A Short History Lesson (for me) for the Regency period

What would we do without our writing buddies…can’t imagine.

Judi Lynn

I love Regency romances and mysteries, but I don’t know enough about the history of the period to keep everything straight.  Luckily for me, my good friend M. L. Rigdon (aka Julia Donner) agreed to a Q & A to help promote her latest novel, MORE THAN A MILKMAID.

More than a Milkmaid--Mary Lou

Help me welcome her to my blog.  She’s my critique partner and close friend, and I’m also a huge fan of her writing—and not just because I’m prejudiced. I’m pretty picky about what I consider good writing. Not that anyone would know that. I simply don’t review books I don’t like or admire. And I admire her work. Her latest novel, MORE THAN A MILKMAID, is one of my favorites.

Thanks so much for asking me here today! And yes, you are biased, but for my latest venture into the Regency world, it may have to do with you providing the…

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Lost and Found

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Lately I’d been thinking about a friend I hadn’t heard from in a few years, Allen Etter, artist, teacher, film director, author, and innovative writer of Christian Science Fiction. I don’t know about the genre now, but when Allen wrote Entropy Gate, I’d never read anything like it. As I searched out his website to see if he still taught at the university, I was saddened to learn that he had died, quite young at 52.

Publishers of Christian fiction were not interested when Allen wrote EG. You don’t have to be Christian or interested in science fiction to enjoy Entropy Gate or its sequel, Beyond. He illustrated his own graphic novels with his distinctive graceful/grotesque talent. I always admired his ability to evoke movement in his paintings.

Entropy Gate:

https://www.amazon.com/Entropy-Gate-Journey-Allen-Etter-ebook/dp/B005M6Q7HM/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=allen+Etter&qid=1580064068&s=books&sr=1-2

Beyond:

https://www.amazon.com/Entropy-Gate-Beyond-Allen-Etter-ebook/dp/B005U6ZDE2/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=allen+Etter&qid=1580064068&s=books&sr=1-3

Allen was invested in his faith, his family, and artistry. I admired the way his brain processed art in practical applications. One of his first webpages was of the girl on the cover of Entropy Gate and accessing the site by entering her sparkling green eye.

I remember best the wisdom in Allen’s large, dark eyes, his graceful hands, and his physical presence. At 6’7, he filled up surrounding space but he was never intimidating, more like cuddly. He listened with care and carried with him a quiet, inner burden. I enjoyed talking about fencing, which we both had studied, he being the better fencer.

Allen leaves behind sons and a wife he adored. I am sorry I hadn’t talked to him recently but have his art, books, the appreciation of his encouragement of my beginning efforts. Please check out his works on Amazon and enjoy his many exceptional talents. My glowing reviews were removed when it was discovered that we were friends, but he’s left some of them behind for us to admire. One of my favorites is a rendition of Batman:

GIVE AND TAKE

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This morning I drove by a man with metal legs. He stood in the freezing cold at an intersection, holding a placard stating that he served as a Marine.

I went to the store, did my shopping and readied some folded bills. I don’t usually hand money to panhandlers, but this was different. He was a veteran.

What is wrong with this nation that we let this happen to our service people? I drove home so furious I was teary-eyed. People are so selfishly tuned-in to their own ideas, frantically looking for validation and opinion confirmation sources and opportunities, that few see the travesty standing on our street corners and living beneath freeway underpasses in cardboard boxes. This goes beyond disgrace; it connotes the worst sort of social and moral corrosion.

Not that many years back, the GOP lead Senate proudly passed a tax break of $269 billion for the rich. That is revolting and in every way appalling. Our service people and their families are struggling, while the rich have no sympathy for the have nots, no respect for the courage and sacrifice of our military.  Those billions were and are needed for the more deserving.

Holidays can be emotionally destructive to the depressed and oppressed. I ask that you give whatever you can when you see or hear about a veteran in need. I didn’t care if that Marine was panhandling because he was destitute or just looking for extra cash to buy his kids a gift. I have my legs intact and he has metal ones. He’s given more than enough.

 

 

KNIVES & NEIGHBORHOOD

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Knives Out 

Oh, yeah, let’s go there. Saw this last night with a group of friends from my church and we laughed and laughed. It’s the most fun mystery ever! I was too busy enjoying the people on screen to get invested in figuring out the mystery, which becomes clear about three-quarters through. I’m sure my friend and critique partner, Judy (aka Judi Lynn), who writes mysteries, will figure it out much earlier from some obvious clues.

