Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Disney's Enchanted

It’s been a week, I know. More than a week, actually. I saw Enchanted on Friday last and am only now posting to tell you about it.

Your brains must have been all a-flutter, I’m sure, dear readers. Whatever could this mean? Was Enchanted really that terrible?

NOT AT ALL. The reason is that it took me a week to completely absorb the joy and wonder I experienced watching what I currently consider to be my favourite movie of all time.

Enchanted begins with a lavish, musical animated sequence, where Giselle (voiced and later acted by Amy Adams), a pure Disney princess from the top of her flowered tiara to the singing mice dancing at her feet, falls in love with Prince Edward (James Marsden, singing at the bottom of his range) after about 1.5 seconds of introduction. The marriage is planned for the next morning, but before they can tie the knot Edward’s evil stepmother Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) pushes Giselle down a magic well that leads to live-action New York.

The premise is reminiscent of Don Bluth’s A Troll in Central Park - in both of these films the villain sends the protagonist to New York because the Big Apple has somehow garnered a reputation for being the absolutely worst place a cartoon character could ever hope to end up. In Troll, the green-thumbed sprite is exiled there because New York isn’t supposed to have any greenery (which is why he hides out at Central Park), and in Enchanted, Narissa understands New York to be a place where “there are no happy endings.”

Giselle’s fish-out-of-water tale could have been cheesy beyond belief -- especially if they’d gone the expected route and had Giselle adapt to the real world. No - part of the magic of Enchanted is that while Giselle does learn a few things about reality, a good chunk of the movie concerns how the cynical, rational New Yorkers adapt to her. This is especially apparent once she is rescued by Robert (Patrick Dempsey) a single dad and seasoned divorce lawyer who is only too aware of how “true love” can go bad.

I’m parroting so many other reviews that say “Amy Adams is this movie” so I’ll go into more detail. She never abandons her persona as a Disney princess. She never steps out of character. New York doesn’t stop her from wearing flowing gowns sown by rodents and breaking into song. She is a character of such open innocence and goodness that she never comes across as cloying and overly cute.

My mother expressed a desire to see this movie from the first time she saw the trailer, but I remember her expressing concern over Giselle falling for Robert. “How old is Robert supposed to be? And how old does Giselle act? I think I can still enjoy the movie but that’s a little disturbing.” At first I thought it would be the case too, especially in a scene in which Robert and Giselle are caught in a seemingly compromising position by Robert’s girlfriend.

Robert: God, she thought we were --

Giselle: *wide-eyed* Kissing?

Robert: Uh, something like that.

This was another part of Enchanted that could have potentially ruined the film if they hadn’t handled it the way they did. If you don’t want a bit of a spoiler, stop reading this review RIGHT NOW -- but when Giselle does experience a sexual awakening, the scene in which she does is one of such subtle, unspoken potency it was like something out of Pleasantville. No talking birds, no sung explanations, just Amy Adam’s stellar performance.

This was just one of the facets of this movie that made it intellectually entertaining as well as being a family-friendly satire. Another part that really made this movie for me also involves minor spoilers, so you’ve been warned -- was an intelligent scene where Robert talks about his daughter’s mother with Giselle. I was completely expecting Robert to explain how his wife died -- and by Giselle’s reaction, you can tell she was, too -- because in my experience it’s incredibly rare for single fathers in family movies to be divorced.

There have been a growing number of divorced single moms in children’s films, but for family-friendly movies a single father has to be a widower. A divorced man with sole custody of a child suggests a) something negative about the mother, who would usually be taking care of the child, and that’s a dark element many family friendly movies see fit to do without; or b) that he’s romantically imperfect -- there’s a double standard when it comes to understanding divorced characters in films. When a woman divorces a man, it’s seen as female empowerment for freeing herself from an abusive spouse. When a man divorces a woman, it’s viewed as abandonment.

So the easy choice for Enchanted would have been to make Robert a widower, and I was fully expecting this, but (spoiler!) they didn’t. He reveals how his ex-wife, unhappy in their marriage, left him and his daughter, and in my surprise, I realized how hypocritical of Robert’s character it would have been to make him a widower. He’s the yin the Giselle’s sparkly yang -- her “true love is true” idealism is continually countered by Robert’s “true love is impossible” cynicism, and such a belief system would have been severely undermined had they made his relationship with his daughter’s mother one of love cut short by fate rather than love worn away by stress and mutual pain. After this scene, all I could think was “Good for you, Disney!”

And as I’ve been dithering on, I’ve been forgetting all about the satirical aspect of Enchanted - the central premise is a definite spoof of the Disney Princess movies, and the narrative homage, visual homage, and musical homage are all spot-on. Giselle and Edward’s speedy discovery of true love evokes the simplicity of Sleeping Beauty, Giselle’s helpful animal friends could have come straight out of Snow White and Cinderella, and Giselle’s colourful wardrobe throughout the movie evokes the classics in a way that is at once satirical and reverent. As well, Alan Menken and Steven Schwartz’s songs (they worked together on Pocahontas and Hunchback of Notre Dame previously) are toe-tappingly original and lyrically clever on their own as well as they are reminiscent of past songs (“True Love’s Kiss” is particularly funny as an example of a romantically operatic Disney finale all the funnier for being placed at the film’s beginning; “Happy Working Song” is a hilariously off-kilter parody of “Whistle While You Work” with a particular New York flavour that has to be seen to be appreciated; and “That’s How You Know” works with a steel drum beat reminiscent of Menken’s earlier classic, “Under the Sea”).

As I write this, I’ve read in the newspaper that Enchanted has been the #1 movie at the box office for two weeks running, and I’m not surprised. This well-written, layered movie works on so many levels I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who wouldn’t enjoy it. Even as it spoofs Disney Princesses, Giselle’s performance makes Enchanted a Princess Movie in its own right -- and that will hook the younger set, while the in-jokes and subtle adult humour and homage will entertain the mothers and older sisters and aunts who’ve grown up with Ariel and Belle and Jasmine. Boyfriends, dads, and husbands will enjoy the gentle snarking on Disney tropes, as well as the lovely Amy Adams. I think even Disney-haters would be tempted to smile at the well-worn clichés Enchanted flaunts so casually.

Enchanted walks the line that Shrek missed entirely. Shrek, while poking fun at fairytales (with pointed jabs at Disney), did so in a way that, while funny, was funny in the mean way, like a good “yo mamma” joke. Shrek pointed out the absurdity of fairytales to make them easier targets for ridicule, but Enchanted jokes about the clichés of Disney movies in a way that reminds us of how much we need stories of fantasized, naïve romantic idealism to counter the darker side of real life.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Waiting for an "Enchanted" Evening

Dear readers,

Yes, I know it's been a while. A long while. I've had a lot of work, but as of today it's start to slack off. I still have to polish one of my essays for tomorrow, and I have another minor essay due a week later, but my reading is done, the hardest projects are over, and all I have left to do is study for my exams, which I really only have to do for History since the others are all English finals.

So I planned a night out for myself, some of my friends, and the Sci-Fi club to see Disney's Enchanted tomorrow. As some of you may know, I've been waiting to see Enchanted for months going on months. I'm a huge Disney fan, huge princess fan, huge Alan Menken/Stephen Schwartz fan, huge Patrick Dempsey/James Marsden fan and having all of these things mashed together into one great movie is almost too much for me. I'm so excited!

So excited, that I seem to have reverted to the age at which I first enjoyed animated Disney films. I've seen enough trailers and TV spots for movies in general to know they often show the best, funniest parts of the movies, and I've wanted to see Enchanted for so long that I'm determiend to see it as pristine and un-spoiled as possible, aside from watching the first trailer for it.

That means whenever a TV spots comes on for it I close my ears and hum Disney songs, to the consternation of those around me. It also means that while I search out the interviews with the stars on Youtube, I mark them for later but don't watch them because I don't want to see the clips or hear them talking about things that happen in the movie before I get to see the movie.

I also made a huge effort NOT to read any reviews - when I like a movie enough, I don't want to be influenced into thinking it's bad by seeing bad reviews. I got a little antsy with this movie, though, and while I didn' t read the actual reviews, I did peek at the headlines - and so far they've ALL been positive, from my city's paper, from Entertainment Weekly and several from Ain't It Cool News. So while I don't know what happens in the movie, I do know it's going to be great and now I'm more excited than ever!

