Desk Dreams

I spent January working feverishly on the second draft of Book 2 which meant (a) a lot of sitting at my desk, (b) a lot of sitting at my desk late into the night and (c) a lot of sitting at my desk, looking around and thinking I despair. I live in an actual shoebox and so avoid adding too much furniture or doing too much decorating, not just because I rent but because there’s very little space to go around and extra things make the place look even smaller. But I was so sick of things not being exactly as I wanted them, I decided that in the gaps between drafts, I would give my desk a makeover. I would create, in the limited space I had and without going completely broke, the desk of my dreams. And here it is. Ta-daaa!

The idea: When I moved back to Ireland, the first thing I did was cover the walls of my teeny, tiny bedroom in my parents’ house in framed pictures. I wasn’t living abroad anymore, so the next best thing was to surround myself with happy memories of it. That’s what I wanted to do here: I’m stuck at my desk, so I might as well be surrounded by nice, pretty things while I’m stuck there.

The furniture: I have a Micke desk from IKEA (I bought my pink trim version over two years ago. I don’t think they still do it but they do have other colours, including plain white) to which I added an extension. My bookcase is from their Kallax range, with one drawer insert and one of their paper storage boxes that fit perfectly. Finally I decided that after years of sitting in dining chairs, I deserved a proper, comfy chair and – guess what? That’s from Ikea too!

The decoration: My pink lamp is from Dunnes Stores (I’m told the pink version will be restocked in the summer; for now they have a beige and a blue), my Scrabble tile lights were bought by Santa a couple of Christmases ago, my pink file folders are from Ban.do and the rose gold holder they sit in is from KikkiK, and my A6 lightbox and little plant are from New Look. There are also little bargain touches from places like Sostrene Grene and Flying Tiger.

(And yes, it’s neat. But when you live in a small space, you have to keep things neat because it’s like you put a single crumpled receipt from your pocket onto the dining table and then BAM! The next thing you know you’re on Hoarders. And also, don’t you think I might have tidied up before I took pictures to put online? And procrastinators have to be neat, because tidying up is a great procrastination activity. So, yeah. It’s neat. Get over it.)

The typewriter: My new baby is by We R Memory Keepers and the pink version is exclusive to Michaels, a craft/hobbies superstore in the US. I always, always, always said I’d get myself a pink typewriter and now I (finally) have. LOOK HOW PRETTY!

Tip: Michaels only ships to US addresses, so I had to overcome that in some way. I signed up for MyUS.com which gives you a US address for $7 a month, so you can take advantage of free shipping from online US stores and then have stuff reshipped to your home address. Now it is – or can be – a bit pricey to have these things shipped across the Atlantic, but the good thing is that you can consolidate packages and save. And I have to say, I experienced fabulous service. I bought the typewriter and a replacement ribbon, which Michaels shipped to my virtual US address separately. When the typewriter arrived here in Ireland, the replacement ribbon had been tucked carefully inside the typewriter’s box, and that box had been carefully replaced in the box it had shipped in originally, and alongside the ribbon was a signed note from the MyUS.com packer. Not only did it get here quickly, but I really felt they were as careful with it as I would’ve been myself. And this is just my unbiased, average customer opinion – this isn’t sponsored, or anything!

For balance, this is my desk from several years ago – 2010, I think –  when I was back living with my parents after coming home from the States and just had a tiny desk pushed up against my bedroom wall. Bit of an improvement, eh? (Also, is that TEA?!)

Let’s just do a side-by-side, shall we?

Places that are good for buying cute home accessories/stationery stuff from: Kikki.K, Sostrene Grene, My Shining Armour, Paperchase, Dunnes, Flying Tiger, The Range, Typo and obviously IKEA. (‘You’re welcome’ – not something your credit card is going to be saying.)

Now to actually do some work here…

If you live in Ireland or the UK, Distress Signals is currently just 99p!

Where The Crying Happens

I love seeing where other people work (My Writing Room is my favourite feature on Novelicious) so today I thought I’d share what mine looks like.

That thought had nothing to do with the fact that I’m knee-deep in Book 2 and don’t have time to write an actual blog post, of course.

Nope.

