Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Around Adelaide: Street Art

Take a stroll along the southern side of Hindley Street and odds you'll encounter this smiling chap (who, more often than not, seems to be wearing part of a McDonalds ice-cream, courtesy of the aforementioned, which is located on the opposite side of the road.) This chap has lived on the street since early 2000 and is a tribute to Adelaide born comedian Roy 'Mo' Rene who helped to popularise well known Australian ocker phrases such as "Fair suck of the sav," and "Don't come the raw prawn with me." Just to Roy's left is a small plaque that pays tribute to his history. 

Monday, 22 September 2014

Review: Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O'Neill

Irish folklore, fairies and modern day Dublin come together in this brilliant, funny debut by Irish-Australian author Ellie O'Neill. Reluctantly Charmed is a story about fairies. It's also a romance. Most importantly, it is also a great deal of fun with a loveable heroine and a lot of self-depreciating humour.  

Kate McDaid is working in an advertising agency in Dublin and believes that her career prospects are going nowhere. She is also a little, well, concerned about her love life which seems to be going about as well as her career is. Then something completely unexpected happens, in the form of an inheritance from a great aunt who died 130 years ago. This aunt, who was also named by Kate McDaid, was a witch. In order for Kate to receive her inheritance, she must publish a series of seven poems each week. The poems each contain a surprising request--that people reconnect with the fairies of Irish Folklore. Kate publishes the first letter on an obscure website. Hilarity--and calamity--ensure when the poems spark a revival of interest in fairies. From there, Kate finds her life change in a number of unexpected ways.

As I stated at the beginning of this review, Reluctantly Charmed is a lot of fun. Each of the poems changes Kate's life in surprising and unexpected ways, sometimes for the better and well, sometimes not. Author Ellie O'Neill's ability to mix folklore with a modern-day Ireland is commendable. I also loved the romantic subplot--initially, Hugh seems like an unlikely possible love interest for Kate, but as the book wore on, I found myself hoping that the two would eventually pair off. The ending is bittersweet, though fitting for the novel. 

Recommended reading for all fans of chick-lit and women's fiction. 

Reluctantly Charmed will be released on October 1 2014.

Finally, a bit shout out to Anna from Simon and Schuster Australia for my advance reading copy. 

PS Keep an eye out for my interview will Ellie O'Neill next month.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Off Topic: If a man is rude and obnoxious, then he *must* be in love with me.

The ruder and more obnoxious a man is to a woman, the more likely it is that he likes her? This one is an urban myth that really bugs me ...

This picture is from a free photo site.
This man looks nothing like Doug.
A few years back, I used to see a man walk past my place at precisely four o'clock every afternoon. I'll call this guy Doug, on account of that not actually being his name, or Doug even sounding anything remotely like his name or even sharing the same number of letters. I cannot even remember the first time that I saw Doug, the second time or perhaps even the third time. I just remember one day, looking through the curtains (my desk points directly at the window--I can see the ocean and the hills from my window, it's a great view and lovely to write by,) seeing Doug and thinking something along the lines of how that man passes my house every day at four o'clock. And being of the writerly variety, I think I made a note about a possible story about a woman who watches a man who walks past her house every day at the same time every day, but the story itself never got written, on account of finding more interesting things to write about. Anyway, it happened one day that Doug crossed into my circle of acquaintances. I recall walking into a room and being a little surprised to discover Doug there, chatting avidly to a mutual friend. It was one of those weird moments that we all have in life sometimes. I recognised Doug, but actually had no idea where I recognised him from--kind of like when you walk through the supermarket, see someone who you recognise, say hello and keep walking and realise only afterward that you only know that person because they ride on the same bus or train as you every day. Anyway, we were introduced, Doug said hello, I said hello back, we went our separate ways and it was only the next time that I saw Doug walk past the house that I realised where I had recognised him from. And none of this would even be terribly interesting, if it were not for the fact that, thereafter, I found myself encountering Doug on a semi-regular basis and he turned out to be well, something of a prick. 

Doug was one of those guys. Polite to everyone else, rude and obnoxious to me. Initially, I wondered if it had something to do with the fact that he thought that I was deliberately watching him walk past my place every day at the same time and I found myself making an effort to avoid the window at that time, because you know, it could be considered kind of creepy. In fact, I just did my best to avoid him where and whenever I could, in fear of being thought a creep, which probably said more about my self-esteem and social skills than anything that it could possibly tell you about Doug. Anyway, a pattern soon developed whereby if I saw Doug when I was around other people, he would usually be fairly rude and obnoxious. On the odd occasion that I happened to see Doug out and about when no one else was around, the conversation usually flowed well. The meetings were usually fairly inconsequential--i.e. at the library, supermarket, etc, places one would generally expect to see someone who was a neighbour and friend of a friend. After a while, this began to bother me. Why was Doug rude to me when other people were around, but nice when we were alone? Confused, I confided the whole thing in a friend? Her answer? He likes you.

