Friday, November 30, 2007

London Calling - Mad about Millais



Friday morning, I headed off to the Tate Britain in Pimlico to see the Millais exhibit. Since it was one stop over on the Victoria line from where I was in Vauxhall it seemed silly not to go. Plus they were having an exhibition on the paintings of John Everett Millais and I was dying to see it.


When I got off the tube and I started walking towards the museum, I noticed that several of the streets were named after the Earl of Bessborough, including Bessborough Street, Ponsonby Street, and Ponsonby Square. It made me wonder if the area had once been owned by them or they lived in the area. I'm not sure but it's certainly something for me to research!


What's cool about the Tate Britain which used to just be the Tate until they split the collection up between the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern were these little guides they have for paintings you might want to look at if you're hung over or just went through a break-up. They were very clever and an interesting way for people to look at the collection.


I immediately headed downstairs to the Millais exhibit which cost a whopping 11 pounds ($22) but since this was the first exhibition in a long time of most of his paintings, I just closed my eyes to the price. Millais is a very interesting man, he was admitted the Royal Academy at a very young and had his first painting exhibited there when he was 16. He was also a member of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood along with Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt among others, who rejected the traditional painting of the day and looked back towards the Renaissance painters.


He was also involved in a scandalous love triangle. John Ruskin, an art critic, befriended young Millais and invited him to stay with him and his wife Effie. Effie's family and Ruskin knew each other and they encouraged a match between them. However there were problems between them from the beginning. Effie posed for Millais and they fell in love. It turned out that her marriage to Ruskin had never been consummated although they had been married for over five years. Apparently Ruskin didn't find her physically attractive (one wonders if he had ever had sex with a woman at all before he married. It also seems as if he was only attracted to very young adolescent girls.). Anyway, the marriage was annulled and Millais and Effie were married. She bore him eight children and they were apparently very happy. However, because of the annullment, Effie was barred from some social functions, including nto being allowed in the presence of the Queen.


What struck me about the exhibition were a series of paintings that Millais did concerning lovers who were in a crisis moment. The painting above is about a young Hugenot couple just after the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, where hundreds of Hugenots were killed. She wants him to wear an armband that would proclaim him a Catholic to protect him, but he's refusing her, his faith means too much to him. If anyone is ever stuck on what to write about, any of these paintings could kick start a plot.

He also did a famous painting of Ophelia floating down the river as she drowned and the two princes in the Tower. One painting was a revelation and that was a painting of Charles Dicken's daughter Kate Dickens Perugini was also a painter.
Famished, I stopped off at Pizza Express, a chain of pizza restaurants that put Pizza Hut and California Pizza to shame. Think upscale pizza chain with some strange combinations including one served with a fried egg on top. I had a lovely Pizza Margarita, and a glass of Pinto Grigio Rose. Fortified, I went off to my afternoon walking tour of Dicken's London, led by Jean, a very tiny elderly woman wearing a Victorian costume.
The tour mainly centered around the Inns of Court, and the Strand. I had hoped for a little bit more, but I did get to see the Old Curiousity Shop which is actually not the one in Dicken's novel but it claims to be. I was amazed as well by how Jean had managed to memorize great swaths of Dickens (the man did tend to go on and on), which she duly recited to us during the walk.
That evening, I went to see The Sound of Music, which I was curious to see because the star of the show Connie Fisher, had won the role during this reality TV show called, "How Do You solve a problem like Maria?". I had picked Friday because I knew that she didn't perform Wednesday matinees or Saturday nights (Okay mini-rant here, it's amazing to me that stars like Mary Martin were able to do 8 performances a week with no microphones but today's West End and Broadway stars who are miked! are to fragile to do a full week of performances. Sound of Music is not Evita or Phantom).
Well, Ms. Fisher did not perform, her understudy did. Understudy No. 1 since she has 2 as well as the alternate who does 2 performances a week. The understudy was okay, and I applaud her for being able to give a well-rounded performance at a moment's notice. An understudy's lot is not easy, particulary if you aren't part of the ensemble during the performance. You're just waiting around to see if the star is sick or not. Yes, you're getting paid but to do nothing which is not as much fun as it sounds.
I enjoyed the show nonetheless, and the scene where the Captain joins in when the kids are singing The Sound of Music just brought me to tears. Yes, I wept openly during this show. I admit it, I'm a total sap. After dinner, I met my friends PH and his husband to have dinner at Ping Pong which is a groovy chain of dim sum restaurants. We ordered and ate way too much food but it was a great evening. Seriously the vegetable puffs were to die for.
I took the night bus home which took forever but it beat taking a cab which is way too expensive. Oh, and they have those annoying rickshaw bicycle guys in London the way they do in New York.
Thanks for reading,
EKM

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

London Calling - The Lure of Couture


Tuesday, I woke up feeling refreshed after having a good night's sleep in my lovely double bed at Janine's. After a hearty breakfast and cups and cups of tea, I headed out to the Victoria and Albert Museum for the Golden Age of Couture exhibition. The V&A is one of my favorite museums and I always try and go there whenever I'm in London. It's like comfort food for me. There's always a fun fashion exhibit going on, probably because the museum is dedicated to the decorative arts and there's nothing more decorative than clothes, clothes, clothes!
Last year, they had a really groovy exhibition on clothing in the Swinging 60's and also Black British fashion which was interesting. I even made upstairs to see the rooms of 18th and 19th century furniture.
Now the museum has the complete collection from the Theatre Museum which closed in Covent Garden, so I'm hoping that they'll do more exhibits apart the most recent one they did on Kylie Minogue!
The couture exhibit was fascinating. I had seen a similar one about ten years ago at the Imperial War Museum but that one was more about clothing during the war. This exhibit covered the years 1947 through 1957 when Dior died, and showcased his New Look, Balenciaga, Chanel, Givenchy and the few English courtiers Norman Hartnell and Hardy Amies. One of the most interesting part of the exhibit were a few of the dolls from the Theatre de la Mode that were created to showcase French fashion after the war.
It was a touring exhibition of nearly two hundred dolls in sets, created by Christian Bérard and Jean Cocteau among others. The Théâtre brought together a community that was still suffering hardship. The Théâtre toured to Britain, Scandinavia and the USA, raising funds for war victims and promoting French fashion.
See before the war there had been there were seventy registered couture houses in Paris, including the grand establishments of Chanel, Schiaparelli and Balenciaga. The industry was disrupted by the wartime occupation of Paris. Private clients dispersed, international sales almost ceased and many couturiers closed. The Germans planned to move couture to Berlin but Lucien Lelong, president of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, objected, saying, 'It is in Paris or it is nowhere'.
What struck me about the exhibit was not just how exquisite the clothes were but also how time consuming it must have been since pretty much everything was sewed by a small band of seamstresses and I'm sure a lot of it was done by hand. There were some women who only wore one specific designer for all their clothes! Imagine if I could only wear Diane von Furstenberg! I love her but I think I would be bored if I couldn't wear other designers, even if John Galliano was designing for me himself.
You got to see sketch books and then some of the finished dresses so that you could get a sense of how the dress went from concept to creation. The old newsreels from fashion shows were also interesting when you consider what spectacles some of the couture shows are nowadays in Paris. Images of women walking down the Seine or exploring Paris and showing off the clothes. And the footage of women walking the runway, nothing like it is today where the models are not just emaciated but look like they're stoned. No giraffe walk for these women.
At the end of the exhibit there were fashion spreads from British Vogue among other magazines. These glorious black and white photos taken by Irving Penn, Cecil Beaton and Richard Avedon. It was truly art what these photographers were doing back then. Generally magazines at the time used fashion illustrations to show off the clothes not photography, since the illustrations could give more of a feel for the clothing than just a flat photograph but these pictures were just stunning.
In the gift shop, I was dying to buy the book that went along with the exibition, but it was 25 pounds which is over 50 bucks. Plus it was heavy even in paperback, so I left it. I might try and find it online at Amazon or order it direct from the Museum if I decide that I still want it. They were running Funny Face with Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn in the gift shop, the Think Pink number which I love. What was interesting was that the museum was selling clothing inspired by the exhibit. I loved that.
All in all, it was a good first second day in London, topped off by spending time with the Impossibly Handsome British Friend at the theater seeing The Country Wife with Toby Stephens and David Haig at the Theatre Royal Haymarket where I got to see Maggie Smith in college in Way of the World and ogle Christopher Reeve during the intermission (he was theere in the audience) and sharing a glorious bottle of French champagne during the interval.
Thanks for reading,
EKM

I'm back!

