Sunday, April 30, 2006

Through the Eyes of a Romantic


Tristan & Isolde (the movie) is a retelling of the ancient Celtic tale about two star-crossed lovers. Before viewing the movie, I wasn’t aware of this tale. The promo tag line, however, tipped me off to the outcome. Before there was Romeo and Juliet there was: Tristan & Isolde. Okay. So I knew going in that I wouldn’t be getting my preferred happily-ever-after. If the story is compelling, if I fall in love with the characters and believe that they are meant to be, I can handle a bitter-sweet ending.

Take Cold Mountain for instance. I know fellow romantics who hated this film because of the ending. Although, I wanted an HEA with all my heart, when I didn’t get it, I wasn’t angry or let down, just sad for Inman and Ada. I believed in their love. I rooted for them, ached for them. I walked away from the theater mourning the love lost, but filled with a sense of hope. Though not a traditional romance, Cold Mountain is a true love story.

Back to Tristan & Isolde. It started off so well. The director and writer took their time setting up the story, which I liked. It helped me to emotionally connect with the hero, Tristan. To understand his motivation, his beliefs. I was hooked. Tristan (Englishman and adopted son of Lord Marke) was loyal and intelligent. A brave warrior. A scene where he leads a rescue of village women, cemented his role as our ‘hero’.

Then he meets and falls in love with an Irish princess, Isolde. If you’ve seen the movie, you know how their relationship develops. If not, you can read the synopsis here. Through circumstances, Isolde ends up married to Lord Marke (played by Rufus Sewell). This is where the movie fell apart for me.

Tristan, though deeply in love with Isolde, convinces her that she must follow through with this marriage. “We will bear this,” he tells her, “because we must.” His actions, his words, rang true to the character they had set up. This man loved and respected Lord Marke. He put his Lord and their people above his personal desires. A typical heroic deed in the eyes of we romantics. Okay. So, still believable. I watched as a broken hearted Isolde resigned herself to marriage with a man she did not love. Believable. Watched as Lord Marke wooed her with patience and kindness. Believable. Watched as Isolde began to soften toward Lord Marke. Because Tristan had been away for some time and because of how tenderly Marke treated her--also believable.

Tristan witnesses her warming to Lord Marke, and instead of sucking it up and ‘bearing it’, he throws a jealous snit, taunting Isolde with snide comments, forcing her to admit her heart still belongs to him… and the traitorous affair begins. For the rest of the movie, every time the camera was on Tristan, I swear there were tears in his eyes. His actions were no longer selfless, but selfish. Where was the young hero of the first half of the movie? My disappointment wasn’t with the ‘affair’, but with Tristan.

My husband turned to me at one point and said, “I bet I know why you’re not enjoying this movie at this point. You think she should be with Rufus Sewell.”

Ding, ding, ding! “On the nose. You win!” Lord Marke was kind, charming, handsome, a brave warrior and strong leader. Why would any woman prefer sniveling Tristan to charismatic Marke? Why would she prefer a weak boy to a strong man? I didn’t buy it.
In the end, Tristan redeemed himself, but I didn’t care by that point. And by the by, in the end, Lord Marke still came off more hero-like in his actions than Tristan. I’m not saying the filmmaker should have made Lord Marke less appealing. That could have worked to provide great conflict. A similar ploy worked well with the Lancelot, Guinevere, and King Arthur triangle. But that’s just it. Tristan wasn’t conflicted enough. He wasn’t man enough. Hero enough. When he met his end, I didn’t think, “Poor Isolde.” I thought, “If you’re lucky Lord Marke will take you back.”

Long post long, I was disappointed in Tristan & Isolde. I knew I wasn’t going to get my HEA, but I didn’t even get a believable love story. I did not root or ache for the star-crossed lovers. I rooted and ached for Lord Marke. On a good note, the evening was not a total waste. I learned a great deal about storytelling, characterization, and creating a believable tale of love. Plus, I got to ogle Rufus Sewell. *g*

Anyone else see this movie? Thoughts? Comments on what makes or breaks a hero or heroine? Let’s talk.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Blogs, Books, and Movies

So.

I couldn't figure out what went wrong with this blog. The sidebar was in the wrong place for two days. Couldn't take it anymore so I wimped out and tried for an easy fix. Changed the 'theme'. Hence the new look. Not quite as cheery as before, but the sidebar is back in place and the font is easier to read. This will do... until I get bored. I swear, I change blog and website looks as often as my hair color. And that's a lot.

Speaking of my website, it's still under the weather. No. Wait. It's horribly sick! Steve spent his entire day trying to bring her back to life. He did find a way to reinsert the navigation links--thank goodness--but we still can't upload. He called our server, but the tech service guy wasn't very helpful. Don't you hate that when that happens? Aren't they supposed to know how to fix glitches associated with the server? Jeez.

In other news, I now know what my performance as a mermaid in Heather Graham's murder mystery entails (see the Fun, Sun, and Stress post). Apparently, like Ariel in 'Under the Sea', someone stole my voice. I'm in heaven, I tell you. Heaven. One less 'part' to memorize. It's a comedic role, lots of physical humor. Love, love it, love it.

Worked all day at the library. During slow times, I devoured chapters of Robert B. Parker's 'Appaloosa'. The writing is sparse and sharp. The dialogue, 'HBO Deadwood' style, only not as shocking. Gritty, real, but not overly graphic. Lively characters and a fast-paced and engrossing story. There's even a bit of romance. I'm loving this read. Entertaining and inspiring. Double bonus.

I made progress on my WIP last night. Dug out research books on Arizona Territory in 1878. Specifically Phoenix. Lost myself in the rugged southwest for a couple of hours and then treated myself to a romantic period movie...

Tristan and Isolde At first I was captivated, totally hooked. About midway through the movie, Steve said to me, "I bet I can tell you why you're not enjoying this movie right now." He hit the nail on the head. It had to do with characterization and the whole romantic hero/heroine angle. Tune in tomorrow for details. (How's that for a teaser?) *g*

Friday, April 28, 2006

Is There an 'L' on my Forehead?

