Dress Up Dress Down with Author Cheryl St. John #giveaway

Join me in welcoming Cheryl St. John to Living After Midnight! Cheryl will randomly pick winners to receive a copy of her ebook Dancing in the Dark. All you have to do to be eligible is comment on this post!

Cheryl, tell us about your heroine, Kendra!

A redhead, Kendra Price doesn’t shy away from pinks or reds, but shines in those colors. She chooses red, coral, pink or turquoise for most of her clothing, and she always carries a signature orange bag. After a challenging childhood and a traumatic end to her relationship with her first love, she left Spencer, Colorado with her sights set on a dance career. Her talent has earned her success and a monetary payoff, so she can afford to buy herself nice clothing. Her attire gives her confidence.

Because she dances every day, she has a wide assortment of dance attire, leotards, shorts and stretchy midriff tops. She has never kept her costumes, but offers them to dance schools and students. She has a passion for teaching growing teens not only dance, but how to care for their bodies and avoid injuries.

While on her travels, she has shopped in department stores across the country, so her clothing is unique and of good quality. She would probably never wear something ordered from a catalog, because she likes to shop and try on her ensembles.

One of Kendra’s favorite things to do is spend a day fishing from her aluminum runabout on Twin Owl Lake and on those days, comfortable shorts, a summer top, tennis shoes and a sun hat are her go-to outfit.

Here is Cheryl’s Pinterest board showing Kendra’s clothing:

https://www.pinterest.com/cheryl_stjohn/dancing-in-the-dark/

BIO:

Cheryl has always loved the exciting and diverse worlds available between the covers of books. As a child she wrote stories & drew covers, then stapled them into little books. She cut all the tiny images from the book club advertisements in the Sunday newspaper & glued them to bits of cardboard so Barbie® had a full library. She is the married author of more than fifty books, both historical and contemporary. Her stories have earned numerous RITA nominations, Romantic Times awards & are published in over a dozen languages. One thing all reviewers & readers agree on regarding Cheryl’s work is the degree of emotion & believability. In describing her stories of second chances & redemption, readers & reviewers use words like, “emotional punch, hometown feel, core values, believable characters & real-life situations.” 

The author lives in the Midwest, USA. When she’s not writing or spending time with her family, she’s checking out garage sales, flea markets & antique malls. Among her collections are teacups & teapots, roosters, chicken kitchen timers, vintage spice tins, wooden recipe boxes, Barbies®, charm bracelets, vintage jewelry, Kokeshi dolls, white stoneware, Delftware, souvenir spoons, Goebel birds, Royal Copley planters, vintage hankies & BOOKS. Cheryl admits she’s a bargain hunter with the heart of a hoarder, trying to live as a minimalist. The struggle is real.

Cheryl kicked off the Aspen Gold Series with Dancing in the Dark. She and her critique group devised a continuity series, filled with diverse and entertaining characters.

Readers are loving the books: "The Aspen Gold Series is by far the best series I have read in a long time" and "Love the series and love not having to wait 6-12 months for the next book," are common praises on the Aspen Gold Facebook page: https://www.aspengoldseries.com/

Aspen Gold Newsletter: https://www.subscribepage.com/n9n7p3

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS:

Newsletter Signup: http://eepurl.com/bqCji9

email Cheryl at: SaintJohn@aol.com

amazon author page: https://tinyurl.com/y6js92y8

Visit her on the web: http://www.cherylstjohn.net/

BookBub:  https://www.bookbub.com/profile/cheryl-st-john

Like her Facebook author page:  https://www.facebook.com/CherylStJ

Amazon:  https://tinyurl.com/y6js92y8

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/_CherylStJohn_

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/cherylstjohn/

She's a Pinterest junkie!  https://www.pinterest.com/cheryl_stjohn/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/24516.Cheryl_St_John

EXCERPT:

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He opened the screen door, closed it behind him and walked across the porch, taking the stairs two at a time. I hate it when you leave, but I love to watch you go. That backside and those long legs in a pair of jeans could stop hearts. An elusive memory came into focus. He was fourteen or fifteen, tall and lanky, his shoulder-length hair bleached from the sun as he walked toward his dad’s old Mercury, turning back with a grin to wave at her. The image was so clear that she felt the same peculiar sense of loss and longing she experienced every time he’d left to go home. But today Dusty didn’t turn around…or grin…or wave. He put his toolbox in his truck, climbed in, and turned the vehicle around in the drive.

