The Writer as Portrayed in Hollywood


Writers as Portrayed in the Movies

Vintage typewriter keyboard

In a Lonely Place


History has recorded countless brilliant writers who turned to alcohol or drugs for their muse. And Hollywood has not been any better in its portrayal of writers in the movies. We’ve been depicted as irresponsible, conniving, manipulative, depressed, and even demented.

Writers understand that showing them at work is dull. Who wants to sit and watch someone type or stare blankly at a clean, white sheet of paper or computer screen for hours?


In a lonely place

But showing us in trouble is a different story.

In the 1950 film noir, In A Lonely Place, Humphrey Bogart plays Dixon Steele, a famous and distinguished writer, who is a genius at screenplays, but has an explosive temper.

As the movie opens, Steele is a down-on-his luck screenwriter, yet likeable and intelligent. He has one last shot at writing a movie treatment on an epic novel. The complication is the attractive and young Mildred, who is helping him with the plot of the novel, is murdered just after leaving his home, implicating him as the number one suspect.

That same evening, he catches the eye of his new neighbor, Laurel Gray, played by Gloria Graham. She knows how to help with his issues, and he is more than willing to oblige. Because of her, he finishes the script and the movie is ready to go into production.

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Happy with the way everything is falling into place, Dixon and Laurel become engaged, but the murder investigation still hangs over Dixon’s head.

And his anger issues only make matters worse.

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Everyone begins to wonder if he really did kill Mildred. His only saving graces are the detective in charge of the case, Dix’s former commanding officer in the war, and his fiancée, who alibis him throughout.

Then, with one slip of the tongue, all hell breaks loose.

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And Dixon’s temper flares to the point that anyone close to him is in jeopardy, thereby ruining the murder investigation, his engagement, and his writing career.



The farewell notes in the movie are attributed to the screenplay Dixon has just completed:

I was born when she kissed me; I died when she left me.

            I lived a few weeks while she loved me.



Maybe we are often misunderstood, temperamental, and easily bored. Maybe our imaginations do get us into trouble. We listen to the characters in our heads, get distracted by the smallest things then work feverishly to get the words on paper. But when we sit down and do the work, look at what we create. And we do it all with the knowledge that possibly no one will read one word of it.


The Writer as Portrayed in Hollywood









The All-Important First Line of a Novel

Genesis: “And God created the heavens and earth.”

Fountain Pen Writing in Journal

Throughout my writing career, the importance of a memorable first line has been greatly stressed. As I closed the book I was reading the other night before bed, I got to thinking about all the novels I’ve read and which ones I still remember that opening first line.

The Bible opens with a first line the entire Christian world knows by heart: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth.” And thus begins the story of humanity, and where we came from. But this is just the beginning of the tale. God created our world, and us, for a purpose. It is up to us to complete our journey with God as graciously and honestly as we can.

For his novel, A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” Before continuing, you know the character has experienced the best in his life, but has also suffered through personal tragedy. While you, the reader, knows he has survived, you still want to know more. Plus this opening has a duel meaning. At the time, Paris, France, was like two different cities at once: she was at her best, but her downfall was forthcoming.

My favorite first line of a novel is from Dame Daphne du Maurer’s Rebecca. This novel opens with the haunting line: “Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” I immediately sense the mood of this thriller, and know the main character has suffered a hurt so profound that even in her sleep, she cannot escape. And I know that her journey from a dark place has only just begun.

For my own humble attempt at an opening line for my forthcoming paranormal romance, Dark Obsession, I chose, “Blood pounded in Mark’s ears as his dark obsession pulled him once again to Bell House.”

Have I done my job as a writer to make you want to know more?

What are some opening lines of novels you remember most?

What makes you remember them so?

The Hard Work of Writing


Photograph by Cindy Pope Lowman


Genesis 2:15: “The Lord took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work and take care of it.”


It never ceases to amaze me at the people who say, “Oh, what fun it must be to write! To have the perfect words just flow over the pages. And, after a couple of hours, your work is done so you can go play and spend all that money that you make.”

I wish!

