Friday, December 18, 2009

Hooked on Vampire Diaries

I saw the first episode of Vampire Diaries when it aired back in the fall and kind of went, "M'eh."

Didn't hate it, but didn't like it enough to set my already way too busy DVR. But this week, while not much else was on, Much Music, up here in Canada has been showing back to back episodes all week and boy, have I got sucked in. (Pun intended.)

What I hadn't realized before was that Kevin Williamson was the writer. I didn't watch Dawson's Creek the first time around, either, but did catch a bunch of them in syndication and totally got the appeal of that show. Witty repartee and teen angst. What's not to love?

And now Vampire Diaries: witty repartee, teen angst and hot, hot vampires.

Not to mention Boone from Lost. Yowza. I know it's a little sick, but that Boone loves his sister subplot from the first season of Lost was one of my favourite subplots, although it might have had more to do with his eyes and the way he looked at her than the actual writing.

But regardless, it's great to see that actor on TV again and in such a great role. I totally feel like a cougar. A cougar who wants the hot bad-boy vampire. Wow. Sick.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

First release day!

So suddenly, all I'm blogging about is firsts. To be more accurate, I suppose, I haven't been blogging much at all lately, but that's mostly because of another first, my first real deadline that's looming over me like an overhanging cliff in an earthquake. Don't stand under the huge chunk of shaking rock, idiot! LOL

But today is the official release date of the anthology my short story, "Lost and Found" is in. Not quite the same as a debut novel, but it is the first time my fiction has been in print -- well, unless you count high school yearbooks and the like. And my yearbook didn't have such a hot guy on the cover.

Although it's officially available today, Amazon and other online booksellers have been shipping this book for more than a week now. In fact, it seems like they're running low on stock because the ship by date has stretched out. But still time to get it by Christmas. 20 authors for the price of, well, less than 20. ;-)

Can't wait to actually see a copy in a bookstore. Will be heading down to my local store this week to hound them into shelving it, if they still have it in the stockroom, or ordering it, if they haven't. They have stocked the previous "Mammoth" romance anthos, so I'm hoping they stock this one, too. If not, I'll beg and plead and promise to send people to the store to buy it.

If anyone out there sees this anthology on a shelf, let me know. Better yet, take a snap. Very exciting. And if you'd like a chance to win your very own copy, I'm also blogging on the 2007 Bond Girls blog today and giving away a book!

Friday, November 27, 2009

First book deal!

Okay, so I've been sitting on this news for a while now, waiting for various details to be hammered out. Sitting on it so long, in fact, that this announcement feels almost anticlimactic. But, really, how can there be anything anticlimactic about announcing MY FIRST BOOK DEAL.

Yes, I have been offered a two book deal! Someone is actually paying me to write! Someone is making a bet that readers will put down their hard earned cash to buy something I wrote! Wow. (Something more than a short story, that is. To read my first published short story, order here. ;-) Already shipping from Amazon in the US. Just saying....)

The offer was made based on a proposal :-) and it's for two YA novels, (young teen, really), a genre I've been flirting with for a long time, but had yet to tackle beyond the ideas stage.

The books will be released in Fall 2010 (yes, that soon **Maureen is writing very quickly**) by Phoenix Books, a Beverly Hills based publisher better known for celebrity non-fiction and audio books than for kids fiction. (But hey, they did publish Carl Reiner's children's picture book.)

And I'm super excited they chose my series to help launch them into this segment of the publishing world. (Not that they don't know the teen/tween market... One of their current titles is "I Heart Robert Pattinson".

The books are the first two in a planned series based on fairy tales, but with a few twists -- including a "make your own adventure" element where the reader gets to choose what the characters do next.

The first two books are:

CINDERELLA: NINJA WARRIOR, wherein Cinderella is not that interested in going to a ball, and uses her martial arts and magic skills to defeat her evil stepmother and win the heart of the prince.


SLEEPING BEAUTY: VAMPIRE SLAYER, wherein a princess is cursed to sleep during the day, and everyone else in her kingdom is cursed to sleep at night -- when the vampires attack. How's a girl to find true love and break a curse when all the non-bloodsucking-type boys are asleep?

We're already talking about books 3 and 4 and I'm excited about those ideas too, and the ones I have percolating for books 5 and 6 and... I'm getting away from myself.

I've always loved the magic, wonder and happy endings offered by fairy tales, but even as a kid was bothered by all the passive heroines in peril, waiting for their princes to save the day. I'm thrilled to be re-imagining these much-loved stories with tons of girl power, lots of action and danger, and yes, handsome, charming princes, too. But in my fairy tale world it'll take more than good looks for the heroines to win a happily-ever-after ending.

And I'm hoping these books will mark a happy beginning for me. After several other projects came so close to making it to the ball, but never quite got there, I feel a bit like Cinderella myself right now. Gotta run, pumpkin carriage outside... ;-)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Okay, so I've been sorely neglecting this blog of late, but today I'm blogging on both Drunk Writer Talk, (about Mad Men), and on Nobody Writes It Better, (about Remembrance Day).

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ready, Set, Go!

About to embark on a rapid writing marathon a la Nano. (Okay, I have signed up for NaNoWriMo, but can't be an official "winner" because I'm already 4K into the book, and hope to be at least 15K in before the end of October and the official NaNo start. But definitely plan to get at LEAST 50K done in November, too.

If you're on NaNo, be my buddy. I'm on there as mmcgowan.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Agent Hunting Exposed

I'm blogging about the great agent hunt over on DWT today. Who is rejecting whom?

I had fun with it. Check it out. :-)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Introducing.... Chevy Stevens

About 3 years ago, I sat across the aisle from a woman during a Donald Maass workshop at the Surrey Writers conference.

She was so strikingly attractive she was the kind of girl a girl like me almost wants to hate instantly, or at least make assumptions about (shame on me). ;-) But soon I noticed we were nodding at the same insights from Maass, smiling at the same things, rolling our eyes in the same places, and even making eye contact a few times. Writer flirting?

We talked during the first break, found out more about each other and each others writing, and became instant friends, staying in touch via e-mail since then.

So, I couldn't have been more thrilled to hear when she got her first publishing contract last year!!!!

Writing as Chevy Stevens, her thriller STILL MISSING will be released by St. Martin's Press in July, 2010, and is already generating a huge amount of buzz. (Bzzzzz....You hear it, don't you!)

Right now, is giving away 60, yes 60, specially formatted early reader copies of STILL MISSING to readers who would like to preview the book and comment about it.

Get yours while they're hot!

(I read an early draft of the opening of this book and all I can say is WOW.)

Chevy on the web.
Chevy on facebook.
Chevy on twitter.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

LOVED this movie.

Also glad to have had a good movie going experience at Roy Thompson Hall, again, after not going to a gala for the past seven years.

The experience was good because of a smart gamble I took in line. I had a balcony ticket. And Roy Thompson Hall is a symphony hall. Built for acoustics, not for viewing movies, and I already knew that watching a movie from the top balcony, with it's pale grey walls bouncing all the light so that you can see everyone in the theatre, as well or better than you could see the movie, was distracting at best. But while standing in the ticket holders line, about an hour before the movie was to start, a TIFF volunteer came by with a stack of tickets for the main floor level and offered them to us in exchange for our tickets. Most people weren't taking them. And after going in, I can kind of see why. 99.9% of the main floor seating is taken up by reserved seats for the various sponsors of the gala. But if you're only looking for a single ticket (as I was) and are willing to sit either on the edges or up front, it turned out to be a really good deal. I landed a seat in the second row, on an aisle. Yes, the movie was close, but only felt too close a couple of times, and I was right down front for when they introduced the cast and director at the start.

Unfortunately, my photo op dreams were dashed when a gaggle of photographers rushed in about five minutes before the introductions to block what would've been an amazing view. C'est la vie. Here's a lovely photo of one of the jerkiest photographer's backs. Jerky, because he stood back about 4 feet from the stage, to block our view even more effectively... I could almost touch him he was so close. Should've kicked him in hindsight. (But then I likely would've been kicked out and missed the movie.)

Anyway, I will post the photos I did manage to take.

And say something about the film... because it is about the film and not about photos of Keanu Reeves and Robin Wright. ;-) Really.

