author

Should I Write my Will?

We Will Never Be The Same

Given the events of this harrowing time in our world’s history, I find myself researching how to write my will. It’s not a doomsday reaction for me as much as what feels like a logical thought. As they say, any moment could be our last, which is why we’re advised to live each to its fullest.

Among my other thoughts are how can I protect my family, my pets, myself, against this unseen threat? Should I write my will?

At this moment, I am in the hardest hit area of America. My governor has advised us we are approaching the apex, which could come in 14-21 days. Just typing that tripped my heart like when a panic attack is about to begin.

I’ve had a lot of those lately. The not-so-subtle crushing of my chest and my gut, where it feels like all the air has been sucked out of the room. My heart gallops, my body trembles, my legs go weak. I know what it is. Fear of the unknown. Imaginings of the worst kind.

That’s when I’m reminded I did not write my will and I, again, wish I had because then, at least, my wishes would officially be known.

Stay-at-home

I’m healthy. I am among the fortunate ones who has worked from home and has had little chance of exposure to this deadly virus. I take my part of the preventative measures seriously – to stay-at-home, practice social distancing, wash my hands, not touch my face, clean and disinfect commonly-used surfaces like light switches, door nobs, phones, computers, faucets and the like. I call family members daily, I stay in touch with friends. As extravagantly as I can, I tip the brave, dedicated people who continue to deliver much needed food and other supplies.

And I cry.

Out of fear for what will come, and out of grief for what already has.

Dreams put in perspective

This was going to be my year. I was finally going to release my first book. A romantic suspense novel I hoped people would curl up with, frantically turning the pages, then sighing at the end. I had promo planned, I dedicated hours to a book trailer, I fell in love with the cover and feverishly worked to make my print and ebook files as perfect as they could be.

I look back now and shake my head because while I had always dreamed of publishing a book, I realize what matters more. The people in my life, the love of family and the bond we forge with friends and neighbors.

The sun continues to rise

When this nightmare finally ends, we will have so many pieces to pick up, so many hearts to help reassemble, so many tears to help dry. And so many hugs to give. If this has taught us anything I hope it is that we can do all of the above together, for each other, without litmus tests for who is deserving, and without resentment if some need or get more than others. Because, as this virus has shown us, we are all in this together. Every one of us.

E pluribus unum.

Of many one.

That is how it should be. I should include those thoughts when I write my will.


Important links and contact numbers:

World Health Organization – WHO

Center for Disease Control and Prevention – CDC

NY State Mental Health Line: 1-844-863-9314

National Suicide Hotline: – 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

International Suicide Hotlines

 

#StayHomeSaveLives

 

Contest Ended – We Have a Winner!

Winner announced - free e-copy of Surrender at Canyon RoadAnd the Winner Is

Thank you to everyone who helped me celebrate my cover reveal last week.  And thank you for your PM’s telling me how much you love it – I do, too! This week, I’m thrilled to announce the winner of my small contest for a free e-copy of Surrender at Canyon Road.

Fittingly, the winner replied to this question via FACEBOOK:
“Happiness” & “freedom” are synonymous to my heroine. Tell me what ONE word describes YOUR personal happiness?

With this reply:
“Family”

Trying Times

Now, of course, with the world in the midst of a terrifying and deadly pandemic, many of us are staying home to avoid infecting the most vulnerable among us. Our families are especially important at this moment since we’ll likely be spending an inordinate amount of time together over the next few weeks or more. As wonderful as that can be, is as stressful as it can be as well.

A book can offer a safe small break, a temporary escape. While it’s certainly not something that can live up to the challenges we’re facing now, opening a book and being swept into its world, with its promise of a happily ever after, can offer a healthy bit of “me time”.

At least, that is my hope.

BOOK TRAILER: Surrender at Canyon Road


Available for Pre-order Now!
Pre-Order Now - Surrender at Canyon Road

Cover Reveal and Contest

Cover Reveal

The journey from dreaming about being a published author to becoming one has been long, detoured and filled with unexpected speed bumps. But now, today, it feels like I am finally coasting to a smooth stop at the first vista. I intend to soak in the view for as long as I can before getting back on the road toward Vista #2.

