Tuesday, October 6

Rambling...But There's a Question at the End

It was an odd weekend, mostly because we’re at home instead of at the lake—life is completely different here, in spite of the fact that I work up there just like I do down here. It’s a different vibe here in the city though, and thus, a different vibe at this house as opposed to the lake cottage. In the summer when we’re going back and forth between houses, this place almost becomes a pied-a-terre—just a place to stop by, grab the mail, and mow and then we’re back up to swimming and boating. But as fall sets in, we’re spending more time here and less time at the lake. That’s the natural order of things I think...well, it seems to be for us.

We grocery shopped on Friday, had fire in the fireplace that night, which was lovely, and spent Saturday cleaning out closets and doing fall cleaning upstairs. Right off, who knew I could clean out five closets, end up with four very large bags of clothes, shoes, purses, etc. to take to Goodwill, and still have plenty of stuff to wear this fall and winter? Something tells me that we, like most Americans, have way too much stuff. However, we are now down four bags of stuff, so that’s a start, right?

All this to say that after all the work on Saturday, we settled down to watch a movie, which is also something different about being home as opposed to being at the lake. We don’t have a television at the lake, so when we’re there, we listen to the radio or read or play games or visit with our lake buddies. That makes watching PBS or Netflix a real treat when we here at home. 

Oh, the movie—sorry, I got distracted—was The Age of Adaline, a fascinating little romantic fantasy about a woman who, through a weird set of circumstances is eternally 29 years old. It starred Harrison Ford (how can you lose, right?) and an actress I didn’t know named Blake Lively. She was very good as Adaline and Michael Huisman (Game of Thrones) was romantic and handsome as Ellis, Adaline’s love interest. 

The story is not particularly complicated, so I won’t give you any spoilers, but it made me think about how we writers weave a plot--especially a plot where we are asked to suspend disbelief as deeply as we had to with this one. But as I watched, I thought, what a cool story, and even though I irritated Husband by dissecting the acts and predicting what would happen next, it was still damn fine storytelling. The setup could have been really hard, but the screenwriter and director gave us all we needed to connect the dots and we followed Adaline’s unusual life and felt her pain and fear. Lively’s best scenes were with her daughter, played by Ellen Burstyn, who is always amazing. The daughter/mother dynamic between 82-year-old Burstyn and 28-year-old Lively was well-played and charming to watch.

And here’s the writerly part that got me to thinking, because it’s been a much-debated issue in Showtime’s presentation of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. The Age of Adaline’s director, Lee Toland Krieger, used a voice-over narrator to tell us the story of how Adaline ended up eternally twenty-nine. The movie started with the narration and occasionally, the narration was picked up again throughout the film. So many people hate voice-over narration and honestly, I’m not crazy about it, but this story needed it because Adaline herself didn’t understand why she was different, so that wasn’t going to come out through her character. She only knew she was different, and although we saw how it happened, the why of it became clearer through the narration.

So here’s today’s big question: How do you feel about narration in films? Do voice-overs drive you crazy? Do you wish they’d just shut up and let you figure out the story or does it sometimes add to the experience? Annnnnd...discuss!

Monday, October 5

Just another magic Monday

by Liz Flaherty

Oh, hell's bells, it's Monday morning and I haven't written a word for the blog. Or for anything else, I might add, but I have been enjoying sewing. I've finished off 24 gowns for Riley Children's Hospital on my couple of days of writing voice gone silent. Aren't they nice? I wish no one ever had to wear them, that kids just didn't get hurt or sick, but they do, so I'm glad they can wear bright colors and fun fabric while they recover.

Now, about word combinations. Do you ever see or hear a turn of phrase that gives you a whole, complete picture--maybe even a scene? I had the car radio on NPR yesterday (NPR people are really good at word combinations, by the way) and someone said "October baseball." By the time I'd driven two blocks, I'd seen a whole game, I swear! Watching the game wearing hoodies. The sky a particular autumn blue. Drinking hot cider instead of soda or beer.

The title of this blog "just another magic Monday" is one I adopted when I trained myself to love Mondays. I admit to having some help from Holly Jacobs and her Monday glee. I also admit that the words are wrong--it should be "just another manic Monday"--but since I heard it wrong for years, I'm still singin' it my way. Go right ahead and join me.

The Moody Blues sang a song when I was in high school called "Go Now". Those words still paint me a picture of urgency, not because of the words themselves but because I can feel the beat of it 50 years later.

"Go dark" is something theatre companies (and high school drama clubs) do on the day before performances start. They don't rehearse that day. This always makes me think of our high school football team walking the field before a game. They always walk alone, their thoughts their own, in silence and dedication. Going dark (and silent) doesn't seem to go with either drama or high school football, yet it does. It does.

These are what I can think of right now. How about you? Do you have any word combinations that speak to you a little louder or sweeter than others?

By the way, today--got a drum roll, anyone?--is release day for Kristina Knight's latest, CALL ME. Go ahead and order it if you haven't already.

Katrina Phillips is itchy. The job that has always challenged her seems stifling, her friends are all pairing off and she's been without male companionship for seven long months. 
Josh Hanna is paying off a debt: fly to LA, play backup for the house band during the season finale of Star Power and then back to his boring - and sober - life in San Francisco. 
But five years hasn't been long enough to douse the flames between them, and its hard to remember why things went so badly in the first place...

Also today--my goodness, we're a busy bunch, aren't we?--the A Heartwarming Christmas authors are doing a Facebook tour with giveaways! Stop my my page and see what's going on and how to enter!  Go ahead and like me while you're there!

