ALADDIN


Outtakes 388

 

ALADDIN

By Cait Collins

 

Having worked for Disney part time for five years, I developed a deep respect for the animation teams that created the magic we saw on the screen.  I can truthfully say the hours I spent on stage in the new Disney Store in Amarillo were some of the most fulfilling work hours I ever experienced.

Walt Disney believed in the magic of movies.  I recall his black and white television show from the fifties.  The weekly forays into Adventure Land, Fantasy Land and Tomorrow Land were anticipated. We were living in St. John’s, Newfoundland.  My Dad and some of the other fathers would load kids into cars and take us to the base theater on Saturdays for the matinees.  The innovation and skills of the animation and live action teams entertained my friends and me.

Disney has always been a leader in technology and storytelling.  While I loved the animated movies, I relished his live-action movies.  The recent release of Aladdin is further evidence of the studio’s commitment to innovation and storytelling.  Guy Ritchie led the cast and crew to the Middle East and into the lives of a young man struggling to survive and a princess who wanted freedom.  Theirs is a love story told against the backdrop of the ancient city of Agrabah skillfully created by scene and set designers. The viewer is there in the streets of an old city, in the Arabian desserts, in the Cave of Wonders, and the waters of the bays right along with Aladdin, Jasmine and the Genie. We are a part of the story and not merely an audience.

The music is pure magic, incorporating the Howard Ashman/Alan Menken lyrics and score from the animated movie Aladdin with new music from La La Land songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Pasek and Paul gave Jasmine her voice with a new song. Her song.

The staging and costumes are magnificent. The cast skillfully selected from actors and actresses of ethnic cultures that cemented the look of an ancient kingdom.  Mena Massoud’s portrayal of Aladdin as a charming street rat longing to escape his world is perfect. Naomi Scott brings Jasmine from a voiceless woman to a leader. Marwan Kenzari’s Jafar is deliciously evil. Dalia, Jasmine’s handmaiden, played by Nasim Pedrad, has just the right spunk.  She’s loyal, wanting only the best for Jasmine.

Will Smith’s portrayal of the Genie is magic. He brings just the right combination of mystic, wish granting, and humanity to the character.  Genie is a teacher, leader, confidant, and father figure. His performance is deserving of an Oscar.

Aladdin is not just a kid’s movie.  The story can take us back to the times in our lives where we were unsure, lonely, and searching for who we really are.  It reminds us that dreams are the seeds of finding ourselves.  It doesn’t matter if you’re five or fifty, Aladdin will take you on a journey from a dream to fulfillment.  It’s one movie you don’t want to miss.

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OUR TIME ON ROUTE 66 – Book Review


Outtakes 387

OUR TIME ON ROUTE 66

By Cait Collins

Recently Wordsmith Six released an anthology OUR TIME ON ROUTE 66.  The book contained five stories with different time periods and different genres. The uniting theme was Route 66 and the U-Drop Inn in Shamrock, Texas.

Maggie’s Betrayal by Natalie Bright is based on actual events during the Depression Era.  Maggie is given in marriage to a gangster as payment for gambling debts.  Shy and frightened, she tends to the household chores and is more a servant than a wife.  When she meets her husband’s nephew, Alex, she learns not all men are mean and abusive.  As their relationship grows and changes, Maggie must decide whether to stay in her loveless marriage or take a chance on love.

I couldn’t believe it when I realized our two guys both wrote romances.  Rory C. Keel wrote Waiting.  Set in World War II, the story traces a tale of love based on letters a newlywed couple wrote to each other.  Brennon and Patricia’s marriage grows stronger even though they are separated by war.  The story is enhanced by the inclusion of well researched facts regarding events in the Texas Panhandle and the war in Europe.  The ending will touch your heart.

Sudden Turns by Joe Nichols is a hoot. Joe has this wonderful voice that combines details of ranch life and the romance between a young widow and a Texas cowboy who has returned home following his military stint in World War II. Liz and Buster don’t start out on good terms, but she’s desperate to get her cattle to market.  For room and board plus a portion of the sales, she hires Buster to “capture” her cows.  A cowboy himself, Joe brings just the right amount of humor and “ranching” to the story.