I’ve been eager to share this cover reveal post for a few weeks now but somehow managed to hold back. Depositphotos has been my go-to source for fantastic images but, and this makes me quite proud indeed, the main image on my cover, the picture of the mountains and sky, is one of my own, taken during a trip to visit my family in Colorado. Add all the exciting images together, and an animated though short-on-detail description of my vision for the cover and it would be enough to drive any graphic designer mad. Except MY graphic designer. Just look at what she did:

Cover Reveal - Surrender at Canyon Road
Graphic Designer, Master, Magician

In my opinion, she’s a master. Kolleen Shallcross of Shallcross Web Design, took my vision and my images, and created a look that captured the mood, the tone and movement of my story. I could not be happier…or more grateful to her…for this beautiful creation:

Cover Reveal - Surrender at Canyon Road

CONTEST!

Surrender at Canyon Road is available now for pre-order at your favorite eBook retailer: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, KOBO, Apple Books and more. To celebrate, I’m giving away one copy. Interested? Of course you are–what reader wouldn’t love the chance to win a free book? All you need to do is answer a specific question I ask in this Facebook, Twitter, OR Instagram post by Monday March 16th, 2020. All names will be combined, and then one will be randomly selected by this time next week. Check back here then to see if YOU are the winner!


PRE-ORDER
Your Copy Now!
Pre-Order Now - Surrender at Canyon Road

Children as Caretakers

Imagine being a child, 10 years of age, and suddenly responsible for the wellbeing of a baby brother or sister. While seeing children as caretakers is not that uncommon, when children take on the role of parent for their siblings, teaching them to walk, talk, brush their teeth, read, write, cook, drive… the same emotional parent-child bond is often formed.

Children as Caretakers

Each step of the way, they’re proud of their baby brother or sister’s accomplishments, putting aside their own youthful milestones in favor of cheering their sibling’s, hoping, like the guardian they’ve become, that what they’ve tried to teach the child is enough to carry them forward, into their own life, without them stumbling too much.

But knowing they will stumble, as we all do, is tough for even some of the most stoic guardians. We’ll eagerly wait for their call, their check in, so we know they’re okay, so they can share some moments of their lives with us again.

Letting Go

So it is for my hero in my soon-to-be-released romantic suspense novel, SURRENDER AT CANYON ROAD, when, after months of silence, he receives a call, a desperate plea for help – not from his sister, but from her husband and the father of her child.

Children as caretakers - Surrender at Canyon RoadBlake feels responsible for his younger sister. He always has because he always was. Having helped raise her, he watched her grow. He tended her scraped knees, let her fly while their mother acted as full-time nurse to her own ailing parents, and their father worked multiple jobs to support them all. Blake put his sister first the way his parents put family first, protected her, made decisions for her, even after she was old enough to make her own. The more she rebelled, the tighter he held. After all, he had been her world at one time, her hero, there to see to her every need as any parent would.

The Urge to Fly

Even after she married…the wrong man…a man Blake had introduced her to…and had a child of her own, he still thought of her as the baby sister who needed him.

The more he reached out, the further she ran, teaching him some hard lessons of her own—namely that she needed to be her own person. To make her own mistakes, brush off her own knees and get back on her own feet. He had to step back, like parents must, begrudgingly though it may be.

But she’s in trouble now. Desperate trouble. And so is her young son. Their lives threatened, and the man Blake introduced his sister to, seemingly the cause of all their woes. Unlike fictional romantic hero from the past, Blake is an ordinary man forced to do extraordinary things. He doesn’t stop to think how, he just forges ahead, knowing only that he must protect his family.

In his feverish search for them, Blake reminds himself of the life lessons he taught his sister. He hopes she remembers them, too. Hopes those lessons will be enough to get her through these days fraught with fear and peril. That is, until he can find her, save her, and protect her as he did all those years ago and for all those moments. Before he lets her fly away again.

