Tag Archives: Tell My Bones: The Helen LaFrance Story

Oddly enough, things are getting better & better

Anyone who has known me well for a really long time, can attest to the fact that from the moment I was born, until just a few months ago, my life pretty much always sucked and generally got worse and worse as the years zipped by.

I’ve basically been a walking case of C-PTSD my entire life (from seemingly limitless physical, mental, emotional, and sexual abuse, with no psychological safety-net, ever).  Even though a huge portion of my life has been spent struggling with suicidal depression,  I also seem to have been born with a boundless belief that God had a better plan for my life and all I had to do was keep looking and I would find it. (It’s called faith.) (It’s also called “Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off, and Start All Over“.)

I’ve also been blessed as a writer — just keep getting the words out, no matter what. Through any and all emotional upheavals and various & sundry dire circumstances and stressful situations. Even though it’s financially difficult, most of the time, to be a writer, I have always found the energy and time to get my projects done and send them “out there.” It gives this ridiculously difficult life what is called: A purpose.

Yes.

That’s why this move to the Hinterlands came as such an astounding surprise to me — that I could ever find a place that made me so happy and that could really feel like home — for the first time, ever, and I have been alive now for over half a century.

I did get approved for my USDA mortgage — I still don’t know for how much, yet. It won’t be a lot but it’ll be enough to buy a little cottage out here and stay put, forever. I have been on Cloud 9 since I got the letter.

Although I will probably have to travel constantly between NYC and LA, and occasionally to Bristol, England; my home base will be here in the Hinterlands and I simply couldn’t be happier. I wake up every day and cannot believe how blessed I am. Whenever I feel those niggling feelings of stress, I simply step outside and am instantly reminded that this place is magical. The stress simply evaporates.

The old farmhouse from 1910, that I mentioned in a previous post below somewhere, sold a couple weeks ago. The little lake house, which is really just indescribably cute, is still available  but I don’t think I want to get involved with the cost of flood insurance. I currently have my eye on a really cute old house — really tiny– from 1900 that’s been completely updated and is very close to the lake, but wouldn’t involve flood insurance. We’ll see how much of a mortgage I get pre-approved for, then I can make up my mind and life will finally begin!

Meanwhile… I need to close this and go focus on the Helen LaFrance theatrical adaptation. During my last phone call with Sandra Caldwell in NYC, mere hours before she had to go onstage for the opening night of Charm, she very pointedly asked, “when are you going to get here?” and made it plain that she had a number of people she wanted to discuss the Helen LaFrance piece with, so getting the revisions finished might be a really good idea…

Indeed.

So here I go.

Have a great Friday, wherever you are and with whatever you’re doing! I leave you with this, gang! Play it loud and keep on keeping on, regardless of what anyone else advises. Thanks for visiting. See ya!

 

 

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Happy Updates from the Hinterlands!

First and foremost: They should have a response to my recent revisions on the Untitled Cleveland Drama TV pilot by the end of this week!

Wouldn’t it be spectacular if there were no more revisions needed?? After all, eventually the rewrites must cease and the production must begin…

I first got the idea for this particular TV series when I was studying for the ministry at the Ohio Christian University (once known as Circleville Bible College) a small school literally built out in the middle of farmland:

Ohio Christian University

I loved that school and I loved studying for the ministry (I was on the Dean’s List every single semester and graduated summa cum laude) and I loved becoming a minister, even while my views about Jesus are radical and heretical by evangelical standards. (I guess, by most people’s standards, come to think of it.)

Anyway, liberal and far-flung as I am psychologically, I still believe that Jesus himself gave me the idea for the premise of Cleveland’s Burning (now known more loftily as the Untitled Cleveland Drama).  After my involvement with 11 various producers in LA came to nothing, I set aside the script for a couple of years, until suddenly another production company in LA asked to read it and now, here we are, on the verge of actually getting the pilot made.

Interestingly, though, one of their recent comments about my script was to tone down the Christian stuff.  The pilot centers around a black family in Cleveland during the early 1960s, and most of the men in the family are ministers in various stages of their careers. So I wasn’t quite sure how “toning down the Christian stuff” would work…

But seriously, I wrote the show because it really irks me how, nowadays, people try to position DR. Martin Luther King in a strictly cultural and political sense, when in reality, he was more commonly  known for a long time as the REVEREND Martin Luther King; he was a Baptist preacher, completely at odds with political groups like the NAACP.

King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail is the focal point of the pilot episode of my TV series and that letter (addressed to clergymen) is nothing but Christian doctrine — which happens to be all about love, not politics. Hence, it really just irks me that contemporary society wants to sort of erase the Christian influence on the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s-60s. (Sort of like how early Christians erased as much of Jesus’s Jewishness and of his family life as they possibly could.)

Ah. But I digress. Anyway.

So I developed an entire TV series about the Christian “evolvement” of the Civil Rights Movement so that I might be able to sort of bang you over the head with it…. (Kind of kidding here, but kind of not!) And even though the producers want to focus more on the one non-minister brother who goes off to Vietnam and comes back a Black Panther/Black Nationalist (because I guess violence is more palatable today than any Christian doctrines of love), I am still indescribably excited and still believe wholeheartedly that Jesus gave me the idea while I was studying for his ministry and that’s all that really matters to me.

