Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I'M BORED by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

A while ago I did a feature on the very talented author/illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi.  And now I am very happy to share that the book she illustrated, I'M BORED, has made its way into the world and it's awesome, full of wit and charm . . . and a potato.

But don't just believe me.  Here's what the New York Times has to say about it:

"Black is a comedian and actor (“Stella,” “The State”) when not writing children’s books (“A Pig Parade Is a Terrible Idea”), and he tells his story in sprightly fashion. The illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi convincingly draws a child full of life, a potato full of — well, potatotude, and computer drawings that look just like good old-fashioned linocuts. Her smart cartoony artwork matches Black’s perfect comic timing, making for a fun ride that should leave you amused, perhaps pensive, and no longer bored." - David Small, The New York Times Sunday Book Review

In any event, here's a synopsis, and if you are interested in more information please visit Debbie's page on her website about it which has links galore!



Written by Michael Ian Black
Illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

There is NOTHING boring about being a kid, but one little girl is going to have to prove it in this anything-but-boring picture book from comedian Michael Ian Black.

Just when a little girl thinks she couldn’t possibly be more bored, she stumbles upon a potato who turns the tables on her by declaring that children are boring. But this girl isn’t going to let a vegetable tell her what’s what, so she sets out to show the unimpressed potato all the amazing things kids can do. Too bad the potato is anything but interested.
This tongue-in-cheek twist on a familiar topic is sure to entertain anyone who’s ever been bored—or had to hear about someone else being bored—and is filled with comedian Michael Ian Black’s trademark dry wit, accompanied by charismatic illustrations from newcomer Debbie Ridpath Ohi.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Steampunk Tuesday - SF/Fantasy

Author J.M Frey (left) and Me as Rorschach and Laurie from WATCHMEN

Last week I discussed my number six, that is to say number one, reason why I love Steampunk (from the list I made here).  And so this week it seemed on right to carry on to number five, number two:

I love SF/Fantasy.

Now some of you who read my Fake Geek Girl blog post will know that I'd never really defined myself as a geek.  Nor really as an SF/Fantasy fan.  It wasn't until I took stock of the kinds of entertainment I enjoyed that I realised, "Oh wait, yeah I really do love that stuff!"

I think the thing for me was that I like a lot of stuff.  And a lot of genres.  I'll pretty much watch any film/read any book so long as it isn't scary.  But there is something about the SF/Fantasy genre that I think is just wonderful.  And that's what I'm going to talk about today.


I think most genre fans come to it as a means of escape.  I think most people come to media in general for that reason.  I know that it was definitely the case for me.  As a young teenager, I spent several summers feeling very alone and very much outside of the "cool group" (I was fine during the school year, I went to an arts school where people understood and accepted my personality).  When I would return home after a long frustrating day, I would go up to my parents' room, turn on their computer and write.

Now I had tried writing many different things over the course of my young life, many attempts at the middle school/high school experience type stories.  But the one I wound up sticking with, that really helped me, was a pirate adventure story.  Because as it turns out, I didn't want to write about my life.  My life was kind of sucky in that moment.  I wanted to write about an exciting other world.  With pirates, and adventure, and drama oh my!  It made me happy, I got to leave my existence for a time. 

And I think that's why a lot of people love to escape into genre.  We don't have to interact with the mundane real world.  We can experience cool futuristic technology, or go back to a time where everyone rode horses, or play with magic, fight with swords.  Be a hero, a wizard, a warrior, a thief ('cause thieves, like pirates, in genre, are way cooler than in real life).  I think too that's why people love portal stories so much (see a little book series called Harry Potter . . .).  You get to experience the mundane and then travel into the fantastic.  You get to pretend there is a viable way to enter that wonderland.


For me, and not necessarily for all fans of genre, I like that there is a place for idealistic characters.  For good guys to win and bad guys to get their due.  This is not to say there isn't something wonderful in the grey.  I also love books where the bad guys win, and the good guys aren't necessarily that good (big fan of WATCHMEN for example - see pic above).  But it's definitely the notion that good guys don't finish last in SF/Fantasy that draws me to it. 

