Wednesday, December 7, 2016

An Interview with Inspiring YA author - Nadette Rae Rogers

One thing I really love about being a writer is that it allows me alone time during which to express myself through the written word. I'm the kind of person who needs that.

Being an author also allows me to connect with readers through my books. Since I am a strong believer that life is all about connecting with people and developing relationships, I feel really lucky that writing allows me to do this. A few years ago, I met a young lady who read Whisper and was inspired by it. As we got to know each other, she confided in me that she was working on a book of her own. 

I know it's kind of nerdy, but I get really excited to talk with teens who write! Nadette entrusted her then-partial manuscript to me. I read it, and I encouraged her to continue writing. During her senior year of high school, one of her teachers made it a graded project that her students publish their writing. What a phenomenal idea! Now, a year later, Nadette's young adult novel - Illusion - sits on my nightstand, and I am anxious for a sequel!

Not only did Nadette complete her graded project - write and publish a book, but she took it a step further. Nadette has jumped in to the twitter and Facebook writing communities. She is networking with other Pittsburgh authors and working hard to get her book out there. She is learning how to brand and market herself as a YA author on sites like goodreads, and she consistently writes for her blog. 

So, young writers - you can do this! Be inspired and motivated by this eighteen-year-old author whose book is just amazing!

Nadette was kind enough to answer some questions for me. See below. Check her out on her website, and read Illusion! It is a paranormal romance that will keep you turning pages and begging for more at the end!

1. Tell me a little about yourself and when you started to write. I'm eighteen years old and a recent high school graduate. I love reading, writing, and dancing. I've been writing pretty much since I learned to read. I remember writing little stories in kindergarten and bringing them in to show my teachers. In the second grade I wrote my first "book" and ever since then have writing more and more. My debut novel I actually wrote my freshman year of high school. Then, this past year I had a creative writing class at school and the teacher inspired me to get the book back out and work on it again. 

2. Tell me about your book. What inspired you to write the story? My book is called Illusion, and it is about a girl named Addison who has very strange dreams. Soon, the dreams start blending with her waking life and she can't tell what is real and what is just a dream- an illusion in her mind. I wanted to write this book because I find dreams fascinating! Ever since I was a little kid, I would tell my mom dreams that were really weighing on me and she would be able to tell me what they meant and it instantly made me feel better about whatever situation I was dreaming about. Now, my friends call me when they have a weird dream and I'll analyze it for them. I just think dreams are our mind's way of telling us how we really feel about a situation and I think they are important to look into. I wanted to write a book centered on dreams so people could relate to it, but I wanted a story that had a fantastical dream world that people could lose themselves in at the same time. 

3. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you outline? I actually wrote Illusion with no plot at all. All I knew was the ending I wanted to get to. I prefer to write what comes to me or what feels right for the character and scene at the time. Once I wrote the first draft though, I went through and outlined the whole book down to all the little details. For my next book, I'm trying to plot it out first to see how that goes. 

4. What are your currently working on? Currently I am working on promoting Illusion and writing the second book in the Illusion Trilogy! I'm really excited to dig deeper into each of the characters in the second book. 

5. You write a lot about dreams on your blog. Tell me about your most vivid dream? Actually, this is a funny, but sad story: at my senior dance recital, I was in a lot of dances and didn't have much time to change in between. Because of that, a friend and I missed the call to go backstage for our dance and ended up missing the whole first half of the song. We made it on for the end of the dance, a part I was featured in, and everyone was staring at us like "Where have you been?" I've never done that before, so it was very embarrassing. Since then, I've been having very vivid dreams where I missed my other dances too or forgot to show up to the recital entirely! 

6. What are your top 5 favorite books or authors who have influenced your writing?
I've read so many books that's a tough question! 
1. Stephen King- I like scary movies, so I started reading some of his work. I'm amazed at how many books he has written in his career and they are all unique and really good. I've read his memoir about writing, and it inspired me to finish my book and put it out there. I have pages in the memoir highlighted and bookmarked so I can read it any time I'm struggling with something writing-wise.  
2.  The Scarlet Letter- It's a classic book that I had to read for school and ended up loving. The book has so much symbolism and irony and depth, and I am always inspired by the story and writing. The book actually had some influence in my book for the antagonist. 
3. Ally Carter- I have been reading her books for years and really admire the way she creates such interesting characters that are still relatable. She has three very different types of series and I love them all! I loved it too when she wrote a novella combining two of her series; the story was so good! 
4. I'm a fan of Veronica Roth because she was young when she wrote, Divergent. It is inspiring too to see how far the book has gone and how it has turned into a movie franchise, and she wasn't much older than I am now. 
5. J.K. Rowling- I am amazed at the world she created- it even has it's own representation in a theme park. I think it's incredible that a story that was rejected multiple times has grown into such an incredible franchise. Everyone knows Rowling's name and everyone knows about Harry Potter, and I think that is so cool. She has helped so many people too, and I find that inspiring as well. 

Noelle's social links are below. Unfortunately, they are hard to see, but they are there! Blogger is being a jerk today, so just click on the white space next to the description, and it will take you to said website! 

where to purchase paperback or kindle:

Nadette Rae Rodgers lives in Pennsylvania. Her passion for writing developed at a very young age. Her interest in dream analysis was the basis for this book. She hopes this book will inspire others to achieve their goals in life.

