Thursday, 30 August 2007

Those camel couriers!

According to my admittedly iffy calculations, in a week or so I'll have an anniversary to celebrate. Yup, it'll be five months since the news that my novel sold, five months of waiting for the contract from the publisher, five months of living in no-man's-land. Feels more like five years. To understate it as best I can, I've been going totally nuts waiting. I spend the time constructively, imagining the following possible scenarios:

  • The editor at Dorchester had a change of heart and will get around to letting me know this, oh, whenever she gets around to it. (Sorry, Monica. It's not you. It's me.)
  • The editor just got a new job at a different publisher, and her pending deals have fallen by the wayside.
  • My agent invented the whole story about getting an offer. (Sorry, Sue. I only imagine this in my most schizzed out/unhinged/lunatic moments. No, don't ask me about the frequency of these 'moments'.)
  • I've been going through some sort of psychotic episode and will wake up and find that I'm actually still working at my teaching job, my son is still in high school, and I've never written anything, far less submitted a novel to anyone, anywhere.
  • I'm being punished by the Almighty for my sins. Like that one where... Oh, never mind that.
  • It's a conspiracy. Some evil entity is using all the players in this deal to carve out an individually-tailored version of hell for me. This is the trial run.

The problem is, basically, that I knew nothing about what is normal in this situation. Then Kevin came to my rescue in the comments section after I had been bitching about the contract yet again, and he explained the whole thing.

It's the camels! Yup, you read that correctly. Taking six months, seven, or even longer to get the contract out is normal in publishing. And it's all because of the camels. Jeez, why didn't I think of this? It makes so much sense now - more sense, in fact, than many other aspects of the business of publishing. Here's Kevin's exposé of a previously well-guarded secret:

"Only four months on the contract? A rule of publishing is contracts can only be transported on arthritic camels. No doubt with you being on an island this involves a lot of drowned dromedaries. My personal record is seven months, but I've heard longer."

Ya publishers out there, you've been outed. And I hope you don't try to hold me liable for all the camel corpses floating around the Caribbean Sea.

Hunk of the month: Tyson Beckford

Sorry, guys. This one's strictly for the girls. My hunk of the month is the part Jamaican, part Chinese, part Panamanian model and actor Tyson Beckford. A bit young for me, but I can look, can't I? Just call him one of my muses...

Monday, 27 August 2007

Stuff I hate

I hate it when I love a book and I enthuse about it to someone else - then find the person just doesn't feel the same way.

I hate when I love a movie and people complain that it did nothing for them. The English Patient, for example. People always complain about the length. To me, every moment was exquisite. Pavilion of Women was another. None of my cyber-pals liked it. My mother and sister did, and a couple friends here, but none of my distant friends. Must be a cultural thing.

I hate when all my plans to follow good advice come to naught. Write every day, they say. So I sit there with the edits and nothing clicks. My mind is a blank. I go to another project. Same thing. I give up and surf the net, or play Solitaire and Freecell. Then another day when I have no intention of doing any writing or edits I open the files and the work just flows. Going with my feelings seems to work for me, but I've read time and again that I'll never be a writer that way. Maybe I need to try harder.

I hate my habit of beating myself up for past mistakes.

I hate not having money to do the things I want to do RIGHT NOW. But then, no one told me to give up my day job... Not that I had the money to do whatever I wanted on a teacher's salary.

I hate the shrill peeping of the frogs around here sometimes. They just sound inane and too damned close for comfort. They're driving me nuts tonight.

I hate that I've been waiting four months for the contract from the publisher to arrive. Is this !@#$% normal?

I hate struggling with my weight. It's gone on too damn long.

I hate the vulgarity that passes for popular entertainment.

I hate looking back and remembering all the times I let the men in my life get away with a lot of crap because it never even entered my stupid, naive head that they would or could do the things they did.

I hate that people still throw garbage out of their cars here. Our normally quiet street has become a thoroughfare because of work on the main road. I just went outside and the grass verge is littered with beer bottles, plastic wrappers, juice boxes etc. To add insult to injury, some !@#$% dumped three bags of stinking garbage right at the end of our wall. A couple itinerant dogs materialized and they're having a field day. Who gets to clean up the mess? Moi!

I hate the way so many drivers here behave like maniacs on the road, exhibiting total disregard for other people's lives or their own.

I hate politicians. Hard to understand how these smug !@#$%s end up running the world.

Okay. My childish tantrum is over. Hope I got it all out of my system.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Thank you, Cheryl

I seem to be on a roll - two blog award nominations and now an autographed, advance copy of the Christmas anthology Christmas Gold by Cheryl St. John, Elizabeth Lane and Mary Burton. I entered my name for the draw on Cheryl's blog and forgot all about it. I just got the news that I won.