I know it's cool to be a fan of Batman.  The dark anti-hero.  And I do really enjoy him - though I prefer the villains :) .  More on that in a moment.  But Superman will always be my hero of choice.  I like that he was noble.  That he had no reason for doing good except for the fact that he had powers and could do good.  He made the decision, when he didn't need to, to be a hero.  In a time when so many people feel a need to point out, "I'm no role model", I like to see someone step up and take on that responsibility. 

I like too that good guys can and do win.  That if you fight with right and justice on your side, you are victorious. 

And this certainly is not always the case in real life.


So after all that upbeat talk, I gotta say, I love a good villain.  And SF/Fantasy really allows you to enjoy villains without feeling too guilty about it.  When you have villains who give themselves personas and names - ie: The Riddler - when their goals are things like WORLD DOMINATION, or DESTROY THE BATMAN, when it's so clearly not something real, you can really enjoy them.  You can even root for them.  You don't have to sit back and think, "Actually, that's quite horrible."  It's so big, so much, so clearly not real, you can divorce yourself from the horror, and just have fun with it.  And boy can it be fun, from their awesome lairs, to their ridiculous plans, to their fantastic one-liners.  Villains get some of the coolest toys.  And often they get to be quite funny, which is not something heroes are always allowed to be.


Because of the distance that the clearly fictional universes of SF/Fantasy provide, writers and other artists are able to address real world issues in a manner that isn't always possible with non-genre works.  For one thing it makes morality tales seem less, for want of a better word, cheesy.  You can explore very basic ideas behind racism say, without the usual eye rolling, when the colours are pink and orange.  The original Star Trek is wonderful for that.  Each episode sets up a clear moral dilemma, but packages it in fun and camp.  Of course there are some wonderfully serious moments as well.  But it's the colorful fantasy of the show that makes the overt morality much more palatable.

But you can also get into far more complex conversations about issues as well.  It need not stay too broad.  You can really get into the nitty gritty of the debate over, say, science vs religion, without, at the same time, offending people.  When the religion isn't a real one, and the situation has never happened before, people can enjoy the what if, without feeling like they are being personally attacked.  So, for example, we have Deep Space Nine, where the captain becomes a god.  Or does he?  Is he communicating with a pantheon or are they aliens? 

To bring this around to Steampunk, it's why I chose science fiction as the genre in which to tell my particular story about girls and self actualisation (with a small dose of class structures and racism thrown into the mix).  I absolutely could have set the book in the real 1900 and told a similar story.  But without the restrictions of staying 100% true to what existed at the time, I was able to go even further.  I was also able to create a metaphor - girls becoming actual superheroes, while also becoming the heroes in their own lives. 

Now I have highlighted the main reasons for my love of SF/Fantasy - there are certainly other lesser ones for me as well, ie: it looks really cool.  And I am sure you guys have your own different reasons too!  So now, like usual, it's time to share!  What drew you to SF/Fantasy??

Monday, September 24, 2012

Word on the Street 2012

Yesterday was the Toronto Word on the Street, a book festival that has been running in our fair city for . . . well as long as I can remember.  It's pretty fantastic.  All the publishers and literary publications set up booths (some authors do too, and this year there were several theatres who were there as well), there are tents where panels and readings are held.  There's also a stage for performances for kids. 

Setting up for Word on the Street the day before.

It's always very well attended, and this year since I don't have a book out until December and thus couldn't really read or sign, I was invited by Penguin to moderate their Women of YA panel at The Penguin Pavilion.:

So my day . . .

The delightful Lesley Livingston and I planned to meet up at said Penguin Pavilion at around 12:30pm.  We'd had a rather late evening the night before (involving a very loud pub) so we thought that that would be reasonable. 

The Penguin Pavilion - lovely setup, but, that's a poster, not an actually wall of books :)

I arrived, and said hello to the Penguin people, including my publicist Vimala (a total rockstar).  I noticed that they were giving away some swag, and asked what was going on.

"Oh we're giving away swag for following us on Twitter, if you would like anything -"
"A mug."

I might have jumped the gun slightly on that.  But let me explain.  When I was living in London, UK, I and my housemates had purchased a couple Penguin mugs.  Why?  BECAUSE THEY ARE AWESOME.  They have the classic Penguin covers on them, and come in a variety of colours and titles.  But when I moved back home to Toronto, I couldn't bring the mugs with me.  It was just too much to bring something so breakable along with three years worth of things.  Since then I've been longing to acquire said mugs once again, but aside from online I haven't been able to find them anywhere.

