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In 1973, I visited the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Lame Deer, MO, drawn there by a character in a story I was writing who was half Cheyenne. Forty years later, after endless rewrites and title changes, Avenue to Heaven is finished. Back then, I’d thought I’d done a lot of research but learned within moments of stepping inside the reservation trading post how phenomenally ignorant I was.

A lady behind the counter greeted me without words. Her stance was familiar from all I’d read about Native Ameican cultures. (A teacher at the grim parochial schools Indian children were forced to attend wrote of how disturbing it was to speak to a classroom of the tops of bowed heads.) I accepted that I was wicaśaśni, one of the takers, and a stranger on her land, and browsed, bought a lovely wristband, and mentioned that I loved the book on display, Cheyenne Memories by John Stand in Timber. She warmed a bit and pointed at a newspaper with a headline about the AIM movement at Wounded Knee, worry apparent in her subtle gesture.

I couldn’t stop myself from asking why the tribal council had allowed the harvesting of the surrounding hills. Trees had been completely scraped from the hillsides; the exposed red soil looked like a bloody wound. She answered that the government never asks. They come and take. That was when I discovered the vastness of my ignorance.

Indian nations were told they owned reservation lands but the fact is, they are leased, can be pillaged and left polluted, like the uranium mining on Navajo lands in WWII. The problem is that most Americans are too self-satisfied and bent on “affirmative bias” to accept reality, blissfully unwillng to acknowledge that what we’ve done to our native peoples is almost as heinous as the Nazi solution for Jews.

Fortunately, there are some who are gifted at getting the point across without stepping on ego-fragile toes. Wind River is a beautifully crafted film with satisfying twists at its end. It was a delight to see so many of my favorite Native American and Canadian actors in the cast, especially the delicious Gil Birmingham, the jovial snarkiness of Graham Greene, and always intriguing Tantoo Cardinal. Taylor Sheridan, who wrote the screenplay and directs, created a story to bring attention to missing Native American women—the TV series Longmire did an episode about forced sterilizations—and Sheridan gets his message across without sermonizing his theme. The winter setting is a perfect choice, bleak and beautiful, stark in its reality.

It is never too late for truth. We must jettison past romanticism of the West, look beyond the slop of government rhetoric and lies. If our leaders are culpable, so are we. The loathsome Andrew Jackson murdered the southeastern tribes with the Trail of Tears, and did it after the Cherokee helped him win in battle. His plan to eradicate Native Americans and steal everything they owned is alive and well today. The raping of the Indian cultures and lands goes on. The Northern Cheyenne have had to move legally to stop the Trump administration from coal mining on reservation land, adding to the travesty of a pipeline for fossil fuels we will no longer be using in the future. Makes no sense, so it must be political.

Sorry this was not an uplifting blog, but here is something that is. My books are always HEA. No release date yet and it’s is part of a Kindle Scout campaign.

(WARNING, you are approaching the shameless plug portion of this blogpost.)

Please click on the link below and vote in the blue box for Avenue to Heaven, a book dedicated to Marlane Sturm, who saw a need for her friends at Bear Creek and supplied it, not out of charity, but by the call of her faith.

Please visit my website:

Twitter: @RigdonML




Farewell My Love


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I saw Bullitt so long ago it was at a Southern California drive-in. I distinctly remember jamming my foot on imaginary brakes on the car’s floorboard throughout the car chase sequences. Baby Driver may put Bullitt to rest when it comes to breakneck driving but will never (be still my beating heart) remove my adoration for a Mustang GT. Alas, the stunt driving in in Baby Driver may have nudged Bullitt from its top spot.

Time to gladly eat my words. I’ve complained about films with distracting loud soundtracks, but Baby Driver makes it work in overdrive and—dare I say it—with synchronized perfection. Magnificent sound editing. Can’t see how any film could beat it come awards time. The only issue I had happened at the opening, the first bank robbery, when the robbers didn’t put masks on until they got to the bank door. That didn’t make sense with security cameras everywhere nowadays. The other issue I had was driving stolen cars to the meeting site after the robbery. That didn’t fit the slickness of these operators. Maybe it was some sort of statement about their arrogance and confidence, but it seemed sloppy to me.

I know other reviewers are raving about this flick as a “car chase action” film, but I have to take issue with that. I watched the entire movie seeing it as a beautifully written, exquisitely realized character-driven story enhanced by excellent direction. I decided to see it because of the marvelous cast and was not disappointed. The music, pacing and controlled violence will hopefully not distract from the cast’s superb ensemble work. The characters are clear-cut and diverse, ranging from the sweetness of youthful romance to the bizarrely sociopathic. The final topping on this delicious flick was the credits rolling to a fabulous rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s Baby Driver.

