Tag Archives: Tell My Bones: The Helen LaFrance Story

Bliss & Miracles Abound in the Hinterlands

The last several days, I put all writing on hold and have been concentrating solely on some Bentinho Massaro  lessons (in the Trinfinity Academy), in order to get a better grip on my reality around here, as 2 major writing projects bottleneck each other in my brain.

It’s been a wonderful break. I wish I was one of those people who could follow Bentinho around and go on all his retreats. My life would be so different. However, I’m not sure that’s exactly the kind of “different life” I want… At least not yet.

Anyway.

Last evening was lovely. After a couple days of torrential downpours and high humidity, it was nice to sit out on my back patio again and watch the sun go down on the peace & quiet of the Hinterlands.

At dusk, when the fireflies were just emerging (around 8:45 PM), I saw a mommy raccoon and 5 (!!) youngsters hurrying across my neighbors backyard and up their pine tree. It was awesome, how many there were.

The other day, over in the park — I was the only person there and a mother deer and 5 young fawns appeared at the edge of the woods. Yes, 5.

This is astounding to me. 5 fawns; 5 raccoon cubs. To me, it shows that life thrives here in the Hinterlands.

I love raccoons, however, back at the old house, they made me nuts. I had a split-level house, which meant I had 2 roofs. One at the very top of the house, naturally, and one that extended over the first level, which was directly outside the bedroom windows on the 2nd story.

This lower-level roof was the delight of raccoons all over the neighborhood. Not only would they race around and play on this roof at all hours of the night, they would tear the heck out of my window screens, threatening to bounce directly into any/all of the bedrooms at any moment. It also gave them easier access to my main roof, in which they were fond of tearing gaping holes and then lowering themselves into my attic, which was a walk-up and right next to my bedroom. The door to the attic was in my bedroom. It was essentially a closet door, with no lock of any kind. The raccoons would race around and play in there, tearing up & down the attic stairs and frequently banging right into the attic door, waking me from a sound sleep and scaring the beejeebers out of me.

I definitely do not miss that.

I prefer watching them from a distance now, as they scurry happily up a tree.

All right. On that blissful note, I have to make some progress here with these scripts (the re-writes of the Untitled Cleveland TV pilot, once known as “Cleveland’s Burning,” and the One Act play version of Tell My Bones: The Helen LaFrance Story.) If my mind explodes from all this dual-thinking-creating, I will let you know… I am hoping that by the end of the summer, my life is going to be in a totally different, better, perhaps more-sorted-out place.

In the meantime, as Bentinho says, “Everything already exists, right here, right now,” which means that somewhere within reality exist my finished, re-written scripts and a very contented me. I’m off to go find them!

Thanks for visiting, gang.  See ya!!

PS: To all of you who are downloading my free Ebooks at Smashwords this month, THANK YOU!! (See post below from July 3rd.)

Life around here for the next couple months!

A brief mid-afternoon conference call with the production company in Los Angeles yesterday revealed that more re-writes than I thought are needed on the Untitled Cleveland Drama (once fondly known as Cleveland’s Burning).

This is actually good news, gang. The brief phone chat showed me just how high they are aiming with this TV pilot (and eventual series). A lot is riding on this single opening episode.  They nonchalantly said, “Just take one more pass at it and then we’ll be ready.” (Their confidence in me is staggering.)

The truly great thing about this is that their suggestions are targeted and specific, as to the acts as well as the characters, so half my job is actually done. I know I can make the changes they need and the whole thing is really, really exciting…

However…

Loyal readers of this lofty blog will undoubtedly note that I also need to complete the rewrites on my theatrical version of Tell My Bones: The Helen LaFrance Story by the end of the summer, because this is when Sandra Caldwell (the actress I write with/for in NYC) will be handing out the script, along with the other play we collaborated on, The Guide to Being Fabulous, to potential directors, producers, casting agents, etc.

To quote Sandra’s text to me: “It’s about to be off the chain!” (followed by various and sundry far-flung emojis.) Off the chain, indeed.

