Thursday, July 10, 2014

Throwback Thursday & Movie Review - Remembering a Ragamuffin: Rich Mullins

Miss Laura Woodside & Rich Mullins, May 1993
Not too long ago, my mother found a box of CDs that she'd been holding in safekeeping, back from our 2006 move from North Carolina to Florida.  My husband and I had meant to get it back from her, but it got lost in the shuffle.  Within the box was our entire collection of Rich Mullins CDs.  Pairing that with our recent acquisition of the movie Ragamuffin (bio pic), and we've been on a big Rich Mullins kick lately.  It's brought back so many great memories of college. I loved going to see him play, and I had a few opportunities to sit and talk with him a bit.  The last time was in 1993 when he came to Wheaton College. I was about to leave on a 10-week mission trip to Bogota', Colombia in association with the Student Mission Project (SMP) and Youth with a Mission (YWAM).  He and his friend David "Beaker" Strasser prayed for me, as well as for the other participants in the program.  And if memory serves, he played on stage for us as well.

A couple of weeks ago when my husband was opening one of those newly-recovered CDs, a photo fell out of the liner notes.  I'd forgotten:  After Rich had prayed for us in 1993, I stayed after to talk and take a photo with him. This is an incredibly unattractive photo of my 22 year-old self, with the extra college weight, frumpy hair and bright green SMP windbreaker, but I don't care.  I'm so grateful to have this picture. There he is, 37 years old, a mere 4 years away from his untimely death.  Seeing this and listening to his music makes me miss him all over again.  I look forward to the hereafter, so we can sit and chat some more.

As a part of the "Rich Mullins Rediscovery" going on in our house, my husband and I also obtained a copy of the recent movie, Ragamuffin, which is a biographical film of the artist's life.  I bought it as a gift to my husband, but we both knew I'd love it just as much as he would. Now that we've seen it, I offer my thoughts on the film.

Movie Review: Ragamuffin

I honestly think Rich would have discouraged any kind of cinematic retrospective of his life, so I cannot say if Ragamuffin would have been something he would have reveled in. That being said, I'm glad we have this film and his remaining recordings to keep him with us in their own way. With this existing media, his memory will go on for years to come.

For those looking for a typical, sanitized Christian movie, Ragamuffin is not that kind of work. It spends quite alot of time focusing on the struggles of Rich's life: His strained relationships with some family, friends and associates, his battle with alcohol, and his frustration with the early-80s cookie-cutter Christian music industry. This cinematic version of Rich is very much the brooding artist, frustrated with the world and the limitations it was trying to put on his art and his faith. Writer and director David Schultz did not shy away from a realistic tone for his script.  Colorful language is sprinkled throughout the movie, which is not a common occurrence in most Christian films.  I didn't find this content to be offensive, but refreshingly surprising.  Schultz was not afraid to portray life in a realistic way.

There was one aspect to the tone of the film that I found to be lacking. Rich was known for his pensive ways, but he was also incredibly lighthearted and funny.  He had such a sweet spirit, from the way he joyously played the hammered dulcimer, to the stories he told his audiences. Take a look at him telling his "Irish Sweater" story.  You can skip forward to about the 3 minute mark, through 4:30 or so:

And my all-time favorite moments with Rich came during his "Screen Door"/"Cups" perfomances. This is such a fun, yet meaningful song, but the addition of the Cups choreography just made it even better.  My husband and I used to do a similar version of Cups in those days, so we really treasure this performance on YouTube.   I'm not sure what year this was, but you can see "Beaker" to Rich's right; the tall guy with the navy blue t-shirt. (Or at least I think that was him, if my memory serves.)

Bio pics are never perfect.  The filmmakers are limited by time, and there's no way to convey every aspect of the subject's life.  I'm sure as David Schultz penned this script, there were many sides of the story that had to be cut in order to keep the running time to a reasonable length.  Actor Michael Koch did a fabulous job-- on a number of occasions I mistook his singing voice for Rich's.  The choice of casting was spot-on.  I just wish the movie could have had a bit more levity peppered through the screenplay.

My overwhelming impression of Ragamuffin was a positive, warm one. It not only shed new light on his life, but it also made me miss him all over again.  During his lifetime he wasn't my favorite Christian musician (that distinction went to Amy Grant, with whom he worked), but he certainly was a cherished one. I think in the summer of 1992 I wore a groove into my Rich Mullins cassettes, as I toted them around in my Walkman at Honey Rock Camp as a counselor.  While not all Rich Mullins fans may agree with the cinematic choices Schultz made, I think it's a must-see for them. And for those who have little to no knowledge of the man, it's also a great testament to the love of God-- how He loves all of us, including us imperfect, struggling Ragamuffins.


Bio Devotional



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Guest Post: The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth by Victoria Kincaid

From the Author's Website:

In this Pride and Prejudice variation, a despondent Darcy travels to Paris in the hopes of forgetting the disastrous proposal at Hunsford. Paris is teeming with English visitors during a brief moment of peace in the Napoleonic Wars, but Darcy’s spirits don’t lift until he attends a ball and unexpectedly encounters… Elizabeth Bennet! Darcy seizes the opportunity to correct misunderstandings and initiate a courtship.

Their moment of peace is interrupted by the news that England has again declared war on France, and hundreds of English travelers must flee Paris immediately. Circumstances force Darcy and Elizabeth to escape on their own, despite the risk to her reputation. Even as they face dangers from street gangs and French soldiers, romantic feelings blossom during their flight to the coast. But then Elizabeth falls ill, and the French are arresting all the English men they can find….

When Elizabeth and Darcy finally return to England, their relationship has changed, and they face new crises. However, they have secrets they must conceal—even from their own families.  

