Monday, September 20, 2010

Blogging with Flair

The 3rd annual edition of Book Blogger Appreciation Week (, founded by Amy of, has just concluded. Apprentice Writer participated and had loads of fun in the first two years, and isn't quite sure how she missed signing up this year.

No matter; even non-signupees can make the rounds and find out such things as what one book each participant nominated as a 'Forgotten Treasure' that somehow didn't get the press it deserved when first published, reciprocal interviews introducing another participant, etc.

The part that AW is always charmed by is the creativity not only of blogpost content (and wow, are there ever a lot of smart, erudite bloggers out there*), but of the blogs themselves, so much so that AW wishes she had waited for more of an earnest effort from her own muse when setting up this blog. Here a tiny sample sprinkling of bloggers with undisputed flair:

Title Flair:
Musings of an All Purpose Monkey (Wins for best melding of unboring & self-confident)

Phantom Paragrapher (Apprentice Writer is a sucker for clever alliteration)

Perpetual Pageturner (Ditto)

Lit Snit (Short, Sweet, Fab!)

Semicolon (Exactly!)

The Lost Entwife (With excellent Tolkien quote in place of slogan)

Bermudaonion (Love it, particularly because blog has nothing to do with cooking)

The Literary Omnivore (So much more elegant than AW's usual "I read all kinds of stuff")

Slogan Flair:
Tony's Reading List: Too Lazy to be a Writer, Too Egotistical to be Quiet

Stella Matutina: Books and Stories and Musings, Oh My!

Title & Slogan Flair: Total Win!
Books, Movies and Chinese Food: The Idea for a Perfect Evening

Whimpulsive: It's Not a Word, but it Should Be

Gentle Reader: Come across any memorable Blog Titles or Slogans? Please share!

* Here one such snippet that made AW laugh:
"...It seems that very, very few people have read Guy Gavriel Kay's LORD OF EMPERORS, a book that moved me to tears with a chariot race. (Lots of books move me to tears; few do so with sporting events)." Stella Matutina


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

NonBook Reviews: 'The Deal' & 'Couples Retreat'

The Toronto International Film Festival is in full swing.

As always, there is much nuanced analysis about which pic having it's world premier (or almost premier) will be the next Oscar darling (odds favor 'Black Swan'). As always, the closest Apprentice Writer will get to the screenings or megawatt stars will be perusal of the daily snark celebrity photo spreads.

Memo to A-listers: Hey, we know we're not Venice or Cannes. That does not mean it is cool to wear tees and jeans for your walk down the Toronto red carpet (looking at you, Ewan McGregor), frocks fit for library browsing (Helen Mirren), or outfits that could double for duty as a bank teller (too many to mention). At least we can rely on Nicole Kidman to demonstrate how glam lipstick and really well-groomed eyebrows are done.

In the spirit of cinema, some thoughts on two comedies. Yes, AW is aware that these are one and two years old respectively, and yes, that is the promptitude with which she typically sees films. Deal with it. She has.


2008, Directed by Steven Schachter

AW had never heard of this little gem before stumbling across it late one night when she had rare monopoly of the remote control. She's been a fan of William H Macy ever since 'Fargo' ("You're darn tootin!"). Comprised of 2 parts rumpled mess, 2 parts guileless blue eyes, and six parts chutzpah, he is perfectly cast here as the formerly famous movie producer who is so far down and out that he has nothing to lose when a screenplay and news of an action star's religious conversion almost literally fall into his lap on the same day.

As a lark, he sets out to see how far he can work the Hollywood system in creating a movie out of nothing. Playing off anything and anyone who comes his way, including studio exec Meg Ryan, he makes the viewer continually question how far off from reality many of the 'behind the scenes' scenes really are. AW had no expectations going in and ended up really enjoying it, with the exception of a bit that smacked too strongly of men casually exploiting the power of female sexuality for their own purposes.

Who should see it? Fans of quiet humor, quirk, people who liked the idea of 'Get Shorty' but thought it was too over the top.


2009, Directed by Peter Billingsley

AW is not a big fan of Vince Vaughan or Jon Favreau. She is, however, a big fan of Jason Bateman and Jean Reno (Gentle Reader, if you have not see 'The Professional', please: stop reading and go do it now). Throw in geography that is probably on the bucket list of the majority of people (AW cannot believe that she is alone in this), and the interesting premise of 'How do long married couples stay together?' in contrast to the usual 'How do couples get together in the first place?' and the balance tipped in favor of watching. Was it worthwhile?

The answer to that question can probably be divided along gender lines. For AW, the gymnastic extremes to which suspension of disbelief needed to be stretched, the ludicrous difference between the ultra fitness of all the women in the movie (MUCH displayed) contrasting with the average fitness cross-section of the men, the broadness of the humor, the unneccesarily cutesy details (each couple wearing different colored Mao suits during counseling sessions - Why????), the shallow/juvenile quality of several solutions to arising challenges - all combined to eclipse the blissful daze of looking at French Polynesia. Mr. AW on the other hand didn't seem to have a problem.

