Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - 46

Cinematography by Paul Bond

Monday, April 28, 2008

Poetry Train Monday - 47 - Screenwriting 101

Susan asked for a how-to last week, so here's an introduction to screenplay form.

I posted the script for one of my third year films on the Poetry Train, along with backstory poems presenting three of the main characters. This is the son's poem, this is the mother's poem and this is the step father's poem.

The first thing you realize when writing a script is how much of what you've learned about writing prose needs to be hurled out the window. The only things that appear in a script are:


And that's it. That's a script. It's about as opposite from what you need for prose as you can get.

There's a reason for this. A script is one piece of a collaborative medium. Each person working on the film does his or her job, whereas a writer does every job. The best writing makes certain that the reader feels what the character feels. That's one person - the writer - doing the same for the reader what an entire credit roll does for a film. Of course the moviegoer sees, hears and feels what the character does. The Director of Photography (DoP) ensures we see, the sound department makes sure we hear, and the actor draws us in and makes us feel what he feels.

That is the single hardest thing to keep in mind when writing a screenplay. We must put away the urge to tell how a character feels. We can only show. Here's an example. I'll write a scene from Sleeping Beauty in prose form.

Prince Florimund swept the cobwebs from the doorway and entered the room. His heart skipped and his breath caught in his throat. The princess lay upon a bed, slanting sunlight streaming over her like rays from heaven.

All around her, slumped figures dressed in ancient finery slept as well. Florimund took several quiet steps forward, but even these echoed in the heavy stillness. He looked around him, but nothing stirred in the dusty shadows. He moved toward her, his heart squeezing as he gazed on her beauty. As he reached her, his knees no longer held him. He knelt, the battle to reach her still drawing his labored breath.

Slowly, very slowly, he leaned forward. He must kiss that mouth. He was glad he wasn't called to resist her. He knew he would never win that fight.

Now I'll redo this scene in screenplay format. As I mentioned last week, Blogger doesn't allow for center justification, so I've included the image at left to show the proper centering of dialogue.

The bold text is the setting. Here's where we tell it, short and sweet:


'INT' indicates 'interior'. 'EXT' indicates 'exterior'. Then we include the action. This is what we can see the character do as an observer.

eg PRINCE FLORIMUND enters the room from the passageway. He sees PRINCESS AURORA asleep on the bed, surrounded by COURTIERS slumped all around the room, also sleeping. Florimund walks through the maze of sleepers till he kneels beside the bed. He leans forward to kiss her.

And that's it. Everything from the prose scene is there in the script form, minus how Florimund feels and what everything looks like specifically. The only reason to include the sun's rays shining on her face would be as a plot device. If it was essential to the story that the sun's rays shine on her, they would be included. If not, even if that's the way you as the writer envision it, it's not your job to show it onscreen. That's for the DoP and the director to decide upon.

And that's it. A screenplay is dialogue joined by action directions and setting tags. Nowhere is it more essential to move the story along through dialogue than in a screenplay (well, okay, a play.) When writing the dialogue you must resist the urge to write how the character says it. That's for the actor and director to work out. Let's go back to Sleeping Beauty again for a bit of dialogue.

The prince kissed the sleeping beauty below him with tender reverence. A sweet tingling rose up from her mouth to his. He withdrew enough to see her lashes flutter. Florimund inhaled sharply. The princess stirred, her silks rustling, a soft rousing sound escaping her throat. At last she opened her eyes, and Florimund saw how deeply blue her eyes were.

Her gaze wandered the room for a moment, then rested on him. His whole body quivered with the wonder of it. Before he knew what he was doing, he reached forward and took her hand in his.

"You're all right now," he said.

Her brow furrowed. "Do..." Her voice was thick after so many years of silence. She tried again. "Do I know you?" she whispered.

He shook his head. "No, my dear. But I know you. You're the woman I've dreamed of. And now a dream no longer."

In the days that followed, Florimund barely left her side. She wanted him near and he wanted to be there. It was just as the royal seers had foretold. He would never mock those old fools again.

After a lifetime of longing for her, the next few months of preparation seemed both excruxiating and delirious with joy. Then on a breathless morning, he rose, dressed in his finest and ascended the cathedral steps to take her as his bride.

And now let's see what this looks like in script form.


Florimund kisses Aurora, who awakens.


You're all right now.


Do I know you?


No, my dear. But I know you. You're the woman I've dreamed of. And now a dream no longer.


Preparations are being made for a celebration.


The prince is attired by his courtiers.


Florimund walks up the cathedral steps. Royal families crowd the front of the cathedral. Florimund stands at the altar waiting for his bride.

