Friday, December 5, 2014

20 Favorite Christmas Movies of Authors

When do you start watching Christmas movies? I can watch them all year long, but Tim convinces me to wait until October or November most of the time.

This year, I asked our authors to share their favorite Christmas movies with us. I wanted a nice round number, so in my brain, I thought we'd make a list of the "Top 20 Christmas Movies." Only eight of our authors answered, with a total of 14 movies, because some gave more than one movie, and some were duplicated. It didn't take me long to figure out I could add SIX of my own favorites to the list that no one else mentioned!

Miracle on 34th Street was chosen by several as their favorite. No one specified which version - did you know there are actually four versions? 1947 (with Edmund Gwenn and Maureen O'Hara - my personal favorite), 1959 (with Ed Wynn and Peter Lind Hayes), 1973 (with Sebastian Cabot and Jane Alexander), and 1994 (with Richard Attenborough and Elizabeth Perkins.)

White Christmas was the second most listed.

The others, in no particular order are:

Smoky Mountain Christmas 
Christmas with Holly
Dear Santa
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (animated)
Home Alone (the first one)
The Gathering
Christmas Eve
One Magic Christmas
The Christmas Card
Polar Express

And some of my own personal favorites include:

A Christmas Snow
The Christmas Cottage
Midnight Clear
Christmas with a Capital C
Christmas Angel
Comfort and Joy
Christmas Kiss
Surviving Christmas
Stealing Christmas 
Snow: Brain Freeze
Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
The Santa Clause
The Gift of the Magi
Jingle all the Way
A Charlie Brown Christmas
A  Christmas Carol (almost any version or adaptation!)

Yes, that's more than six - I TOLD you I love Christmas movies!!!

Tell me some I missed! 
What are your favorite Christmas movies?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Surrender is Key to Writers

As we continue our Five Golden Days of Christmas Celebration, I find myself smiling a lot when I think about today's featured author. Julie Arduini is a rare mixture of humor and heart, depth and light. When I got ready to create this blog post, I realized her appearance on our blogs this week is a perfect example of that. On Monday, we featured her on the Write Integrity blog, with the title "Just Don't Take Her Chocolate." The post was fun (but yes, she's serious about her chocolate!) and yet today, this blog post deals with surrender. We could say she means surrender your chocolate (and she probably does), but this is where the depth comes in.

Julie is sold out to Jesus, and she surrenders daily her life to Him to guide her and use her as He sees fit. Surrender is a theme that runs through her books and on her blog. It manifests itself in her attitude toward others - a giving, generous spirit who always has a kind and encouraging word to offer.

Julie's a blessing to us at Write Integrity and Pix-N-Pens, and I know her books will bless you immensely. And keep you entertained in the process.

We recently released Julie's first novel in her Adirondack Surrender Series, Entrusted.

From the back cover:

Jenna Anderson, sassy city-girl, plows—literally—into Speculator Falls with a busted GPS, arriving in town as the new senior center director. She has only one goal—that of belonging no matter how out of place she appears and how angry she makes town councilman and grocer Ben Regan.

Her new life is so rural there are no traffic lights, and when she learns her car isn’t equipped to handle the mountain terrain, Ben’s grandmother offers her late husband’s vehicle, further alienating the local businessman.

As she endears herself to the seniors at the center and creates a vision full of ideas, programs, and equipment, she ruffles Ben’s plans to keep Speculator Falls void of change, including the store his grandfather built.

The two work through community events and shared heartbreak only to face off in a town council meeting where Ben publicly rejects her proposal for the senior center, causing Jenna to react out of her fears about belonging.

She returns to Ohio where she realizes she needs to surrender her plans for the center and fears about belonging and trust her Heavenly Father when facing fear, change, loss, and love.

Don't forget to grab your copy of Jerusha Agen's This Dance. It's FREE on Kindle today and tomorrow. The other books in her Sisters Redeemed Series are also available in print and on Kindle to complete your collection: This Shadow and This Redeemer.

Today's the last day to get Fay Lamb's Charisse for FREE on Kindle, so be sure to grab yours and tell your romance-loving friends to get their copy. And don't forget about the next book in this series, Libby. She's quite the character, and there's a hunky hero involved in her story, in case you're interested. 