*          *          *

The Calico Critic extends a warm welcome to a new voice in the Austenesque fiction scene, Victoria Kincaid!  Her new novel The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth has shown a strong start on Amazon, making it into the top 10 for Regency romance best sellers, and it has held the #1 position in hot new releases for Regency romance. Victoria has had an overwhelming response to her work, as the e-book sold more than 4,000 copies in the first month of publication. I'm excited to be able to shine the spotlight on this new title.

Below you will find a few thoughts behind Kincaid's choice of setting for the book, an excerpt from the novel, and a giveaway open to our readers worldwide. Thanks for your thoughts and offerings, Victoria, and we look forward to reading more from your pen in the future!

Thoughts from Victoria:

The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth is a Pride and Prejudice variation which asks the question: what if Elizabeth and Darcy met in Paris following the disastrous first proposal at Hunsford and then were caught up in the war between France and England?

I made the deliberate choice to set the variation in 1803 in order to take advantage of the Treaty of Amiens, which allowed for a brief peace in the Napoleonic Wars.  During this time, hundreds of English travelers (who were, despite the war, huge fans of French fashion, French wine, etc.) visited Paris.

However, when both sides failed to abide by the provisions of the Treaty, England once again declared war--placing these English citizens in a very precarious position.  Although initially English travelers were allowed to leave, eventually the French started rounding up English men and imprisoning them.

Traditionally, readers have viewed Pride and Prejudice as being set in 1813, the year it was published; however, Austen wrote the first version before 1800, so I didn't think that setting my variation in 1803 was that great a stretch.  The setting and the war provided new opportunities for storytelling and some interesting obstacles which I thought could reveal different facets of the lovers' characters.

As an author, I found that getting Darcy to Paris was not difficult, since he is exactly the kind of traveler who would be interested in seeing France--plus he's trying to forget his broken heart. Unbeknownst to Darcy, Elizabeth is there with the Gardiners, since Mr. Gardiner has some business in France.  The excerpt below is from early in the book when Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam are attending a ball hosted by an English expat married to a French man.  I hope you enjoy it!

Victoria Kincaid

Book Excerpt: The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth

“Darcy!” He turned to see Colonel Fitzwilliam approach with a lovely woman on his arm. She had blonde hair, blue eyes, and a very young face. “Here you are!” Richard said jovially. “I was explaining to Miss Howard how you yearned for an English woman to partner for a dance.”

Darcy’s eyes shot daggers at Richard, who smiled innocently. “I have it on good authority from her brother that she is quite an accomplished dancer. And she was born in Cornwall, so she is undoubtedly English.” Miss Howard tittered appreciatively at the joke.

Darcy suppressed a grimace. He had specifically told Richard he had no wish to dance or to be introduced to eligible young ladies, but his cousin was convinced that socializing would lift his spirits. Sighing, Darcy conceded defeat. “Miss Howard, would you do me the honor of the next dance?”

Miss Howard blushed. “Thank you, yes.” They talked politely until the next dance formed, when Darcy led the young lady into position opposite him. It was an enormous ballroom and dancers were plentiful, Darcy saw with dismay, realizing it would be a long set.

As the music started, they danced in silence for a few minutes. Believing it was incumbent on him to offer conversation, Darcy cast about for an appropriate topic. “Do you miss Cornwall?”

She appeared confused. “How could I miss such a place when I can enjoy the pleasures of London and Paris?” She blushed. Apparently she blushed whenever she answered a question.

Darcy decided on a different strategy. “Do you enjoy reading?” He asked as they moved through the complicated dance figures, grateful that at least she was a fairly skilled dancer.

“Oh yes!” Her enthusiastic response was followed by another blush.

At least we have a common topic! Darcy thought with relief as the steps of the dance drew them apart again. “What do you prefer to read? Poetry? Novels? Plays?” He asked when they came together once more.

“Not so much.” What else? Surely she does not read many history books! “I prefer to read fashion magazines. Did you know that this season the fashion will be for long sleeves?”

“No, I did not,” Darcy suppressed an inner groan. I will be revenged on Richard for this!

They held hands and turned in the steps of the dance. “Indeed! Why you should see the illustrations in Godey’s! Long sleeves everywhere. And sheer overskirts in very light colors on almost every page! I said to my mother, can you fathom such…?”

Miss Howard continued in this vein without any encouragement – or even participation – from Darcy, who found his thoughts wandering. At least her enthusiasm for the topic had chased away her blushes. Far from making him forget Elizabeth, this girl was making him appreciate his love’s intelligent conversation all the more – and reminding him of what he had lost. When did Elizabeth become the standard to which I compare all other women?

As he awaited his turn to twirl his partner in the middle of the line, he saw another young woman, standing on the edge of the dancing, attempting to catch his eye and smiling coquettishly over her fan when he noticed her. Undoubtedly many of the English visitors here knew his identity and he was certain he would be subject to fortune-hunting women and their avaricious parents. He averted his gaze; he had no interest in playing such games.

With an effort of will he pulled his focus back to the intricate steps of the dance. Realizing that she should allow him to contribute to the conversation, Miss Howard blushed and inquired about his opinions on music – agreeing completely with everything he said.

Elizabeth had never simpered and agreed with his every opinion. Too late he realized it was simply that she did not desire his good opinion. He so rarely encountered young, eligible women who did not want his attention that he had not recognized her feelings for what they truly were. I must cease obsessing about her!

The dance seemed to last forever. Darcy and Miss Howard moved down the line of dancers, encountering a couple that they had not yet danced with. Darcy stepped forward to take the hand of the new woman in the opposite corner and gazed up into her face. It was Elizabeth!


International Giveaway!  Three E-Book Copies of The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth

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