Tuesday, January 25, 2022

The "What's Your WIP" Tag -- Part Two

Time to finish off this tag!  See yesterday's post for my answers to the first nine questions.

Again, here are the tag rules: 
  • Thank the person who tagged you & link to their blog. 
  • Link back to the creator, Katja @ Little Blossoms for Jesus & add the tag graphic. 
  • List the rules. 
  • Answer the questions. Feel free to add snippets! 
  • Tag as many or as few people as you wish & let them know they’re tagged. 
  • Add a clean copy of the questions at the end of your post for the “tagged.”

What’s your favorite scene so far (if you can tell about it without spoilers!)? Can you give us a snippet? πŸ˜‰ 

Marta and Mr. Wendell are walking down the road while he tells her how he got his scars, and what he lost because of them.  

And, yes, here's a snippet:
This time I did not stop my hands.  I wanted somehow to comfort, to reassure him.  He sounded so broken when he related those last words, so lost.  Almost, I could not comprehend that anyone could say such words about this good, kind man.  Not when he had been so hurt already.  I reached out and laid my hand on his arm.  Not like I was taking his arm to walk somewhere, but only resting it there so he would know he was not alone. 

We stood there, my hand on his arm, not looking at each other, but facing the bench, the rose bushes, and the mountain.

Finally, I said, “Thank you for explaining so much.  You had no need, but I am understanding much more now.”

Slowly, Mr. Wendell reached over with his other hand and placed it over mine.  He met my gaze.  “I think I did need to.  I needed you to know.”

I wanted to be standing there forever, my hand under his, his gaze on mine.  And that was why I slowly pulled away.  I made my voice as kind as I knew how.  “I am glad to have listened, then.”  Before he or I could say more, I hurried back to the house.  Too many thoughts swirled in my head, mixing and bumping like vegetables dropped in a stew pot.  I needed to sort them out in peace.
(A ghost mining town in California)

Is the story still what you thought it would be or has it thrown you a couple curve balls? 

This is making me chuckle.  The story overall?  Still what I expected.  Individual scenes?  Generally not what I expected.  It seemed like almost every time I'd sit down to write, and have an idea in my head of what scene I would work on and where it would go, the characters would smile fondly at me and steer the whole thing in a totally new direction.  Which would always be better than where I'd thought it would go.  I'm used to that happening a few times in a book, but over and over and over?  It was very interesting!  I guess my subconscious had ideas that it wasn't telling my conscious mind, but which would come out when I wrote, which was pretty cool.

I also thought some people were going to die, but now they don't.  At all.  That's super normal for me, though.  I have lost track of how many books and short stories I've written where I totally planned to kill someone off, and then I just had to pardon them because I couldn't kill them after all.  If you read one of my books and someone actually dies in it, you'll notice it's just about always a really evil villain.  I know that losing a side character along the way can up the stakes for a protagonist and whatever, but I just... have a hard time being that mean to my characters!  I love these imaginary people!

Is there a Bible verse, poem, hymn, picture, or quote that helped shape this story? 

While writing the first draft, I often had part of Psalm 27 running through my head, the refrain of the way it's set to music in our church's hymnal: 

The Lord is my light and my salvation -- of whom shall I be afraid? Of whom shall I be afraid?

That really resonated with me for Marta's story, but also for Mr. Wendell's.  And for Marta's brother Jakob, too.  They all have moments of deep fear in this book, and they all lean on the Lord for comfort and help.

(Near Creede, Colorado)

When and where have you done most of the writing so far? 

I kind of talked about this yesterday too, but a lot of this book has been written at a local coffee shop on Saturday mornings and/or Sunday afternoons, plus here at my house at night after my kids go to bed, whenever I have mental energy left.

Where do you get inspiration for this story? 

My Great-Great Grandma Peters came to America from Germany in the late 1800s.  She went to a cooking school and was a chef in New York City before marrying a fellow German immigrant and moving out to the Midwest.  She taught her daughter Augusta all about making fantastic breads and pies from scratch.  Augusta was my dad's grandma, and she lived with my dad's family when he was growing up.  He still speaks glowingly of her homemade bread and pies.  That idea of a German immigrant with impressive cooking and baking skills just popped out at me when I was thinking of retelling Beauty and the Beast as a story with immigrants, and Marta sort of whooshed into being as a result.

