Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Am writing...erg....blergh...death

Writing this book is the most fun I have ever had, the hardest challenge I have ever taken. Some days I feel so exhilarated I cannot believe that I have bought into the high of this word-dripped drug. The other days I feel like I want to rip myself away from it, even if it severs vital artery and  I bleed to death.

Writing a book is hard. Writing a book is harder when you also have a career and are judging two literary contests and are committed to a lot of free-lance stuff.

Writing a book is hard when you are a book reviewer who reads carefully and speaks to books with authenticity. I am known for being a little outspoken on the book front and I have high standards. So, imagine, bloggies, the standards I place on myself: we be talking Empire State height.    And I try to avoid every pitfall I have ever hated in a book which means that my book gets so many re-writes in hopes of avoiding a black chasm of cliche doom that I cannot remember what is a cliche anymore and what is not.

Writing a book is an ebb and flow. One moment you are euphorically slipping down a rainbow of love for your characters and plot and the one time you spun in that sentence you don't remember writing and you respond:  I be clever, yo!   The next moment you are laying face down on your bed certain that you have 92 000 words of pure and utter trash ( there were 96 000 words of pure and utter trash; but you just JUST on your work lunch break snipped 4000.  You hurt when you did it... so you added them to the Deleted Scenes folder where all the lovely ideas-in-embryo go to languish in limbo, word purgatory, cutting room floor ).

I am on probably the 87 billionth draft of this book.  I am never satisfied with it and I love it and hate it and want to hug it and beat it up.  It ain't peachy.

If this book never gets published, I would still be devoting every single second to it, waking at 4:30 to scribble and second-guessing every second line, working my brain into a flurried frenzy so that I cannot remember what day it is but I have memorized that entire re-written paragraph in chapter III.

Writing a book is an obsessive pursuit.  You have to be willing to fall into it and it will, will, will consume you. Especially if, as for me, the book you are writing is the one true love of your life. These characters are my friends. More than friends. They are little Rachel niblits being flung into the wide world where they will be weighed and measured and evaluated and yes---even rejected.

And if you are not a writer you cannot understand. If you are an un-contracted author you wonder about the tangibility of it.  You worry that people will think it just a hobby. You worry that they judge the every waking hour and midnight scribble sessions and weekend-long revision jaunts just because you don't have a publication date or a  publisher.   If you are not a writer you cannot understand the mental platitude in which you reside. You only want to think about your book, muse about the book, create the book and talk about the book.  Rather like you are in a new relationship and you wait for a conversation interval to squeeze in your new beloved's name. No matter how inane or magnanimous, there is nothing but the book. The book is a living organism and in it are all the cells and veins and valves that pulse and beat and thrive. Book world is the best world.

But you hate it because what if book world is no good?

Agents say that the process on the road to submission is getting the book to the point where it is the best it can be.   My best on this book seems like a big, scaly cliff that one moment I haven't the momentum to climb while the next I have sewn two kites together and flung myself over it buoyantly and why hasn't someone sculpted a bronze statue of me yet?

I snatch out and put back in, I re-arrange and would bite my nails to the quick if they weren't painted in pretty shellac and I worry and worry and insufferably worry.

The hardest is the rather ironic juxtaposition of wanting to have more self-confidence while being scared of confidence.  As long as I have the self-confidence of a gnat, no rejection can really hurt me.  How far can I fall? I won't be ashamed. I never believed in that great of a thing for myself to begin with and I have realistic expectations. But, to be a writer is to be strong enough in your conviction to place the words on a platter and serve them plated well and with refined presentation.  You believe that they will reach the right, ripe palate.

And it is the cliche-est of the cliches, but some people liken it to family and I get it.  This is my book family and what if they are at their first elementary school track even and break the pole before they even get over the high jump bar?  What if all my ideas are void and the words I position in them the worst words possible: not, as Ms. Isnor McVeigh told me in grade 12 English The best words in the best order.

What if no one loves them ? My book people?  It is impossible not to take it personally as these book people are me.

The only thing is confusing, degrading, sickening, heartlessly soul-sucking, achy and blergh. BLERGH.

There is no winning to this.

And honestly, the back tension is killer. Right? right.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Casting Dean Priest in the Emily Trilogy movie of the mind

oh Dean Priest.

We all know I love the Emily Trilogy and at one point in my formative years when I was going through "but Rochester's controlling mopiness is hot" phase, I of course fell for possessive, problematic and Byronic Dean.

For years I have tried to cast him and it's not until I was writing last night and thought: wouldn't it be swell if I could anachronistically describe a character as "handsome in a creepy kind of way... like Peter Sarsgaard" that I thought:


I mean An Education? DEAN DEAN DEAN

Friday, April 04, 2014

Incorrigible by Velma Demerson

1939. Canada and the World are on the brink of war fighting for freedom on a global scale; but in Toronto, an antiquated law will ruin a young woman’s life forever.

Doing research for my book, I stumbled upon the late 19th Century Female Refuge’s Act which was a ridiculous attempt to clean up the streets of women of dubious moral character.

Without any real substantiation, a woman could be tried (without representation and often just on the witness account of one man alone ) and imprisoned should she be deemed incorrigible.   It seemed, often, that petty theft was less of a crime than women who were suspected of vagrancy. A woman walking alone at night or with a too-short hem or with a few mistakes in her past or with parents who deemed her unruly could be sequestered in the Andrew Mercer Reformatory.  Public drunkenness which would merely illicit a sneer and maybe a bit of a rough warning for a man was an imprisonable offense for a woman as was carrying a child out of wedlock. If you were an unmarried woman between the ages of 16 and 35, deemed in your prime childbearing years, you were never truly safe.

18 year old Velma Demerson had two strikes against her when she was hauled off to court and thus to prison: she was carrying an illigetimate baby and her fiance was a Chinese immigrant. What happened to her at the Mercer Reformatory is a bleak and horrific tale of a justice system rife with double-standards, unspeakable loop-holes and atrocious treatment of women as inferiors.

Velma’s life story, Incorrigible, is told in a brusque, frantic and extremely honest manner. Candid. Frenetic. Intense. She didn’t hold anything back as she expelled her tale of shame, embarrassment and harassment in a city that always prides itself on its treatment of minorities and social consciousness. While she uses the space of her memoir to extrapolate her history and her parent’s dysfunctional relationship as well as her burgeoning feelings for Harry Yip, another social “other” with whom she connected and fell in love, she also provides first-hand evidence to appalling eugenics testing the inmates at the Mercer were forced to undergo in an attempt to link physical ailment and attribute to moral degeneracy. 

In a stomach-turning and appallingly forceful truth, Demerson’s life story forced me to confront the inhumane and objectified treatment of women in recent history.   While the Canadian government (years later) offered restitution and compensation, the emotional turmoil and abject humiliation Demerson suffered was keenly felt by me. Moreover, she explores the ramifications of the criminal acts against her in the illness her baby suffers from ( she has him while still under custody) and the disintegration of her relationship with her eventual husband whose union with her forced her to renounce Canadian citizenship and identify Chinese.

