Monday, July 30, 2007

Movie Musicals: Confections and Confessions

I love the movies in summertime...especially when they're as much fun as "Hairspray," the oversized confection of fun starring Nikki Blonsky, John Travolta, Christopher Walken, Queen Latifah and Michelle Pfeiffer. After the opening montage where effervescent Tracy Turnblad belts out her love for life, dancing, and Baltimore, I was transfixed. John Travolta makes for an endearing mama Turnblad, and Christopher Walken's shirts were a study in early 60s kitsch. Bravo, costume designer. But seriously, Christopher Walken could walk across the room eating a grilled cheese sandwich and I'd find him subversively hysterical. Michelle Pfeiffer rules her scenes with icy femininity, and Queen Latifah adds regal, maternal grace to the proceedings. An absolute ball.

Michelle Pfeiffer's singing reminded me of another, less star-studded film: Grease 2. I'll confess, it's a total guilty pleasure and I've seen it more times than I care to recollect. The young Michelle grabs hold of the shlocktastic material and gives it her Cool-Rider loving, Pink Ladies jacket wearing, gum smacking all. She sings a few numbers with agility, a skill she highlights in the better received Fabulous Baker Boys. I always wondered what happened to Grease 2's young Maxwell Caulfield, who played the nerd-goes-biker with embarrassing sincerity. After a quick search on (one of my favorite sites for all things film), it looks like he's taken a quieter path than his leading lady. Which leads me to another early Pfeiffer film...Ladyhawke (1985). A young Matthew Broderick delivers quote-worthy bon mots and a still-happenin' Rutger Hauer fights his way through the implausible plot toward lady love, Pfeiffer in a brunette pixie (!) that frames her otherworldly looks. The star-crossed fantasy is a diverting way to pass an afternoon, if you can get past the jarring, ill-suited music. (Think bad eighties rock. Real bad. Real eighties. Light on the rock.)

Confession time: Have a favorite B movie? A soft spot for schlock? A fan of the campy musical?


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Eat, Pray, Love

As a follow up to the previous post, another author who makes me laugh is new-to-me memoirist Elizabeth Gilbert. Her book, Eat, Pray, Love chronicles her journey through three countries as she explores what each has to offer in the way of culture, religion, and balance. I had so many people recommend this book to me that I was almost resistant to read it. That ever happen to you? Anyway, I'm so glad I picked it up. Gilbert's writing is inspired and witty, and once you start reading, you won't put it down. I especially liked the "Pray" section as she travelled to an Ashram in India and learned about prayer and meditation.

Spiritual journeys intrigue me, and I found myself wanting to buy a plane ticket to the other side of the world and hiding out for a month. I wonder what it would be like to be a monk on a mountaintop, or a nun living out a life with orphans in China. What does that type of committed service feel like, look like?

I recently went on a spiritual retreat in pursuit of my own faith (I am Christian), and the timing couldn't have been better. You see, this past month I've lost two dear friends to cancer -- Mary Ann Corrigan and Ronda Thompson -- and the losses hit me rather hard. Ronda Thompson, as some of you may know, is a New York Times bestselling romance writer from Amarillo, and was one of my first real writer friends on the journey. She was electrically sarcastic and a terrific storyteller. Mary Ann Corrigan is the mother of one of my best friends, and I spent about a third of my youth sitting at her kitchen table eating sandwiches on white bread -- a secret luxury. Mary Ann's daughter is a sister of my heart, and that she has lost her mama is unthinkable. Both women were way too young to have gone so soon, and have left many an aching heart in their passing.

In the midst of grieving those losses, I discovered a lump on my own breast. Perhaps the worst part was watching the ultrasound technician measure the black spheres that showed up on my film. It wasn't in my head, or a sympathy bump...there was a mass, and it was real. I scheduled an appointment with a surgeon, and waited.

It is true, as Tom Petty sings, that the waiting is the hardest part.

Then came the spiritual retreat. It was a 72-hour period of no phones, no watches, and a complete immersion into learning and prayer. Plenty of eating and love, too. I think I gained about five pounds. We took communion and sang songs, and I had ample time to focus on other things besides what might or might not be growing in my breast. We sang the old hymn, "It is Well With My Soul." The opening lines go like this:

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

These words, for me, became that flowing river of peace and a personal plea. Faith pulsed with the longing that, whatever my lot, it would be well with my soul. The Monday after the retreat, I had my first medically-supervised chest stabbing. Some refer to it as a "biopsy," but I speak the truth. During the whole time the surgeon was poking me with needles (I kept my eyes closed, but I'm sure they were about a foot and a half long), I sang that hymn in my heart and prayed.

