I’m not the only one! (Suzanne Forster)

For a lifelong movie buff, going to less than 4 movies a month has always been an exceedingly rare thing unless I was flat on my back in bed with the dreaded flu, on a killer deadline, vacationing somewhere remote, or there was a spate of seriously bad movies, which was highly unlikely most months.  I could always find a least one movie a week I wanted to see.

The very moment my parents deemed me old enough to walk fifteen minutes with my friends to the nearest movie theater, which was the only theater in bustling downtown Olympia, I went every single weekend to the Saturday matinee, the admission money (50 cents) clutched in my fist, along with enough extra change to buy myself a Mountain Bar or a Payday.  And for a couple hours, I was in heaven.  I loved horror movies best, but I was transfixed almost no matter what was on the screen.

This summer I averaged maybe one movie a month and really only the month of June was out because of my back surgery in May.  By July I’d figured out I could handle the theater seats with extra cushioning in the form a bed pillow and some Tylenol, if necessary.   And believe me, by then I was dreaming about the magical spell of a dark theater at midday, redolent with pungent aroma of freshly popped corn and pop and fizz of tangy soft drinks.  I’ve been known to hallucinate about popcorn if I go too long without it, so there you are.

Until this summer.  Or maybe it started last summer, but this summer was the worst I can ever remember for movies, which depressed me no end, partly because I figured it was just another byproduct of “maturity.”  I hadn’t stopped loving movies, I’d just stopped loving the selection of movies available, especially in the summer blockbuster season.  I thought it was me.  My hubby was still going to horror and/or action (aka, body count) movies at least once a week with his guy friends.  Meanwhile, I was getting finicky and oversensitive to all the noise and explosions.  I could remember my mom complaining about the noise when years ago I took her to Star Wars, a movie that I loved so immensely I saw it multiple times the summer it came out.  So, it had to be age, right?

WRONG.  Or at least not entirely right.  As it turns out, this summer movie season was the worst since 1997!   The U.S. box office was abominable, according to a recent L.A. Times article, and the foreign box office, while still healthy, didn’t begin to make up for it.  We are big consumers of movies here in the U.S. of A.  But not this summer.  The article also listed the biggest movie bombs, which were all big budget blockbusters.

It would be easy to blame it on the excessive CGI (Computer Graphics Interface, otherwise known as special effects), which I do all the time.  I want to see movies about humans I can relate to, even if they’re animated.  Is that too much to ask?  This summer the fare was almost entirely comic book movies about SUPERheroes and SUPER villains who could wipe out masses with their SUPER powers, whether for good or evil.  Sometimes you couldn’t tell one from the other.  It got exhausting.  Instead of leaving the theater, my head filled with all manner of dreams, I left depleted.  I cared so little about what I was watching that I actually dozed off in a couple of those “blockbusters,” despite all the noise.  Now I realize it was an induced coma, my sensory system so overwhelmed that it tuned out the noise and gore, and took me with it.

But it wasn’t just me.  Apparently lots of us gave up on the movies this summer and simply didn’t go.  It’s really not surprising the public—and many big screen actors—are opting for television these days.  While movie theater fare has declined, TV fare has improved in many cases.  I hope it only gets better!  I’m also hoping the powers that be in Hollywood don’t take this as a sign that they need to make the movies BIGGER and LOUDER than ever to get people back in the theaters.  I may stop going entirely and that would be sad.

I won’t miss their blast-you-out-of-your-seat blockbusters, but I will miss the movie popcorn.  A lot.

Suzanne

The Highlands of Home – Carolyn

I watched Outlander last night. I’m hooked. I want to fly to Glasgow and drive on up to Skye tomorrow. George and I went to Scotland twice and would have gone again if he’d been able. When we stepped off the plane we both felt as though we’d come home.

I’m not certain there is such a thing as ethnic memory, but if so, Scotland is ours, George’s and mine. Walking through the royal portrait gallery in Edinburgh, I discovered that all those guys looked exactly like George, long nose, flat ears, big Viking heads and all. The first trip we made, we went to Mull and Iona to the Walk of Kings. George had six relatives with monuments there.