It also means that while I just bought the entire soundtrack on iTunes, I refuse to listen to it until I see the movie first. Why can't Friday come faster??

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


FINALLY - after MANY rejections, my poor battered tale "Parasite: A Love Story" has been accepted by fait accomplit magazine (the Comparative Literature magazine for the University of Alberta). There's no money, but it's a publication credit, I'm invited to the release party, and there will be readings and conversations with other writers, so THAT'S bound to be awesome.

Plus, I get a copy! Hurray!

Friday, November 02, 2007



I've been accepted into the Vancouver Film School's 2009 Writing for Film, TV & Interactive Media program! HOORAY! I'm going to be a SCREENWRITER!

...on a similar note, the WGA's just gone on strike. SHIT.

Uh, um...YEAH! Fight for the residuals screenwriters deserve, Tina Fey, Josh Schwartz, and John August! Fight for the money! YEAH!

...and try to win before 2010, mmkay?

Monday, October 29, 2007

I finally did it!

Despite resurging waves of self-doubt, debilitating insecurity and just plain ol' terror, I finally applied yesterday to the Vancouver Film School for their Writing for Film, TV & Interactive Media program. I should hear from them in a few weeks or so. My parents are sure I'll get in, but I'm not - they only take ninety students a year (three a classes a year with 30 students each) for their writing programs, and they're pretty elite so they get loads of applicants. I mean, KEVIN SMITH went there - yes, he dropped out to make Clerks, but STILL!

I'm still terrified - right now I keep thinking I know nothing about nothing. If I want to write a screenplay about someone who works in an office, I'm paralysed by the thought, "I know nothing about offices, I have no idea where to start researching offices, what do businessmen do again? What's a merger? What's a conglomerate? What stupid idiot doesn't know WHAT A MERGER IS??!!" And that's when my idea kind of dies.

And then there's that whole part about me having to finally get a full-time job, and keep it, for a year and half in order to make enough money for the tuition and living and travel expenses. I've never had a full-time job - I've had jobs that have come close to full-time hours, but I've never managed five eight-hour shifts in a row. Seriously. I'm a pampered upper-middle-class suburb princess and I have no idea how to live my life. I feel like I'm not really good at anything except writing.

And after the terrors of working scour through my mind, I have to deal with the horrors of living on my own for the first time ever in a city I've never been to. And I'll have to learn how to budget my meagre full-time earnings so that I don't starve halfway through the school year. And my parents won't be able to help unless it's an emergency because they have big plans of their own. So yeah, I'm scared. So even if I get accepted, that gives me two huge years of stress. And THEN there's the whole what-do-I-now problem once I graduate - if I don't get an internship, so I have to go back to my hometown or do I try to get a job in LA?

But I need to keep at this - I have no idea what else I would want to do with my life. I mean, I've considered other options - I've wanted to be a teacher, a librarian, a fantasy/romance novelist -- but I've realized that even if I became the best teacher, librarian, novelist in the world, I'd still come home from work to make up movies in my head while listening to music for hours on end. And I've done this for pretty much my entire life. At least if I'm a screenwriter, those movies have some chance of getting MADE, and of me getting PAID for them.

So, in between actual schoolwork (which I've been neglecting of late), I'm trying to keep myself psyched about screenwriting so I don't flip out and have a nervous breakdown before 2009 rolls around. Which means subscribing to screenwriter blogs and reading scripts from Drew's Script-O-Rama and trying to live independently (or at least pretend to) while still living in my parents' house. It's pretty hard right now - a large part of me doesn't want to get accepted to Vancouver Film School. But twenty years from now, I'll probably appreciate the stuff I learned.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Submitted: "House Hunting" Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show. I may not have time to write anything creative this semester, but it doesn't take that much time to send e-mails or like stamps so I should still try submitting the stuff I've already finished. So I've submitted "House Hunting" again - I still feel it's my best story, although on my 150th reading of it today I discovered an egregious typo that made me feel really embarassed. I got rid of it before I sent in it, though. And today I REALLY have to finish getting my materials together for the Vancouver Film School, because I pre-applied a month ago and I'm still not done!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Hot Men Of Fall

Okay, Comparative Literature Class today is boring, so I thought I'd take the time to write an entry in my much-neglected blog. I've had a lot of work to do, but so far I've managed to stay enough ahead that I can still keep up with the new fall TV. And wow, is there a lot of good new Fall TV. I've found I've divided the days in the week not only by the shows I am now watching, but by the incredibly good-looking guys that are part of each shows cast. What is it about 2007 that made all these new hot guys just bubble like rich cream to the top of the the Casting Pile? Really? I've had to renovate my crush-du-jour stable to make room! So, I thought I would provide my loyal readers with a helpful day-by-day calendar for the Best Shows (and guys) to Watch.

The Dude:
Nathan Fillion
The Show: Desperate Housewives
The Word: Haven't been watching too much of this show, to be honest - I gave it up for the last couple of seasons since the stinker of season 2 so it's hard to pick it up again, but I will for Nathan Fillion - especially if he plays a husband with a paaaast.

The Dudes:
Adrian Pasdar, Milo Ventimiglia, Zachary Quinto, and Zachary Levi
The Shows: Heroes (Pasdar, Ventimiglia, Quinto), and Chuck (Levi).
The Word: Monday? How 'bout Manday. Seriously - who can hate starting the school/work week when you know you're going home to a feast of eye candy like these folks? Heroes is an already established show, but already its second season is full of mysteries (how did Peter lose his shirt--er, I mean memory? When will Sylar get his powers back?). And as for Chuck, about a sexy nerd (Levi) who's recruited into the spylife after he accidently downloads America's secrets into his brain, it has all the action of Alias with the humour of Office Space. And did I mention Levi is adorable? Even when he freaking out? Especially when he's freaking out?

The Dudes:
Lee Pace and Bret Harrison
The Shows: Pushing Daisies and Reaper
The Word: Pushing Daisies is currently the best-reviewed and the best-watched show of the Fall season, and while the detractors have called it over-precious and over cute, I'm of the opinion that the show itself (about a guy who can bring people back from the dead with a touch, and kill them again with a second touch) can't possibly be cuter than its lead, the chipmunk-cheeked Lee Pace. And as for Reaper, yes, Ray Wise is badass as the Devil, but Bret Harrison (who also auditioned for Chuck) isn't bad lookin' as the 21-year-old slacker forced into being a bounty hunter for Satan after his parents sold his soul to the Devil before he was born. He could have made his character a total loser, but instead, his charms makes his character only a partial loser, because after all, he is a bounty hunter now, and to quote the Wise's smarmy, paternal Lucifer, "that's cool, right?"

The Dude:

Damien Lewis
The Show: Life
The Word: Smooth Brit Lewis (who looks like a sexier, younger, red-headed version of Hugh Laurie) plays a cop who was wrongly imprisoned for 12 years for a triple murder he didn't commit. Having relied on Zen teachings while in the slammer to maintain his sanity, once freed (and returned to the force with a 50 million dollar cheque as a settlement), he applies this form of thought to the crimes that he solves, while at the same time trying to figure out who set him up in the first place. This means that he can be at turns menacing (pulling a knife on an aggressive suspect) and hilariously goofy (his failure to apply Zen-like detachment to his new sports car: "I am not attached to this car....I am not attached to this car....I am somewhat attached to this car..."). Most cop shows these days have to apply some sort of gimmick to a cop's personality to make it work, but I have to say, I think the idea of a Zen-convict-Cop could have longterm potential.

The Dudes:

Alec Baldwin and Steve Carell
The Shows: 30 Rock and The Office
The Word: I didn't expect to watch 30 Rock - I thought I'd be more of a Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip fan, and while that was a good show, this one lasted more than a season. It's weird tuning in on the sophomore season, but I'm glad I did. Love Alec Baldwin on SNL? Imagine you can have that once a week, along with Tina Fey, and a Tracy Morgan who's actually funny! Seriously, this show is hilarious, and is a nice, fluffy 30-minute alternative to the heavier hour-long drama fare. And should I even mention The Office? I've been watching it since season one, and in every single episode I want to give Carell's Michael Scott a hug and tell him he is loved. He'll be this ignorant, stupid, despairing, albeit hilarious ass for most of the episode, but he'll have one minute, maybe even only thirty seconds, of sad-eyed humanity that makes the whole episode worth it. Michael Scott needs a hug, but since I can't give him one (on account of him being fictional) I'll just have to show my empathy by watching the show.

