Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What Makes Movie Dialogue Memorable?

"The stuff that dreams are made of." Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon, 1941

Dream weaving, illusion and great stories make wonderful motion pictures. But what makes a line of movie dialogue, or even just a single word, timeless and unforgettable? What makes it so memorable that it's often quoted in real life, other movies, television and even kids' cartoons?

Perhaps it's spoken during a suspenseful situation, or in a scene where love has gone wrong. Maybe it's exclaimed in the thick of danger, or during the thrill of excitement, or in the midst of a conflict about to explode. It could be line akin to a sigh of relief, spoken at the very end, when all problems are resolved.

With a skilled screenwriter and an awesome story, all of these elements can create exciting dialogue and at least one immortal line that leaves the audience saying, "I loved it when he said...", "Remember when she said...", or "I can't believe that's what______ meant!"

Here are 10 of my favorites, in chronological order.

1. "Wait a minute, wait a minute! You ain't heard nothin' yet!" Al Jolson as Jackie Rabinowitz in The Jazz Singer, 1927
2. Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." Clark Gable as Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind, 1939
3. "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, 1939
4. "Rosebud." Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane, 1941
5. "Play it, Sam. Play 'As Time Goes By,'" Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund in Casablanca, 1942
6. "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow." Lauren Bacall as Marie "Slim" Browning in To Have and Have Not, 1944
7. "Badges? We ain't got no badges! We don't need no badges! I don't have to show you any stinking badges!" Alfonso Bedoya as "Gold Hat" in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 1948
8. "Stella! Hey, Stella!" Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski in On the Waterfront, 1951
9. "You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could've been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am." Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront, 1954
10. "Say 'hello' to my little friend!" Al Pacino as Tony Montana in Scarface, 1983

What are some of your favorite movie lines? And in your opinion, what makes them so memorable?

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Monday, July 26, 2010

How Much Sex is Too Much Sex in a Romance Novel?

"I like restraint, if it doesn't go too far." Mae West

Apparently, the sky is the limit on this topic! Like stove top burners, from low to medium low, all the way up to high, romance novels have different heat levels for varying degrees of tastes. From clean and pure inspirationals to erotica so steamy it singes the eyebrows, there's a temperature level that's just right for everyone.

I love lots of romance and passion between a committed couple (that stops before "the act"). And the best lovemaking scenes (in my opinion) are between a married couple. These can be hot and steamy, but lead to a closed bedroom door. Then imagination can take over from there.

In discussing this issue with a writer, I mentioned the types of books I'd like to write. For some lines, she told me to check the guidelines carefully. "You can't mention the word "breast" in a sexual way, and affection even between married couples can't be that explicit.

That's not fun I thought. "I can respect those guidelines," I said, "but if I were reading one of those books, I'd think the husband was having an affair, since he didn't look at his wife lustfully and only showed her sisterly affection."

"Check the guidelines," the writer said, "and before you jump to conclusions, read a few."

I decided to take a look the Song of Songs first, which focuses on the spontaneous and exclusive love between a man and a woman. From chapter 7 versus 6-10 I read the following:

Lover (Man)
How beautiful you are and how pleasing. O love, with your delights! Your stature is like that of the palm, and your breasts like clusters of fruit. I said, "I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit." May your breasts be like the clusters of the vine, the fragrance of your breath like apples, and your mouth like the best wine.

Beloved (Woman)
May the wine go straight to my lover, flowing gently over lips and teeth. I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me.

That sounds pretty sensual! According to the Oxford Companion to the Bible, some scholars suggest that the Song was a collection of songs assembled as a repertoire for wedding celebrations. And it appears to me that the Beloved here is certainly having more fun than that poor wife with the unseen breasts who's only shown sisterly affection by her husband!

What are your thoughts?