So when I noticed they were giving away said mugs yesterday . .  .

"A mug."

And I got a mug!!!!!!

I used it for the first time at breakfast this morning.  Yay!

Shortly after the mug incident, Lesley found me and shortly after that moment a host of delightful blogettes found us as well, totally by accident.  One such blogette - Wendy - had evidently at that moment been speculating if I would be signing at Word on the Street (I wasn't), and then poof!  I appeared!  I'm like Voldemort that way, you say my name and I show up.  And I'm evil.  And don't have a nose.

At any rate it was awesome, because she had an ARC of TFS, and I signed it.  And I just happened to have a HERO button on my so I gave it to her as well. 

Courtesy of Wendy's instagram

Then we all became Lesley's posse and followed her to the This is Not the Shakespeare Stage, where she and authors Mariko Tamaki, Deborah Kerbel and Natalie Walschots were reading:

Note: up until this point it had been relatively warm and sunny.


Deborah mentions her gratitude it is nice and sunny and not stormy.

Lesley starts to read a scene involving a huge storm.


Seriously, it started to pour.  We were under the tent, so we were okay, but still.  It was pouring.  It also was freezing.  And by the end of the hour I, the lovely blogettes, and the authors on stage were shaking. 

Lesley signed some stock, and then we quickly wound our way to the VIP room for food and hot beverages. So cold were we, we just kind of sat there wondering what the heck had just happened.

Then, we had to go to the Women in YA panel.  Which I was moderating, and which Lesley, Mariko and Alyxandra Harvey were panelists on.  It went very well, was very well attended, and I think some very good conversation was had.

Earlier that day: me moderating Lesley.

Our glorious audience.  Which got even fuller when it started to rain.  AGAIN.

Lesley, Mariko and Alyxandra

 After that I parted ways with Lesley, said hi to my parents who had come to watch, and my aunt and uncle.  And a neighbour.  Yeah.  I have a very supportive group of people behind me.  I'm kind of really lucky :) .

And my friend, Lisa.  With whom I then wandered through the rest of the event (where we saw the Polkaroo - and as any good Canadian knows, a Polkaroo sighting is a most special thing indeed), before running away to a coffee shop to warm up again.

The Polkaroo!!  He DOES exist!

That was the day!  It was wonderful, and I think The Penguin Pavilion was such a brilliant idea (it was their first year having their own tent for panels), and seemed to be quite successful.   In all, despite the cold, it was a lovely day.  I'm already looking forward to next year :) .

Friday, September 21, 2012

A story . . . an idiom brought to life.

So when I was a teen I worked as a theatre technician during summers at The Georgian Theatre Festival.

One evening I was sitting in the hall backstage before any of the actors etc had shown up.  It was just us techies doing pre-show set up.  I was watching my fellow techie Lauren ironing some costumes.  She had set up the ironing board in the musicians' dressing room.  We were chatting.  Just chillaxing.

Now in theatre the word "strike" is used as "remove".  So one strikes a set, for example, at the end of the show.  If there's a chair where it shouldn't be someone might call out, "Hey, could someone strike that chair?"

That kind of thing.

With that in mind:

The technical director came around the corner, up to us.  It was getting close to when the actors etc would be arriving.

"Hey Lauren," he said.  "Could you strike the iron and board and stuff?  The musicians are on their way up."

"Okay," she replied.

He walked away and she unplugged the iron and picked it up, accidentally touching the bottom.

"Ow, that's hot!" she said.

And I sat there, having observed all this, with my jaw on the floor.

"OMG, Lauren," I said, "do you realise what you are doing?"

She just looked at me.

"You're striking while the iron is hot."

Now unfortunately she had never heard that idiom before, so I had to wait to go home and tell my English teacher parents about it in order to have someone to share the awe of the moment.  But I'll never forget it.  It's not just that she was literally striking while the iron was hot.  It was also that the technical director had said "strike" and she had actually said "hot".  It was . . . perfect.

And yes, this is the kind of thing that just makes my life.

So what about you guys?  Have any of you witnessed an idiom/saying/metaphor come real? 