The driving scenes brought back memories, things done that I’d never tell my mom about, (like burying the needle on the Hollywood Freeway in the middle of the night in a Mustang, of course), and made me long for the days of the gearshift on the floor. So, if you have one, slide it into fourth and go see this film.



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High in the Mongolian mountains, a girl name Aisholpan breaks a tradition centuries old. With the help of supportive parents, an especially patient and loving father, this thirteen-year-old girl demonstrates courage, diligence, and a character we can only hope our own children will emulate.

The dynamic cover of THE EAGLE HUNTRESS caught my eye at the library. Took it home, watched it, and was utterly entranced throughout. I next bought it and sent it to my sister, whose background is in political science, American government, and Asian studies. This documentary would appeal to her, due to her understanding of the social challenges Asian girls endure, its unique story, and the spectacular cinematography. The entire film is a masterpiece of filmmaking achieved under difficult environmental and financial circumstances.

Yes, it’s a documentary, (swallow that derisive yawn), but it’s more exciting and spellbinding than any action feature film I’ve seen in years. Today’s action/ adventure movies are overburdened by graphics. Audiences are becoming inured to the mayhem. Millions are spent on saturating/ bombarding the viewer, and yet none of them—and I’ve seen almost all of them—evoked the excitement of this story. There was no big money backing this work. No options for a second take. A drone, a crane and a few cameras and almost all of it done in one-shot filming. The landscape, action, storyline, all of it, is breath-catching in its beauty, simplicity, and most especially the bravery of a girl who would not give up on her dream.

Societies and cultures are crumbling, values such as honesty and integrity negated and ignored. This film soars above all the unpleasantness of our present failings, the vulgarity, apathy and overindulgence, illustrating the substance of honor and the determination to excel in the face of all opposition.


M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)

Follow on Twitter @RigdonML





Best fun I’ve had in a long time. Love readers and writers!

Judi Lynn

I joined three friends to give a writers’ workshop on marketing and promoting your book yesterday.  It was a beautiful Saturday.  We had a small audience, but that’s never bothered me.  I know and respect some of the writers who came to hear us.  I love and respect my fellow writers on the panel.  A win/win for me.  And then we went to the Outback to eat when the panel was over, and what can I say?  I can be had for a bloomin’ burger.  And the company?  There’s nothing more fun than talking to fellow writers.

All four of us have been writing for a while now.  Kyra Jacobs, the newest and shiniest writer in the group, is probably more savvy than I am at marketing.  I try, but I’m no whiz kid.  The thing that struck me is that we’re all good writers–all in our own way–and it’s…

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Wonder Women


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Confession time. I told a friend I would go with her to see Wonder Woman, fixed a time to go five days after its release, then couldn’t wait. That freaky theme music from Batman v Superman kept screaming inside my head. I love that wild electric cello sound, and anyway, when I like a film, I go see it twice. This one was just as fun the second time around—not an easy feat to keep me impressed twice the second time. The glaring problem of what happened to the German ship unloading soldiers to chase Steve in his downed plane continued to perplex, (probably edited out to save time), but everything else was so much fun, I blew it off. Or as some say, gave it the hand wave. For me, I was more interested in what was done differently.

At Cannes, Jessica Chastain made headlines when she censured the film industry for its treatment of women, consistently presenting women as secondary characters. I’ve always viewed it as keeping women in their place to act as the obligatory adjunct requisite for masculine enhancement. Not so in this flick, boys and girls. The men quickly learned how to follow the female leader, and what I loved was how it made them more, well, manly. Nothing turns any intelligent female off faster than male posturing. Men who have ego issues may get off on it, but women yawn. My favorite bit was when Steve (Chris Pine) hollers out in the middle of a skirmish where a desperate act is needed, “Shield, Diana!” Oye, my heart went pitty-pat, and you’ll have to see the movie to find out what that was all about. And perhaps I’m biased or ga-ga, but I’ve had such high hopes for Pine ever since The Finest Hours. I like the new Star Trek stuff, but he was so splendid as the self-effacing, courageous, and resolutely honorable Coast Guard hero.

Next difference—use of women over forty. Hollywood mogul types may need to sprinkle films (or cram them down our throats) with females meant for male menopause relief, but demographics have changed. When I look around in theaters today, there are often more silver-haired heads than younger generation types. When the Amazon warriors come charging on to the beach, the general in the lead is enough to make hardened soldiers think about a new strategy.