Yes, I have finally flew in from London and boy are my arms tired! (Sorry I couldn't resist). It was an amazing week and I can't believe how fast it flew by. Seriously, I almost wept when I had to get on the plane yesterday which is why I was so stroppy with the security guard who searched my bag before I got on the plane (this was after being searched like 3 times since I'd gotten to the airport. And seriously if you're not searching everyone's bag before they get on, don't tell me you're 'providing security' because you may have just let a terrorist slip by while you were searching my Tommy Hilfiger bag which isn't big enough to hold an umbrella let alone a bomb) I'll probably be writing quite a few posts on my trip over the next few days giving the highlights, so bear with me.

The day I left I received my 30 pages back from the editor from Pocket Books who's critique I had won through AAR's auction. Note to self, when you've just suffered a heartbreak, everything seems worse than it is. After I read her critique I just fell apart. I felt as if the universe was crapping all over me. Picking myself up of the floor, I wiped away my tears and read it again. Everything she said made sense and now I'm kind of excited to go back and make changes. I just wish I had gotten this critique before I submitted the novel to Llewelleyn Flux and The Golden Heart contest.

Things went from bad to worse when I discovered that I had booked the wrong date for my SuperShuttle (due to my lack of focus from the aforementioned heartbreak) which left me scrambling for a way to get to the airport. However, I decided to make lemonade out of lemon and I managed to grab a cab to Penn Station where I took the train to Newark Airport (quite nice for $15).

I was beginning to get worried about how the trip was going to go when we got on the plane at 10 p.m. and then sat on the runway for two hours. Apparently there was something wrong with the plane that they just discovered when we were about to take off. So instead of landing at 10 a.m. in London, I landed at noon.

But then things changed for the better once I arrived. After schlepping my bag from Gatwick Express through Victoria station to the underground to take the tube to Vauxhall, I finally arrived at Janine's house which I booked through At Home in London. She wasn't home but I couldn't believe how lovely my room was and there was a framed copy of the Romney portrait of Emma Hamilton over my bed! I knew that I had found a kindred spirit.

I quickly dropped off my bag and headed back out to Central London where I went to Mysteries, always my first stop in London, where I had an amazing tarot card reading from Barbara which cleared things up for me. Then I was starving, so I hightailed it over to Wagamama's which is this groovy Japanese noodlebar, for dinner. I was so hungry by this point that I could have poured soy sauce over my arm and eaten it. I scarfed down my vegetable gyoza and my pad thai which wasn't since it was Japanese. Then I headed over to Waterstones to browse through the books for an hour or two. What's cool about the Picadilly location is they have a wine bar upstairs.

I'm telling you I think that Borders and Barnes and Noble are missing out on a cool thing by not having a wine bar in their store. Plus the Picadilly branch is like 6 stories high jam-packed with books and they have more than one bathroom. I ended up buying Isabel Wolff's new book which I'm sure Red Dress Ink will publish at some point. Saw lots of biographies that I longed for including Claire Tomalin's books on Mary Wollstonecraft and Dorothy Jordan and at least 3 books on Mary Robinson. The biography section was so huge that it covered most of the 3rd floor in the store. Unfortunately book prices with the pound being so strong were unbelievable. 8.99 which is about $17.00 for a paperback and that's not even trade size, we're talking mass market.

By this time, I was knackered. Normally when I arrive in London, I hit the ground running, booking theater tickets, etc. But the long delay and everything just wore me out so I went back to the house around 8:30 and just sat in the kitchen with Janine, her other lodger Mark who was from Canada (he was in town looking for work and a flat for him and his girlfriend), and Janine's friend sipping wine and talking until I finally went upstairs around 11 to watch the end of 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here," with Janice Dickinson of all people! Yes, the same woman who had her own hair and make-up artist during The Surreal Life is in the Australian outback with a bunch of D list English celebrities. It was hilarious!

So thus goes my first day in the UK.

Thanks for reading!

EKM

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Leaving on a Jet Plane


So I leave tonight for London and I can't wait. There's nothing better for getting over heartbreak than traveling to another country, where there are no reminders of the one that you love. I suggest that the two women from The Bachelor do the same thing. Take a vacation to Club Med and stop mooning over Brad Womack. Be grateful that he didn't pick either one of you and then dump you after a month (FYI, I only watched the final episode of this season. ABC should do everyone a favor and cancel this travesty of a show or invest in a team of pyschotherapists to deal with these women.)
My plans for my trip are evolving. I'm now staying in a private home which will save me 28 pounds a night instead of staying in a hotel. I'm seeing some great theater and hanging out with my lovely American and British friends while I'm there. I'm even having Thanksgiving but on Saturday.
I'm still torn about taking either a day trip to Bath or seeing what the heck is up with this Dicken's World theme park. I'm kind of curious about it. It depends on what the cost is. I'm not spending the equivalent of what it would cost for a day at Disney World to watch people run around pretending to be living in Victorian London.
I'm also going to have afternoon tea at the Berkeley Hotel. It's called the pret a port tea, because all the cookies and cakes are dressed up to look like dresses from the latest collections, so I'll try and take pictures if they'll let me. I'm also going to stop in at Mysteries to have a tarot card reading. Maybe I'll get some good news that I'll finally meet someone else to help me get over cutie pie author. Hopefully someone who looks like James Purefoy! Hey a girl can dream can't she?
I don't know if I'll be blogging while I'm there. I don't have a laptop and it depends on if I can find an internet cafe. So don't miss me too much!
Thanks for reading,
EKM

Monday, November 19, 2007

Movie Review: Protagonist


Yesterday, I got to see a preview of a new documentary film by Jessica Yu called Protagonist at the Philoctetes Center. I knew nothing about this film other than remembering that the director when she won an Academy Award for best Documentary Short Subject for Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien had joked that her dress cost more than her film.
The Philoctetes Center always shows the most interestings films. I saw Crazy Love there this summer before it opened, and the films I saw as part of their summer series still resonate with me so I was eager to see this one.
Protagonist is a term used to refer to the figure or figures in literature whose intentions are the primary focus of a story. Classically protagonists are derived from good will, however, this does not always have to be true. Protagonists cannot exist in a story without opposition from a figure or figures called antagonist(s). Classically in literature, characters with good will are usually the protagonists; however, not all characters who assist the protagonist are required to be simple protagonistic. This is the definition that Wikipedia gives for Protagonist and it's a pretty good definition for the film because each of the subjects had a clear antagonist even if it was within themselves and not an external antagonists.
The film features for men, Hans-Joachim Klein, a German terrorist, Mark Salzman (a martial arts expert and Ms. Yu's husband), Joe Loya, a former bank robber and Mark Pierpont, a gay former missionary. The one thing all four men have in common is extremism and a certainty. They each in their way took extreme measures reacting to circumstances in their lives, in most cases it was physical or emotional abuse by either their parents or their peers. All four of them believed that this extreme behavior would save them. Loya frequently mentions thinking that he was turning himself into Nietzsche's ubermensch by robbing banks as if each bank he robbed made him stronger when it reality it just increased his chances of getting caught (It's funny how people have distorted Nietzsche's theories over the years. Leopold and Loeb were also caught up in Nietzsche which led them to try and commit the perfect crime, since they both had genius I.Q.'s and all). Ultimately of course the behavior turned out to be destructive for all of them. The certainty they had in their lives, turned out to be not so certain after all and they all had to regroup.
In Klein's case, his mother committed suicide shortly after his birth, and he later discovered that not only was she Jewish but that she'd been interred in a concentration camp. His father and step-mother were abusive, and he got caught up in the fervor of the 60's radicalism in Germany. Only in his case, it wasn't enough to just protest. He felt that only by violence could a point be made. So he got involved with a wing of the Bader-Meinhof gang (a group of extremists) and ended up involved in the kidnapping of a group of Opec executives, in which 3 people were killed and he was wounded. While recovering he saw the Raid on Entebbe and something about the plight of the Jews on the flight spoke to him and it changed his life. He realized that they weren't really changing anything.
For Mark Pierpont, he grew up in a religious household and tried through prayer and missionary work to change his nature, which was being gay. Joe Loya tried to escape the brutality of his father by becoming a bank robber. He was taking control of his life in a very bizarre way. Mark Salzman was tormented as a child by bullies, and he had a father who wasn't very masculine (at one point he mentions his father coming to one of his martial arts matches and doing needlepoint), so he found the most extreme sensei possible to teach him martial arts.
The stories on their own would have held my attention but Jessica Yu frames it using Euripidies Ancient Greek tragedy the Bacchae to illuminate the subject. In the play Dionysus is angry at his human family for rejecting him and not believing that he is the son of Zeus. His mother Semele died looking upon the face of Zeus which was verboten, him being a god and all. Dionysus disguises himself as a blond youth, who has a group of female worshippers including his aunts and cousins, who he's driven into an ecstatic frenzy. His cousin Pentheus has banned the cult of Dionysus from the kingdom. Since it's a Greek tragedy you know it doesn't end well.
The director uses puppets to illustrate not only sections of the play (which are performed in ancient greek with subtitles) but also to illustrate the more graphic violence such as when Joe Loya describes stabbing his father. While I found the use of the puppets in this case to be illuminating, I found the Greek tragedy sections not to be that interesting. Partly because unless you know from the get-go that the play is the Bacchae, you're not really going to get the nuances that the director is going for. Now that I know the scenes were from the Baachae, they make more sense, and I would like to see the movie again with that knowledge.
Not only does the movie illustrate extremism, but there are also elements of the hero's journey in the film, Joseph Campbell's landmark work which I know solely from Christopher Vogler's the Writer's Journey. The director frames each segment of the film using terms like catharsis with lovely ancient Greek illustrations, but I found that I would have liked to have come to my own conclusions without being led so much by the director.
I read a review that said the film had more in common with Sophocles than with the plays of Euripides, in particular Oedipus who famously killed his father and married his mother. Clearly all four men had serious father issues and issues with their masculinity or society's version of what constituted a man.
All four men were incredibly articulate about their journeys, all most too much so. You almost wish that at least one of them had been struggling to communicate. In her production notes, she states that she searched for months for the other three protagonists (since one of them lived in her house). I would have liked to have known more about her process of finding and interviewing people. Apart from her husband, and why she chose to include his story. Mark Salzman had written a book about his experiences teaching in China which was very well received and made into a movie in which he starred.
Unfortunately the director was not able to be at the screening to answer these questions, so I'll have to wait until she's interviewed or for the DVD extras to get my questions answered. But I would definitely go see this film, if you like documentaries or even if you just like human stories.
Thanks for reading,
EKM