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Okay! So I thought I should share some FRIDAY SOCIETY updates as, you know, there are some.

* First and most importantly, for anyone seeking to read an excerpt - chapter one is now available online here! Yay!

* Second I will be appearing at Word on the Street, 4pm on Sunday September 23 at the Penguin Pavilion moderating the Women of YA panel.

* Third . . . here is what the jacket is going to look like!  I believe the proper term for this is "squee".  This is so beyond exciting for me.  The cover is printed on pearlescent paper so it has this sheen to it, and the title/my name/three girls are embossed.  I also really like the section they quoted on the back cover - and check out the silhouette!  How Charlie's Angels is that :) .  I also love how the flaps continue with the pinwheel design, and have these little decorative features in the corners.

Unfortunately despite numerous attempts, my pictures are slightly out of focus :P .  But I think you get a decent sense of what it looks like:

Zee jacket

Zee shiny

Zee reverse side - where you can see the embossing

* Last but not least I am very honoured to share with you a blurb from science fiction and fantasy author, Ms. Julie Czerneda. She's an all around amazing woman, very talented, and extremely generous. You should buy all her books now. Though she is also quite prolific so it might make a slight dent in your wallet.

And so . . .

“THE FRIDAY SOCIETY is what I’ve been waiting for, a dashing adventure bursting with atmosphere and originality, where the day shall be saved by women of brilliance and character. Keep writing, Kress! I must have more! Most highly recommended.”

- Julie E. Czerneda, author of A TURN OF LIGHT

And . . . that's it for now!  Further bulletins as events warrant!  (<-- a sentence I learned when I was a child from Calvin and Hobbes):


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Steampunk Tuesday - Anachronisms or You can DO that??

Steampunk laptop:  You can DO that???

First off, I have to say, I love the word "anachronism".  By which I mean, not just, "Dude, that's a sweet word with an awesome definition."  I mean I love the word.  I love saying it. Say it out loud to yourself, right now. It's a fantastically chewy word. One where you really have to enunciate each syllable or you run the risk of tripping over yourself.

Yeah. I really like saying that word.


You may recall a while ago I finally broached the subject of why I, Adrienne Kress (yes, I am Adrienne Kress) love Steampunk. I had a nice list. Said list is here.

And the first, or rather sixth but technically it was meant to mean first, reason why I love Steampunk is Douglas Adams. That is to say my love of absurdity.  That is to say my love of mixing things together that never could possibly actually be mixed together in real life.  That is to say my love of, "You can DO that??"

So today I thought I'd elaborate on my number one, or rather number six, reason why I love Steampunk. And that's when we get to say, come on, all together now:


If I was in highschool the next thing I'd say is:

The Webster's Dictionary defines Anachronism as:

1: an error in chronology; especially : a chronological misplacing of persons, events, objects, or customs in regard to each other 
2: a person or a thing that is chronologically out of place

Now if that isn't Steampunk I don't know what is.

The idea that one can set a story in the past but include all manner of things that never existed back then is just so totally mind-blowingly amazing to me.  You see, it's fiction.  It's all fake.  So . . . why not?  Why not just play with what does and doesn't belong in stories? 

I just love that.  I love the person who first thought outside the box like that.  It makes so much sense to me.  And it's also totally ridiculous.  Which makes it all the more amazing.

I love also seeing the problem solving involved in it.  The creativity, e.g.: how do I invent a means to travel to the moon using the technology of the time?  Scott Westerfeld is utterly brilliant at the how.  I love the humour, reading a description and then realising that what the author is sharing with us as seeming so foreign is actually working towards the reveal that what is being described is, say, a cell phone.  

I love how a society that shouldn't have any relationship with futuristic technology can be so laissez-faire about it: "So tomorrow morning I shall be taking the dirigible to Cambridge, that is, of course, unless you need it."  

I also like how one can be not only anachronistic with props and costumes and set pieces, one can be anachronistic in attitudes and behaviour.  One can explore race and gender issues, bring them to the surface with far more ease than in a purely historical novel.  Play with what ifs, not be constrained by what happened in the historical timeline but speculate how the timeline might have been different.

