Friday, September 28, 2007

Being Palestinian: A Blessing or a Curse?

Even while on assignment in Cuba last week, my Palestinian origin caused a little bit of a stir. I guess it must be like coming across a rare species of bird that's about to go extinct... there aren't very many of us, less than 10 million in the whole world.

What was special about this stir was a comment from one of the reporters, an Argentine travel writer: "I would have liked to be Palestinian," he said.

The comment didn't surprise me because it's a notion I've wrestled with my entire life. Being Palestinian: love it or loathe it?

Being Palestinian isn't like being Egyptian, or Swedish, or Saudi Arabian, or Bolivian, or even Cuban. The closest thing I can think of is being Kurdish - a large nation with history and roots in the Middle East but denied a national territory - but even that's a little different.

When you are Palestinian, your mere birth is an act of rebellion.

For decades, entire PR campaigns put forth notions that the Palestinian people had no presence in history, and therefore no claim to any land. There were simply there, and one day they would all die, and with them the idea of Palestine as a modern nation. They would join the Moabites, Canaanites, Amorites of history - people who exist only in encyclopedias. Just like McDonald's came up with "I'm loving it", slogans like "A land without people for people without a land" or Golda Meir's bewildered: "Who are the Palestinians? They did not exist." were introduced and repeated throughout most of my parents' lives and my entire childhood. It took Yasser Arafat, the first and second Intifadas, and later Hamas, to keep the idea of Palestinians of flesh and blood alive and off the dusty pages of ancient history.

When you are a Palestinian, you are a defacto rebel. Che Guevara's steely stare will adorn your walls. You will read Norman Finklestein, Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Said Aburish and George Orwell and you will always vote the lesser of two evils. You will be asked your opinion on pretty much any political topic under the sun and will be listened to with both awe and skepticism. People will say you are biased and so can't be trusted, and yet they will recognize that something lurks behind your eyes they will never be able to see for themselves.

To be Palestinian is not only to see the world as Che Guevara, Ernest Hemingway, or Simon Bolivar might have - it's to live it every single second of your existence. It's to fight against extinction.

So the socially conscious Argentine reporter might very well have liked to have in his blood that rebel gene rather than have to run after it, cultivate it with curiosity, exposure and empathy, but would he have been prepared to be Rebellion personified, from the day of his birth until the day he died, and every day in between?

I don't know. It's a heavy burden, one I can't say I've always wanted, But given the choice, would I chose to be reborn free of it? It has its good days and its bad days, but overall, yes it's a privilege to be a part of such an important piece of history.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Faith, Serendipity, and Eye Candy with your Complimentary Headphones




I lay my head back against the seat cushion and wince at the thought of cracking my laptop open. The latest Jane Green is burning a hole in my carry-on and frankly, I’d much rather spend three and half hours at 30,000 feet in the air with Ms. Green than with my own thoughts and the specter of a looming deadline . Suddenly, a faint smell I recognize from my childhood wafts through the cabin. I inhale sharply, the pressurized air stinging my nostrils, but I need to make sure… and sure enough, there it is, trailing behind that oh-so retro scent… the hot meal cart, complete with aluminum wrapped goodies (and not-so-goodies) but shocking just the same.

No, I wasn’t flying business class for the first time in years – this was Cubana, Cuba’s national carrier, economy class.

That Cubana, complete with a proper (free) meal, a (free) bar service, (free) headphones with which to watch Pirates of the Caribbean 3, and flight attendants who could double as cabana boys would turn out to be such a fabulous flying experience wasn’t even the most shocking part of my surreal week…

- “They’re sending you where?!”
- “Cuba, mom! A tiny little town called Baracoa…”


Just how tiny I wouldn’t know until the enormous tour bus had labored for four and a half hours across narrow, pothole-riddled roads behind ox carts, horse-drawn buggies, bicycles and entire families of wandering pigs.

Four months ago (or what it three? I can’t even remember anymore!), I sat in cubicle aaaaallll daaaaaayyyyy loooooooonnnng.

I was an accountant. It was my calling card to the world, my identity, my future. Even as I felt my soul was beginning to outgrow the label, straining against its suffocating confines, I still took perverse comfort in its shielding, sheltering walls.

But then on day, for reasons I still don’t fully understand, I pushed back against those walls and found they weren’t nearly as thick, as solid or impenetrable as they’d seemed. The world beyond was huge, unpredictable, terrifying, lonely, and unbelievable exhilarating.

Once I was a bored, listless accountant, then I was a fledgling writer, and then, one day, I’m not quite sure how, I was a travel writer, on assignment in a tiny little Cuban town, wandering through streets Columbus had founded, puttering around cathedrals Velazquez had erected and Hatuey, the first rebel of the New World, had tried to destroy, listened to stories of farmers who gave aid and refuge to Castro, Che, and their band of revolutionaries, and trekked up mountains that have stood there for millennia and watched it all.

And I got to marvel at how a tiny little airline from a tiny little island-nation suffering under a nasty ol’ trade embargo could manage to serve me a hot meal on a short trip, a free glass of wine, and hot flight attendants with chocolate-dusted skin to boot.

I guess you really never know what you’re going to get, so you might as well close your eyes, jump, and hope for the best.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Pornified or Free?

My roommate and I were watching a rerun of Fahrenheit 9/11 on the CBC and we got to talking about it, and somehow the chatter degenerated (or elevated? I guess it depends on how you see it...) to the Islamic Fundamentalist movement (Islamism for short, as so far, only a small minority of Muslims adhere to the fundamentalist version, but that minority has certainly grown from irrelevance to a stand-up-and-look-at-me force over my lifetime) and women's role in it. Don't ask.

My roommate is a Christian (Catholic) Palestinian, I am a Muslim (Sunni) Palestinian. Our parents are at the exact same place on the traditionalism vs. leniency axis, which is to say they're liberal by Middle Eastern standards and fairly conservative by Western ones.

Things got thorny when we hit the subject of the veil. My roommate, Arab and traditional though her upbringing was, could not understand how I could defend the wearing of the veil.

"I look at it, and the women who are wearing it with their five kids all under the age of six, and I wonder: how are these women free, how are they not subservient?"

It's not the first time I've had to defend the veil to liberal-minded people (I don't even try with conservative Westerners). It was a common theme at my high school, every once in a while some girl insisting on wearing the veil would make it into the papers, and there would be a debate in class. You can just imagine the debate in my college feminism class (all women) where the (really, really nice) teacher just looked at me with total disbelief when I said I supported the wearing of the veil. I'm used to that look now. What was nice about that particular class was that I wasn't the only Muslim girl in attendance - the other one stared back just as defiantly into the teacher's eyes and defended the veil too. And no, she wasn't veiled herself.

So what gives? I don't actually address this issue much (or as much as I should, maybe) because to me, it's self-evident: I defend a woman's right to wear the veil so I can protect my own right not to.

It's that simple. Something about doing unto others, blah blah blah. When I lived in Saudi Arabia and debates raged the other way (about the importance of protecting our values by not 'Westernizing' ourselves too much, wearing the veil in defence of women's rights, and against the 'pornification' of women, basic modesty, etc...), I, naturally, argued that it's not society's place to dictate how a woman interprets modesty. It's an individual choice. This stand was as popular in Jeddah as the-veil-is-not-a-symbol-of-female-oppression is in Montreal : )

But the veil is a symbol of female oppression! You say. Consider this story.

The idea of elementary-aged schoolgirls willingly blowing their classmates in bathroom stalls and having the whole thing camera-phone-taped for the entire Youtube viewing world to enjoy, is something that, honestly, makes me want to opt out of parenthood altogether. Call me close-minded.

I know this is extreme.(Then again, maybe not....) Whatever it is, it's not the 'feminism' I identified with and clung to as a kid, and hoped would lead women everywhere to self-awareness and power that had been denied us from the dawn of time.

But then, I grew up.

Here's a scenario for you: You meet a guy, let's pretend he's a waiter at the restaurant you and your girlfriends are having dinner at. You make eye contact, he's cute, you think he thinks you're cute, you flirt, and end up with his phone number. You text. He texts. A casual let's-just-hang-out-with-friends date-like rendez-vous is set. You go, you flirt some more, not really thinking ahead of the margarita in front of you. He drives you home, there's that moment of is-he-going-to-kiss-me tension, but you know (c'mon - just admit it) he will. He does. It's good - really good - but you're pretty sure you don't want to come off as easy. But hey - you're single and it's been a while. But still. You invite him up and say IT'S ONLY FOR A DRINK AND YOU'RE ACTUALLY REALLY REALLY SERIOUS. He shoots you that sly grin that just makes him annoyingly sexier, and you proceed upstairs, stopping for some heavy-duty make-out sessions along the way. You fumble with the lock, you are now inside.

You offer to make that drink, but it turns out Casanova was betting that given the right finessing, you'd be putty in his hands. He kisses you, you back off, but hey - it's good and he's nice and you definitely want to see him again, and did I mention it's been a while?

And so it goes. Maybe you have sex, maybe you don't, but it certainly wasn't what you had in mind but you "adjust" your behaviour to a blend of how far you're willing to go versus what you have to do for him to possibly call the next day.