When I wrote this morning's post (see below: Fun, Sun, and Stress) I did everything like I always do. I didn't try anything fancy. Didn't push any new buttons. Yet when I published the post, I noticed my sidebar content is now alllllll the way down at the bottom of the blog!! What the ?! *sigh* So I'm writing this short rant/explanation, hoping that when I hit 'publish' everything will be back where it should be. Otherwise, I'll have to try to figure it out later. I have to work at the library today where I hope to get my 'zen' on.

Why do the computer gods hate me? Why? Why?

Fun, Sun, and Stress

Update on my website: More glitches. *banging head against wall* Apologies to anyone trying to navigate to excerpts and such. Hard to do when all the link bars have DISAPPEARED! *sigh*
Hope to have the problems corrected by this weekend.

In other news, the Romantic Times Convention is two weeks away. Sunny Daytona Beach, FL here I come! I'm looking forward to hanging out with friends, meeting readers, booksellers, and librarians, and generally having fun. However, it won't be all play. In addition to writer obligations, I've been asked to perform at various events. All of the events require rehearsals. Those will cut into play time, although the people I'm working with are fun, so it's not a drag, believe me. Here's a sneak peak at my performance schedule.

Tuesday: Teaching a "What If" writers workshop with Mary Stella. Mary, bless her heart, is organizing this for us. We'll 'rehearse' in the room the night before. Stress factor: Moderate (After all, writers are expecting to learn something from us.)

Wednesday: Meet and Greet with readers. No rehearsal. Just me being me. Stress factor: None (unless no one shows up) *g*

Thursday: Acting in Heather Graham's mystery theater production for the "Vampires in the Caribbean' party. I'm a mermaid. The cast will rehearse on Wednesday eve and Thursday prior to performance. Stress factor: High (A. I don't have the script yet! B. My lily-white midriff will be on display.)

Friday: Singing an Enya tune and reciting chants as 18 authors model their unique fairy costumes. Stress factor: Low I'm able to prepare for this one now. Have the song. Have the chants. Rehearsal day of. Normal performance jitters only. Should be fun. (Unless the DJ messes with knobs and someone causes my musical tracks to jump half a key WHILE I'm singing. That actually happened two years again. Oy.)

Saturday: Co-hosting the Mr. Romance Competition along with James Scott (actor on ABCs All My Children). Rehearsal all through the week. Stress factor: High (A. I don't have the script yet! B. James is a professional actor with soap opera experience meaning he's used to getting the script the night before--I'm not. C. No teleprompters D. If they allow us to be on book, I won't be able to read the script unless I wear my glasses. I bet James doesn't even need glasses. He's still in his twenties! D. WHAT AM I GOING TO WEAR?!) Although I guess I needn't worry overly much about my appearence as the mostly female audience will be ogling James and the twelve hunky contestants, not me. *g*

Anyway, that's a sneak peek at my life in two weeks. For now, I'm going back to my WIP. Stress level: Through the Roof

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Misalligned Moon

Last night I tried to upload my newly designed website. Something glitched and the side navigation bar is missing. Now my server says I'm timed out and I can't get it to upload at all. Until I (read: Steve) can figure it out, you'll need to navigate by the buttons at the bottom of the pages. Also the 'hit' counter reads 1. Yesterday, I was 48 hits away from 25,000!! Waaah!

Last night I painted my fingernails with a new polish. I thought it was a tropical pink. Today it looks neon orange. Grrr.

Last night I discovered I accidentally deleted an important business email. Darnit!

Yesterday, I called my mom on my cell to wish her 'Happy Birthday,' only instead of hearing, "Thank you," I heard, "It's not my birthday." I'd autodialed Mary S instead of Mom S. Dohh! At least I'd simply opened the greeting with a cheery "Happy Birthday" instead of breaking out in song. I'm quite certain my friend, who possesses a wicked sense of humor, would have let me sing the entire bleepin' song without interrupting.

I could name about four or five other glitches in my day yesterday. It was just one of those days. Any glitches in your day recently? Or am I the only one with a misalligned moon?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Small Victory


For those of you keeping tabs on the 'Cheyenne-the-dog-with-issues' thread in my life, last night we had our first training class together. The first class was a lecture, me only. Then we had two weeks to work with our dog on three commands: Heel, sit, and sit/stay. Even though Cheyenne and I trained very hard at home, and even though she did really well, I was certain we'd bomb in class. She has issues, you know. Firstly, she's a creature of habit. Change freaks her out. Secondly, she doesn't like being seperated from our other, older dog, Billie. So going someplace she's never been before without Billie was a double whammy. Then there were her nine other, slightly, out-of-control classmates. Nine dogs with their own set of issues.

There were six dogs that much smaller than Cheyenne, three that were much bigger. She trembled harder with the arrival of each dog, no matter their size, her tail tucked betwen her legs, her head buried against my legs. I felt so bad for her. I fully expected her to have an accident of some kind due to nerves. She's done it before. I'd prepared by packing a tote bag of cleaning essentials. But you know what? She didn't have an accident, or throw up, or bark uncontrollably, or refuse to cooperate. She did great!

Sure, she broke her 'sit' a few times, and I had to push her butt back down. A few times she kind of cowered, and I had to help her sit up straight and proud. But, as instructed by the trainer, I was calm and confident and that trickled down to my nervous pup. She'd look up at me and I'd smile down at her. She sat. She stayed. She heeled. She wasn't perfect, but she tried really hard, and even won praise from the instructor. Let me tell you, I was bursting with pride. I know she was scared, but she loves me and wanted to earn my praise, and boy, did she!

I know we'll have our ups and downs. The destructive chewing and nervous behavior won't go away after one successful class. But we're making progress. I can envision peace and harmony in the Ciotta household. I know it's silly. It was just a dog obedience class. But last night Cheyenne and I were a team. We worked together, and we walked away with a sense of accomplishment. Funny how the smallest things can light up your life.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Romancing the West


A few days ago we talked about my latest release LASSO THE MOON and the subject of its sequel, ROMANCING THE WEST (coming 2007), came up. I've been hearing from readers who are hoping to get more of Seth and the Garrett Brothers. And though everyone easily surmised Rome Garrett will be the hero of THE FALL OF ROME (coming 2008), everyone assumed Emily would be his heroine, and nobody seemed to have a clue as to who'd star in RTW, the book I'm writing now. If you haven't read LASSO THE MOON then you're in the dark just now. It's like listening to a discussion between soap opera fans when you don't watch that soap. Can you believe Joe is with Bunny? He should be with Veronica? And what happened to Ricky? Is he ever coming back from Mexico, or what? Huh?!