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Fresh Apple Crisp

"You cannot sell a blemished apple in the supermarket, but you can sell a tasteless one, provided it is shiny, smooth, even, uniform and bright." Elspeth Huxley

Last week I wrote about some funky looking apples in my post, "Life Can be Stranger Than Fiction" (July 16). The weird looking fruit actually came directly from a tree. Although not pretty enough for the grocery store, and too gruesome looking to sink your teeth into, these apples made a delicious fresh fruit crisp.

I know nothing about the different varieties of apples (other than their varying shades), but these were green and very tart. I assume they'd be considered baking apples. When I peeled them, the knife easily pierced the skin, and the flesh had a velvety softness to it that I'd never experienced from a store bought apple. Once I got the ugly peels off, I tasted one, and it was absolutely scrumptious, despite the tartness!

Needless to say, the apple crisp didn't last long. Here's my recipe--low fat, of course. Serve warm with fat free vanilla ice cream on top. Enjoy!

Fresh Apple Crisp

1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 t cinnamon
2 T low fat margarine
6 medium apples
2 T granulated sugar

Spray a 10x6x2 inch baking dish with cooking spray, and set aside. Combine oats, brown sugar flour, cinnamon and a dash of salt. Cut in margarine until mixture resembles coarse crumbs; set aside. Peel, core and slice apples. Place in baking dish. Sprinkle with granulated sugar. Sprinkle crumb mixture over all. Bake in 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes. Serves 6.

Are you lucky enough to have an apple tree in your backyard?

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Choosing a Pseudonym? See How a Few Famous Names Came to Be

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." William Shakespeare

Are you thinking about choosing a pen name? Perhaps you want something a little more sultry or adventurous sounding. If you already have something in mind, Google it to make sure no one else is using it. A friend from a writers group had the perfect name picked out, until after doing a search realized it belonged to a porn star! Back to the drawing board.

For years, authors have been using pseudonyms for various reasons. Mary Ann Evans, aka George Eliot, used a male pen name to make sure her works were taken seriously. Eleanor Hibbert's complex literary novels produced little interest among publishers. She was told the easiest way to break in to publishing would be with romantic fiction. She chose to write contemporary romances under her maiden name Eleanor Burford, and found success. Talented and prolific, she went on to write historicals as Jean Plaidy, and Gothic romance as Victoria Holt.

Nora Roberts, the most popular and prolific author of contemporary romance, shortened her real name from Eleanor Robertson, because she thought all writers used pseudonyms. Ms. Roberts writes her romantic suspense series, "In Death," under the pen name J.D. Robb.

Jayne Castle (birth name) writes futuristic paranormals. Under her married name, Jayne Ann Krentz, she writes contemporary romantic suspense, and as Amanda Quick, pens historicals.

As writers choose pen names, so actors choose stage names. Sometimes these names are used to evoke a certain image, or perhaps disassociate a sibling connection. Years ago, names deemed too ethnic were changed to more all American sounding monikers. And of course, names must be changed if already in use by someone famous. Read on for a fun list of stage names vs. real names.

  • So So to Star: Norma Jean Baker aka Marilyn Monroe, Frances Gumm aka Judy Garland, Tula Finklea aka Cyd Charisse, Archibald Leach aka Cary Grant
  • Sibling Disassociation: Peter Graves (Aurness, Mission Impossible)) and James A(u)rness (Gunsmoke), Warren Beatty and Shirley MacLaine (Beatty), Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine (de Havilland), Donna DeVerona and Joanna (DeVarona) Kerns
  • Ethnic to White Bread: Rita Cansino aka Rita Hayworth, David Kaminski aka Danny Kaye, Issur Danielovitch aka Kirk Douglas, Bernard Schwartz aka Tony Curtis, Dino Crocetti aka Dean Martin
  • Already Taken: Marilyn Novak aka Kim Novak (not enough room for two Marilyns during the '50s, thanks to Marilyn Monroe), Mike Douglas talk show host, Mike Douglas actor aka Michael Douglas, Michael Douglas actor aka Michael Keaton
Do you have a pen name? If not, do you plan to use one?
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Monday, July 19, 2010

What Inspires You?