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Men are like Cowardly Lions


I wrote a whole earlier post but I deleted. It was all ranty Mcrant a lot and way too personal for this blog. Suffice to say I'm clearly in no shape to blog right now, so head on over to Scandalous Women and read about Eleanor of Aquitaine and Miriam Leslie.
Thanks a lot for reading,
EKM

Friday, November 16, 2007

Home Sweet Home



Do you ever find yourself looking through the homes and the apartments in the real estate section of the paper, dreaming about what your life would be like if you lived there? Would it be better or worse to have four bedrooms and an office? Or a beautiful staircase like the one in the house above. I can easily imagine myself sitting on that front porch in the summer evenings, sipping a glass of iced tea, people watching. I mean the front walk alone is to die for! And only $1.4 Million dollars. Of course, it's situated in the Crowns Height neighborhood in Brooklyn which hasn't always been the nicest part of Brooklyn, but it's a 19th Century Victorian and whoever owns it has clearly taken care of it. According to the Corcoran web-site it has gas fireplaces, leaded and stained glass windows, bay windows and an eat-in
kitchen.


I have to admit I love reading about other people's homes, even in fiction. Imaging the space where the character lives adds an extra dollop to the novel, and can reveal so much about who the character is. Since most of my novels are set in Manhattan, I spend a great deal of time thinking about which neighborhood they would live in and why. Even how much rent they pay every month (this is New York so everyone talks about what they pay in rent, if they're renting)


My hero, in my WIP, lives on the Upper East Side, not in the chi-chi areas around Park Avenue and Madison Avenue, but further over on 2nd Avenue, where it's not so trendy and chic. He lives in a very small one bedroom, across the Park from the university where he teaches. Which is deliberate for him. Meanwhile my heroine lives in her parents apartment while they are away working on a cruise ship for six months in Hell's Kitchen. They live in a apartment complex that was designed for people in the Arts. Since my heroine had been living abroad for several years, she didn't have an apartment in the city when she came back to take over her parents' dance studio, so she's taking care of theirs. All her stuff is in storage, so she feels kind of in limbo right now.


I also spend a great deal of time imaginging the decor of my characters apartments even if I only use 1/10 of the information. Whether they're sloppy or neat. Do they care about their living environment or is just someplace where they sleep? What items in their homes they would reach for if there were a fire. Do they cook at home and if they do, do they use Caphalon or Martha Stewart's pots and pans? I pore through magazines like Domino and In Style homes looking for pictures that accurately depict my characters homes.


In my WIP, my hero has a battered leather sofa that he loves, even though his cat Dickens has used it as a scratching post. His walls are decorated with foreign film posters and a bust of Freud on his bookcase which is crammed full of books of all descriptions. Since my heroine's apartment doesn't reflect her taste, I have to imagine what her parents taste is like, in order to describe her apartment.




Question of the day: How much time or effort to you put in to your characters living environment? And do you surf the internet for Real Estate Porn?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Movie Review: American Gangster

Since I had Monday off from my day job, I decided to go and see American Gangster with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, two actors who I admire enormously for their talent. Whether or not the movie is any good, they always give consistently top notch performances. And Ridley Scott is always an interesting director. However, I was quite disappointed by this movie.

The movie is based on the life of drug-kingpin-turned-informant, Frank Lucas, who grew up in North Carolina where he watched as his cousin was shot by the Klan for looking at a white girl. He eventually made his way to Harlem where he became a heroin kingpin by traveling to Asia's Golden Triangle to make connections, shipping heroin back to the US in the coffins of soldiers killed in Vietnam. According to him, he was soon making upwards of one million dollars a day in drug sales. Lucas was shadowed by lawman, Richie Roberts, who finally helped bring the him to justice. The two then worked together to expose the crooked cops who made importing heroin so easy.

There was something that bothered me while I was watching this movie. Despite the scenes that showed how destructive heroin is and the damage Lucas was doing by importing the drug, the movie makers try to make him seem like some kind of saint. And Russell Crowe's character Richie Roberts is so thinly fleshed out, he might as well be cardboard. Seriously they try to show him as flawed by having scenes with his ex-wife where she accuses him of being a liar and a cheat, but we don't really see enough of why his personal life is so messy. I mean he manages to get a law degree, and of course he's an honest cop who won't take a million dollars in drug money that he and his partner find, despite the fact that it ruins their reputation in the police department for being clean cops.

Not to mention the scene where he emotionally decides to give up fighting for custody or visitation rights with his kid (actually you're never really sure why they are in court.) Carla Gugino was as wasted as his wife as she was in Night at the Museum.

They also make it seem like it was a breeze for Frank Lucas to import heroin into the USA. He was one of those 'Eureka' light bulb over the head moments while watching a news report about American soldiers getting heavily addicted to heroin while overseas in Vietnam. Like this never even occured to the Italian Mafia who had been importing heroin into the country ever since the end of prohibition.

Yes, Frank Lucas takes care of his family and buys them a house but it's not from altruistic motives. As he explains it in a magazine article, because they were from the country, not savvy NYC thugs, they wouldn't be tempted to steal from him. He could control them was the reason that he brought them up to New York and involved them in the business. Yeah, really kind and sweet to get your family involved in your drug business.

The weirdest part of the movie is where Richie Roberts busts Frank and then in the next scene he's prosecuting him as an attorney. It was a totally What the hell? moment in the film. I mean we know he passed the bar, but when did he quit being a cop and go to work for the DA's office? And wouldn't that be a conflict of interest, busting a guy and then prosecuting him, since he had inside information about the crime?

Of course, being the history geek that I am, I had to search the Internet for information of the real Frank Lucas. And from what I read, including interviews with Frank and his own daughter, American Gangster is a complete crock. The real Frank Lucas is a cocky, arrogant SOB, who brags about his life as a gangster, and who completely exaggerated his relationship with Bumpy Johnson. The idea of smuggling heroin into the states wasn't just his idea. His cousin was already actively dealing drugs in Vietnam. Despite the evidence that he informed not just on crooked cops but on his fellow drug dealers, he denies it. Also, his wife Julie (who is called Eva in the film) was not so innocent. She spent time in jailing for helping him smuggle drugs.

And Richie Roberts didn't single-handedly take down Frank Lucas the way it appears in the movie. His part was only peripheral at best. In fact, the Richie Roberts character in the movie is an amalgamation of several law enforcement officials.

I do however applaud the filmmakers for their ability to recreate 1970's New York considering all the changes the city has gone through. If you didn't know the city, you wouldn't realize that the scene where Bumpy dies is actually on Broadway and 137th Street, not 8th Avenue. Oh and by the way, Bumpy didn't die in an appliance store but at a waffle house, and Frank Lucas was not there (shades of Jesse Jackson claiming to have held Martin Luther King in his arms as he died which is not true).

Once again the real story of Frank Lucas is so much more interesting and gritty than the Hollywood whitewash. And since the movie is almost 3 hours long, it's not as if they didn't have time to develop these characters. While it was nice to see Armand Assante and Josh Brolin, I had no idea who these characters were supposed to be other than cultured gangster and crooked cop. And Cuba Gooding Jr. is wasted as Nicky Barnes.