Join more of the Five Golden Days of Christmas here:

Thursday's Blogs:

Fay Lamb: On the Ledge: A Special Gathering

Sheryl Holmes: Created to Crave

Wednesday's Blogs:

Tuesday's Blogs:

PNP: Cancer Survivor and Mom of Nine Offers Hope All Year Long
Tracy Ruckman: Christmas at Rumi Rancho
Julie Arduini: The Focus of Christmas
Fay Lamb: On the Ledge: A Very Special Mom

Monday's Blogs:

Sheryl Holmes: Give Hope: Carry!

And be sure to mark your calendar! We're having a Facebook Party on Friday, December 5, and you're invited! We're giving away books, jewelry, Christmas ornaments, a Nativity, gift cards, and more! 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Immersed in the 1920s as Historical Fiction Writer

Certain decades intrigue me more than others, although I've never quite figured out why. Are you that way? The 1920s is one of the decades I'm drawn to, and one of our authors transports us to those Roaring 20s with her novels.

Betty Thomason Owens is the author of Amelia's Legacy, the first book in her Legacy Series. I had the privilege of meeting and hanging out with her at the Catch the Wave conference this year - she's one of those people you just want to hang around forever! She'll be at our Facebook party this Friday, so drop by with some questions for her. She's giving away a beautiful 1920s-inspired necklace too!

From the back cover of Amelia's Legacy:

It's the Roaring Twenties and anything goes ...

Orphaned and living with her grandmother since the age of six, Nancy Sanderson desires only her freedom from her strict grandmother, Amelia Woods Sanderson, who divides her time between Nancy and a successful career. Her grandmother’s plans include a wealthy, smart, and well-connected young lawyer named Robert Emerson, who bores Nancy.

Instead, Nancy seeks the company of the wild-hearted Nate Conners. When her rebellion turns deadly and her dalliance with Nate leaves her in trouble, Nancy turns to Robert, who promises to protect her. But Robert has underestimated Nate’s thirst for revenge.

As hidden truths become known, can Nancy find the strength to forgive herself and gain true and lasting freedom?

We're giving away THREE books today:

Jerusha Agen's This Dance, the first book in her Sisters Redeemed Series, is free today through Friday.

Today's the last day to get Peggy Cunningham's Really Rare Rabbits: Giant Green Ghosts and the Secret at Peppermint Pass for free, so grab it now!

Fay Lamb's Charisse is free today and tomorrow, so be sure to tell your romance-loving friends to get their copy. And don't forget about the next book in this series, Libby. She's quite the character, and there's a hunky hero involved in her story, in case you're interested. 

And be sure to mark your calendar! We're having a Facebook Party on Friday, December 5, and you're invited! We're giving away books, jewelry, Christmas ornaments, a Nativity, gift cards, and more! 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christmas at Rumi Rancho

Missionaries have held a very special place in my heart, since I was a baby Christian. I belonged to a women's missionary group at church, where we met regularly to learn about missionaries all over the world, and to pray for their specific needs. We also got to meet a few as they came back to the States on furlough - our church helped sponsor a house specifically for furloughing missionaries.

When I first started writing, I wrote for a missions magazine, doing book reviews on books written by missionaries.

Today, I'd like to focus on one particular mission I learned about a couple of years ago. We're honored to have Peggy Cunningham as one of our authors at Pix-N-Pens. She and her husband Chuck have served as missionaries in Bolivia since 1981, and in 1999, they founded Rumi Rancho, their home and ministry base where they work among the Quechua people.

From their ministry website: "Situated in a rural area of the Cochabamba valley, the Cunninghams minister to Quechua children and adults in their home and churches. God has raised up Rumi Rancho to help them teach practical skills to children while reaching them for Christ. Their desire is to give them hope for eternity by teaching them God’s Word, as well as equipping them for a better life while here on earth. Since Rumi Rancho opened its doors to the nearby 11 surrounding communities, it has seen more than three thousand children attend classes and hear about Jesus. The number rises each year as the Cunninghams continue ministering to the Quechua people and children."

In their October 2014 newsletter, they share some of their current needs, and I asked to share them with our readers in hopes that those who are able can help meet some of these needs.

