Monday, March 31, 2008

Poetry Train Monday - 43 - That Dream Again

This is a brand new poem, a backstory poem for one of my fictional characters. Arlen is a 17-year-old boy who lives in a cabin in the woods with his mother and step-father. It's the 1830's, and Arlen works the traplines with his step-father.

The relationship between Arlen and the step-father is strained at best. They are rivals for his mother's affections, and the step-father is a hard man. This story is from a screenplay titled The Penitent and the dream opens the film.

That Dream Again

In dreams I turn
Snapped twig reveals
Two eyes watching
Forest shadow moves
Breath seizes throat
Neck beads sweat

No time to reach
Musket hangs useless
Cool autumn air
Lacework gold above
Crunching leaves below
Bear surges forth

Your shot rings out
Heart nearly fails
Bear drops, tongue
Lolls from snout
You stride up
Lower musket

In dreams I turn
Your gaze moves
Up from kill
No time to run
Musket recoils
I jerk awake

In dreams I turn
I start awake
I clutch chest
No wound gapes
But sweat beads
On bowed neck

Copyright - Julia Smith - 2008

Friday, March 28, 2008

I Won a Book by Amanda Ashby

I checked the comments on my Thursday Thirteen this evening and discovered I'd won a copy of Amanda Ashby's book You Had Me at Halo.

Shelley Monroe held a contest over at her blog on Tuesday, as she does every time she hosts a guest blogger at Adventure Into Romance. I always enjoy these writers' guest appearances, and always secretly hope I'll be the lucky winner of the featured book.

Well, even though we had a spring snowfall that lasted the entire day, the fates were with me. Soon I'll be the proud recipient of You Had Me at Halo. And I'll review it in the not-too-distant future.

Here's the cover blurb:

"Holly Evans has just seen her own body laid to rest. Now she would like to move onto the afterlife. But apparently she has some mortal baggage to unload first, starting with the matter of how she died. Her heavenly shrink isn't buying that she didn't kill herself - and says she must return to earth to straighten things out. The thing is, she needs to borrow the body of computer geek Vince Murphy to do it. Oh, and although Vince was supposed to have vacated the premises, he apparently never got the memo.

Now, Holly has forty-eight hours to resolve her issues while sharing arms, legs, and...other things...with a guy she barely noticed while she was alive. But the real surprise is what life has to offer when you have only two days to live it."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - 48 - 13 Reasons to Read Heart of the Nile by Gabriella Hewitt

I was thrilled to get a copy of Heart of the Nile, a recent release by Gabriella Hewitt, and for today's Thursday Thirteen I thought I'd review it. Stay tuned to the next four Thursday Thirteens as I review previous releases by Renee Field, Christine d'Abo, Red Garnier and Lillian Feisty.

1 - Heart of the Nile is an e-book from Cobblestone Press, released on February 29th. I'd read an excerpt from it on Gabriella's blog and was instantaneously hooked. I believe this was the part that snared me:

"Her eyes surveyed the prisoner, his body strong just like his will. He dripped blood and power."

2 - Once I had the whole story to read, I was delighted that the promise of ancient Egyptian gods played out with every character I came across. The hero and heroine bridge two worlds, quite like the Others from the Russian urban paranormal I'm currently reading, The Night Watch. In Hewitt's story, the world of ancient Egypt coexists below the layer of reality with which we humans are most familiar.

3 - Heart of the Nile is part of Cobblestone's Shifters category, which offers shapeshifter romances. In this story, the heroine shifts between a human form and a lioness. The hero shifts between human form and an ancient Molossian hound.

4 - We meet Kat, Stealer of Memories, a priestess of her shapeshifter pride. What she doesn't know until she meets up with the hero is that she herself carries locked doors within her mind, hiding painful memories that resurface when Nikos returns to her life.

5 - Nikos is Keeper of Secrets for his master Anubis and their pack. The dogs have been at war with the cats as long as both sides can remember, yet Nikos has used himself as bait to capture Kat for his mission.

