Trevor Clark is at QuestCon in Las Vegas with his buddies Clint and Enzo. He is interested in diving into geek culture, while Clint is constantly pressuring him to ask out women. When he goes into a Q&A session with the cast of the latest superhero movie cast –Prism Fighters—Trevor calls out: “Madison Duncan, will you marry me?” on a dare from one of his friends.
Who is Madison Duncan? She is the blonde-haired beauty whom the media has dubbed “The Ice Queen.” In an attempt to change her image, Madison just laughs at Trevor’s question and says, “Sure, you free tonight?”
Trevor’s question to Madison –asked in plain sight of hundreds of witnesses– blows Clint’s mind, but Trevor thinks Madison was just joking and leaves the Q&A to talk to regular girls… only to get hauled off in mid-sentence by a security guard to a private room. Madison Duncan soon joins Trevor, and reveals she was not joking at all…
But does she want to marry Trevor out of love at first sight, or for more ersatz, publicity-related reasons? The answer lies within the pages of Valerie Seimas’ novel RomCon.
I have had the privilege of editing two of Valerie’s novels, including RomCon. Valerie was gracious enough to take some time out from her schedule for a short Q&A with me.
Tony Held: What inspired you to write RomCon?
Valerie Seimas:Years ago I was at work listening to the radio and I heard someone make a joke about Cameron Diaz being proposed to at ComicCon. And I thought about how celebrities must get marriage proposals from strangers all the time – what if they said yes? There the premise of RomCon was born!
TH:Did any specific actress inspire your novel’s leading lady, Madison Duncan?
VS:Not really, no. The media gives out nicknames like “America’s Sweetheart” or “The Girl Next Door” and I was just interested in looking at the other side of the coin, someone that the media wasn’t infatuated with in a positive way.
TH: Did X-Men inspire your fictional Prism Fighters superheroes?
VS: More like The Big Bang Theory. I was really intrigued by the amount of enthusiasm and attention to detail those characters have about the comic books they love and how protective they are when it makes the translation to the big screen so I decided to create my own to play with. The comments about Madison’s hair not being right for the part – I stole that from the critiques Jennifer Lawrence got when she was cast as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. I think both Jennifer and Madison were able to rise above. 🙂
TH:Why –in your opinion– is romantic comedy so popular?
VS: Romance and laughter – what’s not to love? I love that my books are considered romantic comedies and not just romance novels because making people laugh is hard. Being successful at that is rewarding. Besides ‘I cried’, ‘I laughed’ is the best response I could get to my writing because it shows that people connected to it. But why are romantic comedies popular? The world is unpredictable but with a romantic comedy you know what you’re getting – a happily ever after. And there’s hope in that.
TH:“RomCon” means “Romance Convention,” correct?
VS:The title means a lot of things! It’s a play on romantic comedy obviously but it also calls to mind the convention aspect as well as telegraphing that most of the book they are essentially running a con. I think the made up phrase encapsulates the tone of the book perfectly – romantic, geeky, and full of humor.
TH:What is the status of your next novel?
VS: My next novel, Royally Screwed, is just getting the finishing touches. It should be out in the next couple of months, definitely before Easter. If you like your princes devilishly charming and your women too smart to take them seriously, you’ll want to check it out.
I recently had the honor of doing an interview with actor Patrick Gorman, who portrayed General John Bell Hood in my most favorite movie of all, Gettysburg.
Our interview was conducted in part via telephone and in part via e-mail, which is why I ask questions that start with “Could you tell me again…” I am a good writer, but my transcribing skills are so-so.
Our interview contains tidbits that not only fans of Gettysburg and its prequel Gods and Generals might find interesting, but there is also some stuff here for fans of Robert Redford and Sydney Pollack as well. Patrick’s first motion picture role was a part in none other than Three Days of the Condor.
Tony Held: Was it hard or easy to recite the
lines Ron Maxwell wrote, given his style of utilizing the manner in which
people in the 1860s spoke?
