Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Don't Look Back

Don't look back: Something may be gaining on you." Satchel Paige U.S. baseball player, 1906-1982

Today I'd like to focus on one of the best pieces of writing advice ever, the importance of moving ahead when writing a manuscript. 

As Satchel Paige says, "Don't look back." If we do, guess what's gaining on us? The possibility of not being able to complete that book!

Author Norma Beishir says, "Finish the first draft before attempting ANY changes of any kind. Otherwise, the manuscript will never get finished. I'd often give my agent or editor a first draft with the following note: 'Just tell me what's wrong with it.'"

A first draft is a first draft. Robert Masello says that amateur writers don't want to hear about drafts, because they believe that once something's written, it's done. Real writers (the ones who get published), he goes on to explain, know better. They know that the first draft is a working draft.  And it won't be perfect.  But that's alright, because real writers make it from start to finish.

One reason some don't complete their first draft is because they keep looking back.  I was talking to someone working on a children's book.  Although the story sounded awesome, and she'd thought it through from start to finish, she hadn't written that much. 

She said she just couldn't get the first few pages to sound exactly like she wanted.  I told her not to worry about that, and keep moving forward.  "You can go back and revise once you've finished writing the story."  I don't know if she took my advice, and even though she listened carefully to what I said, I don't think she liked the idea all that much!

If we keep looking back, it's as though we become stuck in the mud, obsessing over words and details. But if we move on, we see that there really is an end is in sight!  The finished product might sound  a little rough and sloppy, but that's when the hard work of revising starts, the smoothing and sanding and cutting and shaping of your story.

During revision, whole scenes may be cut and characters eliminated to keep the pace exciting and the story progressing. But the most important thing to remember is that from the rough cut of your first draft (and second, third or more), will emerge a smooth and polished manuscript.

Have you made the mistake of looking back? Are you currently revising a first (second or third) draft?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, April 17, 2023

Bass Reeves

Just who is Bass Reeves? I didn't know until quite recently. He's the inspiration for The Lone Ranger and also known as the Odysseus of cowboys and the James Bond of U.S. Marshalls. So who is Bass Reeves? He's the First Black Deputy U.S. Marshall West of the Mississippi! Here's more from the Bass Reeves website:

Bass Reeves was a lawman for a total of 32 years with over 3,000 felon arrests and killed 14 outlaws in the line of duty, all without ever being shot himself. Bass had to overcome, prejudice, betrayal, and some of the worst criminals in Oklahoma, the most dangerous district in the country.

Born a slave in 1830’s Texas, Bass was owned by Colonel Reeves, who taught him to shoot, ride, and hunt, but would not let him learn to read. Bass grew to be a strong, physically impressive, and determined man who ran away at the age of 20 to be free. Pursued by slave hunters, he narrowly escaped into the Indian Territory where Creek Indian Warriors accepted him into their tribe. Bass learned to speak Creek, Cherokee and Seminole. It is believed that Bass fought in the Indian Territory during the Civil War with the Union Indian brigades.

The Indian Territory, at this time, was a cesspool of violence. In 1875 President Ulysses S. Grant named Congressman Isaac Parker, Federal Judge at Fort Smith, with the mandate to “save Oklahoma”. The “Hanging Judge”, as he was soon to be known, brought in 200 deputy marshals to calm the growing chaos throughout the West. The Indian Territory, later to include the Oklahoma Territory, in 1890, was the most dangerous area for federal peace officers in the Old West. More than 120 lost their lives before Oklahoma became a state in 1907.

One of the first of the deputies hired by Judge Parker's court was former slave from Texas, Bass Reeves. Bass was known as an expert with pistol and rifle, stood about 6 feet 2 inches, weighed 180 pounds, and was said to have superhuman strength. Being a former slave, Bass was illiterate. He would memorize his warrants and writs. In the thirty–two years of serving the people of the Oklahoma Territory it is said he never arrested the wrong person due to the fact he couldn't read. 

Bass had a reputation throughout the territory for his ability to catch outlaws that other deputies couldn't. He was known to work in disguise in order to get information and affect the arrest of fugitives he wanted to capture. Bass is said to have arrested more than 3,000 people and killed 14 outlaws, all without sustaining a single gun wound. Bass escaped numerous assassination attempts on his life, he was the most feared deputy U.S. marshal to work the Indian Territory.