6 - Nikos has been sent to retrieve the lioness with whom he once shared a passionate past. A greater mission revolves around their ability to find the urn containing the Heart of Bast, Ra's daughter and originator of the cat clan. But Nikos is personally focused on Kat and the pain of her returning memories.

7 - I really, really love the mythological aspects of this story. For some reason, if these two characters were contemporary ex-lovers who needed to stay one step ahead of power-hungry rivals, I couldn't really get myself into their nail-biting efforts. But once I find out she's a shapeshifting priestess from an ancient cat clan, I'm there, baby.

8 - There's a lot of sexual tension between Kat and Nikos, and wonderful verbal banter. But this is more of a paranormal thriller than a super-hot tale of passion.

9 - Kat and Nikos are about as different as one could hope to encounter in a mismatched couple. But what Hewitt does so well is make their co-operation crucial - and I mean crucial - to the success or failure of their joint mission.

10 - Hewitt really knows how to end each chapter with a hook. Like this, for example:

"He looked back. Kat stood just outside the door, her hands gracefully fluttering in a pattern, hieroglyphics sparkling in the air before melting away.

'What are you doing?' he barked.


...'Hurry it up,' he whispered harshly. He advanced a few more feet toward the street when his gut wrenched and his vision swam. His legs strained against an invisible cord wrapped tightly around his being.

He whipped his head around again. Kat hadn’t moved an inch. Her cat‐like eyes focused on him, and a small curved smile touched her lips.

Nikos knew he was totally screwed."

11 - The writing style is spare and constantly accelerates the story. It works perfectly for Nikos' POV, giving a very natural masculine feel to his scenes. It also works well for Kat, since she's a powerful priestess and doesn't pull punches.

12 - There are aspects of the story that don't get completely resolved by the end, which only makes their world seem more real to me. And also leaves the prospect of more stories possible. I love encountering fictional worlds that seem to have a life larger than that of the novel.

13 - I leave you with an excerpt. Enjoy!

"She eyed a stall that sold lamb kebobs. Her tongue darted out to wet her lips.

Fascinated, his gaze remained on her lovely pink mouth. Like a man parched from lack of water, he found himself wanting to sip and savor. To taste her.

His body hardened. His blood thickened. Heat flooded his system, making it difficult to breathe or think.

He even found himself leaning toward her.

Nikos closed his eyes and willed himself under control. Damn, he still had it bad for this woman. Centuries passed; even empires rose and fell. He’d lived through famine and feast, wars and prosperity. His lovers came and went, yet none had left her mark like Kat.

A mark he was banking on that she carried inside, too. Except, she'd shown little sign so far of remembering what they'd once shared.

Nikos shuttled them down another alley. The narrow passageway blocked out the sun; the heat beat at them in waves. He sniffed the air. He caught the scent.

'This way.' He rounded the corner. His gut tightened. The strings of the binding spell coiled around him. He slowed down. Kat lazily paired up next to him.

'Keep up,' he barked.

'It’s hot. I’m tired, and I’m hungry. I need a nap.'

'You can rest when we get to the potter.'

Kat stopped dead in her tracks. 'Oh no.' She shook her head. 'You said you would take me to the Heart of Bast; you never mentioned anyone else.'

'I will take you. First, though, I need to find out where it is.'

The look on her face was priceless.

'W…What?' She stammered. 'I assumed since you were the one entrusted with secrets…'

'That I knew where the heart was buried?' Nikos picked up. 'Sorry, I must have forgotten to mention that bit.'

- Gabriella Hewitt, 2008

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - 41

Monday, March 24, 2008

Poetry Train Monday - 42 - Where I'm From

I found this wonderful poetry template at Candid Karina's and couldn't wait to do one of my own. Here is Karina's beautiful version. Here is the template if you'd like to try it yourself. I played with the form slightly but followed the content of the template.

Where I'm From

I am from ballerina jewelry box
from Capital Records 45's and Grandpa's fiddle
his stomping foot a-dideley-dideley-dideley-dye.

