A to Z Challenge: More Fictional Favorites! Day 26: Zack Mayo from An Officer and a Gentleman

Z is for — Zack Mayo from the movie An Officer and a Gentleman A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0

We finally made it to the end of A to Z! Whoo hoo!

For me, the last was the hardest. Even this morning, I didn’t know who I was going to write about. Last year, I wrote about Zorro, so that was out, and I couldn’t think of any other fictional “Z” characters I was really familiar with enough to call a favorite. Before resorting to fudging, as I did with “X,” I did a Google search to jog my memory and ran across Zack Mayo from the movie, An Officer and a Gentleman.

Zack Mayo, played by Richard Gere, is one of those characters who starts out as a hustler, a loner with a sordid childhood. His mother committed suicide when he was a kid, and he was raised by his father, a drunken, philandering U.S. Navy man. Zack wants more out of life, though. He’s always wanted to fly jets, so he signs up for Naval Aviation Officer training to become a Navy pilot.

During training, he keeps to himself and hustles spit-shined shoes and belt buckles for a price from those who can’t get theirs up to snuff. His nemesis, Drill Sergeant Emil Foley (Louis Gossett, Jr., in an Oscar-winning performance) who has been making his life miserable, finds out what he’s been doing. Incensed by what he perceives as Zack’s lack of respect, Foley puts Zack through a weekend of torturous drills and exercises to break Zack’s spirit and make him quit.

Zack refuses to quit and begs Foley not to throw him out of the training school, because he’s got no place else to go and nothing left. Once he comes to this realization, Foley lets him off the hook, and Zack starts to be more of a team player. He realizes how much the new friends he’s made mean to him, especially his new girlfriend, Paula (Debra Winger). He learns that to have friends, he has to be a friend, and he allows himself to love and be loved. By the end of the film, he’s well on his way to becoming a heroic figure, and he has earned Foley’s respect.

My favorite scenes are when he gives up his chance to set a new record on the obstacle course to help one of his teammates conquer a wall she can’t climb and when he marches into the factory at the end of the movie and carries Paula away. A feel-good ending if there ever was one.




Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Photo Credit: Amazon.com





© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2015. All rights reserved.

A to Z Challenge: More Fictional Favorites! Day 25: Yvaine from Stardust

Y is for — Yvaine from the movie Stardust A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0

Hidden in the English countryside, lies the village of Wall, so named for the stone wall that separates it from the magical kingdom of Stormhold. The dying king of Stormhold throws a ruby necklace into the sky and tells his sons that whoever brings back the necklace will be the new king. The necklace hits a star and knocks it out of the sky. The fallen star crashes to Earth in the form of a beautiful young woman, Yvaine.

Tristan, a young man from Wall, sees the star fall and promises the girl he’s courting that he’ll bring back a piece of the star for her in exchange for her hand in marriage. The king’s sons, those who haven’t yet killed each other, also hunt for Yvaine when they learn she has the necklace. Three powerful witches seek Yvaine, as well. They want Yvaine’s heart, because eating the heart of a fallen star brings eternal youth. Yvaine wants nothing more than to go back where she came from, but she’s caught between these opposing forces and flees for her life.

I like Yvaine’s feisty personality and the way she literally glows when she’s happy, like when she’s dancing with Tristan. She and Tristan fall in love, though their path to happiness is anything but smooth.

This quirky, dark-humored, kind-of-oddball movie is based on the novel, Stardust, by Neil Gaiman, who also co-wrote the screenplay. I haven’t read the book yet, but it’s on my TBR list. The movie stars Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Robert De Niro, among others, with Sir Ian McKellen as the Narrator.


Photo Credit: http://imgbuddy.com

Photo Credit: http://imgbuddy.com



Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Photo Credit: Amazon.com






© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2015. All rights reserved.

A to Z Challenge: More Fictional Favorites! Day 24: Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden

X is for — Mary LennoX from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0

I am totally cheating here, choosing a character whose name ends in X rather than beginning with X.

The Secret Garden is one of my favorite books. Written in the early 1900s, it tells the story of young Mary Lennox, a spoiled brat who is ignored by her wealthy parents and is brought up by servants instructed to keep Mary out of her parents’ way. She lives in India until a cholera epidemic kills everyone in her household, except her.

