Monday, 30 April 2012

Interview With Screenwriter Vanessa Morgan, Author of A Good Man


To what extent do you feel that Louis is a good man? Is he any better or worse than the other characters in your screenplay (for example, Vincent or the Homeless Man)?

That's a really good question. Most people consider Louis to be a bad person because he's a vampire and because he has to kill people. But... if he doesn't drink fresh human blood, he will be paralyzed for eternity. What would you do in that situation? You probably eat meat, so that means it doesn't bother you that someone has to kill an animal for your pleasure. Apart from the feeding aspect, Louis has a bigger heart than 99% of the people we know – he only kills people who actually 'deserve' it, he donates the clothes of his victims to the homeless, he takes care of animals, he is concerned with the ecological future of the planet and he is actually very sweet to the people around him. Vincent, on the other hand, seems to be the perfect husband on the surface - he loves his pregnant wife and he does everything he can to make her happy - still, he's capable of abandoning her for a woman that doesn't even love him back. Most people will label him as 'bad', but the reader doesn't because he gets to see Vincent's point of view; he gets to 'experience' the love he feels for that other woman. That's what A Good Man is all about. We all hurt someone once in a while, but chances are we have a good excuse. By knowing the motivations behind one's deeds, we realize that the person in question isn't as bad as we thought.

A Good Man has drawn some comparisons to Dexter and American Psycho. To what extent (if at all) were you influenced by these works? 

I haven't seen Dexter, but apparantly it's about a killer whose victims 'deserve' to die; this happens in A Good Man as well. As for American Psycho, the main similarities are the sense of humor and the killer's extensive use of facial creams.

What is one film that everyone should see? 

I believe everyone should support indie movies as much as possible. They need the revenue more than those widely distributed movies you are watching right now and most of them will be better too.

What appeals to you about writing horror stories? 

I've been a horror girl as long as I can remember. Maybe it's because I'm a sweet girl and I need to express my dark side one way or another.

Profile description

Screenwriter and novelist Vanessa Morgan is known as the 'female version of Stephen King'. You can find out more about Vanessa Morgan and her work by going to her personal blog http://vanessa-morgan.blogspot.com. If you like cats, you might also like the web comic about her cat Avalon at http://avalon-lion.blogspot.com

About A Good Man

Loved Dexter and American Psycho? Then chances are you will love A Good Man.

Louis Caron is a good man – vegetarian, he feeds the homeless, takes care of animals and is concerned with the ecological future of the planet. But his altruism has a sinister edge – he's a vampire - and local detective Taglioni is becoming increasingly suspicious. Louis' attempt to escape the police will take him on a journey into his own private hell where he is not only forced to confront his worst fears, but also to destroy the lives of those he cares about most.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Ellen Reads '50 Shades of Grey'



Just had to share this awesome clip. Ellen gives Fifty Shades of Grey the reading it deserves. 

Friday, 27 April 2012

Review: A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry

Let me share with you a very personal story. When we were sixteen, a close friend of mine, a girl I had gone right through school with, was diagnosed with cancer. Melanie. I watched in fear and confusion as she became ill, got better, became ill again and eventually passed away shortly after our high school graduation. No one understood what I went through, watching by helplessly as it all unfolded. People assume that when you're young, you just get over things. You don't. The truth is, I experienced things that I didn't understand--an illness, grieving and my own emotions. Later that same summer, I found a copy of A Summer to Die at my local library. I read it from cover to cover in one afternoon, thankful that somebody (the author) knew what it was like to  be young and to watch someone your own age die. Lois Lowry, you have no idea how much comfort your book gave me during an awful time ...

A Summer to Die tells the story of two sisters, Molly and Meg. The pair are opposites--Molly is pretty, neat and kind, while Meg is loud, messy and creative. Although they are close in age, most of the time they do not get along. Each sees in the other someone that they wish they could be. When the family move to the country so that the girls' father can work on his book, the pair find themselves sharing a room, much to their irritation. Meg also notices that her sister is becoming increasingly sick. First there are flu like symptoms, followed by nosebleeds and then a hemorrhage than results in Molly being hospitalised. When she returns home she must take pills that make her hair fall out. Meg does not fully understand what is going on or the implications of her sisters illness. Eventually, after some time, Molly is taken to hospital. Meg confronts her parents, who explain that Molly will not be returning home. Meg visits her sister at the hospital and she dies just a few hours later.

When I love about this book is that the author captures Meg's emotions and lack of understanding about the situation perfectly. An afterword at the back of the book explains why. Lois Lowry had a sister, Helen, who died from cancer when she was young. I also love this quote that the author gives us about her sister and the grieving process:
Somehow magically, mercifully I no longer remember her ill. That's because what is real is the way life continues, and the way people become able to absorb loss, to value memories and to say good-bye.
This post is dedicated to Melanie T, who I no longer remember as ill, but for all of the many wonderful moments that we shared. 