I am from the packed-up house
the rumbling seat in the truck with Daddy
his hands on the steering wheel tapping to Maggie May's mandolins.

I am from the piles of crisp leaves he raked to the steps
so I could jump and land and laugh
the granite bedrock edging the sea where we climbed and ran
the silent snowfall and the tug-swoosh of the sled
over the buried street.

I am from crouch, focus and shutter click
from fingers pressing piano keys
from Great-Grandpa Meuse's old photo postcards from out west
Grandma Doucet's bread rising under the tea towels
Mom picking up smoothed rocks from the beach to turn over in her hands.

I am from the stubborn Acadians and the teasing Mi'kmaq.

From Come tell Mommy what's the matter
and Hello, Sweet Pie.

I am from shh so quiet in my ear
I had to be quiet to hear it
standing still in the aisle of the packed church.
I'm from piling into the car and Dad driving
to the woods, to the beach, to the ocean.
I'm from entering these wonders of Creation like cathedrals
hearing prayer in the waves and on the wind.

I'm from the marshes of Poitou
from a morning twelve generations back
sailing from France with hope, with skill
unwavering and unstoppable.
I'm from river trout sizzling in the cast iron fry pan
from baked beans simmered for hours
blending the tartness and the sweet.

From the wolves howling
in the frozen moonlit night
chasing Grandpa's horses as they
pulled the sleigh through the dark spruce
towards home.

From the despair of my uncle lost
in the snow-laden woods with a friend
logging road to follow at dawn
hut where a man fed them peanut butter sandwiches
the look on my grandfather's face
when he saw his son alive
friend's dad clipped his boy in the head
my grandfather pulled his boy into his arms.

From the wind that came up
while my sister canoed with Dad
his calm instructions to paddle hard
her sense of danger helping her girlish arms
to dig into the choppy water with the oar
her adult body climbing onto the hospital bed
Dad struggled to let go of his last breath
her hands cupped his face
you don't have to paddle anymore
you can see the shore
go to the shore Dad.

I am from the mirror carving of The Bluenose
Dad knew I would want
his landscape shots I used to skip past
and now linger over.
Our Family Tree which my grandfather bought
but never filled in, now mine
the generations recorded by my hand.
The perfect photo deliberated, showing
the essence of me
my parents, my grandparents
my husband
his parents, his grandparents.
And the collage beside each face
showing the passions that drove us through our days.

Copyright - 2008 - Julia Smith

Friday, March 21, 2008

Crazy 8's Meme

Karina at Candid Karina tagged me for this Crazy 8's Meme:

8 things I'm passionate about

1 - ballet (I know...crazy...)
2 - film
3 - the Victorian period
4 - art
5 - sci-fi/fantasy genre
6 - sword-fighting scenes
7 - poetry
8 - easing people's day-to-day troubles (it's usually as simple as listening to someone for a few minutes)

8 things I want to do before I die

1 - visit Portmeirion, in Wales, where The Prisoner was shot in the 1960's.
2 - feel chills erupt as I watch Gerard Butler play my vampire, in a film based on my book.
3 - walk the red carpet of my film premiere.
4 - attend the Oscars as a nominee.
5 - watch the former Kirov Ballet, returned to its true name of the Mariinski Ballet at the Mariinski Theatre in St. Petersburg.
6 - visit the Hermitage Museum, also in St. Petersburg.
7 - go hillwalking in Scotland.
8 - own my own longsword.

8 things I often say

1 - "Beep-beep! Beep-beep!" (to my dog Xena)
2 - "Hello Little Girl! I love you - yes, I do!" (to Xena)
3 - (after my husband asks me if I've had my green tea when my head is bothering me) "" You'd think by now I would realize that at some point during our every-afternoon-while-I'm-at-work phone call, he's going to remind me about having green tea. But every time he asks me I have to sheepishly admit I hadn't thought about it yet, even though my head is killing me.
4 - "This is the best/funniest thing...ever!"
5 - "Whatya watchin'?" (to my husband, every time I walk into the living room.)
6 - "Love you." (numerous times per day to my honey)
7 - "I'll be over in a minute." (to my husband, referring to getting off the computer, usually several times over an hour-and-a-half to a two-hour period. He just laughs at me.)
8 - The F-word, at some point every time I have a migraine. Not very often at other times.

