Monthly Archives

May 2009

The Nerdy Hot 10 List

Maxim released its annual Hot 100 List today, focusing on women with exceptional beauty and bodacious bods. (House‘s Olivia Wilde got the top spot.)

Looking at some of the names, I thought the chosen women are indeed gorgeous but physical perfection is only one way to judge hotness. Year in and year out, the same people seem to end up on these lists.

So I decided to release my own Nerdy Hot 10 List, with male celebs who are sexy not because of their ripped bodies (though some might have them), but because of something a little imperfect, goofy, or nerdy about them. So here’s my list, in no particular order, and the reasons why these guys made the cut.

1. Colin Firth. Firth is the epitome of the awkward man who always gets tongue-tied around a pretty girl. But that awkwardness is what makes him so endearing, as evidenced by the hilarious scene in Love Actually when he publicly proclaims his love in halting, butchered Portuguese to the object of his affection. And remember those dreadful reindeer sweaters he sported in the Bridget Jones movies? He’s hot for having the courage and good humor to wear them.


2. Hugh Laurie. He often appears slovenly and unshaven on House and behaves like an ass. But then you hear him play piano, sing a funny ditty on a talk show or give a humorous, humble acceptance speech for an award and all is forgiven.


3. Paul Rudd. He’s most famous for doing bawdy comedies as part of the Judd Apatow gang; his blue eyes and boyish charm allow him to get away with all the mischief. But he can also do Shakespeare (I saw him do Twelfth Night in a Lincoln Center production), write scripts, sing, produce and all these hidden talents add up to one sexy guy.


4. Robert Downey Jr. The first time I saw him was in The Pick-Up Artist, where he played a pretty geeky guy trying to hit on Molly Ringwald. What a difference twenty years make. Despite all his legal troubles and drug abuse, he’s somehow managed to salvage his quick wit, intelligence and ultra-sized talent. You may be well aware of his acting prowess but have you ever heard him sing? Forget about it. He’s got a voice that can melt inhibitions.


5. James McAvoy. He may not be the tallest, most muscular or dashing man but oh, is he romantic. Check out those intense blue eyes. When he looks at his leading actresses in movies like Starter for 10 and Atonement, he really looks at them, as if they’re the most exquisite creatures he’s ever seen. And we the audience can almost feel him gazing right through the screen into our own eyes.


6. Jon Hamm. I tried watching one episode of Mad Men and Hamm did nothing for me as Don Draper, though he was certainly groomed and dressed well. Then I saw him on 30 Rock as Tina Fey’s hapless boyfriend and developed a crush immediately. Hamm was ridiculously funny as the guy who was so beautiful, no one would tell him the truth about anything. He played tennis atrociously but thought he was awesome, rode a motorcycle like a drunk but thought he was cool and was clueless about the correct usage of the word “ironic.” I think Fey is a comedy genius and for Hamm to keep pace with her is sizzling hot.


7. James Franco. He’s not that interesting as Harry Osborn in the Spider-Man movies but when he’s goofy, like in Pineapple Express and videos, he gets my sexy stamp. Plus, he gets extra points for being a nerdy academic, with an English degree from UCLA and working towards graduate degrees in creative writing and film at Columbia and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, respectively.

bret mckenzie

8. Bret McKenzie. As half of Flight of the Conchords, he doesn’t have much luck in his career or with the ladies on the show. But he, along with Jemaine Clement, makes me laugh hard with brilliant, kooky songs and their hilarious, clever lyrics. I don’t get starstruck much but if I ever meet him, I’d be completely tongue-tied and that’s a true sign of hotness in my book.


9. Daniel Craig. Yeah, he beefed up for Bond and looks great in a tux but before that, he played a scrappy drug dealer in Layer Cake, a murderer in Infamous and an unsympathetic Ted Hughes in Sylvia. His face isn’t conventionally pretty, with rough features that look like he’s been in a few brawls, but I’ll take him over the typical Calvin Klein model any day.


