Saturday, 24 May 2008

Hunk of the Month: The many faces of Viggo

Most people would recognize him from his role as Aragorn in Lord of the Rings, but I saw him first in A Perfect Murder playing the sexy 'other man' to Gwyneth Paltrow's unhappy wife character. He was contemptible yet utterly compelling to the point where I could easily - easily - understand how a woman confronted with someone like him could fall hard. He was exactly the sort of guy you should run from, but don't. He had the fascinating charm of the serpent, of the rebel, the dropout, the nonconformist. He radiated sex and danger. He was irresistible. I asked back then: Who is this guy? Who is he?

Then I saw G.I. Jane and didn't even recognize him in the role of hardass Master Chief John James Urgayle. When the credits rolled I did a double take. He's that good! Hidalgo followed, and that cowboy was the stuff of dreams. **sigh**

So what exactly do I like about him? What's there not to like? I particularly love the intensity in his eyes, the aura of self-possession. To put it in local parlance, he's 'mucho hombre'.

Mr. Mortensen's offscreen persona is no less fascinating. Born in New York in October 1958 to a Danish father and American mother, Mortensen spent the early part of his childhood in Manhattan. He speaks fluent English, Spanish, Danish, and French, and also speaks Swedish and Norwegian reasonably well. This man has:
  • worked as a truck driver while living in Denmark.
  • been photographing for years and debuted with an exhibition at the Robert Mann Gallery in NYC.
  • is a poet, and published a book of poetry before he became well known.
  • owns a publishing company, Perceval Press.
  • has been named one of the sexiest men by a number of magazines, and ranked number ten on VH1's Hottest Hotties.
  • is a jazz musician (has released three CDs so far).
  • is a painter - he actually painted the large murals in his artist's studio in the film A Perfect Murder (1998)
As I said, what's there not to like? Awesome. Awesome.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Inquisition Meme

Saw this over at Chumplet's and liked it.

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about him/herself.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read the player’s blog.
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

What were you doing ten years ago?
Teaching high school English, raising my son, living higher up this beautiful valley. First novel was complete, an editor at Kensington's Arabesque line had asked me to submit the whole manuscript. I submitted it, too, although it was 10,000 words too short, sans synopsis, and my bio was printed on lovely decorative paper. Yes, folks. I was a nitwit. **hangs head in shame** Needless to say, I never heard back from that editor and it would be three years before the additional chapters got written, by which time I had left my job and was living in another country, and four more years before I got serious about querying.

What are five things on your to-do list for today?
1. Write a post for my writer's group, the Novel Racers.
2. Do some laundry.
3. Call my son and touch base.
4. E-mail a certain Orange-nominated writer to ask her where she got the lovely countdown meter that used to be on her blog.
5. Nap.
Yes, today is a holiday (Corpus Christi) so the pressure is off. I should be editing manuscript no. 2, as well. Won't go there.

What are some snacks you enjoy?
1. Fruity yogurt.
2. Anything chocolate, especially After Eight with the minty cream inside.
3. Salmon flavoured cream cheese.

What would you do if you were a billionaire?
1. Pay off debts.
2. Invest a tidy sum so I'd have an income for life.
3. Move to Vancouver and buy a lovely house - you can garden there almost year-round.
4. Buy my sister those horses I've been promising her.
5. Support my favourite foundations and charities.
6. Help other people to realize their dreams.

What are three of your bad habits?
1. When I'm stressed by something, I take to my bed.
2. All things chocolate.
3. Procrastination.

What are five places where you have lived?
1. St. Ann's, Trinidad
2. Maraval, Trinidad
3. Diego Martin, Trinidad
4. Florida, USA
5. Grenada, briefly

What are five jobs you have had?
1. English teacher.
2. Accounts clerk at an air cargo company. Didn't stay long enough to take advantage of the 10% air tickets.
3. Administrative assistant.
4. Human resource manager.
5. Is writing a job?

What were the last five books you read?
1. Che Guevara by David Sandison
2. Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith
3. Lovers' Hollow by Orna Ross
4 .On Writing by Stephen King (third time)
5. A Visible Darkness by Jonathan King

What’s playing on your iPod right now?
I don't have an iPod, but now that I've seen my sister's iPod Touch I'm sooooo tempted.

I'm not tagging anybody - feel free to do your own.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Author in the spotlight: Ask Orna Ross!

Orna Ross is a writer. She's no ordinary writer, though. She's the author of Lovers' Hollow (Penguin 2006) and A Dance in Time (Penguin Sept. 2008). She's also a literary agent (Font Literary Agency & Writing Centre) and creative writing coach. As such she is uniquely placed to share her insights into the craft and business of writing and publishing.