They're in need of nine laptop computers to be bought in Bolivia, at the cost of $400 each. They've been utilizing desktop computers, but now that it's time for an upgrade, laptops will give them portability to use the classroom for other activities and to use the laptops in more ways.

The classroom building is in need of a kitchen and an inside bathroom, which will enable them to hold large meetings and provide a way to feed who attend.

Each Christmas, they travel into the mountains to reach people there, taking gifts and necessities to the children who live there. Monetary donations are always needed and appreciated.

You can learn more about their ministry on their website.

Their mailing address is:

Rumi Rancho Ministries
P O Box 135
Acme, PA 15610

Join more of the Five Golden Days of Christmas here:

Free Kindle Books:

Participating Blogs:

Tracy Ruckman: Christmas at Rumi Rancho
Julie Arduini: The Focus of Christmas
Fay Lamb: On the Ledge: A Very Special Mom

Sheryl Holmes BLOG: How to HELP those who are suffering during the holidays/ #1 Carry
Fay Lamb: On the Ledge: Is that All

And be sure to mark your calendar! We're having a Facebook Party on Friday, December 5, and you're invited! We're giving away books, jewelry, Christmas ornaments, a Nativity, gift cards, and more! 


Monday, December 1, 2014

Romance, Suspense, Cruises, and Retirement: An Author’s Life

Woo-hoo, it's Christmas! I love this time of year - except for the cold, that is! Yes, I could handle a warm, sunny Christmas!

This week, we're hosting the "Five Golden Days" of Christmas over at Write Integrity Press and Pix-N-Pens Publishing. I'll be featuring some of the authors or events here on this blog too.

Just be sure to mark your calendar for Friday, December 5 - we're having our annual Facebook party with lots of party favors and fun. And you're invited!

Today, I want to tell you about an author I met last year at the Catch the Wave conference in Atlanta. She is a fireball! When you get ready to read one of her books, just be prepared not to put it down until you've reached The End because Elizabeth Noyes writes the most incredible action-filled romantic suspense that keeps you turning pages.

I loved this 5-Star review for Imperfect Wings:

"I literally read this book in a day and was upset with myself as I brought it along for entertainment on a cruise, but finished it before we got to the ship! The characters come alive with such an elaborate use of language. I enjoyed every page and can't wait for the next book!!"

The review is quite apropo because Elizabeth is a cruise aficionada. She and her husband have taken dozens of cruises all over the world, including a celebratory cruise earlier this year to launch her retirement (pun intended, of course!) You can read more about that particular cruise on her blog.

More about the book:

Evil stalks TJ McKendrick.

Three years after burying her father, TJ visits Honduras where he died. While there, she witnesses a murder and is forced to flee.

Don Castillo dreams of power. Funnel the drugs into the States and it's his. First though, he must kill the woman who dared spy on him.

The last thing Garrett Cameron needs is another woman interrupting his life, but when the feisty vixen that put a monkey wrench in his mission two years ago shows up at his ranch running for her life -- what's a man to do?

The attraction between TJ and Garrett bursts into flame in the midst of danger, a fierce desire that neither is prepared for. Her past is filled with betrayal. He's lived a life of violence, and love isn't for someone like him. Do they dare let go of past hurts and embrace a future together?

Only faith in God and trust in each other can overcome the deadly odds they face.

Join more of the Five Golden Days of Christmas here:

PNP: Rare Rabbits in Bolivia - Today's FREE KINDLE book!
WIP: Just Don’t Take Her Chocolate! - There's a Giveaway!
Fay Lamb: On the Ledge: Is that All?

And be sure to mark your calendar! We're having a Facebook Party on Friday, December 5, and you're invited! We're giving away books, jewelry, Christmas ornaments, a Nativity, gift cards, and more! 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Changing Focus

Have you ever been so focused, so intent on doing one thing that you lose sight of everything else? So focused on that one thing that every conversation, every thought, every word that comes out of your mouth ends up pointing back to that one focus, whether you want it to or not?

I’ve been that way for the past three weeks. We’re struggling with a particular issue, and because I’m so focused on trying to deal with it, my thoughts and my words – and even my sleep – are consumed by it.

I know it’s not healthy. I know it’s not right. I know. I know. I know.