8 books I've recently read or am reading

1 - Heart of The Nile by Gabriella Hewitt
2 - The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko
3 - In My Wildest Fantasies by Julianne MacLean
4 - The Cat Who Sang For The Birds by Lilian Jackson Braun
5 - Firebird by Mercedes Lackey
6 - The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
7 - The Bond That Ties Us by Christine d'Abo
8 - Love Me Wild by Renee Field

8 songs I could listen to over and over

1 - Why by Annie Lennox
2 - Natural Blues by Moby
3 - You Look So Fine by Garbage
4 - Perfect Day by Lou Reed
5 - One For My Baby (And One More For The Road) by Frank Sinatra
6 - Mas Que Nada by Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66
7 - The Boy With the Thorn in His Side by The Smiths
8 - Desert Rose by Sting with Cheb Mami

8 things that attract me to my best friends

1 - creative, artistic people. My friends inspire me. They write, make films, paint, take photographs, sing in operas, make quilts, act, dance and draw.
2 - lifelong students. My friends are usually taking some course or other, or just pursuing their craft, constantly refining it, discovering new ways of perfecting it.
3 - highly spiritual people. My friends come from different faith backgrounds, yet all seek to understand the sacred mysteries.
4 - compassionate people. My friends would stop and help a fallen runner in their own race.
5 - edgy, witty people. My friends share my dark sense of humor. Lots of zingers and laughs. Often at our own expense.
6 - intellectuals and total geeks. My friends and I walk the fine line. Luckily we're very tolerant of each others' quirks.
7 - movers and shakers. My friends are on political committees, run associations, start companies and then volunteer here and there and everywhere.... They make me tired...
8 - obsessive people. OCD doesn't always have to count as a minus. I'd say most of my friends have some obsessive quality that helps them get their art out of their heads and into the world. I could use more of it, actually.

8 people I'm tagging:

1 - Amy Ruttan
2 - Wylie Kinson
3 - Red Garnier
4 - Christine d'Abo
5 - Leah Braemel
6 - Olga
7 - Jill
8 - Annette

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - 47 - 13 Public Works of Art in Downtown Toronto

1 - Freedom Arches at reflecting pond and ice rink at Nathan Phillips Square by Finnish architect Viljo Revell - 1965

Photo by Ahmed F.

Toronto's signature icon after the CN Tower, this public space is in constant use by the city's residents. Installed in 1965, the arches in the pond were dubbed Freedom Arches in 1989:

"The Citizens of Toronto dedicate these arches to the millions who struggled including Canadians, to gain and defend freedom and to the tens of millions who suffered and died for the lack of it. May all that we do be worthy of them." (

"The design is based on the idea that Nathan Phillips Square acts as an agora, the ancient Athenian place of public and political exchange. The theme clearly defines the inner open space of theatre and square – a theatre for the city, and a square surrounded by a forested perimeter." (

2 - The Endless Bench at the Hospital for Sick Kids by Lea Vivot - 1984

'The Endless Bench was donated by Kleinburg artist Lea Vivot in remembrance of her son Morris who died in 1979, and installed by the hospital in honour of the sesquicentennial of the City of Toronto and the bicentennial of the Province of Ontario.' - Helen Simeon,

3 - Pas de Trois (1), corner of University and Wellington, by Russel K. Jacques - 1984

Constructed of stainless steel and granite.

4 - Warrior With Shield, currently installed at the top of the Grand Staircase in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, by Henry Moore - 1953/54

Warrior With Shield is on loan from the Art Gallery of Ontario as it undergoes renovations during this 18-month period. Keeping the statue on public display, this loan is a marvellous example of art's role within the community. It bridges the city's history with the AGO as it establishes a new relationship with the new opera house.

