www.marilynbrant.com

Friday, December 4, 2015

Being on the Set of "Chicago Fire" as an Extra!

I shared this story on Facebook earlier today, but I wanted to post it here as well because it was just such fun! :) 
The city of Chicago is home to some fabulous TV shows, including NBC's "Chicago Fire." A couple of weeks ago, I came upon their casting alert page for extras... Now, I've never done anything like this -- it's been 25 years since I've even been onstage in a community theater production, LOL -- but I really enjoyed this show and the others in set in the same world ("Chicago P.D." & "Chicago Med") and thought it was incredibly cool that they included so many locals as extras.
So, when there was a casting call at the end of November for a group scene with people of various ages and backgrounds, I submitted my picture and the required info. It was a totally spontaneous thing, and I knew there would be a lot of applicants. I wasn't at all surprised when the film date came & went and I didn't hear back from them... I was, however, utterly stunned this week when one of the casting people left a voice mail for me and asked if I was available to play a "paralegal" extra during their shoot in Chicago yesterday. I had to replay the message 3x before I believed it!! Of course I said YES!!
It was such a marvelous experience, and everyone involved -- from the actors to crew members to other extras -- were really nice and very professional. In the snapshot below, Mariana (far left), Sharella, Nancy, and I bonded over being lawyers/paralegals for the day. A couple of them had been extras before, so it was great chatting with them about the shows they'd worked on, as well as books and real-life stuff. For me, the realities of being on a film set, even in a teeny tiny capacity, were just fascinating. You all know how much I love TV. And all forms of storytelling. And actors!! So, truly, it was a feast of delights getting to see how a couple of short scenes were done from beginning to end.
A few observations: There was a lot of standing around and waiting, but I knew to expect that. There was quite a bit of repetition, too, as far as the shooting of each scene (for blocking, for rehearsals, for filming multiple takes and camera angles), but I expected that as well. What I hadn't expected were certain details I'd never thought to consider -- like needing to attach something to the soles of our shoes to muffle the sound they make on the tile. (In one scene, several of us are walking down a hallway, and all of the women's heels were clicking too loudly!) In the other scene, I was sitting on a bench in that same hallway with a male extra who was playing a lawyer, and he was explaining his notes to me -- silently. We were told that even whispering could get picked up by the mic, so we should only mouth the words of our conversation. And there was a crew member running around with a dozen rolls of masking tape in different colors. I saw him use a couple of them to mark spots on the tile for the main actors. And the sweetest lady with hair-styling products, who was determined to get my curly hair to stop frizzing. (A task I'd failed at for decades, by the way. So, she was pretty heroic, in my book!)
Anyway, I have no idea if I'll actually end up onscreen after the final edits are in...and if I am, I'll most likely be a passing blur with slightly tamed hair, LOL, but I had a blast!! I was told the episode we were shooting was for Season 4, Episode 12. The fall finale of "Chicago Fire" will be this coming Tuesday, December 8th, and that will be Episode 9. So, the one we were working on yesterday should air sometime in the New Year. I'll keep you posted!!
If you could be cast as an extra on any TV show currently on right now, which would it be?!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Happy October!


October is here and, with it, some of my favorite images and foods of the year... ;)

I love fall leaves, and though the trees have only just begun changing in my part of the world, I'm looking forward to later this month when the roads will be lined with trees tinged red, orange, and gold.


And I love pumpkin-spiced chai tea lattes... They're warm, sweet, deliciously scented, and they just make me happy. I want to share the joy, so here is a recipe for a homemade version that I recently tried, and I hope you'll like it, too:

Makes 2 Servings

1 teabag of spiced chai
1 cup 2% or whole milk, almond milk, soy milk, or coconut milk
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or use a combination of cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, and ground cloves)
4 tablespoons puréed pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons maple syrup
A few swirls of whipped cream (optional)
A dash of cinnamon for garnish

Boil 1 cup of water in a saucepan, add in the teabag and let it steep for 5 minutes. Remove teabag. Add the milk, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla extract, maple syrup, and puréed pumpkin to the pan. Mix well by hand (or put it all in the blender for a minute). Then pour it back into the pan and warm it up on the stove top. Divide between two mugs. Swirl some whipped cream on top (if desired) and add a dash of cinnamon to each. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Read-A-Romance Month 2015 - The Joy of Romance and a Giveaway!

