contemporary world and in the 1920s world of the novel Alex is writing with Emma’s not-always-wanted input.

As Alex writes, we learn about his past struggles to find happiness and love. In the end we wonder if Alex will make the same mistakes with Emma that he made in the past or if he is willing to move forward?

For a writer, the book is especially enjoyable. The movie gives an insight into Alex’s writing process and his struggles against his own insecurities that blocks his creative flow. The viewer sees how the world of the book is shaped, the changes made to the characters and plot, and the struggles an author goes through to find the best ending.

For a fun evening, see Alex & Emma. It’s full of wit, imagination and will make you laugh and feel good about the absurdities and complexities of life.

If you’re a writer, have you ever had writer’s block? If so, how did you get over it? Is Alex’s process of writing a novel similar to yours or different? In what ways? Do you work well under pressure and deadlines or does that make it worse?

By Heidi Skarie, author of Star Rider on the Razor’s Edge. Visit my website at www.heidiskaie.com and sign up for my newsletter and to receive a free short story.

Here is the book trailer.

Thought Provoking Movie: If I Stay August 31, 2015

Posted by heidi skarie in Movie reveiew.
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If I Stay

If I Stay

If I Stay is based on a best-selling young adult novel by Gayle Forman.  High-school girls are its primary target audience, but both my husband and I enjoyed it.
It’s about a seventeen-year-old girl, Mai Hall (Chloe Grace Moretz) who has a loving family and wonderful boyfriend Adam (Jamie Blackley) who’s in a band. She’s a talented cello player, but is socially inept .  She’s looking forward to a life with lots of possibilities when she’s in a serious car accident with her entire family.  Mai’s badly injured and finds herself out-of-her-body, looking at the accident.  Her body is rushed to the hospital and she goes along and sees herself being operated on.  After the operation one of the nurses tells Mai’s unconscious body to fight to live, but Mai doesn’t know how to do that.

After her operation, she is concerned about her parents and little brother and looks for them in the hospital.  The viewer discovers as she does which of her family members have died.  The viewer also learns about her boyfriend, friends and grandparents as people gather at the hospital.

The story is told through a series of flashbacks while Mai’s body is unconscious. We learn how she and Adam met and fell in love, about her parents, grandparents and friends and her desire to go to Julliard in New York.

The movie was well done with an interesting plot and great acting.  I especially liked the musical element.  Mai’s father was in a band and was surprised when she became interested in playing the cello at a young age.  Her parents were supportive of her talent even though they didn’t understand where she got her love of classical music. In the movie we hear both her cello playing and Adam’s band.  We see how music can uplift and enrich people’s lives.

I liked the premise of the story where a person has to make the decision to stay in this physical world with all its pain and happiness or move on to the next world.  The author explores what it might be like to be seriously injured and watch your body operated on.  It shows the confusion a person might feel after an accident and the deep sorrow that might make a person decide they wanted to die.

I’ve read many stories about near-death experiences and there are many accounts of people who do see their own body at an accident and/or on the operating table.  This story didn’t explore Mai going toward the light, or into a tunnel, or meeting loved ones on the other side.  Mai was out-of-her-body but still in the physical world. Its focus was more on her life and whether she should “fight to live” or go on.

The story explores the sacrifices necessary to become really good at something.Mai spends hours every day playing the cello, though she plays more out of love than self-discipline. Her father enjoyed being in a band and also had talent, but he made the sacrifice of giving up being in the band to become a teacher and support his children.  He then discovered he loved teaching and was happy with his choice.

The movie also explores the many options we have in life. In one scene Mai’s not sure what direction to go in as she and her mother stand at the sink doing dishes.  Her mother tells her whatever choice she makes is a good one or there could be yet another path she might follow that would be equally good.

Another theme is of unconditional love: both the love between Mai and her family and between Mai and Adam.  Mai’s father sells his musical instrument to buy a cello for his daughter.  Mai and Adam also have to decide what sacrifices they are willing to make for their relationship.

At the end of the movie Mai has to make the final decision to: to stay or go.

What choices do you make daily?  Do you live life to its fullest?  What sacrifices have you had to make to do what you love, or support someone you love?

Do you think people have a choice to live or die when they are in serious accident or have a serious illness? Have you ever had a near-death experience?  I’d love to hear your stories.

Below is the trailer of If I Stay.

Check out my webstite at http://www.bluestarvisions.com

What is the difference between a short story and a novel? June 23, 2015

Posted by heidi skarie in Writing.
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I write novels and have extensively studied the complexities of how to write one. I’m less familiar with the structure of short stories, so I did some research to figure how a short story is different from a novel.

The obvious difference between a novel and a short story is that short stories are short and novels are long. Short stories can be 1,000 to 20,000 words. More average is 3,000 to 5,000 words. A novel can be anywhere from 60,000 to over 120,000.

A short story has one main character and the story is told through that character’s point of view. Often it is told in first person or limited first person. A novel has a cast of characters and the story can be told from any of those characters’ viewpoints.

The main character of a short story has a need or fear that leads to a major change or climactic event in that person’s life. The protagonist comes to a single understanding or insight. A novel is much more complex with many transformational events that more than one characters can go through.

A short story usually takes place in a few hours or days in few settings. A novel can take place over a short period of time or it may cover years or generations in many different settings, countries and even planets.

A short story has one theme, whereas a novel can explore different themes and has more breadth and scope.

Each story form has different challenges. The short story gives the author a chance to explore one idea with one character. It must be written so that it is tight and a lot conveyed in an economy of words. The first draft may be written in one setting and rewritten and edited in a short period of time. However, the limitation on the number of words in itself can be a challenge. How do you make a reader care about the character in so few pages? How do you make an emotional impact?

The novelist has time to explore characters, different settings, subplots and sweeping events. The commitment to write a novel is much larger and it may take years to research, write, rewrite and edit.

While researching the difference between short stories and novels I came across a YouTube of TC Boyle reading The Lie from his anthology Wild Child: And Other Stories51++DtIBs9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_. The story is delightful to listen to and quite engaging. I found myself thinking—no don’t say that! I can’t believe you just said that. What were you thinking?

The Lie illustrates all the qualities of a good short story discussed above. It’s well worth listening to.

Here is the YouTube:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-nwoMJTung

I’d enjoy hearing your impressions of The Lie. Did you find yourself identifying with the main character? Did you laugh? Have you ever told a lie that led you to more lies?

If you’d like a copy of my short story Star Rider Emerges, click over to my website and sign up for my newsletter. Here is a link: bluestarvisions

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