Monday, November 12, 2018

A History of Veterans Day

To all veterans being celebrated today, thank you for your service!
For those of us who aren't veterans, have you ever wondered about the origin of Veterans Day? I have, so here's some history about it from History.com:
Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. Unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans—living or dead—but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.

When Is Veterans Day?

  • Veterans Day occurs on November 11 every year in the United States.
  • In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
  • In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed by Congress, which moved the celebration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. The law went into effect in 1971, but in 1975 President Gerald Ford returned Veterans Day to November 11, due to the important historical significance of the date.
  • Great Britain, France, Australia and Canada also commemorate the veterans of World War I and World War II on or near November 11th: Canada has Remembrance Day, while Britain has Remembrance Sunday (the second Sunday of November).
  • In Europe, Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries it is common to observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. every November 11.
Was any of this information new to you? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Mae West: How She Got Away With It


Mae West
Mae West had quite a way with words, yet most people nowadays have probably never heard of her. So just to provide a little background information, she was born Mary Jane West on August 17, 1893 and died on November 22, 1980. 

Her career spanned seven decades and she was an actress, singer, playwright, screenwriter, comedian and sex symbol.

She’s best known for her lighthearted use of, shall we say, suggestiveness.


I watched a documentary about her recently and it mentioned that if she’d been slimmer and more glamorous, like Marlene Dietrich for instance, she probably could not have gotten away with the lines that made her famous.
She wasn’t particularly beautiful and her figure was rather matronly, but she certainly had a way with words that kept bringing audiences into the movie theaters of the Depression era 1930s.
When presented with a script, she’d re-write all her lines which certainly seemed to pay off at the box office. 
Marlene Dietrich
Up until 1934, movies were not censored.  But even after they were, Mae West still continued to write provocative dialogue (curtailing it only slightly) to the delight of her audiences. However, in the late 1930’s the Censorship Office cracked down on Mae West’s unique use of words. And after that, the magic of her movie performances disappeared. 
When her cinematic career ended, she wrote books and plays and went on to perform in Las Vegas, the United Kingdom, and on radio and television. 
As far as her opinion on censorship, she said, “I believe in censorship. I made a fortune out of it."  

Here are some of Mae West’s most memorable lines:

"Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before."

"Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly."

“Don’t ever let a man put anything over on you except an umbrella.”

"He’s the kind of man a woman would have to marry to get rid of."

"I believe that it’s better to be looked over than it is to be overlooked."

"Opportunity knocks for every man, but you have to give a woman a ring."

"A dame that knows the ropes isn’t likely to get tied up."

"Give a man a free hand and he’ll run it all over you."

"A woman in love can’t be reasonable – or she probably wouldn’t be in love."

"When women go wrong, men go right after them."


I've only seen one Mae West movie, 1933's She Done Him Wrong. All I can say is that there will never be another Mae West! Have you seen any of her films? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Prosthetic Masks


Not long ago, I stumbled upon a topic that broke my heart.  Halloween is coming up and lots of kids will be wearing masks as a part of their costumes. I remember those days and loved disguising myself behind a mask.

But what if you actually needed a mask to be seen in public, or just by your family and friends?  That’s the dilemma several soldiers from WW I faced as they returned from the trenches.

WW I took the lives of more than 9 million soldiers, but many returned home blinded or with missing limbs.  Then there were those who suffered the only injury in the UK that provided a full pension, facial disfigurement.

Medicine had advanced by the time of the outbreak of WW I.  Lives could be saved, but saving faces destroyed by trench warfare was a difficult undertaking.

According to Olga Khazan in The Atlantic, "The iconic trenches of World War I were themselves an "unforeseen enemy.” The unceasing machine-gun fire led to a fate that was, at the time, almost as bad as death. Western front soldiers who popped their heads above their trenches would come back down with a nose, jaw, or even an entire face missing." 

The most advanced cosmetic surgery during this time was fixing a cleft lip. So doctors were faced with severe challenges.

There were some crude successes of facial reconstruction, but the task of repairing a broken face beyond repair was left the creation of a mask to cover the injuries.

