Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I grew impatient with waiting for the 130 people in front of me on the library request list to get through Mockingjay, so I purchased it to read over the holiday. I am one of those people who rarely reads a complete series. I'm usually over it by the end of book two and wander off to read something else. But, Ms. Collins did such an incredible job with The Hunger Games, that I had to pursue Catching Fire. Then that book ended with such a cliff-hanger that I felt compelled to pursue Mockingjay. Now, I know ending book two with a cliff-hanger caused quite a frenzy for the final book, but I also felt it was a cheap trick and I was disappointed and frustrated. Still, it worked, I went for book three.

Mockingjay is broken down into three parts. I found the first part flat and boring. I know it's difficult to jump right back into the story while also getting the readers up to speed, but I was used to Ms. Collins' high suspense style so that made the slow beginning a little harder to take. Part two gets a little better. Part three feels like it actually connects to the first two books. (part I and II do not.) I could see the mechanics of this book as the author tried to turn the plot. That wasn't apparent in the first two stories. Plus, I felt she wasn't being true to some of the characters as they were set up in the first two stories (specifically Katniss - in terms of appearance and Gale - in terms of everything.) I understood the Gale part to drive the story to its conclusion, but the Katniss part seemed random revisionist history and I didn't understand why it was done. (Okay, that won't make sense unless you've read the book and I'm trying hard not to spoil things for anyone.) Yes, characters in stories should be allowed to change / grow, but it was all referenced as having always been this way rather than having been a gradual coming about.

So, my conclusion is that I enjoyed the last third of Mockingjay. That part felt satisfying. The first two parts are a little clunky. But, if you are a fan of the series, then you'll definitely want to see the end.

If someone as talented as Ms. Collins has difficulty writing the third book of a trilogy, I wonder what success I'll have? (vague reference to activities percolating in my career as a writer) A difficult thing to pull off.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman

Neal Shusterman continues to augment my literary crush with The Schwa Was Here. The man has quite the range. Unwind was so intense and disturbing that it came as a complete surprise that the same author could turn around and write something so funny (yet still thought provoking) as Schwa. A bit of Googling on my part revealed that Mr. Shusterman has written dozens of books. This pleases me because I hate to flounder around searching for enjoyable reading.

The Schwa was Here

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Theory of the Leisure Class

Do you crave a designer bag? If so, why? Is it because the bag is well made, or excessively attractive or incredibly functional in some way? More than likely, it's none of these things. People crave designer goods to be the envy of / or compete with other people.

Thorstein Veblen coined the phrase "conspicuous consumption" in his economic study, The Theory of the Leisure Class. Even though it was first published back in 1899, the book has held true, especially in today's consumer driven world. (Okay, I confess, it's a challenging read, but really makes you think about what drives human nature) I already wanted to club people over the head who think their pooh doesn't stink because they're buying a blouse at Banana Republic, now my disgust is three-fold.

Veblen traces consumerism back to (as he refers to it) barbarian times and then brings the reader up to present day. (as it would have been in 1899, but it's chilling how true his findings still are. Even more so, in my opinion, with moronic shows like Sex in the City encouraging women to buy $1,000 shoes when they can't afford to pay their mortgage.)

Anyway, an interesting read, to say the least.

The interior of the AMC Hornet Sportabout with the Gucci package

Monday, December 13, 2010


Girlpower: a Laugh-Packed Guide to the Guys and Gals Who Make Modern business What it is

This book was allegedly written by Kathy Cole and Donna Bain back in 1971. It even carries an endorsement on the cover by the girls who wrote Coffee, Tea, or Me. But, while reading the book, it occured to me that whoever was writing it was a) writing it for men and b) more than likely not a woman. A little research proved that Donald Bain was the author of both books and about three dozen others, many purported to have been written by female duos.
This book is a great flashback to a time period that I can't really remember, but my question for Donald Bain is, did these women really exist? I mean, did he interview stewardesses or temp workers and then weave a tale out of their memories or did he make it all up? Coffee, Tea, or Me was very popular in its day, so it seems likely people wanted to interview the author, etc... How was that handled?

Turns out Mr. Bain is still alive and kicking. He writes the long running Murder She Wrote series under his own name, but also with the fictionalized author Jessica Fletcher.

Mr. Bain, if you're out there, I'd love to interview you.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Shades of Milk and Honey

I have mixed feelings about Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal. First of all, Ms. Kowal did an excellent job of imagining the Jane Austen era, but with a specific kind of magic added to the world. Most writers who try to recreate this time period beat you over the head with Regency trivia to prove they've done their homework. Kowal does not suffer from this. She writes very smoothly and it feels era appropriate. Details are given, but they're not clunkily trying to put you in the setting, they are part of the setting.

So everything was going along well and I was enjoying myself until about 3/4 of the way through. Then things went slightly pear shaped. Shades of Milk and Honey is definitely not a bodice ripper, but somehow the ending takes on a bit of a bodice ripper plot. I think this must be a challenge to the writer, for while she has steeped herself in the time period, it's also a time period of women being passive and that's hard to accept as a modern woman. We want to be part of the action. Or at least believe we would be part of the action. Gone are the days of stories where the princess has a little snooze in the tower while she waits for the prince to show up and make everything right. Unfortunately, this does conflict with the nature of a true Austen type book. Sooo... the ending feels a little awkward, but in general I enjoyed the book. I would recommend it to any Austen or historical fiction fan. And if you happen to also like a bit of magic in your narrative, even better.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

I have never read anything by Cormac McCarthy previous to this and I have to say, the guy can write. Very intense action, descriptive imagery, but imagery that doesn't dwell. He keeps everything going at a fast, well thought out pace. I only wish I had not watched the movie before getting to the book because it spoiled some of the suspense for me. Still, good stuff. I can see why the Cohen brothers decided to make it into a film. And, to their credit, stayed true to the characters and story, unlike so many books that Hollywood decides to make into blockbusters.

And, what's the deal with that anyway? Here's a successful book. Let's take it, get rid of everything that made it good, Hollywoodize it up and film it. Then, act surprised when the movie doesn't do well. (I'm looking at you makers of Whiteout. What were you thinking?)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wild Nights Are Calling

Growing up, I always scoffed at the Van Morrison song lyrics:

All the girls walk by dressed up for each other

To me, that sounded stupid. Why would girls dress up for each other? I either dressed:

A) for guys
B) for comfort / myself

It never occurred to me to dress for other women and I just assumed it was one of those misunderstandings between the sexes that caused Van Morrison to write those lyrics.

Now, as an adult, I realize, yes, women really do dress up for each other. I'm not sure why, but it's the only explanation I can figure out for why women want designer handbags. It's not like men notice these things or that the bags are particularly functional. Plus, women dress to the nines to attend baby and bridal showers. Why? I think it must have something to do with herd mentality, but I'm not sure.

I am a woman, but the ways of many women still continue to be a mystery to me.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Unwind by Neal Shusterman is amazing! I am literarily in love with
Mr. Shusterman and I've only read this one book.

Unwind is set in the not too distant future after the second American Civil War aka The Heartland War, which was a fight over reproductive rights. The outcome of the war is that life is inviolable from conception until thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, parents can have their children "unwound", whereby all of the child's organs are transplanted into different donor recipients so life doesn't technically end. Although told in the third person, the book follows different unwounds and sometimes different recipients, but it all comes together in one big, suspenseful, thought provoking story.

