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.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The GG's

Just realized something. In Canada (in the literary world, anyway) the GG's means something entirely different... The Governor General Awards.

But I'm talking, of course, about the Golden Globes.

This is the first year since I started blogging that I didn't do a big post when the nominations came out. I just couldn't summon up any enthusiasm this year.

So imagine my surprise when the awards show was the most fun I've had watching an awards show in years.

Lots of fabulous gowns and great acceptance speeches, plenty of deserving nominations and wins, and some great accidental swearing and drinking on stage.

Highlights for me:

Mickey Rourke winning best actor in a drama. His performance in The Wrestler -- amazing. The director Darren Aronofsky giving Mickey the finger during the acceptance speech while a camera was on him -- fabulous. Mickey thanking his dead dogs. Priceless.

But seriously. You should see this film if you get a chance. I talked about it a bit here.

Colin Farrell winning for In Bruges. His acceptance speech was great. He looked great. And it reminded me what a great film this was. Come awards season, it's often hard to remember the great films that were released a year ago. Here's my year old post on In Bruges. Rent this DVD. You won't regret it.

Heath Ledger winning for Dark Knight. So sad. I cried.

Slumdog Millionaire winning a bunch of awards including best picture. Fabulous.

Don't let the Indian setting and some sub-titled bits scare you off. If this film comes to a cinema near you, go. You won't regret it.

Monday, January 05, 2009

What Would Emma Do?

One of my writer BFFs, Eileen Cook, has a new book out!!! In fact, it was released just before Christmas, but because I was so totally overwhelmed by traveling and then hosting a dinner for 20, and then traveling some more... I was a total slacker and didn't get a chance to blog about it until today.

If Eileen's first YA novel, WHAT WOULD EMMA DO? is half as great as her adult book, UNPREDICTABLE, then you will be blinded by its awesomeness. (Yes, I saw Kung Foo Panda over the holidays.)

Forget my babbling, here's the official blurbage:

Thou shalt not kiss thy best friend’s boyfriend…again….

There is no greater sin than kissing your best friend’s boyfriend. So when Emma breaks that golden rule, she knows she’s messed up big-time. Especially since she lives in the smallest town ever, where everyone knows everything about everyone else…. And especially because she maybe kinda wants to do it again. Now her best friend isn’t speaking to her, her best guy friend is making things totally weird, and Emma is running full speed toward certain social disaster. This is so not the way senior year was supposed to go.

Time to pray for a minor miracle. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s time for Emma to stop trying to please everyone around her, and figure out what she wants for herself.

And because who cares what I think... Here's what others are saying:

“Sassy and sly and sweet all at the same time, this book made me laugh out loud.” – Meg Cabot author of the Princess Diaries

“Not since Judy Blume’s Margaret introduced herself to God has there been such a funny, genuine, conflicted, wanna-be-sort-good-maybe-later girl as Emma. Eileen Cook’s tone as she takes on the big ones – life, love, faith and friendship is pitch perfect.” – Jacqueline Mitchard author of Deep End of the Ocean and Midnight Twins

“Smart and fun and full of heart.” – Sarah Mlynowski author of Bras and Broomsticks

Those are some impressive quotes and I must say, this book sounds amazing. It's moving to the top of my TBR pile.

Eileen's blog (if you've yet to discover it) is amazing, too. Check it out, here.

And then go buy the book. Now.

Oh, and Happy New Year! (Just a little late.)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...