In other news… I have decided to buy a new house instead of rent. By “new” I am referring, of course, to really old houses, but they will be new to me! I’m still going to remain out here in the Hinterlands, where I have been so happy for the first time in my life. I am waiting to hear how it will go, mortgage-wise.

I want one of those home loans from the US Department of Agriculture, which mandates that I must purchase a home in a rural area, which includes the nearby lake region, which is just fine with me! Me and the kitties might become nautical!! I sure hope so. And I really hope to be re-located by Christmas, if I can. We will see. I will indeed keep you posted. (I currently have my eye on 2 houses: one is an old farm house from 1910; the other an old lake house from 1930. Both have been updated to modern standards, although the lake house, more so.)

Meanwhile, I must get back to re-writes on the theatrical version of Tell My Bones. It is slow-going. Mostly because it is distracting, knowing that I have to move soon and having all that drudgery of moving again hanging over my head.

Okay, thanks for visiting!! Have a great Wednesday, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.  And if you’d like to hear a computer read the Letter from a Birmingham Jail  (and, frankly, who wouldn’t want to hear a computer read the Letter from a Birmingham Jail??) well, here ya’ go!!

See ya!!

 

Just a quick hi!

I’m just popping in to regale you with a few photos!

As loyal readers of this lofty blog no doubt recall, I am now under a SUPER tight deadline to revise my one-act theatrical version of Tell My Bones: The Helen LaFrance Story by September 17th, when I must speed mightily toward the great State of New York in my tiny Honda Fit, in order to see Sandra Caldwell on the opening night of her new play, and hand her the revised script of the above-mentioned Tell My Bones.

In short, I have little time for posting to the blog right now!

However…. Photos have come into my life this week that I must share!

First and foremost, a couple of really high-quality digital photos of some of Helen LaFrance’s paintings that will be in my play, Tell My Bones. Be sure to click on them so that you can enlarge them and see the astounding detail that her paintings are famous for.

Canning Peaches by Helen LaFrance. Permanent Collection of Kentucky Folk Art Center at Morehead State University
Pete’s Place by Helen LaFrance. Permanent Collection of Kentucky Folk Art Center at Morehead State University

Next! Some cats on my bed yesterday!!

Clockwise from top left: Tommy, Huckleberry, Daddycakes, Doris, Weenie, Lucie. (I love the dramatic pose taken by Daddycakes here! Click to enlarge.)

Next! Loyal readers of this lofty blog will no doubt recall that I once had an ideal patio here in the Hinterlands; a patio that filled me with bliss, which was sweetly appointed with numerous pots of impatiens that a lovely deer and her equally-lovely fawns decimated in early July…

I then moved all the flower pots to my front patio, since it is closer to the house and I didn’t think the deer would be likely to come up so close to a human dwelling place… [Dramatic foreshadowing –Editor]

The impatiens rebounded with gusto and were once again blooming like mad, even though I rarely hang out on my front patio and enjoy them!

Several days ago, a bunny rabbit happened along during the night and made good progress with devouring one of the pots of impatiens that was lower to the ground. Then, this past Wednesday morning, I awoke to discover that the deer had returned! WOW, did they do a good job of getting rid of my pesky impatiens!!  (Click below to get a close-up view of some of the carnage!)

Three of the 8 impatiens planters after the deer.

Honestly, though, I don’t really care that much. I thought it was really funny when I looked out the huge picture window early Wednesday morning and saw what was left of my beautiful flowers. And this was after having watered all the flowers the evening before, marveling at how fully the plants had recovered and at all their many riotous blooms… My only lament that morning was that I didn’t get to see how cute the deer were, munching away leisurely until every blossom was gone!

I will keep watering the plants and they will likely bloom again before any frost comes, a few months from now. But now that I know I have to move away, I am emotionally detaching myself from this lovely place and nothing means quite as much as it did only a few weeks ago, when I thought I would be able to stay here indefinitely.

I also completely detached myself emotionally from my back patio. Not only because I had moved all the pretty flowers to the front of the house, but more because I kept asking people around here to come over and hang out on my cool back patio and have a beer and watch the fireflies and the stars come out, and absolutely no one accepted my invitation! It just got very sad and lonely and frustrating. Once the many melodious robins had moved on and the fireflies burned out and the intense humidity came along with the mosquitoes, I stopped spending my evenings outdoors and now I only go out to water the plants in the evening. And I dream of my next heavenly abode.

But it’s all good, gang, because better things are truly on my horizon. Another move to some awesome place does indeed loom large. And I’m sure I’ll make new friends somewhere, somehow, some way!! After all, I’m not dead yet!

All righty. Gotta scoot! Deadlines also loom large on my horizon! Hope you have a terrific weekend planned, wherever you are on the planet! Thanks for visiting. (Oh, and enjoy the upcoming Great American Solar Eclipse, New Moon, and various trining planets! I’ll be participating in some sort of world-wide meditation, as usual.) Okay. See ya!

Watson’s General Store by Helen LaFrance. Permanent Collection of Kentucky Folk Art Center at Morehead State University.

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