Illusion is her first published work. It is the first book of the Illusion Trilogy.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Writing to Remember

This morning I was going through pictures to use for marketing of my upcoming book, Beautiful Secret. Parts of the story are set in Revin, France, which lies in the Meuse River Valley in the Ardennes, just west of the Belgian border.  Quaint Revin is nestled between slate gray mountains and blanketed by thick forest, which gives it a storybook feel. My uncle and aunt – Zia and Zio, as I refer to them, built their home and family there. This month marks twenty-two years since the first time I visited my family in Revin and went on to Italy with them. It seems like an eternity ago. It seems like yesterday.

It was the summer before my senior year of college. Boarding the plane at Pittsburgh International Airport, I felt a sense of dread at leaving my then-boyfriend and college life to go away for three weeks with my parents. My mind was full of all the things I’d miss. I had no idea. No. Idea.
My first few hours in France were a blur of exhaustion. I was so jet-lagged, I slept the morning away along the scenic riverboat cruise of the Seine.

The Seine!

I slept past Notre Dame, for goodness sake!

When I think back to those first moments, I’m not surprised, actually. Although I adore Paris, sight-seeing was never my thing. I didn’t fall for Europe until its people claimed my heart and shocked it to life. My cousin, Nicole, who still teases me about how Paris put me to sleep, was the first person who captured me. Her laughter is like bubbles of champagne, which she refers to as French Coca Cola. She has a breezy way about her that all at once makes you feel confused but totally relaxed about it. She picked up my parents and me in Paris and drove us the three hours to the family home in Revin, all the way preparing us for the people we would meet and the places we would see.

I had five years of French under my belt, so I was confident I would be able to chat up the locals. That was until they started actually conversing. The French speak quickly, and, at first I had a hard time following. My cousins were patient with me, though, and they were happy that I spoke some French, even if I wasn’t as fluent as I thought I was. Nicole, spoke good English, so she helped. My Zia and Zio and all of my cousins spoke Italian, so my father could understand and speak pretty well. He was raised by his broken-English speaking mom and a father who never totally assimilated to American life. Even though he was rusty, he caught most of the Italian.

Eventually, my Zia’s basement kitchen – where we shared every amazing meal -  was flooded with smoke from the ever-lit cigarettes and brick oven and also with shouting and laughter in all three languages. We ate, we drank, and we did whatever we needed to do to understand each other. The funny thing was, that before I even understood the words that they were speaking, I had already fallen in love with my family. There was something deeply instinctual about this love, totally unprompted and unexpected. These were my people. Their blood was my blood. Their history – all of the joys and sorrows that had graced their fates - was part of me. It was like I could feel all of it the first time my Zio slid his sneaky grin my way.

My memories of my first time in Revin are touchy and feely and totally vivid. Winding streets, lined with sturdy stone homes. Flowers everywhere. Cracked sidewalks and crooked storefront signs. The streets smell of baking bread and river moss, with the occasional waft of strong perfume from an impeccably dressed woman – complete with fashionable scarf at the neck (no matter what the temperature is outside.) Every morning, I would wake up and go for a run through the town. 

Sometimes, I would cross the old stone bridge that straddles the Meuse river. Other mornings I would traipse deep into the neighborhoods where flower baskets greeted me from shuttered windows and old men in fedoras tended their gardens and took little notice of the crazy American runner. No one else in the town seemed to be concerned about the amount of bread they were eating. Maybe I was the only one who seemed to down an entire baguette with every meal.

The bread was crazy good.

And, speaking of gardens, I was completely taken with my Zio’s backyard garden. The door from the basement kitchen led outside and into Eden, as far as I was concerned. My Zio didn’t hide the pride he felt about his work. This little man, with his wrinkled bronze face, his up-to-something smile, and tiny sandaled feet, spent hours outside with his plants. Flowers, yes, but vegetables and fruit too. The pungent bite of almost-ripe tomatoes, lettuces, fava beans, hot peppers, cassis berries. The garden was its own little microcosm, complete with chicken-house, a.k.a. grappa factory, where Zio prepared his famous liquor.

After one week in Revin, our French family accompanied us on my first trip to Italy, to the town where my father was born.  The voyage was life-changing, because of the people who shared it with me. Yes, it was amazing to walk through my grandmother’s memories and to see my ancestors’ homes. Yes, France and Italy were unlike any place I’d ever been, both in their lush natural beauty and in their rawness. But, without a doubt, the trip was special because of the people.

 If it weren’t for my sweet Zia and her amazing gift of gab, I would never know the stories she shared with me over hours of espresso and talk at her basement kitchen table – stories about my grandmother as a young woman and mother.  My cousins, Benoit and Nino, became like brothers to me on this trip, one at each side at every church, beach, or family dinner. They took great joy in playing tricks on me – scaring the heck out of me by driving like maniacs on curving mountain roads that can’t possibly be meant for even one car to drive upon, let alone two. They gave me my first shot of grappa and laughed their heads off when I shot it as if it were a vodka lemon-drop, rather than sipping it slowly as I was supposed to. My throat was on fire for hours after that. They held me when I cried after the first time I met my cherished late Nana’s brother, whose sea-blue eyes were unmistakably hers.

It was impossible to say goodbye.