5 - Per ardua ad astra
"Through adversity to the stars",
corner of University and Queen, by Oscar Nemon - 1984

Referred to by detractors as 'Gumby Goes to Heaven',
it honors Canadian pilots who were awarded the Victoria Cross.


William Avery Bishop
Alan Arnett McLeod
William George Barkek


Andrew Charles Minarski
David Ernest Hornell
Ian Willoughby Bazalgette
Robert Hampton Gray

6 - Sharp Centre For Design, Ontario College of Art and Design, at McCaul and Dundas, by English architect Will Alsop - 2004

The new Faculty of Design building has "received numerous awards, including the first-ever Royal Institute of British Architects Worldwide Award, the award of excellence in the 'Building in Context' category at the Toronto Architecture and Urban Design Awards, and was deemed the most outstanding technical project overall in the 2005 Canadian Consulting Engineering Awards." (Wikipedia)

7 - Lake Devo (Devonian Square) Ryerson University, at Gould and Victoria, by Richard Strong and Steven Moorhead, Landscape Architects - 1978

This is the pond behind what used to be the Film and Photography building at my university (the yellow brick building shown below.) This is definitely one of my favorite spots in Toronto.

"In the late 1970's, financing from a group of charitable organizations, especially the Devonian Foundation (started by the son of Western petroleum entrepreneur and lawyer Eric Lafferty Harvie), and from the City of Toronto, turned the northern block of Victoria Street into a pedestrian mall. To the south of this, trees, rocks, fountains and an ornamental pool/skating rink were added to encourage use of the campus by non-students." - Ronald Stagg

Recently, the re-opening of Lake Devo after extensive renovations ensured that "people who live in the neighbourhood, people who work, people who study there: we all together share this part of the city," said City Councillor Kyle Rae. The new addition to the business building with frontage on Lake Devo was done by Rounthwaite Dick & Hadley (RDH) Architects, Inc.

"The building design reflects the major themes of Ryerson's Master Plan: intensification, making efficient use of small and valuable urban properties; 'people first,' with a focus on creating a pedestrian friendly campus including open green spaces and informal meeting places; and design excellence, a commitment to new and inspirational academic and student spaces." (Heather Kearney, Public Affairs, Ryerson University)

8 - Larry Sefton Memorial between Trinity Square and Bay St., by Jerome Markson - 1977

Larry Sefton Park was built and donated to the City of Toronto by members of the United Steelworkers of America.

Constructed of bronze and steel.

Before I knew the context for this sculpture, it appealed to me as a choir member. It reminded me of my alto section.

9 - Pillars of Justice at The McMurtry Gardens of Justice, at the Courthouse on University Ave., by Edwina Sandys - 2007

"The sculpture will be prominently displayed on the east side of University Avenue in front of the courthouse to which jurors report." (Emma Jowett -

The sculptor left one of the pillars open for the observer to insert himself or herself. This was the first piece of art that made me stop and get my camera out, with the idea of showcasing Toronto's public art. That missing juror really engaged me.

Second photo from

10 - The Pasture at the courtyard of the Toronto-Dominion Centre, King and Bay, by Joe Fafard - 1985

Saskatchewan artist Joe Fafard created this majestic and restful bronze sculpture installation which has become an important haven to Torontonians. In the heart of the financial district, the sounds of the hustle and bustle are kept away by the four towers of the Toronto-Dominion Centre. The reference to a bull market nestled serenely on Bay St. (Canada's money trading center) is finely portrayed. "Bull markets are characterized by optimism, investor confidence and expectations that strong results will continue." (

I'll always remember how I felt when I first discovered this piece, turning the corner in the highrise labyrinth of the Big City. It always makes me feel so happy to see how many other people are drawn to The Pasture, for a few moments of respite, even if the Big City is what makes our heartbeats sing.