Loved it. The screenplay is based on a book by Rebecca Miller, who also wrote and directed the movie, and is also married to Daniel Day Lewis, so it's a little hard not to hate her, but her movie was so good, I can't. (She's beautiful, too... The next photo is of her.)

The story is about a middle-aged woman (I just had trouble typing that... because I think it's about a woman about my age) who's married to a much older man, and while the core of the story is anchored in the present, it makes heavy use of flashbacks showing Pippa growing up.

All the performances were outstanding. Even Blake Lively, one of the chicks from Gossip Girl, was good playing Pippa as a young adult. A stand out was Maria Bello as Pippa's mother. Wow. She's always good, but boy was she amazing in this.

Even all the small roles are played by great actors. Julianne Moore has a tiny, fun cameo. Winona Ryder was hilarious. A few of my laugh out loud moments came from her kind of pathetic character. And Keanu Reeves continues to impress me, now he's matured a bit. I thought he was terrific in that Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson movie, the name of which escapes me right now, and in some smaller films like Thumbsucker. I like that he's not afraid to play into the stereotypes about him as a person, and plays characters who suit him -- quiet, sensitive men -- instead of trying to be the alpha guy. (Like he did in a few ridiculous movies back in the 1990's. I mean really, even as Neo, Reeves was not an alpha.)

And what can I say about Robin Wright (sometimes Penn). Acting goddess. She was so believable in this movie, and I have to say one of the main reasons I love her these days is because she has wrinkles. It's been so long since we've seen the forehead or eyes of female actors (even some male actors) MOVE when they express emotion. I really hope this botox trend dies soon. But that's a blog for another day.

I know I haven't said much about the actual film, except to say I loved it, but I don't want to say too much. It is a "character study" kind of film... almost a coming of age film, even though it's set during a mid-life crisis of sorts, but it made me laugh out loud several times and it made me cry more than once (the mother-daughter stuff is very good). I'm not sure Pippa is someone I'd be friends with in real life, but boy did I feel like I understood her and how she got to be the way she was by the end. I predict award nominations for Robin Wright and possibly the screenwriter/director, Rebecca Miller, too.


Well, yesterday was my first "wow" day of the festival and I have a sneaking suspicion it might be my one wow day this year, but who knows.

First Balibo. This is a film I bought a ticket for at the last minute, after getting an alert from the TIFF late Monday night that there still were tickets available. And I'm so glad my will power was weak at that moment.

It's an Australian film, set in 1975, about events I admit I knew nothing about before this. I suppose I'd vaguely heard of East Timor, but barely, and really don't know much about Indonesia, either.

To sum up the (true) story very quickly... East Timor was a Portuguese colony for about 400 years. It declared it's independence and very soon after, neighbouring Indonesia invaded committing many atrocities, and the world not only sat by and did nothing, but purportedly helped Indonesia, since some felt the new government in Timor had communist leanings.

But the story focuses on Australian journalists. Five who went into east Timor to a small village named Balibo, near the Indonesian border, a few weeks before the main invasion, and then one older journalist (played by Anthony Lapaglia) who went 3 weeks later to try to find them, or find out what happened to them.

I found the story moving and engrossing and like other films of it's kind, like The Killing Fields, Shake Hands with the Devil and Hotel Rwanda, it exposes events where history can look back at decisions made by the UN, in particular the powerful countries of the world, and we have only to hang our collective heads in shame.

The exciting thing about this film coming out now, is that it's now East Timor's tenth anniversary of breaking free of Indonesian rule, and also largely because of the film, Australia is now persuing war crimes charges on those responsible.

In this photo of the principle cast members, the actor, next to Lapaglia is Oscar Isaac, who played Jose Ramos-Horta, who represented East Timor, in exile, for 24 years in the UN and who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 and is now President of the country.

The film follows two timelines, interweaving them. Basically the route of the missing five journalists, and the route of Lapaglia's character, Roger East, and Jose Ramos-Horta following behind three weeks later. It all builds to a pretty horrific and moving conclusion.

This film got so much buzz during this year's festival, I kind of expect it will get some kind of distribution. I hope so.

If it comes to your city, go see it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

TIFF -- Whip It!

First, who knew there was another Wilson brother? Not me.

Monday morning, (I know, Monday morning!) I saw WHIP IT, Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut about Roller Derby.

I’m a little on the fence about this film, but mostly on the positive side -- just not on the jumping up and down raving about it side. Some of the performances were amazing. Marcia Gay Harden as the mom, Kristen Wiig, as usual stealing scenes with her dry delivery, andJuliette Lewis in a great performance in a made-for-her role. I mean, really, why hasn’t Juliette Lewis played a roller derby bully before now?

But back to my opening question... Through the whole film, I kept wondering, who does their coach remind me of? It wasn’t his appearance, it was his voice, his accent, his phrasing, his entire manner of speaking. And it finally hit me: he was doing a Luke Wilson impression. Or that’s what I thought, until we got to the credits and I saw the actor was named Andrew Wilson.

A quick peruse of shows he’s been in quite a few films, but I don’t think I’ve noticed him before. Also turns out that it's actually Owen Wilson who does a pretty great Andrew Wilson impression, since according to their bios on, Andrew is the oldest.

And, of course, I haven’t even mentioned the lead yet, Ellen Page. She was good, as always, but I thought the biggest stretch of the imagination for the audience was to believe tiny little Ellen Page as a roller derby player. But that’s why I’m glad I stayed for the Q&A.

I wasn’t at the first screening of this movie, and so neither Drew, nor any of the actors were at the screening I was at... :-( but who was there was the screenwriter. And I couldn’t have been more thrilled. I mean, we all know the writer’s the star, right? Here's a photo of the writer, Shauna Cross, during her Q&A.

Cross said a couple of interesting things about casting Ellen Page. First, that she pretty much wrote the part with Ellen in mind, after seeing her in Hard Candy. (A very disturbing little film, if you've never seen it.) Second, that she was attached to this project before Juno even happened (crushing my assumptions) and third, that there are lots of girls that tiny in roller derby. Who knew? The tiny girls are prized for being fast, getting through small holes in the pack, and bouncing back up when they fall. Hmmm... Shows how much I didn't know about roller derby. I mean, who even knew that roller derby had experienced a revival? I thought it had died a well-deserved death in the 70’s.

But while I’m still not sure I really developed an appreciation for this campy, showy sport, that has more in common with the WWE than speed skating, I do now understand the objective and how you score. :-)

And was very impressed that almost all of the skating and stunts were done by the actors, especially Ellen Page, who the screenwriter says could easily hold her own in a real roller derby league. There was actually a live demo of the sport in downtown Toronto Friday night featuring the cast and some local roller derby players... but I couldn't go.

So, I guess I haven’t really reviewed this film… It’s a tad predictable (but with a few choices that are less than cliché). I certainly could've done without a few things, like the food fight, but overall the performances and writing make it an enjoyable film to watch.

It opens in a couple of weeks. Here's the trailer if you haven't already seen it.

Monday, September 14, 2009


And so it begins. I saw the first films of my much abbreviated festival this year.

The first one was really interesting, if not amazing, and I have no idea whether or not it will ever see the inside of theaters in North America. It was a Spanish film called. V.O.S., which in Spanish basically stands for Original Version – Subtitled. And I’m still puzzling over that title, slightly, especially after the director explained that while the film was bilingual, the actors speaking in both in Basque and Catalan, it was actually dubbed for its theatrical release in Spain. (Whereas, we saw it with the original actor's voices, but subtitled.) I assume it had something to do with that? Or a joke on what's real and what's fake? (see storytelling structure, below.) I'm not sure.

There were two interesting storytelling choices made in this movie. First, it’s told out of order, with the actors directly addressing the audience (almost) at times. In addition to this out of order thing… one of the main characters is writing a screenplay based on the story that’s supposedly happening to the characters, so occasionally there are parts where other characters break out of the scene to argue with the screenwriter character, to say, “That’s not how it happened.”

And if all that weren’t enough, it’s quite obviously filmed on a sound stage, with the “crew” interacting with the actors at times and the actors walking from set to set and by the end almost seeming like they were actually living in the sets on the sound stage. Confused? Well, so was the audience, but I think we were supposed to be. One of the sections of dialogue was actually an argument about the storytelling structure being too complicated. But in the end (actually, by about 1/3 of the way in, it was all fairly clear.)

