Sunday, August 27, 2017


What a nice surprise this movie is!

Everything about the ad campaign and the preview trailers for The Only Living Boy In New York seems to be selling it as a sort of Millennial version of The Graduate — a young man at loose ends, on the threshold of his life, enters into a messy relationship with a seductive older woman connected to the family through his father. (In this case, his father's mistress.)

The song that gives the movie its title, vintage Simon and Garfunkel, also references the ambience of the classic Mike Nichols movie. But it turns out there's a perfectly valid reason for using this song, beyond a random attempt to identify this movie with its famous predecessor.

This smart, engaging film, written by Allan Loeb and skillfully directed by Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer), tells its own story, from a completely fresh perspective. The story intrigues, and there's a lot of satisfaction in the way everything eventually falls into place.

Best of all is a big, plummy role for Jeff Bridges, as sort of an irascible old Yoda, mentoring the young hero, Thomas (played by Callum Turner with a wry, slightly gauche appeal), in the school of life.
Turner and Bridges: Full-on Yoda mode

Bridges' voice narrates much of this story. It's a little jarring at first, that this character, observing the action from the outside, presumes to tell us what Thomas and other characters are thinking and feeling. But there's a turning point later on when it all suddenly makes sense.

Pierce Brosnan is Thomas' abrupt, imperious father, a big cheese at a NYC publishing house, with Cynthia Nixon is his "fragile" wife.

Kate Beckinsale is the glamorous mistress. And vivacious Kiersey Clemons plays the girl of Thomas' dreams — until things take an unexpected turn.

You may guess part of the mysterious history linking these characters before all is revealed, but that shouldn't interfere with the pleasure of watching it play out. And the percolating rhythms of city life provide an expressive counterpoint to this appealing tale.

(Read more in this week's Good Times.)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


Beast of the Month from Binettte Schroeder
I officially "met" (via email) my new publicist from Candlewick Press today. It will be her job to shepherd me through the labyrinth of PR duties as my Beast (Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge, for those of you who came in late) proudly strides toward publication!

What this means is that Beast is on track for his new pub date, July 10, 2018. Yay!

To celebrate, I'm reviving my Beast of the Month countdown. Yes, it's another 12 months between now and next July.

But to help pass the time, I'll be sharing some of my favorite versions of Beast, from Beauty and the Beast, as imagined by book illustrators and designers both vintage and modern.

They're not meant to resemble the Beast in my book, but I'm always looking for a Beast with a certain attitude (Beastitude?) that separates him from the pack. And they get extra points on my personal Beast-o-meter if they don't conform to the Disney standard.

Shroeder's Beauty: shock at first sight
Don't get me wrong: I loved Disney's original cartoon Beast as much as any other fangirl. But the tale itself is almost 300 years old (and that's just from the earliest written-down versions), and there have been hundreds of offbeat and highly original interpretations over time. And whenever I find a really cool one, I'll post it here!

Case in point: This fabulous 1986 Beauty and the Beast storybook illustrated by German artist Binette Schroeder!

Look at this majestic Beast (above)! I like the combination of leopard-spotted limbs and wolfish head. From the softness of the lines I'm pretty sure the medium is pastels, rendered by a master.

(Look at Beast's shadow gliding across the pillar behind him.)

And I love how the trees are growing through the window and into the room!

The image from the facing page shows Beauty having her first magical meal at the castle. I originally loved the idea that that the meal was preparing itself for her, the knife in mid-air, but now I see that she's just let go of the knife in her shock at seeing Beast for the first time.

Gorgeous gargoyle: ornaments fit for a Beast!
Either way, it's a very atmospheric image. Look at the misty moon outside, the leopard legs on the table, and that eerie gargoyle head on top of the arch of the window!

Next, we see Beauty running back to Beast's castle after dreaming that Beast is dying without her.

Don't you just love that lupine gargoyle bannister ornament with the delicate butterfly wings?

And at last, the grand finale, with Beauty rushing back to save Beast from dying of unrequited love for her — just before she confesses her love, and he rises again in the form of the handsome prince (below).

Just look at the faces in the shrubs, and the imposing silhouette of the castle in the moonlight.

Of course, this isn't exactly the way the story plays out in my book. Or, at least, it's not where my story ends. Beast gets a different happily-ever-after in my story.

Stay tuned!

(See more of Binette Schroeder's Beauty and the Beast illustrations!)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Captain James Hook continues to win over fans across the blogosphere!

Imagine my delight to stumble upon this lovely review of Alias Hook, posted in May of last year by Larkin, over at Wonderfilled Reads.

She enjoyed it so much, she created this meme from a quote from my book!

Pretty cool. huh?

This is James Hook's epiphany, toward the end of the story, when he realizes that neither the bloodthirsty boys, nor the magical forces of the Neverland have any more power to terrify or control him.

He, himself, has finally gown up.

Big thanks to Larkin for finding my book meme-worthy!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


In no way is the intense historical drama Lady Macbeth a romance. Sure, it's set in the Victorian era of corsets and crinolines, with a plot that hinges on female suppression, sexual awakening, forbidden passion, and revenge.