Yet, I can’t seem to stop, because the issue isn’t yet resolved.

Am I the only one with this problem? Of course not. But at times, it sure seems like I am. It’s those times when I want to stand up, pitch a temper tantrum, and shout the roof off, “Somebody, please HELP make this problem go away!”

This tunnel vision makes me do stupid things – say things or write things that I second-guess myself on later. For example, I wrote something to a group earlier this week, and have beat myself up over it ever since, feeling a silent judgment of my post. No one said anything – I just feel the condemnation coming through cyberspace. (See, my so-focused-brain isn’t even rational at times!) I’ve pondered whether the Holy Spirit is convicting me of saying something wrong and yet tried to justify it, by arguing that I was just stating the truth. Yes, I was truthful. But I probably shouldn’t have written what I did because my focus was too tight.  Too focused inward. Too focused personally. And yet, even as I write that, I question myself. “If I’m not focused on this problem, how else will it get resolved?”

I’m still a work in progress. God’s not finished with me yet.

This tunnel vision also hinders my work. It causes me to be overwhelmed with the problem, which keeps me from moving forward, onto other things. Instead, I dwell in the problem, wrestling round and round with it – not resolving it, but not accomplishing anything else either.

Now I’m behind, and that creates its own set of problems.

Today, I must change focus. I must drag myself out of this week’s quicksand and stand on Solid Rock. I do that by changing my focus from my problems to God’s Word, which tells me He’s bigger than my problems.

Jeremiah 32:27 says, “Look, I am Yahweh, the God of all flesh. Is anything too difficult for Me?”

Have you ever struggled with something like this? 
Are you going through it now? May I pray for you?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Two Weeks of Leading Men

Leading men make me sigh. One of those happy sighs, of course. The past two weeks have been filled with some incredible leading men, and an actress who puzzles me.

Gran Torino
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Screenplay by Nick Schenk
Starring Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Christopher Carley 

Gran Torino is our critical essay this week. I did some preliminary research, but another assignment due at midnight last night pulled me away. Interestingly, in my initial search, there weren't many articles about the movie, so I'm curious to start the hunt again.

North by Northwest
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written By Ernest Lehman
Starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason

This may be one of my favorite Hitchcock films, full of adventure and suspense, with a few turns I didn't see coming. I may have enjoyed this one more because I had no reservations about watching this one, after watching some of his others. 

12 Angry Men
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Story and Screenplay written by Reginald Rose
Starring Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Martin Balsam

This one reminded me a lot of Runaway Jury with John Cusack, but without the outside influences or suspense. It still had tension, just not as much as Runaway Jury.

A Bronx Tale
Directed by Robert De Niro (his debut)
Written by Chazz Palminteri
Starring Robert De Niro, Chazz Palminteri, Lillo Brancato, Francis Capra

We watched this movie not as an assignment but because I became a Francis Capra fan while watching Veronica Mars, and he didn't disappoint. The narrator sounds like Capra's voice as an adult, but he was only a child then, so it must be Brancato - but their accents and voices are almost identical. (I'm really an odd duck - I recognize voices almost instantly - and this one threw me.) 

One bit of trivia about this movie really emphasizes the need for research. In IMDb's list of "goofs" for this movie, they write, "It's supposed to be 1960 but the parking meters on the street where 'C' lives are the new kind with the slits for coins rather than the slots. These parking meters did not exist until 1973." This particular goof was production's fault, but the need for research applies to writers as well - when we don't research our topics, our credibility pays the price.

We're working on a spec TV script now in one of my classes. The beat sheet was due last night, and I struggled all week with it. My spec script is for an episode of Blue Bloods (season premiere tonight - YAY!) and the murder victim had a career I knew nothing about. So I had to research it to make his murder plausible. 

Tim and I continue to binge on various TV shows, studying different aspects. We're just finishing up (2 more episodes) the first season of Cedar Cove starring Andie MacDowell. The show's premise is interesting, and some of the actors are really great (Dylan Neal, Sarah Smyth, Teryl Rothery) but Andie MacDowell's performance leaves a lot to be desired, so much so, I've asked myself numerous times how she got to be such a big star. I'm not trying to be harsh - I'm truly curious. The script of Cedar Cove sometimes fails miserably, too. I haven't read the books by Debbie Macomber that the series is based on, so I don't know if the problems are from the original story or the screenplay, but it's one of those shows that doesn't live up to its potential. 