This book is amazingly well written and well thought out. You get to see the controversial decision of legalizing unwinding from many different sides. But, as a warning, Shusterman does not pull his punches. There are some gut wrenching chapters, but you desperately want to keep reading.

Good job Mr. Neal Shusterman. Really good stuff!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Scapegoat or Aspiration Pony

I was talking to a guy, "Ken", who was reminiscing about how much fun he and his friends had in college. I asked what they were doing now and Ken said they'd all settled down and gotten married except for one guy. Then, he went on to say, "Hopefully, he'll never get married." I asked him why and he replied, "So he can keep living the dream for the rest of us." I found it weird that Ken would want his friend to be frozen in time, not aging gracefully or experiencing any other aspects of life besides getting hammered in a bar. I mean, does anyone think the guy in his mid-fifties in the club hitting on girls half his age is cool? I felt bad for the friend because it was obvious that Ken, even though he was happily married with a cool wife, was projecting his aspirations of staying forever young and partying like a twenty year old onto the guy.

I've seen this behavior many time before. For example: When Metallica first changed their sound, my friend "Rob" was very upset. He kept saying, "They sold out, man! They totally sold out!" I asked him what he meant because to me, selling out means giving up your integrity (artistic or otherwise) to make money and be successful. I thought Metallica was probably just bored with doing the same thing year after year and wanted to try something new. But Rob wasn't having it. He wanted them to stay exactly the same band they were when he was thirteen and he felt betrayed that they wanted to change.

Husband and I were discussing this phenomenon of projecting your hopes and dreams onto another person instead of pursuing them yourself. We decided it needed a name. We also thought it should be called something similar to a scapegoat - where a person or a group of people single out an individual to be blamed for all problems or evils. So, after kicking around a few ideas, here's the best thing we've come up with so far. We're open for suggestions if anyone has something shorter.


- noun
a person or group made to bear the aspirations of others or to succeed in their place.

Chiefly Biblical
a pony let loose in the wilderness after a high priest laid the aspirations
of the people on its head. Lev 16:8, 10,26 16:816,1610,26.6:8,10,2
–verb (use with object) (used with object) h object)
to make an aspiration pony of: The married men tried to aspiration pony their single friend.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's Like This, Cat - Emily Neville

It's Like This, Cat.jpg

I first read It's Like This, Cat when I was in... hmmm... I'm guessing fourth or fifth grade. I enjoyed it quite a bit back then and the title has always stuck with me. Recently, I decided to read it again and see if, as an adult, I still thought it was a good read. I'm happy to report, it is. Maybe not so much as when I was eleven, but still, very enjoyable. Also a Newbery Medal winner so that probably has something to do with it. Part of what I enjoyed as a kid and still appreciate as an adult it that the story is set in NYC in the early 1960s. No, not the hippie days. Pre-hippie. In fact, there's even reference to a beatnik.

Still, if you have a child that likes to read - It was originally marketed as a book for boys, but I loved it as a kid - then I highly recommend it. Or, if you'd just like a peek at NYC in 1963 through the eyes of a young teen, also good.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Marlon Brando in Burn!

Husband and I ended up watching Burn! by accident last night, but it turned out to be very thought provoking. It's one of Brando's lesser known movies, went way over budget and did dismally at the box office, but turned out to be quite interesting as far as plot. First, you have to get past the very cheesy opening credits and adjust your brain for Brando's over-the-top posh British accent. But once you've cleared those hurdles, the story takes over and you're hooked into watching to the very end.

Brando's character was inspired by extra crazy sociopath southern gentleman William Walker. If you don't know who he is, check out the link. The movie shows very clearly how the inhabitants of a Caribbean island were repeatedly manipulated and decimated with the goal of getting sugar for the English to have in their tea. Brando does a very good job (barring the accent) of portraying a ruthless yet appealing manipulator working on behalf of England's interests. Be sure to watch to the end and pay attention the development of Brando's frenemy. Really a well-crafted story and it's a shame that it's not better known.

p.s. - Check out that Walker link. So insane.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

White Cat by Holly Black

I enjoyed White Cat. Holly Black is very good at creating well thought out worlds and likable lead characters. Ms. Black takes a break from the land of fairies and delves into a world where there are people who can curse you by touching your bare skin with their hands. So, everyone wears gloves. This skill - curse working - runs in families and the story follows the life of a teenage boy who comes from a family of curse workers, but he has no skill himself. His deep, dark secret is that he murdered his best friends three years earlier and can't remember much about it. (No, that was not a spoiler, it's on the book jacket.)

Lots of tips on grifting, etc... in this one. Also, many twists and turns. Worth the read.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built is the tenth book in Alexander McCall Smith's series The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

I normally don't read much past the third book in a series. Usually the characters and premise of a story peters out for me after two or three books. That is not the case with The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. (Okay, I haven't read the series straight through from book 1 - 10 and beyond, but I have read several of them ad hoc, so I feel reasonably comfortable in my statement.) Smith's stories and characters for The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency become increasingly rich and complex as the series moves on. Plus, they make me wistful for Africa and the contentment of enough pumpkin to eat and cup of hot bush tea. (Actually, bush icetea is my go to caffeine free drink - but it's not the same)

I've read some other of Smith's books and while enjoyable, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is really his wheelhouse.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Douglas Adams

Why is Douglas Adams' dialogue so funny in his books and so awkward in film or television? Husband and I just tried watching a BBC production of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It was a very true telling of the story, but awkward as anything. Somehow having Arthur Dent say, "I never could get the hang of Thursdays," is hilarious in print, but just falls flat when an actor says the line.

For a quick memory boost as to how funny the books actually are, check out the wiki.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Bad Seed

Did you know Nick Cave is an author?

Yes, that Nick Cave


He's very multi-talented, apparently.

I guess I'm going to have to read something of his.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cleveland, City of the first traffic light, city of magic

Euclid Avenue and East 105th Street in Cleveland, Ohio...that's where you would have to have been on August 5, 1914 to watch the first traffic light click from red to green to help the flow of traffic. And traffic in those days was chaotic and not quite as simple as it is today; it included horses, cars, and streetcars.

The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club

I have to admit, I picked up this book by Dorothy L. Sayers because the title amused me. Previously, I had been unaware of Ms. Sayers' existence. She was apparently quite the woman. Best know for her detective novels about the amateuar sleuthing of Lord Peter Wimsey, she also:

- Was a notable Christian Scholar. (although she had a child out of wedlock way back 1923 - Scandal!)
- Did a translation of Dante's Inferno that is still respected today.
- Was the first woman to receive a degree from Oxford. (Previously, women could attend the university, but didn't receive degrees.)
- Was a success in the advertising (She created that campaign for Guiness that features the toucan. Not sure what a toucan has to do with Guiness, but it is charming. Also, credited with coining the phrase, "It pays to advertise.")

I was excited after reading the first few pages of The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club to realize that it was set in post WWI England. I am fascinated by post WWI and think it is a very overlooked time period. New innovations in killing and healing kept alive many soldiers who previously would have perished on the battlefield. Civilians had to learn how to deal with these shell shocked and disfigured veterans. Definitely a time of change.

