Thursday, September 30, 2021

Top Five Movies: Jonathan Edward Durham


Top Five Movies


Movies are as imperfect as an art form gets, which is why they're absolute magic when they're done right…and utter disasters when they're not.  To trust the vision of one person to somewhere between a dozen and a few hundred craftspeople, tradeworkers, and artists is complete madness…but sometimes what's left at the end of that journey is eminently more powerful than the idea that set the fuse burning, and those instances of big-screen brilliance are what keep us coming back to feed the machine again and again and again.  After all, isn't one blindingly beautiful, impeccably made film worth the ninety-nine other clunkers you had to watch to find it?  Well, for me it is.  It always is.  But if you don't have that kind of time to invest in sifting through the thousands of titles that have been passed through a projector over the decades just to find a few gems, you could always just take my word for it and watch these five wonderful movies instead…


1.  Jurassic Park (1993) – An adaptation of a book from one of my favorite authors of all time, Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park is one of the most immersive movies I've ever seen and holds up every bit as well today as it did thirty years ago.  It blew my fragile, ten-year old mind the first time I saw it on the big screen, and I still remember that first viewing like it was yesterday.  It was pure celluloid magic—visceral and uncompromising and expertly crafted while at the same time being fun and not overly self-serious.  It's folly to call anything a perfect movie, but Jurassic Park gets as close to that mark as anything as far as I'm concerned…and the combination of Spielberg's directing magic and Crichton's "everything's falling apart so you should probably run for your life" brand of storytelling was, and still is, music to my eager-to-be-entertained ears.


2.  Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011) – Do spy stories get any better than a John LeCarre novel?  Not really, no.  But what about a John LeCarre novel that's made into a movie starring Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, John Hurt, and Toby Jones?  Oh, in that case…absolutely, yes.  The acting in this movie is so good that the main character doesn't even say a word until fifteen minutes in, and when he finally does, you almost don't want him to.  But acting aside, authenticity is something you just can't fudge, and when you see it, you know it…and the subtleness and care with which this story unfolds just screams "Whoever wrote this actually used to be a spy and this is how things actually work in the world of spies"…and as it turns out, that's exactly the case.  Also, I don't mind a dense movie, and this one's a tricky but rewarding knot to untie…so there's that.


3.  Blade Runner 2049 (2017) – What can I say about Denis Villenueve that hasn't already been said?  I love his movies.  I love the way they take their time…I love the way they know exactly what they are and aren't afraid to sit in their own beautiful stench…and I love the way that they respect their genres by pulling the best from the films around them and tying it all together in a way that makes the sum of their pieces so much more than what they ought to be.  But I also can't remember a sequel that's an out-and-out love letter to the movie that preceded it, and that's what makes Blade Runner 2049 so, so special.  It pays proper homage to the original, a watershed sci-fi classic, by staying true to the old vision while improving on it all in a way that doesn't…not even for a frame…disrespect it.  It honors it.  It calls upon it for inspiration.  It uses it as fuel for its look, theme, feel, sound, and story…and does it so gracefully, that you'd never think it was a sequel at all.


4.  Pan's Labyrinth (2006) – Whether you love them or hate them, uncompromising visions are hard to shake…and that's what makes them so valuable and so rare.  Pan's Labyrinth is just that—uncompromising.  It is at the same time beautiful and horrid…marvelous and perverse…enchanting and revolting…and any of those two things juxtaposed in just the right way inside of just the right story is a recipe for a film that's just impossible to forget.  There's a strange space in the awful, brackish water where fantasy meets horror that never fails to set my spine tingling, and Del Toro's masterpiece hits that nail on the head so hard at several different points that it curls my toes just to think about it.  Few movies move me like this one does, and when I really need to feel something from a film…Pan's Labyrinth is my go-to title.


5.  Spaceballs (1987) – Didn't see that one coming, did you?  Let me be clear about this—I love Mel Brooks.  If I had a Mount Rushmore, it would be populated with four identical carvings of Mel Brooks, and I'm not ashamed to say it.  I've probably seen Spaceballs more times than I've seen any other movie, and it just never gets old for me.  It's a stupid film, to be sure, but that's kind of the point.  And while it might be stupid, it's also genius…and it's patently honest…and for me, there's just something so attractive about a film crafted by somebody who knows exactly what their voice sounds like and leans into it with every…single…frame.  Mel Brooks is an absolute master of the spoof, so much so that he's somehow able to make another movie his just by riffing on it…and that's a talent I've never seen anybody else possess.  For my money, he's the most unique filmmaker in the history of cinema, and while his films may not be artsy, his comedy is undeniably high art.


Jonathan Edward Durham
 was born near Philadelphia in one of many satellite rust-belt communities where he read voraciously throughout his youth. After attending William & Mary, where he received a degree in neuroscience, Jonathan waded into the professional world before deciding he was better suited for more artistic pursuits.  

