Hittin the Holiday Film Vault

Movies are my favorite form of escapism, and when I first posted this list a while ago, the only diversion I needed was one from the over-commercialism of the season. How quaint that seems now. Without going into the reasons why, let’s just take these little gems for what they’re worth, a short vacation out of a reality that’s become too grim of late. So get cozy, grab the popcorn and lose yourself in these trifles of holiday storytelling.

1. The Shop Around the Corner ( 1940) – Must be my Eastern European blood calling to me, but I just love this sparkling Ernst Lubitsch romance set in a prewar Budapest gift shop. Starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan as two battling sales clerks who don’t know they’re falling in love via the post, as each other’s anonymous pen pal. Stellar secondary characters, including a priceless William Tracy as the cheeky delivery boy, Pepi. The Christmas Eve menu at the end had me salivating.

2. The Man Who Came to Dinner ( 1942) – After dining at a Ohio local’s home during a  lecture tour, notoriously acerbic radio personality Sheridan Whiteside slips on his hosts’ icy steps, and takes over not only their house but their lives. Starring Monty Woolley as The Man and Bette Davis as his aide-de-camp, the snark and sarcasm are so sharp and quick you’ll come away nicked but you’ll be laughing too hard to care. Still fresh over seventy years later, The Man is based on Algonquin Roundtable-er, Alexander Woolcott, his cronies thin veneers of Noel Coward, Harpo Marx, Gertrude Lawrence and all who were definitely in-crowd.

3. Holiday Affair (1949) – No one did heavy-lidded better than The Mitch, and the very fact that he actually made a holiday film piqued my curiosity enough to watch it. Just by the look of this poster you could see the only thing that remotely indicated that it had anything to do with Christmas was war-widow’s Janet Leigh’s sheer wrapping definitely promised presents for someone. Oh, somewhere among the movie’s a plot involving a department store clerk and a retail spy, a sassy kid, a train set, a jilted–oh who cares! Mitch smolders and Janet’s a brush fire waiting to happen.

4. A Christmas Story ((1983) – All nine-year-old Ralphie wants for Christmas is a genuine Red Ryder BB gun, and he’ll do darn near anything to get it. Based on the recollections of storyteller Jean Shepherd’s In God We Trust – All Others Pay Cash, Peter Billingsley had the part of a lifetime that until this day loops every Christmas on cable channel TBS. Darren McGavin ought to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award for one priceless part as Ralphie’s dad who spouts the immortal words, “It’s a major award!”

5. The Holiday (2006) – Don’t ask me why I like this story of American movie trailer maker Cameron Diaz, and English wedding column writer Kate Winslet who swap their respective Hollywood and Surrey homes for the Christmas holidays. Maybe it’s got something to do with Jude Law being tossed into the mix, I don’t know, but the whole thing sure sounds like a good idea to me.

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Great Expectations

Okay, I’m a big fan of Outlander. Not only the series on  Starz, but of the books, as I’ve been reading them since a few years after the first book (named Outlander, oddly enough) came out. I had met series author Diana Gabaldon years ago at a cocktail party at a New Jersey Romance Writers’ conference, where she was so kind to explain to me just how she wrote one of her more grisly scenes (the memory of it and how my stomach lurched, will be better left unwritten at this juncture thankyouverymuch). She was very charming and personable, and years later I had the chance to encounter her again in New York, this time at a Random House Author Breakfast. It was there she disclosed for the first time that just the night before, she had finalized the contract for the Starz Outlander series, to excited gasps from her rabid fan base sitting in the audience, thrilled that Jamie and Claire would finally come to life. But I wonder ever since that day how many of her readers have been disappointed? Because how much is really lost when characters–and storylines–jump from the page to the screen?

I read a romance once where the author stated in her forward that she based her two lead characters, a pirate and a spoiled and screeching noblewoman, on George Clooney and Nicole Kidman. Really? The debonair Clooney as a peg-legged arrrrgh -ing privateer? The elegant Aussie as a continual pain-in-the-ass? Didn’t help that all they did in the book was fight. Just didn’t wash for me, especially since I saw Clooney and Kidman as having zero chemistry. But that was beside the point. I resented the fact I was being directed to imagine a character in a certain way, rather than to let their deeds and actions unfold in my own mind as to what they really were about. When I read a book, it’s should be my interpretation of the writing, not that author’s. That’s why there are book discussion groups, as every reader has a different impression of the author’s vision. And in when a book jumps to a screen small or large, that vision is then ceded by the author to the screenwriters and ultimately, the director.

