Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year Joy

First things first: HAPPY NEW YEAR to all of you and may you get to enjoy in 2007 the fruits of all your hard work, your passions and your dreams. I happen to know one such person, who, just on the eve of the holiday season, received the best news a writer could hope for, but I'm going to wait to tell you guys until I have her permission to post. All I can say is, you totally deserve this and I couldn't be happier!!!(you know who you are...)

I have to say on this eve of the New Year that there's been quite some excitement in our household as well. I went home for the holidays for the first time in five years and was greeted with a deceptive plus six degree Celsius (which is pretty warm for December 22nd) only to wake up to 25 cm of snow (that's about a foot... I think... let's just saw "a whole lotta") on the morning of December 26th. So I didn't have a white Christmas, but I had a lovely, chilly, slushy, but white Boxing Day (that's the peculiar name we citizens of the Commonwealth have for December 26th).

Ok, the excitement... my lovey editor Paul had a bunch of copies of the Fashionably Late ARC sent to my parents' address in Montreal, so I got to come home to this:


My friend and I even took a copy to our local bookstore and put it on a shelf next to the new releases just to see what it would look like (yes, very dorky, I know). But it was definitely a huge thrill. Even more thrilling was watching my parents' eyes light up when they saw the novel was dedicated to them. I'm not one of those types to believe in "positive visualization" or whatever picturing yourself achieving something as a means of actually achieving it is called, but that moment was one I had played over and over in my head, those years I had been working on FL. Next step... visualize myself finishing novel #2...

And that's not all... check this out.

How crazy is that??? I had no idea it would be up on Amazon (and for you Canucks out there) so soon!!! It was my mother-in-law who discovered this and is now, officially, the first person to have ordered Fashionably Late! (Merci, J!!)

I also did a lot of catching up on my reading these past few days as nothing beats staying in with a cup of hot tea white it's drizzling frozen rain outside... there was also a lot of airport time which most people dread, but you know what? I LOVE airport time (provided you're not running around from counter to counter because you were bumped off your flight, and/or your luggage has gone AWOL, and/or your flight's been delayed five hours, or, better yet, indefinitely) No, my friends, this Christmas flying experience was all-around fabulous. It started with a certain someone in my traveling party (who knows who he is and should be ashamed) dragging me to the "US Citizens Only" line with an air of confidence and implacability which I mistook for knowing what the hell he was doing. I was wrong. First question we were asked when we presented our Canadian passports to the Department of Homeland Security officer was "why are you in my line", and when the certain guilty party feigned not knowing what the customs officer was talking about, I began planning how I'd get word to my family that I'd be missing Christmas because I had been thrown in a Guantanamo Bay jail cell indefinitely. After some "it wasn't my idea! It wasn't my idea!"'s from yours truly, the kindly officer let us go without throwing us back into the sorry hordes of the International Visitors line-ups with a "hey, it's Christmas" (God bless that wonderful man).

After that we were free to enjoy all the consumerist joys of America that are denied to us in the Cayman Islands, like Borders and Starbucks. And I got hours of guilt-free, maybe-I-should-be-doing-something-more-productive reading.

So here's what I read these past few days:

Ines of My Soul by Isabel Allende. This is supposedly not one of her best, but I adored it. You will too if you're into historical fiction that's more historical than fiction (or at least, it reads that way) and if you like swashbuckling adventure. There's a lot of romance here (just like in Zorro) but unlike historical romances, it's not the point. The point is the adventure, and in this case, the adventure is the conquest of Chile and Peru to a lesser extent). I think Allende was trying to be as fair as possible to both sides by getting into the minds of both the native peoples and the conquistadors, but as with stories of great injustices and suffering, like say slavery or the colonialism, "bad guys" do emerge, and their motivations: gold, greed, glory, evangelizing, just aren't enough to make them human. At least not to me, and I've always been a sucker for novels like Roots (which this was NOT - it was from the POV of Ines, a conquistadora). All in all, it was a page-turner most of the time, and it made me want to read Allende's backlist.

The Wal-Mart Effect by Charles Fishman. Maybe it's the geeky business grad in me, but multinationals that shape our lives fascinate me (I told you I was on a non-ficion kick...). This particular Wal-Mart critique (and there have been many) is that it really doesn't have an agenda beyond explaining, as scientifically as possible, how Wal-Mart has changed commerce in out times. When I say 'our times' we're talking so recently that many things I learned at business school are woefully outdated now that Wal-Mart's on the scene. It's not Wal-Mart bashing, nor praising really, but it's a great study of the phenomenon.