On our second trip we went to the Orkneys, which has more Neolithic ruins than anywhere in the British Isles (I think). Their Ring of Brodgar makes Stonehenge look puny. The little Neolithic village that has been unearthed had running water and indoor cooking and toilet facilities. How’s that for being ahead of your time?

We were staying in a bed and breakfast (with resident sheep) on an inlet in the north of Skye one sunny, blustery afternoon. George took a nap, while I took a book down into the pasture and sat with my back against a stone wall surrounding by uninterested sheep. I didn’t read. I just let myself be—something I am seldom able to manage. With the chill breeze on my face, listening to the sheep and watching a pair of otters play in the inlet, I felt joy as pure as I think it is possible to feel.

We also spent time on the isles of Lewis and Harris (same island, really, but different names). There were standing stones across the road from our B and B. Nobody paid much attention to them. Our hostess just asked that we make certain the gate was closed behind us so the sheep wouldn’t get out and go wandering.

I think it’s something about the quality of the light that gets to me. And the wide open spaces, the little waterfalls, and the bright yellow gorse like butter pats on the hillsides.

And the smell of the peat fires. Even in June when we were there we ran into sleet and snow on Mull. A wee dram by the peat fire is pretty close to heaven.

I have been warned that the highlands in the wintertime are not fun. That far north the summer days are endless. The nights never get truly dark. The winter days, on the other hand, are short and brutal, the nights endless and even more brutal. Terrible for anyone with a tendency toward SADD (where the absence of sunlight makes you suicidal). The wind never seems to drop, they say, and whistles down the glens ready to deliver frost bite and hypothermia. I assume the Scots know what they’re talking about. I would like to see for myself some time.

My family came from over Aberdeen way to north Georgia in the early 1700s. George’s fled to Ireland after Culloden and thence to western Pennsylvania, which is every bit as inhospitable as the Highlands. Unlike a lot of Americans, we aren’t ‘professional Scots’. George would have been horrified if he’d ever been asked to wear a kilt. Still and all, one skirl on a bagpipe and my hair stands on end. Maybe I’ll get back over there, maybe not. But I am glad George and I had a chance to go home.

 

How Do YOU Write? (Pat)

Authors have many habits/ways/thoughts on how to get from Page One to The End.

I was reminded of this yesterday when I read an article containing quotes from various mystery authors on writing.   One said he couldn’t imagine writing a book without knowing the end.   Mary Higgins Clark, on the other hand, has said that she never knows who to villain is until the end.

Now there are right brain and left brain authors.   I think it’s the left brain authors who write by the seat of their pants.   Count me in that camp.   I have a friend who is a right brain author.   She writes a forty page synopsis and knows every twist in the plot.  I know none of mine when I start..

Mind you, I would like to be like that friend.   It would make my ilife much easier.   But I just can’t do that.  I get bored.   I want to get caught up in my characters and just follow them and record their journey.   I never quite know where they are going or how they will get there.   I just have faith that they will work things out themselves..

I usually start with two characters with many conflicts and let them out the gate.   By chapter three, I hope they’re racing down the track.   A good friend likes to start in the middle, then comes back.   Another, as I said, plots extensively and knows every little step along the way to the end.  .

My way often leads me into a closet, and it sometimes takes time to find my way out.   In the last book a totally unexpected scene popped out, and it completely messed up the parth I was taking.  Lots of rewriting.  But it was right for the characters and the book.

There is no right way or wrong way.   Our minds all work in different ways, and that is one reason I hesitate to give anyone advice on writing.   I don’t want to send someone down the wrong path for them.   Before I give any advice/speech, I have a disclaimer: this advice may be destructive to your career..   If something I say rings an inner bell, run with it.   Otherwise, promptly forget it.

For those authors out there, how to you put stories to paper?

Happy Labor/Release Day

Today is the start of Labor Day weekend.