 I didn’t sleep a wink on the plane ride home. I cried the entire eight hours from Rome to Pittsburgh and then slept for days afterwards. I was afraid I would never see my family again. Little did I realize - love like that is undeterred by distance. The following summer, my two soul brothers came to Pittsburgh, where my American family introduced them to burgers, supersize, and, I’m embarrassed to admit, Hooters.  We continue to visit back and forth, and now, with Facebook, it is so easy to stay in touch.  It’s important to me to keep these family bonds alive, to pass this virtue on to my children so that they instill it into their own children someday. Beautiful Secret is fiction, but many of Tate’s stories are my stories. Some people scrapbook to remember. I write novels.

That fall, after my first life-altering trip to Europe,  I returned to Kent State University with a bottle of my cousin Nicole’s crème de cassis. She and my uncle had made it from their very own berries and had wrapped it carefully so that it wouldn’t break inside my luggage. The syrupy wine was sweet and tart with just the slightest bite of alcohol. At night, in the heartland of Ohio, I’d sip it and remember my walks through the garden with Zio in Revin. Even now, twenty years later, I can smell the peppery sweet berries that would burst into the air with a snap every time I opened the bottle.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Serious Summer Salads

School’s out!

Ahhhh, summer. I love the lazy mornings, the poolside days, the s’mores by the fire nights. I planted my garden last weekend, and I am so looking forward to fresh lettuce and herbs, pungent tomatoes, and waxy hot peppers. I’ve already started harvesting the arugula and made a salad with it last night. There’s nothing like fresh greens from the garden.

In summer, I do a ton of meal salads. I like to toss chicken or burgers and dogs on the grill for the kids and make a huge salad for my husband and me and whoever else shows up at my back door for a night swim. My salads are not just lettuce, tomato and some cucumber. (Actually, I don’t like cucumber in salads, because I think it makes the salad taste watery – but that’s just me.) I love adding different grilled proteins and cheeses, nuts, and whatever vegetables are in my fridge. Since followers have been asking for recipes, I thought I would do a post of some of my favorite summer salads.

Grilled Romaine Salad
My very favorite – I found a version of this recipe a few years ago, and I’ve been changing it up and eating it every since. The cheese is the best part. It doesn’t melt on the grill but gets this chewy, soft consistency and takes on the grilled flavor. It’s delicious.

2 Heads of romaine, sliced in half long ways, with the bottom core left intact
1 purple onion, sliced in thick rounds
1 container of Halloumi cheese, cut into ½ inch thick slices
½ C Olive Oil
A handful of chopped fresh mint leaves
2 cloves crushed garlic
Juice from 1 lemon
Salt and pepper

Prepare lettuce, onions, and cheese and place them on a platter.
Combine oil, garlic, mint, lemon, salt and pepper and brush some onto the veggies and cheese.
Place the veggies and cheese on the hot grill.
Grill romaine until the edges start to char.
Grill the cheese until it starts to get just slightly melty, about 5 min.
You can chop the lettuce, onions and cheese and put it in a big bowl or leave it all whole and serve on the platter- whichever you like. It’s prettier when it is served whole on a platter, but the flavors mingle well when mixed in a bowl.
Top with the remaining dressing and serve.

Balsamic Grilled Vegetable Salad
When I have a bunch of veggies in my fridge that I want to use up, this is my go to summer salad. It’s bursting with flavor, and the addition of blue or gorgonzola cheese adds a special bite and pairs perfectly with the tart balsamic.

1 Red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, seeded and halved
2 large portabella mushrooms
1 red onion, sliced into large rounds
1 or 2 zucchini or yellow squash, depending on their size, sliced in half, longways
1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed
2 heads of chopped romaine.
1 bunch grape tomatoes, left whole
½ can chick peas
1 small container of blue or gorgonzola cheese
Toasted sunflower seeds or croutons to give the salad extra crunch
Grilled chicken, steak or shrimp for extra protein

Prepare peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, onion and asparagus and place on a large platter
Make dressing (recipe below)
Brush veggies with dressing and grill until slightly charred
Place chopped romaine in a large bowl or on a platter.
Top with tomatoes, chick peas, grilled veggies (and protein if you added it)
Sprinkle with cheese, croutons and sunflower seeds
Toss with more balsamic dressing.
Perfect salad for a pizza night!

Balsamic Dressing
1 Cup olive oil
½ Cup balsamic vinegar
1 t salt (or more to taste)
1t pepper
1t garlic powder

Arugula with Honey Grilled Shrimp
This salad looks a little fancier, but it’s so simple and delicious.

16 raw jumbo Gulf shrimp – peeled and deveined
5 cups arugula
½ cup parmesan cheese salad shreds
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup Marcona almonds
2 T honey
½ C olive oil for marinade plus ½ C more for drizzling over greens
¼ C white wine vinegar


In a large bowl, whisk ½ C olive oil with honey, vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
Add shrimp to the bowl and toss. Let this marinate for ½ hour to an hour.
While shrimp is marinating, prepare salad.
Lay arugula on a large platter.
Top with cheese shred, raisins and almonds.
Shake a pinch each of salt and pepper over the greens and drizzle with the remaining olive oil.
Grill shrimp and place over the salad greens.
So pretty and yummy!

Cheers to summer, to cookouts and catching fireflies, to water baloon battles and cannonball jumps into the pool, to berry picking. Let's hope we have loads of sunshine here in Pittsburgh!

Until next time, mangia bene! 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Author and Artists Festival

     This past weekend I participated in a really fantastic event ~ The Shaler North Hills Library’s Authors and Artists Festival. If you visited the library on Saturday, you were probably shocked to realize that right here in Pittsburgh there are a ton of talented artists with amazing works in their portfolios. Beautiful paintings, postcards, and jewelry pieces adorned the festival room. I enjoyed perusing the collections as well as meeting each and every author and learning about their books.