It’s almost baffling to recognize that her story has been swept under the carpet while history classes teach of Canadian’s exceptional war involvement.  We are so quick to pride ourselves on our racial and moral and social tolerance and yet the Female Refuges Act was not relinquished until 1967.

Demerson’s story is not the only one silenced, broken by her brave activism and her desire to speak out; but it is a staunch and needed representation of a voiceless tribe of women who were brutally treated, tortured and held down: often on circumspect and faulty charge.

WARNING: This is a very graphic and disturbing story and any prospective reader should know that in order to speak truth, Demerson has to go into graphic and disturbing detail.

Read more about Velma here 

All the Stuff

Here's what happened this week:

I finally connected with Internet Barney Snaith and we chat and stuff! So cool

I was featured at Anne Mateer's blog as a Portrait of a Reader 

I am in the final stages of my first Herringford and Watts novel ( yay Jem and Merinda solving murders in Edwardian Toronto! )

and Mindy and Danny got together and it was magic!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Goodbye, My Love

For four and a half years I worked at the World's Biggest Bookstore here in Torontonia.

I made some of my best friends there and created some of my favourite all-time memories.

I was recently interviewed about it by the NOW magazine 

This series of photographs broke my heart: 

Even though I only worked there during my university years, I grew up visiting there when my dad would drive me down from Orillia. He ( a minister) would visit parishioners in the big city hospitals and I would go on a book spree. My first personal copy of Little Women was purchased there. My first copy of my own personal Sherlock Holmes adventures and my first This Side of Paradise.

I worked in fiction and literature and this photo is the bookstore I remember:

Here's a pic of me reading a book on X-Wing pilots to my friend Kat ( @bitwhizzle) 

Monday, March 17, 2014

CFBA How Sweet the Sound

This is a bit late because I am halfway through this book and I SO wanted to get my review up in time. But, best-laid-plans.

Anyways, stay tuned for that.

Check out the book

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

How Sweet the Sound

David C. Cook (March 1, 2014)


Amy K. Sorrells


An Indianapolis native and graduate of DePauw University, Amy lives with her husband, three boys and a gaggle of golden retrievers in central Indiana. After writing and editing for her college newspaper, she combined a nursing degree with journalism and creative writing, which led to publishing and editing a wide array of medical and nursing writing and multimedia projects over the past 21 years, a position as director of communications of her church’s children’s ministry, as well as a weekly column for a local newspaper which ran from 2009-2012.  She has been a two-time semi-finalist for the ACFW Genesis awards, and was the winner of the 2011 Women of Faith writing contest.

When she’s not reading or writing, Amy loves spending time with her three sons; spicy lunches and art gallery walks with her  husband; digging in her garden sans gloves; walking her dogs; up-cycling old furniture and junk; photography; and friends.


From a distance, the Harlans appear to be the perfect Southern family. Wealth and local fame mask the drama and dysfunction swirling through their family line. But as the summer heats up, a flood tide of long hidden secrets surface.

Devastation from a rape followed by the murder of two family members brings three generations of the Harlans together on their pecan plantation in Bay Spring, Alabama. Chief among them is Anniston, who by the time she turned thirteen thought she’d seen it all. But as her heart awakens to the possibility of love, she begins to deal with her loneliness and grief.

This tender coming-of-age tale, inspired by the story of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13, shows how true healing and hope comes only from God. Though our earthly family can wound and disappoint, our heavenly Father brings freedom to those long held captive through His mercy and grace.

If you would like to read the first chapter of How Sweet the Sound, go HERE.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cross this off the Bucket List! *Check*

When I was 17 years old I made a list of all of the things I wanted to do before I died.  One of them was to see Billy Joel in concert. Though I plan on living for many, many years to come, I was DELIGHTED to see him perform BRILLIANTLY at the ACC on Sunday night.

What a concert! 

I was impressed that he did some of my favourite songs ( Vienna *sniff* Vienna)

Here is the setlist for those inclined:

He is so wonderful in concert. A truly prodigious talent who harbours such great musicianship. Mostly, though, he is a story teller who loves to perform, who plays our minstrel and teases the keys. 

There is something gritty about him, something that harkens back to Frankie Valli and something still that sews a romantic ballad with similes to take your breath away.

Here's 'Vienna'


oh and I know you are all: WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?  traveling for work. So very busy. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Rachel Around the Web

Hi all,

check out my piece on my lovely chat with Roma Downey and Mark Burnett about the Son of God film releasing today.

look! I hung out with these cool people 

Over at author Melissa Tagg's blog, I'm talking about Faith and Sherlock and Sherlock and Faith 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

So I live in this Country where hockey is EVERYTHING

It's part of our national identity and integral to our construct.

So Canada Hockey Gold Hockey Canada Gold Hockey Canada Gold!!

I was up to watch the 6 a.m. gold medal game at Sweden with the entirety of my country and it was exhilarating and wonderful.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Movie Rant: Carrie (1952 ) dir., William Wyler

This is the most spoilery thing ever. Okay? So for the three of you who are all: I WANT TO BE SURPRISED BY THIS PIECE OF TRASH MOVIE then please do not read about its preposterous plot and unsympathetic characters.  Mea Culpa, Theodore Dreiser

Good lord.

So, there's this scandalous Edwardian novel called Sister Carrie  by Theodore Dreiser which I read in University about a girl who moves to the big City and of course everything goes Sodom and Gomorrah for her and it is all about the CITY being immoral and a GIRL being able to survive only by sheer luck, a penchant for theatrics, and the help of men ( no matter whether or not she compromises her virtue). Anyways, there is also a MOVIE version starring Laurence Olivier and Jennifer Jones and the guy who plays the photographer in Roman Holiday whose name, I believe, is Eddie Albert.

And guys....

holy crikey! THE MELODRAMA!  the MELODRAMA! there was so much melodrama JUST in the music that  I watched it in little pieces over the long weekend here.

What strikes me about this film ( and I suppose the source material; though it has been so long that I cannot accurately speak to it ) is how much I hate how STUPID everybody is.

Let's start with Carrie: the beautiful ingenue type who captures the immediate attention of a shop keeper when they meet on her train into Chicago.  He is obviously a douchebag. She is not so dumb that she doesn't know he is a douchebag. When he gives her money ( because she almost slices her finger off at a sewing machine in a garment factory on her first day of employment) and begs her for dinner, she plans on showing up just to return the money. She knows, ladies and gents, that he is a douchebag.

But that never happens. And while she is at the restaurant about to give him the money she meets another douchebag. This one is George Hurstwood and he manages the restaurant and is married with a family and stuff.

He is the most idiotic character in the history of film ( slight hyperbole).  Carrie is installed in a rather distasteful arrangement at the Shopkeeper's apartment and even given a puppy while Hurstwood pursues her when Shopkeeper  (I think his name is Drouet ) is away.   They go to a play and sit in a carriage and she is all "No! I am virtuous and not a kept woman" Until she is no longer virtuous and still a kept woman.

She finds out that Hurstwood has a wife and kids ( because it never came up before while they were courting ); but she cannot blame him because his WIFE IS NOT A NICE WIFE and his wife DEMANDS MORE THAN HE CAN GIVE and he just wants love.