10. Brad Pitt. I swear he’s not on this list for the obvious reasons because, frankly, I find him rather bland when he plays heroes and pretty boys on screen. But he rocks my socks when he plays crazy like in Twelve Monkeys or a doofus like in Burn After Reading. A funny man who also happens to look like Pitt? Smokin’.

What do you think? Who else should be on the list? To see who’s on my Nerdy Hot 10 List—Female Edition, click here. (UPDATE: Check out my new 2010 Nerdy Hot List here.)

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AMERICAN IDOL Season 8 — Top 2 Finalists Revealed!

Yay, Kris made it! I predicted he’d pull the upset after last night’s strong, innovative reworking of Kanye’s “Heartless.” The judges kept saying it’d be Adam vs. Danny but look at Kris now. Ha!

Adam did make it into the finals so Danny went home. I like Danny but I think America got it right. Next week’s showdown should be interesting because the two finalists are at completely different ends of the spectrum when it comes to their performance styles and song choices. And how cool would it be if Kris pulls another upset and wins the crown?! That would make really good television since everyone from Entertainment Weekly and Katy Perry seems to think Adam’s got this thing locked down, which I don’t think is true. Remember, Kris has never been in the bottom three and Adam has.

The rest of the results show was lackluster and not worth saying much about. Jordin Sparks made an appearance and looked gorgeous (our 17-year-old girl is all grown up!) but the song made no impression on me. It just seemed to give Sparks an excuse to strut around the stage wearing a hot mini-dress and a lot of attitude.

Alicia Keyes introduced a little boy from Riwanda named Noah, who sang “I’m the Greatest,” another forgettable song. The kid’s energy was infectious but I had a hard time understanding his singing (he learned it in English in one week). This was part of a plea for texters to pledge $5 per person to the Keep a Child Alive Foundation, which provides HIV medication to Africans.

Katy Perry performed “Waking Up in Vegas,” wearing a cape embroidered with Adam’s name on the back. I fast-forwarded through her performance after the first verse. I find her voice annoying and, like Danny, wanted to get to the results already.

So, are you happy with the finalists? Do you think Kris has a chance of winning the title?


AMERICAN IDOL Season 8 — Top 3 Perform Judges' Choice and Their Own Favorites

Let me just get something off my chest first. I anxiously awaited Simon’s song choice for Adam, not because I couldn’t wait to hear Adam sing it but because Simon is usually spot-on about marrying song to talent. So when I heard he selected no less than U2’s “One,” which required personal clearance from the band, I pumped my fist in the air—yessss! That is one of my favorite songs EVER and I thought it was in the right range for Adam. It always brings me to the edge of tears whenever I hear it. Well, until now.

Of all the outrageous things Adam’s done on this show, this was absolutely the worst. I’ve tolerated his shrillness and even really liked some of his performances (“Tracks of My Tears” and “Whole Lotta Love”) but this travesty was unforgivable. He completely ruined this gorgeous song and then had the audacity to tell people to rewind and listen to how beautiful the lyrics are. Well, yes, they are, but you obliterated them with your screaming! He should’ve trusted the simple elegance of the lyrics and melody because the song’s beauty lies in its aching starkness, not helter-skelter volume.

OK, now that that’s out of the way, let’s go back to the beginning. Danny started the evening with a song Paula chose for him, Terence Trent D’Arby’s “Dance Little Sister.” He sang it well, with a lot of energy and his gritty soulfulness but I wasn’t in love with the song. “Wishing Well” would’ve been a little more interesting.

Then Kris went with another blah song, One Republic’s “Apologize,” hand-picked by Kara and Randy for him. Kris’s vocals were heartfelt as usual and the song’s level of difficulty is high but this performance just didn’t set the place on fire for me. Kris usually does a really good job of selecting songs for himself so I was hoping that when it came to performing his choice later in the evening, he’d do better.

And then Adam sang “One.” See above comments. Still angry.

In the latter half of the show, the contestants got to sing whatever they wanted. Danny chose Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful.” That song is pretty and everything but he needed to make a deep impact and I don’t think that song did it for him. It was just a nice lite FM version and I probably would’ve changed the station if I’d heard it on the radio.

