Thursday, June 27, 2024

Fun Interview about Audiobooks

Want to read an interview where I talk about how my books are getting audiobook versions?  Author Donna Jo Stone and I had a nice chat about them recently, and you can read that right here on her blog.

As a matter of fact, the audiobook edition of Dancing and Doughnuts is finished!!!  You can currently get it from One Audiobooks and from, and it will be available from Amazon Audible and elsewhere soon.

Friday, June 14, 2024

"Guys and Dolls" (1955)

Guys and Dolls
 (1955) is my favorite movie musical.  I love so much about it -- the songs, the cast, the costumes, the scenery, and the storyline!  But above all, I love the dialog.  This musical is based on the short stories of Damon Runyon, particularly his 1933 story "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown."  Runyon wrote a distinctive style of dialog that became known as "Runyonese" that is filled with slang, humorously uses long and flowery words at random, and diligently avoids contractions.  The dialog for the film embraces Runyonese, with spectacularly funny results.

When I saw this movie for the first time, I was fifteen and had no idea what it was about, what Runyonese was like, nothing.  My friend Jesse and I had spent the afternoon painting faces at a Halloween festival, and we stopped to rent a movie on the way back to my place.  We both loved old classic movies, and we thought the colorful VHS cover at the video store looked really fun, so we rented it on a complete whim.

We spent the next two and a half hours laughing and laughing and laughing. We both fell in love with all the songs and the crazy dialog and the costumes -- in fact, I watched the movie all over again the next day with my mom and brother before returning it to the video store.  And Jesse and I would fangirl over it with great glee for months afterward, whenever we happened to get together.

A few years later, I found a collection of Damon Runyon's stories and read them, and was endlessly delighted to discover that Runyonese is just as funny when you read it as when you hear it.

Guys and Dolls revolves around two romantic pairings: Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra) and Miss Adelaide (Vivian Blaine), and Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando) and Sergeant Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons).  Nathan and Adelaide have been engaged for fourteen years, but Sky and Sarah have only just met.  

Nathan Detroit needs a thousand dollars to rent a place to hold his famous floating crap game, and he bets Sky Masterson a thousand dollars that Sky cannot take any random woman on a date.  Sky takes the bet, Nathan names Sister Sarah as the woman he should take out, and the bulk of the film is about Sky's attempts to convince Sarah he is a repentant sinner who wants her street mission to save his soul, when really he just wants her to fly to Havana with him so he can win the bet.  Except that, he starts to fall in love with her for real, which complicates everything.

Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons were not trained singers, but they recorded their own songs for this film anyway.  Brando later said that they cobbled his songs together from the multitude of takes they recorded, but Simmons sang well enough she did not need such extreme editing.  Neither of them hold a candle to Sinatra, but they do not need to!  The unpolished, more realistic sound of their songs adds to their charm.  Not only are neither Sky nor Sarah great at singing, neither one has ever been great at this whole falling-in-love thing.  But they do so anyway.  It totally works.

I have read that Sinatra very much wanted to play Sky Masterson and was so angry that the studio cast Marlon Brando instead, who was not really a singer or a dancer (but WAS hot box office right then), that he refused to speak to Brando most of the time.  They spent the bulk of the filming communicating through others.  Their characters definitely come across as rivals who like to one-up each other, so the off-screen antagonism does not hurt the film.

One of my favorite parts of the whole movie is the crap game staged as a ballet set in the sewers.  Which is not a sentence you will run into very often, am I right?  But it works gorgeously, and it involves my favorite song from the film ("Luck be a Lady").  I would link to clips of it here, but it is kind of the climax for the plot, and I do not want to ruin it for anyone here who has decided they want to see the movie for the first time.

I have heard a lot of people saying that Marlon Brando is miscast in this film, and I think that is hogwash.  His Sky Masterson is unfairly attractive, all elegant masculinity and effortless cool.  There is no reason to wonder why Sarah Brown is drawn to him despite her best intentions not to be.  I have always been upset that Brando has never played any other character quite as wonderful, though, admittedly, I have only seen ten of his other films, so perhaps I will stumble on one sometime that I also love him in -- his turn as Mark Antony in the 1953 Julius Caesar is the closest I have found so far.

Random historical tidbit: when Damon Runyon was an up-and-coming New York City reporter, he was mentored by famed western lawman-and-gambler-turned-sportswriter Bat Masterson.  It is widely acknowledged that Runyon named his coolest character, a gambler from the west called Sky Masterson, after his mentor.

Is this movie family friendly?  Basically, yes.  Miss Adelaide is a singer and dancer at a nightclub, and her songs are a little risque both in the lyrics and her costumes (see above).  Not racy enough to stop me from watching this movie recently with my kids, who are currently 12, 14, and 16, but some families may find they wish to fast-forward or skip those scenes (you can skip them without missing any part of the plot).  There are some kisses and some very mild innuendos in the dialog elsewhere.  By today's standards, it is super tame, but for the '50s it was probably almost a little edgy.