I got more of a sense of the war on drugs from Traffic than I did from this film. In fact, I would recommend that people read both New York magazine articles on Nicky Barnes and Frank Lucas than to waste $11.75 to see this film.

Thanks for reading,

EKM

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Congratulations Marley Gibson!


Congratulations are in order for a good friend and all around wonderful person Marley Gibson who just sold to Hougton Mifflin.



From Publisher's Marketplace:
Marley Gibson's GHOST HUNTRESS series, featuring a transplanted Chicago teen who begins to experience a psychic awakening, then forms a ragtag ghost hunting team to research and battle the belligerent ghosts in her historic Southern town, to Julia Richardson at Houghton Mifflin, in a very nice deal, in a three-book deal, by Deidre Knight of The Knight Agency.


This is Marley's second series after her Sorority Rush 101 Series that comes out in May of 2008. I've read the proposal for her GHOST HUNTRESS series and it is awesome.


In other news NaNoWriMo is going very slowly for me and since I'm going to London next week for vacation (I can't say that enough) it will go even slower. I'll be happy if I end up with 30,000 words by the time the month is done. I did however have an epiphany last night while walking to my dance class. I realized that the book my hero wrote wasn't sexy enough. He's a bit unusual for me, in that he's a total beta male. Incredibly handsome, incredibly smart, but a total egghead. His profession? He's a professor of psychology at a New York university.



My original plan was that he had written a biography of Freud and Jung's friendship and later split. Sounds terribly sexy doesn't it? My next thought to sex it up was that the hero had been encouraged to throw in all sorts of sexy details of all the women Jung slept with and an intimation that Freud got up to no good with his sister-in-law (not really a new theory). But I could just hear an editor or agent explaining to me that idea of Freud isn't really sexy in a romance novel.



So now the plan is that his PhD thesis on gender roles has been sexed up into a book on the male/female relationships. Which completely makes him uncomfortable, particularly since the publicity department of the publishing company has used his attractiveness as a marketing tool. I think this now contrasts nicely with the heroine, who was once a championship ballroom dancer before she was injured. So she's used to being the spotlight, and he's not. And their roles are also now reversed because she's retreated to teaching at her parents dance studio, while he's trying to deal with is minor fame he's gotten.



I still like the whole Freud/Jung book idea, but then I'm kind of an egghead myself. But I can see how I had to open it up and change things around. This adds more dimension to the novel now and gives me a chance to sort of poke fun at all those self-help books etc. Since that's the last thing the hero ever wanted to write.
Thanks for reading,
EKM

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Welcome Stacey Agdern!


This week the Lady Novelist is pleased to welcome Stacey Agdern from Posman books here to Got it Goin On.


Q. Can you share a little about your background and how you came to be in charge of the romance section at Posman Books?



I had decided that I was going to try to make a go of it as a writer, but needed a ‘day job’; something I could work at during the day and yet not have to bring my work home. The immediate choice was retail, and I’d always enjoyed bookstores, so what would be better than working at one? Once I started, I learned a great deal about the store and my colleagues. They were fabulous! However, as nice as they were, they didn’t read the genre. And so I began making suggestions…which eventually got noticed, because, of course, the management team knew how best to use their available assets. Less than a month after I started working at the store, I was in charge of the section.



Q. What does being in charge of the romance section at Posman Books mean? I.e., what exactly is it that you do?



I like to think of my job as ‘the last line of defense.’ I do a great deal of research on many different levels, speak to customers and use the knowledge that I’ve gained to fill in the gaps in both backlist and current titles. I also look at various publisher catalogues and assist the buyer in choosing new releases.


Q: What do you love about the romance genre?


I love the freedom! A romance can be set anywhere and pretty much do anything, but yet as long as it tells the story of a relationship(and ends with either a happily ever after or the promise of forever) it’s a romance. I don’t think that any other type of fiction can afford that kind of creative freedom.


Q: Are the one to whom the marketing people at a publisher’s house gear marketing strategies? In other words, if you order a ton of vampire romances, would the marketing people tell the editors to push authors to write more of the same? Or do you just get presented with tons of vampire romances because something else pushes editors to push authors to write these?



I think that what happens is that when publishers see the success of one writer, they go on an increasing search to find similar concepts. However, my personal involvement in this whole process is on an entirely different level. That’s where the concept of ‘last line of defense’ comes in. It’s my job to tell the books of the heart from the imitators; the original stories from those that were pushed by some other force. Because for every number of, for example, succubus romances, out there by authors following trends, there’s a series that’s original by someone who’s been toiling for years, waiting and hoping for a time when, as a notably fabulous and brilliant speaker called it ‘the market meets their muse.’



Q: Generally, what sub genres seem to be selling well? Where do you see market growth/contraction for sub genres in the future?



I’m not quite sure that I see contraction; I see more variations, wider steps people are taking. It’s amazing; this is a time where innovation is key! But at it’s core, no matter how many different variations of something do exist, readers can and do tell the difference between imitators and books of the heart.


Q: There have been reports that historicals are in a decline. Is this merely cyclical? Or asked another way, is there still hope for the historical?



Historicals are definitely not dead despite rumors to the contrary. What people continue to forget is that the current generation of up and coming readers grew up on Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Stephanie Laurens as the previous generation grew up on Johanna Lindsay and Kathleen Woodiwiss before her. As long as there are strong stories, there will always be a historical market.



Q: What do you think is the reason behind the push for more erotic sex scenes in all books, other than inspirational romances?



I think that mainstream publishers were confounded by what, to them, seemed like the sudden rise of erotic romance as a subgenre. So when e-publishers caught a great deal of the market share, the mainstream publishers ran to meet the needs of the market. The more erotic sex scenes are a direct result of that, but they’re also the result of what happens when the stars of erotic romance move into the mainstream. They’re used to writing more erotic scenes, and the mainstream publishers want the reading public to discover them at their best.



Q: What covers do you think have the most impact on readers today? Ie., the stepback, the clinch, the male chest, the female back?



Faces, when done well, can bring in readers. In fact, after having spent most of my reading life ignoring covers, within the last two years I’ve bought two different books simply because I couldn’t get the face on the cover out of my head. However, there are a few other rules. If there’s going to be a clinch, PLEASE make it a stepback. Male chests might work but that depends on the chest. Same with the female back.



Q: What books are you looking for to stock in the store? How can readers affect what is stocked in the store?



I don’t think you can stock a romance section, or really any section of a store or library, without taking into consideration reader tastes. If you don’t, I think there’s something fundamentally wrong. Whenever I look at a publisher catalog, or come across a title that seems interesting in my research, if I can’t come up with at least three regular customers who will by it? I don’t recommend it to be ordered. I also talk to customers(regular or non) about what they’re reading and get suggestions from them. At the moment, I’m looking for chicklit(a la Emily Giffin, Meg Cabot, Alisa Valdes Rodriguez) and romantic comedy written in the third person(methodone for those who finished SEP, Rachel Gibson, Julia London, Deidre Martin, Katie MacAlister, Jenny Crusie….).



Q: Do you think the internet, such as blogs, websites, and email are having an impact on romance book sales?



Absolutely! It helps me to choose titles that customers will enjoy, it helps the customers to be more informed about what they’re reading and what to expect from authors in the future.



Q: What do you think of the hybridization of romance or the marketing of books not really a romance as romance? For example, Jane Lockwood’s new book, Forbidden Shores is marketed as a historical romance, but it leans more towards erotic romance.

I love the hybrid/cross genre stuff that’s coming out ! So much creativity in those books! (Down Home Zombie Blues, Moongazer, Wired, Driven….) Mismarketing is not much of a bother for me as a bookseller because that’s something which is easily fixed. But that’s just another example of where the blogs, websites and emails come in handy. They allow me to do research; a great deal of research, on new and upcoming titles. As a result, I’ll know where to shelve the book…even if the spine says otherwise. For example, in the specific case of the Jane Lockwood title, a little research will uncover that Jane blogs with a group of erotic-historical writers. And so the book is shelved under the erotic romance label in the romance section.
My personal pet peeve is writers who swear up and down that they don’t write romance, but yet the core of their books is a)which ‘hero’ is the heroine going to end up with or b) the relationship between the hero and the heroine. My advice is plain and simple. If you don’t want to be sold/marketed as a romance DO NOT write one.



Q: You are also a writer. What kind of romance do you write?


My current wips are both paranormal; one an alternate reality series that incorporates my first attempt at a historical, the other a paranormal political romantic thriller series that uses a UN like organization as a backdrop. But I’ve written romantic comedy and a romantic political thriller.



