Sunday, July 14, 2019

Get 30 free thrillers - including Book of Shadows!

For Prime Day (July 15-16) I'm participating in a 30-thriller giveaway. You can pick and choose, or just go to the linked page, click the ADD ALL TO AMAZON CART button. and get all thirty delivered to your Kindle, including my witch thriller Book of Shadows.

  Homicide detective Adam Garrett is already a rising star in the Boston police department when he and his cynical partner catch a horrifying case that could make their careers: the ritualistic murder of a wealthy college girl that appears to have Satanic elements.

The partners make a quick arrest when all evidence points to a troubled musician in a Goth band who was either dating or stalking the murdered girl. But Garrett's case is turned upside down when beautiful, mysterious Tanith Cabarrus, a practicing witch from nearby Salem, walks into the homicide bureau and insists that the real perpetrator is still at large. Tanith claims to have had psychic visions that the killer has ritually sacrificed other teenagers in his attempts to summon a powerful, ancient demon.

All Garrett's beliefs about the nature of reality will be tested as he is forced to team up with a woman he is fiercely attracted to but cannot trust, in a race to uncover a psychotic killer before he strikes again.

"A wonderfully dark thriller with amazing is-it-isn't-it suspense all the way to the end. Highly recommended." - Lee Child

"Sokoloff successfully melds a classic murder-mystery/whodunit with supernatural occult undertones." - Library Journal

"Compelling, frightening and exceptionally well-written, Book of Shadows is destined to become another hit for acclaimed horror and suspense writer Sokoloff. The incredibly tense plot and mysterious characters will keep readers up late at night, jumping at every sound, and turning the pages until they've devoured the book." - Romantic Times Book Reviews

"Fast-paced with strong characterizations, fans will enjoy this superb thriller, as Adam and the audience wonder if The Unseen could be the killer." - Publisher's Weekly

And here's a plus - the audiobook of Book of Shadows is narrated by RC Bray, my fantastic narrator from the Huntress series. Get it on Audible for $7.49 or 1 credit!


It’s fascinating to me how when you write a book, everyone always assumes it’s about you. Few people get that sometimes, if not most times, when you write a book it’s about getting OUT of you. Just like reading is, right?

Book of Shadows is about a cynical Boston cop who teams up with a mysterious Salem witch to solve what looks like a Satanic murder.
So naturally everyone who reads it assumes that I’m a witch (that’s with a "w"). Oh, the interviewers don’t come right out and say it, but you know that’s what they’re asking.

Well, I’m not. Really. Not really. No more than any woman is a witch.
But I can’t deny that writing Book of Shadows was a really excellent opportunity for me to indulge some of my witchier nature. I wanted to dive right in and explore some of those things that make some men – and a lot of women – uncomfortable with feminine power, and feminine energy, and feminine sexuality, and feminine deity.

I was working up to this book for quite a while. I’ve been around practicing witches most of my life. That’s what happens when you grow up in California, especially Berkeley. Actually the Berkeley part pretty much explains why I write supernatural to begin with, but that’s another post. Those of you who have visited Berkeley know that Telegraph Avenue, the famous drag that ends at the Berkeley campus, is a gauntlet of clothing and craft vendors, artists, and fortunetellers, forever fixed in the sixties. Well, look a little closer, and you’ll see just how many pagans, Wiccans, and witches there actually are.

I’ve walked that gauntlet thousands of times in my life. It does something to your psyche, I’m telling you.

There was also the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, where I spent many summer days in my interestingly misspent youth. Renaissance Faires are teeming with witches (check out the Fortune Tellers’ Grove next time if you don’t believe me).

So even though I don’t actually practice, not in an organized covenish kind of way, I’ve been to a ceremony or two, and you could say I’ve been researching this book for quite some time. In fact, I think I’ve known I was going to write this book ever since I first saw a "Calling of The Corners," a Craft ceremony which is one of the ritual scenes I depict in "Book of Shadows." It’s one of the most extraordinary spiritual experiences I've ever had -- such elemental, feminine power.
And in everyday life, there some things that are just useful to know about the Craft.
I’m not much one for spells, I’m more of a meditator. But when I had to kick my evil tenants out of my rental house? A cleaning service was just not enough. You better believe that the second the locksmith was done changing the locks, I was down at the witch supply store, buying black and white candles (for protection and cleansing), and sage (smudge it for purification). I opened every window and swept the whole house widdershins (to the left, to dismiss) with a new broom dipped in salt and rosemary to dispel all lingering energy. Ritual works, and it doesn’t really matter what accoutrements you use; it’s really about the intention: in this case to cleanse, heal, and start over fresh.

