Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Monday, December 15, 2014
"As long as there's music in our hearts, we're all angels."
Angels and Ornaments might win this year's Christmas Magic Award for the silliest and most inane and annoying Christmas movie plot of the year. (Though Christmas at Cartwrights was pretty bad).
It has it all! An angel, a girl with a subpar singing voice, a Christmas ornament, a throw-back to WWII, actors with no chemistry and a eight dollops of lazy dramatic foreshadowing.
So Karin loves music and Christmas and is basically a friggin angel. She is played by the lady who faked her pregnancy on Glee. She works at the music shop with a guy who is in a lot of Stratford Festival productions. She loves him. He loves her. Even though she can't sing and is blind to the fact that he loves her, that she keeps dating a douchebag named Tim and still has a home answering machine like this is 1998. Meanwhile, Harold--is an angelesque guy who is actually Karin's grandfather (!!!) and is returning to help her find her true love and the end progression to a song she cannot complete and the essence of a carol ornament she hangs on her tree. He gets a job at the music shop too! immediately! because there is so much economic upturn in New York City music shops these days! also, he has a watch so he can keep an eye on things in heaven or something. And, don't worry, he gets his wings or gets to be an angel or something.
The three of them talk a lot. For three hours. I wouldn't call what happens here a plot per se; rather a bunch of strung up dialogue with intervals of Petrarch and Dickinson recitation.
As a background thing (again, not really a plot device, because, you know, no plot ) Karin wants to have the Christmas solo at church. But, she REALLY IS A TERRIBLE SINGER! so it goes to someone else. Except it doesn't because Stratford Guy (who would have to basically mortgage his music shop ) bribes the church with FREE INSTRUMENTS FOR ALL if Karin can sing the Christmas solo which he writes. The lyrics are kinda the Night Before Christmas and kinda not and the music is the UNFINISHED SONG THAT KARIN'S GRANDFATHER-GHOST-ANGEL wrote.
Also, there's a scarf and ornaments and mix-ups and a scrapbook and stuff.
And then it ends.
As Harold sees the fading image of his dead WWII era love.
And no one thinks it at all creepy that a dead grandfather is a matchmaker.
Sunday, December 14, 2014
so thrilled that you will get to meet my lady detectives, Jem and Merinda, for real.
Inspired by my passion for all things Sherlock Holmes, I am thrilled to the gills to be signing with Harvest House. I have had the best time emailing with my fun new editor and plotting out the entire thing.
Three novels (beginning with the Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder in early 2016 ) are coming your way.
But... you also get some Sherlock Holmes-sized novellas---starting in Dec 2015.
so stay tuned
Thursday, December 11, 2014
When I was in University I read The Red Tent and I loved it. I didn’t think of it as harmful. I didn’t think of it as revisionist. Rather, I thought of it as embellishing a slight snippet of scripture whose weight allotted for speculation and research. If you think about it, Biblical fiction does a lot to embroider and embellish and for the most part we embrace it. Probably my favourite Biblically themed novels of all time Ben-Hur and The Thief (by Stephanie Landsem) use Christ as a peripheral character whose essence is the center. Nonetheless, we assume Him into the life of characters that are highly fictitious. My favourite Old Testament re-telling “In the Field of Grace” by Tessa Afshar does the same with the Ruth and Boaz story, planting fictional seeds that allow the eventual coming of Christ to inhabit the pages.
Also in University, not long after reading the Red Tent, I attended a weekend of seminars designed to look at the Bible merely as a great piece of literature. For this, I set my faith and my pre-conceived notions aside, immersing myself instead in the beauty of translation ---from the Hebrew and Greek, through the Latin Vulgate and finally to the King James and the numerous translations we are familiar with today. From structure ( prose, as in the Message) and modernization (the NIV) ,we recognize that this is a tome that has undergone a lot of sieving and a lot of filtering. For me, what is important, is that the general message stays the same. The authenticity is in the feeling. The feeling is in interpreting it with the guidance of a Higher Power. The Bible is one book that is borne of relationship, of study and of personal conviction. That being said, like any other story I read and love, I look for the essence of truth and the intent when I visit interpretations of the story.
I revisited the Red Tent in its Lifetime incarnation and was, again, completely compelled by this embellishment of the Biblical tale. It didn’t change my set opinions on the story, it didn’t threaten my faith, it didn’t offend me. Rather, it seemed to make a lot of sense. Anita Diamant painstakingly researched the world of the women of Jacob’s tribe and here she inserts her own ideas and plausible event sequences to colour in the patriarchal lines. To add, it is just a gorgeous filmed and heart-wrenching story of family, of love, of suffering and of a woman strong enough to overcome injustice while still doing good to those around her.