He wants love so much that he basically takes an open envelope with 10 000 in it and tells Carrie he got a divorce and kidnaps her on a train to New York. He's all: While we're on this train my divorce will go through!  And she is all: THIS IS SO ROMANTIC and they kiss.    They get to New York and it turns out a private investigator has followed them. This sometimes happens when you take ten grand that doesn't belong to you.   Carrie and George move to a tenement like apartment while George tries to work for a living. But he has trouble working for a living because no one wants to hire a thief and he is up in years and there is not a lot of work to be had.

Carrie becomes pregnant and she irons his shirts and stuff and makes his tea and sometimes he runs up a cigar on credit and it seems very How Green Was My Valley: all Triumph of the Poor.

But .... no!  You see, Capital D-Bag George didn't actually get a divorce and his wife is back and there's talk of bigamy charges and CARRIE LOSES HER BABY and George is all: it's okay because we really couldn't afford it. So don't you worry. And Carrie is all: THIS IS A TERRIBLE LIFE

Meanwhile, in the society pages, they learn that George's son from his first marriage--- the marriage including the family George just dismissed in order to move away with Carrie-- is going to be in New York! Carrie presses George's best suit and says: HE CAN HELP YOU FINANCIALLY! go see him!

And while George is chickening out from approaching his son whom he abandoned, Carrie leaves knowing that she is a millstone around George's neck.... because PEOPLE, this entire film is a WEB OF MISCOMMUNICATION!

George comes back and is all: NOOO! NOT CARRIE~

And Carrie pursues a career on the stage and starts making money while George starves on the street and spends his evenings at a flophouse.

One destitute night, George waits for Carrie outside the stage door and begs for a quarter and CARRIE is all: LET US HAVE OUR HAPPY ENDING!!! I will get you food and launder your clothes and we can live together.

And George is like: Imma gonna wait til you go and do something and then I am going to take a quarter-- JUST a quarter from your change purse and ruminate on suicidal thoughts while I flick the gas burner you're making tea on. Cause you see, in the book, I kill myself with gas so here before I set once more into my useless and meaningless emotionally-stunted existence, I am going to tragically THINK about suicide.

But no one dies.


Thursday, February 06, 2014

#Amwriting WOMEN! in TROUSERS? hellfire and brimstone!

It’s not scandalous for women to wear pants.  Not now.  But in 1910? It pretty much cemented you as an outcast in a social norm that believed one “bad girl” was the equivalent of five bad men so depraved and unbalanced and strange she must be.

While women strained against the rigid structure of the time and began carving small spaces of independence for themselves, pursued higher education, lived on their own as latch-key girls ( girls who, rather than at the helm of a boarding house or in a properly chaperoned coven of other working girls had their OWN APARTMENTS with their OWN LOCKS )  and even had careers: in shops, as telegraph operators and as journalists and writers, they still had a long path to trod.

A woman’s main duty and desire was believed to be a husband and a home.  Dressing according to the norms, corseting herself into the feminine curves and up-doing her hair like a Gibson girl she would be marketable, marriageable material and have no trouble securing, well, security.

Women made not nearly as much as men and women who had to go it on their own: whether by choice or circumstance were inherently ostracized.   While we still have dictates and fashion magazines and columns and ideals to look to in our modern society, we have far more wiggle room when it comes to shirking conventions and doing as we please.  But, in 1910, while women suffragists were just starting to break down several barriers and using their wiles and wits to invoke social reform and assert as much equality as male dominance would allow them, they were still slave to societal pressure.  Make-up! Fashion! The best skin care! And, to add,  articles on how to become a desirable woman .  The Gibson girl, a popular figure with her beautiful hair and doe-eyes and pristine porcelain features was a popular cameo of the time emblazoned on a haberdashery of knick-knacks and paraphernalia.

As is the case today, women were sorted and entreated to figure into one of these secondary boxes.   Collier’s magazine spoke to 7 distinct types of modern goddess: the boy-girl, the flirt, the beauty, the sentimental, the convinced, the ambitious, the well-rounded.

Figuratively and literally boxed by the restriction of their binding attire and stays and their inability to break through societal and work-place barriers, their methods of self-improvement were offered in much the same way we target and advertise today.  Of course, some girls, like my amateur detective Merinda Herringford had no qualms when it came to breaking the rules of her contemporaries.

She believes she is a woman by birth only; but keenly wants to move through the world and her staunch Edwardian society with the fluidity and ease of a man.  Highly intelligent ( at least according to herself ) and disciplined enough to stay on the very fringes of propriety, often catapulting over, she wasted no time in wearing Mother Goose shoes that showed her ankles or doubling a sash around her waist to gird her skirt to shocking height.  The worst? She believed in comfort.  So, obviously, she went for pants.   And not the flowy skirt-trousers and harem style pants that were slowly inching their way into Paris fashion. No, actual men’s pants.   Her best friend and housemate Jem falls prey to her penchant for pants and is caught on more than one occasion out on the streets of Toronto, proper society scoffing and appalled to see a woman in gentlemanly attire.

But,  on the heels of whatever adventure they were after, it made the ease and movement so much easier and…in Toronto winters?  Well, let’s just say Toronto winters aren’t the EASIEST: they are slushy disgusticulous snowy cold and dank and horrible.

In the second book of my proposed series, Merinda goes so far as to cut off her hair.  Remember this isn’t flapper era yet and she might as well have been kissing respectability completely goodbye. It’s hard enough for Jem to counterbalance her sense of adventure with her desire to maintain her feminine traits.And Merinda is not the easiest person to be associated with ... so strong her influence. She often wonders what kind of man could possibly want a woman in trousers. 

Lucky, and very rarely, for her; there is one who does.

I have studied Edwardian photographs extensively and several periodicals dating to early 1910s: confessions of a bachelor girl!  bachelor maids! A new wave of women!

It’s a tad funny in our society where we can ease into life in a much more liberated way and, for the most part, do and go and live where and as we please; but it’s not THAT long ago that women like my Jem and my Merinda underwent intense scrutiny.

This picture of women in trousers just makes me delight! Look at them! In men’s clothes! Shocking!

….as shocking as a female stepping out in a skirt high enough to show her ankles:

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Film Review: "the Making of a Lady"

The Making of a Lady is a quick-spun Edwardian gothic inspired by Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1901 novel The Making of a Marchioness.  I had read the book in the fashionable Echo reprint editions (actually not at all fashionable; just bland out-of-print reprints on demand ) when I was working through Burnett’s adult canon.  I remembered enjoying it greatly.

The film is squeezed into a 90 minute adventure by ITV and I thought it worked very well despite the time constraints.  Emily Fox
Seton is the prime example of a working woman at the turn of the century.  She is poor, has no connections, no marital prospects and, when is passed over for the job of a secretary at the same time she risks losing her flat, she is forced to decide how much she values security.   This challenge comes in the form of Lord Walderhurst, a retired army colonel, late of the Indian Regiment (Burnett always sewed in colonial mysticism, n’est pas? )who asks her to marry him, citing her pragmatic mind and reasonability.
Having always wanted to marry for love, Emily hesitates; but finally, recognizing that she is setting herself up for life in a practical way and helping a respectable gentleman secure the heir he needs to keep his inherited estate, agrees.