The Dude:

Alex O'Loughlin
The Show: Moonlight
The Word: Seriously - watch this show. WATCH IT. Don't listen to the (unfortunately numerous) negative reviews of the pilot. This show was seriously hampered by a shoddy pilot (the result of a near-complete cast overhaul and harried reshoots), but the following episodes have shown such an increase in writing and quality that have made this my Friday must-watch. The story? Criminally-hot Australian Alex O'Loughlin plays Mick St. John, a vampire who solves crimes with the help of a cute blonde reporter (Sophia Myles). What? You need a plot? Moonlight has turned out to be an incredibly watchable paranormal romance with a procedural element, and while it remains a little short on, well, logic - it's an excellent, soapy, romantic way to relax on a Friday. Hot vampires! Hot vampires solving crimes! Jason Dohring as a billionaire vampire playboy!


The Dude:
Bill Hader
The Show: Saturday Night Live
The Word: I will be the first to admit that SNL has a crappy couple of seasons recently. With the help of pitch-perfect impressionist Hader and Andy Samburg's Digital Shorts, though, SNL is slowly (but surely) starting a comedic upswing. It has a stellar cast this season (along with Hader, there's Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Fred Armisen, and Samburg, who have all been constant contributors to the funny of the show) - and with better writing, SNL could easily return to greatness.

And that's my TV week! Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Submission and Rejection

I got a form rejection from Realms of Fantasy for "House Hunting" and a rejection from Heliotrope for "Whiff." I haven't had time this school year for much creative writing, but when I saw a poster for the Comparative Literature department's journal calling for stories, I thought "what the hell" and submitted "Parasite: A Love Story." What's one more rejection for "PALS"?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Concentration time!

As you've probably noticed, I've taken down my "Reading" and "To Be Read" lists. It seems only natural, as I'm now reading so many texts and books at once for University that there's no point in listing them all.

I'll be probably be posting less, too, as my fourth year is rapidly starting to materialize as my most difficult, and there are very few distractions which I can afford, and most of them have to do with my club work.

So feel free to peek in from time to time, but don't expect many new posts for a while.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

First day of school! Whoo!

Which means heavy, heavy reading for me! Not only am I having to power through Samuel Richardson's Clarissa (1500+ pages!), but about a pile of other ones, too. Not that I'm complaining - but I'm already starting to stress about the papers I have to write and the assignments that will be due.

Not to mention as Lieutenant-Commander of the university's Science-Fiction Club, I'm planning on arranging fund-raisers for a new couch and new pizza-and-video-game parties and such.

But it's not all hard work and slog - my classes either end at noon or start at noon, so I have lots more free time than I had before. And one of my best friends throughout my entire University experience is in my Women's Lit class! Hurrah!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

News, Shopping, Incurable addictions...

Keep writing. That's always been everybody's motto on how to be a writer - keep writing. Sometimes, though, it's been hard. Really hard. Like, you're writing this story (*cough* "The Middle Child" *cough*), and you absolutely know it's heading in this awful, sticky, amateurish direction ("quirky college romance??!"). And you don't want to keep writing, because the more you write the farther you go into the awful direction ("does the boy like her? Will her sisters understand?!") and the longer and less structured the story gets. So you'd quit, right? Or at least, you'd want to - but then you'd imagine that all the literary greats emerging out of the pages of your University-assigned bookpile and pointing fingers of contempt in your direction.

You're not a writer! You're quitting a story! Any shmuck can start a story, a real writer can finish it! etc, etc.

But of course, all those people are right about keeping writing - because, as in my case, eventually in the course of writing I finally got a whiz-bang idea that made me delete/burn all of the previous pages and start afresh on the same story but in a whole new direction. See, they tell you to keep writing.

They never said anything about keeping what you write.

So I've got a whole new idea for "The Middle Child" (and it'll probably get a new title, soon, too) and it's been like I've been possessed. It's got a killer opening line, and it's cynical and adult and wacky and bizarre and SO MUCH BETTER than the previous incarnation which was "three-headed girl meets one-headed guy. Can their teenage love survive??" So yeah, I'm happy.

In the "bad me, BAD ME!" *wrist slap* department, after I deep-cleaned my room (partly to make room for books) I sold a bunch of my old, unwanted books at this second-hand place. Due to luck, or maybe my obsessively-well-kept condition of my books, the employee took nearly all of them and gave me $70 bucks back. The problem? I spent $25 of that on 5 second-hand romance novels, $30 of that on three new books (one fantasy, one romance, one sequel to PC Cast's excellent-you-have-to-read-it Divine By Accident; Divine by Choice), and then my prizes from the Smart Bitches' LOLurve Contest came in the mail - so now I have, like, 10 new books on top of all the other books on TOP OF my new University Books which have yet to be read. Gee, darn....*lol*

I spent the rest on two pairs of new dangly earrings and a ticket to see Stardust (with modest concessions). I'll be reviewing the movie for Green Man Review pretty soon.

So yeah - I still have my book-buying problem. There are worse addictions, definitely - books don't make me fat for reading too many (they can even make me thin if I read them while exercising, which I do), I'm not allergic to them, no one thinks you're a fat cow if you sit in a public place reading all alone, they're addictive as hell but the worst physical effects they give you are headaches...I'm not doing too badly.

Also, I'm a redhead now - no, for real this time. My done-in-a-box colour was fading, and for a last-year-in-University present, my parents paid for me to have it done professionally - so now it's a deep, shiny ruby red with gold highlights. It's actually very lovely on my complexion, and it'll probably last a lot longer.

Chao for now, I have to keep digging at my To Be Read pile, writing my stories/novels, and getting ready for school

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Submitted: "House Hunting"

To Realms of Fantasy magazine. I actually did it with real paper and envelopes and International Reply Coupons - it's weird, because I've gone such a long time without sending actual, physical manuscripts. So many of the magazines take electronic submissions.

So I spent about seven bucks on postage. Oh well.

Sorry I haven't updated much - I went to Animethon (which was great - check out Ouran High School Host Club - seriously, it's great!), then I had two ten-hour workdays (five hours at one job, five at the Disney job) which leaves me very little time for anything productive. And today I went ahead and deep-cleaned my room. I'm relatively tidy - I mean, you can always find a clear view of the carpet when you come into my room (which isn't always the case with Sister #2), but I tend to be a severe packrat, and a lazy packrat, too. I don't just run out of room for all my things, but I put them back in the wrong places because I'm too tired to look for the proper ones.
So today was the day I went in and cleaned everything up. I filled FOUR black garbage bags with broken knapsacks, old receipts, first drafts of forgotten novels, old shoes, dusty adapters and extension cords....Sure, I could have saved some of that stuff, but that's the thing, if I say I'm going to save it, it'll be stuck there collecting dust for another year so I just went ahead and threw a lot of it out. As a result I found:

-several pairs of lost earrings

-several pairs of (hopefully clean, not brave enough to check) underwear that were not put away

-a twenty dollar bill in one of my forgotten purses (I spent some on dessert and a movie for me and my sibs today, and I think I'll spend the rest on a novel).

I also got a wack of old books piled up to sent to the second-hand bookshop with my parents on Friday. We try to go every year. We're real big on books in my family, so every year we end up having to "cull" some. I'm the only major contributor among my sibs - I always wonder what Sisters 1 and 2 do with only two shelves of ratty YA novels apiece. And then I'll spend that culling money on a ticket to see Stardust, and maybe on the Jack Skellington hooding I've been eying in the Disney Store.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Question of Medium

I've found something out recently - because I haven't been home much to do my writing on my laptop, I've been resorting to the old-fashioned notebooks-and-pens method. Ever since I got my laptop, the writer's callous on my right middle finger's shrunk, because I've been typing more of my stories because I've always felt it's been faster.

But I've come to realize that I just might write more if I write it first on paper, and then on laptop. Who'da thunk, right? Well, the largest piece I ever wrote - my terribly cheesy first novel The Shining Empress - started out as a huge binder of scribbled looseleaf before I took it over and translated it onto my laptop. I always thought that writing on the laptop was faster, so I think I started to limit my writing to my laptop.