As usual, I’m fascinated with the subtleties. If you look at any of the promo stills, you’ll notice the makeup, obvious shadows and blush under the cheekbones, to give the Thrombey family the look of thinness, a gaunt desperation. This is in contrast to the plump sweetness of the nurse/companion, Marta, in comparison to the Thrombey family of sharks. Everyone in this movies is having so much fun with their delicious characters—so meaty they could be easily be blown over the top—but all are skillfully contained. Or executed. (Couldn’t resist that.)

The house itself is a character. I can’t wait to slap the CD into the player so it can be paused to savor the gorgeousness of the interiors. (Who has a cannon in their drawing room?)

There are so many delightful twists and turns coming constantly and out of nowhere and yet slotted perfectly into the puzzle. Many tongue-in-cheek remarks and inferences are said so quickly they’re easy to miss. Love the detective’s name, Benoit Blanc, who surprisingly plugs in earbuds and sings a Sondheim show tune.

There is so much going on in this movie on so many levels that it’s a viewing that can be enjoyed over and over and will probably become a cult classic. Keep an eye out for Frank Oz and K Callan; as Stanislavski said, “There are no small roles, only small actors.”

Everybody in this is juicy, and I want to grow up to be Jamie Lee Curtis.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

This is nothing like what I expected. The only way I can think to describe this movie is intimate—almost, but not quite, too intimate. I have yet to read the Esquire article on which this film is based but imagine it will be as unique and unexpected as this work is. I was equal parts impressed, moved, humbled, informed, and encouraged.

Special camera work was used to capture what the original TV program looked like. The “Neighborhood” set and formatting was used throughout the filming as a tool to suck the viewer/audience into the world of Fred Rogers and the bitter, emotionally wretched internal life of a journalist (Vogel), who copes with, but has never resolved childhood traumas. When Vogel is assigned the job of writing about a beloved national icon, his wife begs him not to ruin her childhood with one of his typical exposé pieces.

As Tom Hanks said—explaining his POV in an interview—people thought of Rogers as either a saint or a fraud. Vogel leaned more toward the fraud, and after meeting Rogers, ended up bewildered, confused, then disbelieving to the point where he becomes almost obsessed with the need to understand someone who only sees the good in others and him. And the hurt.

What I liked most about this movie is how respectfully Rogers is depicted, not as a saint, but as a person with flaws and problems, while imbued with substantial grace and so much compassion he could cherish everyone as a unique being. On his TV program Rogers never talked about God, and yet he exemplified all that is good about religious belief. He personified true evangelism by extending compassion and kindness. He brought more goodness and light into the world as no present day evangelism or obnoxious evangelists do.  Reverend Fred Rogers saved souls without self-righteous demands to repent or pointing out what is lacking or needs changing.  He lived his beliefs, celebrated differences, and accomplished it while battling his own failings and disappointments.

We can’t all be a Fred Rogers, but we can see this movie and get an idea of where and how to start.

 

M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)

Follow on Twitter @RigdonML

Blog: https://historyfanforever.wordpress.com/

Website http://www.MLRigdon.com

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/julia-donner

https://www.facebook.com/Julia-Donner-697165363688218/timeline

 

DRIVEN

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Ford vs. Ferrari

This is an example of finding it difficult to see the forest for the trees. The exhilaration of being in the driver’s seat through half of the movie tends to distract from the excellent work of the actors. I’m not a racing aficionado/a, but like many, do admire flashy cars and good acting. Plenty of both in this film, but the thrill of the driver’s side view of the racing experience does divert from the craft of the actors. Most car flicks focus on the action to the exclusion of what is involved in the skill needed to survive the race itself. Both the skill and the cars are honored here.

Little things snag my attention, such as the way Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby held his black hat in a meeting with Ford. There is a unique way in which a freshly blocked or cherished hat is held, the respectful three-fingered grasp of the crown. I recall that I read somewhere that one of Shelby’s hats was used in this movie. It’s subtle finesse that lifts a performance from competent to masterful.

