Author Sara Barnard on Historical Romance, Oklahoma Plants, Chunky Sugars, and the Real “Friday Night Lights”

Like most of the other writers I adore today, I first met Sara Barnard on social media.  Anytime someone mentions Football Sweetheart on Twitter, I like to take the time to personally thank them… well, as personal as we can all get with a tweet to a stranger.  And sometimes the 140-character lines strike up a conversation that later lead to a new friendship, just like this particular instance with Sara.

Author Sara Barnard

When I thanked Sara for the tweet, her response grabbed my attention—being from the real Friday Night Lights school, she felt she just had to share the news about my book to her Twitterverse friends and family.  The following conversation went something like this:

Tiffany: You went to Odessa Permian?  I graduated from Midland Lee!
Sara: When did you graduate?
Tiffany: Mid ‘90s.  You?
Sara: Late ‘90s.
Tiffany: My mom graduated from Permian… she was a Pepette back in the day.
Sara: I was a member of the PHS pep squad!
Tiffany: And you write?
Sara: I do!
And so on, and so on.

We were instant friends… which makes sense, considering we grew up only fifteen miles apart from one another (give or take a few miles)!  And as my friend, I wanted to introduce Sara and her works to The Ooo Factor’s readers!

For a bit more on Sara, here is a brief bio:

Sara Barnard is a military wife and mother of four beautiful children. Though born and bred Texans, they have made their home all over the world and currently reside in the historic hills of Oklahoma. With each duty station, their family has grown a little more and they now co-exist with two Italian greyhound/border collie mixes, a Texan German shepherd, a beautiful belle of a cat from Colorado, a feisty Oklahoma Tomcat, and of course sweet Francis – the kitty who survived being flung from a speeding truck.

Sara holds her BA in History and is pursuing her MA in European History. Her historical romance series, An Everlasting Heart, is consistently five-star rated with books 3 and 4 releasing in June and December of this year. Her debut picture book, Chunky Sugars, released in January 2013 and her nonfiction regional children’s book, The ABC’s of Oklahoma Plants, has hit bestseller lists in both the print and digital versions. Sara is a member of the Western Writers of America.

Before we jump into the interview, check out Sara’s blurbs for her historical romance series, An Everlasting Heart.

Enjoy!

A Heart on HoldA Heart on Hold (An Everlasting Heart, #1):

How much grief can a heart bear before being tested to the ultimate limit? The war is over, Sanderson is home, and life is good … until the Army comes knocking. They have charged Sanderson with murder and sentenced him to “hang by the neck until dead” – unless he can track down the notorious outlaw William Quantrill with the help of SGT Jerry Thomas, who still may be in love with Charlotte. With Sanderson gone, Charlotte is left to endure a complicated pregnancy and a rash of hydrophobia that threatens Cotton, Achilles, and the entire countryside – her Sanderson included.

A Heart BrokenA Heart Broken (An Everlasting Heart, #2):

War. Devotion. Deceit. Death. How long can a heart hold on before it breaks? Most women would carry on with their lives after being thrust into widowhood, but not Charlotte Adamsland. Upon learning that her husband, Captain Sanderson Redding, was killed in a botched escape from a Confederate prison in Illinois, she clings to his promise to return to her no matter what, and quickly heads north through a war-ravaged country with only her faith in God and her beloved horse to bring her beloved Sanderson home – one way or another.

Heart at HomeA Heart at Home (An Everlasting Heart, #3):

Gold. Massacres. Soldiers. Indians. Can Charlotte survive life on the trail or will the wildness of the west tear her family apart?
With Sanderson’s job as an Indian Agent beckoning from California, Charlotte must leave behind her life in Arkansas to follow the man she loves, and whose child she is carrying, in search of a place they can call home.
From Quanah Parker to Wyatt Earp, Charlotte and Sanderson rub shoulders with some of the American West’s most notable characters as they stumble into Government conspiracies, endure a hard pregnancy, and survive nature’s fury — all while struggling to remember what truly makes a home is love.

*****

When you were a little girl, did you dream of one day writing a bestseller, or did you have something else in mind?

I always dreamt of writing, but never imagined a bestseller. For me, writing is has always been about getting the stories out of me and on paper … creating something that wasn’t there before and that nobody else could create … more than making a list. However, I can’t describe how happy I was when I learned that my very first book, The ABC’s of Oklahoma Plants, made bestseller lists in both kindle and print! I must admit, it does leave you a little hungry for more!

Where do you find the inspiration for your stories and what made you decide to write historical romance?

All of my inspiration comes from life … whether it be my life or someone else’s. For example, in my debut novel, A Heart on Hold, Charlotte is based on me. She has my insecurities, my trademark traits, faults, shortcomings, and even my habits. Sanderson is based on the real-life Confederate Captain E.A. Adams, who was chronicled only a short while before the history books fell silent, and of course he is based on my husband, as well.

I didn’t so much decide to write historical romance as they just sort of happened when I sat down at the computer one day. My husband was deployed and it was rough on both of us, so I took what we were each going through and tossed it back in the 19th century, one of my favorite time periods, and A Heart on Hold was born. My heat level is consistently sweet, not only because I like to keep a Christian thread running through my stories, but because I have a young daughter who reads everything she can get her hands on and I don’t want to write anything that would scar her for life should she read something of mine!

Who are a few of your favorite authors?

Larry McMurtry because he is simply a legend … Lucia St. Clair Robson because her writing is so powerful that I can still recall scenes from Ride the Wind as vividly from memory as I did when I read them 15 years ago … Ann Swann because not only is she my mother, but her writing has influenced me since I was a child, and Phillipa Gregory, whom I just recently started reading. My fellow 5 Prince Publishing authors are all awesome and write everything from paranormal to mystery to spicy contemporary romance.