For instance, if I was on the bus and had an idea, I wouldn't write it down - I'd save it for the laptop. Same if I was at work or at school. I also didn't write if the laptop wasn't working, or if it was too much trouble for my lazy sensibilities to carry it up from the basement or down from my bedroom, or if I just couldn't be bothered to wait the two minutes it takes for it to fully boot-up. I had no idea how much it hampered my writing.

Plus, I come up with more when I write in a notebook. When I write on the laptop, I'm writing a story on a machine that's carrying dozens of my old stories at the touch of my fingertips, so I'm always tempted to stop writing and re-read, or stop my current writing and re-read what I've written. And then I discover I've spent an hour writing only a few paragraphs. That's not so bad when I write in a notebook, because I have to turn so many pages I don't bother.

And yes, while I write slower when I'm physically penning words, I think it helps my writing. When I'm on my laptop, I write at about 80 words per minute - and it's almost too fast for my ideas to catch up, so I'll write about a paragraph and just go blank for a minute or two while I scramble to think about something else to write. When I'm writing in a notebook, I have lovely, curving handwriting, so it's fun and my ideas come to me naturally so I don't have to pause nearly so often.

Since I've started writing in my notebook, I've written much more regularly than before. So I guess that's how I learn. I'll write in my notebook, and then translate it onto my computer. Plus - it's much more secure. If I drop my laptop off a cliff, there are at least five stories that were born on that machine and have no backups except on disks, but my novel and my screenplay and my short story "The Middle Child" are all in books.

Rejection, Times Two: But With a New Hope

Sorry I haven't been blogging lately - I had to work a thirty-hour week in the space of three days, so I've had precious little time to myself.

As it is, I received rejection letters for "Parasite: A Love Story" from Clarkesworld and "House Hunting" from Strange Horizons, but there were pretty thick silver linings on both of those clouds.

For the Clarkesworld rejection, I got a personalized rejection from the editor about why my story wasn't accepted - he didn't like the beginning scene with the whiskey because he felt it didn't do much other than introduce people to the world, and he also said they ran a similar aliens-take-over-humans story in their previous issue. But, on the plus side, he made the (increasingly frequent) comment that my writing "wasn't bad." So I still have potential.

The rejection from Strange Horizons was a lot better. The editor wrote back to say she really liked "House Hunting," thought it was a charming and engaging story, but her other editors weren't as charmed by it and they had to make some tough calls, so it didn't make the cut. But still - a professional editor, if she'd been alone, would have accepted "House Hunting"! She liked it! I can't wait to send it somewhere else - I have to say, I do think "House Hunting" is one of my best stories, because while I sometimes get an "eeeh" feeling when I reread some of my old ones that makes me nervous about their quality, everytime I've read "House Hunting" I still have that "hot damn, I'm good" feeling.

I'm pretty sure I'd like to send it to Realms of Fantasy. I haven't sent anything their way since "My Brother's Own Words" because their rejection (at least, I'm assuming it was a rejection) got lost in the mail. Seriously. I received my Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope and not only did it not have any returning address on it, but it was open, and empty. But I think I'll try again with "House Hunting" - the rejection from Strange Horizons really makes me believe it has serious potential.

Also, I'm reading Margo Lanahan's Black Juice, and it's really prodding me to be more faithful to my short stories, especially the first draft I'm working on, "The Middle Child" which is proceeding very stubbornly. It keeps trying to turn itself into a young romance, but I want it to be significant and artistic, y'all. Stop flirting with cute guys and start thinking about the effects of having three heads, main character!

Monday, August 06, 2007

"The Raven Prince" by Elizabeth Hoyt

The Chick: Anna Wren, a mousy widow who hires herself out as a secretary to keep herself, her kindly mother-in-law, and her maid in stockings and sewing needles. As hard as she tries to keep herself as proper as a widow should be, she's frankly tired of seeing men frequent whorehouses and remain blameless.
Shady Past: Her late husband cheated on her with the village belle, and Anna blames her barrenness for his infidelity.

The Dude: Edward de Raaf, the Earl of Swartingham, a brooding, temperamental, pox-scarred nobleman who returns to his ancestral home to spruce it up for his intentions to find a bride. Despite his attractions for Anna, he's afraid his scars repulse normal women and turns to whores instead.
Shady Past: He lost his entire family to the smallpox that scarred him, and his first wife died in childbirth cursing his ugliness.

The Plot:
Edward: I need a secretary!

Anna: I can write!

Edward: You're hired! Wait - you're a woman? I'll just use my patented remedy for unwanted attractions to proper widows - one visit to a whorehouse, on the double!

Anna: Grrr...NO FAIR. *disguised as whore* Hey, baby.

Edward: Hurrah!

*Masked Georgian Bordello Sex!*

Edward: I'm cured! Wait a I'm not.

Anna: Here are those papers you asked for.

Edward: *recognizes!*

Anna: *recognized!*

Edward: Slut!

Anna: Whoremonger!

Edward: I'm ugly and you're lustful!

Anna: You're sexy and I'm in love with you!

Edward: Yeah, I like your version better. Marry me!

Anna: Not for another 100 pages!

Edward: DAMMIT!

Romantic Convention Checklist:
1 horny widow
1 scarred, brooding dark hero
1 hooker with heart-of-gold
1 proper wife who actually is a slut, sans heart of gold
2 Romantically Lackluster Exes
1 Misunderstanding

The Word: I actually enjoyed this, for the most part. I particularly emphathetized with Anna. While yes, she did go beyond the social strictures for Georgian widows, she was aware she was doing so, and she had believable and relatable reasons to be exhasperated with social norms. Edward managed to be the stereotypical overbearing, arrogant, dark, broody, beast hero and still seem completely new and layered. The sex scenes I skimmed- I do with most romances I find, nowadays. Graphic sex scenes make me uncomfortable and bored so I skim to make sure I'm not missing any crucial character development and go on to the parts that matter - the dialogue and description. Whoo damn, great dialogue! I loved Anna and Edward's repartee. Edward's first lines - muttering obscenities at a horse - grabbed me and really clued me in to his character. I found the epilogue to be a little convenient - *kinda spoiler* I mean, it's nice Anna found out she could have kids but this development was just out of the blue and seemed too easy. Other than that, though, a great story. A - (yeah, I'm getting rid of the Crush du Jour Rating - I was tired of uploading images all the time. So sue me.)

"Anyone But You" by Jennifer Crusie

The Chick: Nina Askew, a woman new to her 40s who buys an ugly, smelly dog to emotionally recover from her recent divorce.
Shady Past: In her previous marriage, her husband was the absent breadwinner and she was the dependent housewife - so now she's on her own.

The Dude: Alex Moore, a hot ER doctor just into his 30s who lives below Nina. He's content to remain an ER doc, but a family full of "something-ologists" is pressuring him to choose a specialty.
Shady Past: His father's a drunk, and it's looking like his older brother is going down that path, too.

The Plot:
Alex: You're hot!

Nina: You're a child!

Alex: I'm a hot piece of man-child!

Nina: Despite the fact you're a doctor, I'm pretty sure you'll be totally disgusted and probably mentally scarred if you expose your tender 30-year-old senses to my 40-year-old naked body!

Alex: And I'm so afraid you think I'm a feckless youth that I'm going to ignore everything you say and start turning myself into your ex-husband!

Fred (the aforementioned ugly, smelly dog): *WOOF!*

Nina and Alex: Problem solved! *kissyface humpysex*

Romantic Convention Checklist:
1 Relationship-aiding pet
2 Sexually-experienced, meddling best friends
1 Romantically Lackluster Ex
1 Very Bad Parent

The Word: I enjoyed Crusie's Bet Me - but this is like Bet Me - Lite, all the plot, none of the emotional depth. It could be because this book is only about half the length of Bet Me, so that all the characters seem compressed, but it's basically the same story. Woman with body issues but no plan to have kids leaves man who doesn't understand her (and wants her to have kids) and meets a man who loves her for who she is and has to repeatedly tell her so. The writing and dialogue have Jennifer Crusie's trademark zing, but if Bet Me's within easy reach, this book is definitely skippable.

Crush du Jour Rating:
Hugh Laurie says: "What are you waiting around for? Get Bet Me instead." B-

"Sins of Midnight," by Kimberly Logan

The Chick: Lady Jillian Daventry, the curvy, ebony-haired, scandal-courting eldest daughter of a Marquis. Of course, her scandals have nothing to do with actual scandal, but instead in her secret investigative partnership with the Bow Street Runners.
Shady Past: Four years prior, her mother was murdered and her killer apparently committed suicide - but Jillian believes the real criminal is still out there.

