Monday, April 28, 2014

A Classic Movie Primer for the Millennials in Your Life

This weekend I (Keely) had the pleasure of dining with my younger nephew and my niece. They rock (just to establish their bona fides up front).


They are as yet unschooled as to the magic of The Golden Age of Movies. This means I have failed in my duty as super-spectacular aunt, font of all nifty wisdom and cool experiences.


The good news is that ignorance is fixable and family movie nights are fun. Am I right? Yes.


I gave it some thought and came up with my Top Ten Primer - the movies I'd like to share with my rocking peeps to give them a glimpse into a whole new (old) world of black and white film and a chance to expand their cultural literacy (shh, don't tell them that. They're supposed to think this is fun).

My framework for choosing these films: they are all black and white classics made in Hollywood during the 1930s and 40s. They are films *I* enjoy re-watching. A little comedy, a little drama, a little song and dance. And not one of them is Citizen Kane. There, I outed myself. In my opinion, that flick is a big yawn.

Here goes:

1. Casablanca (Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains 1942 - "Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." And other fine quotes. Need more be said?)

2. The Philadelphia Story (Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart 1940 - sophisticated, elegant. All three actors are at the top of their games here)

3. The Maltese Falcon (Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor 1941 - arguably the kick off to film noir)

4. The Gay Divorcee (Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers 1934 - really, almost any Fred and Ginger film would work as a great introduction to the uniqueness that is the movie musical. Add in a score by the inimitable Cole Porter and you can't go wrong)

5. Shadow of a Doubt (Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotton 1943 - *shivers* Hitchcock shows us the evil that lies in wait behind the mask of normalcy. Eek!)

6. His Girl Friday (Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell 1940 - screwball comedy at a lightning fast pace)

7. The Thin Man (William Powell and Myrna Loy 1934 - my absolute favorite onscreen couple. See Lisa's blog on chemistry from a couple of weeks ago. This pair has it in spades!)

8. It Happened One Night (Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert 1934 - in which one learns about hitchhiking and how to dunk a donut)

9. The Adventures of Robin Hood (Errol Flynn, Olivia de Haviland, Basil Rathbone 1938 - romance AND fencing? What's not to love?)

10. Footlight Parade (James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler 1933 - more interesting story than the better know 42nd Street)

What's on your list?

Monday, April 21, 2014

No Rules Just Write - With Special Guest Terri Osburn

The Rockville 8 are pleased as punch to host the fabulously wonderful Terri Osburn with her straight up take on what matters on this writing journey of ours. Sing it, sister!
No Rules Just Write

I have a writer friend who is involved with a class for newbie writers, and every time she talks about the group, I remember when I was a newbie. I remember how excited I was, full of the desire to learn but overwhelmed by how much I didn’t know. And I remember taking every snippet of advice as gospel, sometimes to my own detriment.

We all hear about the rules for writing. First off, there are no rules for writing. Well, other than don’t bore your reader, but otherwise, anything goes. And yet, rules are still bandied about.

So here are my rules for writing, which I like to call the anti-rules. And surprise, there’s only one rule.

Don’t get hung up on the stuff that doesn’t matter.

It really is that simple. Writing is storytelling. It isn’t prose and plot and dialogue tags and marketing plans. It’s storytelling. That means all you have to do is tell the story that you see in your mind. The one that keeps you up at night, makes you smile and gets your heart racing.

That is where you start, and that is all that matters. If you want to get published, some of these other things will come into play. But not until later. Much later. You’re on page 42. You have awesome characters living in your head and they have a story to tell. Your job is to put the story on the page. That’s it. That’s all you have to do.

But, you say, they keep telling me…blah blah blah. First off, who is this they? Point them out and I will kick them in the keyboard. Who are they to say anything? To tell you or me or anyone what to do?

Did you know some writers don’t create a new paragraph every time the speaking character changes? That’s right, my friends. There are rebels out there who will start a paragraph with character A’s line of dialogue, and then put character B’s line IN THE SAME PARAGRAPH. And you know what, they got published doing that.

Seriously. I’ve seen it.

Did you know there are books where the writer CHOSE not to use capitalization in all the traditional ways? And again, that book got published. Yes, I’ve seen it with my own reader eyes.

The point is, all that matters is the story. Granted, you have to tell a damn good story, but how you do that is up to you. It’s not up to the editors or readers or some stinking rules.

It’s your story. Tell it your way. If it’s a sci-fi, first person, inspirational memoir, so be it. Put your butt in the chair, your fingers on the keyboard, and your heart onto the page. That’s it.