Who should see it? Fans of loud humor, people who like Vince Vaughan or Jon Favreau films, viewers who don't demand too much plausibility from their stories.

But does it make you laugh?
The Deal: YES
Couples Retreat: NO for AW, YES for Mr. AW

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Apprentice Writer is suffering a reader ailment.

She 'discovered' the Urban Fantasy genre some time ago. If she has understood correctly, stories in this niche involve no-nonsene protagonists who deal with decidedly non-everyday realities by discovering or unleashing their super-human talents. As a rule, tremendously creative world-building is involved, and it is this aspect that usually draws AW's interest - as opposed to straight Paranormal tales, which also involve non-regular humanoid beings, but seem more narrowly focused on the romantic attraction between characters. That isn't enough to hold AW's interest; not helped by the fact that she is not a vampire-, werewolf-, or zombie person.

AW has now read enough speculative fiction & UF novels to discover a pattern: being highly impressed with the creativity of a debut book, and then reading the second and having lukewarm rather than excited anticipation for the third.

To wit:

Gail Carriger's 'Parasol Protectorate'
(Victorian steampunk romance: female protagonist is soulless)
Enjoyed the humor and contrast between stuffy society rules and outrageous situations in the first a lot, liked the second but was more irritated by author style idiosyncracies.
Read the 3rd? Yes, but more because of weak resistance to a beautiful cover than anything else.

Stacia Kane's 'Unholy Ghosts'
(Dystopia: female protagonist is a government-employed witch)
Loved the carefully thought out world of the first, second held AW's interest but developed opinion that the series is better described as horror than UF.
Read the 3rd? Undecided. AW is really not a horror person. Yet, anti-hero secondary character is compelling.

Ilona Andrews' 'Kate Daniels'
(Alternate universe: female protagonist is an uber-trained killing machine)
Loved the energy and dry protagonist attitude in the first and second, both elements still good in third but became irritated by third new group of antagonists introduced in as many books with not enough depth of understanding of where they came from, how they work, why they're such fanatical opponents. Gives the series Jackie Chan syndrome, i.e. no one cares that the bits in between fight scenes range from silly to absurd, because they're just empty filler for the main event.
Read the 4th? Yes, but not rushing out to get it.

Seanan MacGuire's 'October Daye'
(Urban fantasy; female protagonist is half fey, able to move between human and fairy worlds)
Delighted with exquisite world-building and alternate races in the first, which was still good in second, but became seriously irritated with heroine herself.
Read the 3rd? Undecided.

Claire Delacroix's 'Guardians of the Republic' (Dystopia, female protagonists are members of different social classes in a totalitarian big-brother society)
Loved the worldbuilding and suspense of the first, felt somewhat dissatisfied when the nature of the story dwelt heavily on relationship of protagonists in second where this reader really wanted more detail of the society.
Read the 3rd? Yes, since the female protagonist promises to be the most interesting yet.

Jennifer Estep's 'Elemental Assassins' (Urban Fantasy; female protagonist is an assasin with magical ability)
First and second held reader's interest, yet somehow, not inciting a 'When is the third one out?' reaction.
Read the 3rd? No strong opinion either way.

Then there are the series in which AW liked the first and yet hasn't moved on to the second in the series:
Kat Richardson, 'Greywalker' (Urban Fantasy; heroine has capacity to see and move in next world after a brief period with no vital signs)
Devon Monk, 'Allie Beckstrom' (Urban Fantasy; heroine has magical ability)
In these two cases, the matter is actually one of author skill that may be too good - the protagon ists' stuggles with headaches and nausea, as the price they pay for their abilities, seems to induce same in this reader.

Gentle Reader: What's your advice? Should AW grit her teeth and keep going? Are any of the next in these series not-to-be-missed keepers? Or should AW simply give UF a break and go to historical fiction 0r mysteries for a year?


Monday, September 6, 2010


Apprentice Writer is fortunate to have talented friends. One such is Tanya Freedman, who not only writes a mean book proposal but takes the mystery out of the process for those of us who don't. For the curious, she is holding a seminar on September 14:

  • Have you ever wanted to write a non-fiction book?
  • Have you got an idea that you want to test in the market?
  • Do you want to know how to get that book published?

Writing a book can be therapeutic or just plain fun and with proper help, the results of writing a book can be very lucrative!

Getting the idea down in writing can be daunting.

If you or any of your colleagues want to know how to go about writing a non-fiction book proposal, or how to test your idea on the market, I can help.

I’m a published non-fiction author. I will –

Ø Help conceptualize your idea into a saleable proposal, complete with structure and style

Ø Suggest and research the best publishing route

Ø Help you etch time into your busy life to start writing your proposal and book now

Ø Coach you to write the cover letter for targeted literary agents or publishing editors

If you want to “pay it forward”, please send this email to your contacts, friends and family, who have always wanted to write that book! Or even if they're just curious.

Check out my website for details on "Writing and Selling Your Book Proposal". I'm offering a seminar packed with all the resources needed to create, complete and send out an irresistible book proposal.

For more details on the resources you will receive at the seminar please go to:

Let me, the Book Proposal Mentor, help you transform your ideas into publication!
Tanya Freedman