Friday, September 23, 2011

Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop

Thank you to I Am A Reader and I Read Banned Books for hosting this giveaway.

If you are wondering what Banned Books Week is all about, here's a little more information.

Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.


The hop starts at 0001 EST (Eastern Standard Time) 24 Sep and will end 2359 EST 01 Oct. Last time I checked the giveaway hop roster, I was #199. This is an INTERNATIONAL giveaway.

Since all of the winners of the last giveaway didn't contact me as specified, I will contact the winner by email this time. In addition, I will post the winner on my blog no later than 1800 EST 2 Oct.

The winner will be drawn at random using random.org and have five days to claim the prize.

To enter the giveaway, complete form by clicking HERE.

Required to enter:

1. You must be a follower of my blog.

For extra points:

1. Follow me on twitter @IsisRushdan or click HERE.
2. Answer the question from the entry form in the comments section.

What do you win???

Either a $10 Amazon gift card to purchase a banned/challenged book

OR

$10 worth of banned/challenged books from The Book Depository

OR

a Banned Books T-shirt, value $24. Your choice.

In case you forgot the question from the entry form, here it is again:

Have you ever purchased a book based on the cover? Do you remember which book? I'd love to know.

To return to the giveaway hop, click HERE.

An Unexpected Gem

Since I started the week with the Worst Movies Ever blogfest, I wanted this week's Friday movie review to be about a film that surprisingly captured my heart.

Both my husband and I were interested in seeing Tomboy, but it wasn’t high on our list and we didn’t really expect much. At one point, there was a conflict in our schedule and we considered skipping it. Fortunately, I’d overheard people in the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse recommending the film to others, saying how good it was, so we rearranged our schedules to see it.

Tomboy is a film about relationships, starring Zoe Heran as ten-year-old Laure, a girl who wishes she’d been born a boy. When she moves during the summer with her parents and six-year-old sister to a new suburb in Paris, Laure introduces herself to the other children as Michael.

Michael quickly becomes popular with the other kids, excelling at everything, and has everyone fooled.

Zoe Heran played the role with such subtlety, vulnerability, and sheer brilliance for her age that the audience soon forgets Michael is actually a girl while playing outside with the others. However, behind closed doors back at home, we are reminded of the character’s precarious predicament and her struggle to find new ways to overcome growing obstacles in leading a double life.

The character is so sympathetic you are compelled to root for her as she faces mounting complications such as peeing with the boys out in the woods, swimming which requires male trunks and a body part she wasn’t born with, and handling the advances of her friend, Lisa.

With each victory you are relieved she wasn’t caught, while knowing her charade can’t last forever, and the longer it continues the worse it will be when the truth is discovered.

I know foreign films aren’t for everyone, but this was one of the best movies I’ve seen this year with its strong script, touching performances, and vibrant cinematography. I highly recommend this French drama that stole my heart, nearly brought me to tears, and reminded me how grateful I am to have true friends.



Are you open to foreign films? Or do you pass regardless of genre? Is there anything on your movie list you plan to see this weekend?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Worst Movies Ever


Today, I am having some fun in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Worst Movies Ever blogfest.

My list is completely subjective, of course. I’m sure worse movies have been made, but I listed ones I hadn’t deleted from memory that left me so bitter I had wasted a single minute of my life watching it. I apologize in advance if I listed a film you enjoyed, or dare I say even loved.



10. Phantasm IV Oblivion: This was the last installment in a series, which compounded my disappointment. The movie went in weird circles and crazy loops, like it wanted to lose the audience in oblivion. Mission accomplished.


9. In the Army Now: I didn’t know who Pauley Shore was when I saw this. I was in the Army at the time, hoping for a good laugh. This was the first movie I ever walked out of in the movie theater.



8. Catwoman: If Halle Berry had a time machine, this would be ample reason for her to use it. I blame her for taking the role, but the director, Pitof, should be punished for making this pitiful mockery of a character I grew up loving. Pitof took a phenomenal role, played perfectly by Eartha Kitt, Julie Newmar, and Michelle Pfeiffer (the best catwoman IMO) and trashed it with that horrible costume and forcing Halle Berry to play with yarn. Come on!