Feature & Follow Friday



Guess what? It's that awesome time of week again, Feature & Follow Friday. Hosted Parajunkie's View and Alison Can Read, Feature & Follow Friday is a weekly blog hop, designed to help like-minded bloggers connect. This week's all important question is:

Q: Have you had a character that disappointed you? One that you fell in love with and then "broke up" with later on in either the series or a stand-alone book? Tell us about him or her.



Hmm, this is a difficult one. [Contemplates ...]

Okay, please don't shoot, but I'm going to choose Anne Shirley from the Anne of Green Gables series. I loved her in the early books, but later titles (from Anne of Windy Willows onward,) she became a very boring adult - she settled a little too well into her role of wife and mother. The series didn't really pick up again until the last few books, which were about her children. 

Another character who really started to annoy me halfway through the series was Ruby Landry/Dumas/Tate from the Landry series by V.C. Andrews. She seemed like such a nice girl in the beginning, then she married her half-brother and had an affair with her twin sister's husband. (Although, granted the twin sister was a real bitch.) And then there was the bit where she went crazy in the second to last volume in the series.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Literary Quotes

If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.  

~ Toni Morrison

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

1980s Nostalgia: Slam Book by Ann M. Martin

Some fans of 1980s nostalgia may not be so surprised to learn that Ann M. Martin, the author of the infamous Babysitters Club series also wrote four novels for young adults in the 1980s. Walking where the likes of Claudia Kishi and Mary Ann Spier would never dare tread, Slam Book tells the story of how a silly teenage prank ends in tragedy.

To give some background to the story, in the 1980s Slam Books were the great fear of parents of high schoolers everywhere. (These days, websites like facebook and formspring are subject to the same kind of scrutiny.) The books were basically a notebook that listed the names of every student in the class/grade/school. Beneath the name of each student, there was a space where his or her peers could write anonymous notes stating what they really thought about him or her and, consequently, could be used for bullying often with tragic consequences. Mentions of them have turned up in popular culture on several occasions (there was a Sweet Valley High book about them,) most recently in the film Mean Girls, where the Slam Book is known as a burn book.

Anyway, Slam Book by Ann M. Martin tells the story of Anna. Anna, is basically a good kid. She's loyal to her friends, studies hard and likes to have fun. She also desperately wants to fit in and be part of the popular crowd at her high school. And so she decides that a slam book (a notebook with a page for each student, where his or her classmates can write what they really think about them,) is her gateway to popularity. And it's all good until Anna uses her book play a prank on a unpopular girl from a poor family, which ends in the tragic suicide of one classmate and an attempted suicide of another.

Slam Book is an interesting read about teenage behaviour and a young woman's discover of how her actions can have a serious impact on others, though some of the issues of bullying and how Cheryl's suicide could have been prevented seem to be glossed over. The novel ends on a haunting note, with Anna realising that adolescence is not going to be easy.

Ann M. Martin's other novels for young adults are Missing Since Monday, Just a Summer Romance and With and Without You. 

Review: A Good Man, a Screenplay by Vanessa Morgan

You know, one of the perks of a book blog is getting to read some great stuff before everyone else does. And when author Vanessa Morgan gave me the opportunity to review the screenplay for A Good Man, I could not resist her offer. A Good Man, which is currently in preproduction with Radowski Films, tells the story of Louis a man who became a vampire late in life and is now forced to suffer eternity in the body of a fifty-five year old man that comes complete with arthritis and wrinkles. To atone for the fact that he must murder others to stay alive (if he stops drinking blood, he will be forced to spend eternity as a plant,) Louis does his best to be a good man in other areas of his life - his diet is strictly vegetarian, he donates the clothes of the people he murders to the homeless and at one point, he even adopts the beloved cat of one of his victims. Sadly, his attempts at doing the right thing often come unstuck, with tragic and occasionally comical results. I thought A Good Man was an excellent screenplay with a fantastic blend of comedy and horror. Highly recommended.

Vanessa Morgan is the author of Drowned Sorrow and the Strangers Outside. You can visit her official website here.

PS You can read more about A Good Man's development into film here.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Review - Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

Fifty Shades of Grey - in which the heroine falls in love with a rich control freak with a bondage fetish because she is an idiot.

