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,

Monday, June 25, 2007

Publishers Weekly

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

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.


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?


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 cafĂ©, 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