Kris went next with Kanye West’s “Heartless.” I’m no fan of Kanye’s so when I heard that, I thought, What?! and not in the dope way Randy usually means it. But then I saw Kris with only his guitar in front of the mike, which is usually when he’s strongest, and got excited. And he didn’t disappoint with his acoustic reinvention! Yay, Kris! He proved he could think for himself and is more savvy than the judges about song selection. I got home too late to vote but I’m really hoping now that Kris will be in the finals. I think he’s got a strong chance and will probably pull an upset tomorrow, despite the judges repeatedly calling him a dark horse.

Adam closed the show for the umpteenth time with Aerosmith’s “Crying.” I’m crying over what he did to “One” so I’m not even gonna comment on this.

What did you think? Were the judges or contestants better at picking songs? Does Kris have a chance?


Ayelet Waldman's Annoying BAD MOTHER

This review was written by contributing writer Thuy Dinh, a practicing attorney and an editor of the webzine Da Mau. She is also a mother of three.


Ayelet Waldman, wife of Michael Chabon, is no stranger to controversy. She became notorious by publicly admitting that she loves her husband more than her kids and wishing that her son will turn out gay (he’s the same son who likes to give his mother long “movie kisses” and wishes to marry her when he grows up). Waldman’s new essay collection, Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace, is occasionally thoughtful but most of the time dull and relentless—not unlike Chinese water torture—no, worse, perhaps more like waterboarding.

Waldman, who compares her “unnaturalness” to Anna Karenina (but admits she lacks the impulse to fling herself under the wheels of a train), acknowledges that at times she puts her own “selfish” and “[not] insignificant needs” before her children’s needs. Indeed, this collection, like Waldman’s description of her bipolar disorder, reflects a “mixed-state” enterprise: It is neither literary memoir nor a consciousness-raising tract. Anticipating itself as a book club selection, the book helpfully includes a list of discussion questions at the back. The last question is, “Why do you think the author chose to write this book? Do you think it was successful in its aims?”

I was stumped when I got to that question. In an Amazon interview, Waldman said her purpose is to commiserate with other mothers who march to a different drummer and are crippled by guilt. She also said her “snarky” purpose for writing this book is to say “F**k you” to all those mothers who judge her. But this is disingenuous because her writing reeks of her desperately wanting to be liked.

It seems Waldman doesn’t truly believe she’s a bad mother, only a quirky one, as she spends over 200 pages trying to prove that she, despite her bottomless need for attention and affirmation, is aware, sincere and loving. One moment she hooks you with her astute analysis that a mother’s conflicted role comes from a lack of delegation and an ill-defined role for her husband, the next moment she drones on about the discomfort of using paid, Third-World domestic help to ease her burdens. There’s something faintly hypocritical about the need to disclose that she has to hire a second maid to clean after the first one because Waldman has neither the heart to fire the former nor the spine to show her how to clean house.

The only insight I seem to gain from the book is a negative one. Waldman mainly succeeds in proving to readers her manic compulsion. It dominates her core: her early promiscuity, her insecurity, her jealousy—of her future mother-in-law for having weekly lunches with Chabon during their courtship days, of her baby daughter for having quality time with her husband. Even if one manages to remain non-judgmental, how should one process Waldman’s revelations? What she probably intends as honest and complex just comes off chaotic and alienating. Granted, a writer is not expected to be perfect, but Waldman should at least show some groundedness in her writing to convince her readers of gutsier and truer ways to define motherhood.

The recent trend, when so-called “bad mothers” try to outdo each other in confessing war tales both true and tall from the domestic front, makes one almost long to be born into the age of Mad Men, when emotional repression—reflected in wonderful literary dialogues—seemed, well, glamorous, more interesting and less cruel than the relentless push for neurotic analysis and over-sharing.


HOUSE Finale–Major Spoilers!

If you haven’t seen it, do NOT read any further! Skip down to the next article!

housecuddyNo, no, no, I can’t believe what happened. I feel manipulated and not in a good way. I can’t believe that in 2009, the producers would drag out the old Dallas stunt and foist it on us. OK, technically, House had a hallucination instead of a dream and he didn’t imagine an entire season, just one episode. Still.