     This post wouldn’t be typical Dana if I didn’t somehow get emotional here. I just have to say that when I’m in a room full of creators, I am reminded of my Creator. How amazing He is! How vast is His imagination to fashion people who weave beauty with words, with paint, with metal, with their minds and their hands.  In a world where ugliness and hate shout at me with every switch of the channel, I’m so happy I was able to spend one day away from all of that. It was wonderful to be in the company of inspired people who spread love on our broken world with the talents God has so graciously bestowed upon them.

     I want to introduce some of the people I met on Saturday. If you’re interested in their genres, check out their websites.

     Shaler Library’s Beth Lawry did a wonderful job of organizing and publicizing the event. There was a great turnout, and authors were grouped by genre to participate in talks that were scheduled throughout the day. Art pieces and books were available for purchase as well.

      I loved getting to talk to readers about my Whisper series, answering questions and discussing the inspiration behind the books. Really, though, what I love most about events like this is the camaraderie. Being in a room with twenty other writers is like finally settling into the spot where my puzzle piece fits.

     Jim Rugg – co-author of the graphic novel Street Angel and several other works. Street Angel is unique because the main character is a very unlikely superhero. A homeless girl whose favorite holiday is Haloween, Jess fights both real and fantasy characters to survive the streets. Jim Rugg  is a super talented artist. He taught me a little about how the world of comic book publishing works, and I enjoyed getting his unique take on the writing life.

     Heather McCoubrey – prolific romance author of Emily’s Choice. I noticed her books right away because of their gorgeous covers. Heather confided that she is currently working on a thriller-type romance, and that she is enjoying getting into the head of her serial killer character. Eeek. Seriously, though – check out these covers!

     Lorraine Roposh Beran – author of the award-winning YA novel – Secret Words. Lorraine and I spoke on the YA panel together and had an instant connection.  We share a love of tweens and teens as well as a history of working with this age group. She taught middle school for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh for several years and really has a heart for young adults. I bought Secret Words for my tween daughters, and I can’t wait to hear what they think.

     Leah Pileggi – author of YA historical fiction award-winning novel -Prisoner 88 . What really struck me about Leah was the amount of research she put into writing Prisoner 88, which is based on the true story of the nation’s youngest jailbird, a ten-year-old boy, who served five years in prison for murder. Not only did Leah go above and beyond when it came to research, but she actually enjoyed every minute of it. Historical is definitely her passion, and it comes out in her writing, which is gaining major attention. It’s even been translated into Korean.

     Jill Cueni-Cohen – journalist and author. Jill writes for the Post Gazette and Tribune Review and has recently published Like It Was Yesterday, a book about how 9/11 changed the face of our nation. Jill asked great questions during the author panels and was so enthusiastic. She is definitely a journalist, at heart! My favorite question of hers was – how has your life changed since you wrote your book? I could do an entire post on that question. It would be filled with angst and joy and a myriad of other emotions I’m sure.

     If you missed it this year, be on the lookout for next year’s Authors and Artists Festival. Also, be sure to check your local library’s schedule. Several of the libraries host events like these. I’ll be participating at a similar event at Fox Chapel Library sometime in October. Check out these talented authors too!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Read Across America

Read Across America Week is one of my kids’ favorite celebrations during the school year. Their district makes it fun by scheduling a variety of fun activities and by celebrating Dr. Seuss’s birthday. This year, the kids got to wear crazy socks and hats, wear something that held to Dr. Seuss’s Oh The Places You’ll Go theme and even dress as their favorite book characters. One of my daughter’s was pretty excited to dress as Cindy Lou Who from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

I also had the opportunity to get in on the celebrating by visiting my daughter’s 4th grade section and reading them excerpts from my Whisper Trilogy. Since the books are considered young adult and not middle grade, I was careful to select a few passages that seemed appropriate. I wanted to read part of a chapter that starred a character who was inspired by my daughter, but she wanted no part of it. Not wanting to be singled out, she asked me to read “the dragon chapter.” I conceded to it.
I read from both Callie and Joshua’s voices and explained that writing from different points of view is something I have done in both my children’s books and my adult novel. It helps me to grow closer to my characters and nail the authenticity of their actions in my stories. The fourth graders really seemed to respond to both passages and had a ton of great questions. Their questions were my favorite part of the presentation, and I thought it might be fun to post them so that parents can learn a little bit about the books their children are talking about and apparently asking to read. Below are some of the questions and answers from Thursday’s chat with 4th grade aquatics.

Thank you Anne Fetterman for inviting me in. It was a delight to me to share my books with the 4th grade!

1.     1. How many books have you written?

5 books total. One is shelved with the books and books of poetry and prose I’ve written and kept over the years. It’s printed on the old word processor paper that’s green and white striped with holes on the side. The Whisper series is a trilogy that’s available on, and Beautiful Secret is women’s fiction and will be released this summer from Pandamoon Publishing. I have oodles of other books started. Some I’ll finish. Some I probably won’t.

2    2. How long did it take you to write the Whisper Series?

It took me 6 months to write Whisper, 9 months to write Wake and about a year to write War and Wonder. This was just the writing. The editing takes a lot longer!

3.       3. What made you want to write a book?