You got this, my friend. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Agree or disagree? Feel free to let me have it. I can take it. J

One lucky commenter will receive an e-book of their choice from Terri's Anchor Island series! See below for links and a blurb of her upcoming release, HOME TO STAY:

HOME TO STAY by Terri Osburn
Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 1477818367

May 1, 2014


Willow Parsons’s two new best friends are getting married, putting her squarely on the sidelines of romance—which suits her just fine. After escaping the ultimate Mr. Wrong, she is more than happy to spend her days slinging drinks in Dempsey’s Bar & Grill, and her nights alone. But her Anchor Island refuge has just one catch: muscle-bound charmer Randy Navarro.

Everyone in town knows that Randy, owner of the local fitness club, is a giant teddy bear. Everyone, it seems, except for Willow. He’s convinced that her avoidance is more than just playing hard to get, and is determined to uncover the secrets that keep her on edge. But when old fears are dragged into the light, can Randy get Willow to stay and fight for their love…or will she take flight, leaving both him and Anchor Island behind?

Home to Stay is a charming, romantic tale about following your heart to find where you belong.

Buy Links:

Print >
Website >
Facebook Page >
Twitter > @TerriOsburn
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Goodreads >


Although born in the Ohio Valley, Terri Osburn found her true home between the covers of her favorite books. Classics like The Wizard of Oz and Little Women filled her childhood, and the genre of romance beckoned during her teen years. While Osburn went on to gain a degree in business administration, she couldn’t shelve her love of love stories. In 2007, she decided to put pen to paper and write her own. Just five years later, she was named a 2012 finalist for the Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® Award. The author of the Anchor Island contemporary romance series, Osburn resides in Virginia with her daughter, an assortment of pets, and her bookshelves full of keepers. To learn more about this author and her work, visit her website at





Sunday, April 13, 2014


Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending my first Lady Jane’s Salon (Silver Spring). 
Four great writers were featured—Mary Behre, Monica Epstein, Megan Hart and Mindy Klasky.  After everyone ate dinner and chatted, the writers each read an excerpt from one of their books.  Everyone was great—both as readers and writers.

Check out Lady Jane’s Salon Silver Spring here:   

There was one thing I noticed about each excerpt.  That indefinable characteristic that everyone talks about but no one can exactly pinpoint—chemistry. 

What exactly is chemistry?  It’s one of those things that you know when you see—or feel if it’s you that’s part of the chemical compound.  When I think of chemistry, I often think of the old “Thin Man” movies with William Powell and Myrna Loy. 

Here’s a montage of them in action:

They’re a witty, snappy pair.  Notice the twinkle in their eyes as they look at each other, throwing lines out and waiting for the other to rise to the occasion.  They are equally matched. 

Great chemistry isn’t always witty repartee with a New York accent.  It’s deeper than that.  It’s that feeling of coming home to another person, even though you may have just met.  It’s conversation so easy you don’t have to struggle for topics.  It’s feeling safe with the other person, knowing that what you tell the other will not be judged.  It’s that butterflies in the stomach feeling when you see them.

Once, when I was dating my husband, he visited me at my part-time job.  I remember my friend who worked there saying that I completely lit up when I saw him—her words—and my whole face and carriage changed.  I had no idea that the change was so drastic.  For me, it’s a feeling of energy I derive from being around him.  And yet, a sense of calm as well, like I’m not “on” in those times as I sometimes feel in the outside world.      

I know that I can tease my husband and he won’t get offended because he understands that I only tease those I care about, just like my Irish grandfather who teased me unmercifully.  (I loved it and loved to dish it back to Grandpa).  Usually, whatever I say is totally opposite of reality and the silliness of it makes it funny.  He knows that, too.

My husband still laughs about the time we visited a nearby small town.  A man was trying to parallel-park a compact car on a busy street.  He was so God-awful that his wife finally had to get out and guide him.  But it didn’t end there.  My husband parked our car, we walked across the street, and we looked in three different stores before the other man parked.  I clocked him just to see how much time it would take.  Fifteen minutes this torture went on—eons in the parallel-parking universe. 

My husband and I were just walking out of the third store when he finally stopped the car.  I thought his wife was going to throw her hands in the air like “Touchdown.”  Exasperation was clear on her face. 

I said to my husband, “If you took fifteen minutes to parallel-park, we wouldn’t be together right now.”  He threw his head back and roared with laughter.  He has repeated it every so often, shaking his head, and laughing at the memory.  He knew I was kidding him.  And, I knew he’d find that funny and not be offended.  That’s chemistry, too.

In the books read last night, I had this feeling.  The hero and heroine lean into each other, metaphysically speaking, and not away.  They are drawn to each other despite often overwhelming odds and what reason may be telling them.  They want each other and find it hard to fight the attraction. 