There was a woman sculptor named Anna Coleman Ladd that made some of the best masks. She, along with artist Francis Derwent Wood, helped hundreds of disfigured veterans re-adjust to society.
Ladd would take plaster casts of a soldier's face and try to re-create an identical cheekbone or eye-socket on the opposite side. Then, using copper, she’d create a full or partial mask.  Then it would be painted to match the skin. The entire mask weighed only about half a pound, and was either hung from a set spectacles or tied with strings to the veteran’s head.

In France alone, 3000 soldiers would have required these masks, but Ladd only made 185.
The masks were not long lasting and would fall apart after only a few years.  But it’s assumed that the men who wore them, wore them to the grave, and none of those masks are in existence today.

There are some excellent articles on the prosthetic masks of WW I (such as this one from Smithsonian), but the photographs included on the subject are not for the faint of heart.  So if you should do some looking, just be prepared.

Is this something you'd ever heard of? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Creamy Portobella Chicken


Here's a recipe from Cutefetti.com that sounds absolutely delicious, and oh, so easy!


Creamy Portobella Chicken

Ingredients
  • 1 Pint of Baby Bellas (or equivalent in sliced portabella mushrooms)
  • 1.5 - 2lbs Boneless Chicken Tenderloins or Sliced Chicken Breast
  • 1 Can of Cream of Chicken Soup
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste
Instructions
Place chicken in the bottom of slow cooker, evenly dump the mushrooms on top and then cover with the cream of chicken soup. Sprinkle desired about of salt and pepper on top. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours. Do a taste test to determine if your dish could use a little more salt & pepper. Enjoy!

Does this sound good to you? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Inside the Mind of a Murderer

"Every unpunished murder takes away something from the security of every man's life." Daniel Webster

I recently read an excerpt from Michael Capuzzo's new book, The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases. The section I read focused on a woman who murdered her live-in boyfriend after finding out he'd found a "decent girl" to bring home to mom and dad.

I thought the information provided would be useful to anyone developing a character who just happens to be a murderer.

The victim, 24 year old ladies man Scott Dunn, had moved from his well to do home in Philadelphia, to a small West Texas town in hopes of turning his troubled life around. But his real troubles began upon meeting waitress Leisha Hamilton.

A year after Scott's murder, his father, James Dunn, was put in contact with Profiler Richard Walter. By this time the unsolved murder had become a cold case.

Dunn explained the first time he heard from Leisha. She'd found his name on a phone bill and thought he needed to be contacted because Scott had been missing for four days and she was concerned. Dunn had never heard about her. The only girl Dunn knew anything about was Scott's soon to be fiance, Jessica. Leisha claimed Scott had vanished without a trace, only leaving behind his car. And she hinted in subsequent conversations that since she was closest to Scott, she should get his car. Hmm...

Leisha Hamilton
Dunn had recorded Leisha's cold, atonal voice, and played it for Walter, saying he'd never heard anything like it. After Scott's disappearance, police regarded it as a missing person's case. Dunn pushed for a luminol test in Scott and Leisha's apartment. Luminol detects blood as diluted at one part per million. Even after rigorous cleaning, when the chemical is sprayed on walls in darkness, they'll glow blue for 30 seconds. The walls in the apartment glowed blue like they'd been spray painted. DNA tests confirmed the blood as Scott's.

According to Profiler Walter, "the careful cleanup speaks to an elaborate plot. The murder was purposeful, not recreational." Recreational is choosing a random victim for sadistic pleasure. But a carefully organized crime, cleanup, and body disposal indicate a power assertive, or PA killer. "The killing is all about power--incapture, restrain, torture, kill, throw away, 'I win, you lose' kind of power."

Upon examining Leisha's personality, Walter found her very bright, sexy, flippant and manipulative. She had a long list of lovers, husbands, and one night stands, as well as five children--all by different fathers. She claimed only to love the ones conceived in love. Hmm...

The end for Scott came the day Jessica called and Leisha answered the phone. Walter says, "If anything is going to get you killed, it's to reject the psychopath and say, 'I'm better than you are.'"
Scott Dunn

Before Scott disappeared, he was seen sick, leaving a party with Leisha. Walter believes at that point, Scott was poisoned. He speculates that Leisha then called on neighbor Tim Smith to help murder Scott. Smith had sent Leisha fawning love letters saying that if Scott weren't around, they could be together.

