STAY TUNED . . .

We’ve talked a lot about books to movies, and a little about books to television. That is where my expertise lies.

I confess. As a child, and as a teenager, I was a tv-aholic. I knew the lineup of my favorite shows. Being a sophisticated youngster, as soon as Captain Kangaroo went off, I ditched Romper Room in favor of reruns of “The Lucy Show” (the one with Desi Jr. and Luci Arnez) or “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

LittleHousePrairieYou can imagine my joy—nay, my absolute glee—when I found out that there was to be a television movie based on “Little House on the Prairie,” part of my all-time favorite and most-read series of books. I was doubly excited because Melissa Gilbert, tagged to play “Laura,” was almost exactly my age at the time. Twelve. I still remember the “Tiger Beat” and “TV Guide” interviews with her.

Was it a good representation? I think so. If you have read the “Little House” books, which I have, multiple times, you realize that like the Harry Potter books, the books where Laura and Mary are younger, the prose is less complicated. “Little House on the Prairie” is the second in the series, taking place when Laura is supposedly around 7 years old. I believe there is a whole chapter devoted to Laura following a frog through the waving grasses of the Kansas prairie. That didn’t make it into the movie, fortunately.

I was even more enraptured when I discovered that it was to be made into a weekly series. The first few seasons were great. Set during the “Plum Creek” period, I admit they took license with the actual books, but it still “felt” right. It wasn’t until Laura hit her teen years and they started featuring characters not in the books, and then completely ignored or changed large-scale plot points, that I lost interest. We won’t even talk about how Pa’s beard was a prominent character in the books that never even made it to Michael Landon’s face . . .

Can you overplay a book by extending it beyond its literary boundaries? Probably. The only way to combat that, in television, is to ditch the idea of a series altogether, and settle for a movie or a miniseries.

I came of reading age in the late 70’s and early 80’s when the miniseries also hit the big time. “The Winds of War” was one of my first forays into epic historical romance, and as soon as the miniseries was over, I headed to the library to check out the 1,000 page tome of the same name. Was the miniseries a good representation? I thought so. I loved them both. When “War and Remembrance” came out a few years later with a different leading lady, I was upset. It was just as well-made as the first, but trading Ali McGraw for Jane Seymour? Both ladies are wonderful actors, but somehow, it messed with the visuals in my mind.

PridePrejudiceI’m going to make another confession now, and if you’d like to put me in stocks in the town square, just let me know where and when, and I’ll show up. I recently watched the BBC miniseries “Pride and Prejudice” and absolutely fell in love with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. I loved it so much, in fact, that I decided to finally read the book. I think I got MAYBE a third of the way through?

As we were watching the miniseries, my husband commented that Elizabeth certainly did a lot of walking through gardens picking flowers. To me, that just gave me more time to think about Mr. Darcy . . . which is undoubtedly what Elizabeth Bennett was doing, as well.

I think, by far, some of the best published-works-to-film has been “The Twilight Zone.” Well-known authors Roald Dahl and Ray Bradbury were among the short-story authors whose works were dramatized on the small screen. “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” another television series from the 50’s and 60’s, also featured works by Dahl, Garson Kanin, John Cheever, and more. As producers, Rod Serling and Hitchcock realized that published short stories were preferable to stories developed exclusively for television.

Do I expect a movie to be as good as a book? Not usually. Most of what is left out of a novel is depth. Character development. Major plot lines. 

I’ve noticed is that while I am drawn to movies that I know are based on a book, it doesn’t mean I will go right out and read the book. I love Sci-Fi and Action-Adventure movies, but the epic bestsellers are too technical for my romance-trained literary mind.

So I just watch.

Example. “Sahara” by Clive Cussler. Loved the movie, and everyone says it’s a great book by a great author, and I’m sure it is. I’ve watched the movie at least four times. Haven’t read the book. But I have watched other movies that star Matthew McConaughey . . . Does that count? 😉

NOTHING TO FEAR BUT . . .

Things that go “bump in the night” go way back with me. My earliest memory of being scared to death of something on television was the flying monkeys on “The Wizard of Oz” on a black and white television. I literally hid my face until they were gone.