Yes, life is exceptionally good right now, gang, but the coming summer months, here in the Hinterlands, are going to be chock-full of coffee (!!), writing, juggling my writing hours and general work, and then, hopefully, a few moments spent staring out at the evening, as the fireflies give way to the stars (with or without the occasional pint of British ale!).

Okay, gang. I hope things are going just as splendidly wherever you are and with whatever projects you’re working on! I’m off to the kitchen for another cup of coffee now, even as I type!

Thanks for visiting, and I leave you with this little ditty to keep your spirits high and your blood pumping!! (PS: I love playing this right when I get out of bed in the morning, singing and clapping along; it makes my cats zoom around the house like crazy! Too funny!) All righty, see ya!

OMG, I know!

It’s been yet another FOREVER since I’ve posted here!

Let’s see. What have I been doing?

I took a quick and lovely road trip in the new Honda Fit recently. It was a lovely day and a perfect drive. (Although I have to say, I do get really tired of always doing everything by myself!)

I bought myself a season ticket to a local summer stock theater company. It’s in the next town over; a quick drive out to a barn, basically, in the middle of trees and fields. I had the best time! (Once again, though, all by myself. One thing about living out here in the Hinterlands — I only have 1 friend and he now has 3 tots under the age of, like, 8 at home — and he’s as old as Methuselah. So I rarely ever get to see him nowadays.)

But back to the theater — The first show was Children of Eden, by Stephen Schwartz. I’m not always a Stephen Schwartz fan. While I absolutely adore Pippin (having seen the original touring version back in 1973 and then going on to memorize the Original Broadway Cast album soon thereafter), I think I am the sole person on planet Earth who does not adore Wicked, and Children of Eden has a similar musical feel to Wicked. Meaning that the singing just goes on and on and on and the melodies just seem to blend into one another. However, even though I didn’t leave the theater humming any semblance of a memorable musical tune, I did enjoy the performance and the people in the show a whole lot and I’m looking forward to the next show, Peter & the Starcatcher.

And on a similar note (i.e. theater) — the reason why I haven’t been able to post here in quite some time:

When last you heard from me, I was re-working my approach to The Tea Cozy Murder Club TV script, and was painfully researching that new approach by tirelessly streaming endless repeats of Midsomer Murders, one of my favorite TV shows of all time.  (It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.)

Meanwhile, I was also doing that never-ending research for the play I’m writing about Caiaphas, In the Days of the Flesh. (Research involving theology, ancient biblical history both Jewish and Christian, and current archeology, so the never-ending-ness of it can get overwhelming.) Anyway, I enjoy every minute of it, but before I could really settle down and put pen to paper on either project, an additional play I’m writing for Sandra Caldwell has suddenly landed smack dab on the center of my plate.

Loyal readers of this lofty blog will no doubt recall that 2 summers ago, I went to New York to work with Sandra on refashioning my TV movie script, Tell My Bones: The Helen LaFrance Story, into a one-act play for Sandra to perform/star in. Well, now that we’ve at long last, really & truly, signed off on the final draft of her one-woman musical (currently titled The Guide to Being Fabulous), she informed me that she needed a finished draft of the Tell My Bones play within 2 months, when she starts performances of Charm Off-Broadway with the MCC Theater.

It’s not like I totally forgot that Tell My Bones even existed. The TV movie script of it is with the production company in LA and I’m awaiting feedback on it. However, the one-act PLAY version of Tell My Bones … well, I did totally forget that it even existed. (Too many half-finished projects on my plate, perhaps??) So, when Sandra said she needed a final draft of Tell My Bones by the end of the summer, all I could think of to say was, “You got it!”

Then I hung up the phone and had to scrounge around, digging up 2-year-old notes for the thing, keeping in mind that I sold my house, stuffed everything imaginable into boxes that went into storage for 6 months and then got shoved willy-nilly here in the basement in the house I’m renting in the Hinterlands…

But blessings and miracles!! I found all the notes and discovered that when I sat down at my desk to tackle it, I was incredibly and effortlessly inspired! And I am so happy with how it’s progressing.