And that's it. We don't say that Florimund is excited, nervous, filled with love. That's not the screenwriter's job. In the prose version I skimmed over a segue that telescoped several months of preparation for the wedding. In the screenplay, it's implied through the edited cut from the awakening kiss to wedding preparations.

There you have it - Screenwriting 101. Pay attention to the next few movies you watch. Perhaps take a favorite movie and try to write out the scenes you like in screenplay form. It takes practice learning to leave out all the detail that prose writers have to put in.

The Prince Wakes Sleeping Beauty From Her Sleep With a Kiss by Heinrich Lefler

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tagged - I'm It! - 20

Thomma Lyn tagged me for this 7 Things Meme. The rules:

Tell seven random and/or interesting things about myself. Get five blog buddies to play, too and link to their blogs. Don't forget to post the rules.

Well, that was painless. Let's go -

1 - Night Watch and Day Watch

As you may know, my current obsession revolves around two amazing Russian urban paranormal films, based on a series of books by Sergei Lukyanenko. I've recently finished the first book and I'm in the middle of the second book right now.

I just love this shot from Night Watch. Anton, played by Konstantin Khabensky, is trying to see through the dimensions to ward off an attack by a vampire.

The sequel, Day Watch picks up where Night Watch leaves off. Basically, it's a modern fable about the forces of Light and Dark, filtered through a post-Soviet Russia. There's lots of Cold War references, where each side closely watches the other to ensure their Truce is observed.

Pictured on the poster here is Alisa, a witch and a Day Watch agent who keeps tabs on the Light. Anton and Svetlana are magicians and Night Watch agents who keep tabs on the Dark. They also have a romantic relationship.

In this shot from Day Watch, Svetlana has pushed her way into a deeper level of the Gloom, and Anton cannot follow. She's chasing a young Dark One. This sequence is really amazing. In reading the books, the challenge of shooting the scenes that take place in the Gloom would seem daunting, but director Timur Bekmambetov found a fabulous way to do it.

2 - Animal Totems - Polar bear and Panther

An animal totem is a spiritual guide who gets our attention by being something we are drawn to throughout our lifetime. Is there an animal with whom you've always felt a deep kinship? Do you run into images of this animal over and over again? Do you collect images of an animal? Conversely, is there an animal of whom you are terrified? Or have you been bitten by an animal? Sometimes the totem seeks a sharp means of connecting.

My husband Brad's animal totem is the polar bear. He's a lifelong fan of Coca Cola, and its polar bear mascot just intensified this connection. He has a small collection of Coke bears, and whenever I see a photo of a polar bear, I immediately think of Brad, through size, body language and its remoteness out on the tundra.

"The white color associated with the polar bear is very significant. It represents 'purity of spirit'. Polar Bear serves as a valuable ally in overcoming fear, both physical and mental. Known as the 'Ice Man' in some tribes because of its preference for hunting on sea ice, Polar Bear's environment is symbolic. It points to the frozen emotions stored within oneself and the need for allowing those emotions to express themselves. Those with this medicine have karmic challenges associated with flexibility, change and stubbornness.

They know how to conserve their strength as well as their energy and use both at the most appropriate time for the best outcome. Polar bears weigh up to 1600 pounds and can knock a 500 pound seal out of the water with one blow. They are the most aggressive and carnivorous of all bears. Polar bears have no enemies in the animal kingdom. Their only enemy is the human hunter." -

I've always been attracted to the black panther. Significantly, I've been allergic to cats all my life, no matter that I've taken two sets of allergy shots with 'cat' included in the serum. I'm better than I used to be with them, but there's no pet cats in my future I'm afraid. That tells me how strong the cat totem is for me. I have several panther prints and statues, including a little one by my bed.

"The Black Panther has perhaps the greatest mysticism associated with it. Panther is of a lunar significance and often signals a time of rebirth after a time of suffering. This implies that an old issue may finally begin to be resolved. As a totem, it awakens the inner passions, signaling not just a time of coming into one's own power, but reclaiming one's true power. The Black Panther always brings a guardian energy to those to whom it comes.

This often means facing aspects of the self or of life that have been painted over, or covered up to be forgotten. A powerful and ancient totem, it is the symbol of the Goddess, ferocity and valor. Panthers are solitary creatures and develop an inner knowing. They can be absolutely silent when stalking their prey: with a Panther totem, you will find your greatest power in silence and stealth, as you pursue your goals and aspirations." -

3 - The best thing about Canada's East Coast Navy

I live in Halifax, which among other things is a naval port. Growing up, we also had an airforce base here, and many of my friends' fathers were in the military. The airforce base is unfortunately an aviation museum these days, but the navy chugs along.

Which brings me to my next door neighbor, Mack, a sailor aboard HMCS Preserver.

