Monday, February 25, 2013

Re-Write the Oscars

What a disaster!  Though normally not one to watch the Oscars – this being the first show in years that I planned to see –like millions of others, I tuned in to check out the dress designs and hear the acceptance speeches.  What was I thinking?

I’m not an avid moviegoer, but I enjoyed a few shows this year.  Watching television is not a big part of my routine either, so I was unfamiliar with some of the ‘big’ stars.  

Speaking of big, it appeared that the majority of the actresses were six feet tall or over.  Amazing because they don’t appear to be that tall in the movies.  Initially, I thought the interviewer was extraordinarily short but then noticed that the celebrities dwarfed most of the network people.  These women were amazons standing next to them.  Even many of the wives and girlfriends towered over their celebrity husbands/dates. 

The majority of the female stars were in incredibly fit condition.  How do they stay so slim??  They emitted stunning Hollywood glamour in their sleek body moulding dresses.  To me, movie star glamour is what it’s all about.

Naomi Watts got a thumbs up from me on her stunning design.  Fashion gurus gave her dress a thumbs down.  No accounting for taste.  Some of the fashions were definite hits and, unfortunately, others left a lot to be desired. 

I’m glad I caught the red carpet segment because, in my opinion, that was the best part of the show.

Seth MacFarlane’s opening was so bizarre –so distasteful – it took restraint not to turn off the television before a single winner was announced.  William Shatner was the best part of the opening, but even he couldn’t save it.  Did the in-house audience really expect something that off-the-wall?  I expected everyone – or at least a few – to get up and walk out.

The show didn’t really improve much.  Shirley Bassie’s performance was an embarrassment.  Goldfinger will never be the same.  I cringed.  Yes, watching the show was one long and uncomfortable squirm. 

I can’t comment on much else because at that point I decided that hearing Affleck’s acceptance speech wasn’t worth the torture.  Speaking of torture, Ben Affleck must have had some awkward moments after the movie Argo was released.  Canadians are nice guys, but even nice guys speak up when they are misrepresented. 

I had seen the movie Argo, but hadn’t realized how Affleck twisted history until I heard interviews with Ken Taylor and other Canadians involved in the rescue of the Americans.  I found it incredible that Affleck had not spoken to Ken Taylor, or to my knowledge any of the Canadians involved, before the movie was made.  Ben Affleck, shame on you. 

Even former President Carter chastised the movie’s depiction of events saying, “90 percent of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian.  And the movie gives almost full credit to the American CIA.”  Way to go, Carter!

Because of the hoopla when the movie was released, I wondered if Affleck would say something during the acceptance speech – if he won – as an apology to the Canadians.  Not much Affleck can do about this injustice after the fact.  It’s too bad because it will always reflect poorly on his work.  Well, maybe just from the Canadian viewpoint.

The whole Oscar evening was a wash for me.  Thankfully, I didn’t have company over to watch the show with me, as was my original intention.  I was able to shut off the TV and go to bed. 

To think, I could have been curled up with a good book!!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Jean Rae Baxter – The Write Read

There was evil, wrongdoing, and twisted little minds everywhere.  With each turn of the page, Baxter impressed me.  Finally, a kindred spirit. 

A writer friend had pressed a copy of the short story collection, A Twist of Malice, into my hands and said, Jean Rae Baxter is an award-winning author from Hamilton, Ontario and she writes dark stories.  You’ll like her.

Being the only writer in our group whose muse encourages crime and suspense, I often feel like a misfit.  In a recent blog I said, Imagine a gathering of writers, elbow to elbow, sharing their traditional haiku, literary prose, and symbolistic poetry and then I’m next in line with, ‘The knife dangling from his fingers dripped a bloody path to the bathroom.’

This introduction to Baxter was a way of showing support for my genre of choice – crime fiction.  That’s what I like to think anyway. 

My friend had piqued my interest.  Not only was Baxter a noir writer, but Seraphim Editions publishes her work.  A publisher I had researched for my creative non-fiction collection. 

Hmmm ...  a book of short stories.  I’d rather sink my teeth into a novel.  Short stories tend to be so ... short.  Yet, I was intrigued.  Intrigued enough to read A Twist of Malice.

Not only is Jean Rae Baxter an excellent writer, she’s a great storyteller.  An unbeatable combination.  Her characters make the stories come alive.  I don’t care what your plot is, if your characters don’t measure up, your story falls short.

Baxter not only has great characters but she has DETAIL in her book.  I love DETAIL.  How does she write riveting stories with great characters and voluminous detail in so few words?  Not all writers can master the short story. 

Naturally, appreciating her writing style and storytelling led me on a search of her other works.  The librarian suggested her novel, Looking for Cardenio, a story about a play by Shakespeare that had been lost since 1613.  As much as I like Jean Rae Baxter’s writing, the storyline did not interest me. 

Undeterred, the librarian scanned the shelves for a copy.  The story description on the back cover was too compelling to pass up.  I couldn’t help wondering if the blurb was taken from the query the author sent to the publisher. 