And then there's voice.  I mean the voice in which the novel itself is written.  And something that I have wanted to write about for a while: my own process at finding the voice for THE FRIDAY SOCIETY,  which I think is perfect for this subject because the voice I chose is inherently anachronistic.

So . . .

Aside from all of the above, I decided to play with with the voice of the book itself.  Now this hadn't always been my intention.  In the beginning I wrote my proposal for TFS in a lovely oldy-timey voice.  But it just wasn't working.  My editor Nancy and I were going back and forth trying to figure out why that was, and I was getting kind of frustrated. So in a rebellious mood I just re-wrote the scene in an entirely contemporary voice. And then I read it over. And I kind of liked it. And then . . . then I had a thought: "Maybe I'm approaching this wrong. Maybe the voice doesn't need to be constrained by the time period."

And then I had a nice montage flash through my brain ("This is a montage!") of works of fiction that had given me "You can DO that??" moments when it came to voice. I'm talking Sofia Coppola's MARIE ANTOINETTE, and even A KNIGHT'S TALE (which I felt didn't 100% work, but not due to the voice, so I still use it as an example). Even DEADWOOD, which seems on the surface like it stayed true to period, doesn't entirely.  The writers realised they couldn't use the swear words of the day because they sounded too cheesy and so stuck with the tried and tested F word (not that that word didn't exist back then, but it wasn't used in the same way as we use it now. It really did mean what it meant, it wasn't just used as an expression of frustration).

There was also a translation of CYRANO DE BERGERAC I had seen staged once that modernised some of the slang and swearing (while still keeping the heightened language) that I loved so much, I bought the play.

These were films/television/plays set in the past but with a contemporary flare. The attempt was to demonstrate a relatability, I think, to show that things back then in some ways could be considered similar to now. Marie Antoinette was akin to Paris Hilton. Only you know, with bigger dresses and more beheading.

I remembered too the first time I encountered it and had a good think about it. How, I realised, while we have some examples of casual everyday speech from the past, and delightful lists of slang, most of the source material we average non-linguistics major Joes use to create conversations set in the past is the literature or theatre of the past. And that that language is a heightened form of writing. It isn't actually representative of how people necessarily spoke every day (though I'm sure some people did, Oscar Wilde for example). It's like people saying that people today all speak like Aaron Sorkin screenplays, or the Gilmore Girls.

So when we emulate the literature of the past in our own, we aren't emulating how people actually spoke. We are emulating how the writers of the past represented how people of the past spoke.

Basically my realisation was: it's not verisimilitude. Despite that period's interest in verisimilitude (can you tell I was a theatre major and studied WAY too much about the history and development of that subject, oy . . . ). Now this isn't to say I don't enjoy a good period piece. I in fact adore a good period piece. And that I don't enjoy the voice myself. Anyone who has read my short story in CORSETS & CLOCKWORK will see that I really do.  It's just it made sense with TFS to write it in a contemporary voice.  It seemed more true to the story I was telling.  It suited the fun, cheeky and, to borrow a word from my back cover copy, irreverent tone of the book.

But that's not all.

Say it with me now . . .


YES! It all comes back to "You can DO that??" Because why not?  If I'm writing a book that already isn't true to period, with little anachronistic details like jet packs and steam carriages and crazy weaponry, why can't the medium itself be anachronistic?  Why not write a book set in the past, but with a contemporary voice? The whole darn book itself is steampunk! Dude! Woah!

So that's how the voice came to be.

Wow, that was a bit longer than I anticipated.  But I think it demonstrates how much I enjoy anachronisms.  And I guess not just saying the word.  But the definition itself.

But I still also really do love saying that word.

Anachronism. :)

And thus begins my series on Adrienne's Detailed Analysis of Why She Loves Steampunk.  Next week I shall move onto the number two, by which I mean five, reason I like Steampunk:  My love of SF/Fantasy.

But until then . . .  I ask all my lovely Steampunkers, what are some the coolest anachronistic moments you've seen or read in a Steampunk creation?  

Monday, September 17, 2012

The month and a bit that was . . .

Well now that was a whirlwind is what that was.

August came and went and left this temping actress writer in more than just a little daze.

However I'm back now, and I'm going to return to regular blogging. Especially my Steampunk Tuesdays as I've come up with some new topics about which I am rather excited to write. But I thought I'd start things off with a little summary of what I've been up to in this crazy month.