"You see things; and you say 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say 'Why not?'" George Bernard Shaw

What inspires you in your writing? A spark of imagination, a snatch of conversation, a true story or a real life experience?

I always find it fun to discover what exactly inspires a writer to conceive a story.

Stephenie Meyer had a dream that inspired her to write Twilight. Margaret Mitchell modeled Pansie O'Hara (who later became Scarlett O'Hara) in Gone with the Wind after herself, and her experience of falling in love with the wrong man.

Those Who Save Us, by Jenna Blum, is fiction based on real stories of Germans living in the United Sates during World War II. The Reader. by German judge and law professor Bernard Schlink, focuses on the generation of children born to parents who lived through World War II in Germany. During the 1960's, as adults, this generation (including Schlink) questioned what their parents knew and didn't know, and asks how they could have let the atrocities occur. Schlink's moving story focuses on a young teenage boy who has an affair with an older woman. Only years later, as a law student, does he learn of her direct involvement with the concentration camps.

One of my favorite movies is Finding Neverland. In it, the audience sees how Scottish dramatist J.M. Barrie, through imagination and his real experience of befriending three boys (and their evil Captain Hook like grandmother) came up with the idea for the stage play Peter Pan. "With a wee bit of imagination," Barrie (portrayed by Johnny Depp on film) says, "anything is possible."

Right now a short story is running through my head. I heard Oprah Winfrey say at the conclusion of her show one day, "Our cameras will be at Celine Dion's performance with today's guest at Madison Square Garden next month, but I won't be able to attend." "Hmm," I thought, "what if she had a clone?"

As writers, we allow our imaginations to grow wild with just a seed of inspiration. What fun!

What inspires you?

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Life Can Be Stranger Than Fiction...

"Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn't." Mark Twain

My husband, a commercial and residential home inspector, had a rather interesting experience this week when he did a well test for a customer who was a Vietnam veteran. There were actually two veterans at the site, the owner of the property, and a friend who rented from him.

The men, both tanned, tattooed, pot bellied and shirtless, fit the stereotype of "rednecks," my husband said. He was, however, fascinated by their home, situated on several acres out in the country, and their life style of living off the land.

I realize any war vet experiences trauma, but Vietnam vets had their trauma compounded by a hostile homecoming. Perhaps some of them prefer living in isolation. Just my thoughts.

"They let their guard down with me," my husband said, "and let me into their world. They appreciated my interest in their way of life, and I learned a lot. They had wisdom to share, they were fun to be with, and they had lots of cool stuff to look at." He placed a bag on the counter. "They gave me some apples. There's a tree in front of the house. It's a deer magnet! It attracts them like crazy. As a matter of fact, the guy can just look out of his living room window--and bam! He doesn't even need to leave the house to hunt!"

"Oh..." I said. Not that I have anything against hunting, as long as it's for food, and I do like venison.

"And they taught me all about shot guns, high powered rifles, and pistols."

My eyes widened to saucer proportion.

"They do all the dressing themselves. They have a huge butcher shop and a walk-in freezer."

Well, at this point, my writer's imagination began running out of control. "So," I said, "didn't you start to wonder if there were any dead bodies buried out there, or hidden in the basement--or in that walk-in freezer?"

Now my husband took offense. "It's comments like that, that make Vietnam war vets feel like outcasts!"

"I'm sorry. If I'd been with you, I certainly wouldn't have said anything like that. And I wouldn't have been scared--unless I'd seen an ax."

"Oh," hubby said, "I saw an ax alright! Actually, it was a two handed cleaver about three feet long. You'd use it for cutting off a leg." Now I had a deer in the headlights look. "The leg of a deer! They also had a vertical band saw for cutting apart carcasses, a meat grinder for sausage, and a smoker for venison jerky."

My imagination was on fire now, but I didn't say a word. No more snarky comments from me. These were brave men who'd served our country and carried emotional scars, and probably physical ones unseen by my husband. One had done three tours of duty and wanted to serve more, but was told he'd had enough. If I hadn't seen the movie Hurt Locker, I wouldn't have understood the desire to go back again and again.

