Saturday, 30 June 2012

Literary Quotes

The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Australian Writers Rock

Just thought it was time I gave a shout out to one of my favourite pages on facebook, Australian Writers Rock! The page is affiliated with the website of the same name. Regular contributors include up and coming Australian talent such as RB Clague (whose novel Daisy is currently on my to-review list,) Kristy Berridge, Karen Tyrrell, Nicole Suzanne Brown, Aishah Macgill, literary agent Kelly McLean and half a dozen other awesome people who I have probably forgotten to mention in this post. Anyway, it's a great spot for up and coming writers (especially us indie authors,) to visit and exchange thoughts and ideas about the writing and publishing process. Be sure to check it out.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

1990s Nostalgia: Sweet Valley Kids #36 Elizabeth's Video Fever

Okay, could someone please explain to me how I ended up deciding to review a Sweet Valley Kids book on my blog. Oh, that's right. I was around at my local vintage store on a Saturday afternoon looking for pulpy horror novels when I stumbled on a copy of Elizabeth's Video Fever which had been mistakenly put on the shelves with the adult books. I bought it, thinking that my five year old niece might like to read it (or perhaps have it read to her,) when she next came to visit her Auntie Kathryn. Anyway, then I figured there had been a lot of comment about the whole Sweet Valley franchise on my blog, so I may as well write about at least one book from this series. (Note, during my childhood I ever read a few of these. I think there were only about four on the market before I grew out of them. I'd still borrow them from the library occasionally, when none of the Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley Twins books were available for loan.)

Sweet Valley Kids was the second spin-off series from Sweet Valley High. (The first being Sweet Valley Twins.) Once again, this series starred twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield and many of their lifelong friends including Lila Fowler Amy Sutton and Todd Wilkins. In this series, the twins are seven and in second grade at Sweet Valley Elementary School. Consequently, the writing and set-up for each book is very simple--it was intended to be read and understood by emerging readers. In the mid-1990s the series would find itself with a whole new audience--the books were used to help international students learn to speak English. The reason these books were chosen were for their simple stories that depicted an American way of life without using slang or childish language. (Click this link for more details.)

Anyway, Elizabeth's Video Fever opens with, surprise, surprise, Elizabeth being addicted to a hand held video game. She is competing with Todd and a nerdish boy called Andy (I'm not sure if this is meant to be Andy McCormack who appeared in the Sweet Valley Twins series,) to get the highest score on Goin' Wild a video game that revolves around getting a camper safely to his tent. There are all kinds of terrible obstacles like mosquitoes (who would have thought ... maybe they really do have malaria or the Ross River virus in Sweet Valley,) and other things that make the game seem rather stupid and boring, but then again, I'm not a seven year old. But for the record, when I was seven, I preferred Bolder Dash. Yeah! Doo doo doo ... 

Sorry. Completely lost track there. Now where was I? Oh yes that's right. Elizabeth is addicted to a video game called Goin' Wild and all she wants to do at recess is play her video game. I'm not sure why kids in Sweet Valley are allowed to bring expensive video consoles to school, but it probably has something to do with the fact that one, no theft ever occurs in Sweet Valley and two, Elizabeth is so responsible she's probably never even lost a pencil, let alone something worth a lot of money. (Or at least something that would have been worth a lot of money in 1992, the year the book was published.) There's also the smaller problem of Elizabeth and Todd being described as friends--oh Liz, if only you knew that years later he would cheat on you and jilt you for your twin sister--maybe you would have walked away then and there and none of this drama would ever occur. Anyway, Jessica is getting upset that Elizabeth no longer wants to play with her, or do her chores at home. One night Elizabeth's best friend Amy comes over to play and Elizabeth ignores her and plays her video game instead, leaving the tomboyish Amy to put up with playing dolls with Jessica instead. 

At school there is also a story writing competition. Everyone is expecting Elizabeth to win, including the teacher, which makes the whole idea of having a competition a little pointless. Elizabeth decides that she will enter, but cannot come up with an idea for a story. Every time she tries she is distracted by her video game instead. Meanwhile, Jessica, who is said to be the less academic of the pair, starts writing a story about a pair of twins who are working on a story competition. One twin is good at writing and the other isn't. The one who isn't good at writing wants the twin who is to help her, but the twin who is good at writing is too busy playing a video game. Hmm. Can't see any parallels between those twins and the Wakefields at all.

The next day at school, the class teacher, Mrs Otis, asks Elizabeth to stay back at recess and wants to talk to her about her declining grades. She is concerned that Elizabeth is spending too much time playing video games. And then, horror of horrors, she says that she is going to call Elizabeth's mother. Surprisingly, Alice Wakefield was oblivious to her daughter's addiction up until that point. (A familiar pattern in the Sweet Valley universe. Kid behaves strangely, Wakefield parents unaware until the behaviour reaches crisis point.) Anyway, the upshot of it all is Elizabeth is banned from playing her video game for a week. She secretly plays it anyway, gets caught and her punishment is this. She has to help Jessica improve her story for the competition. But Elizabeth writes her own story as well, about a girl who is out camping and refuses to listen to the warnings of her family and finds herself in trouble. It's all very deep and metaphorical and typically beyond the capabilities of your average seven year old writer. (Hey, when I was seven the best story I ever wrote was about a mouse who turned orange. It was titled The Orange Mouse. The other mice were scared of him at first but he decided that he didn't care because being an orange mouse was more interesting than being a brown mouse. Hmm. Maybe that was really all Abigail Carter's earliest incarnation. Wow. I'm really getting off topic here.)

