Hollywood: Lights! Camera! Your Novel!

With the literary successes of novels turned movies as of late,  “Harry Potter,” “Twilight,” “The Help” and yes, I daresay, even “Fifty Shades of Grey,” it’s evident that Hollywood is always on the lookout for what they can tout as the next best thing.

Which is why, it’s completely normal, and IMHO, highly recommended that we, as writers, dream of the day when a movie director/producer contacts us to say the studio wants to make our novel or WIP into a motion picture. 

We would squee with delight when they offered us a job as the film’s technical/script adviser, and gave us a say on who will play our characters.(Now that is dreaming!)

I admit. There are times when I’m writing that I pause to fantasize about who would play my characters. (I even made a trailer for my book. My very first. And it shows. 😉 That’s why I’m not sharing it just yet! )

My critiquing partner is very close to seeing his dreams fulfilled. He has an agent who is in the process of trying to sell his book, which is set in Burma 570 AD, to a major publisher. When we’re discussing marketing strategies for his book, we even go so far as to act as though we’re the casting directors, picking and choosing which actor or actress would do his work justice!

It’s fun to let your mind wander with the “what ifs” and not so much, “the why not me.” Writing is tough enough. Who needs to tack on negativity to an already taunting endeavor? We can’t let someone else’s success muddy our own ambitions. Positive thinking and a little fun in between chapters, scenes and lines is good for a writer’s soul and well-being.

So, what about you?

When that day comes …when Hollywood comes a knockin’ …will you be ready?  Do you know which actor or actress could pull off playing your hero and/or heroine? Or even better, your villian? Would they be a well-known actor or someone struggling to get into the business? Lots of choices, huh?

As for me, I think Antonio Banderas and Gabrielle Union would make a wonderful Marcus and Octavia, in my book.

Come on. It’s okay. Dream with me for a little while. Because, hey, you never know!

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Sax appeal …Happy Birthday David Sanborn

Growing up, Sunday mornings at my house began with the sounds of my dad’s collection of jazz greats, which included Miles Davis, Taj Mahal and Quincy Jones.

My nose would wrinkle when he invited me to listen to the melodious sounds of the horns, bass, drums and saxophones. I literally wanted to gag. My idea of music back then was the Jackson Five.

As an adult, I remember driving in my car with my dad, listening to CD 101.9. Back then, it was our local jazz station. I remarked that I loved the artist that was currently playing and my dad, straight, yet with a hint of teasing said, “It’s about time you acquired some taste.”

All I could do was laugh. But he was right. Since then, I’ve become a big time jazz lover and I have my dad to thank for that.

My favorite instrument is the saxophone and my favorite artist, the one and only, David Sanborn.

IMHO, David Sanborn is one of the greatest jazz musicians around. Although, he’s played many genres, his music typically blends jazz with instrumental pop and R&B.

OMG! I love his style, and I often write to his music. It could be a love scene, or perhaps a character whose personality requires a little swag! David’s music helps me write for that character.

Most importantly, whenever I’m in a funk and nothing seems right, I pop in a David Sanborn CD, start humming to his sax appeal, and all is right in my world.

I’ve seen him in concert quite a few times, but my fondest recollection was seeing him play at the Blue Note in New York City. The Blue Note is a small, intimate venue where you can really see the musicians up close.

“Up Close” took on a whole different meaning for me, when my daughter and I saw David live. Just before he was about to go on stage, a man at our table (of six) called him over. Apparently, he, too, was a musician and he reminded David that they’d met before.

Good thing I was seated, because it would have been highly embarrassing to faint at that moment.

David Sanborn was literally two feet away from me and with my mouth gaping, eyes glazed over and stunned, all I could do was stare. My daughter still teases me about that night. She said that was the first time, she’d ever seen me speechless.

Anyway …it was truly a night to remember.

To get a taste of David Sanborn’s music I suggest starting off with two of his hits, “The Dream” or “Maputo.” These songs, are quite popular in jazz circles, and “The Dream” is played quite often at sweet sixteen parties, graduation parties, and the like, because of its moving, soulful sound. It’s a great song. Take a listen. 🙂

The second is Maputo, which he made famous with legendary jazz pianist Bob James (on piano). Marcus Miller, (a jazz and R&B legend in his own right) who isn’t playing here, composed this song and many, many, many others!. He’s a favorite of mine also.