At the age of 67, Bass Reeves retired from federal service at Oklahoma statehood in 1907. As an African-American, Bass was unable to continue in his position as deputy marshal under the new state laws. He was hired as a city policeman in Muskogee, Oklahoma, where he served for about two years until his death in 1910, at age 71, from Bright’s disease.

For more information, check out the Bass Reeves website. Had you ever heard of Bass Reeves? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

In Memory of My Dad

Dad, captain of his college track team

Ten years ago, April 15, 2013, my dad passed away at eighty-six from congestive heart failure. Today I thought I'd repost something I wrote in honor of him.

My dad was always a big dreamer.  He was a numbers man from an accounting background who became a real estate broker. He loved envisioning what his investments could do, whether they be in property, art or stocks.
I am not a numbers person. I’m much better with words. I’m sure my dad was a superior math student, but based on this story, I’m not sure if his language arts grades were as strong.  In first grade while learning about conjunctions, the teacher asked my dad to use the word but in a sentence.  His response, "I have a butt."

Like my dad, however, I’ve always been a dreamer.  But my dreams involve imaginary people and stories.  It’s ironic that my dad always admonished me for daydreaming! "Maria," he’d say, "you have to stop daydreaming and pay attention in school." Little did I know that at some point my daydreams would turn into books.

My dad was also a romantic, like I am, but I didn’t realize this until I was grown. He knew I loved old movies, and one day he asked had I ever seen the 1945 film 
Love Letters with Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotton.  He’d seen it as a young man while serving overseas during WWII and had never forgotten it.  It was a great love story filled with passion and pain—the same kind of story I enjoy—and I was surprised that my dad had loved it so much—because it seems like what we’d now call a sappy woman’s movie.

When my parents saw Love Story back in the seventies, which one of them do you think carried on about what a great film it was?  My dad!
When I wrote my first book The Governor’s Sons, I was surprised that my dad read it.  And I say that because he wasn’t one to read novels. He’d read financial publications and news magazines—that was about it.  But he read my book and told me how much he enjoyed it, and that he even stayed up late one night to finish it because he just couldn’t put it down! I was thrilled and honored to hear this! Apparently, my story had enough romance, passion and pain to keep my him entertained!

And he never stopped dreaming that one day The Governor’s Sons would be made into a movie. He was always dreaming up new ways to market it, and envisioning what people of influence could make things happen with it.

Well, no movie deals yet, but I’ll keep dreaming about that for my dad! I miss my him a lot, but happy memories ease the pain of losing him a little.  

Do you share any similarities with your dad? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!  

Monday, April 3, 2023

Bizarre Things That Happened on the Set of The Passion of The Christ

Easter is coming up this Sunday, and I'm reminded of the movie The Passion of the Christ. My husband and I saw it way back in 2004 when it was first released. My kids were very young at the time, so they didn't see it until a few years ago. It's very hard to watch and lots of tissue is necessary. Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, died to take away our sins, yet seeing what He endured brought to life on the screen is an extraordinarily emotional experience. It's an amazing movie. But what I didn't know is that some very bizarre things happened on the set. Here's an article from Looper.com outlining all the strange occurrences.

Mel Gibson's biblical drama film The Passion of the Christ both divided and shocked audiences nationwide after its Ash Wednesday release in 2004. Primarily following the final hours of Jesus' life, the film was praised for its cinematography and performances, but criticized for its graphic violence and alleged antisemitic undertones. Regardless, it received three Academy Award nominations and remains the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time.

On screen, The Passion of the Christ has its fair share of bizarre moments. And as surreal as things can get during the movie itself, there were also quite a few bizarre happenings behind the scenes — some of which you might not even believe.

According to one study, lightning strikes roughly 240,000 people per year. It's fairly rare, in other words — but in 2003, it happened three times on the set of The Passion of the Christ.

Lead actor Jim Caviezel has claimed he was "lit up like a Christmas tree" while filming the Sermon on the Mount sequence of the film. "I knew it was going to hit me about four seconds before it happened," the actor told The 700 Club. "I thought, 'I'm going to get hit.' And when it happened, I saw the extras grab the ground."

Caviezel said that after the strike, fire was coming out of his head and his body was illuminated — though the cameras hadn't yet finished panning over to his position. "By the time the cameras got to me," Caviezel recalled, "I hear Mel screaming out, 'What the heck happened to his hair?' I looked like I went to see Don King's hair stylist."

Caviezel wasn't the only person on the set of The Passion to get struck by lightning.