Writing is work – like hard, manual labor – the kind of labor that every day you dread starting. The writing portion is bad enough, but with the research, critiques, rewrites and reorganization, it is intensive shedding of blood, sweat and tears that seems to go on and on.

At a book signing several years ago for non-fiction writer Ricky Bragg, someone asked him about his writing process. He admitted that writing was work – hard work. He likened it to “diggin’ taters.” I chuckled out loud and said, “Or hoeing cotton.”  He looked my way and said, “Yeah, that too.”

You don’t jump up in the mornings and think, “Oh, goody! Today I get to dig taters and hoe cotton!” As writers, we don’t jump up each morning and think, “Oh, goody, today I get to work on that Great American Novel.” Or finish that article that is fast approaching deadline, or even start the blog that’s due.

And I never could figure out why.

Upon doing some research, I learned that when we write, longhand or on the computer, we are using both sides of our brains at the same time. The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body, and is responsible for logic, science and math. This analytical section of the brain is used to get the mechanics of words on the page, forming letters, proper words and coherent sentences. The right hemisphere controls the left side of the body and is responsible for our creativity. This emotional side produces the scenes, dialogue, sights, sounds, aromas, character traits, plots and plot twists.

Even during the editing process, the writer must keep track of the characters and who has said what and when, as well as make sure the research is correct and all sentences are grammatically correct.

Why on earth would someone go to so much trouble for so little gain? When just setting up a scene and having a character enter that scene takes a lot of brain power?

We do it because of the finished product. It gives us such pleasure and a sense of accomplishment that we have created something to be proud of.

There is nothing like working on a piece and have someone genuinely touched by our words. It brings joy seeing our thoughts and images on paper for all to read, enjoy, and maybe learn from. To see someone smile or cry at our words is very special for writers. And no one can take that away. Ever.

For writers, that is akin to being in the Garden of Eden.

Even if it’s a bad writing day when nothing goes right, we are there to work the writing and take care of our precious gift from God. It is up to us to nurture that gift, mold it into something worthwhile, and share it with the world.

And if we don’t?

Well, we all know what happened in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve did not do God’s bidding.

I’ve Got the Music Back In Me

11Photograph by Robert Lowman Photography



Sydney Montgomery


Genesis 31:27: Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of timbrels and harps?

2 Kings 3:15 (NKJV): But now bring me a musician.Then it happened, when the music played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him.


Most people give up something they love for forty days during Lent to show their empathy for Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. I know that Lent is for deep contemplation and being in the depths of despair with Jesus in His darkest hour.

However, I discovered that gaining something lost just as powerful.

Months ago, I began listening to one radio station in the car, as my choices were limited. This particular radio station plays the same handful of songs ad nauseam, and the identical commercials that seem to go on forever. I get up at the same time very day to this radio station, and listen as I drive my familiar path to and from work. Some days the same song would play as I approached the same intersections in both directions of my daily commute. There were days on end that just coming home and preparing for the next day took everything out of me, which included my writing. And I just put up with it.

I was in a deep rut that weighted me down. I didn’t even realize, but I knew that I wasn’t happy.

But then one day my car had to be taken in for a small repair and detailing. In the meantime, I was given a rental, a much newer vehicle than mine, with an activated Satellite Radio account.

The following day on my morning and afternoon commute, I listened to music from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 8-‘s – songs that I had completely forgotten about. I sang along, drumming on my steering wheel, and thoroughly enjoying myself. People sitting next to me at traffic lights thought I was Looney Toones, but I was having myself a grand old time. All because of music.

Once I picked up my car, it dawned on me. I USED to do this all the time.

I re-activated my satellite radio account and selected the stations I wanted. Then at work I went to YouTube on my desk computer and searched for specific genres music. I began not to mind my commute as much, and I discovered that I wasn’t so burdened at my work desk. I found this “new” experience to be very uplifting.

And all because of Music. Music is a part of my soul – a universal language that speaks to every heart. The spring is back in my step, and I’m having fun again. The music is bringing me back to life!

