From Page to Screen

It’s Oscar day! Tonight the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will celebrate the best films of 2014 with a red carpet entrance, hours-long ceremony, and after-parties that will run into the wee hours of Monday morning.

That means it’s a good time to talk about books!

A number of this year’s nominees are adaptations of novels, biographies, and non-fiction bestsellers—American Sniper, The Imitation Game, and The Theory of Everything among them. Rosamund Pike is nominated for her performance in Gone Girl, the mega-bestselling book by Gillian Flynn that was also a huge hit at the box office last fall. Julianne Moore, heavily favored in the Best Actress category, has already won a number of awards for her portrayal of a woman diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the film based on Lisa Genova’s novel, Still Alice.

Hollywood has been adapting novels for the silver screen for decades. The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Grapes of Wrath, The Godfather, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest are classics of both print and film.

Yesterday afternoon, after watching one of my favorite movies based on a novel, Bridget Jones’s Diary, I went online and checked out a list of Oscar-nominated adapted screenplays. A number of the titles on the list I have loved as a viewer and reader: The Age of Innocence, Wonder Boys, and Nobody’s Fool.

A few of the other works on the list I haven’t read but very much enjoyed watching, such as Sideways, The Descendants, and The Constant Gardener. Then there are All the President’s Men, Lincoln, Captain Phillips, 12 Years a Slave, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. So many good films to see, so many good books to read, who has the time for anything else?

Some books are so influential and timeless they have been set to film multiple times: The Great Gatsby, A Christmas Carol (the version starring George C. Scott is my favorite), and Dracula.

Film adaptations of popular books are not always successful movies. Something is lost in the translation from page to celluloid and the film lacks the magic that captured the reader’s imagination. The film based on Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres, one of my favorite books of the 1990’s, was a faithful adaptation of the novel, so much so that it seemed to me the filmmakers had a list of plot points that they checked off during filming but didn’t mine them for the emotional depth Smiley masterfully portrayed in her story. At other times, a screenwriter’s artistic license elevates the source material, making the theatrical viewing more rewarding than the reading experience. Forrest Gump and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape come to mind, and debates have been had over the Harry Potter and Twilight books and movies. Not to mention the current Fifty Shades of Grey.

So what are your favorite books that have been adapted to film? Did you enjoy the movie, or was it a disappointment?

And for whom are you rooting tonight? I haven’t seen any of the films. I’m not much of a filmgoer; movies are released on dvd so quickly after their theatrical releases that I wait and borrow what I want to see from the library. I am pulling for Best Supporting Actor favorite J.K. Simmons, whom I have loved since his days on Law and Order, and Michael Keaton. How can you not root for the guy who played Mr. Mom, Beetlejuice, and Batman?

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What Day Is It?

The edit of Murder, By George is done! After three weeks of hunkering down over my computer keyboard, I returned the edit to Gordon Aalborg this morning. With this first phase over, I made a cup of tea and fell asleep watching the morning news (I’m already Super Bowl-ed out).

When I awoke, I realized it was February 1. A glance at the calendar informed me it is also National Freedom Day. I Founded by Major Richard Robert Wright Sr., this holiday commemorates the date in 1865 that President Abraham Lincoln signed the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery. A very good day indeed.

What other holidays do we celebrate in February? We know it is Black History Month and that Valentine’s Day is the fourteenth, but did you know it is also Great American Pie Month, Canned Food Month, and National Children’s Dental Health Month? It’s also National Cherry Month, which goes hand-in-hand with those pies.

Tomorrow is Ground Hog Day, the day when groundhogs are dragged from their burrows and forced to make a weather prediction.

February 4th is Create A Vacuum Day. Would that be the appliance that cleans floors, or a void?

Saturday the 7th is Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day. I can do that. And afterwards, I’ll take a walk through the neighborhood and celebrate Wave All Your Fingers at Your Neighbor Day. Remember, ALL your fingers.

And this is just the first week of the month! In February we’ll also celebrate:

Boy Scout Day (8th). Do a little role reversal and help a Boy Scout across the street.

Don’t Cry over Spilled Milk Day (11th). Celebrate optimism today by walking on the sunny side of the street.

Singles Awareness Day (15th). This is for everyone who didn’t get a box of chocolate on the 14th.

Do a Grouch a Favor Day (16th). But what if they don’t appreciate it and hit me?