The Dude: Connor Monroe - a wealthy trademan, who sports auburn hair, "aqua eyes," and a sculpted bod, natch. Someone out there with an insane grudge is murdering his closest friends and confidantes, and he'd like to find out who.
Shady Past: Grew up in the London Streets with an evil stepfather while protecting his vulnerable brother Brennan.

The Plot (in dialogue):
Connor: My friends are dying! I need a Bow Street Runner!

Jillian: I'm no Runner, but my daddy studied criminology! Lookee! *findsclues*

Connor: Alright...

Jillian: But we have to keep our partnership a secret!

Connor: Why?


Connor: I see. Well, how 'bout I reminisce about my past and blame myself for everything that's ever gone wrong, ever, while you proceed to do all the work and disobey everything I say, ever, while remaining obsessed over your dead mom?

Jillian: As long as we can squeeze some kissyface humpysex in somewhere.

Connor: How 'bout now?

Jillian: Okay! *kissyface humpysex*

Insane Grudgeholder: Nyaa-hahaha! *kills again*

Romance Convention Checklist:1 Interclass Romance
1 Bout of Convenient Amnesia
1 Anachronistically Independant Female
1 Evil Twin
1 Romantically Lackluster Ex
1 Dirty Dancing reference ("He didn't do it officer - I was with him all night. ALL NIGHT.")
1 Obvious Sequel Setup (Gabriel Sutcliffe + Jillian's li'l sis Maura)

The Word: M'eh. The mystery's kinda obvious - cat's outta the bag once Connor says, "Oh, I should tell Jillian everything - except anything to do with Brennan. Yeah. Cause he's dead. Totally dead. Didn't find his body, but he's got to be dead." Jillian and Connor are alright - but neither has any defining characteristics that I could root for or empathize with. As for the romance - they spent more time telling themselves why they couldn't do it, than actually doing anything. While I think a certain amount of internal monologue is necessary - the story should take place more out of the characters' heads than in.

Crush du Jour Rating:
Alan Rickman says: "Stop thinking and make out already!" C

I have been elevated!

Huzzah! Today is a fabulous day! A week ago, I entered a contest over at Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Novels, a contest in which one has to make a LOLcat into a romance cover, and provide an acceptance/refusal letter from a publisher. Here was my entry:

And today I found out that I won! I won prizes! First off - I'm getting an unabridged CD audiobook of Susan Elizabeth Phillip's Match Me If You Can, then a $10 Amazon Gift Certificate (which I've put towards Loretta Chase's Not Quite a Lady), and then, most lovely of all - the thing that no money can buy - a Smart Bitch Title!

Basically, it's an aristocratic title that reads like something convoluted and probably French - that read out loud sounds like something vaguely dirty (for instance, I know a previous contest winner who was dubbed Marchionesse Manne-Sausse). Well, now I am a member of the Smart Bitch Peerage:

*LOL!* I'm so pleased! And to express that, I'm just about to provide you with a long-awaited book review of Sins of Midnight, a.k.a. the romance novel I picked out at random. I haven't been doing book reviews of late, because a lot of my reading lately has left me apathetic - the experience has been pleasurable, but I haven't been able to come up with anything to write about in my review. Maybe Sins of Midnight will kick-start a few dusty reviews (like for Anyone But You or The Raven Prince).

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

I've changed my template!

Yup, I was getting tired of the same old grey and pink - so I switched it around. I've also got a new book on my "To Be Read" list - Sins of Midnight by Kimberly Logan. Heard of her? I haven't - I was waiting for my sister at the library, and I was looking over the shelf of paperback romances, and I literally closed my eyes, waved my arms, and pointed - and checked out the first book I saw, which was this one. I'll see if I can review it once I'm done.

Submitted - "Whiff" Heliotrope Magazine. The guidelines say I should wait at least a week after being rejected before submitting something else - since they were prompt enough to reject "Golden Opportunity" way back at the start of July, I submitted "Whiff," which is aimed at an older audience, to them to see what they thought of it.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Huh - should I be flattered?

All of a sudden, I have to word-verify my blog posts, because for some reason, "Blogger's spam-prevention robots have detected that [my] blog has characteristics of a spam blog."

According to Blogger's definition, a spam blog "can be recognized by their irrelevant, repetitive, or nonsensical text."

Um...well gee, that makes me feel just great, Blogger.

Rejected - FINALLY!

After SEVERAL months, I finally got a rejection from On Spec for my re-write of "Whiff." They said it was better, but that one of the plot points was still a little too convenient. I don't think so, so I'll try again with a few other magazines before I think of rewriting it.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Weird Al Yankovic! LIVE!

Yup - I heard only a few weeks ago that 'Weird Al' Yankovic, a musician and satirist of whom I've been a fan since that one time he sang about patterns on Sesame Street, was going to be performing live at the Exhibition, and that the price of going there and seeing him was only to pay the gate admission (read: $10!).

My first thought, of course, was HELL YEAH!

I got there about an hour early, and went right to the front (or at least five rows from the front - standing room only there) and talked with some random shirtless guys until the concert started. Everytime a roadie came on to arrange the instruments before the show, we all cheered anyway. And then the concert began.

He started with his latest Polka from his CD Straight Outta Lynnwood, and he rocked that accordion as only a true accordian player can. There was a video screen on the stage, and while he sang it showed the sped-up music videos of the songs he was polka-ing to, which made it pretty awesome. He played a lot of his classic songs, and condensed some of his cooler, newer ones into a medleys, and while he and his crew made costume changes the TV screen showed some of his old music videos and his AlTV spots, where he takes celebrity interview footage and changes the questions so that the answers are taken out of context. Some of the highlights:

-the song "Bob," which I'd never heard before - it's comprised entirely of palindrome lyrics - strange as they are ("Do geese see God?"), they still sound like Bob Dylan lyrics!

-during the song "Do I Creep You Out?" (a spoof of Taylor Hicks' "Do I Make You Proud"), Al took off his hood to reveal a Taylor Hicks' grey wig.

-during the song "You're Pitiful" (spoof of James Blunt's "Your Beautiful"), Al took off a succession of T-shirts - one of which says "Atlantic Records Sucks!" (they're the reason Al couldn't put the song on his record - James Blunt didn't mind the spoof at all!). By the end of the song, he's stripped down to a Spongebob T-shirt, his boxers, and a pink tutu.

-Weird Al to Kevin Federline: "What does it feel like to have a closetful of wifebeaters, but no wife?"

-Again, Weird Al to Kevin Federline: "How old were you when you discovered that you had absolutely no talent? ... Too soon?"

-Weird Al wearing a "fat suit" while singing "Fat" and the other musicians jolting upwards as Weird Al jumped up and down.

-Weird Al, during a fake interview with Michael Stipe from REM, asks him to write a lyric on the spot - Stipe says, "We all use cellphones, so c'mon, let's get real" - a song Weird Al uses as part of his encore, while the videoscreen shows the audience members waving their cellphones. It looked like a sea of little glowing squares, it was cool.

Basically, it was fantastic, I had a great time, and I'm definitely going to see him again if he ever comes back to Edmonton.

Monday, July 23, 2007


There already IS a LOLceleb blog! (

Yeah, next time I'll try to run a good websearch first.

So I made a new blog - The LOLstars ( Check it out!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

I have a new blog!

I had so much fun making he LOLcelebs, that I created a fanciful little number over at WordPress to publish them all. Be sure to go and check out the LOLCelebs - I'll make more, and I hope people will submit their own, too.

Harry Potter and the Selfish, Callous, Childhood Dismissing Edmonton Journal Bitch-Hack Journalists

*ahem* As you can guess, this is a bit of a rant. One of my siblings clued me in to the fact that The Edmonton Journal, the #1 paper for the capital of Alberta, posted the juiciest spoiler for Harry Potter's final adventure in the article's HEADLINE on the FUCKING FIRST PAGE OF THE PAPER. And by spoiler, I mean THE spoiler, that everyone from bookies to grade schoolers has been itching to find out - that is, who lives and who dies.

Pardon my Elvish, but FUCK YOU EDMONTON JOURNAL!