Every Monday morning I read the Outlander recap in The New York Times and invariably, there’s someone bitching about how much the show is missing/has changed/has been altered from book to series. There’s some changes I’ve liked, there’s some that I’ve questioned, there’s some that I outright hate. Comments say the book is so much better, and some, who’ve never read the books, suggest avenues the characters can take. Those who are like me, enjoy it for what it is. I can live with both because I’ve experienced both, and I see each for what they are. As a writer, I know when I put my work out there, my characters are bound to be altered by each person who reads my story, as each approach it with different life experiences and expectations.

But that’s the chance we take when we become writers, as it’s nearly impossible for our vision to be transferred unaltered into another person’s brain. The best we can hope for is it’s intact enough to remain enjoyable and worthy enough to read. And that enough people end up reading it to end up transferring it from a Kindle into a more widely-distributed screen. Or so we hope.

Flashy Fiction 2: Rejected Prose Poem

1 NOVEMBER, CAMDEN, NJ 1:22 AM

He held her face between his hands and whispered, “I love you, I always will,” not waiting for an answer, tucking her against him. Then, with his hand on her hip, his breath warm against her neck, he fell asleep, deeply and soundly. And when she kissed the hollow at the bend of his arm, she realized this was the only part of him she didn’t know intimately, as unlike her, even with his kisses over every inch of her naked body, he still knew nothing, as what we wish to bare is in reality, subjective.

© Copyright Gwen Jones 2017

Five of the best Book Blogs According to Feedspot

1

 

Book Riot

Book Riot

bookriot.com

Brooklyn

About Blog – Book Riot is a blog covering book-related news, reviews, commentary, advice and information along with the latest in book-reading technology. Always books. Never boring.
Frequency – about 84 posts per week

2

Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

kirkusreviews.com

NY, USA

About Blog – Book reviews and recommendations from the most trusted voice in book discovery.
Frequency – about 84 posts per week

3

Omnivoracious

Omnivoracious

omnivoracious.com

About Blog – An Amazon.com Books Blog featuring news, reviews, interviews, and guest author blogs.
Frequency – about 12 posts per week

4

Aestas Book Blog -Romance book reviews.

Aestas Book Blog -Romance book reviews.

aestasbookblog.com

About Blog – Aestas Book Blog gives Reviews of books that make my heart race, have a beautiful love story, and a happy ending.
Frequency – about 2 posts per week

5

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

smartbitchestrashybooks.com

About Blog – Smart Bitches, Trashy Books is a community of romance readers eager to talk about which romance novels rocked their worlds, and which ones made them throw the book. Also interested are the folks who are curious about all those fuchsia books with the tangerine skies and turquoise ruffles they used to see in the drug stores.
Frequency – about 21 posts per week

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2

You don’t have to go just because I’m the Veep, you know…

Want to Write? Love to Read?

Mark Your Calendar for the 9th Annual Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference!

Saturday, March 24 thru Sunday, March 25, 2018
at the Renaissance Woodbridge Hotel in Iselin, NJ

Whether you’re indie published, traditionally published, not quite published, or simply love to read, we have something for you. Join us for this exciting, fun, and informative event!

The Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference features a line up of more then 20 authors and industry professionals who will share their expertise and experience. Located a in New Jersey, just a short train ride from New York City, we offer a weekend of education, networking, and fun in a relaxed setting.

Registration is now open. Go here for more information on workshops, editor/agent appointments, and guests.

 

Flashy fiction – 333 Words

Is This Seat Taken?

“Is this seat taken?”

I swivel in my barstool, turning from my cold Armadale gimlet to the man leaning into my airspace. He’s exquisite for sure, tall and sleek, his hair like black silk, his voice a tinge Teutonic, the fine threads of his bespoke suit a portend not only of black AMEXs, Porsche Carreras, and Dom Perignon, but of rumpled sheets and lengthy sighs, all tied up in one ergonomically-designed package.

