STAR WARS, Kylo Ren, and Acting: yes they are All related...

Kylo Ren.jpg

My bad; I haven't blogged a mere word in eons! Needed to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi, mm hmm. ;) Yes it's been out in theaters for a minute. Yes, every microsecond of the film has been scrutinized ranging from adulated praise to brutal hatred. I happened to love the film, not so much for the flamboyant FX and blockbuster status, but for the subtle nuances and intricate not-so-obvious thematic elements Rian Johnson wove throughout the storyline. When you strip away all the hype and hooplah of a $1B grossing film, a surprising story (that is actually pretty genius) unfurls before your senses. 

Okay, so the main baddie Kylo Ren may not be the handsomest Greek god in the bundle. His "acting skills" and/or portrayal of a villain may be subpar in the opinion of the masses for various reasons, ranging from unfamiliarity with Driver to questioning why someone such as him was even cast for this role. Um...I'm here to say he acted his ass off. If I walked away identifying with and relating to a particular character from this or any film, then an actor has revealed just a portion of his or her potential. Adam was phenomenal and let me tell you why.

Being the superficial visually driven and materially possessed human beings that we are, the fact remains that our minds tend to jump to instant judgments and criticisms (myself included) when viewing a major behemoth franchise film. We lean, either consciously or no, toward wanting incredibly beautiful actors in lead roles. So what if his hair doesn't lay perfectly flat when he is spinning mid-lightsaber battle. Actors train rigorously for months. I'd like to challenge anyone to pull off such fighting skills cloaked in heavy clothes, while surrounded by a snow-infested forest. And never mind being masked in a black balaclava he probably had to squint through lest he trip over some low hanging branch or whatnot. Regardless of what he looks like, he got talent folks.

The bottom line is this: ACTING IS HARD. This may be a trivial and pat answer, but it is the honest to God truth. I studied for years with one of the most prominent acting studios in Los Angeles and I barely scratched the surface with my acting chops- not due to my acting coach lacking teaching skills, but more my own difficulties in working through the complicated journey of getting out of my own head and fully embracing a character. Thus, I've heard and read a lot of people stating that acting is simple, you just show up and do it. Anyone who literally tells you this is gravely mistaken. It is not easy. Actors have insecurities and feelings just as anyone else does. It is the very rare exception of the individual who wakes up one morning and proceeds to land a same day acting job, nailing everything on the first take. It's one in a million, actually.

Actors grapple with their own appeal both visually and theatrically, so I don't give a flying *bleep* what insults or slights are hurled in Adam's direction; he is an artist in his own right and has struggled in his life in more than one instance. So what if his nose is big. He's probably his own harshest critic anyway. He may be still struggling in ways to reach whatever goal he has set for himself, but the fact remains that he landed a leading role in a revered megahit. And he was damn good.

Yeah, I loved Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. In my humble opinion, he was the spot on choice to play this role....let's give credit where credit is due. ;)


Writing, writing, writing!

Hey guys!! Long time no talk…I have been traveling and getting ready for my current book tour! The LA Times Festival of Books this year was another huge success; I got the chance to chat with my favorite author Michael Connelly and share with him his mention in my acknowledgments. :)  I am busy banging out the sequel, which hasn’t been titled yet haha! Lots of exciting action in the second book in the Sovereignty series and I am looking forward to sharing it with my amazing fans soon. There will be new characters and some incredible twists in the next novel.  Thanks so much for all your kind words and support!!

STUDENTS...Need I say more??

Okay, so Friday, one of my 6th grade students drop-kicked a water bottle across the entire math classroom. I saw the whole thing, though his back was turned to me. (I wasn't technically in charge of the class either- I was just stopping in to give the sub math teacher some teacher stuff, as I had other crap to do that day).

As I glared at the student, this was our convo:

Student to me: "What?! I didn't do anything!!!"

Me to student: "Do you think I'm dumb? You think I no saw you catapult that bottle across the room? I calling your dad!" (Whips out cell phone).

Student to me: "NO!!!! No no no no, I won't do it again!!"