Anyway, it occured to me that I could put some of you (Elsie!) out of your misery by sharing the blurb Medallion Press is using to market ROMANCING THE WEST. And also for those of you (Stacie!) who want to know what actor I'd cast as this book's hero, that's him up above. Uh-huh. Viggo. I figure after his heavy role in 'The History of Violence', he could do was some screwball fun. *G* Below is a synopsis of what's been keeping me up at night and monopolizing my days.

Emily McBride is in a pickle. The preacher's daughter secretly writes scandalous romantic adventures. But someone's uncovered her secret talent and threatens to expose her double life. She's certain her small town friends and the man of her dreams will never speak to her again. Worse, she's growing fond of her new friend, a literary poet, who would surely be horrified by her novels.
When the Peacemaker Alliance recruits lawman Seth Wright, he's ready, willing, and able to kick ruthless desperado butt for the covert government agency. His enthusiasm wanes when his first assignment takes him to California to propose marriage to Miss Emily McBride on behalf of his boss, and deliver her back to Arizona Territory. He's a lawman, not a courier. Worse, the small town librarian mistakes him for a dandified poet! Before he sets her straight, she confesses she's mixed up in something tawdry. With two unwanted suitors hounding her, the woman needs protection. Seth assumes the fancy pants identity to room in her house without compromising her reputation. His good intentions take a monumental twist when he develops genuine feelings for the passionate book lover. She's not what she seems. More jolting, neither is he.

Monday, April 24, 2006

When Life Inspires Art


Yesterday I forced myself to break away from writing for a few hours to meet up with three dear girlfriends for breakfast. These are friends from my entertainment life, although we've all moved on and only perform occasionally. We're all so busy that we're lucky if we see each other three times a year. So we had a lot of catching up to do. I haven't laughed that hard in a very long time. I warned 'S' that the hilarious story she shared regarding a recent gig as a magician's assistant may find its way into one of my upcoming adventures for Evie of THE CHAMELEON CHRONICLES. I can't make that kind of stuff up. Well, I can, but I don't need to. 'S' lives it. One of her juggling stories inspired a scene in CHARMED. Actually, several true life experiences wth these colorful girlfriends have influenced scenes or aspects of my novels. Hmm. Maybe I should just journal our daily adventures, change names to protect the innocent, and call it fiction. We're a TV series begging to be made. *G*

As we sat at that diner, stretching out the time we had together by ordering endless coffee long after our food was eaten, I flashed on one of the many scenes in 'Sex and the City' where the gals dished over breakfast or drinks. Which led to me mentally casting each of us in the roles of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte. And you know what? We each sort of fit one of those roles--personality wise! You don't know my friends, but you sort of know me. Whose shoes do you think I saw myself stepping into?

As a side note, I came home, opened up my WIP, and churned out my most inspired work in weeks. I really need to meet up with my friends more often.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

News Flash!



No, this isn't the book cover for THE CHAMELEON CHRONICLES, but I do like the imagery. Maybe it's the tropical background. Calgon take me away.

Working on two books at once has been... interesting. I've suffered insomnia the past two nights because my brain won't shut down. I'm also currently preparing for the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention (less than a month away!). In addition to 'author' responsibilities, I'm scheduled for three performances. One as a singer, one as an actress, and another as emcee/host. Call me Sybil. Out of curiosity, this morning I took an on-line stress test. It said I'm only moderately stressed. Jeez. I'd hate to know what high stress feels like.

Anyway, over the past two days I've had some exciting email exchanges with my agent (literary, not entertainment) and my HQN editor regarding THE CHAMELEON CHRONICLES. Book one is scheduled for release in 2007 and the marketing department is moving fast. Firstly, Abby Zidle, my editor and champion, informed me that we'd been given the green light so far as using THE CHAMELEON CHRONICLES as the overall series title. WAHOO! However, for marketing reasons, the working title for book one: 'Operation Loveboat' wasn't going to fly. I wasn't heartbroken. I understood the reasons. Mostly, I was just thrilled that we got to keep TCC. Abby asked me if I had any alternate ideas. I didn't. Although, I thought it might be fun to do a spin on a classic movie title for each book as Evie (the star of the series) and Arch (her partner in professional deception and personal lust) are movie fanatics. I offered one idea. Abby came up with a better one. And then three seconds later she emailed Amy (my agent) and I with another idea to which Amy and I responded, "That's it!"

I knew it was it because bells rang and angels sang when I envisioned that title on my book. It was perfect on so many levels. Marketing liked it, too. WAHOO! A take-off on the 1950 classic where Bette Davis offered the legendary line, "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night." The official title for book one in THE CHAMELEON CHRONICLES is . . . (drum roll, please) ALL ABOUT EVIE

I love it!

Once the title was confirmed, the art designers took over. Abby supplied them with physical description, a brief story outline, and the tone: sexy, madcap fun. She said they should have some layouts for us to look at very soon. I cannot wait! Be assured I will share the book cover with you as soon as I can!

Meanwhile, I'm spending this weekend with a bunch of sexy cowboys. Okay, they're only in my head, but they're still fun. For those of you keeping score ROMANCING THE WEST is in the first draft phase. Time to go wrangle those ideas that kept me awake last night. *G* Have a great weekend!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Your Wish is My Command...Maybe



Yesterday I received two lovely emails from readers who just finished LASSO THE MOON. One was from Stacie, a regular visitor of this blog. She's read all of my books. As always she made me beam with her enthusiastic praise. Thank you, Stacie. The other note was from a new-to-me reader, and I was new-to-her too. She, also, had fantastic things to say about this story and I thank her from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to write. Once you send a book out into the world, you spend a lot of time hoping people are reading it. And even more, praying they like it. So notes from readers are very much appreciated. Aside from boosting an author's confidence, your letters also give of an idea of what you like and don't like, and what you're hoping for in the future.