"Five minutes after I got hit," Caviezel explained, "Jon Mikalini, an assistant, walks over and says 'Are you okay?' And then he got hit. The difference was that they saw the bolt come down and hit Jon ... All I felt was this giant tremendous slap on my ears and a few seconds of a pink, red static in front of my eyes."

Unbelievably, that wasn't even the first time the assistant director had been struck on set. According to BBC News, Mikalini had already been the victim of Mother Nature's electrostatic discharge once before, when lightning struck his umbrella — luckily only causing light burns on his fingertips. What are the odds of that happening? An astronomical 1/11,728,889,000,000 if you live in the United States.

Because you can't exactly flay the skin off your star in real life, a hidden whipping post was set up behind Caviezel while filming The Passion of the Christ's notoriously bloody scourging scene. Problem was, one of the actors doing the flogging didn't have the best aim when swinging overhand. "[His lash] just extended over the board and hit me with such a velocity that I couldn't breathe," Caviezel recalled to Today. "It's like getting the wind knocked out of you. The stinging is so horrific that you can't get air."

Unsurprisingly, Caviezel wasn't happy. "I turned around and looked at the guy, and I tell you, I may be playing Jesus, but I felt like Satan at that moment ... a couple of expletives came out of my mouth." Some good that did. Moments later, Caviezel accidentally received another blow. Nobody ever said playing Our Lord and Savior would be easy.

Not only did Caviezel get struck by lightning and endure a couple misplaced lashes, he also dislocated his shoulder while carrying the film's massive crucifix. According to the cross-bearer himself, the wooden construction weighed 150 pounds. "It feels like 600 pounds as the day goes on," Caviezel told Fox News.

Caviezel's shoulder popping out of place was just the start of his misery. "Later they stick you up on a cross in 25-degree temperatures with 30-knot winds," Caviezel explained. Filming almost naked in such frigid conditions nearly gave the actor hypothermia, and succeeded in giving him a lung infection and pneumonia.

Just to add the icing on Caviezel's painful cake, the actor regularly suffered severe migraines from working day in and day out with one eye cosmetically swollen shut.

According to Today, Caviezel's alarm went off a 2AM in order to provide enough time for the film's makeup artists to cover him in cosmetic bruises, cuts, lashes, gashes, and copious amounts of fake blood. They also had to arrange his crown of thorns, and seal one eye shut — which wreaked havoc on his depth perception. "You are going to work every day with only one eye functioning," he told Fox News, "which gives you headaches."

Filming The Passion of the Christ had a pretty profound effect on many people involved in the production, and the film's set became the site of some religious conversions. Legionary Father John Bartunek told National Catholic Register, "Everyone felt comfortable talking about issues of faith. Being a priest in the midst of that, I was like a lightning rod for spiritual conversations."

One actor who converted from being a self-proclaimed "angry atheist" was Luca Lionello, the actor who plays Judas. Near the end of production, Lionello accepted the film's title character as his lord and savior. "He asked for confession," Bartunek explained. "Apparently he had been completely transformed by the experience. He baptized his children, sanctified his marriage and came back to the Church."

Not only did the film have a profound effect on the atheist actor who played Judas, it affected a cast member of the Islamic faith. "One of the guys working on the film was a Muslim," Caviezel told The 700 Club. "He was one of the guards who beat me, and he converted. He had a real big experience there, you know?"

During the filming of The Passion of the Christ, Caviezel had to endure accidental lashings, a dislocated shoulder, pneumonia, a lung infection, persistent migraines, and getting struck by lightning — but the bad luck didn't end there. Once filming wrapped and the movie made millions worldwide, the actor's career all but died.

In addition to calling Mel Gibson "a horrible sinner," Caviezel has claimed he's been blackballed by Hollywood for playing Jesus. In fact, he's recalled Gibson trying to talk him out of it only moments after offering him the controversial role. "He said, 'You'll never work in this town again,'" Caviezel told a congregation at First Baptist Church of Orlando. "I told him, 'We all have to embrace our crosses' ... We have to give up our names, our reputations, our lives to speak the truth."

Still, Caviezel's career might be due for a resurrection, with the actor set to reprise his most famous role in Gibson's upcoming sequel to The Passion. "I won't tell you how he's going to go about it," Caviezel told USA Today. "But I'll tell you this much, the film he's going to do is going to be the biggest film in history. It's that good."

I can't wait for the sequel! Have you seen The Passion of the Christ? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!