This is David’s birthday, so he gets two videos! 🙂 He is touring this year, and since he goes worldwide, you may be able to experience his sound wherever you are. I plan to be front and center! (A hundred “thank yous” to my dad for influencing me to appreciate something new.)

And to Mr. Sanborn, Happy Birthday!

This day in history: July 26** …Got plans?

I love research. And as with anything, even fictional writing, you should know your facts. If you’re writing historical or regency romance you definitely have to get the facts straight, or else you will be getting letters and emails from your readers.

Even in contemporary romance, which is what I write, you have to get the facts straight. If your character was a teenager in 1980s, you certainly better know that Culture Club and Boy George, or Earth Wind and Fire, might have been one of the groups they were listening to, and not Maroon 5, since they weren’t even a band, yet.

I digress. Again.

As I said, I love research and history. So, I did a little digging and found a few historical events (and birthdays) that took place on July 26, in various years. I also tried to associate a weekend activity with these events.

•1963 – Syncom 2, the world’s first geosynchronous satellite, is launched from Cape Canaveral on a Delta B booster. So, I thought a trip to the museum or planetarium always works.

1951 – Walt Disney’s 13th animated film, Alice in Wonderland, premieres in London, England, United Kingdom. Rent it or buy it and watch it with the little ones in your life, or by yourself!

Here are a few July 26 birthdays.

1909 – Vivian Vance, American actress (d. 1979) Enjoy “Ethel” and Lucy on “I Love Lucy” reruns or on DVD.
1922 – Blake Edwards, American film directorPink Panther, or Breakfast at Tiffany’s, anyone?
1928 – Stanley Kubrick, American director (d. 1999) Feel like a scary movie, or something historical, watch his classic movies, “The Shining” or the original “Spartacus” with Kirk Douglas.
1973 – Kate Beckinsale, English actress – Do you hear “Underworld,” “Van Helsing” or “Serendipity”calling?

As for me, I will probably relax with a movie, starting with “Van Helsing,” (hey, I need a dose of Hugh Jackman) and then head to Barnes and Noble, grab a chai-tea latte, and see what’s new on the shelves and on NOOK. I’ll also take my dog, Poe, for a walk in the park, and then head home for a LONG nap! If my Sunday morning is as peaceful as Maroon 5’s, I won’t complain! 🙂

Whatever you do this weekend, enjoy yourself and the journey.

See you Monday!

** Today is actually the 27th, but I reference the 26th. This is what happens when you write a blog the day before. In any case, the dates and facts are correct. I guess I thought I’d 1) get a jump on the weekend, yesterday or 2) make sure I had your attention!;-)

Either way, enjoy your weekend!

My hate-tolerate-hate relationship with honey

Do you have an affliction or fear that keeps you from doing certain things on a day- to-day basis?

Well, I confess I have a bee problem.

Yes, that fuzzy honey-toting insect so highly regarded for its pollination of crops around the world. At one point, there was a report that honeybees were at risk of becoming extinct in the United States. Pfft. Apparently, someone got that wrong. They’re alive and kicking.

If you must know, I’m not particularly fond of honey, either. (Well, maybe it’s good for a couple of things, but I won’t go there.)

Anyway, my fear has caused me to take preventative measures over the years, and to live a certain way.

I must have a car with air-conditioning. In the summer, bees tend to fly into my car. It’s like they’re saying, “Hey, there’s Nett. Let’s go scare the crap out of her.”

Many years ago, that happened to me and I almost caused injury to myself and my children who happened to be in the back seat. Somehow a bee managed to get into the car and I went ballistic. After screaming at the top of my lungs, I pulled over to the shoulder of a major highway, and continued to scream and run around my car in an effort to get away from the bee. Mind you this is a major highway, so there were MANY wide eyes passing by, probably wondering, what the heck? Sad, I know. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

I can’t watch anything on television with bees. My sister who is closest in age to me, (remember, I have two) thoroughly enjoys my affliction and on occasion, calls me up to tell me there’s something great on television that I should see. How naïve am I to think, this time she’s really telling the truth? Very naïve. I turn the channel and there, in living color, are a pack of bees swarming around a beehive collecting honey. Ewww. Each time she does that, I pull the sister disownment papers from my desk drawer.

