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Fun Friday: What’s Your Romantic Film Score? | #AFITop100 #RomanticMovies

Friday, September 7, 2018

How many of the AFI’s “100 Years…100 Passions” romantic movies have you seen?

  1. Casablanca (1942)
  2. Gone with The Wind (1939)
  3. West Side Story (1961)
  4. Roman Holiday (1953)
  5. An Affair to Remember (1957)
  6. The Way We Were (1973)
  7. Doctor Zhivago (1965)
  8. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
  9. Love Story (1970)
  10. City Lights (1931)
  11. Annie Hall (1977)
  12. My Fair Lady (1964)
  13. Out of Africa (1985)
  14. The African Queen (1951)
  15. Wuthering Heights (1939)
  16. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
  17. Moonstruck (1987)
  18. Vertigo (1958)
  19. Ghost (1990)
  20. From Here To Eternity (1953)
  21. Pretty Woman (1990)
  22. On Golden Pond (1981)
  23. Now, Voyager (1942)
  24. King Kong (1933)
  25. When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
  26. The Lady Eve (1941)
  27. The Sound of Music (1965)
  28. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
  29. An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
  30. Swing Time (1936)
  31. The King and I (1956)
  32. Dark Victory (1939)
  33. Camille (1937)
  34. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  35. Gigi (1958)
  36. Random Harvest (1942)
  37. Titanic (1997)
  38. It Happened One Night (1934)
  39. An American in Paris (1951)
  40. Ninotchka (1939)
  41. Funny Girl (1968)
  42. Anna Karenina (1935)
  43. A Star Is Born (1954)
  44. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
  45. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
  46. To Catch a Thief (1955)
  47. Splendor in the Grass (1961)
  48. Last Tango in Paris (1972)
  49. The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
  50. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
  51. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
  52. The Graduate (1967)
  53. A Place in the Sun (1951)
  54. Sabrina (1954)
  55. Reds (1981)
  56. The English Patient (1996)
  57. Two for the Road (1967)
  58. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
  59. Picnic (1955)
  60. To Have and Have Not (1944)
  61. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
  62. The Apartment (1960)
  63. Sunrise (1927)
  64. Marty (1955)
  65. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
  66. Manhattan (1979)
  67. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
  68. What’s Up, Doc? (1972)
  69. Harold and Maude (1971)
  70. Sense and Sensibility (1995)
  71. Way Down East (1920)
  72. Roxanne (1987)
  73. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
  74. Woman of the Year (1942)
  75. The American President (1995)
  76. The Quiet Man (1952)
  77. The Awful Truth (1937)
  78. Coming Home (1978)
  79. Jezebel (1939)
  80. The Sheik (1921)
  81. The Goodbye Girl (1977)
  82. Witness (1985)
  83. Morocco (1930)
  84. Double Indemnity (1944)
  85. Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)
  86. Notorious (1946)
  87. The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988)
  88. The Princess Bride (1987)
  89. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
  90. The Bridges of Madison County (1995)
  91. Working Girl (1988)
  92. Porgy and Bess (1959)
  93. Dirty Dancing (1987)
  94. Body Heat (1981)
  95. Lady and the Tramp (1955)
  96. Barefoot in the Park (1967)
  97. Grease (1978)
  98. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)
  99. Pillow Talk (1959)
  100. Jerry Maguire (1996)

I’ve seen 48/100. How many have you seen?

A Character Study through Dialogue (aka, Got Weekend Plans?) | #amwriting #writingchallenge

Thursday, September 6, 2018

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been reading the Dear Prudence advice column on Slate.com for many years now—mainly because it’s a great outlet for story/character/conflict ideas.

This week, one of the contributors came through for me in a big way—it’s the first time in forever that I’ve read one of the letters and thought, I need to use that as an example on my blog.

Here’s the post:

Q. Co-workers asking about outside life: I am one of, if not the lowest paid low-level grunts in a large corporate law firm. Well-meaning co-workers often ask, “Doing anything fun this weekend?” The answer is always “No,” because I am paid so little that I have no money to play with on weekends. Every time I get that question, it’s like a reminder that most other people have both the money and an answer to that question. And in the unlikely event I do have plans, it’s always personal and cannot be shared.

A few times I have responded honestly, saying something like “You know, I don’t like that question and the answer will always be the same.” My co-workers have pushed back immediately, suggesting that I am being antisocial. How do I politely tell my co-workers to stop asking me about my weekend? I have long since stopped asking about theirs.

The only real advice needed came from the first couple of sentences of “Prudence” (Daniel Mallory Ortberg)’s response:

A: There are a number of inappropriate questions co-workers can ask that require pushback, but I don’t think that “Doing anything fun this weekend?” is one of them. It falls under the umbrella of pleasantries that are customary to exchange at work, and requires no more than “Oh, nothing much” or “Getting some rest, I hope” or “I might see some friends” in response.