7. Shadows and Lies: A film with decent actors, but no plot…at all.



6. MacGruber:
Dear SNL,

You have some hilarious skits that have made enjoyable movies. This was not one of them. I prayed this film would improve since it was based on one of your funny characters and had solid comedic actors. It never did, and I feel cheated. I want a refund, of my time.

~Signed A Former Loyal Fan



5. The Spirit: A blur of Sin City type visuals, horrendous dialogue, lots of poses w/ poor acting, all wrapped around a flimsy, incoherent plot.



4. Troll 2: OMG! What more can be said?



3. House of the Dead: Bad acting, bad plot, bad everything.



2. The Last Godfather: Harvey Keitel was in this. I thought it couldn’t be ‘that bad’. I was so wrong. It wasn’t simply bad, it was AWFUL.



1. Kung Pow: I couldn’t make it through the entire 81 minutes of this mistake movie. After ten minutes, I wanted to poke my eyes out with toothpicks. After twenty, I wanted to spare my ears with more toothpicks. After thirty, I simply gave up and shut it off. I was so relieved, but at the same time I wanted to punch myself in the face for not ending my torment sooner.



Admitting you even watched a particular film can be humiliating, I know, but we're all friends and it will stay within our private circle. So share. What's the worst movie you've ever seen?

To return to the blogfest list click HERE. Big thanks to Alex for organizing this!

Friday, September 16, 2011

CAN A LOSER WIN YOUR HEART?

Some of the best stories that resonate with us years later are of personal triumph, where a character must overcome an internal struggle to be successful, even if they lose a physical challenge at the end of the journey.

In order for a story to pull this off successfully, it should have four important elements and one essential element to ensure audience satisfaction.

The Four Key Elements:

Emotional investment in the character.

If we don’t care about the character, then the story doesn’t matter and in the end we feel as though we’ve wasted our time.

A powerful internal struggle that people can relate to.

There are many books and movies where the main character’s (MC) internal struggle was powerful for the character and relatable enough to hold one’s interest. However, more is needed if the MC doesn’t win the external struggle in the traditional sense that we’ve come to expect. In those cases, the internal struggle must be powerful for the audience, something on a fundamental, primal level we can all relate to.

Difficult odds.

Terrible odds that are not in the MC’s favor will create more tension, build anticipation, and deepen our emotional investment.

A difficult antagonist.

Throw in an antagonist that is a bully, egotistical, stronger than our MC, cutthroat or downright mean and not only does the audience want the MC to kick their butt, the audience wishes they could do the butt-kicking.

The Essential Element has two parts:

1. The internal struggle must be greater than the external struggle. 2. By conquering it, the MC must accomplish something no one else has been able to do.

If the MC can defeat their personal demons, rise above whatever they have desperately been grappling with mentally, then in the end they have won, and the audience will derive a sense of satisfaction.

If the accomplishment is tied to the external struggle in such a way that the MC’s special quality makes them shine brighter than anyone else, then audience satisfaction becomes so profound nothing else matters.

Two movies that are excellent examples: Rocky and Soul Surfer.

At the start of the movie, Rocky is a small-time boxer who hasn’t done anything with his life. He works as a collector for a loan shark, is ridiculed and seen by most as a two-bit bum that will amount to nothing. When he’s given the chance of a lifetime to compete against the undefeated heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed, he seizes it. Apollo is stronger, has access to the best trainers/facilities, and has chosen him because he believes Rocky is a joke who can only last a few rounds making it a good show and making the champ look even better.

So why does Rocky agree to do it? It’s his chance, his last chance, to prove to himself and everyone else that he’s more than a bum, that he has dignity and is a person of worth.

In the exhibition match, as Rocky fights in the ring with Apollo, he’s fighting for his self-respect. His endurance and stamina during each round is a sheer act of willpower not to give up on himself. Even though, he loses the fight, in our hearts, we feel that Rocky is a winner because he met his personal challenge to rise above the naysayers and did something no one else could do, last all fifteen rounds with Apollo Creed.