 Unfortunately, I couldn’t hide my face from my first actual nightmare. I think I was five or six, then. I dreamed that my dad and I went into a scary mansion. There was a gift shop, and a table was filled with two particular figurines. They were a tiny orange vase, about three inches tall with a relief carving of a dragon on it, and a figure of a Chinese man that was about four inches tall. It was as if there were hundreds of them, all in a row, staring back at me. While I looked at them, mesmerized, my dad left me for a few moments. When he came back, he was a werewolf! After that, all I remember is screaming, and then I woke up. I spent the rest of that night, and a few more, I think, in bed with Mom and Dad!

Funny thing about that? The figurines were real. There was a shelf over my bed that Mom put little knick-knacks, including the dragon vase and Chinese man. I had never told her that the dragon on the vase and the little Chinese man always scared me. In fact, I don’t know that I ever did tell her!  Guess what, Mom? 

Remember the “Bigfoot” craze?  I remember, as an eight-year-old, praying every night to not be so afraid. Bigfoot, earthquakes . . . you name it, I was scared of it. It probably didn’t help that the boy sitting in front of me in second grade had me CONVINCED that our part of Kentucky was going to crumble and fall off into the Mississippi River . . .

I finally got over it. Teen years came, and guess what the craze was at slumber parties?  Séances . . . I never felt right participating. It was creepy, and being creeped-out was NOT my favorite thing.

amityville_horror_house[1]When I was fifteen, I decided that I could read a scary book. Like Dawn, who watched “The Shining” all alone in the house, I decided, one summer evening while my parents and sister were down the road at some friends’ house visiting, that I would read “The Amityville Horror.” I thought, it’s supposed to be a true story, so how scary could it be? There are no such things as ghosts, after all. 

The windows were all open to catch the summer breeze. We lived on a little country road with no streetlights. Pitch dark outside. I honestly think that book scared me more than the flying monkeys . . . maybe. Have I ever seen the movie? Um, NO.

What about now?  Now I know that I simply don’t like to watch scary movies and I don’t like to read scary books. Now, God has shown me in so many ways that He loves me so much that I don’t need to dabble in the occult or “true” horror stories to get a thrill.

scared childThinking back on all these things that frightened me so thoroughly actually made me smile. I had a good childhood. There was nothing, in all those things that scared me so, that was real. For so many, life has been full of fear.

Now what frightens me is what frightens most of us—the future. Will my children grow up to be Godly individuals? Will my health stay intact? My husband’s? What will happen as my parents age? Will we have enough money to retire while we are young enough to enjoy it? Will I find that special thing that God has for me to accomplish?

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7, KJV

I hope I will turn these things that could easily transform into fear and hopelessness, into God-centered prayers and plans.

WHERE, OH WHERE?

Writing nook . . . my favorite place to write . . . this shouldn’t be too hard . . . I only started writing about two years ago. I have one manuscript draft of a novel written, started another one . . . and then there’s all that fanfic—enough to have written a couple of books . . .

I live in a house built in 1916. Needless to say, there are some quirky little nooks and crannies where, over the years, porches were enclosed to create space, tiny little sewing/dressing rooms too small for bedrooms were repurposed, and where quarter-sawn oak hardwood floors abound.

Honestly, I’ve had in mind several potential places for writing nooks, and they just haven’t come to fruition yet. I’m still finding my niche. I have several places in my home where I have written. I started out in the den on the family desktop computer. I wrote my first fanfic pieces there, and started the draft of my novel there.

Then, hallelujah, I got my beloved laptop. No, I haven’t named mine, either, Marlene . . . Thought about “Tosh,” since she’s a Toshiba, but I didn’t want people to think she was that OTHER kind . . . you know . . . whisper . . Macintosh?  Maybe Shiba . . .   Anyway, I got my laptop, and went to town writing.

Freedom!  I could go anywhere!  I’ve written with my laptop perched on the kitchen island; I’ve written sitting on my favorite red armchair in the den; I’ve written at the desk in the little “parlor” off my living room. I took my laptop on vacation with me and actually did some writing while there, overlooking the same beach, and the same ocean as my protagonist. I’ve even written on a notepad during a power outage, and in a doctor’s office waiting room.

But my favorite place to write?  In a leather recliner in my living room, laptop in place, drink at my side, feet propped up and a fire glowing in the fireplace (well, except in summer).

Someday I’ll have my own space.