Okay, now that I've got that out of my system, I'm going to talk about what has been one of the most remarkable stories to come out of the publishing industry in recent times. Erika Leonard, was a London based fan fiction writer who worked for a small television production company. In 2009 she penned a Twilight fan fiction titled Master of the Universe under the pseudonym Ice Queen Dragon and published it on fanfiction.net (a truly awesome website--look hard and you'll find some real gems in there). The fan fiction, which took a number of liberties with the plot, most notably with its suggestion that Edward Cullen has a fetish for a watered down version of sadomasochism, became a hit, leading to complaints about the sexual content. Leonard then removed the story, changed the names of the characters to Christian Grey and Ana Steele, and the title to Fifty Shades of Grey and republished it on her own website under the pseudonym E.L. James. Eventually, Fifty Shades of Grey led to a sequel, Fifty Shades Darker and the third and final book in the series, Fifty Shades Freed. The three books were subsequently published by The Writer's Coffee Shop, an Australian based Print on Demand company. The trilogy was so successful that it was eventually picked up by Random House for a seven figure sum and the film rights have now been sold. All in all, this is an incredible achievement and one that deserves much respect. How many writers go from posting a fan fiction to selling a trilogy based on that story to a major publishing house? For that, E.L. James, I salute you. 

The Random House edition of Fifty Shades of Grey was released in the United States in early April, with an international version following a few days later. Almost immediately, the book flew to the top of the best seller lists. (At the time of writing this post, Fifty Shades of Grey is number one on the New York Times Best Seller List. Fifty Shades Darker is sitting pretty at number two and Fifty Shades Freed comes in at number four.) Again, these are wonderful achievements by a debut author and they deserve our respect. But what the hell is it that makes this book so successful?

To be honest, I really don't know. Much of the hype surrounding the novel suggests that this is a dark and mysterious novel about an innocent young woman seduced into the world of BDSM by a wealthy control freak. In fact, I can almost hear the gasps and whispers. Ooh, Kathryn is reviewing a sex novel. There is also the more troubling suggestions that Fifty Shades of Grey is liberating or 'Mummy Porn'. (And no, I'm not talking about porn that features Egyptian Mummies having sex. Though I'm sure that actually exists, somewhere out there in cyberspace, I wont be googling it any time soon.) 

My own gut instinct about Fifty Shades of Grey (and I hope that I'm not being too harsh here,) is that the novel is overlong, the characters are underdeveloped and the sex scenes are kinky, rather than shocking or erotic. The vocabulary was limited and readers were treated to the same dialogue over and over again. I get that Christian Grey is good looking. There is also the more troubling relationship that Ana has with her own body. At 22 she has never touched herself 'down there' (I'm guessing that she's never trimmed her pubic hair or inserted a tampon either,) and cannot bring herself to even think perfectly normal words such as vagina, vulva, labia or, wait for it, clitoris. (This makes me cast my mind back to primary school, where all the girls were taken out for a special sex education lesson, led by the legendary Mrs Devitt. We were taught that there was nothing wrong with having a vagina, or referring to it as such. Ana Steele needs a Mrs Devitt in her life.) The author herself recently said that, "I'm not a great writer." (Watch the interview in this link. What really comes through is just how lovely, and how down to earth the author really is. I'd love to interview her on this blog, but doubt that is going to happen any time soon.)

The relationship between Ana and Christian is quite odd. I suspect the appeal isn't that much different to what drew many readers to Twilight. Just as Edward Cullen could offer a father figure, riches and eternal youth (thus meaning that Bella never has to grow old,) Christian represents an older and richer father figure who can shield Ana away from the scary new world she has just discovered outside of university. She does not have to stand on her own two feet, think for herself or make her own mistakes. Even her attempts at rebelling (such as not eating when she is told,) seem shallow. And we know that even when she leaves him at the end of the book, that they will come together again in the sequel. It's very much a fantasy. The reader isn't going to want a relationship like this in real life, but it might be fun to read about it for a while.

A dark and mysterious book? Well,  not really. It's very much a sexy novel for those of us who don't read erotica, but want to escape into a fantasy world for a while.

That, the book is a readable, lightweight romance and the concept is an interesting one. I'm not sure that Fifty Shades of Grey is worth all of the hype, though its journey from fan fiction to the top of the New York Times Best Seller List is a remarkable one and certainly worthy of respect. 

Friday, 20 April 2012

An Amazing Book Find

Being Abigail inside Dymocks
(My hand was shaking quite a bit
when I took this photo.)


Followers of this blog may not be so surprised to learn that I love visiting various bookstores around Adelaide. (After all, I manage to include anecdotes about my bookstore visits nearly every time that I write a book review.) Anyway, tonight, I made one of my semi-regular stop-offs at the Dymocks bookstore in Rundle Mall. (Dymocks and I go way back. I remember back in the early 1990s when they were in a different location, which could be accessed via the Mall or that Arcade that ran behind John Martins. That incarnation also had a large discount book section upstairs. My first ever purchase was the 1993 Garfield Annual.) This evening, I stopped by Dymocks. Happily, I began to browse through the shelves, taking in the covers and blurbs of various books, when something very special caught my eye:

BEING ABIGAIL Kathryn White


There, on the shelf of the biggest bookstore in Adelaide was a copy of my book. 