Moira O’Hara, a photo journalist spent months recovering from injuries sustained during an earthquake while embedded with troops in Afghanistan.  Much of her time in the Middle East is a distant memory she chooses not to remember; including memories of her rescuer, Aiden Thornton. When they accidentally reconnect at the Rialto Square Theater in Joliet, Illinois, they begin a journey of recovery on the road to a Showdown at the U-Drop Inn by Cait Collins.

Author Nandy Ekle set the final story, Fear of Heights, a few years in the future. Shamrock, Texas has grown.  The U-Drop Inn has reopened, and a carnival is set up close to the restaurant.  Reylene is in the process of divorcing her abusive husband, Shane.  Shane is not happy with the amount of child support Reylene is requesting, so he enlists the aid of his current squeeze, Sherry. Sherry is Reylene’s best friend. Terrified of heights, Reylene reluctantly agrees to a ride on the Ferris wheel.  But she is unaware Shane and Sherry plan to scare her into giving up on the child support. Can she forgive the betrayal?

The book gave each of us a chance to test our imaginations, research skills, and take a leap of faith. OUR TIME ON ROUTE 66 is available online or through your local Barnes and Noble Booksellers.

Of Gods and Men


Outtakes  386

Of Gods and Men

By Cait Collins

 

Several years ago, I stumbled on to a new author. At least she was new to me.  I quickly became hooked.  She wrote about ancient Greeks, cursed races, Gods, Goddesses, harbingers, demons, dark hunters, mortals, and immortals.  Characters would shift forms, or turn from humans to animals.

I loved it.

Sherrilyn Kenyon opened new worlds for me.  I could immerse myself into the stories of Acheron’s Dark Hunters.  I almost cried as I read Acheron and Styxx’s stories of abuse, loneliness, love and hate. Brothers whose lives were so entwined that the death of one would end the life of the other.

Ms. Kenyon creates majesty from the halls of Olympus to the depths of hell. Avalon glows, but cold and dead landscapes are nearby.  Her heroes are men and women with purpose and integrity. But her antagonists are brutal and cold. Despite their deity, the nobles are often cruel and manipulating.  Above all, every line has power.

I could not put her biographies of Acheron and Styxx down.  I read until I fell asleep with the books open in my lap.  Finally, I have started reading Stygian.  For some time the book has been begging me to read it, but time and deadlines have prevented that from happening.  After reading the first chapter, I’m hooked.  It’s another page turner.  Question is, is this the end of the tale or the start of a new chapter?  I can’t wait to find out.

Remembering the Classics


Outtakes 385

Remembering the Classics

By Cait Collins

 

Back in my school days there was a great emphasis on classic literature. I hated it back then, but rereading them with an adult eye can give us a new appreciation for the masters.

Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are Mark Twain’s classics about two boys growing up in a turbulent time in American History. They paint a picture of the old South in a time when slaves were a part of the norm. The characters are so vivid. I can easily see Tom Sawyer sitting back eating an apple while watching his friends whitewash the fence. Getting lost in the cave with Becky Thatcher probably raised a few eyebrows.  But catching Injun Joe may have made up for it. Still, there was the importance of faith and community. Remember when Tom and Huck were lost and slipped into the church building during worship? The congregation stood to sing “Old One Hundred. I can hear the music and the song, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow…”

Jane Eyre also reflects a period when men and women were judged by their social standing. A man of wealth and position did not marry his child’s governess. Nor did he attempt to commit bigamy. While she loved Mr. Rochester deeply, she knew the relationship would damage his standing in society, still, she chose to commit herself to her employer. Needless to say, there was a separation and heartache but the love was true and strong. The couple defied the social mores and did live happily ever after.