Random Acts of Kindness Day (17th). This should be every day!

Chinese New Year (19th). Are you a Sheep? It’s your year!

Hoodie Hoo Day (20th). The day to beat the winter doldrums by going outside at noon, waving your hands, and shouting “Hoodie Hoo!” Who would like to go first?

Dogs make out very well this month. There’s Love Your Pet Day (20th), Walking the Dog Day (22nd), and International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day (23rd). Have fun Nick, Pela, and Starr (my four-legged relatives).

Public Sleeping Day (28th). I’ll celebrate by falling asleep at my office desk. Do you think anyone will mind?

It looks like we have a fun month ahead of us! Enjoy it, everyone!

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The (Sub) Plot Thins

The edit is here! The edit is here!

Yes, the first edit of Murder, By George is here. It arrived in my email inbox last Monday, along with the suggestion that I cut a subplot. Yipes! As editor Gordon Aalborg pointed out, this storyline, which features Veronica’s friend Glen Weber, slows the pace of the overall story and lends nothing to the mystery. So…delete, delete, delete.

I am now eliminating those passages that involve Glen, Veronica, and a house for sale and am adding a scene or two that relate to Veronica’s search for architect Scott Culverson’s killer. Murder, By George will be better for this effort, and I thank Gordon for his excellent insight and guidance.

I’m also experiencing a common lament of writers: I can’t stop tinkering with the manuscript. As I read over the three hundred pages, viewing them in the context of Gordon’s comments and changes, I’m finding a line here, a word there, that seemed perfect months ago and now strike me as all wrong. It’s a good thing next Monday is my deadline, or I’d keep revising until Murder, By George is a Western set in the 1870’s.

That’s what I’ve been doing, thus this short post!

Today we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A towering figure in American history, Dr. King was one of the finest leaders this country has ever known. Now, almost forty-seven years after his death, Dr. King’s words and actions still guide and inspire, and indeed carry particular significance in these times of struggle. Let us each take a moment today to reflect on his wisdom  and legacy. And let us strive every day to judge others “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Have a terrific week, everyone.

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Happy New Year

Happy New Year to you all!

I hope you had as wonderful and fulfilling a Christmas season as I did. It started with a beautiful Mass at my parish on Christmas morning, followed by a day spent with my mother, uncle, sister and her family, and my brother and his family. My aunt and cousins visited from Massachusetts over the weekend, bringing with them more laughter and good cheer.

Though I had most of the two weeks off from work, I reported for duty on Monday, albeit from home. Isn’t telecommuting a wonderful thing?

Tuesday brought the Music City Bowl. My alma mater, Notre Dame, won the game against LSU thanks to a last-second field goal kicked by Kyle Brindza. It was a very welcome win after the Fightin’ Irish had a less-than-stellar November.

A nice surprise came on New Year’s Day when I visited Escape with Dollycas and discovered Lori’s list of her Best Reads of 2014. All Things Murder made her Top 15!

This brings me to New Year’s resolutions. I’ve resolved to spring clean throughout the year. I have a lot of stuff I haven’t used/looked at in years crammed into drawers and closets. It’s time to let it go. I figure if I do a little bit of clearing out every week, the task won’t be so overwhelming than if I attempt to do it all at once.

There will be lots of writing this year, too. The first edit of Murder, By George should arrive this month. After the lull of the holidays, I can’t wait to launch into the publication process for this second book. And I’m working on the third installment of the Veronica Walsh mystery series. It will take place during winter and will involve Barton’s community theater. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

So how about you? How was your holiday season? And what resolutions have you made for 2015?

Have a great week, everyone!

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Christmas Wishes

 

Christmas Bells Red Ribbon

 

I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year. I hope you enjoy these last few days of the year with your family and friends, and if you won’t be spending the holidays at home, I wish you safe travels.

Jeanne

 

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Build A Tree

Last weekend I put up our family’s Christmas tree. An artificial tree. Some of you are now cringing, aren’t you?

My philosophy: With an artificial tree, I don’t have to trek to the local tree stand every December, agonize over which tree to pick, hand over a wad of my hard-earned money, and then struggle to get the tree into and out of my car and up to my living room. I just have to pull a box from the basement shelf and carry it upstairs.