The cover art for your books is amazing.  Did you design them yourself?

Thank you!! I wish I could take the credit! Viola Estrella is the cover artist for 5 Prince Publishing and she is amazing at what she does! She takes our ideas, the mood and setting of our books, and meshes it all together and the result is always a cover more amazing than you imagined in the first place. I can hardly wait to see how the cover for book 4, A Heart Forever Wild, will look!

Many writers imagine a celebrity or familiar face when developing their characters.  Did you have anyone particular in mind when writing Charlotte and why?

You know, I didn’t really imagine anyone in particular when creating Charlotte—at least not anyone popular in Hollywood today. Perhaps Sophie Marceau would be the closest I could come to pinning Charlotte to a Hollywood starlet J

Speaking of celebrities, who are you thinking of at this very moment?

Well, just writing about Sophie Marceau made me think of Braveheart, so I suppose my mind wandered to the illustrious Mel Gibson!

Besides writing historical romance, you also published a book about plants in Oklahoma.  Do you consider yourself to have a green thumb, and if so, what plants would we find on your back porch?

Well, we recently started a garden consisting of tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, and the like. I don’t really have a green thumb though, as I have managed to kill anything I’ve ever planted before. Sigh. In writing The ABC’s of Oklahoma Plants I hoped to get Oklahoma kids outside and discovering their own environments and the value of plants –that they’re not just boring green things that grow in their peripheral vision. I plan to do a book for each of the states and the Texas version is coming soon … hopefully this May!

 What other hobbies do you enjoy?

I love to read and write and enjoy the outdoors with my precious children. Movies are fun, especially ones that are like my books – based in fact and true historical truths. I love to help my babies with their homework and daydream with my husband about our future. Hiking is a favorite pastime of ours, as well as traveling and seeing new things and experiencing new, well, experiences! I recently was accepted into an MA program for European history, so it is no secret that I love to learn and love love love history. I also like the thought of painting, but am really not very good at it. My daughter is, though.

You have also published a children’s book.  As a mother of four, did any particular experience inspire the story of Chunky Sugars?  And do you have any future children’s books planned?   

Chunky Sugars is a true story. I won’t give any spoilers, but it was a lesson I certainly learned the hard way! I wrote this particular book for my fourth and chunkiest baby, Lil’ Bit. He still loves this story, as do all of my sweet babies! I have written a book for each of them, all are in consideration with 5 Prince Kids right now and I am so excited!

I wouldn’t be myself without asking about television – what are your favorite television programs airing today? 

I like The Americans and I loved Tudors, but neither of those are really suitable for family viewing. Little House on the Prairie, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Touched by an Angel, and Highway to Heaven are some of my all-time favorites. Oh, and Pocoyo.

Let’s switch to the big screen… what is your favorite movie all-time?

Braveheart. And Lonesome Dove.

What snacks do you order when at a movie theater? 

Milk duds, popcorn, and water!

Lastly, you, like me, have experienced the real “Friday Night Lights” in West Texas.  Having graduated from Odessa Permian, what’s your favorite high school football memory? 

And keep in mind I’m a Midland Lee Rebel… so be nice. 

Hehe! My years spent on the pep squad and on the dance team are by far my favorite football-related memories. Painting yard signs, painting run-throughs, Friday morning pep rallies, running with the “Seventh Flag Over Texas” down the football field before the games … the chilly Friday nights in the stands cheering for the Mojo football team – it sure brings back a flood of memories. I have also been accepted into a teacher certification program in the Permian Basin, and my hope is to teach history at Permian when the fam and I get around to moving back down south to Football Land!

*****

Isn’t Sara adorable?

Need more Sara?  Catch up with her at her website, or follow her via her Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Do you have a question for Sara?  Have you read any of her books?  Or how about this… do you have any “Friday Night Light” stories you’d like to share with these two West Texas high school football girls?  We’d love to hear from you! 

High School Movie Showdown – The Footballers

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love high school football.  Growing up in West Texas, I lived the real Friday night lights.  Everyone in the community either plays, cheers, or supports the local teams.  It was this atmosphere that gave me the idea for my Football Sweetheart series.  I took two things I loved—high school football and mysteries—and twisted them into stories of my own.

But enough about that.  Today’s post is the second installment of the High School Movie Showdown, and we’re featuring two of my favorite high school football movies—Varsity Blues and Friday Night Lights.

First up, Varsity Blues

Varsity Blues follows a group of high school football players in the fictional town of West Canaan, Texas.  Anybody who’s anybody plays their part for the team.  Training begins at a very early age—girls perfect their toe-touches as soon as they can jump, and boys practice tossing the pigskin through a tire hanging from a tree as soon as they can stand.

Everything comes crashing down around the boys in West Canaan when the star quarterback (Lance Harbor, played by Paul Walker from the Fast and the Furious franchise) injures his knee during a game and his good friend and backup (Jonathan “Mox” Moxon, played by James Van Der Beek from Dawson’s Creek) is thrown onto the field and thrust into the spotlight.

James Van Der Beek (Jonathan “Mox” Moxon) and Paul Walker (Lance Harbor)

Varsity Blues isn’t just about football, but more about teens finding their way in spite of what they have been conditioned to do.  This film is about as realistic as it gets when talking about high school football in West Texas, without actually claiming to be inspired by actual events: the coach’s win-at-all-costs attitude; the quarterback’s celebrity (everyone remembers the whipped cream bikini, right?); the realization that great moments are oftentimes the most painful; and the understanding that character is built by going against the norm.