Soon Emily is mistress of a beautiful house which will put one in mind of Northanger Abbey: all of its twists and turns and secret passages and an omen-like appearance of a black raven.  Ten miles from the nearest village, it is a cloistered space occupied only by Emily and her new husband and a minimal amount of house staff. 

The next sequence is my favourite of the piece: the gentle blossoming of a true affection between Emily and her new husband.  The shackles pervading through the convenient aspect of their marriage are trumped by Lord Waldehurst’s gentleness and growing affection for Emily.  I don’t remember a lot about the book’ but I do remember that, at one point, Lord Waldehurst expresses surprise that Emily has taught him to miss her.     While a cementation of physical attachment is necessary if Emily is to fulfill her role as mother, Walderhurst shows great restraint in not wanting to take advantage of her.   Soon, the physically shy Emily ( perfectly rigid as per the constructs and restraints of her time ) is set slightly more at ease--- just as her husband is deployed back to the regiment.

When Lord Osborne, next in line to inherit the estate, and his beautifully exotic wife arrive to act as companions to the now pregnant Emily in the wake of her husband’s time in the East, strange things begin to happen and Emily is put in mortal danger.   While fantastical and sensationalized ( and face it, slightly ridiculous in the vein of one of those Alcott dreadfuls ) it is just a really suspenseful and chilling adaptation that heightens the Gothic elements of the tale and brings it to a halted, breathtaking climax and sweet, substantial denouement.

ITV did a lot with 90 minutes and you will feel greatly for the heroines.

On a secondary level, I appreciated the story for its exploration of women’s circumstances in the early Edwardian period.  There is a sense of desperation to Emily borne of the fact that her independence is rather a millstone. In a crucial scene, Lord Walderhurst appraises Emily’s unattached status and lack of family as something wonderful. No obligations, he believes, freedom in the truest sense. Ironically, it is her lack of security and financial attachment that threatens dire circumstance. Later, when safely entrenched as Marchioness Walderhurst, her new husband approaches the subject again; noting that, with the exception of her duty to provide an heir and tend to house, she will be remarkably free. Of course, in a lovely twist, Emily’s new-found freedom is stolen from her as the world closes around her and several trapped, confined locations (including a priest hole in the wall and a small, rickety house falling to decay on the grounds) become the only places she can steal away to when her life is endangered.   On a tertiary level, I snickered at Walderhurst’s well-meant treatise on freedom because while she is promised liberty as mistress of a house, she still is required to fit her feminine role and have a child—locking her into her new life forever.

Emily’s wrestling with each well-thought choice is part of why I loved her. She is, indeed, a pragmatic character; but she shows great resolve.  And watching her deftly fall in love with her husband made for one of the sweetest romances I have seen in a bit.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Pygmalion and I ( or I *heart* Ray DeLuca) #amwriting

Do you know the story of Pygmalion? The sculptor who falls in love with his sculpture? I don’t always talk about my current writing projects here; but I am nose-deep in finishing a murder mystery set in Edwardian Toronto. At the helm I have Jemima Watts and Merinda Herringford---two bachelor girls who try their hands at private investigation.

Sometimes, they assist their long-time friend Jasper Forth of the Toronto Police .  When a few girls are murdered in Corktown, Toronto’s Irish neighbourhood, they find themselves ditching the commonplace mysteries they usually solve for the really, truly criminal ….

 I have so much fun with them.   They’re two halves of the same coin, inverted parts of my strange little personality and all giggles and spark! 

(At least in my unbiased opinion)

a shoe-shiner in St John's Ward having a nap 
As much as I love Jem and Merinda, I love, love, love to distraction, Ray DeLuca.    Ray is my favourite play-thing these days. I have to actively reel him in and sometimes shove him so far stage left because if he pops out I cannot contain myself.  He’s just a really, really wonderful and unpredictable and surprising character to write.   I’ve been scribbling since I was a kid and honestly, with the exception of one other character borne of my hyper-sensationalized brain, I cannot think of anyone I have such  creative affinity with.   He just fits.  Ray’s a composite of a lot of things I wanted to draw into the story: the immigrant experience ( Toronto saw a massive influx of Italian immigrants at the beginning of the 20th Century), a firebrand voice ( Ray is a muckraker: an investigative journalist who uses his time on the beat to instill his articles and rallies with ideas for social reform and the uncovering of political corruption) and a writer.   I wanted a writer. A true blue, sensitive writer.   Ray is fun (and challenging ) because English isn’t his first language and one of the exciting adventures has been to learn enough passable Italian to infuse his voice with some authenticity as well as embrace the cadence of his speech.  He is, thanks to his profession ( and so easy for me ) quite fluent and proficient in English. A quick

study.  But his timbre and vocal mannerism is something I try to infer without falling desperately into complete dialect.  I try to see the stumbling blocks. I imagine his voice like a brook: trickling happily along and getting stuck on a few logs and rocks along the way.   His writing is of huge importance in the story ( and of very huge importance to my lovely Jem ) and I try to capture what stepping stones he might have to ford, what little barriers might catch him in his way.

The fun part about writing this book is that it has become a bit of an over-turned vessel. I cannot actively stop myself from ideas that just cascade out. I think this is largely due to my fascination and love for my characters ( they feel like friends) and because it is set in my city.   A love letter to my town.  Toronto has often, for me, been the greatest love affair of my life.  Ray reflects my love for the city and, like Velcro, picks up pieces of my fascination and historical and social curiosity.
Ray. Sigh. I turn into a giggly school girl:

Yonge Street, 1910 
He’s also snarky, romantic, quick, witty and has an abominable temper.      When I first started white-boarding and plotting the novel, I spent a ton of time going through archival photos of Toronto in the 1910s: the city has a great historical record and is well-documented in photograph. In ways it has changed drastically; in other ways it seems very much the same --- chugging along; spliced by street-car tracks, influenced by multi—culturalism; a patch-work quilt of neighbourhoods sewn into a sprawling urban entity.  Ray feels the city greatly and, as he says, it digs its way into his arteries, winnows itself into his valves and pulses through his blood.   For Jem, Ray emblematizes the best and the worst of the city: light and dark, somber and quick --- she first detects this when she smells his old trench coat.  Ray, to Jem, carries the snow and the smoke; the lake and the ink of the press, the fog and the sunshine all on his coat. Wherever he goes.  Why wouldn’t he? He’s a journalist on the beat.

immigrants in the tenement-like housing of St John's Ward 

I have been a bad little blogger of late because I have been trying to finish this novel.  It is, as Jem says of Ray, “my favourite weakness.”    And part of the weakness is encouraged by my penchant for a certain reporter who is never without his bowler hat, or ink around his cuticles, a snide half-smile or his notebook and pen poised at the ready…

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Summer of You by Kate Noble

So Ruth, who is never wrong, told me to read The Summer ofYou by Kate Noble and the way she talked about it made me want to go and buy it immediately. So I did, and then read it rather quickly.