Bare

We’ve always had a “fake” tree, with the exception of one Christmas in the early 1980’s. That year, we bought a live tree, set it up in the living room, and diligently watered it every day. I remember one thing about that tree: My father knocked it over Christmas Day, in the commotion of the arrival of his mother and sister. Dad nimbly righted the tree and made sure the lights, tinsel, and ornaments were in order. No damage was done and my mother never knew of the incident.

I enjoy putting up the tree. I can make an analogy of how placing each branch in its proper place so the tree isn’t lopsided is like writing a book, but not in this post. This post is about how the ornaments we hang make the tree, whether it be a tree bought from the Smith Family Tree Farm or Sears in 1989.

There are many decorations on our tree that evoke the spirits of loved ones long gone and times when life was simple and carefree. Handmade ornaments are “gifts that keep giving,” year after year stirring our memories and warming our hearts.

Pink & Red

The above ornaments were made by my paternal grandmother. We have ten of these beauties in green, blue, yellow, pink, and red. Using sequins, velvet, and ribbon, Grandma turned plain Styrofoam balls into treasures we place front and center on our tree.  I think of her every year when I place each on a branch and throughout the season when I admire the tree. I’m sure every member of my family has the same sentimental thoughts. It’s amazing how the ornaments, at least fifty years old, still look brand new.

 Angel

This angel is very dear to me. I remember the day I created her so clearly. It was December 8, the Immaculate Conception, a Holy Day, so we Catholic grammar school kids had the day off. I went with my friend Kathy and her mother to our local pizzeria, where we each had a Sicilian slice. We then went to Kathy’s house for what is now called a play date. We each made an angel, using a pink egg carton, pipe cleaners, and glitter, and then watched The Nutty Professor with Jerry Lewis. The angel’s crown may be a bit loose, and I had to give her a new wing a few years ago, but she still holds the power to bring back the memory of that day spent with one of my first friends.

Marilyn Ornament

The Christmas in the year my sister-in-law Marilyn joined our family, she mailed us a box of handmade ornaments, one for each of us. The above, made of pine needles and cones, is the ornament I was lucky enough to receive. Each year when I hang it on the tree, I think of Marilyn’s thoughtfulness and generosity, and of her enormous talent. This is my “real” tree hanging on the artificial tree. So really, I have the best of both worlds.

Banner

I made this ornament in my early years of Catholic school. The use of macaroni is classic, and the assembly simply, yet the message is powerful and reminds us all of the true reason for the season.

Joann

Mass-manufactured ornaments can also hold special meaning. The above two remind me of my friend Joann. We worked together for seventeen years, and for many of those years I helped Joann put together our department’s small tree. When we moved to an open-space environment this year and we had no place to put the tree, Joann asked if I would like to take the boxes of ornaments home. She didn’t have to ask twice. So now every time I hang these CVS-purchased decorations, I’ll think of Joann and our time shared in the corporate jungle.

So put it all together and voila…

2014 Tree

There’s one last thing I love about the tree. One year in my childhood, as I was helping my mother put everything away, she told me of a tradition she kept every year. While taking the ornaments off the tree, she would pray for each member of the family, asking that they would have a happy, healthy year, and that we would all be together the next Christmas. It’s a nice way to end the holy season.

What holiday decorations bring back fond memories for you? And do you go with a live tree every year, or do you love the fake as I do?

I hope you are all enjoying the season. And I want to wish a very happy Hanukkah to everyone whose celebration begins on Tuesday.

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Cozy Up For Christmas

Last December I wrote a post on several terrific mysteries to add to your, or a loved one’s, Christmas list. I thought this year I would write about a few cozy authors  whose work I enjoy and admire.  You may already read some of these series, though perhaps you will find one or two you would like to add to your wish list this season.

Nancy Atherton - I fell in love with Atherton’s Aunt Dimity series this year. Set in the beautiful English village of Finch, this paranormal series has American Lori Shepherd as its main protagonist. Lori and her family moved to the Cotswolds after Lori inherited a charming cottage from her mother’s friend, Dimity. Though Dimity is deceased, she can communicate with Lori via a book Lori keeps in the study. All Lori needs to do is open the book, speak her piece, and read as Aunt Dimity’s lovely penmanship fills the pages with wisdom and advice. I’ve read three books so far (Aunt Dimity and the Wishing Well is my favorite) and none have featured murder. Rather, the mysteries Lori and Aunt Dimity investigate involve thefts, treasure hunts, and riddles. I’m eager for more visits to the English countryside to accompany Lori on her adventures.