He smiles and lights the room, a shiver radiating through me as I imagine a fevered night followed by a glistening morning after, lingering over coffee and torte as he tells me of his childhood in Bern, his estate in Bordeaux, of how very good the world of finance can be, though how very lonely it’s left him. A yet unscathed corner of my heart squeezes as I reach for him across the breakfast table, our caress a weave of bone and flesh and sentiment, his face an odd mix of gratitude and longing as he brings my hand to his lips, kissing it.

I imagine many more nights and dazzling days, the heat steaming off his skin, lime-scented and dizzying as ether. Then he reaches to the rail and half-cages me, his muscled chest straining the confines of its cotton casing, and all at once I feel protected and safe, and ferociously, shamelessly aroused. In that split second, in that moment when I finally decide to answer his question he beckons to the barkeep as his gaze latches onto mine. Suddenly I’m struck by the fact his eyes are as green as the C-note pinched between his fingers, fingers long and slim and fashionably tanned, except for a white indentation on the fourth-finger of his left hand, freshly-liberated from an inconvenience so unsuitable to our purposes.

Well, maybe only to his, when again he asks me, “Is this seat taken?”

I smile most graciously as I get up, and sweeping my hand over my now empty seat, say, “Not anymore.”

© Copyright Gwen Jones 2017

NANOWRIMO is coming!

According to their website…

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. 

On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.

Mission Statement

National Novel Writing Month believes in the transformational power of creativity. We provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.

NaNo Prep

Ready to start planning your November novel? Our NaNo Prep resources are here for you.

During October,  they’ll provide resources to inspire, challenge, and prepare you to write that novel.

Look to their blogforumsFacebook, and Twitter for updates on new stuff.

Sign up and get ready to write!

No more boring characters. Please. Pretty please.

Without interesting characters, there would be no reason to pick up a novel, as humans are all basically voyeurs, and our most favorite pastime is observing each other. With a good read we can get inside an imaginary human’s head, see what makes them tick, understand their flaws and foibles. So beyond what physical descriptions can tell us about our characters, what can we do to make them alive and breathing, especially considering some modern schools of thought decry physical descriptions at all? Let’s take a look at this “Checklist on Creating Characters,” taken from David Starkey’s Creative Writing – Four Genres in Brief  (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009), a terrific textbook I’ve used in my Creative Writing classes:

  1. Do you know your main characters and their desires well? You should have a strong sense of who your characters are, where they live, where they’ve been, and the driving forces that make them act. They should know what they want and what they’re prepared to do to get it.
  2. Does your story show us only the essential aspect of your characters? While it’s important that you know your characters thoroughly, you will be revealing only a tiny sliver of that info on the page. Show your characters being themselves, only more so. Whatever conflict they are involved in should bring out a heightened sense of who they really are.
  3. Is your description of each character appropriate to, and necessary for, that character’s function in the story? You, the author, should always have a clear mental picture of your characters, but you should ask yourself if a complete physical, psychological, ethical, etc., description is really necessary for all characters. Unless some physical or emotional aspect of your character is necessary to the storyline, leave it out.
  4. Are the characters’ names appropriate? Do it reflect their personality? Their ethnicity? A physical characteristic? Try not to have too many Sams, Steves, Saras or Susans, as so many of the same letter can be confusing. And if that 1840s character from the remotest region of cloistered China is named O’Brien, you better have a reason why.
  5. Should that character be named at all? He’s a doorman the protagonist breezes past on the way out. Who cares. Unless, of course, later on he comes after him with a shotgun.
  6. Are your main characters different at the end of the story than they were in the beginning? The most convincing fictional characters are both consistent and surprising. Reread the opening and concluding sections of your story. Do you see a difference in how your protagonist began and how he or she ends up? If there’s no growth–or considerable decline–then you have a static character, and your readers will feel cheated.
  7. And at the end, will they leave your readers wanting more? Essential if you want to continue your story in a series. Like breadcrumbs through the woods, leave a trail of intriguing tidbits about the characters you’d like your readers to follow into the next book. And the next, and the next, and beyond.

Seriously Snark

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