This Lent Season, instead of giving up something I love, I’m gaining something I thought I had lost forever. An energized piece of myself that I thought I had buried forever. I began to feel alive again, as if a switch had suddenly been turned on inside.

What I have decided to give up during this Lent Season, is all the negative and depressive thoughts I’ve allowed to take over me. I no longer consort with angry and pessimistic people, and I’m staying out of solitary situations I had continued to put myself in.

Why did I run from God and allow circumstances take away a part of my soul in the first place? I have no idea. But I truly feel as if the hand of the Lord is upon me again, and He is sending me into the world every day with joy and “singing to the music of timbrels and harps.”

My winter of discontent is over. I’m ready for a new season, a new chapter, and a whole new enthusiastic me. The more uplifting situations I put myself in, the more energized I am, and the better I am able to spread the Word of God!

Whatever you give up for Lent, I urge you to make sure it is not a part of your soul, or something that takes you further away from yourself. And from God.

Make Changes, Not Excuses

7Photography by Robert Lowman Photography


You wouldn’t know it by looking at my website and Facebook presence, but I have been writing. Honestly. I’ve been concentrating on the rewrites to my novel, and even began plotting the sequel. However, there are times when it feels like there is a devil sitting on my shoulder. I call him PROCRASTINATION. He’s a mean little fella, but wields a lot of power over me. He tells me things like: Who do you think you are? Don’t call attention to yourself or everyone will know how stupid you are. You don’t feel all that well today, so your writing won’t be all that good; you know no one is reading, so why bother? The book project is just too big for you to manage. You’ve worked hard all week, take a break and relax – the manuscript will still be there. Oh, look – there is your favorite movie on TV that you’ve seen a thousand times – why not watch just one more time? Who is it going to hurt?

Seeing many of my writing friends get so much further ahead of me, I realized I was the one getting hurt. I decided to call PROCRASTINATION’s bluff and looked up ‘to delay’ in the Bible. I found something very interesting.



Writers who have made a vow to God to use His Gift to spread His word, and it is a sin to waste it. And here PROCRASTINATION sits on my shoulder whispering excuses for me not to write.

And I believed the devil’s insidious words, all the while wallowing in the all-too brief comfort he provided. Then I felt bad the next day because I hadn’t gotten any writing done.

Not exactly what God had intended for me. Once I noticed that trend, I knew changes had to be made.

Motivation comes from beginning a project, and yes, a novel is a huge project to undertake. Picking a chapter of the book to work on like a “Project of the Day” took some doing, because it was so easy to fall back into old habits. But working on smaller pieces was easier to manage, so I was able to finish the book and get it into the hands of my beta readers. Now it is re-write time, and I used that same process of picking the first section the beta readers found trouble with and working on that as a daily project, before moving on to the next section. Going through the checklists from each beta reader, I was able to tick off the sections one by one, and before long I had one section left. Seeing that progress motivated me to continue and see the project through.

That’s when it began to feel good. That’s when I began to feel in my REAL comfort zone. That’s when I began to feel God smile upon me for putting His gift to me to good use.

What Gifts from God are you not sharing?



Photograph by Robert Lowman Photography

Between lengthy holiday festivities, ice, snow, flu, and working, it feels like the Near Year of 2017 hasn’t really begun, yet hear we are into February already. Once things began to slow down and get back to normal, I had a chance to think and review.

I attended a writers’ meeting in which the speaker advised that we had certain things we writers had to do every day to get and keep our readers interested. Like get all blogging done at specific times of the week or month, constantly ensuring our writing quality is at its peak. We are to stay on top of our social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linked-In. We are also to prepare for writing conferences and study the speakers, editors, agents and costs before registering. We writers are also required to keep our newsletters up to date and flowing to our various readerships on a consistent basis. All of this ON TOP of writing our manuscripts – also ensuring the quality of our writing at all phases.

While listening to this speaker and taking notes, a thought occurred: When am I supposed to have time to get all of this done? Not like I don’t have any other commitments. I went home and made a list of what my responsibilities are.