She goes to live with her Uncle Craven at Misselthwaite Manor in England, where she discovers a sickly boy named Colin and a half-dead, hidden garden. As the neglected children bring the garden back to life, they, themselves, are transformed and blossom with new health and happiness.

The Secret Garden is a wonderfully uplifting and heartwarming tale of love, positive thinking, and the magic of growing things. I love how Mary rises above her horrible upbringing to not only create happiness for herself, but for Colin, too.

I’ve seen two movies made from the book, one by Hallmark Hall of Fame (1987) with Derek Jacobi and Gennie James and the other, a 1993 version with John Lynch, Maggie Smith, and Kate Maberly. Both altered the story somewhat, but I enjoyed them. The Hallmark movie was filmed at Highclere Castle in England, which was also the setting for the British TV series Jeeves and Wooster, with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, and is the current filming location for Downton Abbey.


Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Wikipedia


Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Photo Credit: Amazon.com


Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Photo Credit: Amazon.com






© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2015. All rights reserved.

A to Z Challenge: More Fictional Favorites! Day 23: Westley from The Princess Bride

W is for — Westley from William Goldman’s The Princess Bride A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0

“As you wish.”

Whenever “farm boy” Westley said these words to Buttercup, he was really saying, “I love you.” Buttercup’s realization of this ignited a love so true, it survived pirates, kidnapping, evil princes, Cliffs of Insanity, a Fire Swamp, and the Pit of Despair.

The Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies, and Westley, played by Cary Elwes, is a perfect hero. He’s smart, strong, and capable, and his love for Buttercup never wavers. He’s an expert with a sword, too, which lifts him even higher in my estimation.

One of my favorites scenes in the movie is Westley’s sword duel with the Spaniard, Inigo Montoya, whom I wrote about in last year’s A to Z “I” post. The moments leading up to the duel are quite funny, too.

Elwes recently published a book called As You Wish that tells about everything that went on behind the scenes during the making of The Princess Bride. According to an article I read about the book, Bride author William Goldman spent a great deal of time researching 17th century swordfighting to create the duel, and Elwes and Mandy Patinkin, who played Inigo, spent more months learning to fence both right and left handed. Elwes and Patinkin performed every part of the duel themselves, except for the somersaults. They were trained by the legendary sword master and stunt man Bob Anderson, whose credits include being the stunt double for Darth Vader’s light saber battles and training the one and only Errol Flynn.








© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2015. All rights reserved.

A to Z Challenge: More Fictional Favorites! Day 22: Vincent from Beauty and the Beast

V is for — Vincent from Beauty and the Beast A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0

I’ve always loved the storyline of the Beauty and the Beast fairytale — the cursed beast-prince angry and brooding in his dark castle, saved by the love of a kind and beautiful woman.

In 1987, Ron Koslow created a TV show based on this fairytale, but with a twist. The Beast, in this case, isn’t a witch-enchanted prince, but an extraordinary man named Vincent (played by Ron Perlman) with princely bearing who looks to be part lion. His tawny hair resembles a lion’s mane, and his features, a lion’s face. He is tall and incredibly strong and fierce, but with the heart of a poet.

Beauty is a woman named Catherine (Linda Hamilton of Terminator fame) who initially works in her father’s law firm, then becomes assistant district attorney in New York City. In a case of mistaken identity, she is brutally beaten by thugs and left for dead in Central Park. Vincent finds her, takes her to his underground home, and nurses her back to health. Through an empathetic connection, he senses her feelings and knows when she is in danger, rescuing her often, like a guardian angel.

The story takes place in Manhattan, both above and below ground, focusing on Catherine’s life as an ADA and Vincent’s life with his adopted family/community that lives in tunnels deep underground, hidden away from the real world. Catherine and Vincent’s sweet relationship grows throughout the series, strengthening into pure and true fairytale love.

One of the things I loved most about the show was the classical music and poetry they wove into each episode. This is where I first heard the beginning of William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence.

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour…”

Vincent had the most wonderful voice that brought to life the poems he read aloud. My favorite was Shakespeare’s Sonnet XXIX. Absolutely exquisite. The episodes inspired me to delve into the music and literature referenced, which expanded my knowledge and appreciation of poetry and classical music in general.

