Week Thirty: Bloods, Timelines, and The Wrath of Kahn

July 31, 2012 § 1 Comment

July 29th, 2012

Almost done reading Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ new book The Great Escape. I’m also still reading Bloods. Slowly. First-hand accounts of soldiers’ bodies getting blown to bits is not something I can just breeze through, although I sure wish I could.


Continued working on the novel’s timeline and, as I’d predicted, I’m hitting one block after another. Every time I nail one corner down, another end bounces up out of place. Maybe this is why they say authors rarely publish the first book they write. It’s because they’re actually learning how to write a book, and who wants to stick with re-writing the first one as much as is needed to actually publish it?! Onward, anyway . . .


Saturday night was the Alibi Midnight Movie showing of Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Kahn at the Guild Cinema. Sitting in the audience as the three sponsors stood at the front of the theater and lead us in a fists-clenched, rousing cry of “Kaahhn!!” brought joy to my heart. It had been so long since I’d seen that movie, there were parts I’d forgotten, but some things I’d never forget. Like those awful creatures that crawl in through the ears—I had a nightmare about those things once. I can really re-appreciate what a great movie Wrath is after studying all this material on the hero’s journey and screenwriting and all that. Tight, simple, forward-moving plot. Charismatic villain worthy of the protagonist with a clear, visceral motivation. A call to adventure that lets us know exactly what the danger is, and what’s at stake. An ending that echoes the beginning and shows that the hero has changed. A death scene that is significant, memorable, and short. As screenwriting instructor Rick Reichman says, “Get in, hit the emotion, and get out.”

I also think it’s interesting that Wrath of Kahn from 1982 and The Dark Knight Rises from 2012 both reference Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities. Some things are timeless.

Week Twenty-Nine: Aftermath

July 25, 2012 § 3 Comments

July 22nd, 2012

Still reading Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ new book The Great Escape. Still loving it.


Started working on the timeline and immediately faced two time-specific stumbling blocks. I started brainstorming on paper (I also remembered that Susan Elizabeth Phillips said she brainstorms when she hits a plotting wall). Brainstorming really works: I worked out both glitches pretty quickly. I’m sure I’ll come across many, many more in the next few days.

The creator of Front Row Divas (FRD) asked me to write something about the shooting tragedy in Aurora, CO. I went from “what could I possibly write, I’m sitting here stunned and upset” to “I can’t write anything, I’m sitting here listless and depressed and all I can do is ramble” to “I have to write something because I had been talking about going to see The Dark Knight Rises for a month and can’t just shut up when something horrible has happened. And I can’t stop crying.” So I sent something to Ms. FRD expecting the “um, yeah, you need to tighten this up, or just change it altogether” email, and a few hours later she called and said, “Oh, by the way, it’s posted already.”


Sitting in the backyard, trying to reconnect with what is good in life.

Shot from back patio after crying over newspaper story of the victims of the CO tragedy.

Week Twenty-Eight: LERA, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and The Great Escape

July 23, 2012 § 4 Comments

July 15th, 2012

This week’s post is ridiculously late. What a crazy week. Romance author Susan Elizabeth Phillips was in Albuquerque last Saturday to promote her latest book The Great Escape. She spoke for an hour at the July Land of Enchantment Romance Authors (LERA) meeting. Then we had an early dinner at El Pinto restaurant before her book signing at North Valley Library. That was my Saturday. I spent the rest of the week frantically wrapping up my seven character bios.


My Susan Elizabeth Phillips books, signed by author

I started reading Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ new book The Great Escape and I am really enjoying it. In this contemporary romance novel, Lucy Jorik abandons the perfect man on their wedding day. Fleeing the church, she hops on the back of a motorcycle and takes off on an interstate trip with a rough, damaged stranger. Her adventure becomes a journey to discover who she is and what was missing from her life. So far, I might even like this book more than Natural Born Charmer, which I bought back in 2007 and loved. I now have both books autographed by the author.


I finished my character bios, right down the exact day and year of their births. At the LERA meeting, I asked Susan Elizabeth Phillips if she herself does character bios. She said she used to do detailed “what’s their favorite flavor of ice cream” bios, but now she sticks to basics –day they were born, what they look like, the car they drive. The super-detailed method doesn’t work that well for her. That bit of advice gave me the freedom to stop worrying about the items that don’t click for me, such as clubs and superstitions, and focus on what does matter, such as what are their past failures. So thanks to all that, now I am done! On to the timeline and character arc table.