Cleo Coyle - The Village Blend is the quintessential Manhattan coffeehouse at the center of Coyle’s bestselling Coffeehouse Mystery series. When manager and barista Clare Cosi isn’t creating a new blend for her customers, she is tracking down murderers with help from her NYPD detective boyfriend, Mike Quinn. In each book, Coyle (a pen name for an author and her husband) takes readers to beautiful New York City locales that aren’t included in a typical tour while weaving in puzzling mysteries, romance, and a strong sense of family. I’m a tea drinker, but this series makes me long for a cup of joe. It’s not too late to add Once Upon A Grind, released this month, to your wish list.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Elizabeth Craig/Riley Adams - Yes, this is one woman writing three cozy series. I’m exhausted already. The Myrtle Clover Mystery Series, which Elizabeth publishes under her full name Elizabeth Spann Craig, is set in North Carolina and features octogenarian Myrtle Clover. Myrtle, a feisty sleuth, is the star of eight books. As Elizabeth Craig, the author publishes The Southern Quilting Mysteries. Also based in a quiet North Carolina town, this series (the fifth book comes out next summer) features Beatrice Coleman, a retired art museum curator. The Memphis Barbeque Series, published under Craig’s pen name Riley Adams, has such titles as Delicious and Suspicious and Finger Lickin’ Dead in a series that has restaurateur Lulu Taylor as its lead character. There is something for every mystery reader in this buffet, I’d say. If not, then a sleuth needs to be dispatched at once to investigate the matter.

Mary Daheim – Daheim is one of the queens of the cozy world. She pens two series, the Alpine series with Emma Lord and the Bed-and-Breakfast Mysteries. I’m working my way through the B&B books, of which Clam Wake is the latest installment. Judith Flynn is the proprietor of Seattle’s Hillside Manor and the sleuth who solves the murders of her guests and other assorted Seattle residents. She is assisted by her husband, Joe, a retired cop, and her quirky cousin, Renie. This is a wacky series; one book (A Streetcar Named Expire) features a runaway ostrich. Judith’s obstreperous mother, Gertrude, makes regular appearances; she lives in the converted shed in Judith and Joe’s backyard and is always ready to insult anyone who crosses her path. This series has me dreaming of a visit to Seattle, though I’d definitely stay somewhere other than Hillside Manor.

Rosie GenovaMurder and Marinara, the first in Genova’s Italian  Kitchen Mystery series, had me craving a plate of spaghetti and a visit to the Jersey shore. When mystery writer Victoria Rienzi (Vic) returns to her family’s New Jersey home, she is soon involved in a murder investigation when a patron of her family’s restaurant drops dead on the premises. Poisoning is the cause of death, and Vic hurries to solve the case and save her family’s business. The Wedding Soup Murder, the second in the series, is at the top of my To Read pile. A third book will be published next fall. Grab a cannoli and a cup of espresso and enjoy.

 I hope you are enjoying this holiday season (make sure you take regular reading breaks)!

 

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Thanksgiving

cornucopia-full

It’s the time of year again for adding a leaf to the dining room table, advising any wild turkeys you might see on the road to go into hiding, and compiling a list of appropriate conversation topics to have with your relatives (Note to my family: I’d rather not discuss Notre Dame’s win-loss record. Thanks in advance).

It is also the time (though every day is a good day) for counting our blessings and giving thanks. Here are just a few of the things for which I am thankful.

I am thankful for my family and friends, good health, and job.

I am thankful for the men and women of the United States military who defend our country every day.

I am thankful to Five Star Publishing for their support of All Things Murder, and to the artists who designed its beautiful cover and book jacket. I look forward to working with the team again on Murder, By George.

I am thankful to Dru Ann, Lori, Kathy, and Yvonne. These ladies each gave me an opportunity to introduce myself and the book to their blogs’ readers. Thank you!

I am thankful to all who read All Things Murder. And my gratitude to the readers who emailed me to share their enthusiasm for the story. The gesture is very much appreciated!

I am thankful to have two terrific bosses (Hi Charles and Melissa!). Not only do they back me in my job every day, but they also have been great supporters of my book.

I am thankful for my wonderful co-workers. This has been a difficult year for us; our company has been re-structuring itself, a process that has led to layoffs. Several colleagues have left our department this year, some by choice and others because of decisions the company made. Saying goodbye to them has been a sad part of 2014. It will also be a part of 2015, as more layoffs are coming early next year. I wish all my buddies at the office the very best.