Me to student: "Next time, can you hit that annoying kid over durr?" (Just kidding haha)

The rest is a #trustory though :)

As a teacher, I love my students of course, but sometimes I am like, "REALLY?!?"

That's all folks!




Hello all!! Hope everyone's holidays went swimmingly! I myself spent a week in New York City following Christmas and it was amazing to say the least. I have been all over the world, from African safaris to scaling the Great Wall in China, but I had never been to the big Apple. It was a bucket list item, so to speak, and I was fortunate enough to travel with two awesome friends. We crammed everything into a week- I mean literally EVERYTHING. From riding the NY subway everywhere and seeing national landmarks, I was exhausted at the end of the exhilarating ride- I need to do more cardio LOL! I currently reside in Los Angeles, and New York seems like a sister city. They both have a lot in common, though New York has definite seasons and snow, which it did while I was there :) I have since returned and am working on the second book in the Sovereignty series- lots of new twists and turns in this one folks; it will definitely be a heart stopper/page turner. The book trailer is on its way as well- I wish an incredible new year to you all...

Marketing...Ugh! -__- (Part 2)

You've finally gotten your novel published! Woo hoo!!! You receive your first advance copy; peeling the cover back, you find your title page and name.  You've labored, toiled, and possibly wept over the writing of your book. Blood, sweat, and tears went into the creation from start to finish of your heart held ideas. Now what? With masterpiece in hand, you introduce said novel to friends, family, colleagues, etc. Thus begins the arduous road ahead of marketing your novel. For most of us that have not been repped by a major publisher, we must "pound the pavement," so to speak, and get the word out there. The book is good, or perhaps even AMAZING- still, doesn't matter if nobody knows about it. Even the "big five" houses require authors to do their fair share of marketing- My publicist recently quipped to me, "It doesn't happen overnight, you know!" There is the VERY rare occasion where a new author gets a whopper of a contract (even more unheard of on a stand alone novel) right out the gate. For the rest of us, fate usually has dealt authors a more uphill road requiring perseverance, times ten! My two cents:  Be creative in your approach to marketing. I'm not talking about the usual routes of building your platform on Facebook, Twitter, your own website, Goodreads...the list goes on. While that is all well and good, what I am suggesting is creating very unique avenues to getting your novel out there. Go into bookstores and have an authentic conversation with the manager or Events coordinator. Get to know the smaller brick and mortar store owners. Make some posters of the cover of your book (some places produce them very inexpensively). Post them in highly trafficked areas of your town (just don't break any laws haha!). Does you novel contain any clever product placement content? For example, my novel's main characters train in Krav Maga, and I am working with having my KM gym partner with me in promoting the book. Offer to host a book club, or take over an author forum on Facebook. Video a zany montage for Snapchat, incorporating your book throughout the clips. Filming a book trailer is a must these days. Most say to just produce a slideshow type effect, but I went all out and hired real actors, running scripts and acquiring filming permits. The situation is, your book is actually GOOD, it's just that peeps worldwide need to know it exists! Get out there and make it happen :)


Marketing...Ugh -__- (Part 1)

Unless you have been an aspiring writer living under a rock, you know how daunting it is to write a novel. And everyone who has ever written a book knows how tough it is to get it published- first comes writing (love), then comes publishing (marriage), then comes marketing for the long haul (raising that baby in the baby carriage). With the plethora of independent (And GOOD) book authors out there, many major publishing houses become even choosier about who they take on as first time authors. You can query your heart out, but it doesn't guarantee your book will make it to the brick and mortar stores. I have been lucky, my book has managed to end up on the main floor events tables at Barnes and Noble at The Grove, as well as Vroman's Pasadena bookshelves. Even so, there are many well written novels published by reputable houses that still are not "well known" books among the masses. It all boils down to hard work, marketing, and more hard work! 

