I hope everybody's been enjoying their holidays! We had some flurries on Christmas Eve but Christmas itself was rain, rain and more rain. With none of the fluffy white stuff available I had to make a rainman instead of a snowman and as you can imagine, that's just not the same. You can't rest a woolly hat on a rainman's head, for instance. If you try, your hat just splashes to the ground and languishes in a puddle along with the rainman's twig arms and carrot nose. A rain man isn't jolly like a snowman either; he's actually pretty melancholy. I guess I'd be melancholy too if I was essentially a puddle so I can't say that I blame him.

But anyway, Christmas was wonderful despite the soggy weather and I'm listening to one of my Christmas pressies as I type this—The Swell Season's new album, Strict Joy. Also, turkey is roasting because we were out for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals but still wanted to make a turkey for ourselves (don't want to miss out on all those turkey leftovers). So the smell of turkey is tickling my nostrils, making it very difficult not to dig into the homemade cookies and coffee cake that various people (my mom, my aunt and my friend) have passed on. But I really don't want to spoil my appetite so I'm exercising an admirable amount of restraint (so far!).

In the new year I'll be starting revisions on my fourth book, Delicate. This means I'll have to cut back on reading, which is difficult to do when you're surrounded by books. Lately my hold list at the local library has spun out of control so I've decided to suspend all of the hold books currently on my list until near the end of March and concentrate on reading books already (or about to be) in my possession. Here's what I'll be reading in early 2010:

Fall (by Colin McAdam)

Hush, Hush (by Becca Fitzpatrick)

Break (by Hannah Moskowitz)

* Last Night in Twisted River (by John Irving)

Love is the Higher Law (by David Levithan)

Lemon (by Cordelia Strube)

Catch (by Will Leitch)

Nobody's Girl (by Sarra Manning, February 4th, pre-ordered)

Noughts & Crosses (by Malorie Blackman)

Some Girls Are (by Courtney Summers, January 5th, pre-ordered)

The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance (by Catherine Ryan Hyde)

Struts & Frets (by Jon Skovron)

The Year of the Flood (by Margaret Atwood)

This World We Live In (by Susan Beth Pfeffer, February 17th but luckily I have an ARC and don't have to wait!)

Zot!: The Complete Black And White Collection: 1987-1991 (by Scott McCloud)

It's too early to start talking about Delicate much but I can't bring it up without mentioning the Damien Rice tune, can I? That just wouldn't be right. Especially seeing as I'm crazy for the song.

Finally, here's a mock cover I made up for Delicate, to relieve some of my own suspense in waiting to see what coolness Nicole at Random House will come up with.

Delicate by C.K. Kelly Martin
Today I'm over at Juiciliciousss Reviews talking about my upcoming book, The Lighter Side of Life and Death, the trilogy I'm obsessed with and fighting social beliefs that make sexual assault more likely to occur. Thanks, Stephanie, for having me over to visit!

I don't want Christmas to go by without people hearing Laura Marling's wonderful new Christmas single—Goodbye England (Covered in Snow) which you can now pick up at iTunes in the USA (although I haven't been able to find it at iTunes.ca yet). Here she is singing it in Mumbai:

Snow does have a certain romance attached to it, which I tend to burn out on due to Canadian overexposure, but talk about England or Ireland in the snow and I instantly find myself getting whimsical about it. One day I hope to see England covered in snow with my own eyes! Incidentally, every time I hear Laura's song Night Terror, creepy as it is, I want to lie down on a bench in Shepherd's Bush Green. Her voice and musical style is so hypnotic!
There's been something missing on my blog lately. Have you felt it?

That's right— it's the absence of Billy Bragg material. There was that giddy spike of Braggomania in November:

The Blog's Gone Bragg

More Billy Bragg Goodness: Billy in Hamilton & Ottawa

Billy Bragg @ The Phoenix

and then it kind of faded away. Until now. Behold, the Christmas cover I would've wished for but didn't need to because somehow Santa just knew. Billy Bragg & Florence (of The Machines) play The Pogues' Fairytale of New York on The BBC's Radio One Rob Da Bank Campfire Christmas Special, December 19th:

And here's Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl (God, I miss her voice!) singing it on Top of the Pops in 1992:

Today I'm one of the guests celebrating the season over at Reading is Bliss (Thanks, Jill!):

Christmas 1993: Faraway & So Close

I flash back to a Christmas I spent in Dublin in 1993 and you can enter to win a prize pack consisting of a signed paperback of I Know It's Over, a signed hardcover of One Lonely Degree and a Lighter Side of Life and Death journal.