Doug, liked me. I had a bit of difficulty getting my head around that one. And because, well, I'm an idiot, I turned to the worst possible source of advice known to humankind. 

I consulted google. 

The theory that men are rude and obnoxious to women that they like is widespread. It appears on rather a lot of internet forums. Usually the OP is a confused young woman who does not understand when a man from her circle of acquaintances (usually, he's a classmate or a colleague,) treats her differently to all of the other females in his circle. The OP knows that she has not done anything to warrant this behaviour and now feels hurt and confused. (See this post here.) What usually follows is a variety of responses, however, other forum members are always quick to pull out the, "He probably likes you" card.

As I would soon discover for myself, the theory that men are rude and obnoxious to women they have a crush on is kind of like those stories you see shared all over facebook about how a particular type of fruit has been discovered to cure cancer or the one about the racist aeroplane passenger. The stories are shared and retold, because it makes us feel good to think that a simple piece of fruit could hold the key to curing a serious disease or that a rude aeroplane passenger could get what they deserve. People say, "he probably likes you," because it feels good and potentially makes the person who asked the question feel good or better about themselves. After all, the advice may be true in some circumstances--people do get embarrassed and end up making fools of themselves in front of people who they are trying to impress. My experiences taught me two things:

The reason why some people are rude and obnoxious is because they are, well, rude and obnoxious. 

Some people learn from an early age that the best way to get people to do what you want is to intimidate them. Remember the kid in primary school who always got what they wanted by pushing other kids out of the way? The one who seemed completely oblivious to any other form of conflict resolution?

Well, as adults, we learn hitting someone so that they will get out of the way does not work terribly well, so bullies usually find more covert ways of manipulating others into getting what they want. A few weeks ago, for example, I was waiting in line at a certain, popular fast food chain that specialises in hamburgers, deep fried sides and soft drinks that come served in paper cups. It was bang on midday and consequently, there were a lot of people milling about, either waiting to be served or waiting for their meals. A little bored, I found myself watching as a man of about forty, of the larger persuasion and who came complete with a suit and self-assured swagger approached the youngest and smallest member of staff and demanded to know why his lunch had not been served yet. She assured him that his meal (quite possibly not a happy meal,) would be ready soon. The young woman was quite polite about it, given the fact that she and her colleagues were all quite busy and working in a high pressure environment.

The man's response?

He banged his fist on the counter, told her that it wasn't fucking good enough, that he did not appreciate her being rude to him and that he would make an official complaint.

Within seconds, the man had his meal.

Why did he do it? The short answer is, because it works. To get what he wanted, he picked the member of staff who was most likely to be intimidated or fooled by his bluff. By being violent, he ensured that all staff would be eager to do whatever it takes to get him out of the store as quickly as possible. By claiming that he would make an official complaint, the girl was probably frightened that she may lose her job or face disciplinary action.

And he probably uses this tactic wherever he goes.

To this day, I wished I had tapped the guy on the shoulder and told him to damn well wait like everyone else in the store, that he wasn't special or any more entitled to faster service than anyone else who had paid for their meals. Because, quite frankly, he was not entitled to treat the staff like that.

Anyway, my point is, some people act like jerks, because they are jerks and they have learned this is the best way to get what they want. It is not because of you, or anything that you have done. If a man is rude and obnoxious to you, then odds are, he was rude and obnoxious well before he met you and he'll probably continue to be rude and obnoxious well after both you and he have parted ways.

If someone treats you like that, know this. You have not done anything wrong. The problem is within themselves.

The reason why shy women find themselves targeted is because they are shy women.

First and foremost, there is nothing wrong with being shy. There is nothing wrong with being extroverted. In fact, a lot of extroverted people enjoy the company of shy women. But for reasons that are totally beyond their control, shy women have the knack of bringing out the inner dickhead the lies within some men who would otherwise be quite likeable.