Some women might cry bloody murder at this scenario, blaming the girl for not being forceful enough or clear enough in pushing the guy away, and that it's her fault if she went further than she wanted. Others would say no means no. I think the truth is these situations are so grey that no one really knows what goes on except the two people involved. And these situations happen because women are often complicit in their own objectification: the line between I'm-wearing-this-hoochie-mama-top-because-I'm-an-empowered-woman-in-control-of-her-own-sexuality and I-just-want-boys-to-like-me-and-this-is-the-only-way-I-know-how is so muddled that it's virtually impossible to get a good grasp of the issue.

I invite you to consider that we do have a problem with female objectification in the West, one that can't be placed solely on the shoulders of men, and that we have collectively decided that no matter the cost to our self-esteem, we are not willing to sacrifice, whether freedoms or pleasure, to try and correct this. Maybe it's okay to fall prey to our own weaknesses every once in a while if it means that we can do anything we want, and don't have to depend on anyone, especially not a man, for it.

Now let me invite you to consider another way of seeing things: that the objectification of women is a serious problem in a society where its men have not been properly 'conditioned' to see women as equals. Some men accept that they are not animals and do not behave as such, but other men think that a woman who puts herself on display is in effect, offering herself up, not so differently than our cute waiter scenario, albeit in a much more generalized context.

So the women in this society willingly choose to take the veil 1)as an external sign of their devotion to their faith, 2) because they feel more empowered by their self-inflicted de-sexualization, or 3) in a war/aggression situation where their values are under assault, people will exhibit extreme patriotism to protect their way of life. Wearing the veil becomes like flying the American flag on your lawn, a middle finger to the enemy.

It's a point of view that you can agree or disagree with - I happen to think we should work on "conditioning" men into better behavior - but I can objectively look at my own weaknesses and think: how can I be so smug, so self-assured that my way is the right way, when my version of feminism has somehow produced blow-job giving girls on school buses?

The perverse, radical consequences of regimes like Afghanistan's under the Taliban, or Saudi Arabia's under the Wahhabis for women are just that: extreme distortions of what happens when a group of people gives up some of its rights. In some places, without proper controls or with a citizenry too dehumanized by war or too lulled by riches to pay attention, this is what happens.

In other words, it's not the veil's fault. Please, cut it some slack, and stop inflating its importance as a symbol of oppression, and consider some genuine causes of oppression: poverty, war, theft of natural resources, bad leadership, short-sighted consumerism.

Bright, empowered Muslim women who wear the veil as a badge of honour will shut down if they see even a hint of pity in your eyes with regards to their decision to wear the veil. It's like telling them: you are a poor, stupid, backward girl with no backbone or ability to think for herself. Now let me tell how great America is....

Just like I imagine you would shut down if you thought Muslim women were forming their opinions of Western society based on a few blow jobs on a school bus.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Reading While Black

A few weeks ago I discovered a wonderful little blog looking at writing from the perspective of an ethnic minority. The past few days have included interviews with some of my favorite chick lit writers, as well as writers I've known from our days as struggling un-pubbeds from way back - writers like Sonia Singh (who should really write a new book soon!), Caridad Ferrer, and Julie Leto.

And today, an interview with yours truly! Head on over!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Letting Go

Some of you might have noticed my somewhat extended absence from the blogosphere, and I can assure you, it’s justified: on August 1st (technically 2nd since I arrived in Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport well past midnight), I officially relocated back to Montreal.

It’s funny exactly how life chooses to sock it to you emotionally – usually when you least expect it. In my case, I’d known about the relocation for months and months now – honestly, I’d made my decision to leave the island last year but stayed on for financial reasons that are allowing me to take time off to write my next book – so I can’t say I didn’t have a chance to get used to the decision. And in the weeks leading up to the move, I did what I always said I would, quit my job early so I could divide my days between writing, the beach, and hanging out with my friends, generally just enjoying everything about Cayman I didn’t have time for when I was pulling overtime at the office.

And everyone would invariably ask: Are you ready?

‘Course I am. My stuff’s packed up, I had a massive blow-up launch party which made the local papers and doubled as a goodbye bash for me and a hundred of my friends. Any more tanning and I would have effectively become a handbag. I’ve indulged in all the island has to offer, from duty-free jewellery and designer sunglasses, to Piña Coladas by the shore, cursing out tourists and watching cruise ships sail out of the Georgetown port toward a blood-orange sunset and the calm, endless horizon.

The first time I cried a little was standing in line at the American Airlines check out counter, saying goodbye to the friends who’d come to see me off. It was only when the customs officer I was used to seeing every time I left to shop in Miami, visit family in Montreal, or travel to any other place that caught my flighty fancy, wished me good luck upon seeing the expiration date of my last work permit that the loss sucker-punched me to the gut. Even though we’d never exchanged anything beyond hellos and thank yous, we looked at each other in that suspended second, understanding that this was a real goodbye. That’s when it sunk in, after months of mental and actual preparation, that I was now one big angry red stamp in my passport away from going back to being just like everyone else. My time as a tropical Cinderella was up, just like I always knew it would be one day. But when you’re busy dancing away in the arms of adventure, ‘one day’ is just an idea, one that has very little to do with you.

Of course, we always idealize in hindsight. But not all our rosy memories are illusions – in the case of my stint in the Caribbean, most were not. After I’d gotten over the adaptation hump (the first six months), it was pretty smooth sailing for the next four and a half years. I went places I couldn’t have gone to on a Montreal salary, met adventure-seekers like me from all over the world, made the kind of friendships that made me wish I’d met those people back in high school, visited Cuba to my heart’s content, shopped in London and Miami for lack of malls on the islands (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it), and had time to write my first novel. Even hurricane Ivan, with all the upheaval it wreaked on our lives, made me understand what it is for a community to pull together in times of mass disaster, and Cayman, scarred and pitiable though it was in those months, was never closer to my heart. Sometime around then, I unconsciously stopped meaning Montreal when I said ‘home’.

The second sucker-punch came upon my very tardy arrival into Montreal, when I looked at the Canadian customs officers and confessed my repatriation.

“Welcome back” she said, with a big, warm smile.

More tears.

It’s been twenty days now, and every day the Cayman experience feels more and more like a distant dream, which really, it was. The Islands are a transient place. They’re an idea, an ideal, a wasps’ nest of small frustrations, a heaven and a haven. Jimmy Buffet has built an empire on their mystique and sang, quite eloquently, about how expatriates to these tiny drifting rafts of humanity are free to come and play paradise with the natives for a while, but will never become a part of island life. They look at us as one might look at a passing storm, with reason. We sweep into town with our running and rushing and modernizing, we complain and adapt and improve and take what we want and leave what we don’t want, and they just sit back and do things as they always have, secure in the knowledge that every storm passes, and every day will go back to stretching out hot and lazy just like the all the ones before, and all the ones to come.

And while my mark on the islands will not be felt any deeper than a footprint in the sand, I will never forget them.

Goodbye Cayman

Monday, July 23, 2007

Title Contest!

Okay, so I'm a bad, bad blogger - I did promise you a contest so here it is. Actually, it's more of a giving-you-incentive-to-help-me-out-contest. I don't know by what stroke of genius I managed to come up with a title I loved with Fashionably Late, but I'm not feeling the title magic this time around. Here's what I've come up with, perhaps you can give me the top three eye-catching titles from the below list, and you can enter a draw to win..... wait for it.... an art print direct from Cuba!!! I've just come back from an art scouting trip there (hence the no blogging), so I can make good on this. Please don't forget to include your name (or some kind of identifier) if you're posting anonymously.

Here's your prize:



It's a flat watercolour so I promise to be prompt in sending it to you (I learned my lesson with the coco taxi debacle). I don't have a ruler handy, but (and I included some trade paperbacks in the pic for your reference), it looks like a 6" x 8".


And the titles are:

Loose Ends
Cutting Loose
On the Loose
Loosely Translated
Losing It
Loose Girls
Coming Loose
The Loose Girls Club

***
Fashionably Unwed
Fashionably Deluded
Fashionably Jilted
Fashionably Jaded
Fashionably Unsettled

***
Lipstick Rebellion
Rebels in High Heels
Fashionistas Without a Cause

***

Adventures in Limboland
Accidentally Unwed
A Season in the Sun

***
I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but I will say that the book is a spin off of Fashionably Late, the tale of one of the characters who figures out that her relationship is well, not quite what it seemed, and runs off to somewhere HOT (not Cuba!) to figure out her life. Her behaviour is very un-good-girl-like considering her strict background, hence the "loose", and in this new life of hers, she meets two other girls who've made their own lives on their own terms, away from their families... Good luck!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Dallas Baby!

Dallas was F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C (well, except for the food, but I suspect that was more RWA's fault than the city's...)

As always, conferences are hugely inspiring, and among things, the vibe there flies in face of the published-writer-as-rockstar stereotype. Nora Roberts, recently named one of America's top 100 entertainers (not writers - entertainers) grabbed a seat across from me at the bar, another NYT bestselling author was walking around with her dress caught somewhere on her hips... it's all very democratic. And cathartic for the unpublished. So if you're serious about your writing but are terrified of feeling like a guppy swimming alongside sharks, don't be. I met my agent at my first ever conference (which was also in Dallas), picked up Gods knows how many tips on the craft, and cartloads of free books every time (I didn't get as many this time but what I did get I love).

The highlights of this year for me (besides catching up with my writing chicas) have to be the impromptu speech of writing multicultural lit and the St. Martin's/TOR signing.

