A Poignant Movie Laced With Comedic Lines….

I was checking the television guide yesterday and ran across the last part of the movie, “Stranger Than Fiction”. When I originally saw this, I approached it with caution since Will Farrell movies are not necessarily among my favorites. (My husband would immediately protest that “Talledega Nights” is a classic, but that is another topic.) “Stranger Than Fiction”, however, also starred Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, and Queen Latifah, and that tilted it into the “might as well try it category”. The essence of the story is that Farrell plays Harold Crick, an IRS employee who begins to experience strange sensations and hears a narrator speaking of him as if he is a character in a novel. Emma Thompson, who plays the author who has created Harold Crick, is not aware of his reality and she is stuck in trying to finish the book. Queen Latifah, in a marvelously understated role, plays the representative from the publisher who is an expert with assisting authors who are “stuck”. Dustin Hoffman plays a professor of literature whom Harold Crick turns to for advice.

In the meantime, Harold Crick’s real life (or does he have one?) has its own complications. The manner in which these elements are played out are crafted well notwithstanding a few typical Farrell moments. This is not a fall-out-of-your chair laughing sort of movie, but chuckles are in order as well as moments of tenderness that I am a sucker for. There are also wonderful insights into human nature – what would you do with your last few days if you thought you were fated to die? I do not consider this to be a chick flick, although there aren’t any car chases or explosions either. It is another one of those delightful movies that is well worth your time. I mean, you have lines like Dustin Hoffman saying to Will Farrell, “Well, we’ve determined that you’re not a Gollum.”

Experts Who Help With Books…..

Someone asked me a while ago if I preferred writing fiction or non-fiction. That’s difficult to answer  because they both have elements that I enjoy. Research is obviously important in doing non-fiction although with my novels, I try to be careful with the technical pieces. I have been able to meet some great people, mostly by telephone, but many in person, as I do my research. The most research intensive was Islands in the Sand: An Introduction to Artifical Reefs in the USA, and  I spoke with more than two dozen experts when I was working on that one. All of them were interesting and a few tipped into the fascinating category. The individuals who served on the USS Spiegel Grove were a lot of fun, too, and had some great stories. (Groupers and Gun Mounts: Inside the USS Spiegel Grove.)

On the mysteries side, I happen to have members of my family who are lawyers and judges, so that gives me the expertise I need when I have legal situations as part of a book. With that said, I received a telephone call that was utterly delightful from the real live treasure hunter who was the inspiration for the character of Captain Rory McFadden and the treasure operation depicted in Deadly Doubloons. (The actual link to this individual was through my scuba-diving, underwater photographer, treasure hunter banker friend who urged the idea for Doubloons.) Anyway, the real-life treasure hunter spends most of his time in the Caribbean and happened to be in Miami for a short stay. My banker friend called as they were finishing up lunch so the treasure hunter could tell me how much he enjoyed Doubloons. He said I nailed the characters and he loved the plot.

While it is always a pleasure to hear when people enjoy a book, it is especially nice when one of the experts that I depend on confirms that I “got their part right”. And unfortunately, I lost track of the pathologist who was really helpful during my work on Shades of Truth. In fact, he gave me so much information that I’ve been able to kill of several characters based on that one session that we had. You just never know when that kind of information will come in handy.

Summer Decisions…….

It is getting to be the time of year when parents start to think about summer camps or other programs and depending on where you live, you may have a lot of choices. When our son was at that age, fortunately we had the resources to send him to Space Camp, Audubon Camp, Astronaut Camp, Marine Mammal Camp – all with the idea that would help bolster his desire to lean toward the sciences. Of course, that was also in the days when we hadn’t a clue that there was a passion for dance that would override everything else. Had we known, and more importantly, had we accepted that fact, we could have sent him to dance camps and quite probably saved ourselves a great deal of grief later. The point to this story is that you need to think about why you are looking at certain activities for your child/children. If it is something they are genuinely interested in, that’s fine, but that doesn’t mean a specific activity will help solidify a future career choice. Outdoor camps can be a great option if there is an interest, but again, if a child is a novice at something, you’ll need to make certain that there is a true beginners level. And if your child doesn’t swim yet, I would strongly urge you to include swimming lessons in whatever other plans that you are considering. This really is a skill that everyone should have and the younger a child is when he or she learns, the easier it usually is.

Enrichment can come in many forms and in some programs, there can be a variety of topics offered to allow a child to participate in multiple activities. In other cases, an organized camp may not be the answer, but rather more trips to the library and day trips to interesting places if you have the ability to do so.

How about it readers? What summer camp/programs stories do you have?