When I was a kid, this meant: the end of summer, the beginning of school, and a new season of TV shows.

My, how things have changed!

For one, I live in California, now, and it’s supposed to be hot all week.

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Second, about half the kids I know started school three weeks ago. My granddaughters start next Wednesday.

As as for network programming, the new shows, like Viola Davis’s new series, which I can’t wait to try, are still 3-4 weeks away.

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Luckily, I have something to keep me busy until then. ;-)

For me, today is a different kind of Labor Day. Today marks the release of Nobody’s Cowboy, my second book for Tule Publishing, and the first book in my Big Sky Mavericks trilogy.

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As every author knows, releasing a book is a little like giving birth. You’ve labored for weeks/months. You ate right, took your vitamins, did the research, picked a name and crossed for your fingers that the fruit of your labor would be well-received by the world at large.

The thing about Nobody’s Cowboy that has me worried is my hero. Austin Zabrinski was introduced in Cowgirl Come Home. He’s that book’s hero’s older brother. He has older brother syndrome. He may have felt he was only trying to take care of his younger brother but in doing so he may have come off a bit…umm…abrasive. Or, as several readers commented, “Austen is a pain in the arse.” (So to speak.)

Luckily, so far, the early reviews have all been positive.

From Shari: “Reading Nobody’s Cowboy, my family was wondering why I was laughing so hard. Communal toilet…Austen is redeeming himself already.”

From Christina: You have no idea how awesome it was to read “Northern California” and not find out she was from the Bay Area! And the mention of Jefferson was awesome, too! Loved it all!!!”

Like any mama, I’m nervous about sending my baby off into the big, chaotic world, but I’m excited, too. Here’s a buy link, in case you want to take advantage of the release day price of 99¢. BUY

So, what’s on your Labor Day agenda? I will be R&Ring with friends on the West Coast of California–and watching the Amazon stats for Nobody’s Cowboy, like the hovermother I am. ;-)

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Have a great 3-day weekend, everyone!

Deb

PS: For those of you who love to hold a “real” book in your hot, little hands, Cowgirl Come Home is finally available from CreateSpace. http://bit.ly/CCHprint AND, the ebook version will be FREE at Amazon, Sept. 1-4, if you want a copy on your ereader, too. BUY

Take Me Out to the… Movies

I happen to enjoy movies. This past weekend, my hubby and I saw an unusual and excellent film–Boyhood.

http://bit.ly/VO9PCI

What makes this movie unique is that it was filmed over a twelve-year period, with the same cast. It was fascinating to see the actors/characters grow and age, and to peek into their fictional lives. Sometimes my heart ached for the things they put themselves through/had to endure. At other times, I smiled. And from time to time frowned, or silently warned, “Please don’t do that!”

Film director and screenwriter Richard Linklater moved smoothly through the years without ever telling the viewer that time had passed. We simply saw older versions of the same people and knew. This kind of story, filmed over a fairly long period time, has never been made before—if you don’t count the Up! documentary series. That’s non-fiction, and follows the same group of people from age seven, with an update every seven years. I loved it, too.

http://n.pr/1p5Bp5E

If you’re interested, you can get all eight documentaries (Seven up! Fourteen Up! etc, all the way through Fifty-Six Up!, out a few years ago) through Netflix and probably Amazon.

Why are these glimpses into other peoples’ lives so compelling? Are we voyeurs, eager to poke our noses into perfect strangers’ business? (Well, of course!) But also, we humans are hard-wired for story. We crave stories about people and their experiences–what makes them tick, their shortcomings and strengths, their failures and successes. We learn from what happens to them, and we might even alter our opinions and beliefs. (I learned this cool stuff when I read Lisa Cron’s fascinating book for writers called, Wired for Story http://amzn.to/1zsTq3S.)

This is my round-about way of admitting that I like to learn about why someone thinks and behaves the way s/he does so much that I became a writer (and a voracious reader) in order to do just that.