Robin Wright is superb. Nuf said.

Next comes the music portion. Many filmmakers think battering-ram music scores will cover up the fact that they’ve invested in a piece of schlock. I avoid films with rap music and not just because I’m not a fan. If a film requires that kind of loud, in-your-face score to help the pacing and lack of storyline, stay home and buy the music from the film. The only one I recall seeing where that enhanced the action was in the first Terminator. Its pulse-pounding, clanking metal score worked. In this version of Wonder Woman, I was surprised by the symphonic style, which enhanced the film and never distracted. Very clever but my favorite is still that electric cello and crazy drums theme introduced in Batman v Superman, which, to be sensible, could not have been used throughout.

The film is getting tons of good reviews and breaking records. You don’t need another content review. It’s the differences that made Wonder Woman more delightful for me. Maybe somebody in the LA portion of the industry will move beyond their tiny ego-centric mindsets to notice what the public already knows.

We all have favorites . . .

Judi Lynn

Okay, so I’ve probably mentioned before that I love Julia Donner’s Regency romances.  Her newest will be available on May 31st, and I had the pleasure of beta reading it.  Yowza!  If it’s true that a story is as strong as the adversary the author created, then this one’s a winner.  If I could have reached inside the pages and strangled Vincent, I would have.  And an American hero in a Regency romance?  Double points for Max!

Anyway, I liked this book so much, I asked Julia Donner to write a guest blog for today. And since she comes up with such strong characters in her stories, that’s what she chose to write about.  Here, then, is Julia Donner’s advice about creating characters:


If asked, would you know what flavor ice cream your protagonist prefers? Do you care? Is this important? Only if it’s important to you as…

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It’s that time of year when weirdly addicted persons go grubbing through the forests and fields for the morchella. If you like them, the crave for this specific fungi takes hold with something like zombie overdrive, hands extended, staggering blindly through the undergrowth, chanting, “Must have morels.”

As a girl, I remember Dad driving us home from doing something at the Ferry Landing on the Mississippi. No one in the car made a comment about the man walking along the country road without his shirt and pants. He’d tied the trouser and sleeve cuffs into knots and stuffed them full of morels. The only thought on anyone’s mind who saw this was: where did he find them and are there any left?

Wisconsin born, I came into the world preprogrammed to need to feed on a morel by the end of April. Since I no longer live in WI, I drive to the only local place I know of that sells them. Some years ago, I stupidly clued in my grandkids about morels (dipped them in egg and cracker crumbs then fried them in butter). Now they hunt them and keep them for themselves. No morel-lover assigns blame for this kind of selfishness. It’s normal. Picking spots are handed down through families, guarded to the death. Go ahead. Ask somebody where they found theirs. Good luck with that.

Last year I broke the piggy bank and bought big. Two weeks ago, I almost wept with joy to find a frozen pouch in the back of the freezer. Yum. It saved me from the zombie resurrection stage. The tasty treat allowed me to drive with a semblance of normal behavior to the buying place and snatch up a bag of gorgeous ones (brought in from Wisconsin!!!) and they were a bargain at forty bucks a pound.

I scurried home with my cache, soaked them in salted water as my mother taught me, patted the lovelies dry, cast the wash water into the back yard (it NEVER goes down the drain), and began to fry them up in butter in my grandmother’s cast iron skillet. All the while standing there in pre-eating euphoria, I gleefully estimate that I have enough for freezing a bag, eating some, and saving the stems and juice for scrambled eggs the next day.

The first taste is sublime. Have to have one more. While moaning through the second and third, it comes to mind what my brother calls my potato salad: a controlled substance. There is no stopping. Potato chips have nothing on morels, especially when there’s an addict hovering over the frying pan.

So, yes, I ate the whole damn batch. And you know what? Hit me again. They’re still picking up north, so maybe I can find some more. I have no shame when it comes to morels. Love’em, or leave’em for me.

Shameless Plug:

Because I have to do it or my critique partner (you know who you are, Judi Lynn) will thump me if I forget to tell you, the release date for An American for Agnes the 10th book in my Regency Friendhip Series is available on pre-sale now for release on May 31st.

M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)

Follow on Twitter @RigdonML




Gimme a Rocket Any Day



FYI: I do not do spoilers.