The One That I Want (Mirabelle Harbor,
Book 2) - just released!
Many thanks to Lorelei from Lorelei's Lit Lair (read her essay here) for inviting me to participate in this year's celebration and also to Bobbi Dumas who created the Read-A-Romance Month event!! Such a fantastic idea, and I'm so pleased to be a part of it, ladies!

A Few Thoughts on Romance:

I don't know what's going on this summer, but it's been a time where several people close to me have gotten some very difficult news. There have been a few health crises, the sad loss of loved ones, deep frustrations with relationships or careers, and worries about children...

In a couple of cases, the first thing I did after giving that friend a hug was to offer her a romance novel by one of the many authors whose work I enjoyed. Something joyful and uplifting that would hopefully make my friend laugh and provide for her a short-term mental escape from the darker, daily-life realities. I can't tell you all the number of times that a reader has sent me or another romance author a message through social media thanking us for writing stories that are funny, touching, and ultimately optimistic and hopeful. I've personally received some beautiful emails from readers who were sitting at hospital bedsides with a sick parent/spouse/child, and they told me how grateful they were to read a story that brought a smile to their faces during a time when they most needed it.

This is one of the reasons that I love to write humorous contemporary romances and romantic women's fiction. Because the reader in me does the very same thing when I'm sad -- I reach for a romance novel to remind me of some of life's most joyful moments. The authors whose books I escaped into were lifesavers. They helped me keep my spirits up and gave me mental images that were -- for a brief while, at least -- as real to me as the world I was inhabiting. I'll never stop being appreciative of that gift!

The Questions:

1. Tell us about a moment in your life when you experienced sheer joy:
When I got the call from RWA that the manuscript that later became my debut novel -- According to Jane -- was a finalist for the Golden Heart Award. A few months later, at the 2007 national Romance Writers of America's conference in Dallas, it won! That was so exciting. I still smile when I think of it :).

2. Tell us about a place that brings you joy or is attached to a memory of joy:
Seeing Venice, Italy for the first time. I was utterly spellbound. It looked just as I'd imagined it would be, but even better. We came around the Grand Canal in a water bus and saw San Marco's Square, and the sight of it in the sunlight took my breath away. It's simply gorgeous. (I got to write about the city in A Summer in Europe, and I gave my character Gwen some of my real first impressions!)

3. Tell us about a sound that brings you joy:
Music is a huge part of my life. I've enjoyed being a singer in a women's barbershop choir, a cast member in a community theater musical, and a dancer in a touring dance group that traveled through Europe with a live band. I also studied viola, piano, and guitar. So live music -- in a multitude of genres -- always brings me joy!

4. What recent book have you read that brought you joy?
I loved THE ROSIE PROJECT by Graeme Simsion. It's an unusual romance that I found to be really heartwarming and humorous.

5. And, for fun, the joy of choice -- which Chris: Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pine, Chris Pratt, Chris, Rock, Chris Evans, or Christopher Plummer?
This was the hardest question!! I really like all of these actors...but I posted a picture of my personal favorite below. Mmmm!!
Take a Chance on Me (Mirabelle Harbor,
Book 1) - out now!!

The Giveaway:
In celebration of the release of my new Mirabelle Harbor series, I'm giving away a digital copy of the opening novella (TAKE A CHANCE ON ME - Book 1) to one commenter on this post! Winner's choice of format (epub, mobi, or pdf). The contest is open internationally, and I'll do a random drawing for the winner around noon Central Time on August 18th. PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS in the comments, so I can easily contact you if you win the ebook!


Here's some info about the first two books in this new romantic series:

TAKE A CHANCE ON ME 
Baklava...yum!
Take a Chance on Me is a standalone romantic-comedy novella and Book 1 in Marilyn Brant’s Mirabelle Harbor series. Dedicated personal trainer Chance Michaelsen falls hard for Nia Pappayiannis—his complete opposite and a member of the family that owns the Greek bakery just down the street from his gym. He considers their pastries to be the enemy of good health, but he can’t quite shake his attraction to Nia, who doesn’t seem nearly as impressed with him or his sculpted physique as most of the women around town

Unfortunately, between her doctor’s orders and the interfering ways of Chance’s crazy-making ex-girlfriend, who just happens to be one of Nia’s long-time friends, Chance gets assigned to be Nia’s fitness coach for the month. Pure torture. And if his ex weren’t already causing enough problems, he also has to deal with Nia’s current boyfriend—some hotshot Chicago CEO who talks big but, in Chance’s opinion, is as fake as a Styrofoam barbell. 

Nia may have her doubts about a romance with him, but Chance has a well-developed competitive streak and might just be willing to give it a shot...if he can convince her to do the same. 

