Thursday, November 3, 2011

'REALITY FICTION': Ripped-From-The-Headlines by Elizabeth Searle

Please welcome Elizabeth Searle to the blog.  She's a fantastic writer, a contributor to a new anthology from Other Voices Books, Men Undressed and the author of Girl Held In Home from New Rivers Press. Her voice is fresh and funny and satiric and somber.  Elizabeth Searle has it all -- and I'm thrilled to have her here.

REALITY FICTION': Ripped-From-The-Headlines by Elizabeth Searle

Headlines have always grabbed me-- and recently in my writing I have grabbed them back.  Following my Headline-happy heart , I have found new adventures and a new level of attention in the realm of what I call Reality Fiction.  
photo credit : Barry Weiss

Like it or not, 'reality' rules.  Reality TV leads in ratings and nonfiction titles lead in sales.  I have always loved news stories, especially scandalous ones.  As book columnist Jan Gardner noted in the Boston Globe-- tying together my stage work TONYA & NANCY: THE ROCK OPERA and my newest novel-- I 'find inspiration in lurid crimes'.

And especially in the headlines which accompany the crimes.  I grew up on TV News: Walter Cronkite dined with my family every night.  I think in headlines.  The title of my new novel GIRL HELD IN HOME takes the form of a headline.  The libretto to my rock opera is filled with 'lurid' headlines-- 'Gillooly Colluded' and 'War Between the Skates!'--chanted by the chorus as they tell the tabloid tale of ice skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan.  
photo credit: Mark Karlsberg

GIRL HELD IN HOME --out now from New Rivers Press-- was also inspired by a real crime.  In our own neighborhood in Arlington.MA, in 2001, a woman was ‘held’ as an unpaid servant’ in the home of a family that controlled her visa.  In my version of her story, a teenage boy discovers her situation and falls in love with the ‘GIRL HELD IN HOME’.  
In GIRL, I imagined my story based on a real incident.  In my libretto for TONYA & NANCY, I used the real stranger-than-fiction facts and real newspaper quotes from the 'characters'.  The show drew national media on Good Morning America, CBS, NPR and more.  I found myself interviewed on ESPN Hollywood (surely a first for a literary fiction writer!).  
GIRL HELD IN HOME, fresh off the presses, has drawn attention too from its ties to an all-too-real crime.  I've been given the chance to discuss on radio and elsewhere the shocking fact that many women facing immigration issues are 'held' in this way.
So for fellow fiction writers looking for a Reality Fix, you may need to look no further than the latest headline to grab you.  Grab it 'back' and you may find your resulting work making a few headlines of its own. 

Elizabeth Searle's new novel, GIRL HELD IN HOME, is based on a real crime and her stage show, TONYA & NANCY: THE ROCK OPERA, which drew national media attention, is based on the Harding/Kerrigan skate scandal.  Elizabeth's previous books are A FOUR-SIDED BED, re-released in a new paperback version in 2011, CELEBRITIES IN DISGRACE (produced as a short film in 2010) and MY BODY TO YOU.  An excerpt from GIRL HELD IN HOME appears in the new anthology MEN UNDRESSED: WOMEN WRITERS ON MALE SEXUAL EXPERIENCE.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Rosebud Ben-Oni: 8 Reasons Why I Adore Hong Kong Heartthrob Louis Tin Lok

Please welcome Rosebud Ben-Oni to the blog with a hilarious post on her not-so-secret obsession for a certain Hong Kong Heartthrob.   Rosebud is a contributor to the anthology: Men Undressed: Women Writers and the Male Sexual Experience (Other Voices Books  described as fictional cross-dressing this anthology explores male sexuality from a female perspective and features a powerhouse collection of women writers so freaking talented, I'm thinking of starting a fan club.  If that description doesn't want to make you click the link immediately, then I don't know what will. 

8 Reasons why I Adore Hong Kong Heartthrob Louis Koo Tin Lok
(And You Should Too)

 Louis Koo, aka Mr. Cool, aka The Man with the Tan, aka the Mullet Man, aka...okay, you probably don’t know him. Although this actor-(questionable)-singer-(definite)-brand-hawker is not as well known in the West as other Hong Kong actors like Andy Lau or Daniel Wu, there are many a reason you should go out (NOW) and rent a Louis Koo flick.