Stacie and Janet are itching for more of the Garrettt brothers. Writing as fast as I can ladies. Coming soon.

Janet asked for confirmation on the release date of THE FALL OF ROME. 2008. But you'll be surprised by the identity of his heroine.

Stacie asked if I was going to explain the around-the-world-first-names. Yes. Thanks for the reminder.

Janet asked if Seth was going to get his story. Yes! I'm writing it right now. Even though the Garrett brothers are key players, Seth is the star of ROMANCING THE WEST. Coming 2007.

Speaking of RTW, I need to get some serious work done on this story this weekend. Wish me luck. In the meantime, any more questions about any of my books or characters--past, present, or future? Ask away!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Bye-Bye Birdie

This post isn’t about the musical (which I loved), but it is about a bird. Ever hear the phrase ‘Kill Your Darlings’? I don’t know if it originated in the writing world, but that’s where I hear it all the time. It means that, while in editing mode, you cut any sentence, paragraph, scene or chapter that doesn’t move your story forward. No matter how brilliant, insightful, historically rich, or funny you think it is. If it isn’t essential to the story then it’s slowing your pacing. Cut it out. Kill your darling.

Yesterday, I killed a bird.

Two days ago I received the revision letter for the first book in THE CHAMELEON CHRONICLE series. I have quite a bit of work to do, all of it sure to make the story sparkle, but it’s kind of intense. Plus I’m knee-deep in writing my next western. I feel a little skitso, but I’ll survive. If I don’t blog as regularly, you’ll know why. Anyway, one of the comments my editor made was that I spent an awful lot of time introducing the heroine’s friends and her bird, Babaloo, and just getting my heroine to the airport—where the story really takes-off. (No pun intended).

So I sharpened my editor’s scissors and opened the manuscript. I’ve been away from it for two months. Amazing how distance can afford better perspective. I approached the manuscript as a reader, not the author--meaning I checked my ego at the door. If something wasn’t essential to this story—snip, snip, snip. Out of the first forty pages, I cut a total of ten.

The chapter with the girlfriends—gone. I saved two important sentences, essential info, to be weaved in somewhere else.

The drive to Evie’s home so she can pack—gone. The important thing in that scene is a phone call with her ex. Now she’s having it on her way to the airport.

Four pages of Evie lamenting her sucky life—gone. I’d already established her professional and personal crisis in the first two chapters. Basically, I was repeating myself. Still, this was one of the hardest things to cut because there were so many (at least I thought so) funny lines. But I killed my darlings for the sake of the story. Must. Be. Done. SNIP!

So what about the bird? you ask. Babaloo, that was his name. A beautiful blue and gold Macaw whose vocabulary was as colorful as his plumage. Babaloo was Evie’s pet bird, and I mentioned him quite a bit throughout the story. But the reader never meets him in book one because Evie’s away on an adventure. I thought about it. Hmm. She’s going away for another adventure in book two. And book three. So, each time she’s going to have to leave Babaloo with a friend… or give him away. I couldn’t part one with of my pets, and Evie’s got a lot of me in her so… I wrote to my editor. “I think I need to kill Babaloo.” She wrote back that, though she hated to say goodbye to the charming creature, it was probably for the best.

Snip! SQUAWK!

Rest in peace, Babaloo.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Be Kind to Mr. B



This is me seven Easters ago. One of the casinos ran a promotion and I hopped around giving out chocolate eggs and . . .

Heh-heh. Just kidding. This isn't me. I've been a pumpkin, a bumblebee, a mermaid, a princess, and numerous other characters, but never Mr. B. I donned a festive costume and worked as Mr. B's bodyguard though. And it was a casino promotion. In addition, to the casino floor, we roved an area where children were permitted to hang out. They'd charge Mr. B from all angles wanting to hug him or shake his hand or ... hit him. That's where I came in.

Mr. B has extremely limited vision. He can't see a kid running at him from the side and there's a chance the kid (or zealous adult) could startle him, throw him off balance. As for someone hitting him (Awful right? But it happens.), Mr. B has a reputation to think about. He can't 'hit back'. I couldn't hit back either, but I could head off charging kids (or adults) in a friendly yet firm way and flag down security if need be. Unfortunately, not every working bunny has a bodyguard. I not only served as protection, but as someone to talk to and joke with when times were slow.

Last year I saw 'Mr. B' in the parking lot of a restaurant my husband and I ate at. He was supposed to wave at passing cars only there weren't any. I caught him doing this little jig and I knew he was bored out of his mind. When he spun around and saw me, he stopped and gave a shy wave. I smiled, waved back, and shouted, "Happy Easter!" I could tell from his reaction that he really appreciated my enthusiastic greeting. Sometimes it ain't easy being Mr. B. Sometimes it's lonely. Sometimes it's dangerous. So if you see Mr. B in your travels today, please take the time to smile and say 'hi'. Oh, and don't hit. Be kind to Mr. B. He's a goodwill embassador for goodness sake.

Whatever your faith, wishing you peace, joy, and lots of chocolate.

Beth

Friday, April 14, 2006

101 Greatest Screenplays


The Writers Guild of America recently announced the 101 Greatest Screenplays. I am a huge fan of film. Many of my personal favorites are included on the list. Shakespeare In Love came in #28. Some Like it Hot at #9. Writer/Director Billy Wilder (all bow to Mr. Wilder) made the list several times. Woo-hoo! I was thrilled to see that Memento made the list. Came in at 100, but, hey, it's on the list. I remember being riveted in my seat, thinking how did the writer conceive this way of telling the story and how in the world did he figure out how to do it? Brilliant.

That's what I like about this list. It celebrates writers. Screenwriters. I'm beginning to think that writing a compelling screenplay is harder than writing a compelling novel. I say that because I'm blown away by more books than films. Although to be fair, maybe the piece was stronger before the director, and whoever else got their hands on it. At any rate I've noted WGA's top 25 below. Be sure to hop over to WGA and check out the entire list. It's pretty fascinating. I've seen at least 85% of the 101. Of the top 25, I have seen all but three. Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Blockbuster here I come.