I have spent a lot (A LOT) of my own finances on marketing my novel- it is a marathon, not a sprint. I did not have the luxury of marketing and building my platform before I got my book published- that's a really good idea, by the way. Unless you are JK Rowling, Suzanne Collins, or Michael Connelly (my fav author), you have to do a lot of the leg work yourself. Marketing lasts longer than actually writing the book. Marketing takes time...and lots of it. Patience is a virtue, yada, yada, yada. Keeping my nose to the grind, so to speak, takes perseverance and grit. Next blog post will tackle my favorite marketing moves...:)



Things never go as planned...-__-

For filming my book trailer this weekend, I had all my ducks in a row. The permit was on file, the insurance obtained, and the approvals granted. I had permission from every agency under the sun to film this weekend. My actors and assistant all congregated in the LA River basin to begin filming. Actors were wardrobe and camera ready, props were prepped and available, camera was charged, and craft service was nearby (gotta have craft service :) The weather was perfect, sunny, and we had wide open spaces to film with no homeless people loitering nearby.  Getting the footage was pretty smooth, however, halfway through the day, the memory card became full and my lovely assistant (who said he knew how to work the camera completely) did not know how to re-format the card. :(  My actors were dripping sweat in the heat while waiting on me, however, there is ALWAYS down time during filming. I quickly flipped through the manual looking for directions on formatting, when the LAPD slowly drove up in their black and white. I jogged over to their window and let them know I had permission to film there. They asked to see my permit. I produced the crisp, colored, permit for their perusal and luckily, they apologized profusely for bothering us. I said, "no problem, glad the ghetto birds aren't circling us!" Apparently, their watch commander failed to notify them that we would be filming, and some bystander called it in after seeing our arsenal of weapons! I eventually got the extra footage I needed using my iPhone, but lesson learned that I can only really rely on myself to make sure something gets done; I can no longer simply rely on others to know what's up- I have to make it happen myself...Note to self: It's best to be completely "in the know" myself if I want a job done well, because when does anything ever go as planned? :)

Lights, Camera, and ACTION!!

A book trailer is the same as a movie trailer: a snippet or preview of what’s to come. Many authors have compiled a book trailer for their novels; some live action and some simply a slide show. I have researched that the slide show version is the most recommended, however I love the idea of putting live actors in the roles of my characters. I decided to hold auditions, and collected headshots, resumes, and reels. I was lucky enough to find three amazing young actors and will begin filming next weekend! It is truly remarkable what you can create in a short amount of time; with technology today, entire movies have been filmed with nothing but an Iphone!

Let the camera roll…:)

How we choose to respond...

Life is funny sometimes. Yes, we all are in the pursuit of happiness! The older I get, the more I realize that life is what you make it. When I walk out to my car and see the ticket on my windshield, I can either curse the parking enforcement gods or I can recognize that it was my bad I was parked on the street cleaning side during "cleaning" hours. How I respond when my boss snarks at me for being late to work can make or break my whole day. It's up to me. Or getting berated at the grocery checkout because I swiped my card when I should have inserted the chip thingy. Do I snap at the clerk or choose to be kind? Circumstances can snowball and the day just get crappier, and I can stew about it or I can throw a positive curve ball into the mix and reset my attitude. Trust me, I can be super sarcastic and obnoxious: my way of dealing with stress. I often have to stop and check myself before I wreck myself. True story, some things happen TO us, and are often out of our control. The speeding dude in his huge Dodge Ram pickup who cuts everyone off on the freeway, the woman who butts in front of you at the counter because she "just wants to ask a question," and the times the internet poops out and we suffer for, an hour? without it! We can decide if we want to make lemonade out of lemons, yada yada yada...but, in reality we can choose how we respond. Having a choice is a good thing. The times I acted my way into feeling (by having a cheerful disposition in the midst of dropping mustard down the front of my show white shirt) turned out amazing in the end. The situations of the day didn't necessarily turn out awesome- I was the one who turned out awesome in the end, because I conquered the day positively. I do want to be a person who contributes happiness to others and chooses to respond well in the situation. Not perfect, definitely a marathon and not a sprint, but practice makes progress :)

Another great review...