Allow me to explain. Last year my agent gave a workshop/panel about writing multicultural chick lit, moderated by the lovely Michelle Yu, one of the authors of China Dolls. My book wasn't out then, so I wasn't approached for the panel. Then, a few months after that, Michelle did contact me about a multicultural chick lit panel asking me if I would like to participate. Naturally I was all over it, but (and here's the crux of the matter...) I ASSUMED (what do they say about assuming making an ass out of you and me?...)that this was the same type of panel as last year, and that it was organized by my agent. So, I followed up with my agent, NOT Michelle (stupid, stupid, stupid Nadine) before the conference. My agent kindly informed me that she would be doing her workshops on her own this year, without a panel (I can imagine her scratching her head and wondering what the heck I was talking about).

So I promptly forgot about this panel business.

Until Thursday morning, at the conference registration, where I was handed a 'speaker' badge. Ha ha.

Then I met my agent, and we managed to piece together what had happened.

Fortunately this story has a happy ending: during that period of time when I did think I was going to give a speech about writing multicultural fiction, I did actually think about what I would say, what I think the key commandments are, etc. So I wasn't completely unprepared. I met with Michelle & Blossom and we tweaked our presentation, and were joined by the scholarly Cathy Yardley, author of Will Write for Shoes among other works, and all was well that ended well. I'm actually very pleased with the panel, and we're going to be back bigger and stronger (and with handouts this time!) in San Fransisco next year.

The other awesome thing about the Nationals was... drum roll please... my signing! My editor totally pulled through and arranged for boxes and boxes of Fashionably Late to be waiting for me, together with a lovely gentleman who was charged with explaining the process to me and making me feel cared for. I love you Paul!!!

The signing itself could not have gone better, I had a fantastic turnout with lots and lots of positive comments like: I love your cover, or I've heard about your book (nothing, by the way, is sweeter to a writer's ears than hearing that someone has heard about your book... sometimes it feels like all the PR noise you're trying to make may as well be coming out of Siberia).

The best moment? On the plane back from Dallas a middle-aged nurse from North Carolina struck up a conversation with me where I revealed that I was a pubbed writer, and when I produced a copy of FL, she looked at it and said: "Oh I recognize this... I think I saw it at the airport..."


Finally, stay tuned for tomorrow, when I'll be announcing a new contest!!! (and I promise you a very cool prize).

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Seventy Day Challenge

I ran across this post on Diana's site, and I'm thrilled I did - it's EXACTLY the kind of kick-in-the-pants I need. My average output over the past 15 days has been just short of 1,000 words/day which is woefully short of my 2,000 words/day goal I set for myself when I decided to write full-time.

So there were a few "life" events, like moving house, Canada Day, the impending 'moving countries' (back to Canada) and of course Dallas conference, still, I realize these are all just excuses. I know, because when I actually DO start writing, after surfing the net for ages and reading a thousand blogs, I'm pretty good. And when I get inspired (like yesterday, being hit on by a balding Indian waiter who was convinced I too was Indian and was denying it only because I didn't want to flirt back with him - which I didn't, but I wasn't aware this was a crime) I can write pages and pages on the back of whatever's handy. In yesterday's case, it was the back cover of a copy of Newsweek.

So here's my goal: 2,000 words/day for 60 days, every day, including the day I fly back to Montreal (Aug 1) and conference (though I will commit to a reduced workload for conference - 500 words/day).

So there. Now off to write today's output!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Blame it on the Booze, But…

I had a very heartwarming moment a few nights ago standing in line at the local post-clubbing, all-night greasy food eatery. Every city has one – in Montreal it’s the Amir on the corner of Crescent and de la Montagne (yes it’s Lebanese food, so you may be tempted to scream ‘biased’ but I promise you it’s the absolute BEST food you can get at four o’clock in the morning – the mixed-ethnicity, long lines should be evidence enough).

Anyway, Grand Cayman has a similar fine dining spot which seems to do most of business between the hours of midnight and 3 a.m.

On the night in question, I happened to be waiting in line behind a couple who I’m guessing were vaguely acquainted before, but who’d just hooked up that night. The gentleman was a good ol’ Texas white boy – as white as white Midwestern/Southern American college kids get – and the young woman was an Indian-American (there’s a med school here in Cayman populated mostly by American kids. Don’t ask me why).

They were talking about some classmates. The girl said “You know Mohammed?”

And what Monsieur White Texan replied just made my heart melt. He said: “Dude - there’s, like, eight Mohammeds in my class – that’s the most random name you can give me… was it short Mohammed, or tall skinny Mohammed, or…”

There’s wasn’t a hint of racism in his voice, the voice of this young white future doctor, this American citizen who would one day vote, and who I can only hope will be in a position to tell a**holes who try and make him fear ‘Mohammeds’ as terrorists just where they can shove their bigotry. Right there in front of me was the kind of American you never read about in the news, or see on TV: regular, smart, educated, traveled American who has eight Mohammeds in his med school classes, and who’d just hooked up with a hot Indian girl.

Like I said, maybe it was the vodka red bulls, but I wanted to cry…

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Dallas Signing Confirmed!

Apologies for the late notice but I just found out myself... I'm going to be signing at the RWA Nationals in Dallas this year, in the St. Martin's giveaway room!

I am SO psyched about this! If you're planning on attending then conference, then please pop on over and say hi. If you happen to have bought your copy of FL already, then please bring it along - I'll be happy to sign it for you! (and give you a nifty FL bookmark too)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Romantic Times Review!

Here's a nice little review Fashionably Late got from Romantic Times in the mainstream reviews section... 4 stars out of a possible 4 and a half, chicas!!!

It's actually one of my favorite ones so far - which is to say it's one that makes me see my own writing in a new light (trust me people, when you've read your manuscript so many times your eyeballs feel like they might fall out of their sockets at the mere thought of one more read, a fresh perspective is nothing short of miraculous). Here it is:

Fashionably Late is a great coming-of-age story that is written in the first person, drawing the reader into the characters’ lives. The strength of the story is in the author’s ability to allow the characters to share their heritage, beliefs, and to grow with and despite their differences. Readers from any culture will identify with the characters in this story. Geographical differences and customs are explained in such a way that the reader is educated and entertained at the same time.


A huge fear driving my writing is that the three friends - Ali, Sophie and Yasmin - weren't differentiated enough. One thing I'd read in craft books was that you had to make sure you could tell which character was speaking even if you didn't have the dialogue tag to help. Boy did I worry about that. So to see this kind of review really warms up the heart : )

Also, I've started blogging on Amazon. The posts will be less frequent and less, um, how do I say this? Acerbic? Outspoken?... than the ones here. So if you can't get enough blog goodness, head on over to Amazon.com and look up Fashionably Late. If you've read the book, then don't be shy to give it a review while you're there : )

Friday, June 29, 2007

Stop the Clash of Civilizations

I've been reading quite a bit about this supposed "clash of civilizations" lately, ostensibly between Western and Islamic civilizations. What I hate about this discussion, especially when framed this way, is its complete refusal to see how much perception (as opposed to reality) plays a part. Yes, it would seem that both civilizations want nothing to do with each other, but, and call me crazy here, isn't that sort of to be expected when one country is getting the crap bombed out of it, and the other side is terrorized by all kinds of fears, real and imagined?

So people that promulgate the myth that the end is nigh because these two civilzations have nothing in common... to these people I say: really? Have you actually thought about what you're saying? Do you think the other side are martians, or people just like you, and that perhaps they might respond to a measure of respect?

This video does a good job of responding to those people.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Guest Blogging

It's been a big day already folks, and it's not even lunchtime!

I got my interview questions from Atmosphere today - Air Transat's in-flight magazine.

For those of you who aren't familiar with this carrier, it's a Quebec-based vacation charter airline, meaning you usually get nifty all-inclusive packages with them to "destination spots" all over the Caribbean and even some Euro locales as well.

It's the airline Ali and her fearless band of daiquiri-swishing gal pals were originally destined to take (as would have been fitting), but then at the last minute, I put them on Air Canada instead because I figured that's what an American audience would expect.

And then Air Transat came a' knockin' to do an interview with me because what with my bilingualism and Caribbean themes, we're a nice match.

Now do you see why writing the truth is always better than an imitation of it? I can't imagine what kind of spread I would have gotten in Atmosphere if I'd gone with my instincts and kept the more correct Air Transat. Small, small detail, but the Universe chooses mysterious ways with which to bite you in the ass. Oh well.

And, dear faithful blog readers, you're in for a double-whammy today as I'm guest blogging over at the lovely Dona's. Do drop by the comments section and tell us what your favorite multi-culti themed literature is.

Hasta Luego,
Nadine

Monday, June 25, 2007

Publishers Weekly

Check this out from Publishers Weekly, posted today on Amazon!

