Tuesday, October 31, 2006


I was tagged last week, when I was away and cut off from blogland, by Sara Hanz to reveal 5 interesting things about myself. Hmmm.... I'm not that interesting. This'll be my challenge of the year.


1. I've jumped out of an airplane at 13,000 feet without a parachute. Okay, I was strapped to a strapping young man who had a parachute. Tandem skydiving. Don't know if I ever need to do it again, but I'm glad I did it.

2. In high school I did musical theatre. Sadly, being short I never seemed to get parts for adults, though. When I was 17 I played a 9 year old boy... Oliver. Yes, sad but true.

3. I ruptured my achilles tendon about 14 years ago... Unfortunately, my stupid doctor (don't even get me started about HMO's in the US) thought I was just being a wimp and I walked on it for six weeks before she'd refer me to a surgeon, who immediately scheduled me for emergency surgery. I've got a 24" scar up the back of my leg 'cause they had to graft tendon from up near my knee.

4. About a year after the achilles tendon repair I hiked to the top of Half Dome. This photo of some guy climbing the cables doesn't really capture the steepness. Being short, I basically had to pull myself up these cables with my upper body (couldn't reach the cables any other way.) This photo also doesn't capture the traffic. I was almost crushed by a huge football player guy who was on the way down as I was going up and was terrified. Actually, terrified doesn't quite cover it. His friends tried to get me to move off the cables so he could go by more easily but I decided I'd rather leave one boot braced on a post and let the shaking but huge man slide over me than let go completely. what you can't really see in this photo is it drops off to the right and left, too...

5. Now I'm on to physical feats... I've done a 100 mile bike trip in one day. The Solvang Century. Not an easy ride. It's not only is 100 miles in one day, there's about 4000 feet of climbing, some of it steep. Boy, I have got to get back into shape!

I tag.... Margaret Moore, Christine D'Abo, Nadine Dajani , Mel Francis, Michele Ann Young

Halloween Scrooge

I don't know when it happened. I used to love Halloween. I trick-or-treated up to an embarrassingly high age... I think the last year I officially went out I was 13, but my friends and I were into the pillow case collection receptacle method by then (the serious stuff) and went home to change costumes mid-night so we could return to the houses that gave the best candy. Hard core.

I even went out trick or treating one year in University to a subdivision near my residence. I don't think we fooled anyone, but a few of the good-sport homeowners actually gave us some candy. And I used to love dressing up, going to a party or two, handing out candy to kids. Fun.

But for the past 6 or so years I've been a total scrooge. I just can't be bothered. I don't even know how many kids go out in my neighbourhood because I've never been home. The first few years I lived in this house I had an excuse. Oct 31 is a month end and since I was the CFO of a hedge fund, we had to value our fund at month end and I rarely got home before midnight -- long after even the most die-hard teenage trick-or-treaters had called it a night. Then, I think the next Halloween came on a Thursday, which is my critique group night... One year I think I went to visit my sister and her family in Ottawa... (love seeing my niece and nephew in costume)
But tonight I'm turning off the lights and going to the movies. Can't be bothered. Don't want the candy in the house. Don't know any kids in my neigbourhood. TV's upstairs and don't want to keep going up and down to the front door. (How lazy is that???)

Bah, humbug.

Halloween... love it or hate it?

Friday, October 27, 2006

On the road...

Have found it hard to get to a computer this week to blog... But I have made a (way too long) post on the drunk writer talk blog today about conferences...

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Mountains Exist!!!

After 36 hours of wondering whether the hotel's marketing materials had been a big fat lie, mountains have emerged from the fog, creating a beautiful vista from my hotel room in suburban Vancouver. (Otherwise known as Surrey)

Eileen Cook, on the other hand, remains shrouded and I'm beginning to believe she only exists in blogland and not in real life :-)

Having a great time at the conference so far and my mind is swimming with too many thoughts to be very coherent.

I just came out of an "advanced" class on mastering POV. Two quick thoughts:

1. I've noticed the use of the word master or advanced in the title of a workshop (this one used both) greatly increases the number of male writers in the room. Perhaps I'm not being totally fair, though... The presenter was a sci fi writer and some of the participants may have attended mostly to hear him.

2. The degree to which writers of other genres know nothing about romance or women's fiction continues to amaze me. Although, given the ounce of reflection possible while I was typing that last sentence, I realize that until 4-5 years ago, I knew nothing about romance, either, so why I expect a sci fi writer to have a clue, I don't know. (When I wrote my first romance, I thought I'd be breaking new ground by doing a sex scene from the hero's POV. Little did I know they ALL DO THIS. At least for the past 10-15 years...)