The movie was based on a stageplay and from what I understood during the Q&A, the only thing really added to the screenplay from the stage script was this idea of the film crew being part of the movie.

I know all that sounds really complicated… but it was actually quite entertaining and funny in parts and the lead actor was hot, which goes along way for me. ;-) Okay, he might not look super hot in the photo above, but trust me. He had a bit of a Gerard Butler thing going on.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Captain Harkness!

More than four years ago, when I was visiting my brother and sister-in-law, who were living outside of London at the time, I must've inadvertently signed up for a newsletter that comes about 4 or 5 times a year, listing ticket deals for the latest West End plays. I'm sure I could unsubscribe... but figure, why?

And this a.m. I got a big answer to why not. Check out this photo of John Barrowman for a production of La Cage Aux Folles. I assume it's him. It kind of looks like him. He is very pretty.

I blame Amy Ruttan and Christine D'Abo and Wylie Kinson for getting me started on watching Torchwood. I admit it was a bit of a slow burn for me. Was ready to give up after first couple of episodes, but then I got totally and completely hooked. And a big part of that was getting past Barrowman's (for me) corny acting to focus on his overall hotness, especially the hot looks he often gives to the other actors, male and female. I want to go to London to see this play now. Anyone have a spare thousand dollars or so? Please?

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Totally caved and bought a few tickets for the TIFF today. Not even sure how many right now. Got so annoyed with the website...

Even bought a gala ticket by mistake... (To a film starring Robin Wright Penn and Keanu Reeves that I think actually sounds pretty great. I'm a big fan of the on-again-off-again Mrs. Penn.) I knew it was a "premium" ticket, but thought it was one at the Elgin. Oh, well. I shall try Roy Thompson Hall again. I haven't seen a screening there since 2002.

The good news, for those of you mourning my lack of TIFF attendance, is I will be blogging about a few films!

The bad news is all for my finances... The tickets, bought individually, are either about $22 or $45 (all in with the taxes) depending on whether they are "premium" screenings. Still so angry about that premium thing that started last year with the Elgin screenings... See my posts from last year's festival for the rants. They so figured out how to ruin the good thing I had going with the festival, spending most evenings at the Elgin where I could hang at the VISA VIP lounge for gold card members and get into the theatre in front of the line on the street. Guess too many other people figured out the great scheme, too...

Based on these prices, the $600 for 50 films is starting to look like a good deal after all. Not that I have time for 50 films this year. Pushing it to go to the ten or so I chose. Just saying.

I was going to go to the midnight madness showing of Jennifer's Body tonight. I'm interested only because Diablo Coady wrote it, and it's the first night, which is fun... but the buzz is not good, so I don't see the point in standing in a line outside for 3-4 hours to possibly get the opportunity to pay $22 to see a horror movie, and get in at the last second to get a crappy seat and probably miss the introductions of the cast, when I really kind of hate horror movies.. But I do like the midnight madness screenings none-the-less. Fun crowds go to movies at midnight.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Win Tons of Books!!!

My good friend Louisa Edwards' first book has hit the shelves! Yippee!

Isn't it a gorgeous cover? I for one can't wait to dig into this tasty treat of a story about chefs and, um, food. And, to make things even better, she's running an amazing contest on her website.

Just check out the bag-o-books she's giving away!

Can’t Stand the Heat by Louisa Edwards (signed!)
Hunt Her Down by Roxanne St. Claire
The Darkest Whisper by Gena Showalter
Red Kiss by Deidre Knight
Surrender of a Siren by Tessa Dare
Dark of Night by Suzanne Brockmann
A Hint of Wicked by Jennifer Haymore
Vision in White by Nora Roberts
Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione
Julia & Julia by Julie Powell

Go to Louisa's new site to register!

TIFF is in the air

The days are starting to shorten, the nighttime air is getting cooler... All signs t'is the season for the Toronto International Film Festival. Pout. I'm not going this year.

I know this will come as a shock to many, but I decided the combination of the cost, the time, the recovery and the timing this year, were all too prohibitive.

  1. First, it's a lot of money to do the whole thing. Especially since they turned the Elgin into a "premium" venue, thereby screwing pass holders. Still annoyed about this. Sure, I could've just gone to a few movies, but I'm not good at doing things half-way and it likely would've ended up consuming too much of my attention anyway. See #2
  2. All in, the festival takes up about 2-3 weeks of my life. Between standing in lines to pick up the selection book... and picking my films, and standing in line again to hand in my picks, then again to pick up my tickets, then again to exchange tickets because of inevitable screw ups... It takes at least a week of my life, before the films even start. Then the next 11 days are consumed, and I mean consumed, by seeing films. I'm typically out of my house for minimum 15 hours each of the 11 days of the festival. Typically out of the house before nine and rarely home before midnight... And that takes me to #3.
  3. It always takes me at least a week to decompress from the festival and get back onto my writing schedule. It's so exhausting and so overwhelming and between going and trying to blog about it, it takes over.
  4. The early September timing is often an issue. I invariably end up missing a couple of important meetings because of the festival. And both my sister's and her hubby's birthdays fall during the festival most years.... so I forget those and feel badly. But this year, my parents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. (I know, crazy!) And since the party is right after the festival, there is no way I could justify going this year.
Tiff... Wait for me. I'll try to be back next year. Not sure I can quit you... (Quoting one of my fav films I saw the premiere of at the festival...)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Behavior Change Incentives

How much does it take to change your behavior?

For some bad habits, a lot, when it comes to me... But one thing that's really struck me these past months is how many Torontonians (including me) will alter their behavior for a nickel.

Yes, for years now, many environmentally conscious people have been bringing their own bags to grocery stores. I did when I thought of it... (my local market is basically a health food store, and they've always had really good, reusable bags... but I didn't always remember to bring them.)

But they passed a law in the Toronto, and since June 1, 2009, it's the law for retailers to charge at least 5 cents for a plastic bag. And I'm not sure I've spent a nickel yet. (Oh, yes I have. On delivery food. I mean, you can't take your own bag to the restaurant for the delivery guy to use. Would kind of defeat the purpose of delivery...)

I have a bag that's always in my purse... and when I go to get groceries, I never (rarely) forget my bigger bags anymore. If I do, I only buy enough to fit in the small one in my purse.

So, apparently, a nickel is enough to change my behavior. I guess it helps that it's a behavior I wanted to change... just needed the nickel push.

And it also helps that it's changed the behavior of the sales clerks. Now, they have to ask, "Do you want a bag?", whereas they used to just automatically start dumping your purchases into a bag and you'd have to stop them and say, "Hey, you know what? I've got a bag," or, "I can fit that into my tote bag, or backpack, or put it in with my sweaty gym clothes."

Apparently I'll do a lot for a nickel. How about you?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Beer, Bones and Killer Unicorns

I was ecstatic this morning to read a small clip in the newspaper informing me that women who drink beer are less likely to suffer from osteoporosis. I knew I beer had more uses than keeping my weight up. ;-) Yay!

In other news, top secret footage from an attempted PSA about the dangers of unicorns has been released. Beware!

To learn more about the dangers of unicorns, check out It might save your life!

Also, make sure to buy, RAMPANT, by Diana Peterfreund. Here's her beautiful cover.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Joy of Reading (and Sex)

Blogging about the joy of reading (and sex) over at Nobody Writes it Better, today.

Also, we've got a new member at Drunk Writer Talk! Come by to say hi.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

So You Think It's All Over?

So You Think You Can Dance, Canada starts tonight!!! No break for us up here. Back to back SYTYCD. This photo is last year's contestants.

And this year, it must be overlapping with the next US one, too, since that starts in early September...

Wow. So much dance to watch on TV. Tough job, but I think I can handle it.

Last year, the Canadian version of SYTYCD was AWESOME -- in spite of Jean Marc's strange word choices -- he might even be stranger than L'il C -- and everyone trying to coin a phrase like Mary's hot tamale train. Really, people. Give it up.

If this year, they can find even one dancer as hot and fabulous as last year's winner, Nico, I'll be happy.

And he wasn't just hot. Did I mention he was also talented? American viewers might recognize the choreographer from this one from Season One? or Two? of the US one.... Bad boy Blake...

Yes, he is talented... But here are some more photos :-) Strung together with music....

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Like coffee? Try some for free!

My pal Marilyn Brant, who's fabulous novel According to Jane will be released in October of this year, is running a taste test on the new Starbucks instant coffee, currently only available in Chicago, Seattle and London.