FASHIONABLY LATE
Nadine Dajani. Forge, $14.95 paper (400p) ISBN 9780765317421

Plucky, 20-something, Lebanese-Canadian Aline Hallaby has a promising career at one of Montreal's "Big Four" accounting firms; a marriage proposal from her nice (if unexciting) boyfriend; and a closet filled with Cavalli, Chloe, and Christian Louboutin. When she fails her final professional certification exam, the once-dutiful Arab girl plunges headlong into a quarter-life crisis, fleeing to Cuba for a week of heady rebellion (mojitos, men, participation in a beauty pageant) with her two closest friends. There, Ali is forced to decide if she will continue to live according to the expectations of her traditional Muslim parents, or chase her own dreams. The question of how Ali should live is a provocative one, and Dajani's wit, warmth and insight shine through in turning over its nuances, but there are few surprises to be found in how Ali answers it. (June)




How much fun are reviews? I've been lucky so far that nothing too damaging has come my way, but I'm also pretty pleased with myself that I'm managing to take the criticism in stride when it does come. So PW doesn't think the ending is enough of a surprise? Well, I'm more into endings that make sense given the context of the story, that give insight and show growth, as opposed to wild plot shenanigans. In a romance you know the hero and heroine will get together, and in a mystery you know the killer will be found out, in a women's fic you know the status quo who no longer be tenable and something about the protag will change: it's the 'how' that keeps you reading. And the characterization. This is what comes more naturally to me, the characterization in my novels.

But, I'm an advocate of doing the most with your strengths and also working hard on your weaknesses. With that in mind, I started doing the exercises in Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass, and I have to tell you guys, it's a fabulous little tome. Light on actual wording (so you're not tempted to just read and not think about your own writing), it's heavy on giving you practical exercises you can use to test your WIP. Though it might be cumbersome to do 100% of them, it's a great tool to help you with aspects of your writing you struggle with. And it gave me plenty of insight into my current plot.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Fashionably Late Around Town

So much to blog about today... and so much time?

Yesterday was a Cayman Islands bank holiday, which really, I shouldn't have "taken" seeing as I an NO LONGER AN ACCOUNTANT but my friends were all off and wanted to go to the beach, so what the heck?

I've also been enjoying long, uninterrupted (by guilt or otherwise) stretches of reading this past weekend, and can say, right now at least, that the itch has been scratched - I was wallowing in self-pity for a while, racked with guilt over needing to do one thing or the other, taking at least a little bit advantage of the fact I live on a Caribbean island and actually going to the beach for heaven's sakes, that I really haven't indulged my reading urge of late. Like a workaholic parent, I threw money at the problem, in lieu of time, buying every book I was dying to reading, and watching it languish on my shelves. No more. We'll see how long this euphoric state lasts, but I'm confident I'm turning a page here... stop laughing.

The other promise I've made of late (to myself and my publicist)concerns this blogging regularly thing... I recall throwing at-least-once-a-week out there once. It's not that I have nothing to say (HA! my friends are wishing for the day), but it's been pretty much the same problem as reading, as in if I have one iota of free time it should be spent writing, not working out, reading, making salads, or even blogging.

So here we are, leaf turned. Though I will try and make these posts more frequent, and less verbose.

Let me start out by saying I think I've found my dream publicist. My in-house publicist is wonderful as well, but I think independent publicists and in-house ones are different breeds of publicist and shouldn't be compared. I'll be delving into that with more detail in my next installment of The Promo Diaries, for Chick Chat, the Chick Lit Writers' online chapter. Maybe with some organization, I'll get those articles up on my website one day, since I hope all you writer chicks out there will learn from my promo mistakes. Or at least get a good laugh out of them.

Heather was lovely enough to alert me to this accidental picture of Fashionably Late in a primo spot out there in California. CALIFORNIA, chicas. For a Lebanese/ Montrealer/Cayman Islander, Calie may as well be Mars. I should probably write Megan and thank her for the unintentional promo (right back at you babe: Megan Crane's book, Frenemies, just came out recently, and you can read all about it here).

The weekend I went to Miami, I'd remembered to bring along my digital camera, but not the battery, which I'd left in its charger back home. Very smart. So I can't share with you pictures of FL's appearances on tables across the Miami area, but here are some pics from Montreal...

Here it is at Paragraph, a great indie bookstore that mainly serves students at the McGill University campus across the street. If you're ever in Montreal, this is one of those well-kept local secrets - super cute bookstore with state-of-the-art adjacent cafe, on the corner of gorgeous McGill University & Sherbrooke streets, a strangely serene place for such a busy part of town. Oh, and it overlooks the lovely Mount Royal park (imagine Central Park in NYC, but bigger, carpeted in dense foliage, and on a steep hill with spectacular views of the city below)


...and at Indigo (Canada's version of Borders)



...and here's another shot at Indigo (kudos to the marketing department at TOR/Forge who were spot on with the cover: notice how well it goes with the "summer reading" theme...



...and finally, the piece de resistance, at the "New Fiction" table at Chapters (Canada's B&N)



If you happen to catch FL anywhere yourselves, please do give me a shout, as you have no idea (or maybe you do, all the more reason!) of how incredibly thrilling it is to hear.

Besos,
Nadine

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Time Has Come…

It’s been almost two weeks since the launch of Fashionably Late and it’s time to break the silence and start gushing. Not as easy as you would think…

When I was cramming really, really hard for my CMA (management accounting) exams, giving up every conceivable iota of free time to do something that brought me about as much pleasure as carving out my eardrums with a spoon, my CMA ‘coach’ stood in front of the class one fine day and proceeded to tell us this: when the exam would be behind us, we would miss the sense of purpose that only excruciatingly hard work in the pursuit of a singular goal can give.

The guy next to me turned and shrugged, one eyebrow cocked at a is-this-broad-freakin’-kidding-me??? angle.

Well, the exam came to pass, and I wish I could say my coach was somewhat right, that I felt some of the malaise associated with the achievement of one’s highest goals, but I was just really happy I had gotten my life back, that I’d passed, and that the nightmares had finally stopped.

Writing a book is different.

Is it because I’m older and supposedly wiser this time around? Or that instead of being pushed into this goal by the mobster twins, Fear and Loathing, I actually entered into this contract with myself freely, willingly, with nothing but hope and a little bit of stress, the positive kind, in my heart?

Maybe.

But there you have it. There is some malaise that comes with the passing of yet another signpost on the serpentine, surprising road that is Life. And over the past couple of weeks, since my last blog post, by turn I’ve felt euphoria, dread, elation, nervousness, pride, morbidity, an incredible sense of achievement, and a looming existential crisis.

Is this what I’m meant to be doing? Waiting for the Idea Muse, synthesizing her bouts of creativity into something workable, committing to the enormous project of writing a novel on nothing but faith (especially challenging to me, as I am really not a ‘faith’ kind of person), seeing it through, embarking on the shameless self-promotion ride, bracing myself for the ensuing praise and criticism (which, as I’m now understanding, are two sides of the same coin – you can’t let yourself get too high on either, or you will become a slave to them).

Since the launch of Fashionably Late, I’ve appeared in the local Cayman Islands newspapers, and am getting “spotted” about town – by the barristas at my favorite coffee shop who now know why I spent so much time in their café, the travel agent who vaguely remembers me from my various drop-ins in the office but now knows exactly who I am, people I’ve worked with in the past who used to offer a cursory ‘hello’ now looking – really looking – into my face and offering heartfelt congratulations.

Of course, with my belonging to the no-nonsense banking world, there have also been some encounters of the kind I’d always feared – from the same people who I imagine look down at homemakers and waitresses and anyone who isn’t being paid huge sums of money for sitting behind a desk as being somehow unworthy, not quite grown-up enough, and maybe a little simple minded, as though they couldn’t hack it in the real world.

I was very, very afraid of those encounters, because I used to be one of those people. Kind of like the virulent anti-gay senators, congressmen and mega-church preachers whose homophobic crusades turn out to be inspired by a deep self-loathing, a shameful penchant to what they declare to be so depraved and disgusting.

I was a creative person who wished she could just be normal.

And out of all the gifts, encounters with new, interesting people, new experiences, new feelings I’ve gained since the release of FL, this is the most precious: self-acceptance.

Okay, so that was the “morbidity” and “existential crisis” segment of our post. On to the fun part: the party!


It was unbelievably good. The kind of good I didn’t allow myself to hope for. Nearly everyone who’d RSVP’d showed up, so about 90 people, the food – which was going to be a surprise for me since I didn’t set the menu, merely pointed in the direction of noveau-Mediterranean if you will – was spectacular. Creative, original, and finger-lickin’ good. The music was so good that in the midst of the Paris-Hilton-grade glamour of signing books and having twenty different flashes going off in tandem, I was itching to get on the dance floor. And this after having given Jae, my wonderful friend-cum-event-planner-cum-DJ this very helpful suggestion: “I want a contemporary Cuban sound with a Middle-Eastern/techno baseline… Oh – and lots of hip hop, Nelly Furtato/Sexy Back kinda vibe. Do you see what I’m saying?”

And, by God, Jae did it.

We even had a foosball table in a corner which kept those gentlemen (I use the term loosely) with little inclination for salsa/baladi/house/Nelly Furtato remixes happily occupied, as they puffed on their complimentary Romeo y Julieta cigars.

The ladies’ gift bags were a hit. I’m now free to reveal what was in them: three mini-martini bottles (Cocktails by Jenn is the brand – pre-mixed sweet little concoctions which are heavy on the vodka) of assorted flavors, a mojito scented soap created especially for Fashionably Late by a local artisan, Cayman Soap Co., gorgeous earrings (in an equally gorgeous little “flower” pouch I found online) individually handcrafted - all 60 of them - by my really good friend Dara (who will not listen to me and pursue her jewelry design ambitions seriously even though she’s brilliant), and lip gloss.