How about you? How many of the Top 25 have you missed out on? Looking for something to do this weekend? How about a classic movie marathon? I'll bring the popcorn!

1
CASABLANCA
Screenplay by Julius J. & Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch
2
THE GODFATHER
Screenplay by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola
3
CHINATOWN
Written by Robert Towne
4
CITIZEN KANE
Written by Herman Mankiewicz and Orson Welles
5
ALL ABOUT EVE
Screenplay by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
6
ANNIE HALL
Written by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman
7
SUNSET BLVD.
Written by Charles Brackett & Billy Wilder and D.M. Marshman Jr.
8
NETWORK
Written by Paddy Chayefsky
9
SOME LIKE IT HOT
Screenplay by Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond
10
THE GODFATHER II
Screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo
11
BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID
Written by William Goldman
12
DR. STRANGELOVE
Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Peter George and Terry Southern
13
THE GRADUATE
Screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry. Based on the novel by Charles Webb
14
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
Screenplay by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson.
15
THE APARTMENT
Written by Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond
16
PULP FICTION
Written by Quentin Tarantino. Stories by Quentin Tarantino & Roger Avary
17
TOOTSIE
Screenplay by Larry Gelbart and Murray Schisgal.
18
ON THE WATERFRONT
Screen Story and Screenplay by Budd Schulberg.
19
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
Screenplay by Horton Foote.
20
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE
Screenplay by Frances Goodrich & Albert Hackett & Frank Capra.
21
NORTH BY NORTHWEST
Written by Ernest Lehman
22
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION
Screenplay by Frank Darabont.
23
GONE WITH THE WIND
Screenplay by Sidney Howard.
24
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman.
25
THE WIZARD OF OZ
Screenplay by Noel Langley and Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Being Me


I worked at the library yesterday. For those who are new here, yes, I'm a writer and performer, but I'm also a part-time library assistant. A fairly new job for me. One I like very much. What's not to like? I'm surrounded by books and people who love to read. Yesterday someone returned the library's copy of JINXED. My local library owns all of my books. I'm shelved right next to Tom Clancy (cheap thrill for me), only none of my books have been on the shelves for weeks. Checked out multiple times from patrons all over the Atlantic County system and even beyond (you can do this through Inter-library loan). Another thrill for me. Anyway, I happened to be the one to check in JINXED and I was surprised at how worn the copy was. I smiled like an idiot as I noted the bent, crinkled cover and dog-eared pages. This book had been handled and read many, many times. A thrill of monumental proportions. People, lots of people are reading my stories.

A couple of days ago I recieved an email from a reader who had just read JINXED. Please note this book is the first in a trilogy, released in 2004. I've written four others books since then and am currently wrestling with book five, so JINXED is a bit fuzzy in my mind. I know I love the characters and message of the novel, but details? Yep. Fuzzy. This reader noted specific things she liked--character traits, scenes. I was enormously pleased that she adored the story, and jazzed that she'd immediately picked up book two--CHARMED. But her email registered deeper than surface praise. It genuinely bolstered my confidence. The things that she liked most in the book were the things that came naturally for me. Character traits that appeal or strike a chord with me. Scenes that unfolded without thought. Her note confirmed that there are people out there on my quirky wave-length. It prodded me to stop stressing over and second guessing what I'm currently writing. All I need to do is 'be me' and I'll probably be alright. It's a lesson that spills over into everyday life as well. Thank you "Ann" for the reminder.

"It's not who you are that holds you back, it's who you think you're not." ~Author Unknown

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Works In Progress



I have two WIPs just now. My next western, ROMANCING THE WEST and our adopted pup, CHEYENNE. If you've been coming here awhile you know the stories. How she ate my two-book contract with Medallion. How she trapped herself in our bathroom and destroyed the door trying to get out. Last week she chewed up my glasses, my expensive progressive bifoculs. Yeah. That was a steller day. And if you even look at her like you're angry she cowers and tinkles. Clearly she has past issues and we've been trying to work through them. Someone here suggested that I pick up the book 'The Dog Whisper' and I did and at least I now understand better how she 'thinks'. But I figured we could use some hands-on help. I signed us up for an eight-week basic obedience course. Last night was the first night, a two hour lecture without the dogs. I learned a lot. Mostly that I'm a soft-hearted sucker. I think this course is going to be tougher on me than her.

Regarding ROMANCING THE WEST, I had a breakthrough yesterday. The secondary plot, which I had not outlined was tripping me up. I couldn't press forward without knowing some specifics--like what exactly the secondary plot was. I just knew that it had to feature a character I'd highlighted in the opening chapter. I know some writers skip over scenes, even whole chapters, and come back to them later. I can't do that. For me one thing leads to another, everything's connected. I didn't need to know every detail, but I had to have the general idea. I played with different scenarios. Nothing clicked... until yesterday. Now I can freewrite that scene and move forward. It doesn't have to be perfect. It just has to happen. I'll pretty it up later.

Cheyenne, RTW, and I have a long way to go, but at least we're on the move. Wish us luck.

Monday, April 10, 2006

When the Story Just Ain't Happening

For me... as I struggle to conquer the fear of beginning a new book. For my friends who are struggling with WIPs. Read screenwriter Philip Morton's March 29 post on 'Breaking Story.' Thank you to Ken Levine (who also has another informative post today!) for the link.

The Power of Blogging





So I was over at Amazon.com yesterday (No, I wasn't obsessing over my sales ranking. I'm over that. Now I only check in one time a day instead of thirty.) and I came across a new reader's review for CHARMED. Spikewriter wrote:

"I picked up this book because I'd been reading the author's blog and found her "voice" in her entries to be one I enjoyed. I was not disappointed by the decision. "Charmed" is a delightful story, not quite romantic comedy, but definitely not your average romantic suspense. Bodyguard Colin Murphy is called in by a friend to watch out for a "princess" who's in danger. He's not expecting a children's storyteller with a princess persona. Ciotta gets things moving from page one and doesn't let up until the end. There's a tremendous amount of humor mixed in with the action that follows, all of which arises naturally from the movement of the plot rather than having the feeling of "insert joke here" that one sometimes encounters when reading romantic comedy. Since Lulu not only works children parties, but is a roving entertainer in an Atlantic City Casino, there's a great deal of material to mine and Ciotta doesn't hesitate to do so. The hero being forced to don the troll suit is great. Trust me."

