November 29, 2008

Recently I returned to work on my MYSTERY AT SULPHUR SPRINGS, a “cosy” (god, I hate that word), which I’m considering publishing under a woman’s pseudonym. It’s about an 82-year-old woman who returns after 70 years to a spa where she inadvertently became involved in a murder at age 12. Here she will discover what really happened. Because of the split narrative, I’ve had trouble finding a suitable voice for both parts. The opening is dramatically Shakespearean, with ghostly hauntings and spirituous visitations not unlike the opening scene of HAMLET, as the 82-year old Violet struggles with her memory of past events that will compel her to return to the spa. But the real-time past sections felt too childlike, almost like a Nancy Drew mystery. Writing YA is just not in my scope. I struggled so much that I nearly put it aside again. It was another Shakespeare play, via a Verdi opera, that helped me crack the code. Yesterday I bought a live recording of Callas’s MACBETH. The introductory essay describes how, in the sleepwalking arias, Callas brings a childlike simplicity to the calculatingly evil Lady Macbeth. It was this duality that helped me realize what I needed to do. In my narrative, the 12-year-old Violet is a well-behaved girl who unwittingly unleashes forces of evil when she substitutes a note hidden in a hole in a wall. While Violet’s consciousness is innocent, the consequences of her actions are not. It’s precisely this duality I need to bring out in the earlier narrative voice.

November 28, 2008

The heartbreak of budget cuts: sadly, we did not make it into the Features First program, although we were unofficially told that had it not been for financial cuts forcing a shrinking of the number of positions available, we would have.

In any case, Proust and Company is now my focus as we prepare for the first in the series of readings with musical entertainment. If you're in Toronto on the 6th of December, be sure to drop into Glad Day Books for some fun (not to mention free food, alcohol, music and more....)

November 14, 2008

Big News: first, I received notice that both of my books (A CAGE OF BONES and THE P-TOWN MURDERS) made it into the AFTER ELTON TOP 50 GAY BOOKS list. Yay, and thanks to all those who voted for me!

Second, Shane and I have been busy arranging the inaugural event in PROUST AND COMPANY, an intimate salon in the tradition of Sylvia Beach and her 1920s Left Bank literary evenings. So far we've lined up Michael Rowe (the 2008 Randy Shilts Award winner for OTHER MEN'S SONS), Beverley Stone (NO BEAUTIFUL SHORE), Elizabeth Ruth (SMOKE) and Nairne Holtz (BENEATH THE SKIN), with more to come.

The event is held in the loft space over Glad Day Bookshop (598A Yonge St, Toronto) on the first Saturday of every other month, from 8-10 PM. The first event is December 6. For more invitation visit our website: www.proustandcompany.com.

I hope to see you there one of these days!

November 6, 2008

I love Gus van Sant, but I don’t think I’ve ever loved or been as impressed by any of his films as much as MILK, about assassinated gay activist Harvey Milk. It didn’t hurt that Sean Penn gives one of his most understated and brilliant performances of a career full of great performances. Or that Batboy nemesis James Franco has finally got himself a good role to exploit those talents (and those baby-boy good looks) of his. This is a film full of emotional resonance—for Milk as much as for the cause—and the depiction of the times is about as good as it gets. If there was a single wrong note, I couldn’t spot it. I came out the year Milk was assassinated and still remember the impact of his murder as well as the outrage and the surge of activist fervour that followed. It’s tellingly sad that Harvey Milk helped defeat Proposition 6 in 1978 (a bill that would have denied jobs to gay and lesbian teachers in California) and 30 years later the film opens with the success of Proposition 8, which denies the right for same sex marriage in the very same state. Have we gone that far backwards?

November 5, 2008

For once, that slumbering giant to the south got it right. Has an American president (elect) ever reached out, not only to ‘black and white, Asian and Hispanic, young and old, straight and gay, abled and disabled’, but also to the ‘darkest corners of the earth’? Extraordinary! It was as though the spiritual child of John Lennon and Mahatma Gandhi just took office. It was a great speech given by a great orator. Gone were the meaningless old platitudes of ‘my fellow Americans’ and ‘the greatest country on earth.’ What replaced it was truth and sincerity. Even to a skeptic like me, it was a revelation, and a humbling one. Has greatness been thrust upon us?

November 2, 2008

Whoever said writing isn’t a practical profession? I’m amazed by the useful things I learn researching my stories. For instance, in the last few weeks I’ve come across three yards with aconite growing within reach of the street.

Don’t know what aconite is? It’s a deadly poison, also known as monkshood. All parts of this plant are lethal, and if you pick it with a cut on your hand, you might die. If you ate even a tiny piece of it, you definitely would. A year ago I wouldn’t have known what it looked like, but I do after having written my literary thriller, LAKE ON THE MOUNTAIN.

Once you know what they look like, the (usually) deep blue flowers are easy to spot because they resemble miniature bishop’s caps or those peaked hoods medieval monks wore. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Aconitum_variegatum_110807f.jpg) Some of the more virulent varieties are blooming now and will keep doing so until the frost kills them.

We know not to eat mushrooms in the wild, but few of us would hesitate to pick flowers. When I point it out, most people are shocked to learn what they have growing in places accessible to both children and pets (not to mention unwary gardeners!)


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