The community support for this party was so amazing that a local Cuban art gallery donated a painting, and one of the big jewelers, Island Companies, donated a gorgeous Sorrelli necklace, both to be raffled off to raise money for Cayman’s libraries. The most incredible support of all was that it was my current employer, an international bank, who helped make it all come true. A sign that in the hearts of even the most straight-laced financiers lays a yearning for the artistic? Or just plain kindness?

I signed more than sixty books, had a few mojitos, and then danced the night away. It was absolutely magical.

Here I am, before the madness, with the books...



A glimpse of the venue, this time with guests...






In the thick of things...








This time with Lil'sis who played the part of raffle drawing organizer and general keep-company'er extraordinaire...


Gift bags and raffle prizes...


Los tigres of the night, not to mention the evening's principal salseros...








Me, and the hot, all-male staff I'd requested for the evening (it's my party, and I don't have to stare at a buxom barmaid's scantily-clad cleavage if I don't want to, dammit!)


The debauchery begins...


...and ensues...










and the lovely ladies who helped me make this dream come true

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Fashionably Late OFFICIAL RELEASE DATE!!!

I know, I know, I should have been all over this and this post should have been up bright and early this morning, but it’s crazy times around here…

Last night a friend threw a BBQ in honor of my other friend who had come all the way over from London for the launch party. As if that weren't exciting enough, about halfway through the evening the doorbell rings and who’s there but my single oldest friend in the world. She’d flown in from Montreal, just for the party, and had managed to keep it a complete surprise. Everyone was in on it and managed to keep the secret for at least a month, so kudos to all my peeps (you too mom! I'm very impressed).

Is it a wonder that in all this flurry of activity, the party (tomorrow!!!), the surprise jet-setting friend drop-ins, the spa appointments, the gift bag production lines, the last minute party details, not to mention that I’m not off of work until tomorrow, that the official launch date of the book nearly passed me by??? Hard to believe but true. I’m not even sure I would have noticed had my little brother not set up a Facebook group called “Buy My Sister’s Book or Die”. Gotta love little brothers. And technology.

So, if after this huge lead-up of over a year you’re still curious about FL, you can finally head on over to the bookstore and get it! (Unless of course you live in Miami, then you’ll have to wait until I can sign your copy this weekend!!)

As for our giveaway winner – Reel Fanatic, congratulations!!! Just send me your address and your copy will be sent from Miami this weekend.

Thanks for all your support guys! I may not blog for the rest of the week, but I’ll be back on Monday with news of the party, and lots of pics!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Contest Announcement!!!

I’m sinking lower into in bad blogger (uh – try terrible) territory, and this mere DAYS BEFORE THE LAUNCH OF FASHIONABLY LATE!!!

This is ridiculous.

I think I may just have to give away a copy of FL just to redeem myself. And I will make it as easy as humanly possible. Just leave me a comment, write down anything you want, anything in the world, like say, AAARRRRGGGHHHHH!!! and I’ll put your name in a hat and have one of my friends pick one. And you have until Monday morning to leave your comment, too.

Before I move on to a completely unrelated topic, I would like to sneak in the tiniest little bit of shameless self promotion and remind you of my reading/signing at Books & Books in Coral Gables, Miami, Sunday June 3rd. I will bring goodies from the launch party, but I won’t say what just yet…

I’ll also be dropping by a bunch of Miami-area Barnes & Noble stores to do some stock signings, so if you’d like your very own autographed copy of FL and happen to live near a B&N (or Books & Books), here’s your chance!

In other exciting news, the launch party is in a mere SIX DAYS, and the source of my nervousness and excitement for the past month and a half will finally come to pass… lots of pics will be up on the blog in the ensuing days, as promised.

And finally, I’m being interviewed for June’s Chick Chat, and, time permitting, I’ll be contributing an article about promotion in there as well. If you’re not a member of the online Chick Lit Writers of the World RWA chapter, then watch this space – I’ll try to get the interview posted here as well.

Now do you see why I haven’t been blogging?

Okay – time for the rant of the day.

I’ve been seeing previews on TV for an upcoming movie with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart called No Reservations and thinking about the original German version, Mostly Marta, which has led me to wonder if perhaps the different stylistic approaches to what is essentially the exact same story, explain something about the way we North Americans see the world.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Mostly Marta (and I don’t blame you if you haven’t – if I didn’t haunt the foreign films section of my local Blockbusters, I wouldn’t have either), it’s the story of a brilliant yet borderline bipolar, loner chef (Marta) working at a swanky restaurant. Calamity strikes when Marta’s only connection to the world outside her kitchen, her single-mom sister, dies in a car crash leaving Marta as sole guardian to her young niece. Marta has no clue what to do with her niece – enter hot, sensual, rival chef who tries to bring out the humanity in Marta.

From my brief description above, this sounds like a typical, predictable romantic comedy with its only twist that it’s set against kitchen politics – cute sounding, but probably forgettable. And hinging mostly on the theater-packing power of the lead actors.

The original Mostly Marta though, caught my attention with its DVD cover depicting a spread of gourmet food, and, being a cooking show addict, I had to check it out. And then the characters charmed me despite (or is it because of?) their utter banality. Marta could have been my neighbor - no airbrushing of her midsection, no flashy wardrobe, no score to give me cues when to laugh or cry - in other words, nothing to distract me from the acting and basic story itself. German Marta did not need to be Catherine-Zeta-Jones-grade stunning to captivate me (in fact, I have a hard time seeing how someone who looks like Catherine will pull off the cold, bitter, no-love-life loner role…) and the leading man, while sexy, isn’t your typical heartthrob. And since the entire movie is German with English subtitles, I can’t say it was a scriptwriter’s tour de force either.

So what was it? That elusive je ne sais quoi that happens when you do your best to de-glamorize life and write real characters going through perfectly believable emotions and life experiences? Besides the mother dying right at the beginning, I can’t say there were any slap-in-the-face type turning points – it was all very subtle. I think it was mostly about connecting, in the most subtle, basic way.

And then I saw the previews for No Reservations, complete with clichéd pretty boy hero, stunning-yet-bafflingly-reluctant damsel in psychological distress, and the gag-inducing sentimental music cue.

My question is: why must we North Americans Disney-fy life? What is our brand of happiness (or the brand that has taken over our pop culture, at least) all pomp and fireworks not to mention replete with shiny, beautiful, and just about perfect people?

Maybe that’s why we’re constantly feeling like we can’t measure up…

You could argue the studios have to do that to make sure the lowest denominator of taste is catered to but that sort of begs the question: what came first, movies that don't trust audiences will identify to what's real as opposed to what's glossy and idealized, or do most people prefer more Disney-fication and less realism in their lives?

… in completely unrelated news, IMDB has listed “Rachel’s Holiday” as being under negotiation, with Catherine Zeta-Jones the only star on board so far. Can you see Catherine as Rachel Walsh, a coke addict who suffers from seriously low self-esteem? Me neither, but I’m thrilled to see (fingers crossed!) one of Marian Keyes’s fantastic novels adapted for the silver screen.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Single Mama Drama

1. Drop off Fashionably Late artwork at label place for gift bag labels
2. Buy sticky labels for invitations
3. Drop off sticky labels at printing place, beg and plead that they print them ASAP as party is in a mere 3 weeks
4. Drop off FL ARC for reporter at local paper

... and that was just lunch. I'm in a mind to nap under my desk.

For all my moaning and complaining, here's a timely article about people who have it quite a bit worse, namely unwed moms and how most of them didn't get pregnant the Angelina Jolie way.

What I'm reading: On Writing by Stephen King. I'd always heard this was one of the best but its non-traditional format turned me off - I wanted writing advice and I wanted it NOW! No time for stories about Stephen's older brother Dave and his humble upbringing. Well, turns out it was my loss, because this is a little gem of both literature and how-to craft guidebook.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Top Ten Tuesday: The True Meaning of “Sunny Day” to this Chick

I’ve been tagged! By none other than The Dona (hey – if you can have The Donald and The Dude, why not The Dona?)

So today it dons on me that in a mere three weeks – that’s right people, 21 days – I will be reading from Fashionably Late to a Miami audience.

Fashionably Late. Miami. Moi.

It’s almost too much to handle. This is like one of those fantasies you indulge in when you’re stuck on chapter twenty-three of your virtually-no-hope-to-be-pubbed magnum opus and you start mentally rehearsing the acceptance speech of your RITA award instead of getting your subplots to cooperate.

I feel like going back in time and telling pre-pubbed me not to feel so guilty about the daydreams, that daydreams coupled with many hours at the keyboard (some painful, others that fly by) wondering “what the heck am I doing here, and WHY???” is the stuff magic is made of.

Being able to think back to the daydreams and look at how far you’ve come IS magic.

So, if any of you faithful blog readers happen to be in the Miami area on Sunday June 3rd between 3 and 4:30pm, then you need to be dropping by the same bookstore Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez raves about in her latest, Make Him Look Good, Books & Books Coral Gables.

I am oozing awe. I’ll stop talking about it now before I jinx myself.

Now, about this Tuesday’s topic… yes, I live in the Cayman Islands where nine and a half out of every ten days are likely to be sunny (on the flip side, that half day is for hurricanes), but I moved here because I’m a true-blue sun bunny. So no complaints… but… with all this wonderful weather, you start taking sunny days and all summer connotations for granted. So I’m going to take myself back five years to a time and place where summer was an event more awaited and celebrated than Christmas… Montreal.