Anyway, Elizabeth decides that she's had enough of her video game and returns to her friends. The winner of the story is never mentioned, but the final chapter leads in to the set up for the next book, in which a soap box derby is to be held in Sweet Valley.

PS Just a word about the cover. I'm a little surprised to see Eva there, seeing as she only appears in one paragraph out of the entire novel. And not once do any of the characters play with a skipping rope.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Literary Heroes: Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy

Okay, I'll be truthful. I have a tiny bit of a crush on Mr Darcy. I'm not quite sure why, but suspect it has something to do with the fact that over the course of a novel he goes from being a stuck up, miserable git to a wholly likable, albiet occasionally grumpy gentleman who has a heart of gold and a genuine affection for the leading lady in the novel, the intelligent and occasionally outspoken, Elizabeth Bennett. Anyway, today I'm devoting a post to Mr Darcy.

Mr Darcy is the kind of man who is disliked by strangers, but loved and respected by those who know him well. Twenty-eight years old, unmarried and the owner of a palatial estate named Pemberley, Mrs Bennett initially thinks that he may be a good match for one of her five daughters, but the idea is soon dismissed when the Bennetts first encounter Mr Darcy at a party. He makes a poor impression on all, particularly the second daughter, Elizabeth. Mr Darcy and Elizabeth are forced to be in one another's company several times over, until Mr Darcy eventually proposes. Elizabeth, finding despicable due to his part in separating her older sister Jane from her love interest, Mr Bingley, declines and tells Mr Darcy exactly what she thinks of him. He responds by writing a letter, in which reveals his true feelings and a number of things he is too afraid to say out loud. Elizabeth is left embarrassed and alone. Later, Mr Darcy comes to the rescue of the Bennetts after Elizabeth's youngest sister, Lydia, elopes with a roguish soldier. He reunites Jane and Mr Bingley and is revealed to be a decent man after all. He proposes a second time and naturally, Elizabeth accepts.

Although he may appear gruff, Mr Darcy is perhaps one of the most responsible and damn well decent heroes to be found in literature. He obeys his father's instructions regarding Mr Wickham, despite the fact that Mr Wickham has done nothing to deserve such kindness. He comes to the aid of the Bennetts when they need him the most--without his assistance, it is unlikely that Wickham would have married Lydia and it would have ruined the chances of the other Miss Bennetts, particularly Jane who has the eye of Mr Bingley, to marry well. It is doubtful that he did this so that he would be able to marry Elizabeth--he had already proposed once, she had turned him down and at that point, he had no reason to think that the strong-willed young lady would change her mind. Many of his actions are selfless and to help the happiness of others. Even his actions in initially separating Jane and Mr Bingley were with the best of intentions, even if they were misguided.

Who is your favourite literary hero?

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Manuscript Update: Behind the Scenes

After weeks of dithering, holding off and damn well waiting for that agent to get back to me about the manuscript for Behind the Scenes, I took a monumental step. In other words, I just said stuff it and have decided to submit it direct to a publisher instead. Have I just taken decisive action that puts me back in control of my career, or have I just completely ruined my chances of convincing that agent to take on my work. Who knows? As a rule, agents aren't terribly fond of taking on books that have already been submitted, and rejected, from a publisher. It is far more likely that the publisher will reject my work than my manuscript being one of the lucky one or two out of three thousand that actually makes its way into print. 

But what I have learned through publishing three novels as an indie author, is this. Sometimes you have to take risks. Publishing Being Abigail was a huge risk. How many people were going to want to read a book that was based on a website that they could visit every day for free? How would international audiences respond to the Australian references and humour? How many people would find the improbable opening funny?

More than one, as it turns out. 

Here are some more odds to ponder. Indie novels don't get reviewed, sell to complete strangers or wind up on the shelves of a bricks and mortar bookstore unless you put it there. Being Abigail has achieved all three of those supposed impossibilities. I won't pretend that it is a best seller, has made me hundreds of dollars or is ranked on the top 100 books on Amazon, but I'm not going to downplay or be ashamed of what my book has achieved. As a writer, one of the things I enjoy most is when someone who has read my novel tells me not how much they enjoyed my work, but how much they could relate to a particular scene or paragraph. For me, "I know exactly how that feels", or "I can relate to that" is high praise indeed. It means that I got it right.

So what does all of this mean for Behind the Scenes? Well, I have a manuscript that I believe in. One that I have spent many months writing, editing, redrafting, rewriting, reediting, etc. One that I have invested far too much time to dither around waiting for someone I may never even hear from again to give it the thumbs up or down. (And okay, I know. They are running a business and trying to make a living, of course they are going to go with whatever they feel is going to make them the most money. And I don't begrudge anyone that.) And time is short. Penguin books, one of the few publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts for young adult novels, are closing their books at the end of this month. If I want them to look at my work, I need to make that move now. And maybe, just maybe, my book will prove worthy of taking that risk ...