Fortunately, the next day I was snowed in and had to stay in my p.j.’s (not really HAD to, but it seemed like a good idea) and didn’t stop reading until I finished the novel.

I tingled with the discovery of a ‘new’ favourite author.  The same tingle I feel when I see a new Like on my facebook page, or the taste of goat cheese and sautéed onions on a cracker – preferably with a glass of red wine.

I have a lot of catching up to do.  I look forward to reading Scattered Light, another collection of short stories of murder and revenge.

A fan is born – sorry it took so long to find you, Jean Rae Baxter!

For more information on the author including her historical fiction trilogy, visit her website at  or

Monday, February 11, 2013

To Write a Novel or Short Story

I’m living with Doris Mead and Emily David.  Or maybe they're living with me.  Regardless, we are in each other’s space.

My favourite genre is crime fiction.  A couple of months ago I finished another full-length novel – a psychological suspense.  It was exciting to write and when it’s published I hope you will find it an exciting read.

It was my intention to write and submit some short stories in this genre before tackling another novel.  Emily and Doris were to be the protagonists in a short story.  It was a challenge from the start.  You see, short stories don’t come easily for me.  Mostly because I’m anal for detail and character background.  Have I told you that before? 

For instance, I researched everything I could think of on the era of the story.  Even the Korean War.  I mean, who would do that for a short story.  I know the wages, the top 100 hits, and the vehicles – right down to their whitewalls. 

I spent hours researching women’s shoe styles, if you can believe it.  By the way, there’s a big difference in the styles from the early 50’s to the mid 50’s − details are important.  Afterall, I have to picture these people in my mind. 

I can’t deny that novels are my preference.  Introducing in-depth characters and conflicts – the highs and lows – the suspense that tugs the reader in one direction, and then slowly back in another.  The characters and conflict are key. 

That’s where Emily and Doris come in.  Doris isn’t a problem.  She’s dead.  Emily, now, Emily is a different story ... pardon the pun.  She’s an 83 year old widow.  She lives a quiet life – to the point of boring.  Yet, that’s not how I could describe her lifestyle in the early 1950’s.  Now, there lies the problem.  It’s all about what happened one summer night sixty years ago.

When Emily tells about that July night in 1953, she could fill a book.  Yeah, that’s what I said – a book!

So, here I go again.  I’m not sure if I feel as strongly about Emily and Doris as I did about the characters in my last novel.  They wouldn’t leave me alone for a minute until finally I started writing.

So, for now, I’m living with Emily David to see how far she pushes me and how desperate she is to tell her story – to tell it before it’s too late – before the story is buried forever with The Bones of Doris Mead.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Robert McCammon - The Write Read

When the publisher requested critical changes to the manuscript, he refused to make them.  He said he would have to break the contract before he would change his book.  He believed in it that strongly .  The rest, as they say, is history...

In the early nineties, a friend passed along some paperbacks she thought I would enjoy reading.  There might have been a half dozen of them.  But, only one I remember.  Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon. 

I read it, talked about it, then read it again.  I gave the book to my son to read.  Probably the first time I’d ever passed along one of my books to him.  He was around fourteen at the time.

Due to downsizing over the years, I’ve had to be very selective about which books I keep.  I never considered parting with Boy’s Life.  It’s a classic.  A few years ago, my son bought me a new copy to replace the one held together with an elastic band.

Robert McCammon has a staggering imagination.  No, not every writer does.  McCammon fearlessly combined mystery with fantasy with action with suspense and tied them all up in one incredible story.

This book has it all.  Is that what makes it unforgettable?  Not really.  There are many reasons.  For me, one stands out above the rest.

It goes back to my love of people.  I love meeting the characters in books.  You see, that is my weakness and my strength – protagonists and antagonists.  The more realistic the better.  Actually, the most unrealistic character that seems real is even better than that.

Boy’s Life has the most credible as well as the most extraordinarily unbelievable cast.

In my opinion, McCammon’s most admirable quality is his talent for getting inside his characters − becoming his characters.  Most writers do that, but wait, he has an even rarer talent. 

He draws the reader, not only into the story but also into these characters, until we become a part of them and experience everything as breathlessly as they do. 

This author gave me the opportunity to wander around the mind of an eleven-year-old boy.  Feel his fears.  See the world through his eyes.  I could have sworn an eleven-year-old boy wrote that book.  McCammon is that good. 

Having said that, you have to know that as soon as I finished Boy’s Life I searched out other books that he wrote.  I read all of them.  However, none came close to the magic of Boy’s Life. 
It is clear from McCammon’s interviews, that this novel holds a special place in his heart, too.  Of course, he couldn’t agree to the publisher’s suggested changes to his book.  For him, it was clear from the start that this was his book of books. 

Writers like Robert McCammon spark something in me.  It's like an invitation to walk through an open door and lose myself in the world of unfettered imagination.  It's freedom.   Reading Boy’s Life is an adrenalin rush.  The unbelievable becomes believable.

Robert McCammon is an inspiration to all writers, regardless of genre.  We have to be brave enough, strong enough, and honest enough to write from the heart.  Even then, there’s only one Robert McCammon.