Until next Thursday, and wishing you riveting tales to feed your natural hunger for story,

 Ann

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The Best Birthday Party Ever (Tara Taylor Quinn)

Last week was my birthday.  I’d been told to plan to be gone from Friday morning until Sunday night.  Mom and Tim were together on whatever was happening.  Mom’s idea.  She made the reservations.  Tim was driving.  On Thursday Tim was running an errand for Mom.  It was all very energetic.  And fun.

I picked up little clues.  Like when I was told we were taking Mom’s car because the gas mileage is better.  So…we must be traveling quite a few miles or that wouldn’t have mattered.

But I had no idea the experience that was in front of me.  I couldn’t have imagined even if I’d had the words, the knowledge.  And because it was indescribable, I’m just going to show you.   (And because I have to, let me remind you that Husband By Choice is out on Monday!)

Happy travels everyone:

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Canyon de Chelly – View From The Top

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You can only access the canyon with a Navajo guide. Mom hired one! Petroglyphs that date back to 500 BC!

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We were down 600 feet at this point.

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Navajo artist Antonio Carroll. He’d just finished that painting of canyon lore on a piece of slate from the canyon. Mom bought it!

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The Navajo call this the White House. It is an Anasazi ruin in the canyon that dates back to 500 BC. At one time 180 people lived there. They are estimated to be 4 feet tall at most.

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Completely surrounded by incredible beauty that reminds you that powers much greater than man alone are at work in our world!

 

Out of the mouths of strangers (Suzanne Forster)

My doctor was running late.  Her assistant told me it would be at least fifteen minutes, so I took a seat in the waiting room and looked over a tempting array of magazines, mostly directed at a female audience.  It seems the only time I get to read women’s magazines is when I’m at the doctor’s office.

I was leafing through lots of articles with super in the title (“Super Nutrients!”, “Supermodel Diet Secrets!”) when the woman next to me let out a soft gasp.  She was watching a morning soap on a wall-mounted TV.  The volume was so low I couldn’t make out what was happening, but whatever elicited the gasp made her turn to me and say “Do you see what her boyfriend is doing!  My boyfriend did that to me too.”

The man on the screen was making slashing movements with a pair of scissors.  Fortunately, no one was wearing the women’s lingerie he was cutting up.

“Your boyfriend did that?”  I looked closely at the woman, not sure whether this was a cry for help or just a personal moment she felt compelled to share.

“Oh, no,” she assured me.  “He didn’t cut up my clothing.  He put dents in my car.  On purpose, I’m sure, but he would never admit it.”

The magazine lay in my lap, forgotten, while she told me the whole story.

It seems her live-in boyfriend was adamantly against long-distance relationships, but she’d been offered a once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity in another state.  After many arguments and much negotiating, he finally agreed that she should take the job and he would stay and hold down the fort, a house they’d bought together and did not want to sell until they were sure her job would pan out.  He agreed, but it was obvious that he wasn’t okay with the arrangement and he found a variety of ways to punish her for sacrificing him instead of the job opportunity.  Sacrifice was the word he’d used, according to her.

I wasn’t surprised when she told me she’d lost the job and the relationship had fallen apart.  He moved out of their place, leaving her to sell it when she returned home, which was when she noticed that her new car had a dozen or so nearly identical dents on one of the fenders.  It looked like a car parked next to hers had opened the door and hit her fender over and over again.

Since her car had been parked in the garage while she was gone and the only car next to it was his, she didn’t have to wonder for long how the dents got there.  She imagined him driving into the garage and using her fender as his door stopper whenever he got out of his car.  She also imagined that repeatedly denting her new car had given him some kind of perverse pleasure, as if he was hurting her with every dent the way she’d hurt him when she’d chosen the job over him, which she swore had not been the case.

Every good story should have a surprise or two.  This one had a happy ending, if it can be called that.  Regardless, it was a surprise.  These two people, who had inflicted so much pain on each other, perhaps unknowingly, although both seemed convinced it was intentional, they got back together!

