Category: Books

Shira’s Story Corner: Brooke Josephson Discusses Daughter’s Inspiring Cause

Shira Josephson

There’s an old adage that says the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and in the case of acclaimed singer/songwriter/artist Brooke Josephson, that sentiment couldn’t be more true. Josephson’s creative gene has been passed down to her daughter, Shira, in a uniquely wonderful way.

Shira Josephson, a book lover and Junior Ambassador at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, noticed that many of the hospital’s patients were so ill that they didn’t have access to the hospital’s first-floor story corner. So the resilient eight-year-old did what any forward-thinking artist would do — she created one of her own.

Last summer, Shira and her mother started Shira’s Story Corner, a video series where the young girl reads some of her favorite books that are later shared with patients. Shira’s weekly series was an insant success; bringing comfort and virtual companionship to many of the non-profit hospital’s isolated patients.

The Junior Ambassadors are the hospital’s youth fundraising group, and following a recent trip to New York City where she befriended another girl, Shira wrote and illustrated her own book, “The Girl On The Subway,” to help raise funds for the hospital. To date, Shira has raised more than $13,000 from book sales and other fundraising efforts.

On Saturday, October 6th, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles will hold its annual Junior Ambassador Action Day, where every donation made will be matched dollar for dollar. This year, The Josephson Family and Shira’s Story Corner are the matching donors. In addition to other fundraising activities planned for the day, Shira will be selling copies of “The Girl On The Subway” as well as her brand new book, “The Fickle Cat Called Pickles,” with all proceeds benefiting CHLA.

As for Shira’s mother, Brooke Josephson, the songstress will be back in New York City on September 21st for a performance at Prohibition. The show will be in support of her amazing new EP, “Sexy N’ Domesticated’. She’ll follow it up with a trip to Amsterdam to shoot the video for a remix of her song, “Mr. Fix It”, with DJ Rocky G.

I recently spoke with Brooke Josephson about Shira’s cause and much more in this exclusive new interview.

How did your family become involved with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles?

A few of Shira’s classmates in pre-school had been patients at the hospital and were blown away by the work they had done for them and their families. Then, two weeks before Shira graduated from pre-school, she fell and broke her arm pretty badly. It required her going under anesthesia for surgery and having to wear three different casts. The time she was away from us was very brief but it left such an impact on her. Then she started thinking about her friends who had been born with heart defects and needed to have surgery every few years. That’s when we started donating and getting involved. 

When did Shira’s love of reading originate?

I’ve always loved books. Even when I growing up, I’d always volunteer in our school library re-shelving books while everyone else was at recess. When Shira was a baby, I’d read to her every night. Then, once she started reading on her own, it became a passion for her as well.

How did she become involved the Junior Ambassador program and what inspired Shira’s Story Corner?

When Shira was going into first grade, we started looking into other ways of getting involved instead of just writing a check. That’s when we found out about the Junior Ambassador program, and Shira loved it right away. The program is a mixture of kids from the community as well as current patients. Shira was able to work alongside kids her own age right up to high school seniors. It was during her second training session, when they were doing a tour of the hospital, that they came to the end of the hall, where doors led to floors where the kids were too sick to have visitors.

Afterwards, Shira seemed sad, so I asked her what was wrong. She explained to me that the tour had ended because they couldn’t go past a certain point. Then she lit up and came up with an idea. There was a story corner on the first floor of the hospital; and even though the sick kids couldn’t go there, what if she could make her own story corner and bring it to them? One where she could read books and I could make videos for them to watch. It took off from there! 

What inspired Shira to write her own book, “The Girl On The Subway”?

Part of being a Junior Ambassador is creating your own fundraisers, and it was at one of the brainstorming sessions that Shira decided to make her own book. Part of that came from a story she’d read called “The Chocolate Bar” that a little boy had written for his friend who had a rare disease. They had sold the book to raise money for his friend’s treatment. Since we had recently taken a trip to New York, Shira wanted to write a book about a girl her age she met on the subway. To date, she’s raised more than $13,000 between her book and other fundraising. Even other kids in her elementary school have joined the Junior Ambassador program after seeing the work she’s done. It’s been exciting to watch the ripple effect.