I really enjoyed the first two seasons of the show. Linda Hamilton left the show early in the third season because she was pregnant, and the show never recovered and was cancelled.

An interesting bit of trivia: Author George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones) was one of the producers of the show and wrote fourteen episodes.

To learn more about Beauty and the Beast, visit http://www.classicalliance.net/.



Photo Credit: IMDB







© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2015. All rights reserved.

Celebrate the Small Things! and A to Z Challenge: More Fictional Favorites! Day 21: Lt. Uhura from Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek

Celebrate the Small Things is a weekly celebration created by VikLit and now hosted by Lexa Cain to celebrate the happenings of the week, however small or large. You can learn all about it and sign up for it here. CelebrateSmallThings_Badge

Today, I’m celebrating that I’ve almost made it through the A to Z Challenge! Only five more days to go after today. I haven’t been able to do as much visiting of other blogs as I’d hoped, but I plan to make the rounds after the Challenge. A to Z Road Trip!


Moving on to A to Z —

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0 U is for — Lt. Uhura from Star Trek

Imagine America in the 1960s, torn by racial tension and violence. In the midst of it all, the creators of Star Trek did the unthinkable. They cast a black woman in an important role, equal to her white male counterparts on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.

Lieutenant Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols, was chief communications officer aboard the Enterprise, but her skills didn’t end there. She also took over the duties of helmsman, navigation, and science officer when necessary. Her competence in these areas was relied upon without any doubt. No one ever questioned her abilities.

The original series episode, Who Mourns for Adonais?, revealed another of Uhura’s skills — she rewired the entire communication system of the space shuttle to restore contact with the Enterprise. Very delicate work, in her words. Mr. Spock replies that he “can think of no one better equipped to handle it.”

Uhura rose to the rank of full commander in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn and continued to be a vital member of Captain Kirk’s crew in subsequent movies. She became a Star Trek icon, a role model for an oppressed African-American nation. According to Nichols, when she was going to leave the show after the first season, Martin Luther King, Jr., told her how important she was as a role model and inspiration to the African-American community and encouraged her to reconsider. Because of this, she stayed.

Later, she campaigned for NASA in their effort to recruit more women and African-Americans to join. I read that Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel in space (aboard the shuttle Endeavor), credited Star Trek as an influence in her decision to become an astronaut.


Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Nyota Uhura Photo Credit: http://thevalkyriedirective.tumblr.com

Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Nyota Uhura
Photo Credit: http://thevalkyriedirective.tumblr.com


Photo Credit: http://thevalkyriedirective.tumblr.com

From the episode Who Mourns for Adonais? Photo Credit: http://thevalkyriedirective.tumblr.com



What other celebrations are going on out there?





© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2015. All rights reserved.

A to Z Challenge: More Fictional Favorites! Day 20: Trixie Belden from The Trixie Belden Mysteries

T is for — Trixie Belden from The Trixie Belden Mysteries A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0

I loved to read mysteries when I was growing up. I read every Nancy Drew book I could find, and I wrote about her last year for my A to Z “N” post. This year, I’m writing about another teen mystery series I loved: The Trixie Belden Mysteries.

Trixie Belden is a young teen with three brothers who lives in the Hudson Valley of New York. She and her best friend and neighbor, Honey Wheeler, stumble into all kinds of mysteries at home and during their travels. They brave many dangers and, along with their brothers, manage to solve the mysteries.

I liked Trixie, because she was an ordinary kid with the same insecurities and angst as any teen of that day and age. Coming from a family with two brothers, I could relate to her on that score as well. The stories were good clean fun with enough mystery and excitement to keep me reading to the very end.

The first book in the series, Trixie Belden and The Secret of the Old Mansion, was published in 1948. The series had 39 books in all, the last being The Mystery of the Galloping Ghost, published in 1986. For middle-graders who like mysteries, they are well worth the read.

To learn more about Trixie Belden, visit http://www.trixie-belden.com/index.html.








© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2015. All rights reserved.

A to Z Challenge: More Fictional Favorites! Day 19: Spock from Star Trek

S is for — Spock from Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0

Live long and prosper.