Tomorrow I'm gonna buy a coupla Lotto tickets, I swear.

Friday, 24 August 2007

August poet: Wilfred Owen

Greater Love

Red lips are not so red
As the stained stones kissed by the English dead.
Kindness of wooed and wooer
Seems shame to their love pure.
O Love, your eyes lose lure
When I behold eyes blinded in my stead!

Your slender attitude
Trembles not exquisite like limbs knife-skewed,
Rolling and rolling there
Where God seems not to care;
Till the fierce Love they bear
Cramps them in death's extreme decrepitude.

Your voice sings not so soft, --
Though even as wind murmuring through raftered loft, --
Your dear voice is not dear,
Gentle, and evening clear,
As theirs whom none now hear
Now earth has stopped their piteous mouths that coughed.

Heart, you were never hot,
Nor large, nor full like hearts made great with shot;
And though your hand be pale,
Paler are all which trail
Your cross through flame and hail:
Weep, you may weep, for you may touch them not.

When I started this blog two months ago my intended focus was writing, books, publication, and random subjects that impact my life. I rarely discuss religion or politics in my daily transactions, and I have no intention of discussing these on this blog. Sometimes, however, there is no way of separating politics or religion from life, or from literature. And lately, especially after I watch the news every night and am sickened anew, I'm haunted by Wilfred Owen's poems on the horrors of war.

The poems speak for themselves, with piercing irony. Most were published posthumously - he was killed in action in 1918, a week before the end of the First World War. He was 25.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Meme of Four

PJ has tagged me for this meme. It involves answering questions then adding your own question at the end.

Four jobs I've had or currently have in my life:
1. Accounting assistant
2. High school teacher
3. Human resource manager
4. Newspaper editor

Four countries I've been to:
1. USA
2. Venezuela
3. Barbados
4. Grenada

Four places I'd rather be right now:
1. Salybia Nature Resort & Spa
2. Tuscany, Italy
3. Vancouver, Canada
4. Pink Sands, Harbour Island, Bahamas

Four foods I like to eat:
1. Pelau (rice, meat & peas cooked in coconut milk)
2. Coconut mousse
3. Fresh fish in lemon butter sauce
4. Is chocolate food?

Four personal heroes, past or present:
1. My sister
2. My mother
3. Maya Angelou
4. Gerald Durrell

Four books you've just read or are currently reading:
1. The Partner by John Grisham
2. Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith
3. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
4. The Flood by Ian Rankin

Four words or phrases you would like to see used more often:
1. I disagree, but I respect your opinion
2. pissant
3. zaftig
4. lugubrious

My question: Four reasons for ending a friendship:
1. Friend doesn't respect my boundaries
2. Friend tries to manipulate me
3. Friend pries into what doesn't concern him
4. Friend refuses to accept platonic nature of relationship

I shall tag nyc/caribbean ragazza, anti-wife, kim and kaz, but only if you want to, guys. It's just for fun, no obligation. And kevin too, if he has the time - which I doubt.

Monday, 20 August 2007

For me? Awww...

PJ over at The Urban Recluse has given me an award! My first ev-ah blog award!

It's going right over there -> -> -> on the sidebar.

The Creative Blogger Award is actually the second. PJ also nominated me for a Schmooze Award earlier this month and I MISSED IT. [*bows head in shame*] I don't know how that happened but here it is, my very own...

As it goes, schmoozing is the natural ability “to converse casually, especially in order to gain an advantage or make a social connection.” Good schmoozers effortlessly weave their way in and out of the blogosphere, leaving friendly trails and smiles, happily making new friends along the way. They don’t limit their visits to only the rich and successful, but spend some time to say hello to new blogs as well. They are the ones who engage others in meaningful conversations, refusing to let it end at a mere hello - all the while fostering a sense of closeness and friendship.”

I'm still new to this blogging business, so I didn't realize I'm supposed to nominate five other bloggers for the awards. In the spirit of paying it forward, therefore, I hereby nominate the following for the Schmooze Award:

KS Augustin (how's that bomb shelter?)
Manic Mom (you crack me up)
Kim (the maraca girl)
Kevin (the random guy)
Nyc/Caribbean Ragazza (buon giorno!)