The hero and heroine aren’t the same person—how boring.  They are compatible in ways that are important to them but different in ways that complement each other.  Perhaps they have the same values or come to have the same values by the end of the story.   But one may be calm while the other is more animated.  The animated one brings excitement to the calm one; the calm one grounds the animated partner.

Chemistry is important in romance.  Without chemistry, the story can’t be successful.  When I download a book on kindle, I read the Amazon reader reviews.  The one thing that will stop me from ordering it is if the theme of the comments seems to be that the hero or heroine are unlikable or don’t seem to “go together.”  No one wants to read or write a story like that.

What characters in books or movies or real life do you think have great chemistry?      

Monday, April 7, 2014

8 Writing Lessons from Supernatural (Part 2 of 2)

by Misha Crews

Hi, and welcome back! Two weeks ago, we started talking about four writing lessons that we can learn from Supernatural. I hope you enjoyed that post. So without further ado, let's jump right back into it!

5) Know the rules of your universe, and don't break them. In the Supernatural-verse, some of the well-known rules are things like this: ghosts can be "killed" with salt or iron; otherworldly creatures can't cross lines of goofer dust, and if angels get sassy, they can be restrained with circles of fire fueled by holy oil.

If you write paranormal or sci-fi, rules are very important. They anchor your story in reality, and establish agreements with your reader.

And even in more conventional writing, rules are very important, especially when it comes to characterization. Let's say your heroine, Judy, hates the color green. If at any point in your story, Judy throws a green shawl around her shoulders, your readers are going to call shenanigans on your writing, unless there's a compelling reason for her to do it. Which brings us to the next lesson:

6) There's an exception for every rule, but there's always a good reason for the exception. Oh-ho! Just when we think we've got things figured out, Supernatural throws us a curve ball. For example, it turns out that celestial beings can be "killed" by holy oil... except for Michael. Holy oil can still harm him, and banish him, but it won't get rid of him altogether, because he's an Archangel and as such is very powerful.

So in our example from 5 above, Judy can rock that green shawl with all her might, as long as we realize that she's doing it to honor the memory of her grandmother, or to show her ex-boyfriend that she's a new woman, or for some other reason that makes sense to your character.

7) Find humor in the darkness. The thing that has impressed me time and time again about Supernatural is how balances humor with tragedy. It's a good lesson to those of us who seek to tell stories: Throw in all the conflict your characters can handle (and more, of course), but for goodness sake, give them some levity, too. The light moments will make the darkness seem all the more poignant.

Some truly hilarious moments from Supernatural are captured in this video:

8) Sometimes we have to say goodbye. What's quickest way to break faith with your readers? Kill off someone they love. What's the greatest accomplishment a writer can achieve? Kill off a beloved character... and still have your audience love your story.

With Supernatural, the writers have put us through the emotional wringer over and over again: In Season 2, Sam and Dean lost their dad. In Season 6, we bid farewell to two of the most awesome chicks you will ever meet: Jo Harvelle and her mom, Ellen. And in Season 7, *sniff sniff* Bobby Singer, the gruff but extremely lovable father figure, died. (I'm seriously not over that.) They've also killed off both Sam and Dean more than once, although the boys always come back: this is one of the advantages to writing paranormal fiction!

In the following scene, Jo has been mortally wounded by a hellhound. She convinces Sam and Dean to let her sacrifice herself by setting off a bomb to distract the hounds while the boys get away to hunt the biggest of the Big Bads: Lucifer, himself. Rather than leave her daughter to face death alone, Ellen stays behind with Jo. No fan can watch this without tearing up, at least a little:

So how can the writers do this to us, and still keep us coming back? It's because the deaths always mean something.They symbolize and reinforce the danger that our heroes are in. They also catalyze our anger as viewers for whatever enemy is currently being faced. And for Sam and Dean, the deaths are part of their maturing process: with every person they lose, they grow a little older and a little wiser, if a lot sadder.

Even if the stakes of your story aren't physical life-and-death, we can still kill off elements of our characters that they thought they could never do without. From our running example: Judy never thought she'd like the color green, because it reminded her of her grandmother's death. But through the trials she experiences during the course of the story, she realizes that it's not the color itself which she hates, but the memory of the loss. So she lets go of her bias and dons her green shawl in defiance of all those negative emotions which had been running her life.

(This is kind of a silly example, but it could actually be pretty poignant if Judy were a painter, and was finally able to paint the green field where she'd played as a child.)

So, there we have it: eight lessons that we can learn from this long-running and widely-loved television show. (Or as I like to think of it: eight reasons to watch Supernatural when I could be doing something else.) Do any of these lessons ring true for you? And do you have any writing lessons you've learned from your favorite TV show? We'd love to hear about it!