The irony is, I didn’t really care if Cuddy and House got together or not. I like their banter and their strength as individuals and feared their coming together would destroy them. But, hey, the producers hyped their hook-up for months and when it finally happened, it was pretty hot.

And now, we find out House hallucinated the whole business because he’s so high on Vicodin, which is maddening because it’s unimaginative, not because the sex didn’t happen. I would’ve been fine if producers never went down that road. Now, I just feel scammed by a cheap bait and switch.

The ending also didn’t make sense to me. If it’s the drugs that are causing the hallucinations, why did House check into a psychiatric hospital? Don’t they give patients more drugs in such places? Wouldn’t rehab be better since it seems he just needs to clean up to stop seeing dead people?

Speaking of which, it was nice to see Kal Penn again, albeit briefly. I really liked Kutner and when I saw him, I realized how much his death still affected me.

And poor Carl Reiner. Looks like House will soon be able to hallucinate his character, Eugene, too. I thought he was only supposed to be an annoying patient so when the reveal of pancreatic cancer happened, it landed a small punch in my gut (luckily, not a pot belly) and Reiner’s reaction to the news was heart-tugging.

In happier news, Chase and Cameron finally got married after a lot of back and forth about her dead husband’s sperm. And she looked gorgeous. The dress, hair, makeup, jewelry—perfection.

Oh, don’t ask me about the case of the week. Compared to everything else that happened, it really was the least important thing.

How do you feel about this episode? Shocked? Wowed? Confused? Relieved?


George Pelecanos's THE WAY HOME Is Worth Taking

This review was written by contributing writer Eric Edwards.


I’ve never read any of George Pelecanos’s novels so I was very surprised to finish The Way Home (out today) in a single sitting. The book’s lean prose held my interest without sacrificing character development, setting or, most importantly, story. I literally could not put it down because the characters really shook me up.

The story begins with 17-year old Chris Flynn sitting opposite his parents during visiting day at Pine Ridge, a juvenile detention center in Maryland. Despite the agony he had caused his hard-working middle-class parents, all Chris has on his mind is why a place on flat ground with no pine trees anywhere would be named Pine Ridge. Never wanting for anything, Chris had nonetheless gone from being a strong athlete and avid churchgoer to petty thief and budding pot dealer. When our supposedly rehabilitated hero finally rejoins society, his father gives him a chance to prove himself by providing Chris with a job installing carpet for the family business. Mr. Flynn is even open-minded enough to give Ben, one of Chris’s fellow inmates, employment as well. Alone on one particular install, Chris and Ben find a bag full of money hidden underneath the old flooring they were hired to cover. Ben tries to convince Chris to split it between them. “I’ve seen this movie,” thought Chris. “It always ended up bad.” And that’s exactly what happens.

I literally held my breath as I devoured the pages. Has our hero learned his lesson? What about the people who put the money there in the first place? You know it’s only a matter of time before they come looking for the cash. Admittedly, this is not a particularly new storyline, but Pelecanos manages to keep it fresh and the action moving. It’s a solid read I highly recommend.


Interview: Nerdy Questions for NOT FORGOTTEN's Tomas Romero

It’s always fun for me to interview people but this time was especially fun because Tomas is a friend and fellow obsessive pop culture nerd. He’s also a screenwriter/producer who wrote last year’s MTV movie musical, The American Mall.

This Friday, May 15, the supernatural thriller he co-wrote and associate produced, Not Forgotten (see trailer below), opens at the Mann’s Chinese theater in L.A. The film stars Simon Baker (who has shirtless scenes), Paz Vega (Sex and Lucia, Spanglish), Michael DeLorenzo (New York Undercover), and features Claire Forlani (Meet Joe Black). It’s about a man who seemingly has the perfect life in a Texas border town until his young daughter is kidnapped. The incident is tied to his dark, secret past involving his faith in Santa Muerte (Saint Death), something he must invoke again in order to get his child back.

In between writing American Mall 2 and a post-apocalyptic teen comedy, Tomas agreed to answer my nerdy questions.

w. chair

PCN: There are a lot of whores in this movie. Was it a fun set?