The Red Tent is the eponymous name given the place where women during their monthly cycles and confinement and childbirth would retreat. Diamant admits there is no factual evidence for such a structure in the Biblical tale; but she makes a convincing argument that it was often a custom of many Middle Eastern cultures of ancient times and knowing that women in both natural areas were viewed as unclean as per later Leviticus law, makes a lot of sense. It is here that we are guided first and foremost to meet sisters Rachel and Leah and their handmaids Bilhah and Zilpah.
Jacob, as in the Biblical tale known to most, arrives to aid the farmer Laban and falls immediately in love with his beautiful daughter Rachel. Unlike in the Biblical story familiar to us, Rachel, scared of the act of love on their marriage night, forces Leah to wed in her stead with a veil covering her. Jacob and Leah consummate their marriage and Jacob enters into the family. Leahs gives him several sons, as per Biblical record, and Rachel, often barren, one golden boy named Joseph. Finally, Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah arrives and it is her voice and life explored.
She is raised in the sphere of women in the Red Tent and eventually becomes apprentice to her mothers (especially Rachel ) who are talented midwives. Inside the Red Tent, everything is cloistered and shrouded in feminine sphere. While Jacob is adamant his offspring follow the faith of One God, the women still pray to idols of fertility and motherhood. For Christians and religious types who are interpreting this as blasphemous, I instead assert it is quite plausible given the time period and the known obsession with idols. [ I heard some banter on the internet where people were admonishing this aspect for being “un Christian” which is, face it, a little ridiculous considering there was no Christ for which to be Christian]
I get a little perambulatory here; but I did find that the story led me to do some forward thinking as one often does in the Old Testament while anticipating the sanctity and redemption of the New.
While the story has shifted and facts have been embroidered and in some factors re-imagined, I assert that the strongest themes of the miniseries and the novel are themes that believers should applaud: themes of grace and forgiveness. Usurping thoughts of revenge with magnanimous acts of benevolence. When Dinah witnesses Jacob reconciling with his brother Esau, her mother Leah bids her to mark the moment and remember it: for ( and I paraphrase) we can measure the quality and strength of a man by his ability to forgive. Later, in Egypt, upon her deathbed, Dinah’s mother in law begs for forgiveness for her ill-treatment of Dinah and for sequestering Dinah’s son. Dinah gives forgiveness. When Joseph, at this point vizier of Egypt sentences Dinah’s son Ramos to execution for an attempt on his life, he forgives by reducing the sentence to exile and sparing his nephew. Finally, as Jacob lays dying, Dinah gives the gift of forgiveness by tending to the father she had years earlier disowned.
Blood is a major motif: the blood which brings life ( which can put believers in mind of the Cross and the ultimate act of life giving ) and the blood of the slain men in Shashem. Of sacrifice when Shalem and his King father are willing to offer the bride price of circumcision as per Jacob’s wish. Blood marring cloth otherwise perfectly spotless and white—Shalem provides Dinah with a snowy shawl on the night of their wedding which later, blood-stained, becomes reminiscent of another cloth marred with blood.
There are also wonderful moments of grace and symbols of communion. Jacob’s mother, the oracle Rebecca who—in this adaptation is attributed for Joseph’s ability with dream interpretation---is often visited by impoverished pilgrims who wait for hours in the hot sun to provide her with offering and wait to hear their fortunes. Noticing their hunger, Dinah and Rebecca’s slave girl break bread and provide it to the poor standing in line. Grace is found when Dinah risks her life to descend into the valleys of Thebes and aid the life of an abused pregnant woman at risk of her own. Dinah, too, eventually accepts her gift of midwifery and despite the prejudice afforded the “Foreign Born midwife” and her stubborn pride at the occupation’s harkening back to her tumultuous past, she casts it aside to help the women in need. Even as it takes her to the castle yet again where she will deliver (unbeknownst to her) her brother Joseph’s first son.
There are people who are automatically going to look at the two major departures from the Biblical story ( here, Dinah is not raped inspiring her brother’s bloody revenge, rather she falls in love with the prince and marries without her father’s consent and Rachel and Leah not being ordered by Laban to trade bridal places when Jacob asks for Rachel’s hand). But by just looking at the creative license here and fostering and mulling on these supposed discrepancies, they will miss the beauty of a story that is knit with grace, resilience and, ultimately, the power of forgiveness over vengeance. There are not many more Christian themes than these. Instead of attacking stories that try to present moments of goodness and light amidst the magnanimous grandeur of the Biblically historical setting, we should look at how these stories might inspire eventual readership, scholarship and study. Diamant takes departures, but she does so respectfully and the intent and the outcome, not to mention the positive changes that can be wrought from this inspiring story, are something not to scorn but to praise.