Christian Bale as Ken Miles is his usual brilliant self. Caitriona Balfe is mesmerizing. She can steal a scene with intensity, which she condenses into finer focus in comparison to the often overwrought Claire in Outlander. I appreciate more director James Mangold’s respect for Mollie Miles. The sixties era made the minimization and “slutifiying” of women into an art form. Mangold eschewed that by showing how Mollie supported her husband, knowing full well the extraordinary dangers involved in striving to achieve his dream. Bale enhanced and elevated this in his devotion to Mollie and the sanctity of their relationship. He does so with an easy grace and gentlemanly gift for ensemble. The standout for me was Noah Jupe as Peter Miles, Ken’s son. For a young actor, he is what is sometimes called a natural. It’s exciting to imagine what he has in store for us in the future.

In contrast, there is nothing subtle about corporate America. All of the fawning, attention greedy, viciously envious, childishly entitled, penile-challenged vulgarity was perfectly illustrated in the Ford upper echelon. Having had the unfortunate experience of meeting and interacted this type, I can attest that the depictions in this film are not over the top. The only thing missing was the underlying cruelty of this sort of male. I will not call them men, because they are not.

With nerve-wrenching pacing soothed by interesting introspection and spectacular filming, this is a not-to-be-missed experience. Good performances require a sturdy platform, and the true star of this movie is the innovation and genius of the creation of a dream, bringing an invention to its greatest form—to a level of perfection. Mangold and his team did just that with this movie. 

Harriet

During the summer, if not in the swimming pool, the library was my go-to place as a girl. I’m not sure how a biography of Harriet Tubman got in the stack of books I lugged home every two weeks, but once I started reading about her, I couldn’t stop. Her courage, unbreakable spirit and dignity in strife haunted my thoughts and made her heroic in a way no other could be. (Maybe with the exception of my sister.) So when I heard about this film, and read that it was a respectful rendering, I couldn’t wait to see it. So not disappointed. Just loved the whole thing, especially the costuming. Attention was paid to historical accuracy with the exception of Gideon Brodess, who was made into a baddie, which is not substantiated, but his mother, Eliza, was a documented horror.

There was some silly talk about using Cynthia Erivo, a British actress, as Tubman. What is that all about? Did anybody gripe about Helen Mirren (British) as Sarah Winchester? There are dozens more examples but that is the only one that comes to mind at the moment. Erivo did a superb job and that was why she was chosen. Perhaps also because she looks a bit like Tubman and is petite.

When I heard that Tubman was to be on the $20 bill, I rejoiced. The face of a murderous, amoral person like Jackson has no place on our currency. He demolished the Seven Nations, stealing their homes and businesses, the same way present day energy companies are doing, confiscating reservations and privately owned farmlands for fracking and building pipelines for oil to be sold to other countries. If Harriet was alive, she’ d be standing in front of the earthmoving machines, like the young man who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square.

Racists now infest the White House. Trump, specifically, has blocked the change of the $20, but some have found a way around it. There is a stamp of Harriet that can cover the face of Jackson, who had welcomed the help of the Cherokee in the battle of New Orleans, then stole their lands and businesses.

I don’t think Harriet wants the recognition, but she would relish the fight. It’s her face that needs to join Washington, Lincoln, Hamilton and Grant. I’m going online to find that dang stamp and slap it on every $20 I come  across. Every time I do it, I’ll think about her courage, her strength and faith, her determination to do what was right and honorable.

See the film. Watch her run for her life, risk everything for others, and exemplify what true heroism is.

M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)

Follow on Twitter @RigdonML

Blog: https://historyfanforever.wordpress.com/

Website http://www.MLRigdon.com

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/julia-donner

https://www.facebook.com/Julia-Donner-697165363688218/timeline

 

 

A Yummy Hero

Writers need to stick together. The support of friends is crucial and why my regency series is dedicated to friendship. You are the best!