First: The Temp. Not glamorous at all I realise, but necessary, and actually quite enjoyable. I really do like meeting new people, and seeing how various businesses run their . . . business. Also sometimes you temp places with cool views:

Second: The Actress. I got a small role in a film. I haven't actually filmed my day yet, but there has been a table read and getting to know the cast and crew, and it's been all kinds of awesome. More details as I am allowed to reveal them.

I was also cast in a TV pilot called PARANORMAL INVESTIGATORS - a parody of those supernatural investigating shows. It was a lot of fun to do, with a lot of very talented people both in front and behind the camera. The actual weekend of that shoot was crazy though: by day I was the actress and by night . . .

Third: The Writer. . . . I had to drive an hour and a half outside of the city to participate in an author event in Orillia with fellow authors Julie Czerneda, Anne Bishop and Mark Leslie. I arrived just in time for the readings to begin, and they were awesome. Truly. Everyone read so well - which as people who attend author readings often can tell you, doesn't always happen. Then we crossed the parking lot to the Stephen Leacock house for the cocktail party.  It was his cottage once upon a time and I've decided it is pretty much my dream cottage:

Biggest pool table ever.

I had a fantastic time touring around and chatting with folk. Then I stayed overnight in a hotel and first thing the next morning drove back to be . . .

The Actress again, shooting day two of PI. Here are some pics from the two days!

The gang watching back some footage.

Take six!

The DOP: Bob.

Me and the possessed kid we investigated: Jayden. He has assured me that when I am cast in his movie, I get to wear comfortable shoes. Score!

L to R: Scott Leaver, Shawn Ahmed, Patrick McKenna, Me, Nicole Smith

Back to The Writer: This was also the month of FanExpo - the big SF/Fantasy convention here in Toronto. I attended all four days (with a brief escape to be Actress again and do an audition), and did one panel - on Steampunk writing of course, with my usual cohorts: J.M. Frey and Rob St. Martin. It was . . . for want of a better word exhausting. But it was also a great deal of fun. Hanging out with fellow author buddies like Lesley Livingston and Violette Malan; seeing Doc and the DeLorean reunited; and watching people stand in line for two hours to see Gillian Anderson.

Yup that totally is Doc (Christopher Lloyd) sitting on the DeLorean.

Me and Lesley Livingston.

Me and Gandalf. He didn't talk much. Or move. Or breathe.

The lead up to FanExpo was also exhausting as I had to prep a lot of stuff to bring with me. Most of all these buttons, which I designed and made myself (well made as in on Photoshop, the physical product was put together by the amazing people over at

I am most proud of my Michiko button. You may notice I had to give her a neck (Cora's arm covers it in the original image). They were quite the success I must say, with "Hero" coming in as most popular, and "Be Your Own Hero" a close second.

Last but not least, my book was included as swag in the Bask-It-Style gift bag for TIFF (the Toronto International Film Festival - which just ended yesterday) - a bag that gets delivered to the visiting celebs. They host a media day so the press can come in and see all the goodies the celebs are getting. It's a long day, talking about the book to a bunch of people touring through. But it's also very fun and you meet some cool people. Here are some pics of said day!

The books being given away.

(photo by Todd Williamson)
Me and singer Fefe Dobson. And yes, she is wearing my Steampunk hat. Because she's awesome that way.

The view from the penthouse we were situated in. Did you know Toronto had islands?
We totally do, baby!

And that's it! Well that's not really it. I also spent time with friends and family. And explored the city, which I think one should always do in one's own hometown. I visited High Park, Riverdale Farm (for the first time). Even went to The Ex and had deep fried butter! Would you believe it isn't nearly as disgusting as it sounds? Though I did walk home (over an hour's walk) after . . .

It was a good month and a bit, and things are only just starting to rev up. Kind of crazy that December and the launch of TFS is still months away, but there is still so much happening in between! I'm really going to try to be good and keep you all posted this fall. But I also highly recommend, if you are desperate to know what I am up to (and really, who wouldn't be), to check me out on Twitter where I do tweet pretty regularly: @AdrienneKress

I hope you all have also had a lovely month and a bit. And now that I'm done this bit of show and tell, it's your turn! What did you guys all get up to this August??