Updating, and a recommendation

Slowly but surely, the words accumulate – and I remember how it feels to be a writer. Big smiles all around!

In other news, last night I finally caught up with one of my dearest friends in the world and got to show her one of my favourite ballet documentaries. Before a horrible injury she was a dancer, and still loves the art.

Born to be Wild is a fabulous doco featuring 4 principle male dancers from the American Ballet Theatre: Jose Manuel Carreno, Angela Corella, Vladimir Malakhov and Ethan Stiefel. 4 very different dancers, with intriguingly different backgrounds, but all equally and mind-blowingly talented.

If you love dance, if you love watching the guys do more than prop up the ballerinas in various poses, this is the ballet documentary for you. It’s available online from Amazon, but if you’re not in the US you’ll need a multi zone dvd player to watch it.

Because I keep showing this dvd to various friends, I’ve seen it multiple times — and I never get tired of it. These guys are super fabulous, super free of tedious ego shite, and a visceral pleasure to watch.

Enjoy!

Here’s a really lovely Q&A I did!

The truly tedious thing about being unwell a lot is how fast so many things slip through the cracks. This being one of them! The lovely people at WritingForums.com asked me if I’d participate in an author Q&A, and of course I said yes because there’s not much I love more than banging on about books and writing. They were great questions, I answered them as best I could, and I hope if you’re an aspiring writer you might find them helpful.

You can read the interview here.

A different kind of cop show

The other thing that happens when you fall over with a disgusting stomach/gut virus – apart from the obvious – is that you’re left stranded liked a beached whale, unable to do anything meaningful except watch some dvds. You can try reading, but for some reason that doesn’t always work out. Anyhow. A while ago, while ordering something else online, I saw another show highlighted. I’d never heard of it, but it sounded interesting so I ordered a copy. And while I was laid low with the disgusting stomach/gut virus, I watched it.

19-2 is a Canadian cop show. It was originally made in French, and then it got an English makeover. It’s set in Montreal, part of French-speaking Canada, which explains why. For those of us who watch shows filmed in Vancouver (mostly) there are some familiar faces in the cast, and as guest actors. Most notable of these is Adrian Holmes, who was Detective Lance’s partner for a while in Arrow.  The first season is out now on dvd, and the second season is about to be released. It’s been picked up for a third.

This is a fascinating series, because it has a very unAmerican cop show sensibility. Style-wise it’s approached like a documentary. There’s an edge, a rawness, to the camera work that’s really interesting, but it never gets in the way of the storytelling. (I really hated the stupid idea in Southland where the soundtrack bleeped out the cops swearing. Way to interrupt the narrative, guys. Way to be pretentious!) It’s a very personal, often in-your-face kind of narrative. It’s also pretty bleak. The story weaves its way in and out of the cops’ professional and personal lives, but it never feels like soap opera. In that sense, it’s pretty much the diametric opposite of another recent Canadian cop show, Rookie Blue.

I’m thinking that if you’re a fan of darker fare, stuff like The Wire, you might well enjoy 19-2. And even if bleak isn’t really your thing, I’d say give it a go anyway. The writing and acting are top notch – and it’s always an excellent adventure, exploring different takes on a familiar – and some might say – overdone genre. In fact, I think that writers should make a point of watching a bunch of different shows in the same genre, and noting how each narrative handles the demands of that genre. What works, what doesn’t, and how those lessons can be applied to our own work.

I bought 19-2 from Amazon UK. When you buy from overseas you need a multi zone dvd player, remember!

Here are some great books to read

I’m often asked which books and/or authors are my favourites, or have influenced my writing in some way. There is always a standout answer: the late Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles – a 6 book historical series that is pretty much the benchmark of excellence for the genre. Nobody, but nobody, is in Dunnett’s league. If you love great fiction, especially historical fiction, and you haven’t read this series? You’re missing out an amazing experience. The first book in the series is The Game of Kings. I urge you to get a copy and be ensnared in brilliance.

But Dunnett also wrote a mystery series, known as the Dolly series. It was called that because the main character, Johnson, owns a yacht called Dolly, and he travels the world in it painting portraits – for which he’s famous. However, there is more to Johnson than a paintbrush, which is where the mystery element comes in.

What’s remarkable about the Dolly series is that each book is told from a first person narrator perspective, and each time the narrator is a different woman whose life intersects with Johnson’s – with not always happy results. It means that we learn about Johnson second-hand, and each character reveals something new and different about him. Reading the series is like putting together a Johnson jigsaw puzzle, and it’s truly fascinating. It’s also a masterclass in writing. Reading Dunnett is like that – you learn so much about writing from reading her extraordinary novels. Each narrator is a distinctly different person, with a unique voice, which is reflected in every element of the narrative.

If you like the mystery genre, and enjoy strongly character-driven storytelling, I can’t recommend the Dolly books highly enough. You can find them online at reasonable 2nd hand prices. I’ve just replaced a few of my own that were falling apart and it hasn’t broken the bank.

Start with Dolly and the Bird of Paradise. That’s the first book, and it sets the series up really well.

Back on the horse, again.

When the history of this year is written, at least from my point of view,  it will contain an astonishing amount of screaming and obscenities. I’m back on my feet again after 10 days of a truly gross stomach/gut virus that saw me in hospital undergoing many tedious tests. I managed to avoid cameras in unfortunate places, but only just. After 5 days of not being able to eat anything, I was able to eat rice crackers and not much else. It all sucked. This year has done pretty much nothing but be sucky. I’m over it.

But! I am back at the computer again, writing. The words are good. I am catching up, slowly. Please cross your fingers for me that I am now totally done with getting sick or injured, for the foreseeable future!!!!