But half the fun of reading this column regularly is reading the inane (and insane) comments from other regular readers and comment trolls that frequent it. So you can imagine what kind of reaction this one got!

Then I got to thinking, as I read the onslaught of increasingly ridiculous suggestions of how this person should respond, that a response to a “socially neutral” question like this can tell us a lot about someone who doesn’t give an expected “socially neutral” (acceptable) answer. Whether it’s their sense of humor, their social anxiety, their desire to flirt with the asker, their annoyance with “socially neutral” small talk, or—like this person—their paranoia that this question is actually a means by which everyone they work with can rub their higher-salary-status in their face.

How Would Your Character Answer?
To keep dialogue from being boring, you can use an interaction in dialogue like this to show something of your character’s personality.

For example:

  • “Got any plans for this weekend?”
    “I’ll tell you, but first I need you to take a blood oath that you’ll give me an alibi.”
    .
  • “Got any plans for this weekend?”
    “Yes—I just got the shipment of seeds and the new seedling starter I’ve been waiting on. I plan to spend all weekend up to my elbows in the dirt!”
    .
  • “Got any plans for this weeken—”
    “No.”
    “I was just asking—”
    “And I was just saying no.”

And so on.

Your turn—what can you tell us about a character just by the character’s response to the question: “Got any plans for this weekend”?

Writing with Depression — A Work in Progress | #amwriting #depression #anxiety #healing

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Photographer: Nick Youngson (Source)

I experienced my first major depressive episode when I was 21, which led to my dropping out of college (I eventually went back and finished my Bachelor’s and got a Master’s in writing!). At that point, the one thing that helped pull me out of it was writing–and I was prolific, churning out at least 200,000 words of a “manuscript” (loosely based—and highly fictionalized—on me and my college friends, mostly episodic with no actual plot other than who fell in love with and married whom) in just a couple of years.

I started writing when I was a teen, and it was always part of my life, something I was compelled to do. Family members told me they always knew I’d turn out to be a published author because I was always writing or at least had something with me to write on in case inspiration struck.

In the past, I’ve brainstormed one of my (now published) series on the paper table cover at a dinner/concert at a church (Everywhere is a good place to brainstorm a story!), written on programmes at events, and even gone through a pile of paper napkins at the Bluebird Cafe while hosting some out of town guests (“Stealing” Writing Time).

Over the past 25+ years since that first depressive episode, I’ve struggled with cyclical depression, but never anything as bad as that first bout. And never anything that killed my desire to write.

Until the early 2010s.

You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling…
I was a “full-time writer” (i.e., I was barely scraping by with freelance editing work in order to write the three trade-length books per year that I was contracted for). And suddenly, my writing had become something I never wanted it to be…a job. It was work. It was no longer enjoyable. It was no longer an escape. Rather than relieving my anxiety (yes, I have mild generalized anxiety as well), it created massive levels of anxiety. Rather than provide a way to boost my mood, it made my depression worse.

It’s now five years since my last book came out (nearly six since I finished writing it). For at least four of those years, I didn’t write anything. I didn’t want to write. The compulsion was gone because the joy was gone.

If you have depression (or love someone who does), you know that one of the major signs is loss of interest in hobbies or activities formerly loved. So for me, no longer having a passion for writing spiraled me down into another major depressive episode—this time, enough that I was having what I told my doctor were “annihilative” thoughts. I didn’t want to do self-harm, but I thought the world and I would be better off if I just didn’t exist anymore. (It didn’t help that this coincided with the worst financial situation I’d ever been in, given that I’d been laid off my full-time job four years before and didn’t see any financial relief in sight–thus the writing=work situation.)

Even though I got a great full-time job soon thereafter (as well as “better living through pharmaceuticals”), the desire to write didn’t come back. And if I thought I might be able to jump-start it by sitting down to write, as soon as I did, I’d have a major anxiety episode.

So I set writing aside. Maybe I was only meant to be a writer for that period of my life. Maybe I wasn’t meant to be a writer my entire life.

Maybe I Have a Little More Story in Me
Two years ago, something started happening in my brain. First, little seeds. Then little seedlings. Eventually, vague ideas of a character or setting or situation or story. When 2017 started, I set a goal for myself that I’d make myself start writing again—that I would plan out and write a story (short story, novella, or whatever it became) by the end of the year. I had an idea—I even had a great title—but the characters and story never formed. And instead of sticking with it, I ended up buying a house and moving to another city 50 miles away instead.

This year, I decided to go back to an activity that was part of what helped me overcome my first major depressive episode. Instead of focusing on “writing a story,” I’ve been focusing on “being creative.” I’ve spent the past several months working on creating a fictional city (Welcome to Gossettville!). I’ve been “populating” it along the way—doing some character casting, which has always been one of my favorite creative activities—and have roughly sketched out a couple of character and/or story ideas, as they related to building this fictional city.