Oh, and the ending can make even the toughest man cry.

Next up, Friday Night Lights

Two things come to mind when people outside the state of Texas think about West Texas—high school football and oil.  So, if everyone outside the state knows about the teenage pigskin programs, what do the people inside the state think?

Football is life.  Win at all costs.

By now, everyone has heard of Friday Night Lights—whether it is the book by H.G. Bissinger published in 1990, the motion picture produced by Brian Grazer in 2004, or the television series starring Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton that aired from 2006 until 2011.

But today we’re focusing on the film. 

Friday Night Lights follows Coach Gary Gaines (Hollywood great, Billy Bob Thornton) and his Odessa Permian football team.  Everything seems to be right on schedule and the boys are well on their way to accomplishing their one goal—win the Texas state championship.  That is until their star running back tears ligaments in his knee.

Coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton) MUST win to save his job…

Coach Gaines is immediately under fire in the media and around town; a head football coach’s job is never safe in West Texas without wins.  And when a star player goes down, people panic.

And his players?  They’re faced with a mound of obstacles—a coach that pushes them too far, parents living vicariously through their teenage lives, and the societal pressures of the Odessa community.

The team pushes through and the season ends with a three-way tie in the district between Permian, their arch-rival Midland Lee Rebels, and Abilene Cooper.  With a flip of a coin, Permian and Lee move on (yes, they really flipped coins in the ’80s to break a three-way tie in conference when determining playoff spots).   And of course, Permian rolls through the playoffs and meets a Dallas team (Carter High School) in the state championship.

But you have to watch the movie to find out what happens next….

The Permian Panthers…

So, when paired up side-by-side, which of these films would win—Varsity Blues or Friday Night Lights?

Look, like I said earlier, I grew up in West Texas.  I served my football team as an athletic trainer and have first-hand knowledge what it’s like “behind the scenes” on the practice field, in the locker room, and on the sidelines.

These movies take me back—whether I’m watching Friday Night Lights and remembering the rivalry games between Midland Lee and Odessa Permian that I, myself attended since childhood; or I’m watching Varsity Blues and vividly recalling the blood, sweat, and tears I felt with the players on my team as they struggled to maintain greatness and take it to the next level.

Bottom line: Both films are fantastic and portray what high school football is really like in West Texas.  I truly believe that both movies will achieve cult classic status and live on through their fans year after year.

But which one would win in a head to head battle?  The fictional West Canaan High Coyotes, or the loosely accurate portrayals of the real Odessa High School Permian Panthers?

I say Varsity  Blues.

Regardless of how many times I have watched this movie, I still bawl my eyes out at the end of this film.  Yes, it’s fictional; but man, does it bring back memories of my senior year and our final football game.

Yes, Mox… you are the winner!!

Oh, and the music rocks!  Collective Soul, Loudmouth, Green Day, Foo Fighters, Third Eye Blind, and Van Halen are just a few of the artists featured on the soundtrack.  Even though these artists and their featured songs are popular in their own right, I still can’t hear one of these tunes without thinking of Varsity Blues.

How about you?  Varsity Blues or Friday Night Lights?  Leave your pick in the comments… I’d love to hear from you!

Friday FabOoolousness – Fall, Football, and Friday Night Lights

I’ve asked it before, and I’ll ask it again…  what says Friday night during the fall months better than high school football?

The sun sets; the temperatures cool; and the sounds of marching bands, spectator’s cheers, and the crackling of shoulder pads crashing into one another echo throughout the neighborhoods.  Ah, the memories…

In honor of Football Sweetheart‘s recent release and football season everywhere, grab the old letter jacket, microwave some popcorn, grill a few hot dogs, crack open a coke, and curl up on the sofa for a great movie that reminds us all of the good ol’ Friday nights in fall.

By now, everyone has heard of Friday Night Lights – whether it be the book by H.G. Bissinger published in 1990, the motion picture produced by Brian Grazer in 2004, or the television series starring Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton that aired from 2006 until 2011.  Some even know the “real” Friday night lights—high school football in West Texas.

For the purpose of this post, we’re going to focus on the film.  Friday Night Lights is a perfect Friday night flick for fall.

The time – 1988

The place – Odessa, Texas

The who – the Permian High School football players

The dream – to win the state championship

The obstacles – a coach that pushes his players too far, parents living vicariously through their teens’ lives, and societal pressure

Football out in the middle of nowhere… West Texas.

Two things come to mind when people outside the state of Texas think about West Texas—high school football and oil.  So, if everyone outside the state knows about the teenage pig-skin programs, what do the people inside the state think?  Football is life.  Win at all costs.

Billy Bob Thornton as Coach Gary Gaines… he gives one fabOoolous performance!

Friday Night Lights follows Coach Gary Gaines (Hollywood great, Billy Bob Thornton), star Permian running back James “Boobie” Miles (Derek Luke), back-up running back Chris Comer (Lee Thompson Young), quarterback Mike Winchell (Lucas Black), fullback Don Billingsley (Garrett Hedlund), and safety Brian Chavez (Jay Hernandez) on their quest for a Mojo football championship.  The season seems to be right on schedule, but things erupt when Boobie tears his ACL.

Coach Gaines is immediately under fire in the media and around town; a head football coach’s job is never safe in West Texas without wins.  And when a star player goes down, people panic.

Billingsley and his dad…

As if the pressure isn’t already mounting for the kids, Billingsley is also faced with managing his father’s (country music star, Tim McGraw) drinking and outbursts.  Like many other former football stars, his father continues to live in the past and is humiliated that his son is not performing up to his standards.