Daria Cast Interviews

Just found these cool Daria cast interviews and thought that I'd share ...

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Destined to Play by Indigo Bloome

And so, it begins. Just as Twilight inspired a spate of paranormal romance novels, Fifty Shades of Grey looks set to go the same way, inspiring a range of similar titles to be published, or at least to enjoy mainstream success rather than being shot straight off to the corner of the bookstore where all the kinky novels are kept. Launching on July 1 Destined to Play by Indigo Bloome is the next supposedly erotic novel aimed at mainstream audiences, and is the first in a series of three novels. Published by HarperCollins, this ebook-only novel tells the story of Dr Alexandra Blake who recieves a surprising proposition from her former lover Jeremy. He wants to play a game where she will be totally at his will for forty eight hours ... The cover looks remarkably similar to the Fifty Shades trilogy. (But wait, that's not a tie it's a scarf. And it's red!) No doubt these books will be lapped up for a little while, until the target readership grows bored and moves on. (The Da Vinci Code. Does anyone care about that anymore? Clan of the Cave Bear? I'm certainly not hearing much discussion on that, but everyone in my parents generation just had to have a copy ...)

Without reading the book it is impossible to judge the quality or content, but I'm willing to bet that no one would care about it, or that it would be receiving so much attention, had the Fifty Shades trilogy not been so popular. Lets just hope that no one bites their lip or has an inner goddess ...

Of course, if anyone from HarperCollins wants to send me an ARC ...

Postscript: Well, it doesn't look like I'm getting a review copy from HarperCollins any time soon, but I can announce that a print edition of Destined to Play will be released in September.

Oh, and in case you were wondering ... Indigo Bloome, which may very well be a pseudonym, apparently lives in rural Australia, comes from a financial background and has two children. The rights to the book were sold for a six figure sum just days after she submitted them to HarperCollins.

Oh, and if anyone from HarperCollins is reading this, you can contact me at

Postscript 2: I now have a review copy and thank HarperCollins very much. I hope for a review to be up within a few days. Due to huge demand, printed copies have been released today - July 3, 2012.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Feature Follow Friday

Hooray! It's time once again for Feature and Follow Friday, an awesome weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read, which is designed to help like-minded bloggers connect. This weeks all important question is:

Q: If you could "unread" a book, which one would it be? Is it because you want to start over and experience it again for the first time? Or because it was THAT bad?

One book that I would definitely like to unread, because it was that awful, is the second book in the Twilight series, New Moon. And then it would follow that I would never have read the other two books in the series, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn. In my opinion the whole thing was a great idea for a teen romance but executed poorly and the series got progressively worse as it went on, in what I suspect was an attempt to churn out novels while the franchise was still popular. (Sorry fans of Bella and Edward.) At the same time, I'm glad that I read the first book, because then I have some knowledge about what the fuss was about. 

One book that I would like to start and experience over again for the first time is Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. When I first read the book, there were only three volumes in the series and they were being marketed as children's books. It was only as I started to read the third book that I started to realise that the series was far more complex than it had been given credit for at that time.

PS I'm currently looking for reviewers for my new novella, Best Forgotten. If you're interested in a review copy or featuring a short extract on your blog, or perhaps an interview with yours truly (or all three if you're game,) contact me at

Thursday, 21 June 2012

1990s Nostalgia: Sweet Valley Twins

The first of many Sweet Valley High spin-offs, Sweet Valley Twins debuted in 1986. The premise was simple. The series starred a twelve-year-old version of Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield and a number of their friends and foes from the Sweet Valley High series. The books were pitched at a slightly younger audience than Sweet Valley High and typically revolved around the adventures of the Wakefield twins or one of their many friends. Problems were typically solved without the help of adults and involved the kids teaming up in one way or another--often with humourous results. For example, in Sweet Valley Twins #17 Boys Against Girls the girls in Elizabeth and Jessica's homeroom team up to pay their sexist teacher a lesson. Other books in the series touched on social issues, though never with the believability or depth of The Babysitters Club, which would remain the series main rival during its twelve year run.

The series soon expanded to include Super Editions (longer non-canonical adventures, Super Chiller Editions (longer non-canonical adventures with a paranormal theme,) and two sub-series Team Sweet Valley and The Unicorn Club. It was eventually replaced in the late 1990s with Sweet Valley Junior High, which featured Jessica and Elizabeth as eighth graders at a new school without their many friends from Sweet Valley Middle School. Like Senior Year, the series includes characters from a diverse range of backgrounds instead of the predominantly white, middle class kids that appeared in Sweet Valley Twins.

Old Characters

Numerous characters from Sweet Valley High, including big brother Steven Wakefield, appeared in the series. Snotty Lila Fowler remained Jessica's frienemy, while Todd Wilkins remained Elizabeth's love interest, Winston Egbert the class clown, and Bruce Patman the spoiled bad boy. (These characters would later become the stalwarts, appearing in each Sweet Valley series, with the exception of Elizabeth) Other familiar characters who made an appearance were Aaron Dallas (who would be Jessica's occasional love interest and who, many years later would become engaged to her brother,) sporty Ken Matthews, gossipy Caroline Pearce, chubby Lois Waller (who much like Sweet Valley High seemed to exist solely to be made fun of,) and sensible Julie Porter.