It was only due to Sister #2's warning that I didn't read the front page myself. It's only now that I realize that I really can't use the internet or watch TV or even talk to people (which should be hard, as I have to work at the Disney Store today and we're directly across from a Coles bookstore) if I don't want the ending ruined. I mean, I don't want to be one of those Internet idiots who's always screaming "spoiler alert!" over the littlest things, but I mean, c'mon! This is supposed to be on the last page of the last Harry Potter book!

I could (somewhat) understand the paper running an article like that maybe two weeks, maybe even one week after the book came out to discuss its meaning and the probable effect on its readers - because at least that would give some people a chance to read the book. But on the first day it's out? On the front page - the one that everyone reads? And in the freakin' headline??? I'm assuming some fucking intern got assigned to one of those "Midnight Harry Potter Madness" parties, bought the book at 12:05, skipped right to the ending, and passed the info onto the newspaper folks so they could cook up a last-minute article before press time.

It's not just because it's Harry Potter that I'm angry - I may sound cliched, but it's the principle of the thing. They deliberately printed the most important spoiler in the most-read part of the article (the headline) on the most-read page of the paper (the front page) on the morning of the very first day the book came out - and do you want to guess how many people were gifted with an advance copy of the seventh Harry Potter? Not a whole damn many - hell, even Stephen King hadn't managed to get himself one.

There may have been a few who, by now, have finished reading the book after buying it at midnight - but there are just as many kids, teens, and adults who didn't stay up past their bedtimes who are only now going out to get the copy. And they just might stop to read the first page of the paper before they leave the house.


I'm willing to bet any amount of money that tomorrow's editorial is going to be chock-full of pissed-off readers who are just as angry as I am that the Edmonton Journal let the fatass cat out of the bag in order to sell a few more copies of its paper. J.K. Rowling is a fantastic writer, and while her later books have succumbed somewhat to George Lucas Syndrome (i.e. - "he/she's so good/successful, we don't need to edit anything!"), she's still managed to cook up a great surprise, and it's always been a pleasure to read through the clues of the book only to have it revealed at the end - and it's almost always been both a) a real surprise, and b) one that's been established by actual clues and isn't just a red-herring deus ex machina.

I'm not saying I wouldn't have read the book if I'd had the ending spoiled - but you read a book differently when you know the ending than when you know nothing about the plot. Rereading a book you remember is about the journey to a destination you already know, but reading a new book is an exploration of completely unknown territory. I'd really like to have that experience with the seventh Harry Potter novel, and I'm sure a lot of people who read the front page of The Edmonton Journal would have wanted that too.

Fuck you, Edmonton Journal. Did you sell a lot of copies? I hope you're fucking happy.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The return of the LOLcelebs!

I lost mah shurt

I can haz anudder?


Mah thurst iz kwnched.

Yes, Sandy Clawz

Elijah Wud duz egzist!

Friday, July 13, 2007

The First Installment of: The LolCrushes!

What are LOLcrushes? They are actually derived from the ever-popular Internet LOLCat, which is defined by Urban Dictionary as:

The phenomenon of pasting captions in large text onto pictures of cats. The captions are a specific blend of:

1) txt msg text (shortcuts like "ur" for "your")

2) bad English-Asian translations (like the classic "all your base are belong to us")

3) common typing mistakes (like "!!!!1" and "ZOMG" and "teh")

4) misspellings (like "cheeze")

5) spam shortcuts (like substituting "5" for "S" and "3" for "e")

The Smart Bitches recently retooled that theme for their LOLHoff (as in, Hasselhoff) contest, which I recommend you see. My favourite? The winner - "Ah sex u. Yes?"

So I am retooling that standard for my crushes du jour. Why? For fun! Submit your own if you can, in my comments or by email!

Silly? Yes. Border-line random? Of course. Fun - definitely!
More to come, once I have the time, and perhaps a better understanding of the LOL format.

I'm a redhead!

Yes, I dyed my hair red today and I did it ALL BY MAHSELF.

Monday, July 09, 2007


Two, actually - first, for the most stories submitted in one day (that is, two - "Golden Opportunity" and, the fresh off the word processor "House Hunting"), and then for most stories under consideration at one time (four - On Spec did receive my story, and it's still under consideration, Clarkesworld Magazine, Baen's Universe, and now Strange Horizons). Hurrah! Maturing as a writer!

Yes, I chose Strange Horizons again, but I've been reading it with fair regularity and I'm really enjoying it, and I think "House Hunting" would be a good fit. I'm kinda in love with "House Hunting," I currently think it's the best thing I've written so far, and I've never reread it and not thought, "Damn, I'm good."

I mean, I've felt that way about all my stories at some point, or else I never would have submitted them to magazines in the first place. But then after I've submitted them I think they're awful or immature and how embarrassing it will be for the editors to read it - but so far that hasn't happened with "House Hunting" yet.

I did include a cover letter this time, the standard issue for me - you know, the one where I say I'm a Senior reviewer for Green Man Review and yes, my fantasy novella DID get published by a professional magazine. I'd like to think it makes a difference, but I guess it all depends on the editor.

Submitted "Golden Opportunity"

I submitted "Golden Opportunity" to Baen's Universe today, in the Universe Slush Pile forum at Baen's Bar. Best case scenario - my story is plucked from murky oblivion and placed in a reputable e-zine that pays professional rates. Worst case scenario - I get some helpful comments and a chance to rewrite.

Now on to work with "House Hunting."

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Rejected, and the Writing To-Do List

Heliotrope got back to me in less than a week to reject "Golden Opportunity" - that's either a very good or a very bad sign. There are still magazines out there - I'm thinking of trying Baen's Universe next because they have a special section for new writers and a forum that gives lots of feedback. So my writing checklist is as follows:

1. Submit "Golden Opportunity" to Baen's Universe

2. Prepare "House Hunting" for submission.

3. Rewrite "An Unmagical Age."

4. Rewrite "Joyful Noise."

5. Continue writing the first draft of "The Middle Child."

6. Keep plugging away at Reading 'The Willow King'.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Submitted - "Golden Opportunity" to Heliotrope Magazine

Thank you, Anonymous Commenter, for your advice - he/she suggested I try "Golden Opportunity" out at Heliotrope, a delightful magazine that not only can be read online (fave story so far: January Mortimer's "A Godmother's Gift"), but is currently accepting online submissions.

I've noticed a lot of magazines are now accepting online submissions - it didn't use to be so, did it? I wonder why...There are lots of reasons why, of course - the recent bump in U.S. postal rates might be one - but it seems like a sudden change to me. Maybe it's just that I didn't catch on to these magazines that now accept online submissions until recently. It does mean one has to be more careful, though. I don't know why it is, but I tend to read stuff on paper more carefully than words on a computer. E-mail is a fascinating messenger system, but it's still something of a casual system to me, if that makes any sense. There's something about sending a crisp, white manuscript in a manilla envelope with a white "postage paid" sticker on it that seems more formal than sending an attachment in an E-mail. I mean, my mother's friend sends attachments in E-mails, and more often than not they are videos of a man applying a Tazer to his reproductive organs for laughs. Not quite the same as a writer sending something out in the hopes of getting published.

There's also the Blackberry reason - people are reading on those now, but they still seem too small for me to read anything comfortable on. Still, I'm a dinosaur when it comes to handheld technology - I still use my parents' cell phone, and it doesn't take pictures or text or download or even fold in half like all the other ones do.

Still, it saves on both time and postage, so I have no complaints. I've recently sent E-mails to On Spec, since it's been four months since I submitted my story to them, and they're situated in the same city as me so it seems unlikely that the manuscript would have taken a horribly long time to get to them. I know they're very busy, but I did wait four months before E-mailing them. I just hope I don't have to wait another month for them to reply to the E-mail.

I also started another story, "The Middle Child." It's not a fairy-tale retelling, although it does have another misanthropic female teenage narrator. I seem to write a lot of them. I don't want to fall into a pattern, but a misanthropic female teenage narrator just seems the best fit for the particular story I have in mind (I got the idea from reading "A Godmother's Gift," although they're not alike at all). Maybe it's because I spent so much time being a misanthropic female teenage narrator myself.

Now I'm a misanthropic female twentysomething narrator.

Good gracious, I'm a twentysomething now, aren't I?

*cough* Moving on, I also finished the first draft of "Joyful Noise." It took a while, but I think it has a good foundation and could survive a couple of rewrites. It has some great actions scenes in it, I think.

