Saturday, February 7, 2009

Hooray for Hollywood

Like my fellow "novel girls" I also LOVE movies. Since I was a little girl I've loved escaping into the drama of a movie. I can remember wondering what it would be like to be a part of a group of friends like the ones in Goonies and I can also recall thinking it would cool to be a vampire like Keifer Sutherland in The Lost Boys. But by far, my favorite movies are the oldies. My father introduced me to classic movies when I was a little girl, and although I have many current movies that I love, the classic ones are dearest to my heart. I think what I like the best about these movies is that many of them are entirely driven on dialogue. There were no special effects back then, so the stories had to be compelling enough to keep an audience riveted for two hours. And the actors...well there were so many good ones: Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, John Wayne, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Bettie Davis, just to name a few.

Here is just a short list of some of my all time favorites. I know I'll miss a few, but if you're ever in the mood for a really great movie, check these out.

The Searchers
Red River
Pat and Mike
His Girl Friday

Bringing Up Baby
Woman of the Year
The Philadelphia Story

12 Angry Men
The Odd Couple
The Apartment

The African Queen
Adam's Rib
To Kill A Mockingbird
Rear Window
North by Northwest
Mr. Roberts
It's A Wonderful Life

Happy movie watching!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Good Movies = Good Writing (Or my attempt to justify why 2 hours in front of the TV is really work.)

I love movies. Maybe even as much as I love books. One summer, before we had kids, my husband and I rented 100 movies from Blockbuster, which prompted them to invite us into their platinum club for free. We probably would’ve rented more, but I think we got to the point where we’d seen pretty much everything we wanted to from the whole store.

Growing up, movies were medicine. Whenever I stayed home sick from school, my mom let me watch my favorites: Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, or The Wizard of Oz. (I still love these movies.)

I also loved (and still do love) going to the movie theater, and so many memories are entwined with the movies I saw there. My first movie theater movie was Snow White – I went with my mom’s friend and her son, and I remember being terrified of the witch. I also remember that the car broke down on the way home and we got stranded! On my first date I went to see Jurassic Park. On my first date with my husband we saw My Life (in which Michael Keaton is dying, leaving Nicole Kidman behind), and I can cry again just thinking about it now. Perhaps not the best first date movie, but it was the only movie playing in the small, old-fashioned theater by our high school. I saw, er, slept through Adam Sandler’s Big Daddy when I went to see it with my grandparents when my husband and I were in visiting in Pittsburgh. It was summer, they were having a heat wave, and my grandparents didn’t have air-conditioning, so we drove to the movies to cool off, not even caring what we saw.

In college I took a few communications classes on movies and their history, where we got to watch and learn about the classics. I fell in love with Marilyn Monroe, movies like Some Like it Hot and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. It was an amazing break from the stress of my other classes, to go into that huge lecture hall and get to sit there for two hours and watch a movie. I couldn’t believe I got college credit for it!

When I was in graduate school, I took a year-long screenwriting class, where I also wrote my own screenplay. Our “books” for the class were scripts from movies, and then we’d watch the movies to see how the words played out. I completely fell in love with North by Northwest, When Harry Met Sally, and The Sixth Sense. We also analyzed how to write scripts and focused on dialogue, scene, and a three-act structure. This was the first time movies and writing collided for me (and also the same year when my husband and I rented those 100 movies.)

In fact, reading movie scripts and writing my own script made me look at movies in a whole new way, and informed my novel writing hugely. Since then, I haven’t been able to watch a movie without thinking about how it’s written. I don’t notice the costumes or the landscapes, the acting or the directing. But I do notice the dialogue, the way the plot’s paced, or the way a character’s developed. And my novel writing? It’s very visual, as if I’m seeing the book play out as a movie in my head as I write. I mentally watch my characters and “hear” them speaking as if they were in a movie scene. Sometimes I even imagine what music would be playing the background, how my characters’ voices would sound, and how they would physically act and react to one another.