Never in a million years did I expect this. I have never approached the store and asked for them to stock my book on consignment (the usual process for authors of Print on Demand titles,) nor do I know the management or who selects what titles should be on sale or why. All I know is that this store has decided that my book is worthy of being placed on their shelves. And for that, I thank them very much.

Follow Friday



Yes, it's that awesome time of week again, Follow Friday. For those of you who may have missed it, Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkie and Alison Can Read and is intended to help like minded bloggers network with one another. The great thing about this meme is that both of the hosts have a feature blog each week, and there is always a question that gets everyone talking. This week's question is:

Q: Fight! Fight! If you could have two fictional characters battle it out (preferably from books), who would they be and who do you think would win?


I would have Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice fight Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights simply because they are both iconic leading men of British Literature, but are so radically different from one another. Although Heathcliff is probably physically stronger, Mr Darcy would win through his intelligence, character and sense of fair play. Plus, unless your name is Elizabeth Bennet, you don't want to make Mr Darcy angry.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Interview With Monica Leonelle, Author of Socialpunk

Monica Leonelle
Author of Socialpunk
I'm very excited! Monica Leonelle, author of Socialpunk, was kind enough to allow me to interview her via email earlier this week. In case you missed it, Socialpunk is a brilliant young adult novel that I reviewed on Kathryn's Inbox earlier this week. (You can read the review here.) Monica is well-known digital media strategist and the author of three novels. She blogs at Prose on Fire and shares her writing and social media knowledge with other bloggers and authors. 

What inspired you to write Socialpunk?

Socialpunk is a bit like The Truman Show meets The Terminator, except Mark Zuckerburg is president of the world. I wanted to do a cyberpunk and Socialpunk is classically cyberpunk, down to its roots. I loved the idea of being trapped in a virtual reality, and then acclimating to the real world.

Socialpunk is very reflective of today’s social media-driven world in terms of artists, curators, and influencers. It's definitely a physical reincarnation of the digital media world. I love the social media concepts embedded in the book and was inspired to write a cyberpunk.

How important do you feel word-of-mouth advertising is for writers? 

Of the utmost importance and should be #1 on the priority list! In my opinion, writers should inject their marketing directly into their manuscripts. Writers often think of marketing as this separate thing from writing, but it's not at all. 80-90% of books are sold through word-of-mouth and most of the marketability of a book is right there in the manuscript. So even if you are going the traditional route, if you are serious about getting published you should hire an editor to go through your book and see how marketable it is. Traditional publishers are looking for marketable books. It's a business and they need to make money. Then, you launch your book by asking people to read it. If it's any good you'll start getting word-of-mouth for your book. My goal is to give away one thousand copies of the book during its launch. I'm maybe a fifth of the way there so far? It's a lot of work, more than most people realize. I write about this stuff constantly on my Prose on Fire newsletter, so if these concepts interest you, you can check it out here: proseonfire.com/free-writer-toolkit <http://proseonfire.com/free-writer-toolkit

So far, I have seen a lot of reviews and features on book blogs for Socialpunk. Have you felt overwhelmed at all by the tour?

Well, I was gone spur of the moment for five days in DC this month. So I got pretty behind on interviews and posting stuff and tweeting. That was entirely my fault as I didn't expect to be on the road. I'm *almost* caught up though and should be back at full speed shortly.

I am mostly overwhelmed by how amazing people are. Bloggers are the best! And the reviews have been very kind and positive so far. That's always a relief. I've really taken in some of the complaints about the book and want to rework the book and fix those issues, so I'm looking forward to the blog tour ending and having time to revisit the book itself.

Do you have a favourite place to write?

I mostly just write on my couch and often with the television on! It's really bizarre. If I'm writing fiction I typically need quiet, so I'll write in the dead hours of the night. All I need is typically my computer, and sometimes my Spotify account.

I'm trying to learn to write anywhere under any conditions. Writing is one of those lucky professions that you can do anywhere, and I travel a lot and would love to get better about working on the road. So I'm working on *not* having a favorite place to write.

What is one book everyone should read?

When I was a kid I loved this book called The Girl With the Silver Eyes. Here is the exact cover of the book I had: http://www.amazon.com/Girl-Silver-Eyes-Apple-Paperbacks/dp/0590442481. It's one of my absolute favorite YA novels, and, surprise! Maggie Stiefvater loves that book too. This was the first novel that made me want to write fantasy and science fiction.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers in Adelaide, Australia? 