My older son alerted me to a new series starting this week, and we loved the pilot episode. Even if you're not a Batman fan, you may want to check out Gotham.

Directed by Danny Cannon, T.J. Scott, Dermott Downs
Written by Bruno Heller and a host of others
Starring Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, Sean Pertwee, David Mazouz

More leading men worth a few sighs.

Who's your favorite leading man? (Besides your significant other...)

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Blur of Movies and Television

Time is passing so quickly, and we're watching movies as fast as they arrive. Here's a brief list of our viewing since my last post.

Lee Daniels' The Butler
Director: Lee Daniels
Writers: Danny Strong (screenplay), Wil Haygood (article)
Starring Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, John Cusack, David Oyelowo, Mariah Carey,  Cuba Gooding, Jr.

The Butler was our assigned critical essay of the week. Research revealed many intriguing details about the making of this movie. My paper touched on the cinematography, makeup, producers (41 are credited!), the star-studded cast, budget, and costumes. One of my favorite quotes from all the research was in Harry Haun's article "Witness to History." He interviewed Lee Daniels who discussed the difficulty of lining up all the cast. "When you’ve just got two dollars to pay these actors—plus a bag of M&Ms—and they have to leave their day job—their real working jobs—to come into our playing ground, you have to understand you’re going to lose some of these actors. The schedules don’t necessarily work out all the time."

Rear Window
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writers: John Michael Hayes (screenplay) and Cornell Woolrich (short story)
Starring Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendall Corey

12 Years a Slave
Directed by Steve McQueen
Written by John Ridley and Solomon Northup
Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael K. Williams, Michael Fassbender

First Blood
Director: Ted Kotcheff
Writers: David Morrell (novel), Michael Kozoll (screenplay), William Sackheim (screenplay) and Sylvester Stallone (screenplay)
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Brian Dennehy, William Crenna

2009 - present
Starring Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Jon Huertas

A couple of years ago, we watched one episode of Castle, but didn't follow it. This time, we got a dvd from Netflix and watched the first four episodes and really liked it. We'll be watching more - Nathan Fillion might become addictive.

Director and Writer: Jeff Nichols
Starring  Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland

This one wasn't on our list, but I like Matthew McConaughey, so we watched. Language is bad, but the characters are interesting. In one of our class lectures this week, the professor stressed that our characters must be likeable/interesting enough that viewers want to invest time, money, emotion into them. Jeff Nichols created characters like this - we may not agree with their actions, their words, their morality, but there's something about each one that draws us in.

Tye Sheridan is a young actor to watch. His performance was stunning.

This weekend, we'll be viewing North by Northwest, Amadeus, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Veronica Mars the Movie (yes, I'm addicted to these characters!)

Our school assignments are now including writing. We submitted our first short film script last week. I made a 96 and the professor is sending it to a pitching session for possible production by my school.

We also submitted five loglines for episodes of a current TV series. I pitched five episodes of Blue Bloods. (Really looking forward to the season premiere September 26th!) The professor will pick several loglines and post them to our groups for discussion and brainstorming, then we'll be assigned to write one episode that we pitched.

Next week, in another class, we begin writing 30 loglines for movie scripts. Fifteen are due the first week, fifteen more the second week. We're given categories to fit them in, like two log lines from childhood experiences, one based on a Bible story or biblical event, one based on a short story in the public domain, etc. I'm very excited about doing these - maybe I'll strike gold!

Other recent movie lists:

Bridal Shower, Papers, and Movies
Confusion of Week One
My MFA Textbooks
Writing and Viewing the TV Drama
Rethinking Use of Color and Plot in Screenwriting
The Journey to an MFA in Screenwriting Begins

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Bridal Shower, Papers, and Movies

Whew! Week 2 was crazy! My future daughter-in-law's bridal shower was this past Saturday, so I spent part of the week prepping for that, but we also had two papers due in school with movies to watch, research, and critique.

I'm going to share what we've watched in backwards order, because we just watched a movie so fascinating I can't wait to tell you about it!