The one-act play version of Tell My Bones will be done by the end of the summer simply because it has to be. Pressure aside, it feels so exciting to be working on it right now, simply because the inspiration is so close, so tangible, so beautiful. As any writer (or any artist) knows, inspiration is not always present when deadlines are. So to have them arriving at the same time and keeping pace with each other –Wow. It just feels so great.

But, on the downside, it leaves me little leftover inspiration for blogging.  So yes, my friends; you must suffer. You must pay the price in all this heady inspirational madness going on over here in the Hinterlands!

Okay, on that note… Let’s see. I will leave you with this! Some of that “inspiration” for Tell My Bones. Thanks for visiting, gang! Have a wonderful weekend whatever you wind up doing. See ya!

Yep! You know what that happy driving dog means!

It means that I’m going to regale you with what I’m currently listening to at top volume while driving along in my prized 2001 Mercury Sable LS Premium Sedan with the killer sound system!

It’s one of my all-time favorite big band numbers, Begin the Beguine, as played by the BBC Big Band Orchestra.

It’s a very upbeat little Cole Porter tune, with surprisingly bittersweet, not so upbeat, lyrics. It often reminds me of my marriage as well as the ending of said marriage. Even though we were not married on a tropical island. Nor were we married under the stars while palm trees were swaying. Not even close. Still, it reminds me…

That said, though, most of the time, when I listen to this song, I recall exceedingly fondly the 5 years I worked with Gus Van Sant Sr. in the business office of Gus Van Sant Jr.’s movie production company. Gus Sr. is probably the most endearing, compassionate, generous, interesting, and kindest man I ever met, let alone worked for.  And while we worked together in his office, he always played big band and swing music on the cable tv radio channel.  Begin the Beguine would often play (that, and Skylark!!) and since it was a favorite song of mine, it made for an even more memorable  & delightful atmosphere. For me, anyway.

Gus Sr.’s wife died last year and he moved back to Seattle to be closer to his kids. I miss him a lot. I miss that job! I miss a lot of things. And though life does indeed go on, I occasionally get nostalgic for the life I used to have, on so many levels.

But there are  some really cool things happening with my writing career right now, gang, so I’m not feeling entirely bittersweet! Sandra Caldwell, the actress that I’ve been working with on that one-woman musical in NYC, recently read my TV script for The Tea Cozy Murder Club: A Murder at Parsons Ridge and she is extremely interested in playing one of the lead roles — the role of Mona Bell. So she has sent my script, along with my script for Tell My Bones: The Helen LaFrance Story, to her new agent in Toronto. (She and I have actually been trying to get that Helen LaFrance project off the ground for a couple years now.  Plus, it’s a script that has a lot to do with my relationship with Gus Sr., so we have come full circle, gang.)

Anyway! All’s good here, if only a tad bittersweet. I now regale you with the BBC Big Band Orchestra’s rendition of Begin the Beguine, followed by the lyrics, in case you’re interested in reading them.  Play the song at full volume!!!! And have a super-duper day, folks, wherever you are! Thanks for visiting. See ya.

When they begin the beguine
It brings back the sound of music so tender,
It brings back a night of tropical splendour,
It brings back a memory evergreen.

I’m with you once more under the stars,
And down by the shore an orchestra’s playing
And even the palms seem to be swaying
When they begin the beguine.

To live it again is past all endeavour,
Except when that tune clutches my heart,
And there we are, swearing to love forever,
And promising never, never to part.

What moments divine, what rapture serene,
Till clouds came along to disperse the joys we had tasted,
And now when I hear people curse the chance that was wasted,
I know but too well what they mean;

So don’t let them begin the beguine
Let the love that was once a fire remain an ember;
Let it sleep like the dead desire I only remember
When they begin the beguine.

