Archive for May, 2015

Review: Cinderella

Culture | Posted by Shannon
May 25 2015

I’m tempted to begin this review the way they used to introduce famous people on TV: “My guest tonight needs no introduction …” This line has received its share of ribbing, being an introduction that declares itself pointless, but in fairness, you always need an introduction. Even for people everybody already knows about.

banner_cinderella2015Like Cinderella.

When I first heard that Disney was doing a live-action remake of Cinderella, I thought they could not have chosen a better fairy tale to remake. Of all the classic Disney princess movies — and by “classic”, I mean movies that Walt Disney himself had a hand in — Cinderella was the weakest. I have never regarded the old Cinderella as a bad movie; Disney, at his worst, was better than that. But it is nothing approaching a great movie. It does not really explore the fairy tale of Cinderella, its facets and its potential.

But the new Cinderella does. Rather than rewriting the old fairytale (evidently a great temptation for modern storytellers), the movie retells it, making various changes and elaborations but staying faithful to the essential story. At the same time, the movie seriously considers the fairy tale and its characters.

As Tangled did, Cinderella finds its exceptionality in blending the best of the old with the best of the new. In the classic Disney princess movies, the princesses tended to be mild and predictable, and the princes absolutely generic. (Only Prince Philip, who fought a dragon and has an actual first name, stands out.) The secondary characters were always more colorful and often more developed: the dwarves in Snow White, the fairies in Sleeping Beauty, the mice in Cinderella.

Cinderella had this syndrome particularly bad, almost sidelining the human characters; perhaps Walt Disney’s first love of animated mice betrayed him. But the new Cinderella finds its focus on Cinderella and her prince, realizing them as actual personalities and making them active agents of their own story. This movie pursues the outstanding question the fairy tale raises about Cinderella: Why did she put up with her stepmother’s mistreatment so sweetly?

In another modern touch, it also seeks to understand Cinderella’s stepmother, to find the human reason behind her cruelty. Yet it never poster_cinderella2015_thewickedstepmotherrelents in making her the villain — notable during a time when turning traditional villains into heroes and antiheroes is popular, and probably a feat at any time; it’s not easy to both understand and condemn.

If stepmothers are the bugaboo of old-fashioned fairy tales, then fathers and arranged marriages are the bugaboos of newfangled fairy tales. Cinderella rejects the first, including fathers with unusual prominence, and also unusual respect and tenderness.

It does, however, incorporate arranged marriage as a danger to True Love, threatening the prince’s quest for happiness as Cinderella’s stepmother threatens hers — a total innovation on the first Disney Cinderella, where the prince could marry anybody he wished and his father merely insisted that he marry somebody (he daydreamed of grandchildren). But as with the stepmother, the movie finds the reason without giving approval.

Although the modern influences are obvious, and generally constructive, em>Cinderella is anchored to the old tale. It makes no attempt to be an action movie, firmly resists any pull toward darkness, and most importantly, lets Cinderella be Cinderella. For what is most arresting about Cinderella is that she endures hardship and injustice with a “sweet and steadfast will” — a kind of heroism in its own right. And not only does this movie leave that to her, it sums it up in two words: courage and kindness.

Or, to put it another way, strength and goodness.

Cinderella is the best sort of fairy tale retelling, one that takes the story to the heights of its possibilities while remaining itself. Told with heart and thoughtfulness and style, Cinderella turns one of the Disney canon’s weakest points into one of its strongest.


This review was originally published on SpeculativeFaith.com.

New Release: Power Elements Of Character Development

Writing | Posted by Shannon
May 18 2015


Power Elements of Character Development
(book two of The Power Elements of Fiction series)

Rebecca Luella Miller


Power Elements Of Character Development, second in the series Power Elements Of Fiction, offers practical instruction for fiction writers about how to create engaging characters. This manual covers such topics as the character arc, a character’s inner as well as outer goals, qualities that make a character compelling, how character development fits with plot, how setting affects character development, character flaws, character voice, well-developed minor characters, realistic antagonists, and more.

This guide provides helpful reminders to the seasoned author, tips to help the intermediate writer raise the level of his storytelling, and instruction for the beginner. The occasional writing exercises offer writers an opportunity to apply what they are learning to their own works in progress.

Finally, Power Elements Of Character Development includes a list of resources for authors who wish to dig deeper in any given topic.

In total, this manual is a succinct blueprint for fiction writers to create characters that intrigue, entice, and compel readers to follow their story.


Available on Amazon


About the Author

Best known for her aspirations as an epic fantasy author, Rebecca LuElla Miller has been working as a freelance writer and editor since 2004. She has covered high school sports for a Los Angeles area newspaper group, published articles and short stories in several print and online magazines, and placed in the top twenty-five in the 2006 Writer’s Digest Short, Short Story contest. She currently blogs Monday through Friday at A Christian Worldview of Fiction.