Written by: John Logan and Brian Selznick
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz

"Set in 1930s Paris, an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery involving his late father and an automaton." ~ IMDb

This story took many twists and turns - one of the most delightful movies I've ever seen. Of course, it left me in tears, too, but that's okay.

In week 3, we're learning about The Visual Story. The author of the book, Bruce Block, discusses story intensity, and after reading Block's Story Structure, I can almost see Hugo on the following type graph that Block has in his book:

The abbreviations are:


Hugo provided the ups and downs in this chart, and the intensity continued to increase with every minute.

I highly recommend both the film and the book. (Hugo is currently available on Netflix for live streaming or on DVD.)

We had two papers due Sunday, one on Citizen Kane and one on Vertigo. After studying and researching the films in depth, my earlier reservations about them (CK here and V here) are gone. I now have a great amount of respect for the talent and ingenuity that went into both of these movies. I still think they're odd, but my appreciation for them has grown exponentially.

Tim and I finished all four seasons of Blue Bloods and can't wait for the fifth season to begin later this month. One of my assignments for this week is to write five loglines for potential episodes of a current TV program. I'm going to write mine for Blue Bloods. I already have one idea, but now I have to figure out the others - and come up with original ideas they've not done before.

After we finished Blue Bloods, we began watching Veronica Mars. My BFF said it was like a modern day Nancy Drew, and being a Nancy Drew fan (of the original series) I looked forward to it. The "modern" part is what gets me, but once I got past that, it's an okay series.

It's interesting though - as I compare the different shows we've watched recently, I realize two things: 1) I'm not the target market for some of these shows; 2) there is a HUGE difference between excellent TV and good TV, not just good and bad, and it doesn't have to do with ratings. If anyone doubts that, just look at A&E's ridiculous decision to cancel Longmire, one of the best TV shows currently on the air, AND their #2 program behind Duck Dynasty.

Other recent movie lists:

A Blur of Television and Movies
Bridal Shower, Papers, and Movies
Confusion of Week One
My MFA Textbooks
Writing and Viewing the TV Drama
Rethinking Use of Color and Plot in Screenwriting
The Journey to an MFA in Screenwriting Begins

Monday, August 25, 2014

Confusion of Week One

The first week of school is always the most stressful for me (and for everyone else, I imagine.)

Even provided with syllabi ahead of time, we still have to figure out exactly how the classes are structured, how the professor wants assignments, and what writing style we're to use. Professors clarify assignments and explain, change, or add things to the syllabus that weren't part of the original. On top of that, we have the hundreds of introductory posts by all the students that must be read, and then a couple replied to. When students make minimal comments like "Hi, nice to meet ya, good to have you in class" - and they do that for EVERY student, some of us tire of that quickly. So I always look forward to getting past that point - I never was one for small talk anyway.

This semester, we'll be writing loglines for five episodes of a current TV drama series and one full spec episode. (I'm doing Blue Bloods, so we're binge-watching all episodes. Thankfully, an idea has already formed itself and I'm already percolating the script.)

We'll also have to write a full-length feature film. Several ideas are bouncing around my head right now, but I haven't settled on one.

And by the end of next week, we'll have to turn in a short script for possible production at our school. This one terrifies me, even though it's the shortest - because it's due so quickly. I'll be carving out brainstorming time early this week just to figure out something.

Our viewing this week has mostly been Blue Bloods, but we also watched a few movies. Some of the movies don't have assignments attached to them - they're just for viewing purposes. In one class, we're assigned to groups and each group watches different movies and then critiques them.


Starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock

I LOVE space movies. Except this one. Wow. We watched the entire thing and I kept waiting for the movie to start. At the end, they put up the title graphic, and thought, "Good, now we can get to the story" - but then the final credits started rolling.

What were these stars thinking? I like both of them in other movies, but they must have needed a paycheck or something. I was flabbergasted to learn that this movie had been nominated for hundreds of awards, and even more astounded to learn it actually won 175 of them! Most are in cinematography, and that makes sense because visually, the movie is stunning.

Starring Dennis Quaid and Martin Short

I quit watching this one in the first 10 minutes. It was an "alternate" viewing option for First Blood, and since I had not seen it, I chose to view it instead. Now I'm waiting for First Blood to arrive so I can watch it again.