New Characters

Rounding out the large cast were several new characters. Amy Sutton was Elizabeth's best friend, and was later written in to the Sweet Valley High series, though she underwent a major personality change and lost numerous brain cells in the process. Former child star Maria Slater debuted in Sweet Valley Twins #50 Jessica and the Secret Star, and was later class president in the Sweet Valley High Senior Year series. Other characters who appeared exclusively in Sweet Valley Twins included Janet Howel, a snobbish eighth grader and president of the Unicorn club. (An exclusive club that Lila belonged to. Jessica also belonged to the club and was  tolerated by Janet only because the older girl had a crush on Steven.) Mandy Miller, Ellen Riteman, Kimberley Haver and Mary Wallace round out the unicorn club along with several other bit players. 

Continuity Errors Between Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High.

Not only did Amy Sutton undergo a massive personality change, going from a reasonably intelligent tomboy to a boy crazy bimbo, but there was another glaring continuity error. In Sweet Valley High, the Wakefield twins were sixteen year olds in eleventh grade. In Sweet Valley Twins, they were twelve year olds in sixth grade. Umm, how did that happen. Anyone who turns twelve three months before the beginning of sixth grade (the twins were born in June) is going to be turning seventeen three months before they begin eleventh grade. Also, book #43 Elizabeth's First Kiss more or less rehashes the events that occurred in the first Sweet Valley High novel, albeit aimed at a younger audience. (Jessica likes Todd. Todd likes Elizabeth. Elizabeth likes Todd. Jessica schemes to keep them apart and fails.) It seems odd this could happen twice.


Each book in the series revolves around a variation of one of several themes.

Rivalry Between the Wakefield twins.

These novels find the Wakefield twins competing with one another in some capacity. For example in Sweet Valley Twins #37 The War Between the Twins Jessica and Elizabeth are working on rival school papers. Elizabeth is an editor for the official school paper. When she rejects an article written by Jessica, Jessica and her friends from the Unicorn club start their own rival (but unofficial) newspaper. In #2 Teachers Pet, Jessica is annoyed because their ballet teacher favours Elizabeth. 

Kid with a Problem

These novels find the Wakefield twins helping one of their many friends who have some kind of a problem. For example in Sweet Valley Twins #16 Second Best Elizabeth and Jessica offer support to their friend Dylan who feels outdone by his younger brother. Over the course of the series Elizabeth and/or Jessica would offer help to kids who are orphaned (#58 Elizabeth and the Orphans,) befriend a deaf classmate (#69 Won't Someone Help Anna,) and assist numerous runaways (#26 Taking Charge,  #77 Todd Runs Away, Super Edition #3 The Big Camp Secret).

Puppy Love

Elizabeth's love interest in the series is Todd Wilkins, Jessica's love interest is Aaron Dallas. The romances don't go much further than a quick kiss or dancing in the school gymnasium, but various books are devoted to these budding romances including, #43 Elizabeth's First Kiss, #66 The Great Boyfriend Switch. However, the most unbelievable romantic moment is saved for #79 Jessica's Blind Date, when Jessica responds to an ad in the newly established personals column in the sixth grade newspapers. Because, you know, all sixth grade newspapers run personals columns.

A Sticky Situation

These novels involve one twin or one of their friends doing something silly and them getting themselves further and further into trouble. For example, in #11 Buried Treasure, Jessica and her friend Ellen find one hundred dollars buried in a tin inside Ellen's back yard. Together, they decide to spend the money, but not tell anyone where they found it, just in case they get into trouble. That same week, some money goes missing from the school and Ellen and Jessica are blamed. In #73 Lila's Music Video, Lila wants to record a music video, but has a terrible voice and hires another girl to do the vocals while she lip syncs. Naturally, the song is a huge hit and everyone thinks that Lila is a talented musician.

A New Kid in Town

The new kid at Sweet Valley Middle School was nearly always disliked by their classmates initially for one reason or another. When Nora Mercandy arrived in #3 The Haunted House she was shunned by her classmates because they believed that her grandparents were zombies and their old mansion was haunted. (Naturally, Elizabeth discovers the truth, that Nora's grandfather is a former magician who is now suffering dementia.) In #6 The New Girl, Brooke Dennis was disliked for being rude and snobbish to her classmates, who then decide to play a cruel prank on her. Once again, Elizabeth saves the day after she discovers the reason for Brooke's behaviour.

Adventure (Super Editions)

The Super Editions usually to the Wakefield twins and their friends out of Sweet Valley and on an unpredictable adventure. In Holiday Mischief the twins travel to Washington with the school choir, where they help a classmate reunite with her long-lost brother. In The Big Camp Secret the twins help a friend who has run away from home hide out at camp. In The Unicorns Go Hawaiian Jessica wins a trip to Hawaii. The very first Super Edition The Class Trip was arguably the strangest, where Elizabeth finds herself in a strange land after hitting her head. And then, of course, it all turns out to be a dream.

Paranormal (Super Chillers and Magna Editions)

The Super Chillers and Magna Editions were non-canonical (for example, it was Christmas on at least four separate occasions and dealt with various paranormal themes, in one book, Elizabeth became friends with a ghost, in another, the dolls the twins receive for Christmas come to life.