Thank you for giving my books a chance! I appreciate every reader, even if they don't love the books. I definitely listen to feedback and read every review so that I can improve as a writer.


A very big thank you to Monica Leonelle for taking the time to talk to us! Monica, I wish you every success with Socialpunk and look forward to reading the two sequels, Socialmob and Socialhood

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Socialpunk

In terms of book blogs, I'm still one of the new kids on the blogosphere, so imagine my surprise, and delight, when I was approached by author Monica Leonelle to participate in the blog tour for her new Young Adult novel, Socialpunk. Monica lives in Chicago and when she isn't writing, works as a digital media stratagist, meaning that she was able to organise a mighty fine blog tour for her new book. Over the past two weeks, I've been following this tour on google and watching as the reviews for her novel have grown. (In fact, if you're an avid follower of book blogs, there's a very good chance that you've heard of Socialpunk already.) Anyway, seeing as the author was kind enough to proved me with a free eBook copy in exchange for an honest review, I'd better do just that ...

Socialpunk

A lively and fast-paced young adult novel, Socialpunk offers two very different dystopian glimpses of Chicago in the future. Ima is a timid young woman who lives in the domed city of Chicago in 2051 with her spineless mother, a father who is abusive in every sense of the word and Dash, the boy she loves, but who cannot love her back as any more than a friend. After escaping an explosion a popular nightspot with the aid of a mysterious hooded figure named Vaughn, Ima finds herself in a very different but equally bleak Chicago--the Chicago of 2198. A much larger shock is in store. The domed city that Ima has grown up in is part of a virtual reality that is scheduled for deletion. Ima must find a way to hide from the government (who would probably destroy her on site if they knew her identity,) and to save Dash and the people that she loves from being destroyed.

I found Socialpunk to be a lively and entertaining read. It was wonderful to glimpse the two different views of Chicago and to follow Ima as she grew from a timid girl to the beautiful and strong willed "Cinder" through the course of this short novel. The authors passion for the genre shows on every page. However, there were a few editing issues that need to be addressed (including some name inconsistencies in chapter 15) and there were some places where I wished the author would show us various things instead of flat out telling is. (As C.S. Lewis once famously said, don't say it was delightful, make us say delightful when we read the description.) Then again, I'm grateful that the author did not go into too much detail in some places, such as describing the abuse Ima suffered at the hands of her father--in this instance to know was enough. The ending, meanwhile, surprised me quite a bit. I'm not sure if the ending is good or bad, or where the author is leading with this one.

I enjoyed reading Socialpunk and am grateful to the author for allowing me the opportunity to review her novel on my site. I look forward to reading the following books in the triology, Socialmob and Socialhood.

Cool Socialpunk Links - What other reviewers are saying:


PS - I'll be interviewing Monica Leonelle later this week.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Literary Quotes



A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.

~ Charles Dickens

Sunday, 15 April 2012

The Evolution of Mary Anne Spier

You know, sometimes I waste far too much time pondering about the things in life that aren't really important. Like how come Mary Anne Spier from The Babysitters Club is generally considered the least popular character of the series. Now, I think that Mary Anne Spier is awesome. Okay, she may have been a sooky lala who burst into tears at every opportunity and she certainly wore some strange outfits (but hey, Mary Anne's clothes were nothing compared to the weird shit that was worn by Claudia,) but Mary Anne was also the first to get a steady boyfriend (and she told him to get bent when he became too controlling,) lived in a haunted house (okay, Dawn lived there first,) and she was the only member of the group who appeared to be capable of standing up to the others and who could make friends outside of the group. And she managed to do all of this while being an all-round nice person. It was never Mary Anne who bitched or moaned about the other girls, even though she had to constantly listen to the crap that they told her about their troubled personal lives and problems that were all of their own doing anyway. But what the members of the Babysitters Club, and many fans may not have realise is that Mary Anne was also an expert master of disguise, whose physical appearance changed radically over the course of the series. Today, Kathryn's Inbox lifts the lid on the quiet evolution of Mary Anne Spier ...

1. The Original Mary Anne, age 12, circa 1986


This was Mary Anne when readers first met her. A shy, dowdy 12 year old, who had just told her three best friends from the Babysitters Club to get stuffed after they were mean to her. There was also some problem with a strict father who, inexplicably, insisted that she wear her hair in two long braids. (Much like Wednesday Adams.) Mary Anne showed everyone what she was made of by making friends with a new girl at school called Dawn and proving that she was a kick arse babysitter by rushing her charge to the emergency room when the girl became seriously ill. Her father realised that she was becoming too old to push around and lifted his restrictions on her hairstyle. The Babysitters Club then reformed and Mary Anne insisted that her friend Dawn become a member.