She didn’t tell me how that miracle came about, but she did say that her boyfriend felt badly about their split and the job she’d lost and he asked how he could make it up to her.  She gave his offer some thought and decided she wanted to have her car detailed.  He agreed happily, probably relieved that she hadn’t asked for diamonds or pearls.  However, when they took the car in the detailer pointed out the fender dents, guaranteeing that they could be completely removed and the car would look as good as new.  Her boyfriend agreed—and it cost him a chunk of money, several hundred dollars over the detailing cost.

It occurred to me that if the boyfriend had made the dents, it must have been an interesting moment for him.  Maybe he’d thought he was paying her back, but now he was paying the bill for his revenge.  Karma in action.  What goes around does comes around, especially if it’s pain.

It also occurred to me that if we put more energy into figuring out how not to hurt ourselves rather than how to hurt others, we might accomplish great things in this life.  World peace, anyone?  I’m only half kidding about that.  Studies show that the great majority of humanity’s problems are self-inflicted.  Not all, of course, but too many, yet it seems a rare thing when we’re willing to look deeply enough to see how we might have contributed to the mess we’re in—and accept the answer as a gift rather than a judgment, or an opportunity to blame others.

Ah, life.  So many mysteries, so little time—and even less insight, but that can change.  One thing I can say for sure.  I’m glad my doctor was late that morning and that a stranger decided to share her story with me.  I learned a lot.

Suzanne

Sacrifices to the Techno Gods

The technogods are not happy with the sacrifices I’ve been making to them. They have infected my internet with gremlins. I am strictly an end user, which means that I do precisely what I am told to do by whatever genius is supposed to be helping me. I have no idea why or how to make changes if his genius fixes don’t work. I live thirty miles from the only Apple Store around. In order to see one of those putative geniuses, you have to go on line to make an appointment. That is, if you can get on line, which mostly these days I can’t. How does one report the internet is down with no working internet?

Or report a phone that is not working when you have to use a phone to call anybody to tell them it’s not working? Most people now have cell phones, but what if the cell tower is down too? Mine often is.

I have DISH network. We investigated Comcast, but they came out to my little farm, said we were too far from the road, refused to give us service, then sent us bills for the non-existent service for three months until I called them and did my duchess act on them.

As to DISH—when the weather is clear I love it. A lady called last week to try to get me to change to another service. She asked me which channels I get. I told her, “All of them.” She hung up. When, however, the winds and the thunderstorms come, all bets are off. We lose the satellite signal. It may stay lost for several hours. That means that without the internet, phone service, or the satellite, I am blind to impending tornadoes.

My house sits high on a hill, so if we have a flash flood, everybody better head for the Ark fast. But tornadoes terrify me. I have watched a tornado swing along the fence line between my house and the barn, upend a twenty-foot long five bar steel gate while leaving it still chained to the fence on one side, take out five of a grove of seven big locust trees (No great loss on those—they are hateful trees), make a ninety-degree turn and twist out the top ten feet of a sixty-foot tall oak tree as though it were using a corkscrew. And that was a little tornado. I have a driving (carriage) friend who trains and works search and rescue dogs. She is nearly my age, but she and her dogs go at a moment’s notice to places like Joplin, Missouri. She can tell some kind of stories!

I can’t afford an in ground shelter, and down here almost nobody has cellars to hide in. I’m considering hiding in George’s gun safe, but I’d probably get stuck in it. I have spent innumerable evenings sitting on the floor of my closet with cell phone, sofa cushions, and all three cats, listening to the weather channel on the NOAA alert thingie. The horses stay loose in the pasture. They have a better chance free than locked in a stall.

At the moment our heat index is up in the double digits. When the weather breaks, I suspect we are going to get a doozy of a storm. Please pray we avoid the tornadoes and the power stays on.

 

It’s Too Darn Hot (Pat)

There’s a song in the musical, Kiss Me Kate, with the words, “It’s Too Darn Hot.”

It certainly is that in Memphis.   We have a heat index today of 105 and that was early in the day.   The humidity is extremely high.  We have a heat advisory in Memphis which is very, very rare.