This is a photo of the Preserver in action, refueling the USS Ingraham during Operation Apollo on the Arabian Sea several years ago. Mack was at sea for this operation.

Photo - Replenishment at sea by MCpl Brian Walsh

When he's not at sea, Mack moseys around on his roof putting up Christmas lights (that's him behind me, two Christmases ago.) Mack is the World's Best Next Door Neighbor. He shovels our shared driveway before I can get out of my pyjamas. Mack and his wife Freida, that is - technically it's a tie for the World's Best Next Door Neighbor.

My mom and I can't do enough for them, and they are always there for us. The best thing about the navy is having a sailor for a next door neighbor. 'Ready, Aye, Ready'

4 - My east coast family and my Toronto family

My world is all about family. I've only taken one trip that didn't take me back and forth to family and friends.

This is my Nova Scotia clan at a family dinner in February. Back row: Newt, my sister Michelle, Mom, Brad, me, my cousin Julianne, Heather and Emily
Front row: Uncle Charlie, my cousin Charlie, Sarah, Auntie Noel, Laura, Stephen holding Molly

This is my other east coast clan. Clockwise from Baby Ava, Matt, Natasha, my step mom Doris, Michelle and Newt.

And then we have my Toronto family who I miss SO much: clockwise from my mother-in-law Joan, Brad, our nieces Emily and Christi, Jeremy, Violetta and my brother-in-law Jeff (whom I featured as a guest poet on the Poetry Train) holding Christi & Jeremy's Baby Brianna.

These guys technically live in Ottawa but I usually see them in Toronto: clockwise from Baby Brianna, our godson and nephew Francis, nephew Peter, my brother-in-law Ken and Anna, whom I featured in my cyber gallery.)

And this is my sister-in-law Karen with Jeff's daughter Emily.

5 - The Aunt Sheila rose

My Aunt Sheila always loved yellow roses. When she passed away five years ago (wow, that seems crazy) we wanted to plant a yellow rose bush in our yard, in her memory. This is how it looked last summer.

This is the last time we were all together. She and Uncle Frank lived in Virginia, and they came up for a month-long visit when Brad and I lived with Gram in her Yarmouth house. Here in this picture we've got Gram, Brad, Mom seated and Aunt Sheila in red. Uncle Frank was there, just not in this picture. We celebrated the four November birthdays and Christmas early (it was September.) We laughed a lot!

6 - Toronto Romance Writers meeting, October 2007

When Brad and I flew to Toronto for his parents' 50th wedding anniversary, another big highlight for me was attending the TRW meeting. I got to see blog buddies in 3D. Here is Amy Ruttan, Leah Braemel and me.

Eve Silver gave the talk, and here is Amy, Eve, Wylie Kinson and me. Meeting you was so wonderful! ((hugs))

Next time I go there, I'll be able to see my long lost Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada buddy Christine d'Abo, shown here at right at last year's writers' retreat. That's Renee Field beside her.

7 - Jo Beverley

A few years ago, I couldn't believe my own fabulous fortune when our RWA chapter hosted historical romance author Jo Beverley for an all-day workshop. I'm a total Jo Beverley fan girl. She's my favorite, favorite, favorite.

Enjoying the workshop is Deborah Hale, my cousin Julianne MacLean and Lilly Cain.

Across the room we have Mary Louise, me, Kelly Boyce and Cathryn Fox.

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

and Anne
Samantha Lucas

Thursday Thirteen - 52 - 13 Reasons to Read Bona Fide Liar by Red Garnier

Last September I was thrilled to get my own sizzling copy of Bona Fide Liar, the fifth release by Red Garnier in a very prolific debut year. Today's Thursday Thirteen is a review of Ms. Garnier's second Torrid Tarot book, just in time for her fantastic news that she sold to Penguin/NAL!

1 - I discovered Red Garnier as a fellow blogger. I'm not really sure how I got to her blog - but I stumbled upon a post where she shared one of her passions, for contemporary art. She had pictures of the Sotheby's art auction and even had a favorite auctioneer. This is a woman after my own heart, thought the ballet freak. And not only that - she had multiple Oscar Wilde quotes in her sidebar (on her previous blog layout.)

2 - When I first got to know Red, she hadn't sold anything - yet. A few short months after I'd got to know her as a blog buddy, she sold her first ebook to Ellora's Cave. Since then she's published eleven books, seven with Ellora's Cave, two with Liquid Silver, two with Loose Id, and one coming in June with Samhain.

Red also has her own blog, and is one of the Sexies at Six Degrees of Sexy, along with Christine d'Abo and Renee Field.

3 - Let's have a look at Red's fifth novel, Bona Fide Liar. This is part of the Ellora's Cave Torrid Tarot category, which offers romances inspired by the aspects of cards in a tarot deck. In this contemporary story, the heroine is a creative thinker for an internet giant. The hero is her competition from the same office.