With actress Carmen Perez

With actress Carmen Perez

Tomas Romero: I believe they prefer the term “working girls,” but yes, the Mexican whorehouse scenes were just as fun to shoot as they were to write. It’s funny, though, I kept apologizing to the actresses on set, like, “I’m sorry I didn’t give you a name, Curly-Haired Whore or Grabby Girl #2, but I must say, you look awesome in that pink halter top.”

PCN: Oh, I’m sure that made up for it. The movie also includes lots of details about death cults. Research or personal experience?

santa muerte

Santa Muerte

TR: No, man, I gave up death cults in college. Seriously, though, we did loads of research and even though much of what my co-writer, the film’s director Dror Soref, and I unearthed about the very real cult of Santa Muerte was fascinating. I think the thing we found most interesting about Santa Muerte is that she is a street Saint, a down-and-dirty version of the Virgin Mary if you will. And though she is invoked most famously by criminals, gangsters, and prostitutes, she is also a very real part of many people’s lives in Mexico. We found several instances where policemen in these areas actually prayed to Santa Muerte for protection before their shifts. I mean, how cool is that?

PCN: Um, pretty cool, I guess, but she still looks super creepy. You started writing this script many years ago. Why do you think it came together now?

TR: Ha! If I had an answer for that, I’d have a lot more produced movies under my belt. I’m kidding, kinda, but the reality is that getting a movie made these days, even at a studio level, is very difficult and taking a truly independently-financed film from page to screen is next to impossible. Luckily for us, we had a small army of very talented folks behind the scenes. Not counting myself, there is like a baker’s dozen of producers on this movie and they all rocked.

PCN: How did they get the financing?

TR: Santa Muerte!

PCN: Dur! OK, you didn’t have children when you wrote this but now have a baby daughter. Do you look at your own script and say, “Oh, crap! I just created my worst nightmare!”?

Baker, Moretz & DP Steven Bernstein

Baker, Moretz & DP Steven Bernstein

TR: OMG, I know, I can’t even imagine. Some of the things we put poor Chloe Moretz—the crazy-talented young actress who plays Baker’s kidnapped daughter Toby—through in this movie, I was like, Please don’t watch this movie ’til you’re, like, 30. She was fine with everything, a total pro and hilariously funny to boot, but I was a wreck during all her scenes. And now that I have a daughter of my own—forget about it.



PCN: By scene 10, Jack and Amaya are in a steamy sex scene. Did you put that in before or after you knew you’d landed Simon Baker and Paz Vega?

TR: That scene was always there. The casting of Paz and Simon just made it that much steamier, so, yay for us!

Carmen Serano, Michael DeLorenzo, Benito Martinez

Carmen Serano, Michael DeLorenzo, Benito Martinez

PCN: My friend Carmen Serano is a gorgeous actress and model. Why’d you cast her as a gimpy prison warden with a unibrow?

TR: I know. What were we thinking? Clearly, Carmen would have made a much better whore. Ha! Totally kidding. Carmen was awesome to work with and her character does get some of the biggest laughs in the movie, so, unibrow or not, I think she’ll be very happy with how she comes off. Your other friend, Benito Martinez, is also fantastic in the movie. Benito plays a sleazy Mexican police chief like nobody’s business and the dude steals every scene he’s in! He’s great. OMG, and [your other friend] Greg [Serano] is so badass in the movie!

PCN: That’s hilarious, because I think Greg is goofy. And I mean that in the best way.

TR: He has this one great scene where he is grilling Jack and Amaya and he holds his own, baby. If this whole acting thing doesn’t pan out, which it obviously has since he’s been working non-stop, the dude would make a truly scary policeman! Yikes!!

PCN: You also wrote the story for MTV’s original musical, The American Mall. Any similarities between singing mall rats and chanting death-cult followers?

Paz Vega, Moretz

Paz Vega, Moretz

TR: Totally! MTV’s standards and practices made us cut the death cult chant from Mall but it was so cool! Seriously, the movies are a lot more alike than they seem. I mean, deep down, both films are about staying true to your authentic self at all costs, and the steep price you pay when you don’t. The female leads in both movies know this from the get-go, it’s the male leads that have to learn this lesson the hard way. And though the mechanics of their situation are very different, the journey both Joey in Mall and Jack in Not Forgotten take is essentially the same.