Think steamy Georgette Heyer that plays with narrative device.  Observe: I said steamy. This is not one of the squeaky clean historicals you sometimes find on this blog. If you are offended by steamy scenes then you are probably not going to like this book and should stick to your Heyer. You have been warned.

But if you don’t mind, oh I don’t know, perhaps the hottest sex scene I have ever read in a Regency ( made more so because the sexual tension was so wonderful infused and borne outta friendship and the guy---the Rochesterian misunderstood thought-to-be-a-Highwayman guy--- is such a dish ) then you are in for a treat. (Note: this book is more than this scene; but there is this scene, so I am letting you know )

Lady Jane leaves the ton and her society with her boring and horrible brother and retreats to the Cottage: a massive mansion in the Lake District with their ailing father who is suffering from the side effects of dementia.

From the first, Lady Jane is out of place: receiving visitors, planning social events, wandering the town… she has no one who “gets” her and while she enjoys the female company she keeps ( this book excels at painting lovely female friendships ) she wants something more.  She finds it, in the figure of Byrne Worth: a wounded war veteran who lives at the edge of her family’s property and is renowned as the surliest most uncouth man in the history of time.  When Lady Jane meets him, however, they form an immediate bond ( she may ALSO have noticed his fine figure when she stumbles upon him swimming en dishabille in the cold pond ) and she gives him jam and he gives her a special kind of tea and La! They become friends.

And this, ladies, is where the book gets really good and ends up winning the honourable mention of other books of its ilk ( think The Blue Castle, Venetia, the Black Sheep ): Friendship. Romance borne of friendship.  This isn’t “she doth make the torches burn bright” love at first sight crap with no substance. No, Lady Jane and Worth get each other, talk to each other enjoy ---and eventually --- crave each other’s company. The physical ( and it gets physical ) attraction that blossoms out of that does so gracefully, subtly and oh-so-believably.

Who wouldn’t want to marry their best friend?  When they finally consummate a passion borne out of similar personalities and traits--- it is seemingly more intense and beautiful because it is not something strewn from objective desire.  Certainly they are attracted to each other; but they have a foundation from which to springboard that attraction.

Pepper in some hijinks and familial problems and a few sideline romances and a ball and you have a fun regency getaway that is told by a much more competent pen than many contemporaries. Not only does Noble infuse her story with a careful and impressive knowledge of regency history, she does so in a winking sing-song manner,  devilish and deviant, pulling you aside and coaxing you along: nudging you closer and further as excited to tell—as you are to read--- the next portion of the tale.

I mentioned before that I was absolutely smitten with the range of narrative perspectives and I remain so.  Noble’s unexpected switches of points of view are nothing short of textbook.  She knows how to seamlessly transition and leaves you without a jolt. If she suddenly changes to a secondary character’s viewpoint it seems as easy as pie and natural as all get out.

I know that had I seen this book on a shelf I never would’ve picked I up.  But that’s the great thing about bookish people, they share and give you the insider scoop.  Someone gave this insider scoop to me and I am giving it to you.

I leave you with a few awesomely fun snippets:

“Later that summer, when the atmosphere was beginning to dip into autumn, Jane would be able to look back and pinpoint this moment in time---the moment of Byrne Worth’s lascivious delicious grin---as the moment that the earth hit a bump and the winds changed their course and the great northern heat wave of 1816 began.”

“There was a moment, so slight Byrne could not count its passing, that those eyes held him rooted to the ground.”

“Jane had infiltrated, her cinnamon scent stale in the air, like leftover spiced tea. He shouldn’t be surprised, but he was. She had wormed her way into his daytime thoughts; his unconscious was simply catching up.”

“There was nothing like a party to remind a person that the world was larger than their own frustration”

“But… a small worry pricked the back of her mind. Those other gentlemen…nothing would change with a kiss. With Byrne, would it change the way they spoke to each other? Would it colour every conversation that was to come, every time they ran into each other between their houses, every look? And, suddenly it mattered to Jane. It mattered, she realized, because he was her friend.”

“He could chalk up his actions last night as a product of stars…”

“new Jane who discovered the ability to be bold and vulnerable at once.”

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

that one time when fiction/fact blurred and ALL OF CUTTER GAP had twitter accounts

It is an interesting age to live in, cookies.

An age in which if you have ever felt the need to cathartically yell at a character who p*sses you off you can DO SO!

omg let' s just pretend this is their wedding

An age wherein MOST OF THE FICTIONAL CAST of "Christy" in an odd book/adaptation hybrid have taken to twitter and to, in some cases, recapping scenes in 140 characters.  The best part, all TRUE to each character's voice.

Now, I have read thousands of books in my lifetime ( no hyperbole. tis fact) and I have never hated any character more than I hate David Grantland.  Just irrational hatred. Doesn't matter what incarnation: book or television adaptation. David Grantland and I are not friends.  Before Twilight Heck--even after Twilight,  this is the best literary love triangle ever ( except it's more of a duo because David sucks). TRIVIA: Meg Cabot even shouts out to Christy and the dilemma of two men to win her hand in The Princess Diaries.

I hate David he is useless.

and now, thanks to the power of twitter and the devious and insane amount of fun I get from it, I can coax, cajole and bury David in words of *bitingly incendiary wit

(*I like to think they are bitingly incendiary and full of wit)

Whether you're on Team Neil or Team David ( wait. there is no Team David, is there?) or you think a social experiment wherein actual humans cloak themselves in fictional identities that, I think might actually entertain Catherine Marshall, welcome to Twitter--- Cutter Cap-style

There are several Christy Huddlesons on twitter ( also Anne Shirley and Jane Eyre, whodathunk); but this is the account I follow:

 ( written by a friend of mine) 
 (amazing. who ARE you )

I believe the same pitch-perfect voice at the helm of C_Hudd is responsible for Miss Alice and Neil MacNeill.

note: Neil MacNeill on twitter is the greatest thing to ever happen

second note: someone on facebook told me that they guy who plays Neil MacNeill is actually Australian and not actually Scottish. Which ruined my childhood.

If this makes any sense to you or amuses you whatsoever, ain't no PARTY like an S Club Party, know what I'm sayin'
third note: if the person who tweets as Neil would reveal her/themselves ( there is no way this is a guy. If it is, proposal to come shortly ) then we can all bask in your glory and follow your real-live twitter account ( irony intended)

Monday, January 20, 2014

TV Review: When Calls the Heart Episodes I-III

If you harbour even a moticum of interest in Inspirational Fiction, you know that we would never have a market were it not for Catherine Marshall and Janette Oke.

Michael Landon Jr. and the folks at Hallmark have done for Oke's Canadian West series in When Calls the Heart what CBS did for Christy in the 1990s: given it a vibrant revitalization on the small screen.

Opening with a two-part homage to the original story of Elizabeth Thatcher and her handsome red-coated Mountie, Wynn Delaney, the Hallmark series now offers episodic vignettes of life in an early 20th Century Canadian mining town. Here, another Elizabeth Thatcher teaches children out of a saloon due to the lack of schoolhouse and Constable Jack Thornton arrives gloriously on horseback to act as law-provider for a town still bereaved by a tragic explosion months before. To put it lightly, former city girl Elizabeth and frontier-man Jack do not hit it off the cuff; but that, fair readers and prospective watchers, is what is delicious about these stories.