He now lives with his partner in California where he writes to bring a unique voice to the space between the timeless wonder of his favorite childhood stories and the pop sensibilities of his adolescent literary indulgences.  His debut novel, Winterset Hollow, an elevated contemporary fantasy with a twist, follows in that same vein and is available everywhere late 2021.   


Everyone has wanted their favorite book to be real, if only for a moment. Everyone has wished to meet their favorite characters, if only for a day. But be careful in that wish, for even a history laid in ink can be repaid in flesh and blood, and reality is far deadlier than fiction . . . especially on Addington Isle.Winterset Hollow follows a group of friends to the place that inspired their favorite book-a timeless tale about a tribe of animals preparing for their yearly end-of-summer festival. But after a series of shocking discoveries, they find that much of what the world believes to be fiction is actually fact, and that the truth behind their beloved story is darker and more dangerous than they ever imagined. It's Barley Day . . . and you're invited to the hunt. 

Winterset Hollow is as thrilling as it is terrifying and as smart as it is surprising. A uniquely original story filled with properly unexpected twists and turns, Winterset Hollow delivers complex, indelible characters and pulse- pounding action as it storms toward an unforgettable climax that will leave you reeling. How do you celebrate Barley Day? You run, friend. You run.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Eat Like an Author: Trish McDonald

 When most people get bored, they eat. When I get bored, I brainstorm new series and features for the blog, and THEN eat. And not too long ago, as I was brainstorming and contemplating what I wanted to eat, I thought how cool it would be to have a mini-foodie series where authors share the things they like to eat. Photos and recipes and all. And so I asked them, and amazingly they responded, and I dubbed it EAT LIKE AN AUTHOR. 

Today, Trish McDonald joins us to talk about changing lifestyles...

How I got the “guts” to write a debut novel at the age of seventy-seven.


Dinner Omelet with Pickled Vegetables

In 2015, I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol—the dreaded combination known as metabolic disease. On the plus side, I’m a nutritionist, so I know how important food is when you have to change your lifestyle.

The Probiotics: Kefir, Yogurt, Fermented Veggies, Flavored Kombucha 

 With that in mind, I lowered sugary carbs, increased fiber, and started a regular exercise routine. I also learned about “prebiotics”—onions, plant fiber, seeds, nuts—and “probiotics”—kefir, yogurt, kombucha, and fermented veggies which I started making in my kitchen. Every morning I drink 2-3 oz. of kefir with 2 tsp. hemp seeds & 1 tsp. ground flaxseed stirred in.

 The key to gut health is combining both the prebiotics and the probiotics in one meal or recipe. In six months, I lost weight, balanced my microbiome, and my doctor took me off all the meds. Now I needed to help the members in my community get healthy too. 

Kombucha Brewing 

 One morning, after I had been teaching The Gut Class for a few weeks, my beau came out to say good morning, and he commented, “I don’t know if you’re aware or not, but even your voice has changed since you’ve been running this course.”

I knew instinctively it was true, so I started to research what could be going on inside of me that would bring about these changes. When I found out about the connection between the gut and the brain, I knew I was on to something. Of course, I didn’t know then about the book, Paper Bags, I was destined to write, or the stamina and courage it would take to create a debut novel at the age of seventy-seven. When I queried an agent and the response was, “Everything has an expiration date”—I vowed my marketing brand would be—“No Expiration on Dreams!”


Trish McDonald, according to her DNA profile, is 86% Irish. For a storyteller, this “blarney” heritage comes in handy when writing about issues of childhood trauma. With a background in nutrition education, McDonald combines fiction and self-help in powerful scenes using science-based methods of body work: a yoga class, cranial sacral therapy session, reiki, music, and dancing. It is, however, the healing power of love and intimacy where her protagonist’s journey leads to self-discovery and acceptance. An education writer, McDonald’s credits include national publications, Family Circle President’s Award for nutrition programs, and various academic journal articles. An avid camper, McDonald lives in a RV park in Southwest Florida. Paper Bags is her first novel.


Tonight, she’s a stalker. In the dark woods, with the rain lashing the windshield and the ground fern crushed beneath the wheels of her car, she hides and waits and contemplates her options: The Boy? Me? Love? Sanity? How far will she have to go to find love and feel safe? As she slouches down behind the steering wheel, the back seat filled with her paper bags and her yellow Labrador Retriever, she questions this decision to chase after him. Little does she know that this deviant behavior will set off a stunning revelation rocking her to the core. Will she run away as fast as she can, or will her curiosity entice her to embark on a journey of self-discovery and sexual awakening?

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Page 69: Unbroken Bonds

  Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....

In this installment of Page 69, 

We put Dawn Hogan’s UNBROKEN BONDS to the test. 