And though I occasionally have random creative thoughts about it that I feel compelled to write down, I’m still at a point at which I have to schedule time to make myself sit down to work on it—or else I won’t. But when I do, I can actually find myself getting lost in the creative process and spending a lot longer working on it that I’d originally planned.

So while the passion for writing hasn’t returned, at least it’s starting to make a few cracks in that hard black shell of depression. Enough that it makes me want to keep at it in order to see if if I can ever break through.

If you live with depression, or have experienced a depressive episode, how has it affected your writing—or other creative endeavors? Have you had breakthroughs that have allowed your passion to overcome the depression?

Welcome to Gossettville!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

As I posted on Instagram several months ago: “My first published novel grew out of a fictional city I’d created and been playing around with for years. So I’m taking myself back to square one and starting a new fictional city in hopes of jump-starting my writing after five years away.” I’m happy now to introduce you to GOSSETTVILLE, my new fictional setting, by way of a fictional marketing spiel!

Welcome to Gossettville!

If you take Exit 58 off Highway 112, it will take you through the wooded mountains of Yarrow Lake State Park into the heart of Historic Downtown Gossettville. Settled and founded by Donnal Gossett in the early 1800s, the main features today are the painstakingly restored Victorian-era rowhouse buildings that surround the 1830s courthouse in the center of the Courthouse Commons park. These three- and four-floor buildings—which feature unique facades and a variety of colors, and used to be homes for the earliest residents of Gossettville—are now home to a thriving retail and business community, providing retail space on the street level and office spaces above.

Artist’s rendering of a block of Historic Downtown Gossettville buildings.
Image ©2018 by Kaye Dacus, Do Not Copy or Share without Permission

Venture outside of Historic Downtown and you’ll get to explore a plethora of unique and diverse communities providing a wide variety of entertainment, dining, shopping, staying/playing, and living options. Looking for a house to buy or a vacation rental? Check out Tiny Town Village—an entire neighborhood celebrating small-space living. Need more room? Gossettville boasts vacation rentals of all sizes and all the real estate opportunities a new resident could desire. You’ll definitely want to give one of Gossettville’s historic Bed & Breakfast inns a try. Visitors can find any level of comfort for your stay—from rustic campsites to five-star luxury spa hotels and all-inclusive resorts.

Golden eagle in flight. (Source)

For outdoors enthusiasts, Gossettville is unequaled! In the warm months, enjoy all aspects of water sports and activities on Yarrow Lake. Hike trails from the easiest stroll to trails that professionals find challenging. Enjoy rock climbing, repelling, zip lines, and Bungee jumping at Gossett Point. You can spelunk at Parham Caves from March to November every year—and at Halloween, the spooks and specters come out just in time for the Haunted Cave Tour. Equine lovers can find multiple stables around the lake offering trail rides along the shoreline or into the woods and hills of the Yarrow State Park and Golden Eagle Sanctuary.

Avid anglers will want to get in touch with Gossettville’s Anglers’ Club to learn all the best places and tackle for fishing Yarrow Lake and the myriad of surrounding streams and rivers. And be sure to join us for the Biggest Fish Fry, where everyone gets to feast on the results of the Annual Yarrow Lake Fishing Tournament (Labor Day Weekend each year). Hunters, be sure to visit the Gossettville website for this year’s calendar and information on permits and licenses for everything from deer and wild turkey to quail, rabbit, and waterfowl. The Yarrow Hunting Club hosts its annual field trials the week of Memorial Day each year in association with the Gossettville Wildlife Management Area, with demonstrations and competitions for field and water hunting dogs.

Inspiration for a fishing spot in Gossettville
Photo ©2018 by Kaye Dacus, Do Not Share or Copy without Permission

At normal pool, Yarrow Lake has a surface area of 21,900 acres, a maximum depth of 85 feet, and an average depth of 35 feet. The lake is fourteen miles long and three miles wide and, between the perimeter and the islands, has 192 miles of shoreline. This means there are plenty of marinas where you can rent or slip boats, pontoons, and houseboats, along with all kinds of other water toys. There are also five designated swimming beaches—two of which are on the biggest islands in the lake—complete with grills and picnic pavilions.

Inspiration for Yarrow Lake.
Photo ©2018 by Kaye Dacus, Do Not Share or Copy without Permission

When the weather turns cold and the snow starts to fly, strap on your skis or snowboard to enjoy one of Gossettville’s three downhill ski parks, featuring world-class ski slopes from green circle to black diamond. Or take off cross-country and ski or snowshoe some of the area’s most beautiful nature trails. Don’t forget about tubing and sledding, and indoor or outdoor ice skating—and snow machine rentals and trails, as well.