She watched the truck until it reached the road and stared after it long after the vehicle had disappeared behind the trees. He had never married. What did that mean? He was probably liked by everyone in Spencer, and he was a catch. Surely there were women who’d gone after him. He couldn’t have held out, thinking there was still hope for the two of them. She’d made that crystal clear.

This wasn’t the life she’d planned. She didn’t want to be bitter or unforgiving, but here she was, watching him go. She missed what-could-have-been so badly that she lived with an empty ache. But she had dance. She had determination. She had self-respect.

What she didn’t have was the man she’d wanted with her whole heart.

UNIVERSAL BUY LINK:

Dancing in the Dark: https://books2read.com/u/mKx2B9

#Review: The Good Place

Sometimes, entertainment comes from the most unexpected places.

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When I saw a promo for The Good Place, I thought there was no way it could be anything but stupid. I continued on, hopping around #Neflix and as is often the case, 247 clicks later I hadn’t found anything that I wanted to see. Desperate, I took a deep breath and returned to The Good Place. I’m glad I did.

The premise of the series is that after we die, we experience one of two possibilities: We either go to The Bad Place and endure a hell made especially for us, or we go to The Good Place where whatever we desire is available to us. The story centers around Eleanor, convincingly played by Kristen Bell. She lands in The Good Place, only to realize she is there by mistake. Ted Danson also plays a pivotal role, but it is an ensemble cast with no weak players.

To my great surprise, the show is Laugh Out Loud funny. The humor is witty, with a humorous take on the human condition. I laughed because I could relate. It is also an emotional journey, with characters who are flawed, broken, with deep wounds that impact their choices and their beliefs more than they have realized. Moreover, the story arcs are creative and unexpected in that, “ did that really just happen” sort of a way, while still being true to the characters personalities.

I hope Netflix renews the series. I’m already addicted. 5/5 Stars

#Review: Hobbs and Shaw 5/5

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I admit it: I agreed to see Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw for one reason—Joe Anoaʻi, aka Roman Reigns. Gosh, that man is gorgeous. It didn’t matter that his role was tiny, or that he didn’t utter a word. This was his film debut and I needed to see it. In that regard I was not disappointed. Joe/Roman was prominently on screen anytime he was in a scene. 

The movie as a whole also does not disappoint. The premise is engaging. Who doesn’t love family drama, especially when you know all parties truly have everyone’s best interest at heart? The action scenes get your adrenaline pumping and, unlike some movies, didn’t drag on so long that whatever disbelief you suspended crashed back. 

 The glue that holds it all together is the cast. Idris Elba and his fine self makes the perfect villain. Vanessa Kirby as Hattie Shaw steals the show in terms of her fight scenes. She is totally bad-ass. But as the two protagonists, Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham carry the full weight of the movie, and no one could do it better. 

The chemistry between them reels you in. Their physical prowess and impressive comedic timing make you glad you showed up and stayed for the ride. I know I am.

Overall rating: 5/5 stars

PS Stay for the credits!i

My 600lb Life and Me

I have been trying to lose weight for a few years now. I’ve joined Weight Watchers, Tops, followed Atkins, Body Clutter, and the Body type diet. You name it, I tried it. I might have lost a pound or two but always gained it back. The desire for sweets and potato chips was stronger than my desire for fitness.

I also have the bad habit of watching TV while I eat. This adds to my tendency to overeat because I’m not paying attention to the food. Then I discovered the TV show My 600 Pound Life, which follows a patient for one year in their weight loss journey. Now, if I watch TV while I am eating, I watch this show. Trust me, this makes me acutely aware of how much food I eat.

