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It’s a Wonderful Briarcliff  

A Gift Most Rare 
by Tom Leihbacher 
tomleihbacher.comAmazon, BarnesandNoble.com

Life-long Briarcliff resident Tom Leihbacher has penned a holiday tale set in his hometown during the early 1970s.    

A Gift Most Rare is a fun coming-of-age story that will transport readers to simpler times, filled with family, friends, church and community.   

One reviewer called it a “thoroughly feel-good story, reminiscent of the things we love about [holiday movie classic] It’s a Wonderful Life.” 


What’s the Story?
It’s Christmastime in the handsome, vest-pocket village of Briarcliff Manor. Life in this Norman Rockwell setting seems picture-perfect.  Not everyone feels the holiday cheer, though.   

As most townsfolk go about their joyful holiday pursuits, young Charlie Riverton is restless.  His good-natured, 12-year-old heart is especially concerned for the lonely and forlorn.     

Charlie is a red-blooded American boy and leader of a close-knit group of sixth-graders.  Each day, they ramble through the full range of pre-teen hijinks, including how to navigate their new and nerve-wracking interest in girls.   

Meanwhile, there’s an unusual and curiously gifted newcomer in town, recently arrived on the tailwinds of a surprise Thanksgiving Eve snowstorm.  Charlie felt a special affinity with the handsome stranger from the moment they met.   

Together, they set out to craft a God-honoring Christmas gift for the whole community.  Along the way, lives are changed and people begin to look at Christmas a little differently.   


About the Author 

After graduating from Briarcliff High School and the University of Florida, Tom Leihbacher returned home to start a career in the media sales business. He and his family enjoy a rich life filled with church and community.  This is his first novel.  A summer sequel is due in 2021.  

Soulful Picture Book  

Dark Was the Night – Blind Willie Johnson’s Journey to the Stars 

Written by Gary Golio 
Illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books
Ages 5-8• $17.99 hardcover, $10.99 e-book 

Ask Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, or Lucinda Williams to name the slide-guitar player they most admire, and they’ll all say Blind Willie Johnson.  

What those musicians may not know is that one of his songs found its way to outer space. In Dark Was the Night, New York Times bestselling author Gary Golio and Caldecott Honoree E. B. Lewis weave a magical tale of how the healing power of music can turn darkness into light. 

Born in 1897, young Willie shone as he sang and played a cigar box guitar made by his father. But his bright childhood fell dark when he lost both his mother and his sight.   


Fortunately, his love of music led him back into the light. He began singing in churches and later brought his unique blend of gospel-blues to street corners all over Texas. Willie’s powerful voice, joined to the wail of his slide guitar, moved even more people when he cut some records and his songs were played on the radio. Yet by the time he died, he and his music were largely forgotten. 

Then, in 1977, Willie’s haunting song, “Dark Was the Night,” was launched into space on the Voyager I space probe’s famous Golden Record. There, along with the many sounds and sights of planet Earth, is the soul-stirring song of a blind man, telling us not to be afraid of the dark, and reminding us that we are never really alone.  


About the Authors 

Gary Golio has written bestsellers about Jimi Hendrix, Billie Holiday and other legendary artists.  

He lives in Briarcliff Manor with his wife, children’s book author Susanna Reich. 

E.B. Lewis is a fine artist and the acclaimed illustrator of more than 70 books. He is recipient of several illustrator awards. Lewis teaches at the University of Arts in Philadelphia, and lives in Folsom, New Jersey.  

Ossining Time Machine 

Flirtation on the Hudson
by Jane Collen
Local bookstores and online  

 Wandering across the Old Croton Aqueduct Arch in Ossining or standing at the edge of the water on Rockwood Hall Preserve, I can just imagine how my heroine Cornelia Rose felt when she viewed Shattamucthe mighty Hudson River that flows both ways. I feel the stories of Sparta press around me and the ghosts of the Rockwood Hall mansion glide by.  

Captivated by the history that surrounds us, I wrote a modern love story and set it in the Hudson Valley of a bygone era. Fictitious characters move through New York in the 1850s, interacting with historical figures while past events unfold around them.  


Flirtation on the Hudsonthe first book in the Journey of Cornelia Rose Series, features a young native of our area living in Sing Sing, long before the town changed its name to disassociate itself from the prison.  

My fictitious characters meet luminaries from the past at the ceremony in New York City opening The Croton Aqueduct, the Campwoods, Sing Sing Methodist Revival Meeting, and at tea in the Superintendent’s residence in West Point. There were so many exciting events from this time to choose from, it was hard to only write about a few. When I was a kid I disliked studying history – I never could remember the right important date. But the stories of the people behind the dates and events are unforgettable. I want to pass on this love of history to modern readers by engaging them in those stories.  

My second book, Walk Away West, follows Cornelia Rose to the Wild Wild West, America’s first World’s Fair, and ill-fated steamboat The Henry Clay.  

Jane Applegate with owl “who” appeared in a short film she produced.

How to Make Movies 

Hair on Fire: An Insider’s Guide to Producing for the Big and Small Screen  
by Jane Applegate 
$9.99 Kindle, Paperback 

This practical, no-nonsense guide to saving money, time and reducing stress is for anyone who makes independent films or produces creative content.  

Jane Applegate, who lives in Verplanckis an author, filmmaker and career coach, as well as contributor to River Journal. She works with emerging and mid-career artists and filmmakers online via showbizing.comShe teaches the business of film at the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema at Brooklyn College.  

Her mission is to help filmmakers in every phase of their careers make better films with less stress and less money. She teaches production workshops for New York Women in Film and Television, Producers Guild of America, and Women Independent Producers. 


River Journal interviewed Applegate to learn more about her and Hair on Fire. 

  • Who will benefit most from this book? 

Emerging filmmakers will benefit from the tips and advice. But, experienced producers can also find many practical and cost-effective tips for saving time and reducing stress.  

  • After your early career as a journalist, why the switch to  filmmaking?  

Most independent filmmakers take a circuitous path to producing. After writing my first book, I was a guest on many TV talk shows and started speaking at corporate marketing events.  

I decided to start producing short video clips to open my presentations. The clients loved them, so I teamed up with a director to produce high-end marketing videos for Sprint and others.  

At a global TV conference, I met some British producers who needed to hire a New York-based supervising producer for a series of Discovery health specials. That’s when I started working with film crews and wanted to make films. 

  • Is that a natural progression? 

I’m a storyteller- whether it is told in print, on the radio, TV or film. The story has to be compelling and connect with people. Being a breaking news reporter taught me to multi-task on deadline, which is essential for a producer. 

  • Favorite filmmakers or films? 

My favorite film is Laurel Canyon, written and directed by Lisa Cholondenko. It’s a family drama starring my favorite actress, Frances McDormand, along with Christine Bale, Kate Beckinsale and Alessandro Nivola. 

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