Anyway, I enjoyed The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, largely for its authentic historical setting, but also for the character of Lord Peter Wimsey. I did find it interesting that Sayers was very harsh on women in the novel, frequently having the male lead characters kvetch about them. For such a progressive, groundbreaking woman, I found that part of her writing a little surprising. But, she may have been frequently criticized by her female peers during life. No one likes a progressive...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Artemis Fowl - Eoin Colfer

I had heard Artemis Fowl praised as a fresh take on Harry Potter, so I was curious, but not exactly scrambling to read it. As a matter of fact, I had read the first few pages a year ago and then not kept going. This time, I persevered and am glad I did. Besides the fact that there is a twelve year old boy as one of the main characters and there happens to be magic, I wouldn't say it's like Harry Potter at all. If anything, it's more like Terry Pratchett's Discworld. Lots of comedy, very anachronistic, etc...

Artemis Fowl is the 12-year-old villain of the book. He's a genius, but has no magic that I'm aware of / shown in the first book of the series. The magic comes from creatures that Fowl is trying to extort for gold. Fairies, trolls, etc... It's a clever and well-imagined world.

Artemis Fowl first edition cover.jpg

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Clockwork Orange - Part II

Well, I finished listening to A Clockwork Orange and I really did enjoy it. (Even though I confess to fast forwarding over some of the ultra-violence. The really bad bits were not for me.)

To begin with, the reader, Tom Hollander, was fantastic! He really brought the character to life. Impressive. He definitely added to the book with his performance. If you choose to listen to the book instead of reading it, his is the version to get.

Anthony Burgess claimed to have written Orange in three weeks. If that's true, then I want to pursue some of his books that he took all of a month or more to write. If he thinks he's done better, then I'm all for reading them. He made the character of Alex absolutely deplorable, but also somehow appealing. I mean, this is an out-of-control hoodlum who literally beats someone to death just on a lark. Yet, you still end up liking the character and caring what happens to him. No easy trick.

About the controversial last chapter... Hmmm... I have to admit I liked the book ending with the last chapter (the missing American chapter) and I think I was more satisfied with the story for having read (heard) it. In a way, I can see why Kubrick ended the movie the way he did. It is not a happy ending, but it is definitely a movie ending. Should Burgess have been as bitter as he was about the book/movie? Well...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


What instructions did Wham give their hair stylist before shooting their second album cover?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Spirit Photography

Check out William Hope. What a shyster! But still, pretty cool photos.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess

I started listening to a recorded version of A Clockwork Orange. Normally, I prefer to read a classic the first time through, and then listen to it later if I feel like it, but I saw it while browsing at the library and just nabbed it. There is an introduction by the author and I'm sorry to report it's Burgess having one long tantrum.
Burgess starts by saying that Orange is his most popular book, due in large part to the film, but he feels it is not as good as many of his other works and he finds its popularity disappointing. He amassed a fortune off of it, but still resented it. I guess the America version left off the final chapter and Burgess was still spiting mad over it. He was even more offended that the Kubrick movie, although filmed in Britain, was based on the American version that ends with Alex not being reformed, despite the government's best attempts.
In the final chapter (the controversial missing in America chapter) Alex grows up, get married, has kids and regrets his violent youth. He wishes to create rather than destroy. The American publisher felt it was a stronger ending not to have Alex reform, or at least have his future uncertain.
I guess it never occurred to Burgess that he was allowed to be a rich old coot and keep working as a writer due to the success of the novel. (with or without the final chapter) It makes me think of Warren Zevon who, for years, complained that he was best know for Werewolves of London when he had written much better songs. Then, he finally realized that he was able to live a comfortable life and put his kids through college off of that song and he should be a little more grateful.
It cracks me up that Burgess is complaining that America forwent the happy ending. I can't begin to list how many times I've been randomly attack by European travelers because our films usually have happy endings. An America makes a film and leaves off the happy ending... Still criticized. Be that as it may, I am going to skip the end of Burgess' introduction and give the book a try. You'd think the guy could be a little more gracious about a book that supported him in a comfortable lifestyle for thirty years, but apparently not. I wonder if he would have been happier being unsuccessful.
Probably not.

Pigeons vs. Puffins

Pigeons don't appear to enjoy flying. They would rather try to outrun you on their stubby little bird legs rather than take to the skies. They seem to use flying only as a last resort.

Puffins, on the other hand, are barely clinging to their ability to fly. When you see them in the air, madly flapping at the sky, they look more like wind-up mechanical toys than creatures that are intended to have the ability of flight. But still, the puffins are intent on doing it, even if they are one evolutionary step away from being land bound forever. I think that's why they cling to flight so desperately. They actually appreciate it, while city dwelling pigeons have grown complacent and lazy from eating too many french fries.

Fratercula corniculataUSFWSSL0002774.jpg

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Powder Room

"All these years and she had never had the wicked thrill of powdering her nose."

~ Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

I love that back in 1938 it was still considered slightly scandalous to powder your nose. I'm afraid I suffer from a chronically shinny nose, so I would have been forced to be one of those brazen girls who depended on the vice.

Post college, but when I was still in my twenties, my sister pointed out that it was crass to get up from a table of friends at a bar or nightclub and announce, "I've got to pee." I mean, really. Do people need to know the exact nature of why you are leaving the table? So, we decided to stop saying that and just change over to, "Excuse me for a moment," or "I'll be right back." Surprisingly, a lot of guys do not like the idea of you leaving the group without announcing your agenda. At first, I was frequently asked, "Where are you going?" When I would respond, "Guess," I was usually taken literally. So, I relied on an old etiquette book that I read once that stated, gentlemen say, "I have to wash my hands," and ladies say, "I have to powder my nose." Obviously, this book was written when nose powdering ceased to be a scandal.

Now I switch things up. If I'm among friends or people who get my personality, I say, "powder my nose," but among acquaintances or strangers, I say "wash my hands." I sometimes still get questioned.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I Heart Harry Dean Stanton

How in love are you with Harry Dean Stanton?

No, seriously, think about it. He's done EVERYTHING.

The Godfather Part II
Pretty in Pink
Red Dawn
Repo Man - One of the best movies of all time.
Kelly's Heroes
Private Benjamin
Escape From New York

Nothing makes me happier than to be watching a movie and there's a HDS sighting.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Looking for Alaska - John Green

Looking for Alaska is a very good book that I didn't finish. I do not enjoy heart wrenching books (or movies for that matter - I've never seen Beaches) and this book definitely slaps your emotions around a little. So, I started reading it and was greatly enjoying the story, then I became suspicious that it was heading towards an emotional cliff, so I skipped ahead, had my suspicions confirmed and then did kind of a book dissection where I jumped around to glean the plot points without getting sniffy over the narrative. (Okay, I did get a little sniffy, but did I mention that it's really well written?) So, would I recommend Looking for Alaska? Yes. Have I read the whole thing myself? Uhm...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Flora Segunda by Ysabeau S. Wilce

Ysabeau S. Wilce created a really amazing, original world with Flora Segunda. The book was recommended to me by Mr. T. Forbes, so I figured it was good, but even with that knowledge moving forward, I was impressed. Just to be clear, the full title is:

Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog

That alone is a tantalizing hint of the complex world Ms. Wilce has created. (And she is a military historian - Cool - which really adds an authentic flavor to the created world. - Any author who managed to include the use of a swagger stick in a fantasy novel is fine by me)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Getting Wilde

As a friend just pointed out, I share a birthday with the ultimate score when playing Dead, Gay, or English... Oscar Wilde.


Check out this fantastic gettup that Wilde wore at Oxford. The hat seems too small, but I love the checkered suit.