I binge watched every season in their entirety, fascinated with the success stories and in awe that the doctor, renown bariatric surgeon Dr. Nowzaradan, didn’t throw in the towel with several of these patients. I certainly would have. 

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The show is mesmerizing, and I believe it’s at least partially responsible for the combined 64 pounds my partner and I have lost since starting this “Program”. I recommend it to anyone who is struggling with their weight.

As a writer, I also realized that the show closely follows the Hero’s Journey. Each episode begins with the ordinary world of the patient. We see the patients at home sharing their backstories. It’s a bit of an info dump but it works.  Next, they are offered the chance of help, but something stands in their way. Transportation to Houston where the doctor is located can pose a huge issue. Finally, a call to adventure forces the patient to make the trip and they meet the mentor, Dr Nowzaradan. Entering Houston, they cross the first threshold to become his patient. Win, lose or draw, their lives are never the same.

After the call is answered, we follow the patient through a series of tests and challenges. The doctor’s first order is to go on a very low-calorie diet and lose a large number of pounds in a month. Most patients fail this test and fall prey to temptation, some several times. They receive assistance from nutritionists, physical therapists, counseling for their emotional issues, and sometimes drug rehabilitation. With the help of these allies they deal with their issues (or not), and experience a revelation. Their reward is weight loss surgery. But the surgery is not the magic elixir many of them believe it will be.  

Now the patient must learn to eat properly and increase their activity using all they’ve learned. There is usually a setback but with the mentor’s help, they pull things together and begin to lose again. The show ends on a hopeful note with the patient making progress towards their transformation.

Over the course of their multi-year journeys, these heroes can loose 400-500 pounds. By their example, I’m reminded that I too can reach my weight loss and fitness goals.

#Review: GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS 4/5 Stars

Drawing of a monster.

Drawing of a monster.

When will people learn that Godzilla is one of the good guys? How many times can he save the world before humankind stops trying to kill him? 

Such was my lament after watching GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS. 

No spoiler alert. I’m not going to go into detail about the plot. Suffice to say it’s similar to every other Godzilla movie: Humans do something stupid that unleashes humongous scary, deadly creatures determined to destroy the planet. Enter the benevolent yet dangerous nuclear lizard to beat the radioactive snot out of them. We try to kill him, he saves us in spite of ourselves. 

I really enjoyed this movie. Although I didn’t see it in IMAX or 3D format, the special effects were great. The colors were vibrant, the monsters detailed and awe-inspiring. I did see it in a Dolby Atmos theater. What a thrill for the seats (and the walls!) to vibrate when Godzilla roared!

If you’ve read any of the reviews by professional critics, you know it wasn’t well-received.  They had serious issues with the plot. What did they expect for a Godzilla/Kaiju movie?

The measure for me is whether or not I’d see it again. Hell yeah, I would. I’ll watch every Godzilla movie, hoping that we eventually get it through our stubborn heads that he’s on our side.

#Review:John Wick 3 5/5 Stars

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As usual, when going to see an action movie that’s been in the theater a while, my partner and I were the only women in the audience for John Wick 3. Not that it matters; I just find it interesting.

Keanu Reeves did not disappoint. As Wick, a classic “bad guy that you root for”, he swaggers. And smolders. Moreover, he made all of the improbable fight and torture scenes believable. And there were many such scenes. The action seemed unrelenting, and created fast pacing that skirted the edge of being too much. Exhilarating.

The situation the protagonist found himself in was interesting. He’d been excommunicated from the ruling order of bad guys and forfeited his life. His quest was to get his life back.

Unfortunately, a situation(or set-up) is not a plot. Stuff happened. No rising action, no darkest moment, no arc of growth for Wick.

Still, Keanu on the screen for two hours kicking ass and not taking names is worth the price of admission. Add to his presence a couple of well trained, beautiful attack dogs and you have a blockbuster. My rating:5/5 stars.

Best Laid Plans

I started out the year as I often to, determined to pay more attention to my health, become more organized so that my partner and I would have more time to play. Sometimes the Universe has other plans.