I used to live in the most gorgeous apartment. It was lovely, and it was relatively big. Open spaces, full of light, a balcony perfect for coffee drinking and contemplating, and a whole wall just for my bookcases.

[gets teary-eyed just thinking about it]

Then, for some reason, I moved to Dublin, where the same rent was just about enough to cover a telephone box. I live in a studio apartment, essentially, although there is a door between the teensy kitchen and the main room. (Thank fudge – some of the places I went to see came with the added benefit of being able to reach the microwave from the bed. Hmm…) This means that everything has to be very organized, not take up much space and look nice, because I’m looking at it all the time.

So here it is, where the magic crying happens…

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  1. Excellent writing advice from Hemingway (and a birthday present from my friend Iain that came all the way from the famed Powell’s Books!)
  2. My Erin Condren life planner, filled with stickers for added procrastination. You can get one here. I recommend that you calculate the price based on the daily cost, i.e. divide the price by 18 (months) x 31 (days, on average). There. That’s much better, isn’t it?
  3. I keep this photo of eight-year-old me two-finger typing on the typewriter Santa brought to remind me that this is all I’ve ever wanted. (See it here.) I stare at it a lot when I have a synopsis to write. In front of it is a small blue deckchair encased in an acrylic cube, that reminds me of one of my favourite places: Nice.
  4. A blanket. I am always freezing. (Plus it disguises the fact that the chair does not match. MY EYES.)
  5. Coffee. Obvs, as the kids say.
  6. My vision board. I’m into the law of attraction, but not because I believe that you can order what you want from a magical universe like a drive-thru window. Instead, it’s because I think focusing on your goals or dreams does just that: it focuses you on your goals and dreams. Bonus: it takes AGES to go through piles of old magazines and Pinterest looking for images that appeal to you, and longer again to cut them out and glue them to a sheet of cardboard, and as you know I’ve never met a procrastination activity I didn’t like. (I’ve blurred out some of my loftier goals and dreams because, you know, hashtag potentially mortifying.)
  7. The Dreaded Draft Calendar. Ideally I have to finish a vomit draft of Book 2 around mid to the end of November, in order to stay on track with its delivery date and get my college assignments done. This is a constant reminder of how terrifyingly little time I have left. Yeah. So I should probably go…

Where do you write?

Something Nice from Nice

I’m in Nice.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that this isn’t my first time in Nice. For 6-8 weeks every Autumn for three years beginning in 2011 – I’ll give you a moment to catch your breath after that weird sentence construction – I came here, supposedly, to write. That sounds very decadent, I know, but I was living with my parents at the time and had no real financial responsibilities. (Now I have rent to pay in Dublin “The Rent On This Telephone Box Will Make Your Eyes Water” City and university fees to cover, so it all balances out.) Plus the work I was doing was freelance, so all I needed to do it was a laptop and an internet connection. 

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In 2009, I’d rented a somewhat isolated holiday home near the sea in East Cork for a six week period that started in October. It rained most days. At night, high winds rattled the windows. I don’t drive – I never did get around to learning to drive on this side of the Atlantic – and so if I wanted to see other humans, it involved a walk of about 20 minutes to the nearest shop and back again. In the rain and wind. If I was feeling very energetic the beach was about 45 minutes away and, if I was suddenly gripped by the need to be social, there was a hotel at the other end of the strand where one could sit at a nice table by the window and have a proper coffee. While looking at out at the grey skies, grey sea, wind and rain.

There was no internet in the house, only three or four channels that weren’t Static TV. (That was the year I really got into Strictly. Those couple of hours on a Saturday evening were the only time the house felt alive.) By the end of the six weeks I had written a first draft of a novel from scratch, but I also was muttering to myself and hoarding plastic bags.

A couple of years passed and somehow in the box room of my parents’ house, a house filled with other adults and at times, children too, and with my sister’s music playing on the other side of the wall and the TV on downstairs and conversations going on everywhere – somehow – I hadn’t been able to recreate the productivity I’d had in the House Not Quite By the Sea. But there was no way I could survive another six weeks there; I’d definitely have stray cats clustered at my feet by the end of a second stint. So I started thinking: where else could I rent an off-season holiday home?