But there's nothing remotely romantic about this vividly stark tale about a woman so completely warped by a monstrous society that she becomes a monster herself.

The story, based on the 1865 novel, Lady Macbeth of Mtsesnk, by Russian author Nikolai Leskov, is adapted for the screen by Alice Birch for director William Oldroyd; they retain the mid-Victorian setting, but relocate the action to the forbidding, windswept moors of northern England.

This turns out to be an appropriately rough-and-tumble landscape against which the filmmakers present an astonishingly poised, refined, and chilling gemstone of a performance by 20-year-old Florence Pugh in the central role. Pugh is in almost every scene — the story proceeds form her viewpoint — and she'll have you biting your nails in dread as her character evolves into something wicked, indeed.

Florence Pugh (R) as Katherine: caged
We know nothing about young Katherine (Pugh) as the story begins on her wedding night. It turns out she has been "bought" for her sour, taciturn, middle-aged new husband Alexander (Paul Hilton) by his stern, elderly, Bible-spouting grotesque of a father, Boris (Christopher Fairbank), who lives with the couple in the forbidding stone fortress of their house.

With servants to run the household, Katherine is expected to sit primly in the parlor all day, every day, until she fulfills her purpose of producing an heir.

When the men are called away from home, she grasps at rebellion with an unexpected lover. But the movie is never about anything so prosaic as a woman fighting for the man she loves. Instead, she's fighting a suffocating social order in which she has no voice, no power, and no recourse. The grim irony is how horribly she loses herself in her desperation to claim her selfhood.

A conspiracy of lies and deceit, cover-ups, betrayal, and murder most gruesome— often extremely difficult to watch —  are all involved. This is not a movie to take to your heart, but as a psychological thriller, it's both grueling and profound.

(Read more in this week's Good Times)

Monday, August 7, 2017


Visual wit shines in SCS' delightful 'Two Gentlemen of Verona'

A priest and his beaming altar boy, a winged mime on roller skates, a flock of nuns, and a bunch of guys in towels, walk onto a stage. No, it's not an old joke. It's the beginning of a sprightly, visually splendid new production of Shakespeare's early comedy, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, the third installment of Santa Cruz Shakespeare's 2017 summer season.    

The play's not necessarily the thing in this show. One of Shakespeare's earliest works, it's a romantic comedy about a youth, Proteus (Brian Smolin, always fun to watch), all too willing to betray his best friend, Valentine (an earnest Rowan Vickers), and forsake the woman he himself loves so he can woo the woman his friend has fallen in love with.

Adam Schroeder, Rowan Vickers: love is clueless
Grace Rao makes a plucky ingenue of Julia, the girl Proteus leaves behind, who dresses a a boy and follows the men to the court of Milan. Silvia (a wily, beauteous Tristan Cunningham) is the duke's daughter both men fall for, although she and Valentine have already pledged their love in secret.

There's a lot of funny comedy between these four characters and their servants, but the trick is to make this play appealing despite its dubious plotline.

This is where director Art Manke's ingenious production excels. Its many delights come from the visual wit of his staging on Annie Smart's core set of stone archways and catwalks (co-designed for this show with Chrissy Curl), in cahoots with B. Modern's absolutely fabulous, mid-century, Euro-chic costumes.

What's fun is the way Manke puts it all together. He envisions life at court as one lavish cocktail party, where the glitterati swill drinks and flourish cigarettes, while an army paparazzi snap their every move.

Brian Smolin (foreground), Tristan Cunninghan (3rd from left) & co: symphony in black and white
 Modern's extraordinary black, white, grey and silver costume palette is a symphony of stripes, checks, solids, and plaids, with an occasional striking zebra-print thrown in. Think Mad Men and Breakfast At Tiffany's crossed with the witty surrealism of a Federico Fellini movie (cited by Manke as his inspiration).

Gallagher and friend: Felliniesque
Valentine's servant, the aptly-named Speed, sports those wings and skates, and Adam Schroeder is terrific in the role, especially trying to explain to his clueless master the code by which Silvia is declaring her love for him.

His counterpart, Launce, servant to Proteus, is a female here, and Patty Gallagher plays her with plenty of slapstick, sad-clown brio. In her bowler hat and cane, she recalls the poignant heroine of Fellini's Juliet of the Spirits.

Gallagher also has the poise and charm to share the stage with a mellow black dog called Crab, who steals every scene he's in.

The nuns and priest on the margins suggest the idea of faith, in contrast to the faithlessness Proteus shows to, well, just about everybody.

That everyone so easily forgives Proteus is the mark of a dramatist not yet in full control of his art, but Manke, Modern, and company are in full control of this delicious production.

(Read more in this week's Good Times)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


Hey folks!

Look what arrived from my publisher, Candlewick — the first typeset version of Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge. In publishing lingo, they call this First Pages.

And here's the actual first page, the title page, hot off the press!

Pretty cool, huh?

I especially like the font of the subtitle: classy but playful. Sort of like Beast himself!

Better yet, my beta reader (okay, it's Art Boy) pored through the entire manuscript and only found four measly typos! That's a personal best for me!

Pub date is July 10, 2018.

Stay tuned . . .