PCN: How do you feel about Not Forgotten opening on the same day as Angels & Demons? I feel like I should wear a giant cross around my neck if I go to the movies this weekend.

TR: You should totally wear your cross, because there is gonna be a whole lotta death cult and demon love going on at the movies this weekend.

PCN: Some people I know saw the trailer and said it’s too scary for them. Give them one reason to go see it anyway.

TR: Well, it is kinda scary, but, I think it’s important to differentiate between scary movies that exist solely to scare and scary movies that have a little bit more going on. Take for instance, The Exorcist. On the surface that movie scared the crap out of me as a kid—and still does, actually—but I kept watching because I really, deeply cared about what was happening to this poor woman and her daughter. Not Forgotten is kind of the same way. You might wanna cover your eyes sometimes, but at its core, it is a movie about a father struggling to hold his family together despite some spectacularly tall odds. And, Mexican death cult or not, who can’t relate to that?


Mystery and Mirth Mingle at Malice Domestic 2009

Malice Domestic is a mystery convention that takes place every year in the D.C. area., honoring the traditional mystery (no explicit sex or violence). The organization hands out the Agatha Awards, named for Agatha Christie. This year’s convention took place May 1 – 3 in Arlington, VA and author Elizabeth J. Duncan (The Cold Light of Mourning, which I reviewed here) attended as a panelist. She generously sent me the following insider account and photos of the festivities, which included an interview with Anne Perry. Thank you, Elizabeth!


This was my fourth Malice. In 2006, I was a prize winner (William F. Deeck – Malice Domestic grant); in 2007, I was nobody in particular; in 2008, I was a prize winner again (St. Martin’s Press/Malice Domestic contest) and this year, I attended as a published author.

Of course my book, The Cold Light of Mourning, had only been out for five minutes (published April 28). There was a stack of 12 of them in the dealers’ room on Friday. I walked by every now and then. Yep, still 12.

On Saturday morning I attended the new authors breakfast, sponsored by Kate Stine and Brian Skupin, publishers of Mystery Scene magazine. Talking to facilitator Cindy Silberblatt, we got a chance to promote our books to a very targeted audience. Then it was on to my first panel as an author. Imagine how thrilling it was for me to share a platform with Katherine Neville, Ann Cleeves, Hannah Dennison, Maria Hudgins–-all authors of wonderful novels–-to discuss mysteries set in foreign places. Mine is set in North Wales, where every hillside is dotted with sheep. We were up against stiff competition, as the nominees for the best novel were having their panel at the same time, so we were especially pleased that attendance in our salon was rather good!

signingThen it was on to the group author signing session. This was my first signing as an author. I wasn’t nervous about the signing part-–I was afraid no one would show up as I was signing at the same time as Carolyn Hart, Anne Perry, Louise Penny, Rhys Bowen and other heavy hitters in the traditional mystery world. Remember those 12 copies of The Cold Light of Mourning stacked up in the dealers’ room? Not anymore! I was delighted to be kept rather busy signing copies for readers and, bless their hearts, I hope they enjoy the book.

The banquet menu was standard three-course fare for this sort of event at a hotel like the Marriott: salad, pecan-crusted chicken breast (yum!) with pureed sweet potatoes and sautéed green beans. Dessert, or pudding, as we say in Wales, was a triple chocolate Charlotte–-a richly layered mousse.

The awards presentation started during dessert and I was touched when Harriette Sackler, who is a lovely, gracious woman, acknowledged me and G.M. Malliet, two previous winners, before she named this year’s winner of the William F. Deeck – Malice Domestic Grant: Kimberly Gray.