4 - We meet Carly Sanders, who works at Yoodle, North America's leading internet search engine. She can't let anyone know she's wrung out of ideas. More specifically, her nemesis Callahan must never suspect she's come up high and dry.

5 - Alexander Callahan is the most original mind at Yoodle. He's the two-time winner of the Creative Award. Unfortunately, his physical reaction to Carly never seems reciprocated by her. He's forced to pretend he feels nothing for the stunning beauty on his creative team.

6 - Is it wrong for Carly to plot devious payback when she overhears outright lies from Callahan to their co-workers? Sure, they're competitive, but aren't they on the same corporate team?

7 - I really, really love the S-ensuous aspects of this story. "S-ensuous love scenes are explicit and leave nothing to the imagination," advises Ellora's Cave. Now that women no longer have to blush and swoon at the mention of super-charged encounters, Red makes her readers blush and swoon for all the right reasons. This is where the contemporary aspect actually works for me!

8 - The sexual tension between Carly and Alexander is cloaked at first by their competitive animosity. Sure, she thinks he's attractive in a neck-throttling sort of way. Alexander might fantasize about her but Carly is strictly hands-off. Until he discovers her pink fur-lined handcuffs.

9 - Carly and Alexander have given their best to their careers, even thriving as competitors. What Red does so well is to fill their night of sexual discovery with emotional realization. Will Carly and Alexander acknowledge their own roles as liars, or keep finger-pointing in the opposite direction?

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

"As she took the elevator upstairs, Carly suddenly realized she hated herself just as much or even more than she hated him. For she had been the fool who’d allowed this disaster to happen. The fool who’d believed she could make these wretched, painful, alien feelings go away. Perhaps it was past time Carly recognized there was a bigger liar in Yoodle, bigger even than Alex Callahan.

Her name was Carly Sanders.

She could always continue to pretend she hated him. She could always continue to pretend she didn’t want him more than
anything, and still, for all her pretending, for all her lying and her feigned contempt, she just couldn’t make it true.

Not anymore."

11 - Red's writing style is filled with ironic humor that carries a thread of longing throughout. Carly's work woes are so easy for readers to share, and her determined trip to the sex shop for Operation Alexander ammunition is both funny and poignant. Of course, Red's steamy scenes need special mention. If you're willing to throw off your inhibitions, Red is willing to take you where you've always longed to go.

12 - Red has mentioned her love of the alpha male, and Alexander is a prime example of that breed. When we're in his POV, his reasons for doing things that make Carly crazy suddenly all make sense. When he makes bedroom moves that shock and delight Carly, they flow from Alexander's character. He's a bold top performer for a cutting edge company - and these instincts serve him well when Carly finally invites him to see her as a woman.

13 - I leave you with an excerpt. Enjoy!

" 'Do I have to repeat myself every time to you, Alex?' she asked, jerking away from him and stalking toward the bathroom to clean up.

Minutes later, she came out tying a bathrobe around her waist, pursing her lips in irritation when she found him still on the bed.

He was sitting with a pillow propped up behind him, and looking as confused and baffled as ever. At least Carly hadn’t been the only one who lost her wits tonight.

'Can you explain to me what’s going on, Carly?' Alex asked calmly, a sleek eyebrow rising in question.

'Don’t tell me this is a surprise, Alex,' she said stiffly.

An overwhelming amount of anger was building up inside her and it was mostly directed at herself. For not following The Plan. For submitting to her nemesis.

For joining the Alexander Callahan Whimpering Groupies Club.

Alex straightened, raking a hand through his rumpled blond hair. 'I’m sorry, but I don’t understand.'

'Really? It’s very simple. I want you to leave, and I want you to leave now,' she said tersely.

He leaned back on the pillow, crossing his arms across his chest, his jaw set. 'Did I do something wrong?'

She wanted to scream at him, scream it all, the whole damned list. He’d done everything wrong. He’d touched her so right, kissed her so right, made up lies about her that turned out to be so right that it was just wrong. Maybe to top off her evening, he should pull out a wad of bills and go ahead and pay her.

Instead she simply said, 'Yes.'

'And just what in the hell does that mean?'

Her fists shook at her sides. 'Just leave, damn it!'

'Why are you doing this?'

'Because I’d like to get some sleep and because I don’t want to see you again. I want you to leave and I want you to forget about this.'

That crushing sound—was that something inside her? It hurt.

'So you expect me,' he breathed in a deadly voice as he slowly rose from the bed, six feet of sinewy muscles rippling at the move, 'to conveniently forget the way you tasted in my mouth, the way you said my name and the way your voice shook?'