Oscar Wilde posing for a photograph, looking at the camera. He is wearing a check suit and a bowler hat. His right foot is resting on a knee high bench, and his right hand, holding gloves, is on it. The left hand is in the pocket. Oscar Wilde at Oxford.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Meter Dog

I was putting money in a meter yesterday when a woman walked her dog over to let it relieve itself on the exact meter I was using. I glared at her and snarled, "You've got to be kidding." So, she pulled her dog away and let it pee on a bed of flowers.

What is the thought process behind allowing this behavior in a dog? I was really stunned. Not only that she would bring her pet over to virtually pee on my leg, but then she thought it was okay to let the dog douse some plants with ammonia. Poor San Francisco is already bereft of any type of plant or tree life, there's no point in letting your dog kill the few growing things we have in the city.

Good dog etiquette would seem self evident, but apparently it's not. Fortunately, the SPCA has kindly listed some basic rules to make living in a city overrun with dogs at least a tolerable place.

Take a look here. Please! And remember, just because you love your dog, doesn't mean someone else wants it peeing on her leg.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I'm not sure how this movie wasn't on my radar earlier, but I'm glad I finally stumbled across it. Not your average high school movie by any means. It's about a guy trying to solve the mystery of his missing ex-girlfriend. Great cast, very intense and well put together. Be aware - It's not the kind of movie you can watch while surfing the internet or while also trying to read, or whatever you catch yourself doing while also viewing. There's a lot of dialog, a lot of original slang, a lot of plot twists and most the dialog is spoken quickly and quietly so you have to pay attention. But, very well worth it.

Brick Poster

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Going Lefty

Try brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand. It's remarkably difficult to do. When I first tried, a few months ago I flat out couldn't do it and I'm reasonably ambidextrous with a lot of things. So, I observed what I did with my dominant hand and then tried to mimic it with the other. There was some improvement, but it was still awkward.

Now, I start out brushing my teeth with my non-dominant, then switch to dominant. I'm still not as fluid, but I can get the job done. I've also switched with how I wash the dishes, style my hair, and a whole bunch of other stuff. It's interesting trying to get the brain rewired.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Scarlet Pimpernel

This has to be one of my favorite books of all time. If you enjoy adventure stories with a dusting of romance, then this is the book for you. Warning, there is a very tiresome spot after the first chapter. The book starts off with a bang, then there is a dead spot, then it picks up again and becomes very enjoyable. Struggle past the dead spot. It's worth it.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is the story of a daring English nobelman and his followers who save French aristocrats from the guillotine during the French revolution. The French aristocrats are portrayed to be very sympathetic and let's face it, the French did run a little off their rails with chopping people's head off. I mean, just because you're the lace maker for Marie Antoinette doesn't mean you deserve to die. But, anyway, I was thinking of what could be the modern retelling of the story. We Americans finally get off our complacent butts and start dealing with corruption in the government and white collar crime. The Pimpernel pulls off some daring daylight raids to save the CEOs of Haliburton and Enron...

Compelling stuff. Let's start the revolution and see how it goes.

Cover of the 1908 edition
1908 edition

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Your New Crush

Hello Ladies - (Sorry gentlemen, this post is not for you.)

Meet your new crush, Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Yes, you may remember him from 3rd Rock From the Sun and 10 Things I Hate About You, but he's an adult now and really aging nicely.

I like to watch a little On Demand while I stretch out, because heaven forbid I meditate, anyway, I decided to try 500 Days of Summer. I can't say, Wow, this movie is fantastic and you should definitely watch it, but it is awfully charming in a guilty pleasure sort of way and I largely enjoyed it. Besides starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, it also has Zooey Deschanel, who I pretty much like in everything she does.

But, I must caution you, that by the time you finish the movie, your Joseph Gordon-Levitt crush will probably be activated. Plus, as a bonus, he can act.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Whiteout - Greg Rucka & Steve Lieber

Whiteout, by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber is one of my favorite graphic novels. It's a well told mystery in an unusual location. I like that the female protagonist is likable, but not excessively good looking. She's smart and interesting, tough and vulnerable, but not in a cliched way. Lieber does a wonderful job showing the desolation of the Antarctic location with his black and white art.

Spend your time and money on the book. Skip the movie.

The movie seems to take everything good from the story and gets rid of it, waters it all down and then Hollywoodizes it up. The only real mystery to the movie is why they didn't just follow book.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


The movie Speed always reminds me of Thailand. Partly because I was living in Thailand when I saw it in the theater. (Said with a Thai accent it's Sp-eed, BTW.) That and the fact that I was once chased down an alley by a riderless motorcycle after the rider had been knocked off by a taxi shortly after seeing the film. (The traffic is pretty intense over there.)

Anyway, I recently watched the movie when I was feeling a little under the weather and needed some couch time. The thing that I find most unrealistic about Speed is not a city bus jumping a 50 foot gap in a highway. It's how everyone in LA seems to know everyone and are on a first name basis. Judging by the film, LosAngeles must be the friendliest city in America. I mean, even if you see the same driver every day, how many of you know the name of your bus driver and he knows your name as well?

There was a bus driver that I frequently saw when I had to commute to Marin County for a hideous marketing job that I suspected was the Zodiac Killer. Whenever I got on the bus, he would have found an excuse to strike up a conversation with a young woman at the front of the bus and then worked the topic around to the San Francisco serial killer, always mentioning that the killer was never found. Finally, after hearing his spiel three or four times, I googled the Zodiac Killer. The bus driver only looked in his mid-thirties so I figured that would put him at too young of an age to be the killer. Still, even though I try to be friendly and polite to everyone, that's the most I've ever known about a bus driver.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Strictly Ballroom

Strictly Ballroom

Yes, it's a movie that premiered in 1992, but I still find it charming. In fact, I challenge you to watch the film and not find yourself smiling at the end. Now, you may claim that you are not a straight female or gay male and therefore are exempt from this challenge, but I'm afraid I'm going to have have to call you out. Crack open your coconut just a little and watch it with an open mind. There's no singing with the dancing so that should make things a little easier.

If you're twenty minutes into the film and still hating it, then, c'est la guerre. You should probably read someone else's blog. Or go watch sports center. I am not the online presence for you. But, don't get down on yourself, I'm sure you're fabulous in your own special way.

For the rest of you, in a bit of slang from down under, give it a go.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Tom Siddell - Gunnerkrigg Court - Interview!

Chapter 1, Page 2

Tom Siddell, the creator of the fabulous Gunnerkrigg Court, was kind enough to do an interview. Checkout his comic online at:

Now, onto the interview!:

1) What was the inspiration behind creating Gunnerkrigg Court?

Mainly I was looking to do something different with my art. At the time I was stuck drawing characters floating in space not really doing anything interesting. I thought having a go at a comic would help me develop my art and draw a lot of things I normally wouldn't. I used to read a lot of mythology stories when I was a kid, so that influenced the content of the comic as I knew I wanted to write about various myths and creatures.

2) Are you the artist behind all aspects of Gunnerkrigg Court? Pencil’s, Writer, Color, everything? Please tell us a bit about your process.

Yeah, it's just me working on the comic. When I started I drew on printer paper with pencil and inks, and then coloured the pages on the computer in an old copy of Photoshop. Somewhere around chapter 14 I switched to all digital production as it made the whole process easier. I write the story chapter at a time (while keeping in line with my overall plot) and then sketch each page roughly, ink them and then colour them. Then, of course, I upload them to the Internet for everyone to see.

3) What have you worked on besides Gunnerkrigg Court? Hit us with the highlights?

Gunnerkrigg is my first comic, so nothing really! I have a full time job, so I don't get a lot of time to work on other things, although I would really like to.