And in case you haven’t heard yet, here are this year’s Agatha Award winners:

Best novel – The Cruelest Month, Louise Penny, St. Martin’s Press
Best first novel – Death of a Cozy Writer, G.M. Malliet, Midnight Ink
Best non-fiction – How to Write Killer Mysteries – Kathy Lynn Emerson, Perseverance Press
Best Short Story – “The Night Things Changed” – Dana Cameron, Wolfsbane & Mistletoe, Penguin Group
Best Children’s/Young Adult – The Crossroads, Chris Grabenstein, Random House

One of the convention’s best-attended events was a sit-down chat between Anne Perry and Don Maas, her New York literary agent. Here are some highlights:

perryMaas began by describing Perry’s prolific volume of work: 25 novels in the Pitt series, 17 in the Monk series, seven Christmas novellas, and six in the World War I series, to name the most popular. Her books have continuously been in print for 30 years.

Composed and self-assured, Perry answered his questions with warmth and honesty.

Maas: What drives you?

Perry: I think I’m finally beginning to get the hang of it! I always think the best book is the next one. I feel I am writing stronger, more complex books now that go deeper and push characters into more dilemmas. There are always more things to learn and I enjoy that.

Maas: How to you develop your characters?

Perry: I imagine them at the end of the world overlooking an abyss. What would he do now? I think about all the things I see and hear. How would they deal with certain situations, like disillusionment.

Maas: Can you describe your writing process?

Perry: I live on the east coast of Scotland, about three hours north of Edinburgh in a small fishing village. I have a secretary who comes in three days a week and my brother, a retired physician, is my researcher and he comes in four days a week. I do write on the road. A hotel room with the door closed can be a fine and private place. I outline my work pretty tightly and the less familiar I am with the material, the more I outline. The outline for a book of 12 chapters will be about 24 pages.

Mass: Do things happen in your stories that surprise you?

Perry: Occasionally. Once I discovered I liked the culprit too much so I had to give that role to someone else.

Maas: Is it true that a single copy of the first edition of Cater Street Hangman (first in the Pitt series, 1979) now sells for more than the advance you received for the book?

Perry: That’s true!

Maas: You bring the Victorian world vividly alive. How do you call out all that detail and still keep things fresh and interesting?

Perry: I am getting better at cutting things out and I keep reminding myself that the detail has to serve the story.


GREY'S ANATOMY 100th Episode–Spoilers

I have mixed feelings about this episode. I kept wanting and waiting for it to bowl me over like the show used to do in its heyday. Remember the train crash episode where two people were impaled on the same pole and the doctors could choose only one to save? Bawled my eyes out. But this ep never quite got there, though there were a few strong moments.

The wedding switcheroo was no surprise whatsoever and while it made sense that Izzie should be the one wearing the princess dress that was so NOT Meredith’s style, the whole affair smacked of pity. If Alex wasn’t ready to marry Izzie before he found out she was sick, he shouldn’t marry her now. Plus, it didn’t even seem like it was his idea, more like he was talked into it by Meredith. Who does that? I’m not going to tell my friends who and when to get married like I know what’s best for them. It’s condescending.

Also, Meredith and Izzie are definitely not the same size—Meredith is stick thin while Izzie is curvier—so Izzie can’t just put on Meredith’s dress at the last minute and look like it was custom-made for her. I was also annoyed that Alex completely ripped off that poor college girl’s valedictorian speech and got to look like a hero while she’s lying in the hospital and will probably never get to deliver the speech she’d worked so hard on.

I also don’t understand Callie’s brokeness. I know her father froze her trust fund but she’s been a successful doctor for years (and one-time chief resident at Seattle Grace) so why does she even need her father’s trust fund? What has she done with all her paychecks? She doesn’t look like she has an extravagant lifestyle (she once lived in the hospital’s basement, for goodness sakes) and it seems her daddy only withdrew the trust fund ten minutes ago and she’s already borderline homeless.

There were things I liked in this episode. I liked seeing Meredith confident and happy because I like how she smiles with her whole face. I’m also really liking Arizona because she doesn’t take any crap and I’m glad she’ll be upgraded to series regular next season. And the brief glimpse we saw of Christina banging at her ceiling fan, trying to take it down to prevent it from triggering Owen’s PTSD again, was probably the most powerful moment in the whole episode for me.