Q. What/Who do you like to read?

I think it’s easier to talk about what I don’t read. Mysteries, with a few exceptions, Inspirational fiction/non, literary fiction(with a few exceptions), poetry, erotica. Everything else is pretty much fair game. I’m a sucker for a good writing style. If you can give me a well written story? I’m a happy person.



Q. There was a recent article called "Harm in reading romance novels," Do you think romance novels harm or empower women?


Those individuals who are the genre’s biggest vocal critics seem, more often than not, to have something to prove. The critics who refuse to touch the genre with a ten foot pole, constantly emphasize how much of a literary bent they possess; the mystery author who created a longstanding romantic subplot only to kill off the male lead is attempting to present herself as a ‘crime novelist.’ The author who famously bemoaned chicklit whilst reviewing another writer’s work was actually attempting to explain why her own best selling novel was not, and could never be, classified as chicklit. But those people who pick up a romance novel? They’re saying ‘Here I am. I love these books. I enjoy these books. And I dare you to question me.’ If that’s not empowerment, I’m not sure what is.



Q: Romance has garnered the biggest market share in genre fiction, yet it gets the least respect in popular and literary culture. Do you have any thoughts on why that is? Do you find this prejudice changing?

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that the genre serves as an easy target for those people who need a quick boost. Unfortunately, these days, if you actually look at the current state of the market, there are many easy targets. For example, take this quote from Maureen Dowd.
“The blood-red high heel ending in a devil’s pitchfork on the cover of the Lauren Weisberger best seller might as well be driving a stake through the heart of the classics. I even found Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar” with chick-lit pretty-in-pink lettering. “Penis lit versus Venus lit,” said my friend Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, who was with me. “An unacceptable choice.”



When I first saw this article, and this quote, my eyes couldn’t help but fall upon the cheesy cartoon soldier cover on the most recent translation of the Aeneid(which has been followed by the pretty much identical soldier on the trade paperback of Paul Cartelege’s ‘The Spartans). What’s next? A full blazing cover, complete with a Macho Roman soldier that would otherwise belong on a Clancy novel? It was just the most recent step in a thrillification process that is putting a proverbial sword through the heart of the classics. Penis Lit? Venus Lit? What about Mars lit? You know…god of war? Infusing the common thriller into gorgeous works of epic poetry? I’d rather read ‘The Devil Wears Prada’(which I don’t like for other, unrelated, reasons) than ‘Songs on Bronze’ which juxtaposes modern interpretations of the classics and the very noble, naked back of a Roman or Greek Soldier. Even though I adore both the classics and thrillers(and have actually read some of the most obvious examples of the thrillification process), this should serve as an example of how easy it is to find a target…if you only look.
Unfortunately, despite the prevalence of other easy targets, I don’t see this prejudice changing.



However, ever once in a while I do see signs of encouragement. In a recent interview, Michael Chabon said “There’s nothing inherently inferior about … romance novels,” and proceeded to explain how his novels are infused with romance, to the point where he believes that the core of one of his recent books is the relationship between one of his main characters and his ex- wife If you look at Dean Koontz’s website, you’ll see that he’s characterized some of his recent novels as ‘Romantic Suspense’(http://www.deankoontz.com/books/genre/romantic-suspense.php).



Q. What books are you most looking forward to in the upcoming months?


Do I have to list them all?:) I think the major problem with the fact that I read sooo many authors is that my to be bought list is rather large….but yet I’m never without something to read by one of my faves.
Thanks Stacey for stopping by. And if you're an author or even a reader, when you're in New York, stop by Posman Books in Grand Central Station and say hi to Stacey!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Goodbye George

Dear George,
Well it had to happen. After all these years, it's time for me to say good-bye to you. It's not that I don't still think that you're a fine actor, but the feeling just isn't there anymore. I've stuck with you from Roseanne through Sisters, through the mullet you once had through to your salt and pepper stage. I even watched an episode of 'Baby Talk.' Heck, I even paid money to watch you ruin the Batman franchise.
But now the love is lost. It's not just the fact that you're dating a cocktail waitress from the Hard Rock Casino who once won Fear Factor, who you almost killed in an accident. Or the fact that you couldn't be bothered to turn up to the 300 episode of ER, the show that finally gave you that boost you needed to take you to the top.
No, it's the fact that you got into a pissing contest with Fabio. Fabio, the 'I Can't Believe It's Not Butter' guy. Fabio, who appeared on hundreds of romance novels, and even wrote a few himself (well, not really). Seriously, you tried to take Fabio down? Are you loco? The guy is one giant muscle with a head on top. Don't be fooled by the long hair and the chisled cheeks, heck even a duck couldn't get the best of Fabio, and you thought you were going to win in a smack down?
And what was the point? Like Fabio said 'stop being a diva.' Was it too hard for you to believe that the photographer was taking pictures of Fabio and his entourage? She had to be taking pictures of you? Seriously?
I couldn't believe it when I read about it on Smart Bitches. I thought this couldn't be my George but sadly it was.
So I'm sorry George. My love affair with you is now over. Not even the dream of staying at your villa on Lake Como is worth it. Oh, I'll still see you movies. On DVD. But I will no longer pay my hard earned $11.75.
See ya.
EKM

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Distortions of Memory


So today, I went to a roundtable at the Philoctetes Center on Distortions of Memory. And the picture on the left is apropos because I wore absolutely no make-up (okay I did throw on a little lipstick). I wore a short skirt, however, despite the fact that it is freezing cold outside. Why you might ask did I risk my health? Like Jennifer Lopez has her booty, I have a kick ass pair of legs and while they are still holding up, I like to show them off (yes, I am that vain). Hence why I now have a incipient head cold. Oh, I also had the embarassing moment of cutie pie author pointing out someone to me who came to the roundtable, as if I should know who they were. Which I didn't. I felt like a complete moron, but then I remembered that if Suzanne Brockmann or Meg Cabot had been in the vicinity, he wouldn't have known who they were either. So it all balanced out.



Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Distortions of Memory. Very interesting topic and we could have talked for hours about it. The panel went through the various kinds of memory, declarative, semantic, episodic, visual, procedural, and others and some of what they were talking about went completely over my head, but I'm used to that by now, whenever I go to these roundtables. But the panel was incredibly interesting. Deirdre Blair has written biographies of Anais Nin and Simone de Beauvoir (both potential Scandalous Women along with Ayn Rand), and it was interesting to hear her talk about going through Samuel Beckett's letters and having to deconstruct what was actually the truth about his feelings about Ireland before he left it for Paris. It reminded me of this author Cupcake Brown, who not only interviewed her friends, family and colleagues to their side of the story for her memoir, but hired a private detective to coorborate her memories for the book.



Since so much was going on, I'm just going to kind of filter what they were talking about through my own take on the subject, and what I was thinking about as they talked. The first thing that came to my mind when one of the audience members was talking about how memories aren't tangible, you can't hold them in your hand, or touch them. They just exist inside your head. It made me think of the scenes in the Harry Potter books when Dumbledore would use the pensieve to show Harry his memories. I remember reading those things and thinking how great it would be to be able to just pull your memories out of your head and put them in a bowl so that others could also experience them first hand. Of course, as Harry later figured out, how much of those memories would be the actual truth? This is kind of a spoiler alert but later on Harry gets to see Snape's memories and he gets a different truth, which made him look at his parents in a different
way.









Maryse Conde talked about the different images of Guadaloupe that existed in people's memories. The memories that the tourists who come to the Island have, and then the memories and experiences of the people who live there. I was reminded of the first time I went to New Orleans. Ex-sweetie pie and I had newly declared our love, and it was our first vacation together. So my view and experience and memories of New Orleans were seen through the prism of that emotion, even after we went our seperate ways. Even having one of the worst dinners of my life at Antoine's, so that ex-sweetie pie could fulfill his wish of eating in the same room that Jack Lemmon and Kevin Costner did in JFK didn't diminish my joy. Although I was kind of a bitch at the time about it (the food was seriously awful), he really wanted to have that memory. It was important to him.








My second trip was for the RWA National Conference. This time, without the haze of new love blinding me, I was able to clearly see the poverty and the shabbiness of the city clearly. Walking through the French Quarter early in the morning before it got unbearably hot to go to Cafe Dumonde, and seeing the dirty cups and vomit lining the streets from the debauchery of the night before, gave me whole new memories, that were no less valid than my earlier ones. They were just different but I remember thinking at the time, how could I have been so wrong? How could I have missed all this? It all of a sudden occurred to me, that if you travel somewhere and you have a bad experience, like finding out that a relative has died back home, that memory can completely color your feelings toward that place, to the point that the idea of ever going back there, is painful.