Montrealers WORSHIP summer. It’s like we hide all winter long (and in Montreal, boy is winter lo-o-ong…) and burst out of our cocoons with the first green bud to show up on the first maple tree to bloom. Like wearing t-shirts in plus 5 weather (that 5 Celsius, y’all… somebody translate please!). Summer is more than a season for us, it’s an industry, a state of mind, an end to the Winter Blues, its…

1) Tim Horton’s Iced Coffees. Tim Horton is Canada’s answer to Dunkin’ Donuts but only like, a bazillion times better.

2) A meal at one of Montreal’s thousands of outdoor terraces. Any meal, in any neighborhood. I know lots of cities do this now, but this tradition comes to us straight from Paris baby, where artistes would sip their cafés au lait on scraps of sidewalk masquerading as a “terrace” and lament about the miserable state of the world. Nowadays this is a bona fide marketing strategy.

3) Cutting work early so you can get to aforementioned outdoor meal as quickly as possible.

4) Hitting the bars/clubs in short skirts, flimsy tops, open-toed sandals, and best of all… no coats!

5) Sundresses. Denim sundresses, short yellow sundresses, white eyelet sundresses, sundresses from K-Mart or sundresses from Kookai. Whatever. It all works.

6) McDonald’s 49 cent soft ice-cream cones and the special counter open only in the summertime, where you can by them right off Ste. Catherine’s street. I bet they’re a dollar now.

7) Weddings. Everywhere I look, in the paper, blocking traffic, blaring car horns, the magazines, you name it.

8) Festivals. The Just for Laughs fest (yours truly’s favorite), the jazz fest, the film fest, the fireworks fest…

9) La Ronde. This is Montreal’s lone amusement part, as venerable and traditional as Shepard’s Pie. There was some talk of Six Flags buying it way back when and I’m not sure if this has happened in my long absence… When I still lived in the city, I never missed one summer without hitting La Ronde. Even worked there when I was 18!

10) Becoming Canadian. My family traveled to Montreal on an “emigration scouting trip” back in 1986. That summer was one of the best of my entire (admittedly short) life, holding up to such other summers as ones spent in Greece, Spain, Lebanon, and Jordan. I remember standing in front of a fountain in Marineland (Canada’s version of Sea World), tossing a penny in, and making a wish: that we would move to Canada forever and ever.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Countdown Begins…

Once again I’ve sunken into bad blogger territory, and this just 25 days till the release of Fashionably Late!!!

Why am I being so bad you ask? Two words. Launch party. I decided to hold it here in Cayman since that’s where I’ve been living and working for the past five years, and where I thought I’d be able to round up the biggest amount of people willing to get together and get sloshed using a book launch for an excuse (any excuse is a good one).

I keed, I keed… since this is such a small, tightly-knit community, people down here are among the most supportive I’ve ever met, and ninety of them are coming out to celebrate with me on May 30th!

And yes, of COURSE I have the dress picked out already. It’s a deep aqua blue short kimono dress by Geren Ford (purchased from the fabulous Shopbop.com… I wouldn’t have survived living abroad without them).

I had so much fun planning this party, from the venue to the food down to the gift bags – I would seriously consider a career in this is it weren’t for my complete inability to stick to a budget!

Don’t worry – I promise you lots and lots of pics in a months’ time. In the meantime, here’s a sneak peak at the invite:

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Site Update!!!

Woo Hoo!!!

I did it. Finally. Or rather, my webmaster did (thank you Shawnna!)

The point is, I've got a spiffy new "Intro" page with a listing of my upcoming tour dates (with details to follow) in case you happen to be in Miami the weekend of June 2nd - 3rd, or Grand Cayman on June 9th (hey - y'never know)

I've also posted my CJAD interview, in case some of you non-Montreal dwelling faithful blog readers would like to listen in.

So pop by at nadinedajani.com and tell me what you think!

What I'm reading now: The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson which I have to say is borderline genius. Any aspiring writer should pick this up as Ms. Robinson is very adept at actually making us laugh out loud one moment (and I am not prone to laughing out loud) and then promptly tugging at our heart strings the next.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Onwards!…. Er,….Backwards!

In no other country that I can think of, do abortion and gun ownership rights decide elections. (Dictatorships do not count as they are dictatorships, and who the heck knows how people in dictatorships really feel about abortion, guns, or thong underpants for that matter?) Can you think of any?

In light of what happened in Virginia Tech this week, some might argue it makes sense to put all other issues on the backburner, like say the fact that Iraq has seen it’s deadliest day yet since the “surge” at 168 fatalities in one singe day this week for example, in favor of exploiting – er – exploring this tragedy to its fullest extent.

Because senseless tragedies, the kind we can’t really do anything about or explain (to quote Chris Rock on this one: “Whatever happened to CRAZY???), and Britney Spears’ panties or lack thereof, are so much more mesmerizing than issues that we can actually DO something about, like, say, the fact that Roe vs Wade was effectively repealed for a huge segment of women this week, with no caveat to protect the mother’s health.

I think that last bit bears repeating. NO caveat, no out, no exceptions for women for whom a pregnancy might potentially be harmful, or perhaps even deadly down the line.

So Borat’s joke about horses and crawling insects being above women in the chain of relative importance to society has kinda, sorta come true in the US this week, and the US can now proudly join the ranks of dictatorships that also have laws telling women exactly where their opinion figures in matters that concern how they live their lives.

Here’s my question: where are the women of the US in all of this? 51% of the population and all I hear from that side of the fence is the sound of crickets.

I have my own opinion (surprise!) on the issue and I know you have yours. That’s not my problem. My problem is that the face value of “freedoms” that are supposedly being fought for are being slowly hacked away and no one makes a peep. Not a sound.

Maybe Vogue will do a feature on the subject in a month or two, which I will read while a man looks at me and rolls his eyes at my frivolous choice of reading material.

At least now you can say someone told you.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Top Ten Tuesday: Movies

I’m seeing a pattern with my Top Ten Tuesdays in that they would be more aptly called Top Ten Wednesdays. If you won’t tell, neither will I…

First off, Monday’s interview went GREAT! I advise anyone who ever has the chance to do this to just go for it – you’ll be surprised at how much fun it is. I nearly backed out I was so nervous, and just minutes before hand I was convinced my voice had left me. But when the phone rang and I heard: “Nadine, you there? Great – you’re on in five” there was suddenly no more room for nervousness.

And then a guy came on who sounded, well, just like a radio announcer would came on (shocking, huh? I don’t what I was expecting him to sound like… my uncle Mahmood, perhaps?) and the adrenalin kicked in and I was off!

I have to say that it takes more to be a radio announcer than meets the eye – I was worried my natural tendency to digress would lead me down some seriously off-topic paths but both Merv and Paris steered the interview so well it felt like they were doing the selling for me. The hook was basically this: how the heck does an accountant write a book and actually sell it??? They made it sound like I climbed Mt. Everest in a day, but hey, I wasn’t going to complain. We spent some time discussing how a Montrealer ends up in the Cayman Islands, and then back to the subject of the book, and, surprise, surprise, how much of it was autobiographical. We finished off by mentioning tour cities to come.

Really, really great experience. I’m planning to post the recording on my website, stay tuned for that announcement.

And now, our list of the day. I’ve noticed that my favorite movies tended to be a) period pieces, and/or b) have awesome soundtracks/singing, and/or c) star actors whom I adore in pretty much any movie they’re in. Also, I really hate black & white movies. Sorry. The year “When Harry Met Sally” came out, I was eight. This, along with Disney’s Little Mermaid, which was the first time Disney introduced a spunky, take-charge heroine, are what I consider “classics”.

Here we go, in no particular order:

1) Pretty Woman – can’t say that the acting in this one is genius, or even the writing, but when you hear something being referred to as a “magical experience”, I think this is the kind of experience in question.

2) Greencard – Ah, mon Gérard… the man is an unlikely hunk a’ burnin’ love, but one nonetheless. Is it his raw, savage persona beside Andie McDowell’s demure, vegan one that accounts for the sparks, or Gérard’s crushing “… Monaco… No, Monteverde… I alwayz forget zat one…” that get me every time?

3) Groundhog Day – I can recite this one backwards in Bangladeshi while hopping on one foot. That’s how many times I’ve seen this movie, which amounts to about 5 scenes running in a loop. A great study in character development in an environment where nothing but the main character changes. A masterpiece.

4) Cyrano de Bergerac – more hunk a’ burnin’ love o’ Gérand, this time with the added bonus of eye-Candy Vincent Perez and period costumes. And France. And poetry. Oo-la-la.

5) When Harry Met Sally – does this one really need an introduction?

6) Quick Change – I think Bill Murray is one of the funniest actors ever. This one kills me every time I watch it.

7) Disney’s Aladdin – You know you’ve made it as an ethnic minority in when Disney validates your existence with a character modeled after you. Plus, now people have a convenient point of reference when they’re trying to figure out which “celebrity” I look like (and you think I’m kidding…)

8) Labyrinth – I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen one in a long time, but it was so mesmerizing that even after all these years I remember it. Plus, had no idea who the hot bad guy was at the time, but am very impressed with my seven-year-old’s taste in men.