Life Imitating Art Imitating Life

As the youngest in my family, I didn’t become caretaker to anyone until my adulthood when I rescued my first furbaby–a 5-year-old shih tzu princess. Were you the child guardian of a sibling or other youngster? Did you struggle to let go and let that child fly on their own? Or were you a child raised by an older child, sibling or otherwise? How difficult was it for you to set out on your own? Did they let go easily or hold tighter, fearful to let you fly? Did you know other children as caretakers? How tight was their bond? The same as parent and child? Tighter? Let me know, join the conversation on Twitter or FACEBOOK


Available for Pre-Order – March 2020

Surrender at Canyon Road

Not Your Mother’s Hero

Yesterday’s Hero  

We’ve all heard of them, most of us have read them – many of us enjoyed them. What were they? Romance novels from decades ago, dime-store books, mass-market paperbacks we eagerly devoured, shared and discussed, where the hero swept the heroine off her feet – often quite literally – and she fell hopelessly in love with him.

The bad-boy hero was the norm. He was aggressive, arrogant, aloof. Alpha. On some level, we might have cringed at his heavy-handed ways. Held our breath. Cowered even. But we also laughed at him, on some level, because we knew – we KNEW – for all his bluster and brawn, he would eventually be putty in the hands of a heroine who slowly comes into her own.

A Most Unheroic Hero

Those alpha heroes were pirates, sheiks, ship captains, leaders of their clan, lords, earls… entitled men with power and, often, no sense of compassion. Or common decency. They were the romantic lead who did not deserve to be so.

One such hero, created by one of my otherwise-favorite historical romance authors, declares his undying love for his mistress – ON HIS WEDDING DAY – as his new wife looks on. When said wife confronts him, he accuses her of spying, backhands her across the face and watches as she falls to the ground from the force of the blow. As if that were not enough to make this man unworthy of his ‘hero’ or leading man title, we see his fury with his new wife build further. He thinks to himself:

A husband was a woman’s god, and the sooner this one learned that the better.

Lest you think his interior monologue ended the horror, note what happened next:

[He] grabbed a handful of [her] hair and jerked her to him. “I will take whatever I want whenever I want, and if I take it from you, you will be grateful.” He released her and pushed her back to the ground. “Now get up and prepare yourself to become my wife.”

Oh, yeah. Sexy, right?

Naturally, this hero rapes the heroine in their marriage bed. But let’s get over that, because she did. Like…immediately, because during round two, he was gentle, affectionate. Contrite. And, since there are three more books in the series (all of which I happen to love), with these two showing up in all of them, together, we understand they somehow overcame their…differences?…and lived happily ever after.

Alpha Doesn’t Have to Mean Cruel

I talked about alpha heroes of yesteryear in an earlier post, Not Your Mother’s Romantic Suspense. We expect them to get angry, to possess the strength – physical and intellectual – to outwit and out maneuver any villain. But what helps to make today’s hero actually heroic, is his ability to restrain himself – his anger, his physicality, his sexual urges.

The Ordinary Hero

That’s how it is for my hero in Surrender at Canyon Road.

Blake, as everyone calls him, helped raise his baby sister. She’s a woman now, with a child of her own. And they’re in trouble, their lives threatened.

Not Your Mother's Hero - Surrender at Canyon Road

Not Your Mother's HERO - Surrender at Canyon Road

Not Your Mother's HERO - Surrender at Canyon Road

Not Your Mother's HERO - Surrender at Canyon Road

When all seems lost, Blake becomes desperate. And determined. He makes mistakes, of course, and he’s no angel. He’s aggressive and focused, and he’ll do whatever it takes to save his family.

From the back cover blurb:

Ransom in hand, Johnny “Blake” races to the drop point to rescue his sister and nephew only to wind up blindsided by a terrible double-cross. Now he’s stranded in the Colorado Rockies in the dead of night with no car and no options. Then the kidnappers call with new demands and Blake is forced to do the unthinkable.

Without the heroine’s help, he doesn’t stand a chance. She knows it. But she also needs him. And he knows it. How he convinces her of that, how he works toward forming a truce rather than take what he wants simply because he can, is what makes him a hero…worthy of a heroine’s love.