The Greatest Story Ever Sold by Frank Rich. This one's about the Iraq war. Now, I know that the biggie out there on this subject is Bob Woodward's State of Denial, but forgive me if he's not my go-to guy on matters of the Bush administration since he's published two Bush suck-up books (Plan of Attack, Bush at War) previous to this one where it would seem he finally saw the light (and now, apparently, Bush won't talk to him anymore...) Frank Rich has been critical of the Iraq war from day one, so no "flip-flopping" here to borrow a page from Bush propaganda tactics. I won't say I loved it: it was dry reading at times (but hey, it's politics, not chick lit), and to me personally, I didn't really learn anything new. What I wanted the most, I didn't get, which was a deep look into the WHY of this whole ordeal, when this book was 250 pages of HOW. he author skims over possible motivations in two pages which wasn't good enough for me, but I guess this was outside the scope of the book (just look at the title). He does however string all the milestones of the war from 9/11 to the present day so you can clearly see how the American people were made to think the Iraq War was a good idea. So good reading if you're confused about the whole thing and want some clearing up of the facts, without too much opinion thrown in.

... I think I've overdue for some good ol'chick lit, what do you think??? I just got my hands on the fabulous Shannon McKeldon's Venus Envy and can't wait to dig in!

Have a great New Year everybody!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

IT'S HERE!!!!!!

Well... what do you guys think?

Definitely a move away from the 'chick' covers we're warned are taking a nosedive, but I do love that blue water so... very vacation-y, wouldn't you say? Now I just have to cross my fingers and hope Barnes & Noble, Borders, Chapters, Indigo et al. like it too...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Exciting Times in Hi-Tech Beauty

The Cayman Islands are many things, but one thing they most definitely are not is avant-garde. So imagine my surprise, when one fine day as I lay on my esthetician’s worktable, slick wax paper crackling under my back, I happen to look over to one side in an effort to get my mind off the mind-bending pain I was being subjected to, and what do I see? A sign for a brand-spanking new procedure I had just read about in Marie-Claire (the UK edition, no less) and had thought to myself when I read it: “man, wouldn’t I love to get this done if only I didn’t live on this rock”.

I won’t tell you what this procedure is quite yet as I'm thrilled to report I’ll be getting it done this Thursday, just in time for my Christmas party (so in case some people from the office are reading this... let’s see how perceptive you are!)

Hint: yes, the effects will be visible to the naked eye, but I highly doubt anyone will be able to pinpoint exactly what I’ve done to myself. More hints: it should actually be fun, unlike, say, laser treatments and chemical peels. It’s in the same fun-ness league as getting your hair dyed a drastic new color. It’s also very avant-gardiste indeed (and very, very frivolous, as in I-can’t-believe-this-is-what-you-spend-your-hard-earned-money-on, make no mistake about it), and I’m pretty sure most of you haven’t heard about it yet. Then again, I do live on a rock in the middle of the ocean, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you laughed me out of the blogosphere after I disclose the results this weekend (we’ve know about it for ages daahrling, do try and keep up!)

Any lucky guessers out there? And I do promise to give you a full report, this weekend after my office Christmas party.

On the book front, I’ve got a surprise coming up for you… I just have to get the green light from my editor, and it’ll be up on my blog asap!

PS: I do apologize for not being able to post a picture of my Jimmy Choo obsession in my last entry… I have a hate-hate relationship with Blogger right now

Friday, December 08, 2006

Unthrifty Kind of Mood

It is absolutely impossible to be thrifty around Christmas time, no matter how hard you try. Maybe it’s just me.

Every year I get burned with the January sales, and, since I’m all the way in the Cayman Islands, the Land Before Malls, and am not planning a no-holds-barred pre-Christmas shopping trip this year, I figure it’s the perfect time to try and save my pennies for the inevitable post-Holiday retail slump where I can stock up on useless-but-pretty things to my heart’s desire. I’ve been doing pretty well, though yesterday, I finally succumbed to temptation.