It’s become so bad that I can’t read anything with bees. I borrowed Sue Monk Kidd’s wonderful book, “The Secret Life of Bees,” from a friend at work. I was so determined to read the book because I’d heard such great things about it. I settled down on my favorite chair one Saturday, totally enjoying the book. Until chapter 3.

You got it. A pair of beekeeping sisters, showed the young heroine of the book, how they keep the bees. Needless to say, I have not finished the book. Nor have I watched the movie, with Queen Latifah, Dakota Fanning and Jennifer Hudson, and I love the acting of all three.

It’s also increasingly hard to walk my dog in the summer, particularly when he wants to stop and smell the flowers. There always seems to be the largest bee buzzing around. Buzzing. Waiting. I’m also afraid they will sting him, so I politely move him along to a grassy knoll with no flowers. I’m told that only wasps, and hornets sting, not bumble bees.

Yeah, okay. Sure. Guess who won’t be waiting around to see if that’s true.

The strangest thing about my fear is that I’ve never been stung. I’ve been running all my life. I even thought about hypnosis to help calm my fear. But I quickly changed my mind. The doctor might discover all my other issues, or perhaps have a conversation with one or all of my characters.

And there is no way that’s going to happen. Those conversations are reserved for me. 😉

Okay, your turn. Spill.

An epitaph and iambic pentameter: the start of my career

I mentioned previously that my earliest recollection of wanting to be a writer was in high school. My aspirations, which started with poetry, were nurtured by my eleventh grade English teacher and an assignment that would forever change my life.

My English teacher had us analyze 10 poems using iambic pentameter, where we’d recognize the rhythms, as well as stressed and unstressed syllables in each line. In addition, we had to write 10 poems, and also analyze them using iambic pentameter. I absolutely loved that assignment!

While most of my 17-year old classmates groaned and complained that they couldn’t write poetry, I happily took on the challenge. In addition, one of our poems had to be an epitaph that we would like to have carved on our grave.

A morbid ask? No way! (Hey, Edgar Allan Poe and Shakespeare were my favorite writers even at that age.)

So, I wrote my epitaph:

“Remember me always,
How I tried and didn’t try
Remember me always
How I loved life and loved you
Remember me always”

Simplistic and to the point.

From a 17-year, I’d say rather thoughtful and honest. I remember writing that with all the people I loved in mind: my family, and friends. Even back then, I knew there were days when I didn’t do my best, and I acknowledged that. I was taught to be honest, (One of the many things I love about my parents, imparting this wisdom) and if I couldn’t be honest with myself, I was in trouble.

Anyway, my English teacher loved my poetry, particularly my epitaph. I received an “A” for the complete assignment. But most of all, I received the biggest boost in my confidence to pursue a career in writing. After majoring in English in college, I went on to write speeches, newspaper articles and now, novels. I still dabble from time to time in poetry.

Midway through my junior year in high school, shortly after my momentous poetry assignment, they fired my English teacher. My classmates and I were stunned.

I was crushed. My cheerleader was gone.

We never really knew what happened. However, we speculated that she was let go after her sexual preference was discovered. (We were 17, not stupid) After all, it was the 1970’s and people were fighting, as they are now, for their right to exist.

As for my epitaph, it hasn’t changed much. I will probably use it when the time comes. After so many decades, I’m amazed at how introspective I was as a junior in high school.

I owe that to my parents, and to Ms. Craig, my English teacher, for encouraging me to set my thoughts free.

Puerto Rico: My epiphany

I believe traveling isn’t all about visiting new sites and cultures. It’s about clearing your head. When I plan a trip, I get extra excited. In the past, I’ve discovered there’s an underlying meaning to my travel. It’s usually to find something lacking in myself or my life.

I can relate to Elizabeth Gilbert’s, the author of “Eat, Love, Pray” journey to find everything. At some point in our lives, I think most of us make the decision to do just that–or at least discover what’s wrong in our lives and try to rectify it.

On a trip to Puerto Rico ten years ago, I did just that. Granted, my journey didn’t me to Italy (not that time, anyway), India, and Indonesia, like Ms. Gilbert. However, it took me to an island breeze, lush beaches and blue-green waters, where I vacationed by myself– to find myself.

It was a much needed vacation. It was also a chance to clear my head, to put things into prospective, and to weed out the negativity that had been a part of my life for several months: the wrong people, bad decisions, and not enough of the right decisions.

