Monday, September 26, 2022

Cover Reveal for My New Book "My Rock and My Refuge"

Today is the day!!!  I'm revealing the cover for My Rock and My Refuge, the next book in the Once Upon a Western series.  

I could fill the page with a lot nonsense so you'd have to scroll down and down to see the cover, but that seems mean, and you'd just scroll down to find the cover before reading, so I won't bother.  Here it is!

I don't know about you, but I love the cozy, yet mysterious vibe.  It perfectly captures the tone of the book!

Here's a synopsis:

Beauty and the Beast... re-imagined...

When a German baker and her brother take jobs serving a wealthy recluse, they're only hoping to earn enough money to help their parents regain the family's bakery. But they soon learn that gold and silver aren't the only treasures to be found in the Colorado mountains.

My Rock and My Refuge is expected to release on November 8, 2022!  If you want to get updates and release info about this book, and upcoming releases, click here to join my newsletter mailing list.  You'll never miss out on book news that way!

If you're excited to read MRAMR, you can add it to your Goodreads shelf here.

Sooooooooo... what do you think of it? :-D

Saturday, September 24, 2022

"State Fair" (1945)

I first saw State Fair (1945) when I was probably twelve or thirteen -- not long after we moved to North Carolina.  It was definitely after I had discovered a huge compendium of Dick Tracy comics at the library, because for years, I thought of Dana Andrews as "that guy with Dick Tracy hair in State Fair."  Which is not an entirely inaccurate description, actually.  He DOES have sleeked-back dark hair that never changes shape.

Anyway.  I've always been charmed by the fact that this movie takes place in Iowa, because I am an Iowa native myself.  Even though we moved away when I was three, my family roots are there because my parents both were born in and grew up in Iowa themselves.  So it's always been fun to sing along with "All I Owe Ioway" in particular.

State Fair is the only musical that Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II did NOT originally write to be a stage musical!  They actually wrote this specifically to be a movie, based on a book by Philip Stong.  The book had been adapted into a non-musical movie starring Will Rogers in 1933, but that version focused more on the father, while this focuses more on the daughter and son.  Hammerstein wrote the screenplay too, which I find pretty cool.  

There's another movie version of State Fair, made in 1962, which stars Bobby Darin, Pat Boone, and Ann-Margret.  You'd think that would be my favorite version, due to the presence of my beloved Bobby Darin, and it does have some really good points -- but I actually prefer this one, over all.

It wasn't until 1969 that State Fair was turned into a stage musical.  It finally hit Broadway in 1996, and was co-directed by James Hammerstein (Oscar's son), who had produced the 1969 version as well.

This is one of those movies that I sometimes imagine myself living inside.  I love the whole feel of it, from the tidy farm to the tiny camping accommodations at the fair to the fairgrounds.  I want to wear the costumes and ride the rides and try the mincemeat -- everything!  

The story line is pretty simple: a farming family goes to the state fair filled with hopes and dreams, and not of all those hopes and dreams get realized, but most of them do.  

The family's daughter, Margy Frake (Jeanne Craine), doesn't quite know what she wants.  She just knows she doesn't want what she has: a very boring almost-fiance (Phil Brown) who wants to live in an ultra-modern plastic home on their ultra-modern farm and has planned every minute of their lives together before she even agrees to marry him.

It's hard for me to believe that this Jeanne Craine is the same woman who starred in Guns of the Timberland (1960).  I know fifteen years is a lot of time, but she even has different mannerisms and gestures, and her voice sounds different!  Kinda blows my mind.  

Also, it's very crazy that Phil Brown, the boring almost-fiance, also plays Uncle Owen in Star Wars: A New Hope (1977).  I never would have guessed that either.  But I guess he does well at playing farmers?

Anyway!  The family's son, Wayne (Dick Hymes), wants to prove he's not a sucker.  Last year, at the state fair, he got made fun of and played for a fool by a carnival barker with a ring-toss game, and he has spent all year practicing with his mother's embroidery hoops and his father's old saddle so that, this year, he will prove he's not a sucker.

The mom, Melissa (Fay Bainter), wants to take first prize for either her pickles or her mincemeat.  She's not choosy which.