When I was in college studying acting, we learned about sense memory which is a technique that Konstantin Stanislavsky came up with (although later on he had different thoughts about it) and that Lee Strasberg and the Actor's Studio honed. The head of the drama department had been a member of the Studio. In sense memory, you use your own memories to when playing a character, sort of as another layer. My freshman year, we spent at least a month taking turns sitting in chairs in front of our classmates, reliving memories. Some people were really self-indulgent and started reliving car accidents, surgeries and other traumatic experiences. It was uncomfortable as hell to watch.









At the time, I really hated sense memory, to be blunt I thought it was bullshit. I felt that it placed a barrier between the actor and the character. Instead of dealing with the emotions of what they were dealing with, I thought that it was treating acting like therapy. Plus it's really hard to sustain through a long theatrical run. For film, it can work like gang-busters. But when you're performing night after night, after awhile the memories fade, they're not that strong anymore. So you're forced to dig into your bag of tricks for other memories. Or, you can take it too far and you can end up like Daniel Day Lewis did while performing Hamlet in London, where he ended up thinking that the ghost of Hamlet's father was his own father Cecil Day Lewis. It was so traumatic for him, that he couldn't finish the rest of the performance and Jeremy Northam, his understudy had to go on. I only used sense memory once, when I was playing Perdita in The Winter's Tale. In the final act, a statue of Perdita's mother Hermione is unveiled, so I used the memories of when my mother had passed on for Perdita, which was a mistake because I was still too close to it. I never used a personal memory again while I was acting.









When they were talking about distorted memory, it reminded me of all the times my mother would share her memories of when from when I was a toddler. She told them so often, that I could actually see the memory in my mind to the point that I actually believed that I remembered. One of her stories was about how I hated wearing pants (still do) and I would take them off in the elevator when we got home. I can just see myself doing that. And she told another story of how once when they took me to a restaurant, the maitre d' picked me up and carried me around because he thought I was so cute (yes, even as a toddler I was an attention seeking egomaniac!). These stories have so become a part of my history, that sometimes I find myself relating them as if I actually remembered it happening.









And then there are the distorted memories in relationships. Just think of the times, you've been infatuated with someone, and every little thing that they do, whether it's opening the door for you, or brushing against you, become part of your memory as signs that this person has feelings for you. And if you're lucky and the person gets hit with a clue bat and you end up together and they become part of your collective memories as a couple, "Hey honey remember how you used to blow me off constantly, and the time you never even bothered to ask me how my birthday went?"















They briefly touched on repressed memory and recovered memory, but it would take a whole session to discuss that alone. About a decade ago there was a story in the news of a woman who during therapy remembered that her father had killed her best friend. She apparently had surpressed the memory. What was interesting was that her father was convicted because of her testimony, even though there was no real physical evidence to tie him to the crime.










As a writer, I've often used my memories in my fiction. Bad dates, bad auditions, and other memories have been given to my characters. Sometimes even other people's memories have ended up in the mix. We're often told to write what we know, and that is our memories and experiences. Of course, there are some writers who shall remain nameless because we all know who he is, who use other people's memories in non-fiction and then claim them as their own.












Or in the case of Lillian Helman, the story of Julia in Pentimento, which was later proved not to be true, but I think in her mind, she'd told the story so many times after the book was published and the movie came out, that she believed that it actually happened. Or Lola Montez, who created a life out of whole cloth, and refused to the end to admit that it was fiction. That she was not Lola Montez, but Eliza Gilbert from Ireland.











All memory, when you come right down to it, is emotion really, happy, sad, angry, indifferent. Memories can comfort you, or they can be so painful that you have to keep them hidden away in a safe place. Like the song says, "Memories like the corners of my mind, misty water colored memories, of the way we were."







Thanks for reading!








EKM

Friday, November 09, 2007

Born in Arizona, Moved to Babylonia, King Tut


Hey, I'm over at Scandalous Women today, talking about Ninon de L'enclos, an early sex icon. Check it out! In the meantime, I've just booked my tickets to the London Eye and the King Tut exhibit.

Apparently that's the only way to get a ticket, since they are pretty sold out. The venue is called O2 and it's located out in Greenwich. My friend Chip's husband saw Barbara Streisand there. J works for a ticket agency that is selling the King Tut tickets and even he can't get one. So although on principle, I had the idea of having to buy one thing to get another, I booked both tickets.

And the London Eye is supposed to be pretty cool. I decided that since I was booking both, I might as well go for the Champagne option (a waiter brings you a glass of Laurent-Perrier). It was only 4 pounds more than the basic ticket. And I booked an early ticket for the King Tut exhibit because I figured it would be much more crowded later in the day than at 11 o'clock in the morning.

If my schedule had been better, I would have gone to see the exhibit in Philadelphia which would have been cheaper. Oh well, since a Brit discovered the tomb, in a way it's fitting that I see the boy King in London.

Thanks for reading,

EKM

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Welcome Kathleen O'Reilly

The Lady Novelist is very pleased to welcome RWA NYC
member Kathleen O'Reilly to Got It Goin On.



Kathleen O'Reilly wrote her first romance at the age of eleven, which to her undying embarrassment was read aloud to her class. After taking over twenty years to recover from the profound distress, she is now proud to announce her new career - a romance author. Kathleen lives in New York with her husband and their two children who outwit her daily.

Her latest book is a Blaze Anthology called A Blazing Little Christmas.

Dear Santa… When a secret Santa invites Rebecca Neumann for a holiday getaway, she jumps at the chance. And when a sexy blast from her past appears, she's tempted to jump him, too…




Q: Tell us a little about yourself, what is your background and how long have you been writing before you were published.


I never wanted to be writer, because I wanted to be rich, and writers were poor, but everyone told me, “Kathleen, you’re going to be a writer.” However, I didn’t listen. I went into technology (to make money) and they were looking for technical books, and I thought, hey, I can do that. So, there were three of us that wrote a book together, and it did pretty well. Unfortunately, my technology skills got obsoleted by the Evil Empire (Microsoft, in those days), and thus, I needed to find something new to write about, so I decided to try writing a romance novel. Now, I have ALWAYS loved romance novels. I started reading them when I was about ten, and I have no idea how many romances I have read over the years, but it’s well into the thousands. I started writing romances in 1997, and it took me about 3 years before I sold. I have 1.5 manuscripts stashed away, which are actually not that bad, but alas, they are Russian-based historicals, which is a huge taboo… Oh, well, someday when I’m rich and famous.


Q: Tell us about when you got “the call”

I have two critique partners, who had been published for about two years before I got published, and I was feeling very turtle-esque in my publishing career, but things were starting to pop, and I knew I was getting close, and sure enough, my first call came from Harlequin, who wanted to buy my Christmas story, A Christmas Carol, for their Duets line, and the second call came less than a month later from Berkley, who wanted to be my one (and currently only) historical, Touched By Fire. I’ll never forget talking to my editor at Harlequin the first time. She kept telling me all the things that I needed to change about the book, and never said a good thing, and by the end of the convo, I’m thinking, “And you want to buy this book, why?” Eventually, I realized that my editor is just “that way” and I’ve learned to accept that, although recently she’s been trying very hard to be nicer. She put in a smiley face in my last manuscript (her first smiley face ever), but it was a circle, two eyes, and no mouth. Beggars can’t be choosers.


Q: What made you choose romance?

I adore romance. I adore happy endings, and some days, I just really need a happy ending. I know a lot of people who not only need, but deserve a happy ending. In a romance, you know coming in that you’re guaranteed the promise of hope by the time the book is over. The world needs more hope. The world needs more love. Especially now.


Q: What you do love about writing romance?

Gee, this is a hard one. Pretty much everything except the deadlines. I think my favorite thing is telling people that I write romance novels. The people I have told don’t get all huffy or poofy about it, they think it’s really cool, which I think says a lot about my excellent taste in my friends.


Q: You just completed a trilogy for Harlequin Blaze called the Red Choo diaries. Any behind the scenes stories or the idea that you’d like to share?

LOL. Okay, I actually got the idea for the first book from my husband. He got stuck in Washington DC, and planes weren’t flying, so he was going to rent a car and drive back to NYC. There was a lady behind him who wanted to hitch a ride, so they ended up sharing a car-ride back into the city. Transit emergencies can always cause lots of problems and thrust people into situations that they ordinarily wouldn’t be put into. Anyway, I thought it was a hoot. Tthe lady worked for a magazine and told him all sorts of fun magazine stories (which will probably end up in a book at some point in time), so I scarfed the idea for the first book in the series. Also, I will say that Sam (the hero in the third book) is loosely based on Stephen Colbert, whom I have a secret crush on.


Q: You started out writing historicals and now you write sexy romances for Harlequin Blaze as well as single-title for Downtown Press. What has that been like? How do you juggle multiple projects?