What can you tell me about her new book, “The Fickle Cat Called Pickles?” 

She actually came up with the idea when she was being interviewed about “The Girl On The Subway” for the hospital. She loves to eat pickles and always wanted to have a cat, but because of allergies, we can only have dogs. One of the cool things was when she was drawing the characters. She wanted the middle part of their bodies to be in the shape of a pickle and the cat’s head to have a heart-shaped face.

Let’s talk about this year’s Children’s Hospital of L.A. Junior Ambassador Action Day.

It’s one day set aside where every dollar donated to the hospital is matched. This year on Action Day, Saturday, October 6th, you can purchase copies of Shira’s books, or you can also go to the CHLA website to make a donation.

Is there a message you’d like people to take away from Shira’s work?

I’m blown away by kids and their courage, even with Shira’s book, “The Girl On The Subway”. She literally just met the girl, and when the adults saw how well they were interacting they asked her how long the two of them had been friends. Shira told them, “We just met.” Then everyone started asking each other why we can’t do this as adults. It was humbling and inspiring. We all need the ability to look each other in the eye and make the world a better place.

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FREE Kindle Version of Neapolitan Sky

You read that correctly. From now until Friday, August 31st you can download a copy of my 172-page suspense/thriller “Neapolitan Sky” on Amazon Kindle absolutely FREE with no strings attached! All I would ask is that you consider writing a review of the story after you’ve finished reading!

Here’s a brief description of “Neapolitan Sky”:

“Dreams of becoming a professional writer are abruptly put on hold for college student Nica Mitchell following the unexpected death of her mother and her father’s cancer diagnosis. Forced to return home when he’s hospitalized after encountering a near death experience, Nica learns that her father has been keeping a dark secret. Something in between the stages of life and death that, when revealed, will change her life forever.”

Click here to download your FREE copy! Hope you enjoy!

NS

 

‘Neapolitan Sky’: Actress Ashley Watkins Discusses Voice-Over Project

Photo: Josh Daugherty

There are few artists with the ability to successfully transition between the world of dance, feature film and commercial work. Even fewer can successfully maneuver these mediums with desire, versatility and charm.

Ashley Watkins, a professional actress and dancer, and a fixture of the entertainment industry for nearly ten years, meets all of this criteria.

An accomplished artist and performer, her resume encapsulates the full spectrum of drama, comedy, horror and dance/music videos. Her versatility, prowess and beauty are matched only by her innate ability to draw deep emotion.

Watkins takes on multiple roles in her latest project; providing the voice-over narration for James Wood’s suspense-thriller, “Neapolitan Sky”.

In “Neapolitan Sky”, dreams of becoming a professional writer are abruptly put on hold for college student Nica Mitchell following the unexpected death of her mother and her father’s cancer diagnosis. Forced to return home when he’s hospitalized after encountering a near death experience, Nica learns that her father has been keeping a dark secret. Something in between the stages of life and death that, when revealed, will change her life forever.

Watkins’ entertaining and infectious voice can be heard on the Audible version of “Neapolitan Sky”, which is available now!

I recently spoke with Ashley Watkins about her work on “Neapolitan Sky” and more in this exclusive new interview.

Was voice-over work something you’ve always done as an actress?

I’ve done some voice work in the past but never voice-over narration. So, this was totally new for me. It was fun to delve into the characters and find out who they are and then bring them to life. At one point, I didn’t even have to look at my notes to see how to do each voice. It came very naturally.

What are some of the differences between typical acting and doing voice-over for a book?

In a film, there’s typically one actor with one character. This was one actor playing multiple characters. So, I had to focus not only on the main character, but the side characters as well and then bring them all to life. They all come up very quickly in the book, and I remember at one point five of the characters were together on one page! Having to distinguish between the voices when the men were having a conversation was also a bit of a challenge.

Was there anything you had to do to prepare to take on this project?

Just like a movie script, I had to read through the story and then break down the acting in each of the chapters. I used a different color highlighter on the page to mark each character who was speaking. That way, I could prepare by seeing in advance who I was going to be speaking for while I was recording. I also had to make sure I was able to pronounce words correctly, so I did some research beforehand. After I had recorded each chapter, it then went into the editing process where I would clean up any excess sounds. I didn’t want any breaths or smacks and wanted only true silence between every space and at the end of each chapter.