On to the apples. As I pulled them from the bag, each appeared more grotesque than the next. Some sported gray spots or deep black marks, while others were globular in shape.

"Eeew!" I exclaimed horrified. "Were these picked over by the deer and left behind?"

"No! They came right off the tree! There not gonna be perfect like what you find at a grocery store!"

Okay, call me a city girl. I'm used to pretty apples cultivated with pesticides and gussied up with wax. "Well," I said, "they'll probably taste better than what's at the store, but they're too scary looking to eat like this." I smiled. "I'll make an apple crisp."

And maybe I'll share that recipe another time!

Any life stranger than fiction stories come to your mind? Thanks for stopping by!

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Prayer: An Unconventional Way to Get an Agent

"Dear Lord, never let me be afraid to pray for the impossible." Dorothy Schellenberger

Sometimes it seems like getting an agent is one of those impossible things! It's always nice to know when someone does get "the call." That gives all of us unpublished writers hope!

I saw just the other day that a Facebook friend was signed by an agent and now has five requests for full manuscripts. Awesome news! Curious, I sent her a message. I'd heard on a webinar that you should send out at least 50 submissions, and I wondered if she'd had to do that, or been lucky enough to attract interest before sending out so many. She replied that she'd been submitting for almost a year. She'd lost count, but guessed over 100 times!

At a writers meeting last weekend, two ladies working as a team gave a testimony about their unconditional search for an agent. I'm not sure how many submissions they'd made before changing their method, but the new approach paid off!

They decided to pray and ask that God lead them to the right agent. After praying for a while, both were in agreement that one particular agent would represent them. They sent off their submission to her and then began the long wait. Several weeks passed, but when they received a reply, it was a rejection. The writers were crushed, after being so sure that this agent was the one God had chosen for them.

After about a week's time, they got a phone call from the agent. "I don't know what was wrong with me to reject your work," she said. "I just can't seem to get your story out of my mind and I'd like to represent you. I want to work with you to make your story a success."

Talk about amazing! And talk about the power of prayer!

What are some miracles happening in your life?

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Monday, July 12, 2010

What Jeanne Adams Taught Me About Dead Body Disposal

"Don't take life too seriously; you'll never get out of it alive." Elbert Hubbard

Over the weekend, the Ohio Valley Romance Writers of America ( invited author Jeanne Adams to speak. I had the awesome opportunity to attend this "lively" and enthusiastic presentation of Drowned Dames, Mauled Men, and Crispy Critters: A Body Disposal Primer for Writers. Ms. Adams ( became a writer after working in the funeral business for several years. Now she's the author of thrilling suspense and magical romance. Look for her latest, Deadly Little Secrets, to hit the shelves September 1st!

I learned quite a few things that I'll be applying to my writing. One of my books involves a shooting, a coroner, a mortuary and a funeral. So this workshop was rather timely for me, and Ms. Adams was eager to answer any and all questions!

Here are a few tidbits of interest I learned:

  • Coffin vs. Casket -- There is a difference! A coffin is an eight sided "Dracula Box." Caskets came into vogue around the 1930's. That's when the coffin evolved into a furniture grade item (case--casket).
  • Best ways of natural body disposal include sharks, alligators and crocodiles.
  • Donating your body to a Research Facility -- This is harder than you think! The facility has to want your body. If you're about 97, chances are you're not wanted. A thirty year old has a better chance.
  • Full postmortem vs. limited autopsy -- Full postmortem involves the removal of the brain and all internal organs. Limited autopsy only involves the removal of one organ.
  • Embalming -- Head has to be elevated (to rest on pillow later in casket) arms have to be elevated into position (such as crossed on chest). Once the embalming fluid is in, the corpse won't move.
  • Open Casket vs. Closed-- Some families do want an open casket, even when the deceased has been disfigured (i.e. gunshot wound), and the reconstruction doesn't look that great. If the funeral home deems the appearance too inappropriate, they won't allow it, but will instead refer the family to a different funeral home.
  • Cremated Remains -- In the "biz" known as "cremains."
  • Scattering of Ashes -- Illegal at sea.