As with Tom Sawyer, the characters are so vivid. And I can envision the old manor, the parties, and the country church where a wedding was called off because the groom was already married. I was easily removed from my comfortable home to Old England and to witness the shaming of a plain, innocent woman.

The list of great classics is long: Moby Dick, White Fang, Call of the Wild, Of Mice and Men; Wuthering Heights, Little Women, the Jungle Book, and Grapes of Wrath are just a few of the old books my friends and I groaned about. We were kids who were more interested in ice skating and boys or girls than in educating our minds. Maybe we should reread the old classics and see if the stories are more appealing than they were to children.

Ransom Canyon


Outtakes 384

 

Ransom Canyon

By Cait Collins

 

There’s something about a series of books that can stand alone, but are even better when read in sequence.  That’s why I enjoyed reading Jodi Thomas’s Ransom Canyon series. The characters are dealing with personal issues. Yancy Grey has just gotten out of jail and arrives in Crossroads, Texas looking for a quick buck. Lauren, the sheriff’s daughter makes a wrong decision and nearly loses her life. Lucas Reyes wants more than small town life and a job as a ranch hand. He dreams big and has a plan. Stanten Kirkland battles troubling memories in the arms of Quinn O’Grady. Different lives, different backgrounds, but they come together in Ransom Canyon.

Ransom Canyon and Crossroads are set in the wide open spaces of Texas. The author is a fifth-generation Texan and has a deep love of the state. She paints a picture of Texas, particularly the Panhandle and West Texas. She pulls the history and romanticism of the old west into the stories. She allows her characters to be human, make mistakes, and pull themselves through the disasters. And they don’t stand alone as they fight their demons. They come together as a family and a community.

I find her characters believable. They struggle, fall, but get back up and try again. The ending to each story is satisfying, but makes the reader hunger for the next installment. I read Ransom Canyon on my flight to Portland, Maine in the fall of 2015. It reminded me of the reasons I love Texas. I recommend the Ransom Canyon series by Jodi Thomas: Ransom Canyon, Rustler’s Moon, Lone Heart Pass, Sunrise Crossing, Wild Horse Springs, Indigo Lake, and Mistletoe Miracles.

Nora Roberts: Shelter In Place


Outtakes 383

Nora Roberts

Shelter In Place

By Cait Collins

 

Every year I look forward to the release of Nora Roberts’ novels.  Last summer Shelter In Place hit the bookstores. I read until I fell asleep and was almost late for work a couple of mornings simply because I didn’t want to put the book down. This well-crafted novel keeps the reader on the edge and guessing until the end.

The initial setting came straight from the headlines. Shooters infiltrate a shopping mall in Rockpoint, Maine. An eight-minute rampage changes lives forever. But the story does not end with the shooting. Survivors had to go on living, but how do you live when those you love die? One took refuge in law enforcement. Another buried herself in her art.

As one year moves to the next, the survivors rebuild their lives, but one person is not content to let the horror end. As the clock races toward the 13thanniversary of the shooting spree, survivors begin to die. Reed Quartermaine, a police detective, feels there is something unfinished from that night. He’s restless and seeking. Artist Simone Knox plans a memorial for the victims. Will she live to finish it? The story keeps you hooked to the end.

The beauty of this Nora Roberts novel is in the setting. I could see some of those places as I had visited them. The names may have been changed, but I knew the settings. The architecture of the old village buildings brought back memories of living in Bangor. The scenery pulled me in to the story. The author allowed me to return to places I love and become an observer as Reed and Simone fight for their lives.

Nora Roberts is a favorite author. Whether it’s contemporary fiction, mystery, or fantasy, Ms. Roberts does not disappoint. I don’t recycle her books, I reread them.

Check Your Word Choices


Outtakes 382

 

Check Your Word Choices

By Cait Collins

 

There are times when I find myself using too many passive sentences and echoing words in my narration. Robert Ray author of The Weekend Novelist Writes the Novel, suggested this exercise during a workshop. You will need a pencil, paper, a timer, and highlighters.