He reached her in less than a second, his fingers coiling around her arms like whips, squeezing so hard he almost cut off her blood supply. 'You are so wrong, Carly.'

'Just leave!' Her voice cracked, the pitiful sound tearing through his building fury and succeeding in what her anger had not, sending him stalking out into the living room to fetch his clothes.

She winced when she heard the front door slam shut and suddenly felt a strange urge to cry."

- Red Garnier, 2007

Next week I'll have the final installment of my review series of T13's, when I showcase Lillian Feisty's Dance of the Plain Jane from Seasons of Seduction I.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - 45

Monday, April 21, 2008

Poetry Train Monday - 46 - The Penitent

Before I went to Ryerson for film, I'd already been writing screenplays. During first year, when I heard that we'd eventually be doing a special project with the theatre department in third year, I knew what story I would use.

I developed a scene from the full-length screenplay treatment to use as a short film. I wanted it to feel as if it had been plucked from a full-length screenplay, however. And I was very pleased with how it turned out.

It was a joy to work with trained actors from Ryerson's theatre school. I was lucky because my husband went to The New School of Drama in Toronto, and my sister was a veteran of high school and community theatre. So I had a pair of actors I could count on, while using non-actors for everything else. Meaning my friends and co-workers from the theatre where I worked. Luckily, most of my friends there were creative types and willing to expand their skill level through acting in a couple of my films.

But for The Pentitent I got a taste of the talent search. The film students got to meet the acting students in a huge group meeting, then we submitted requests for whom we'd like for our roles. We had to pick 1st, 2nd and 3rd - and lucky me, I got all my first choices!

For the scary step father, Luther, I got Ted Ludzik. For Kate I got Linda Ballantyne. And for Arlen I got Andrew Croft, whom I can't find on the net other than through an academic theatre group from Toronto called Handmade Performance.

Here is the script for my third year film, with the addition of stills which I photographed off my TV. Keep in mind that Blogger won't allow center spacing - everything here is aligned left, but all dialogue should appear in the center.


Luther drags Arlen along the tunneled path to the door, opening it. Arlen struggles, trying desperately to stay outside. But Luther yanks him along with no trouble.


Luther dumps Arlen onto the hay-covered floor. He pulls his coat off, heading across the small space to grab a strap from a peg on a post.


Take your coat off.

Arlen gets as far as hands and knees, wiping the blood from his nose. Luther strides over to him, yanks the coat from Arlen and kicks him down again. Arlen covers his head with his hands as the blows begin.


Kate cracks an egg into a bowl and stirs the mixture. She hears Arlen’s cries from outside and stops mixing.


Luther holds nothing back as he rains the blows on Arlen. Though seventeen, Arlen cries like a terrified child.


Kate tries to carry on with the cooking, but puts her bowl down as her son’s cries fill her ears. She pulls her rosary out from beneath her shawl and prays.


Arlen puts a hand back to shield himself. Luther stops just long enough to kneel beside Arlen, forcing the boy’s hand away. He swings the strap again and Arlen’s cries are filled with hopelessness.


Kate flees the cabin.


Kate arrives at the shed door, taking in the scene between her husband and son. She runs forward.


Luther, no!

Kate flings herself at Luther, but he easily tosses her aside. He continues the beating, so Kate hurls herself between Arlen and the strap. When it strikes her, Luther pulls back, as if suddenly realizing she’s there.




What has he done?

Luther tosses the strap aside, lunging for Arlen. He picks Arlen up by the front of his shirt, shaking him back and forth.


Tell her. Tell her!


Wolves got into the food.

Luther throws Arlen down into the hay and backs away from them, gaining his feet.


He didn’t secure the food store! The wolves got everything. Meat. Grain. Everything.

Kate looks at her son. Arlen hangs his head, shivering and crying. Luther stoops and retrieves his coat, putting it on.


I’m going to head out. See if I can get anything. Deer. Rabbit, maybe.

He exits the shed. Kate looks at Arlen, then reaches for him, but he pulls away from her.


Why would you..? Why didn’t he do it?


When we got back from the traplines, the storm… It was already blowing, and he… He went for the animals. The snow was blowing. I couldn’t see. My hands were freezing.

Kate takes one of his hands in hers. She sees an ugly red welt on it. Arlen moves closer to her, but Kate bursts into tears.



She dashes after her husband. Arlen huddles on the floor of the shed. After a few moments, he rises painfully to his feet. He picks up the strap and carries it back to the peg, where he hangs it.

He makes his way to his coat and puts it on, then leaves the shed.

Copyright - Julia Smith - 1994

Friday, April 18, 2008

Message in a Bottle Meme

Mimi Lennox tagged me for the Message in a Bottle Meme.