This book review by Sally Ann Melia is fab:

"This is a fantastic reimagining of our worlds as a dystopian future  where freedom is limited, even nonexistent. Your microchip is implanted at birth that tracks everything you do or see. It all started as a credit card, a payment mechanism, but in this future, the implant has taken over: All that you do is tracked, monitored, considered, controlled.

But who is in control as in George Orwell’s 1984, in this dystopian twenty-third century, the Earth is ruled by a totalitarian world government known as the Sovereign Regime.

The regime determines your life chances, including your education and job. Rules are many and include how you dress and the length of your hair. And the hero Goro does too, until he comes on a secret…. He makes a mistake, and when the crackdown on him and his family comes, he is rescued by the ‘resistance’, and so the adventure begins.

In summary…

This is an exciting Young Adult book, which is also a real page-turner. It captures teenagers well, so should be a hit with young men but also with an adult audience as well. If you have a teenager in your family, then buy them a copy. But be sure to read it yourself—I highly recommend it."

Amazing Reviews

Check out some of the great reviews SOVEREIGNTY has been getting on Twitter!

Oh snapchat, you silly mo-fo app...

Navigating social media is one of the most time consuming, but necessary pieces of the book publishing world.  Sometimes I'd rather eat dog food than sit on my arse for 6 hours trying to figure out the nuts and bolts of a new site (or new to me lol).  My publicist said, "Get over it and get on it! Snapchat, Ay-sap!!"  Yes, sir.  I spent one Saturday shooting a bunch of ridiculous videos to launch my Snapchat account with, but am so technologically challenged (just like Goro, btw) that I need someone holding my hand pretty much every step of the way -__-.  Feeling like an 80-year-old woman doesn't help, as I am not a spring chicken anymore.  Keeping up with the YA in the demographic I am reaching can be exhausting!  Wish I had their energy!  However, buckling down and just doing it, as the saying goes, can pay off huge dividends in the end.  I tell my students all the time, "You can dooooooo it!"  Doesn't help that I accidently sent the wrong video to my former BOSS on Snapchat, my bad...So here's to learning fluent Snapchat and posting some zany pics and videos!  Wish me luck!! :)

Check me out on Snapchat!

Check me out on Snapchat!

Villains vs. heroes part 1


Ah...the hero and the villain. Two sides of the same coin? I love a villain with extraordinary powers, seemingly unbeatable. Unless you've been living under a rock, I am sure you are all familiar with Voldemort, Kylo Ren, President Snow, the Winter Soldier...the list goes on. What makes these villains so compelling is despite their cunning nature, they still possess a certain vulnerability, either physical or emotional. One that hopefully evokes some sort of response in readers, be it hate or sympathy. It is also intriguing to have more than one villain, in addition to the main "dark lord." Examples are Dolores Umbridge and Bellatrix LeStrange underneath the overarching rule of Voldemort. Also, great villains juxtapose with remarkable heroes in contrasting sharply against one another. The Joker was just that, a "jokester" to Batman's serial stoicism. President Snow of The Hunger Games had blatantly evil motivations, differing with the values and morals of Katniss Everdeen. In my book Sovereignty, Goro is the obvious hero- rather unwillingly at times in all honesty. He possesses incredible (yet cocky) confidence, but you can't help but love the guy. On the flip side, there is nothing likable about Davio- the brutally diabolical dictator who displays no emotion whatsoever, with Ash Sheitan content on taking a back seat to his master. Upon reading, you have the instant urge to backhand both villains. What do you think? Who is your favorite villain? Comment below :) 


There is nothing more surreal than walking into your favorite bookstore and seeing YOUR BOOK on the New and Noteworthy Young Adult book table! I immediately signed the copies in the store, enabling them to be specially labeled as "author autographed." Nevertheless, my book will be released tomorrow, July 19th, and I am stoked!!  The amount of encouragement and positive feedback has been phenomenal. Check out the Goodreads Giveaway if you have a chance, which runs through July 23rd!

Finding Dory...