4) What are you working on currently?

Aside from Gunnerkigg I always have a few stories in mind I'd like to develop, and I am currently collaborating on a short story with fellow webcomics creator Magnolia Porter of

5) Archaia has recently put out a lovely hardcover edition of Gunnerkrigg Court? Did you contact them? They contact you? How did that all come together?

Well my agent and I were looking for a publisher and Archaia stepped forward and put the books together! I'm afraid it doesn't get much more exciting than that.

6) You have to survive for a month in the wilderness with another famous Tom. Who would you choose and why? You have to select from the following list:

Thomas Edison, Tom Petty, Thomas Paine, Thomas the Tank Engine, Tom Cruise, or Tom Jones.

I think I would choose Thomas Edison, because he would be the brains of the operation (he would also probably be the brawn).

7) What comic book are you currently reading?

I recently got Pim and Francie by Al Columbia. It's really great and really scary. There's not a lot quite like it!

8) Who’s your comic book hero?

Well Yukito Kishiro is my favourite comic creator. He makes Battle Angel Alita, my all time favourite comic series.

9) What are your three things?

For example: salty, sweet and citrus. Or cranky, moody and bleak. Etc…?

Dinosaurs, skates and falling

10) Was San Diego your first comic book convention? What was your impression of the show?

I've been to a few conventions here in the UK, but it was my first US convention. I thought it was really great. We don't have anything of that size in the UK, and being able to go and be at the Archaia booth and meet people who read my comic was a fantastic experience. I'd love to go to more cons in the US (I will be at the New York Comic Con).

11) What’s the best thing you saw at SDCC?

It was definitely the readers of my comic. A lot of people turned up to see me and it was very flattering and surprising! Working on a comic usually means sitting alone in a room for hours, and over here in the UK I don't get much chance to talk to people who have actually read my story, so meeting all those people at SDCC was worth the trip alone.

12) What’s your dream project?

Honestly, I'd like it if I could work on my comic full time. More and more people are making webcomics their full time job, so I would like to do that too.

13) What would ten-year-old Tom think of present day Tom?

He would probably wonder why I spend so much time in front of a computer. Oh, and why I hadn't figured out how to make a real hover board yet, since It's almost 2015

14) Anything else you’d like to plug?

Bad Machinery is my current favourite webcomic. It's a really fun story about a group of kids who solve weird mysteries.

Chapter 1, Page 3

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Hotel Matches

I love matchbooks.

Although I am absolutely thrilled how smoke free America has become, it has seriously cut down on the availability of matchbooks and that depresses me. A very good reason to travel in Europe is to stock up on matchbooks. Then, every time you use a match, you can reminisce about the place where you got it.

It does help that one of the burners on our stove doesn't ignite on its own.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Belle Bridge Books has been kind enough to offer me a contract to write the sequel to What I Learned From Being a Cheerleader.


What other dramas and misadventures will Elaine encounter?

Yep, that's what I have to figure out so I can write this thing. ;O) Good thing I found junior high so challenging. (Yes, when I went to school, it was called junior high) Lots of memories to harvest.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Resistance

Everyone's favorite Lost writer, Matt Ragghianti, has a new series coming out on the Syfi channel.

The Resistance. In French, La Resistance. It will premiere on October 4rth at 11pm on Syfi. Set your DVRs accordingly. From what he told me, and discussed in last month's interview with him, it's a very Matrix, Star Wars science fiction, clinging to your seat good time

Seriously, check out the website for some good footage. It was originally a webseries that got picked up. Way to go, Matt!

Friday, August 27, 2010

A few more What I Learned reviews

Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers posted a nice review for What I Learned From Being a Cheerleader the other day. (I was on a plane, so I couldn't get to it earlier)

Also, A Girl Reads a Book (and loves Dr. Who too) posted a fun review. (This reminds me that I really should watch some Dr. Who. It's not safe to be strolling around comic book conventions and not know any Dr. Who trivia.)

And finally, Page Turners, put out a solid review.

Thank you lovely reviewers for taking the time to review my book!

Monday, August 23, 2010

A History Lesson in Love

Considering online dating? Here's a site devoted to Victorian era personal ads. Be warned, it's hard to read just a few. I got sucked in for close to an hour:

Here's a sample ad just to wet your appetite:

A young lady who is handsome, highly accomplished, and who on coming of age will possess a handsome competence, is anxious to avoid a matrimonial alliance which her relatives are forcing upon her. With this view she wishes to make the acquaintance of a gentleman of education, refinement, and pleasing personal appearance, who would rescue her from her impending unhappy fate. Address, for three days, Dulcina, Madison square Post office.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

No. 5 in Childrens and...

What I Learned From Being a Cheerleader is currently at No. 38 for all titles in the iBookstore. You heard me, 38! S'nice!

Apparently I'm wedged right between Twilight and Eclipse!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

What I Learned at No. 5 iBookstore

Hello! That's right, What I Learned From Being a Cheerleader is at No. 5 for children and teens at the iBookstore! Yay!

Friday, August 13, 2010

What I Learned is climbing the ranks

What I Learned From Being a Cheerleader is currently at No. 8 on the iBookstore children's list. That's right, my lovelies, you heard it here first. And apparently there are some nice reviews. I can't access the iBookstore because I don't own an iPad and this is probably a good thing. Otherwise I'd be obsessing over the ranking all day and let's face it, I have plenty to obsess over already.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lost Season 1 and 2 - Matt Ragghianti Interview!

Okay, as previously advertised, the delightful Matt Ragghianti was kind enough to do an interview for my blog. He was a writer for Lost Seasons 1 and 2. Here's what Matt had to say:

1) How did you first land a gig as an assistant to writer on Lost?

The official job title is "Writers Assistant", although the idiosyncratic nature of the IMDB system sometimes calls this "assistant to writer" or "assistant writer", etc. I met Damon Lindelof socially about 15 years ago when he was the roommate of my best friend from college. A fairly large group of us, all in our first showbiz jobs, used to pal around constantly sharing the good and bad times of trying to make your way up the Hollywood food chain. Along the way, we became very close friends and supporters of each other's work. Damon and I worked together on the show Wasteland back in 1999 and remained very close after that. I actually married Damon to his wife, Heidi. I became ordained (on-line, of course) as a Reverend and performed the wedding ceremony in Hawaii. Anyway, when Damon got the opportunity to do LOST, he called me and invited me to join the show. I remember very clearly him telling me that the show was "definitely going to be cancelled after 13 episodes" and that every single executive at ABC who greenlit and worked on the pilot had been fired, so we weren't exactly the darlings of the network. We all signed on convinced I'd be looking for another job in three or four months. Fortunately, we were wrong.

2) What is the difference between a writer and an assistant to writer? What were your duties as an assistant to writer on Lost?