Written by Alec Coppel and Samuel Taylor
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Starring James Stewart and Kim Novak

We are required to write a 1000-word critique on this movie. It's going to be a chore, because my first impression of this one is that it's just one weird movie. As I'm researching academic articles discussing the film, I ran across a comment that gave me a little comfort though. The article writer quoted Kim Novak in a conversation she had with Alfred Hitchcock. She said, "There's a scene that bothers me. It doesn't make sense" and Hitchcock replied, "That's the point, my dear, that's the point." So I feel better - I totally got his point. The movie didn't make sense to me. The article writer goes on to say, "He loved to move things around and not always totally justify a scene on purpose, to keep the audience alert, to keep them participating." I'm not sure today's audiences would put up with that for very long.

The articles have given me a bit more appreciation for the film as a whole, though, so I'm eagerly reading as much as I can about it in hopes to understand a little more.

We also have a five-page essay on Citizen Kane due later this week, so I'm rewatching it as well. I'll have to seek out articles on this one as well - I understood it less than I did Vertigo.

Have you seen any of these movies? I'd love to hear your thoughts on them. 

Other recent movie lists:

A Blur of Television and Movies
Bridal Shower, Papers, and Movies
Confusion of Week One
My MFA Textbooks
Writing and Viewing the TV Drama
Rethinking Use of Color and Plot in Screenwriting
The Journey to an MFA in Screenwriting Begins


Brown, Royal S. “Back from among the Dead: The Restoration of Alfred Hitchcock's ‘Vertigo’.” Cineaste - America's Leading Magazine on the Art and Politics of the Cinema 07 1997: 4-9. ProQuest. Web. 25 Aug. 2014.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My MFA Textbooks

I tried putting together a fancy little widget from Amazon to show our textbooks, but the code doesn't seem to like me at the moment.

Instead, I'll list my textbooks, software, and equipment here, and update the list each semester.

Semester 1

Books Required:

Story by Robert McKee
(required for two classes)
The Hollywood Standard

Screenwriter's Bible by Dave Trotter
(newest edition)
The Visual Story
Reel Spirituality
The TV Writer's Workbook

Writing the TV Drama Series

Faith, Film and Philosophy:
Big Ideas and the Big Screen
Anatomy of a Film

Books Recommended:

The Routledge Companion to Religion and Film

Software Required:

Movie Magic Screenwriter

A couple of years ago when I took my first screenwriting class, I purchased Movie Magic 6 for two reasons: platform and cost. MM6 works on either Mac or PC - at the time, I knew I would be switching computers, and MM6 worked easily to accommodate both computers. At the time, it also cost quite a bit less than Final Draft. Today, they're closer in price, but you still have to choose one or the other platforms on Final Draft - you don't have the option of using one purchase for either/or.


Final Draft

We are also required to use SKYPE this year for some communication with our professors.

Recent movie lists:

A Blur of Television and Movies
Bridal Shower, Papers, and Movies
Confusion of Week One
My MFA Textbooks
Writing and Viewing the TV Drama
Rethinking Use of Color and Plot in Screenwriting
The Journey to an MFA in Screenwriting Begins

Monday, August 11, 2014

Writing and Viewing the TV Drama Series

Another class I'll be taking this semester is Writing the TV Drama Series. We haven't received our syllabus yet, but based on an older one, I think we might have to write a pilot episode of our own creation. I'm excited about that, oddly enough, because some of today's favorite dramas are not my favorite.

Some of my favorites over the last few years have included (in random order): Longmire, The Good Wife, LOST, Blacklist, 24, Sherlock, CSI: Miami, Law & Order: SVU, and Midsomer Murders. But I admit, I enjoy some of the older (tamer?) dramas as much or more than some of these because of content. In the older dramas, I didn't have to worry about too much gore or being assaulted with filthy language or graphic sex scenes. 

We started watching a few drama series this weekend, based on textbook and other recommendations.

Once Upon a Time
Created by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz
Pilot Episode written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parilla, Josh Dallas, Jared Gilmore

I expect a flogging over this admission, but I've never been too much of a fantasy fan, and I never dwelled in fairytales for long periods of time. Although many of my writer friends love this series, and I can see the draw of it, I'm not a huge fan. I watched the pilot and will watch other episodes in the coming weeks, I'm sure, but I'm not compelled to continue watching like I am with other genres. 