As for inspiration to keep working on a book, I keep my creative juices flowing by watching a lot of movies and TV shows, reading books, and listening to a lot of movie soundtracks and Bobby Darin.  I also got a lot of inspiration from the research I did into Colorado gold and silver mining history -- that really helped Mr. Wendell's backstory and personality take shape.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? 

I'm a plantser.  If you compare a story to a tree, then I need to know where the trunk and the big branches are before I start writing, and how tall it is.  In other words, I need to know the basic plot, some major plot points along the way, and exactly how it all ends.  But the leaves and smaller branches get added as I go.  Which means I get plenty of surprises as to how we get to the end, and any subplots, side characters, things like that.

I tried outlining a book once.  Wrote up a nice, complete outline for exactly how the book would go, wrote two chapters, got incredibly bored because there were no surprises left for me, and abandoned it.  I'm also not great at just having a character and a vibe and seeing what happens.  So I'm in between the two.

Do you have a little ritual before you start writing? 

Sorta?  I have a system, but it's not exactly a ritual -- I don't chant or mutter incantations or turn in a circle three times, or anything ritualistic like that.  But I do have a system!

I either make or buy something warm to drink (depending on whether I'm at home or the coffee shop).  I pull up some music on my computer -- for MRAMR, I've mainly been listening to the Quigley Down Under soundtrack by Basil Poledouris.  Then I pull up the copy of my WIP doc that's stored in my Dropbox and save it to the hard drive of the computer I'm working on.  

(When I write at the coffee shop, I use my laptop, but at home, I usually use our desktop.  Since I don't always know where I'll work next, I always end a writing session by saving it to my hard drive, then to my Dropbox account.  And I always start by opening it from Dropbox and saving it to my hard drive -- that means I have two copies of my latest version at all times, and another that's close to that latest version saved on a totally separate hard drive.  Which means I almost never lose what I've written.)

If I am at home, I might light a candle.  I might not.  Then I read back over the previous scene so I can ease into the new part... and then I write forward.

Are you thinking of publishing this story? 

Absolutely!  It will be book four of my Once Upon a Western series.

What things have you learned while writing this story?

My research has taught me about mining towns, miners, mine accidents, bear attack survival, German guilds, German bread baking practices, the history of Colorado, Chinese immigrants in the 1870s, baking at high altitudes, the availability of tea in Colorado in the 1870s, prices for bread in mining camps versus towns versus cities, the Franco-German War of 1870-71, wages for servants in various areas of the country in the 1870s... I have learned a LOT while writing MRAMR!  And I always do.  That's something I love about writing historical fiction!

(Abandoned mine in Colorado)

Now!!!  The time has come to tag some fellow writers.  Except, this tag has been around for a while, and I have been so busy the last year or so that I am really behind on reading blogs... so I don't know who's already done this, and who hasn't.  If YOU want to do this tag, then you are hereby tagged!

  • Has your WIP a working title? If so, tell us! If not, have you any idea of what it might be? 
  • Have you a synopsis for your WIP? If so, give it to us! If not, can you give us a blurb on what your WIP is about? 
  • Have you a working/mock cover for your WIP? If so, show us! If not, have you an idea in mind? 
  • How did you get the idea for this story? 
  • How long do you think it will be? 
  • Is it longer or shorter than you thought it would be? 
  • Who’s your favorite character so far? 
  • What’s your favorite memory related to this WIP? 
  • Any special person(s) who helped create it? 
  • What’s your favorite scene so far (if you can tell about it without spoilers!)? Can you give us a snippet? πŸ˜‰ 
  • Is the story still what you thought it would be or has it thrown you a couple curve balls? 
  • Is there a Bible verse, poem, hymn, picture, or quote that helped shape this story? 
  • When and where have you done most of the writing so far? 
  • Where do you get inspiration for this story? 
  • Are you a plotter or a pantser? 
  • Do you have a little ritual before you start writing? 
  • Are you thinking of publishing this story? 
  • What things have you learned while writing this story?

  • I hope you've enjoyed this peek behind the scenes of My Rock and My Refuge and my writing process!

    Monday, January 24, 2022

    The "What's Your WIP" Tag -- Part One

    I spotted this at The Caffeinated Fangirl recently and couldn't resist doing it myself.  I'm working away at revisions on my Beauty and the Beast retelling, My Rock and My Refuge, so that's what I'll be answering these questions about.