If you'd like to be among the first to try it, click here, and get information on free samples.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bite Me!

Don't worry, you didn't do anything to offend. :-)

I'm just excited about a book that's hitting the shelves tomorrow.

Melissa Francis

Melissa is one of the warmest, funniest women I've met since I started writing, and can't WAIT to read her book.

There's a contest going on the Fictionistas Blog to win a copy! Really, I shouldn't be telling people, because I WANT TO WIN. But then again, I'll buy a copy regardless, so all of you, go enter, now. And if you don't win, go buy her book. Even if you do win, go buy her book. It'd make a great gift.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

It was the best of timing, it was the worst of timing...

I got some great news about a week ago. I sold my short story "Lost and Found" into the anthology,
THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF TIME TRAVEL ROMANCE. Check out the hottie on the cover!

It's a quirky little story I pitched as a mash up of Groundhog Day, The Time Traveler's Wife and Life on Mars.

Clear, no?

You'll just have to buy the anthology and read the story to figure out how the heck I can combine elements of all those in one short story. ;-)

Although this isn't a big book deal, yet, here are the top five reasons I'm thrilled.

  1. It's a publishing credit, however small. And one with a publisher I know can get books into stores.
  2. The anthology includes some great authors and I was thrilled that the editor even considered reading my story, never mind deciding to include it.
  3. The cover is hot.
  4. It's going to be released in December, 2009. Soon. You don't normally get that kind of almost instant gratification in print publishing.
  5. It's already available for preorder on Amazon, Amazon Canada, Chapters/Indigo, etc. No pressure. :-)
I've decided to overlook the fact they spelled my name "many more" on the cover. At least they got the initials correct. ;-)

The timing of hearing this news was both awesome and horrible, because I found out literally hours before I left for last week's RWA National Conference in DC. It was great, because I was able to tell a few friends I ran into there, and strangers, and basically anyone I spoke to. But horrible because I wasn't really able to "announce" this news to all my online friends since I had pretty spotty internet access last week.

So, a small start. But a start. Can't wait for this to come out.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Catching up

On TV that is.

After last week in DC, I'm watching a few of the shows I missed. And wow.

Just had to say that I never got why Jason was on SYTYCD. And Jeanine... I could see she was good, but again, didn't really get why the judges were so crazy about her.

Finally tonight. (Well, last Wednesday, but tonight for me.) Wow. Awesome. (almost put an f-related superlative in front of that awesome.)


I didn't think Jason was that great before, but I have to say, I think that Kaitlyn was holding him back. Their lines didn't match and I now realize it wasn't him, it was her.

With Jeanine and Jason everything was perfect. Like they'd been dancing together for years. Fabulous.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Alibi Junior High!

Do you know a boy (or girl) age 10-14 who needs a good book to read at camp? Or to get them off their X-Box for a few hours? Then buy them a copy of Greg Logsted's new book ALIBI JUNIOR HIGH. Greg and his whole family (wife and daughter) are repped by the same agent as I, and I think that kind of makes me family as well. So, to steal a phrase from Nadine Dajani's (actual) brother: Buy my brother's book or die.

Here are the deets:

Thirteen-year-old Cody Saron has been home schooled his whole life by his father, an undercover agent for the CIA. Cody has never lived the same life as other kids his age. He never went to a regular school, never lived in one place longer than a few weeks, never had a friend or played on any sports teams. Cody’s a black belt in the arts of Tae Kwon Do and Ju Jitsu. He speaks five languages and has traveled to every corner of the globe. But what Cody isn't prepared for is . . . junior high.

When the danger surrounding Cody's dad heats up like never before, Cody is sent to stay with the aunt he's never known, Jenny Williams, in her small Connecticut suburb. Cody knows how to pick a lock or follow a trail, but he has no idea how to fit in with regular kids, how to handle his first crush, or how to make it through a day of classes. How will he ever fit in?

“I just finished reading Greg Logsted’s Alibi Junior High in a single sitting. Thankfully the family had other things to do for a while because the author nailed me to the pages with his premise and with the fantastic pacing of this young adult novel. I wasn’t tempted even once to get up and go do something else. Logsted starts his spell on page one, and readers will have to stay with him to see what ultimately happens to Cody Saron, the 13-year-old professional spy.” ~ Mel Odol, INDENVER TIMES

Greg Logsted currently lives in Danbury with his wife and fellow author, Lauren Baratz-Logsted and their daughter Jackie. He is the author of Something Happened and coauthor of The Sisters 8 series for young readers.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Posting to new blog today!

I'm doing my first post today on a new group blog that some of my fellow 2007 GH finalists created. Nobody Writes it Better.

We went with the "Bond" theme because of the whole 007 thing.

Anyway... I blogged about the Bachelorette. Check it out.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


So all the Michael Jackson stuff is driving me a little crazy... But I have to say this song remains one of my all-time favorites.

My parents used to let us watch the Sonny & Cher show occasionally... not 100% sure I actually saw this (clearly lip-synced) performance, but boy did I love the song when I was a little kid.

The arrangement is pretty schmatzy by today's standards... But such a pretty, heart-wrenching song that in spite of being about a rat, really spoke to me as a pre-tween.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pride and Self-Confidence

Pride is a tough emotion for me. Or is it a trait? I suppose Catholics say it's a sin.

Whatever it is, one thing this pursuit for publication has taught me is I need to ignore my pride, or at least swallow it. And I need to stop confusing it with self confidence.

In fact, the two can be diametrically opposed.

  • Pride makes me embarrassed I haven't got a contract from a major house, yet.
  • Pride makes me want to avoid talking to non-writer friends and family about my writing. (My writer friends totally get it.)
  • Pride makes people think writing makes me angry, when really, it makes me happy.

  • Self-confidence keeps me going.
  • Self-confidence keeps me positive.
  • Self-confidence reminds me I'll reach my goals -- some day.

L'il C on SYTYCD often makes me a little crazy with his various prognostications.

BUT this week, in amongst all his crazy talk, unnecessary alliterations and misused words, was a gem:

Lack of self-confidence is the heaviest anchor you can put on your creativity.

I'd like to amend that, slightly, and say that pride can be mighty heavy, too.

Anchors away!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Win, Win, Win

Hey, I just learned of two contests by fabulous writers! Part of me doesn't want to tell anyone about them, to increase my own odds of winning... but I flunked out of evil villain school.

Eileen Cook is giving away a $75 gift certificate for books. That's right! Wow.

If that's not enough, Victoria Dahl is giving away not one, but four, of her new releases!!!! (Four exclamation marks in honor of giveaway.) Awesomely cute cover, too.

Good luck everyone!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Monday reading

Great article about paranormal romance and urban fantasy from Publishers' Weekly.

I do think the genre may ebb and floe, it may wane at times (how's that for mixing metaphors!) but it's here to stay.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Tulip Heaven

Heading off to Ottawa for the May two-four weekend to play with my sister. Tulips are probably done, already, but hey, might still be a few.

Interesting Canadian trivia... Holland sends millions of tulip bulbs to Ottawa (capital of Canada) every fall that come up in brilliant colour all over the city each spring. This is to thank Canada, not only for being the allied troops that landed on their beaches on D-day... but also for letting their royal family (the wife and kids, anyway) stay in Ottawa during the war.

And about May two four. Yes. Canadians celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday. Who cares she's been dead for a over a hundred years. Chick still deserves a party. The holiday falls on or about May 24th each year (officially falls on the second-to-last Monday in May)... But the real reason it's become known as the May two-four is that "two-four" is Canadian slang for a case of beer... As in, "Hey, let's pick up a two-four and head up to the cottage." And, well, lots of beer is typically consumed on the Victoria Day weekend.

Party on Garth! Party on Wayne!

(Okay, I know for SNL purposes, those guys were supposed to be in a suburb of Chicago, but every one up here, and anyone who knows anything about Mike Myers knows Garth and Wayne were actually from Scarborough, Ontario. Stan Mikita's Donuts was so obviously Tim Hortons.)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Editing Letter....

Okay, so this is pretty funny. And a very clever and different way to promote a novel. I don't know Lara Zielin but will keep an eye out for her debut Donut Days in August now I've seen this.

Particularly love the ukulele riffs. Rock on!

