Monday, November 22, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

So it's no secret I'm a Harry Potter fan. And there's nowhere better than New York City to be a fan, where The Group That Shall Not Be Named creates incredible events around the Potterverse. Add the Harry Potter Alliance into the mix and the lead up to the Deathly Hallows midnight shows at Lincoln Center was really amazing. Please check out The Harry Potter Alliance's petition for Fair Trade chocolate in Harry Potter branded chocolate. This is only one of the many real-world Horcruxes they're trying to solve. From flaming HP themed drinks to invading a local diner to the flashmob around Columbus Circle (as documented by the New York Times)- it was blast of a twelve hour long celebration. As you can see, I chose a bit of a Narcissa Malfoy look and rocked out with my fellow Slytherins.

One of the great highlights of the night was meeting fellow author and media maven Violet Haberdasher, who had for quite some time come highly recommended to me as an author and person. Her Knightley Academy series is a clever Victorian take on, as the title does not mislead, an academy for Knights. Of course I was going to adore her. It helps that she's a tremendous lot of fun in addition to being a fellow fan of just about everything I go SQUEE over. Um... fabulous books and NaNoWriMo cheerleader aside, she reviews Doctor Who episodes. Considering I've been a Doctor Who fan since I was 7 years old, the meeting of minds that everyone said was meant to be, indeed felt just so.

With all this wind-up, it was a good thing the movie lived up to all the celebration. *sigh* Wow. Now, being a fan of the books first and foremost, I never go into the films with expectations. I know things will be different, I know things will be omitted, but I always know the casting and acting will be top notch, and I am always particularly won over by that. And this film? Best one yet. I'm not going to give anything away, only to say that I laughed and cried. A lot. The film is such a different feel, tone and take, just as the book is. And it was beautifully done. This part of Harry's hero's journey is painfully and beautifully rendered. The strength of this film is that we care about these characters so much. At this point we are so invested, it makes every difficulty, choice, loss, triumph and brave act all the more meaningful. I truly felt this one was made for the fans of the books especially, and maybe it's no coincidence that Our Lady J. K. said it's her favourite. It is simply beautiful.
Around the Strangely Beautiful universe... Thanks tons to Reading with Tequila for a lovely new Strangely Beautiful review, it's so wonderful to see new readers getting on board with a series set to unfold into its further adventures. On that note, we'll soon be marking a new chapter in the Strangely Beautiful universe, so stay tuned, I can't wait to share the Midwinter treat with you!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Draco and Me

I have several jobs. All of which I'm blessed enough to enjoy. My favourite of them is writing books, of course. Another occasional job is doing background/extra or stand-in work for film and TV. Another is stage managing at a small TV studio which specializes in media tours, where I'm the lone human in a room, on a headset, with famous people. I've met a lot of really interesting personalities in the past few years. I spent a 14 hour day on set for the latest Ben Stiller film last week, which was cool. But only a few of my experiences get me really, really, jumping-up-and-down excited when going into the studio for a media tour. For example, The Muppets. (Follow that link to see a ridiculous happy Leanna).

And Monday, I got another wish fulfilled; to meet a cast member of Harry Potter. And not just any cast member, but a Slytherin. I said to my boss when I first started working at the studio a few years ago; "If there is ANY Harry Potter press tours that come through here, I will never forgive you if you don't bring me in to work it." Thankfully we're friends enough for me to say that, and he was good on his word. And so I present to you: Me and Tom Felton, Draco Malfoy.

Could there be any more of a SQUEE expression on my face? What isn't visible is my Slytherin pin I was wearing in House solidarity. Major House points. In all seriousness, Tom Felton is one of the nicest guys in the world, gracious, kind, easy to chat with, funny as hell, great in interviews and an all around stand-up young man who the world has watched grow up. That's a lot of pressure but he's handled it beautifully. He's genuinely humbled and grateful for the opportunity, but also excited for his next projects. (Like his music (!) and a Planet of the Apes prequel, Rise of the Apes). Oh, yeah, and he's really cute. I made my friends in The Group That Shall Not Be Named very jealous. I can't wait to watch the midnight showing with the TGTSNBN crew this week, now 700 strong! Wow!

It makes my day when stars live up to their billing and deserve every bit of their success. These films feature the best casting in the world, and it was fascinating to hear about the close-knit dynamic of the cast, the incredible journey these films have taken, bringing the world along on pages and screen thanks to J. K. Rowling's genius.

Cheers, Tom, for being a consummate gentleman and a major highlight of my year. :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Strangely Beautiful the Musical. In the Beginning...

How does one make a show? A show on a trajectory to a Broadway musical? Very carefully. And with talented people. Step by step, a show comes together.