Mad Men
Created by Matthew Wiener
Written by Matthew Wiener and a host of others for various episodes
Starring Jon Hamm, Elizabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones

With an advertising background, I expected to like this show much more than I did. I actually enjoyed several episodes of it - I love the time period (50s) and I like the overall premise of the series. The writers are creative in the way they incorporate elements to reflect the decade. But for me, they push the envelope a little much, taking viewers into darkness instead of light. 

Blue Bloods
2010 - 
Created by Mitchell Burgess, Robin Green
Written by Mitchell Burgess, Robin Green, and a host of others
Starring Tom Selleck, Donnie Wahlberg, Bridget Moynihan, Will Estes, Lou Cariou

This drama has periods of brilliance and originality and then other times when it seems like several of the other legal shows on the air in recent years - Law & Order, in particular. (I'm not saying L&O isn't brilliant - for the most part, I enjoyed those series as well.)

Blue Bloods is gripping and we can't stop watching, which is what every writer longs to hear, right?

As Tim and I discussed the dramas we watched this week, we agreed that Blue Bloods was several notches above the others in quality and content. I also recognized within the episodes a pattern taught in one of my textbooks. So it will be interesting to learn those patterns and discover other series using them.

Do you watch these TV shows? What's your opinion of them? Do you recommend any others?

Recent movie and TV lists:

A Blur of Television and Movies
Bridal Shower, Papers, and Movies
Confusion of Week One
My MFA Textbooks
Writing and Viewing the TV Drama
Rethinking Use of Color and Plot in Screenwriting
The Journey to an MFA in Screenwriting Begins

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Rethinking the Use of Color and Plot in Screenwriting

Since my last post, we've watched a short film recommended by Hulu's Summer Film School and a feature film recommended by Robert McKee in Story, one of my textbooks this semester. Story is actually required reading for two of my classes this time, so I'll make good use of it in the coming months.

I had a question about textbooks, so I added a widget at the bottom with all our required books for this semester. I'll add to it each semester as we go.

The Red Balloon
Written by Albert Lamorisse
Starring Pascala Lamorisse

This delightful short (35 minutes) was full of surprises. The story is told visually, with minimal dialogue, and won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

Hulu recommended watching this movie for its use of color. The boy runs all around the back streets of Paris, providing a drab and dreary backdrop to the colorful red balloon.

The surprise ending still has me smiling.

This film hit a personal note with me. On my 1st birthday, my maternal grandparents took me to Six Flags. My grandfather told the story of carrying me all over the amusement park all day long. At some point, he bought me a balloon, and I clung to it the rest of the day. As we were getting in the car, I let go of the balloon and it floated up, up, and away. They tell me I put up quite a fuss!

Tender Mercies
Written by Horton Foote
Starring Robert Duvall, Tess Harper, Betty Buckley, Wilford Brimley, Ellen Barkin, Allan Hubbard

I've been a fan of Robert Duvall since Lonesome Dove. When I saw this movie recommendation in the opening chapters of Story - my first reading assignment - I ordered it from Netflix pronto.

After the movie ended, I cautiously questioned the accolades, until I studied other opinions and comments. It seems more like a "slice of life" vignette than a feature film, but that's what makes it so special - it is a slice of life. Character arcs aren't steep, although a slight one exists for Duvall's character, Mac Sledge.

Robert McKee admits that "some reviewers described it as 'plotless,' then praised it for that." The plot takes place within Sledge's own mind during this life slice. Robert Duvall won an Academy Award for the role.

I love movie trivia and found some fun tidbits about Tender Mercies over at IMDb.

Other recent movie lists:

A Blur of Television and Movies
Bridal Shower, Papers, and Movies
Confusion of Week One
My MFA Textbooks
Writing and Viewing the TV Drama
Rethinking Use of Color and Plot in Screenwriting
The Journey to an MFA in Screenwriting Begins

Hitting a Milestone

As 2022 ended, I had plans. Nothing extravagant, but perhaps a couple of adventures and a fall conference to prepare for and attend. But I q...