I’m a mother of two school-age children. That explains so much of my juggling talent. J. Actually, I write all my books pretty much the same way. I get very tied to my characters, so when I’m writing a story, each one feels very different and unique. I will say that I had to stop working on a book in mid-stream and then switch to another manuscript before switching back, and it was difficult, but I managed. I don’t think I could write two books simultaneously, though. My head gets very tied up in the current characters life. It’s like a mini-soap opera, I think.


Q: Tell us a little about the anthologies for Berkley (Hell with the Ladies, Hell on Heels) along with Julie Kenner and Dee Davis. What was the genesis of this project?


Julie and Dee are my critique partners and BFF’s and we were sitting at conference one time, talking about the bad boy craze. We decided that the ultimate bad boys were the sons of Satan, and started laughing about it, and then realized, it was a pretty durn good idea. Berkley liked it as well.


Q: You also have a blog. Do you think that it’s helped get your name out there and generated new readers?

I think so. I’ve been quoted in USA Today because of my blog, and I know that when I was posting regularly I got tons of traffic. However, I’ve stopped updating it, because I got stuck with a lot of very tight deadlines and knew that something had to give, and so I put it on hold. If life calms down, I’ll probably blog again, but I’m not sure if life will ever calm down.


Q: What do you think is the most effective way for a writer to promote his/her books?

Keep writing. Seriously. I know some people who are really good at promotion and do it well, and it makes them happy, but I’m not sure that it does anything other than make the author feel like they have some level of control. I send out ARCS to booksellers and make up bookmarks for booksignings and run an ad for Romance Sells, and it’s enough to make me feel like I’m not a total black hole when it comes to promotion, but in the long run, you’re known by your books. And in today’s world, people expect a lot of books from their authors, and it’s very difficult to deliver consistently, especially when your time is occupied with other things. Stepping off my soap-box now.


Q. What/Who do you like to read?

I love James Patterson, Stephen King, and Harlan Coben. In romance, I adore Nora’s romance trilogies, Harlequin Presents (especially Sara Craven), Lori Handeland, J.R. Ward (that’s pretty much the extent of my paranormal romance reading), Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jill Shalvis, Julia Quinn, and Julia London. And of course, I’ve read everything that Julie Kenner and Dee Davis have ever written, because it is, the best.


Q. What is your writing process? Do you plot extensively first or do you tend to “fly in the mist?” Has your process changed over time? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?


LOL. I want to have a process, I really do, because the beginnings of the books are usually painful, painful experiences for me. But alas, I have no process. Eventually though, after I beat my head against the brick wall long enough, I crash through it. I usually write tons and tons of character notes until I get my characters into what I call “the cool phase” which is the moment when I know that I can hang with these people and have a good time. After they become “cool” then the plot stuff starts to fall into place. And when that doesn’t work, I call Julia and/or Dee and make them help me.


Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?


Keep plugging away. Writing is hard, and you have to have a thick-skin to do it. Eventually, I think you’re a happier writer if you cocoon yourself into a little island where rejections, bad reviews, and low sell-throughs do not exist. Those things will happen to everyone at one time or another, but there’s always good stuff, too. Kinda like if you hang out in the sun too long, without sunscreen, and you get burned. Being on the beach, in the sun is fun, but you really need to have that SPF 4000 to handle the burning rays of the bad stuff in writing.



Q. There was a recent article called "Harm in reading romance novels," Do you think romance novels harm or empower women?

You know, I think there’s probably a study that says that little puppy dogs can do harm to people, too. Seriously, they think chocolate is good, then chocolate is bad, then chocolate is good. Pshaw. Anything can be a problem if it’s perceived in the wrong way or for the wrong reasons, but the truth is that everyone is unique, and all these studies are whacked. For the most part, I think romance novels are great, but I’m sure there are four women out there (and one of them is Oprah), who have been traumatized by reading Barbara Cartland at an early age.


Q: Romance has garnered the biggest market share in genre fiction, yet it gets the least respect in popular and literary culture. Do you have any thoughts on why that is? Do you find this prejudice changing?

I think for a long time all popular fiction got a bad rap and I do think that’s changing because of money. Publishers have become more focused on the bottom line (a double-edged sword), but because of that, the books that make money get more attention, and romance = ka-ching. I think it’s definitely changed, although it’d be nice if it could change a little bit more, IMHO. Hollywood does the same thing. Look at the films that are hitting the theater now. A ton of “important” war films, and yet this weekend, it was the vampire movie that hit the #1 slot, far and away. Sometimes people want and need serious, classical, weighty tomes and films, but they also need a chance to relax and simply have a good time, and romance is a great way to fill that void (no bawdy pun intended).


Q. What are you planning to work on next?

I’m just finishing up the last of four books -- WHEW! -- and then I’m going to take a shower, get some sleep, and begin speaking to my family again. I have a new trilogy coming out in March, April, and May 2008 for Harlequin Blaze, called Those Sexy O’Sullivans. It’s about three hot, single brothers in New York, and they own this bar… The first book is Shaken and Stirred. I think people will like this trilogy a lot. And then I have a book in the Thoroughbred Legacy continuity from Harlequin, Courting Disaster, due out in November of 2008. It’s been my first experience with a continuity, and I have to confess, I thought it was a lot of fun. Difficult, but fun. And that’s it for now. I’m sure I’ll have other stuff to announce, but right now, I just really want to relax.


Thanks for stopping by Kathleen!

You can purchase Kathleen's anthologies with Dee Davis and Julie Kenner Hell with the Ladies and Hell on Heels from Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble. And A Blazing Christmas will be in stores next month.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ridiculous British Laws

Maybe it's because I'm due to travel to London on holiday in two weeks, but when I saw this on Yahoo News, I just had to share it.

Most ridiculous British laws:

1. It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament (um, some of those guys are old. you can't tell me that hasn't happened before)

2. It is an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the British monarch upside-down.

3. In Liverpool, it is illegal for a woman to be topless except as a clerk in a tropical fish store (WTF?)

4. Mince pies cannot be eaten on Christmas Day (I have no idea what that's about. Didn't the British come up with mince pies just for that purpose?)

5. In Scotland, if someone knocks on your door and requires the use of your toilet, you must let them enter.

6. A pregnant woman can legally relieve herself anywhere she wants, including in a policeman's helmet. (I would totally love to try that!)

7. The head of any dead whale found on the British coast automatically becomes the property of the king, and the tail of the queen.

8. It is illegal to avoid telling the tax man anything you do not want him to know, but legal not to tell him information you do not mind him knowing.

9. It is illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament in a suit of armour. (Um, has any one really tried this since the Middle Ages?)

10. In the city of York it is legal to murder a Scotsman within the ancient city walls, but only if he is carrying a bow and arrow. (what are the chances of that happening?)

I would love any comments from Brits in the blogosphere on this!

EKM

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot

Leave it to Len Goodman on last night's Dancing with the Stars to remind me that yesterday was Guy Fawke's Night in Britain. Who was Guy Fawkes you ask? Well, he's the dude to the left. in 1605, he and a group of English Catholic conspirators decided it would be a good idea to try and kill King James I of England and Scotland, his family and most of Parliament by blowing up the Houses of Parliament during the State Opening. Oh, and they also planned on kidnapping the royal children as well.

Since we all know that James I lived on, we know the plot wasn't successful, but the Brits decided it would be a great idea to celebrate the foiling of the plot by having giant bonfires and fireworks around the country (although some groups celebrat the attempt instead) on November 5th.


The guy who came up with this diabolical plan was Robert Catesby, who came up with the idea when hopes of Catholic toleration evaporated under James I. There 11 conspirators in total. Guy Fawkes was the guy who actually prepared the explosives. It seems he was some kind of explosives expert with military experience, who met Catesby through a man named Hugh Owen. After the death of the King, the conspirators planned on putting James I's 9 year old daughter Elizabeth (the future Queen of Bohemia) on the throne of a newly Catholic England (cause it worked so well under Mary I).


The principal Jesuit priest at the time , Father Henry Garnet was also apprised of the plot by another Jesuit, who heard it when Robert Catesby discussed the plot with him. Of course, what is said in the confession, is supposed to stay in the confession, so Garnet couldn't tell anyone even if he wanted to. Of course, once the plot was exposed, Garnet was still executed along with the other conspirators.


In 1604, one of the conspirators Thomas Percy rented lodgings adjacent to the Houses of Parliament with the idea of tunneling through under the foundation to lay the gunpowder. Guy Fawkes pretended to be Percy's servant while Catesby's house was used to store the gunpowder. However, the an outbreak of the Plague foiled their plans, since it was so severe that the State Opening of Parliament was postponed from the fall of 1604 to 1605. Meanwhile, the tunneling wasn't going so well. By Christmas of 1604, they still hadn't made it underneath the Houses. By the time they started work again in early 1605, they discovered that the opening had been postponed once again to October of 1605.