To read more of the review, go here.

First of all, thank you Spikewriter! This review will have me happy dancing all week. Secondly--behold the power of blogging. What I wrote here inspired at least one person to check out one of my books. That's very exciting! I'm just relieved Spikewriter wasn't disappointed! As to the hero donning a troll suit... I love that scene. That entire scene featured random true-life experiences based on my entertainment background. Except for the mobster part. I've never met a mobster. Oh, wait. yes, I have. But he'd have to kill me if I told you, so let's not go there. Where was I? Ah, the troll suit. Tupilo the Troll was a figment of my imagination, but I really did work with people who had to where full body suits as a casino mascot. I have proof.
Except, darn, blogger won't upload the picture. The file must be too big. I dunno. You're talking to a techno-goober here. If you want to see me in action with Diamond Jim (the now retired mascot of Atlantic City's Tropicana casino) go here and scroll down to Behind the Story.

Follows a short excerpt from the troll scene. Several secondary characters are mentioned, but don't let that trip you up. Just note Lulu is the heroine and Murphy is the hero. The 'Carnevale' is the casino where Lulu and the acting troop perform. The funniest part of the entire scene follows this one. But the graphic language between Murphy and the FBI agent went beyond what I like to post here. My young nieces drop by this blog now and then. At any rate, you'll get the idea...
Except from CHARMED
Jean-Pierre was home safe, sulking. According to Rudy they’d had a tiff, and though Lulu wasn’t happy about that, she was delirious that the cause of his absence wasn’t more dire. Rudy made sure Sofie got to the Carnevale safely, and then took off for a run to Freehold to pick up a queen for Oz. After learning his butt was covered, Rupert was more than happy to play hooky.

Murphy . . . Murphy was more than a trooper. He was an amazing human being. In order to cover for their co-worker he’d donned a full-body fat suit made of heavy duty foam rubber, and the grotesque (in an adorable sort of way) head of a troll. Beady gold eyes, long pointy ears, a bulbous nose, and a too-wide, too-fleshy mouth. Decked out in royal blue and gold seventeenth-century finery, Murphy, or rather, Tupilo the Troll, was mega-ugly-cute. A glitzy, Venetian version of Yoda.

Lulu had cringed when she’d learned that they were scheduled to appear at the local hospital’s pediatric ward. Apparently the president of the Carnevale had been impressed by a recent article, not that she knew anything about it since she never read the newspaper.

Knowing Murphy had a history with disadvantaged children, and knowing it caused him distress, she worried that he’d have one of those meltdowns when faced with all those sick children, many of whom were terminally ill. As it was, Lulu had had to excuse herself three times to pull it together. Tupilo had been the hit of the show, spending equal time with each child, dispersing tickles and hugs.

She still hadn’t quite recovered from the heart-wrenching experience. Two hours later and back in the shuttle, she grabbed Murphy’s oversized, squishy gloved-hand. “That was . . . You were . . .”

“Man, it’s hot in here. The fan system choked twenty-minutes ago.” He lifted the oversized troll head, trying to let in some air.

Lulu knocked away his hand so that the top portion of the costume fell back into place effectively shielding his identity. “I’m sorry. Rupert must’ve forgotten to recharge the battery, but you have to stay covered until we get back to the dressing room. If Peterson finds out about this switch we’re all dead meat.”

“Sounds like a real hard-ass.”

“He’s all right. Just strict.”

“He’s a hard-ass,” the rest of the characters chimed.

The shuttle rolled up to the porte cochere. The cast poured out of the shuttle. Forming a protective circle around Murphy, they hustled toward the hotel lobby. If they didn’t move fast, they’d be stopped by patron after patron wanting to rub Tupilo the Troll for luck.

As bad luck would have it they weren’t thwarted by patrons, but Peterson. “While you’re here, why don’t you go ahead and do a lobby set.”

“He’s got to be kidding,” Murphy mumbled from under his big-eared, beady-eyed head.

“Hard-ass,” Trixie said.

Lulu shushed them. “Let’s just get this over with.” She squeezed Murphy’s plush arm. “Trixie and I have to move over there to juggle and pass clubs. Jingles and Raven will keep an eye on you. If you feel overwhelmed give the ‘Save Me’ signal.”

“Which is?”

She smiled at the sarcasm in his voice. “Just catch one of the other characters’ attention and tug on your right ear. Not your ear, the troll’s ear. Oh, and remember Tupilo doesn’t speak. Just shake hands with people and let them rub you.”

“Rub me where?”

“Wherever,” she teased. Not that he was in any real danger of being violated. His hunky body was safely shielded under layers of foam and fabric. Good-bye, ripped bodyguard. Hello, fat troll. She snickered. “Makes you think twice about breaking rules, huh?”

Saturday, April 8, 2006

You Gotta Meet This Guy

I’m going to introduce you to a really cool person. I am. But first you have to get through my set-up. (Which I tried to keep short, but you know me.)

In 1999 (I think it was 99. I have no head for time) I submitted a resume to Kathryn Falk, CEO of Romantic Times Magazine, saying, should she need a singer for any of her convention events, I was her man, er, woman.

If you’ve attended a Romantic Times Booklovers Convention, you know that there is a party and some sort of production show almost every night. Sometimes these shows feature singers. Offering my entertainment services was a way of networking with the writing community within my comfort zone. To my surprise, Kathryn called me. Only, instead of securing a singing gig, I ended up agreeing to co-write, coordinate, and direct a production show. I don’t recall if I mentioned that I’d never actually written a ‘script’ or directed. I think I was too bowled over by her enthusiasm and vision to say much of anything outside of a shaky, “Okay.” If you know Kathryn, you know there’s no saying ‘no’ to Kathryn. If you know me, you know I rarely back down from a challenge.