Ah well, I'll just have to see how my writing turns out. I still have lots of ideas (I have one in mind about God's little brother and sister, which doesn't need a misanthropic female teenage narrator).

P.S.--> I apologize for posting the atrocious cover for Nicholas Nickelby - it was the best one that I could find on short notice.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Mouse House Rules

After a month working for the Mouse, I guess it's about time I started blogging about it. We sell just about everything with Disney character on it -- from striped Tigger jumpers for babies to Tinkerbell jewelery for adults to Hannah Montana pillows. It's bright and colourful and aimed mostly at children, but with some adult toys thrown in, like our collectable snowglobes and coffee mugs.

I've found that working there is an extremely tiring, but not unentertaining experience. While adults do come in looking for merchandise for themselves, the majority of customers are accompanied by small children and babies. The store has especially wide aisles to accomodate the caravans of tricked-out strollers and carriages, but during our busiest times I often wish those aisles came equipped with traffic lights and crossing guards to manage the crush.

And the children. There are so many of them - and they're not all on their best behaviour (although I've yet to encounter a true monster) - but they've provided me with so much writing material on parenting that it's totally worth it. In a month, I've encountered so many different types of parenting attitudes, I could fuel a hundred stories. I've seen children kept on leashes, children with those tiny sandals that make a loud squeaky-toy sound with every step so their parents know where they are, children who are refused a toy by a strict parent only to receive it from the indulgent grandmother two steps behind. We've had parents ignore the "over three" warning on toy labels because their toddlers are "smart." We've even had unaccompanied children whose parents are shopping in the next shop over who've mistaken our store for a free day-care centre.

I've seen a few "don't touch anything, and I mean it" parents, but for the most part the spirit is one of indulgence and spoiling, with the difference being in the scale. Parents end up buying birthday presents, other kids' birthday presents, "today's a sale and who knows when everything'll be this cheap again and my kids will only be kids once" presents, "just shut up already" presents, "we're going to Disneyland so we might as well get the same stuff in advance here while they're cheaper" presents, and "my children literally have everything else in the store" presents. I kid you not, I had to guest-service a grandmother who couldn't find a birthday present for her twin grandsons because everything I pointed out, they had already. "Spoiled rotten, they are," she growled, with the annoyance of a bear who's found out someone got to that picnic basket first.

Sure, the kids are loud, but you can understand the parents' need to drop the cash when you see a kid's reaction to a particular toy. Kids five and over tend to scream their appreciation - usually the character's name rather than the type of toy itself - ie, a boy receiving a Cars bubble machine will not go, "Cool, a bubble machine!" but rather, "LIGHTNING MCQUEEEEEN!" or a girl with a new Disney Princess swimsuit will shriek, "CinderELLA! CinderELLLLAAAAAAA!" Toddlers, oddly enough, are quiet when they get presents, which probably explains why they are getting them in the first place. My favourite scenes in the store are when a parent introduces a doll or a stuffed animal to a baby or toddler, and it ends up being the Huggies version of Love At First Sight. If the toy is satisfactory, the child will go completely silent, take the toy in their arms, and hug it so tight while smiling at everyone as if she'd spent all, what, two and half years of her life looking for this one toy.

Of course, once she and her mom or dad get to the till it's another story - the moment they take that toy out of her hands to ring it in she'll start screeching like a cheap car alarm and the Cast Member on till will have to manhandle a toy coated in loving baby saliva to look for the UPC tag that seven times out of ten has already been torn off. Delightful.

And of course, there are the annoyances that accompany any job in retail. For instances, the irresistible temptation for customers to pick out a bunch of stuff, realize they don't want it, and leave it wherever the hell they want. Or customers who start a till interaction (which we can't close without voiding everything) only to leave it in the middle to go shopping for something else while a line builds up behind. Or customers who don't see the blue ribbons that mark where the till line-up should be, so they line up in an aisle and get pissy when they realize they have to go all the way to the back of the real line before we can serve them. Or the customers who line up after those aforementioned people and are even pissier.

Customers who smell bad (either bad food or too-heavy perfume).

Customers who let their kids run buck wild.

Customers who enter the store two minutes to closing time to "just browse."

Customers who bring in coffee, drinks, and food, and then leave said garbage in the store.

Customers who come in to the Disney Store (which carries only DISNEY BRAND PRODUCTS) asking for Dora the Explorer, Madascar characters, Shrek, and Spider-Man (???).

And then, of course - there's the big screen at the back of the store that plays the same hour-long tape of trailers, Lilo & Stitch sing alongs, Little Mermaid song clips, and Disney Channel advertisements. I've seen the Ratatouille trailer and behind-the-scenes clips about a million times - luckily, I still want to see the movie itself, and my experience at the Movie Theatre (which also played a 40-minute trailer video non-stop) helped me to ignore it.

But so far I'm loving it, the pay and hours are good, and so far I don't seem to be screwing up too badly. So I think I'll stick around.

Trailer Talk

Saw a few new movie trailers today - thought I'd discuss:

Bee Movie: Yeah, sure - the few couple of live-action teasers were funny, but they didn't really explain a whole lot about the movie. The new, animated trailer (the story: a honey bee wants to explore the world, go fig) looks great, visually - and I think I might even be interested in seeing it, despite the fact that Dreamworks' computer animated movies have a tendency to be shallow, toy-coloured, artificially hip pop culture gags that suck ass (see: Shrek 2, the reviews for Shrek 3, Madagascar, wait - who made Barnyard again?).

Another trailer that just came out is for Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium - which looks to be in the style of Willy Wonka but without the cumbersome literary origin to be true to in adaptation. Dustin Hoffman has weird hair, Natalie Portman is cute as a button, and thank God Jason Bateman's getting work after Arrested Development! Plus, it's set in a magical toy store - which I can relate to.

Not that my toy store is magical - unless you are referring to the magic of Disney. But man - it's hard enough running after babies and kids in a place that sells ordinary clothes, toys, and dishware - imagine doing it in a place where stuffed animals hug you and dragons breathe fire? Looks good, but it has the misfortune to be out on American Thanksgiving, and that's the time I'm devoting to obsessing over Enchanted.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"A Princess of Roumania" by Paul Park

It's been a time-honoured tradition for little girls and boys in doorstop-thick fantasy novels to turn out to be princes and princesses in exile. They may have believed their lives were meant to be lived as orphans, pigkeepers, valley girls, or beggars, but whisk them off to a magical land, and they're suddenly royalty. Such fantasy tropes, like any other aspect of fantasy, can contribute to an excellent story when done well -- but they are done so often that the tedious, uninspired stories always outnumber the truly good ones.

Well, thank goodness for Paul Park, then. His A Princess of Roumania seems rote when described on paper. Miranda, an orphaned girl adopted by American parents from an orphanage in Romania, is whisked off to an alternate world, where she is really Princess Miranda Popescu, the one shining hope for alternate Roumania's uncertain future.

However, the punch of the story comes from the details that follow after the logline: Miranda, with her friends Peter (a troubled one-armed kid from school) and Andromeda (her outrageously popular, blond, BFF) are whisked into said alternate world only to discover that the supposedly "real world" of shopping malls, colonized American states, and a thriving United Kingdom was actually a fictional creation written by Miranda's aunt Aegypta and ninety of her best scholars to protect Miranda from her enemies. Romania's Communist despot Nicolae Ceaucescu, in a quirky bit of metahumour, turns out to have been named after Aegypta's enemy the Baroness Nicola Ceaucescu. The real world, it seems, is still sunk in a hellish 19th-century rut, the Germans are gaining power, and the British Empire has been all but annihilated by a tidal wave.

Meanwhile, the Baroness Nicola Ceaucescu, partially responsible for how Miranda and her friends were pulled out of the book Aegypta put her in, finds her problems mounting when Miranda does not magically materialize in Roumania (as Nicola planned), but instead arrives in a Massachusetts populated by savage British refugees. The impoverished and debt-ridden Baroness was set on selling Miranda to the Germans currently threatening Roumania, and with that avenue closed to her, tries to manipulate the Germans to disastrous effect.

So yes, Miranda is a princess -- one important enough to merit a host of baddies intent on her death or capture, as well as a covert league of allies loyal to her family. But Park adds so many bizarre, subtle details and plot twists (a murder mystery, a stolen gem, a boy who grows an extra arm that isn't his) that I have no idea what direction this trilogy is going in, only that it stands to be a good one, if this beautifully written introductory book is any indication.