Thanks to Loreth Anne White for pointing me to this.

Also, blogging about human/monster action on DWT.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

More reasons why 30 Rock rocks

Kenneth going into anaphylactic shock: My real name is Dick Wittman.

Okay, only funny if you watch Mad Men. But if you aren't watching Mad Men, why not??? For the smart people who are into Mad Men, here's my analysis of the first episode of Mad Men.

But back to 30 Rock... I bounced up and down in my chair clapping when Salma Hayek revealed her What the Frak? Battlestar Galactica t-shirt.

Inside jokes on one of my favourite comedies, based on two of my favourite dramas. All they needed was a Tim Riggins reference and my life would've been complete.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Gay Storms Ahead -- Beware!!

Okay... So when I first saw this on Moonrat's blog I couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry. Sure, it was funny, but I feared that its target audience would take it seriously and so it made me a little sad about the world (at least our neighbours to the South), and angry about misleading propaganda and misinformation.

And then the brilliant Steven Colbert does a parody of it and I almost died laughing. Seriously. Have watched it six times already and laugh out loud, every time. "Oh God. The homo storm got me!"


Thursday, April 16, 2009


Wow. Survivor tonight was the best blindside ***of the audience*** I've ever seen. Those rascally editors/producers.

They sure had me convinced they were getting rid of Coach. Maybe I just wanted to believe it, because I can't STAND Coach. I'd even started another blog post about arrogance never getting you anywhere that I had to delete to start this one after the vote. Crap. Arrogance won.

That guy defines the word arrogant. And ridiculous. And narcissistic. And immature. And misogynistic. And about a dozen other negative words I can't think of right now. (I used up my allotted vocabulary editing today.)

Brendan seemed really nice and I thought he deserved to stay, but again, it's the all about the edit. He did make a huge mistake by not staying loyal to the Exile Island alliance right from the merge. But it seems like this season NO ONE is staying loyal. To anyone. I now think/hope Debbie will win. I used to be rooting for Taj or JT.

I don't think I remember another season where this far in there weren't stronger alliances. Quite honestly, it seemed like Brendan was the only one not totally in it for himself this year. I actually believed him when he said he hoped JT would win.

All I care about is that Coach doesn't win. Get that guy out of there. He makes me crazy and not in a good way. He absolutely encapsulates the personality type I most despise.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I Love You, Man

So, enjoyed this movie. Paul Rudd, anyone? And it was fun and his character was dorkily adorable and the Seth Rogen Jason Segal* character wasn't nearly as obnoxious as I was expecting--even showed some vulnerable layers...

But I couldn't help thinking... They've done it. Hollywood has figured out how to marginalize women, even in romantic comedies. A romantic comedy where the girl is the side-kick. Even managed to make her a secondary character at her own wedding.


Still enjoyed it. How about you?

*(Hmm... they are slightly interchangeable. Still. Sloppy, Maureen. Sloppy!)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Smart Bitches on DWT

Candy Tan and Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books are visiting Drunk Writer Talk, today! Come on by and make a comment. There's a prize. :-)

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


No, not me. But bet I got your attention! ;-)

My good friend Nelsa Roberto sold her YA novel ILLEGALLY BLONDE!

Nelsa and I have been on this ride together for a while and I cannot wait to see her book in print!

Go visit her blog and read the story of her call.

Saturday, April 04, 2009


Are there movies you can watch multiple times and still enjoy?

My good friend Molly has this theory that really great movies you can only watch once, while the merely "good" ones you can watch over and over... and I think there is something in that. The overwhelming emotional experience of the truly great movie is hard to recreate once you already know where it's going.

But right now, I'm watching Clueless and it's one movie I can watch whenever it shows up on TV and will repeatedly laugh out loud, will repeatedly be impressed at how Amy Heckerling so cleverly adapted Emma, and will undoubtedly swoon when Paul Rudd finally kisses Cher at the end. All I know is I still enjoy it each time I see it, although I'm probably near my twentieth viewing.

Do you have movies you can watch over and over?

PS. This isn't the kiss I was talking about... I like the one on the stairs in her house. Though this one was nice, too.... Paul Rudd. Just saying...

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

UK Paper to go Twitter only.

The Guardian newspaper in the UK will now be released in twitter form only. "Experts say any story can be told in 140 characters."

One of my fav bits:

A mammoth project is also under way to rewrite the whole of the newspaper's archive, stretching back to 1821, in the form of tweets. Major stories already completed include "1832 Reform Act gives voting rights to one in five adult males yay!!!"; "OMG Hitler invades Poland, allies declare war see for more"; and "JFK assassin8d @ Dallas, def. heard second gunshot from grassy knoll WTF?"

Okay, so these guys did a way better job of doing an April Fool's joke than I did.

At least I assume it's a joke... ;-)

In other news... You can follow me on Twitter. :-) Not that I ever say anything interesting. But I might. Some day. It's possible.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Editorial Ass: Hedging Your Bets (or, Why, God?!)

Editorial Ass: Hedging Your Bets (or, Why, God?!)

Love this post by Moonrat.

Also, I'm blogging on DWT today. Kind of a related post... Okay, in my mind it's related.

Moonrat's post is just another reminder of how freaking hard this business is. At least my recent revelations have shown me I'm willing to give up a few things in order to keep trying to beat the odds.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Casting J.R. Ward's Brothers

Too fun. Not sure about Wentworth Miller as Zsadist. He's so not Zsadist. Must think on who is... Too bad Jackie Earle Haley's not bigger/more gorgeous. He could play a good Zsadist... just doesn't look like him. Jason Lewis is cute enough for Rhage, just think he doesn't have enough range as an actor to do, well, rage.

Laughed out loud (and then drooled) at Taylor Kitsch as Phury. Note to self: Must find that bare-chested photo. Finally... Mark Walhberg as Butch is inspired casting. Inspired.

Okay, who knew there were a bunch of these things? Clearly I'm leading a sheltered life. I like a couple of these choices better... Plus they cast the heroines--I mean Shellans

Sarah of SB

Great interview with Sarah of Smart Bitches => here.

Some interesting insights on online marketing and the romance genre among other things.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Online Chat Tonight

The lovely and talented Lauren Baratz-Logsted and the equally talented (and I'm sure lovely, though I've never met the dude), Greg Logsted, are chatting live at the TKA Chat Room tonight. The husband and wife team, along with their young daughter, have written a series of children's books called Sister's Eight, about Eight little girls trying to solve the mystery of their parents' disappearance. Here's a link to the very cool website for the books. The third installment, GEORGIA'S GREATNESS, hits the shelves next week.

Online Chat with Lauren Baratz-Logsted & Greg Logsted (and giveaway of Sister’s Eight: ANNIE’S ADVENTURES, signed by all three authors, as well as an autographed copy of Greg Logsted’s SOMETHING HAPPENED!)

When: Thursday, March 19th @ 9pm ET

Where: The TKA Chat Room

How Do You Chat: Visit the chat room here: Enter a username and password (this can be any combination). Your computer must be Java enabled to chat.

I've got a class tonight :-( but am hoping to stop by if the class ends early.

Lauren is very knowledgeable about the publishing business having worked in almost every capacity in it before becoming an author and she has published over a dozen books for adults, teens and kids.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Keeping your chin up

Blogging at DWT today about how hard it can be to keep your chin up in this business.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


I've been a bad blogger. I even missed my day on DWT this week. Actually, I wrote one for there, but decided not to post it. Sounded like I was seeking sympathy, and I'm not.

Just a little crazy these days. And really, really, want these shoes.

I do love me some Fluevogs. I want them in orange, too.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Bachelorette: Quest for a Greencard

The nice Canadian girl is the new bachelorette? And she's going to have 25 hunky guys going after her? Okay, so how am I going to resist that?

I will.

I will stay strong.

I will not watch the very appealing Jillian just for another chance to hear her talk about the Ogopogo living in Lake Okanagan. I will not.

(Even to find out if she gets a green card as part of the deal.)

Monday, March 02, 2009

Things I learned from The Bachelor

So this show is one of my most embarrassing and hypocritical guilty pleasures, because frankly, The Bachelor is reality TV at its worst.

Sure, there are cheesier shows that exploit people of low intelligence and morals... but in my mind The Bachelor is worse, because it pretends to be serious, as if the producers believe the show is actually about finding love.