Have you read stories where a hero behaves – unapologetically – less than heroic? Where his actions – especially toward the heroine – are cringe-worthy? Were those books wall-bangers for you or did you find yourself reading on, silently hoping hero and heroine would find their way back toward the center and live happily ever after? Let me know – find me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

 


 

Available for Pre-Order – March 2020

Surrender at Canyon Road Not Your Mother's Hero - Surrender at Canyon Road

 

The Romance Heroine and Childhood Trauma

The heroine in my romantic suspense novel, Surrender at Canyon Road, (available May 2020!) survived trauma as a child through sheer wit, determination and courage. As a young girl, she was forced to adapt to the fluctuating moods of a severely ill parent who self-medicated rather than medicate properly. She had to endure the unpredictable rages of a parent who tried to drink his pain away. This left her fearful and perpetually on edge, always trying to appease, to hide, and to escape. She, as most children in unstable situations, carried the scars of that chaotic and frightening upbringing into adulthood.

The Lingerings Shadow of Trauma

As a survivor of a toxic prior relationship myself, I realize victims of abuse or other continuing trauma, whether child or adult, are often more focused on surviving each day than on anything else. They’re hopeful help is out there, but they’re often closed off from it, whether by their own fear or from the perilousness of their situation.

Once they’ve escaped, it’s often easier to pretend, on some level, that it never happened. Seeking help means looking back and facing the trauma, when in fact, the instinct is to keep going forward; taking with you all the survival techniques you had previously been forced to employ.

the thumbpint on the throat of many people is childhood trauma that goes unprocesses and unrecognized

In a recent post, Not Your Mother’s Romantic Suspense, I discussed the heroines of the past and present. It seems to me, a heroine abused or traumatized as a child or young adult in an old dime-story novel would see that abuse continue at the hands of the “hero”. Those heroes were all “alpha”, they commanded the world around them and gave pittance in return for loyalty and dedication. It wasn’t until the heroine soothed him, that we’d glimpse his more tender side. Yet, in the end, her past demons were never excised. Rather, she suddenly overcame the trauma once her bad boy was tamed. And they lived happily ever after. The pain of what brought that heroine to this point, of what created the person she now was in that story, forgotten, rather than addressed.

When things get hairy again, she immediately calls on the tried and true techniques that helped her endure the past

Lessons of the Past

As Surrender at Canyon Road opens, Dani is about to taste freedom and opportunity for the first time. She embraces the newness of it all with cautious glee. But she is fully aware of why she’s running; her wounds are still fresh. Despite that, she believes she’s distanced herself from it all enough to move forward. Naturally, she hasn’t.Childhood trauma taught her to be invisible - Surrender at Canyon Road

Her past has colored the way she sees the world now. And when things get hairy again, she immediately calls on the tried and true techniques that helped her endure the past, hoping, once modified and applied to fit new and escalating peril –not just for herself but for others in need of her help—she, and they, will somehow survive.

Have there been moments in your life so difficult you’re unsure how you came out of them whole? Do you try to ignore that they ever occurred, or have you dealt with the trauma of them in time? Perhaps you’ve gone through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. My hope is whatever the trauma from your past, in the present you’ve found inner peace, stability, and…one step beyond acceptance…happiness. Find me on Facebook or Twitter to add to the discussion.

Not Your Mother’s Heroine

New Release!

In my new romantic suspense, Surrender at Canyon Road, (available May 2020!), my heroine is faced with a harrowing choice. She must save herself or save her meager possessions.

Logically, we’d scream for her—for anyone—to save themselves. But in Dani’s case, giving up her possessions meant giving up everything she hoped to be, to achieve, and to escape. To her, those possessions were her life. They were the vehicle, literally and figuratively, to steer her away from her painful past and on to her hopeful future.

Given time to reassess, of course, Dani understands her possessions would be of no use to her if she were killed.

Not your Mother's Heroine - Surrender at Canyon Road

A Glimpse into the Heroine’s Motivation

However, a few lines from the story’s back cover blurb offers the tiniest hint of Dani’s emotional battle, and some insight to her initial, instinctual reaction – to save her stuff, and risk her life.

Dani Moyer is only a few good photographs and some winding mountain roads away from winning a contest that will change her life–until a stranger kidnaps her. She doesn’t believe his story about a kidnapped sister and her child. And she’s not giving up her dreams without a fight.