The season ends with a three-way tie in the district between Permian, their arch-rival Midland Lee Rebels, and Abilene Cooper.  With a flip of a coin, Permian and Lee move on (yes, they really flipped coins in the ’80s to break a three-way tie in conference when determining playoff spots).   Permian rolls through the playoffs and meets Dallas Carter in the state championship.

Watch the movie to find out what happens next….

The Permian Panthers…

Have you seen Friday Night Lights?  Have you read the book?  Did you enjoy the television series?  I’d love to hear from you!

If you liked Friday Night Lights, check out my YA Mystery novel, Football Sweetheart… now available on Kindle and Nook!  Being a part of the Midland Lee Football Program can be murder…

And for those die-hard FNL fans, rumor has it that another Friday Night Lights movie is in the works… either that, or Connie Britton is one heck of a jokester!

On a personal note, I was born and raised in Midland, Texas and I’m a proud Midland Lee Rebel.  My father graduated from the first ever senior class at Midland Lee, as did my brother before me in the ’80s, and now my oldest nephew is a sophomore.  My mother retired last year, but taught at Midland Lee for a long time (no years, I promise…you wouldn’t believe me if I told you), but not before graduating from Odessa Permian and participating on the Mojo Pep Squad.  But if you asked her today, she’s 100% a Rebel!

Friday Night Lights, while fictional, does not stray far from the truth, and I highly recommend it to anyone attempting to understand the severity of high school football in West Texas.  I was a student trainer in high school, and I remember a man who traveled in his trailer to watch the Midland Lee versus the Odessa Permian football game because he read Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream.  I grew up watching Lee play, lived the annual showdown with Permian, and was shocked that someone from thousands of miles away would drive just to watch high school kids play football.  To me, it was just another Friday night game…

But West Texas football is a big deal.  Maybe we’re crazy?  But, we’re proud.

Friday FabOoolousness – Fall, Football, and Varsity Blues

I’ve asked it before, and I’ll ask it again…  what says Friday night during the fall months better than high school football?

The sun sets; the temperatures cool; and the sounds of marching bands, spectator’s cheers, and the crackling of shoulder pads crashing into one another echo throughout the neighborhoods.  Ah, the memories…

In honor of Football Sweetheart‘s recent release and football season everywhere, grab the old letter jacket, microwave some popcorn, grill a few hot dogs, crack open a coke, and curl up on the sofa for a great movie that reminds us all of the good ol’ Friday nights in fall.

Varsity Blues (1999)

High school football is life in West Canaan, Texas, and anybody who’s anybody plays their part for the team.  Training begins at a very early age—girls perfect their toe-touches as soon as they can jump, and boys practice tossing the pigskin through a tire hanging from a tree as soon as they can stand.

Jonathan “Mox” Moxon (James Van Der Beek, Dawson’s Creek) plays quarterback for the West Canaan team—backup quarterback.  His best friend, Lance Harbor (Paul Walker, the Fast and the Furious movies), is the starting quarterback.  The competition doesn’t bother the two boys, but it drives their fathers absolutely crazy.

The two teens seemingly have it all—Mox has the grades for prestigious Brown University, plus he has a healthy teenage relationship with his best friend’s sister (Jules Harbor, played by Amy Smart).  Lance doesn’t quite have the grades, but he does have an opportunity to play college ball, and he’s dating a gorgeous cheerleader (Darcy Sears, played by Ali Larter).

Everything comes crashing down around the boys when Lance injures his knee during a game and Mox is thrown onto the field and thrust into the spotlight.  Mox wasn’t as prepared as he should have been, having not expected to play, but he manages his way through the final buzzer and later rushes to the hospital to be by his friend’s side.

Doctors determine that Lance can’t play, and his football days have quite possibly come to an end.  Mox can’t believe what he’s hearing and he grows even more devastated when he learns that the team’s legendary coach (Bud Kilmer played by Hollywood great, Jon Voight) has been covering up minor knee tweaks here and there by injecting Lance with cortisone shots for a while now.

Mox makes the best of the situation and takes charge of the team with Lance and his other friends by his side: Charlie Tweeder, played by Scott Caan; Billy Bob, played by Ron Lester; and Wendell Brown, played by Eliel Swinton.

Varsity Blues isn’t just about football, but more about teens finding their way in spite of what they have been conditioned to do.

Varsity Blues is about as realistic as it gets when talking about high school football in West Texas, without actually claiming to be inspired by actual events: the coach’s win-at-all-costs attitude; the quarterback’s celebrity (everyone remembers the whipped cream bikini, right?); the realization that great moments are often times the most painful; and that character is built by going against the norm.

The ending can make even the toughest man cry, and this movie will forever be one of the best Friday night flicks for fall.

Oh, and the soundtrack is fabOoolous… Collective Soul, Loudmouth, Green Day, Foo Fighters, Third Eye Blind, and Van Halen to just name a few of the artists.

Now, I’m ready for some football!

Have you seen Varsity Blues?  Did your high school take football as seriously as West Canaan?  What other movies remind you of your high school days?  I’d love to hear from you!

If you liked Varsity Blues, check out my YA Mystery novel, Football Sweetheart… now available on Kindle and Nook!

Friday FabOoolousness – School’s Out, But These High School Movies Will Forever Live On!

With the upcoming release of my debut YA mystery novel, Football Sweetheart, I thought it would be fun to use this week’s Friday FabOoolousness post to share a few of my favorite movies about high school.