The production value is wonderful and Canadians will rejoice in the moments which reference Lethbridge and Medicine Hat: more still, take pride in the red-serged Royal Northwest Mounted Policeman who maintains the right while (slowly) winning the hand of the pretty schoolteacher.

If this sounds like a familiar convention in these kinds of historicals, it is.  But it owns it.  This is a nice hybrid to settle between Christy and Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman: a romantic look into a simpler time rift with hardships we moderners can scarce fathom.

I love stories like this. I love the lack of cellphones or immediate need for speed of technology. I love that a hand-brush is far more romantic than whatever full-cover nudity you'll see on the latest HBO series. I love that it is stripped of the conniving soapy antics that plague Downton Abbey. This historical is made for those who appreciate a strong, historically-accurate, ripple of faith; but also just appreciate quality television.

I was fortunate enough to view the first three episodes (poor Canadians, this is not shown anywhere here yet--- so keep an eye on amazon for the  DVD) and I was impressed, as mentioned, by the production values and warm writing :not unlike a patched quilt sewn with anecdotes and timeless Old Wives Tales. I also enjoyed the acting!!! Great cast!  It put me greatly in mind of Sunday evenings as a child when I would rush home from church to catch Road to Avonlea on the CBC. When Calls the Heart is inherently nostalgic: for those familiar with Oke's work, yes; but also for those who just enjoy a time period that seeps gently into your psyche.

Did I mention he is a MOUNTIE :)
I had mentioned that my first feel for the series offered me a glimpse at the hardships of mountain pioneer life and  I want to speak to this a little further as probably the strongest tenet of the series.  You really, seriously get a glimpse at what lies behind the curtain of romanticism bookish dreamers, such as myself, have created for the golden olden days.   You realize how dastardly doing laundry in the winter would be and Elizabeth, adjusting to life away from her grand estate, is met with an untimely stove fire and the dark burgeoning shadows of the outhouse .

I was immediately addicted to the main characters, include Elizabeth and Jack; but loved the subtle intertwining of secondary characters that will, I am sure, creep deeper into my heart the longer I watch.
In short, if you are like me at all ( and I know several of you blog readers are ) THIS , THIS is what we have been waiting for. It's our ideal escapism: all tea cozy and rose-patterned, laced with morality and spiced with enough romance to keep our spunky schoolteacher ( SHE IS SO STRONG AND WONDERFUL) gazing out her window for a stetson and red-coat to ride by.

note: My friends at Grace Hill Media were instrumental in giving me this sneak peek and you should check them out because they rock

another note: Janette Oke has written a companion book which will be published by Bethany shortly

Sunday, January 12, 2014

More proof that Toronto is the coolest city in the world

My musical theatre life started with Colm Wilkinson because he played Phantom of the Opera and Valjean here as I was growing up. In part, my love for theatre developed adjacent Colm Wilkinson's electric performances which I, being a Canadian near Toronto, had the privilege to see.

Ramin Karimloo, a native Canadian treasure ( having lived here since 1989, I would say that Colm is an adopted treasure ) is now set to perform the role of Valjean on Bway.

Last night, I attended a brilliant, brilliant and unforgettable performance wherein Colm played the Bishop and Ramin killed it as Valjean (it was my fourth time seeing him this round. RUN TO BWAY and get tickets when it heads there in Feb ).  The cast upped the ante, the orchestration was spine-tingling and at the end: they did this.


And you're all like: stop going to Les Miserables. Which is valid. But, last night was for charity :)

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Film Review:' La Veuve de Saint-Pierre"

I have wanted to see this movie since I was in high school.   I have always wanted to see this film; but somehow I have not. Until today. It was on the Movie Network: Encore and I was up and couldn't fall back asleep and knew that I had a full day of writing ahead ( I am nose-deep in finishing my new novel) ...

A few notes on the setting:

note 1: St Pierre is a little island off the coast of Newfoundland that is still in the possession of the French. I find it a fascinating little place and would love to go sometime.

note 2: it is FAIRLY obvious that this film was not filmed anywhere near St Pierre and is actually just totally filmed in Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island which is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of my favourite places in Canada! So HUZZAH! NOVA SCOTIA

This movie is achingly gorgeous and strangely ethical and philosophical and surged with harrowing humanism and consequences so grave you will want to sink your head into your hands.

It begins simply: two men go out to the pub on one foggy night, get drunk and kill a man.  Stupidly.

Their case is tried and neither can remember doing the deed.  It's all circumstantial and rather insipid and kind of horrible. You keep seeing in their eyes the desire to rewind the clock and put the liquor down and rescind their impractical stupidity.  Nevertheless, one man is sentenced to deportation from the sieged isolation of the little island and the other sentenced to death by Guillotine as was custom in French tribunal. As St Pierre belongs to French the same sense of legality is honoured there.

The stoic Captain ( a delicious, delicious Daniel Auteuil)  is seen receiving a horse from a cargo ship. He beckons his gorgeous wife Pauline ---known as Mme La---( Juliette Bincoche) to admire its ebony sinews and classic stance and we see a married couple deeply, madly in love. This sets off a relationship so passionate in its inference that I could scarcely keep my eyes from the Captain's eyes as he drunk in every moment of his wife's normalcy.

Indeed, the Captain drinks in every movement of his wife: every thought, the slightest of movements. Its as if he so treasures and cherishes her gift of sheer being he would like to steal into her thoughts to better understand every yet-unturned leaf in the blossoming garden of her compassionate enterprise.  You will die at how in love this gent is with his lovely wife.

While the prisoner under the Captain's watch is silently resolute, there is an over-arching judicial problem: the prisoner's sentence cannot easily be carried out.  They need a guillotine sailed in from the far reaches of France's middling empire and an executioner to see the dead to its end.  The Governor, a stern and horribly near-sighted man, proves far more obsessed with retaining his own idea of order than finding a proper end to a precariously bizarre instant.

The prisoner, Neel Auguste, is an exemplary case in reform.   Mme La undertakes him as a kind of protege and he begins by helping her consecrate a greenhouse under the ill-tempered weather of their maritime island.  Soon, Neel is helping the widows of the neighbouring Dog Island, fixing roofs, even saving a life. He is granted permission to marry and months pass without word about his method of execution or a man to carry out the odious deed.

In fact, when the cargo ship carrying the guillotine finally rims the mouth of the harbour, Neel is one of the first to volunteer to row it to shore.

As Mme La is compelled to spend more time with the prisoner and invest in his rehabilitation, so the Captain is caught in a paradox between his own brand of justice, buried deep in his resolute conscious and his awareness that his wife is preoccupied---if not in a conjugal sense--- with another man.

The eventual outcome is a distractingly strange and bleak and tragic downfall rips apart any idea of romance I had in its infancy due to its rugged, gorgeous sea-scape and spine-chilling chemistry between our Captain and his beautiful Mme La.