Her blog tour began last month and continues here today with an interview and question session. Visitors have all day today to ask her about her books, about writing, about literary agents and publishing. Just post your questions in the comments trail and Orna will answer them by the time Monday comes around!

Orna, welcome to the blog! I've read Lovers' Hollow and it was truly a treat for me. There was so much that I could identify with, so much that I recognized: the Catholic schools, the urge to rebel and assert, the complexities and ambiguities of relationships, the pop culture references. I identified with Jo Devereux from the start, if not experientially then certainly emotionally. And the plot kept me hooked to the very end. Congratulations on an impressive achievement! Tell us about your journey to this point.

I had been working in freelance journalism for 15 years and my 40th birthday was looming. Having always wanted to write a novel, I knew the time had come - I had to make a start. At first I thought I would be able to combine fiction writing with my journalism work, which I loved. I didn’t know then what I know now – that the writing makes deep demands of you. It is such a big thing to want, it can’t just be fitted in on the sidelines. Not the kind of fiction I write anyway. So it soon became evident that I was going to have to stop my journalism and academic writing, not to mention TV watching and other pursuits, if I wanted to make this happen.

Who is your target audience?

Orna: My target audience is women, although I know men read my books too. Women who want to read stories that reflect the complexities of their lives. Mine are not simple boy-meets-girl novels, although of course I write about love as well as murder and mystery and many other things.

How have your personal experiences influenced the direction of your writing?

I grew up in Ireland where there is great focus on history but where the stories that are told about the past – our 800 years of oppression by the English, for example – never seemed satisfactory to me. Too simplistic. Lovers Hollow grew out of my own family experience. My father’s uncle was shot in the Irish Civil War but nobody in the family ever talked about it. Our village was still divided about this conflict, with families not speaking to each other, when I was growing up, 50 years after it happened. The silence that swirled around the topic drew me to it. Wherever there is silence, there is pain and concealed truth and that draws me, like a magnet.

Orna, I'm hopping over to the comments trail now to continue the questions. See you there!

Friday, 16 May 2008

Coming Sunday: Chat with Orna Ross

On Sunday 18th May I'll be hosting an interview with Orna Ross on the blog. Orna is the author of Lovers' Hollow and is also a literary agent (Font Literary) and creative writing teacher, so she is uniquely placed to answer questions both on the craft and the business side of writing. A few weeks ago Caroline Smailes hosted her live and it was a great success; lots of people dropped by with questions for Orna which she answered promptly and everyone had a good time.

Since I'm in the Caribbean and visitors to my blog are scattered around the globe, we're doing things a little differently: visitors may leave their questions in the comment trail all day Sunday and Orna will post her responses on Monday.

The blog will be open for questions from 6AM Sunday 18th to 6AM Monday 19th May - UK time.
That translates to:
1AM Sunday to 1AM Monday - US Eastern time / Caribbean time
3AM Sunday to 3AM Monday - US Pacific time
Midday Sunday to midday Monday in Thailand, Singapore and thereabouts
9AM Sunday to 9AM Monday in Dubai
And everywhere else in between. I think that covers both sides of the globe.

Everyone is welcome to drop by with writing, agenting and publishing questions! Several people did not get to ask their questions of Orna when Caroline hosted; I couldn't get in myself, it was so crowded in there! Here's another chance - apart from which, I'll be simply mortified if nobody showed up. So come on over!

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Mother's Day photos

An anthurium lily basks in the shade of the mango tree

My son took these shots of my mom's yard today, then he and I went off to attend an art exhibition at the Creative Arts Centre in St. Augustine. One of his friends who's a student there was exhibiting, and we had a lovely afternoon watching paintings, sculptures and dramatic costume presentations. Richard and his surfboard even featured in one of his friend's paintings. As we stood there admiring it (she's good, and I'm not saying that just because...) strangers would look at the painting, then at my son, then back again. Then they'd approach him and say: That's you! - at which point my son would try to look mystified while the rest of us (the girl's parents, her brother and I) burst into laughter. It was a lovely way to spend the afternoon.

The tomatoes are fantastic this year, huge and plentiful

She has chives planted everywhere

My brother brought her some dahlia tubers from Florida and she planted them in pots. This is the first flower to open.

An oncidium, the bee orchid

Another orchid by the back step. Don't know the name of this one.

The julie mangoes are coming along...

Marigolds, known locally as stinking susie, growing wild near the front wall.

Impatiens drooping in the afternoon heat

Lettuce, with water grass competing for space

Bee in cosmos

This makes a great ground cover and is virtually unkillable. The small purple flowers are the icing on the bush.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Ode to keyboard

I've been using an old laptop of my brother's since my computer died last year. My bro swears it's the best computer he's ever had. It's got quite a personality, this old Sony.