    Since there are eighteen questions in this tag, and answering them all in one post would get reeeeeally long, I'm splitting this into two posts.  I'll share the second half tomorrow!

    Here are the tag rules: 
    • Thank the person who tagged you & link to their blog. 
    • Link back to the creator, Katja @ Little Blossoms for Jesus & add the tag graphic. 
    • List the rules. 
    • Answer the questions. Feel free to add snippets! 
    • Tag as many or as few people as you wish & let them know they’re tagged. 
    • Add a clean copy of the questions at the end of your post for the “tagged.” 

    Has your WIP a working title? If so, tell us! If not, have you any idea of what it might be? 

    It has a real title, not a working title!  Finally and at long last, heh.  This book is called My Rock and My Refuge, which comes from Psalm 62:7b:

    the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.

    I really like that it has alliteration like Beauty and the Beast, and that it works on multiple levels for the story.  

    Have you a synopsis for your WIP? If so, give it to us! If not, can you give us a blurb on what your WIP is about? 

    Revisions tend to sharpen the focus of my book, so this is only a working synopsis, but basically, MRAMR is about a hardworking young woman named Marta Beckmann who has recently moved to the United States from Germany with her brother Jakob, both seeking to earn money here to help save their family's bakery back home.  They answer an advertisement for a housemaid and a man of all work, and move to a silver mining community in the Colorado mountains.  Their new employer, Mr. Wendell, is a wealthy recluse with scars on his face and in his heart, and... and... it's Beauty and the Beast, guys.  You know what's going to happen ;-)

    Have you a working/mock cover for your WIP? If so, show us! If not, have you an idea in mind? 

    Nope, and nope.  Once I finish this rewrite, I'll send this draft to my cover designer.  She'll read it, come up with a few rough ideas, run them past me, and we'll brainstorm a bit before picking one design for her to pursue.  I suspect the final design will involve mountains, given the title and setting.  But she may surprise me!  I've never yet anticipated what she'll come up with.

    Note: this is not necessarily the "usual" way for cover art to happen.  My designer is also my sister-in-law AND a dear friend.  Most cover artists want like a 2-page synopsis of your book, and they go from there.  They don't read the whole book.  Most of them don't seek author input along the way, either, but will do final edits as requested.  But some do!  Every cover artist is different ;-)

    (Colorado mining country.)

    How did you get the idea for this story? 

    Um.  Um.  Hmm.  Well, I had the general idea of "beautiful German immigrant" and "scarred, wealthy recluse" several years ago, probably around the time I published Cloaked in 2017.  That was at least five years ago, so I don't remember any direct triggers anymore.  

    However, I do know that I planned right from the first to write about a "beauty" character who was not young and naΓ―ve and sort of easy to push around, and that I wanted to pair her with a "beast" character who was not crabby and grouchy and mean.  I wanted to just take away the starry eyes and the "fix the unpleasant guy" things that so often get used for retellings of Beauty and the Beast, and focus on the way that kindness and brokenness can get mixed with love to promote healing.

    How long do you think it will be? 

    Oh, probably around 100K when it's done.  It's about 120K right now, but it needs a bit of tightening.

    Is it longer or shorter than you thought it would be? 

    WAY longer.  WAY, WAY longer.  My previous books in this series have been around 50K.  I had no idea going in that MRAMR would be twice as long.  In fact, it has the longest first draft of anything I have ever written!

    Who’s your favorite character so far? 

    Marta Beckmann, protagonist and narrator and baker extraordinaire.  I've never written a heroine quite like her before, and I just love her so much.  She's this amazing blend of directness and kindness.  And she is a ball of marvelous energy -- like the Energizer Bunny, but with a German accent!  Her life has not been easy at all, but she has such calm and such grace and such joy within.

    (Alicia Vikander looking kind of Marta-esque)

    What’s your favorite memory related to this WIP? 

    A locally owned coffee shop opened up a mile from my house just about the same time that I started writing the first draft of MRAMR, in October of 2020.  I go there basically every Saturday morning to drink their wonderful coffee and work on this book.  I love that I can get there in just a few minutes -- before, this I was driving fifteen minutes to get to a Starbucks to write every weekend.  Plus, I love that it's not a chain, it's locally owned -- I would much rather have my $5 or so go back into the community directly that way!  Plus, for the first time ever, I am a "regular" at a coffee shop.  The baristas recognize me, the owners recognize me, and that is really special to me.  It's been such a blessing!