Walter says this is classic setup for a female PA killer. She'll enlist trickery to disable a stronger male and/or acquire a sympathetic and weak accomplice.

But calling attention to herself was Leisha's biggest mistake. She called Scott's father. She also played the coquette with detectives on the case calling them with new information and pretending to be afraid of Smith. But she moved in with Smith in order to set him up to take the fall. Walter says, "The need for stimulation is quite insatiable for a psychopath, the ego gratification to prove they're smarter than anyone, the gotcha."

In a later meeting with Leisha, Walter says, "I've noticed you seem to have a great ability to attract men...But for the life of me, I can't figure out what they see in you. Can you explain it for me?" After a startled silence, she smiled and said awkwardly, "Well, I don't know," then excused herself to get back to work.

When a detective with Walter asked why he called her a dog, he said, "Leisha thinks she is smart enough to outwit everybody. What we must do is make her feel insignificant--unimportant. This will drive her crazy, and she may well make a mistake."

Walter later received from a detective a pencil sketch by Leisha of the murder scene. The drawing had been given to the detective by an ex-boyfriend she took up with after Scott. The drawing documented the torture of Scott Dunn. It indicated that she'd chained him to a pallet. At the bottom of the picture was a key depicting handcuffs, a needle, a knife and a gun. Also shown were fists and a blunt instrument.

"This is classic," Walter said. "She drew this to memorialize her achievement." She'd also made other dramatic changes classic to post murder behavior. Walter says killers use murder to to stimulate personal growth. "It was a very dark self-help movement--'I'm Okay, You're Dead." Since the murder, she'd moved on to two more boyfriends and had a child by the last one. She'd also gone to nursing school, while continuing to work as a waitress, and graduated at the top of her class.

Walter says,"If you're accused of being a murderess, how do you cleanse yourself of all suspicion? You become a healer and dress in white."

Leisha was eventually convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Phew! One less murderer roaming the streets.

Hope this information is useful in any future fictional character development you're working on. And be sure to read Capuzzo's book! I'm looking forward to reading the whole thing. How about you? Do you have a true crime work you'd like to recommend?

Have a great week and thanks for stopping by!

Originally posted 8/9/10

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Bad Seed

It's October and Halloween is right around the corner. Lots of creepy, scary and unsettling movies will be on television this month, and one of the most unsettling to me is The Bad Seed.

I'm referring to the 1956 version. One was released in 2018, but I haven't seen it. I'm sure the recent release is even more unnerving than the original!

Here's part of the synopsis from Wikipedia:

Kenneth and Christine Penmark dote on their eight-year-old daughter, Rhoda. They say their farewells before he goes away on military duty. Their neighbor and landlord, Monica Breedlove, comes in with presents for Rhoda – a pair of sunglasses and a locket. Rhoda, pristine and proper in her pinafore dress and long, blonde pigtails, thanks Monica for the gifts. She dances in tap shoes and tells Monica about a penmanship competition that Rhoda lost to her schoolmate, Claude Daigle; Monica speaks of it as a childish disappointment, but Rhoda's face darkens with fury. Christine and Rhoda leave for the school picnic at a nearby lake.
Later, Christine is having lunch with Monica and friends when they learn on the radio that a child has drowned in the lake where Rhoda's school was having their picnic. Christine worries that the drowned child could be her daughter, but a follow-up report indicates that it was Rhoda's schoolmate, Claude, the winner of the penmanship medal. Relieved that Rhoda is alive, Christine worries that her daughter might be traumatized by seeing the boy’s corpse. When Rhoda returns, however, she is unfazed by the incident and goes about her daily activities.
Rhoda's teacher, Mrs. Fern visits Christine, revealing that Rhoda was apparently the last person to see Claude alive and that she was seen grabbing at Claude's medal. Mrs. Fern alludes to the fact that Rhoda might have had some connection to the boy's death, but stops short of actually accusing her of it, and says that Rhoda would not be welcome at school the following year. As the two women talk, Claude's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Daigle, barges in. Claude's mother is both distraught and drunk. She accuses Rhoda's teacher of knowing something that she is not telling. Mr. Daigle steps in, apologizing for the scene.
When Christine finds the penmanship medal in Rhoda's room, she demands an explanation. Rhoda lies that Claude let her have the medal after she won a bet. Later, Christine's intuition about having been adopted is confirmed: she is the biological daughter of a notorious serial killer, Bessie Danker, and was adopted at two years of age by her foster father, Richard Bravo, and his late wife. Christine now worries that Bessie (and therefore Christine herself) is the cause of Rhoda's sociopathy and that her behavior is genetic, not subject to influence or reversal by good parenting or a wholesome environment.