So I threw myself into the project and being the motivated, anal person I am, somehow pulled it off. That earned me another phone call asking if, the next year, I’d write and direct the Mr. Romance (read: contest to determine the next Fabio) Pageant. This was hugely scary, as it was on a much grander scale, but I didn’t say no. Instead, I roped my then writing partner/now critique partner, Cynthia Valero into being my co-everything. Amazingly, writing the script was the easiest part. I could fill pages with all that we undertook, including technical aspects—lighting cues, coordinating music, creating video and powerpoint, camera cues... (I know there’s more, but I think I’ve blessedly blocked it out) We did this for three years. I roped my other CP, Mary Stella, into doing the fourth and final year with me. The show grew and morphed through the years, involving special guests and skits. One year we had a cast of 65 people. Sixty-five. Some divas. Most wonderful. Oh, the stories I could tell.

Anyway, through all of this, I learned that I was pretty good at bossing people around. I was good at maintaining calm in a crisis situation—and there were plenty of them. I was good at rewriting sections of the script at a moment’s notice. I was good at clicking with the audio/stage techs and ‘calling’ the show. But I also sprouted gray hair and developed an ulcer. Directing was hard and stressful. Although I enjoyed certain aspects, I was hugely relieved to turn the reins over to someone else last year.

If I thought I had it bad

The kind of directing I did was a cakewalk compared to the kind of directing involved with a Broadway play, major film or TV series. Even though I knew it was a whole different ballgame, I harbored a fantasy of someday directing something I’d written, should I be so fortunate as to actually sell the film rights to one of my books. If you know me, you know I dream big. Anyway, I read a blog post the other day and, well, let’s just say I have one less dream. I still want to sell the film rights to one of my books, but I’ll happily remain the invisible ‘writer’. Thank you very much.

Here’s the part where I introduce you to a new-to-me blog. A blog that you have to visit. Daily. By Ken Levine. I got there one day via screenwriter/novelist Lee Goldberg’s site. I was already familiar with Mr. Levine, although I didn’t realize it at first. I read a few entries, thinking, “This guy’s a hoot.” Then I read his profile. Ah, crap. THAT Ken Levine. For crying out loud. Is it any wonder I found him enormously entertaining? He wrote episodes of some of my all-time favorite TV comedies. MASH, CHEERS, FRASIER, THE SIMPSONS, WINGS. For crying out loud. So I have to turn you on to this guy’s blog. A) Because it’s really entertaining. B) Because it’s informative. C) Because it’s really entertaining. Oops. Already said that. But it is. Really entertaining. You have to start with his ‘My First Directing Assignment’ post because A) It’s why I never want to pursue a career as director. B) It’s really entertaining.

After that check out his Superman posts and Oceans Levine and … Oh, just read them all. Hmm. If I ever sell those film rights, maybe Ken can direct. *grin*

Friday, April 7, 2006

The Chaos Begins

Okay. Heard from my agent today (literary, not entertainment). My editor will be sending the revisions on THE CHAMELEON CHRONICLES (book one) next week. That means I have to kick butt and crank out some solid pages on ROMANCING THE WEST over the next few days. I'm emceeing a sweepstakes at Trump Marina Casino this weekend, but I'm back-of-house so I can take my laptop and type in between announcements. No Internet access. That's a good thing. I just hope I don't type in a Brooklyn-based winner's name in place of a wild west character's. Sheriff Carmine Balducci. Er, not.

Heard from my other agent (yes, entertainment) two days ago. Bally's Casino asked for my avails through the summer. Color me surprised. This over-forty performer survives another year in a youth obsessed industry. I'd happy dance if it weren't for the arthritis in my knees. Shh. Don't tell the casino execs. *grin*

So I'll be gigging in the casinos, working at the library, and tackling two more books this year. Oh, and attending a few writer's conferences. I don't know if it's stress or adreneline, but suddenly I'm bursting with ideas and energy. This cinches it. I have a screw loose.

What are your plans for the spring/summer?

Something To Think About

I haven’t been commenting on many blogs lately, but I’ve certainly been reading them. I’m not sure why I don’t comment more often. Although, I was always the quiet kid in class (believe it or not), more apt to listen and soak up information like a sponge rather than jump in and participate in lively debate. Yesterday, two particular blog entries snagged my attention.

Did you know that many readers today prefer happy-for-right-now to happily-ever-after? I didn’t. The ‘reason’ saddened me. I actually did comment on this post, but blogger ate my submission. Figures. Check out The Library Diva’s enlightening post.

Remember my post the other day—People Are Listening? Lee Goldberg offers a compelling argument on ‘blogging responsibly’ and links us to another eye-opener on this subject by literary agent Steve Axelrod.

Two hot topics for me, posts that are still on my mind. What blogger recently gave you something to think about?

Thursday, April 6, 2006

A Talk With Myself

Positive Self: You are not a slacker.

Yesterday, after working at the library, you did a load of laundry, washed the dishes, and cooked a healthy meal (Yay for you. You're still eating right and exercising--amazing!). Then you returned some emails and updated your website (It's not your fault it wouldn't upload.). After that you organized faery chants from eighteen different authors for a song you're performing as a musical intro for the faery court at the Romantic Times Convention's Faery Ball. Okay. You still need to order the actual music, but at least the project is under way. Next, you started inputting several email addresses of readers who signed up for your newsletter into an Excel program. This is something you should have done long ago (Huge promo no-no. Offering readers a newsletter and never delivering--shame, shame). Yes, you had deadlines, but you'll always have deadlines... hopefully. No more procrasitating. Tackle that newsletter.

Negative Self: You're right. I accomplished quite a bit last night, including avoiding my next deadline book!! *Sigh* I'm going to regret this delay, I know I am. Three months from now, I'll be writing seven days a week, ten hours a day, and whining to my CPs and fellow blogsters about how I'm never going to finish on time!

Positive Self: You're whining now. Heh. Seriously, when that time comes and, you're right, it will, your CPs and fellow blogsters will remind you that stressing, obsessing, and writing down to the wire is your process, and they'll be right, and you will finish on time. You always do. Somehow. So, stop beating yourself up about 'not writing' for the past five days. Those projects that you tackled and started had to get done some time. If I get them out of the way, you can devote your full time and attention to your WIP.