I envision the “parlor” as my writing space, a gleaming, lady-like writing desk just big enough for a laptop and a few other things sitting in the middle of a luxurious Oriental rug, next to it the antique upright piano that belonged to my grandmother and probably pre-dates the house. It’s the spot that affords the best view into my living room, framed by an oak archway, highlighting box beams on the ceiling. It could be my “morning room.” You know, like those rooms that you read about in historical novels, where the lady of the house made her menus and gave instructions for the day to the servants? OK, that was pure dreaming on my part, but I could still CALL it my morning room, couldn’t I?

Then there is the “office” in the back of the house that used to be a bedroom, and before that, a porch (before 1935, anyway). It’s a quiet place, painted a deep red, but with double windows on one wall overlooking the back yard, and a door to the outside. I can see white furnishings in that room, a desk with lots of storage, and my favorite arm chair and ottoman in the corner.

I thought about the “sewing room” that I use as a dressing room outside my closet. It’s not big enough for much, and nobody would bother my stuff there . . . but it’s a long way from the rest of the people in my house! Still . . .

GinaReclinerAnd then there is the recliner, in the living room. There I can go at the end of the day and simply relax into the supple leather that envelopes me and entices me to spend some time dreaming up plots and dialogue, writing out action sequences and love stories, and discarding almost as much as I put in.

But then that’s writing, isn’t it? I would love to find a book that says, “This is a writing nook. In order to be successful, you need this, this, this, and this.” But I haven’t found it yet. So far, the best list I’ve found was Kim’s on Monday’s blog post.

For the prospective nooks, a cushy tushy chair is at the top of my shopping list, but something tells me my recliner may just trump it all, anyway.

THE PERFECT PAIR OF SHOES

It’s autumn, and a used-to-be-young woman’s thoughts turn to thoughts of . . . shoes.

 Really.

 Have you ever had a pair of shoes that just, somehow, were the be-all, end-all of shoes as you’ve known shoes? If you are a male, and are tempted to change channels at this point, bear with me . . . Maybe it was a baseball glove, a favorite pair of jeans, etc. 

 I know. It sounds silly. Believe me, when I saw the topic for this round I thought of all the scriptures I’d ever heard or read about harvest, about seasons, about blessings; but when I simply sat and pondered autumn and what it means to me, what did I think of?  Shoes.

 I prayed. I asked for words of wisdom. That first fleeting thought kept coming back—the memory of a pair of Aigner dress shoes that I acquired my senior year in high school. It nagged at me until I started writing.

 They weren’t ultra-dressy. They were mid-heeled, looked good with skirts AND pants, and were comfortable to wear all day. I loved them. Literally. And they were on sale. A really GOOD sale. At a really NICE department store. Since I didn’t shop there often, I still remember that day, too.

 I wore them often; in fact, I built my wardrobe around them that fall. Usually I had a pair of black “Sunday” shoes, or maybe brown ones, but THIS time? This time the color of choice was “Cordovan.”  The name of the color on the side of the box even excited me.

 And all that has to do with what autumn means to me, HOW?

CB062527 When we experienced that first crisp autumn day last week, I thought of those shoes. I thought of a particular day when I got off the school bus and walked the half-mile or so to the house where we lived in Southern Indiana. I was glad, for once, that my dad had forgotten to drive to the end of the winding, wooded drive to pick me up. The amazing blue of a perfect October afternoon sky, the leaves twirling as they fell—the bright reds, yellows, and oranges beating out the tired green of later-turning leaves . . . These were the things I’m sure I noticed, initially.

What I remember most, though—the memory that endures—is that I felt close to God that day. I was thankful for the beautiful sunshine, for the crisp leaves rustling underfoot, and for comfortable shoes that were pure joy in which to walk.

 Silly, huh?  I hope not. I think anything that we can use as a “marker” of a time when we felt ourselves draw near to God is important. Jacob built a monument to a dream he had about angels ascending and descending up a ladder.

 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” Genesis 28:16 NLT

 That’s how I remember feeling that day. I like to imagine God smiling at us when we stop to revel in a vivid dream, notice the beauty of His creation, and know that He is with us and loves us so much that he cares if our feet feel good in a pair of shoes.

AN EVOLVING READER

I mark the true beginning of my reading life with third grade.