Judi Lynn

I read some books and the guy who’s the hero is just plain hot.  And I remember him.  A hot hunk isn’t enough to make me love a book, but let’s face it, it doesn’t hurt.  But M. L. Rigdon has a habit of writing wonderful male characters AND one heck of a good story.  In her newest fantasy, THE GRACARIN, she combines a hero who endeared himself to me the longer I read about him, with a heroine whom I’ve loved since I read about her in the trilogy Seasons of Time.  I love Sorda, and it hurt when she became Lorin’s consort in that series instead of his wife.  But it was so typical of her, content to play second-fiddle in the background.  Until she meets Torak–my heart throb–in The Gracarin.  And oh, how I hope she and Torak end up together.  So, I invited M. L. Rigdon…

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Two Movies in Two Days

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AD ASTRA

An outer space adventure that is mostly backdrop for wrenching internal struggle. Brad Pitt’s character, Major Roy McBride, has managed childhood issues with controlled avoidance. He’s buried pain so deeply that he’s cut himself off, shut down emotional responses. His success with this is demonstrated in how calm he remains in a terrifying life threatening accident that would make any normal person shriek nonstop or blackout. That neat talent is challenged when everything he’s done to protect himself begins to unravel with the monumental task of saving the world. His father, a brilliant scientist and deified astronaut thought dead, is making mayhem on Neptune.  Son must find trouble-maker dad, save the universe, while his internal self is hanging on by a thread.

Pacing is difficult in space films, mainly because everything is slowed down on screen for the illusion of weightlessness. The action gets slow at times but never drags. It’s appropriate and is helped along by Pitt’s narration throughout the film, a curious then ruthlessly objective dissection of his mental status. His goal of saving the world, saving himself, and confronting his father is pitted against the difficulties and dangers of space travel. I got the feeling Pitt identified with his character on a gut level and liked the whole exploration of outer space versus exploration of emotional inner space theme.

Major Roy McBride is a hero steadfast, quick thinking and relentlessly brave. I see in him NASA’s long list of astronauts, but lacking their corny sense of humor. I also liked the clear-cut screenplay with a definite beginning, sometimes shocking middle segments, and a satisfying conclusion.

Some reviewers are whining about the lack of serious attention to the sacred sci-fi genre. I liked the film because space is used as secondary to Major McBride’s internal odyssey.

And now for something completely different:

DOWNTON ABBEY

So far, there is no way to compete with the Brits when it comes to period film production. What also amazed was getting the extensive cast back to do this film. In an NPR interview, Julian Fellowes expressed his astonishment of the same. Their joy of being together again glows on the screen.

Let’s be real. It took years to develop the history and scope of the Crawley family. To cram that much content into a two-hour film is impossible. Yes, the writing is trite and over-used, with tortuous injections of dues ex machina, but nobody cares. Certainly not the fans of this series. Me included. What we got was exactly what we wanted, the upstairs and downstairs back together again, the elegance of a fading era, the sparkle and beauty of it all. The costuming is so exquisite, down to the matching robin egg green of Dowager Countess Grantham’s satin slippers.

There is also the benefit of income for the repairs that a dwelling like Highclere Castle requires. (The window casement in one of the shots was so badly chipped its condition distracted.) Most of the grand houses are now in the National Trust, given up by families no longer able to financially keep pace with the upkeep. Lady Mary expressed the same worry about staying on at Downton, a reasonable concern.

The present day owner of Highclere, Lord Carnarvon (descendant of the famed King Tutankhamen excavation), gave a candid interview about how much the income for renting out his house for the series was appreciated for a new roof, among other things. Although the age of aristocracy has dwindled to its end, architecture and history must be preserved. Downton Abbey funds have helped greatly with that.

Link to Highclere: https://www.highclerecastle.co.uk/history-highclere-castle

This was the first time in a long, long time that I heard an audience of movie goers clap at the end of a film. It was good to hear and even better to escape from present day crassness into a lovely setting. Nostalgia is a wonderful thing.

Shameless plug portion: The Gracarin, scheduled for release on 10/10/19, is now available  for pre-sale.

TWO MOVIES IN ONE WEEK

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(No spoilers but I am opinionated.)

I belong to a movie group from my church that sees new releases and goes to dinner following to discuss. Hearing that they planned to see the Hustlers, I warned them. Restricted movies loaded with f-bombs doesn’t phase them, and they do appreciate the controversial, if well done.

The trailer to this one was enough to inform me that it wasn’t well-made and not a theme I’d like, but to be fair, I gave it a chance. It was worse than I suspected. If were possible to give this piece of soft porn a no stars, I would, but for the pleasure of seeing Mercedes Ruehl. Didn’t recognize her at first, since she succumbed to the Hollywood pressure of youth and plastics. Or a bad makeup job on purpose.

The reasons for disliking this movie on a visceral level were many. It was peopled with unlikable, repellent characters. This can be overcome, such as Melissa McCarthy’s fine work in Can You Ever Forgive Me. But that was about Lee Israel, a complex, interesting person. These women are pathetic Kardashian wannbes, and considering that low bar…it can’t get any lower.