Professional coffee drinker Jaime Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing spirited and gritty turn-of-the-century romance stained with suspense. Her day job finds her a Director of Associate Sales, Development & Relations. She’s wife to a rock climbing, bow-hunting youth pastor, mom to a coffee-drinking little girl and a Sippy cup-drinking baby boy, and completes her persona by being an admitted Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Blogspot junkie.
Jaime is a member of ACFW, enjoys mentorship from a best-selling author, and has the best critique partners EVER! (Yes, that's an exclamation point.) She was a semifinalist in ACFW’s 2013 Genesis contest and that alone encouraged excessive celebration over extra espresso with hazelnut syrup.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
I HATE THESE MOVIES
Sunday, December 07, 2014
And over on twitter, Broadway stars who loaned some respectability to Sound of Music: Live weighed in.........
And during commercial breaks we compared the differences between Canadian and American commercials while Ruth Anderson found us shirtless pictures of Jason Isaacs ( Hook/Mr. Darling in the movie from years back )
And when we couldn't take the ridiculousness on our screen, we improvised with Google images......
And then we found pictures of a shirtless Chris Walken and played up games on his name.....and Jessica Keller won the day with some DW.
And it was all fun and games until we realized it was NEVER GOING TO END.....
And then Kelly Rogers from Kailana's Written World made a cameo
And then Hillary swooped down with some Chris Messina to try and make us all feel better.....
And Gina (from Dickensblog) had a brilliant theory on the NBC musical casting process....
Wednesday, December 03, 2014
Here are a few quirky movies that just touch the romantic in me in some way shape or form. To add, they might not be overtly familiar to everyone .
Princess Caraboo: loosely based on a true story, this whimsical tale is set during the prime of the Regency---Prince Regent and everything! ---involving a stowaway pretending to be a princess (she even has her own language) adopted by an aristocratic family. Several believe she is a fraud, though, including a reporter with lots of gumption ( I love those!) played by Stephen Rea.
Sliding Doors: I love love love this Choose Your Own Adventure tale and its quotable lines by the inimitable John Hannah ( seen here with gorgeous Scotch accent in tow). In one life, Helen catches the subway train, in the other she doesn't and her life intersects letting you know what each path would hold. Romantic, daring and sweet. GREAT hero.
Crossing Delancey: a recent discovery of mine thanks to a post by Susanna Kearsley on facebook. I watched it every night when I was in Boston recently in my hotel :) You can tell immediately that the screenplay is whisked from a stage play. The dialogue is so tight. Isabella works at a bookstore and is romanced by a pretentious author. All the while a man who sells pickles has his eye on her. When a professional matchmaker and her Bubbe attempt to set her up, she learns a lot about herself. Just a sweet, quiet exposition on ideals met and changed. GREAT HERO! knows himself. Has a Knightley-esque confidence about him.
The Giant Mechanical Man: This is one that Ruth introduced me to and I have a thing for Chris Messina in this. He is so mesmerizing. He plays Tim a talented street performer who bonds with Janice a meek and mild unemployed woman. They both try to maze through life with late night pie, silent films and menial jobs at the local zoo. There's a real Chaplin-esque flair to this.
The Mirror Has Two Faces: my favourite romantic comedy of all time. Jeff Bridges plays a stalwart math professor at Columbia who places an ad for a platonic relationship based on a marriage of minds and not sex and Rose, a spinster English professor ( played by Barbra Streisand) answers. I swear I quote this film once a day. Its exposition on the medieval conception of Courtly Love and its beguiling exploration of two people attempting to embark on a physically passionless relationship just hits me. Observe how subversive it is: using romantic cliches to make its point--- down to clips of Now, Voyager and Brief Encounter and the ironic use of a swelling Marvin Hamlisch composed soundtrack.
The Purple Rose of Cairo My favourite Woody Allen film features Mia Farrow has a humiliatingly abused wife obsessed with the pictures. One evening she finds herself so engaged in the "Purple Rose of Cairo" ( traditional 30s tripe with high-faluting talk, martinis and buried treasure), she finds herself dating the hero. Winsome, sweet, nostalgic and yearning.
Romantics Anonymous: This sweet French confection focuses on two people with severe social anxiety disorders who find love over their shared passion for chocolate. It is almost awkwardly painful to watch at times; but resilient and exhilarating at others.