Hope you've found these little bits of body disposal trivia informative. What I've shared barely scratches the surface of Ms. Adams presentation. So if you ever have the chance to go, don't miss out! Be sure to click on her website link above!

Any thoughts of your own on body disposal?

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Friday, July 9, 2010

Technology: Stopping Time and Bodily Functions

As you write, does time stop? And when your kids play video games, do they forget to eat and go to the bathroom?

When I become immersed in writing, the world stands still and I lose all track of time. I'll tell myself I just want to revise one little paragraph, and it'll take 15 minutes. Next thing I know, an hour has passed--even though it only seemed like 15 minutes! Needless to say, I went beyond that one paragraph. And like my kids, I forget all about food while sitting with my laptop. Nice benefit! But the laptop is a further time drain when the writing's done for the day and I want to surf the Internet.

After my children have played video games for an extended period of time, and I force them to leave the "crack" alone, they're suddenly starved, not to mention in need of relieving themselves to the point of dancing.

On days my boys aren't allowed to play their games, they always beg for a fix. When I say they're addicted, they readily agree. Not long ago my kids told me that some poor guy was found dead by his computer. For days on end he'd played video games and forgotten to eat anything. I laughed. But they said, "We're serious!" To which I said, "See why you shouldn't play video games all the time, you could die!" I seriously doubt the episode happened, but maybe the story will motivate my kids to play less!

I don't know what can make me keep track of time when I write or surf the Net!

Does your computer make time stop for you?

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Tortured Hero

"My arm to me was what hands are to a concert pianist, what feet are to a marathon runner. It's what made me valuable. What gave me worth in the eyes of the world. Then suddenly, my arm was gone." Dave Dravecky

In the June 2010 issue of Romance Writers Report, Romance Writers of America's Librarian of the year, Jennifer Lohmann, said her favorite romances involve a tortured hero. "...bring down that duke with stroke in his 30s, ruin a painter's painting arm and take away his eye...give him a stutter, have his mother abandon him, his father hate him..."

When the hero you've created is tortured, just the right woman--your heroine--can come along and pull him out of the lowly depths to which he has sunk. Regardless of the obstacles, and what your hero has suffered, your heroine can restore him to the man he once was, only better. Don't you just love happy endings?

After I read Ms. Lohmann's quote, I started thinking about some real life tortured heroes. Sometimes, the torture can be self inflicted, through lapses in judgement, such as alcohol abuse or drug use. But sometimes, unavoidable circumstances can bring about life altering change.

Michael Phelps, star athlete and Olympic champion. We all know his story. With the world at his fingertips, Phelps made a rather pricey error in judgement. Once photos circulated of him indulging in an illegal substance, his multi-million dollar endorsements slipped right through his fingers and down the drain. Those Wheaties boxes featuring his picture were distributed to third world countries.

Ludwig van Beethoven, brilliant German composer and pianist, began to lose his hearing while still in his twenties. He ended up completely deaf, but despite this still continued to compose, conduct, and even perform. The cause of Beethoven's deafness is unknown, but it has been attributed to syphilis, lead poisoning, typhus, an auto-immune disorder, and even immersing his head in cold water to stay awake.

Lou Gherig, the great baseball player from the 1920's and '30s, is remembered for his prowess as a hitter, his consecutive games played record, and his farewell to baseball at age 36. Then he was stricken with with a fatal neurological disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, now known as "Lou Gherig's Disease." Motor function of the central nervous system is destroyed, but the mind stays in tact, and life is cut short. Gherig died at 38.