2. Teenage Mary Anne, age 13, circa 1988


In this incarnation, Mary Anne looks like an ordinary teenager from that era. This time, there is a problem with someone sending bad luck charms and anonymous notes made from cut out letters, but Mary Anne and her friends soon outsmart the perpetuators - a group of mean girls from Stoneybrook Middle School whose leader is intent on stealing Mary Anne's boyfriend.

3. Sex Bomb Mary Anne, age 13 circa 1990.


In this incarnation, Mary Anne escapes her strict father, finds a bikini and heads to the beach, where practically every boy she meets falls in love with her. Which leads to our next incarnation ...

4. Mary Anne Gets Knocked Up by Ben Hobart, Moves to Noarlunga and Gets a Single Mum's Pension, circa 1992



Title says all. Oh, and this one came with a free bookmark. I lost mine.

5. Mary Anne's Makeover, circa 1993


Leaving Noarlunga and the single mother incident firmly behind her, Mary Anne returns to Stoneybrook, where she gets a haircut and some strange looking tights. Even so, the members of the Babysitters Club have some difficulty welcoming her back into the fold.

6. TV Star Mary Anne, circa 1993


Mary Anne as she appeared on the Babysitters Club television series. Sweet and preppy ... if only everyone knew the truth.

7. Mary Anne goes international, circa 1994


In this one, Mary Anne visits England, where she shacks up with a shady importer of electrical goods called Tony. They live happily together in a flat on the Larkmede Estate along with a pile of stolen toasters, but Mary Anne is arrested and taken to the Sun Hill police station by WPC June Ackland after writing BSC Friends Forever on the stairs of the estate. She is subsequently deported.

8. Movie Star Mary Anne, circa 1995


Shortly after being deported made her motion picture debut in The Babysitters Club Movie. The girls from the club actually stayed at Dawn's house in California and commuted every day to Hollywood in a minivan driven by Kristy's stepfather, Watson Brewer, while they made the movie. No one knows that it was Mary Anne who put sugar in the fuel tank, so that she could play hookey from making the film one day and hang out inside Cam Geary's house. Later, Cam tried to sell the photographs to a popular celebrity magazine, but Watson Brewer bought them for the sum of one million dollars. Kristy destroyed all but one photograph that Watson was mysteriously unable to find.

9. Mary Anne Take Two, circa 1998


After the Cam Geary photograph incident, Mary Anne was ordered by her strict father to pull her head in. She began braiding her hair once again, but this time she wore a slightly shorter skirt.

10. Mary Anne's Revenge, circa 2000


We get the impression that Mary Anne isn't too happy about her new squeaky clean image. Just look in the eyes. What could she planning this time ...

Friday, 13 April 2012

Feature & Follow Friday



I found this awesome little blog hop while I was doing the rounds on blogspot today. I'm always up for finding new things to read, so I thought I'd join. 

The Feature and Follow is sponsored by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read and the intention (so far as I can tell, anyway,) is to help like-minded bloggers network with one another. 

There is also a question to answer this week, so I shall do my best ...

What one book or books would you be nervous to see as movie adaption of because you believe the movie could never live up to the book?

Hmm, that's a huge question. And as egotistical as it seems, I'm actually going to choose my own book, Being Abigail. The idea of seeing my own book made into a film terrifies me - what if the filmmakers got some of the most important details (or the things about the book that were dearest to me,) wrong? 

But to answer the question about a book I've read, I'm going to choose Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar. I fear that some of the wit and charm of this novel may be lost in translation from paper to screen. Then again, if you found a great director ...

Thursday, 12 April 2012

YA Book Nostalgia

A lovely surprise waiting for me when I arrived home from work ... a parcel filled with secondhand books. All are Young Adult novels I found for sale on Better World Books (a fantastic site, which sells cheap secondhand books and uses some of their profits to fund literacy programmes in developing countries) and intend to write about on this blog over the coming months. (Along with about a thousand other topics. Actually, I quite like the eclectic nature of this blog.) All of these are books that I read at one point or another during my early teens, but have subsequently been lost or given away, or were borrowed from the library.

Anyway, the books I received in the post today are:

Find A Stranger Say Goodbye - Lois Lowry

I used to love reading Lois Lowry's novels when I was in my early teens. For one reason or another I never read this title. I'm guessing my local library and my school library did not have copies. I suspect this one is for older teenagers anyway, given the blurb:

Natalie has everything - beauty, a loving family, and terrific boyfriend and entrance to the college of her choice. But she is haunted by a missing link in her life - who is the mother who gave her up when she was only a few days old. 
The Summer She is seventeen, Natalie decides to find out who were her natural parents and what has happened to them. Old newspapers and a high school yearbook yield clues that start to unravel the mystery of her past. From a small town in Maine to New York City, Natalie's search leads to anger, hope, even love and finally a confrontation with her real mother. 