Oh yes, let them begin the beguine, make them play
Till the stars that were there before return above you,
Till you whisper to me once more,
“Darling, I love you!”
And we suddenly know, what heaven we’re in,
When they begin the beguine

Written by Cole Porter • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Home again, happy, busier than ever!

Howdy, howdy, gang! YES, I am back home and YES, it was a most auspicious trip to New York, and THANK YOU to all of you who sent me birthday greetings last week! Oh, and YES (!!) I had CAKE!

First, I want to regale you with the riot of flowers that are blooming all over my yard this year. These are Roses of Sharon — taking over, as they are wont to do — because I have lived the entire summer not knowing when (or if) I was going to be packing up and moving away… Alas, I am still here, and the yard has become a veritable jungle of blooming madness (and also weeds).

The view through one of my garden gates
The view through one of my garden gates

Multiply all these blossoms on the right by the entire yard — back, front, sides– and you get a tiny idea of how crazy it is around here this summer. I went out to water my little herb garden on the kitchen stoop yesterday and discovered hundreds more blossoms blooming where they had never been before. The other garden gate is so overrun that I have to keep the gate open all the time, or the honeysuckle vines will wind all over it and keep it  permanently shut.

Well, it could be worse. I do love flowers.

So! The trip to Rhinebeck was a complete success.  We hammered out the version of the script that we will use for the staged reading of Tell My Bones: The Helen LaFrance Story. We also made great progress on notes and a synopsis for the one-woman show I am writing for the same actress “about” Pearl Bailey. (I put it in quotes now because it has become apparent that the Pearl Bailey family won’t release any rights whatsoever for outsiders to use her likeness, so we have to tell her story in a different way now, but it will be even better. Yay.)

My most amazing news is that the actress is forming a production company and asked me to be the writer for it, since we already have 4 theater projects we are working on together, and I COULD NOT be more excited! (Even though Tell My Bones is a screenplay, we are also working on a version of it for the stage.)

The downside is that there was a heat wave in Rhinebeck the entire time I was there and the AC wasn’t working right and there were no fans. Not only did I think I was going to perish in the relentless heat and humidity, I was the only person who was being eaten alive by mosquitoes everywhere we went!!

It’s a good thing so much good stuff was happening. It made it easier to just “deal and get over it.”

Now that I’m back home again, the cats couldn’t be happier. They had to have a cat sitter the whole time I was away and since they are all the proverbial “scaredy cats,” it was not a fun time for them. Hopefully, the next trip I make back to Rhinebeck, they will all be coming with me and we will be moving into our new home…I hope. We shall see.

Okay, on this wonderful Monday morning, I leave you with something wildly upbeat. I dare any of you to have a bad day after listening to this oldies gem!!! Thanks for visiting, gang. See ya!

 

 

Off to New York! At least for a few days…

Yes, gang, I am finally off to New York for about 5 days!! I cannot wait!  I will be working on the staged reading of my screenplay, Tell My Bones, with the lead actress and the stage manager, up in Rhinebeck, NY.

Yes, this is where I’m moving to when I finally sell this house and move back to New York.  If you have never been there, Rinebeck is a real gem. And it is only a commuter-train-ride from the heart of Manhattan. So, for me, after having lived in the heart of Manhattan for over a quarter of a century (!!) and struggled like mad in my halcyon days, this is a much lovelier option as I squeak through middle age.

Rhinebeck, the village...
Rhinebeck, the village…
Rhinebeck, the surrounding town...
Rhinebeck, the surrounding town…

But back to the staged reading… It has been postponed until September, gang, because too many of the actors were already out of town, doing regional theater for the summer. So the lead actress and I, and the stage manager, are going to get all the little production-ducks in a row, so that we can hit the ground running once everyone is back in Manhattan come September.

Meanwhile, I am working like a crazy person, trying to get two weeks’ worth of homework turned in this weekend, so that I don’t have to even think about homework while I’m out of town.  Then, the moment I return from New York, it will be my birthday!! That fabulous CAKE time of year!! I will be a glorious 55 years old, gang!! I cannot believe it.