All in all, Sweet Valley Twins is a fun, lightweight series that never takes it too seriously. It's probably the literary equivalent of junk food, but what's life without the odd cupcake every now and then?

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Review: Conspiracy of Wolves by Ernie Hasler

Imagine this: Three hundred people rule the world by virtue of a pact that dates all the way back to the eighteen century. These three literally control everything--politics, religion, the military. And only one man can stand up to them.

That is the premise of Conspiracy of Wolves, the second novel by indie author Ernie Hasler. This thriller tells the story of Douglas, a young man who knows the truth about the group of three hundred and is determined to stand up to them. Set in the United Kingdom in 1997, the book plays out against the backdrop of actual political events--such as the election of Tony Blair and the New Labour government. In many ways, the story reads like a morality tale--the narrative is reminiscent of a member of the older generation educating the younger about the wrongs of the past and the need to be like Douglas and his wife, Kelly by many sacrifices in order to do what is right. There were a couple of problems with the book--the dialogue, particularly that which was spoken by Kelly, felt a little unrealistic, but this did not take anything away from the flow and pace of the story. Also, I'm not sure if this was deliberate or not (perhaps a means of setting up an alternate universe?), but I noticed that Douglas took a tour of Westminster Abbey on September 6 1997, which is the date and location of the funeral of Princess Diana. All in all, Conspiracy of Wolves rides along at a fast past toward a satisfying conclusion. Check out the eerie trailer here:

Monday, 18 June 2012

Literary Quotes

Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music - the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.

Henry Miller

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Best Forgotten by Kathryn White

Here is a sneak preview at my latest novella which can be purchased from Amazon or Smashwords. Best Forgotten tells the story of Kellie-Sue Smith, a young woman with a dark secret. Only she knows how the body of Morgan Stone came to be bloodied and bruised on the kitchen floor and she would like to keep it that way ...

Part 1
The Killer
Purse. Car keys. Textbook. Mobile. Okay, I can do this. Act cool. Pretend everything is normal. I slip on my sunglasses and dump my satchel on the front passenger seat of the Hyundai. I take a deep breath. So far, so good. It is amazing, really, just how ordinary everything seems today. Here I am, going about my morning routine like nothing strange or out of the ordinary happened last night. Like I’m still the same innocent, untainted girl who stood in this same place, at exactly this time yesterday.
I wonder if anyone knows that I killed a man between now and then?
I cast my eyes across the car park, just to see if anyone from the flats is out and about yet. On the other side of the fence, at the front of an old weatherboard shack, James is trying to persuade his son to get into the car so that he can go to school.
‘I don’t wannna go!’ 
I know how you feel, kid. I never liked school much either.
Tyson makes a dash from the driveway to the veranda. ‘Come on Mate …’ James lifts his arms in the air. In one hand is Tyson’s Spiderman backpack. In the other, James holds his car keys. I stifle a giggle. Poor James. ‘It’s not that bad.’
‘I’m not going.’
Tyson plonks his tiny bottom down on a rotting old sofa that lives on the Smith’s front veranda. The sofa has been there for two years now. The story is that after James split up with Tyson’s mum, Holly, she wanted the sofa. He left it on the veranda so that she (or anybody else) could take it whenever she wanted to. Then Holly must have changed her mind about wanting her sofa back, because she never came around to collect it. Such are divorces in this neighbourhood.
‘Come on …’ James looks toward the sky. ‘It’s going to start raining soon.’
And you’ll probably get a horrible disease from that sofa if you’re not careful, Tyson.
Tyson sighs and stares down at his lap. James lets out a sigh of his own. He turns to the fence and stares at me. ‘Never, ever have kids.’
Hi James! How’s it going? Did you know I murdered someone last night?
‘Nah, he’s all right …’ James lets out a chuckle. ‘Just moody because he’ll be going back his mum’s this arvo … he doesn’t like it that she and her partner have a new baby.’
I can understand that. Poor Tyson.
It’s never fun, being the unfavoured child.
‘Anyway, how have you been …’ Pausing momentarily, James looks me up and down. Why is he staring at me like that? Maybe he knows. I feel my heart pound a little faster. After all, James does work for the emergency services. Maybe he was the paramedic that attended the scene last night. And then, maybe the police worked out who did it, and they know that he lives in the house next door to the flats and they’ve asked him to keep an eye on me. Maybe he’s even recording this conversation in the hope that I might say something that makes me look guilty and then …
‘… Kellie-Sue.’
James offers me a smile. ‘It is Kellie-Sue, right?’
Oh. James doesn’t know which twin he’s talking to. Wow, that’s really … weird. I turn and look in the mirror. Maybe being a murderer makes me resemble Cassie even more closely than before.
‘Of course it’s Kellie-Sue.’
A sigh echoes through the car park. Cassie runs a hand through her long, blonde hair. A pair of ice-blue eyes gaze at James. ‘I’d never be caught dead in clothes like that.’
I wear jeans and a t-shirt with a picture of Wembly from Fraggle Rock on the front. Cassie wears hotpants with hoop earrings and a white singlet top. No bra underneath. Because Cassie is just like, way too cool to bother about things like underwear.
‘I bet you wouldn’t.’
James keeps his face completely deadpan.
Cassie turns toward the Hyundai. She takes my satchel from the passenger seat and tosses it in the back. ‘You leaving any time soon?’
‘Would you like a ride?’
I roll my eyes and then walk to the other side of the car. I give James a quick good-bye wave and start the engine. ‘And probably a poof as well.’ Cassie rolls her eyes. I try not to smile. In Cassie’s eyes, the only reason a man would not be completely and utterly in love with her was if he was gay.
‘I think he’s okay.’
Actually, I think that James is very nice, even if his long, dark hair and beard don’t really suit him. And the scar on his face, just on his left jaw, is a bit freaky.
‘I can’t get through to Morgan.’
Cassie sighs and stares down at her mobile. She has the latest model Blackberry. Because, lets face it, Cassie is just way too cool to own a Nokia or Samsung Galaxy. Or even an iPhone.
‘Morgan, where are you?’
Cassie sighs into her mobile. ‘I couldn’t get through to him last night, either.’
Maybe there is a reason for that. Still, I don’t think Cassie would react very well if I told her that Morgan was dead. So instead I say, ‘I tried looking up the cemetery records online last night.’
‘What do you want to do that for?’ Cassie rolls her eyes.
‘So we can finally know where Dad is buried.’
Our dad died when we were seven, shortly after he and Mum split up. I don’t remember much about him, apart from his accent and that he always used to wear plaid shirts with jeans. He was originally from Atlanta, Georgia and was responsible for giving me a name that would ensure that I was ridiculed relentlessly in the schoolyard. Because God knows, it’s completely unacceptable to have a name like Kellie-Sue when you attend an Australian public high school.
Oh well. At least it was better than the other names they used to call me. Like Fat-Arse-Sue. Or later on, Anna Rexia.
‘He’s dead.’ Cassie sighs. ‘Knowing where he is buried isn’t going to change that.’
‘Yeah, but …’
My voice trails off as I realise that Cassie is no longer listening. She has her Blackberry pressed to her ear, as she chats away with one of her many friends. ‘Nah, can’t find him anywhere …He was supposed to meet me last night at the Stag and never showed, the lazy prick.’
Oh, Cassie. If only you knew why that good-for-nothing Morgan never showed at the Stag last night. Or that his killer is sitting right beside you …