It all started for me when I was a little girl.  The movie may have been released when I was a baby, but it wasn’t long before I was singing along with Sandy and Danny…

And while many have agreed the sequel didn’t hold a candle to the original, I’m not ashamed to admit that I liked it too and can still remember the musical numbers.  Just ask my guy…

And then in 1984, John Hughes’ movies came into my life, some even stole my heart.  Yes, I said movies—plural.  I still watch every single one of these every opportunity I get.  If I still had a working VCR, I could watch them whenever I wanted…

And let’s not forget the non-John Hughes films…

As I got a little older, I turned to the more mature themed high school movies…

And I wouldn’t be myself without adding at least one slasher to the list…

And let’s not forget about the football movies…

Now as an adult, I appreciate one particular older film just as much as any of the above.  I can see why it’s a classic…

What are some of your favorite movies about high school?  What makes them so special?  I’d love to hear from you!

Come back next week when I share a few of my more recent favorites… you know, high school movies that have come out since the ’90s…

Tele-Tuesday: Creeping Through the Murder House

Yesterday was Halloween, so in keeping with the previous week’s Tele-Tuesday theme and the spooktacular holiday, we are taking a walk through FX’s new thriller – American Horror Story.

FX does it again with fantastic original programming.  Joining the likes of Nip/Tuck, Damages, and Justified, American Horror Story keeps with the creepy and dark story lines and doesn’t disappoint!

Following a miscarriage and an affair, Vivien and Ben Harmon leave Boston with their daughter looking for a fresh start.  The family buys a gorgeous house, despite learning that the previous owners both died in the basement in an apparent murder-suicide. 

The house is perfect for the Harmons; large enough for Ben (Dylan McDermott, The Practice) to open his private psychiatry practice, and outdated just enough to keep Vivien (Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights) busy redecorating.  At first daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga) doesn’t understand why the family has to move across the country, but she soon adjusts after she meets her father’s new patient and fellow “cutter” Tate (Evan Peters).    

The family’s new neighbors stop by to introduce themselves: Constance (Academy Award winner, Jessica Lange) and her daughter Adelaide. Constance warns Vivien that Addy has always been attracted to their new home and tends to walk in as she pleases, but fails to disclose that she too has a long history with the house.   

Next, Vivien meets Moira, the house’s former housekeeper.  After briefly visiting with Moira, Vivien decides to hire her to help tend to the house.  But here’s the creepy part – Vivien sees Moira as an older woman (played by Frances Conroy, Six Feet Under), but her adulterous husband sees Moira as a young and sexy maid (played by Alexandra Breckenridge, Dirt).   

Regardless of which version of Moira is on screen, Constance can’t stand her.  Years earlier, young Moira was sleeping with another former owner of the house (played by Eric Close from Without a Trace), a man who Constance loves.  After walking in on Moira and her lover having sex, Constance shoots and kills them both.  Constance doesn’t bother to notice that her boyfriend was forcing himself onto the beautiful housekeeper; instead, she just shoots point-blank into Moira’s eye before taking dead aim at his chest.    

Following a home invasion of crazy people reenacting a previous murder that allegedly took place in her house in the 1960s, Vivien decides to hop on board a tour bus that stops outside her new home to learn a bit of history about the house — The Murder House.

The house was built in the early 1900s by a Dr. Charles Montgomery for his wife, Nora.  Suffering from a down economy, the doctor performs abortions inside the house for extra money.  It’s not long before an angry family member of one of Charles’ patients kidnaps and murders his son.   The events destroy the family, particularly Nora, but when the doctor begins to sew his son back together like a Frankenstein monster, his wife loses it. 

In the 1960s, a group of sorority girls live in the house.  Maria, a devout Christian, answers the door to find a bleeding man on the front porch.  She brings him inside and calls upstairs for the house nurse to help — but it’s a set up.  The man and his friends drown the nurse, and hog tie and brutally murder Maria. 

Vivien has heard enough.  Noticing blood, she jumps off the tour bus and rushes to the doctor afraid she’s suffering another miscarriage.  Her baby is fine, but despite her doctor’s warning to not attempt a move during pregnancy, Vivien insists they sell the house.   

In addition to the legends that Vivien has already heard, the house has an even longer history of death making it difficult for the realtor (Christine Estabrook, Desperate Housewives) to show the house.    

In the 1970s, the house was vacant and set of red-headed twin tweens enjoy vandalizing the property.  Young Adelaide warns the two to not go inside, but they ignore her and continue to break lights and wreak havoc on the house.  After entering the basement, the two boys are murdered. 

Another previous owner, Larry Harvey (Denis O’Hare, True Blood), set the house on fire while his wife and daughters slept.  He too burned, but was spared before perishing himself.  After serving years of his life sentence in prison, he was diagnosed with an advanced stage of brain cancer and was released to live out the remainder of his days a free man. 

Larry begins to stalk Ben and warns him that he must get his family out of that house…

On Halloween 2010, gay lovers Chad (Zachary Quinto, Heroes) and Patrick (Teddy Sears, Raising the Bar) die while preparing to celebrate the festive holiday.  Following a fight, Patrick storms off and a mysterious man dressed in rubber drowns Chad in his apple-bobbing station. 

Attempting to mend fences with his lover, Patrick rushes home wearing his Halloween costume and discovers his partner’s body before suffering his own untimely death at the hands of The Gimp.  As we can see, the previous owners did not die in a murder-suicide, as the realtor tells it, but rather a double homicide.     

Past events continue to unfold, but remember one of the reasons why the family moved away from Boston?  Ben had an affair with his student (Hayden played by Kate Mara from We Are Marshall). 

Hayden announces she is pregnant and shows up at the Harmon house hoping to convince Ben to take care of her or warns she will ruin his marriage.  Crazy Larry takes a shovel to Hayden’s head and Ben covers up the murder by burying her in a grave in the backyard.  As Larry sees it, Ben now owes him; and the house has a new ghost lingering around.