Susan Elizabeth Phillips and me at her book signing in Albuquerque, NM

I thought hanging out with all the single ladies at the clubs in my bar-hopping days used to be rowdy good times. That was nothing compared to hanging out with a group of romance writers from all ages and backgrounds and stages in their professions. We drank Margaritas and ate chips and salsa and swapped stories. Lois talked about being the first woman to work in a bar in New York legally after 6:00 p.m. (Of course, after 6:00 p.m. was the time when all the money was to be made by the bartenders because the high rolling night time crowd spent more money and tipped considerably better than the daytime lunch crowd.) Sarah recounted working in a liquor store in Alaska at age nineteen and having to face off against the local motorcycle gang. Susan Elizabeth Phillips, the classy guest of honor, made the rounds and talked to everybody at the table, and I babbled to her about how great Balloon Fiesta is in October. I compared cute cat pictures with Jeffe Kennedy, who just published her book on Carina Press, the fantasy romance Rogue’s Pawn. I talked politics with Samantha Ann King, who just published her debut novel on Carina Press, Sharing Hailey. Caliente! Now I’m going to have to buy e-books.

From The Dark Knight Rises to Shattering Tragedy

July 22, 2012 § 5 Comments

First published on Front Row Divas

It is impossible for me to write about going to see The Dark Knight Rises and not write about the horrific shooting tragedy in Colorado. Like those people who went to the midnight premiere, I had been eagerly awaiting the conclusion to the Batman trilogy. I prepared for opening day by re-watching Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. The latter movie, which I stayed up till midnight on Thursday to watch, is dark and depressing— nightmarish, really—and I woke up Friday morning with that still clouding my mind. Then the news about the real nightmare in Aurora, Colorado hit me, and I am still battling sadness and fatigue in the aftermath. Is life imitating art or is art imitating life?

The attack on the moviegoers feels like an attack on the family. The family of superhero fans who love comics and stories of epic battles between good and evil, fairness and corruption, justice and lawlessness. A family of those who have been getting ready to accompany Bruce Wayne on his ultimate trial. I had been planning to see this movie with my friend in celebration of her birthday ever since we went to the Tumbler Tour three weeks ago. In the fictional city of Gotham, Batman is a symbol that shakes people out of their apathy and gives them hope. In our world, in the wee hours of July 20th, 2012, a unifying event around that very symbol was poisoned, turned into a horror of terror and death.

After watching so many shell-shocked eyewitness accounts on the news, I was a little anxious about going downtown to see the movie. But Batman faced his debilitating fear of bats by throwing himself right into the middle of their nocturnal flight path. So we must face our fears of the havoc wreaked by one psychopath and venture out in spite of that. Off I went, taking the time to appreciate the blue skies and the opportunity to see a dear friend on the anniversary of her birth. She got a big hug when I met up with her in the theater lobby. All my friends will be getting big hugs over the coming weeks.

In the wake of the shooting in Colorado, several scenes in the movie are disturbingly real and too close to home. I felt like the little boy Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins when he gets spooked at a play by the bat-like creatures on the stage. Every time a scene played out on the screen of bullets spraying and people falling, I looked anxiously for an escape route, cut paranoid eyes at a figure moving down the aisle, clutched the arm rests of my seat, waiting for the gunman to enter and the shots to ring out. Was I losing my mind? I was so preoccupied that I missed things in the movie that weren’t spoon-fed to me. After the credits rolled my friend was explaining stuff to her nine-year-old daughter and I was thinking, can you explain that to me, too?

Saturday morning, I steeled myself for the newspaper coverage. I took my paper and my cup of tea into the backyard with the bird bath and the hummingbirds and the lavender and my lazy old cat to try to restore some peace to my psyche. I opened the paper and started crying again. A man who had gone to the midnight premiere to celebrate his 27th birthday was confirmed dead. There is a picture of the man’s father as he embraces other family members, his face contorted in anguish. I cast about to come to terms with this man’s grief and loss and I thought of young Bruce Wayne, watching his parents get killed in front of him. That trauma never left him, and fueled him to torture himself, put himself through hell, to try to avenge their senseless deaths by helping others in peril. I think that is why we love superheroes so much. Early in life we learn that devastating atrocities happen to innocent people, including ourselves. We wish that someone like Batman will rush in and make it all better. We wish that, like Batman, we could have swooped in and saved everybody. I sure wish I could have.