FlygirlI also want to say a big congrats to Sherri L. Smith whose fabulous YA book Flygirl, about a young African American girl training to be a WWII pilot, was named one of the six best books for teens by The Washington Post. Would make a terrific Christmas present and while you're at it, pick up Sparrow by Sherri too. I liked Kendall so much that I keep hoping there'll be a Sparrow sequel!
Christmas is coming up fast and inevitably I'll be spending less time blogging (and more time watching Christmas movies, listening to my favourite holiday music, eating the chocolate and cinnamon chip cookies I plan to bake today and hopefully figuring out how to kill yet more angry giant insects in Wii game Escape From Bug Island).

Although you won't see me around here as often I'll be making appearances on other blogs during the holiday season. You can catch up with me here:

December 18: Reading is Bliss - Guest Blog
December 23: Juiciliciousss Reviews - Interview
TBA: Books Obsession - Interview

And now I have to get back to listening to that magical Pretenders tune. It's true, it's colder day by day. And listening to Chrissie Hynde sing about diamonds in the snow makes me love that.

Diamonds in the snow
Canadian Our Lady Peace fans probably already know that they're doing an extremely cool Canadian tour this coming March through May where they'll play the Clumsy and Spiritual Machines albums in their entirety on 2 separate nights. The second set will be a selection of songs from their other albums.
Clumsy Spiritual Machines

As if that's not exciting enough their Toronto dates are at my favourite T.O. venue, Massey Hall. The only trouble is, how to choose between such two amazing albums. And so I pored over the albums and what it came down to is, I can't miss the chance to see OLP sing the song Clumsy live. Maybe they'll play it on the Spiritual Machines night anyway, but well, if I have to choose I've gotta go with the sure thing.

And what about 4 AM for that matter? Can't miss that either. Automatic Flowers. Superman's Dead...But hey, how about Life, In Repair and Right Behind You from Spirtual Machines. Do you see the torture I've been dealing with this morning!

I was an OLP fan before One Lonely Degree but writing about main character Finn and her feelings about Our Lady Peace actually made me an even bigger one and now I can't really hear the band without thinking about her. I almost wouldn't be surprised to see her at the Massey Hall gig in March and, you know, I bet she has better tickets than me and is going both nights. One of the big questions this gives rise to is, who would Finn be at the concert with? I'm going to scope out the first few rows in front of the stage and take a close look at the redheads to see if I can figure out the answer. If anyone catches sight of her on the Spiritual Machines night let me know!

* Read more about OLP's Canadian tour and next album on Chart Attack

* Finn Kavanagh of One Lonely Degree writes about Our Lady Peace on Shooting Stars Mag before the release of Burn, Burn last May.
I'm sad to hear the news that seventy-six year old American review journal Kirkus is closing. On a personal level I feel very grateful to Kirkus for putting I Know It's Over on people's radar. On a general level I think this is bad for every single author out there.

The announcement was in Publishers Lunch today:
The publishing world's concerns about declining review space will only become more severe with this morning's news that Nielsen Business Media has "made the decision to cease operations" at Kirkus Reviews (as well as Editor & Publisher.) The news came as the company announced the sale of the Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, and six other media brands to Guggenheim Partners and Pluribus Capital Management. Nielsen is retaining ownership of The Bookseller in the UK.

The memo from Nielsen Business Media president Greg Farrar does not indicate what will become of the Kirkus archives, and whether there will be any effort to sell the operation. As Ron Charles at the Washington Post Book World tweeted: "Worst news in a long time: Kirkus shutting down. For me, they were the last reliable source of negative reviews."
That same edition of Publishers Lunch notes that, “Amazon has quietly pushed the [ebook] discounting envelope even further, at least on a small set of delayed big releases. The new books from Sarah Palin and Steven King, both of which release in Kindle format right around Christmas, can now be pre-ordered for the lower-still price of $7.99. That's also the pre-order price for Ted Kennedy's True Compass, which Twelve has apparently decided to release in ebook form after all, also on Christmas.”