A Summer to Die - Lois Lowry 

I'll probably feature this title a post along with Say Goodnight Gracie by Julie Reece Deaver. Both novels mean quite a bit to me, as they discuss the death of a young person and the complex feelings that the young protagonist (in A Summer to Die, a sister, in Say Goodnight Gracie a friend,) experience as they grieve. Through firsthand experience, I know how easily an adult can dismiss or misunderstand these feelings. I'd actually go as far as to recommend the books to the parents of a young adult who has experienced the death of a close friend.

Tiger Eyes - Judy Blume
Are You There God? It's Me Margaret - Judy Blume

I hope to use these along with the Judy Blume book that I have in my collection (just as soon as I can locate copies of Just as Long as We're Together and Here's to You Rachel Robinson,) to make up a larger piece on this wonderful author.  

Shockwaves - Carolyn Keene

Seeing as I spent such a long time commenting on the picture of Nancy's bathing suit on the front cover, I thought it might be nice to actually read the book. That, and it sounds like an interesting mystery. (Perhaps.)

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Garfield

Today I am focusing on one of my favourite comics the long-running Garfield strip. (For more on my love of comics click here.) For those of you who don't know, or perhaps have never cared to find out, the Garfield comic debuted on June 19, 1978 and is set in Muncie, Indiana. The gags are fairly simple, revolving around a fat, sarcastic cat with a penchant for eating food and his hapless owner Jon Arbuckle. The comics fit in with the standard newspaper format - three panels six days a week and a larger Sunday comic. The weekday comics typically feature a single theme that is played out over the course of a week, while the Sunday comics tend to be self-contained, brighter and tend to rely on visual comedy, rather than wit.  As the strip has now run for over 30 years, the animation and number of characters have changed over the years. The original Garfield was considerably tubbier, grouchier and quite possibly had more stripes than his modern incarnation. See:

Garfield as he appeared on June 19, 1978
Garfield in his modern incarnation,
torturing Odie.
The change in animation has two explanations. The first is that in 1984, Jim Davis the animator of Garfield decided to have Garfield "walk" on his back legs, in order to make the character more active. (Davis has later joked that Garfield does not like being active.) The second is that as the popularity of the strip grew, so too did the merchandise. While Davis does the initial writing and inking, a team of animators from his company, Paws Inc are now responsible for preparing the strip so that it is of a publishable standard. Davis, meanwhile, is busy overseeing merchandising of the Garfield brand, which includes everything from the iconic stick on Garfield that can be found on car windows, t-shirts, television series and specials, a range of books and, more surprisingly, a range of children's eyeglasses. Another surprising merchandising venture, brought to us by Paws Inc in conjunction with Ball State University is Professor Garfield an educational site that uses the characters from the cartoon to educate children on everything from science to online safety. As well as merchandise for children, Davis has released two books which are intended for adult fans. Garfield: His Nine Lives showcases a variety of animation styles and darker storytelling, giving readers the story of Garfield's other eight lives. (Apparently, he is currently enjoying his eighth life.) The book was later made into a television special, though the darker stories were left out and new stories, intended to appear to a younger audience were put in their place. A more recent release is Garfield From the Trash Bin a collection of offensive and hilarious supposed out-takes from the strip, as well as failed ideas for Garfield merchandise. I have my doubts that the big butt mug on page 31 was ever intended to be a real product. The underwear I'm a tad more inclined to believe, given that I once saw a 7-pack of Garfield themed undies for sale at Target. And if the undies aren't frightening enough, here's an interesting statistic. Garfield merchandise yields Paws Inc. 1 billion US dollars a year.

Lyman Johnson, who disappeared from the strip
in 1988. Do not look inside Jon's basement.
A number of characters have come and gone from the strip, while others have undergone dramatic personality changes. From 1978 to 1984 Lyman Johnson was John's housemate and the original owner of Odie. His purpose, initially, seemed to be to give John someone to talk to and to wear white disco suits that Garfield could shed his hair on. Gradually, Lyman's appearance in the comics became less frequent, as Jon began to "speak" to Garfield instead. Lyman made a brief reappearance in a strip dated June 19 1988. Davis has subsequently joked that Lyman left to join the peace corps and has never been seen or heard from again and added, "Don't look inside Jon's basement". A picture of Lyman also appears inside a haunted mansion in the Garfield Scavanger Hunt game, which can be played free on garfield.com The fact that without Lyman Jon was essentially talking to himself was later explored in the wonderful, fan made site Garfield Minus Garfield. This site later expanded to create a book and iPhone app of the same name. The best part of the iPhone app is that once readers have read the strip, they can then opt to show Garfield in the strip, thus allowing readers to see the strip in its original and altered format.