The dad, Abel (Charles Winninger) wants his prize hog Blue Boy to win a blue ribbon too.  Simple dreams for simple people living in a simpler world.  Did I mention I'd like to live in this movie?  If Margy moves out, can I have her room?

Everybody gets to the fair in due course.  I noticed something when watching this movie so I could write this review: everyone gets really dressed up for the fair.  Women are wearing dresses and hats and gloves, and the men are all wearing suit coats, often ties, and usually a hat too!  I want to go to a fair where everyone is dressed up!!!  

Well, Wayne heads right out to the midway and proves himself to the same carnival barker (Henry "Harry" Morgan) who gave him a hard time the year before.  He also shows everyone in the crowd that the prizes at that game are worthless junk.  The barker doesn't take kindly to this, but a stranger (Vivian Blaine) backs him up and says her father's the chief of police.  That shuts the barker up.

Margy decides to prove to herself that she is not afraid of the roller coaster.  She used to like it, and then she got scared of it, or something.  Anyway, she gets on, and a stranger (Dana Andrews) sits down beside her, and it turns out she's definitely still scared of the roller coaster.  She spends most of the ride clutching the stranger's lapels and hiding her face in his chest.  Which, as you can see, he doesn't mind.  In fact, he thinks she's really funny.  Which she is.

After the roller coaster, he introduces himself: Pat Gilbert, newspaperman.  He's working for the Des Moines Register (an actual newspaper, btw) and covering the fair all week.  He and Margy hit it off big and go try out a lot of other carnival rides together -- strictly as research for the paper, of course.

Wayne discovers, quite accidentally, that the woman who stood up for him at the ring toss game is a singer named Emily Edwards who's with a band that's performing at the fair.  They get along just swell, singing and dancing the night away.

Not everyone gets their happy ending, though.  Oh, Margy finds what she didn't know she wanted, Melissa does better with her mincemeat than she could ever have dreamed, and Blue Boy makes Abel proud as can be.  Poor Wayne, though, discovers he's still a naive kid who's easy to fool.  And then he learns from his experiences and grows up, so he ends up okay too.

Now, as to whether or not Dana Andrews has Dick Tracy-esque hair in this movie, well, I still think he does.  See?

I rest my case.

Is this movie family friendly?  Mainly, yes.  There's a little kissing, the implication that Pat has a history of dating a LOT of women, and Wayne ends up getting drunk.  But there's no bad language, no tawdry or smutty content, and the only violence is one well-thrown punch.  I showed this to my kids a few years ago already.

This has been my contribution to the Fifth Broadway Bound Blogathon hosted by Taking Up Room all weekend. Check out this master post for links to all the entries!

Friday, September 23, 2022

My Tag Answers for the Tolkien Blog Party 2022

The time has come for me to answer this year's Tolkien Blog Party tag!  As always, I answer the tag over here even though I host the party on my book blog.  If you want to join the fun, check out this post, which has links to everything (like my giveaway and games) and the official tag for easy copying. 

1. Who first introduced you to Middle-earth? 

My mom had me read The Hobbit for school when I was a teen.  I wasn't a fan.  It wasn't until my boyfriend (now husband) and college best friend dragged me to the theater to see The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001 that I actually became a Tolkien fan.

2. Has your love of Middle-earth affected your life? 

Well, I have hosted the Tolkien Blog Party for ten straight years, so... yes!  I also own a lot of books by and about Tolkien, not to mention related items such as t-shirts, candles, mugs, Lego minifigs... and I have a Hobbity wreath hanging in my foyer right now!  (Currently seeking some fall leaves and other things to make it more autumnal...)

3. Have you ever dressed up like a Tolkien character? 

Not really.  Not saying I wouldn't, just saying I haven't.

4. What people in your real life would you want in your company if you had to take the ring to Mordor? 

My husband because he's strong and resourceful and never gets lost, my dad because he knows a lot about hunting and fishing, and my best friend because she's very crafty and cunning.

5. What Middle-earth location would you most like to visit? 

Rivendell!  Always, always Rivendell.