To Dani, it’s not just a contest. It’s a new life – her life. Her dreams. Her way to avoid tumbling back into the life she’d endured. Of course, she doesn’t realize driving away from that life won’t erase it from her mind, from her past or from reality. But escape is her initial plan, and she’d risk all to achieve it.

The Blurred Line between Brave and TSTL

It makes sense to me that my heroine, given her circumstances, would behave as she did. But I then wonder where the line is for the rest of us. What determines when you should defend your possessions and when you should abandon them to save yourself?

My last post, Not Your Mother’s Romantic Suspense, touched on the way romance heroes and heroines were once portrayed versus how they’re portrayed now. I believe a heroine from past works would enter the story naïve, and cause us to shake our heads at her decision to remain with her belongings. But today’s heroine has a different mindset. A different attitude and expectation for life. She’s unafraid to fight for herself. But, would she still be considered TSTL (too stupid to live) for standing her ground, for instinctually defending her possessions? Or would she be considered brave? Or…would that depend on whether she survives? Would perception change if she were a he; hero not heroine? Have you ever done something that seemed irrational to others—or even to yourself looking back—but felt perfectly logical and necessary to you at the time? Find me on Facebook or Twitter to add to the discussion.

Not Your Mother’s Romantic Suspense

Romantic Suspense of Yore

When I think of the Romantic Suspense genre from days gone by, the kind I once loved to read, I think of the innocent heroine, oblivious to the ways of the world, coddled and naïve, unaware of her own body and certainly oblivious about sex. Her role in the story wasn’t as much to follow her own dreams as to become the hero’s lover—by choice or by force. Of course, she’d eventually fall madly in love with the rogue, tame him then happily settle into her duties as wife and lady of the house. Naturally, some of the heroines did hold their own. As they tamed their hero, they absorbed some of his cunning, thus assuring us, the readers, things would be interesting for this couple beyond the confines of their book.

These men saved the day seemingly with ease, while stealing the heroine’s heart. And virginity.

The heroes who populated those works were strong silent alpha-males. Big and burly, they answered to no one but themselves. Everyone jumped or cowered at their barked commands. They were mysterious, angsty, and full of envious manly muscles. Everywhere. These men saved the day seemingly with ease, while stealing the heroine’s heart. And virginity. No matter the mess in which our heroine found herself, we always knew the hero would come to her rescue. It wouldn’t surprise us if the hero resented having to do so, nor would it surprise us if the heroine spent a good part of the following chapters ‘thanking’ him.

The villains of that period were rarely as dimensional, as cunning or powerful – or handsome – as the hero. As if all evil was flat, a prop that came out of a mist wrapped in a black cloak, face either hidden or hideous, with bad breath, bad intent, and no clear motivation beyond lust for power, revenge, or destruction.

Today’s Heroes, Heroines and Villains

I’d be surprised to find those kinds of characters in today’s romantic suspense novels. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, to find layered, even sympathetic villains, heroes who are extraordinarily ordinary men who learn as they go, who show fear and tenderness along with wit and determination, and heroines who not only outsmart, out maneuver, and out sex, but also kick ass.

Men and women Virginia Woolf - Not your Mother's Romantic Suspense

Yesteryear’s romantic suspense still holds a special place in my heart. I devoured those books. I adored the adventure, the possibility of an innocent heroine being loved by a worldly man who’d never given his heart to another – or who had, and since vowed never to do so again.

Today’s hero and heroine are worthy adversaries and even more worthy allies.

But today’s romantic suspense, the kind I now love to read and write, thrills me with a kind of intrigue of mind. A hero and heroine on equal footing is exciting to me. Their mental duels, and how they’re an integral part of the budding romance, are delicious.

Mostly, I enjoy discovering who the characters were prior to their being perilously thrust together. I especially love unraveling the intricacies of their pasts and seeing how those pasts stop them from forging ahead or spur them on; equally, because now, the heroine’s backstory is as rich and vital as the hero’s, with flaws, strengths and challenges.

The wounded sullen hero of today, whether alpha, beta or somewhere in between, is as layered as any man might be. He has his own flaws and strengths. He also has compassion. Today’s hero and heroine are worthy adversaries and even more worthy allies.