Here are the rules:
You are about to send a virtual Message In a Bottle across the Blog Ocean. Leave a message in the sand or on the bottle. Write anything you wish. Be a pirate or a poet. Serious or silly. Anonymous or not.

What message would you like to send out to the universe?

My first thought was - ack! I don't know how to place the words on the picture... But I took a good look at the directions and took a stab at it. Et voila!

I'm tossing it into the sea...splash...

Who shall I tag?

Amanda, Jennifer and Rose

Click here for the meme how-to's.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - 51 - 13 Reasons to Read The Bond That Ties Us

Last summer I was thrilled to get a copy of The Bond That Ties Us, a debut release by Christine d'Abo, and for today's Thursday Thirteen I'll give you my review. The sequel to this book, The Bond That Heals Us is releasing soon from Ellora's Cave. A perfect time to settle in with the first in the Eternal Bond series while waiting to dive into the sequel.

1 - I met Christine when she joined my Atlantic Canada chapter of Romance Writers of America. Not only was she a new member in a small group, making her very easy to spot, but she had a Betty Boop purse. How could I not feel instant sisterhood with this person? When I discovered she was a Maritimer who - like me - had moved to Ontario and had very recently returned to the east coast, I liked her even more.

I so enjoyed the time she spent with our chapter, and most especially the writers' retreat near White Point Beach last May. Sadly for me, she relocated back to Ontario (woo hoo said her Toronto Romance Writers buddies!) by last fall. Happily, the blogosphere keeps us in touch (phew.)

2 - Christine is one of those people who likes to sit back, chew on a piece of grass and think up stories. She reaches this zen-like state through her very hectic, fulltime day job with a cutting edge company. She has a family, her own blog, as well as a group blog called Six Degrees of Sexy which she shares with five other writers, including Renee Field. Yes, the same Renee whose Love Me Wild I reviewed two weeks ago.

During all this downtime Christine manages to coax extreme word counts from her keyboard, which is why in the time she's packed up one household and unpacked a new one, she's also managed to publish three books as well as co-authored a book with Renee Field. Head spinning? Yeah - me, too...

3 - Let's have a look at Christine's debut novel, where it all began. The Bond That Ties Us is part of the Ellora's Cave Futuristic category, which offers science fiction romances. In this story, the heroine is a security chief on a colony planet. The hero is an alien ambassador.

4 - We meet Haylie Bond, newly arrived on the sandy, windswept planet of the Eurus colony. As she waits in line with her friend Sara, the colony's new doctor, to be processed into Eurus' population, Haylie feels uncharacteristically space sick after spending several years in suspended animation en route. What she doesn't know is that her reaction to Eurus - which feels like a case of horniness taken to a painful extreme - is in fact a reaction to someone on the planet she hasn't even met.

5 - Kamran is a Briel ambassador expecting to one day feel the inexorable pull towards his one destined mate. Exactly the way he feels since the new security chief arrived. Yet that would be a biological impossibility. A human woman could not be his mate.

6 - Kamran has built his career to the point where he is a crucial figure mediating between human and Ecada interaction in deep space. Haylie has likewise gained a reputation that pits her as head of security on a colony that could erupt into hostilities under the wrong leadership. Neither of them has placed resigning and raising a family anywhere on their life plan agendas.

7 - I really, really love the sci-fi aspects of this story. Being a longtime fan of Star Trek, Star Wars, Dune, Alien, etc. I love a laser-shooting woman and a tall, dark alien male with an irresistable voice. I'm more at home with this type of couple than with a contemporary cop and a former Russian colonel now serving at the UN. Which would be the same sort of couple, but I like the fact that they're on another planet so much better.

8 - To say there's a lot of sexual tension between Haylie and Kamran, would be rather like saying it's a bit warm in Death Valley in late July. This is definitely an ouch-mama!-hot tale of passion. Erotica with a capital EROTIC.

9 - Haylie and Kamran have given their all to their careers before meeting one another, and neither had a romantic bone in their bodies. What Christine does so well is make their willingness to rethink their own priorities crucial not only to their individual happiness, but to the survival of several races in this frontier of deep space.

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

"Kamran? 'Are you hurt? We need to get out of here.'

She reached him and they quickly hugged.

He pulled her to him. 'I’m okay. Are you...'

She felt him stiffen. She pulled back to look into his eyes. She watched as they rolled back up into his head. Haylie tried to say something or at least she thought she did. But the words never left her mouth. The thoughts stopped as they were formed.

Pain sliced through her mind. Her hands flew to her head in an attempt to keep it from exploding. Screams surrounded her mind. If they were real or imagined, she was long past caring.

Right before she passed out, she realized that they came from her."