By chance, the conspirators learned that a coal merchant had vacated a cellar underneath the House of Lords, so Percy jumped on the chance to take over the lease. Guy Fawkes filled the room with gunpowder, by March of 1605, they had filled the undercroft with 36 barrels of gunpowder. If they had successfully ignited it, it would have blown up not only the Houses of Parliament but also Westminster Abbey and many of the old buildings in the Westminster Palace complex as well as blowing out all the windows in a 1 kilometre radius.


Due to a lack of money, the conspirators involved a man named Francis Tresham who was probably the one who betrayed them by writing to his brother-in-law. An anonymous letter was sent which read "I advise you to devise some excuse not to attend this parliament, for they shall receive a terrible blow, and yet shall not see who hurts them.'


So Guy Fawkes was in charge of executing the plot, while the rest of them fled to the country to await the news. Nothing like establishing an alibi and leaving Guy Fawkes holding the bag, so to speak. But then Francis Tresham sends a note to his brother-in-law, Lord Monteagle to warn him not to be in the vicinity lest he get blown up and stuff. Monteagle passed the letter on to Robert Cecil, Secretary of State. When the conspirators learned that Cecil had read the letter, instead of oh, deciding that maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all, they decided to go through with it anyway.


An another anonymous tip lead to the search of the undercroft of the vaults beneath the House of Lords, but it was decided to wait and catch the culprit in action which they did the next night when Thomas Knyvet lead a group of armed men who then discovered Guy Fawkes about to light the match. Fawkes was arrested and promptly admitted that he was trying to kill the King and Parliament. He was taken to the Tower of London and tortured which could only be done on the express orders of the King.


The rest of the conspirators were eventually caught, although Catesby was killed trying to lead a revolt in the Midlands. The remaining conspirators were tried in January of 1606 where they pleaded not guilty except for Sir Everard Digby who tried to defend himself by claiming that it was really the King's fault for going back on his word on promises of Catholic toleration. The trial was a public spectacle with people paying up to 10 shillings to watch. There was even a rumor going around that the King and Queen attended in secret.


Four of the plotters were executed on January 30, where they were hanged, drawn and quartered, the usual punishment for traitors. It was a particularly gruesome punishment because the prisoner was cut down before he while he was still barely alive and then drawn and quartered. Guy Fawkes, however, cheated his executioners by jumping from the gallows before he was cut down and breaking his neck.

Because of the Gunpowder Plot, the idea of Catholic Emancipation was set back over for 200 years (even today, if a member of the Royal Family marries a Catholic, they have to give up their place in the line of succession). And the Houses of Parliament are searched by a Yeoman of the Guard before every State Opening just in case. An act of Parliament was actually passed to make the 5th of November a day of thanksgiving for the 'joyful day of deliverance.' Even in the colonies, Guy Fawke's Night was celebrated until that little thing called The American Revolution. It is still the custom in the UK to have fireworks, and traditionally they burn Guy Fawkes in effigy, although not many people do it anymore.


Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up King and Parli'ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Monday, Monday

It's Monday morning and boy am I bushed. I worked again for the third night at my night job until 2 am, so needless to say I wasn't at my day job by 8:00 am. Fortunately, my boss is traveling on business, so I'm taking full advantage of his absence. I'd have an Irish coffee in the morning to celebrate, if I didn't worry about getting fired. I'm also behind on NaNoWriMo which is not good. I know we're not supposed to try and make up the word count the next day but somehow I need to add an extra 14 pages to this week's turn out. Wish me luck!

This past weekend was my birthday weekend (I tend to celebrate my birthday the entire month of November if I can get away with it). Friday night, I had a drinks party at a really nice wine bar called Wined Up near the Flatiron building. It was all wood paneling and the wine wasn't served in wine glasses which was really interesting. About sixteen friends showed up to help me celebrate. Unfortunately I didn't take pictures because I was too busy yacking, particularly about cutie pie author. Had to have the garlic fries through and a delicious salmon tartare. The evening was great until the end when one of my guests felt the need to yell at me for checking my messages to find out why two of my guests hadn't shown up. Kind of put a damper on the evening, and I certainly will never be inviting this person to any event I throw again. I found it rude and insulting.

The other thing I found obnoxious was that my boss didn't bother to wish me a Happy Birthday or take me out to lunch. Nor did anyone else that I work for. He also had a party at his house for the marathon which he didn't invite me too. Talk about not making me feel like a valuable member of the team. I would totally quit this day job if I had a book contract, and just keep my night job.

Saturday was our monthly chapter meeting where I raffled off a lovely basket full of goodies to celebrate my birthday. Received many lovely gifts from people who couldn't make the party Friday night. Also our chapter is revamping our web-site and creating some really awesome content over the next few weeks. I'm really excited about it, and I can't wait to see it up and running.

I also discovered a groovy new CD by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss thanks to AOL Music. They have these CD listening parties once a week where you can listen to a whole album instead of just clips from it. These week they were previewing the Robert Plant/Alison Krauss collaboration which I listened to in between writing questions for America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back, the show that will make you think that everyone is a criminal. Seriously, if you are even remotely paranoid, don't watch this show. You will never leave your house.

So after listening to the CD, I went out and bought 4 copies for friends, because I loved it so much. I gave one copy to ex-sweetie pie as a thank you for taking me out to brunch to celebrate my birthday at One if by Land, Two if by Sea, a lovely restaurant housed in what used to be an 18th Century carriage house that Aaron Burr owned in the Village. Normally neither one of us would be able to afford to eat there (the prix fixe menu is $79 a person) but they have a brunch on Sundays for $20 that includes a mimosa, bloody mary and bellini. And the food was really good. I highly recommend it if you are in New York on a Sunday, because it's a very romantic restaurant. And the end of our brunch, they brought out a plate with a candle that said Happy Birthday in chocolate with 2 tiny oatmeal raisin cookies, marshmallows and a mini tart. It was a wonderful end to the weekend.

I hope to be able to post my interview with Blaze Author Kathleen O'Reilly this week. Stay tuned!

EKM

Friday, November 02, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me!


Today is my birthday. Yippee! I'm having a drinks party later tonight, and my boss is going to be leaving early, so it's shaping up to me a good day.
I'll be over at my other blog Scandalous Women blogging about my birthday buddy Marie Antoinette. Stop over and check it out.
And here's one of my birthday horoscopes:
November 2, 2007 -- You will be energetically involved in partnership issues over the next 12 months, but don't get so energetic that the people you live, work and do business with feel you are pushing them too hard. Not everyone is as driven to succeed as you are. Remember that and make allowances - or risk
losing friends.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

It's NaNoWriMo Time Again!


It's November 1st, which means it's NaNoWriMo time again. For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is over 30 days to write a 175 page novel, or 50,000 words without stopping. That means no editing whatsoever. For those how have an internal critic/editor sitting on our shoulder on a daily basis, like I do, telling you that every word you write is total crap, NaNoWriMo is a godsend. For the next month, I just write, and write and write. And hopefully at the end, I have something salvageable.


Last time I did this two years ago, I wrote 250 pages of a YA novel that ended up in the bin, but it got me excited enough about my premise to totally rewrite the novel in a month with a new plot and a new set of characters which I might never have done if it hadn't been for good ole NaNoWriMo. Part of the reason why I did NaNoWriMo the last time was because I knew that Lani Diane Rich had written her RITA award winning first novel, Time Off for Good Behavior during NaNoWriMo. I figured if she could do it, so could I.


This time, I'm better prepared. I have more of a handle of what I want to write and that thing called plot. My characters are fully fleshed out in my head, and I have a list of scenes that I want to incorporate into the story. Also, I've written down 5 character adjectives for my hero and heroine that I'm going to try and plant the seeds of in every scene. I'm off to a pretty good start, I've written 4 pages so far this morning. Of course, the first day is always the best.
This caps off a pretty awesome week so far. Yesterday afternoon, I got to go to a taping of The Daily Show with that god among men, Jon Stewart. Totally fab. I highly recommend that if you know you're going to be in New York a few months in advance that you try and get tickets. It's a short taping since the show is only a half and hour. The hard part is standing on line and waiting to get in. Fortunately, I brought a friend with me to chat to, although I have tons of research books that I could have been reading while I waited.
Even the warm up comedian was funny for a change. Then when I got to my night job, I found out I was getting a $50 because there were so few people working last night. Yippee! Mama needs a new pair of shoes.
Now excuse me while I go check my word count.
Thanks for reading!
EKM