Best Forgotten Copyright © 2012 Kathryn White 

Friday, 15 June 2012

Feature Follow Friday

Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkie's View designed to help book bloggers meet and connect. This week's all important question is:

Happy Father's Day! Who is your favorite dad character in a book and why?

Hmm, decisions. My favourite Dad character is the tough but always fair Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. Not only does this man live by his principles, regardless of what others may think of him, but this middle aged lawyer had quite a difficult job at home, raising two spirited children.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

R.L. Stine and Ghostwriters

Every now and again, I like to ponder the tough questions. Like what would happen if the teenage trolls who repeatedly go to Yahoo! Answers and ask whether libraries keep the bible in the fiction or non-fiction section bothered to educate themselves about the dewey decimal system. But that would never happen. Anyway, another all-important question I've been pondering since I started writing this blog and revisiting a number of children's books is this. Did R.L. Stine use ghostwriters for his Goosebumps and Fear Street series?

A little research (thanks, google) has brought up some mixed results. This article suggests that Stine did indeed write all 100+ novels on his own, with his wife acting as editor. See: 

Meanwhile, other articles suggest that Stine used ghostwriters for his Goosebumps series, at least. See:

Now, don't get me wrong. I think R.L. Stine himself is a brilliant writer. However, his downfall is his willingness to sell himself out. By the mid-1990s every month at least two titles (if not more) baring Stine's name on the front cover would be released in bookstores across the globe. At the same time, he was also producing a television series based on the Goosebumps series, along with various point horror novels and releasing his first adult novel, titled Superstitions. This was undeniably a huge workload. And given that the Fear Street and Goosebumps titles were being released regularly and that each novel in the series was a self-contained book that bore little relation to others in the series (a perfect set-up for ghostwriters as they do not need prior knowledge of characters and situations,) it is probable that ghostwriters were used at some point. Probable but, ultimately, unprovable. Then again, Peter Lerangis has yet to add Goosebumps or Fear Street to his list of publishing credentials, so maybe Stine never used ghostwriters at all.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Garfield & Dessert

Just sharing one of my favourite Garfield comics. Enjoy.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Review: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

There are very few things that are certain in life. The cynic might say that death and taxes are the only two certainties, but I think that is probably only because they have yet to learn that no matter how bitter and twisted one might be feeling on a particular day, a vegemite foldy over sandwich really can make it all better. Anyway, apart from death, taxes and vegemite foldy over sandwiches making things all better, there is one other certainty in life. And it is this. If you read a copy of The Day of the Triffids while sitting in any public place, you can be guaranteed that at least one person will come up to you and start chatting about how they read The Day of the Triffids back when they were at school. Note: It matters not whether this other person knows you personally or not. And ... now that I think of it, I must be the only person who didn't read The Day of the Triffids when I was at school. I remember reading Z for Zachariah, Picnic at Hanging Rock, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby and One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, but no The Day of the Triffids. Maybe that explains my reluctance to start conversations with random strangers who are reading in train stations, at the airport, etc, etc.