Sound familiar?

I’d stop doing the things I loved. Writing. Reading. Spending time with family and friends. And for what? Someone else’s existence? Not a wise move. I had to squash that.

Puerto Rico will always have a special place in my heart because it’s where I realized that my life had taken a turn off course and if I wanted to survive, I had to regain control. Needless to say, the island helped me see things clearly. And as I lay on the beach in Condado early one morning, the sun and horizon came up to greet me, as did tears of clarity. I’d had an epiphany.

The next day, I took the bus through Old San Juan to do some shopping and sightseeing. My destination was Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a fortress built in 16th-century to guard the San Juan Bay and protect Puerto Rico from seaborne enemies.

The fortress still stands in perfect condition and a tour around the citadel takes you on a journey back in time. The displayed cannon balls used to fight off ensuing enemies, gives you a true glimpse into the past.

My walk to the fortress from town was a few miles. When I reached the entryway of Castillo San Felipe del Morro, I was once again in awe of the island’s beauty. At that moment, I became acutely aware that this pathway was more than the road that led me to the citadel’s discovery. It was the road that would lead me to discover myself.

I took this picture just before I headed up the hill, and although the road was long, I knew it would lead me to my destination. As it turns out, this was defining moment in my life, and a life’s lesson.

I learned that all my goals, destinations and yes, even fears, require that I walk toward them, not away from them.

I keep this picture in my office to remind me of that lesson, and as a reminder of my personal journey to find myself. If you happen to be at a crossroads in your life, I’d like to offer a bit of advice, if I may. Plain and simple, DO YOU.

No matter what responsibilities you may have or how many people depend on you, it’s important that you’re content with who you are as an individual. Take care of yourself, and take time to clear your head and regroup.

It’s your life. It’s your journey.

The TV show Scandal: Class is in Session

I can’t wait for September. Believe me. It’s not what you think. My children are grown, so going back to school isn’t the reason! I’m almost embarrassed to say why, because I haven’t felt this way about an upcoming month is AGES.

So, here it goes. It’s ABC’s fall lineup and one show in particular. Scandal. OMG.

Okay, I’d like to admit right here and now, that there are two shows I watch religiously. And this is big, considering I’m not a television watcher—anymore.

I admit there was a time when I used to sit in front of the box at least three hours a night, after work to relax. That’s really not a lot, you might say. For me, that was a lot.

Then about seven years ago, my three hours of television watching came to an abrupt halt. I became immersed in my books and writing. I rediscovered my love for the written word and began putting stories that have been stored on my hard drive, for more than 20 years, another try.

So, what’s this have to do with Scandal? Everything.

First of all it’s, Shonda Rhimes latest “drama revolving around the life and work of a professional crisis manager and her dysfunctional staff.” You know, Shonda. The creator who gave us Dr. McDreamy of Grey’s Anatomy, and the subsequent spinoff Private Practice.

Well, she’s back and class is in session.

“Scandal” is Relationships 101 for any writer of fiction, particularly if you’re a romance writer. The sexual tension between the lead characters, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn), who just happen to be a professional “fixer” and the president of the USA, respectively, is charged and powerful.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Olivia’s staff—five hot shots—four attorneys and one ex-CIA-scary-military dude—who work in her “non-law firm” and are loyal to her and what they do. They each bring intelligence and their own special abilities to the table when averting crisis and scandal.

When telling a story, your characters must pop from the page. In romance, the sexual tension hero and heroine is a must and the writers of Scandal make that happen. The show is a must watch for writers, particularly romance writers. The dialogue is fast paced and witty and the interaction between the characters is a real and expertly executed by the actors.

I’m literally taking notes.

Whether it’s film, television or books—good writing is good writing, and Scandal’s writers deliver. You get to know the characters, flaws and all, just as you should in a good book.

If it wasn’t called a political drama, I’d swear it was a romance. But that’s what makes the show work. It isn’t all about politics. It’s about relationships, and how people handle issues thrown in their paths every day. It’s about one woman, in particular, who knows her business, has confidence in her abilities and knows when to back off for something bigger than herself (she breaks off her relationship with the leader of the free world so he can do his job. Or does she?).

Even if you’re not a writer, Scandal is an entertaining, fast paced drama. If you want to catch up, you can watch the full episodes on ABC Online. I can’t wait until September. I’ll have my notebook ready!