6. Are there any secondary characters you think deserve more attention? 

Well, yeah.  If you haven't heard me expounding on the wonderfulness of Boromir, you haven't been paying attention.  For a fuller exploration of his awesomeness, check out this post of mine from a few years ago.  Here, let me just say that this courageous, honorable, kind, loyal man will always be my favorite Lord of the Rings character -- and has been right from the start.

7. Would you rather attend Faramir's wedding or Samwise's wedding? 

Why did I write this question?  It's so hard.  Um.  Um.  Faramir's, I guess, because there will be Rohirrim there, and I love the horse lords.

8. How many books by J.R.R. Tolkien have you read?

Eight:  The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, Letters from Father Christmas, Mr. Bliss, Roverandom, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, and Smith of Wooten Manor and Father Giles of Ham(I've linked all those titles to my reviews for you, in case you're curious to know what I thought of any of them.)  

9. Are there any books about Middle-earth or Professor Tolkien (but not written by him) that you recommend? 

Yes!  I absolutely love A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War by Joseph Laconte, which is all about how their experiences during WWI informed J. R. R. Tolkien's and C. S. Lewis's creative journeys.  

Also, The Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power by Jane Chance is a fascinating literary analysis of the mythological elements Tolkien incorporated.  It helped me see a lot of amazing nuances in his writing that I had missed.

10. List up to ten of your favorite lines/quotations from the Middle-earth books and/or movies.
  • "Go where you must go, and hope!" -- Gandalf

  • "Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear." -- Aragorn

  • "Ah! the green smell!  It is better than much sleep. Let us run!" -- Legolas

  • "Need brooks no delay, yet late is better than never." -- Eomer

  • "If I hear 'not allowed' much oftener, I'm going to get angry." -- Samwise

  • "Forth, and fear no darkness!" -- Theoden

  • "We desire only to be free, and to live as we have lived, keeping our own, and serving no foreign lord, good or evil." -- Eomer

  • "It is not the way of the Men of Minas Tirith to desert their friends at need." -- Boromir

  • "Master Meriadoc, if you think that I have passed through the mountains and the realm of Gondor with fire and sword to bring herbs to a careless soldier who throws away his gear, you are mistaken. If your pack has not been found, then you must send for the herb-master of this House. And he will tell you that he did not know that the herb you desire had any virtues, but that it is called westmansweed by the vulgar, and galenas by the noble, and other names in other tongues more learned, and after adding a few half-forgotten rhymes that he does not understand, he will regretfully inform you that there is none in the House, and he will leave you to reflect on the history of tongues." -- Aragorn

  • "Well, I'm back." --Samwise

Happy Tolkien Week, everyone!  There's still time to enter my giveaway -- but it ends tonight!!!

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Movie Music: Daniel Pemberton's "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." (2015)

Daniel Pemberton created a fun, retro soundtrack for the 1960s-set Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) that perfectly suits the film's upbeat vibe. Pemberton uses lots of period songs from icons like Nina Simone and Roberta Flack, as well as what I think must be European pop music from the era. Several times in the film, these period songs begin as something playing on the radio, then swell to be simultaneously diagetic and non-diagetic, which is a fun way to suck the audience into the film. I'm not going to share any of those today, though -- instead, I'm going to focus on my four favorite original tracks. Rather than a lush orchestral sound, Pemberton chose to write stripped-down songs using only a few instruments, rather like a band in the '60s. The results are, I must say, pretty groovy. 

"His Name is Napoleon Solo" has a lovely swagger, but a thread of tension and worry running through it as well. The swagger is for Napoleon Solo, who's being discussed during the scene where this plays, and the tension and worry are for Illya Kuryakin, who is being briefed on this potential adversary early in the movie. The two emotions weave around each other in interesting ways, much like the two characters when they are forced to work together. 

"Circular Story" has almost a spaghetti-western sound to parts of it, which at first seems weird, cuz what does a movie about spies in the '60s have to do with spaghetti westerns? Ah, but those are called "spaghetti" westerns because they were filmed in Italy, many during the '60s, and much of this film takes place in Italy, so... it makes sense in the end. (There's even part of an Ennio Morricone song used in the movie, though it's not on the soundtrack.) 