That year I was told that I “couldn’t” read The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, which had been a favorite of my mother’s. Defiant child that I was—at least on the inside—I proved her wrong. Since then, I’ve determined to plug along and finish a book when I start it. That has created what I’ve become: a picky reader.

SweetAreTheWaysIf you look on my night-stand, you’ll see a few things besides a lamp, lip-balm, hand lotion, and pad and pencil (just in case I get an idea). You’ll see a stack of Romance Writers Monthly publications and last week, a well-worn copy of a 1965 Harlequin Romance, Essie Summers’ Sweet Are The Ways that I’ve read at LEAST ten times since my grandmother dug it out of a closet and gave it to me when I was about 14.

Why now? As I’ve confessed, I’m a picky reader. I go through phases. While finishing my college degree, and a few years afterward, I felt disconnected from current fiction and trends, so I read self-help and books on spirituality—The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren; Cure for the Common Life by Max Lucado, and more.

HankWhen I became a school librarian, I finally read my way through the Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling—and loved them ALL; I discovered the delight of John Erickson’s Hank the Cowdog series, and the Wayside School series by Louis Sacher.

When I became a public librarian a few years later, I soon found that the market and selection of Inspirational Fiction had grown exponentially while I was catching up on Young Adult and Children’s literature. It wasn’t just the historical fiction that I’d fallen in love with, years ago, anymore. Romance, Suspense, Mystery, Comedy . . . they were all there . . . finally.

LoveMeIfYouMustBut I also found that I was woefully behind in mainstream, best-seller-type fiction – the kind of fiction my library public wants.  Evanovich? Patterson? They’re on my “need to read” list. I should read these . . . and I will . . . but when I see so many new writers coming out with books that are what I enjoy reading and writing, even the big dogs get pushed aside as I scan the shelves for new, up-and-coming authors:  Authors like Nicole Young with her Patricia Amble Mysteries, or Lisa Wingate and her Daily, Texas series.

In the meantime, I finished Sweet Are the Ways, and then picked up and finished Deanne Gist’s wonderful historical, A Bride Most Begrudging.

But I didn’t say why I picked up my old friend after all these years, did I?

About a week ago, as I slogged through a current New York Times bestseller—one I had been looking forward to getting my hands on, mind you—I found myself asking, “Why am I reading a book with characters that I don’t like and wouldn’t want for friends, who are way more over-the-top dysfunctional than I care to read about, and who use language that I would just as soon not have repeated over and over in my mind?”

 When I finally got up the nerve to stop reading, I handed it to my husband who had been eagerly waiting for it, went downstairs, and there it was—comfort-reading for my soul. Elspeth and Dougal, the main characters, in all their innocent, tingly steps toward true love were just what I needed to feed my mind upon at that moment, and it made me think long and hard about my own writing. Maybe there are other people besides me who want to read about imperfect relationships that are made stronger because they discover the wonder of unconditional love. Hmmmm . . . ya think?

Oh, and I almost forgot . . . I try to read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter at LEAST every other winter. Maybe my evolution as a reader is not quite complete . . .

I KNEW YOU

EMily3When I was a much younger woman, I discovered, after six years of marriage and starting my college career about five years later than normal, that I was going to have my first child. The timing couldn’t be better. Our baby was due toward the end of May, so I could finish my third year of college and spend the summer concentrating on being a good mother.

At the first ultrasound, we were amazed at the little life growing inside of me. We saw and heard the heartbeat, saw the little fingers and toes—life was good. And then it came time for my next month’s appointment. I was excited. I knew we wouldn’t find out if our child was male or female, and we didn’t really care. What we weren’t counting on was the serious look on my doctor’s face when he took me into his office. 

According to the radiologist, there was brightness in the bowel area of our precious baby. The doctor didn’t even want to tell us, but felt he must, that in however-many out of a hundred ultrasounds showing this abnormality, there was a risk of Cystic Fibrosis. He tried to downplay it, but we were crushed. He had one word. Pray.

We didn’t tell anyone. We were determined to pray, and wait. No need to put a pall on things. Because of the nature of the pregnancy, now, we had another ultrasound at 7 months. We had made peace with the situation, and had been able to look forward to whatever God had in store for us. As we went through the ultrasound (and thankfully because of the size of the baby I did NOT have to drink a gallon of liquid this time), the instrument panned the baby’s face. She was beautiful. That image is etched in my heart.