In matters of the heart, would you risk it all?


[Available now on Amazon, B&N, iBooks, and Kobo -- as well as in paperback!]


THE ONE THAT I WANT
Chris Hemsworth, a swoon-worthy movie star,
who looks rather like the actor that Julia had a
longtime crush on in The One That I Want...
The One That I Want is Book 2 in the Mirabelle Harbor series, and it's a full-length standalone novel. The summer after her beloved husband died in a car accident, Julia Meriwether Crane is still picking up the pieces of her life in Mirabelle Harbor and trying to help her ten-year-old daughter adjust to this difficult new reality.

After her best friend Sharlene—one of the well-connected Michaelsen siblings—talks her into finally going out on the town again, Julia finds herself stunned to be the object of interest of several different men: The boy who’d broken her heart back in high school. The college ex she’d left behind. And most surprising of all, the movie actor she’d always fantasized about but had never met in person...until now. Can one woman have more than one “great love” in the same lifetime? And, if so, how can she be sure which man that’ll be?

Sometimes the person you think will be best for you isn’t the one you really want.

[Available now on Amazon, B&N, iBooks, and Kobo -- as well as in paperback!]

Some Favorite Writers I Recommend:
I love all of these authors! Each of them writes wonderfully romantic stories (sometimes blended with mystery, suspense, paranormal, fantasy/sci-fi, or historical elements...) and, what's more, they're some of the kindest and most generous people I know ;). At one point, we all blogged together on Magical Musings -- a fabulous site for both readers and writers -- and it was always a pleasure to spend time with them there!

Please check out their websites/posts below:

Robin Bielman
Michelle Diener
Misty Evans
Edie Ramer

My Author Bio:
Marilyn Brant is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary women’s fiction, romantic comedy and mystery. She was named the Author of the Year (2013) by the Illinois Association of Teachers of English. She loves all things Jane Austen, has a passion for Sherlock Holmes, is a travel addict and a music junkie, and lives on chocolate and gelato. Visit her website: www.marilynbrant.com and keep an eye out for more novels this year in her new "Mirabelle Harbor" series. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

TAKE A CHANCE ON ME is Released This Week - 99 Cents for a Limited Time!

The first release in my new Mirabelle Harbor series -- TAKE A CHANCE ON ME -- is out this week!!!

**Pausing to throw confetti in the air & do a happy dance, LOL.**

For anyone who isn't familiar with the premise for this stand-alone romantic novella, here it is: 

Dedicated personal trainer Chance Michaelsen falls hard for Nia Pappayiannis—his complete opposite and a member of the family that owns the Greek bakery just down the street from his gym. He considers their pastries to be the enemy of good health, but he can’t quite shake his attraction to Nia, who doesn’t seem nearly as impressed with him or his sculpted physique as most of the women around town

Unfortunately, between her doctor’s orders and the interfering ways of Chance’s crazy-making ex-girlfriend, who just happens to be one of Nia’s long-time friends, Chance gets assigned to be Nia’s fitness coach for the month. Pure torture. And if his ex weren’t already causing enough problems, he also has to deal with Nia’s current boyfriend—some hotshot Chicago CEO who talks big but, in Chance’s opinion, is as fake as a Styrofoam barbell. 

Nia may have her doubts about a romance with him, but Chance has a well-developed competitive streak and might just be willing to give it a shot...if he can convince her to do the same. 


In matters of the heart, would you risk it all? TAKE A CHANCE ON ME, a Mirabelle Harbor story.

**
Review
"Take a chance and get lost between the covers of this delightful summer novella." ~Blogging Under the Shade Tree Reviews
I loved this story, while reading it, I kept flashing back to My Big Fat Greek Wedding whenever Nia's family is around, such a wonderful big crazy Greek family, loved it. And I loved Chance, the turmoil he feels about Nia was amazing, fighting that inner battle on what to do, it's a love story that is beautifully written. If you want a love story that makes you feel good, then this is the book, a must read!I loved this story, while reading it, I kept flashing back to My Big Fat Greek Wedding whenever Nia's family is around, such a wonderful big crazy Greek family, loved it. And I loved Chance, the turmoil he feels about Nia was amazing, fighting that inner battle on what to do, it's a love story that is beautifully written. If you want a love story that makes you feel good, then this is the book, a must read!
**
Paperback: (coming soon!)

Wishing you all a wonderful end of July...and looking forward to celebrating THE JOY OF ROMANCE through the month of August! :) 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Welcome to Mirabelle Harbor!!