"Take You Down" gets used during my absolute favorite moment in the movie, a moment that is glorious, brilliant fun that makes me want to stand up and cheer, though in the theater I contented me with just clapping. It's one of those moments that, when I know it's coming soon, I start bouncing up and down and grinning madly. This song is a celebration of revving engines, speed, and the joy of the chase. The Morricone influence is back here too, with that opening "Wah-wah-wahhhhhh" reminding me so much of the beginning of the main theme for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966).

"The Unfinished Kiss" is about as different from the previous track as possible. It's tender, wistful, hesitant. But still strong and determined -- such a fascinating contrast! 

Well, there you have it: one of my favorite soundtracks, from one of my favorite movies.  Ciao! 

(This review originally appeared here at J and J Productions on September 8, 2015.)

Monday, September 12, 2022

The Running Wild in Impractical Outfits Tag

Hold onto your hats and umbrellas, folks -- this is going to be a little wacky!

Thank you to Chloe from Movies Meet Their Match for tagging me with this!  It is rather different from any tag I've ever done, and a bit of a challenge because I am often not very focused on costumes and outfits.  BUT there are some exceptions to that, as you shall soon see :-D

The Rules 

- Put a link to the originator's blog (Autumn Ink
- Put a link to your post in the comments there
- Tag people if you want 
- Have fun with the tag and feel free to add things, change locations, or whatever you want. 
- The outfits you choose can be from anywhere you like (movies, books, shows, real life, etc.) and they can be as practical or as impractical as you'd like. Choose with as much flagrant disregard for custom or rules as you choose. 
- You have to bring a different fictional character of your choosing to each location

This seems a little complicated, but let's get started! 

(All titles are linked to my reviews where applicable...)

At the Beach 

I have always loved the swimming suits that the twins and their friends wear in The Parent Trap (1961).  They're so cute and classy at the same time!  I would totally wear this checkered one that Sharon (Hayley Mills) wears at camp.

As for a fictional character to bring along, I choose Canoe (Tom Lowell) from That Darn Cat (1965) -- he could surf and I could read a book, and we'd both be happy.  Or we could both pretend we're helping solve a mystery, and that would be fun too!

Car Wash 

Washing a car tends to be wet and messy, so I think I'd wear a raincoat like the ones featured at the beginning of Singin' in the Rain (1952).  

My fictional companion would be Ensign Nellie Forbush (Mitzi Gaynor) from South Pacific (1958) because she's good at washing things out of her hair, so she's probably good at washing cars too.

University of Glasgow 

Hmm.  I honestly have no idea what one would wear there, but I'm guessing Dark Academia vibes would work, so how about I borrow Sherlock Holmes's (Benedict Cumberbatch) long black coat and blue scarf from Sherlock because it just seems suitable.  I'm immoderately fond of long black coats, and Sherlock Holmes was created by A. Conan Doyle, who was Scottish, so... yup, I think it works.

I'd take along Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) from the Harry Potter books and movies because I absolutely love her and think she would be incredibly fun and interesting to hang out with!

Abandoned Castle 

I would want to wear good climbing and scrambling clothes in an abandoned castle, so I would go with Lara Croft's (Alicia Vikander) tank top and cargo pants from Tomb Raider (2018).  Lots of pockets to stash treasure or cameras or snacks!  And easy to move around in too.

Obviously, I would bring Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) along because he would probably discover some cool artifact or treasure there, which could lead to an adventure!

A Fictional Place of Your Choosing 

Let's go on a little trip to Rivendell from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit!  I will wear a gorgeous green dress like Eowyn's (Miranda Otto), with a drop waist and swoopy sleeves and lots of layers.

And I will, of course, be accompanied by Boromir, because who else would I visit Rivendell with but my Middle-earth main squeeze?

On the Moor  

I always expect the moor to be a bit cold and damp, so I want to wear Angel's long, long, long black coat from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) and Angel (1999-2004).  Not his leather one, but that smooth, sleek fabric one he had on BTVS and the first season or so of Angel.  And I would need some time to practice swooshing it around behind me first, just so I could do it justice.

Now, a moor is no place to go alone, so I want Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett) and Doctor Watson (Edward Hardwicke) to accompany me so they can guard me against any gigantic hounds we might encounter, spectral or otherwise.  They are, of course, welcome to wear their own long black coats.