Dave Dravecky is a Christian motivational speaker. At one time, however, he was a major league baseball player. He's remembered for his battle against cancer, which ended his baseball career. After undergoing surgery to remove cancerous cells in his pitching arm, Dravecky began playing again. But the cancer returned. Eventually, his left arm and shoulder were amputated. After the first surgery Dravecky wrote a book entitled Comeback. He later wrote a follow-up, When You Can't Come Back.

While preparing this post I read Dravecky's encouraging and inspirational website, I saw that he's written another book which examines how he coped with the amputation. As women, we don't understand that men see themselves defined by their careers. In The Worth of a Man, Dave says he felt stripped of his identity. He began to ponder many questions men ask themselves. Where does my worth come from? What creates my value and identity? Is there more to me than what was my career? After a long search, Dave discovered that his true worth could never be shaken by adversity or loss, and now he's inspiring others!

Sounds like The Worth of a Man is an awesome read that also offers insight into the soul of a real life tortured hero. A hero able to rise above adversity through faith, and his real life heroine wife, Jan.

What real life tortured heroes can inspire your writing?

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Monday, July 5, 2010

Celebrating Freedom!

"To preserve the freedom of the human mind then and the freedom of the press, every spirit should be ready to devote itself to martyrdom; for as long as we may think as we will, and speak as we think, the condition of man will proceed in improvement." Thomas Jefferson

As we celebrate our country's Independence Day, now's a good time to celebrate the many freedoms we have: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the freedom to eat whatever we want!

Today we'll be chowing our way through BBQs, picnics, festivals and carnivals, and enjoying every minute of it! Here are a few suggestions to help keep your caloric intake in check:

  • Choose grilled chicken breasts over burgers or hot dogs

  • If you do grill burgers/hot dogs, use turkey franks and burgers, or beef burgers with the lowest fat content

  • Watch the carbs! If confronted with baked beans, potato salad and macaroni salad, only choose one

  • Try fresh fruit for dessert, fat free ice cream or sherbet, or strawberry shortcake (using angel food cake in place of real shortcake)

For your next cookout, try my recipe for fat free baked beans. I don't mean to brag, but my baked beans are awesome! My writing might get rejected, but never my beans. Hope you enjoy these as much as everyone else does who raves about them. Gosh, I really must sound conceited! (But I must give all the credit to Bush's Baked Beans and Montgomery Inn BBQ Sauce!)

Skinny BBQ Baked Beans

2 28 oz. cans, plus 1 16 oz. can Bush's Vegetarian Baked Beans

1 small onion, finely chopped (optional)

1/2 green pepper finely chopped (optional)

1/2 cup Montgomery Inn BBQ Sauce (or your favorite BBQ sauce, but one that's fat free)

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 t mustard

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients. Pour into a 9x13 baking pan lightly sprayed with cooking oil. Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 45 minutes. Makes 12 servings.

What's your favorite picnic fare?

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Friday, July 2, 2010

Keep Persevering

"The silent power of perseverance grows irresistibly greater with time." Goethe

In writing, getting rejected by agents and publishers is a fact of life. But never give up! If you keep persevering, you'll eventually find that agent or publisher who's just right for you and loves your work!

I saw the movie Ed Wood recently and learned some great lessons in optimism. Wood was a motion picture director best known for his movie Plan Nine From Outer Space. His other claim to fame is being voted as the worst film director ever!

Although Wood's movies were poorly directed, rushed in production, and wierd with cheesy special effects, Wood was passionate about his work. Despite being laughed at, snubbed, and told he was awful, Wood persevered and remained eternally optimistic.

From Ed Wood we can grasp a few things to keep us going in our quest for publication:

  • Never give up
  • Believe in yourself
  • Pursue your passion
  • Market yourself
  • Perfect your craft (something Wood should have worked on)

Time to prepare for the holiday weekend! Happy eating, happy reading, happy writing! If you haven't seen Ed Wood, be sure to rent it! Johnny Depp is fabulous as always, and the late Martin Landau (who won Best Supporing Actor for this film) plays a perfect Bela Lugosi!

Who's inspired you lately?

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