There are hilarious animated movies, and then there are the folks you are seeing the hilarious animated movies with, who are more hilarious than the movie! Case in point: I went to see Finding Dory with my bff and her four children (yes, four) and her youngest is 4-years-old and smart as a whip. "Sit next to me! Sit next to me!" She yelled upon entering the massive empty theater (it was 5 in the afternoon. I dutifully sat next to her in the theater along with her three older brothers. She is one of those adorable children who holds your hand and looks up at you smiling with, "I love you the bestest." Well, I'm thinking this movie is pretty safe, no scary parts, but needless to say, there is a harrowing car chase scene near the end of the film. Cars driven by animals. Sea creatures. My bff's daughter was so distressed at the driving skills of the ocean vermin, she freaks out at the danger involved in putting sea life at risk in a speeding vehicle, bemoaning their fate. "That Octopus is a terrible driver!!" She squawked. I laughed so hard I was crying. Leave it to the young ones to create more hilarious entertainment than the movie itself! :)


The nuts and bolts about writing for YA

I particularly love writing for YA, because they are the future. Young Adults can be some of the most hilarious and fun people to hang around. They keeps things real. Therefore, books written for this population need to be relevant to their lives. When writing for the young adult population, it’s best to keep the conversations and dialogue interesting and realistic for this age group. With technology and video games constantly competing for their attention, a book really needs to be an exciting ride. If the book doesn’t take off with action from the get-go, they’ll be tossing it out the window in no time. I like to include nuances, witty cliché’s, and balance the humor with the serious. Developing strong characters and character relationships are important, as well as having a smooth, flowing plot. I have found that teens hate it when loose ends are not tied up in the end. We underestimate the intelligence of YA a lot of times; they are plenty smart and can spot a phony a mile away. I also like to include a character that is somewhat rough around the edges, but who learns a valuable lesson in the end and concluding with their maturing and changing for the better. Of course, hidden positive messages and subliminal moral values never hurts!


Street Cred....

Oh man, do I ever boast Krav Maga war wounds! Not everyone likes martial arts and it can be a brutal form of calisthenics, no doubt. As much as I love Krav, I don't always perfect the technique that my instructor drills into my head- hence, injuries. It could be a kick to the abs, the delayed ducking to avoid a swing, forgetting to wear a mouth guard, you name it. Wednesday was uneventful, till I requested that my Krav partner provide resistance against a rifle deflection, and with one slip of my hand, the barrel of the rifle snapped back to clock me in the nose. Cue gushing blood and instant inflammation. The first (and hopefully ever) black eye I have sustained in Krav. My students think someone "put me down." Haha. My genes have lent me a high threshold for pain, so no problems over hurr, just a narly shiner until the next time I get my ass whooped....Bring it ON :)

To travel or not to travel...

Every summer I whisk off to an exotic land, whether it be to Russia, Morocco, Israel, or Brazil- I've had my share of experiences traveling the globe, some amazing, some freakin scary. Si, I have climbed through ancient pyramids in Egypt and hiked the Great Wall of China (Good). But on the flip side, I have taken terrifying taxi rides in the middle of the night in Dubai and also been detained and interrogated for seven hours by the Israeli Mossad (Bad). Some crazy adventure always awaits me whenever I embark on that long international plane flight. The biggest adventure now, however, will be kicking off a book tour this summer! Let the signings begin... 




I have found that building a bridge with my teenaged students is paramount to helping them achieve success. When someone other than a family member genuinely cares about their lives and what goes on with them, it makes a difference- even if it's just a brief smile in their direction. I'm not all that, believe me, but I have an innate ability to connect with youth- prolly was born with it! I want my students to know that I am there for them. I want them to be able to look back to their high school years and say, "That Hughes teacher was always in my business, (they don't really say this, lol) but no really, it was cool of her. She made an impact on my life." THAT is the ultimate high five- when a student comes up to you years later and thanks you, saying they appreciated you being there for them. It's a marathon, not a sprint and it's not always easy to build relationships, but it is ultimately rewarding in the long run.  My students are ROCK STARS!!!! :)