I write because it helps me sort out my emotions. When I was a kid or an angsty teen, poetry flowed like tears from my fingertips. It’s just how I work. I wrote Whisper because I was sad and confused about the life-altering negative behavior I saw teens engaging in in my own community.

4.       4. Are you going to write more books?

I don’t think I’ll ever stop writing. Currently, I’m working on an anthology of travel stories. I also have two adult books that are competing for attention in my head. I jot ideas and scenes down here and there, but I haven’t decided which one I’m going to commit to first!

5. Where can we buy your books?

You can by them on Here:

Or you can by them at Gifted Hands Gift Shop in Wexford!

The greatest advice I can give to young writers is write what stirs your heart. Write what you’re passionate about or what makes you feel something! Keep EVERYTHING you write – poetry, songs etc.. When you get older, it will be so fun to look back at those creations. Also, a first draft isn’t a finished product. Editing is important, even though it’s a pain in the neck! You can always make something that’s already good even better!

Happy Read Across America season, and thank you Pine Richland for working with our children to develop their love for the written word!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Lent and Fridays and Fish. Citrus Cilantro Tilapia Recipe

So, it’s Lent. A time to be more humble and less indulgent. A time to focus more deeply on matters of the soul than matters of the flesh. During the Biblical Lenten Season, Jesus fasted and prayed in the desert for 40 days, right?

In my little circle of Italian Catholics, an explanation of Lent can easily be whittled down two words.

Fish. Fry.

The fish fry is the go-to Friday hangout for peeps of my culture. From Mardi Gras until Easter, workplace conversations center on which church basement has the best fry. Catholic school moms volunteer and invite their friends. I volunteered once with my Aunt May, who was the Epiphany Church fish fry lady for years.

I’m sure Aunt May took on the fish fry job out of respect for her mother’s memory. My Nana was active in the church and good friends with the Bishop, so when I try to work out how my Aunt May, a lady who hated fish and never got on well with the church until she was older, became head cafeteria lady at the fry, it just makes sense. Since she has passed on, her son has taken on a ton of responsibilities at the church. I like to think Aunt May and Nana are smiling down from Heaven as they watch him step into their shoes.

I’m not big on fried fish, but we’ll go to a fish fry once in awhile on a Friday night, to support the cause. Also, I have been trying to get my family to eat more seafood, lately, so I’ve been cooking it at home. My kids weren’t thrilled at first – the six year old stomped around the house several times, proclaiming her refusal to eat gross fish. I ignored her, of course, and when I made the Tilapia recipe below, my kids had two helpings. (Not the six-year-old. She had a lucky case of strep throat and ate nothing but a popsicle for dinner that night.)

Recently, I went to visit my mother at her winter home in Florida. She made this dish, using flounder instead of Tilapia, and I loved it. Any mild, white, flaky fish will do.

Citrus Cilantro Tilapia

6-8 tilapia filets rinsed and dried
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 2 limes – reserve the fruit after squeezing the juice out
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ C fresh cilantro, minced plus more for serving
2T olive oil
1T sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Cups cooked rice
1 jar medium salsa
1 can rinsed and drained black beans
1 can pineapple tidbits

Whisk juices, garlic, cilantro, olive oil, sugar, salt, and pepper in a bowl then add the fish.
 Let the fish marinate for 1-2 hours.
Meanwhile mix rice, black beans, pineapple tidbits and salsa and spread the mixture into a prepared casserole dish.
Lay the fish filets stop the rice mixture and pour the marinade all over the fish.
Top with lime slices and cilantro.
Bake, uncovered at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes or until fish flakes with a fork.

A healthy dinner, perfect for a Lenten Friday when you’re NOT going to the fish fry.
Solemn Lent, everyone. (I wanted to say Happy Lent, but it just didn’t seem right.)

Eat well, and enjoy the fish fry!


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

How Twitter Can Work for Authors - Making Connections and Sellng Books

     When I learned that my publisher expected me to build Twitter followers, I wasn’t altogether excited.  Not that I hadn’t found Twitter to be useful in my journey to publication. Quite the opposite. I actually landed my book’s contract because of a Twitter pitch contest. I tweeted my pitch during Adpit last February and was favorited by Zara Kramer, head of PandaMoon Publishing. Months after submitting Beautiful Secret to Pandamoon, I got an offer of publication.

     All because of Twitter.

     Twitter is a great tool for authors looking for representation.  The MSWL hashtag is super useful to link writers to agents who are looking for specific kinds of writing or even subject matter. Agents or editors will tweet out their wish lists and embed the mswl hashtag into their tweet. Surfing through the #mswl tweets can be entertaining in and of itself. You often find wishes like “space unicorns who fall in love over cookies and milk,” or “robot online dating stories.” It can be bizarre. Usually, though, an agent or editor will tweet genres, maybe a setting or a specific character trait. I subbed Beautiful Secret to agents who professed to be looking for stories set in Europe or family sagas with secrets. The mswl hashtag can really help a writer nail down agents who want what they have written, so it’s helpful.

    Writers who are seeking community have options galore available to them on Twitter. They can follow and participate in the amwriting hashtag and be favorited and supported by other writers. With #amwriting, you can share what you’re currently working on or just say “good morning #amwriting on this snowy Monday.” You never know who will reach out to you and say hey – I’m writing the same thing or “ooh, that sounds interesting.” Sometimes, we need this type of encouragement. Another community-building trend happens every Wednesday with #onelinewednesday during which you can tweet one line from your manuscript with the hashtag and share it with a host of other writers who are doing the same. This builds interest  and gives the world a taste of what you are writing.