What did you enjoy most about the story?

I liked the twist. It was something I never saw coming. I’m reading this book with a character I can completely relate to: a girl with a military dad who grew up in the military and had a close group of friends. I related to so many things and then, out of nowhere, the twist just blew me away. You think everything is comfortable and then something happens that makes you re-think about life. You’re asking yourself, is this real? I felt for every character in the book. 

You began your career as a figure skater. What made you make the transition to acting?

When I moved to Northern California when I was twelve, I had to quit ice skating because there wasn’t anywhere to skate that was within driving distance. The closest thing I could do that was similar was cheerleading and dance. As I started doing that, I also fell in love with drama and theater, which eventually opened the door to film. At the time, I was really into leading lady characters like Neve Campbell, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Julia Ormund. I went to college and got a theater degree and as soon as I graduated college, I went straight to L.A..

Are there any other projects you’re currently involved with?

I have a movie called “Professor Dario Bava” where I play the villain, Camilla. We’re going through an Indigogo phase right now. Our director, Phil Mucci, also wants to turn it into a comic book series to build the fan base. We’ll probably start filming in the spring. 

What gives you the most satifaction about doing “Neapolitan Sky“?

I liked that I was able to add all of my touches on it. A writer brings the story to life and I got to bring the characters to life, vocally. Normally, there’d be an audio expert coming in to edit when everything is finished. But since I also did the editing, I learned a lot about the process. It was fulfilling to know I could put all that work into something and people will be able to hear it. It was fun to start the project and see it through to completion.

Neapolitan Sky

What are you reading this weekend? For a limited time, you can get my new suspense/thriller for just $1.99 on Amazon Kindle.

Dreams of becoming a professional writer are abruptly put on hold for college student Nica Mitchell following the unexpected death of her mother and her father’s cancer diagnosis. Forced to return home when he’s hospitalized after encountering a near death experience, Nica learns that her father has been keeping a dark secret. Something in between the stages of life and death that, when revealed, will change her life forever.

Five-Star Amazon Reviews: 

“Don’t be taken in by the serene title, suggestive of an Italianate summer sojourn (which I theorize pays homage to a haunting Avett Brothers tune). Nothing is as it seems; so don’t plan on getting comfortable, or settling in. Just when you think you can anticipate what comes next, because you detect some familiar Serling-esque patterns in character development, this gifted writer repeatedly surprises and refreshes with equal portions of rapid-fire suspense and unforeseen plot twists.”

“It’s hard to believe that James Wood was able to tell a story with so many twists, turns and somersaults in 151 pages. No fluff, just a well-told tale that takes you to places that will blow you away. A perfect book for a beach weekend.”

“AMAZING! I connected to the characters immediately. I would have to say by far one of the best novellas I have ever read. Once I started, I had to finish. Would recommend to everyone!”

“I totally enjoyed reading “Neapolitan Sky”. With colorful and vivid descriptions James brought his characters to life. From beginning to end the suspense builds until the unexpected ending.”

Click here for more information and to order.

Under A Neapolitan Sky – Chapter Three

With the official release of my debut novella, “Neapolitan Sky” just two weeks away, I’m putting the call out to anyone who writes or blogs and would be interested in doing a review/write up of the story.

Due to publishing commitments, I won’t be able to offer this for everyone. But if you’re interested about doing a review / Q&A for your website and can commit the time to reading the 151-page story and helping me get the word out, I can send you a PDF version of the book to review.

In case you missed it, here is the synospis of the story:

“Dreams of becoming a professional writer are abruptly put on hold for college student Nica Mitchell following the unexpected death of her mother and her father’s cancer diagnosis.

Forced to return home when he’s hospitalized after encountering a near death experience, Nica learns her father has been keeping a dark secret. Something in between the stages of life and death that, when revealed, will change her life forever.”

I’ve also created a trailer for the book, which you can see below:

The official release date for Neapolitan Sky is Tuesday, May 8th. If you’re in the Bethlehem, PA area, I’ll be doing a signing on Saturday, May 26th from 1-3 p.m. at The Moravian Book Shop , located at 428 Main Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018.