And because it pretends to be real, it has fewer redeeming values in my mind. (I mean, no one really thought Tila Tequila or Flava Flav or that ass on those Rock of Love shows were going to find true love, did they? Even the producers couldn't have been that stupid... Shows like that know what they are: silly, shocking entertainment.

But The Bachelor pretends to be something different, and in that it trivializes human emotion, screws with the participants minds, relishes embarrassment and hurt feelings... (Oh, goody, she's crying, let's get a shot of that.)

It's basically emotional porn. (And still I watch. Hypocrite much?)

And here are some things I learned while watching the most ridiculous outcome for a season of this show yet.

1) Falling in love is fun, relationships are hard.

I really wanted to smack Jason tonight. And I really hope that Molly presses him to justify why he gave up so quickly with Melissa. I hope she has the brains to call Melissa and talk. I mean, the guy's divorced and after saying he was so in love, he gave up after 6 weeks. It made me want to puke a little hearing him tell Molly he'd continue to keep falling in love with her for the rest of his life. (More like, for the rest of my life, or until it stops being this huge endorphin rush.) "It's different, now," he kept saying about Melissa since the show ended. Well, d'uh, you f*cking jerk. You're no longer on camera, going on hugely contrived dates for the cameras. And she's no longer kissing your ass every second, fearful she'll lose you to the 24 other girls you're dating at the same time. It's real life now. Of course it's different! What makes you think it won't be "different" with Molly in a week or so, too!

2) There's a really good reason why it's considered bad form to seriously date more than one person at a time.

One thing that I think I have believed on this and previous seasons of this ridiculous show, is that some of the the bachelors and bachelorettes, as the case may be, have actually fallen for more than one person and found it hard to choose between the "contestants".

3) It's not possible to build a lasting relationship based on a few dream dates with a camera crew along for the ride.

Okay, I didn't so much learn this (or any of these things) watching The Bachelor, but had my beliefs confirmed. And this one also ties into #2. While I don't think you can build a lasting relationship in this environment, I do think you can get those "falling in love" feelings. The situations are ridiculously romantic. And clearly, when you're on dream dates with people who want to "win you", and drinking champagne, and sitting in hot tubs, and wearing barely any clothes and necking, you can develop those "falling in love" feelings for more than one person at a time.

4) Most of the people who go on this show are just out for a good time.

I assume the producers have stopped even pretending that this isn't true, as evidenced by that segment last week where they showed previous groups of men and women from the show partying, sleeping around with, and serial dating each other.

5) The participants in this show will sell their souls to have their 15 minutes of fame.

I mean Jason really, REALLY... Even if you realized you'd made a mistake and chose the wrong girl... why not wait a few weeks and do it off the fraking cameras? Why not??? Because the producers were salivating over the drama (I mean emotional porn). And worse, they teased us all season with those misleading clips involving DeAnna... Oh, yes, I am angry.... And okay, maybe I'm blaming the wrong person. Maybe he has some contract saying he can never contact the girls he kicked off the show... so maybe this was the only way he could see her again. But still. That just makes me transfer my anger onto the producers. How horrible and cruel. How manipulative.

6) And perhaps the #1 thing I learned tonight--and just learned this very moment: If I'm so worked up about this, I seriously need to stop watching so much reality TV. :-)

Friday, February 27, 2009

I heart Tina Fey

30 Rock never disappoints -- 30 minutes (okay, 22) of pure fun with at least one big laugh a night... but when Liz started singing "99 Red Balloons" as a proxy for her fake dead grandmother's lullaby... I lost it.

And Elisa's line:
"I don't want to get all all Mark Anthony on you"
was pretty funny, too.

Not to mention Jack, coming into Liz's office for advice:
"You're a woman."
Liz, responding all in one breath:

And Jack:
But she keeps confusing me with this notion that love and sex are somehow connected.

I love me some 30 Rock.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Warning. Do not play this at work

Or around your kids...
Or around your elderly parents or grandparents...
Or around the parents of your kids' friends (if you don't know them well)...
Or if your minister or priest is over for tea...
Or if you're otherwise offended by copious amounts of swearing...

But I laughed so hard when my brother sent this to me, I had to share.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Kristen Painter tagged me to play a game called 6 by 6.

"The mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find the sixth image in your sixth image folder, and then tag another six people to do the same."

I have to admit I cheated... I have a lot of family photos on my computer and don't believe in a) posting people's pictures in public without their permission, or b) posting people's pictures in public without their permission. (I was sure I had 2 things when I started that sentence... It's late.)

But I'm sure Jasper would give his permission... He is such a ham and a total celebrity in his own mind... So there is my image :-)

As for tagging others.... Hmmmm...

Why doesn't anyone who takes up the challenge post here to let me know they've done it. (Kind of a cop out, I know...)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mike White's on the Amazing Race!

How fun is that? I'm a big fan. He may be goofy looking. He may be gay (and therefore never my future husband). But great writers are sexy and cool in my mind.

And the dude who wrote both School of Rock and The Good Girl (and many other varied things) is on the Amazing Race! That rocks. I'm even willing to forgive him for Nacho Libre because the other stuff he's done is so fabulous. (Plus, I've been led to believe that perhaps I simply wasn't in the right mood (not drunk enough?) when I saw Nacho Libre. Perhaps I should give it another chance....)

Anyway, back to the Amazing Race. Hoping he and his Dad last for a while.

Meanwhile the hill-billy pair seem doomed and I just want to hug her and tell her to leave her scary-looking mean-as-hell husband. I'm only a third of the way through the episode, but have a strong feeling their first venture outside the USA is not going to last long...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Nights In

When did Friday become the best night on TV? Have my tastes changed or has TV changed.

Used to be that there was absolutely NOTHING worth watching on Friday nights.

Now, between Friday Night Lights, Battlestar Galactica, Flashpoint, and now Dollhouse... who needs to go out?

And there are new episodes of the Sarah Connor Chronicles starting tonight, too... But sadly, I think I've missed an entire season right now, so want to wait until I can fill in the gaps.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

I so don't do book reviews, but I'm willing to try

Hey, kids! Guess what? I joined a new club!
The Book Review Club, organized by the wonderful Barrie Summy.

Now, full disclosure: I'm not much of a book reviewer. Sure, I sometimes babble on this blog or on Drunk Writer Talk about books I've liked, and I do have critical discussions about books with my writer buddies and friends, but a full-on-official-type book review? Ummm... Not so much. I don't think I've done one since grade school.
However, regular readers of my blog will know how often I babble about movies -- and some people are generous enough to refer to those movie-babbles as reviews. This must be why Barrie thought I could pull off a book review. Won't she be surprised when some months I review movies instead of books for this club. 'Cause I'm a rebel. ;-)

But for this inaugural month, I figured I should do an actual book. Once I thought through the books I've read in the past few months, the choice was obvious: Barrie Summy's wonderful debut, I SO DON'T DO MYSTERIES, released in hardcover, by Delacorte Press in December 2008. Buy it here. (Okay, buy it anywhere, just buy it.)

I SO DON'T DO MYSTERIES is aimed at the middle grade reader but I think teenaged girls looking for a fun read would enjoy it, too. (Not to mention adults...) While I think many boys would love this book, given the female protagonist, and more significantly, the adorable graphics on the dustcover (and the bubble-gum pink cover under that) I think this book is mostly for girls. (or boys willing to pick up a book with a pink cover.) I also think it will be enjoyed by reluctant and avid readers alike. The fun, mystery plot and bright, bubbly, first-person voice are a delight to read. Granted I'm a little older than middle-grade (try middle-aged?) but I zipped through this book in one sitting. Fun. Fun. Fun. And my 10-year-old niece gave it her thumbs up, too.

Sherry Holmes Baldwin is a innovative and brave detective in the great tradition of her namesake Sherlock Holmes and probably more on point -- Nancy Drew. But while I loved the Nancy Drew books when I was young, I wish I'd had a series of Sherry Holmes Baldwin books to read instead. Sure, both Nancy and Sherry are bright, resourceful girls who get into and out of dangerous situations as they sift through clues to find the bad guy, but Sherry has something Nancy Drew never had -- Sherry is hilarious.

I laughed out loud so many times while reading this book it was slightly embarrassing. (Note to self: don't read Barrie's next book in public.)