And for the Creative Blogger Award, here are my nominees:

The Anti-Wife (blogging from the heart)
The Clarity of Night (virtual campfire)
Water the Blog (Matt, master of satire)
This Beach Called Life (he shoots from the hip)
Kanani, the Easy-Writer (free irreverance)

I'd like to nominate a couple more people, but I'm obeying the rules (for a change). I'll nominate my other favourite blog-buddies next time around.

Update on Black and White

Earlier this month I posted a link to Kevin's discussion on the rise of interracial marriage in the US. Here's a Salon article on the same subject.

I tend to agree with this writer on most points. She mentioned the three positions taken by African Americans surveyed: approval of black-white relationships, disapproval, and the belief that people should marry whomever they please and that their choice is nobody's business but their own. I'm solidly in the third camp. Legislation didn't succeed in keeping the races from mingling intimately, and guilt and parental pressure won't succeed either. Erect a taboo and there will always be people who revel in breaking it. I like to think that western society is evolving beyond segregation in any form.

Don't know why I find this discussion so fascinating - maybe because I live in a truly multicultural society and find the racial tensions in the US and elsewhere somewhat startling. It's not that there aren't tensions and prejudices here, but like I've mentioned before, it's a question of degree.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Ahh! A movie I can love...

Just saw Blood Diamond, and I have to say it's been a long time since I was that blown away by a movie. There were just two points where I was able to withdraw for a moment or so and be analytical/critical. I won't mention these points because I assume that there are people who have not yet seen this movie, and I abhor spoilers. Suffice it to say that although the more nit-pickety might quibble over a scene or two, the movie as a whole more than made up for them.

The Academy Awards system is a mystery. This movie wasn't even nominated for Best Picture? As for the performances of Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou, all I can say is that I haven't seen the movies they were competing against, but the competition must have been entirely off the charts to beat these guys out. Especially Hounsou.

A confession is in order. I never could stand Leonardo DiCaprio - I think the Titanic business biased me for life - so I never took him seriously and I've made a point of avoiding his movies. But he impressed me in Blood Diamond. I have a newfound respect for the actor.

Djimon Hounsou is my new screen idol. What a presence. What a talent. His visceral, emotional portrayal of a complex character in an extreme situation is, for me, incomparable. Although I glimpsed him in Gladiator, I hadn't seen him in a major role (shame on me - I've yet to see Amistad), but I think I'm his fan for life.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Patriot Games

Hurricane Dean is wallowing into the islands north of us. Makes me ponder a peculiar idiosyncrasy of my countrymen - namely their deep-rooted conviction that God is a Trini. It makes for a certain... complacency.

Every other island in the Caribbean falls right inside the hurricane belt. Trinidad is located just south of the southernmost reaches of this swath. What this means is that we generally get tropical storm warnings and even hurricane warnings when a big storm is threatening the islands, but those storms don't hit us full on. Our sister island Tobago is a few miles north of us and as such isn't as lucky.

About 15 years ago a hurricane was running south of the usual path and the weather centres predicted that we would get a direct hit. Panic ensued. Supermarkets, gas stations, etc were packed with frantic Trinis who waited until the last possible moment to venture out and buy up everything in sight. If the generalized feelings at the time could be encapsulated into one word, that word would be 'unprepared'. So strong is the belief that God would never visit a full-fledged hurricane on this island - He's a bona fide citizen after all - that many people ignored all warnings and threw hurricane parties. Popular watering holes overflowed with merrymakers on the night the storm was supposed to slam into the island. The lager and rum flowed, people danced in the streets...

Yeah. Down here we're crazy that way.

It so happened that the eye of the hurricane passed precisely midway between Trinidad and Tobago, and the storm proceeded to devastate Venezuela. You'd think that such a near miss, that the news of widespread death and destruction on our South American neighbour would have sobered us up a bit, huh? That we'd swear to act more responsibly the next time around? Heed the warnings, be prepared?

Uh-uh. The next day, the national conviction was stronger than ever. Faith was fully restored. We had nothing to fear. Ever.

After all, God is a Trini.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

The flibbertigibbet

I call her Chicken, as in 'running-around-like-a-headless-chicken'. She calls me Evil Aunt. She gives me no peace.

She calls in the middle of the day from sail camp to tell me how bored she is. In the middle of mooning about the general boringness of her life, she emits an ear-splitting shriek, followed by "No! NO! Gimme that...!" And then there's - silence.

"Hullo?" Nothing.

"Hullo?" Nothing.

"Chicken, are you there?" More nothing.

She's gone. I sigh and switch off the phone, planning to give her my "I'll add you to my screened calls list" lecture. Not that that has any effect.

Then there are the visits. "Auntie!!!" she shrieks from outside the gate, and before I can gather my wits she's in the room.