     All in all, Twitter is a great place to connect with other like-minded people.

     I just didn’t see how connecting with other tweeters would help me sell more books.

     I was wrong, though.

     In early December, I had about 600 followers on Twitter. To be honest, I didn’t really interact much with any of them. Now, in mid-February, I have about 6,000.  I interact with several of them on a daily basis, and guess what?

     I’m selling books because of it!

     I learned that by following people who follow authors like me, I can gain followers who are likely to be interested in my book. Now, when I run a promotion and tweet about it, a bunch of my followers retweet it, and my reach is exponentially larger. If I share a #onelinewednesday, it’s also retweeted by my followers, allowing their audiences to learn about my books as well. I have reviewers who are following me and are interested in posting reviews of my trilogy on their blog sites. Twitter is an explosive marketing tool.

     What I’ve also realized is that Twitter is a place to connect to people who can become marketing partners with you.  For example, last week I did my first podcast interview with this amazing guy.

     Jon Filitti reached out to me over Twitter because our names are pronounced the same way. Coincidentally, everyone misspells his name to look like mine (because mine is the way Faletti should be spelled, of course - ha.) Jon humorously mentioned all of this in a direct message, we started dishing Italian backgrounds, and he asked if I’d be interested in letting him interview me on his Mindsoak Podcast.

     I was both enthused and terrified at the idea of being interviewed for a podcast, but I went with it and was pleasantly surprised. Mindsoak is a super cool project in which Jon, who is endlessly curious about everything, interviews interesting people from all walks of life. Actors, lawyers, writers like me. He wants to know what makes us tick and what makes us feel most alive. It’s a super interesting sociological project,  and Jon is incredibly easy to talk with. He asks fantastic questions that go just deep enough. On my podcast, he introduced my Whisper trilogy and gave me the opportunity to tell the world why I wrote it. He also asked me to talk about my publication journey and my women’s fiction debut novel, Beautiful Secret.

     Since we connected on Twitter, Jon and I have shared contacts. I’ve hooked him up with some great subjects to interview in the coming months, and his followers have shown interest in my writing. Now that we’ve connected, we are more committed to promoting each others’ works.

     All because of Twitter.

     Here’s a link to the Dana Faletti episode of Mindsoak.

     Check it out and follow Jon Filitti on Twitter. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get your own podcast opp too!




Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Interview with Bob Magill - Creator and Star of Ghost Bait

Today on Whatever Inspires, I'm pleased to introduce Bob Magill, a local guy who is wildly dedicated to both his craft - producing films - and to the people and ideas that inspire him.  I'm forever grateful to Bob for being my cover photographer for both Wake and War and Wonder. He spent a ton of time taking awesome pics of my gorgeous cover model, Cassie, who just happens to also be my niece. Being that we're both involved in projects that have a paranormal feel, we share a bit of a fan base. Today I'd like to share Bob with all of you who don't yet know what a brilliant artist he is.

Bob is a director and producer of film and television as well as creator and star of the original hit paranormal series – Ghost Bait. 

He's the founder and CEO of Evolution Industries, a Pittsburgh based production company, and spends much of his time traveling to L.A. and NYC to promote his film and television projects.  Most recently he completed his first screenplay for an upcoming feature film set to begin pre-production this spring.

When he is not behind the camera, Bob actually spends his “free time” authoring children’s books and writing and recording music for his video projects. Today, we're going to get up close and personal with Bob. He'll tell us about Ghost Bait, his children's books, and also a little about how he ticks and tocks.

Bob, tell me a little about yourself, how you came up with the idea for Ghost Bait and how you ended up landing the leading male role. 

Honestly I’m really a kid at heart.  What I mean by that is I absolutely love the idea of adventure, excitement and things that are larger than life.  I say this because I truly believe you need that to make a successful career in anything that involves creativity.

When it came to Ghost Bait I wanted to break into the entertainment industry.  When I sat back to strategize the best approach I kept coming back to reality TV.  I had all the right equipment with my production company and really I just needed an idea.  Now getting back to my adventure comment.  When deciding what the reality show focus would be I kept coming back to paranormal.  I’m a huge fan of supernatural TV shows, so the idea of exploring haunted locations was very appealing.  But I didn’t want to do “another paranormal show”.  So rather than just sending brave ghost hunters into the haunted locations, I wanted to also send very scared people that did not want to be there into those locations…and use them as “Ghost Bait”.  That is how it all began.

Regarding my involvement on camera it was two fold.  Initially for the web-series I used friends and employees on the show for production cost reasons, including myself because I was building a lot of the technology we used on the show and we wanted to show that.  I brought on a female lead that was our most experienced investigator (she had been on another ghost show) but the rest of us were there on camera for the first time.  It became apparent quickly that the easiest way to direct for a show like this was from in front of the camera, so I found myself more and more involved as an actor.

The original intent all along was to have a female driven show with the two women leads because I was so tired of seeing all guys on these ghost shows.  When it came to the web-series that worked well.  However when we got to the network level with the show it became apparent that the demographic for these shows called for a male lead, and I quickly found myself going from a small part of it to being placed in the forefront of the series.  I absolutely loved the opportunity and had a blast doing the show.