If you’re interested in helping me spread the word about Neapolitan Sky, please let me know by filling out the form below. If you don’t write but would still like to help, you can share my author page on Amazon and Goodreads. I’m also on Facebook and Twitter. I appreciate any help you can give! Watch for more suprises in the coming weeks, including some giveaways.

Under A Neapolitan Sky – Chapter Two

“Dreams of becoming a professional writer are abruptly put on hold for college student Nica Mitchell following the unexpected death of her mother and her father’s cancer diagnosis.

Forced to return home when he’s hospitalized after encountering a near death experience, Nica learns her father has been keeping a dark secret. Something in between the stages of life and death that, when revealed, will change her life forever.”

The synopsis is just a small taste of my brand new novella, Neapolitan Sky, which I’m excited to announce will be released on Tuesday, May 8th!

Over the course of my writing career, I’ve interviewed hundreds of artists, musicians and authors; co-authored three children’s books and have written more than 2,000 articles for this blog, Guitar World, AXS and Yahoo! I can honestly say that this was the most challenging and creatively satisfying thing I’ve ever done.

It was exciting to see this story go from a blank document to template to final draft. In between, there were more than a dozen test readers who provided feedback and input; multiple late night re-writes and edits to enhance the flow of the story and the final review from the publisher.

Now, I’m super-excited to share with you the book trailer for Neapolitan Sky:

This short trailer gives more clues into the story. Each photo and video has something deeper to say. The trailer also includes a little cameo by yours truly.

Neapolitan Sky will be available online at all of the major outlets. You can even call your favorite bookstore and have them order it for you.

I hope you’ll be along for the ride on May 8th!

Interview: David Duchovny discusses his new album, ‘Every Third Thought,’ songwriting

David Duchovny, the award-winning actor, director and novelist has just released his new album, Every Third Thought. It’s the follow up to his 2015 debut, Hell or Highwater.

Crafted with elements of folk, classic rock and pop, Every Third Thoughtshowcases Duchovny’s eclectic influences, which range from artists like The Beatles and David Bowie to the bright, haunting and acoustic-driven songs from 1970’s bands like America.

Recorded in Brooklyn in December of 2016, Duchovny finds a deeper level of lyrical maturity and musical expression with Every Third Thought. His honest storytelling speaks of personal reflection but is meticulously crafted with universal themes.

AXS recently spoke with David Duchovny about Every Third Thought, songwriting and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: How does Every Third Thought compare to your first album, Hell Or Highwater?

David Duchovny: This album is more musically varied and ambitious. The songs all started the same way, which was me throwing chords together with an acoustic guitar and then singing my words over it. Once I started collaborating more with my band–who are such advanced musicians–it allowed them to bring in their own sonic tastes. So, it wasn’t just me saying I’ve got this song but was more like I’m hearing a David Bowie, “Heroes” vibe, which was the case with the song, “Half Life.” Or from me saying “Last First Time” feels like a 70’s power rock ballad. They were able to open the song up and execute the things that I couldn’t.

AXS: Have you found that your lyrical style has matured with this new album?

DD: Having written a bunch of songs, I’m starting to get a better feel for how lyrics work. I still very clearly recall writing my first song, “The Things” on Hell or Highwater. I remember thinking that if I’m going to write a song, I’m not going to say anything specific in it because I don’t want people asking me what it means. And what could be more neutral than saying, “It’s about this “thing” [laughs].” I try to straddle the line of a song being very personal but also universal. Everybody’s life has a very similar shape. You try to write as personally as you can and write to the shape of everybody’s life.

AXS: What was the writing process like for Every Third Thought?

DD: It’s always different. Sometimes, I’ll have a melodic hook in my mind and a chord progression waiting for words. Other times, the words will come first and they’re waiting for a melody. I’ve got a bunch of lyrics off to the side on my iPad and a bunch of progressions off to another side. Sometimes, I’ll sit down and start introducing them to one another and see who wants to make out [laughs].

Read the rest of my
Interview with David Duchovny by Clicking Here!