Another difference between this and most mystery novels is the addition of a paranormal element. Sherry, her BFF Junie, and major crush Josh, are helped along the way by Sherry's late mother -- now a ghost -- who was a cop while alive, and also a detective in the afterlife. Sherry's also helped by her late grandfather, who has taken the form of a wren.

I loved this little touch of magic in the story, but what I most loved was that Summy didn't rely on magic or any supernatural ghost powers to solve the mystery. In fact, the ghost and bird had so many limits on what the could do, that Sherry was helping them, more than the other way around. Sure, her mother and grandfather play their parts, but solving the mystery and capturing the bad guy is all Sherry.

Along the way, Sherry and her mother get to discuss some of the issues they never had a chance to resolve before her mother's tragic death. But while these moments were emotional and touching, Summy never let them get too heavy or change the light tone of the story. (And I have to say the idea of her mother's ghost both smelling like and being attracted to coffee made me a little misty... as that's the scent I most associate with my own mother. )

Oh, and did I mention there are rhinoceroses, movie stars and an evil French Chef?
Um... Was I supposed to start with a summary? (I told you I wasn't a very good book reviewer...)

B'ah. You can read the summary on Amazon.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Confused about genres and subgenres?

Then read this fabulous summary on Lucienne Diver's blog. One of the best and most clear I've ever seen.

On other issues... Is anyone else enjoying Lost again? Actually, I must confess that even during that strange split season 3, this show never "lost" me.

I was also excited that the new season of Project Runway Canada started this week. For you Americans... it's the exact same format as the US one, except the host is Iman. Who I think does a way better job than Heidi Klum. She's smarter, more opinionated and although when she loves something she really loves it, she can be cuttingly mean. (And every time I see her on screen I can't help myself thinking, ten times a minute, she gets to sleep with David Bowie, she gets to sleep with David Bowie -- giggle.)

There's no Tim Gunn... Instead the mentor is a Canadian designer called Brian Bailey. He's okay... but no Tim Gunn.

Still, the first season "measured up" (Iman's catch phrase to kick people off -- "you don't measure up") to the US and UK versions. Especially since in the last season of the UK one, not only did a Canadian (living in London) win... another one of the top three was Canadian.

But the first episode of this season was such a let down. I thought it might be better/slicker since it was moved from the cable station Slice to the broadcast network Global. But not so far.

First, they've set this season in Ottawa. Really? Ottawa? To gain context... Imagine putting the US version in DC. (Ottawa is the capital of Canada.) Is it a fashion city? Does it make any sense? No. None. Maybe the production costs were cheaper or something? They set the first challenge at the War Museum. Really? Really???? The producers must be getting some serious grants from the government or something. Ottawa is a pretty city in places and at times... But it's like a small town with a few great buildings... And I expect the only fabric stores they have are Fabricland. (Cheap, horrible fabric in a sterile mall-like setting. Nothing like the cool fabric stores on Queen St. in Toronto where the contestants shopped last season.)

Setting the show in Ottawa is almost as strange a choice as setting the first season of Canada's Next Top Model in Victoria. (I assume that had to do with Trisha Helfer needing to be on the west coast to film Battlestar Galactica, but still... why not Vancouver? At least they were smart enough to move that show to Toronto in the second season (hosted by Torontonian Jay Manuel.)

Second, not one, but TWO of the designers cast in Runway Canada season 2 left the show during the first episode for medical reasons. One had a serious panic attack about 2 hours into the first challenge and the other guy -- well it was so clear taking one look at him that he was not physically up to doing a show like Project Runway... Not physically up to walking up a short flight of stairs. I feel badly for the guy but what was he (or the producers) thinking???

And as of now, I don't see any great personalities emerging. I guess it's early to make that call, (they guy who is trying to have a "catch phrase" will get old quickly) but last season's winner, Biddell, and a few of the others were interesting from day one. (If you go to his website, be sure to click on the lookbook. Some seriously cool photos and fashion.)

I'm hoping the season improves. Pout.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Everyone should read this. Seriously.

Editorial Ass: It Is a Truth Universally Acknowledged That an Individual in Possession of a Word Processor Must Be in Want of a Book Deal (or, What Would Jane Do?)


a) struggling writers who feel discouraged

b) struggling writers who are whining and feel the world is against them

c) writers considering a contract with a publisher without any input on the contract from an agent or lawyer who understands publishing

d) anyone who loves a great blog post title

e) anyone who loves Jane Austen.

I also particularly enjoyed reading one of the comments, by poster Briane P. A veritable essay onto itself.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ruminations on the Oscar Nominations

I was actually kind of excited to hear the Oscar nominations this year, after being pleasantly surprised by the Golden Globes broadcast -- both because it's so fun to watch the stars get drunk before getting onstage, and because I thought some really deserving films and performances were recognized.

But while this year's Oscar noms have some fun surprises -- Robert Downey Jr. for Tropic Thunder? Really? That's a joke right? No, it's not? Really? And did they just nominate Angelina and Brad so they'd show up? -- in the end I found the nominations kind of a let down.

Here's hoping the actual awards show doesn't disappoint me, too.

Perhaps my problem is that I've yet to see a few of the big nominated films. I know. Not like me. I've usually seen everything by the time the nominations are announced, but I've barely been to the movies the last couple of months. I do hope to go see both Benjamin Button and Milk this weekend.

Here are a few nominated films I really think you should see.

Frost/Nixon. Okay, perhaps not the most exciting topic or film ever... But if Richie Cunningham --I mean Ron Howard -- has one major talent as a director, it's in creating tension and suspense in films where the audience goes in knowing the ending. He did it with Apollo 13 and he did it with this one. And the performances in Frost/Nixon are pretty amazing. Although I'd be recognizing Sam Rockwell or even Rebecca Hall (who was also very good in Vicky Cristina Barcelona) as much as I'd recognize Frank Langella.

Slumdog Millionaire
. I feel like a broken record here. I think this is at least the third time I've mentioned this film since I saw it back in September... But I was watching a non-local channel on TV the other night and realized that, while it opened in Toronto seven weeks ago, its only just now opening to a wider release. Go see it. Don't let the slum-setting or accents or the occasional subtitles scare you off. This is one of the most exciting, beautiful, fun, romantic, clever films I've seen in a long time. (Need to see it again.)

Revolutionary Road. Another one that's been open in Toronto for weeks, but has only recently opened up across North America. (Sometimes living in Toronto, rocks.) I'm actually slightly on the fence about this one. In the end, I actually think DiCaprio was miscast. I'm not sure I bought him in the role... I keep thinking about all these young actors in Mad Men and how I totally buy them as 1960's males... and then see a photo of the actors in real life, or acting in a modern-set show, and can't believe their transformations and am even more impressed. DiCaprio did not seem "of the times" to me... Maybe he just needed some heavy rimmed glasses. Or maybe it was a problem with the writing and the character being a little muddy. (Was he a frustrated artist or a frustrated laborer, pretending to be deeper to score the actress?) Or maybe he's so out of place and baby-faced in 2009 that he just didn't seem any different in a 1960's setting. Don't know. He was good (I think he's very talented, in general) but something just didn't feel right to me.
The ending of this film will tear your heart out, but it's a slow (albeit interesting) ride to get to that end, and I was left wondering for most of it... Is this just a bunch of character sketches or a story? (But it does wrap itself into a story by the end.)

The Wrestler. Again. I think I've talked about this enough already. Just go see the fraking thing.

Rachel Getting Married. Loved this movie. It's one I'd like to see again, too, because it seems to break all the rules of good storytelling, but I expect on closer inspection, I might find that it doesn't. That's the thing with great storytelling... you get so wrapped up in the book or film that you forget to think about things like structure or technique. There are quite a few scenes in this film that seem to be just conversations between characters that, sure, are filled with tension--this is a family with issues--but don't really seem to be going anywhere -- and then they do. (I'm thinking in particular of the dishwasher loading competition.) And it's great to see a film where the protagonist is a very unsympathetic character (Anne Hathaway who plays Kym) and where the backstory is revealed at just the right times (after we're really curious and either when we're starting to hate Kym and need something to make us feel sorry for her -- or alternately, when we're starting to sympathize with her too much and we need something to be appalled by -- to understand why her family treats her the way that they do). Also, the supporting performances in this film are amazing. I predict a big future for Rosemarie DeWitt (who plays Rachel) and was also the wonderful Midge in Mad Men. My personal favourite character from the first season of that show.