    Any special person(s) who helped create it? 

    My 14-yr-old son has been helping me translate German bread recipes from a 1907 German cookbook, and we have had such a good time working together on this project!  We're both taking German via DuoLingo (and I took it in college for a year), so it's been a very cool way to use our new language skills... and to realize how much we don't know yet.

    (Traditional German bakery sign)

    Tune back in tomorrow for the rest of my answers!  Here is a clean copy of all eighteen questions, in case you want to copy them and do this tag yourself.  Or in case you're curious about what I'll be answering tomorrow ;-)

    1. Has your WIP a working title? If so, tell us! If not, have you any idea of what it might be? 
    2. Have you a synopsis for your WIP? If so, give it to us! If not, can you give us a blurb on what your WIP is about? 
    3. Have you a working/mock cover for your WIP? If so, show us! If not, have you an idea in mind? 
    4. How did you get the idea for this story? 
    5. How long do you think it will be? 
    6. Is it longer or shorter than you thought it would be? 
    7. Who’s your favorite character so far? 
    8. What’s your favorite memory related to this WIP? 
    9. Any special person(s) who helped create it? 
    10. What’s your favorite scene so far (if you can tell about it without spoilers!)? Can you give us a snippet? πŸ˜‰ 
    11. Is the story still what you thought it would be or has it thrown you a couple curve balls? 
    12. Is there a Bible verse, poem, hymn, picture, or quote that helped shape this story? 
    13. When and where have you done most of the writing so far? 
    14. Where do you get inspiration for this story? 
    15. Are you a plotter or a pantser? 
    16. Do you have a little ritual before you start writing? 
    17. Are you thinking of publishing this story? 
    18. What things have you learned while writing this story?

    Friday, January 21, 2022

    "Sabrina" (1995)

    It's hard to even know where to start when I talk about Sabrina (1995) and how much this movie has meant to me over the last breathless quarter of a century.  

    I was fifteen and a half when Sabrina was released to theaters.  My family didn't go to a lot of movies in the theater at that time, so I didn't get to see it for months and months.  I was already a devoted Harrison Ford fan, thanks to his turns as Indiana Jones and Han Solo, and I was blessed with parents who were also fans of his, so I knew I would get to see Sabrina eventually.  I didn't like most romantic comedies much yet at that age, but Ford's presence meant I didn't care if it was not "my kind of movie."  

    In the mid-'90s, it would be something like six months after a movie left the theater before it arrived at the local video stores for rental.  And then another three to six months before it became available for purchase.  While we waited for it to reach our video stores, one of my best friends gave me the novelization by Deborah Chiel for my sixteenth birthday.  It took me a long time to decide whether or not I was going to read the book before I got to see the movie -- in fact, I can't remember anymore if I decided to see the movie first or not.  I know I got the book first, because my friend wrote something in it about tiding me over while I waited for the real thing.  But I almost think I may have held off on reading it.  

    Anyway!  Sabrina finally arrived at our small North Carolina town.  My parents rented and watched it themselves, and decided it was clean enough for us kids.  And my whole family fell in love with this movie.  My dad liked it so very much that he rented it for us every weekend for months and months, until it finally was released for sale on home video.  One of our video stores was right next to Pizza Hut, and for basically that whole spring, one of  my parents would run to town on Friday evening and come home with a pizza, breadsticks, and Sabrina.  

    My friends sometimes called the year I turned sixteen my "Sabrina year."  Because, just like the title character who leaves home as a painfully shy, frowsy, un-fashion-conscious girl and comes home a glamorous woman, the year I was sixteen, I cut my waist-long hair short, dyed it black, discovered fashion, became sleek and gorgeous almost overnight, and fell madly in love with a millionaire.

    Just kidding.  But I did get my ears pierced, trade my dorky glasses for contacts, start growing out the bangs my mom had insisted I had to have all my life, and fall in love... with Bobby Darin and his music.  And I started to open my protective shell where I kept my true thoughts and ideas and feelings hidden most of the time.  I got bolder about making my own choices and decisions, little by little.  Was that because of Sabrina?  Maybe, actually.  But not so much because of the character Sabrina, but because of the man she falls in love with: Linus Larrabee.  And not for the obvious reason that he's played by Harrison Ford at his most gorgeous.

    Let me explain.