"Girl, how many times do I have to tell you to KNOCK? One day you're gonna bolt in here and find me NAKED!"

"Auntie, please, that's just gross." And she launches into the extended version of 'My Week In Review', with emphasis on those boys, Boys, BOYS!

Her grandmother, my mother, looks in, disapproval writ large on her face. I'm encouraging the child, she's obviously thinking. I would never, as a twelve year old in my mother's house, have mentioned that taboo 'b' word anywhere within her hearing. Never would have given her any reason to suspect I was one of those girls who were, to use her expression, 'studying boys'.

They all say the girl is just like me - or rather, the me I was at her age. I frown, trying to recall. Was I ever that joyous? That free-spirited? That innocent and bubble-brained? Must have been a whole other lifetime ago.

The best years of my life have been the ones I spent raising my son, The Wild, Intrepid Jungle Boy. My niece, The Chicken, is unveiling another chapter of the story to me - the girlie side. It's kinda cool.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

August writer: Rosa Guy

Rosa Guy was born in Trinidad in 1925. When she was seven her family migrated to the United States, and she grew up in New York City’s Harlem. Orphaned as a teen, Rosa and her sister lived in many foster homes and other institutions. She quit school at age 14 and took a job to support them. During World War II she became active in the American Negro Theatre. She attended New York University where she studied theater and writing. A number of her works deal with the realities of life in the urban American ghetto, the realities of life in the West Indies, family conflicts and the responsibility of family members to look after and love one another.

Ms. Guy is the author of fifteen novels, and has edited and translated several volumes. Along with with John Oliver Killens, she co-founded the Harlem Writer’s Guild, a writing workshop for aspiring black writers. Her work has received the Coretta Scott King Award, The New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year citation, and the American Library Association’s Best Book Award. In July 2005, Rosa was honored for her great body of literary work with the Phyllis Wheatley Award, given by the Harlem Book Fair. She lives in New York.

Bird at My Window (1966) is her debut novel. "Its brave examination of a loving, yet painful, relationship between a black mother and her son is even more important today. Rosa Guy is a fine writer and she continually gives us new issues to contemplate." - Maya Angelou

Other novels include: The Friends (1973), Ruby (1976), The Disappearance (1979), A Measure of Time (1983), and New Guys Around the Block (1983). My Love, My Love, or The Peasant Girl (1985) was adapted into the highly successful Broadway musical Once on This Island which was nominated for eight Tony Awards.

Saturday, 11 August 2007


One of my friends has been asking why I post pics of hot guys but no girls. My response? Duh!!!

I'm taking pity on him today. So just for you, Vaughn, here's your 'girlfriend' - the sexy, the edgy, the Goth, the tattooed Persia White of Girlfriends fame.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Black and White

Kevin has an interesting post on the rise of interracial marriage in the US... Black and White.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Books for Writers

I've added my favourite books on writing to the sidebar, as well as some that I haven't read yet but which come highly recommended and are languishing on my 'to buy' list. If anyone knows of any others that have been particularly helpful, please mention them in the comments and I'll add them to the list.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

What I'm reading right now...

This is the second book in the #1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Rhodesian-born author Alexander McCall Smith.

I fell in love with the first one, and intend, naturally, to read through the series. In Tears of the Giraffe we meet again the delightful Mma Ramotswe, wise, rotund proprietress of the agency, and her estimable fiance Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. Set in Botswana, these stories ooze wisdom, heart and philosophy. The luminosity of the simple prose somehow transcends the ordinary and infuses the reader with the author's obvious love for Botswana, for Africa, and for its people who (surprise! shock!) are just like people everywhere - people who are in danger of losing the very essences that make them unique and wonderful.

Once again we get to travel the dusty roads of Gabarone and environs with Precious Ramotswe as she unearths answers for her burdened clients and foils the vengeful plans of her fiance's inimical maid.


In January 2005, as I scanned through Yahoo's Weekly Picks in my inbox, I stumbled across a blog by an anonymous literary agent who called herself Miss Snark. I had just sent out a batch of e-queries to agents, and the responses were beginning to come in - a bunch of polite refusals, one request for an exclusive, two requests for partials and one agent who wanted the complete manuscript right off.

Over the next months my life got a bit more stressful: agents were reading; the one with the full called to offer representation two months after I sent the package; I signed with her; she began marketing the novel. I could have gone crazy with the tension, but Snark's blog saved me. I read it everyday, several times a day, learned about the industry, laughed at her wit, was part of a great community of writers. Although I myself was anon, I came to know and appreciate many of the regular commenters, the vast majority of whom were unpublished/wannabe/author hopefuls - just like me.