Photo by Paul2001 from VirtualTourist

11 - Princes' Gate designed by architects Chapman & Oxley
Goddess of Winged Victory by Charles McKechnie - 1927

This magnificent structure is located at the main entrance to the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition. As a newcomer to Toronto, I was struck by the intense emotion felt for the CNE by residents of all ages. And when I first began my new romantic relationship with Brad after being friends for a few years, one of our first dates was my first trip to the CNE. As you can imagine, the CNE now holds an irreversibly special place in my heart. The Princes' Gates and the Goddess of Winged Victory symbolize everything about that magical summer for me.

"The Princes' Gate was completed in 1927. It was constructed and designed by an architectural firm called Chapman & Oxley. Edward, Prince of Wales, and his brother Prince Albert opened the Gate in 1927. Since that time, it has been called the Princes' Gate and it has become a symbol of the C.N.E. The Goddess of Winged Victory was designed by Charles McKechnie, and it is on the top of the gate. At the left and the right site of the Gate you can see nine pillars. It represents the participating provinces of Confederation." (

"Charles McKechnie modelled the statue on the Winged Victory of Samothrace. This famous statue, found on the island of Samothrace in 1863 by the French archaeologist Charles Champoiseau, is now in the Musee du Louvre, Paris.

McKechnie's Goddess of Winged Victory holds high the traditional laurel crown of heroism in her right hand and a maple leaf in her left. The maple leaf was representative of a new spirit of independence in Canada following the First World War. The statue has a wingspan of 10 feet and is 17 feet high with the laurel crown being 85 feet above ground level. The gates consist of additional sculpture including the Ontario and Canadian Coats of Arms." (

12 - Seasonal light display of 3-dimensional polar bears at the Yonge and College median, by Brian Gluckstein and his design team, for the Cavalcade of Lights Festival - 2007

While doing a little roaming of the downtown area with my friend Lisa, I came across this incredible light display while waiting to cross the street at College. After some digging I discovered the person responsible for the polar bears - as well as the entire Cavalcade of Lights Festival - was designer Brian Gluckstein, a graduate from Ryerson University’s Interior Design program. I also came across several mentions of this temporary installation as a highlight of last year's holiday city cheer.

For me, the trees filled with LED light sticks were also delightfully different and seasonally frosty, all at the same time. Displays like this often become very dear traditions to a city for decades. Let's hope these polar bears of light are cherished into a long future.

13 - The Portico in the De Gasperis Conservatory, Toronto General Hospital, by architect John G. Howard - 1913 / 2004

This relocated portico stood in the beautiful conservatory which my father-in-law's hospital room faced. We sometimes went down there for a much-needed time-out when he was being attended to by nurses. The symbolism of the old doorway bridging two versions of the same hospital was very welcome to me, to say the least.

"The spacious, light-filled DeGasperis Conservatory provides comfort for patients and their families and showcases the stone portico of the Bell Wing, the original entrance to Toronto General Hospital from University Avenue." (

"The four-storey glass Patient Court is an inviting area for patients, staff, and visitors to relax in and enjoy the natural light, greenery and open, airy spaces. The stone entrance to the original Toronto General Hospital, has been preserved and reconstructed inside the Patient Court." (

Scroll Down For Wordless Wednesday - Guest Blogging at missmakeamovie

I'm debuting today at missmakeamovie. Pop over for a peek inside My Relationship to Movies.

Join me tomorrow when I showcase thirteen pieces of public art in Toronto for my Thursday Thirteen. For a preview, here's the Princes' Gate for Wordless Wednesday.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - 40

Monday, March 17, 2008

Poetry Train Monday - 41 - To Comfort You, Shelley

I wrote this poem for my friend Shelley when her mom passed away. We were in our mid-20's and not really prepared to lose a parent. I realize one is never really prepared - my uncle can't believe his 93-year-old mother is actually gone. But Shelley's loss was the first time I came face-to-face with the chill of that reality.

Now, of course, my own words reach out to me from across that 20-year divide.