Patrick Gorman: It really wasn’t difficult.
Of course, I’ve played classical theater, Shakespeare, Greek tragedy,
Restoration, and all that. So, language is naturally part of what I deal
with all the time. I liked the dialogue. I liked what I had to say
as Hood, and it seemed accurate and good.
TH: Were any of your scenes filmed on the actual
PG: Yes. There’s a scene of me in the
midst of the battle on horseback directing the troops, pointing my sword, and
all that. It was actually filmed on the hill going up to Devil’s Den,
where the artillery pieces were. Hood never made it there of course to
[Devil’s Den]; he was in sight of Devil’s Den in the Peach Orchard, where he
was wounded, but he never got that far. We actually filmed those battle
sequences on the battlefield where you see me on horseback (no dialogue scenes)
The confrontation between Longstreet and Hood
was filmed actually in sight of the Round Tops (I mean they were in the
background; that was them.) We were there. I do not know if that
was where they had the conversation, but that was where we filmed.
There were lots of experiences for all of us.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never had a true metaphysical experience
in my life as far as I know; but there were experiences where I had a powerful
feeling that (not that I’d been there as General Hood, of course) but that that
place was all too familiar to me. Many spots in Gettysburg –from the
battlefield and ‘round about it— I had this un-canny feeling that I had been
there. I know that sounds terribly romantic and maybe a little dramatic;
but I wasn’t the only one [who had that experience]; a couple other people [had
them], especially around Devil’s Den.
TH: What was it like working with Tom Berenger and Martin Sheen?
PG: Berenger was really the heart of the Confederacy for us. I’ve told this story before, but when we had the big table read before we started the film (and I’d never met or worked with Berenger before) during the reading I noticed he’d brought in a bunch of boxes; and in between [the reading], on breaks, he was taking out swords and giving them to the various officers in his corps. I thought “Oh, how neat; how thoughtful: he went to props and got these swords.” And he gave me one too, a sabre. It was engraved, it was beautiful. The blade was an actual 1861 blade; the hilt and everything else was [a] reproduction. It turned out… he had gone out on his own dime and bought those swords. Each one was different for each officer. Mine was engraved “Maj. General, John Bell Hood, 1st Corps. Compliments, Lieut. Gen. James Longstreet, Army of Northern Virginia.”
He was very generous and a wonderful guy to work with; and it was his intent to get this done and get it done right.
With Martin Sheen: Well, there’s a really gentle man who can play tough as nails, and a wonderful, wonderful, actor to work with. I didn’t have that many scenes with him, but he was a great presence.
You know, he got that role at the last minute, because [Robert] Duvall was originally supposed to do it, but he had a big movie where they were gonna pay him a lot of money, or something, and he had to back out at the last minute (I believe that’s the story).
Martin Sheen [had] almost no preparation. [He had] only a couple of weeks. So, when talking to him, he said “You know, in this film I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.” He said, and rightly so I believe: “Everyone who knows anything about the Civil War has their impression of Robert E. Lee; and I don’t care how many books I read about it, I’m never going to satisfy them.” And a lot of people were critical of his performance or played it down; but I thought he really got that aspect of Lee where Lee was frail, and probably had a stroke sometime either just before Gettysburg or at the beginning. For me he really nailed that. I always liked his Lee. Of course, Duvall looked more like [Lee] and had another presence. But Martin Sheen’s a superlative actor, a wonderful man. He was good to be around him and I thought his Lee was excellent.
I was still there when they did Pickett’s Charge; and when they were all getting set up there in the tree line and the cannons were all getting set up…there was a moment where Martin came out on horseback in uniform and started riding down to where Ron was. And all the re-enactors spontaneously (this wasn’t staged at all; I even get choked up talking about it) started crowding around him and saying the things they knew the troops said to Lee and tried to touch him. It was a real outpouring of true emotion.
