MJ’s Manuscript: The Next Project

Many years ago, my husband was on the board of a local 1920s movie palace that had been saved from the wrecking ball in the 1970s. He purchased a book about old theaters that had been resuscitated. The book, filled with photos, obsessed me. I had the glimmer of an idea for a story.

Fast forward a decade or so. My husband got involved with another 1920s movie theater in a nearby city. They had started a film festival highlighting silent films and early talkies.  That theater had been built in 1928 and still had its original installation Moeller Theater organ. Several years into the festival, I started attending with him. The glimmer from years earlier grew brighter. I started making notes. Thumbnail character sketches. Lists of relevant things.

In 2016, the festival included a rarely seen “race film”, Richard Maurice’s 1926 release 11 P.M. This was my introduction to something I’d never before thought about: Black people making and starring in their own motions pictures. Now I was getting sparks on my idea. More notes. Research. So. Much. Research.

I took a class in which the instructor suggested I read Wild Women and the Blues. I did. Thank goodness it wasn’t what my plot was shaping into, although there are similar elements. My husband purchased a box set of “race films” for me for my birthday. He took a day off from  work so we could travel to another nearby city to visit a museum with relevant materials.

I’m very excited about the story. I’m still trying to shape the characters in my head. I’m not quite sure what it is–it’s not baseball, it’s not werewolves, but there is a paranormal aspect. It may be a mystery, probably a murder mystery. All I know is that It’s what’s next.


Capitol Theatre Restoration

My husband and I are “friends” of a 1928 movie house in a nearby city. TV Stevie has attended their annual film festival since its inception. I started attending with him several years ago.

Due to the pandemic, the 2020 festival was postponed for a year.

A year off, right? Nope.

Using a $2.5 million dollar grant from the state, theater management used the “closed” time to renovate the theater to its 1939  appearance.  1939 was the year the theater received its original face lift. The result is stunning.

Gone are the white paddle fans someone installed on ceiling, along with the peeling paint & plaster. The hand-painted fabric wall covering is still in the process of being restored by a local artist and her paint brushes. The seats have been reupholstered in the same fabric used in 1939. Even the carpeting has been replaced by new carpeting remade to the original 1939 specifications by the same company. The lights in the overhead dome have been repaired.  I list only a few of the many refreshed items.

The original 1928 Moeller theatre organ also got an overhaul.

When we attended the grand reopening of the theatre back in July, I had a chance to really listen and see the organist, David Peckham, in action. Always before, the organ was the accompaniment to a movie or was played during intermissions during the festival. At the grand reopening, there was a concert to show off the organ. The spotlight was on the manuals.

The money was well spent. The folks at the Capitol Arts Complex are doing great things to revitalize their city’s downtown.


Book Review-Karen Robards: Vanished

Image credit: tieury / 123RF Stock Photo

Every parent’s worst nightmare. You and your child are in a public place and then . . . your child is gone. Vanished. 

This book deals with the delicate, agonizing topic of a child gone missing. It also deals with the ultimate betrayal by trusted people. Robards handles the terrifying scenario with her usual attention to detail and emotion. If you have any humanity in you at all, you will weep with the heroine and root for her success in finding her daughter, no matter how long it takes.  No matter how long the kidnapper tortures you.

Five stars.

MJ Monday-Movies: Bottle Shock

I hadn’t heard of this movie until the wonderful Alan Rickman died. Not only was Rickman in the movie, but also Bill Pullman (While You Were Sleeping) and Chris Pine (Star Trek reboot). Worth checking out for the cast alone.

The topic was another go-to for me: (from the IMDB):  the story of the early days of California wine making featuring the now infamous, blind Paris wine tasting of 1976 that has come to be known as “Judgment of Paris”.

For those who are unfamiliar with this, California wines weren’t considered much before the Judgment of Paris. The film is the story of how a California wine ended up winning the tasting and launching a whole new industry.

I wish I could say I loved the movie. I wish I could say I liked the movie. I wish I could take it out of the library again and watch it alone, hoping to improve my impression of it.

The main thing, for me, was the slow pacing. Maybe it was intentional, mimicking the wine aging process and the savoring of a glass of fine wine. But while time is needed in both of those instances, telling a story on film needs to move. Otherwise, it’s watching grapes grow.

Three stars (because of the cast).

Book Review: Karen Robards-Superstition

Image credit: tieury / 123RF Stock Photo

This year I am going to review my six favorite Karen Robards books. My sister gifted me with my first one many years ago. When I first joined my local RWA chapter, I learned about another one (which I will review later) that had my colleagues gaga.

Since then, I’ve read most of Robards’ single title romantic suspense novels. I love her stories. My favorite is Superstition. Take an ambitious TV new reporter, a psychic who is blocked, a chief of police with a shady background, a couple of uncooperative ghosts, a haunted house, set them on Pawley’s Island right before tourist season is about to begin and watch this story unfold. Suspense. Twists. Turns. A couple of chilling moments. Superstition has it all. One of the things I like about this story is how deeply embedded the character backstories are embedded in the plot.

Five stars.