For the complete synopsis, click here, or if you don't mind being unsettled for an evening, watch the movie!  If you've seen it already, what did you think?  And if you've seen the newer version, did it creep you out? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Great Things About Fall


I'm a summer girl! I love hot weather, I love wearing shorts, sundresses, and sandals. I love being able to go outside and not bundle up. With that said, I know there are many out there who love fall. I certainly don't mind it.


I enjoy a change of season and that crisp smell of turning leaves in the cooler air. Fall weather seems to put me in the mood for root vegetables and homemade soup. It also stirs up the holiday spirit. Cooler weather reminds me that Thanksgiving is right around the corner!


As much as I hate to say goodbye to summer, I'll welcome the fall by enjoying these wonderful things, especially the edible ones!



  • The colorful sight of autumn leaves
  • Crisper air and crunchy leaves
  • Big comfortable sweaters
  • Cozy fires in the fireplace
  • Thanksgiving
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Hot apple cider
  • Hot chocolate

What do you like most about fall? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Arrive Late, Leave Early

"Too many words..."
"Figure out what the action of the scene is going to be, or what its thrust is, and then start writing just a fraction before the action begins." Robert Masello, Robert's Rules of Writing, Rule 42: Make an Entrance

Masello's Robert's Rules of Writing is one of my favorite craft books.  It's a small work jam packed with excellent advice!

I'm currently revising a WIP, and this rule reminds me that I don't need to fill up scenes with lots of superfluous information.

Masello uses the example of a scene that takes place in a lecture hall.  Is it really necessary to show the students filing in, the professor straightening his notes at the podium, then clearing his throat and beginning the lecture?


Absolutely not!  If the oncoming conflict is an argument that takes place between the protagonist and the professor, that results in the protagonist getting kicked out of school, focus on that.

Masello says, "If that's what the scene is about, if that's what moves the action of your story forward, then come in just before the argument flares up and out of control.  And once the expulsion is given, end the scene...Lingering in that lecture hall will only dilute the power of the confrontation."

In closing, get to the point, and know when to quit.  Rambling and meandering is okay in a first draft, but while revising, cut what's possible so the reader won't be bored!

I know I can be a little too wordy sometimes! How about you?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted 4/18/11.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Slow Cooker Honey Balsamic Pulled Pork


Time for an easy recipe! Thought this one from The Recipe Rebel sounded tasty. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Honey Balsamic Pulled Pork

Ingredients:
  • 3 lb boneless pork roast
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tsp seasoned salt
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • a pinch of black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
Instructions:
  1. Add the roast to a slow cooker. Top with water, seasoned salt and garlic powder. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or until falling apart.
  2. Just before your roast is ready, add the rest of the ingredients (vinegar through garlic) to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  3. Boil over medium heat for about 15-20 minutes, until thick and syrupy.
  4. Drain juices from pork. Shred your pork and stir in half of the prepared sauce. Serve the rest of the sauce alongside the pork with buns.
I love any kind of pulled pork! Do you?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Julia Sand: Encouragement in a Time of Crisis

So just who was Julia Sand? I'd never heard of her until I read Candice Millard's Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President, an amazing account of James A. Garfield's life and the assassination attempt on him while serving as president.

Garfield, an extraordinary man, was actually nominated for president against his will.  However, four months after his inauguration, he was shot in the back by the deranged Charles Guiteau, who'd sought a political office in Garfield's administration.

It wasn't the would-be assassin's bullet that killed the president, but rather the medical treatment Garfield received.  As Garfield suffered for nearly two months, the nation was thrown into turmoil, and during this time, Vice President Chester A. Arthur ( a not so extraordinary man) stayed in seclusion. When Guiteau was apprehended he announced his wish for Arthur to become president.  Because of this, there was a brief investigation into whether Guiteau had been hired by Garfield’s enemies.