    Sabrina Fairchild (Julia Ormond) lives with her father (John Wood) on the Larrabee estate somewhere on the north shore of Long Island.  Her father is a chauffeur for Maude Larrabee (Nancy Marchand) and her adult sons, Linus (Harrison Ford) and David (Greg Kinnear).  Linus runs the multi-bazillion-dollar Larrabee Corporation, with some input from Maude, while David spends his life gadding about with random beautiful women, playing tennis, losing track of what day it is, and buying Picassos.  

    Teenage Sabrina is obsessed with David.  She almost stalks him, except she's too shy to actually do that.  She hides up in trees to watch him dance with other women at parties, she saves pictures of him from magazines, and she yearns to be the sort of person he would notice.  But she has long hair and dorky glasses and wears tall socks and long dresses, which in Hollywood Code equals being frowsy and dowdy and unnoticeable.

    Sabrina's father is concerned by her obsession with David Larrabee.  I think he's not so much worried that she'll end up getting arrested for actual stalking as that she'll throw herself in David's way and end up heartbroken or pregnant or both.  So he arranges, with Maud's help, to get Sabrina a job in Paris as an assistant to a magazine editor.  

    In Paris, Sabrina makes many mistakes, gets yelled at a lot, misses David and her father, and is generally miserable.  Until she meets a photographer (Patrick Bruel) who teaches her to focus on the life around her instead of what she doesn't have or can't get.  Sabrina has an aptitude for photography, and discovering this new talent gives her the courage she needs to be her own person, not simply a shadow watching the party from outside.

    Basically, Sabrina is Cinderella, and Paris is her fairy godmother.  She comes home from Paris transformed.  Yes, she's cut and dyed her hair and discovered cool clothes.  But she also has learned that who she is can interest other people, not because she's beautiful, but because she's herself.  

    And this is the part where David suddenly discovers she's beautiful.  And David invites her to a party.  And Sabrina wears the beautiful dress her fairy god-city gave her and dances with David at the ball... and Linus Larrabee steps in and stops the fairy tale before it can go any farther.

    You see, David is engaged to Dr. Elizabeth Tyson (Lauren Holly).  And Linus is in the middle of a big business merger with the good doctor's father.  If David dumps Elizabeth to have a fling with the chauffeur's daughter, Larrabee Corporation will lose a lot of money because Elizabeth's dad will get mad and back out of the deal.  And Linus is not accustomed to losing.  

    Linus puts business first, everything and everyone else second.  Linus has been working at his job basically since he was born, and he has succeeded far beyond his mother and late father's expectations.  He does exactly what he's supposed to, when he's supposed to, and he never tolerates surprises or deviations from plans.  So, David can't fall for Sabrina.

    But this is the first time David's been told to stop pursuing a girl.  That makes him want her even more.  A few drastic measures later, and Linus realizes that Sabrina is more than a temporary threat.  He needs to get her to stop being interested in David, because David's never going to cool off otherwise.  So, Linus clumsily begins to romance Sabrina himself.  Very, very clumsily.  So clumsily, Sabrina doesn't really realize what he's doing.

    And, as they pal around a little here and there, something happens which neither Linus nor Sabrina expected: Linus begins his own transformation.  He confides in Sabrina.  He makes jokes that are actually funny.  He sits on the beach by a campfire, he eats Moroccan food with his fingers ("on the floor, with lots of cinnamon"), he makes charitable donations, and he even decides to go see a Broadway musical with Sabrina.  

    Because Sabrina is a double-Cinderella story, you see.  And it's Linus's transformation that resonated with me as a teen.  Linus learns to be more comfortable with himself, and with people around him.  He stops hiding his real thoughts.  He laughs.  He opens up his heart so much that he falls in love.  Sabrina gains confidence and maturity, but Linus gains compassion and kindness.  It's Linus's willingness to embrace his new self that enables the movie to have a happy ending.

    So.  Um, yeah.  This movie has been important to me for a huge chunk of my life, not just because it's sweet and funny, or because it stars one of my absolute favorite actors, but because it helped me see that change can be good, that letting people learn who you are inside doesn't have to be scary, and that learning to make your own decisions instead of letting people push you into doing what they want -- that is an important part of growing up.