Speaking of the grave, there were other bodies down there: Moira for one.  Constance explains this is why the slain housekeeper is forever tied to the house, especially after Ben builds a gazebo to cover up Hayden’s body.  But are there other bodies down there too? 

All this after just four episodes…    

What do you think?  Have you watched American Horror Story?  Who is The Gimp?  What happened to Tate?  What happened to Constance’s other children, and is she a ghost?  Speaking of Constance, isn’t Jessica Lange magnificent?   What happened to Mrs. Montgomery?  Will Addy be tied to the house along with the other ghosts?  Will the Harmons escape The Murder House?  Who is the father of Vivien’s baby, her husband or the man in the rubber suit?  There are so many questions…I’d love to hear what you think!

Friday FabOoolousness – Friday Night Flicks for Fall: Friday Night Lights

By now, everyone has heard of Friday Night Lights – whether it be the book by H.G. Bissinger published in 1990, the motion picture produced by Brian Grazer in 2004, or the television series starring Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton that aired from 2006 until 2011.  Some even know the “real” Friday night lights – high school football in West Texas

For the purpose of this post, we’re going to focus on the film.  Friday Night Lights is a perfect Friday night flick for fall. 

The time – 1988

 The place – Odessa, Texas

 The who – the Permian High School football players

The dream – to win the state championship

The obstacles – a coach that pushes his players too far, parents living vicariously through their teens’ lives, and societal pressure 

Two things come to mind when people outside the state of Texas think about West Texas – high school football and oil.  So, if everyone outside the state knows about the teenage pig-skin programs, what do the people inside the state think?  Football is life.  Win at all costs. 

Friday Night Lights follows Coach Gary Gaines (Hollywood great, Billy Bob Thornton), star Permian running back James “Boobie” Miles (Derek Luke), back-up running back Chris Comer (Lee Thompson Young) quarterback Mike Winchell (Lucas Black), fullback Don Billingsley (Garrett Hedlund), and safety Brian Chavez (Jay Hernandez) on their quest for a Mojo football championship.  The season seems to be right on schedule, but things erupt when Boobie tears his ACL. 

Coach Gaines is immediately under fire in the media and around town; a head football coach’s job is never safe in West Texas without wins and when a star player goes down, people panic.   

As if the pressure isn’t already mounting for the kids, Billingsley is also faced with managing his father’s (country music star, Tim McGraw) drinking and humiliating outbursts.  Like many other former football stars, Billingsley’s father continues to live in the past and is humiliated that his son is not performing up to his standards.

The season ends with a three-way tie in the district between Permian, their arch-rival Midland Lee Rebels, and Abilene Cooper.  With a flip of a coin, Permian and Lee move on (yes, they really flipped coins to break a three-way tie in conference when determining playoff spots).   Permian rolls through the playoffs and meets Dallas Carter in the state championship. 

Watch the movie to find out what happens next…. 

Have you seen Friday Night Lights?  Have you read the book?  Did you enjoy the television series?  I’d love to hear from you!

Rumor has it that another Friday Night Lights movie is in the works….

On a personal note, I was born and raised in Midland, Texas and I’m a proud Midland Lee Rebel.  My father graduated from the first ever senior class at Midland Lee, as did my brother before me, and now my oldest nephew is a freshman.  My mother has taught at Midland Lee for a long time (no years, I promise…you wouldn’t believe me if I told you), but not before graduating from Odessa Permian and participating on the Mojo Pep Squad.  

Friday Night Lights, while fictional, does not stray far from the truth, and I highly recommend it to anyone attempting to understand the severity of high school football in West Texas.  I was a student trainer in high school, and I remember a man who traveled in his trailer to watch the Midland Lee versus the Odessa Permian football game because he read Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream.  I grew up watching Lee play, lived the annual showdown with Permian, and was shocked that someone from thousands of miles away would drive just to watch high school kids play football. 

West Texas football is a big deal.  Maybe we’re crazy?  But, we’re proud.

Friday FabOoolousness – Friday Nights Flicks for Fall: Varsity Blues

What says Friday night during the fall months better than high school football?  The sun sets; the temperatures cool; and the sounds of marching bands, spectator’s cheers, and the crackling of shoulder pads crashing into one another echo through the neighborhoods.  Ah, memories.

So, grab the old letter jacket, microwave some popcorn, grill a few hot dogs, crack open a coke, and curl up on the sofa for a great movie that reminds us of the good ol’ Friday nights in fall. 

Varsity Blues (1999)

High school football is life in West Canaan, Texas, and anybody who’s anybody plays their part for the team.  Training begins at a very early age: the girls perfect their toe-touches and the boys practice tossing the pigskin through a tire hanging from a tree as soon as they can stand. 

Jonathan “Mox” Moxon (James Van Der Beek, Dawson’s Creek) plays quarterback for the West Canaan team.  Backup quarterback.  His best friend, Lance Harbor (Paul Walker, Fast and the Furious I, II, IV, V), is the starting quarterback.  The competition doesn’t bother the two boys, but it drives their fathers absolutely crazy.

The two teens seemingly have it all – Mox has the grades for prestigious Brown University, and he has a healthy teenage relationship with his best friend’s sister (Jules Harbor played by Amy Smart, Butterfly Effect).  Lance doesn’t have the grades, but he does have an opportunity to play college ball, and he’s dating a gorgeous cheerleader (Darcy Sears played by Ali Larter, Heroes).