So, am I being too picky? Was this a very special episode for you or just another day at Seattle Grace? Was the wedding romantic or corny? Do you want Izzie to live or die?


Trailer for Mark Burnett's EXPEDITION AFRICA

I received the following e-mail from my brother Thuy and wanted to share it so I can brag about him (I did get his permission to post it.) He edited and produced the trailer below, as well as several other commercials for Mark Burnett’s new 8-part reality series, Expedition Africa, which starts airing May 31 at 10PM/9C on the History Channel. Check it out—it looks amazing!


I’ve been busy the past few months working on a launch campaign and theatrical trailer for Executive Producer Mark Burnett’s latest show, Expedition Africa. Burnett is the producer behind tons of shows like Survivor, The Apprentice, to name a few.

You may remember HM Stanley’s quote “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.” This show is about 4 modern-day explorers retracing Stanley‘s journey across Africa 130 years ago to find Dr. David Livingstone. They do so with nothing but a compass and old maps (and I guess a camera crew following them but let’s not go there…ha ha).

The trailer is playing in most cinemas nationwide, before movies like Star Trek and a lot of the other big summer movies. So if you go out and watch a movie, you might see it in surround sound!! Many of the other commercials are airing on various networks, so if you see some of them, they were from me!! Enjoy!




Chances were slim that the NBC cop show Life would be renewed for next season but I was still bummed when NBC co-chairman Ben Silverman officially canceled it today. This show was unique because of Damian Lewis’s performance as zen but quirky LAPD detective Charlie Crews, a man who spent 12 years in prison for murders he didn’t commit. When evidence finally clears him, he goes back to work instead of enjoying the $50 million settlement he wins from the city. He’s teamed with the acerbic, semi-alcoholic Dani Reese, played by Sarah Shahi, to solve cases every week but he’s really out to find out who framed him and why.

This show was well-written, wonderfully acted and differed from the multitude of police procedurals on the air. If NBC hadn’t given Jay Leno so much prime time, there could’ve been room for this show. If they cancel Chuck, too, I hope their ratings go down the toilet next season.

Any other Life fans out there lamenting its cancellation?


AMERICAN IDOL Season 8–Top 3 Finalists

Wow, what an action-packed show. So much happened tonight, which was the complete opposite of last week’s boring results show. There was Slash performing, Paula Abdul singing and dancing, No Doubt reuniting, and Daughtry debuting a new song. I didn’t think it was all good, just that there was a lot going on.

I’m tired tonight so here are some quick reactions:

  • When the remaining contestants performed with Slash on Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out,” Slash’s playing drowned them out, making them useless. Producers might as well have had Slash do some guitar solos, which probably would’ve been more awesome.
  • Paula’s song,”I’m Just Here for the Music,” has a danceable backbeat but what’s up with the electronic enhancement to her voice? They did that with Jamie Foxx last week and it annoys the junk out of me. It makes them sound like they abused cigarettes and now have to sing through an electronic voicebox. How about this for an idea: If your voice needs enhancement, don’t sing live.
  • I usually enjoy Gwen Stefani quite a bit but thought all her running around tonight was a bit immature. She’s not a teen anymore like when she first joined No Doubt and came across like she was trying too hard to reclaim her youth and previous audience. I don’t know why that’s necessary since she’s sold loads of solo albums while acting more or less her age.
  • Was it just me or did Chris Daughtry sound a lot like Styx’s frontman, Dennis DeYoung, while singing the new single, “No Surprise”? Maybe I just have Styx on the brain from last night’s performance of “Renegade.” Still, my point is Daughtry’s sound is not unique. If you hear a U2 or Coldplay or Maroon 5 song on the radio, you instantly know who they are. Daughtry still sounds like different bands, depending on the song.
  • It was no surprise to me that Kris was the first one declared safe and Allison was voted off, leaving Adam and Danny to round out the top three. That poor girl didn’t have a chance against the guys’ rabid fan bases. But then again, her performance of Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby” was not one of her better ones.

How do you feel about the top three? Do you forgive Danny for his last “Dream On” notes now that he’s acknowledged their awfulness? What’d you think of Paula’s performance? Were you excited to see No Doubt back together again?