I was right next to Ron. Ron said to the cinematographer, “Get the cameras going; you gotta get this, you gotta get this.” And they filmed it. And Martin Sheen of course played it; at first he was taken aback, but quickly realized the truth of the moment, this was the way [Lee’s] troops felt about him, and played it. And of course that was a magical moment in the film which was real. It was not staged, it was not planned, it just happened; and it was truthful to history. So that was a touching, perfect moment.
TH: Yes, I am looking at that part right now in fact, and I notice that Stephen Lang was with Sheen as they are riding down to Ron; and at one point Stephen has to kind of drop behind Sheen because everybody is getting right up close to him just like Lee’s troops really did.
PG: Right. That was not staged at all. It was one of those happy accidents, if you will.
PG: Right. Very often there will be directors who instruct their cameraman to not cut when they actually say “cut.” I’ve been in a couple films where they used what I did before and after “cut” during a scene; because things happen that are real, ‘happy accidents’ they call them.
TH: I read in your interview with Greg Caggiano that you and the rest of the actors playing Confederates regularly congregated at the Farnsworth House in Gettysburg. Could you tell me a little about that?
PG: Tom Beregner had the Farnsworth House every Friday night during filming reserved for the Confederate officer’s corps. It was only Confederate officers and guys playing Rebs that were allowed into the bar.
TH: You mentioned to Caggiano that it was a lot of fun?
PG: It was a lot of fun; a lot of stories [were swapped.] It was very much like an officer’s [club.] It was very much like that. A lot of laughs, and of clowning around; but we often played ourselves –I played General Hood, they played [their characters] — we had that going. It was like an improvisation, but we did break it, and we made jokes and talked about [other stuff], but it was basically for that. We showed up in uniform, of course.
It was great fun, and it kept the spirit alive, because we had the esprit de corps of officers of the Confederacy.
TH: It shows up on camera too.
PG: I think so. That I have to lay that at the feet of Tom Berenger. I think he was responsible for creating that.
Some of them had worked together, but I had never worked with anybody in that cast before.
I wasn’t intimidated or anything like that [by it]. You know, sometimes playing smaller roles as I’ve had to do in my career, you come into a cast that’s something like a close knit family. If you’re doing a TV series for example, I come in for a day or two with people who have been working together for months or many, many weeks and know each other, and you’re kind of the stranger; but I never had that feeling at all [while filming Gettysburg]. No ego, just people wanting to do the right thing by our history.
Of course I’d done my research on Hood as much as I could –of course the two books Advance and Retreat and The Gallant Hood—and every other book I could get hold of [that] mentioned [him.] I focused on Hood and the second day. I was comfortable as Hood and a lot of that had to do with my association with the re-enactors and visiting their encampments. Sitting around the campfires with them, I got lots of anecdotal stuff that I didn’t find in books. They helped set the mood for how it might have been. I owe them a lot. The whole film did.
When I read for the film, I wanted to play Armistead. That’s who I was hoping to read for when I read The Killer Angels, but they had already cast Richard Jordan and he was perfect. They wanted me to read for Hood, and I’m glad they did. I could relate to Hood more personally, even though Hood was “The Blond “ giant –he was like 6’2, really broad shoulders, he had a brooding, sad look–, well I’m 5’10, [and] I don’t have broad shoulders; but I got cast (I’ve told this story before too) but when I heard [Robert] Duvall was going to do Killer Angels, a Civil War story, I said to my wife at the time “You know, there’s gotta be something for me in this film.” I had a picture [taken] where I shaved my head and it was growing out and had a bit of a stubble, and this dark look in my eyes. (I thought I looked a bit like Sheridan). I delivered the picture as a messenger to the casting office (my agent didn’t do that, I did that) and they called me in because of the photograph. And later on I found out that when they saw the picture they said, “We just pray that he can act, because he is the only one who even comes close to what Hood looked like.” And I don’t’ really look like him at all, but I had something. The fact that I have a lot of Civil War fans validates that, because I was very successful with getting the persona of Hood across.
T.H. Can you tell me again your story about Ted Turner at the Gettysburg premiere, and the certain actor who told you he wished he had played Hood?