The job description can vary wildly from show to show. Some writers assistants do very little other than record the creative sessions on their laptops during the episode breaks. What I mean by that is the actual time spent in the writers room (hours and hours and hours) where the entire staff meets to "break" each episode of the show. The Writers Assistant must record the conversation and then provide a printed copy of each day's discussion to the writers for their review as the break goes forward. It's vitally important to be a fast typist as you never know when the big idea is going to come, or even where. And if you miss it and can't read back what someone said in order to develop what could, potentially be a huge moment for the show. Well, that's a problem. In my case, fortunately, that was just a small piece of the job. As the show went on and my relationship with the writers grew I and my fellow writers assistant, Dawn Kelly -- a very talented writer, herself -- were invited to pitch ideas ourselves. Once those ideas were heard and determined to be of value, I was able to pitch as much as anybody else in the writers room, and begin to get my own ideas on-air. The more senior writers were very encouraging and helpful, and really taught me a great deal. I also got to do all the research for the show. Need to know what on a plane can be used as an explosive? I can tell you? How about using the radar device from Mr. Eko's crashed drug plane for the escape raft during the season 1 finale? I got to come up with all those answers and I loved it. Furthermore, I was handed the responsibility of creating and writing several ancillary projects to extend the reach of LOST online. I was able to create a character from one of the other survivors of flight 815 -- not one of the stars, but the seemingly faceless other survivors we, on the show, referred to as "socks" and begin to write a diary in her voice that we posted on the LOST website. It began to develop quite a following and was a lot of fun to write. I was asked to do a great many projects like that that really helped me to develop my own writing and continue to exercise the muscles I needed to eventually write for the show itself, which I was asked to do in Season 2.

3) What projects are you working on currently? Hit us with the highlights and any links that might be relevant.

I've got a few irons in the fire presently. I wrote a webseries for the Starz network and Sam Raimi's company, Ghost House Pictures called THE RESISTANCE. It stars Katrina Law, who you may or may not have seen on the breakout Starz show, Spartacus: Blood & Sand, as well as a very talented actor named Sunny Jain. It's a very cool story that is sort of a hybrid of The Matrix vs. Star Wars, if I may be so bold to reference those masterpieces. Starz has made a deal with the Syfy channel, which is going to air it as a 1 hour drama pilot sometime soon -- I still haven't been told exactly when, but it's something I'm very proud of and that I hope you all like as much as I do. In the meantime, you can watch several trailers and get more information at
I also just finished a Drama pilot called TRINITY in which a high school student is forced to save his family by assuming control of a criminal organization when he discovers his father, is not the man he thought he was. I'm very proud of it and will begin taking it to networks shortly.
I continue to explore opportunities within the Video Game world and look forward to writing my next game. I was lucky to write the script for TOMB RAIDER: ANNIVERSARY (Eidos/Crystal Dynamics - 2007) and enjoyed the experience immensely. There are some great stories being told in video games these days. And for my money, there's nothing as attractive to me as the opportunity to tell a great story.
Oh, and I'm also exploring the opportunity to do a comic book in the near future. I met some great people down at San Diego Comic-Con this year... one in particular... and am actively pursuing a chance to tell the type of amazing stories one finds within that world. I'm excited about it.

4) If you were on a plane that crashed on a tropical island and you had to figure out how to survive, who would you want with you and why? You have to choose three people from this list:

Davy Crocket. Gandi, Bella Lugosi, Frank Capra, Isadora Duncan, Coco Chanel, Captain Ahab, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Mark Spitz, Lana Turner, O. Henry, The Hulk, Mata Hari, James Bond, Nadia Comaneci, Ralph Nader, Harry Potter, Gunga Din, Ringo Starr, or Debbie Harry.

That's a question I could answer from several different perspectives. But I'll try to do this from a purely practical POV, but I leave it to you and your readers to decipher my real motivations here. I suppose I would choose Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman first. You're gonna get sick eventually; or step on a stone fish; or eat some bad fruit or whatever. And having Jane Seymour around to kiss it and make it better would be just fine with me. Frank Capra would keep us entertained, and probably teach us a lot about ourselves with his wonderful stories, so he's on the list, too. And Davy Crocket could keep us well fed and build a bitchin' log cabin for each of us. I just hope he doesn't get hatchet happy when he realizes that Dr. Quinn is shacking up with me!

5) Same questions, but you have to choose three characters from the first two seasons of Lost. You can’t choose Sawyer, Kate, Jack or Sayid.

It's difficult for me to separate the character from the actor here. But I'll try. I'll take Shannon, for obvious reasons. I'll take Hurley as well because if you can't laugh with somebody you're probably going to find a palm tree to jump off pretty darn quickly. And Shannon isn't attracted to Hurley, so no competition there. And I suppose I'd take Sun, also. If you're going to be stuck on an island for the rest of your life, you may as well learn another language while you're there, right?

6) What’s your favorite TV show currently?

I can't limit it to just one. I'm in the midst of a love affair with Mad Men at the moment. I'm fascinated by how effectively the writers can make me care about a protagonist who lacks even a single, legitimate redeeming quality. It's incredible. My wife and I look forward to Modern Family every, single week. Just hysterical writing on that show. And we are addicted to Deadliest Catch on Discovery. I don't know if you have been watching, but this past season has been one of the best seasons of television I've ever seen, scripted or otherwise. I also love Entourage and Hell's Kitchen.

7) What your dream project?

I'd love to write a James Bond film. I have wanted to be James Bond for as long as I remember. Not the actor who plays James Bond. James. Bond.

Now, for some serious Lost questions. Special thanks to my friend, code name Michael Baker, who got the ball rolling with his fabulous input for questions:

1) Was there ever a plan for Walt to stay on the Island? And if yes, what direction do you think his story would have taken?

Yes there was. Malcolm was a fine actor and very pleasant to work with. But the realities of filming a season of television which is only supposed to span the first 40 days of being on the island demand that everyone look the same (age) in Episode 25 as they do in the Pilot. When you are a young boy about to enter adolescence you are growing so fast and changing so quickly, it would be impossible to maintain the illusion that only 40 days have passed. From the time the pilot was filmed, to the time the Season 1 Finale was filmed, well over a year had passed. And Malcolm did a lot of growing in that year. So there you have it. Walt was a great character, and was really our first candidate for channeling or even influencing what happened on the island. Because he was a child, his emotions were more distilled and pure than the adults around him, so the island experience for him was and, arguably could have been more vivid for him than any other character. Would have been nice to see where that could have gone.

2) Were there plans for Libby to have more of a backstory, especially concerning Hurley and the asylum?

Libby was always a fun character for all of us. Getting to play a love story between Hurley and Libby, and not have it be farcical or silly was important. The most fun thing about LOST, from a writer's point of view was getting to explore the web of contacts and relationships and meetings all the characters (and all of us in "real life") share within our lifetimes. The sheer chance of meeting someone, if you want to call it that is so extraordinary and fantastic you almost can't believe it. So, yes, in exploring both Hurley and Libby's backstory, it was obvious there would be much more than initially met the eye. Remember, everything happens for a reason. And there really is no such thing as chance or luck, right? I'm just saying...

3) At what point in the creative process was the "endpoint" of the show known? Did that endpoint become noticeably more distorted as the show became a hit?

The endpoint was always known. However, when the show premiered and we realized that somehow, we were not, in fact, all going to be finished with this story after 13 episodes, the endpoint must be pushed back to accommodate the additional episodes. As early as Season 1 Damon went to the network to ask how long we needed to write this show. Not because he was unhappy writing it, but because the answer has everything to do with how you tell the story. Any story. Try to tell a story, or a joke, or a riddle, or to sing a song if you don't know when it's going to end. It's not possible. But the network simply wants the show to be on as long as possible, and I completely understand that. 9 out of 10 shows fail. And those failures cost a lot of money. The 1 show that makes it must be on the air long enough to pay for the 9 that weren't. So, from a stockholder in the Disney corporation's perspective, I want the show to be on as long as it can be in order to make the most money it possibly can. But, from a storyteller's perspective, you tell me how to write a story if you don't know how long you have to tell that story for. The network wouldn't commit to a number. Even 15 seasons (or whatever). And without being able to know exactly how many episodes the story would last, we had to constantly keep adjusting the flow of the story. This is why most successful, dramatic television goes through a seemingly never-ending Act 2, until it is announced the show is ending, at which time the writers can now determine exactly how many episodes are left and can then wrap up the story appropriately. That's what happened. And that's what always happened. And I can identify with the feelings that form the basis of the argument from both sides.