Crush Du Jour Rating:
Thoughtful Adam
("Deceptively simple, original use of a tattered fantasy stereotype. A-.")

"If You Could See Me Now" by Cecelia Ahern

Yes, ladies and gentleman, this is the book I got at a bargain book store for the sole reason that I'd heard Hugh Jackman was going to be in a film adaptation of it. I hadn't read Cecelia Ahern before, but the idea behind the book appeared cool at first glance: a woman caring for her sister's child ends up falling in love with his imaginary friend (to be played by Jackman in the movie, I'm guessing).

Our protagonist, Elizabeth Egan, is a severely repressed control freak interior designer who specializes in calm, unthreatening colours and designs. Oh, and who obsessively cleans when she's bothered, which is a lot. Her rampant personal problems are related mostly to a series of over-familiar fiction tropes: 1) She wasn't loved enough as a child, 2) she's been secretly repressing a dark family secret, and 3) she's basically sacrificed any hope of a social life in her small Irish town due to her abusively selfish, alcoholic (and most likely mentally ill) sister Saoirse (pronounced Sear-sha).

Our other protagonist, Ivan (who bears a striking resemblance to Hugh Jackman...) is a professional imaginary friend. Yup - he has a boss and coworkers and meetings and everything. His last best friendship has recently ended (as most of his friendships are bound to), and he finds himself attached to a cute six-year-old named Luke. Luke's a pretty well-adjusted kid, considering that his mother Saoirse barely acknowledges his existance and his aunt Elizabeth (his legal guardian) has a pretty low tolerance for the chaos of childhood and child-raising in her rigidly ordered life.

At first, Ivan thinks this is just another case of play-with-kid, give-kid-tips-on-life, kid-stops-seeing-him kind of deal -- but that stops Elizabeth, an adult, starts detecting his presence. As Elizabeth eventually starts to see him, as well, Ivan realizes his assignment may not be to help Luke, but Elizabeth, overcome personal problems and learn how to adjust to life.

As a novel, If You Could See Me Now is a quick, easy read, but it's the kind of book where I think a movie adaptation might actually be a better fit for the story than the original novel. For one thing, there is a lot of redundant introspection in this book on Elizabeth's part, most of it dealing with her feelings of failure with her crazy-ass mess of a sister, her fears that she might fail Luke in the same way, and her unanswered questions about why her mother could never stay and take care of her for more than three weeks at a time. Her actions and reactions to events around her demonstrate these feelings and needs perfectly well, and a visual narrative would tidily eliminate the navel-gazing narrative that gets repetitive pretty quickly.

It might also make Elizabeth and Ivan's romance a little easier to believe. According to the description, Ivan's an unusual imaginary friend in that he looks like a slightly unshaven, adult man (most of his coworkers look like kids or pets) - but his narration reads like he has the mindset of a seven-year-old. It makes sense to his character, as he relates to kids very easily this way, and it's his job to be, psychologically, at their level, but this makes his suddenly adult yearnings for Elizabeth a little bizarre, especially as he describes his feelings for Elizabeth in his characteristic childish fashion ("Elizabeth is my most favourite," etc.).

The story's also painted with a fair number of broad strokes, and the narrative is hampered by a total dependence on unrealistic coincidences. There's a scene where Luke shows Elizabeth a picture he drew of his imaginary friend, and she's surprised that Luke's friend doesn't appear to be a child like himself, but a six-foot-tall man. She sees this as an odd fact, and then promptly forgets it, which seems uncharacteristic. Elizabeth is (repeatedly) described as someone who renounces all magic and imagination (as her own dreams never came true, *tear, tear*) so if I were in her shoes and found out my kid had a "secret friendship" with a strange adult, I'd have been at the police station asking for descriptions of nearby sex offenders faster than you can blink.

Especially once Elizabeth starts seeing Ivan for real. The book leans her obliviousness on the shaky excuse that Elizabeth has rendered herself deaf and blind to fantasy, but the fact that it takes so long for her to put two and two together (Luke's imaginary friend = six-foot-tall Ivan --> Mysterious stranger = also named Ivan, also six feet tall and buff) strained my disbelief to the limit. She spends almost the entire novel convinced that Ivan is the concerned father of one of Luke's school friends, despite the fact that Ivan makes several attempts to correct her and that no one else in town seems to see him. Elizabeth just conveeeeeniently misunderstands everything Ivan and her friends and coworkers say about her conversations with apparently empty air. And those same coworkers and friends just as conveeeeniently misinterpret her one-sided conversations, so that she conveeeeeniently isn't ordered to endure psychiatric counselling.

It eventuallys gets to be too beyond belief. It's redeemed a little by the end, which keeps the novel from falling completely into the fairy-tale abyss, but it's Ivan who actually keeps the story going. Yes, his narration sounds a little youngish, but his observations are cute and his interactions and reactions to Elizabeth are quite entertaining. While I enjoyed the concept of a woman falling in love with an imaginary friend, the redundant description, poorly-explained dark secret, broad characters, and unrealistic happenstance kept me from enjoying the book completely.
Crush du Jour Rating:

Cute Hugh ("Sweet, funny...and I'll wait for the movie. B-.")

Movie Review: "Knocked Up"

There are plenty of times when I've walked into a movie theatre with high expectations for a movie, and I'm sorry to say there have been many times when I've discovered that my enthusiasm was wholly unfounded (I'm still scarred for life from watching Monkeybone). I'm ecstatic to say that this wasn't the case with director Judd Apatow's first movie after The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

In many ways, Knocked Up can be seen as the de facto sequel of Virgin. While Virgin taught us the wonders of (finally) having sex as we watched the blossoming of a chaste romance, Knocked Up follows up with a story about the results of sex turning into a somewhat less than chaste romance. Seth Rogen stars as Ben Stone, a character not dissimilar to his Virgin role as Cal. An illegal Canadian immigrant living in a pot-smoke-marinated house with a bunch of equally stoned-out buddies, Ben lucks out when he scores a drunken one night stand with ambitious E! News correspondent Allison (Katherine Heigl, in a refreshingly un-crazy-blonde role). His luck peters out when a misunderstanding results in Allison's pregnancy.

It turns out that under Ben's dazed, unshaven, chubby exterior beats a pretty decent heart, and he agrees to give it a go with Allison, relationship wise, for the baby's sake. It's not easy, and a great deal of the film's verbal comedy comes from the characters growing and changing and adapting to their partners. Along with Rogen and Heigl, Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd star as Allison's sister and brother-in-law, a couple who married due to pregnancy and whose fracturing relationship does not bode well for the direction Ben and Allison's is headed in.

There are a lot of similarities with Virgin, and most of them are good ones. Many Virgin cast members return (including Steve Carell in a neat cameo), along with alums from Apatow's Freaks And Geeks days. Like Virgin, the core storyline revolves around the hilarious, painful, but ultimately positive changes the protagonist undergoes to earn the love of a woman. Ben, with his perpetual drug use, unemployment, and dependence on a dwindling amount of Canadian government money, seems a far cry from being worthy of a glowing, blonde career woman like Allison, but of course, if he was a stud, there wouldn't be much of a movie, now would there?

And, like Virgin, the movie's concept succeeds because the characters, for all their crude humour and flaws, are genuinely likeable, realistic, and good-natured people. The reason Knocked Up proceeds past the first fifteen minutes is because Ben is willing to live up to his responsibilities and is capable of understanding the significance of fathering a child. There are far too many rom-coms out there that rely on the tired tactic of making their protagonists artificially quirky or uncharacteristically cruel or selfish in an effort to make the repetitive plots entertaining and interesting. Apatow, instead, takes a well-worn relic of a plot (opposites attract) and spices it up with relatable realism combined with blink-and-you'll-miss it conversational humour.

Plus, it's seriously funny. True, while there are visual gags aplenty, Knocked Up appears to be, before all else, a listening comedy. The characters talk to each other, articulately and at length, and people munching loudly on their popcorn while waiting for Rogen to be hit in the groin with a football are going to walk away sadly disappointed.

For those of us with ears open, this was a real treat.

Crush du Jour Rating:

Elijah's super-keen! (Translation: "Never doubt the soothing, sensual powers of dorks! A!")