P.G. Sure, here goes.
At the premiere of Gettysburg, I was walking down the right side aisle of the theatre with my then wife, looking for seats. The theatre was packed and filling up, buzzing with conversation, when over the din and from across the theatre in the left hand aisle a voice called out, “General Hood, we shoulda gone to the right!” There was a slight moment of, “What the?” in the house and then all resumed. It was Ted Turner with his then wife, Jane Fonda. We all moved into our seats with Ted and Jane right behind us and we introduced our wives and made small talk. That was a fun moment and a big surprise. After the successful screening of the film, I made my way to the men’s room on the way out of theatre. Excuse me, but I’m standing at the urinal and a voice speaks over my shoulder saying, “Good work. I didn’t even get to read for the film!” I turned to say thanks for the compliment, and who was I looking up at but ‘Moses, himself,’ Charleton Heston. Well, besides the film, those two encounters ‘made my day,’ you can imagine. Fun recollection. That was a great night for us all because the film was a great success.
T.H. Could you tell me again the story of what it was like to continue filming the Antietam sequence in Gods and Generals on 9/11/2001? (By the way, I hope your friend who called you from the Pentagon was all right and not injured.)
T.H. On a lighter note, could you repeat to me
your story about sitting all day next to Ted Turner during the “Bonny Blue
Flag” sequence? Did you talk with Jeff Shaara at all the
day the concert sequence was filmed (as I might have mentioned during our chat,
Jeff has a cameo in the scene as a Reb officer sitting next to the Rev. Tucker
And speaking of that scene, John Bell Hood
really liked to arrange that stuff? Did Ron Maxwell base it on a specific
concert Hood arranged at Moss Neck?
P.G. I’ll take these three questions in
one. I did sit right next to Turner during that scene and we filmed
almost all day. He was charming and entertaining and a neat guy. He
did say that if we didn’t lose too much money on G&G that we’d start preproduction on “The Last Full Measure” right
away. Unfortunately, as you may know, G&G
didn’t do well at the box office. Hood often held entertainments for the
troops, whether the one in the film was based on Moss Neck, I don’t know.
I did have several conversations with Jeff Shaara that day. He looked
great in uniform and that was a first, for me. I don’t know if he’d ever
done that before but he enjoyed himself and looked great.
T.H. Was the fact that you found Hood
fascinating what made you decide to do G&G,
or was it also because of the promise the Gettysburg
cast made to work together on a sequel/prequel?
P.G. Well, at the end of Gettysburg, Ron talked about doing G&G and all of us reprising our same roles. It was an
exciting prospect for me, for sure. Unfortunately, in the final script, Hood
didn’t have much impact and competition developed over the role of
Jackson. I believe Tom wanted to play Jackson and, of course, Ron still
wanted him to play Longstreet as had been discussed. I don’t know the
whole story, or even if that version is accurate. Stephen was to reprise
Pickett but you know what happened. It’s not unusual for a director
and/or producer to take a different take with a script, even history.
There is no distortion but the focus is on Jackson and it wasn’t the main focus
in the book, as I recall. I revered and respect the memory of Jackson but
I don’t think he would have been someone you’d like to have served under.
He was a hard man and, to me, a fanatic. He was a great general but a
difficult man to make the hero of a film. Stephen did a magnificent job,
but I always thought G&G would have made a better series on cable
television than a feature film. Way too much history to cram into that
short time frame. A lot that was shot couldn’t be included and it could
have been in a series. Hey, what do I know? I’m an actor, not a
producer. I just wanted to work with these wonderful people playing these
T.H. You had a cameo as a Confederate veteran in the miniseries Rough Riders. What was that like?