Not that the presenter didn't have a clue. It was actually a very good presentation on POV (one of the best I've seen) -- just not what I'd expected from an "advanced" class on "mastering" POV. Virtually every member of RWA knows what he taught in that class and it shocks me how new the idea of staying in one character's head for a scene was, to many of the writers in the room. Also interesting... he suggested that if you have two main viewpoint characters, you should avoid scenes where both are present, or if such a thing cannot be avoided, you should write that scene from a third viewpoint character's POV. He said to use one of the main viewpoint characters and not the other, but have them both in the scene would be difficult and confuse the reader.

Made me think romance and women's fiction writers and readers must be really smart. :-) But I already knew that.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Last King of Scotland

Okay, during the film festival I promised I'd blog about some of the great films I saw -- perhaps closer to their release dates.

I've just realized that a few have come and gone already... Ooops.

But one that's in theatres right now you should check out is The Last King of Scotland. A deeply powerful film about a dark period in Ugandan history.

It tells the story of the brutal dictator, Idi Amin Dada. This is the synopsis from the official web site for the film:

"In an incredible twist of fate, a Scottish doctor (James McAvoy) on a Ugandan medical mission becomes irreversibly entangled with one of the world's most barbaric figures: Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker). Impressed by Dr. Garrigan's brazen attitude in a moment of crisis, the newly self-appointed Ugandan President Amin hand picks him as his personal physician and closest confidante. Though Garrigan is at first flattered and fascinated by his new position, he soon awakens to Amin's savagery - and his own complicity in it. Horror and betrayal ensue as Garrigan tries to right his wrongs and escape Uganda alive."

When I saw the film, I wondered if Dr. Garrigan had been a real person, and I've spoken to a few people who are convinced he was, but he wasn't. He's just an amazingly clever device used by the writer to show how the world (most particularly the British who aided in Amin's rise to power) got sucked in by the initially charismatic dictator and how the world came to see the truth and horror that was Idi Amin. The "trick" here is that the novelist wrote the book (on which the movie is based) as a memoir. Okay, I assume it says novel on the cover, but it's written as a memoir making lots of people think the protagonist really existed. The writer side of me is really impressed by this idea... What a great way to fictionalize historical events. Create a character, plunk him in the middle of the events you want to show and write his memoirs. I guess this isn't entirely original--others have done it. But this movie (and I assume novel--haven't read it) does it well. (Actually, in many ways Hotel Rwanda did this, too... Sure, that hotel manager existed, I actually saw him at the film's premiere at the Toronto festival in 2004, so it's not the same situation as Last King... but the manager's role in using the hotel to save people was reputedly grossly exaggerated in the film in order to tell a good story. To roughly quote General Dallaire, the UN leader in Rwanda: "Yes, the UN used that hotel for refugees. Yes, I think I remember there being a helpful manager." In some ways, this distortion of a real life character bothers me more than creating a completely fake one. Yes, centering Hotel Rwanda on a sympathetic and proactive protagonist was a good way to create a story appealing to the public... Perhaps it's the Canadian patriot in me that didn't like how they misrepresented Romeo Dallaire in that movie. He should have been the hero, and instead he was a drunk Nick Nolte, but I suppose it wouldn't have sold as many tickets. If you want to see the Rwanda story told more acurately, rent the documentary SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL.)

But I'm seriously digressing. Back to The Last King of Scotland. I first doubted the doctor character was based on a real person during the resolution of his story. I don't want to put any spoilers here... but I felt that if the circumstances surrounding the climax of the film were true, then his story would be better known. The climax of the film occurs during the 1976 hijacking of an Air France plane which Amin allowed to land in Uganda and whose hostages were famously rescued in an Isreali army raid. (and immortalized in the 1977 TV film RAID ON ENTEBBE)

Anyway. I thought THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND was a really great film. It's not for the faint of heart, there's some brutal and graphic violence, but the story is one everyone should know and the performances were amazing.

Forest Whitaker was astounding and James McAvoy (dubbed the It-boy of this year's Toronto festival because he had 3 films screening--one I liked STARTER FOR TEN, one I didn't PENELOPE) was equally good as the naive young doctor.

Check it out! If you've seen it, let me know what you think.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Writers are nice people

There are lots of stereotypes of writers--particularly romance writers I suppose--and the more writers I meet, the more I think these stereotypes aren't based on any kind of reality.

Not for genre or mainstream fiction writers, anyway.

This year, between serving on the board of my local RWA chapter and attending way too many conferences for my own good, I've had the pleasure to meet many authors including several big-time bestselling authors. I have to tell you, they just couldn't be a nicer, smarter more generous group of women.

Maybe it's because in romance and women's fiction we're writing about human relationships, so the writers who are good at showing these relationships to readers via their words, are also good at human relationships in "the real world". Maybe it's because writers understand what makes people tick?

Don't know... But what inspired this post was a lovely dinner Saturday night with Mary Jo Putney who kindly came up to Toronto to speak to our TRW members. While answering our questions in the afternoon, she was frank and open and honest and encouraging,and then was gracious and really good fun when the board took her and her husband out for dinner in the evening.