Another example is Soul Surfer. It’s based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton, a teenage surfer who lost her arm in a horrible shark attack. Bethany struggles with redefining her personal identity and how to continue doing something she loves when it feels virtually impossible. I don’t want to say much more about it and ruin the film for those who haven’t seen it. However, if you’ve seen the movie, then you know how it applies here.


Are there any movies or books that you enjoyed, which didn’t have the traditional ending you expected, but still came away feeling satisfied?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

If I Could Be Anyone, I'd Be...

Today I’m helping my friend Talli Roland celebrate the release of her second book, Watching Willow Watts.

One country girl is about to discover that fame can cost a fortune.


She’s having a fun launch party and has asked other bloggers to join in by playing the 'If I Could Be Anyone, I'd Be...' game. This was a hard one for me because I like being me. I don’t want that to sound narcissistic. It’s just that since I can’t change who I am, I’ve learned to love and accept all of me. However, I would love an inside glimpse into the lives of a few celebrities…but I digress.

On with the game. If I Could Be Anyone, I’d Be Isis. No, I’m not cheating. I’d want to be the Egyptian goddess. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Not the version from the 1970’s live action TV Show. I’m too young to remember the Isis/Shazam hour, thankfully.


I’d want to be the much cooler version. The one with wings and magic and worshipped by millions.


A gal can dream, right?


In the spirit of celebration, I’d like to thank Jessica McKendry, Angela Orlowski-Peart, and Julie/Kineticwriting for giving me the Versatile Blogger Award. Also, I’m happy to receive the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award from Jessica McKendry and Cherie.


The rules are:

1. Thank and link to the person who nominates you
2. Share seven random facts about you
3. Pass this award to five new blogging friends
4. Contact and congratulate the awarded bloggers

Although I was recently tagged and gave ten random facts about myself last week, if you can stomach any more of me, here you go:

1. When I was seven years old, my aunt Gloria dragged me into the living room, pulled out a stack of records and declared it was time to start my dance lessons. She explained that my mother had no rhythm and was a horrible dancer. Apparently it was mortifying for my aunt to go to parties with “the only black woman in the world with no rhythm.” My aunt feared I might have the same “genetic defect” and swore I would learn how to dance.

2. I love sardines. People who know me are often surprised to learn this. I guess it’s because I’m an uber foodie and quite particular about what I eat.

3. Although I attended training on Army bases, I was never stationed on an Army base. I lucked out big time! I was stationed on the Naval Training Center in Orlando, FL.

4. I almost drowned on a school field trip when I was very young. The experience of being submerged underwater, unable to get out, stays with me today, but didn’t scare me. My aunt, yes Gloria again, who was there as a chaperone, traumatized me once I was out of the water. Now, I have hydrophobia, but love being near the ocean.

5. I attended mandatory swim training for one year while in Orlando, as a part of the mission requirement attached to my unit. Due to my mental hang-up, I still can’t swim. Didn’t even learn to float. I think I need therapy to overcome this.

6. I graduated high school at sixteen.

7. My transition from being enlisted in the Army to being an officer in the Air Force was sort of like watching The Wizard of Oz. One minute, everything is in black and white, and you’re stuck in Kansas. Then the world becomes a bright, colorful place and you’re skipping down the yellow brick road, singing.

I'm passing this on to:

Regected Riter
Stacy Coles
Angela Brown
Brinda Berry
K.T. Hanna

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ten Random Facts

This week went by in a blur and I can’t believe it is Friday.

Instead of my end of week review, where I take a look at a movie to see what writers can learn, I’m listing ten random facts about me. I was tagged TWICE, by Megan Nafke and Maria Smith, to do this so here goes in no particular order.

1. I dislocated my knee cap once while standing at a bus stop. I was about 12 years old, out with my aunt and her boyfriend, and my knee just popped out of place. It was the weirdest thing. I was hospitalized for several days and had to wear a knee brace for weeks after. I’m missing some of the tendons that connect the quadriceps to the knee cap. Bizarre, right? Fortunately, it’s never happened again.