Although no proof was found to support this, there were threats made on Arthur’s life and he feared making public appearances. Arthur’s past was linked to some scandals involving the New York Customhouse and many thought Arthur as president would mean disaster for the country.

Here's where Julia Sand fits into the equation.  She corresponded with Arthur beginning in late August of 1881, before Garfield's death.  Her last surviving letter is dated September 15, 1883. Sand referred to herself as the President’s “little dwarf”, alluding to the idea that in a royal court, the dwarf is the only one with courage enough to tell the truth.

Sand was an educated woman who lived in New York, yet when she began writing Arthur at age 31, she was bedridden due to spinal trouble, lameness and deafness.  What I'm posting below is a portion of Sand's first letter to the would-be president:

The day [Garfield] was shot, the thought rose in a thousand minds that you might be the instigator of the foul act. Is not that a humiliation which cuts deeper then any bullet can pierce?

Your kindest opponents say "Arthur will try to do right"– adding gloomily –"He won’t succeed though making a man President cannot change him."

…But making a man President can change him! Great emergencies awaken generous traits which have lain dormant half a life. If there is a spark of true nobility in you, now is the occasion to let it shine. Faith in your better nature forces me to write to you – but not to beg you to resign. Do what is more difficult & brave. Reform!
It is not proof of highest goodness never to have done wrong, but it is proof of it, sometimes in ones career, to pause & ponder, to recognize the evil, to
recognize the evil, to turn resolutely against it…. Once in awhile there comes a
crisis which renders miracles feasible. The great tidal wave of sorrow which has
rolled over the country has swept you loose from your old moorings & set you on
a mountaintop, alone.

Disappoint our fears. Force the nation to have faith in you. Show from the first
that you have none but the purest of aims.

You cannot slink back into obscurity, if you would. A hundred years hence,
school boys will recite you name in the list of Presidents & tell of your
administration. And what shall posterity say? It is for you to choose….

Apparently, her words of encouragement inspired and changed him. At the end of his presidency, Arthur earned praise from his contemporaries for his solid performance in office. In 1886, the New York World wrote: "No duty was  neglected in his administration, and no adventurous project alarmed the nation." And according to Mark Twain, "[I]t would be hard indeed to better President Arthur's administration."

Had you ever heard of Julia Sand? Also, can you think of anyone you can encourage today? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted 10/1/12.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Off for Labor Day

I'm taking a day off from blogging to enjoy the last holiday of summer. Enjoy your Labor Day and I'll see you next week!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Memorable Movie Lines

Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund in Casablanca
"Play it, Sam..."
"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
Lauren Bacall as Slim Browning in To Have and Have Not
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 A Streetcar Named Desire, 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?

Have a great week and thanks for stopping by!

Originally posted on 12/01/14

Monday, August 20, 2018

From Novel to Screenplay


Gone With the Wind is  a movie that's just as phenomenal as the book it's  based on. But have you noticed that's not always the case when  a novel  is made into a motion picture?

Right now I'm in the process of adapting one of my novels into a screenplay and have found it to be a rather daunting process. Now I understand why some movies fall flat when compared to the novels they're based on.  

Forget about introspection and long descriptions, plus subplots have to be dropped and minor characters combined or omitted in order to condense a three-hundred and fifty page novel into a one-hundred and twenty-five page screenplay. If you have ever considered turning a novel into a screenplay, here's a portion of an article from Scriptmag.com to help you start the adaptation process:






First, make a list of the following:

  • The world and setting of the story.
  • The 5–8 main characters of the story including the protagonist and antagonist, what their respective back stories are and why/how they come together.
  • What 5 things about your main protagonist/antagonist are the most important for an audience to know.
  • The major core conflict of the story and why/how this occurs.
  • The most visual and key scenes in the book that connect to how that conflict plays out.
  • Your 10–20 FAVORITE lines of dialogue that drive the plot, are vital to the story or character development and that really shine.
  • The major overarching theme of the book.
Margaret Mitchell with her novel
Be aware that you will probably have to cut many supporting characters, subplots that don’t connect to your main storyline, and almost all of the description. Instead of two pages of character description, you only get two lines. Often, two or three different characters in a novel will be combined into ONE character in a screenplay. And what happens on the first page of the book may not be how you need to open the film. Try to nail the same tone that the original material had—as that is part of what built its fan base and that tone needs to translate on film. But the real key to adapting a book to film or adapting someone’s true story—is FOCUS and knowing how and when to take poetic license.
If you are adapting a true story, it becomes even trickier, but you need to know that changing the timeline of the original story is OK. Your primary job isn’t to be loyal to a book or to another writer or even to the main character—it’s to be loyal to the core story and yourself. You can’t show a whole lifetime on screen (except maybe in Benjamin Button), so you need to choose the most important, interesting, conflict-filled, character-building part of the book or the person’s life—and focus on that to create a tight story.
Or alternatively, if you’re adapting a small personal story, you may need to expand it to fill the screen. All those Nicholas Sparks novels are incredibly small and usually depressing, but the screenplays introduce more conflict and raise the stakes. Though not based on a book, let’s examine Academy Award nominated The Fighter, which was based on a true story. The screenwriters looked at all the material they had—all the characters, all the true things that happened, the time range of the real story—and then wrote what worked. The Amy Adams character wasn’t even in Mickey’s life at the time he won those fights. Many characters were combined and the time period was totally fudged so that the story became more cinematic and engaging but it kept the essence of the characters involved, the story and the emotion of it all.
That’s exactly what your job is when adapting a book or person’s true life story. Much like in life, learning to adapt is often a difficult process but can be one of the keys to success. Keep writing!
For the complete article, click here.
Have you ever written a screenplay or considered writing one? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Crock Pot Curry Chicken

I'm recuperating from gum surgery, so today I'm reposting one of my favorite recipes -- one that I won't be able to eat for another two weeks! I can't enjoy it any time soon, but I hope you will!

I've come to realize that people either love Indian food, or they hate it, because of all the exotic spices not normally found in plain old American fare. 

Then there are those who enjoy it, but their bodies can't tolerate all those wonderful spices. 

I fall into the category that absolutely loves Indian food! And it doesn't cause me any digestive issues.

The recipe I'm sharing today is from Rebecca MacLary over at Paleohacks. It's the first Indian dish I've ever tried for the crock pot and it's extraordinarily delicious!  In addition, it's easy to prep, and tastes just as good as the chicken curry you can get in an Indian restaurant. Hope this is something you'll enjoy!

Crockpot Curry Chicken 

Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients:
  • 2 lbs skinless chicken breast
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp organic, cold-pressed coconut oil
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 thumb fresh ginger, minced
  • 2-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium fresh green chilli, minced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, diced
  • 3-4 tbsp Garam Masala
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions:

  1. Take your crockpot and give it a big sloppy kiss because, believe me, it’s about to provide you with a life-changing gastronomic experience!
  2. Optional: Heat the coconut oil in your crockpot and add the Garam Masala and cumin seeds, gently heating them until they begin crackle. The idea here is to infuse the oil and gently roast the spices, so have the rest of your ingredients ready to throw in right away.
  3. Add the tomato paste, coconut milk, ginger, garlic, chilli, salt, and pepper, and mix thoroughly.
  4. Give your spicy, coconutty mixture a hearty sniff and then throw in the onions, peppers, chicken, and broth.
  5. Make sure everything is thoroughly mixed together and then cover, ready to cook.
  6. Now for the most difficult part, time to play the waiting game! Depending on your level of patience you can cook on a high heat for around 4 hours, or if you’re feeling particularly disciplined (yeah, right!) you can place your curry on a low heat and cook for 7 or 8 hours.
  7. Remove the lid and savor that wondrous, magical smell of the spice-infused coconut goodness! Serve up and you’re good to tuck right in!
Do you like Indian food? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, August 6, 2018

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: The Art of Writing Dialogue

Reposting some useful writing information today.

Think of your plot as a blank linen canvas stretched over a stiff wooden frame, and your dialogue as the oil paint you will use to create a masterpiece. Well written dialogue produces a vivid image that truly brings your story to life in living color!  It’s also one of the first things agents and editors look at when reviewing a manuscript.