I’d never been to Nice but my family had been a few times. I knew it was sunny and by the sea and was a city but also had a gorgeous promenade and, hey, good coffee and France. I did some searching online and found an apartment that, when you did the sums, was not that much more per week than the House Not Quite By the Sea. I’d arrive in October and leave at the end of November; it’d be cold, but who cared. I’d spend as little as possible while I was there by walking wherever and whenever I could, limiting my cafe coffees to two per day and dining on meals of soup (less than a euro per packet) with fresh, crusty baguettes. Because I’d be there alone, I wouldn’t be going out at night either, spending my evenings reading instead.  It would be perfect.

So I booked it and off I went.

And then I did it again the following year, and again the year after that.

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Now, I have to be honest. Did I crap out three first drafts – or three any kind of drafts – during those three Nice stints? Hell no. I have basically nothing to show for them word count-wise. The first year I pretty much spent my time exploring Nice and the other towns along the coast. The second year I dragged a second suitcase that was just full of books and worked my way through them at various spots on the beach. The third year – because I sensed it would be my last, having applied to university – I did a little bit of both, plus I discovered that all the TV show DVD box-sets in the Virgin Megastore on Jean Médecin had – of course – their original English audio in the options menu.

Also, no one wants to come visit when you are in a cold, weird house by the Irish Sea in autumn which in Ireland is no different to winter, really, but everyone wants to come visit when you are on the French Rivera. On top of that, the apartment was a dream. It was big and it was bright and in the morning the living room was filled with golden sun, and all I had to do was make my coffee – in the Nespresso machine – and open the French doors and take it out onto the balcony, which was planted with enough basil to open a pesto store, and sit there and sip and think about how lucky I was and wonder how did I swing a life like this, eh?

But despite the scant word count, it was so worth spending that time in Nice.

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On a practical level, Nice features in Distress Signals because that’s one of the places where the Celebrate, my fictional cruise ship, stops, and a couple of my characters spend a day there. So it was research, okay? (Don’t answer that.) I also kept a little pink notebook with me at all times, writing down any ideas or snippets of ideas that came into my head while I was doing Nice-y things (sitting on the beach, walking the Prom, etc.) and when the time came to start writing my book in earnest, I found some gems in there. I came up with the book’s biggest twists while sitting on Nice’s famous pebble beach with Nice’s famous pebbles digging uncomfortably into the flesh of my arse.

But here’s where I really got my money’s worth: the alone time. When you are alone – when you away from all the voices in your life – you get into a zone where you can start to believe in yourself. Your daydreams start to look like achievable goals, because there’s no one around to argue with you, to contradict you. No one to say that maybe you should downsize and reach for treetops instead of the stars.

(I remember clearly having a moment of realizing this back when I lived in Florida. The ESA had advertised for volunteers to participate an experiment that would simulate an 18-month mission to Mars, and I thought it’d be a great idea to apply. What happened next was… Nothing. No one said anything. No one tried to deter me. No one laughed. It was like shouting into a deep cave and getting no echo. It was disconcerting until I realized what the feeling was: expecting someone or someones to start talking me out of it. In Florida, no one did.) 

And sometimes dreams need that kind of space to grow, a chance to set down roots and grow strong before you have to start defending them to everyone else.

Every year I came here to Nice, I was on a seriously limited budget. One of my favorite things to do was to walk through the Old Town early in the morning. The Cours Selaya has a famous flower market most mornings, and there was a cafe that would sell me a reasonably priced coffee that offered a great people-watching spot. Up a narrow little street from it was a shop called Transparency that sold tiny models of things set in acrylic cubes. (Never let me write auction house or art gallery catalogue descriptions, will you?)

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I’d gazed adoringly in their window whenever I passed and tried to limit the times I went in because I’d only be a time-waster for the sales clerk on duty. My favorite piece was a small cube of acrylic, essentially a paperweight, in which a tiny model of one of NIce’s famous blue deck-chairs – the symbol of Nice – had been set. It was a beautiful piece. Depending on how you looked at it, there could be one chair or more than you could count. If I brought it home, it would be a gorgeous addition to my desk and a constant reminder of the sunny days I’d spent in Nice. Unfortunately it was €40, or as much as a week of baguettes and cafe coffees. My budget was so tight I couldn’t justify it. I whispered to myself that one day, when I got a book deal, I’d come back and buy it.