11 - Christine's writing style is assured as she builds a lived-in world where we can lose ourselves. Her little details here and there give us something concrete to hold onto, yet don't ambush the story. Her characters spend many hot and heavy moments together, but we not only go along with them, we know exactly who we're with and what they're feeling. And why.

12 - I love encountering fictional worlds that seem to have a life larger than that of the novel. I immediately felt this kinship to the Eurus colony, wishing it were a series so I could find out more about the other inhabitants. Every character I met in The Bond That Ties Us made me feel that they had a history prior to their scene, and would have a future - if only I could find out what it was. Dreams really do come true - The Bond That Heals Us, coming soon, will take us back into this world to follow Sara, Haylie's friend and the doctor on the Eurus colony.

13 - I leave you with an excerpt. Enjoy!

"Haylie lay back on the bed and rested her head next to her best friend’s.

Sara lightly tapped her head against Haylie’s. 'Hon, I know that the past week has been rough on you. Shit, I can barely believe we’ve only been on the station for such a short time. You need to rest and relax. Get your head about you so you can figure things out.'

Easier said than done.

'I need to talk to Kamran.'

'Then go talk to Kamran,' Sara said, sounding very much like her mother.

'I believe I mentioned he was in jail. Accused of treason.'

'You dumbass. You’re the human chief of security on the station. Can’t you get in and see any prisoner you want?'

Haylie opened her mouth to answer but nothing came out.

Sara pressed on. 'Don’t you have an in with your counterpart? Kamran’s friend?'


'Exactly. It seems plausible that you would want to check things out. He can get you in.'

Haylie was on her feet and across the room to the computer vid screen before Sara moved.

'Taber, we need to talk.'

'Ms. Bond. I believe that would be an excellent idea. Your office in ten minutes?'

'I’ll be there.'

She stopped long enough to throw on her boots. Her sleeveless shirt and uniform pants would have to do.

'Hey, be careful,' Sara said and tossed Haylie her blaster. She caught it easily and tucked it into her holster before heading out the door.


'You're not feeling well. You should let Sara check you over.' He moved his arms in a failed attempt to reach for her. He swore loudly in his own language. 'Can you remove these?'

'Why did they tie you down?'

She reached for his arm and let her fingers brush lightly against his skin. The temptation to remove the restraints was laced with the desire to leave him like this. Knowing he was at her mercy was strangely arousing.

At the brief contact between them, Kamran sucked in a breath. Haylie felt the same jolt that had surely passed through him. Images of them locked together, screaming in a mind-blowing climax blinded her. Her knees weakened and she dropped her full weight against the edge of the bed.

Her vision cleared enough to see that Kamran had felt it too. He swallowed hard but he didn’t look away from her.

'They normally don’t bind people to beds. Let me up.' His breathing was ragged.

Without thinking, she reached over and ran her hand over the sheet. She felt his leg muscles tense at the contact, vibrating with strain. He was at her mercy. And damn her if she didn’t like it.


'They knew you needed bed rest, that’s why they have you in bed. I wouldn’t want to you exert yourself and end up back in the med bay. I think you should stay here.'

His groan filled the room as she caressed his flesh, pressed tightly against the thin cloth.

'What are you doing?' He sounded far away.

'Interrogating the prisoner. Do you have any problems with that, Ambassador?'

'Only if you stop.'

Her laugh was deep, throaty. 'I’m not into torture.'

Haylie leaned forward. She could taste him though the fabric. His heated sweat seeped through and onto her tongue. Kamran swore again.

She nipped his tip lightly with her teeth and pulled back.

'Then again, torture does have its pleasures.' "

- Christine d'Abo, 2007

Stay tuned to the next two Thursday Thirteens - next week I'll review Red Garnier's Bona Fide Liar, followed by Lillian Feisty's Dance of the Plain Jane.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - 44

Monday, April 14, 2008

Poetry Train Monday - 45 - Discovered Too Late

Here's a backstory poem for the husband of last week's poem narrator, and the step father of this narrator. Luther is a fur trapper in the northern New Brunswick woods. It's the 1830's, and he lives an isolated life in their cabin, especially when winter sets in and they are unable to leave for weeks at a time.

Discovered Too Late

I vowed to be the hero of her life
The morning that I saw her with her son
Tears rose inside as she became my wife
No longer widow - bride again, fears done
I showed the little fella how to hunt
We waited till he was asleep to lay
Together. Or I took her, to be blunt
The months passed, still not in the family way
I thought he’d be a brother to my own
The years passed, for the two of them and me
How easy it would be if he were known
The ghostly man between us she could see
Much easier to swing and hear the thwack
Each time I eased my hatred cross his back

- Copyright - Julia Smith - 2008

Painting - At River's Edge by Russ Docken

Friday, April 11, 2008

Little Women at Sacred Heart School

Last night I had a wonderful, wonderful time attending the spring musical at my best friend's daughter's school. This is Kayleigh in the hallway at Sacred Heart.