The '3' and '4' number keys don't work, which means that the number and dollar signs don't either. I either have to bring up the onscreen keyboard and do acrobatics, or activate the keypad thingy which shares keys with several letters of the alphabet. Of course I never remember to turn it back off until I type something like this: t was a dar2 and st6r0y n5ght.

The screen was shattered by my niece and/or nephew (who never confessed to the crime), so the laptop is hooked up to the monitor from a brand new computer I bought last year that died after three months. A rather uncomfortable arrangement.

Sometimes, for no discernable reason, the cursor takes off for parts unknown, so I type away busily until I glance at the screen and it dawns on me that I've just typed an entire paragraph somewhere in the middle of a mess of text well north of the actual bullseye.

There are several missing function keys as well - no, not the naughty niece and nefarious nephew again: I mean missing as in no smart designer has come up with them yet.

A 'wtf' key.
An 'oh, shit!' key.
A 'go to hell' key.
A 'leave me the hell alone can't you see I'm working' key.
A key that transmits a maniacal braying sound when I'm seriously tickled by something I read on a blog. LOL just doesn't cut it.

Which keys are missing from your keyboard?

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Me, Myself & I

With the publication date for my first novel drawing closer, I've been preparing to go into promotions mode, mostly by reading as much as I can on the subject and making notes. I have to be honest here: the idea of going out and promoting myself or my product used to freak me out massively. When I first began this blog it was with trepidation and trembling at the mere idea of putting myself 'out there'. It was so bad that I didn't make the blog public for several weeks while I tried to find the nerve to engage the world wide web. Suppose it was a disaster? Suppose nobody came? Suppose people did come but turned out to be awful purveyors of negativity like I've seen in other places?

Wordtryst is almost a year old and it has been nothing but good. Never, not once, has any visitor been anything but positive and supportive. I now have a sense of community that I didn't have before. The interaction with other bloggers has brightened my days and lifted my spirits. It has entertained and informed me way, way beyond my expectations. I credit this positive experience with the startling realization that I no longer dread the promotion process; on the contrary, I look forward to it. People have been kind. Surely they will continue to be thus, and if I should encounter the dark side it'll be with the knowledge that negativity is the exception rather than the norm.

I found a really helpful page on writer Sheila M. Goss's website that I decided to print out. It's based on a workshop she offers, I gather: Promoting Your Finished Book on a Budget. The budget part caught my attention; 'on a budget' is actually a euphemism for 'with little or no money' where I'm concerned, as it must be for most beginning authors out there. Ms. Goss discusses the following points:

Press releases
Word of mouth
Cross promoting
Book signings
Promotional items (bookmarks, flyers, postcards, business cards...)

She also includes a number of useful links on the page, many related to promoting multicultural/African American books, which is great for me, but others, such as those for sourcing free websites, can be useful to writers of any genre.

Published and about-to-be-published writers who've done their homework will be familiar with all or most of the topics covered. What I like about this page is that it brings all of the bits and pieces I've garnered elsewhere together in one place. Some of the link are to places I'm familiar with, but others aren't, so I've been able to expand my resource base. The page also contains the article How to Do a Website on a Budget, another on blogging, links to examples of author blogs and more.

Sheila M. Goss is the Essence Magazine bestselling author of My Invisible Husband, Roses are Thorns, Violets are True, Paige's Web, and Double Platinum. Her articles and short stories have appeared in national magazines.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Reading right now: Lovers' Hollow by Orna Ross

This is a big novel. When it arrived and I held it I got quite a thrill: I hadn't read a novel this big (667 pages) in awhile and I do so love good, hefty books that I can dive into and lose myself. It's also big in scope, as the publisher's review (lifted from reveals:

"Writer Jo Devereux returns home to Wexford for her mother's funeral with very mixed feelings. After all, she hadn't seen Mrs D for years and for good reason. So when Jo finds herself agreeing to her mother's dying request to write a family history, her motives for doing so aren't clear even to herself. Family pride has caused Jo nothing but heartache and cost her Rory, the only man she ever truly loved. But maybe because her life as a sex columnist in San Francisco has become rackety and empty, and because a pregnant woman of thirty-eight needs to face her demons, Jo settles down to a long hot summer of excavating the past. In unearthing undreamt of family secrets of love and revenge in a time of war, of the conflict between happiness and duty, and even of a murder that has haunted three generations Jo begins to understand certain truths, not only about her mother and her grandmother, Peg, but also about herself and Rory, who is still lurking at the edge of her life. Could a reluctant mission to redeem the past actually offer the key to Jo's future?"

I'm about halfway through, and I've enjoyed every moment. Can't wait to see how all the threads are resolved.