I could say “when” because there was no one around to correct me, no one to talk me down from the moon, no one to suggest that maybe saying “if” would be more appropriate.

About five and a half years ago I started this blog, in which I declared that my goal was to get published. I remember wondering what would happen if that never happened – the sting of public humiliation, the internet record of my failing. How long would I keep up the blog, if self-publishing didn’t work and I couldn’t even finish my novel? 

Well, yesterday, I bought my little blue chair cube. I don’t want to get all Jimmy MacElroy but… 

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What do you think about aiming high? Do you dream of reaching the moon, or do you temper your goals with reality? Which do you think is the best approach? Let me know in the comments below! 

A Short Story About Scarpetta

I’m heading to the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate tomorrow morning (for the first time ever and feeling a bit like the new girl who switches schools half way through term and has to walk into a class where she doesn’t know anyone!) so this evening, while I procrastinate instead of pack, I thought I’d share with you a story about my introduction to crime (writing): Kay Scarpetta and the woman who invented her, Patricia Cornwell.

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One Christmas, back when I was (I think) either 12 or 13 (ish), a friend of mine lent me her older brother’s Patricia Cornwell paperbacks. Now, I’m not sure if she leant me one and then I bought the others, or if she lent me the whole lot and I just never gave any of them back – in fact, the more I think about this entire incident, the fewer tangible details I can recall – but I do know that several nights in a row, over the school holidays,  I stayed up reading until three or four in the morning because I couldn’t sleep until I got to THE END.

Now I’m sure I’d read other crime novels before that but there was something about Cornwell and her central character, Kay Scarpetta, that moved me from mild interest to totally obsessed. The feisty women, the high-octane plots, the autopsies (ewwww), the pristine house (I STILL want my own mud room and totally OTT home security system) and the detours into highly descriptive Italian cooking sessions (???) – I loved it all. (I never quite understood why a medical examiner would be out in the field investigating crimes, but anyway…) They would be my gateway drug into Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly, Karin Slaughter, Gillian Flynn (I was reading her long before Gone Girl was a blinking cursor on her computer screen HASHTAG SMUG), and all the other amazing crime/thriller fiction writers whose books I devour today.

Last August I finished my own thriller and when it came time to write the all important cover letter, I mentioned that Cornwell was my introduction to the genre:

Crime/thriller novels have been my reading passion ever since a friend’s older brother irresponsibly let me borrow his collection of Patricia Cornwell paperbacks when I was 12 and, if my apartment spontaneously burst into flames right now, my ‘grab’ item would be my limited-to-200-edition, numbered, gold-edged, slip-cased, red leather-bound copy of Nine Dragons that Michael Connelly personally inscribed to me as a competition prize. (Safe in the knowledge that my MS has been saved to Dropbox, mind you.)

Flash-forward now to the beginning of April this year. My superagent, Jane Gregory, has got me a 2-book deal with Corvus, an imprint of Atlantic Books, and although I’m not allowed tell everyone yet, I have told a few someones: my writing friends. A gang of us go out to dinner to celebrate in Jamie’s Italian in Dundrum. There’s five of us setting at the table – all either published or about to be – and three of us write crime while a fourth says she doesn’t but there’s a dead body in her book. (Although I’ve stopped saying she’s written crime because it’s starting to really annoy her, I think.)

(But it IS.)

[wink]

So the waiter arrives at our table to take our drink order, and we decide to order a bottle of wine. (Good decision.) Everyone elects me to choose which one. (Bad decision. I only started drinking wine in the last year – I actually started drinking it at the Irish Book Awards when I turned to Hazel Gaynor and uttered the immortal line, “How winey is that wine?” – and all I know about it is whether it’s white or red.) The waiter eventually steps in and says he’ll pick a wine for us, tells us nothing about his decision and then disappears to go get it.

This is what he brought back:

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Naturally, the table erupted. I couldn’t believe it, and I still can’t believe it now. (And no, the waiter knew nothing about who we were, what we did, why we were there or what we were celebrating.) Isn’t that amazing? I mean, what are the chances?

(And it was quite nice, by the way. If anyone knows where outside of Jamie’s Italian you can buy it, do let me know.)

