Thursday, February 26, 2009

Heaven And Hell

And so it came to pass that the dread name Edward Cullen passed through Randy Jackson's gaping hole. Thus did American Idol become a battle between decent church-going widower Gokey and Drama Club vampire Lambert. And who's caught in the middle? Corkery! Save yourselves!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Superhero Summercamp!

From the talented hands of Sarah Cross, author of the forthcoming `Dull Boy' and my colleague in the YA superhero sub-genre
comes something that can only be described as this:

If I was a casual reader with no affiliation or hidden agenda and I came across that line-up, I'd be intrigued. But I'm not a casual reader. I have an affilitaion and a blatant agenda and, guess what, I'm still intrigued.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Project Hotway

I have a keen sense of fashion. I can delve through a pile of clothes and as long as there's a clean-ish t-shirt and pair of shorts somewhere in there, I know the outcome will be pleasing to the eye. But when I had to come up with a signature crime-fighting look for the superhero(ine) title character of `Hottie', I knew I was going to have to expand my style horizons beyond `She shows up at the scene of the crime resplendent in a loose-fitting grey t-shirt with a picture of a dog on the front' ( which, by an amazing coincidence, is what I'm wearing RIGHT THIS MINUTE!)

Even though my knowledge of labels and fabrics and colors is as comprehensive as my knowledge of...well, everything else, my fictional superhero needed an instantly identifiable costume. So I went with a mixture of what my character was-- surpassingly popular, style-conscious Beverly Hills High student-- and what she becomes-- a shunned, friendless freak who shoots flames from her fingers. The result: a mixture of girly fashion--little black cocktail dress, big black Chanel sunglasses, fingerless gloves-- and action hero accoutrements-- red leather jacket, black motorcycle boots.

Perhaps the new (possibly) improved cover gives you a sense of the Hottie costume, perhaps it doesn't. One thing it definitely doesn't do is give a sense of the accessory I selected to add a final dash of individuality to the costume. A big fat gleaming old school hip hop chain that ended in a big burning letter H that hung down by the character's waist.

Just so you get a mental picture of what the big gold Hottie H should have looked like, here's a visual aid:

Thank you, Yung Joc. Awesome look.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Not So Fast, America...

That was a satisfyingly humiliating conclusion to the Tatiana de Toro saga, wasn't it? We got to witness her teary demise and now she'll fade back into oblivion. Or will she?

Two words: wild card.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Reader

I read a lot. And I read fast. I'm what you might call a voracious reader. Sometimes I find myself speeding through a book because I can't wait to start the next one in the pile but it's an unwritten rule that I don't go on to a fresh book without finishing the last one.
(Does that mean I'm a self-denier or a non-pleasure prolonger? Discuss.)

I'm currently reading `Ten Days In The Hills' by Jane Smiley which is kind of an L.A updating of The Decameron. I began reading it in December. I'm now on page 59. Of 450 pages. I was also on page 59 in December. I can't imagine a time when I won't be on page 59. Which makes me increasingly reluctant to pick the book back up. And every time I do, I have no recollection of the story or any of the characters so I have to flip back a few pages to refresh my memory. So I re-read a few pages of the book. And then I stop. On page 59.

It could be that it's a dense and difficult read. But the other book I'm also ploughing through, Frank Portman's `King Dork', is neither of these things. I started it on the plane a few weeks ago. I got to page 176. I've delved back into it a few times since then. Same outcome: can't remember reading it, re-read a few pages, toss it aside on page 176.

Has this ever happened to you? Will I ever finish either of these books. Should I break my lifelong unwritten rule?

(This, btw, is the first installment of Jonathan's Book Club. Should make pretty riveting reading in future...)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bad Child Actor Alert!

Over the past three days, I've watched some cable, seen some DVDs and even gone to a movie. Exciting, I agree. But what ruined all these experiences for me? The fact that I'm frittering away my free time? No, I've already accepted that. Bad child actors messed up everything I saw. That's not even fair. Some of them aren't necessarily bad actors. But they've all been forced into giving horrible performances that achieve the exact opposite of what was intended.

In 'The Day The Earth Stood Still", Jaden Smith's incessant whining was supposed to bring out the humanity inside Keanu Reeves' alien and persuade him to give the planet a last-minute reprieve. Didn't work. Just increased the desire to see the earth perish and Wee Willie with it.

Before she did "Atonement" and "The Lovely Bones", the grave little Irish actress Saoirse Ronan was the child lead in "I Could Never Be Your Woman". This unreleasable romantic disaster from Amy Hecklerling, director of `Clueless', sat on the shelf for almost four years and has only now oozed it's way on to cable. All the pop culture jokes are wildly out of date ( I feel your pain there, Amy. See previous entry).The movie was shot in the UK and is filled with British comics struggling with American accents. Paul Rudd, who is never no fun to watch, is completely out to sea here. But nothing, in a movie filled with things that are hard to sit through, is harder to sit through than Saoirse Ronan as Michelle Pfeiffer's spunky, wisecracking, embarrassingly candid little firecracker of a daughter.

Abigail Breslin isn't quite as horrifying as Ronan in the also-debuting-on-cable "Definitely Maybe" but her wise-beyond-her-years character is increasingly unappealing. Again, this is less a gripe about her skills than the continuing enthusiasm of writers and directors to hear the word `penis' come out of the mouths of either the very old or the very young.