To Comfort You, Shelley

The tide moves up
To hide the gash
Along the shore

Hole ripped from your life
Waves attempt to wash it clean

Sand resettles
Hole is not so deep

When the tide moves out
The wound can still be seen

Sun bakes the salt
So it shines in the sand
These moments glisten like diamonds

When the whispery foam
Seeps in once more
You know

Though the wind has lifted her soul beyond reach
She'll return
In the way that you'll cradle your child
The songs you'll sing to her
A look in your eyes
A phrase
A gesture

She will be there
In generations you won't even know
Just as you are a part
Of those women you've never met

How fitting
That on Mother's Day
She gave herself the gift of peace
And gave you an anniversary
That will celebrate the woman she was

The tide of time
Will carry the tears out to sea
And leave behind
The wind-fresh memories
Of her strength
Her smile
Her wit
Her beauty
And the generosity that you share

Look for her
In the raindrops
That dance upon the sea
She will be where you least expect her
And know that her love for you
Did not leave with her
But is hiding in the air that you breathe

Copyright - Julia Smith - 1988


Photo by Maureen Kemp

Friday, March 14, 2008

Book Meme

Akelamalu opened this meme up to all takers, so I grabbed it.

Here are the rules:
1. Grab the nearest book of 123 pages or more.
2. Open it to page 123.
3. Find the first 5 sentences and write them down.
4. Then invite 5 friends to do the same.

I'm currently reading Sergei Lukyanenko's book The Night Watch, translated into English by Andrew Bromfield.

My husband bought three of this series for me while he was in Toronto at Bakka-Phoenix Books, a marvellous independent sci-fi / fantasy bookstore on Queen Street West. The lovely and talented manager of the bookstore is none other than Chris Szego, my sister's former roommate when we all lived in Toronto once upon a time.

Whenever I'm in Toronto I head over to the store to see Chris. As in this picture from last October, when my sister was sworn to secrecy so Brad and I could just walk into the store like any old customers and - surprise!

And luckily she often visits my sister once a year, so we get to enjoy her down east, too. Here's a picture from an afternoon spent at Clam Harbour Beach a few years ago - that's me, Chris and my sister Michelle.

Anyhoo, she loaded my husband's arms with the first three of Lukyanenko's series, which includes a fourth book, Final Watch that I don't have...yet...

I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into this book. I first saw the Russian film Night Watch, based on Lukyanenko's book, in 2006 at the theatre here in Halifax, though its Russian domestic release was in 2004. I absolutely adored this film. A blurb on the book cover says 'Brace yourself for Harry Potter in Gorky Park.' (Washington Post) I'd say it's also safe to call it The Matrix meets Anton the Vampire Slayer in Putin's Moscow.

Here's the back cover blurb to get you up to speed for the mini-excerpt:

"Walking the streets of Moscow, indistinguishable from the rest of its population, are the Others. Each owes allegiance to either the Dark or the Light, two powerful forces that long ago forged an uneasy truce in order to avert chaos and disaster. They watch each other closely, carefully maintaining the world's precarious balance between good and evil.

Anton, a young Other of the Light, is a Night Watch agent who patrols the streets and subways of the city, protecting ordinary people from the agents - including vampires - of the Dark. On his rounds, Anton comes across a young woman, Svetlana, who is under a powerful curse that threatens to destroy the city, and a boy, Egor, an Other still unaware of his powers, whom Anton narrowly saves from the vampires of the Dark.

Anton and his partner, Olga, a powerful female Other who has been turned into an owl as punishment, work frantically with their Night Watch colleagues - each gifted with their own particular powers - to deflect Svetlana's curse and to protect Egor from the creatures that pursue him."

Now here's the meme excerpt:

Page 123

"You're linked to her."


The boss sighed and took the hookah tube from his mouth. The cold opium smoke streamed out onto the floor.

"You, Anton Gorodetsky, a programmer, unmarried, of average abilities, are linked to the girl with that vile black filth hanging over her head."

- Sergei Lukyanenko, 1998

And now...a-tagging I will go, a-tagging I will go...

Amy Ruttan, Apprentice Writer, Kelly Boyce, Red Garnier, Thomma Lyn

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - 46 - 13 Things That Made My Dad Laugh

My dad enjoyed a good laugh. He was an incurable impressionist, and every one of these following comedians were part of his personal repertoire of characters.