I’m hoping it’s a good omen for the adventures ahead…

I finally caved and joined Instagram. Follow me there and on Twitter for updates from Harrogate and if you’re in Harrogate too, come and say hi! 

Side note: reading this back, you can tell that I’ve had a LOT of coffee today and that I cleaned out my talent for writing words more good getting the latest draft of Distress Signals done last week, can’t you?

When Story Goes Wrong: My Amber-Induced Rage

Roll up, roll up. It’s rant o’clock!

As you may or may not know, I love TV. Good TV that is. I have no time for people who are happy to stick their nose in a book but only look down their nose at television. I love stories and I love writers, and that’s what’s on and who’s behind TV. Yes, there’s bad TV, but there’s bad books too. If your argument is that TV-watching is too passive an activity, turn on your TV’s captioning service. There. Sorted.

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A few months ago, the final episode of a four-part drama series called Amber aired here on the state broadcaster’s channel RTE, and as our TV screens faded to black we took to Twitter and raged. Then we called into radio shows and raged. When we next saw our friends and family we said, ‘Were you watching Amber?’ and if the answer was yes then we raged some more.

In the first episode four nights before, a teenage girl — Amber — disappeared. She got her father to drop her to a friend’s house, waited until he’d driven away and then scurried off somewhere. We’d all stayed tuned for more than an hour each evening since to follow the investigation and the search, while flashbacks teased us about Amber’s final (?) hours. What happened to Amber? both we and the characters on the show wondered aloud. Where is she? Where did she go? The acting was mostly great, the production was sleek and the opening titles even had a touch of Top of the Lake about them. Many of us had spent numerous Saturday nights glued to subtitled Scandinavian drama on BBC4 (e.g. The Killing and The Bridge) and sat through Christmas impatient for new Sherlock, so it was a treat to have a slick crime drama of our own to watch featuring An Garda Siochana (the Irish police force) and Irish actors.

Or so we thought.

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I can’t write the rest of this without revealing the details of Amber, but since it already aired, most of you don’t live in Ireland and I feel compelled to warn those of you who live in the UK not to waste four nights of your life watching it like we did when it airs on BBC4 later this year, I think we’ll be alright.

But just to be fair:

***CRAPPY TV SHOW SPOILER ALERT***

So why the rage as the screen faded to black? Well, because the last shot was of Amber walking down a country road. Alive. The show ended without the viewer knowing what happened to Amber. Four episodes of a drama series about a girl going missing that in the end revealed… Well, nothing much of anything at all, it turned out.

That was bad enough.

That was annoying.

But what BROUGHT ON THE RED RAGE was the response of the team behind the show to our disappointment over this.

They said,* “It’s like real life, and in real life you don’t always find out what happened to the person who went missing.”

They said, “If you were really paying attention, there were plenty of clues.”

(Implying that you hadn’t paid attention at all and were too stoopid to put it altogether. You dumbarse!)

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And to pour acid into the wound they’d already poured salt into, they said, “She’s just gone and no, no character you met along the way had anything at all to do with it.”

?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

OH HOW MY BLOOD BOILS WITH SUPERFLUOUS CAPITAL LETTERS.

When a reader sits down with a book or a viewer settles onto the sofa, they’re expecting a story. Stories have beginnings, middles and ends and the end of a story is also the resolution of it. This doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is tied up nicely in a bow and every mystery carefully explained away, but it does mean that the reader or viewer is left feeling satisfied. They feel there is a point to the story, a good reason for its existence.

That’s why the whole “but that’s what it’s like in real life” line doesn’t wash, because this wasn’t real life. It was a TV show. And TV shows get resolved.

(And also, if I wanted real life, I would’ve watched a documentary. Or looked out the window.)

I heard they also said that it wasn’t so much about the crime itself, but the effect the crime had on the family, neighborhood, etc. See Broadchurch for an excellent example of this. But what happened at the end of Broadchurch? Oh yeah, WE FOUND OUT WHAT HAPPENED AND WHO DID IT.

But that’s just the manslaughter charge in this crime against story. The murder one is the revelation that no one the viewer was introduced to in the fictional universe was responsible for the murder and/or disappearance of Amber.

Or to put it another way: cheating.