One such regular was Orion. She doesn't know who I am, but I remember her. When I started this blog almost two months ago I decided to look up the blogs of some of the commenters I remembered from Snark, and that's when I found out that Orion's debut novel, Lottery, was going to be released on August 2. And not just released, but released in grand style.

Orion is Patricia Wood, a 54 year old writer who lives on a boat in Hawaii (I can hear my surfer son shouting "Hawaii! Waves! Swells!") She is right now living the extreme fantasy of every writer: the dream agent, the book auction, the six-figure advance, the publisher who spends major moolah on publicity, the foreign rights sales to 10 countries, the features in major magazines and newspapers, the signings, the movie buzz, the mind-boggling Amazon and Barnes & Noble sales rankings that took off before the book was even released...

She's living the dream, and sharing it with us on her blog and website. I don't know if I'd feel any more excited if it were me.

Thanks for sharing, Orion. I'm looking forward to reading Lottery. Congratulations. I - along with the teeming hordes of the 'devotion' from Snark's, I'm sure - wish you stratospheric success with Lottery, and a long, glorious writing career.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Holidays, mothers and wrens

It's just past midnight and the Emancipation Day holiday is officially over. The visitors have departed, my mother is fast asleep, and I'm bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, sitting alone at my computer and reflecting. It was a good day; the weather was cool and rainy, but the rain was not thunderous and torrential. My brother dropped off my niece and nephew; I slipped Cellular into the dvd player and they had a blast, watching it end to end twice. Then my sister turned up. My mother got busy in the kitchen; now that the cardiologist has assured her that there is nothing wrong with her heart she's getting back into form, much to our relief. I reminded her that I had given her the same diagnosis for free, but she wasn't impressed.

At one point during the morning I heard a familiar warble. I looked up at the open strip between the ceiling and the top of one wall of my bedroom and realized that the house wrens were back. It felt like a blessing. I hope they stick around.

These tiny birds, known locally as coco-rachelle, have shared this house ever since my mother moved in six years ago. They nested under the eaves and frequently came indoors, much to our delight. They are feisty, hyper little things, and their crisp chirps are pleasant, but they really come into their own vocally just before a rainshower when they burst into rich, bubbly, warbling song as they flit along under the eaves and on the exposed rafters of the bedrooms. They love the rain. I do too.

The last time I returned home from an eighteen month stint abroad, I realized that the wrens had disappeared. Then about two weeks ago five or six of them appeared one afternoon on a pawpaw tree near to the house. I was sitting at the computer, the front door was open, and the next thing I knew something had streaked through the air, hit me on the leg and disappeared under the table. It was a fledgling house wren. I picked it up and placed it outside close to the spot where its hysterical relatives had gathered, and hoped that they would get it before a cat did. I left them to it, and after awhile the chirping and fluttering faded. I forgot about them. Until today.

They're nesting somewhere nearby, and I hope they return and set up another little colony in our eaves. They're wonderful houseguests. I love this valley, and the rich bird life is one of the reasons that I feel that way.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Today in T&T: Emancipation Day

On August 1, 1985, Trinidad and Tobago became the first country in the world to declare a national holiday to commemorate the abolition of slavery.

All former slave societies are still struggling to counter the grim legacies of slavery: the racism, economic inequalities, and psychological damage. In Trinidad, however, the historical experience of slavery does not conform completely to the wider experience.

The British annexation of Trinidad came at a time when English opposition to slavery was winning popular approval. Trinidad, as a result, was administered as a Model Colony, in respect of laws governing the treatment of slaves.
What this meant was that slavery in Trinidad was somewhat more 'benevolent' than elsewhere, if such a word may be used in this context. The system was heinous and there were cruelties everywhere; the difference here was that of degree.

After Emancipation, Trinidad experienced massive immigration of former slaves from other Caribbean islands, the importation of almost 150,000 indentured Indian labourers, as well as the influx of free blacks from the US and liberated Africans from Sierra Leone. Indentured Chinese labourers arrived, along with Madeirans (Portuguese) and Syrian and Lebanese immigrants. Together with Trinidad's milder experience of slavery, immigration has helped to shape this society into a unique historical and cultural entity, one that enjoys the richness of diversity in every sphere of life on the islands, from the music to the cuisine, the language to the art.

Establishing a post-colonial society such as ours is problematic and involves struggle, trial and error, success and defeat. In spite of this, every Trinidadian is aware that this is a special place, a unique place, and as such is worth all the struggle.

Ref: Trinidad & Tobago News Bulletin Board