My doctor has requested that I take better care of my body by drinking eight glasses of water per day, and exercise, or at least walk, 20 minutes a day. I should prepare only healthy meals three times a day, plus two healthy snacks, including my daily allowance of fruits and vegetables, as well as count my calories. Then I am to get eight hours of sleep per night.

I am responsible for my day job, which entails eight hours a day, plus a one-hour commute each way. Once I receive my paycheck, I am to pay my bills in a timely manner, balance the checkbook, and keep track of investments and 401k to see that they are performing as expected.

The house is to be properly maintained, and then whatever breaks is fixed accurately and within my budget. And then there are the household chores to be done: dishes to be washed and put up, laundry to be washed, dried, folded or hung up in the closet. There is also dusting, vacuuming, beds to be made, bathrooms cleaned, floors swept and mopped, and trash to be sorted for recycling before being taken out on a certain day.

Upon coming home, I check the mailbox and organize what is important and throw away the rest. It is imperative that I file away proper records and bills, especially for tax preparation. If this not handled correctly, headaches and frustration will abound, causing further delays and stress.

My car is to be well maintained, and any and all repairs to be completed correctly, and again, within my budget.

As I currently have two dogs and a cat, they must be properly watered and fed to remain healthy, plus the regular trips to the vet and pet stores.

And last, but certainly not least, are my family and friends. I am to keep track of all birthdays and prepare for such. And let us not forget there are major holidays, such as Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I am to spend quality time with my husband and children, which is not easy because we are empty nesters, and our “kids” barely live in the same state as us.

After reviewing the list, I sat back and sighed heavily. “When do I work on my manuscript?” I asked aloud. “What or who shall I give up?”

A little voice in the back of my head said softly, “In the time it took you to drive to/from and attend the meeting, then later put together this list, you could have been working on your manuscript.



Photograph by Robert Lowman


MATTHEW 5:14-16

14: Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.

15: Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light onto all that are in the house.

16: Let you light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father, which is in heaven.

What a weekend I recently had! Saturday morning I attended a writing workshop in Lawrenceville, Georgia; dinner Saturday night with my children and grandchildren. Sunday morning I was in church with my son and his family, and Sunday afternoon I shared ice cream and conversation with my daughter and son-in-law. Late Sunday afternoon I arrived home to my loving spouse, two dogs and cat.

After hugs and kisses were exchanged, and I emptied my suitcase, I took a moment to sit down, relax and reflect. I thought about my weekend, how different it was from my usual stay-at-home, recharge-my-batteries weekend. I reflected on how much fun it was going to a new place, seeing acquaintances and meeting new people at the writing workshop, then laughing and sharing with my family, attending a different church service, and finally home. I think I did more that weekend than I had all month.

The minister had spoken that morning about the Light of God shining through everyone who remained in His house; everyone has a story to tell, sharing with the community our knowledge and faith; that we are worthy – and very much loved. God desires everyone to stay close to Him, to spread his love and good works.

However, I didn’t feel very blessed, worthy, or much loved, at that point. I have been working on a novel for several years, and getting nowhere. Everything I wrote had to be re-written, and not just once or twice. I had been working on the last chapter, and it was AWFUL! (still is!) My BETA readers wouldn’t get back in touch with me. Doubts and frustration abound. I began to wonder, “Who did I think I was?”  Why am I even trying?

However, the minister’s words kept running through my mind – giveth light onto all that are in the house. Dark corners were suddenly lit, and my thoughts and beliefs of don’t even think about writing and no one will ever read or care were suddenly thrown to the side.  I understood that my writing was a gift from God, that my writing was confirmed.  I may not be the best, and most people will never read my words.

This is who I am, and this is what I was meant to do.

And so I picked up my last chapter and looked at it hopelessly. Once again, those negative voices tried to break through. I take a huge breath, let it out slowly, and understand this is just part of the process. I continue putting my words on paper and meeting with my writing critique groups.  It’s a very slow and drawn out process. I feel as if I am moving three steps forward and two steps back, but at least I’m heading in the right direction.  Besides, look how far I’ve already come!