1 - Laurel and Hardy

Dad couldn't resist Stan Laurel's doomed attempts at just about everything.

2 - The Three Stooges

The Sitter Downers

I surely inherited my own love of slapstick from my dad...

3 - Gone With The Wind

Big Sam rescues Scarlett from shanty town, climbing in the buggy and saying, "Hoss, make tracks!"

This isn't a funny part of the film in the least, but that line was one of my dad's favorites. Whenever we needed to get somewhere fast, my dad would often say, "Hoss, make tracks!" just like Everett Brown did. And he'd laugh.

My dad often bought me Gone With The Wind memorabilia over the years. He knew how much I loved this powerful, gorgeous epic. For some reason, this movie always made us think of each other.

4 - Ernie Kovacs Nairobi Trio

Dad was a big fan of Ernie Kovacs' early comedy shows.

"Kocacs' off-the-wall style was extremely unorthodox in early television. He approached the medium as something totally new. While his contemporaries were treating TV as an extension of vaudeville stages, Kovacs was expanding the visible confines of the studio. His skits incorporated areas previously considered taboo, including dialogue with the camera crew, the audience, and forays into the studio corridor." - Frank J. Chorba, The Museum of Broadcast Communications

5 - Foghorn Leghorn

"I keep pitchin' 'em and you keep missin' 'em. Ya gotta keep your eye on the ball. Eye. Ball. I almost had a gag, son. Joke, that is."

6 - Cookie Monster

Like most parents, Dad had his own favorite Muppet - Cookie Monster. He quickly perfected his Cookie Monster impression, which strangely morphed into his own version: "Mmm! Mushroom soup!" Every time he sat down to his favorite soup, he would say that in Cookie Monster's voice.

7 - Blazing Saddles

This sequence was so unexpected, rather like the one that comes on the list at #10. Dad was a huge fan of westerns, slapstick, boxing and big dumb lugs. This scene with Mongo has it all.

8 - Puttin On The Ritz

Young Frankenstein

My dad was a good dancer, so this routine had him in stitches.

9 - The Blues Brothers

Jake and Elwood meet up with The Penguin

Dad went to Catholic school. The image of the nun hovering over them at the top of the stairwell had him in tears of laughter.

10 - Raiders of the Lost Ark

Dad loved this ode to 40's adventure flicks. But he wasn't prepared for the scene where Indy meets up with the scimitar-wielding tough guy. No one was.

When Indy wearily pulls out his gun and shoots him after a lengthy build-up to an out-matched showdown, the audience I was with must have laughed for about 10 minutes over this scene. And any time Dad talked about it over the years, he'd laugh all over again.

11 - A Christmas Story

Though he loved everything to do with this film, especially the narration by writer Jean Shepherd, my dad's favorite line from A Christmas Story was:

"In the heat of battle my father wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan."

12 - Seinfeld - Shrinkage

I'm not sure if Dad had a favorite character on Seinfeld or not. But he had several favorite moments, and the shrinkage episode ranked right up there.

13 - Muhammad Ali

My dad's all-time favorite impression was his Muhammad Ali. Over time he took on his own persona: Muhammad Normi.

Dad was a big boxing fan, and I used to watch boxing matches with him. Call me crazy, but I was a bloodthirsty little girl! I loved the awesome power of the boxers duking it out. Of course, when I was a girl in the late 60's and early 70's, when Ali was fighting, the matches were much more strategic and less gorey than they seem to be now. Dad would explain what each fighter was likely up to. Then we'd both go "Oh!" when our guy landed a good one.

Dad loved Ali not only for his unsurpassed fighting skill, but for his verbal sparring as The Greatest.

Here are some of the best of Ali's witty digs at his opponents:

"Joe Frazier is so ugly that when he cries, the tears turn around and go down the back of his head."

"I'm so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and got into bed before the room was dark."
('74 pre-fight build-up ahead of facing Foreman)

"I handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail. Only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick. I'm so mean I make medicine sick."
(before the 1974 Foreman fight)