Friday, October 2

Love in a Country Song

Well, I’m going to break with the week’s autumn musings (guess I'm a rebel that way). My autumn musings will be next Friday, when I have a special guest to host. How's that for a teaser?
Today, I’m pondering a new infatuation, and no, it's not pumpkin flavored :-) I have a confession to make: I’ve been listening to Country Music these last several weeks. You may not think it's a big deal, but for those who know me, it is a bit of a shocker. In my defense, I get easily bored with the same genre of music and have to mix things up. Hence the Country these days. I’m so new to the scene, I don’t even know the names of the bands or singers, and so have to wave my hands ineffectively and say “oh, you know, the song with the twang” or “the one with the steel guitar” as if that more accurately describes which song I mean.
with some editorial comments by me.
Audible twang and steel guitars aside, my current attraction is two-fold. First, there are the male country singers. Sigh… Sorry, Adam Levine and Ed Sheeron. You guys are nice enough to look at, but there’s just something about a bright-smiled country guy in tight pants and t-shirt with a muscular bicep (and other lovely bulges) tipping the brim of his hat up so I can catch the rogue twinkle in his—

Okay, sorry. Got a little distracted with the mental picture for a moment. In my defense, I was describing a cowboy. There must be something in a woman’s DNA which makes her slightly weak in the knees at the thought (Or there is something in the cowboy’s jeans… HAHAHA! I’m so punny). Anyway, they are simply too yummy for words, so go ahead and fan yourself… like me, you know you want to.

Back on topic, the second attraction is often the words to which these singers give voice, especially words of love and attraction. Guess I’m over the recent onslaught of hip-hop artists singing about “bitches” and “booties” and demeaning sexual acts, and pop stars singing about… well, not much of anything. And to the local alternative radio station: I love the Beastie Boys as much anyone, but every hour? Really?

As a romance writer, I naturally gravitate toward romantic songs, even when they have a swift dance beat. I love songs about relationships and allure and warm emotions which end in a Happily-for-Now. You can well imagine Country Songs are filled with these themes, often with a pleasant turn of phrase.
Take, for example, Blake Shelton’s “Sangria” (admittedly, my love of wine makes this one extra special): We fall against the door, we fall into a wild warm kiss… You skin is begging to be kissed by a little more than the sun…”

Or Big & Rich’s “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)”... Well, no lyrics needed. The song is a hoot and I’m a fan of its title concept.

Then there is Eric Church’s “Like a Wrecking Ball,” which might possibly qualify as “country erotic” for some: Crash right through the front door, back you up against the wall… I wanna rock some sheet rock, knock some pictures off the wall…”

And even A Thousand Horses’ comparing a woman to a cigarette (I never imagined such a caustic habit could be sexy, but the yearning in the singer’s voice is addicting): I’m breathing her in, breathing her out, once I pick her up I can’t put her down…

All this, plus the fact they can make nearly any word rhyme (that would be the twang working). So, yeah, I’ll be listening to Country for a while longer. ‘Cuz it’s completely sexy. As I’m always looking for musical inspiration, regardless of genre… What are some of your favorite “sexy” songs? (please, don’t anyone recommend “Truffle Butter”)

Thursday, October 1

October Glee!

 Today I woke up to a low mist and chill temps. Welcome October! God, how I've missed you.

There are so many things I love about October that I'm going to tell you them in no particular order.

The amazing colors--rich reds, oranges and yellows. Only in October do we describe red in so many variations. Cranberry, cherry, maroon, burgandy, wine...

The piles of pumpkins and squash surrounded by dried stalks of corn when you go to the grocery store.

The sounds--crinkly leaves, tapping rain, whispering winds, and the call of geese and ducks as they fly overhead going south.

 The smells--burning leaves, spiced cider simmering on the stove, and chili soup.

Fall storms--After this year's hot, hot--too hot--summer, I'm ready for heavy rains and strong winds. And I hope they come when I can sit and watch out my window. I've been known to open our patio door so I can  get a real good listen and view.

The new TV season and the beginning of the Oscar race. Love it when my old shows go back and I get  chance to meet some new ones. And I love when the movies take a turn from Summer fluff to Fall finesse.

There's so much more I could come up with, but I'd like to get this posted before the first is over. So, tell me, what's your favorite part of October?

Wednesday, September 30

A Little Rejuvenation

We have a bit of a theme going lately here at WordWranglers: one of rejuvenation. A couple of weeks ago Nan & Liz gave us photo-diaries of their writer's trip around Lake Michigan, and over the summer (I think!) they had another writer's retreat. This past weekend, I attended a retreat of my own.

My former-RWA chapter, now the Maumee Valley Romance Authors, Inc. group, rents a lake cabin in Michigan every fall; 10-15 of us get together to write, plot, brainstorm, laugh, talk over business problems, eat, laugh some more, talk about our families, share funny anecdotes, laugh, get way too little sleep and start it all over again. We go to the cabin Thursday - Sunday, and we actually get things done!

This weekend we plotted 17 novels/novellas, talked about the industry and what we think is coming next, and had way too much fun coming up with merkin stories (I'd tell you, but I'd have to ... well, you might snort coffee). Over a bonfire we dissected Moonstruck and a couple of other romance movies, and shared a lot of information. As an aside, if anyone tells you all romance authors are stingy with information, they aren't. Some might be, but by and large I've found the romance industry to be filled with strong women who don't mind sharing what they've learned.

Back to the writer's retreat.

I know I'm fully capable of plotting a book on my own. I've done it numerous times. What I like about brainstorming a plot idea with other writers is the give and take of ideas. One writer may focus on Goals while another has a good take on Motivation and yet another reminds us about Conflict. On my own I might dive right in to the story without truly thinking about what happens after the meet-cute or how to keep that conflict growing throughout the book...but talking it through with other writers helps me get it right the first time.

Have you attended a writer's retreat? What did you like about it?