If the writer of a story that involves a crime (or other mystery) decides from the outset that they’re not going to reveal or explain to the reader/viewer what happened by its end, they are doing the writing equivalent of dictating to an assistant as they sunbathe on a beach in Bahamas while the rest of us live in a dark stone cell and scratch our story onto the walls with a pen knife.

By candlelight.

In a draught.

With no reveal/explanation, there are no rules. If there’s no rules, you don’t have to play by them. You don’t have to induce a migraine tying your plot up in knots and drawing graphs and using six different colors of Post-It notes to map out every last twist and turn. You can do whatever you like because it doesn’t all have to make sense at the end. You can fill your story with intense moments of mystery and end every chapter with a crazy cliffhanger and it all doesn’t matter because — woo-hoo! — you’re free to make this crap up as you go along.  You can do whatever you like because you haven’t committed to doing anything in particular except stringing us all along. Let’s throw in a unicorn and a ghostly apparition and a car chase and then – POOF! – deus ex machina, THE END.

I should’ve known that Amber had a plot problem because of the shambles that was Episode 2.

Amber had a non-linear narrative that kept jumping around in time as it followed different people through her disappearance and the subsequent search for her. In episode 1, we were shown Amber coming out of the city centre on the Luas (tram) carrying a shopping bag. Got that? Right. In episode 2, we focused on a very shady character who was already in prison for another crime and, in flashbacks, we saw him looking very suspicious as he sat in a parked car and watched Amber walk by on the day she went missing. But anyone with two brain cells would’ve instantly been able to deduce that Mr Suspicious had nothing to do with Amber’s disappearance, because when she walked past his car she wasn’t carrying a shopping bag. Therefore she hadn’t been into the city yet. And since we knew from Episode 1 that she stayed alive long enough to get back on the tram and come out of the city with her shopping bag, we knew this guy didn’t kill or take her.

(I’m not even going to talk about the episode where Amber’s father SAVED AMERICAN BACKPACKERS FROM HUMAN TRAFFICKERS IN EASTERN EUROPE BY WATCHING PORN AND HAVING A PROSTITUTE OVER FOR DINNER. No, really. That was actually the “plot” of the final episode.)

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If convicted for this first degree murder of what a story is supposed to be, the prosecution should seek the death penalty in this case because while leaving us hanging is bad enough, the creators admitted that (a) they know what happened (um yeah, oh-kay…) and that (b) NO ONE WE MET IN THE SHOW WAS RESPONSIBLE.

(Remembering that they told us the show was filled with clues, had we bothered to pay attention.)

Are you [BLEEP] kidding me with this?

That breaks the cardinal rule of crime and thrillers, and breaking this rule shows such a blatant disrespect for the reader/viewer that I’d need to start taking blood pressure medication if I thought about it too much. It’s just not playing fair if you don’t give the reader/viewer a chance to figure it out for themselves. Now I read crime novels and thrillers all the time, and I never figure it out. I like it that way. (I was once friends with a girl who would start every book by turning to the last chapter to appraise the ending. Only if she liked it would she go back to the start and read the book. We’re not friends anymore. Coincidence?) But when what really happened is revealed, I go ‘Oh, right! I see it now.’ I realize the clues were there all along. Readers who are cleverer than me may go ‘I KNEW it!’, but despite our different reactions we’re both feeling satisfied, we’re both feeling like the time we sunk into the book or show wasn’t wasted.

But if the person who killed/disappeared Amber WASN’T EVEN IN THE BLOODY SHOW, well, we don’t have much of a chance of figuring it out, now do we?

And of course, it also means that no one involved in writing the show had to figure it out either. Again: cheating.

It’s not that stories that aren’t neatly tied up can’t be satisfying. See Tana French’s In The Woods or series 2 of The Bridge for more on this. But they worked because even though not every plot strand was tied up in a bow, something was. And that something made sense. It also involved CHARACTERS WE’D ACTUALLY BEEN INTRODUCED TO.

I was venting my rage on Twitter the night of finale when someone suggested we send the writers a copy of Robert McKee’s Story. I suggested that that might be a bit advanced for them. Perhaps an episode of Murder She Wrote instead?

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You know something? I realize now that this blog post may not have a point. I just really needed to vent about how stoopid that bloody show was. But you know what? Maybe it’s not supposed to have a point, because that’s, like, real life. Things don’t get all neatly tied up in real life, dontcha know.