2. All recovering java junkies, please step forward. “Hi, my name is Isis and I’m a java junkie. It was a staple in my home growing up and I can drink a well-brewed cup black, although I prefer it with cream. I managed to break my addiction back in 2004 and turned to tea as my new caffeine crutch. Then I went on vacation to Italy and jumped fell off the wagon. The aroma of cappuccino was stronger than my willpower. Since then, it’s been an ongoing struggle. I may lose all a few battles, but I’m determined to win the war.”

3. I've been rushed to the hospital twice in an ambulance because unbeknownst to me at the time I have an exercise-induced allergy. At first, doctors thought it was to shellfish. Turns out it’s to wine. Thankfully, I can drink vino with no problems (you did notice the wine enthusiast part in my Twitter bio) as long as I don’t have any strenuous activity afterwards. Wine + dancing = anaphylactic shock. Wine + running for my life = probable death. Wine + good time with hubby (wink, wink) = fun.

4. What is the worst torture device invented disguised as something fun? Roller coasters. I get sick--I’m talking pounding headache, nauseated to my core for the rest of the day sick on all roller coasters, with one exception. Magic Mountain at Disney World. I’m not sure if it is the combination of mild drops and something to do with being in the dark, but (after giving in to peer pressure enough) I know this is the only one I actually enjoy that doesn’t ruin my experience at an amusement park.

5. I turned down a full scholarship to Syracuse University to join the U.S. Army, where I developed my love-hate relationship with running. Long story, but no boys were involved.

6. Moving fish widgets on blogs/websites CREEP me out big time! Major heebie jeebies.

7. I’m a native New Yorker, but I received my undergraduate degree from The Ohio State University (Go Buckeyes!). Why did I deliberately choose the Midwest? Another long story, but a boy was involved.

8. When I was 16, I participated in the People to People Student Ambassador Program. During the phone interview, I was asked, “How would you describe yourself? Leader, Follower, Jester (come on, we all need to laugh), Rounder-up-of-strays, or Loner?”

Without hesitation, I answered, “I don’t like labels, but if you’re forcing me to choose, Rounder-up-of strays.” Sure enough, I found every kid that didn’t fit in with one of the usual cliques, and we became a merry band of misfits.

9. In the last 17 years, I’ve been in 19 different cities for six weeks or longer (vacations/visiting family doesn’t count) across three different continents. In that same time frame, I’ve picked up and moved all of my belongings 13 times (mostly military moves). If I’m in one place for too long, I get twitchy.

10. Although I came up with the line, “For the love of Jimmy Choo”, I don’t own a single pair. In fact, you are more likely to see me in black suede Keds, which I wear all the time, than in high heels. I choose comfort over fashion 7 times out of 10, but there’s no excuse for sweatpants.

Hope that didn’t take up too much of your time. I’m supposed to tag five more unsuspecting fellow campaigners. If you’ve already been tagged, please forgive me for the oversight and feel free to pass.

Brinda Berry
Jessica Aspen
Tina Moss
Eve E. Angel
Barbara McDowell

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Winners: Back to the Books Giveaway

First, if you didn’t win, don’t fret. There’ll be another giveaway at the end of the month.

Thanks to my new and old followers for participating. Also, I appreciate every "thank you" and “please” received along with comments letting me know what you thought of the giveaway.

To Jose who left me the poem (my Spanish is a bit rusty): I’ve never had an introduction with such lyrical flair. I was impressed and am now a faithful follower of yours.

Selecting one winner for each package was tough, even though it was done randomly. So there will be 6 winners. Secondary winners will receive smaller prizes.

WINNER of the full Urban Fantasy Package: Rebecca P.

Runner-up will receive any one book from Package A: E. Arroyo


WINNER of the full Paranormal Romance Package: Loony Linh

Runner-up
will receive any one book from Package B: Megan (Book Brats)

**Note: The Taker by Alma Katsu just released in the US on 6 Sep. I’m offering a UK copy with the dark, gothic cover.


WINNER of $15 Amazon Gift Card or value from Book Depository: Ana Norte

Runner-up
will receive $5 value: Stacy (The Magnificent Mommy)


To claim your prize please contact me within 36 hours via email: isis@isisrushdan.com

CONGRATULATIONS to all winners!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

BE RELENTLESS: IWSG #1

Thank you Alex for organizing the Insecure Writers’ Support Group. I’m sure we will all get a great deal out of it, chiefly camaraderie, and hopefully encouragement.