P.G. Therein lies a ‘sad’ story – to me, at least. Originally Tom, who was one of the producers of the project, offered me the role of General Wheeler. It was a gift and a huge step-up for me into a major role in the film. Wheeler was a little man and even though I was taller than he, I had the right build and my white beard was perfect for him. He was a quirky guy and I knew how to play him and worked on the role in great anticipation of actually embodying him in the film. All was pretty much set and at the last minute there was a change of directors. Actually, I was excited about the change because it was John Milius who was coming on-board. A hero of mine. I was called in to meet him and knowing so much about him I even brought him a Cuban cigar for our meeting. The first thing he said to me though, was that unfortunately he ‘needed’ a star in the Wheeler part. I wasn’t going to get to play him but Milius still wanted me in the project. We had a great half hour or more talking about martial arts, kendo and sporting clays but ended up playing an old Confederate Veteran with his grandson at the railroad station. Also, I shaved my beard and left a favori to play also a Colonel of the 71st New York who chases ‘Teddy’ down the railroad track on horseback after Teddy stole ‘my’ transport. So, I played two roles, both very small and unremarkable and an actor friend of John’s, a six-feet plus, full bodied guy (a wonderful actor, but…) played Wheeler. One of the bigger disappointments of my career.
T.H. Closing on a non-Civil War note, could you tell me again about working on Three Days of the Condor?
P.G. Condor was my first high profile film and it was special because I got to work with the incredible director, Sydney Pollack and with the iconic, Robert Redford. When I went to read for the role, I ended up talking with Sydney about Samurai films, martial arts, Shakespeare and Paris. We had a great interview that lasted over a half hour and then he thanked me and I left. My agent asked me how the audition went and I told him, “Well, we had a great time discussing all kinds of things but he never asked me to read, so I probably didn’t get the part.” Well, I did and later learned that Pollack didn’t usually read actors. He had an instinct for talent (being a fine actor himself, and a teacher of actors) so he, “just knew.” I had about 10-lines and, frankly, they are practically all under the credits but still it was a great sequence, the one where the mailman comes into the historical society and shoots everyone. In the original script I was to be killed on camera but into the shooting, they decided not to kill me on camera for some reason. I’d talked with Sydney enough to be able to say to him, in ‘semi-comical-tragic’ way, that he couldn’t kill me off camera in my first major film. I’d figured out a stunt where I’d get shot and go flying backwards across the desk, hitting the wall and sliding down into a lifeless lump. Sydney said, “Can you do that without getting hurt?” And I said, “Sydney, I was a circus clown, falling down is part of what I do. No problem!” He said, “Let me talked to Dino (DeLaurentiis) tonight, and we’ll see.” The next day, he came back and said Dino was pleased and thought it would be great. And so, I got an extra week of work for that little suggestion. Redford was a perfect gentleman and Pollack was a master director of few directorial words but one who instilled great confidence in all his players.
Sydney Pollack is with us no more and one of my great sadnesses is that I never got to work with him again. He was a gentleman and any time I ever called him over the years, he would always get on the phone and speak to me in person. When I was invited into the Motion Picture Academy, he was on the board, and I think that’s one reason I was accepted. He had recommended me for a couple of other roles over the years in other peoples films. To me he was a prince, a great actor and a thoroughly nice guy, one of my favorite directors. Jeremiah Johnson is one of the films that made me leave New York and come to Hollywood. I wanted to do films like that. Ironically, Milius’ film, The Wind and the Lion, and the film Zorba the Greek, the Cacoyannis film, were the three films that made up my mind. Besides, New York was way too cold and unfriendly for a Californian that year. So, I left New York and came back home.
My thanks again to Patrick for taking the time to do this interview; he is an actor and a gentleman.
I proofread even when I am not working. Today I came across the following quote in a Wikipedia article:
“…absolutely, unequivocally not…” 1
Can you use these two words together? I thought as I looked both words up on The Free Dictionary.
The Free Dictionary says “absolutely” means “definitely and completely; unquestionably.” 2 While “unequivocally” –an adverb of the adjective “unequivocal”– means “admitting of no doubt or misunderstanding; clear and unambiguous.” 3
After mulling the meanings of these two words over for a few minutes, I concluded that you could either say “absolutely not” or “unequivocally not” and convey what you are trying to say in a more succinct manner than “absolutely, unequivocally not” does. Using both of those words together is excessive, and makes you sound like you “protest too much.”