9) Pride & Prejudice, BBC version – this is my go-to anti-depression movie. Dunno why… is it the period costume? Mrs. Bennet’s strangely irritating-yet-soothingly-maternal on-screen presence? Darcy in culottes and sideburns? Or that the goodness lasts a whole six hours? Who knows.

10) Four Weddings and a Funeral – Let’s face it, Hugh Grant suffers from some serious typecasting. But who can argue with his best role as the town cad ever? Or the cad with a heart of gold, shall we say?

That’s it for me folks!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

My First Interview!

Two major posts in one weekend - are happening at a dizzying pace or what?

Paris Mansouri, one-time senior editor for the Egyptian fashion magazine Enigma, contributor for CBC as well as a Host Hunt hopeful, a reality show based on the quest for a new host for one of Canada's most renowned fashion exports, Fashion File has asked me to be a guest on Montreal's CJAD!

I'd be freaking out except I still can't believe this straight-out-of-a-movie turn of events.

Paris co-hosts the cutting-edge-of-cool pop entertainment radio show with Merv and Chris who will probably be quizzing me about how an accountant could pull off writing a book about fashion, Cuba, love in the tropics, with a pinch of Middle-Eastern spice thrown in for laughs.

The best part? You can tune in online at CJAD.com sometime after 9 PM Eastern time and listen to my very first radio interview. Be kind. I'm learning.

And don't hesitate to write and tell me how much I rocked/sounded like a total dufus/killed/put you to sleep.

Oh, and Paris is GIVING AWAY the VERY FIRST COPY OF FASHIONABLY LATE to the first caller to get the answer to a FL-trivia question right (I am told no prior knowledge of rocket science will be needed to get this right)

So tune in. Please. If only for the comedy factor involved in witnessing an author's first attempts at self promotion. Hey, I didn't call this blog Confessions of a Newbie Novelist for nuthin'!

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Connecting

Things seem to be going at lightening speed for me these days. I thought the pre-publication period is supposed to be the calm before the storm... instead it's turning out to be crazy. Good crazy. Excellent crazy, in fact, but crazy nonetheless.

Thursday evening, while working late at the office, the phone rang. I answered the phone with a simple 'hello' because who but a family member would be calling at that hour, wondering when I was coming home, or maybe asking me to pick up dinner on the way.

Well. It wasn't a family member. It wasn't a client either. It was a girl I'd gone to high school with, and who I hadn't seen for some fifteen years (she'd transferred to another school her second year there).

She's now a journalist, and was working on some Middle-Eastern themed writing projects when someone mentioned to her that a friend of a friend of a friend's daughter had written a book with a Middle-Eastern protag as well, and her name was Nadine something. I can't believe that after all these years, this girl managed to remember someone she'd gone to school with over a decade ago, and only for one year. She googled me (ah, Google.... I love you), saw my picture, and remembered me.

And then she found me, and was nice, brave, considerate and audacious enough to contact me. It was amazing. I've found out that since high school she'd traveled around in the Middle East, worked with all kinds of media, and sounds like an all-round fascinating person.

How small is this world? Seriously?? And how awesome is the Internet? I wonder what kind of connections I'll be making once the books is out...

Stay tuned for book launch party details (eeeekk!!!) and more SUPER exciting news (especially if you happen to live in Miami, hint-hint), coming soon!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Top Ten Rewarding Experiences … But First, An Announcement

I’ve been holding back this info for a while because of confidentiality issues at work, but the cat’s now out of the bag and I’ve got nothing to hold me back.

Ahem.

I’m taking the first blind leap since moving to the Cayman Islands in 2002, and taking a sabbatical to write my next two contracted novels.

Now that this is officially out there for everyone to see, I guess I can start believing it. OMG.

To say that this is the day I’ve been dreaming about since I first started writing is an understatement, but it’s very unnerving nonetheless… Can I stand myself enough to weather several hours a day with little to no human contact after years of being an office drone? Can I actually stick to a budget? All I can say is: I’m glad Target and H&M have finally come to Montreal as I fear those are the only places I’ll be shopping at for the next little while. Maybe I’ll learn the fine art of freelancing while I’m at it, or take a class or something to keep me sane – who knows? The sky is the limit!

On to our Top Ten du jour:

10. Looking down at a flat (ish) belly after two weeks of carb depravation and hitting the gym with some semblance of regularity.
This is probably the only thing that gets me to the gym. Health, shmealth, I dream of flat abs. Sue me.

9. Balancing my cash on the first shot.
C’mon, you knew that an accounting related moment of Zen would make it in here. Those of you who have ever attempted this will share my private, dorky joy. Most of you will simply roll your eyes at your computer screens while mouthing “loser”. It’s okay, part and parcel with being an accountant.

8. Talking myself out of a silly purchase.
Make no mistake, this hardly ever happens. But those days when I manage to make it out of the jewelry shop/Sunglasses Hut/BCBG without putting down some dough are gold.

7. Heaving a sigh of exhaustion after a very productive day.
A business teacher once revealed in class that workers spend an average of two hours out of every day doing absolutely nothing (and this was back before the Internet had invaded every desktop in the land). I’ve since found out that this depends largely on your particular job, and how much window-gazing it will allow you. Still, on those days when I manage to make every nanosecond count, it feels pretty good.

6. Learning to do something for myself, instead of asking someone else to help me.
Like figuring out Blogger, zip drives and how to use Windows Vista. Still pending: assembling IKEA furniture, and HTML.

5. Picking up a new skill (related to point 8, but not quite the same).
I’ve been lucky to have several bosses throughout my career who’ve imparted healthy criticism and good advice. Still, every once in a while, you get a doozy. Like the one who, upon learning I was taking an evening Spanish class thought apt to ask: “Why the heck would you do that?”
Why indeed, when I could be sitting on my couch, watching Seinfeld reruns and munching the night away?
Learning to Salsa, and writing a novel fall also under this category.

4. Putting faith in my subconscious and watching it pull through.
Do you ever do this? Politely ask your mind to do something – come up with the perfect opening sentence, a character flaw or a plot twist, then go off and do the dishes or whatever, and then – POOF! Right there, in the middle of your morning shower or rush hour traffic, your brain delivers. This is the very best kind of payoff you get from creative endeavors: a glimpse into the untapped power of the human brain, that wild, shady area we can’t reign in or understand… This is why creative anything is so scary – you have to give yourself license to go nuts and have faith it will all work out in the end.

3. Resisting the call of television and sitting in front of my laptop instead.
Whether I get one page done or ten, it’s always a glorious feeling to resist the urge to vegetate in front of the TV after a long day at work.

2. Hearing about the successes of fellow writers in the trenches.
To think that once upon a time we gazed upon our published sisters and brothers as though they were gods, and then, little by little, and many rejections and a few milestones later, we were among them. It’s that much sweeter when you have friends to share the journey with you.

1. Watching the look on my parents’ face when they saw the dedication of my book for the first time. More than the launch party, more than interviews and glowing reviews and contracts for other books, this was the fantasy I indulged in the most for all the years leading up the publication of Fashionably Late.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Watch This Space!

Dona tagged me this morning for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, which happens to be the top most rewarding experiences…which I’ve got, promise!

Unfortunately, this is a very crazy day of the month here at work, so, I’m passing on the torch to… MAUREEN McGOWAN – you’ve been tagged, missy – until I can patch together five consecutive minutes to get my post up.

See you all soon!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Oh Chick Lit, How I Love Thee

My little brother is currently visiting in my neck of the woods – er, sandbar – and I caught him blasting a song from a popular Disney soundtrack the other day.

“Don’t let your friends catch you listening to that crap,” I cautioned, even though I could probably recite any song Disney has come up with in the past fifty years backwards on a dime.

“What? You think I care what anyone else thinks? I’ll listen to whatever I want,” he quipped, without the tiniest hint of arrogance. It was pure, unabashed, king-of-the-world confidence talking.

In the spirit of confidence and courage in the face of what group-think no longer deems cool, I wish to re-affirm my love of Chick Lit. Not each and every single chick lit novel that ever made it onto the shelves, not the non-chick lit derivatives masquerading as chick lit (for a profound love of shoes does not a chick lit make), not even contemporary romances with a chick lit slant. For me, if it ain’t about a bad-ass chick finding herself in this big bad world, it ain’t chick lit.

After reading a bit in other genres after a l-o-o-o-ng stint of chick lit only reading, I realized I’d gotten used to the irreverent, in-your-face honesty of the chick lit novel, and other genres just feel like they’re holding out on me. What a good chick lit delivers like no other genre out there is a profoundly relatable experience for me as a woman living, working, watching TV, and being generally confused in the world today. Even if I’m not a shopaholic, have not slept with my best friend’s finacé, am not an Irish single woman suffering from depression, or have recently been fired from my waitressing/PR girl/second assistant to the stars/nanny/whatever job.

Are there lots of cardboard chick lit characters out there? Sure. Tons. Especially when there are so many of these novels to choose from. But I don’t care what anybody tells me – it’s the very irreverence of this genre that will ensure it sticks around for a long time to come.

Just in case I haven’t convinced you, I’m going to share with you, right here on this blog, quotes from some of the most famous chick lit novels out there, courtesy of my nifty new Chick Lit desk calendar (with the author’s permission, of course). I love this thing. Every day I have to keep myself from reading ahead, otherwise I’d be on November now. The best part is finding brilliant quotes from books I haven’t read but that are sitting in my towering TBR pile and thinking: DUDE – I DON’T EVEN HAVE TO GO OUT AND BUY THIS THING!