I never expected Ghost Bait to find the success that it did.  We gained popularity quickly online with fans all over the world. To promote the web-series I had hats, shirts and stickers to sell online.  We found ourselves shipping these things all over the world like Australia, Tokyo even Scotland.  It was crazy.  The online success was so overwhelming that we heard from network executives in Hollywood after just 6 episodes.  We went on to premiere number one on A&E’ Networks “BIO Channel”.  So what started as a simple web-series lead to a hit show, interviews, even making paid appearances at nightclubs and conventions.  It was a whirlwind, but definitely an experience of a lifetime. 

What's the latest Ghost Bait News and where can we watch the latest episodes?

Ghost Bait, in my opinion has the best fan-base.  They are so loyal, always looking for new content and constantly reaching out to see when there will be more.  The short answer, and the only one I’m allowed to give right now is…there is more in the works later this year. The TV episodes are available on iTunes and Amazon’s streaming service, just search for “Ghost Bait”.  The web-series is no longer online because of licensing but we do have DVD’s of the original web-series available for purchase.  If people are interested they can message me on Facebook.  There are some teaser clips still out there on website and the “iamghostbait” you tube channel.

Do you really believe in ghosts and that these locations are haunted?

Well let’s just say I have seen some fairly unbelievable things with my own eyes, some things I can explain, and some things I cannot.  Either way it’s always exciting to gain access to interesting historical locations that some people never get to see.

Did you ever have a ghostly experience as a kid or young adult?

Not really…but I wish I did. 

What’s the biggest challenge in shooting an episode?

With Ghost Bait the biggest challenges were usually the locations.  Most of them were either very old or not habitable; some even had condemned areas that were mostly off limits.  That creates some interesting challenges for both the cast and crew.  On the flip side that’s what gave us such cool locations to shoot at.  The other challenge was the annoying fact that ghosts never listen to the director, so when I say action more often than not they don’t show up on cue.  So we shot hours upon hours of footage which isn’t always evident in the final product.

What do you want your fans to know about what happens behind the scenes?

I absolutely love being on set, and I think you have to in order to work in this industry.  However the process behind the scenes is not nearly as glamorous as most fans think.  It is very long days (and nights) with an extremely hard working crew to get that final product everyone sits down to enjoy.  It can take 2 days to get something that is 60 seconds on screen.  On the flip side of that, and we shared this with viewers online with Ghost Bait, there are a lot of fun moments that never make it to camera.  You have to remember at the end of the day we are normal people at work, and just like any other office we have a good time in between takes, we build relationships… great set is like family.

What’s your dream location for a shoot of Ghost Bait?

Well that’s easy…a castle.  Ideally in Ireland or Scotland, something very, very old with lots of history.  The best paranormal investigations seem to be the ones that have a rich history, so you can’t go wrong with a castle.

So, I understand your experiences with Ghost Bait have inspired you to write a children’s series. Tell me about that. 

Yes, it’s called “Going on a Ghost Hunt”.  I co-wrote it with a friend, the friend we used as our Ghost Bait on the original web-series.  Ghost Bait fans and fans of the supernatural or paranormal love to get their hands on content, so we thought why not a kids book.  What’s great about this book is it features characters inspired by Bill and myself along with a friend Zoe.  It’s the adventure of us going on our first ghost hunt as little kids.  It’s illustrated in a unique style, and of course has humor at its core.  We plan on doing additional books in the series down the road.
The books can be found on my Amazon Author page:

What was it like moving from producing an adult series to creating a book for children?

It was definitely a change of mindset with the obvious shift in audience, but it was something I always planned on doing.  Bill and I have co-written a lot of content over the years so these books were fun change of pace.  In addition to “Going on a Ghost Hunt” I have also co-written and published an “Imagination Series” consisting of 3 additional books. These books are unique in that they have beautiful illustrations, but very few words.  They are story-building books. It’s actually an educational approach that is meant to inspire children to tell their own stories and initiate conversations about that story.
What’s great about these books is they led to collaboration with “The Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council”.  They are an amazing organization that offers services that really make a difference.  We are donating $1.00 for every e-book sold directly to The Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council.  That’s $1.00 for each of the 3 imagination series books, as well as Going on a Ghost Hunt (which is also available in Spanish).

You can find them all on my amazon author page:

 Any other projects on the table?

Wow, how much time do we have.  There are so many things in the works.  From a reinvention of Ghost Bait to other shows in development I’m always crazy busy.  I love telling stories about real people.  People that inspire me and that I know will inspire others.  One of the shows in development is another reality show about a guy, who makes amazing jewelry, Paul Michael Designs. I’m talking things that you didn’t even know you could do.  Not only are his designs mind-blowing, but more importantly he finds ways to capture special moments and special people in his work.  The show is really about the people he interacts with.  He once made a necklace for a World War 2 veteran, by melting down shell casings from his military 21-gun salute at his funeral. It had a message from him engraved on the back.  Now she feels like she always has him with her.
I also have a children’s TV show in development that’s both educational and fun.  I’ve partnered with a university here in Pittsburgh for technical support as the show has a strong focus on science and robotics.
What I am most proud of is the screenplay I just finished writing.  Just shy of a year ago I secured exclusives rights to the life story of a Pittsburgh man that is so inspiring it has already captured the hearts of millions around the world.  I can’t get into details quite yet, but videos featuring his story have exceeded 65 million views, he has been featured on shows like Meredith Vieira and CBS news.  I consider it a privilege to tell his story.  We are currently working with finance partners on the film with pre-production set to begin in the spring and full production shortly after.  This will be my first feature film and I can’t wait to move forward.