I doubt I'll be able to shake it from the precipices of my brain for awhile. It is a tortured movie that spills out like a kind of salt-water opera: tugs at you with brine and oakum and sinks into your pre-conceived notion of law and justice.

A gorgeous story, very well-told, thoughtful and just the right kind of bleak. It's hard to find any light in here beyond the muddled grey of the ocean exterior: but that's Louisbourg for you--- all haggard and rock-rifted and pining for bottled, captive light.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas Reads

I have read...

Stones for Bread  by Christa Parrish (keep you posted. will review for Novel Crossing)

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott (premise more interesting than the author's writing )

The Young Clementina by D E Stevenson (perfect. still. sunshiney look at love and loss and love in the years between the wars in a small English village)

The Atonement Child by Francine Rivers (read a bit too much like propaganda for me; but the writing was taut and I loved the guy )

Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding  (LOVED! Bridget! Bittersweet! Maybe the best Bridget Jones yet)

An Elegant Solution by Paul Robertson ( Literary Christian fiction. Compelling .Erudite )

Little Girl Blue (The Life of Karen Carpenter ) (WHY NOT) by Randy L Schmidt ( my brother is always reading Musical biography; so I read this. And the Carpenter's Reader: ephemera  of articles and reviews and interviews)

Christmas at Claridges by Karen Swan (sweet)

Trading Christmas by Debbie Macomber ( short)

The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler

Currently reading:

Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris

Seven Men by Eric Metaxas 

Still a week of Holidays left so keep you posted

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Theatre Review: Aladdin

Disney’s Aladdin is currently in its final weeks of its pre-Broadway engagement at the Ed Mirvish theatre.  I enjoy that Toronto is often a test audience for Broadway bound adventures because it gives us a bit of a sneak peek and allows the production team to tweak and experiment with the material, hopefully perfecting it.

c/o West Midland Theatre of our cast
I believe, from what I have heard, that the production  I saw last evening has come a long way since it first opened in early November: what with several changes undertaken; but, at the core, I really think that this is the weakest of the Disney fare to date.  With the exception of The Little Mermaid, I have seen all of their theatrical adaptations so far and because each story is so inherently built into a musical format, I have never been disappointed. But, readers, Aladdin just doesn’t work.  From the beginning you know that there is something off: in the timbre, the cadence of the tale expressed in opening bars by a trio of Aladdin’s friends: Babcack, Haseem and Omar--- playing the comic relief in a show already filled with it--- straight to the first major chorus number of Arabian Nights: which seems flat, with the wrong tone, the wrong colours, a busy stage and a set that just tries so hard.  In fact, an early moment for the set: it is so elaborately crafted that they use several devices which block the audience from it in order to switch scenes.  There are no seamless transitions here. There is a cute use of “split screen” and several, SEVERAL filler moments where the curtain ( in complete Persian tapestry motif) separates the audience from the action and filler reprises of Arabian Nights propel the action forward.

This production breaks the Fourth Wall like nothing I have ever seen before. Ever.  And it is so tediously mundane.  How many reprises and bridges and musical overtures set to the Arabian Nights can one audience handle ….? Apparently a lot. 

The songs by Menken maintain their Disney flare; but the new additions (with the exception of Proud of Your Boy which I understand was cut from the movie ) seem to be shoved in. There’s a radically horrible duet between Jasmine and Aladdin on the rooftop of Agraba and an equally horrible declaration of Jasmine’s independence sung alongside her ladies’ maids which, if I had been musically stronger, may have recalled the scene with Megara in the animated Hercules.

Kids, the first act drags. Drags has nothing has ever dragged before and they are trying so evidently to cleverly transpose the animated action to the stage.  But, the story as told in its original Disney context, does not loan itself to stage. Its too ambitious.  The plot changes they have replaced to save themselves from having to technically undertake …oh I don’t know… a giant snake or Aladdin sinking to the bottom of the sea are replaced with awkward sword-fighting numbers and THIS IS TOO EASY moments where Aladdin just happens to leave his lamp lying around. For a clever and charming young street rat ( and, face it, Adam Jacobs is delightful in this role and just perfectly animated and wonderful: armed with a great voice, dancing impresario and the whitest teeth I have ever seen ) to just leave his last wish around just seems…. Amateur. Easy.

Jasmine. Guys Jasmine. Yawn. ( Courtney Reed)And I was kinda hoping since she was so forced and, well, yawn-worthy that she would bless us with a gorgeously sweet and chimed voice with the timbre and quality that Disney seems attracted to when casting heroines. Nope. Nothing to write home about. I am not sure if this is a technical imbalance or if Jasmine just couldn’t keep up but Jacobs unconsciously drowned her out.

I got off on a tangent; so back to how draggy the first act is. Draggy.  Then, THEN! In a Christmas miracle, the genie appears and saves the trainwreck from flying itself off of the rails.  In all of my 32 years of theatre-going ( this is supposing  I went to the theatre as a baby, which  I didn’t ) I have never, EVER seen one performer turn a show around and make it not only watchable but exciting in the way the Genie does (James Monroe Inglehart).  We can’t just credit the writing of the role, either; it is the pizzazz he infuses into every movement and charismatic gesture.  The Genie loves the roar of the applause and the audience loves him. Thus, “Friend Like Me” becomes the saving grace of a show so quickly sinking I was recalling my viewing of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s equally bland Wizard of Oz early this year.

Once Genie shows up with his pipes and his uncanny ability to move his broad build around the stage with surprisingly deft aplomb, I was given something to invest in. More still, the flat and dimensional and just too easy choreography that had everyone prancing around with their arms in triangles ( not unlike Jem practicing his walk like an Egyptian dance in To Kill a Mockingbird) was upgraded big time for an old-timey tap number complete with… COMPLETE with--- the most dazzling use of a self-aware Disney medley one has ever heard.

Genie brought the house down. Genie took the show and shoved it in his pocket and proved he is not only better than the material, he is so confidently comfortable as a performer he didn’t once try to emulate the great Robin Williams who vocally originated the  role. Sidenote for vocal origins: the gent who voiced Jafar in the movie plays Jafar here. Huh.

After intermission we are treated to a big Genie chorus number, Prince Ali, which is ---again --- salvaged mostly by the genie; but kudos to the elaborate costumes and the largest ensemble I have seen in a bit. Then the ante is technically upped by the miraculous feat of a flying carpet for the Whole New World scene.  This isn’t your mom’s Phantom of the Opera candle-boat, kiddy cats. This is one of the most impressive moments of stage brilliance, trickery and magic I have ever seen.  Jasmine is pitchy and boring; but darnit! Who cares, they are floating amidst the stars.

From there on in, you wait until the end when you know that the carpet will make an encore appearance ( why would they use that dazzling piece of magic just once ) and fall into one of the shoddiest plot denouements I have ever witnessed until the finale and the ultimate marriage and crowning of Aladdin as Sultan and the freeing of the Genie and all that.