Moving along, The Day of the Triffids is a novel about some very aggressive genetically modified flowers taking over the earth in the wake of a meteor shower that has caused everybody who watched it to go blind. Triffids are able to walk and possess a deadly sting. They feed on humans. Given that most of the population is now blind, they are more or less free to roam the earth and attack anything that comes in their path. Consequently, the Triffids are now the ruling species. The only humans who are able to fight back are ones like Bill, who missed the meteor shower, due to being in hospital. As well as the Triffids, Bill has other enemies. Many humans wish to keep those who can see as their servants and will resort to great lengths to keep them captive. 

This is an exciting novel of what-ifs and many interesting twists and turns. First published in 1951, the novel has spawned film and radio adaptions and a television series.

Front Cover Preview: Best Forgotten

Just offering you all a little teaser--the front cover for the novella I am releasing later this month. Best Forgotten is the story of an introverted young woman who may or may not have murdered her former boyfriend. Most of the action revolves around the protagonists mental state and her perception of the world, making her quite an interesting character to write about. 

Monday, 11 June 2012

Review: Fair Stood the Wind for France by H.E. Bates

It feels like a long time has passed since I've written a decent review of an adult novel on here, so what better book to write about than the lovely Fair Stood the Wind for France by H.E. Bates. I discovered this fantastic Penguin Modern Classic on the shelves at Dymocks a few months ago. At that point, I had never heard of the novel, though I was aware of the author through his novel The Darling Buds of May and the subsequent television series of the same name that starred a young Catherine Zeta Jones. Anyway, this is a book that isn't to be confused with the delightful Larkin family. Rather it is a tale of a British Air Force pilot who finds himself injured and relying on the kindness of locals (many of them risking their own lives,) when his plane crashes in Occupied France during World War Two. John Franklin's arm is badly injured. After an amputation, he is nursed back to health by Françoise, the strong willed daughter of a farmer. Slowly, the pair fall in love and begin a dangerous journey by boat, bicycle and train to England. 

Although parts of the novel were gory and quite disturbing (it was a novel set in wartime after all and had mentions of amputations and suicides,) I thought this was quite a beautiful story of how love and loyalty could sustain a couple who otherwise had nothing. Published before the end of World War Two, Fair Stood the Wind For France was H.E. Bates first commercially successful novel and in my opinion, one of his best.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Calvin and Hobbes: Let's Go Exploring

Just wanted to share one of my all-time favourite Calvin and Hobbes comic. This simple comic ended the series, but has a wonderful message about life going on and being full of new possibilities.

I need that today. Thank you, Bill Watterson.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Feature and Follow Friday

Hi all! I've missed the past two Feature and Follow Fridays due to having a lot of weird shit going on in my personal life due to being rather busy coming up with an idea for a novel about a young woman who has a lot of weird shit going on in her personal life. Anyway, on a brighter note, Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkie's View designed to help book bloggers meet and connect. Most weeks there is a question to answer, but because Feature and Follow Friday is celebrating its 100th meme, the hosts have decided to do things a little differently this time. This week, everyone participating in the meme will feature one of their favourite blogs. So ... drumroll please ...

One of my favourite stops in the blogosphere is Write Now. Hosted by JLT (who I've know for some time from various writing forums,) this blog puts together some of the most useful and practical advice for writers. Regardless of whether you're just starting out, or have several years of experience you'll find plenty of useful tips and tricks, as well as a number of prompts to help get the creative juices flowing and interviews with various authors. Definitely worth your time.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Judy Blume Files: Iggie's House

It's difficult to find a word that accurately describes this children's book. Although in many ways the words nice or sweet would be fitting, both words are often used to describe books in a way that is condescending, as if to say that it was a good story, but something was lacking. And there is nothing lacking about Iggie's House. This is a great book, about the lessons eleven year old Winnie learns when a new family moves into her neighbourhood. 

The novel opens with Winnie eagerly awaiting the arrival of her new neighbours. She is sad and lonely. It is the beginning of summer. Her brother is away at camp and worse still, Iggie, her best friend in the whole world has moved away. Iggie and her parents have promised that Winnie will get a surprise when she discovers who has bought their house. And sure enough, Winnie is very excited to learn that three new kids will be moving into the house, including two boys who are both close to her own age. The only catch is this. Winnie lives in an all white neighbourhood. Her new neighbours, the Gerbers, are black and previously lived in Detroit.

Iggie's House was first published in 1970. The Detroit riots are mentioned a number of times, suggesting that the story is set a year or two earlier. The riots are used as an excuse for some of the local residents to justify their hatred (or perhaps fear of,) the Gerbers. Meanwhile, Winnie has never had any friends who are black before and, having learned about improving race relations at school the year before, she sets about trying to be a good neighbour. Her attempts at friendship with the three kids often go awry--for example when she first meets them, she asks if they came from Africa and when she learns that the Gerbers are from Detroit, she asks if they stole shoes during the riots. Consequently, the older Gerber boys find her ignorant and annoying. Winnie then tries harder to show them that she is a good person, but only time and discovering that the Gerbers are no different from her own family can eventually show her that what the Gerber kids need is a friend, not a good neighbour.