Her editing credits include non-fiction and fiction alike, most notably four titles in the Dragons in Our Midst and Oracle of Fire series by Bryan Davis. You can learn more about her editing services and read her weekly writing tips at Rewrite, Reword, Rework.


Until Tuesday, May 19, Power Elements of Story Structure – the first book of the The Power Elements of Fiction series – is free on Amazon.

Review: James Madison – A Life Reconsidered

Book Reviews, History, Politics | Posted by Shannon
May 11 2015

James Madison, more than a Founding Father, is the father of the Constitution – the author of that document, less dazzling but more solid, more worthwhile than the Declaration of Independence. In her new biography of our fourth president, Lynne Cheney asks us to consider again James Madison, his achievements and their meaning.

James Madison: A Life Reconsidered is a beautifully written book. Lynne Cheney acquits history of the old charge (made credible by many textbooks) of being dry. With an eye toward evocative details, with flowing prose, she artfully tells Madison’s story and captures, in him, the humanity that is the heart of history.

Cheney puts forth the theory that Madison suffered from complex partial seizures and builds a strong case for it – a substantial contribution to the study of James Madison. Future writers will do well to consider it, even though Cheney seems, at times, to make too much of Madison’s epilepsy. She gives it, without support, as the reason why Madison became an advocate for religious liberty. Also without support, she speculates that it was why Madison’s first love broke off their engagement and why Madison once rejected the idea of becoming president. Cheney even speculates that a rather involved criticism of Madison, comparing him to a peddler selling ineffectual medicines, was in fact a veiled attack on his epilepsy.

This is, indeed, one of the faults of the book: a little too much theorizing, a few too many unproven assertions. Doubtless Madison read this book, probably he thought this, and no doubt this is what happened. These phrases, put to good employment by Mrs. Cheney, show at least that she is sensitive that these are not proven facts. Yet they are so recurrent that one wishes she had more often left the silence of history undisturbed.

But the primary fault of James Madison is that it is a little too uncritical, a little too biased in favor of its subject. Mrs. Cheney never does justice to Madison’s opponents. She takes an irritated tone toward Patrick Henry, stabs at Alexander Hamilton, and criticizes James Monroe for entering a presidential race that Madison was already in. Even Thomas Jefferson, generally well-treated, is pointedly put down for Madison’s benefit.

And this hurts her book. Her account of the vital political struggle between Madison and Hamilton never cuts to the core because it can never see Hamilton’s point. One cannot fully capture the stakes and meaning of such a great debate when one will not credit the other side. Cheney’s treatment of the War of 1812 is likewise hobbled by her unwillingness to critically question Madison’s assumptions – that America had to choose between France and England, that it ought to choose France.

So James Madison: A Life Reconsidered does not go as deep as it could. But as far as it does go, it is first-class. A telling of Madison’s life, with heart and a certain artistic skill, it is recommended for anyone interested in the Founding Fathers or the beginning of America.

Grand Finale Blitz: Katia’s Promise

Culture, Misc. | Posted by Shannon
May 04 2015

On Tour with Prism Book Tours.

We’re launching the BOOK TOUR for:
Katia’s Promise
By Catherine Lanigan

Did you miss any of the tour? There’s still time to go back and check out each stop…

Launch – More About the Book and the Author


1. What is your motivation behind this book? Why did you want to write it?


Katia’s story goes all the way back to the night that I woke up at three in the morning with my dream still in my head about this auburn haired, beautiful woman standing under a street lamp, around midnight, looking up at a single burning bedroom lamp in the mansion across the street. In my “vision” the woman turned to me and stared. She told me that I was to write her story.


Bookworm Lisa – Excerpt


She thought her heart would hammer a hole right through her chest, but she didn’t dare let him know how much he affected her. She couldn’t decide whether to smile at him, rush to him and hold his hand or ask his forgiveness on the spot. She felt as if she’d turned to stone. She couldn’t think or move.


Deal Sharing Aunt – Setting of the Book


The area is surrounded by farm land, a few vineyards, blueberry farms, apple orchards, Amish farmland and yet is only an hour away from Chicago. Beach weddings are highly popular.


The Written Adventure – Excerpt


He would never forget standing at LaGuardia, waiting excitedly with a bouquet of flowers. But Katia hadn’t walked off the plane. He’d waited for over half an hour. He’d gone to the ticket counter and asked if they were sure all the passengers had disembarked. The woman had assured him that the plane was not only cleared and cleaned, but ready for a new boarding.


Katia's Promise Hero PictI Am A Reader – Leading Man Austin McCreary


Austin’s character is actually taken from a real-life person I knew who has passed away. This man was my English teacher in high school and he encouraged me a great deal. He was a bachelor and once told our class that he’d been in love once and was literally left standing on the altar, alone—the bride abandoned him. He never got over her.