Everything comes crashing down around the boys when Lance injures his knee during a game.  Mox is thrown onto the field and thrust into the spotlight.  He wasn’t as prepared as he should have been having not expected to play, but he manages his way through the final buzzer and later rushes to the hospital to be by his friend’s side. 

Doctors determine that Lance can’t play.  His football days have quite possibly come to an end.  Mox can’t believe what he’s hearing and grows even more devastated when he learns that the team’s legendary coach (Bud Kilmer played by Hollywood great, Jon Voight) has been covering up minor knee tweaks here and there by injecting Lance with cortisone shots. 

Mox makes the best of the situation and takes charge of the team with Lance and his other friends by his side (Charlie Tweeder played by Scott Caan, Hawaii Five-0; Billy Bob played by Ron Lester, Not Another Teen Movie; and Wendell Brown played by former Kansas City Chief, Eliel Swinton ).  Varsity Blues isn’t just about football, but more about teens finding their way in spite of what they have been conditioned to do.

Varsity Blues is about as realistic as it gets when talking about high school football in West Texas, without actually claiming to be inspired by actual events: the coach’s win-at-all-costs attitude; the quarterback’s celebrity (everyone remembers the whipped cream bikini, right?); the realization that great moments are often times the most painful; and that character is built by going against the norm.

The ending can make even the toughest man cry, and this movie will forever be one of the best Friday night flicks for fall. 

Next week, Friday Night Lights….    

Have you seen Varsity Blues?  Did your high school take football as seriously as West Canaan?  What other movies remind you of your high school days?  I’d love to hear from you!

Tele-Tuesday: Fall Brings More Laughs…and adds Dinosaurs and Screams

It’s that time of year again!  The fall television schedule is right around the corner and, as always, the networks have a lineup of many new programs to accompany our returning favorites. 

This is week three, and we’re still introducing more of the new television programs this fall.  Some of the series have promise, while others may flop – but, regardless, we’ll tune in to check them out!

Today, it’s time for even more new comedy, plus a new sci-fi program and horror series!

*****

Terra Nova – FOX

Fox joins the science fiction revolution with Terra Nova, a story that follows a family’s journey back in time to pre-historic days searching for answers to protect the human race in 2149.  The land seems perfect, except for a few life threatening downfalls –dinosaurs and renegades known as the Sixers. 

Terra Nova stars Jason O’Mara (Life on Mars) as Jim Shannon, the family’s patriarch and sheriff of the Terra Nova colony, and Stephen Lang (Gods and Generals, Avatar) as Commander Nathaniel Taylor, the leader of Terra Nova.      

Other notables: Steven Spielberg serves as an executive producer along with other members of the 24, Falling Skies, and Fringe teams.   

Terra Nova premieres Monday, September 26th.

*****

Suburgatory – ABC

Suburgatory follows single dad George Altman (Jeremy Sisto, Law & Order and Clueless) as he relocates with his teenage daughter, Tessa, from New York City to a suburban neighborhood.  Tessa immediately feels that her father has moved her into another dimension with all of the seemingly perfect families, and is mortified by the perky mothers and plastic surgery obsessed teenage girls. 

Will George and Tessa survive their life inside their very own suburban purgatory? 

Other notables: Suburgatory also stars Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm) as Dallas Royce (perfect rich suburban mom name, right?), Alan Tudyk (Firefly, Dollhouse), and Saturday Night Live alums Chris Parnell (Archer) and Ana Gasteyer. 

Suburgatory premieres Wednesday, September 28th.

*****

How to be a Gentleman – CBS

How to Be a Gentleman stars David Hornsby (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Six Feet Under) as Andrew Carlson, a writer assigned with the task of adding sexiness to his column.  The problem?  Andrew isn’t all that familiar with sexiness.  

Therefore, Andrew hires Bert Lansing (Kevin Dillon, Entourage), a friend and current fitness trainer, for guidance.  The phrases “opposites attract” and “night and day” come to mind when researching this new comedy. 

Other notables: How to be a Gentleman is based on a book of the same name by John Bridges, and also stars funny man Dave Foley (The Kids in the Hall, Celebrity Poker Showdown), and Jack Bauer’s right hand woman, Chloe O’Brian – aka Mary Lynn Rajskub (24). 

How to Be a Gentleman premieres Thursday, September 29th.

*****

American Horror Story – FX

From the creators of the FX great, Nip/Tuck, American Horror Story stars Dylan McDermott (The Practice, Dark Blue) and Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) as husband and wife, Ben and Vivien Harmon.  FX usually keeps “mum” on their new series; however, we do know that Ben and Vivien move into a haunted mansion….and the story is spooky!    

Other notables: American Horror Story also stars Francis Conroy (Six Feet Under), Denis O’Hare (True Blood), and Zachary Quinto (Heroes, Star Trek), as well as Hollywood great and Academy Award winning actress, Jessica Lange (King Kong, Tootsie, Cape Fear, need I say more?). 

Isn’t the cast alone worthy of a watch?

American Horror Story premieres Wednesday, October 5th.

*****

Last Man Standing – ABC

Last Man Standing brings comedian great Tim Allen (Home Improvement, The Santa Clause movies) back to television as Mike Baxter, an adventurous “manly-man” working for an outdoor sporting goods store.  But, when Mike gets home, he’s surrounded by women: his wife (Nancy Travis, Three Men and a Baby, Becker, and The Bill Engvall Show) and three daughters. 

How will Mike adapt when his wife goes back to work and he has to stick around the house a bit more? 

Other notables:  Last Man Standing also stars Hector Elizondo (Chicago Hope, Monk) as Ed, Mike’s boss. 

Last Man Standing premieres Tuesday, October 11th.