    Is this movie family friendly?  Um, sorta?  There are a few mild cuss words.  David pretty obviously sleeps around, but you don't actually see him in bed with anyone.  There's some kissing that borders on making out.  There are some mentions in dialog of transvestites, bimboes, hiring someone to spend time with, and being gay that some families may not be ready to explain to young children.  Good for teens and up, basically?

    This is my contribution to the Odd or Even Blogathon hosted by RealWeegieMidget Reviews and Taking Up Room :-)

    Saturday, January 15, 2022

    New Short Story Available!

    My latest Once Upon a Western short story is now available for FREE as an ebook for Kindle or Nook!  

    "Who Lived in a Shoe" is another sequel to One Bad Apple, and it also ties up to Dancing and Doughnuts, which makes me super happy :-D  I love getting to reveal how the characters from different books have ties to other characters, even though each book stands on its own.

    Here's the official synopsis for "Who Lived in a Shoe," which is my reimagining of a Mother Goose rhyme:

    Levi Dalton is disappointed. He'd had high hopes for this visit from Uncle Matthew's old cavalry friend, Mr. Jones. Even though Mr. Jones brought along his wife, children, and a sister-in-law, surely he would have time to reminisce with Uncle Matthew about their time in the war. Then Levi would get to hear the kinds of exciting stories his father used to tell. 

    But Levi's little cousins and the Jones children keep causing mischievous problems, not to mention the trouble Levi's new dog gets into. It seems like Uncle Matthew and their guests will spend the whole visit cleaning up messes, rescuing ruined meals, and disciplining children. Will Levi ever get to hear the stories of glory he's been craving? Find out in this short story sequel to One Bad Apple!

    You can get "Who Lived in a Shoe" as an ebook from Amazon here and from Barnes and Noble here.  Once you've read it, please leave a quick review when you get a chance!  You can also add it to your Goodreads shelf here.

    (Please note that, like my other short stories, this is free for Nook everywhere, but only free for Kindle in the US -- Amazon gets fussy and won't price-match for other countries, so it does cost the tiniest amount they'll allow there.)

    By the way, subscribers to my author newsletter got to read this story back before Christmas already!  I always give newsletter readers a chance to read them before the rest of the world.  If you're not signed up for my author mailing list, you can do that right here.  I send out a newsletter about once a month, and I also send short announcement messages once in a while.  

    ALSO... when you sign up, you'll receive a welcome email that contains info on how to access my short story "Let Down Your Hair," a sequel to Dancing and Doughnuts that retells Rapunzel.  That story is currently ONLY available to newsletter subscribers...

    Thursday, January 13, 2022

    The Lego Matrix Movie

    I realized something the other day.

    The Lego Movie (2014) and The Matrix (1999) are basically the same movie.

    Hear me out!

    In The Lego Movie, Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) is an extremely ordinary everyman.  In The Matrix, Neo (Keanu Reaves) is an extremely ordinary everyman.  

    One day, they each meet someone who tells them the world they live in is not what it seems to be.  This person then tells them that they are the Chosen One who can free the world, stop impending doom, and save the day.  Both of these wise, prophetic guru characters, Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), have blank-looking eyes and cool voices.

    The newly heroized main character then learns to manipulate their surroundings to create new things.

    Both heroes are guided on their journey by a really hot chick who wears all black, has cool hair, and goes by a weird name: Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks).

    Both heroes are relentlessly pursued by a maniacal adversary who generally wears sunglasses, dresses in black, and may or may not have multiple personalities (or multiple versions of themselves), aka Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) and Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson).

    Annnnnnnnd... both Neo and Emmet eventually learn that they are not actually "chosen" because the prophesy about them was just made up to bolster morale, but they save the day anyway, which makes them very happy.

    Well, I mean, that's as much of a smile as we usually get from Keanu in a movie, right?  

    Also, both of these movies were super successful and beloved, but then had sequels made that people kinda wish had never been made, so... yup.  Basically the same movie.  Don't know why it took me this long to see it.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2022

    Movie Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Evita" (1996)

    I have such fond memories of this movie. Watching it for the first time over Thanksgiving break my freshman year of college. Loving it so much, I bought a copy of the movie AND the soundtrack as soon as I got back to school. Sharing the movie with my parents and some of their friends, all of them expecting not to like it, and all of them enjoying it. I have most of the major songs memorized, and quite a few of the lesser-known as well.

    Although The Phantom of the Opera is the first Andrew Lloyd Webber musical I heard, Evita is the first I saw because it was made into a movie starring Antonio Banderas and Madonna. The movie is rich, nuanced, probably wildly historically inaccurate, and wonderful.