I'm wondering, if all stereotypes exist because they're true... where are the nasty diva's eating bon bons? Where are the sad introverts who live only through their characters? I've never met any writers like that. Have you?

(Not that being an introvert is a bad thing . I'm a bit of one myself. By sad introvert, I just mean that stereotype of a lonely romance writer with absolutely no life or friends besides her cat. The Joan Wilder before she goes to Columbia stereotype.)

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The verb "to see" -- a grammar rant

I'm not a picky grammarian--especially not in spoken English, but nothing makes me cringe more than “I seen”. I actually have a pretty good friend who says it with some regularity, but I must admit I don’t think I would have given him the chance to be a friend if he hadn’t been the partner of another good friend. (I suppose that says more about me than him, doesn’t it. Too quick to judge at times.)

The other night I heard someone being interviewed on TV say, “I have saw.”

Okay, in speech we all make mistakes, (hey, we make them in written english, too), but this person did it more than once making it seem like she thought it was correct.

People. It’s not that hard.

Of course, this is from someone who co-founded a weblog called Drunk Writer Talk… But really, Drunken Writer Talk doesn’t sound as good, does it? Besides, my dictionary lists both words as adjectives :-)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Back from Jersey


I watched ET tonight (very highbrow TV selection) and Anna Nicole's mother was on. She was chastising her daughter for not having buried her grandson yet. "What kind of mother would do that?" she said.

Not that I'm defending Anna Nicole or her parenting abilities... but what kind of mother would go on National TV and criticize her daughter????

Seriously. Apple don't fall to fur from the tree there, do it?

I'm blogging on drunk writer talk today about setting career objectives and sticking to them. The NJ conference was great. Really glad I went.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Control and hairdressers

I was born a honey blonde. That’s what I would have called it anyway. It wasn’t ever platinum like my older sister’s, but still blonde. I liked the colour. In my not-so-humble opinion, it looked like 24 carat gold in sunlight. That and its softness almost made up for its limp, fine, impossible to style, poker straightness.

Sometime during my thirties—I’m not exactly sure when, because I moved to California when I was in my late twenties and I think the sunshine masked the exact year of change—my hair darkened and dulled, turned less golden blonde and more dark dirty blonde or even (gasp!) mousy brown. So, in spite of having much disdain for artificial blondes when I had my own, I started to add highlights. I’ve had a bit of a chemical dependence ever since.

After quitting my conservative day-job, I wanted to try something different. Having green eyes and that Irish/Scottish complexion thing going, I always wondered what I’d look like with red hair. I confessed this to my new, crazy-in-a-good-way hairdresser, Farzana, along with a desire to have something bold, something funky, something that didn’t scream 40-years old. (A milestone I’d just reached.)

The first few times she cut and coloured my hair, I’m sure we discussed what I wanted ahead of time. I seem to recall having input on the colours she used.

Not so much anymore. Now I walk in the door and she goes, “I have a great idea!” and several hours and many dollars later I emerge with some crazy hair colouring.

Not that I’m complaining. I keep going back, don’t I? And Jenny Bent remembered me at a conference because of my hair. (And I’m pretty sure it was in a good way.)

When I went in to see Farzana on the weekend, my hair had a strawberry blonde base, not unlike the natural colour of my youth, and some chunky highlights in a lighter blonde, and some red, and some brown… I loved it when she’d done it back in July and it had faded to something soft and pretty but roots were coming in. I wanted to know if she could freshen it up and fix the roots, without doing the whole hog double process it had taken to get it where it was.

Somehow, without much discussion, I walked out a few hours later with very dark hair. Deep brown on the bottom and a deep auburn on the top. For a natural blonde, the dark hair thing is a little disturbing. I’m not sure if it suits me yet. I do know I should have had her dye my eyebrows, too. I look freaky without makeup.

How much control do you give your hairdresser? Do you know exactly what you want and tell him/her? Or, like me, do you throw caution to the blow dryer?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Nadine Dajani

I had the pleasure of meeting fellow Canadian, Nadine Dajani, this summer in Atlanta after corresponding with her a few times and discovering a strange connection... Not only are we both accountants turned fiction writers, we have a connection through the Cayman bank she works (worked now, I think). No, I'm not filthy rich and I've never laundered money through the Caymans. The connection is through a past job of mine. My former employer is a (very ligitimate and totally above board) client of said Cayman bank.

Nadine's first book FASHIONABLY LATE is coming out in June 2007 from Forge books. I, for one, can't wait to read it. It's set partially in Montreal and partially in Cuba and the heroine is a Lebanese Canadian. What could be more interesting than that? Those critics who say chick lit is all about rich white American women should do a little research!

Anyway, perhaps I should get around to the point of this post?

Nadine just launched her website and is running a great contest all week via her blog to celebrate. Check it out!
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