Recently I haven’t had as much time to watch movies, and the last movie I saw in the theater was Disney’s Bolt! But I firmly believe that my passion for movies and my passion for books are connected, and that without all the lessons I learned about writing from watching movies, I would absolutely not be the same writer I am today.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Here's To You Mama

I can't choose a favorite movie any more than I could chose a fave pair of shoes. I have so many of both that I can't close either my closet or the door to my TV cabinet.

Over the weekend I saw an old Alfred Hitchcock movie at a friend's house, Notorious, and it reminded me of why I started loving movies in the first place. It's all because of my dear mother. She is 100% responsible. Mama dearly loved movies and because she grew up in Burbank, CA around the movie business she had the good fortune of joining SAG. That's Screeen Actor's Guild for anyone not familiar with the acronym. Instead of discussing my favorite movies, I hope you don't mind if I dedicate this post to my beloved mother. She died a year and a half ago of cancer and it's nice to spend a few moments in her memory.

I grew up hearing wonderful stories about all the dashing, leading men of her day and I remember begging her to tell me all about them. Although she was at times reluctant (she never wanted my sisters and me to have a false sense of who and what was important in life) if the mood hit her just right she would give me an ear full. She knew how much I loved each and every story. Pictured here is Mama with Cary Grant during the filming of To Catch A Thief. Mama described him as "perfectly lovely." A man who would take the time to talk with anyone and everyone on the set. Clark Gable, she said, was such an amazing talent that a hush would fall on the set from the minute he walked on. Even the cameramen, grips and the set dressers were in awe of him and watched every move he made.

One of my favorites stories was the one about Elvis. All the girls on the set would swoon when he walked by and he never failed to smile and wink at them and call each one of them by name. He signed Mama's arm with lipstick in the movie King Creole (I think that's the one). As a child growing up in Memphis I thought that was the coolest thing going.

If you happen to run across The Man Who Knew Too Much starring Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day on the AMC channel, that's Mama seated behind Doris Day on the bus at the beginning of the movie. Mama claims Doris asked her a question in the original movie but it wound up on the cutting room floor. That's okay, I love seeing her just as she is.

Some of the other movies Mama had the pleasure of working on are Love Me Tender, also with Elvis, A Star Is Born with Judy Garland, Teacher's Pet with Clark Gable, How To Marry a Millionaire with Marilyn Monroe and my personal favorite, Pal Joey with Frank Sinatra. It's not at the top of my list because of the content of the movie but because it's the one which brought my parents together. So the story goes, my southern father happened to be out in Hollywood and happened to be visiting the set and happened to take notice of a certain blond beauty. Mama claims "he was such a southern gentleman that he made all the Hollywood guys seem like phonies." So whenever I see Frank Sinatra I can't help but think if it weren't for him just maybe I wouldn't be here with you all today.

Thank you for allowing me to tribute my mother. She didn't live long enough to learn of the sale of Whistlin' Dixie In A Nor'easter but she was a wonderful encouragement throughout all the many years it took to finish it! I miss you, Mama, more than you would have ever known.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Post in Which I Admit Former Love for The Coreys

As I sat down to write this post, I thought of several current movies that I've enjoyed, but none seem to compare to the movies that I loved when I was growing up.

I often say that the reason why my brain cannot contain any new information, like friends and family's updated phone numbers and addressees, is because it is too filled with plotlines and quote from cheesy '80s movies.

Name a teen comedy made between 1985-1990 and I guarantee I not only watched it, but developed a massive crush on the teenage boy star. And "may" have scouted his picture in fabulous publications such as Teen Beat. And "may" have considered sending him a fan letter.

Movie such as The Goonies (quite possibly The Greatest Movie of All Time), Can't Buy Me Love, Sixteen Candles and Teen Witch were my bread and butter. Basically, any movie where popular crowd is beautiful, rich and jerky and the dork(s) still come out on top. Or any movie starring Corey Haim and Corey Feldman, comedic genuises of the '80s.