Cluny Brown: long time favourite classic of mine adapted from the equally quirky novel by Margery Sharp by director Ernst Lubitsch. It more than has his famous touch. Cluny is a plumber's daughter who ends up at the prestigious estate of the Carmel family as war erupts. While she sets her cap on the boring local apothecary, the visiting impoverished and daring writer Adam Belinski (CHARLES BOYER!!!!!!!) sets his sights on her. The euphemisms and innuendo are a mile a minute.
Tuesday, December 02, 2014
It’s neat to be of the imaginative writerly ilk because I often think of myself as a piece of Velcro. The strangest things stick with me. Because they stick, I often keep them in a mental jar to be pulled out when needed. What I am inspired by may not necessarily winnow its way into my current scribbling project.
|omgomgomgomgomgomgomg so purty|
I knew somehow, somewhere, in some way since I was in grade 9 and first stepped in, that the Elgin and Winter Garden theatres would someday make their way into a fictional landscape of my crafting.
The Winter Garden is amazing and magical and romantic and breathtaking. I always jest that when people see it for the first time it elicits an immediate gasp of surprise and I am right. It is just one of the most lovely pockets in the great over-coat that is Toronto.
And with the ornate floral scenery of the Winter Garden tucked away, I saved it--- I saved it for something special. I scribbled and scribbled several books wherein the Winter Garden could play in. The main theatre in the building, the Elgin, and its gilt-edged proscenium arch and wrought-iron elevators and sheer Edwardian splendor were a wonderful place to creatively inhabit. But I never used it. I scribbled and wrote and scribbled knowing/hoping someday I would find a time to pull it out.
It would make the BEST spot for a romantic rendezvous or a meet-cute or one of those I know that You Know that You Love Me, I love You revelatory moments that make my fingertips all buzzy. It would make the best secret hideaway.
When I was white-boarding my lady detective novels I couldn’t get the Winter Garden out of my head. I was like: is this the story? Is this it? It fit. It worked. I plotted and played. But it wasn’t just working the setting it, it was deciding if the setting was worthy of the characters, fit them like a glove and vice versa.
|CAN YOU EVEN.....|
Except I had a teensy problem: the book I wrote was set before the Elgin and Winter Garden theatres opened. (they opened in 1913 by Mr. Loews, so I eventually catch up to it in my timeline) So, I sacrificed authenticity for creative license and le voila! Created my own double-decker theatres that are an absolute replica of the one of Toronto’s crowning architectural treasures. I don't do well at hiding it. It is the most obvious descriptive comparison ever.
Then came the challenge of putting it in words. Stifling and pruning my wonderment of a place where the magnitude and scope of its singular brilliance can never quite be captured in writing:
“… slowly, clicking, buzzing, the theatre illuminated. A secret garden fairyland. Overhead a forest of plants, vines and leaves intertwined, the walls elaborately painted in woodland splendor, dried flowers hanging from the ceiling and ornamenting the wall sconces and lantern-holders. The colored lights specked the ceiling like rainbowed stars setting the beauty of the garland design incendiary”
So I relied on my loquacious hyper-sensationalized over-romanticism: “I held out my hand, deftly tracing the tender outline of a gold-embossed design on one of the pillars, sculpted like a tree, furrowing up to a painted night sky canvas at which the focal point was an embellished moon.”
Needless to say, research trips to steal into the crevices and backstage and up squeaky steps and over the fire-escape of this wonder-world were not hard for my die-hard romanticism to endure
The theatre became putty in my writerly hands and I cajoled and coaxed it into something that gave me giggles and elated glee.
Having used it --- knowing that it was there – I am currently in the process of parading it out again as I write book II in the series and keeping it in my heart’s eye for book III.
It is not going to be analogous to my Jem and Merinda series. I know I will use it again. But I am glad I saved it, this ornate gold-mine, because once I had it as my mental putty I teased it with such aplomb.
It fits my plaything character puppets and their world and their desires. And they fit in it like they belong there—as they do in all of Toronto, cozying into its furrowed old-sweater folds.
Monday, December 01, 2014
Allison and Rachel's Christmas Film Extravaganza Day One: Merry Christmas you Wonderful Old Building and Loan
We both love Christmas movies and we cannot wait to navigate the Hallmark, the cartoons, the good bad, ugly and classics! Comedies! and Peter Pan: Live with all of you.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. James 1:17
It's a Wonderful Life also does well at infusing a carol that presents the whole of the Gospel message in its stanza.