(1)  While his romantic comedies vary from the forgettable Love on the Rocks to the inane Whi Me Sweetie? (which is worth seeing just as a lesson in overacting), most of his collaborations with auteur Johnnie To were the beginnings of Louis Koo, the Actor, especially in his role as Jimmy Jai in Election and Triad Election. While some critics believes his acting is mechanical and lacking in range, the public voted him as Most Beloved Actor in the 2006 Hong Kong Film Awards for Traid Election. I consider this a feat in itself, considering the beloved Jimmy Jai hacks up a rival gangster’s lackey, puts his limbs through a meat grinder and then feeds it to dogs chained to other gangster lackeys locked in small cells. Then, once that message is served, he has dinner with the surviving gangster lackeys.

(2)  Speaking of Johnnie To films, there are two types of people out there: those who believe Throwdown couldn’t have been made without Lous Koo and those who think he was miscast as the jaded-then-repentant Szteo Bo, whose finally-“seeing-”while-going-blind journey has all the appeal of spam floating in dishwater. But I would argue here he’s most convincing when he takes a beating for Cherrie Ying after winning big-- and losing it all-- in a gamble den. (See the scene here.)

(3)   Louis Koo is all over Mainland China though he can’t speak a lick of Mandarin. In fact, his very name has come to mean “bad Mandarin.”
  Did you see that commerical where he’s caressing a tire with a creepy yet sexy smile on his face, singing the merits of lun toi instead of lun tai (because only Koo can change a “tire” into an “egg embryo”). This reminds me when I tried to thank a friend’s Auntie for a delicious Lunar New Year dinner in poetic, magniloquent Mandarin, but ended up saying something akin to, "Fishing dog, my friend, apple you bye bye." See the infamous commercial here.

(4)  Which is The Real Louis Koo? Try to guess in the first few seconds in this announcement from Madame Tussauds, just in time for the 2011 Lunar New Year.

(5)   Say what you want about acting, but as evidence in this photo  I took in a Shanghai “bodega,” as well as these random ads  from an in-flight magazine from Shanghai to Beijing, Louis Koo makes a mullet look good.    

(6b) Tone deaf? Most likely. But at least you can see the passion in his face here in this live performance 

(7) Although many of his earlier movies are prospective fodder for MST3K, I highly recommend the following: Street of Fury (triad drama featuring Tsui Kam-Kong with dreads);Super Car Criminals (Simon Lui Yu-Yeung’s facial expressions are priceless as he seduces a woman in an exercise room);  The Suspect (poor Simon Yam Tat-Yah looks so uncomfortable here) and (so much is so wrong you just have to see it).  And one could argue he has the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon
 going on, as even early on he has shared the screen with some icons like then-newcomers Daniel Wu in Born Wild, Bullets Over Summer with Francis Ng who can make any melodrama moving and lastly, the triad staple Century of the Dragon which also stared Heavenly Kind Andy Lau Tak-Wah and with a plot not unlike that of Infernal Affairs (which Lau also stared in).  Oh, and don’t forget to see the very good-looking, very incomprehensible For Bad Boys alone. (Another reason to see these is  he really doesn’t want you to.

(8) His “Before I was Mr. Cool” laugh will haunt your dreams at 0:35.

Rosebud Ben-Oni is a playwright at New Perspectives Theater; she is currently developing a new play with the company. Recently, her short story “A Way out of the Colonia” won the Editor's Prize at Camera Obscura: A  Journal of Contemporary Literature and Photography, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has recent and upcoming work in Anobium, Review Americana, Existere, Arts & Letters, and Men Undressed: Women Writers and the Male Sexual Experience. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Harper Collins e-book Sale!

In celebration of National Reading Group Month The Summer We Fell Apart, along with some other really fine titles from Harper Collins, is on sale for $2.99 in e-book form.  YIPEE!  Time to load up the kindle!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Love in Mid Air by Kim Wright Paperback Release

The lovely Kim Wright has received many accolades for her debut novel and now I'm please to announce it's out in paperback.... I invited Kim back to the blog for a guest post... and she wrote an honest eye-opening account of how writers really read....