I am thankful to Patti, Eileen, Charles, and Laura for reading early drafts of Murder, By George and sharing their thoughts on Veronica’s next adventure.

Finally, I am thankful for you! I am grateful for your visits to All Things Cozy, and give thanks to everyone who follows the blog. If you don’t, why not click on the “Follow” button on the right side of the page?

I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the time with your family and friends, the meal you will share with them, the parades, football games, and whatever kind of fun you make for yourselves.

 

 

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The Green Light

I have great news!

On Friday I received an email from my editor at Five Star, Tiffany Schofield, with an offer to publish the second Veronica Walsh Mystery, Murder, By George. I accepted immediately.

I’m thankful and excited that Five Star gave the green light for another Veronica adventure in Barton. I love writing the series, and deeply appreciate the readers who have told me they enjoyed All Things Murder and are looking forward to the next book. I can now officially say, “It’s coming!”

I’m eager to go through the publishing process again, and glad to know this time around what that process is. The first edit should come in a few weeks, with the second round due in early spring. I should get my first look at the cover around the time the class of 2015 receives their diplomas, and the advance copies sometime during the summer.

So, what is Murder, By George all about? The story begins a few months after All Things Murder ends, at Barton’s annual flea market. A young architect buys a vintage letter box and soon discovers a painting and love letter hidden in a locked drawer. The painting, a 1920’s view of Barton’s Orchard Street, was created by a renowned local artist and given to Eloise Griffin (mother to Ella and Madeline, Veronica’s canasta buddies) the night before her wedding. An argument ensues, with the Griffins, the man who sold the box, and the artist’s family all claiming rightful ownership of the valuable painting. Veronica is a witness to the debate, and soon plays amateur sleuth again when the architect is murdered.

I want to end by wishing a happy Veterans Day to all who have served our country, and would like to remember one particular veteran, Tom Brennan. Tom and I met in the dining hall during our freshman year at Notre Dame and he became one of the best friends I will ever have. Tom was a proud member of the Navy R.O.T.C. program and went on to serve with distinction in the U.S. Navy after our graduation. He spent nine months in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean region during the first Gulf War. After he was diagnosed with cancer, Tom was assigned land duty in Washington D.C. He fought the disease with great courage before passing on November 9, 1994. Tom is, and always will be, a warm and welcome presence in the hearts of all who loved him.

Have a great week, everyone.

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A Message To My Friends, The Feds

I’ve been doing research on the Internet for my next cozy mystery, reading up on deadly poisons, vehicular homicide, and strangulation as I work out who is the victim and who the murderer. I’ve paused more than once, imagining how I would explain my online searches if law enforcement and/or government officials (because you know they’re watching!) come a-calling. So I’ve composed the following letter of explanation.

Dear Uncle Sam,

You may have noticed my recent Internet searches lean toward the deadly. I want to assure you my interest in arsenic, cyanide, and strychnine is strictly professional. I want to know how to obtain these killer poisons solely in order to know how a person with sinister motives could get their hands on them. I have no interest in growing hemlock, mistletoe, or nightshade, but I do need to know how ingestion of these plants causes death, and how quickly.

Please don’t give a second’s thought to my online research on using a letter opener as a murder weapon. Or how much damage a car would sustain after hitting a pedestrian. And if you’re still checking library records, pay no attention to that book of poisons I borrowed yesterday. Again, all for research purposes.

You see, dear Uncle, my queries are for fictional purposes only. I have no desire to try them out in a non-fiction setting. I’m a mystery writer. I make stuff up and write it down until there are enough words to call it a book. If you need proof, my debut cozy, All Things Murder, is available in hardcover, paperback large print, and e-book. You’d like the story; it will take your mind off your problems for a while.

If you need further proof of my harmlessness, there are plenty of people who will attest to the fact that I am a good Catholic girl, a wimp, honest to a fault, a diligent payer of taxes, a tea drinker, and a slow driver.

Thank you for your understanding, Uncle. You are truly the best.

Your favorite niece,

Jeanne

P.S. I hope you don’t think I’m a jinx because I picked an all-bird World Series, Cardinals vs. Orioles. I was wrong. Go Royals. And Giants.

Have a great week, everyone. And a fun, spooky Halloween!

 

 

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