Every artist—writer, painter, dancer, musician—faces adversity, a sea of naysayers, and rejection in the pursuit of their dreams. It’s how we handle the setbacks and what we choose to focus on in our darkest moments of self-doubt that determines if we give in or press forward.

We all hit rough patches. I've had many and I'm sure there will be more to come in my future. A few months ago, I was having a particularly difficult day. You know the kind, where nothing is going right, your muse is M.I.A., you've checked your email inbox for good news at least twenty times and not even your dog thinks you're worthy.

Yup, the nasty doubt monster had attacked, determined to crush my self-esteem. All sorts of crazy things ran through my mind, but my husband recognized my desperate need for a “break” and dragged me to the movies.

Normally, I groan or sigh through the onslaught of annoying commercials that precede the trailers. Then one I’d never seen before came on, totally captivating me, and shifted my mind-set about my writing career for good.





After this 60 second commercial, I felt lighter, happier, and certain of one thing. If I really wanted my dream to be a reality, I had to be Relentless. No matter how long it took. It was the only way.

I was also willing to try that energy drink over Red Bull the next time I needed one.

So I typed up and printed out the narration from the commercial and posted it in my office where I could see it every day. I know everyone will get something different from each IWSG post, but today I wanted to leave you with this:


RELENTLESS

I have virtues, which others may deem vices.

Virtues which guide me, and together have made me.

I embrace pain, suffering, and sacrifice. And gain strength from obsession.

It is true, they have given me scars which I know will never fade.

But for that I am grateful because they show me what is within me and what is within reach of me.

And through all of this, I live each day without compromise, without regret, and without excuse.

So as I endure the misfortune which lies in my path, I chase down my vision without diversion or retreat.

And in the pursuit of my passions, I’m neither timid nor afraid.

I am Relentless.

I will accept no half measures.

To learn more about the making of the video or the amazing artists of action sports, dance, martial arts, and music featured: http://www.relentlessenergy.com/film/virtues.html?WT.srch=1

To return to the list of participating blogs, click HERE

Monday, September 5, 2011

First Campaigner Challenge

After the fatigue from hitting all of the blogs in my groups (my zeal led me to join four groups and I underestimated the time involved), I honestly wondered if I could muster genuine enthusiasm for the first challenge. Well, Rachael Harrie hasn’t disappointed me. It was fun to write and I’m looking forward to reading as many entries as possible.

So what’s the first challenge?

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “The door swung open” These four words will be included in the word count.

If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), use the same beginning words and end with the words: "the door swung shut." (also included in the word count)

For those who want an even greater challenge, make your story 200 words EXACTLY!
I couldn't resist, so mine is 200 words.


INSATIABLE


The door swung open. Monty charged into the room.

Heart pounding, Geneva shoved the box under the bed. She scrambled to her feet, adjusting her silk robe. Had he seen it?

She pulled on a soft smile. “You’re home early.”

“Do you think I’m a fool? You swore you’d give it up. Enough is enough.”

It’d never be enough. She’d tried to stop, but it didn’t take long for something new and sexy to catch her eye. Sleek and built to please. “I promise—”

“No more lies!” Monty stalked toward her, eyes wild, backing her into the wall. “You have an addiction. I love you, sweetheart, but I won’t enable you anymore. I’ve frozen all of your credit cards.”

Geneva gasped. “How could you?”

”Either get help from a professional or get a job to pay for your compulsion.”

As Monty spun on his heels, Geneva’s gaze fell to the strappy heels peeking out from under the bed. The euphoric high a new pair of incredible shoes always gave washed in like the tide, submerging her fear.

She didn’t need a shrink. She needed money. For the love of Jimmy Choo, she’d find a job.

The door swung shut.



To return to the challenge homepage, click HERE.