In fact, A Bump in the Road is filled with references to these movies, since they're so intensely burned into my consciousness. Some days, I can't remember the name of my second grade teacher, but I can name the dance from the movie Patrick Dempsey does in Can't Buy Me Love: The African Anteater Ritual.

It's a little frightening.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Movies that "Enchant" Me

I have a lot of favorite movies. Depending on the day, month...heck, sometimes the hour, I'm likely to give you a different answer. There are just so many, that narrowing it down to one for the purposes of this post seemed a little overwhelming. At least at first. But when I thought about my favorite "current" movie, meaning the most recent one I flat-out fell in love with, the answer was easy: Disney's Enchanted.

Have you seen it? If you haven't, here's a bit of the synopsis, as taken from the Disney's official website for the movie (you can also see the trailer there):

ENCHANTED is the ultimate fish-out-of-water adventure. For princess-to-be Giselle, life is a fairy tale - until she's banished from the animated land of Andalasia and thrust into the very unmagical, live-action world of modern-day Manhattan. When a cynical, no-nonsense divorce lawyer comes to her aid, little does he realize this joyful, wide-eyed innocent is about to enchant him.

The movie stars Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey as the leading couple, as well as James Marsden (as a not-too-intelligent, but very sweet prince) and Susan Sarandon (as the oh-so-evil meanie). Okay, first off...Patrick Dempsey is adorable in anything he's in, but in this role he is adorable, charming, and well, let's just say very (VERY) cute. :)

Amy Adams plays the innocent princess-to-be who believes in true love and fairy tale endings perfectly, and honestly, is a complete joy to watch. James Marsden is hilarious, and Susan Sarandon is sufficiently mean and evil.

So...what do we have the makings of here? The perfect fairy tale - at least in my opinion. It has all of my favorite elements: quirkiness, romance, humor, and singing. Yes, I love musicals. Always have and always will. Of course, some muscials are done way better than others, and Enchanted is one of them.

So, what are the reasons I love this movie so much? Oh, let me count the ways...
  1. Patrick Dempsey. I'd be banished happily if I knew he was going to rescue me. Enough said!
  2. The's funny, sweet, and romantic all at once. Well most of it.
  3. It reminds me of all the Disney movies I loved as a child (and still love, actually!)
  4. It's a fairy tale...come on, what could be better for a gal like me?
  5. Susan Sarandon is awesome in it (if a little scary).
  6. Patrick Dempsey. Oh wait, I said that already. Well, he counts as double the pleasure
  7. It makes me laugh and feel all gushy/happy inside.
  8. It has animals and they CLEAN!
  9. And...hmm...oh yeah, Patrick Dempsey. :)
As I said, I have way-too-many favorite movies to list, and they're not all comedies (or even romances), but the movies at the very top of my favorite-because-they-make-me-feel-good list all incorporate elements normally found in fairy, happiness, overcoming the big bad, and humor.

If you've seen Enchanted, I'd love to know your thoughts on it. In my house, all of us loved it--and we have every age from 6 on up!

In other news...please take a few minutes to visit my blog today at I'm celebrating my release month with guest bloggers (romance authors) and fantastic book giveaways all month. Today, author of the Final Prophecy series and many Harlequin Intrigue books Jessica Andersen is my guest. Come on over and celebrate the release of A Taste of Magic with me--all month long!

Have an "enchanted" Monday!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Novel Girls News!

Happy February!! It's release month for Tracy Madison's A Taste of Magic and Jillian Cantor's The September Sisters.

To celebrate, Tracy Madison is hosting guest bloggers each Monday in February on her personal blog. She's also giving away autographed books each week! You can find out all the details here.

Jillian Cantor kicked off her blog tour this week with an interview with Juiciliciousss Reviews and a guest post at Books By Their Cover. Want to participate in the tour? Click here.

Maureen Lipinski's author website is live! You can find her at .

And don't forget, Lesley Livingston's Wondrous Strange is out in bookstores now!

The Novel Girls