It's been a long time coming...but I can finally share the news about my upcoming contemporary romance series -- Mirabelle Harbor -- and the release dates for the first 2 books in the series!!

The first is a romantic novella called TAKE A CHANCE ON ME, and it'll be coming out on the 21st of July. Can't wait to reveal the cover in about ten days (!!), but here's a bit about that story:

Welcome to Mirabelle Harbor! In this scenic suburb on Chicago’s North Shore, overlooking the sparkling waters of Lake Michigan, the Michaelsen family has made their home for generations. Although their parents and grandparents are now gone, siblings Derek, Blake, Sharlene, and the twins—Chandler and Chance—all have fond memories of growing up in town, and most still live there. 

Chance Michaelsen, the youngest member of the family (by two minutes) and the quietest (by far), is a dedicated twenty-eight-year-old personal trainer at the local gym. While he might not say much, Chance has made it clear that he’s not a fan of toxic people, unhealthy habits, or sharing too many of his emotions. With anybody.

Enter Antonia “Nia” Pappayiannis—the prettiest member of the loudest and most overly demonstrative family in town. They’re also the owners of The Gala, a Greek restaurant and bakery known for its decadent pastries and located just a few steps from Chance’s gym. He considers their entire family business to be the enemy of good health, but he can’t quite shake his attraction to Nia, who doesn’t seem nearly as impressed with him or his sculpted physique as most of the women around Mirabelle Harbor. 

Unfortunately, between her doctor’s orders and the interfering ways of Chance’s crazy-making ex-girlfriend, who just happens to be one of Nia’s long-time friends, Chance gets assigned to be Nia’s fitness coach for the month. Pure torture. And if his ex weren’t already causing enough problems, he also has to deal with Nia’s current boyfriend—some hotshot Chicago CEO who talks big but, in Chance’s opinion, is as fake as a Styrofoam barbell. 

The road to romance is going to be a rocky one, and though Nia has her doubts about moving forward, Chance has a well-developed competitive streak and might just be willing to give it a shot...if he can convince her to do the same.


In matters of the heart, would you risk it all? TAKE A CHANCE ON ME, a Mirabelle Harbor story.

And coming out just a few days later, on July 26th, is a full-length novel and the second Mirabelle Harbor book -- THE ONE THAT I WANT -- which is up for pre-order on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and Kobo right now (coming soon to iBooks)!! Check out the book cover above, designed by the talented Sarah Hansen -- I love it! And here is the back-cover blurb for this novel, a story that involves some of my favorite things...movie stars, modern characters inspired by Austen, and caramel brownies:

The summer after her beloved husband died in a car accident, Julia Meriwether Crane is still picking up the pieces of her life in Mirabelle Harbor and trying to help her ten-year-old daughter adjust to this difficult new reality.

After her best friend Sharlene—one of the well-connected Michaelsen siblings—talks her into finally going out on the town again, Julia finds herself stunned to be the object of interest of several different men: The boy who’d broken her heart back in high school. The college ex she’d left behind. And most surprising of all, the movie actor she’d always fantasized about but had never met in person...until now. Can one woman have more than one “great love” in the same lifetime? And, if so, how can she be sure which man that’ll be?


Sometimes the person you think will be best for you isn’t the one you really want. THE ONE THAT I WANT, a Mirabelle Harbor story.

All of the books in the series are stand-alone stories, connected through the town and a relationship to the Michaelsen family, so they can be read in any order! Looking forward to sharing more book launch details and celebrations soon! 

And Happy 4th of July :) .

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Wanderlust in Suburbia -- Out Now!!

This is a project I've wanted to see on the bookshelves for a long time...

Back before I got my first publishing contract for contemporary women's fiction, I spent a decade as a freelance magazine writer for a number of parenting magazines. Wanderlust in Suburbia and Other Reflections on Motherhood represents some of my favorite personal essays (21 of them, in fact, along with a handful of published poems) that I'd written about being a new mom during that time.

In honor of Mother's Day, the ebook version is on sale for just 99 cents right now on Kindle and Nook (regular price $2.99). And there's a Paperback edition available, too, for only $8.99 on Amazon.

I hope you'll take a peek at the book -- and if you'd like to read one of the essays, I have a complete one excerpted HERE! If you're looking for a fun gift idea this month for your mom, stepmom, mother-in-law, grandmother, aunt, sister, or friend...please check out the collection!!

Happy May, everyone! :)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

THE ROAD AND BEYOND Giveaway!!