I think if life were like a blockbuster movie these things would be some of those (not so) early signs that an enormous meteor (or other cataclysmic life-destroying event) is about to hit the publishing world. And, like in the movie 2012, we sort of knew it was coming but thought we had more time. I'm looking around for John Cusack as I type this, to see if he has any ideas for surviving the upcoming calamity or whether I should just, like, go back to school and become an accountant or something because, you know, once the ebook format takes over (hello bargain basement prices and mass piracy!) it's looking as though authors won't be able to make a living (not that most of us ever really could but there goes the lunch money even!).
John Cusack in 2012
This was in the Toronto Star yesterday:
I'm sure Emperor Harper is still beaming with pride today, as all the rest of the Tories punch the air and rave about how they're not going to get suckered into helping save the environment because damnit that costs $ and we should be able to trash our own backyard if we want to, leave shamelessly heavy carbon footprints, exhaust natural resources etc. And who cares about polar bears, seals and other species anyway, they don't even pay taxes!

Yes, indeed we should be so very proud that our country, unlike more rational nations which would like the planet to continue housing us for a few more years, just doesn't give a sweet damn about anyone or anything except money (which will be used to construct Emperor Harper's future Death Star).

Emperor Harper and one of his minions supervise the destuction of the environment and the creation of dirty fossil fuel at the Alberta Tar Sands.

Emperor Harper and one of his minions supervise the destuction of the environment and the creation of dirty fossil fuel at the Alberta Tar Sands.
I've been saying for some time now that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is actually an evil Sith Lord:

Say Yes to Carbon

What Canadian Voters (Inexplicably) Want

Stephen Harper: Ordinary People Don't Care about Arts Funding

Tories Slipping From Majority

Stephen Harper says, “These Aren't The Droids You're Looking For”

Easter Greetings From Our PM

Funny how that fact seems to be more widely recognized abroad than it does in Canada. I'm not sure whether that means we're not too bright in this part of the world (brain freeze?) or whether we're just too apathetic. Either way, there's no denying that we royally suck.

As one close observer of of international climate change talks said leading up to Copenhagen, “Canada has become the Darth Vader of the G8 in particular. The marks they now get regularly from the environmental groups are last place.

Yep, not only is Stephen Harper really Darth Harper underneath the suit, tie and wind-resistant hairstyle, if we keep letting Harper get away with steering Canada in the direction of doing as little as humanly possible to fight climate change we're all acting in support of the destructive Empire.

Do we need the Ewoks to come over here and kick our asses in order for us to realize what we're allowing to happen here?

Darth Canada vs. the Ewoks
Twenty years ago today 14 young women were slaughtered at L'Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal by a gunman on a rampage ranting about "feminists."

Top Row L to R: Anne-Marie Edward, Anne-Marie Lemay, Annie St Arneault, Annie Turcotte, Barbara Daigneault, Barbara Maria Klucznik, Genevieve Bergeron
Bottom Row L to R: Helene Colgan, Maryse LeClaire, Maryse Leganiere, Maud Haviernier, Michele Richard, Nathalie Croteau, Sonia Pelletier

Sadly, we're nowhere near a place where we can say this couldn't happen again.
Read the rest here: *  Twenty years on, little has changed

On this side of the pond it'd be hard not to notice that lots of people are big into the musical show Glee, but I wonder how many folks may have missed out on the quality BBC singing series, All the Small Things (which is being shown as Heart and Soul in Canada and Australia).

A couple of months ago I stumbled across the below scene from the show on BBC Canada:

That fabulous rendition of Swing, Swing (my favourite All American Rejects song) was more than enough to make me curious and I've subsequently become hooked on this lovable and eminently listenable show about the cast off local choir members of a small northern English town banding together to form their own kick ass choir which tackles music by Blink 182 and All American Rejects amongst others.

But the show isn't just about music. Main character Esther's choir conductor husband (Michael) drops a bomb on her in the first episode—he wants out of their marriage. Meanwhile there's a younger new guy with a mysterious past in town (Jake) who seems interested but Esther's not exactly overflowing with trust. One of Esther's teen sons, Kyle, is also at the heart of the show. Although All the Small Things never names Kyle's condition he appears to suffer from Asperger's and has trouble with social interactions but is musically gifted.

One of the many things I love about the series is that it doesn't feature the standard cast of beautiful people we're used to seeing in North American television. Instead the majority of the characters are diverse, down to earth and three-dimensional with their own unique (yet universal) issues. All the Small Things is the warmest, least cynical show I've seen on TV this year. If you stumble across it in TV land trust me and give it a shot.