4) Why was the Jack/Kate/Sawyer triangle pushed so aggressively?

Because it worked. From the very beginning viewers seemed to have a stake in who Kate was with. Even the writing staff did. We all had our preference and truly enjoyed messing with the dynamic from both sides. Boy meets Girl; Girl and Boy fall for each other; Other Boy shows up: First Boy doesn't like it; Girl enjoys the attention... and the drama ensues. It's the oldest story in the book, but it still works. And it always will.

5) Who came up with the polar bear and why?

When we discussed the origin of the island, or, more specifically, the island's inhabitants we spoke a great deal about something that actually happened. Bear with me (pun intended) for a moment here... Shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis a panel was convened in order to study whether or not there was any hope for the human race, at least in terms of whether or not we were destined to blow ourselves to kingdom come. The panel was comprised of sociologists, anthropologists, mathematicians, physicists, animal behaviorists, philosophers and the like. And they went off somewhere remote to see what they could discover. The results were not encouraging. Basically, it's fait accompli. There is a scientific certainty that we will destroy ourselves. The only question is exactly when. Now, let's leave reality and come back into the world of the show. If the people charged with this experiment know that the answer is what it is, their only recourse might be to simply drop out of the human race, and wait in solitude until it all happens. Then, after an appropriate amount of time spent surviving in the solitude of a bunker somewhere in the south pacific, they could emerge and start over, hopeful in the fact that they, these OTHER people could get it right this time. Now, if you accept the island as the location of these experiments, you might begin to understand what all the hatches and bunkers were doing there. And here's something else you might find interesting. Polar Bears are one of the most territorial mammals on the planet Earth. That is to say, they will defend to the death a territory far in excess of that which they require to survive, simply because it is theirs. The only other mammal with a more extreme territorial stance is currently typing this email. So, if these scientists could find a way to alter the polar bears behavior, perhaps they could apply the same methods to us. Didn't work out. But now you know what they polar bears were doing there.

6) How much influence did blogs and fan posts have on the direction of the different plots?

LOST was by far the most robustly involved internet fan base of any show I have ever heard of. I never got to work on any of Joss Whedon's shows, which I realize have a huge internet following and fan base. But LOST really woke me and a lot of the rest of us up to the validity and the value of that level of involvement. Obviously, we're thrilled when we can satisfy those fans. Because we love them. But I would be lying if I said we adjusted any or our storylines, or the overall direction of the plot as a result of anything we read online. By the time the internet fan base is reacting to something on the web... after seeing it air on television, the writing staff is several episodes ahead. It usually takes anywhere from a 5 to 15 days to break an episode of LOST. Then another week writing the Writer's Draft... getting the notes from Damon and Carlton and re-writing to get the Network Draft... and getting the notes from the Network to get to the Production Draft. Then it took 8 days to shoot the episode, and another 3 weeks in Post Production to finish it. By that time, 7 weeks has gone by, and the writers are already a couple of episodes downstream. And by the time the episode in question actually airs, you are likely to be 6 or 7 episodes further along. So it would be impossible, as well as totally impractical to try and write a story that way.

7) What was the motivation behind killing Boone? How about Shannon?

Early on we knew that if nobody ever died on the show, the audience would quickly realize that there were no real stakes in this world, and that the drama and suspense would quickly disappear. If nobody gets hurt, or killed, why should I care when they Others attack, or when they go exploring some creepy dark cave or weird hatch in the middle of the jungle, right? Boone went first because... well, it had to be somebody. And we knew Ian could pull off the emotion involved in that death scene. When Shannon died later on, she had already begun a relationship with Sayid, so when she was killed not only would it be a loss to her fans, but would influence Sayid's character and, by proxy, the tone of the entire show going forward. That's the thing about good stories, isn't it? Nobody gets out alive.

8) What was that funny story you were telling me about Hurley and his mom?

During Season 1, the entire cast came out to LA from Hawaii for a party. We were all there having a great time and my wife, Michelle and I were talking to Jorge Garcia. Well, after I was able to (almost literally) peel her off of Josh Holloway, that is. Anyway, Jorge was telling us a story about a phone conversation he had with his mom just a few days ago when he and the rest of the cast learned we were going to kill one of the characters. Jorge said he was talking to his mom on the phone from Hawaii, telling her he was nervous. "Why are you nervous," she asked. "Well," Jorge said, "We just found out the writers are going to kill one of the characters this season." And instantly, Jorge's mother GASPS and says "Oh no! Not Sawyer!" Jorge was left to go. "Umm... how about Not Jorge'? Your son?" Superb!

9) How often did the writers get to go to Hawaii?

For about the first 5 episodes of the show, if you wrote the episodes, you flew out to Hawaii to shepherd the episode through production. Then, Damon figured there was no need for that anymore. There was a team of talented producers and staff who were in Hawaii full time, so we simply relied upon them to do their good work, and we all stayed in Burbank and kept working. Damon and Carlton would go out a few times a year. But the rest of us never did. I never went to the set. Ever.

10) Which main Lost character did you have the most influence over as far as development?

Claire. And since we created her character specifically for our episode "Maternity Leave", I would say Danielle's daughter... Alex Rousseau

11) You created a minor character which was posted on the ABC website. Tell us more about that character and that process.

There were the main characters of our show, and then there were the remaining survivors of Oceanic flight #815. If you were a Star Trek fan you'd consider these guys the "red shirts", which is to say they were essentially cannon fodder or monster chow. One day Damon referred to them as "meat filled socks", which we all adopted and then gradually truncated to just "socks." So I was asked to create a character from one of the faceless socks and to begin writing a diary from their perspective. My fellow writers assistant, Dawn Kelly and I created a character we called "Sally" who we began to realize was slightly disturbed. Okay, maybe more than slightly, but, hey, it wouldn't have been LOST if the character was normal, right? Anyway, we began to write and to leak little hints about this dive bag that Sally was desperate to find before anyone else did. What was in the bag? What was she afraid of revealing? What did she have to hide? It really was a lot of fun, and, much to our surprise, people were paying attention. Thousands of them.

12) Who was your Lost crush? Can be a real person or a character from the show.

Vincent. Okay, just kidding. Sort of, I love that dog! No, for real, I love a lot of the people I worked with on that show. We spent so much time together it was impossible not to become family, so that was profound. But I fell in love more than few times with characters or actresses on that show. When Julie Bowen came in to read for the part of Jack's wife let's just say I was happy to see her. And when Cynthia Watros (Libby) walked in to read for Libby I almost fell out of my chair.

13) Did working on Lost give you aerophobia? If no, why not?

Not at all. I've had a pretty great life to this point. Better than pretty great, actually. And I really and truly believe that when your number is up, it's up. So there really isn't any use in sweating the details.

14) Any Lost tidbits for diehard fans? (Funny stories, on set mishaps, food poisoning episodes, whatever comes to mind.)