Do you look for a specific type of hero or heroine to populate your romantic suspense? Do you prefer heroes who appear on the page ready to take on the world or would you rather watch them come into their own as their story progresses? And your heroine…do you prefer her to be kickass, passive or somewhere in between? I’d love to know your thoughts. Share them with me on twitter, or Facebook.

 

A Freddie Mercury Biopic – Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian

Bohemian Rhapsody Biopic - Freddie MercuryTwenty-seven years ago today, on November 24, 1991, the world lost an enigmatic, bombastic, shy, beloved, lonely and multi-talented man whose musical ability still awes old fans while drawing in new.

Freddie Mercury wasn’t just the lead singer of one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Freddie Mercury was – is – a legend, which is precisely what he said he would be. That explains why his music is still enjoyed by people around the world…and why a film about his life, by the people we believe knew him best, would be a box office draw.

I admit I was hesitant about whether to see Bohemian Rhapsody, the “Freddie Mercury Biopic”. As a life-long QUEEN fan, I, like other QUEEN fans, have read a bit over the years about the group and about Freddie. I was certain there would be some liberties taken with Freddie’s storyline and I wasn’t sure I wanted to see them. I was also certain the empty feeling of loss would return once the film ended and “Freddie” was again gone. Both were true.

But first things first.

Rami Malek as Freddie

Rumor had it that Johnny Depp had once been considered to play the part of Freddie. As a long-time Depp fan, I was definitely on board with that. However, those plans fell through (or never were) and Sacha Barron Cohen was contracted for the role. Those plans fell through as well, due to creative differences. Thus, Rami Malek was given the role. Now that I’ve seen the film, I have to say I cannot imagine another actor embodying Freddie as well as Rami did – aside from Freddie himself. His energy, his gestures, his subtle insecurities and even his flares of anger, were so reminiscent of Freddie they would likely make the man himself laugh in appreciation and recognition. Except for the eyes…which were hazel(?) instead of a dreamy dark brown.

I haven’t seen a lot of movies this year, but I would even suggest Rami’s portrayal of Freddie was Oscar-worthy.

The Band

Ben Hardy, Gwilym Lee and Joseph Mazzello were Roger, Brian and John, respectively. For much of the time, I felt like I was watching the actual band members. I felt Gwilym Lee, as Brian, was particularly spot on in both appearance and, with some minor exceptions, personality.

Joseph Mazzello, whom I last saw on screen limping around after being fried by an electric fence in Jurassic Park, made me laugh aloud with his perfect impressions of John’s facial expressions. In one scene, he is lounging, legs crossed, on a couch. He’s somewhat blurred in the background of the shot, but just from the way he’s sitting there, it was as if John himself was in the scene.

Although Ben Hardy’s performance was enjoyable as well, his likeness to Roger was less pronounced, particularly in the moments he shared with Freddie (in other words, most of them), which leads to my next point.

“We’re a family”

We were told repeatedly throughout the film, how these four men were ‘like family’. We saw them create, quibble, and go on to make beautiful music together. But we never actually saw the family-side of their relationship. The connection history tells us these men had was nowhere to be found. If anything, the relationship between Freddie and Roger appeared frosty, grating and antagonistic, and yet those two men were good, close friends.

Roger Taylor, Peter Straker, Freddie Mercury

Roger Taylor, Peter Straker and Freddie

 

Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor

Freddie and Roger

John and Freddie were close as well, with a genuine bond that is barely, if at all, present in the film. John even played bass on one of Freddie’s solo albums, Barcelona, which was a collaboration between Freddie and opera soprano, Montserrat Caballe.

Freddie Mercury and John Deacon

Freddie and John Deacon

Instead, the relationship between these four amazingly talented men is shown as stilted and fair-weathered – even as we, the audience, are *told* by multiple characters that they were a family.

Overnight Successes rarely Happen

QUEEN was not an overnight success. They were not performing in a club one night and ‘discovered’ the next. They were not all in agreement, all the time, with the style or direction of their music. Artistic differences among all four members, not only Freddie, caused friction between them as in any relationship with strong personalities. While the film portrayed them butting heads personally, it rarely portrayed moments of conflict during the recording process. In fact, with the exception of one particularly famous outburst from Roger (an amusing nod to the audience), the creative process came across as deceptively smooth.