* Read the BBC press release for All the Small Things

* Sarah Lancashire (who plays Esther) talks about All the Small Things in an interview for The Manchest Evening news

And, BBC, we need a second season of All the Small Things so get cracking!
This World We Live InThe odds must be against this (so you better believe I'm feeling lucky!) but yesterday afternoon both Susan Beth Pfeffer and Catherine Ryan Hyde emailed me to let me know I'd won copies of their YA books.

The Year of My Miraculous ReappearanceActually, it's *two* copies of Catherine Ryan Hyde's book, The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance—one for me and one for my mom—and an ARC of Susan Beth Pfeffer's latest meteor novel, This World We Live In. I'm a huge fan of Susan's other meteor books (Life As We Knew It and The Dead and the Gone) and I loved The Day I Killed James and Chasing Windmills by Catherine Ryan Hyde so I'm super excited.

Thank you, book gods!

I was also extremely happy to hear, just the other day, that Mare's War (by Tanita S. Davis) has been included on the Kirkus Reviews "Best Young Adult Books of 2009." And I'm keeping everything I can crossed for 2010 White Pine nominee Cracked Up to Be (by Courtney Summers) in the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading awards. It's great to see such terrific books get the recognition they deserve!
I've been busy with non-writing stuff lately and not able to post as often I'd like. But before busy times sweep in again I want to link to some recent Internet coolness, like the below video I saw discussed on the About-Face blog.

* Little Sophie, with the help of her mother, criticizes the intense pressure women face to be beautiful. “Why do you want to look like someone else?” she asks. “Do you want me to grow up wanting to look like someone else?” In fact, that's what alot of businesses want. It makes it easier to sell women (and men too) stuff they don't actually need and we should all be doing what we can to fight those negative influences. Good going, Sophie! You and your mom rock.

There's more coolness over at the ever-awesome Scarleteen sex ed site where fabulous Scarleteen founder Heather Corinna has penned an article called:

* Love the Glove: 10 Reasons to Use Condoms You Might Not Have Heard Yet. Teenagers aren't the only ones who should read this! There are plenty of young people who are smart about safe sex and plenty of adults who are dumb about it. Here's a peek at the article:
#2. Because barebacking isn't as cool as you think. I've been having a sense of déjà vu lately when hearing some hetero girls say they're "not into condoms" with a wink and a grin, or that they, unlike those other girls who use condoms and who they tend to frame as killjoys, are willing to go without condoms, in this way that rings of trying to aim for a certain social status by being the one willing to risk health and life... From my point of view, what I see in these cases is a young woman having some big esteem issues and who seems to feel it's worth it to risk her life and health for a temporarily increased sexual appeal. While our sexuality and our sexual relationships can support our self-esteem, they tend to be poor places to try and get self-esteem, especially if our sex lives involve a habit or precedent of not caring for ourselves and inviting or allowing others to treat us without real care.
And how about that #5: Because it feels good! Yep, check out the article if you want to find out why...

* You know how when people trot out that ol' adage “sex sells” they're more often than not talking about sexualized images of women being used to hawk everything under the sun? Yeah, well, it turns out that when it comes to movies, at least, that saying is BS. Melissa Silverstein over at Women & Hollywood has written about a new report that refutes the “sex sells” myth. The study, which was recently published in the Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts journal, analyzed 914 mainstream Hollywood films released from 2001 - 2005 and found that “sex and nudity do not, on the average, boost box office performance, earn critical acclaim, or win major awards.”

If anything, too much hard-core action could actually hurt a film's performance. On average, the less sex and nudity, the higher the gross. The more sex and nudity, the lower the gross — by approximately 31 per cent.

"All in all, it appears that sex may neither sell nor impress. This null effect might suggest most cinematic sex is in fact gratuitous," write the authors.

"It is manifest that anyone who argues that sex sells or impresses must be put on notice. At present, no filmmaker should introduce such content under the assumption that it guarantees a big box office, earns critical acclaim, or wins movie awards. On the contrary, other forms of strong film content appear far more
potent, either commercially or aesthetically.
 * Finally, you might well already know that Somalia-born, Toronto-raised hip-hop artist K'naan has the official World Cup 2010 tune (speaking of the World Cup, I'm still pissed that Ireland was robbed of a spot!) with a remixed version of Wavin' Flag. This song is an instant classic. One of those songs that get better every time you listen to it. Let's take a few minutes to soak up the inspiration...

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