I walk my two dogs every morning without fail.,   I drive to a nearby park with a mile-long trail through a forested area.  I walk one at a time, making a total of two miles for me.  (If I tried two at a time, I would be twisted like a pretzel).   I usually start around seven a.m. and end at nine.  I walk them through rain and snow and ice and whatever else might befall Memphis.

How’s the weather in your part of the country?

The good news is I finished revisions on my new book and Harlequin wants more Covenant Falls books.   I’ve written linked books before but usually they involved one character from an earlier book and he, or she, in a new setting.   This is the first time I’ve authored a series of books in one town with continuing characters.

I ‘m really happy because I’ve grown to love this town and its residents.   It’s amazing how quickly they became very, very real to me, and I too want to know what happens to them next..

We have had a very moderate summer.   Until now.   Now the weather is making up for its  early benevolence    We have a heat advisory in Memphis which is very, very rare.

I was going to brave the suffocating heat,   I started at six thirty, and with ten minutes I was wringing wet, and dog # 1 was panting as if she had walked the whole mile already.  I cut the walk in half.   We both barely made it to the car.   Went home and dog #2 was waiting at the door.   If there is one thing I cannot resist it’s Allie looking at me expectantly.

I drove back to the park.  The parkiing lot is usually full on Saturday morning with numerous dog walkers and runners.  The lot was empty.   The path was empty.  Even the birds were in hiding.    I made it a fourth of the way when I surrendered.    For once, Allie did not complain.   We went home and collapsed. .

Now Tara, friend and blog partner, would be quite content.  She loves hot weather, and the hotter the better.    I would ask how much she would take to fly to Memphis and walk my dogs, but decided that was a little impractical.  Still, a few more days like today and I might that desperate.  I’ll throw in pecans and tomato gravy.

How hot is it in your neck of the country?

The good news is I’ve finished revisions on my second Covenant Falls book, and the publisher wants more of them.  I’ve truly fallen in love with the community and its residents and can’t wait to start the new one and learn what is happening to my friends there.

Have a great week, everyone.

The great/annoying wrist saga continues

Good morning, my lovelies.

Today marks the start of week three of my great broken wrist saga. I am happy to say I have good news for you. I went to the [Orth soap edict] orthopedic specialist on Tuesday. The first thing his technician did was take off the 8-pound bowling ball. Yay!!!

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Next, they took two x-rays.

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Then I got to meet the doctor. First impressions: young, focused, smart, compassionate and handsome. He was accompanied by a second young man, whom I was told was a third-year medical student on rotation. Shades of McDreamy/McSteamy–they were both absolutely gorgeous.

My writer brain immediately started plotting some future story that involved a handsome young orthopedic doctor. And I liked him even more when he showed me my x-ray and said, “There is absolutely nothing I can do surgically that will improve this situation. Your bone is healing beautifully. I’m going to put you in lightweight [past] cast and I’ll see you back here in three weeks.”

This was music to my ears. I was definitely in love, now.

My next stop was to a technician who fitted my new light weight high-tech cast on my wrist. I loved him, too, because when I told him I was a romance writer, he told me that he was getting going to propose to his girlfriend this weekend. How perfect is that!? I gave him a bookmark and told him I’d be thinking about him and wished him well. Let’s all give a quick romantic shout out for [Parchis] Markus.

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In the meantime, since I had line edits to complete on Nobody’s Cowboy (Book I in my Big Sky Mavericks series from Tule Publishing) which is releasing NEXT Friday, OMG! I learned how to use Dragon. I am marginally impressed. Who thinks about adding punctuation when they speak? But it has saved my wrist a lot of pain and anguish. I do appreciate that aspect of it, but there’s still a bunch of editing that needs to be done. I left a couple of the dragon speak errors (the peculiar notations in brackets []) in this so you would see them and probably get a laugh.

Thanks so much for all your good wishes your prayers and your healing thoughts. I am very pleased with my progress so far and I hope to be back to normal in the 3-4 weeks that my doctor predicted.

Hugs,

Deb