In The Dark Knight Rises, Catwoman tells Batman that he can stop, that he has already given everything. Batman replies, “Not everything. Not yet.” In our lives, how much do we hold back? Hold back out of fear, hold back to not look like a fool, hold back from giving and receiving love. And for God’s sake, why? I need to answer that question for myself and make a change. I’m now afraid I’ll find I’ve held back too much, not given enough to this precious life, and it’ll be too late.

Magic Mike — For Real This Time

July 13, 2012 § 8 Comments

As we walked out of the downtown theater after seeing Magic Mike, my friend Dia said, “I’m disappointed. I wanted less story, more stripping.”

“What?” My brain short-circuited a little bit. I’m a writer. Saying you want less story is like saying you want less love. “The story was great—you didn’t like the story?” I get a little babbly when I’m thrown for a loop.

“No, it was a good story. But I wanted more. More naked men.”

Okay, I know we’d waited two long weeks to see Magic Mike, but come on. There was plenty of footage of beautiful male flesh and muscle to be enjoyed. That opening scene when Channing Tatum gets out of the bed and walks to the bathroom. Ohh, yeahh. That and many other scenes I can replay in my mind over and over. For weeks to come. So, anyway, you don’t throw out the story.

“I loved the story,” I said. “It made me think of that movie All About Eve.”

“What’s that?”

“Oh, this old movie starring Bette Davis and Anne Baxter. It’s this whole student surpassing the master thing—”

I never got a chance to finish explaining my comparison of the modern male stripper movie to the 1950 Academy Award-winning classic, because right then a car full of punk-asses cruised by and sprayed us with water. Right in front of the theater. And right in front of two cops who just kept carrying on their conversation as if nothing had happened.

“Thanks for looking out,” I tossed over my shoulder in the cops’ general direction. Not to their faces. I didn’t want to spend the night in jail.

“Maybe we should try a different movie theater next time,” said Dia.

Duly noted. I sure can’t wait for the IMAX to open at Winrock.

So back to the movie.

The reason it reminds me of All About Eve is that it’s about a star performer, (Mike, played by Channing Tatum) who takes a clueless kid (Adam, played by Alex Pettyfer) under his wing, and is forced to re-evaluate his own path and the company he keeps. (In All About Eve, a Broadway diva takes on a young assistant and learns she is not what she seems). In Magic Mike, the star finds out that not everyone is as nice as he is, and that he can’t just share his heart and soul with anyone.

For Mike, being a male stripper is an easy, ego-boosting way to make money (and he sure can move that body). It’s one of the jobs he holds down to save enough money for a loan to start his own business. Mike is generous, with a great sense of humor and joie de vivre, and is talented at winning people over. It’s learning to tell the genuine friends from the fake friends that he must master.

The dialogue was funny, witty, rhythmic, the kind of dialogue I could listen to over and over, memorize, and absorb. It even had its share of great throwaway lines. In what seemed like a direct barb at the recent Fifty Shades of Grey-inspired rage for spankings and bondage, the troupe’s manager, Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) suggests the guys do an S&M number, and the Matt Bomer character declines, saying he doesn’t want to bring any negative energy into his act.

While the guys in the movie are not just chauvinistic, conceited jerks, the girls are not brainless bimbos, either. The female lead, Adam’s protective older sister, Brooke, is the perfect foil for Mike. She’s tomboyishly pretty, level-headed, responsible, and takes no crap. She and Mike first meet when Mike drops Adam off at the apartment after a night of strippin’, and Mike mentions breakfast. She colorfully states that she doesn’t make breakfast. Mike’s amused response sets the tone for the rest of their relationship.

When this movie gets released on DVD, I will be at Target that very Tuesday to buy it.  Not just for the hot men. For the story.

Week Twenty-Seven: Reading Bloods, Character Bio Fatigue, and Escaping with Martial Arts Flick Drive

July 9, 2012 § 1 Comment

July 8th, 2012

I had a lofty goal of getting halfway through Bloods: Black Veterans of the Vietnam War this weekend. That’s not happening. It’s the kind of book that you read one chapter and then put it down for a couple of days. The stories and the emotional and psychological state of those telling the stories are pretty intense. I’ll be working on reading this book for awhile.