I've been BFF with Kayleigh's mom Connie since grade three. That makes 35 years, in case anyone's counting. When we were growing up, we lived two streets away from each other, and after school we either went to her house or to my house. That kept up until we reached high school, when we did the much more wordly thing of simply walking home together, then standing in the driveway talking for about an hour.

This is a picture of us from a pre-Oscar party we went to a few weeks ago. See how we try to act like grown-ups? When really we're always the giggly friends we've always been...

I was Connie's maid of honor, and she was my matron of honor. She flew many times to visit me when I moved to Toronto. She once flew me home for one of my yearly visits back east! When her daughter was born, I was smitten. Kayleigh has always been very, very special to me.

When Brad and I moved to Halifax in 2001, I was thrilled to be able to go to most of Kayleigh's concerts, etc. Especially when she started school at Sacred Heart, a beautiful old school in the south end of Halifax. Of course, having been part of theatre and musicals when I went to school, I can say with certainty that the level of performance at Kayleigh's school is astonishing. It completely blew me away when she was younger, and now that she's headed into her teens, this year's musical version of Little Women had me in tears several times, from the strength of the performances alone.

Pictured here are the March women, clockwise - Meg (Marianna Carrera), Beth (Julia Redmond), Marmee (Sarah MacGregor), Jo (Emma Strubank) and Amy (Clare Heggie.)

Photo by Barbara Martell

Connie's daughter played Braxton, the villain in Jo's fictional stories. She was hilarious. Here's a part of the review from the Halifax Chronicle Herald today:

"Jo travels to New York City in order to visit publishers and expand her horizons. There she stays at a boarding house run by the eccentric Mrs. Kirk (Lauren Stuppiello) and befriends the dignified and reserved Professor Bhaer (Charlotte Grace). It is in Mrs. Kirk’s house that Jo delivers the news of her visit to the editor of the Weekly Volcano Press, where she hopes to publish her story.

On stage Jo’s Operatic Tragedy is acted out. It is the story of the young Clarissa (Min Baek) who must travel through a dangerous forest and across the moors to escape from the evil Braxton.

She comes across hags, trolls, and a lone knight in this amazing scene sure to enthrall. Jo continues to relentlessly pursue her goal of having a novel published as she and her sisters encounter adventure and friendship, success and failure, tragedy and love." - Christina Redmond, Chronicle Herald, Apr. 10, 2008

This is Kayleigh in part of her Braxton costume during a rehearsal for Little Women.

Besides being a big night for Kayleigh, her mom was in charge of the opening night gala. At our weekly lunch a few weeks ago, Connie told me she'd volunteered to organize it, then said, "I haven't the slightest clue why I did that. Someone should just shoot me." We talked about opening galas I'd worked as an usher in Toronto, and I have to say as my sister and I entered the beautiful meeting room at Sacred Heart on the main floor, I thought Connie's gala was as marvellous as any of the ones I've seen.

There was a pianist playing lovely standards like 'Satin Doll', a wine bar, punch, fruit trays, cheese trays, beautiful vases of tulips everywhere. I can tell you after the winter we've had, those flowers of spring almost made me weep. Connie wore a practical but gorgeous beaded tank top and dress pants, and of course her sexy boots.

Her mom was there from New Brunswick, helping out for the gala. My mom and my sister's boyfriend met us at the reception, and Connie's mom and my mom kept hugging and laughing as they hadn't seen each other in about 10 years. And both of them said, "You haven't changed one bit!" And it's true.

This is a picture of Connie, her mom Marilyn and Kayleigh from a few years ago.

My heart really tugged when I saw an elderly grandmother seated on a sofa during the reception. Suddenly I missed my gram so much. And when Connie's mom hugged my mom, she said, "Paulette, I'm so sorry about your mom." And I had to fight, fight, fight not to cry. Normally I can't win that battle, but I'm very proud to say I actually held it together.

Truly, it was so wonderful being all together, the joy of the evening won over my sudden longing for gram.

I loved sitting with my mom during the performance, thinking of all those other performances she watched when my sister and I were Kayleigh's age.

After the performance, we gathered again in the reception room for more refreshments, including a chocolate fountain. Connie flitted to and fro in her sexy boots, taking care of everything. Truly the Uber Con, said my sister (with Newt, below.)

The cast joined us in their more modern dresses, and my heart warmed when Kayleigh saw me across the room and brightened and waved. Not every thirteen-year-old in a room full of peers would be so happy to see her mom's friend. But she's not every thirteen-year-old.