Negative Self: So I'm not avoiding? I'm clearing my desk and head so that I can concentrate on my new western?

Positive Self: Exactly.

Negative Self: You know the revision letter from my editor for my first HQN book is supposed to come this week. What if the requested revisions are extensive?

Positive Self: In the words of one of your/our heroes: Don't borrow trouble. Besides whatever those revisions are, they'll only make the story stronger and that's a good thing, right?

Negative Self: Right.

Positive Self: So, you'll give yourself two more days to clear your desk then you'll dive into your western this weekend. Sound good?

Negative Self: Sounds optimistic.

Positive Self: Are you a wiener or a winner? A wimp or a warrior?

Negative Self: I get the picture.

Positive Self: So?

Negative Self: *rolling eyes* A warrior.

Positive Self: So what are you doing this weekend?

Negative Self: Conquering a new chapter in my WIP. You know, you're really annoying sometimes.

Positive Self: Not half as annoying as you. Staying positive is hard work.

Negative Self: Better you than me.

Positive Self: I am you.

Negative Self: Oh, Right. Heh.

Positive Self: Made you smile. Heh. My work is done. Well, at least for today.

"There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. That little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative." ~ W. Clement Stone

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

People are Listening

Last night I drove up to Nothern Jersey to attend 'Spring Fling'--a lovely event thrown by the East Brunswick Borders Romance Readers Group. They had invited eight New Jersey romance authors to join them for a Q&A, booksigning, and chocolates. Lots of chocolate. They also decorated the tables lavishly (I can't believe I forgot my camera!) and presented each of us with a cute tote bag containing several gifts celebrating our current release and personal likes.

These devoted romance fans really know their authors. In my bag were oodles of 'cowboy' gifts--wahoo LASSO THE MOON!--as well as cool gifts featuring London. Elsie (who coordinated the event) is well aware of my London addiction. She also loaded up Eloisa James with various 'chick' gifts. Not as in Chick Lit, but as in 'Squawk Radio'. Like I said, this group really knows their authors.

Through Q&A it was obvious that they'd read our books. They knew our stories, our characters, but they also knew some of us as people. I think that's because many of us maintain blogs. Last night I truly felt the power of blogging, proof that what I write here is read, confirmation that I connect with readers. One of my gifts was handcrafted by Elsie. She cross-stitched something I said/wrote on this blog onto a lovely fabric heart. I had forgotten about that post, that phrase, but Elsie hadn't. One line. An affirmation of sorts.

My passion is stronger than my fear.

I joked to Elsie, "I've been quoted in cross-stitch. I have arrived!" Seriously though, her gift touched me deeply and reminded me to have a care when posting my thoughts. I'm not journaling in a diary or sharing opinions with a few select friends. Anyone can read these posts. Words are powerful. They can influence thoughts and actions. If I'm going to have any influence over any one, I'd prefer that it be of a positive nature. A very telling notion that translates to my storytelling.

Question for the writers out there. If you blog, do you feel your blogging style reflects your storytelling and/or life attitude?

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Spring Fever

I don't know about you, but I must have Spring fever. Restless. Unable to focus on work. I spent the better part of last evening daydreaming about England, and surfing the net for real estate in Canterbury. Yes, my dream to live there burns strong.

Although I didn't type a word on my WIP, I did continue reading the westerns I metioned earlier. And I did think about a secondary plot while I showered. So I guess I did squeeze in work of sorts. Tonight I'm driving a couple of hours north to join the East Brunswick Borders reading group and several other authors for 'Spring Fling'. One of the things we'll be discussing is my latest release 'Lasso the Moon'. I currently have three of my stories spinning in my head, and that's not one of them! Hmmm. Might be a good idea to review that book before tonight. Meanwhile the sun is shining and I'm itching to for a long, lazy walk with my dogs. Yup. Spring has flung. Anyone else have the fever?

Sunday, April 2, 2006

More Adjusting

Part of my routine is blogging every morning. That routine got thrown off during my trip to London. It just wasn’t possible. Then I came home and was faced with an immediate deadline and heavy ‘day job’ work schedule, including a late-night gig last night. If that wasn’t enough, my laptop caught some sort of virus, a virus that prevented me from using the Internet. The evil invader wouldn’t allow me to go on-line! Torture for me, but even worse for Steve because he’s the one who spent hours over the last four days trying to pinpoint and obliterate that evil, evil virus. This morning I have access once again, but something’s still not quite right. I curse the person who created the pop-up adware what-ever-the-heck-it-is virus that has compromised my computer and daily routine as well as four days of Steve’s life that he’ll never get back. Have these people nothing better to do with their time? If I had that kind of computer knowledge I’d try to do something constructive.

Just had to get that off of my chest.

Carrying on with my Period of Adjustment theme, I find that it is a phrase that pertains to several factions of my life. With the first book and the synopsis for the second book delivered to Harlequin HQN, I am now free to put all of my creative focus on my next book due to Medallion Press. Let’s not linger on the fact that I now only have four months to write it. I’ve decided to ignore that frightening reality. More present in my mind is the fact that this book, ROMANCING THE WEST, is a historical western – strict third person, romance. THE CHAMELEON CHRONICLES is contemporary—majority first person, mainstream with strong romantic elements. Two different time periods. Two different POV approaches. My quirky voice is the same in both sub-genres as is the tone—romantic comedy with a twist of suspense, so at least I’m not vaulting from a deep, dark place to the Land of Oz. That’s something.

Still, I do need to adjust my mindset. I need to think, breathe and live as they did in 1878 – American Wild West. It’s a whole different world, including the language. I have shelves of research books on the American West, including several slang books that help with the ‘language’ of the period. I’ll rely heavily on those as I write, but just now, I want to immerse myself in the era via pleasure reads and movies. I recently re-watched Tombstone, Silverado, and Open Range. Excellent movies. Great inspiration. Currently I’m reading (for pleasure and work) Larry McMurtry’s ‘Anything For Billy’ (mainstream historical western) and Linda Lael Miller’s ‘High Country Bride’ (historical western romance). Both reads are entertaining and engrossing. I’m totally transported and inspired, and jonesing for more great Wild West flicks and novels. Any suggestions?