How Writers Read

Recently someone asked me if the publication of my first novel, Love in Mid Air, changed how I read.  It’s an interesting question.  Because the long process of putting a novel together, taking it apart and putting it together again and again, does tend to make one hyper-aware of how stories are constructed and the many choices an author makes along the way.
In a way this knowledge does spoil – well, I shouldn’t really say that. Knowing how writers put together stories doesn’t exactly spoil your experience of reading, but it changes it.  I ballroom dance as a hobby and recently I was watching a young girl in my studio proudly model her new ballgown, which had been purchased from a taller girl and altered to fit her.  She looked magical as she twirled and glided in a sea of blue chiffon.  But the seamstress, standing beside me and watching too, kept muttering about how a certain seam puckered or wondering if the hem was too deep.  Sometimes when you understand the construction of something too well, you can’t stop seeing that construction and a bit of the magic does get lost.
Like, for example, last year I was at my mom’s beach house and in the back bedroom is a big bookcase crammed with books my mother’s friends have brought to the beach in summers past, read, and then left for future visitors to enjoy.   I grabbed a paperback at random – apparently a favorite, judging by its humidity-swollen pages, broken spine, and sunscreen-smeared cover – and carried it out to the sand with my beach chair. 
It was the lightest of all light reading, but for some reason, the book bugged me.  I felt that I could see every decision the writer made along the way, just as the seamstress could see the faulty stitching on the ballgown.  The foreshadowing was so heavy that when I finally flipped to the predictable ending I was so irritated that I walked to the edge of the ocean and flung the book in.  I still don’t know why I did it.  Ordinarily, I’d have too much respect for both books and marine ecology, but I was just coming off a long stint of revision and it irked me to come across a writer who had – at least in my opinion – taken the easy way out.
 As I turned back to my chair I saw my mother and all of her friends sitting under their beach umbrella, mouths gaping.  All I could think to say was “I REALLY hated the way she ended that book.”
But it can work the other way too, that knowing more about writing can elevate your appreciation for a book that’s been well crafted, and taking my own hits in the publication process has definitely increased my respect for anyone who survives it.   I was never a harsh reviewer, but now I can hardly bring myself to publically critique another writer.  Whether their book was my personal cup of tea or not, I know how hard they worked to write it, and to get it published. 
So what’s the overall change in my reading since I’ve published?  While on one level I enjoy books a little less, I now bow more to the effort each one required from its author.  Which is why, even if a copy is slowly drifting out to sea, I send it off with a little prayer of “God Bless.”

Here's Kim's website:

And a  link to purchase Kim's delightful book

Friday, July 8, 2011

Michele Young-Stone author of The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors

 Michele Young-Stone is a writer's writer.  Her debut: The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors has been a top Publishers Weekly pick as well as an emerging author pick at Target. Her characters: beloved, tender, flawed and damaged, the overwhelming sense of place and her gift for language that lifts off the page are trademarks of someone who was born to write. All I can say when I think of this marvelous writer is: More, please. 
Please welcome Michele to the blog -- pick up her book if you haven't already done so -- and, as always, I'll see you in the comments!

Don’t judge me.

It’s gospel: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone…” (John 8:7)

I grew up with a mom who, seriously, cast no judgment on anyone.  If I told her that someone was having sex or using drugs, she’d say, “I feel really bad for her.”  She’d pray for them and hug them even harder the next time she saw them.  Most of the parents I knew would’ve said, “Stay away from her,” or “It’s because her parents are such a mess,” or something along those lines.

I know that we all—to some extent—judge other people, but I really try not to do it.  The cliché about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is a cliché because it’s true. 

It’s so easy to judge others instead of looking at our own quirks and failings.  And even if you take a good hard look at the things in your own life, and you discover that you’ve done something less than admirable, say, “I’m sorry,” and to quote one of my favorite Disney movies, Meet the Robinsons, “Keep Moving Forward.” 

Life is too short to wallow and be filled with regret. 

And don’t judge your friends.  Hug them even harder the next time you see them.  Say a little prayer for them.  Do something nice!!!  Put some positive vibes out there. 

The characters in my novel have been described as, “endearing losers,” and they are.  Whenever someone tells me about how tough they’ve had it, I say, “I’m right there with you.  Life can be hard.”  Yet another cliché:  “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  Chin up.  Smile.  You’ll feel better.  I promise.

Michele Young-Stone is the author of The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors, a Target Emerging Author pick and a Publisher’s Weekly top-ten debut.  Her next two books are under contract with Simon and Schuster.  She is currently working on her third novel—The Saints of Los Vientos.

Michele lives in Virginia with her husband and son, a very sweet dog and some ornery fish.      

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What Does the D Word Mean?

The wonderfully talented Michele Young-Stone author of The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors invited me to guest post on her blog today!  Follow the link here:

And if you haven't yet read her fabulous book (it's out now in PB and in Target) add it to your reading list and prepare to do nothing else!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Something for Everyone Reading Series

Happy to be asked to be a part of this reading series... if you come on the night of May 16th there will be cookies.   Promise.