Wow. Too many to mention. But here are a couple. Whenever we used to get bogged down during an episode break we would begin to write a different show we invented about a group of strippers who solved crimes on the side. It was called EXPOSÉ and it was hilariously great. There was about a week or so when Damon and I had convinced several other members of the writing staff (you know who you are) that I could actually see through porcelain as a result of a chemical explosion I was injured in during the mid-90's. And you know that clicking sound you hear whenever the smoke monster shows up? The one after the roar? That is actually the sound of a NYC Taxi Cab receipt being printed. And now you know.

Thank you Matt!!!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Return to Labyrinth - Jake T. Forbes Interview!

Jake T Forbes, the author of the New York Times best selling series Return to Labyrinth, was kind enough to do an interview for the launch of the fourth volume in the series. Here's what he had to say:

How many times did you have to visit the Labyrinth while you were researching the Return to Labyrinth series and how did you escape?

The movie Labyrinth as been on my video playlist since I was a kid. I first saw it in the theaters after having watched the making-of documentary on HBO countless times. It was those behind-the-scenes looks at the puppetry that made Labyrinth my must-see movie that year. “The biggest puppet ever made,” “remote-controlled facial expressions” – I just couldn’t get enough of it. They were bringing fantasies to life. The movie debuted on VHS at a time when you couldn’t take for granted that a movie would be available at retail, and for whatever reason, Labyrinth was late to that party, only becoming really affordable with the advent of DVD. So through my pre-teen years, I had to rent the video every few months. I got a lucky break when my family video store went out of business and sold of their stock, which gave me total access to the movie until the DVD came out years later. In recent years, I still put the movie on once or twice a year, and a few of Bowie’s songs are on regular rotation, but unless I was looking up a particular scene for reference, I’ve cut back on viewings, but not for lack of love. It would be a lie to say that Jareth has no power over me.

Who is your favorite character from the Labyrinth? Least favorite?

Favorite is definitely Sir Didymus. I think it’s apparent in Return to Labyrinth, with Didymus being the only supporting player to appear in all 4 volumes. He’s like a pint-sized Don Quixote with a tail. As for least-favorite, that’s harder to say. I guess I’d say the one chubbier-faced Fiery (from the “Chilly Down” scene). There’s one extreme close-up where his tongue lolls around his mouth and it sort of makes me wince.

How did you get involved writing the Labyrinth series?

In 2005, I was still an editor at Tokyopop, where we editors were looking at various media licenses that would make a good manga. I aggressively pushed for Labyrinth. By coincidence, the company ended up hiring a former Henson a couple months later who helped make the introductions, and as it turned out, the Henson folks totally loved the idea of Jareth as a bishonen (Japanese for “beautiful young man”). The deal came together quickly. Originally I was slated to be the editor, but at that point in my career, I decided that I wanted to pursue life as a freelance writer instead. Before leaving my position as Senior Editor, I pitched my take on a sequel to Labyrinth and the Jim Henson Company liked it. So equal parts opportunity, perseverance and luck.

What challenges did you face when writing volume 4, the final book in the Return to Labyrinth series?

The biggest challenge came in making sure that the final volume was truthful to the series as a whole. From the start, Return to Labyrinth was one big story. Many details changed along the way, but in the end, the resolution stayed pretty much intact. Knowing what I know now, I would have absolutely done some things differently in pervious volumes, but that’s not a luxury you get (unless you’re George Lucas), and for better or worse, the organic evolution of a storyteller’s voice is something I appreciate in books that I read, so I have to imagine that there are readers who enjoy my own evolution. In the years between Return to Labyrinth vol. 1 and vol. 4, I held three full time jobs, moved into a whole new industry (games), moved from LA to San Francisco, got married and changed my life in many other ways. My head was in a different place when writing volume 4 than it was when writing volume 1. It’s funny, but Return to Labyrinth has been the main constant of the last 5 years of my life.

You also have a story in volume #2 of the new Fraggle Rock comic book series. What can you tell us about your Fraggle story?

It’s about Boober. He washes a shirt. It’s also an epic musical number. Really, there’s nothing more to say about it than that. It’s all about the execution. I can tell you that the artist, Mark Simmons, has done a phenomenal job brining the story to life. Mark is someone I’ve known for about a decade, mostly as a Gundam expert (he’s the master of the Gundam story bible for Bandai and the keeper of the Gundam Official website). Discovering his artwork in the last year has been a revelation. He’s amazing. Check out his work at

Who is your favorite Fraggle?

It’s a tie between Boober and Wembly. I love the episodes that focus on the two of them and their respective neuroses. As for supporting Fraggles, Cantus, hands down. That Henson-voiced musician moves me to tears.

If you lived in biblical times and you couldn’t be a scribe or a prophet, how do you think you would earn your living?

As a cheesemaker. I hear they live blessed lives.

What is your magic power and do you use it for good or evil?

The power of hindsight! I can see through the walls of time to recognize mistakes in the past! As I don’t have the matching power to change history, I don’t see the power as particularly good or evil. It’s more… lawful neutral.

What is your favorite time period in history?

Probably ancient Rome, but I’m definitely biased by the rose-tinted goggles of I, Claudius. If I could fan-fic my life, I would travel to first century Rome and have a conspirational relationship with Tiberius Claudies Caesar Agugustus Germanicus in which we avoid murderous madmen by day and fill scrolls with silly puns by night.

What contact did you have with Jareth while working on Return to Labyrinth?

We… we used to be close. But I had to put a restraining order on him. The obsessive songs of longing were affecting my personal life.

If you had to spend an afternoon with William the Worm, Hoggle, a Firey, The Wiseman or the Wiseman’s hat, who would you choose and why?

The hat! I’m sure he would be a stimulating conversational partner. He’s also the only Labyrinth character I feel comfortable sketching.

You’ve written for Labyrinth, Fraggle Rock and Star Wars. What other iconic franchise work do you wish you could contribute to?

That’s a tough one. Those are three of the most influential properties of my youth. Transformers was another favorite in those formative years, but it’s no longer stirs much in me beyond nostalgia. Nostalgia alone isn’t enough – a franchise needs to have vitality to it. This might be a bit weird, but if I could revisit one untapped fantasy world of my youth, I think I’d go with Disney’s Gummi Bears. I’d also love to play in the world of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but at this point, it’s hard to compete with all the Picard memes on youtube.

What’s your dream gig?

Writing stories, which is what I’m doing already. I just need to keep writing and not give up when a few people say no.

What are you working on currently?

A couple of comics stories and a couple of YA novels. Fingers crossed I can share more before the year is out. I’m reluctant to say more until a project is sold or I’ve solid plans to self-publish through digital channels. It’s a great time to be a creator in that it’s easier than ever to get your work out there, but at the same time, the people who will pay you for said work are tightening belts. It helps to be an entrepreneur, and I’m grateful for my freelance work in the facebook gaming space for opening widening my understanding of content delivery. I still wince a bit at creative arts being lumped together under the utilitarian umbrella of “content,” but as long as I focus on writing for myself and for real readers, and not anonymous demographics, it’s all good.

Tell us about your website?

It’s located at The site has been running for just shy of three years now. Currently the site is focused mostly on Return to Labyrinth, but in the next month or so I’ll be giving it a facelift to refocus the site as a general writing and reading blog. Readers who enjoyed my personal posts won’t notice much of a difference, but if you’re only looking for news on Jareth, I’m afraid there won’t be much to report right now (not that I won’t work in the Labyrinth sandbox again, but my current chapter in that world is closed). I also hope to get back to a regular posting schedule and build up a blogroll with friends and fellow manga and Henson creators. I hope you’ll check it out!

Thank you Jake!