Set up page 69 for us. What are we about to read?

The year is 1956. The scene is a dorm room in a Catholic home for unwed mothers in Knoxville, Tennessee. Michelle, who has been miserably uncomfortable for weeks, has gone into labor. Knowing that the hospital wing is a scary place, run by an equally scary nun, Sister Eugenia, Michelle has convinced her roommates to help her stay with them as long as possible.

What is your book about?

UNBROKEN BONDS is the fictional tale of four teenage girls who develop a lifelong bond of friendship while they are incarcerated in the Frances Weston Home for Unwed mothers; a place where it is expected the girls surrender their newborns to sealed adoptions. The guilt, shame and secrecy of their shared history is the shaky foundation on which they rebuild their lives once they’re released from the home. As they navigate adulthood during the turbulent 1960s in the Deep South, the sisterhood between them is their strength, sanity and soft place to land. The four women support each other as they all, in their unique way, find the life she makes for herself. When tragedy strikes, they must decide to protect their buried secrets from the past or find the children they were forced to surrender.


Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what the book is about? Does it align itself with the book’s overall theme?

I think it does. Even though Michelle is not one of the characters who carries throughout the story, the shared experience of being ostracized for being a pregnant teenager, is the beginning of the bond for the four main characters. Michelle’s being in labor is something they will each go through on their own. It’s a frightening prospect. There is breaking of the rules in honor of friendship, a recurrent theme, forbidden as well, was divulging one’s true identity and remaining friends outside the home.






wing, I’ll be all alone. Please don’t get Sister Eugenia, I wanna stay here as long as I can,” she begged.

“It’s okay. No one’s gonna get her unless you tell us to.” Jessie stroked Michelle’s hair.

     “Do you want anythin’, some water, or a wet towel for your forehead? Gosh, I feel like we should boil water, like they do in the movies,” Rachel nervouslyrambled.

     Michelle laughingly chided, “Rachel, you’re such a ditz, but I love ya for it.” The other girls chuckled as Rachel blushed and shrugged.

     Timing the contractions, they determined they were ten minutes apart. AsMichelle writhed again, Joanna soothed her. “Don’t tighten up. Try torelax; it won’t hurt as bad. Here, look at me and breathe like this.” Joanna showedher slow, even breaths, stroking her arm. Michelle released the tension in her body and followed Joanna.

     When it ended, Michelle asked, amazed, “That helped. How’d ya know what to do?”

     “My mama told me,” Joanna answered. “All five of us were born at home on my granny’s farm. I was with her for the last three.”

     For the next few hours, Jessie, Joanna, and Rachel tried to make Michelle as comfortable as possible while Missy sat cross-legged on her bed, silently observing. When Michelle complained her back ached, Jessie massaged it for her and Joanna helped her breathe with each contraction. Rachel finally ran to the bathroom for a cold rag to dab the sweat from her forehead. They lost track of time, until Sister Bridget came in to announce lights-out. Immediately the nun started asking questions.

     “Her contractions are eight minutes apart,” Joanna answered. Michelle begged Bridget to let her stay in the dorm room awhile longer. Following a brief exam to gauge Michelle’s dilation, she reluctantly decided to let her remain with her friends for the present.

     “You’re only halfway,” Sister Bridget informed them. “We’ll have to turn off the lights or Mrs. Fitch will be in here to investigate. Missy, let me borrow your flashlight.”

     With the lights out, the girls focused their moral support on Michelle, each cognizant that a similar fate would find her. They passed the time with whispered stories about their families or boyfriends. Hours later, Missy lay sound asleep in


Dawn Hogan majored in English at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. She’s the mother of four grown children and grandmother to two. She is a full-time author and lives in Huntsville, Alabama with her husband. Dawn would be thrilled to join your book club for the discussion of her debut novel UNBROKEN BONDS. You can contact her at Check out for more information. You can follow her on Facebook D.W. Hogan author and on Instagram dawnhoganauthor.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Page 69: Winterset Hollow

  Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....

In this installment of Page 69, 

We put Jonathan Edward Durham's Winterset Hollow to the test. 

What is Winterset Hollow about?

Winterset Hollow is a dark, contemporary fantasy with a few healthy twists and a slo-burn thriller rhythm.  It's about a young man and his two friends discovering something they thought they'd never find…and the consequences of that discovery, which turn out to be far more dire than initially expected.  It's a fantasy narrative with relatable, real-world themes, and is equal parts tender and terrifying…and I think it's a patently enjoyable read with a big heart.



Set up page 69 for us…

 Page 69 falls in the middle of our main character's initial discovery whereupon he finds himself inside the former home of his favorite author.  And he's being guided through the halls of the manor by a host he never thought he'd have the chance to meet, namely a rabbit named Runny who was featured in his favorite book…a book aptly named Winterset Hollow.  So, in this scene, Runny and Eamon come upon the kitchen where they find another character from the book, a frog named Flackwell, who's busying himself cooking them supper while singing an old folk song.