Case in point, this little nugget of wisdom from Mr Maybe by Jane Green. Ahem:

“Not that I want a one-night stand with Nick, just maybe a few weeks of delicious sex before saying goodbye with no broken hearts. One-night stands aren’t my style. I don’t think they’re anyone’s style, are they? Sure, we’ve all done it, but even when you can’t stand them, even when it’s just a drunken mistake after a party, you still want them to call, don’t you, even if it’s just so you can turn round and tell them you never want to see them again. It’s an ego thing. Definitely. I don’t want you, but I want you to want me anyway.”


Wasn't that fun?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Who Wants to be Goliath?

One fine day, back when I was in third grade, my then best friend Maggie brought an illustrated children’s bible to class. Maggie was one of those kids who just couldn’t help being a rebel: she was a freckled, flaming strawberry blonde in a sea of raven-haired Middle-Easterners and South-East Asians, and she was Palestinian to boot.

Seeing as we were a private Muslim girl’s school in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a collective gasp went up at sight of the offending bible. As far as Maggie was concerned, it was a storybook. The rest of the class thought it might qualify as an instrument of the Devil. We settled the dispute by taking the object to our Islam teacher and asking her to weigh in on the debate.

“There’s nothing wrong in reading the Bible,” she said, “but you have to wait until you’re older.”

This was very cryptic advice to our seven-year-old ears. What was so cool about the Bible that we could only read it when we older? What did our parents understand that we didn’t? Watching 300 yesterday, I was reminded of that little nugget of wisdom imparted to my friends and me all those years ago.

300 is a cinematographic and visual triumph. It’s supposed to be modeled after comic book art, but what I saw in scene after scene reminded me more of fine art than comic strips. Two scenes stand out – one where murdered villagers are strung on a huge tree in a mess of limbs and shadows. Sounds gross, but was actually very Dali-esque, or even Garden of Earthly Delights-ish. In another scene where the good guys are scattered across the ground, the way their armor is strapped to their bodies and the splash of crimson from their capes delineating their figures, you’d think you were looking at a renaissance fresco or a work of stained glass in a church.

300 was also hugely entertaining despite the lack of a discernable plot, the blood-and-guts fest, and the cheese factor that only a good old we-the-good-guys-against-you-the-bad-guys movie can deliver. In other words, this may very well be the only movie ever made that both Bill O’Reilly and I can enjoy.

The problem? 300’s “message” was a like a crispy millefeuille, with layer upon layer of delicately stacked propaganda held together with a stickly sweet custard of myth and xenophobia.

Let’s see if you can guess what this movie is about from a brief plot synopsis: King Leonidas is think-with-my-gut kinda guy, who has little use for politics and weaklings. He doesn’t consider a short fuse as a shortcoming in his role as the Papa Smurf of Sparta, and his ruling philosophy can be summarized in a nifty little motto which would fit nicely onto a license plate should the need arise in a few millennia: Live free or die.

No ifs, ands, or buts about it. So, when a Persian emissary drops into town one day, the king, ever answerable to his gut as his personal motto, shoves the messenger into a bottomless pit knowing that this will provoke the Persian army into invading Sparta and probably the rest of Greece. The king does this knowing that there are only two possible outcomes: total obliteration of Sparta, or victory, and victory in this context implies a miracle of some sort. The king flouts Sparta’s laws and internal controls, which have been designed to prevent a king from leading the populace down an unpopular warpath, and goes with but the blessings of his gut and his queen, to fight the forces of evil and darkness, i.e. the Iranians – er, sorry, Persians.

Sound familiar?

Never mind that the director’s “vision” of Persians includes masses of foot soldiers with their heads wrapped in rags, bringing to mind a term Ann Coulter has been brandying about lately, and of black-as-soot generals, as opposed to the hunky, blue-eyed, all-white cast of Spartan warriors. I wasn’t expecting 300 to have the subtle nuance of Babel, or the raw message of Blood Diamond, but when Zack Snyder, the director, saw fit to have the ragheads fight on the same side as masked “immortals” and other assorted creatures from the depths of Hell, I thought that was taking the “message” a little too far.

[SPOILER ALERT]

The clincher, of course, was having our bearded, blue-eyed King Leonidas die in a pose worthy of Jesus in the throes of His Ultimate Sacrifice, pierced by the same sort of arrows that would have killed Saint Sebastian, the scene looking like it might have been hanging on a wall in the Louvre or the Prado rather than something being projected on a screen.

[SPOLIER OVER]

But that’s still not the part of the “message” I had a problem with.

The trouble with this movie and its timing, is the seduction of the underdog myth, where “few stood against many”. Whether the battle between the Spartans and the Persians is historically accurate or not is moot. What was unmistakable about 300 was the projection of Western values and faces on “the few” and that of the “Others” (insert name of whatever enemy we may be fighting at the moment here) on “the many”.

Our movie screens, television sets and popular myths are full of David-vs-Goliath stories. But who wants to be Goliath? I bet even Goliath managed to convince himself he was really David, fighting for his ideals and way of life. I bet all the old crusty Philistines got together and decided to launch a PR campaign that would convince their population the Judeans and other Semitic tribes were plotting to take over the world and that the only answer is a preemptive strike using their secret weapon: Goliath.

This is where 300 flirts with danger: bringing together a gore-fest that appeals to young audiences, scavenging in the graveyard of history for an appropriate vessel to carry the message, and marrying fantasy with reality to forge a nouveau-legend eerily reminiscent of our times.

As writers we know that this is the stuff of great fiction: making us relate to a situation that feels utterly alien. But as thinking people we have to ask ourselves, is Goliath really Goliath, or is David Goliath? Who is it exactly that we are relating to, and why are we made to feel like we should relate?

Maybe that’s what has President Ahmadinjad’s knickers all in a bunch.

Even believing Muslims can appreciate the Bible as literature, as non-Muslims can appreciate the Qu’ran. Yet both of these texts impart their own particular view of the world, which they fully intend the reader to take as Gospel, so to speak.

Maybe a storybook is just a storybook, and maybe a movie is just a movie. But then again, maybe not.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Tickled Pink (and not because of the laptop either)

Opened the old inbox today and found this lovely quote from none other than Chick Lit/YA I-bow-down-to-her bestselling author, Sarah Mlynowski:

The most stylish accessory at the beach this summer is sure to be Nadine Dajani's Fashionably Late. This sexy and smart debut will leave you laughing, cheering, and trying to book a trip to Cuba.


Thank you Sarah!

Friday, March 02, 2007

How Not to Write

Keep buying new gizmos, telling yourself: "No, really... I just have to have this cooler-than-cool blush pink, razor thin laptop and THEN I'll write... promise!"

No you won't. Take it from me. But that's not to say that this new baby has not added much joy - not to mention attention - to my life. The Vaio C-Series in pink may very well be the cutest laptop in history. I thought my white ibook was (and am still loathe to part with it) but I was wrong. I used to get a few "your laptop is so cute" comments with the ibook, but this is a whole other level. Some people see the pink and smirk (not in the nice, kind of sexy way) but most just marvel.

And yet, you have to be seriously deranged to go out of your way to order a custom built laptop in pink, make your US-dwelling friend buy it for you because Sony won't sell to non US-residents online, rather than just walk into a store and buy a *normal* one like everyone else. Or better yet, just keep using your perfectly good ibook until it dies, which looks like never. Still, it's pink, says I. I must be the holy grail of the marketing industry. People in stuffy boardrooms armed with PowerPoint presentations and focus group data have me in mind when they go up to the engineers and say: make it pink. At which point I'm sure the engineers (who have spent countless hours and time away from their video games and chess clubs to come up with the most technologically advanced machines they can imagine)roll their eyes and think marketing people are retarded. Little do they know, marketing people are in fact the boy-geniuses of the new economy. I did not purchase this computer for its technical prowess. Come to think of it, this computer may have no technical prowess to speak of. But, you know, it's pink.

Other ways to guarantee you will never write (especially if you happen to have hit a bit of a wall in your WIP) is to hook your machine up the Internet, otherwise known as the World's Most Efficient Means of Procrastination Ever. Way more effective than television. Sometimes TV sucks (how much E!TV can one person take before they go mad and set themselves on fire?). TV is a fleeting fling, the Internet is forever.

Speaking of the internet, I caught a snippet of last night's Back to the Future Marathon. It was a scene from part II where Marty McFly gets a glimpse of his future deadbeat self, his bratty kids, and his futuristic middle-class home. The future's speediest means of communication according to Steven Spielberg's 80s self? Fax machines in every room. Hilarious. I am told that the only reason HP & co. still manufacture fax machines is to serve the developping world, which hasn't fully caught up to the wonders of the Internet yet. It's amazing to think that the Internet has only been ubiquitous for ten years or so. Can you imagine your life without it now?

What I'm reading now: Going Coastal by Wendy French

Next on the list: A Long Way Gone, Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah. The author was on Jon Stewart not too long ago, and is an exceptionally remarkable man (not to mention, total hottie). I cannot wait to read this one.

After that, a chick-lit I've been wanting to read forever. How Nancy Drew Saved My Life by Lauren Baratz-Logted. I also was a huge fan of Nancy Drew. The series was one of the first I ever read as a kid.

And now? Back to the writing.