Guys, Aladdin just doesn’t work.  It needs some major-re-writes. The production values are brilliant, the costumes, the cast ( for the most part) and often the staging are pure theatrical magic; but a show cannot ride on one outstanding Tony-calibre Genie performance and some cool magic carpet stuff.
I kept thinking about the Lord of the Rings musical : in all of its tedious and tawdry nonsense and how it seemed like SUCH a good idea and was so technically innovative but failed so greatly to tell any type of story.

I don’t know. I mean, I love Disney.. but this? This?

Toronto is exporting two things to Broadway in the New Year: Canadian Ramin Karimloo leading as Valjean in the revamped production of Les Miserables (just finishing its run here ) and Aladdin. Save your ticket money and invest in Les Miserables.


...This is one way to explain the Great Hiatus: with a wink and a smile

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Bad Made-for-TV Christmas movies: My Santa

This one is AWFUL! So awful. I mean, don't get me wrong, it is DELECTABLY awful.

Awful writing. AWFUL acting. Awful premise and plot. AWFUL AWFUL!

So, of course, I thought it was brilliant.

Jen is a young single mother has been hurt too many times at Christmas so she is  a regular Christmas curmudgeon who has earned her oft-referred to title of “bah humbug mommy”

Kris is a young mall Santa who also works at a Christmas tree farm and is Santa’s son and set to inherit the Santa powers and stuff but has to find a real live Mrs. Claus.

It is so heart-wrenchingly, jaw-droppingly stupid you guys.  Just awful. and filled with AWFUL over-the-top kid acting and awful, AWFUL one-liners. And flashbacks and montages and keyboard wallowing ballad wails and I cannot even cope with the stupidity here.

Anyways.  Kris is played by Joey Lawrence’s little brother and he is super cute and poor thing has to bounce reactively off of everyone else’s terrible acting.   The pauses. The quick edits.  The production values.  This is the worst of the worst.   It’s just SO bad. It makes little sense and even the stuff that I let slide under the name of “this is just a fantastical Christmas movie” became so grating that I was rolling my eyes while guffawing with laughter.  There are AWFUL one-liners about the spirit of Christmas and montages and flashbacks in slow motion: one epic one centered on Jen when her husband leaves and crashes her favourite sheep ornament to the ground.  And there's a sex-hungry next-door-neighbour who is trying so hard to be funny. You know when people are trying to be funny and they aren't and you are embarrassed because they are trying so hard... ?

It might actually be the best of the bad made-for-tv Christmas movies of 2013.  An honour bestowed last year on Holiday High School Reunion.

But, the season is not over yet and I am sure I will find a few other cringe-worthy ones to feature here. Remember, I only blog about the worst of the worst. I have not been at all focused on writing up the decent or cute ones.

I didn’t even finish this. I went to bed before finding out if Jen ever became Mrs. Claus. WILL WE EVER KNOW?

Monday, December 16, 2013


I am a few episodes of White Collar behind but I watched the dinosaur one last night and guys… GUYS! I have figured out what is going on

All season 5 it has been: WTF happened to Peter! It’s like he’s never met Neal before. He’s reverted to season 1 Peter.

There were two rational conclusions for why this has been so weird (it can’t be that they re-jigged the writing staff. I mean, NO!  any writers worth their proverbial salt would be as invested in the dynamic over the first four seasons as the rest of us).

The first: seasons 2-4 were all a dream.  This one holds some clout; but I wanted to dig a little deeper.

The second: okay. do you guys remember in Due South when Benny was hit by a car and got amnesia? Of course you don’t: cause unless you were a Canadian in the 90s you never watched Due South. Okay, I’ll recap:Benny ( the Mountie ) and Ray ( the cop) are bestest friends. Like, totally my first exposure to bromance. Like, the greatest and most devout partnership of all-time. But THEN Benny gets hit by a car while chasing a criminal HE LOSES his memory –for like an ENTIRE HOUR OF AN EPISODE! --- and he cannot remember who Ray is.



And it’s super heartbreaking but through the power of human will and Ray’s friendship, BENNY IS CURED

So, that leads us to PETER HAS AMNESIA! He doesn’t remember that Neal is his friend. In fact, HE HAS SELECTIVE AMNESIA which allows him to only remember certain instances when he was chasing Neal as a criminal: not the birthday cards and cookies, just the BAD STUFF. Not the hugs and the prom suits and the dinners, just the CRIMINAL NEAL IS A CRIMINAL WHO IS A CRIMINAL? THAT WOULD BE CRIMINALLY CRIMINAL NEAL WHO I CANNOT TRUST AND I FORGET THAT HE SAVED ME FROM KELLER AND THAT HE IS MY BESTEST FRIEND BECAUSE I HAVE SELECTIVE AMNESIA


Whew. Problem solved.

There were some cute moments when Neal and Peter FINALLY find the dinosaur :) the smiles and giggles and Peter gets VIP status to the museum

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bad Made for TV Christmas Movies: Christmas in the City

YES! A nice cheesy mockable Christmas film: CHRISTMAS IN THE CITY

So single mom Carol ( I think her name’s Carol. Don’t remember. It’s been like 14 hours. Let’s call her Carol) lives in a small-town running her father’s old candy store. But her father is dead and the candy store isn’t doing well. In fact, she gets a foreclosure notice ( which she avoids for a skating date w. her annoying daughter) and decides to start Her Life.

Her Life involves thinking that she will make enough money working in retail in a city department store to make it through Christmas.  Obviously the writers of this movie have no idea how much people ACTUALLY make in retail over Christmas. If they did, they would know that Carol couldn’t afford a Starbucks advent calendar let alone the mortgage on her father’s candy store.

So, Carol works at this department store in the  toy section while her annoying daughter goes to the daycare IN THE STORE ( this store is amazing).  Unfortunately, the amazing old-timey Macey’s type department store is undergoing a re-jingling of marketing and values to try and save it from sinking and Ashanti wearing a lot of eyeliner and mink and strutting around in heels replaces all the fun Santa stuff for hot shirtless guys in santa suits and colourful commercials that look like a DC Talk Video ca 1991.

In the midst of it all,  Carol falls for the owner of the store, Tom and her annoying daughter falls for him too and her best friend wants to go to broadway.

Then comes the singing.  Guys. SO MUCH SINGING! All over. Love it. Lip-syncing FTW! Carol and Tom have an impromptu duet at the store piano (!!!!)  and Carol’s actress friend sings Toyland for all the kids. So much singing.

Anyways, like most made for TV movies set at Christmas it is actually filmed in June and no one is surprised when the “skating rink” has been “paved over” in the green,green grass of the playground.

I mean, seriously.

Umm there’s stuff about the true meaning of Christmas and the smell of pine trees and the Santa –the department store Santa--- is obviously the real Santa and so when Ashanti fires him in exchange for more hot shirtless guys that is, like, bad karma.  Don’t worry, she gets her come-uppance and finally, at the end, when the department store is saved, wanna-be actress and Carol and Tom and Carol’s annoying daughter( worse than Bonnie Blue Butler, this one ) tickle the rafters with resounding joy in a collective O Come All Ye Faithful which somehow spills from the toy department out the windows and onto the street.

Merry Christmas one and all.

This is what Made-for-TV bad Christmas movies should be. Long live this tripe!