I hope you'll recall this spring when I excitedly announced that the option rights had been sold for my debut novel, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker to be adapted into a musical theatre production. As an actress / playwright / author who never expected all her talents to come crashing together into one enormous dream, there's nothing really more thrilling, and I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that its happening. Now to be clear, it's a long road to Broadway, with stops in other cities prior to the big move, but making a show begins small; in the minds and hearts of a core group of people, and for me, on index cards. I promised I'd offer an inside view onto the process, so here goes.

My role as script writer (in theatrical terms: "the book" of the musical) is to create the structure into which the composer and lyricist's beautiful (and I mean beautiful- they've done incredible work so far) songs will be placed, and make sure the connective tissue from one theme to the next is full of simple but effective storytelling.

To do this, I had to think of my book in skeletal form; to storyboard it out. To wrap my head around this, I picked up a stack of blank index cards. I've been working on the Strangely Beautiful storyline for a decade at this point so I pretty much know the story blindfolded, in my sleep, by rote, etc. Rather than picking up the book, I simply thought about the bare bones of my story. On the top card I wrote: "The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker As Told By Index Cards" (see photographic evidence). When adapting a work of fiction that is ostensibly longer than the work you are adapting it into, the main plot points are what needs representation, not all the details.
I then took what were the obvious bullet-points and typed up a document with headers and subcategories, the main events and the smaller moments, called "beats" in theatre. I also included in the document some quotes from the novel encapsulating the 'feel' and most important theme of that particular chapter. From this the composer and lyricist hopefully get a sense of things to take away into their own work, which is to write the big numbers, while I create the structure and weave in appropriate dialogue, which will either be spoken or sung, depending on what the creative team decides. I have to be a storyteller on a grand and bold scale, making sure the bare bones of what Strangely Beautiful is all about remains structurally clear, the musical numbers filling in and fleshing out all the information, conflict and emotion I've hopefully set into place.
Last week I sat in on a session sharing some of the themes, music and lyrics already composed for the show. All I can say is wow. I think the music is inspired, lovely and well-suited, atmospheric, beautiful when beauty is called for and spooky when called for. The team had a great discussion, we made some choices and got on the same page, I cut some characters (a necessary evil, it must be done!) in hard and fast decisions.
And I had a moment, sitting at the table, my book in front of me, music inspired from my book caressing my ears, and all my years of theatre training and playwrighting and fiction writing had led me to that moment where I felt a God-like voice murmur: You were meant for this.
And so it is; we're making a show. I'll keep you posted along this magical journey as it continues to unfold.
Newsy Bits:
We have a release date for A Midwinter Fantasy including "A Christmas Carroll" (Strangely Beautiful 2.5): November 23. (digital / eBook only). Join the Midwinter Page for access to more details.
I joined my new publisher's Teen Fire forum, where we'll be actively discussing YA Fiction and Magic Most Foul. Join in the fun! I just set up a group for Magic Most Foul, so come join me!
I just turned the sequel to Dark Nest, titled Dark Nest: Reckoning, to my editor and that should release from Crescent Moon Press within the next couple of months. Look at CMP's pretty new site! It's definately a change of pace to return to the Dark Nest world, a futuristic paranormal, but I hope all those who have been asking "what is going on on that ship next!" will be pleased. :)
If you still have not joined my new Facebook Page, please do, I'll be running a lot of contests from there in the months to come and a lot of information will flow through that portal in regards to Magic Most Foul, Dark Nest, and also, the future of the Strangely Beautiful series.
Cheers and blessings!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Rally for Sanity / March to Keep Fear Alive

My household gets its news from National Public Radio, but we can only stomach television news via The Daily Show. We also happen to think Stephen Colbert is perhaps the greatest luminary of our age. So when the Rally for Sanity / March to Keep Fear Alive was announced, we knew we had to go.
Yes, there was a CRUSH of a million people. Yes, it was hard to hear, hard to see, but as we were jam-packed amidst the very reasonable and surprisingly sane and entirely diverse throng, we all knew we were a part of a meaningful cultural event. We all knew that this event was, as Stewart indicated, beyond politics. It was about human beings, sanity and countering extremism on all sides. Because no one can hear if everyone is shouting. It was about looking critically at the fearful world we live in not because we don't have things to fear but that we cannot live in hysteria. We can only live as a community of human beings acknowledging that yes there is evil in the world but we can't let fears rule us or our choices. As Stewart so aptly said; "We live in Hard Times. Not End Times."
A girl in a head-scarf held the sign: "Don't jump to conclusions, just jump rope." She was part of an interactive group of young Muslim men and women who were jumping rope with participants beneath the sign that simply read: "Jump Rope with a Muslim". They were doing just that. Jump rope and you got a sticker. That was just one way in which the Rally crowd engaged in fun and thought-provoking ways to bond as human beings, fears and prejudices aside. It did my heart good. It did my soul good. And, because Stewart and Colbert were everything I expected them to be, clever and to-the-point, it made us all laugh.
But what was even better and even more clever than the Daily Show writers? The crowds themselves. And their signs. And so I give you: A sampling of Rally signs. Enjoy. I sure did.