I walked into a bookstore, and walked away eighty bucks poorer. Sigh. Three hardcover books, two non-fiction, (I’ve been seriously neglecting my non-fiction of late, and I do love it so. It’s just not the kind of thing that’s relaxing to read after a long rough day at work but I blame my burst of enthusiasm on two documentary DVDs I rented last weekend), and one historical fact/fiction medley, Inés of My Soul by Isabel Allende. I read her Zorro, and it kinda, sorta felt like a cross between Gabriel Garcia Marqués (but with less magic-realism weirdness) and Alexandre Dumas (with less can’t-put-it-down swash-buckliness) but all-together a superb novel. I hope Inés of My Soul will be in the same vein.

Did I stop at the bookstore? Nope. Proceeded to walk over to the ONE designer clothing store on the island, and fell in love (actually, it was more like ‘like’ but desperation and self-denial will do that to a girl) with a brownish-red (tag says ‘clay’) and white print BCBG wrap dress, reminiscent of the Diane von Furstenberg I put Ali (the main character in Fashionably Late) in in the novel (I would like to take the opportunity to point out that I am very jealous of Ali’s wardrobe, and have vowed to catch up with her by the time my launch party rolls around this June).

I did also try on a gorgeous little black silk/satin/sequins number which would have been PERFECT for my upcoming Christmas party but decided to leave my crimes at the BCBG dress, which didn’t quite break the bank (the LBD however, would have).

At least I still haven’t succumbed to the hypnotic retail power of these Jimmy Choos, though I have been lusting after them for five month now, and counting (ahem, friends, family….)

What do you think?

(I'd post an image but blogger won't let me : ( Any help would be appreciated...)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Muslim Elected to Congress... and the Ensuing Hoopla

I just couldn’t resist jumping all over this one.

DISCLAMER: I am Muslim. By birth. In practical terms, I’m probably what some might call an evangelical atheist, in that I have a passionate belief in science and logic as opposed to wild leaps of the imagination to explain the (as of yet) unexplainable. In the words of my newfound idol, Dr. Richard Dawkins, “God may very well exist, but would be vastly beyond what has ever been imagined by any theologian or prophet the world has ever known” (apologies for the paraphrasing).

I can assure you this is a genes/pre-ordained personality thing as I was not brought up by hippies. In fact, when I was around 6 or 7, having seen some footage of the sixties and early seventies and somehow having made the link that this was my parents’ era, I thought apt to ask: “Mommy, did you used to be a hippie?” to which I received a very dirty look and a “Shame on you!” [spit, spit].

So no, I was not brought up by Godless hippies. I was however raised in the uber-repressive Saudi Arabia, but lest you think my atheism is merely a personal conduit for rebellion against “the system”, it’s really not: my parents are both quite liberal and perfectly reasonable (despite not being hippies). My mother is “practicing” in the personal, compassionate sort of way that compels her to buy Jesus calendars from nuns because well, they’re nuns and who can say no to nuns?, while my father is extremely well-versed in the Qur’an having studied it at grammar school but has decided over the years that it’s pretty much all gobbledygook.

So there you have it.

Now, with that in mind, I’d like us to look at this article I read this morning. There have been several instances while living in Canada where I’ve had to swear on the bible. Like the time I was working in the States and was unable to get back to Canada in time to vote in our election, but wanted to vote anyway, so I had to do it ahead of the election and swear that on the particular date of the election, I could not be in Canada. I guess I could have made a big stink and refused to swear on anything but the Qur’an, but (please see disclaimer above) I went along because really don’t care. Really, REALLY don’t care. The respectful thing to do would have been to say that to have someone like me swear on the bible would be an insult not to me, but to Christianity, because when you make people who don’t believe in something swear by it just to humor you, their doing just that, humoring you. They are not respecting you. Respect would be having enough faith in you that they feel confident they can tell you that as far as they are concerned, religious book X is gobbledygook, and swearing by it would be an insult to both parties not to mention the integrity of the ritual. But really, they don’t have all that much respect for the ritual at all (or you) and they go along with it anyway. And so the charade continues.