The good news for me is that I can cross Apocalypse Now off my list of movies to watch to gain insight on a Vietnam War vet’s experience. Because on page 13 of Bloods, Private First Class Edwards says:

“I went to see Apocalypse Now, because a friend paid my way. I don’t like movies about Vietnam ‘cause I don’t think that they are prepared to tell the truth. Apocalypse Now didn’t tell the truth. It wasn’t real. I guess it was a great thing for the country to get off on, but it didn’t remind me of anything I saw. . . . I never saw us reach the point where nobody is in charge in a unit. That’s out of the question. If you don’t know anything, you know the chain of command. And the helicopter attack on the village? F***ing ridiculous. . . . The planes and the napalm would go in first. Then, the helicopters would have eased in after the fact.”

So no Apocalypse Now for me. It’s three hours long, and I did my three hour long movie duty with The Deer Hunter. On to Platoon.


I am sick of doing character bios. Seven. I have seven to do, five down and two more to go. Does anybody really care what someone’s earliest memory is? No! Why should I? On the other hand, I uncover a new plot point that I can develop with every new character bio I do. For example, the heroine and the bad boy in the novel can bond over the fact that both of them have disappointed their fathers with their career choices. And the heroine’s parents’ fights I now know were complicated by her dad’s PTSD. So, on with the character bios. I’m sick of them, but I love my characters that much more.


Sunday night I watched the 1997 martial arts movie Drive. Scott Phillips, the screenwriter of Drive, wrote in his blog that a soldier had come up to him and told him how watching the movie repeatedly got him through his tour in Iraq. That endorsement intrigued me enough to Netflix it. I really enjoyed this road trip buddy movie. Spectacular fight sequences, laugh out loud comedy thanks to Kadeem Hardison (a woefully underutilized actor), and a very satisfying ending. Kicking soundtrack—I was dancing around my house like a fool when the credits went up. I sure needed to watch something totally different to take my mind off the fact that I’m sick of doing character bios.

Week Twenty-Six: Vietnam War Memoirs, Nora Ephron, Dark Knight Tumbler Tour

July 2, 2012 § 5 Comments

July 1st, 2012

Still doing research on the Vietnam War for one of my characters, a Vietnam War vet. This Saturday I picked up my special order of Bloods: Black Veterans of the Vietnam War from Barnes & Noble. Sunday morning I read a book review in the Albuquerque Journal about a new bio titled Echoes of a Distant Past: Screaming Eagles -Vietnam War Memoirs, 1969-70. Talk about synchronicity. I’ll be picking that book up, too.

Nora Ephron (1941-2012), Thanks and Goodbye

Nora Ephron (1941-2012), Thanks and Goodbye (Photo credit: k-ideas)


Last Tuesday Nora Ephron died. I heard the news the following morning at work, and it was all I could do to not burst into tears all over my computer. Nora Ephron was a huge influence and inspiration to me as a writer. I always remember a quote of hers where she talked about how the day her marriage ended, she knew she had a story, and the only question was whether she could stop crying long enough to write it. The story she was talking about was Heartburn. When I read that quote several years ago, I had gone through a romantic heartbreak of my own that I was pouring onto paper with ink and tears, so I knew what she was talking about. And I knew I really am supposed to be a writer. When I read Heartburn, I knew what genre I wanted to write in. On Sunday, I went to Flying Star Café with one of my friends, and in honor of Nora Ephron, I ordered two desserts.


After having a slice of pie and a brownie at Flying Star, I walked down the street with my friends to Astro-Zombies and the Dark Knight Tumbler Tour to check out the vehicles they used in the movie. It was almost 100 degrees outside and we dropped about five pounds each in sweat alone, but what a blast it was. I’m so excited for the July 20 opening of the Dark Knight Rises. My friend’s birthday is that day, so we’re thinking a superhero party is in order!

Me at Dark Knight Tumbler Tour at Astro-Zombies in Albuquerque, NM

Dark Knight Tumbler Tour at Astro-Zombies in Albuquerque, NM

Dark Knight Tumbler Tour at Astro-Zombies in Albuquerque, NM

Dark Knight Tumbler Tour at Astro-Zombies in Albuquerque, NM

Dark Knight Tumbler Tour at Astro-Zombies in Albuquerque, NM

Batman & Me at Dark Knight Tumbler Tour

Dark Knight Tumbler Tour at Astro-Zombies

Dark Knight Tumbler Tour at Astro-Zombies, Albuquerque, NM

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