Finally, Dakota Fanning in `Push'. This confusing, sluggish superhero movie was directed by a fellow Glaswegian, Paul McGuigan. Paul directed me once. A doomed pilot for British TV featuring me showing viewers around New York and interviewing a fascinating mix of celebs and locals. To say I wasn't comfortable with the camera is less an understatement and more of a compliment. And, do you know, I'm not sure I did a worse job than Dakota Fanning does as a smart, cynical psychic in `Push'.

Listen, times are hard for everyone. I don't begrudge child actors the chance to make a buck if they get the break. But when they all gang up to ruin my weekend's viewing, I've got to put my foot down.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Life Irritates Art

People often say to me, "As a first-time novelist with a book only moments away from publication, do you have any advice for up-and-coming writers with dreams of following in your footsteps?" Of course I reply, "Tell them to abandon their useless dreams." The Young Adult world is already too crowded. I certainly don't need to be encouraging more competition.

But the events of the past week have caused me to reflect on that question. And now I have an honest answer. If you are, like I was, writing your first novel and you're tempted to take short cuts with your character descriptions or you want to instill instant familiarity into your reading audience, don't do what I did. DON'T USE POP CULTURE AS A CRUTCH.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not self-hating here. I unreservedly recommend Hottie (available to purchase: April 2). In fact I'd go so far as to say it's better than any book with a unicorn on the cover. But I did two things that I want to pass on to you aspiring writers as examples that should not be followed.

Example A: The superhero(ine)'s love interest is a guy called Tommy Hull, universally known as T. He's the Junior President of Beverly Hills High. He volunteers after school with the L.A Fire Department. He's handsome, athletically-inclined and socially aware. Because I was reluctant to spend too much time detailing the dreaminess of a male high-school student, I boiled down his essence to two words.

Christian Bale.

I wrote Hottie over a year ago. For over a year, there could be no more flattering comparison for a male character than Christian Bale. Not anymore. Even though he's apologized and called his outburst out-of-character, you and i both know, he's going to be forever branded the shouty guy.

Example B: In one of the few moments, Alison Cole, the hugely popular Beverly Hills High student who will soon become the after-school superhero known as Hottie, isn't at odds with her jealous, insecure best friends, they bond over their shared adoration for a style icon who is, in their eyes, flawless and untouchable.


I still maintain Rihanna's the gold standard as far as pop stars go but flawless and untouchable aren't the first things that spring to mind when you think about her now.

So, first-time writers, learn from my mistakes. Go the extra mile. Don't fall back on pop-culture. It moves fast while publishing goes at a crawl.

Never let it be said I don't take my own advice. I handed in the new draft of Hottie 2 yesterday. Nothing in that one's gonna come back and bite me on the ass. I mean, it's not like we're all gonna forget about Tatiana del Toro a year from now, right?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Get Out Of The Road, Stephenie Meyer, Or Get Run The Hell Over!

Hottie's Amazon Sales Rank as of this morning: 275,989

Strangely, the subtitles weren't that distracting...

Your moviegoing choice this miserable weekend: He's Just Not That Into You and Pink Panther 2. Which is a great choice if you hate yourself. There's also this:

It's only showing in something like one and-a-fifth cinemas. But if you've been waiting for a movie about an autistic 15 year-old kickboxer trying to save her dying mother by smashing her feet into the faces of all the gangsters and miscreants who owe her money, Chocolate is your wish come true

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A New Blog? Really?

Back in the heady days of 2006 when dollar bills littered the sidewalks and we slept on pillows made of gold, I wrote a book called Knickers In A Twist. It was a guide to British slang of the past and present but it also touched on pop-culture, catchphrases, obscure musical references and blistering insults. In short, it was an intoxicating and indispensable package-- at last that's what Vanity Fair said!-- that richly deserved it's place in the hearts and bookshelves of Anglophiles everywhere.
Of course, moments after the book came out, I immediately forgot all about it. No-one wrote about it. No-one talked about it. None of the big stores even stocked it.

My friends, that book is now in it's fourth(4th) printing! So here's my belated contribution to the full-scale, all-media Knickers In A Twist media blitz. A brand new blog. One that's shaping up to be even more stellar than this one. In the coming weeks, look out for strange and arcane examples of British vocabulary, some yanked straight from the pages of the book, others gleaned from deep inside the recesses of my incomprehensible Scottish past.

Get your British slang up to speed at:


New Hottie cover. I'm leaving the old one up for comparison. Why the change? The big book chains weren't gung-ho about the first one. Now they're on board. Haven't quite learned to love it yet. But give me time....

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

iCarly Destroys Chick Flicks

Die of burning shame Bride Wars, New In Town, Confessions Of A Shopaholic and He's Just Not That Into You

(Every time I fly Jet Blue, I find myself thinking this dopey little tween show might be The Last Laugh-track Sitcom Standing. Then I deplane and DVR a few episodes and realize how wrong I was. Lethal comic timing from those little girl leads, though...)

The Axe Falls

Goner From The Tivo This Week: House and Heroes. More to follow. No long-term TV commitment for me anymore.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Judgement Call

Is it just me or has Kara DioGuardi made zero impression? She's not mean, she's not loopy, she's not gushy, she's not insightful, she's not contrary, she just fills a fourth seat.