Saturday, March 31, 2007


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.


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 finacĂ©, 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.


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.


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.