Another One Bites the Dust, for example, wasn’t written and recorded in one session as implied in the film. While that might be a minor overlooked Hollywood detail, it’s not minor to the history of QUEEN.

Freddie had even said t took months for them to record an album.

All four men butted creative heads consistently. All four men toiled over their music, dealt with ‘adjustments’ from the others regularly, and all four, together, were better for it. To present Freddie as the sole, constant, hysterical queen – with the single exception from Roger – was inaccurate because Freddie was a hysterical queen only slightly more than the others.

Hysterical Queen

It seemed to me that, throughout the film, Freddie was not only a hysterical queen, but constantly so. From real-life interviews, we know Freddie was definitely cheeky. He could also be charming, coy, abrupt and vulgar – all the things any one of us could be. He was a private person, wanting to present his art – his music, his bombast – to the world, then retire to a true home life with loving family and friends. Did he party? Did he drink and get high? Yes. He never denied any of that – and yes, for a while, he was a regular on the 80’s club scene.

But the film makes it seem as though the others were somehow untainted by that scene, as though they thought Freddie, singularly among them, needed to ‘grow up’.

The film also makes it seem that, since they didn’t have time for such childish behavior, Roger, John, and Brian frequently abandoned Freddie, passing on his invitations to spend time together, even for something as laid-back as a shared meal.

Although his loneliness was genuine in real life, Freddie did have true friends – a house-full of them who he counted on, loved, and trusted. He had his bandmates, his family, his cats, and, of course, he had Mary.

Mary Austin Jim Hutton, Freddie Mercury and more

Mary Austin (the love of Freddie’s life), Jim Hutton, one of Freddie’s housekeepers, Peter Freestone (Phoebe), Freddie and Joe Fanelli

Freddie’s Sexuality

While some have suggested the film white-washed Freddie’s sexuality, I disagree. During most of the film, I felt his sexuality was either on obvious display or appropriately subtle, including the scene where he meets Mary after exchanging a wink and a nod with another man in a public hallway. But there were also moments when his sexuality was on display as something much deeper, more emotional. I felt the complexity of it. the confusion. I felt his passion and drive, his need for affection and his desire to maintain his privacy about it. Even scenes with Mary directly addressed his sexuality, including a scene adapted from the true-to-life moment when he told her he thought he was bisexual and she said she thought he was gay.

He loved Mary until the end, and she loved him. Freddie even once referred to Mary as his “common-law wife”, and the portrayal of their connection – the pain and completeness of it – was palpable to me. In fact, I wanted more of that – more of their love affair, their oddly close yet distant relationship. The angst and pleasure of it. The ‘it’ that bound them together. The part of Freddie who Mary saw and loved. I wanted more of that because I believe it was that intimate part of Freddie that made him so appealing to men and women alike. On stage and off.

Mr. Bad Guy

Real life is not always as compelling as fiction, so artistic liberty is expected in a biopic such as Bohemian Rhapsody. However, I think it’s fair to say some liberties should be avoided – such as turning the lead character into a villain, especially when he’s not here to defend himself or otherwise set the story straight.

Freddie Mercury and Brian May

Freddie and Brian May in a music video for Freddie’s solo work: Living on My Own – with Brian looking less than teed about Freddie’s solo adventure.

In Bohemian Rhapsody, the biggest (and most upsetting to me) scramble of history was Freddie’s apparent betrayal of the group, where he supposedly abandoned them for a $4 million solo contract. After months of isolation and no contact with Jim Beach, any of the band members, or even Mary, the film shows Freddie begging to be ‘allowed’ to rejoin the band. Freddie, for once in the film, is shown to be on time for a meeting where he’ll make this request, only to be kept waiting by his suddenly passive-aggressive bandmates who deliberately stroll in some time later. Freddie is shown to be contrite and near pleading, and is then sent from the room by Brian, like a scolded child whose punishment was to be decided.

Meanwhile, in real life, the first among the band members to record a solo album was not Freddie but Roger, who did so in 1981 and then again in 1984. Freddie’s first solo album, “Mr. Bad Guy”, was released in 1985.

The same year as Live Aid.