The results came back yesterday.

No cancer for me.

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

What inspires you? Nature? Music? Time with family? Ever been on a spiritual retreat?

Labels: ,

Monday, July 16, 2007

Marsha Moyer Makes Me Laugh

Today I'm headed to Dallas to visit one of my favorite writers. Marsha Moyer, who writes the engaging Lucy Hatch series, made a huge splash a few years back when she sold her first novel in a fantastic two-book hardback/softback deal. If you've read her writing (lyrical, clever and laugh out loud funny) you know why. She's following up with the third in the series, called Heartbreak Town. If it's anything like the other two, I'm sure I'll be up all night reading.

Marsha Moyer is doing a read and booksigning tonight, Monday, July 16 at 7:00 p.m. at Borders Books & Music, 10720 Preston Road, Dallas, TX. She's a terrific speaker, dry and witty, and as a frequent teacher for the Writers' League of Texas, Marsha has plenty of insight on the biz. If you're in the area, drop by and say hello. I'll be in the front row, and I'm bringing my mama with me.

Which authors/books make you laugh out loud?


Monday, July 02, 2007

Summer Lovin'

Long time, no blog! Sorry for the lag...and thanks for the prompt to post. (Hello, Dee!)

Here's what I've been up to:

Travel. I received a new (fabulous) suitcase for my birthday and it's already broken in. So far I've visited family for a reunion, a wedding, and the birth of a new niece. My niece is completely precious (of course) and I got to assume full aunt duties and feed her in the middle of the night. Those infant wee hours are wonderful, full of wide eyes and little grunts, and are all the more exciting when you don't have to do it every night.

I also attended the Frontiers in Writing Conference in Amarillo, Texas where I caught up with old friends and made some new ones. Highlights for me included a pep talk from thriller bestseller Barry Eisler and a luncheon session with Jodi Thomas, the queen of Texas romance. Both authors shared insights on perseverance and believing in your own writing -- essential if you want to navigate this crazy business. I presented sessions on writing a novel and tackling revisions, and then came home to apply my own wisdom. It's funny, sometimes when I'm up at the front teaching I think, "Wow, this is pretty good stuff. I should use it." Which leads me to...

Writing. So far I've read through the complete draft of my Work in Progress and have started the umpteenth round of revisions. Right now the WIP has its moments of brilliance and moments of...who in the name of all that is holy sabotaged my manuscript and inserted this garbage? Reading my own work is a love/hate thing, and I usually find the rewriting process is near the end when the work as a whole pleases me. My hope is to get through a revision this summer, then hit it again this fall. I'll keep you posted.

Other stuff I'm loving this summer:

Boss Lady Lip Balm. Simply the best lip balm ever, and the packaging couldn't be cuter. It's smooth, tastes of sweet honeysuckle, and has SPF 18 to keep your pucker winsome. Speaking of winsome (insert awkward segue here), you can Win Some (!) in my Summer Contest. To enter, click here.

The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster. We went to see her live for my birthday and she was more than incredible. Tracy Chapman meets Norah Jones meets bluesy southern gospel soul. Love, love, love her. She signed discs for us after the show, and we tried not to fall all over her as we gushed over her greatness. Any of her CDs are sure to kill; we bought Runaway Soul and The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster which are now on constant rotation.

Project Runway reruns. My tivo is queued up and ready, and what better way to spend a rainy day than with Heidi, Tim and the girls? While I enjoy Jay's work -- especially his funky knits from the runway show -- I absolutely adore Kara Saun's clean Armani-meets-Gucci style. I don't think she had a misfire the entire season. For season 3, I'll admit I'm a Jeffrey fan, but I'd buy Uli's dresses faster than you can say Miami.

Movies. Recent raves: Waitress, starring Keri Russell and Knocked Up. Waitress wins the summer comedy war, by a slice of "My Husband is Gonna Kill Me for Having an Affair" pie. The dialogue rocked, and the performances rang southern twang true. My mother-in-law was horrified by Knocked Up's profanity and gross-out shock 'em humor -- is it odd that I found it heartwarming and poignant? I actually cried a little at the end.

Enough about me...what are you loving this summer? Anybody a Project Runway fan? Are you sick enough of movie trilogies that you could choke on your butter popcorn? And what about Bruce Willis reviving Die Hard?