Sunday, August 26, 2007

I'm So Excited!

Finally, they're releasing DVD of one of my most faaaavorite books growing up--Little Women. The best screen adaptation I've ever seen was the TV miniseries from 1978, starring Susan Dey (after The Partridge Family), Meredith Baxter Birney (pre-Family Ties), and Eve Plumb (after The Brady Bunch). Um, I'm not sure I even remember William Shatner starring in the film, so I have no idea why it's important that his name is on the DVD cover, other than he's been able to sustain a career by making fun of his own over-acting. Anyway....
As a story purist, I'm often disappointed when I see how books often translate poorly to movies. Sometimes it can't be helped. Screenplays only allow you 1 minute per page of film time, and it's challenging to take a 300-page novel and condense it to less than 120 pages (or minutes, rather).

So I received an e-mail notification from that my favorite version of Little Women is finally releasing! I'm going to preorder it, and try to get my daughter sit down and watch it with me when it releases in October.The only thing is, I sure hope it lives up to my memory of how excellent the miniseries was when I was 11. We'll have to see. As best I can remember, none of the other versions--even the one starring Winona Ryder--captured the true essence of the story for me. But still, at last it's coming, and I'm so excited. :)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Two Degrees of Elvis

Okay, I never dreamed I'd be writing an Elvis post on the 30th anniversary of his death. I was only 9 when he died. That summer I got a new baby sister, Star Wars Episode IV came out in theaters, and there was more drama in my home over whether or not I'd be allowed to go to the movies to see a "PG" film. I remember hearing the news about Elvis' death, and my parents explained what happened. I do remember feeling sorry for his little girl.

But a couple of weeks ago, I learned an interesting tidbit. A 70-something-year-old Army retiree who attends my church was Elvis' First Sargeant when Elvis was at Fort Hood. The Fort Hood area is a melting pot, Army families comin' and goin', some staying until they retire, like Brother Mitchell. He shared that Elvis never liked to put on airs. When the officers' wives would call and demand that Elvis come and perform for this and that function, Elvis would never get on the phone to speak to them. He'd refuse to go. "No, First Sargeant. I won't do it."

He'd rather sit around strumming his guitar, singing with the NCO's. The regular people. He didn't forget where he came from. (Okay, when I heard this story, I first thought, "Holy cow, I know someone who knew Elvis!" I have to admit that much.)

So how does a handsome young man, full of gifts from God, with a world of promise in front of him, change to a tragedy splashed across the news, even 30 years later? I don't know. Too much fame, too fast? A church that rejected him? No mentor to guide his raw, vibrant energy that drew people to him? I've also heard in Elvis' final years, when he came to the end of the fame and fortune, he'd have one of his closest friends play hymns and gospel songs on the piano, to soothe his torn soul. Something--no, Someone--from his roots was calling to him.
We can only ignore the call for so long. I wonder if someone had tried to reach out to him, to say, "It's not about the fame or people's expectations. It's not about having money to burn and then some. It's not about getting religion, either. It's about knowing God, loving Him, and loving others."
On Monday night, I heard a woman speak. She's the director of a children's home in East Texas, and she admitted to the group she was having a hard time getting her thoughts together. One little girl kept interrupting.
So, she talked to the girl. "What would you tell these people?"
"I'd tell them that God loves them. Because that's all they really need to know." Simply spoken by a child.
But take it from that point on. God loves us enough to want to pull us out of the pits we find ourselves in. Even if they're pits of our own making. Even when we don't deserve it. Every morning we wake is another chance of mercy straight from Him. We still have another chance to do things over, to enjoy the love and companionship that no one on this earth can give us.
I never considered myself a fan, but, Elvis, I wish I could have met you to tell you that. The rest would have been up to you.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

In A Pickle

Would you believe our thermometer never hit 100 in Texas during the entire month of July? I've been here 15 years now, and I can't recall that ever happening. Of course, this first week of August has started making up for the balmy summer so far.

Anyway, I spent last week finishing my edits for A Suspicion of Strawberries that releases next March through Heartsong Presents: Mysteries. One thing I appreciate about the editing process is that I have great input from content editors. These aren't proofreaders, per se, but they review story elements such as character, plot points, and in this case, elements of mystery and police procedure. I listened to what my content editor had to say very carefully. In the end, the decision is mine whether to make certain changes, but if I'm smart and trust what this person has to say, I'll dig into these areas and make them even better. Which is how I ended up in a pickle. And, making pickles.

My in-laws live on 32 acres and each year my father-in-law plants a huge garden. This year we ended up with a least 8 mammoth cucumbers. I like to eat cucumbers, but not that many at a time.

So I decided to make pickles out of most of them. This requires simmering the pickling agent--vinegar, sugar, a bunch of spices that cost enough to make me want to go buy just a few jars of ready-made pickles instead--and soaking the cucumber slices and sliced onion in salt and ice for a few hours.

I dutifully worked on my edits, then hit a wall of doubt. Nearly every writer hits this at some point. Am I doing this right? Is the world in my head making sense on paper? Will I confuse some poor reader? Did I get the ending as good as it can be? And the yucky voice They're going to hate it. or: You'll never write in this town again.

I quit thinking so hard, put my laptop aside to cool off, and went to make pickles. No one ever said getting cucumber spears into jars was easy. You can see above. I gave up trying to make them as pretty as Vlasic jars. But while I was canning and getting the jars sealed, my story didn't leave my head. The end worked itself out. I remembered areas to go back and check for continuity. Getting my hands busy on something else, and keeping active freed my brain to untangle the story knot. Next time you find yourself spinning your mental wheels, trying doing something else for a change and the knots will work themselves out eventually.

And I hope, in a few weeks, these pickles will be yummy.