Unfortunately for women like myself, who are quite shy around people we do not know, we can often come across as very distant or aloof. Shyness can be easily misunderstood, particularly by men who have only really known women who are fairly outgoing. (Men who have mothers, sisters, girlfriends or other women in their life who are a bit shy or introverted tend to have a bit more understanding.) Usually, guys like this are thinking three things. The first is that you think that you are two good to talk to him. The second is that you don't warm to him is because you can see through his Mr Confident bluff. (And it is a bluff, you'll just have to trust me on this one.) The third is that trying to win you over is going to be a significant amount of work that may not necessarily yield results.

The next problem is that when a man treats a women differently to all of the other women around her, she tends to notice. For shy women, this usually causes them to look within and ask why is he treating me differently to everyone else and to wonder what I may have done to make him act this way. Consequently, any interaction with a man like this can turn into a big deal. Being shy and talking to someone who you do not know well is horrible at the best of times. It's worse when that person is of the opposite sex. Then add the fact that they treat you differently and perhaps even cruelly into the mix and it becomes a massive fucking ordeal. We end up blushing, looking at our feet, not being able to say anything at all, or worse still, saying something completely stupid. We'll feel like morons for days, or even months afterward.

The worst part is this usually makes the situation worse, not better.

I have known a few ego trippers who have decided that the above actions are usually the sign of a crush, and one that they do not welcome. (Because you know, a man of his great standing and emotional competence deserves so much better.) But these instances are rare. In fact, I am not even sure why I am mentioning it, apart from the fact that it bothers me. Anyway, as I said, turning the whole thing into a situation where even being asked the time by this person would feel more akin to torture really does make things a lot worse.

The situation with Doug continued until one day when As for Doug, he continued to be rude and obnoxious until one day when I looked him in the eye and told him that I wasn't interested in putting up with any more of his shit. I then left the room. Two days later, Doug made a point of seeking me out. And, guess what? He apologised for upsetting me. He has never repeated the offensive behaviour since.

* * *

As it turned out, Doug was a guy who just had no clue how to communicate with shy women and assumed that I was a rather aloof creature who thought that I was too good for him. As I eventually got to know him, it turns out that he was not so much of a prick, but somebody who was quite capable of acting like a prick when he felt defensive. I guess that is kind of a survival mechanism, or a pride thing. The point is, the problem was not that Doug had a secret crush, but that he was just an ordinary guy with his own insecurities who did not have the personality, connections or experiences to be able to communicate or understand a woman who had a completely different personality and communication style to his own. For me, there were just as many lessons to be learned about communication and personality types and it remains a huge learning kerb.

For the record ... Doug now has a girlfriend. I am still single.

photo credit: soei_cs_82 via photopin cc

Friday, 19 September 2014

Friday Funnies: Hagar the Horrible

When it occurred that I had never created a Friday Funnies post featuring Hagar the Horrible, I could not resist hunting this little gem down and sharing it with you. Hagar the Horrible works brilliantly as a simple parody of both contemporary life and also of life in medieval Norway. 

Or perhaps it suggests that humanity has not really changed all that much over the years ...

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Writers on Wednesday: Pollyanna Darling

Welcome back to Writers on Wednesday, that feature where I put my questions to a different writer each week. Please make welcome Pollyanna Darling ...

Tell us a bit about yourself …

I am a Nature-loving, introverted writer, living in a beautiful part of Australia with four kids (all boys), my partner and a couple of wily dogs. I have been writing stories since I was four years old, it's the only activity that really stuck. Everything else has passed with the seasons. I write because I love both the magic that happens in the creative process, and the Otherworld that I inhabit while I write. Imagination is a deliriously blissful place to hang out.

Tell us about your most recently published book?

Heartwood is a story about a group of forest creatures who must work together to save the heart of their ancient forest from the Smashbasher (a silver-fanged bulldozer). It is also the story of one very ordinary foreman who finds his heart in the forest. Heartwood is a first chapter book for six to nine year olds, a book I wrote partly because so many of the books my kids brought home when they were starting to read independently were relentlessly dull and uninspired. I wanted to create a lively story with humour, adventure and a strong message. As I am passionate about the natural world and the interconnectedness of all life, Heartwood is alive with the magic of Nature. Heartwood was hand-illustrated and coloured by Victorian artist, Kirsty Chalmers. We wanted beautiful pictures that speak to the imagination, to bring a book to children that would be treasured into adulthood. I think we did a great job.

Tell us about the first time you were published?

I won a writing competition at school, judged by crime writer PD James. My story was printed in the school newsletter. I can't remember it at all now!

As writer, what has been your proudest achievement so far?