After seeing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1, I feared Vol. 2 would be a disappointment. At the opening of the first film, I knew it would be a big hit when Peter Quill starting dance-punting vicious alien vermin to the tune of Come and Get Your Love. Then came Rocket. I adore that snarky-mouthed little guy. His asides make me laugh until my belly aches no matter how many times I do a repeat—especially when told he can’t use his homemade mega-bomb to blow up large planetary objects and mutters that she just “sucks the fun out of everything.” I gotta say, he’s even more adorable in Vol.2. I want to take him home with me, even though I’d probably end up punting him and his smart mouth across the room at some point.

While itching with impatience for Vol. 2’s release, I also worried that it wouldn’t be able to match the fun and quirkiness of Vol. 1, but it does, in spades but with a different flavor. And what’s not to like about Kurt Russell? How does a sixty-six year old guy still look so yummy? Maybe it’s the dimples. Anyway, I loved Vol. 2. It’s like, and yet not like, the first film with some nice twists. It was such a relief to not be disappointed.

M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)
Follow on Twitter @RigdonML



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The Great Wall

Comments have been made about a Caucasian taking part in a Chinese legend. The gist of the complaint questioned why a white guy is in the story at all. (Hello! Probably because the story is about a white guy, a thief and mercenary, who comes of age a bit late in life.) Matt Damon’s manner of understated acting is an added bonus in the fantasy-slash-action adventure film genre, where characters tend to gnaw every available inch of scenery. (Insert eye roll here.)

Another relief while watching was the judicious use of blood spatter. Typically, buckets of red are splashed everywhere. Injuries and dismemberments happened, but were quick and not gratuitously gruesome. (IMHO that’s a sign of poor screenwriting and direction. Can’t think of something original, so let’s throw some blood and gore at it. Yawn.)

China has the resources, dedication, and centuries of exquisite cultural artistry to create visual beauty. (Who can forget the magical bamboo forest scenes in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?) Asian films tend to overwhelm with their vast casting and equally massive production budgets. Sometimes it gets a bit much, but this film is a perfect example of controlled excess. American made fantasy and sci-fi films tend to compensate with over the top graphics. Sometimes it’s done well. For me, the best work in US productions are the Star Wars films. (I do not include Rogue One. The facial reconstruction at the end, and you know what I mean, was absolutely creepy!)

Keeping that in mind, some things can be overlooked and others can’t, such as blatantly sloppy production work. There is none of that silliness in The Great Wall. The costuming is gorgeous, lavish colors for the different military divisions in contrast to the utilitarian and coarse armor of the round-eyed mercenaries, which in subtext, illustrates the honorable character of the Chinese and the utter lack of elevated values in the white mercenaries. A nice touch, that.

In current fantasy filming, it often boils down to the graphics. The scenic design in this film was laid out on the sort of grand scale only Asian films are able to financially create. Large scale graphics require discipline and a monumental effort in teamwork, and this film did it well. Compare it to the childish and cheesy backgrounds in Gods of Egypt and the absolutely horrible mess of the chariot horse somehow landing up in the stadium seating and trampling the audience in the flimsy remake of Ben Hur.

There was only one weak point in the story and to explain it involves a major spoiler. It’s not worth the fuss since it comes near the end and doesn’t ruin the whole. Artistically, I came away satisfied and impressed, even encouraged. The protagonist followed through on the classic story arc of personal change. A nation’s resolve to protect itself, to sacrifice to save others, to stand with courage and determination in the face of impossible odds is a familiar theme in fantasy. This film brought it to life—showed the meaning of honor and integrity to oneself and others—attributes sadly absent in our present political climate and culture of films exemplifying antiheroes smashing up the scenery and crashing cars. The Great Wall gives us real heroes, men and women, Asian and Caucasian, who give all they have to protect others and do their duty, as our military does today—our last vestige of national honor. This film is a reminder that it still exists in some of us. I left refreshed.

#SonofaPitch…Thoughts and My Votes

Some things MUST be shared.

Finding Faeries

As the second round of Son of a Pitch wraps up, I sit here smiling…tired and my mind a bit frazzled, but very happy.

I read 51 entries, which included a query and the first 250 words of the manuscript. I hosted eleven of them on this little blog! It was an honor. I read some once, others…after revisions were posted…twice, and some more than that. I gave all my opinions. I squeed at some of the words. I smiled at others. I gasped. I laughed. I sighed. From horror, to fantasy, to sci-fi, to romance, to women’s fiction, to literary…YA, NA, and adult…everyone brought something different to this event. Everyone came to learn. Everyone united to help.

Son of a Pitch is my favorite writing competition. Everyone gets feedback. Everyone participates. Everyone is involved. #sonofapitch has been my favorite hangout these last few days.

I am so proud of…

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