What are your career goals?

The end goal is to write and direct feature films.  It’s been a logical progression thus far, from corporate and marketing videos, to web and television and most recently film.  I want to continue along that path.  I also have a number of drafts for additional children’s book series that I plan on publishing in the near future.  Additionally I have been doing guest lectures to film students at colleges and universities like Thiel and Point Park.  I absolutely love sharing my experiences in this industry with students who have a passion for creativity.  I’d like to continue these lectures and someday do that in a more full-time capacity.

You are obviously an extremely creative and driven guy. When do you find that you are most creative? What inspires you?

I feel fortunate that “my gears are always turning”.  If I’m awake I’m thinking about the next big idea.  That being said I’ve come up with ideas at the strangest times.  Ghost Bait was conceived while I was cutting my grass.  I’m also inspired by real people.  If you think about it us humans are pretty amazing.  You don’t have to look far to find people making a difference, or someone overcome diversity on a large scale. 
The Pittsburgh man that I wrote the screenplay about was a major inspiration.  I sat and interviewed him once a week for 6 months.  During that time I kept saying to him that I couldn’t make up better stories than his real life experiences.  Every time I would think about how I was going to write a scene…the real way it played out was perfect.  There was absolutely no need to elaborate.
Additionally I myself am a huge fan of movies, books and TV.  So when I create content it’s usually inspired by something I want to see that isn’t out there.

Did you ever experience an “aha moment?”

I think so.  I actually think that happens a lot.  The biggest moment for me was early on in my production career.  You have to understand I am not formally trained in film, production or writing.  I actually have a Maters Degree in Social Sciences...which has absolutely nothing to do with what I have done for over 10 years now.
That being said I have wanted to make movies since I was about 6 years old.  My grandfather gave me an old 8mm “wind-up” film camera…except I didn’t have any film for it.  That didn’t stop me from putting together my own little movies with kids in the neighborhood as my actors.  We thought it was so cool having that camera…we filmed for days with no film.  I’d do anything to have that footage now.
The “Ah-hah moment” came for me about 2 years after I started my production company.  I started it in my basement with just me and it grew into full-time employees and a studio with a sound stage.  But early on it hit me one day that as intimidating as the film industry is, it’s something anyone with desire and drive can pursue.  The almost intimidating “magic” of production became much clearer to me.  By no means am I saying it’s easy, far from it.  But it’s also not out of reach.  That’s what has inspired me to not only create as much content in as many mediums as I can, but also to share my experiences with students who want to follow the same path.

Do you struggle with rejection and failure? What is the biggest challenge in your career?

Who doesn’t?  Just like everyone there are times when being told you can’t do something makes you question yourself, but the difference between success and failure in my opinion is what you do next.  I try to take that and use it to motivate me, to prove to myself that I can overcome the odds.  Trust me I picked a very difficult industry to succeed in.  Hollywood is a giant shark tank, and the only way to succeed is to jump in.  It’s not easy to break into this industry.  It takes time, patience and most importantly persistence. 
Not only that but you have to first convince the Hollywood execs that what you have is viable, then you have to please the fans that in the end make the difference between success and failure.
I’ll never forget reading comments when Ghost Bait first premiered on TV.  People were harsh, mean and vicious.  I thought we had failed.  I talked to my contact at the network and he congratulated me on the ratings.  Confused I mentioned the negative comments online and he laughed at me.  He said, “You actually read those?”  He went on to tell me that only people with negative things to say post comments, so they all seem negative.  He also said that most of them continue to watch the show and continue to post comments…but guess what…they are watching the show.
So with that I have learned that you cannot please everyone, it’s just not possible.  All you can do is create content that you believe in and hope you are fortunate enough for someone to give you the chance to share it on a large scale.

What are your go-to websites and apps? Who do you follow on Twitter?

Well my agent wishes I visited Facebook everyday, I have to get better at that.  I’ve been so busy lately I haven’t had time to post much.  I visit a lot of websites to research for things I am writing.  As a writer it is great that there is so much content at your fingertips. 
Regarding twitter I like to follow other people in the industry, directors that inspire me.
The one gadget I cannot live without is probably my laptop.  It’s how I write, how I edit footage and record music.  It’s my lifeline.  I love to do concepts on good old fashion sketchpads, but at the end of the day I’d be in trouble without my laptop.  I’m not sure I can pick just one app or computer program.  I use so many because everything is so specialized, one program for writing, another for video, then one for sound…just can’t pick one.

What’s next for Bob Magill? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10? Personally and Professionally.

Personally…hmm…what’s a personal life?  

There’s so much going on professionally right now that I think I actually work in my sleep.  If I am fortunate enough to be on my 4th or 5th film 5 years from now then I’ll be the happiest guy alive.  I am a true fan of TV, books and film.  For me a dark movie theater is an escape into a world that takes me out of the reality of everyday life, even if just for 2 hours.  When I watch a film I allow myself to “buy in” to the world that the film puts in front of me, I accept it at face value.  I create the shows and films I do because I want to do that for other people.  Entertaining the audience with fiction or inspiring them with a true story is a privilege in my opinion, and that’s what I want to do with my life.

A huge thanks to Bob Magill for giving me the opportunity to ask the big questions and for taking the time to answer them.

Follow this talented guy, people.

Twitter - @realbobmagill
Facebook -

He is going places and doing really great things.