In honor of the recent release of The Road and Beyond in paperback, I'm giving away one ebook (PDF) copy of the novel to one commenter on this post! It's open internationally, and all you need to do to enter is to tell me in the comments below about a road trip you've either taken or want to take :) .

This contest is open until March 31st (noon, Central Time), and I'll draw the name of the random winner that afternoon/evening. Looking forward to reading about your trips!

I have pictures from my own trip -- the journey I took to research this story, which is the expanded version of my coming-of-age romantic mystery The Road to You -- when my family and I took a long trek down Historic Route 66. Check out the photos from Chicago to Albuquerque/Santa Fe right HERE!!

And below is a short excerpt from the story:

Pasadena, California ~ Friday, August 15, 2014
 No one else was home, of course, when I got the call that my twenty-eight-year-old son was missing.
“The Benson Plastics people are already here for the eleven o’clock presentation, but Charlie isn’t,” Gloria, the company’s secretary, informed me, her piercing voice tinged with an edge of hysteria. I’d only spoken with the woman on the phone twice before, but I got the distinct impression that her circuits were forever at risk of being overloaded.
“He’s not answering his cell?” I asked, surprised more than anything, actually, because both of my boys had their iPhones all but super-glued to their palms.
“Aurora, I’ve tried to reach him for an hour and a half,” Gloria insisted, the shrillness in her tone rising like high notes in a chorus and dancing for dear life on the other end of the line. “There’s no answer at home. His cell goes straight to voicemail. And I even called his girlfriend because she’s his first contact. She has no idea where Charlie is either. You’re his second contact, so I hope you’ll know where we can reach him.”
For a long, uncomfortable moment I was distracted by something ridiculous. The fact that I was only my son’s second contact. Well, he was practically living with Cassandra, so I supposed it made sense that she was his first. But still…
Then the deeper meaning of the secretary’s comments seeped in. No one knows where Charlie is. I tried to be calm, reasonable, rational and not like some TV sitcom mother who’d overreact to everything. But, naturally, given my family’s history, that was impossible.
I fought back the panic and asked, “Was he at work yesterday?”
“Yes,” Gloria said. “He was here when I left at four-twenty, and one of the department heads said he saw Charlie still working at his desk when he left at five. Martin, the team leader, was going to give the presentation to the plastics people this morning, but his wife called in saying he was sick with bronchitis. So, Charlie is the one who should be leading the meeting, but he didn’t come in or call in an absence, and none of the managers here were told about any changes in his plans.”
I understood instinctively that Gloria’s first priority and much of her loyalty was to the company—Cornman, Grabher & Pressly—a financial firm my youngest son had worked at for these past three years. But it irked me that her focus remained on not disappointing “the plastics people,” rather than on my son’s safety.
“He never said anything to me about being gone from work today,” I admitted, my mind reeling with that ever-present parental worry, which spun a dangerous path from my head to my gut. It settled there and began its slow, painful twisting.
Where is he? Is he okay? Why didn’t he tell anyone where he was going? Unless, of course, he wasn’t able to tell because he was hurt or in danger…or worse.
The questions started, and it was like 1976 all over again.
“I’ll call his father and his brother,” I told the secretary. “If either of them know anything, I’ll contact you immediately.”
“Thanks,” the secretary said, but I could tell her attention was still fixed entirely on the wrong things, at least in my opinion. Then, finally, she added, “This just doesn’t seem like him.”
“No,” I said. “No, it doesn’t.”
I hung up. I knew my son. He was a risk taker, an adventurous type, the kind of guy who loved thrill rides and fast cars and extreme sports. Different from his computer-obsessed older brother, who played Xbox when he was in the mood for serious activity and read ebooks when he was tired of programming things on his PC.
But Charlie wasn’t irresponsible. If he was going to be gone from work, he would have told somebody. Maybe not me, but someone.
I thought back to when I’d spoken with him last—on Wednesday night. I’d asked him about his girlfriend Cassandra. She’s okay, he’d said. And about work. Yeah, it’s fine. And if he had any special plans coming up. Nope.
The ticking clock on the wall marked the passing minutes as my worry flooded the rest of my body. Ripples of dread meted out in sixty-second increments. Everything had seemed all right with him just two days ago but, then, kids often lied to their parents or, at the very least, withheld crucial information.
I should know.
~*~*~
For all of my math-loving friends, Happy "Pi Day" (3.141592653...) by the way!! Hope you celebrated with a little pie treat or two. I know I did :D .