In an era of women reaching for equality, this schlock flick set the movement back a century. Or more. I’m not judging women who strip for income. Many do so to pay off college debt or feed their kids. My disgust with this film comes from the constant bombardment of smut and a rationalization that adulterous Wall Street types deserve to be ripped-off because they caused the 2008 market crash. Even that’s pathetic, because big banks, like Chase and Wells Fargo to name a few, were the cause.

Worse was the rehashing and repetition of the sex parties and the women celebrating their take with spraying champagne and shopping sprees, scenes that did nothing to move the story forward but did a great job of creating boredom.

I suppose guys, being visual, would not agree my opinion. Although I could feel the discomfort of the men in our group. They’re gentlemen. They avoid lechery and have no need to bolster their sense of masculinity via the debasement of others.

Every character in this film is a creep with exception of Destiny’s grandmother, the charming Wai Ching Ho. Even then the writers concocted a scene to diminish her. The acting throughout was competent, but whoever thinks that Lopez’s performance is Oscar worthy has never taken an acting course. She is competent.

I could go on but I won’t waste your time. I’ve already wasted mine seeing this piece of trash. Can’t blame objectifying men for his flick. It was written and directed by women looking for creds with the Hollywood overlords.

Now for something to clean the palette:

The Peanut Butter Falcon 

The trailer was enough to let it be known that this is not a great movie but an intriguing one. I hope it becomes a classic. The hang-up for me was Shia LaBeouf and Dakota Johnson, neither interesting performers, but happily in this case, were believable and accessible, likeable. Because of Zak, (Zack Gottsagen), they find the new life paths. Both are invested in Zak, protective and overprotective of a guy who needs none.

The writing is simplistic, which is sometimes not a bad thing. I had read that this fable-like film was written specifically for Gottsagen, whose strength of purpose and character carry the story arc. He has a strong presence on the screen that paired well with LaBeouf’s angst and Johnson’s floundering but well-intentioned obligation to a Down Syndrome client.

The only thing I found comparable to Mark Twain is floating on a raft. The setting and filming is atmospheric. One can almost smell the humidity and the river. Okay, there are a few cheesy parts, but easily forgivable. I will probably buy this when it comes out because of its charm and goodness of heart and because of that, five stars.

M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)

Follow on Twitter @RigdonML

Blog: https://historyfanforever.wordpress.com/

Website http://www.MLRigdon.com

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/julia-donner

https://www.facebook.com/Julia-Donner-697165363688218/timeline

 

Tale of a Story: Freckles

So proud of Kathy. Wonderful writer with a distinctive style and voice. This one is going to be FUN!

Finding Faeries

I can’t remember where I heard of an anthology looking for submissions about what clowns fear. Probably from my friends at The Midnight Society. Probably. They are on top of everything horror.

I decided to try and tackle the subject. We’ve all read the killer clown stories, but what do clowns fear? As usual, my brain spat out the strange not-so-good ideas…

Clowns are afraid of…

balloons?

kids?

bright colors?

UGH WHAT? Maybe I should give up and not write this?

Stories never solidify until I have a theme. What about that side of ourselves we don’t like, the part we hide, the part that we can’t get rid of…

And I drafted a creepy little tales of Freckles the Clown, the moment when he decides to face his fear, the man behind the mask.

But it doesn’t go well.

The first draft flowed pretty easily. Don’t you love it…

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Snippet #8

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I’m looking forward to seeing/reviewing The Peanut Butter Falcon and Downton Abbey. Quite the distance between those genres.

Until then, here is “something completely different” but as promised, the next snippet for The Gracarin, which is now on preorder:

https://www.amazon.com/GRACARIN-SEASONS-WAR-Book-ebook/dp/B07XBMCYNT/ref=sr_1_2?crid=BBWLNA5O62FE&keywords=m.l.rigdon&qid=1567526974&s=books&sprefix=m.l.rigdon%2Cstripbooks%2C148&sr=1-2

 

M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)

Follow on Twitter @RigdonML

Blog: https://historyfanforever.wordpress.com/

Website http://www.MLRigdon.com

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/julia-donner

https://www.facebook.com/Julia-Donner-697165363688218/timeline