Inspiration for a ski resort in Gossettville. (Source)

After playing hard all day, you’ll be hungry! Explore the wide range of dining options in each unique community within Gossettville. Can’t decide? Let us suggest starting in Historic Downtown, where there’s a restaurant on nearly every corner—and then some! From there, you can work your way out and experience all the delicious food and rousing entertainment the city has to offer.

Inspiration for a restaurant in Gossettville. (Source)


Music lover? Many bars and restaurants around the area regularly feature live music, and the Gossettville Civic Center hosts some of the highest-demand music tours each year. Each August, the Gossettville Music Fest brings together all genres of music with live performances on multiple stages at the Rose Bay Waterfront Park. And don’t forget to check the schedule of the Gossettville Choral Society. The GCS performs several times each year, and the December holiday and Memorial Day concerts with the Gossettville Symphony are the most popular—so get your tickets early!

Whether your idea of fun and relaxation is a tent in the woods and a fishing boat on the lake or a five-star resort and a day at the spa, Gossettville has everything you’re looking for. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Gossettville adventures coming . . . soon, hopefully!

Does a Fictional City Need a Specific Location? A Poll | #amwriting

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen me post this over the weekend:

Or, you may have seen me post this on my Facebook page:

So, now that I’m deeply entrenched in creating this fictional city, I have a question for you as readers and/or writers.

If it’s made known that the city is in the United States—and perhaps a general geographic region given—does it matter to you as a reader if the state is never specified?

An #AmReading ABC List

Monday, May 14, 2018

I’m sure I’m not the first person to come up with this meme idea, but I’ve never seen it anywhere else. If you like it, feel free to re-post on your blog or Facebook page, and be sure to come back and share the link in a comment!

The Literary ABCs

List your favorite . . .

Austen (Jane) novel: Persuasion

Brontë sister’s novel: Jane Eyre

Clancy or Crichton novel and/or movie: Jurassic Park (book & film adaptation)

Dickens novel and/or film: Bleak House (it’s the only one I’ve read through, and I love the 2006 miniseries adaptation)

English class you took: History of the English Language

Frequently read author: Currently, Julie Garwood (I’m re-reading her romance novels from the early 1990s)

Grisham novel and/or movie: Novel—The Rainmaker; film—A Time to Kill

Historical novel or era*: These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
*Written at a time well after that in which it’s set.

Iconic fictional character: Harry Potter

James Joyce or Henry James? Henry James—Turn of the Screw especially

King in literature (i.e., a character who’s a king, real or fictional): King Henry V of England (Shakespeare’s version)

Lord of the Rings character: Éomer

Movie made from classic literature: Persuasion 1995

Newberry Medal–winning book: Sarah, Plain and Tall (1986)

Oldest book you own (not necessarily “favorite,” just oldest): Best Loved Poems of the American People, © 1936

Pirate in literature: Tie: “El Salvador” and “Shaw” (Ransome’s Quest)

Quiet place to read: In bed

Robin Hood version (which film/TV series?): Disney’s animated version

Shakespeare play or poem: Much Ado about Nothing

Twain (Mark) novel/story/essay: “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” (short story)

USA Today Bestseller: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Villain: Voldemort

Walt Whitman or William Wordsworth? Whitman (Leaves of Grass is one of my favorite works of literature)

Xanthippe (an ill-tempered woman, a shrew): Lady Beatrice from Much Ado abuot Nothing

Yawn-inducing bedtime read: Something by Dickens

Zealously protected book you’ll never part with: Victoria by Willo Davis Roberts—I’ve had it since I was fourteen or fifteen, it was what really got me motivated to start writing, it’s taped together, and I haven’t read it in years, but I’ll never part with it.

Get Motivated: Two Truths about Writing | #amwriting

Sunday, May 13, 2018

As time passed, I saw [my] morning’s inspiration was the foundation to a successful writer’s inner life. That every one of the things I jotted down was a point at which a writer might fall off the cliff into self-doubt, questioning herself and feeling challenged. Even feeling caught in a choice between life in the “real” world and her creative life. The kind of challenges to one’s sense of self as a writer that could cause a halt to writing or pursuing aspirations. One might even put down their pen, quit writing forever without ever realizing the keys to this inner game can be filed on a shelf in the heart or mind. That we can learn to recognize them, get what we need to keep going, even when each point may be a boulder to trip on, leaving us feeling stuck in life, experiencing writer’s block.

There are two old truths we often forget. One, it’s not how often we falter or fall, but how fast we get up. And two, the creative life is our “real” life.

~Heloise Jones
The Writer’s Block Myth: A Guide To Get Past Stuck & Experience Lasting Creative Freedom
p. 18

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