You will be free-writing. Do not think. Do not lift the pencil from the paper. Do not cross out and correct. Just write. The opening sentence begins, “My first boyfriend (or girlfriend) sat across from me….”  Set the timer for five minutes and start writing.

When the timer goes off, put down your pencil.  Do not complete an unfinished sentence.  Read your work.  Using your highlighters, underline the nouns. Highlight your active verbs and circle the passive ones.  Highlight adverbs in a different color, and adjectives in a third color. Now count your strong nouns. How many strong, descriptive nouns are in the paragraphs? Do the adjectives enhance the noun choices?

Count your active verbs and your passive verbs. Do you have more active verbs or more passive verbs? If there are more passive verbs how can you correct this? Adverbs are not your friend, so can you eliminate some adverbs by choosing more active verbs?

Free-writing allows the subconscious mind to take over and pilot the narrative. It allows our instincts to lead us to choices we might not consciously make. Using exercise like this we can develop a better vocabulary, improve our word choices, and create better narration in our stories.

Narration


Outtakes 381

By Cait Collins

I love writing dialogue, but I’m not as enamored with writing narration.  You see, my background is in journalism. When writing the news, you’re limited by time.  Let’s face it; each story might get 15 seconds.  And unless it’s a major event, 30 seconds would be the maximum for a story. A good journalist learns to get the who, what, where, and why covered quickly and efficiently.  There’s just no time for excess words.

And that’s where I have problems.  I try to tightly edit my stories so that I’m not using too many words in a scene.  After all, is the sky color that important?  While I’m working hard to keep the novel or short story clean, I under write the piece. Believe me, editing out can be easier that adding in.  Adding in is a risk as the additional words could overpower the story.  And then you have to rewrite the scene.

I’ve come to realize that writing is a study in balance.  It takes time and practice to master the narration of a work and the verbal action.  I’m still working on it.

 

 

Keep It Simple


Outtakes 380

 

Keep It Simple

By Cait Collins

 

Have you ever started reading a story or book and realized you needed a dictionary to understand what the author was saying?  I can’t say I had to pull out my handy Webster’s Dictionary, but there have been times when I had to read paragraphs several times before I could follow the story.  I usually don’t finish the book.

The point is that we don’t need to impress our readers by filling the pages with flowery description and hundred dollar words. Our narration should lead the reader in entering the story and bringing him in to the lives of the characters. The words should be descriptive, seasoned with adjectives and adverbs that strengthen but not over power the narrative.  Less can often mean more and better.

 

The Other Character



Outtakes 279

 

The Other Character

By Cait Collins

Narration is a major component of a story.  Through narration we learn where we are. We become aware of the specifics of the setting, the season, the weather, and our characters.  We meet our characters through narration.  The narration sets the scene and introduces action.

I thought writing a screenplay would free me from writing narration, but guess again. Although the screenplay is heavy on the dialogue, the scene must be set,  characters introduced, and the action started.

 

FADE IN

STRAITS OF FLORIDA – 1662  —  DAY

The Brisit man-o-war, the Glory, rides the swells of the outgoing tides as she sails into the Straits of Florida

JAMES MATTHEWS (V.O.)

We were two days out and tacking west

into the Straits of Florida when the

look out sighted a galleon of f the

port bow,closing fast.

The Spanish galleon, the Luca, sails within firing range.

JAMES MATTHEWS (V.O.)

El Diablo stood at the helm, cutlass

raised.  Captain Thomas ordered a volley

over the Luca’sbow.  El Diablo slashed’

the air with his sword and his cannons

fired.

A ball blasts through the Glory’srailing and breaks through the

deck.  Shouts of “Fire” echo across the Glory’s ranks.  A cannon

ball blows a hole in the Luca’s starboard bow.

(Excerpt from Legends, Lies, and Lizards A Screenplay based on the unpublished novel of the same name.)

 

 

 

The narration in the screenplay serves the same purpose as the narration in a short story or novel.

As a main character, the narration must have personality.  Its tone must reflect mood and pace of the scene.