    Everyone knows "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," so I won't say much about it here. There's a reason it's famous, though -- it's quite stirring. I'm always disappointed it's not actually about a guy named Argentina, though. I heard it before I saw the movie, but I didn't know the story line at all, so I made up what I thought it was about.  I thought it was her saying goodbye to a guy she nicknamed Argentina and telling him not to miss her.  Sigh.  Well, it was a cool idea.

    One of my favorites is "Another Suitcase in Another Hall."  I like how subdued and heart-achy it is. Much of Evita is militant and brash, but this is very emotional. It's about how young Eva has to turn to being a "kept woman" to support herself, but she never stays with a man long, so she always ends up holding her suitcase, standing in a hall outside a place she's leaving.

    Here's a much more fun song, "And the Money Kept Rolling In (And Out)." This one has such a great energy, and of course, lots of Antonio Banderas singing. In the musical, his character Che is the narrator, but he also interacts with other characters, he doesn't just stand on the sidelines and watch, though sometimes he does that too. It's a really nifty device, and one of my favorite things about Evita. In this song, Che is explaining how, once she's the first lady of Argentina, Eva starts this fund to help the poor, but everyone's so busy collecting and distributing the money, no one's keeping books, so there might be some corruption going on, but who cares as long as the money keeps pouring out, right?

    "High Flying, Adored" is my most-favoritest song on the whole soundtrack. Che singing about how Eva has become super famous, but so easily and so young that she's in danger of becoming bored with everything. It is elegant and soaring and delicious. Eva insists it won't be a problem, she's not convinced she's that special.  Che knows better.

    Even if you don't like musicals (and that's not a sin), if you're interested in politics, corruption, or the history of South America (though I've heard this is not entirely accurate), you might enjoy it. It's only rated PG, but there is a lot of innuendo, the Argentinian version of the middle finger, some rough language, and violence. You can read imdb.com's Parent's Guide for it here if you want to know more. 

    Also, it's a light opera more than just a musical -- nearly every line is song, as is typical for Andrew Lloyd' Webber's shows. People don't dance about and burst into song only periodically, they do that for the whole movie.

    I remember reading once that, as a young man, Antonio Banderas lived in an apartment with thin walls next door to a theater where people were performing Evita, and he learned all the songs by hearing them over and over that way. So when he was cast as Che, he didn't have to learn any of the lyrics because he knew them already! That story makes me grin :-D

    (The bulk of this review originally appeared here at J and J Productions on August 25, 2015.)

    Friday, January 07, 2022

    Farewell, Sir

    :-(  Sidney Poitier died yesterday.  He was nearly 95.

    I've been a fan of his since I was fifteen and saw Blackboard Jungle (1955) for the first time.  He's one of those actors that, if I see he's in a movie, it makes me want to watch it.  I've liked every movie of his I've seen, but I've only seen seven, so I can't do a top ten favorites list for him at this time.  However, I've got a couple of his movies I haven't watched yet, so... give me time.

    I actually dedicated my book One Bad Apple to Sidney Poitier's honor because I loved imagining him playing the Reverend Eli Mallone, father to my Snow White character.  Poitier made what I believe is the only major motion picture about the Exoduster migration: Buck and the Preacher (1972).  It's a powerful western, and I will try to review it here sometime soon.

    Tuesday, January 04, 2022

    Title Reveal for Book 4!

    Yup, you read that correctly. I have found a title for my Beauty and the Beast retelling! And I'm sharing it here, there, and everywhere today!

    Honestly, not having a title has been the most agonizing writing problem I have had in a long time. I know it took me a while to come up with One Bad Apple too, but not nearly this long.  I started writing this fourth book in October of 2020.  With no real title.  That's fourteen months of not knowing!  It kind of drove me crazy!

    Well, I sat down at my favorite local coffee shop on New Year's Day with my laptop and a few vague ideas, and about a hundred and fifty hundred rejected titles haunting me.  Never mock the power of coffee and desperation and not quite enough sleep, my friends.  Because, after about fifteen minutes of reading through hymns by Martin Luther, hunting for title ideas, I had a glimmer.  I started searching Psalms... and I found it.  I found my title!

    There it is.  My Rock and My Refuge.  A Beauty and the Beast retelling set in 1870s Colorado gold-mining country, tangled up with a bit of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and a dash of my own family history.