[UNICORNS DESCEND]

[A T-REX BURSTS OUT OF THE BUSHES]

[THE POWER GOES OUT]

The End.

Now, how was that for you?

Amber is apparently going to air on BBC Four sometime this year and after that it’ll infect Netflix. It’s too late for me but run, save yourselves!

UPDATE: BBC *did* show it and my blog visits have been boosted by people searching for ‘amber crap ending’ and the like. For more Amber rage, see this great piece by Daragh Keany writing for the Sunday World. Now, go watch some GOOD TV. 

What show or book had an ending that gave you the RED RAGE? Why was it so rage-inducing? Did you watch Amber? Do you think we can have some of our TV license fee back from RTE? Let me know in the comments below…

*I’m paraphrasing.

A Starbucks on Main Street USA and Other Stories

So… I spent last week in one of my favourite places, Orlando!

*happy dance*

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But I’m back now.

*grumpy face*

And still recovering from a missed night’s sleep (got a wonderfully cheap flight on Expedia but it involved flying through the night and then a nine — NINE — hour layover at Manchester airport), tackling the mountain of e-mails that built up while I was away and processing the truly devastating news that the awful people at Nabisco have evidently STOPPED MAKING OREO CAKESTERS.

*holds back tears*

When I was in Orlando in February I couldn’t find them in any supermarket, and only managed to bring some home because I found a stash of snack-packs in a 7-11. But on this trip: no Cakesters anywhere. The Oreo website only lists two disgusting Cakester flavors and there appears to be no mention of the original and best. This is just awful because if I’d known this was coming, I’d have ordered a few cases of them from Amazon and instructed everyone I know Stateside to buy up whatever stock they could find and mail it to me. I’ve tweeted Oreo for confirmation of this terribly upsetting news:

So far, no response. Stand by for details of me establishing a post-Cakester world support group.

Anyway, onto happier things…

Like a STARBUCKS IN THE MAGIC KINGDOM!

(Yes, we’re using a lot of superfluous capitalization today. Deal with it.)

Starbucks was always at Universal but never anywhere on Disney property, at least in Orlando. Until now. (Or until June, apparently.) Andrea and I nearly lost our tiny Starbucks-lovin’ minds when we headed for our traditional first stop on a Magic Kingdom morning, the Main Street Bakery, only to discover a familiar logo hanging outside it. And just LOOK AT THE CUTENESS:

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Keeping with the beverage theme, we also enjoyed some Butterbeer at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal’s Islands of Adventure and cheesecake fudge from Honeydukes:

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I also enjoyed what must be in the Top 5 Coolest Days of My Life at the all-new Kennedy Space Centre, where I not only saw the Space Shuttle Atlantis — the SPACE SHUTTLE ATLANTIS! — but I did a special behind-the-scenes tour that took me INSIDE the Vehicle Assembly Building.

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Think about it: that’s a SPACE SHIP you’re looking at. A SPACE SHIP!

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*shakes head in disbelief at memory*

I also bought a lot of coffee, as per usual:

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And read a lot of books by the pool (I managed an amazing 10 books over 10 days. My Goodreads Reading Challenge 2013 is SO in the bag!):

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And found these ADORABLY APPROPRIATE notecards at the airport:

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So that’s what I’ve been up to.

Now: what have I missed?

(Besides Jonathan Franzen acting like an entitled tool and Jennifer Weiner putting him in his place. Oh, Internet: I’ve missed you!)

The 100 Best Movies Challenge

It’s Friday! So let’s set aside the self-publishing stuff for a second and do something fun.

On Wednesday Nathan Bransford posted his personal list of 100 Favorite Movies and challenged others to do the same. Now as you all know I never met a procrastination activity I didn’t like, and I love movies as much as I love books (well, almost…), so today I’m posting my list.

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One hundred movies sounds like a lot, and will seem like a lot when you first start trying to think of all your favorite films. You’ll enlist the help of friends and family, look up Best Picture nominees on Wikipedia and frantically browse your DVD collection. But soon you’ll be saying, “Oh! How could I forget that?” and “But what about—?’ and “I feel like there was something else amazing he was in too…” and then suddenly you’re up to 149, you need to start whittling them down and you’ve Argo in twice because you’ve Ben Affleck on the brain.