Was he remembering that fateful day when she had left him standing at LaGuardia? She knew he’d waited for her there, but she hadn’t been on the plane. Now she was here, literally on his doorstep, trying to apologize. Her heart was still in her throat, and she found she was just as speechless as he was.

unnamedLeahSay’s Views – Leading Lady Katia Stanislaus


Once I “saw” Katria in my dream or alpha state muddle, I realized she looked a Lot like Stana Katic, who plays Kate Beckett on “Castle” television show. I know, my character’s name looks like Stana’s name. However, I have always loved the name Katia, and over the years, friends have dubbed me, Katia-along with every other ethnic derivative of Catherine. It’s been five years or more since that dream and Katia’s story is just coming out now.


“[T]here were enough twists in the story to make it interesting. . . . The pace was well written and there was enough external conflict that helped the plot develop. I think that “heartwarming” is another way of saying that this was a clean romance.”


I have always been fascinated with old cars and old coaches when I read about them in books. In Indian Lake (as well as my hometown) is an antique car museum. I wanted my hero, Austin McCreary, to have a long family history with cars. I devised a backstory of Austin’s great grandfather who was a pioneer in the auto industry around WWI.


“I adored this book! It is just so cute and so sweet! I love love love the Harlequin Heartwarming books! . . . This book is definitely one for you clean, sweet romance readers to add to your TBR piles! I know I’ll be adding the others in the series to mine! 5 Stars!”


Wishful Endings – Excerpt


Austin’s lips were soft when they first met hers. His hands cupped her face and slowly his fingers moved up to her temples, then into her mounds of auburn hair. Her arms were around his neck in a split second, and everything she’d felt for him as at sixteen came whirling back to her with as much force as a tornado.


“This is a clean romance with no content to disclose. (yay!!) I will be keeping this author and the rest of the books in this series in my sights for future reading!”


Mel’s Shelves – Review


“I was in the mood for this kind of book. I love second chances and this one didn’t disappoint! Once I picked this up, I just couldn’t put it down. This is the fourth book in the Shores of Indian Lake series, and I haven’t read the first three. While I’m sure I would have enjoyed reading about some of the couples from the previous books, I didn’t feel like I was missing anything so this is great as a stand alone read. After having read it, though, I want to go back and read the other books in this series!”


i blog 4 books – Spotlight/Partial Review


“[T]he beginning is definitely intriguing. I typically enjoy stories where the characters reunite after some time apart, which is the case for the main characters.”


“When a startling discover about the past is made, Austin has a hard time dealing with it, but Katia wants to be there for him…if he’ll let her. This is an emotionally tender story with powerful characters in an interesting setting and it stands alone, even though it is the fourth book in the series.”

Katia’s Promise

(Shores of Indian Lake #4)
by Catherine Lanigan
Adult Contemporary Romance
May 1st 2015 by Harlequin Heartwarming


Katia Stanislaus is a top insurance agent in Chicago, but her company is about to fold if she can’t pull off a miracle. She convinces her boss to relocate to Indian Lake where she lived as a child and broke the heart of the one man whose account would be enough to save her job and her company. The only problem is that Austin McCreary has been a near recluse since the day Katia left him. Austin won’t take her calls and appears set on revenge for the pain Katia has caused him. Just seeing Austin, catapaults Katia back to the time when she was 16 and so very much in love. But it was just a teenage crush, wasn’t it?

Other Books in the Series

Links for Love Shadows
(Shores of Indian Lake #1)


AmazonBarnes & NobleHarlequin

Links for Heart’s Desire
(Shores of Indian Lake #2)


AmazonBarnes & NobleHarlequin

Links for A Fine Year for Love
(Shores of Indian Lake #3)


AmazonBarnes & NobleHarlequin

Catherine Lanigan
is the bestselling author of over thirty published titles in both fiction and non-fiction, including the novelizations of Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile, as well as over half a dozen anthologies, including “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living your Dream”, “Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul”, “Chocolate for a Woman’s Heart”, Chocolate for a Woman’s Spirit”. Ms. Lanigan’s novels have been translated into over a dozen languages including German, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, Chinese, and Japanese. Ms. Lanigan’s novels are also available on audio-cassette, CD and on electronic format. A prolific writer, she is always writing wonderful stories. She has several titles only available in ebook format on Amazon.com Several of her titles have been chosen for The Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Clubs. Her novel, The Christmas Star, won the Gold Medal Award Top Pick from Romantic Times Magazine for December, 2002, and has also won Book of the Year Romance Gold Award from ForeWord Magazine as well as Book of the Year Romance from Reader’s Preference. In March, 2006 Divine Nudges: Tales of Angelic Intervention and the second in Lanigan’s Angel Watch series of books, was published by HCI, the Chicken Soup for the Soul publisher.

Cover Reveal & Tour Giveaway

$100 Amazon Gift Card
3 ebooks of Katia’s Promise by Catherine Lanigan
Open internationally.
Ends May 8th