If dialogue is choppy, wooden and stilted, a potential agent will assume that that sets the tone for your writing, and then reject your manuscript.  For the indie published, poor dialogue is what makes a potential reader either skip a purchase, or write a very bad review!

Dialogue has many functions, but two of the most important are to advance the story and intensify the conflict, all the while keeping it natural.  So here are a few ways to craft dialogue into a more compelling and natural sounding work of art.

Red: Tension, Conflict, Emotion
In Writing Fiction For Dummies, Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy say, “Dialogue is war! Every dialogue should be a controlled conflict between at least two characters with opposing agendas. The main purpose of dialogue is to advance the conflict of the story."  

·         Skip the pleasantries.  No one cares about the “Hi, how are yous?” Jump right into the heat of the moment.
·         Stay away from the info dump monologue.  Providing information without tension is boring.
·         Never use dialogue as filler.  Dialogue has to  heighten conflict, advance the story or display character development.  If it does none of this, hit delete.
·         Show emotional tension in dialogue through your characters actions and reactions. Perhaps a he falls silent, she interrupts, or the teen changes the subject.  

The Abstract: Loose and Free Flowing
Dialogue has to have a natural flow, but a common mistake among many new writers is to make it stiff and formal. Use these guidelines to make yours sound real:

·         Read dialogue out loud.  Does it pass the “ear test” and sound like actual conversation? Avoid fancy words.  In The Elements of Style Strunk and White say, “Do not be tempted by a twenty dollar word when there is a ten-center handy.”  "Seeing her confused him” is plain and simple. “Upon looking at her, he became discombobulated" is not.  It’s also too wordy. Streamline your dialogue and cut out unnecessary words.
·         Use contractions:  will not/ won’t, do not/ don’t, we will/we’ll, etc. They’re much less formal.
·         Think about real conversations with family and friends. It’s okay to be grammatically incorrect by ending a sentence with a preposition. “So what was that about?” sounds more realistic than “So about what was that?”  In stressful situations, you can use sentence fragments and one word answers.
·         Avoid the lecture.  A character expounding in detail about a subject will bore your reader. You’ve done your research, but it’s not necessary to show how much!

Flesh Tone: Make it Real
Stay away from unnatural dialogue.  Would your sister really say, “How’s your husband Ed and your step-son Frank, the child by Ed’s ex-wife, Beth?”  Using dialogue like that sounds artificial. Find a subtle way to convey those facts.  For example:
     “So where’s Ed?”
     “I left him at home working on my honey-do list.”
     “Is Frank helping him?”
     “No, he’s with his mom, this weekend.”
     “Beth, the wench?”


The Portrait: Provide a Distinct Voice for Each Character
Dialogue is an important part of characterization. Keep in mind the time period, age, gender, social status, education and geographic locale.

Imagine how different a Wall Street executive would sound compared to a Georgia factory worker.  White collar professionals are more likely to use correct grammar and speak in longer sentences, whereas blue collar workers might use rougher language and shorter sentences.

Take into account individual personalities: quiet, talkative, cruel, manipulative, compassionate, insecure, outgoing. Be mindful of the situations they’re in; dialogue has to be suitable for their action and reaction.


The Difference Between the Male Still Life and the Female Landscape   
According to Richard Drobnick from an article in YourTango:

“He believes communication should have a clear purpose. Behind every conversation is a problem that needs solving or a point that needs to be made.”

“She uses communication to discover how she is feeling and what it is she wants to say. She sees conversation as an act of sharing and an opportunity to increase intimacy with her partner.”

So keep in mind that men are more direct and brusque in tone. They use simpler vocabulary with fewer modifiers, and are likely to use one word responses and shorter sentences.  Instead of talking about people and feelings, they’d rather talk about things.  Also, dialogue is action for men.  Instead of discussing a way to save the heroine, the hero plans and executes it.

Women, however, love talking about people and relationships.  Their language is softer, and they’re more likely to talk around a subject.  “I’m not too happy about this,” she might say, while he says, “I’m mad as hell!”  Women express themselves in complete sentences, and want to share their feelings.

In closing, always keep your dialogue tension filled, loose, naturalistic and distinct for each individual character to create your masterpiece!

What do you like most about writing dialogue? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!