Sunday, January 31, 2010

Farewell, Conan

By now, you all probably know that Conan O'Brien has left The Tonight Show after a major controversy involving weeks of back-stabbing, statements, and apologies. When bad ratings for Jay Leno's show at 10 led NBC to move Leno back to a later slot and bump The Tonight Show into the wee hours of the next morning, O'Brien refused to make the move, resulting in Leno once again hosting The Tonight Show and leaving O'Brien with a multi-million-dollar payout, but no job.

A lot of people have weighed in on this one, and a lot of people have chosen sides, so I'm not going to do that. What I do want to do is ask: What are we actors to make of this? How does show A's bad ratings lead to show B getting shafted so show A can have its time slot? Shouldn't the show with the crummy ratings be the one to get the boot? In an industry that is so over-saturated, the networks pretty much have the actors by the short-and-curlies: you do what they want and co-operate, because unless you are the most amazing of the most amazing, you're replaceable. So how did the guy with bad ratings end up getting the other guy's job? Are there back-room deals to be made in television, too? Has politics infiltrated the entertainment industry?

I want to hear what you think.

Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

It's Party Time!

Picture book author and freelance writer Jean Reidy is having a party to celebrate the release of her picture book, Too Purpley, now available at a bookstore near you. Head on over to for more about the book, as well as free gifts for all guests, prize drawings, a chance for authors to win a free picture book critique, a chance for librarians to win a grand prize, and a lot more.

And congratulations to Jean Reidy!

And as always, thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Oops, They Did it Again

A big wag of the finger goes to Bloomsbury this week for their second book cover screw-up in six months. After a huge controversy over the cover of Justine Larbalestier's Liar, which came out in September of last year but whose jacket design depicting a blond caucasian teenager representing the bi-racial narrator was released two months prior, you'd think the folks at Bloomsbury would have learned their lesson. But no, not yet. It took another similar blunder, this time depicting debut author Jaclyn Dolamore's Thai heroine in Magic Under Glass as a caucasian in traditional Victorian dress. Bloomsbury has re-jacketed both books, but this will not help them shake the reputation they are forming as a house that doesn't pay proper attention to its manuscripts.

As an author, it is extremely frustrating to work so hard for so long only to have your words ignored by the art department. The authors of both these books intentionally wrote stories about people from certain backgrounds, and their editors intentionally chose these manuscripts in large part because of this choice, and these manuscripts were misrepresented in both cases by the depiction of the main character on the cover. And we're not just talking skin color - we're talking clothing, setting, attitude, the whole deal. Issues of race aside, there is a problem when the art department is so misinformed (or uninformed) about a manuscript that they can miss the mark so completely not once, but twice in six months.

And as a consumer, it is equally frustrating to see a book, like the look of its cover, and then open it to find that the manuscript and the cover bear no relationship to one another. Or to turn it around, I might overlook a book based on its jacket design, only to realise later that I missed out on a good thing because the actual story bore no relation to the jacket itself. Either way, Bloomsbury, you're misleading people, and it is wrong.

Has Bloomsbury learned its lesson yet? I certainly hope so, but only time will tell. In the meantime, I guess we'll have to take the old adage "you can't judge a book by its cover" literally.

Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

TV: to Tax, or Not to Tax?

There's been a lot of kerfuffle lately here in Canada over the proposed new Fee-For-Carriage laws. Some call it the TV Tax and cry "traitor"; others say it's just giving the local networks some extra funding that is long overdue. What it boils down to is that the networks want the cable and satellite companies to pay them for broadcasting their content, and the satellite and cable companies don't think they should have to pay, but say that if forced to pay they will simply pass the extra cost down to their customers by adding about $10 a month to the average cable or satellite bill.

What do I think? As an actor who watches television, I find myself caught between a rock and a hard place. Of course, I am all for funding the local networks: I want to work, I don't want to have to move to do it, and without local networks filming here, where I live, that would be next to impossible. Additionally, providing funding for local networks to create good quality programming fits right in with my adage that to "buy local" is best: it creates jobs for people in my community, stimulates the economy in my community, and generally promotes a healthier local community for me to live and raise my kids in. And when you "buy local", it supports your community in the same way.

But as a viewer, a consumer of the medium in which I hope to make a decent paycheck someday, here's the awful truth: I don't watch much local television. There are only so many hours in the day, and when it comes down to it, I want to spend the two or three hours a week that I have watching something that is AWESOMEly good. The vast majority of local programming just does not light my fire. Additionally, in prime time, (which is when I have time to watch TV, because my kids are asleep and any work I'm doing is pretty much done for the day and I can finally relax for an hour or so), almost all of the local networks are not airing local programming. They're doubling up with the major US networks, airing US programming.

Here's what I'd like to see happen. I'd like CTV and Global and the other Canadian networks to be ordered to stop spending so much money on importing US programming. Anyone who pays for cable or satellite services gets all of the major US networks anyway, so it just amounts to the same show being aired on two or three or twelve channels at once. As a customer, this isn't a benefit, and it ticks me off. Make them spend the money on creating and promoting good quality, local television programming. If local TV were better, I'd watch it, and I bet a lot of other people would, too.

As for adding a little to my monthly bill, here's my two cents: asking me to pay more on my monthly cable bill when I'm not going to get anything other than I am getting now will send me to the internet for the vast amount of free content it provides. But if the Canadian networks stop broadcasting all the imported US content and have a whole lot of new Canadian shows to show for the extra money they'll be getting - if for my extra $5-10 a month I'm going to essentially get a bunch of additional programming - I'm okay with that.

Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Thank You, Mr. Agent

I was thrilled to receive a rejection letter from an agent in the mail yesterday. Thrilled? I can hear you thinking, she is definitely off her rocker. But no, I have not lost all of my marbles just yet. While I am obviously disappointed not to have his representation, this is indeed good news, for a couple of reasons.

First, it was an actual letter, not the one-line form rejections I have gotten in the past. He thanked me for expressing interest in his agency and for giving him the chance to review my work, made specific reference to something that he had liked about my manuscript (showing that he had indeed read it - I know all agents assure us that they read everything, but with a one-line rejection it sure doesn't feel that way), gave specific reasons why my manuscript didn't appeal to him personally, and wished me the best of luck. He was respectful, concise, polite, and thoughtful, and he wrote me the best rejection letter I have ever gotten.

Second, now that I know that his agency isn't interested in my manuscript, I can consider moving on to submitting directly to publishers, which is probably what I should have done in the first place. Taking on someone with no publishing credits is always a gamble for agents, and although I am disappointed not to have an agent (yet!), I am not surprised. I know where I want to shop my story, and now I'm one step closer to doing it!

So, once again, thank you Mr. Agent. Thank you for taking the time to read my manuscript, and for responding so thoughtfully and professionally. Your letter is the first one to deserve a place on my bulletin board.

And thanks to the rest of you for stopping by.

Friday, January 15, 2010

New Year, Renewed Focus

Happy New Year, everyone!

January is always a time for new beginnings, and for renewed energy and focus on old or ongoing projects. So with that in mind, I was pleased (and more than a little relieved) to read Nathan Bransford's opinion on modern techniques of book promotion. You can read all about it on his blog (you'll find a link to the right of this post), but the gist was this: pick one or two things and do them well.

A big sigh of relief, and a big thank you, to Mr. Bransford. Let's look forward to a new year of great blogging!

Thanks for stopping by.