They found nothing this time. Theory was that it may have been gas – as simple as that – from the carbonated beverage I consumed getting to that level of liquid the first time.

About five weeks later – three weeks early – we got a surprise. I came home from church that morning, looked down, and mumbled, “Hmmmm . . . my ankles are swollen.” I’d not had any swelling the whole time. That night, I went into labor. Needless to say, finals week was the last thing on my mind.

EmGina.09I delivered a healthy, six-pound, nine-ounce, nineteen and a half inch long beautiful baby girl. My twenty-year-old baby is now in her third year of college.

I joke that I recognized her as soon as I saw her face, because I had seen her before. When I thought of this, I thought of how God recognizes us even before we are conceived. He used the unexpected blessing of seeing her face to let us know that He is in control of every situation.

All through this time of excitement tinged with anxiety, I kept Psalm 139 in my heart. Verses thirteen through sixteen say this: You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body, and knit them together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it. You were there while I was being formed in utter seclusion! You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your Book! (TLB)

 Isn’t it amazing that what is a surprise—the unexpected—to us is old news to God?

A WRITER? ME?

Regina here with the story of my writing journey, which started in first grade.  My mom still has evidence—tons of crayon and pencil drawings with the same set of words scrawled on the bottom: “I love my mommy.”  “I love my daddy.” “I love Jesus.”

I did get better.  I remember in 4th grade, I wrote a scintillating tale of a rooster, using my list of spelling words for the week. 

Hmmmm . . . OK, then there was the sequel to the Margaret Mitchell classic, “Gone With the Wind” when I was all of sixteen, I believe.  I didn’t get far, but I still remember where I was going with that.  I had Rhett and Scarlett back together, in their old age, reminiscing about how they had inevitably come back together after those fateful words, “Frankly, my dear . . .” You get the drift.  This is a family blog, after all.

After that, there was dating; moving from Kentucky to Indiana; engagement; graduating from high school; marriage; moving BACK to Kentucky; working at a bank; college; children; moving away from our ancestral (for me, anyway) “home town” to another Kentucky town; graduating from college – finally; serving as a middle-school and then elementary-school librarian; and then becoming a public library director, which I am today.  That’s the short version. The blanks will be filled in as time goes by. I have left out a few things, but as you can see, writing wasn’t really a part of my life except for writing papers, newsletter articles, correspondence, etc. —until January 2008.

 Someday I’ll tell you the story of how Bob Yehling, a television show, Romancefanfiction.net, and a group of ladies have inspired me to embark on one of the most nerve-wracking and satisfying journeys of my life – the journey to become a published author.

 I’ve completed my first novel, and continue with rewriting, learning, tweaking, cutting, adding, etc. Entitled Carolina Dream, it’s a Contemporary Christian Romance – my favorite genre to read, as well. It started out as a particularly vivid dream I had. I started writing, and 60,000 words and eight months later, surprisingly enough, I had a very rough draft of a complete novel. I now have outlines for books two and three.

 As for me, at forty-five, I am by vocation a public library director and by avocation a churchSoccer1.09 musician; I have a husband of twenty-six years who is a school administrator and deacon in our church; a daughter who has moved away to her university and is ecstatic to be back after a year at home; and another daughter who has entered high school and is ecstatic about her new haircut, makeup, and being on the Varsity soccer team. 

 I’ve been thinking about my aborted sequel to “Gone With the Wind.”  I went to Charleston, SC recently where I had thought to set my sequel—it’s where Rhett Butler was from, after all—and where part of my current WIP is set.

 As the fringed carriage of our guided tour eased past the opulent mansions on the Battery, I smiled when I felt tears come to my eyes. I couldn’t help but think of elderly Rhett and Scarlett as they could have sat on the veranda of one of those very homes. I could see them, in my mind’s eye,  sipping iced sweet tea as they sit, overlooking the Charleston Harbor, Rhett recalling his glory days as a gun-runner during the Civil War – or as they refer to it in Charleston, the “recent unpleasantness” – and Scarlett smiling at him indulgently . . . 

Spring.summer2009 147 

I just may have to write that book after all.