I wrote a novel for my second son for his tenth birthday. I thought it would be cool to get a novel for a present, but oh the angst I went through as he read it … pacing the floors, trying not to see how far he was into the story, refraining from asking questions etc. He loved it, which made my heart sing for weeks. My first book The Relationship Revelation won a gold medal, but the thrill only lasted one day! Getting accolades is nowhere near as delightful as making another person happy, especially when that person is your child.

What books or writing projects are you currently working on, if anything?

I am editing the book I wrote for my son (truthfully I am resisting editing it). I have also been writing lots of short stories and discovering the delight of fewer words.

Which do you prefer? eBooks or Paper Books? Why?

Now there's a thorny question. I wrote a blog post about it, I'm so passionate! I am a die-hard lover of printed books. I tried over and over to complete a book on my Kindle and couldn't. I believe that reading onscreen is less engaging, a theory backed up by brain scientists. Also, electronic devices require the mining of rare earths, a brutal and expensive process that has destroyed the homes of many indigenous peoples. It is a commonly held misconception that paper books are less environmentally friendly than e-books. Well managed mixed agro-forestry stores tonnes of carbon, produces oxygen, and of course gives us paper. We can never have too many trees.

Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

I have self-published two books and am starting to publish other writers, using a model that ensures that writers can write (instead of stuffing around with clunky back-end admin) and retain most of their profits. Having said that, I wouldn't say no to a publishing contract. Why have all your eggs on one bookshelf? I know a number of very successful authors who have a mix of both self-published and traditionally published books.

Aside from your own books, of course, what is one book that you feel everybody should read?

Anam Cara by John O'Donahue. I think it's the most beautiful book ever written in the English language. O'Donahue was a man with a lyrical poet's heart who could still write in plain English and convey the beauty of what it is to be alive.

Finally … is there anything you would like to say to your readers in Adelaide, Australia?

Hi Adelaide! It's been a long time since I visited.


Heartwood on Amazon:  http://amzn.com/0987116444
The Relationship Revelation on Amazon: http://amzn.com/B005XSQ800

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Review: Trust in Me by Sophie McKenzie

How well can you really know another person? How well do you really know your best friend? Your spouse? Can you trust them? That is the premise of Trust in Me, a new novel by British thriller writer, Sophie McKenzie.

Livy has enjoyed a comfortable life as a wife and mother of two and has a great friendship with Julia. Her happy life has only been tainted just a little with two events--the brutal of her sister, Kara, eighteen years ago and when her husband had a brief fling with one of his work colleagues. Julia has been the friend that Livy has depended on during these hard times. Through Livy's eyes we see Julia as a strong and capable woman. So when Julia dies in an apparent suicide, Livy is certain that Julia's death was not self inflicted. She starts to investigate ... and discovers just how little she knew her supposed best friend and some of the other people around her.

Trust in Me is a novel that is unpredictable and sometimes impossible to put down. The author carefully plots a setting that contrasts family and relationship drama with, questions of trust, and a cat and mouse game between a killer and his ultimate prey. But who is this violent psychopath? What does he want from Livy? And how far is he prepared to take his games? And what will become of the safe life that Livy has always known? Wanting to find out the answers kept me reading well into the evening. The strongest parts of the novel, I felt, were those written from the perspective of the killer, though Livy makes for an interesting heroine--an ordinary woman, who by her knowledge of right and wrong, and by her belief in others, is thrown into an extraordinary situation. Some of the family drama weighed the novel down a little, though the family problems that Livy experienced--such as trust issues and her fears about motherhood--felt very believable.

An enjoyable novel. Recommended for those looking for a thriller with a likeable and unlikely heroine.

Finally, a bit shout out to Simon and Schuster Australia for my free review copy. Thank you. 

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Review: Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead

Picking up where The Fiery Heart left off, Silver Shadows, the fifth novel in Mead's Bloodlines series tells about Sydney Sage's horrific time spend in an alchemist rehabilitation centre while her forbidden love, Adrian, fights to find and free her. 

Although entertaining and a fun distraction, Silver Shadows is the eleventh novel that Mead has set in this universe (the first six novels make up the Vampire Academy series, while Bloodlines serves as a spin-off) and the series as a whole is starting to feel a little tired. That said, there is still a lot to like within the narrative. Fans of Sydney and Adrian's romance are in for a treat. The novel ends of a (not entirely unexpected,) cliffhanger that will lead perfectly into the sixth and final novel of the series. 

Strictly for fans or for those eager to know what happens next.