Another concept of the Craft that I’ve always found particularly useful is Maiden, Mother, Crone. Those are the three aspects of the Goddess, and also the three phases of the moon, corresponding colors white, red and black. They represent the three cycles of a woman’s life – youth, womanhood and age – but women also pass through all three aspects every month when they’re menstruating, and knowing that has saved my life (and the lives of many of those around me) many a time.

The time right after your period is Maiden: you have a rush of estrogen, so you’re glowing, you’ve just dropped all that water weight, you have a ton of energy, and you’re – well, up for it. And men can sense it. Best time to snag a partner, although your choices might not be exactly the best in this phase of the cycle.

The Mother (also called Queen) phase of the month is around ovulation. You’re powerful, grounded, and can get a lot done, especially creatively, because of the pregnancy connotations. It’s a sexy time in a different way than Maiden, because there’s the extra knowledge 
that yes, you really can get pregnant right now.

The Crone phase is raging PMS and the "death" that a period often feels like. Wise people know to avoid you at this time unless they really want a faceful of truth, and I try not to schedule meetings, especially with men, when I’m in this phase. Best for me to be solitary and contemplative. And contain the damage.
But the things that come out of your mouth during this phase are the deep truth, even if they’re not pleasant, and if you remember to breathe, put the knife down, and pay attention to what you’re feeling and saying, you can learn a lot about your life and what you really need to be doing. Also your dreams will tend to be the most powerful, vivid, and significant in this phase. I know mine are.

I appreciate the earth/nature centeredness of the Craft. I like to be aware of whether the moon is waxing or waning, and focus on bringing things into my life during the waxing, and letting go of things (or people!) in the waning. And I like knowing that there is extra power and magic at the Solstices and Equinoxes; that knowledge makes me stop at least four times a year to consider what I really want to manifest in my life.

(Obviously I used all of that Moon knowledge and more in the Huntress Moon series, too…)

Let’s face it: I also like the clothes. With my hair, I’ll never be able to pull off the tailored look. I love lace and fishnets and velvet and sparkles and corsets and big jewelry. I love the candles and the scents and that every day has a color (today is white, if you’re wondering).
And there is another aspect of the Craft that has been truly important to me, spiritually. It’s about balance. I have never, ever bought the idea that God is male. It runs contrary to my entire experience of reality. I love you guys, really I do, but you’re only half the equation. I can’t see how an ultimate power could be anything but BOTH male and female. So the notion of a Goddess, in all Her forms, to me, completes the equation.

These days, we need all the feminine power we can get.

So how about you? What’s your take on witches? Are you familiar with the way witchcraft is actually practiced, or is that whole world completely mysterious to you? Or do you do the odd spell or two yourself?

-- Alexandra Sokoloff

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Put your craft on auto-pilot: A STAR IS BORN

Fourth of July weekend done! It’s officially summer! Yay!!  

We all love these lazy days, and we deserve a break, right? Summer is for vacations, and spa days, and - well, let’s face it - no one feels much like writing, do they? I know I’d much rather be bingeing Big Little Lies (the jury’s still out on Stranger Things 3…)

But why not do both? Be lazy and enjoy summer AND get some writing craft work in at the same time?

We went to a looooong party over the 4th of July weekend, and nobody felt much like doing anything on Sunday, so Craig and the cat and I ended up finally watching the latest A Star is Born.
Which I've always felt is a great story. I've seen a few of these. And it's a really good teaching movie, so let's do it - in a lazy kind of way.

As some of you know, I’ve written several books on story structure and teach a popular story structure workshop when I have time - or when the location is so great that I can’t resist. Like this one on a cruise ship to the Caribbean in November, for example.


Writers usually buy the writing workbooks and take my workshops because they’re looking for specific help with their specific books. And that’s great. But I also try to emphasize to my students and readers that everyone can be practicing the techniques of the Three-Act, Eight-Sequence Structure and becoming a better storyteller pretty much all the time, practically by osmosis.