Films I still really want to see.

The Visitor. Can't believe I missed this one. It was at the 2007 TIFF and then playing at the Cumberland for most of the summer of 2008 and I got complacent thinking "I'll see it next week" week after week, and then it was gone. I hope I can rent it soon... I've heard such good things.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (although I must admit that all the hoopla and nominations have made me want to see it less, for some reason)

Films I'm not that sure I really want to see.

The Reader -- I loved this book when I read it... But I feel zero desire to see it on the big screen. I think it's one of those stories that once you know the "big reveals"... you really don't want to experience it again. If someone's seen it, and thinks I should go.. Please let me know.

Films I think are getting more award noms than they deserve

Benjamin Button (How I come to this conclusion having not yet seen it, I do not know. ;-)

Doubt. I did see this one. And it's good. But is it THAT good? Not for me. (Although I did like it...)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Welcome, Jessica Andersen!

Last summer I had the pleasure of interviewing the fabulous Jessica Andersen, when the first installment of her Novels of the Final Prophecy series, NIGHTKEEPERS, was released. Today I’m thrilled to have her as a guest on the blog to celebrate the January 09 release of the second installment, DAWNKEEPERS.

Welcome Jess! And congratulations on the success of the series.

So, Mayans. It makes me wonder, how do you typically come up with your ideas? Characters first? Plot? Dreams? Divine intervention?

In this case it was a childhood vacation and a bit of divine inspiration. One of my most vivid early memories is being on a family vacation and climbing up inside the big pyramid at Chichen Itza to see the jaguar throne. People were packed nose-to-butt, crouched down in the narrow stairway, with everyone on the right side going up and the ones on the left coming down. It was dark and cold, the stones were slippery, and I’m claustrophobic. But dude, seeing the jaguar up close and thinking about the people who’d carved and worshiped it… that’s something I’ll never forget.

Years later, I was working on a suspense proposal that involved poisonous snakes, and had a total “ooh, shiny!” moment when I pulled up a website on Mayan serpent rituals. From there, I found a reference to how the Mayan Long Count calendar is going to end on December 21, 2012, coinciding with an astrological event that scientists think could trigger sunspots and magnetic reversals, and maybe even knock the earth off its orbit. And I sat there thinking: Holy crap, this is it. This is what I have to write about.

That is inspiration (and shiny). I know you’ve also written for Harlequin Intrigue. When and how did you make the leap to single title?

My first Intrigue came out in late 2003; my twenty-first comes out in a couple of months (SNOWED IN WITH THE BOSS 3/09). While working on the Intrigues, I kept submitting single title proposals that never really went anywhere, I think because I was trying to write a medical romantic suspense that was longer without really being bigger. It wasn’t until I stumbled on the Nightkeepers’ world that a storyline really grabbed me and demanded that I write it.

After finding the reference to the 12/21/2012 doomsday that inspired the series, it took me nearly eighteen months of in-depth research, worldbuilding, writing and re-writing before I had a strong proposal that not only had the cool 2012 doomsday concept going for it, but also had compelling characters, an intricate plot and a romance strong enough to pull off the concept.

Within two weeks of submitting the proposal to a select few agents, I signed with the wonderful Deidre Knight of The Knight Agency. I told her that my dream editor/publisher would be Kara Cesare at NAL, because of the amazing job she’s done with my critique partner’s stories (J.R. Ward and her awesome Black Dagger Brotherhood series). Within a few days of Deidre sending the proposal to Kara, NAL had pre-empted, and we were on our way!

What a great story. And I was so impressed by the depth of detail of the worldbuilding in these books. Can you tell us a bit more about your Novels of the Final Prophecy series?

The long and the short of it is that the ancient Mayan Long Count calendar ends on December 21, 2012. On that day, the sun, moon and earth will align at the galactic center, in a conjunction that some scientists predict could trigger cataclysmic upheavals (sun spots, magnetic reversals, etc.). The Novels of the Final Prophecy tell of the ancient Mayan myths that come to life in the last four years before 12/21/2012, and their opposition by the Nightkeepers, descendants of an ancient magic-wielding race sworn to protect mankind from the apocalypse.

In NIGHTKEEPERS, the last king of the magi is forced to team up with a Miami-Dade narcotics detective in order to reunite his scattered warriors and fight the gods of the Mayan underworld. Wielding ancestral magic based on bloodletting and sex, the king will have to choose between his duty and his love for the human woman who is the gods' destined sacrifice.

In DAWNKEEPERS, Nightkeeper Nate Blackhawk isn’t about to let the gods determine his destiny- especially when it comes to his feelings for Alexis Gray, his ex-lover and nemesis. But when they’re forced to work together, racing to recover seven antiquities before the demons get their claws on the vital artifacts, Nate and Alexis will have to face their feelings- and their past- in order to defeat a dire and ancient enemy.

WOW. Human sacrifice. Demons. The end of the world. Now that's conflict! You mentioned you’re critique partners with Jessica Bird/J.R. Ward. How long have you two been critiquing each others work and how did you meet?

JRW and I met through our local RWA chapter back when she lived in the Boston area. We kept in touch when she moved away, and when she was transitioning away from doing the series Jessica Bird books, she asked if I’d take a look at a proposal she was working on. She sent it to me, and it was hands-down fabulous. It went on to become DARK LOVER, the first of the Black Dagger Brotherhood books.

Since then, we’ve stayed in pretty close touch, reading each other’s stuff, talking about the industry and the marketplace, that sort of thing. We have very different styles and voices; I think that’s why we work so well as CPs… that, and because we have a really high level of trust with each other.

Great critiquing is all about trust, isn't it? Congratulations on getting the cover of Romantic Times! How was the photo shoot?

Dude, I had this horrible flu (I think they eventually named it Brisbane; you know it’s bad when it gets a name) on the day of the photo shoot, but I was up against the magazine deadline so I couldn’t put it off. I dragged myself into the salon where I usually go for my annual haircut , and threw myself on their mercy. They got me looking human and I dragged myself to the photog’s place (Julia Gerace; she’s amazing).

In retrospect, I think I was better off being feverish during the shoot. I just sort of zoned out, did everything she said, and didn’t bother feeling self-conscious. The pictures came out amazing, kudos entirely to Julia (and Dennis and Jill at Antenna Hair Salon).

Wow. You'd never know you weren't feeling well from the photo. Your inner-super-model really shone through. Are you a plotter or a seat-of-your-pantser?

Um… a little of both. Because the books of the FINAL PROPHECY series are interconnected (each is a stand-alone with a complete romance, but they add to each other within the larger save-the-world story arc) I definitely plan and outline prior to writing. For each book, I know where each of the characters and plot lines begins and approximately where each should end up, and I’ve got some major scenes and turning points sketched out. However, when I’m actually writing the story, I often find myself getting to a point where I’ve planned for something to happen, and realizing that because I’ve planned it that way, I’ve made it too obvious. I’m a huge fan of being surprised in books/movies/TV shows, and I’d like to give readers the same experience. Thus, when I get to a point where the next step seems obvious, that’s exactly where I say to myself ‘What else could happen?’ and go with that option as long as it makes sense with the character and situation. Life is unexpected, so as far as I’m concerned, stories should be unpredictable within the rules of the world.

That is some smart storytelling advice right there… **Maureen pauses to jot it down** What are your favorite books, movies, TV shows?

Books: anything by Suz Brockmann, JR Ward or Linnea Sinclair. Movies: anything current and loud, with a clearly defined hero and a HEA. Romantic subplot a bonus. TV shows: BONES and the new BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. Hands down, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Hubby is forbidden to speak to me during either of those shows, lest I miss something.

I LOVE Battlestar Galactica. And the final season has finally started! Yippee! So, what are you working on now? (In between episodes of BSG and Bones.)

I’ve just started the fourth book in the Nightkeepers’ series. The third, SKYKEEPERS will be released in August 09. Woot!

Fabulous. Can't wait to see how it all ends up, uh, if we all die in 2012, I guess. And now for the really hard-hitting question: Chocolate or vanilla?

Chocolate, definitely.

Jess, thanks so much for stopping by the blog. Everyone should visit Jessica's cool website at: and NIGHTKEEPERS and DAWNKEEPERS, the first two books in the Novels of the Final Prophecy series, are on the shelves now.

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