*****

What do you think?  Will you tune in to watch any of these new shows?  Which one most interests you?  Which of these shows will make it and which ones won’t? I’d love to hear from you!

Tele-Tuesday: Fall Wouldn’t Be the Same Without New Crime and Drama

It’s that time of year again!  The fall television schedule is right around the corner and, as always, the networks have a lineup of many new programs to accompany our returning favorites. 

Similar to the last two weeks, we’re introducing more of the new television programs this fall.  Some of the series have promise, while others may flop – but, regardless, we’ll tune in to check them out!

Today, it’s time for new crime and drama!

****

 Unforgettable – CBS

Unforgettable stars Poppy Montgomery (Without a Trace) as former New York City detective Carrie Wells.  Carrie remembers everything:  every moment and every aspect of every day.   When asked to help the police solve a crime, Carrie is reunited with her ex, Detective Al Burns (Dylan Walsh, Nip/Tuck).  Carrie decides to rejoin the force with one major goal – solve her sister’s murder.

Other notables: Marilu Henner (Taxi) plays two roles: first as a production consultant (similar to the main character, Henner possesses the rare ability to recall all autobiographical events, a condition known as hyperthymesia) and second as a recurring guest; and, Michael Gaston (The Mentalist) plays Detective Mike Costello.

Unforgettable premieres Tuesday, September 20th.

*****

Revenge – ABC

Revenge stars Emily VanCamp (Everwood) as Emily Thorne, a young and beautiful addition to the rich and prestigious Hamptons.   Emily’s arrival isn’t her first trip to the neighborhood.  When she was a little girl, her father was framed for murder and Emily vows revenge against those responsible – primarily the Grayson family. 

Other notables: Revenge is loosely based on Alexandre Dumas’ novel, The Count of Monte Cristo, and the series also stars Madeleine Stowe (from many motion pictures including Stakeout, Twelve Monkeys, and The General’s Daughter) as Victoria Grayson. 

Revenge premieres Wednesday, September 21st.

*****

Charlie’s Angels – ABC

Yet another adaptation of the popular ‘70s television program that starred Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith, and Cheryl Ladd, to only name a few, this remake of Charlie’s Angels stars three new young and beautiful starlets: Annie Ilonzeh (General Hospital) as Kate Prince, a former dirty cop; Minka Kelly (Friday Night Lights, The Roommate) as Eve French, a former street racer; and, Rachael Taylor (Grey’s Anatomy) as Abby Sampson, a former thief.   The three angels work for John Bosley (Ramon Rodriguez, Day Break and The Wire), the face of Charlie’s agency (Townsend Detective Agency), and will protect each other at all costs. 

Other notables: Charlie’s Angels is produced by Drew Barrymore, an angel herself in the motion picture hits; Leonard Goldberg, an original producer of the ‘70s hit; and,  Nancy Juvonen, producer of the major motion pictures starring Drew  Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy LiuRobert Wagner was supposed to follow in John Foresythe’s footsteps as the voice of Charlie; however, Wagner had to leave the project due to other conflicts.

Charlie’s Angels premieres Thursday, September 22nd.

*****

Person of Interest – CBS

Person of Interest stars Michael Emerson (Lost) as billionaire Mr. Fitch, and Jim Caviezel (from many motion picture blockbusters including A Thin Red Line and The Passion of the Christ) as former CIA agent, John Reese.  The two men find each other after Mr. Fitch creates a software program that has the ability to predict crimes.  Fitch seeks out Reese to help solve these crimes before they happen.  Why?  Because the former CIA agent is presumed dead – who better to help stop these crimes before they happen than a dead man?  

Other notables: Person of Interest is produced by J.J. Abrams (Alias, Lost, Fringe); and, also stars Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) as Carter, the detective on a mission to find Reese. 

Person of Interest premieres Thursday, September 22nd.

*****

 Prime Suspect – NBC

Based on the British drama series of the same name, Prime Suspect stars Maria Bello (Coyote Ugly, ER) as Detective Jane Timoney.  Jane’s confidence, lack of tact and reckless behavior make her adjustment in the New York City homicide division challenging.  Will her fine detective skills and her ability to focus on the case at hand help her fit into the all-male department?

Other notables:  Prime Suspect also stars Aidan Quinn (Legends of the Fall, Practical Magic, and TV’s Third Watch) as Lieutenant Kevin Sweeney; Kirk Acevedo (Fringe) as Detective Luisito Calderon;  Peter Gerety as Jane’s father, Desmond; and, Tim Griffin, Damon Gupton, and Brian F. O’Byrne as other members of the  homicide department. 

Prime Suspect premieres Thursday, September 22nd.

*****

A Gifted Man – CBS

A Gifted Man stars Patrick Wilson (The Phantom of the Opera, The A-Team, Insidious) as Michael Holt, a self-absorbed New York City surgeon whose life is turned upside down when his ex-wife haunts him from beyond the grave and asks him to continue her work in a free clinic.   Michael’s life changes for the better, pleasing his sister (Christina played by Julie Benz, Dexter and No Ordinary Family), while leaving his assistant (Rita played by Margo Martindale, Justified) questioning his recent career choices. 

Other notables: A Gifted Man is produced by Academy Award winning director, Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs); and Twilight and The Twilight Saga: New Moon alumnus, Rachelle Lefevre (vampire Victoria) plays Kate, a doctor at the free clinic.

A Gifted Man premieres Friday, September 23rd.  

*****

What do you think?  Will you tune in to watch any of these new drama and crime programs on television this year?  Which one most interests you?  Which of these shows will make it and which ones won’t? I’d love to hear from you!

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