Speaking of…

Jim Hutton and Live Aid

Jim Hutton and Freddie were in a relationship well before Live Aid – which was well before Freddie was diagnosed with AIDS. Freddie did not suddenly look up a love interest after being diagnosed. Rather, it was after they had been together for a while that Freddie told Jim he had “full-blown AIDS”. According to Jim himself, in his book MERCURY AND ME, Freddie told Jim he would understand if Jim left him, to which Jim replied that he loved Freddie and wasn’t going anywhere.

It’s a fact that Freddie’s voice was indeed weakened by AIDS…it is also a fact that Freddie downed vodka to lessen the pain of singing during studio sessions…but that was not during Live Aid, as portrayed in the film. It was several years later.

As stated before, Freddie was not yet diagnosed with AIDS at that point and, as history shows, Freddie, along with QUEEN, were in top form for their LIVE AID performance.

Rhapsody

If we look at this film as a Hollywood production, we will love it. In classic style, it shows the ugly duckling becoming the swan. It shows passion, love, conflict and heartache. It shows pain, hope and pride. It shows success, determination. And personal failure.

Obviously, it shows a condensed and modified version of QUEEN and of Freddie Mercury, and I do believe Freddie, the man who once referred to his music as “disposable pop”, would be appalled by the very idea of it.

Having said that, Bohemian Rhapsody also teased a side of Freddie that we, as an admiring or scoffing public only glimpsed: a confident though shy man whose charisma, talent and sexual prowess oozed from him as he stood upon the stage of life soaking in much deserved adulation. A man who had it all yet found himself, at times, home alone and lonely.

A “musical prostitute”. An inspiration. A flamboyant, energetic, crowd-rousing frontman. An unmatched vocal talent. A man whose star still shines bright and whose music, mastery, and mystique live on.

“I’m not going to be one of those old hams that keeps going on and on. I’d rather leave it at the top.” – Freddie Mercury

 

 

 

Johnny Depp is my Grindelwald

The Crimes of GrindelwaldLord Voldemort is no Gellert Grindelwald.

Why? Because as a villain, a dark lord, Lord Voldemort was so extreme, so vile and hateful and cruel, that he was easier to see as fictional than the insidious Gellert Grindelwald who easily wins people over to the dark side with soft words, a gentle touch and a deceptively calm demeanor.

Anyone who has stopped by here knows my love for the Harry Potter stories, and how much I admire the way they shaped the reading habits of an entire generation. My own daughter grew up with the books – reading them numerous times in English and in Russian.

Naturally when Fantastic Beasts came out, we were eager to dig into that adventure as well. Though not as spellbinding as Harry’s story had been – with the newness of it all: Hogwarts, Hedwig’s Theme, wands, cloaks, magical spells and good against evil – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as well as The Crimes of Grindelwald, do have their own magic. Their own newness. Their own sense of foreboding.

Attractive Villains are Easier to Love

As a charismatic and cunning villain, Johnny Depp’s Gellert Grindelwald confidently stood in the center of a crowded arena and told the people who had come to hear him speak of the evil that we, the ‘others’ – the muggles/no-majes – would inflict upon the world. He did not lie to them. He had no need to. Instead, in a blinding and vivid vision, Grindelwald showed them the coming horrors and destruction.

Horrors and destruction described in our own history books. Horrors and destruction we cannot ignore, forget or deny.

Yet Grindelwald’s plan to prevent it all – a plan willfully applauded by many in attendance – was darker, more horrific and destructive than what already seemed fated to come.

Sadly, he offered only one of two nightmare scenarios. And each was tainted by the lust for total dominion of one people over another ‘lesser’ kind.

Never Again?

The pitting of one people against another, the vilifying of whole groups, of blaming them for all the world’s ails…is as old as time. That’s why I find Johnny Depp’s spellblindingly understated portrayal of Gellert Grindelwald so terrifying. He’s refined. Beautiful. Charming. Yet beneath that compelling mystique are hints of a bubbling cauldron’s worth of power and emotion.

Warnings signs are all around us, in plain sight. They have always been. Yet while generation after generation adopts the slogan: “Never Again”, that same frightening and divisive call to arms is too often repeated. In film as in real life.

 

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