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.