Let's have a Regency-style picnic so I can wear this gorgeous, understated dress from Emma (1996).

And if we're picnicking Regency-style, I want Captain Frederick Wentworth (Ciaran Hinds) from Persuasion (1995) to come along.  Perhaps we shall have to have an evening picnic so we can have some candles to lend extra allure to him and make his eyes sparkle.


I have always wanted to wear Judy's (Vera Ellen) pink dress from White Christmas (1954).  Summer seems like the perfect time, doesn't it?

Obviously, the perfect fictional character to take along to a trip to the summertime is Olaf (Josh Gad) from Frozen (2011).


Hmm.  My number one requirement for a roadtrip is a good pair of sunglasses.  And I happen to have a pair of clunky, round, white sunglasses reminiscent of the ones Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander) wears at the end of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015).  Those are my costume requirement for a roadtrip adventure.

I will take Gaby, Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), and Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) along on this roadtrip because, my goodness, adventure would be absolutely certain to befall us!

In the Woods 

I have a great fondness for buckskin coats, shirts, and jackets, so I want to borrow Thomas O'Rourke's (Alan Ladd) from Saskatchewan (1954).  And some good buckskin pants to go with it, because then I can crash around in any kind of underbrush without getting scratched up AND they'll give me some decent camouflage.

For my companion, I choose Sergeant Saunders (Vic Morrow) from Combat! (1962-67) because he never, ever, ever gets lost in the woods.  And I probably would get lost without him.

Dancing in the Rain 

This is tricky, because you don't want to dance in the rain in something too flimsy, as it will turn see-through and improper really quickly.  But you want something that is swooshy and twirly.  So I choose this bias-cut dress that Nora Charles (Myrna Loy) wears in The Thin Man (1934).  It looks like it would be super fun to twirl around in, but it wouldn't get too immodest if it was soaking wet.

And I will be dancing in the rain with Johnny Morrison (Alan Ladd) from The Blue Dahlia (1946) -- he's such a gentleman, he's holding the door open for me!


If I ever actually went to Paris, I would base my entire wardrobe around Audrey Hepburn.  For this particular visit, I want to wear her green dress from How to Steal a Million (1966).  It looks so comfortable, yet elegant! And it comes with a cute jacket, too.

I want Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly) from An American in Paris (1951) to show me the town.  I really only would want to visit Paris in the 1950s or 1960s, you see, so I'm sure he would be the perfect companion.

In a Cottage with a Garden 

I would love to live in a cottage with a garden!  I love growing flowers, and I love the idea of a real walled garden, and I want to just have a cozy, quiet life there, wearing some of Kathleen Kelly's (Meg Ryan) outfits from You've Got Mail (1998), especially this one:

And I shall invite Shane (Alan Ladd) from Shane (1953) to marry me and live there in our quiet and cozy and calm life because he needs the rest.

Circus or Masquerade 

Well, if I'm going to a masquerade, I need a mask, and that means I am totally wearing this delicious outfit worn by John Reid (Armie Hammer), aka The Lone Ranger (2013).  I have always wanted to wear that whole outfit, with all its layers and its low-slung gun belt and its perfectly wonderful hat.

As for who to take with me, well, the Lone Ranger rarely goes on any adventures without Tonto, so I'd better bring Tonto (Johnny Depp), don't you think?

Fun Bonus Question- It's the 20's (or some other era) and your husband's been murdered. What's your outfit?

Let's assume I lived back in the 1950s and had a dreadful husband (NOT my Cowboy), and I'm not particularly sad he's gone.  BUT, I must preserve propriety by wearing black, so I'll be borrowing this perfectly devastating dress from Betty Haynes (Rosemary Clooney) in White Christmas (1954).  

I'd team up with Sgt. Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford) from The Big Heat (1953) to figure out who killed my husband, and then maybe we'd just stay teamed up after that, him being a widower and me being a widow...

Well, that's that!  I don't know if you had fun reading this, but I sure had fun figuring it all out!

I'm going to tag a few blogs who like movies and such.  If I don't tag you and you want to play, go ahead!  And, if I did tag you and you don't want to play, that's fine too :-)

FlickChick at A Person in the Dark
Rebecca at Taking Up Room