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I was moving along feeling good about my progress and new habits.  And then came the flu.  A case of flu that had me missing a week of work and dragging myself to work the next week, still not feeling well. I slept most of the time I was home.  

Then came the icing on the cake.  I stepped “funny”.  And not comical funny but I can’t take another step and I don’t know why funny. Since then I have not been able to drive or even sit without ice packs.  I see my chiropractor 3 times a week and am making progress, but it’s slow.

I’m sharing all of this is to explain why I’ve not been around. The blogs and newsletters didn’t make it through my haze of pain. I’m so sorry for not being present.  While full recovery is a ways off, , I still hope for improvement day by day. 

At any rate, I am most certainly back to my blog and newsletter.  And it is definitely time to get to those edits of my stories slated for release this year.

Spawn of Lilith—A Review 4/5 stars

Spawn of Lilith—A Review 

4/5 Stars

I recently finished Spawn of Lilith by Dana Fredsti. I liked this book and would recommend it to others. It seems to follow none of the “rules” we have come to expect in books. There is no inciting incident (or ordinary world, I couldn’t tell which was missing), no rising action. Most of the book is simply Lee, the main character, doing things. Lee buys beer. Lee take a job on a bad movie.  Lee takes another job with another bad movie. Although she’s a stunt woman, I’m not sure any of those scenes are necessary for the story. In fact, I wasn’t sure what the story was until the end of the book.

According to Lee, the movie industry is full of supernatural creatures. But they are not on the page, at least not in a way that impacts the plot or characters’ development.

So why do I like the book enough to recommend it? I like the characters. They were well developed and engaging. I like Lee. I like Lee’s friends— Eden, an actress, and Randy, a stuntman and a shapeshifter who never shifts. In a roundabout way, they help her grow and become more independent. I might have found Sean and Seth (her father and pseudo-foster brother) more interesting if they had been around more.  

I’d put the book back on the shelf several times because one of the blurbs described Lee as snarky. I hate snarky characters, but eventually I decided to give it a try. I did NOT find Lee snarky. Snarky is just bitter and angry, which Lee isn’t. She had humorous moments that were well done.

All in all, I couldn’t put this book down.  I’m looking forward to reading Lee’s next adventure.

Click on the cover to go to Amazon.

Click on the cover to go to Amazon.

Review: Wolfblood 4.5/5 STARS

Click on the picture for a link to amazon and the series DVD.

Click on the picture for a link to amazon and the series DVD.

Okay, I admit it. Occasionally I binge watch shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Sometimes, the results are terrible, and I’m left wondering how I am going to get back the hours I’ve wasted. Sometimes, I enjoy myself thoroughly and wish my binge didn’t have to come to an end. This is the case (so far) with Wolfblood, written by Debbie Moon..

In this world, you are born Wolfblood. You can’t get “turned” into one like in many Were stories. It’s the tale of Maddie and Rhydian, two young Wolfbloods. Maddie lives with her parents, and Rhydian, who is a newcomer to their small town, lives with a foster family who do know know what he is.

Over the course of the first three seasons, much happens. As I don’t like to give spoilers, suffice to say the stories are a blend of typical teenaged angst (belonging, independence, parental issues, love).

There are many wonderful aspects of this series. First, it’s refreshing to have teenagers actually played by teenagers. In addition, every episode has a rich story arc in which a character changes or grows or learns something new after overcoming an obstacle or solving a problem. There hasn’t been one episode that wasn’t moving in some way.

The “bad guys” are usually three dimensional and occasionally likeable. You understand their motivations, and that makes them sympathetic. I also value that Maddie is the pack Alpha. Not her parents, not Rhydian. Maddie. The girl is fierce, in both human and Wolfblood terms.

The challenge in this series, however, is that at the end of Season 2 there is a significant cast change. I understand that this is also true after Season 3. For people like me who get connected to well-written characters, shifts in casting and therefore story premise are hard.

Overall, however, I enthusiastically recommend this series. You’ll cheer for the characters and wonder what they are thinking, smile at the humor and find yourself moved when their lives get hard. What more can you ask for?

Rating: 4.5/5 stars