On the other hand, using both together for, say, passages of dialogue being spoken by a character who is either a politician or CEO with a thin skin would be just fine.
I came across the word “rattletrap” while reading an issue of Trains Magazine. It was in a sentence that began with the phrase, “The Crescent is a rattletrap these days…”
What does “rattletrap” mean? “Rattletrap” is a noun that means either “A rickety, worn-out vehicle” or “a broken-down old vehicle, esp an old car,” or “a shaky object, as a rickety vehicle.” 1
What are some ways you can use “rattletrap” properly while writing? If you are writing a novel in which one of the characters is driving an old, beat up car, you could say “Suzie’s car was a rattletrap” or “When are you going to get rid of the rattletrap and buy something better, Suzie?” Or “That airplane is a rattletrap, Byrd. You sure you can fly it?” Or “My car was a rattletrap, but it got me where I needed to go.” And there is the example from Trains quoted above. You could even use it as a nickname for, say, an auto mechanic who is a character in your novel. After all, if “rattletrap” could be used for a character’s name in Transformers, the sky is the limit in that regard.
“Rattletrap,” The Free Online Dictionary, accessed January 10, 2014, http://www.thefreedictionary.com/rattletrap
I was doing some word research today and stumbled across “irregardless.” “irregardless” is not even considered a word by some grammarists because it is nonstandard English.
According to a diction lesson posted to Penandpage.com, “Irregardless is not a word. Regardless means without regard or in spite of. If irregardless were a word, it would mean without without regard.” 1
“Without without regard”… that is a bit of a redundant mouthful.
According to Merriam-Webster, “irregardless” is a blend of “irrespective” and “regardless” which first appeared in 1912. It was subsequently used by authors such as Ring Lardner, who used the word in his 1921 novel The Big Town. 2
What does Merriam-Webster have to say about “irregardless”? “Irregardless originated in dialectal American speech in the early 20th century. Its fairly widespread use in speech called it to the attention of usage commentators as early as 1927. The most frequently repeated remark about it is that “there is no such word.” There is such a word, however. It is still used primarily in speech, although it can be found from time to time in edited prose. Its reputation has not risen over the years, and it is still a long way from general acceptance. Use regardless instead.” 3
Since “irregardless” is a redundant word, I would recommend following the advice of Merriam-Webster for the most part save for two exceptions:
A. Writing something that is a mock newspaper article, diary, etc. from 1912 to 1930.
Or B. Putting it into the mouth of a character who uses nonstandard English when speaking.
Otherwise, steer clear of “irregardless” in favor of “regardless.”
I was riding along on a day trip in the vicinity of Taylors Falls, Minnesota on New Year’s Day 2014 when I noticed there was no “apostrophe” in the name “Taylors Falls” when my brother and I passed under a sign on I-35 that let drivers know where the exit for the famous St. Croix River Valley was.
“There is no apostrophe!” I said to my brother. “I’m getting so good I’m proofreading road signs.” I added with a smile.
Why is there no apostrophe in “Taylors Falls”? There should be a possessive, because the town (and falls) are named after someone named “Taylor.”
I looked it up and discovered that, according to the book Minnesota: A State Guide that at first the town was named Taylor’s Place, but when the name was changed to Taylors Falls, an act by the Minnesota legislature specified that the apostrophe be dropped from “Taylor’s.” 1
I did some further digging and discovered that, according to an article at RoadsideThoughts.com, mapmakers remove apostrophes from town names when putting them on maps. 2 Presumably this act by the Minnesota legislature had something to do with how “Taylors Falls” would look on a map.
So that is why there is no apostrophe in the name “Taylors Falls.” It was a “typo” I had overlooked for years but now know the reason why it is so (as do you now too)..
1. Minnesota: A State Guide (State of Minnesota, 1938), 453.