I actually enjoyed revisiting this one a lot more than Are You There God? It's Me Margaret. Winnie was a likeable lead character and despite the book being set in a different country and era, I could really relate to this one when I first read it--when I was a child a family of refugees from El Salvador moved into the house next door. While the adults in the area were busy debating the issues of refugees moving into what at that time was a predominantly white neighbourhood (everyone had either British or German ancestry). I was busy feeling excited because there was four kids close to my own age in the house next door. I was the first kid in the neighbourhood who was invited to play there. For the record, the family were sadly missed by most of the locals when they moved out five years later. Anyway, Iggie's House offers a sensitive and realistic telling of a difficult subject and was definitely worth rereading.  

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Review: Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James

In which Ana returns to Christian and resumes their abusive relationship because she is an idiot.

I really do not understand why this whole series is so popular. If Fifty Shades of Grey a book which basically depicted an abusive control freak and his successful attempt at seducing an innocent virgin into a kinky, semi-sadomasochistic arrangement, is supposedly liberating then how come Christian Grey shows all the signs of being an abusive partner. Seriously. The guy controls every aspect of Ana's life, from what she eats to what she wears. He even hires people to sit outside her workplace all day and watch her and seems to object to the idea of her undertaking any type of paid employment at all. He justifies his behaviour with pathetic statements that go somewhere along the lines of, "This is who I am," and "This is the only way I know how to be." And if you've read the series and don't believe me that the relationship is abusive, I suggest you read this: abuse-warning-signs-types.html And once you've finishing reading that article, go out and read The Female Eunuch instead of the next installment in this very silly trilogy.

Anyway, the plot. In this installment, Christian basically opens up about his abusive childhood but actually does fuck all to help himself apart from scribbling on his chest with lipstick. The psychiatrist he's been seeing for years still hasn't made any major breakthroughs, but Ana is sure that she can singlehandedly help him. There are a couple of kinky sex scenes and a wedding proposal. Oh and there are a couple of people out to kill both Christian and Ana. And that's basically it. The intoxicating, exquisite and beguiling text remains annoying and repetitive. Of course, some may argue that Ana's actions are done out of love and that Christian attempts to help himself because he loves Ana and that's all quite romantic, but I'm not really fooled. Just call me the misery chick.

Monday, 4 June 2012

1990s Nostalgia: The Fever Diane Hoh

Okay, I confess. When I found this one down at my local Savers I was just a teeny-tiny bit excited. Along with RL Stine's The Babysitter, The Fever was one of my favourite novels from the Scholastic's Point Horror series. In fact, I remember borrowing a copy from the library at my school and reading it all in one day. It was that good. I loved the creepy setting of a run down and underfunded hospital. The protagonist, Duffy (love that name) is confined to her bed whilst suffering a mysterious illness. One night, while in the midst of a fever, she witnesses a murder. And the murderer will go to any length to make sure that Duffy does not remember the crime or tell anyone what happened ...

It is surprising how much I remembered of this novel. Along with the setting, some parts of this story are damn creepy. Such as Duffy's mysterious illness (which is never quite explained,) or how her attempts to escape from the hospital are foiled by a mysterious person that she cannot see. During the course of the novel, Duffy almost falls down an empty elevator shaft, she is attacked from behind inside a darkened shower stalls and her medication is tampered with. Consequently, I was really looking forward to rereading this one again. And was I disappointed?

Not really. Obviously, it's a children's pulp horror fiction and there were going to be some problems with it. The book suffers from the usual stereotypes of this genre--all adults in the novel are either very distant figures (Duffy's parents are said to be accountants and its tax time, meaning that they cannot possibly visit their ailing daughter in hospital,) or cruel authority figures, such as the evil Uncle who adopted Duffy's best friend Kit and is now insisting that Kit pay him back for all of the money he spent on Kit's upbringing. And, of course, because the book is aimed at twelve year olds, the teenage main characters all have a surprising amount of responsibility--the hospital is more or less run by a bunch of seventeen and eighteen year old volunteers. Who all seem to stay on volunteering after midnight, despite the fact that they are all in their final year of high school. Naturally, one of the teens is a murderer, another falls victim to the murderer and the others are all suspects. Including a very attractive male who goes on to be Duffy's love interest at the end of the novel. There are plenty of plot holes and I doubt anything even vaguely like the events depicted could happen at a real hospital, but hey, it's meant to shock, not offer an accurate depiction of what its like to be a teenager stuck in hospital.

All in all, The Fever was a fun read and one of the better ones from the series to revist for nostalgic purposes. Definitely worth the 99 cents I paid for it.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Daria - Misery Chick

Just wanted to share one of my favourite clips from one of my all-time favourite television series Daria. For those of you who missed it, Daria was an animated series that emerged from in the late 1990s and used to air in Australia on the ABC in an obscure time slot and was pretty much ignored by anyone who didn't like other cool stuff from that era like Recovery or Recovery's awesome host Dylan Lewis.

Anyway, this clip really sums up the misunderstood Daria. Her family and classmates assume that she's miserable, simply because she is a realist and possesses the ability to think for herself. Here, Daria proves once and for all that isn't true. Or something like it.