Words made famous by Mr. Spock, First Officer and Science Officer aboard the Starship Enterprise. Chief Engineer Scott may have been my favorite character in the Star Trek series, but Spock, played by the inimitable Leonard Nimoy, was the most interesting. Half Human, half Vulcan, Spock fought a continuous internal battle against his emotions, always trying to suppress his Human half and be the quintessential Vulcan — coldly logical and detached. Most of the time, he succeeded. On rare occasions, though, his impassive exterior cracked with powerful results.

What Trek fan can watch with dry eye Spock’s farewell to Captain Kirk as he gives his life to save the Enterprise at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn? I know I can’t.

My favorite emotional moment of Spock’s is at the end of Amok Time, an episode from the original series in which Spock is pitted against Kirk in a battle to the death. While not in his right mind, Spock kills Kirk. Once the battle is over and Spock is thinking clearly again, he realizes he’s just killed his captain and his best friend, and he prepares to turn himself in for court-martial. The moment he discovers Captain Kirk is alive, Spock’s emotional reaction is priceless.

Leonard Nimoy played the character of Spock for almost fifty years. His final performance as the Vulcan came in the 2013 movie, Star Trek: Into Darkness. He transformed Spock into an unforgettable character, a cultural icon whose words, Live long and prosper, and whose hand raised with his fingers split in a V are instantly recognizable. No one else could ever be Mr. Spock.

RIP Leonard Nimoy, 1931-2015








© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2015. All rights reserved.

A to Z Challenge: More Fictional Favorites! Day 18: Rapunzel from Disney’s Tangled

R is for — Rapunzel from Disney’s Tangled A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0

When Disney’s 50th animated movie, Tangled, hit the theaters in 2010, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Since the early 1990s, their animated movies had been, in my opinion, less than impressive. I needn’t have worried this time, though. Tangled was delightfully funny with a lot of heart and great music. I laughed and cried. I loved it.

Rapunzel’s story may have strayed quite a bit from the original fairy tale, but I loved this Rapunzel’s personality — her wide-eyed innocence, her adventurous spirit, her inner strength and courage. She wields her hair almost like a weapon, swinging on it like Tarzan to escape pursuit. She swings a pretty mean frying pan, too.

One of my favorite scenes is in the beginning when Rapunzel is trying to figure out what to do with the unconscious Flynn Rider after beaning him with the frying pan. It’s absolutely hilarious. Another favorite scene is when she sees the floating lights for the first time. I loved the wonder and magic of seeing it all unfold through her eyes. The scene where she reunites with her real family still brings tears to my eyes.

Officially the 10th Disney princess, Rapunzel has become a favorite, second only to Belle from Beauty and the Beast.


Photo Credit: Disney Wikia

Photo Credit: Disney Wikia


Photo Credit: www.awn.com

Photo Credit: http://www.awn.com


Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Photo Credit: Amazon.com






© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2015. All rights reserved.

A to Z Challenge: More Fictional Favorites! Day 17: Queen Galadriel

Q is for — Queen Galadriel from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0

Descended from Elven Kings, the fair Galadriel was one of the greatest and most powerful of all the Elves in Middle-earth. She and her husband, Lord Celeborn, ruled the forest realm of Lothlorien, and they aided Frodo Baggins and the Fellowship of the Ring on their journey to destroy the One Ring. Galadriel wears one of the three Elven rings of power, Nenya, the Ring of Water.

Her daughter, Celebrian, married Lord Elrond, ruler of the Elven House of Rivendell, making Arwen Evenstar her granddaughter.

I admire Galadriel’s courage and quiet strength, her wisdom and grace. She, along with Gandalf, maintained vigilance against the return of Sauron and stood strong in the face of Sauron’s evil. When tempted by the power of the One Ring, she was one of the very few to resist its lure.

Though her character did not appear in The Hobbit book, Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies included her in scenes of the White Council and the battle of Dol Guldur. Purists may beg to differ, but I enjoyed the added scenes and the historical depth they brought to the story.

Photo Credit: LOTR Wikia

Photo Credit: LOTR Wikia


Photo Credit: pixshark.com






© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2015. All rights reserved.