With many blessings already bestowed before us, and many more coming, I’m anxious to see this through to see the end results.


Photograph by Robert Lowman




Lighting the Path of My Writing Journey

Photograph by Robert Lowman

Genesis 1:3: And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Genesis 1:4: God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness.



My writing “career” began inauspiciously enough in high school, where I wrote poetry for the school newspaper. My senior year, I was banned for turning in “risqué” material.

Throughout college, I wrote articles for university newspapers. After graduation, I wrote profiles for different magazines on CEO’ and business owners, while caring for my spouse and two children.

Until my marriage fell apart.

For the first time in my life, I found myself on my own, alone and frightened; a divorced empty nester with only three dogs for companionship. My friends and relatives advised me to get back to my personal interests.

While cleaning out a closet one day, I found a plastic bin shoved in the back corner. Pulling the box, I opened it to find old file folders and envelopes. My literary efforts from the past!  My curriculum vitae, published magazine articles, and an award-winning short story. Thrilled with my new-found treasure, I dug deeper into the bin and discovered an historical romance novel begun when my daughter was a toddler, a horror story from high school, and story ideas and snippets from years gone by. I hugged these to my chest and laughed out loud. The dogs looked at me as if I had gone mad.

Writing was my personal interest!

I surveyed the messy piles before me and wondered how on earth I could renew my writing. Then I remembered a local newspaper I had thrown in the trash. Unfolding the paper, I found the ad for the Christian Author’s Guild.

With trepidation, I went to the next Monday night meeting, where I found nearly everyone there was an accomplished author. These people encouraged me, wanted to see me published, and genuinely wanted to assist in every way possible. I swallowed my fears and joined that night.

Several weeks later, I turned in my first five pages for the fiction critique group, and dreaded that my words would be judged. How bad was my writing? Would they laugh at me? Would they tear my story apart? Would they tear me apart?

They did not! I took the session for what it was – a group of writers looking over my work and making suggestions on getting it published. They liked my story and suggested changes to get it submitted. I walked out of the meeting with hope and joy in my heart.

I was also encouraged to join more than one writing group and get different perspectives on my words. At first I felt I was cheating on The Guild, but I understand that now there are more eyes on my work, more conferences to attend and therefore more opportunities for publishing.

That was over three years ago, and yes, I have since published. My goal is to keep writing and keep publishing, and these groups help tremendously, not only with critiquing, but with information on the newest technology and changing publishing rules. While not every group is a Christian group, every member is a cheerleader for other writers, and each member is expected to write. Period.

Through these groups, I understand now that my talent comes from God. The more I use my talent, the more I please God. The more I please God, the closer I come to His light.

Now that I have come out of the darkness of loneliness and despair and into the Light of God, I have a greater understanding of who I am and what God has intended for me.

The point is to keep “plotting” along.


The Light of God Shines through Stained Glass Windows

For centuries, the beautiful stained glass windows found in most churches have been made from broken bits of colored glass put together by skilled artisans to make pictures that tell colorful stories. When the sun shines through these finished works of art, the vibrant colors and light shine bright for all the world to see.

Photograph by Robert Lowman


As Christians, each of us is like those stained glass windows. We all have been broken, hurt by the events of life and the struggle for survival. We have turned into broken bits of our former selves that have a story to tell. Once we are put back together by the loving, artful hand of God, the light of Christ shines through us for all to see.

During Yuletide, when the beautifully-colored Christmas lights and decorated trees brighten our homes, it’s easy to spread the Light of Christ. The joy and excitement of the birth of Savior is bursting within us.

However, as Christians, it’s the every day, every season, that we must let His light shine through us. As St. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:3 (The Message, 2002) “Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it, not with ink, but with God’s living spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives – and we publish it.

If we Christians as a whole let the vibrant colors and light of Christ shine through us every day, like a stained-glass window, imagine how bright and far the light of Christ would shine!

As a writer, it is my goal to let the Light of God shine through me and onto the world through my words. I thought this would be a great way to start my writing life.

He is the Light of the world. Let His light shine through each of you every day, every season.