Do you think this page gives readers an accurate sense of the kind of story that you've explored in Winterset Hollow?

 I think so, yes.  I think it speaks to the sense of wonder that our main character, Eamon, is feeling as he's being allowed to glimpse things that he never thought he'd see and know secrets he never thought he'd know.  I also think it's a good example of the kind of emotional upswing that he's feeling at this point in the story…his heart is full and his head is spinning in the best possible way…little does he know, of course, that all of that is about to come crashing down in the most terrifying manner.


There's solid banter, which is a favorite thing of mine to write—I'm a total sucker for some well-slung dialogue—but there's also a good bit of intuitive narration, which is another big hammer in my toolbox.  I love when a narrator can really dig in and root around in a character's head and invite the reader in…and I think that it's necessary in a story like this to really hang a lantern on exactly where on the emotional spectrum everybody is before it all starts falling apart, which is pretty much right around the corner.






“He’s quite the hand in the cookhouse, but I’m sure you knew that,” said the rabbit as he sidled up to Eamon. “But truly, what would Barley Day be without a feast?” The frog’s voice was powerful and dynamic and unrestrained, and Eamon could only imagine the treat he was in for if his passion for performance carried over into his cooking.


“I know this song,” Eamon said wistfully. “I’ve read it a thousand times, but . . . but I’ve never heard it before. Not like this anyway.”


“It’s an old song. Our kind have sung it for generations. It was Edward’s favorite. I suppose that’s why he put it in his book. It seemed too personal a detail for him to borrow at the time, but the more I thought about it, the more I appreciated having something of ours immortalized like that. Not that he would’ve cared, mind you. Always was stubborn as an ox, that one.”


Eamon was well aware that he had asked his share of questions in the short time he had been awake, but with every answer that fell from the Rabbit’s lips, he only found himself feeling like there was more he wanted to know. These histories—they felt like fire in the frozen tundra to him. They felt warm and nourishing and sublimely necessary, and he would gladly have surrendered his coat or his snowshoes or even the very pages of his favorite book to add fuel to its flame. Eamon would have given anything to know them all . . . to drink of their substance and lay about the manor’s grounds fat and happy and deliriously drunk on their charm. Without a moment’s debate, he would’ve traded the sum of his current knowledge for the promise of what was to come, but his host had thus far seemed happy to accommodate his curiosities, and so the possibility that he might be allowed both flashed ripe and ready through his mind.


Jonathan Edward Durham
was born near Philadelphia in one of many satellite rust-belt communities where he read voraciously throughout his youth. After attending William & Mary, where he received a degree in neuroscience, Jonathan waded into the professional world before deciding he was better suited for more artistic pursuits.  

He now lives with his partner in California where he writes to bring a unique voice to the space between the timeless wonder of his favorite childhood stories and the pop sensibilities of his adolescent literary indulgences.  His debut novel, Winterset Hollow, an elevated contemporary fantasy with a twist, follows in that same vein and is available everywhere late 2021.   

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Audio Series: The Body Joyful


Our audio series "The Authors Read. We Listen."  was originally hatched in a NYC club during BEA back in 2012. It's a fun little series, where authors record themselves reading an excerpt from their own novels, in their own voices, the way their stories were meant to be heard.

Today, Anne Poirier joins us and reads an excerpt from her book The Body Joyful, forthcoming October 5th. Anne is a Certified Intuitive Eating and Body Confidence Coach, Eating Disorder Specialist and Speaker. Having struggled and overcome her own eating, food, weight, and body image challenges she founded Shaping Perspectives a Woman’s Way to Joy, created the Body Joyful Solution, and is the leader of the Body Joyful Revolution Tribe. She can be found at, Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin. Magazines and on-line publications featuring her work include: Eating Well, Huffington Post, The Cut and others. Poirier resides in Old Orchard Beach, Maine.

Click the soundcloud link below to hear Anne reading an excerpt from her book. 

What it's about: 

Anne Poirier’s The Body Joyful is a game changer. It is an anti-diet book, a rejector of societies “thin ideal,” and a new perspective in a Covid world. It provides insights and strategies and is a roadmap to help you shift the way you think, act, and live. Inspiring and empowering, this relatable story offers the reader permission to find self-worth, hope, healing, and transformation, regardless of weight, size or shape.

In the words of author and speaker Brian Tracy “This inspiring, motivational book will help you unlock your self-confidence and feel wonderful about yourself. You’ll learn that you have no limits”

If you are ready to stop depriving yourself with diets and beating yourself up with self-criticism, this book is for you! Read it and join the Body Joyful Revolution Tribe now.