Okay, I gotta scoot. I’m teaching a writing class in about 7 minutes… Have a wonderful, sunny Saturday wherever you are, folks, and whatever you wind up doing! Thanks for visiting. See ya!!

Happy Birthday, Marilyn! July 22nd!
Happy Birthday, Marilyn! July 22nd!

Free at last

Okay, time for a new selfie, since the one of me in the red dress is exactly one year old already…

No, the subject line, “free at last,” does not mean they have given me a date yet for my move back to New York.  It means that I am now living alone again — for the first time in 5 years.  I’d been renting out one of my furnished guest rooms for a while now and my tenant moved out on June 1st. In anticipation of my house being torn down, he opted to go get his own place. I don’t blame him! And as much as I wasn’t relishing the idea of living alone again, I discovered that I TOTALLY dig it!!

First of all, I am somebody who likes to clean. Actually, I love to clean, although I’m not OCD about it, as some of my dearest friends (read: Kevin) are.  But the guy I was renting the room to was young and not on the same wave length as me when it came to cleaning.  However, now my house is feeling like my home again! I can clean it one day, wake up the next day and …. it’s still clean!! Even with all these cats!! So that feels great.

No, I'm not trying to show you the food I eat. I'm showing you how I like my fridge to look when I open it!! Yippee ki yi yay!
No, I’m not trying to show you the food I eat. I’m showing you how I like my fridge to look when I open it!! Yippee ki yi yay!

All right! As usual, I’ve been busy. Some of it, not so good, since a very good friend of mine’s wife died the other day and it has been heartbreaking. He is moving back to the West Coast now, to be near his kids. I am going to miss him so much. I’ve been trying to help him get ready for the move as much as possible since he is elderly and I likely won’t get a chance to see him again once he moves away.  When he needs me for something, I drop everything, but that also means that other work is getting a little bottle-necked.

I’m also starting to wonder WHY ON EARTH I went back to school! Of course I know why I went back to school. And I’m going to stay in school at least until I move back to NY because it really keeps me grounded. But, boy, is it making it hard for me to stay on top of stuff at this particular juncture.

I did manage to get all my application paperwork together for the Screenwriters Lab I am hoping to get into in the fall (for women over 40).  The application involved writing 2 essays that kind of wore me out. But I did it and submitted it, one day before the deadline. I felt good about the final product. That said, though — it’s a really good thing I didn’t know beforehand that they are only choosing 8 (!!!) women to attend the lab, or I would have been too intimidated to bother applying. It’s a very high-profile lab in NY. For some reason, I was thinking it would be more like a conference, with about 30 or 40 women selected. But, no: 8 will be chosen. 8 will go. Since I’m guessing that well over a thousand screenwriters applied, the odds are not super hugely in my favor, gang. But, we shall see!!

Other than that, plans are still moving ahead for the staged reading of my screenplay, Tell My Bones, in NYC. We are trying to pin down actors who are net getting ready to go off and do summer stock all over the country.  So we are falling a little behind here. The reading needs to be done ASAP, since the lead actress, along with the stage manager, are going off to France for the month of August…

I don’t know. Sometimes it feels like there’s all the time in the world and then things seem to be moving at a snail’s pace. Then, suddenly, you’re out of time!! And rushing around. How does that happen?

Soon, enough, though, I will be in NYC, and not only for the reading. I’m going to get to see “my significant love interest,” at least for an evening. And for that, I cannot wait, gang. I bought a new dress and some new high heels… Luckily, he is tall. Because high heels make me about 6-foot-2.

I am so totally, totally, totally into this idea of trying out love again after so many years! All I know for sure is that he makes me really happy. He makes me laugh. He gets my sense of humor. So I am super excited about getting back to New York. Even though, at this time of year in New York City, it’s too darn hot…

Okay, on that happy note… I hope you’re having a great Saturday, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing!! Enjoy the heat, gang. Thanks for visiting!! See ya!