    My Beauty?  A lovely German immigrant anxious to earn money to help save her family's bakery back home.

    My Beast?  A wealthy recluse determined to hide in his home with his books and his faithful friends.

    And that's all I'm going to tell you right now, because I am pretty darn giddy about having a title.  And because I'm working on revisions and have a lot of work to do on it.  Which I can now focus much better on because... I have a title!!!

    Monday, January 03, 2022

    My Ten Favorite New-to-Me Movies of 2021

    It's that time of year when the world tells everyone who will listen just what they fell in love with over the past twelve months.  I already shared my top ten lists for books on my book blog, so it's high time I share my movie list too, eh?  Here are the ten movies I liked best of all the movies I watched for the first time in 2021.

    1. Calcutta (1947).  A wary pilot (Alan Ladd) gets mixed up with a dewy-eyed dame (Gail Russell) who was engaged to his recently-murdered best friend.  One of Ladd's best noir outings, and the first of his movies to hit the top of one of my end-of-year lists!  Can you believe that?!?

    2. Knives Out (2019).  A wealthy mystery author (Christopher Plummer) dies, and everyone in his large and weird family (Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, et. al.) suspects everyone else of having killed him.  Only an enigmatic private detective (Daniel Craig, whose southern accent is not as bad as I was led to believe) has any inkling of the truth for a long time.  My husband and I were so wrapped up in this movie that we watched the whole thing after our kids went to bed one night, staying up until midnight (very late, for us) to finish it.

    3. Letters to Juliet (2010).  A lonely girl (Amanda Seyfried) on a pre-wedding trip to Italy gets caught up in a little band of women who answer love-advice-seeking letters written to Shakespeare's fictional Juliet.  She ends up helping answer a decades-old letter, which leads an elderly woman (Vanessa Redgrave) to arrive in Italy seeking her long-lost love (Franco Nero).  My favorite thing is that I grew up watching Redgrave and Nero play Guinevere and Lancelot in Camelot (1967), and they're a couple in real life too, so seeing them together again here is just marvelous.

    4. Against All Flags (1952).  A roguish naval officer (Errol Flynn) pretends to be a pirate in order to infiltrate a pirate stronghold, only to find himself falling for a strong-willed, lemon-tongued Pirate Captain (Maureen O'Hara).  Jolly good fun.

    5. Since You Went Away (1944).  A mother (Claudette Colbert) stays home and cares for her daughters while her husband is away fighting WWII.  I wish I'd seen this when I was in my Joseph Cotten phase because he is just yummy here.  Not that I still don't have a soft spot for him, because I do, but... you know what I mean.

    6. Little Women (1949).  Meg (Janet Leigh), Jo (June Allyson), Beth (Margaret O'Brien), and Amy (Elizabeth Taylor) March do some growing up during the American Civil War with help from their mother (Mary Astor), their next-door neighbor (Peter Lawford), and a kindly German professor (Rossano Brazzi).  Probably never going to be my favorite version of this story, but I really liked Allyson and O'Brien in particular.  Again, wish I'd seen this when I was going through my Peter Lawford phase because he's at his most charming in this.

    7. The Moonstone (1996).  A young woman (Keeley Hawes) receives a fabulous jewel for her eighteenth birthday, but it disappears, and she suspects the man she loves (Greg Wise) of having stolen it to pay off gambling debts.  I was kind of disappointed by the 2016 BBC version, so I sought this one out, and I'm so glad I did!  Much better.

    8. No Time to Die (2021).  James Bond (Daniel Craig) grows up.

    9. Chicago Deadline (1949).  A news reporter (Alan Ladd) finds a girl (Donna Reed) dead in a cheap rooming house, finds her address book before the police do, and goes around trying to figure out what her life was like and why she died so he can write an article about her.  It's pretty noir, but not deeply dark.

    10. News of the World (2020).  A man (Tom Hanks) who travels around reading the news aloud to people in small, far-flung Texas settlements takes on the job to delivering a child (Helena Zengel) back to her family.  She's been rescued from her Kiowa captors, but she'd lived with them for so long she only speaks Kiowa anymore, and she's obviously got a lot of trauma in her past.  So does he, and the two bond during the journey.  I like stories of found families, lost and damaged people helping each other heal, and westerns, so... yeah, totally dug this movie.