So, when a newly elected official to a United States body of government respectfully declines to swear on the bible, you should take it not as s sign of disrespect for the bible or the traditions of the US, but as quite the opposite. It is in fact a sign of respect for the institutions and rituals of United States system of governance. And yes, I’ve heard the “this is America, and Americans are Christians and if you don’t like it leave” argument told to me (just substitute “Canada” for “America”) more times than I can count. I’m glad the author of the post chose to include this handy quote from the constitution: Article VI, section 3, " religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

Darn those liberal Founders indeed!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

How I Met Orlando Bloom... (I promise, I did)

I’ve been promising for ages to post my Orlando Bloom encounter story, but between proofreads, proposals, and month-end trading, it just hasn’t happened. Seeing as the proposal has now been handed in, the proofreads done (and the sheer amount of proofreading required before the publication of a novel should be the subject of its own post…) and with month-end (nearly) behind me, I should probably get to it, before the details of the story becoming blurry even to me…

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll have heard me say just how small this island is. Well, when the indie movie Haven was released not too long ago, directed by the Cayman Islands’ very own Frank E. Flowers, everyone here was very excited. After all, probably half of the inhabitants of Grand Cayman are, knowingly or not, extras in the movie (like, say, a bouncer at one of our nightclubs who figures as a drug dealer…). And of course, those of us who didn’t get a chance to bump into Orlando while he was down here filming (like moi, unfortunately) were hoping for a second chance if he decided to come down here to promote Haven, which he did, a few weeks ago…

Unlike most of our celebrity sightings news, this one was splashed all over the newspapers (well… the one newspaper) and word spread pretty quickly that Orlando would be at the Ritz on this given Friday night (the Ritz having obliterated any other see-and-be-seen locale since it opened last year).

So my sister, myself, and everyone I know who hasn’t retired from the party circuit yet, got decked out in our denim-and-fabulous-heels-and-tops best and dropped by the Ritz cocktail lounge in the hopes that the rumors were true.

The Ritz cocktail lounge was somewhat but not much more crowded than it usually is on a Friday night, but there was definitely something different in the air… I read a newspaper article once that described Julia Roberts’ presence in a Montreal restaurant where the patrons were stunned to be seated in the same eatery as the star, but had the class not to mob her – the only evidence that she was there was the almost palpable feeling that everyone was holding their collective breath. This is exactly how the Ritz lounge felt like that night, with Orlando Bloom, in jeans, a t-shirt and a fedora over his tied-back hair sitting on the same sofa I’d plopped into on other Fridays, with his small entourage.

Of course we all gawked while trying hard to pretend we weren’t doing just that. My brave friend asked if she could take a picture with him (the response: “if I said yes, luv, it’d never stop”) and me just thrilled to be in spitting distance from him.

The festivities continued at a local club which had just opened and where it’s important to note a certain bartender works, one who is very good friends with my sister.

Orlando and his party occupied the VIP lounge located on the second floor, the entrance of which was guarded by a pair of bouncers.

My sister, our friends and I were happy to boogie on the first floor, and not in any desperate state to try and sneak up to the second floor. My sister then slipped away to get a drink, and I didn’t see her for the next twenty minutes, at which point the words out of her mouth were: “do you wanna meet Orlando?”.

Turns out her bartender friend had asked her just the same question when she walked up to the bar, and then dragged her up the staff stairs to the VIP area, and thrust her in Orlando’s face. And then left. Orlando was a total gentleman, said hi, while my sister was momentarily star-struck and couldn’t think of anything better to say than ask him his opinion about the situation in the Middle East. This seemed to throw Orlando off, and he stumbled his way through a manufactured answer but the ice was broken. They chatted, and twenty minutes later, my sister remembered that she’d left us all downstairs.

She apologized and said she had to get back to her friends, to which Orlando graciously answered: “why don’t you bring them up here?”

“Because there are two bouncers at the VIP entrance.” She said.

“Just say you’re with me.”

To which my sister cocked an eyebrow and retorted, : “um… yes, I’ll just say I’m with Orlando…”

Turns out Mr. Bloom has a sense of humor and recognized the absurdity of his own words. He went downstairs with her and instructed the bouncers to let her, and anyone who came with her, back upstairs when she was ready.

And that’s when she came to get me. Had it been someone else, I would have been a bit skeptical at thought they had somehow cozied up with a celeb in the span of 20 minutes, but if you knew my sister, you would have believed her too when she dragged you past the bouncers, up the stairs, tapped Orlando on the shoulder and said: “this is my sister, Nadine.”

What’s the protocol in these situations? What do you say? He was very nice and normal, and instead of “I love your work” or “so nice to meet you” I asked him if he was planning to do any diving while he was in town to which he replied he would love to but wouldn’t have the chance. We shook hands, and I wished him a pleasant stay in the Cayman Islands.

And that’s how I met Mr. Orlando Bloom. Not very glam, but there you have it. It was exciting, but I’m more excited my proofreads are over.