I talk a lot about story patterns (WHAT KIND OF STORY IS IT?) in my workshops, and one of the first things I do is encourage my students to identify the kind of story they’re writing. Because whatever story pattern you are writing (or patterns - there’s often more than one at work!), it’s always astonishingly useful to watch three or four movies of this story type in a row, to understand the specific structure of these stories and what elements we, the audience, keep coming back to see.

So that you can make sure to be hitting those elements in your own story, and even giving us the new or deeper take that will make your story a classic. Right?

We have many Hollywood examples of the “Star is Born” story. All four of the movies with that title
(1937, 1954, 1976, 2018). Also What Price Hollywood (arguably the very first in the line), Funny Girl, and the TV show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which is an extraordinarily good, and successful, example of this story type.

I have to admit that I am particularly drawn to this story pattern because of the thematic deal with the devil aspect of it. A Star is Born never ends happily, does it? It’s a Hobson’s Choice - the heroine is always forced into a choice between fame and love. And the implication of the story line is ALWAYS that the heroine achieves fame only by sacrificing love. Even worse, the story usually says, implicitly, that the love of her life has to die in order for her to achieve fame. Or maybe what it’s saying is that even if he loves her, a man would rather die than be eclipsed by a female star.

Hopefully Mrs. Maisel will be a little more modern about it - we’ll see!

So let’s say you have an idea for a Star is Born story of your own. If you watch three or four of these Star is Born stories for common elements, you can’t help but notice that there is a scene early on in each one of these movies/shows that you could call the “Star Power” scene:  a musical or acting tour de force that makes us understand that the heroine was born to do exactly this.

It’s unique in that the heroine doesn’t just expresses her DESIRE for fame (the classic musical I WANT song) - the scene specifically has to blow us away with the force of her talent in this climactic SETPIECE.

Funny Girl is a great example of making the Heroine's Desire concrete and visual. Musicals so often do this brilliantly, in song, staging and visuals. Early in the story, Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice is fired from the chorus line of a vaudeville show because she's a terrible dancer, and, well, not exactly cover girl material. She tries to convince the producer to rehire her in a comic song ("I'm the Greatest Star") but gets thrown out of the theater anyway. Out in the alley, she makes a decision and storms back inside to try again, still singing - only to find the theater empty.  Then alone, out on stage, she has that moment that I'm sure every actor and singer and dancer in the history of the world has had - that moment of being alone on an empty stage with the entire vast history and awesome power of the theater around you. She is speechless, silenced 0 and then finishes the somg with a power and passion we haven't seen in her yet. We see, unequivocally, that she is a star.

And that turn gets her hired back. 

I love that Star Power scene and most of the rest of the movie - it's a much more entertaining and thoughtful take on the Star is Born story than the actual A Star is Born Streisand starred in in 1976.

The 2018 A Star is Born nails the Star Power scene for damn sure with Lady Gaga’s stellar turn of “La Vie En Rose” in the drag club.

Mrs. Maisel’s drunken foray into standup comedy is a fantastic, non-musical variation on the scene. Yeah, that upper Eastside housewife has the goods.

And of course in George Cukor’s 1954 A Star is Born, the iconic Judy Garland rendition of “The Man That Got Away” is not just a famous scene, but one of the best-known scenes in film history.
You can do this kind of scene comparison for any story question/problem you have in your own story. Screen three movies in the genre you’re writing and let the scenes those filmmakers came up with inspire you to create your own classic scenes.

Isn’t that a goal for some lazy summer writing?

So - what kind of story are you writing? And do you have other examples of the kinds of stories I've listed above, or other kinds of stories to add to the list?



If you'd like to to see more of these story elements in action, I strongly recommend that you watch at least one and much better, three of the films I break down in the workbooks, following along with my notes.

I do full breakdowns of The Matrix, The Wizard of Oz,  Chinatown, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Romancing the Stone, Sense and Sensibility, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Sea of Love, and The Mist - and act breakdowns of You've Got Mail, Jaws, Silence of the Lambs, Raiders of the Lost Ark in Stealing Hollywood.

I do full breakdowns of The Proposal, Groundhog Day, Sense and Sensibility, Romancing the Stone, Leap Year, Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Sea of Love, While You Were Sleeping and New in Town in Writing Love.


STEALING HOLLYWOOD ebook, $3.99    

Smashwords (includes online viewing and pdf file)

Amazon US

Barnes & Noble/Nook

Amazon UK

Amazon DE


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