Now I’ve cheated ever so slightly with mine because I’ve counted series like Toy Story and the first two Home Alones as one entry, but so what? It’s my list! I’ve also picked my favorite movies, many of which would never have had a shot at Best Picture, so don’t hate me for loving Spacecamp. Or Dirty Dancing. Or 17 Again.

I also know I’ve left some out and will think of them as soon as I click the Publish button on this post…

(Yeah. There’s a chance I’m over-thinking this.)

Okay, so here we go. 1-10 are my all-time favorite movies, but 11-100 are in no particular order.

(Yep. Definitely over-thinking this.)

My 100 favorite movies of all time are (I think!):

  1. Jurassic Park
  2. Contact
  3. Apollo 13
  4. American Beauty
  5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  6. Adaptation
  7. The Truman Show
  8. Stranger Than Fiction
  9. The Departed
  10. The Usual Suspects
  11. Primal Fear
  12. Spacecamp
  13. The Silence of the Lambs
  14. Wall-E
  15. The Lives of Others
  16. The Secret in Their Eyes
  17. The Shawshank Redemption
  18. 17 Again
  19. The Terminal
  20. The Mist
  21. Catch Me If You Can
  22. Any Given Sunday
  23. Contagion
  24. Elf
  25. Dirty Dancing
  26. The Town
  27. Return to Oz
  28. Office Space
  29. The Cable Guy
  30. Midnight in Paris
  31. Home Alone & Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
  32. Best in Show
  33. The Devil’s Advocate
  34. Thank You For Smoking
  35. Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy
  36. Seven
  37. Jaws
  38. Forrest Gump
  39. Cast Away
  40. Schindler’s List
  41. The Toy Stories
  42. Independence Day
  43. Armageddon
  44. The Sixth Sense
  45. Fight Club
  46. Gladiator
  47. The Insider
  48. Training Day
  49. Amelie
  50. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  51. Titantic
  52. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
  53. Bicentennial Man
  54. Mission Impossible
  55. Tropic Thunder
  56. Misery
  57. 1408
  58. Inside Man
  59. The Game
  60. A Perfect Murder
  61. Jagged Edge
  62. The Life of David Gale
  63. Cinema Paradiso
  64. Minority Report
  65. The River Wild
  66. Twister
  67. The Informant!
  68. Zoolander
  69. The Other Guys
  70. All The President’s Men
  71. The Others
  72. Bridesmaids
  73. Arlington Road
  74. The Vanishing
  75. Pretty Woman
  76. Argo
  77. The Reader
  78. The Remains of the Day
  79. Quiz Show
  80. Jerry Maguire
  81. Good Will Hunting
  82. Speed
  83. Closer
  84. Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil
  85. Clueless
  86. The Wedding Singer
  87. The Holiday
  88. The TV Set
  89. For Your Consideration
  90. Senna
  91. In The Shadow of the Moon
  92. The Hangover
  93. Bad Santa
  94. Supersize Me
  95. The Hoax
  96. Grizzly Man
  97. Recount
  98. Stepbrothers
  99. Kiss The Girls
  100. I Love You, Philip Morris.

Agree? Disagree? Never going to trust me again because I love Return to Oz? (Guess what? I DON’T CARE. It’s amazing.) Or have you spotted a glaring omission? And don’t say The Godfather II, because even though it’s like the greatest movie ever made, it’s not a favorite of mine, really. Ditto for 2001. And Apocalypse Now? I’d rather Tropic Thunder any day. And I know many people have a scary obsession with The Princess Bride—I like it, yes, but it’s not one of my favorites. Also not a fan of anything Star Warred, Star Trekked or Lord of The Ringed.

Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or read Nathan’s list here.

Have a good weekend!

UPDATE: It’s happened: I remembered others! Here are a few that I didn’t think of when I was compiling the list: A Few Good Men, The September Issue, Easy A, The Cutting Edge, Enchanted, Top Gun (hello? HOW could I’ve forgotten that? I love that movie…), The Social Network and Superbad. Not sure if they’d have squeezed their way into my Top 100 but alas, we’ll never know (because I’m not starting this again!).