You can watch this movie on DVD and Blu-Ray, or stream it on Amazon Prime, YouTube, FreeVee, Tubi, the Roku Channel, and probably other places too -- it is not hard to find.

This has been my contribution to the Seventh Broadway Bound Blogathon hosted by Taking Up Room this weekend!  Guys and Dolls was originally a Broadway musical -- according to Wikipedia, it opened on Broadway in 1950, ran for 1200 performances, and won the Tony Award for Best Musical that year!

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Cover Reveal for My Book "A Noble Companion"

Earlier this year, I announced that I will be releasing an Ugly Duckling retelling called A Noble Companion as part of the Cornerstone Series from Beyond the Bookery. I can finally reveal its gorgeous cover!

A Noble Companion releases on November 12, and you can already pre-order the Kindle version on Amazon.

As you can see from the tagline here, this book involves a dragon!  The books in this series are all non-magical fantasy, which means the authors get to include fantasy elements such as creatures (like dragons, centaurs, unicorns, mermaids) or settings, but there will be no magic-users, such as witches or wizards or sorcerers.

Is this a major step out into the unknown for me personally?  In some ways, yes.  I tried writing a fantasy novel in my teens and gave it up because the worldbuilding was driving me crazy.  I've never tried to write anything fantasy-ish again... until now.  

But, being me, my book also has an American West flavor -- I've created a world based on Spanish California in the early 1800s (think of Zorro), but with talking animals and dragons.  

I have an inspiration board for this book on Pinterest -- you can check that out here!

Anyway!  I love my cover, and I'm having a great time writing this book.  If you'd like to see covers for more of the series, we are releasing four at a time every Monday for the whole month of June -- you can find the first eight here in my Instagram feed!

Oh, and if you think A Noble Companion sounds like a fun read, you can mark it as "want to read" here on Goodreads.

Monday, June 10, 2024

Announcing Legends of Western Cinema Week 2023

Hey howdy hey!  For the sixth straight summer, I'm teaming up with Heidi of Along the Brandywine and Olivia of Meanwhile, in Rivendell... to bring you Legends of Western Cinema Week -- a no-holds-barred celebration of western movies and shows!

This year's shindig will be held July 22-26, and we invite you to join us for five days of western film fun.  As usual, the three of us are working on a blog tag for everyone to fill out.  We're also planning some blog games and a giveaway or two.  

The rest of the party's events are up to you!  This event is always BYOBP -- Bring Your Own Blog Post.  Start thinking now about what kinds of posts you want to contribute.  Movie reviews, TV show/episode reviews, top ten posts, random assortments of thoughts about western movies/shows, games, tributes -- as long as it's about westerns onscreen, it's welcome!  

We never set a limit for how many posts you can contribute, or how many people can share posts about a particular subject. The only rules are that posts: 
  •  must be about westerns,
  •  must be appreciative and not derogatory,  and 
  •  must to be new posts (not just linking to old ones)
If you can't think of anything to post, but you want to celebrate westerns with us, you are always welcome to just fill out the blog tag on your own blog!

Olivia has made her best batch of buttons yet, don't you think?  Please help yourself to one (or more) and post it on your blog to spread the word about this event!

There's no official sign-up roster or anything like that.  If you want to tell us how excited you are for the return of LOWCW, or if you have questions, leave a comment!

If you haven't attended one of our LOWCW hootenannies yet, and you're not quite sure you understand how a blog party works (as opposed to a blogathon), here's a link to my wrap-up post for the 2024 event.

Tuesday, June 04, 2024

My New Book "Jane Eyre: A Christian Reader's Guide" is Here!

My very first nonfiction book has released today!  It's also my first audiobook.

Jane Eyre: A Christian Reader's Guide helps readers explore Charlotte Bronte's classic novel.  In it, I provide discussion prompts, historical notes on the book and its author, and a breakdown and analysis of each chapter. This audiobook is helpful for teaching literature or personal study.  It would be great for homeschoolers and literature classes, but also for book clubs.  It works equally well whether you're hoping to understand this classic better yourself or looking for a resource to help you teach it to others.

You can buy this book from Amazon Audible here, from Barnes and Noble Audiobooks here, or straight from publisher One Audiobooks here.  You can also find it on Goodreads.

This book is part of a new series of literature guides that One Audiobooks is producing.  Their aim is to help modern readers understand and appreciate classic books from a Christian perspective.  Mine is the first guide for a more adult book, and probably works better for teens and adults, but the others would be great for all ages.

Currently, these guides are only available as audiobooks, but there is a possibility that the publisher might release them as ebooks as well.  If that interests you, please let the publisher know!