Another early character who experienced a dramatic change is Grandma Arbuckle. When she first appeared in the comic in 1982 she was a frail, older woman who bore an uncanny resemblance to Jon's Aunt Gussie. From 1993 onward, Grandma Arbuckle has made infrequent appearances and is depicted as a spritely, older woman who likes pink sweatshirts and drives a motorcycle: 

Grandma Arbuckle's first appearance in 1982
Grandma Arbuckle's second appearance in 1993


Dr Liz Wilson was a regular in early comics, playing the part of Garfield's vet and Jon's reluctant love interest. As the strip wore on, her appearances grew less frequent, until she was brought back as Jon's steady girlfriend in 2006, thus finally putting an end to a to an ongoing series of unfunny strips where Jon's difficulty in finding a girlfriend was thoroughly exploited. 

In 2004 after many years of television specials and television shows Garfield was made into a family-friendly feature film. Bill Murray voiced the sarcastic cat. The film and its sequel, A Tale of Two Kitties did well at the box office, but suffered poor reviews from critics. Early TV specials, the Garfield and Friends television series and three CGI films are now all available on DVD. At one stage in Australia Sanitarium was giving away free Garfield DVDs with packets of Mini Wheats as part of a joint promotion. I scored a 30 minute DVD that includes two cartoons from Garfield and Friends, promotional pieces and a trailer from the film and a PC game. However, Garfield's most controversial moment on film occurred in 1990, when he made an unauthorised appearance in the television special, Cartoon All Stars to the Rescue without the consent of Jim Davis. Given that the strip does not make social or political comments and this has been a huge part of its success, Jim Davis could have taken the producers to court and won. Fortunately for them, he chose not to. 

Although one of the more innocent strips that can be found inside the comics pages, Garfield has experienced its share of controversial moments. There are entire websites dedicated to a story that ran during October 1989 in which Garfield woke and found himself alone in a world without Jon and Odie, speculating that the sarcastic tabby actually died, however the final strip in the series notes that, 'imagination is a powerful tool, it can tint memories of the past, shade perceptions of the present or paint a future so vivid it can entice or terrify, all depending on how we conduct ourselves today' suggesting that what Garfield experienced was simply a nightmare, intended to shock him into being nicer to Jon and Odie.

A more recent controversy occurred in 2010 when this comic strip appeared in newspapers on November 11:


November 11 is, of course, Remembrance Day. The comic caused outrage, particularly in his native America (where Remembrance Day is known as Veterans Day). Davis later apologised for the timing of the strip, which had been written many months before and explained that it was part of a series of comics where Garfield interacted with spiders. He was also quick to point out that his father and brother were both veterans. Considering the lack of social and political comment that exists in the comics (and the fact that Davis had refused the producers of Cartoon All Stars to the rescue to use his character to do just that,) there is no reason to disbelieve his statement. All in all, Davis appears to be fairly laid back. He has welcomed incarnations that spoof the comics such as Garfield Minus Garfield (at one stage, he even advertised it on the Garfield website,) and doesn't seem interested in chasing lawsuits. The entire back catalogue of Garfield strips is freely available on garfield.com as well as via various official Garfield iPhone and Andriod apps.

Garfield is an enjoyable, long running strip that relies on a combination of wit and visual humour. While the merchandise may not suit every fan, the all round-awesomeness of the character and his laid back creator is undeniable. 

Saturday, 7 April 2012

The Editing Process: The End?

Final page of the manuscript
Behing the Scenes
After two solid, eight hour days of hard bloody work, I have finally applied all of the changes necessary to the master document of Behind the Scenes as well as adding two brand new scenes that will (hopefully) give a key character closure at the end of the novel. (Because without it, my poor unlikely love interest Tom would otherwise be getting a pretty rough deal that he didn't deserve.) Anyway, all of this means that I am coming very close to the end process. From now, the only editing to be done will be to check spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. This is very exciting, but very, very frightening part of the process. It's good, I am proud of it and I think that I deserve to be. However, it is at this point that fear begins to step in. Is my novel marketable, or even relevant to the current market? How am I going to sum up a complex plot in a 300 word synopsis? How confident do I feel about taking the book to a publisher or agent? Should I consider hiring the services of an editor or manuscript appraisal service? (Neither of which I can really afford). Do I have something, or am I just seeing the manuscript through a pair of rose coloured glasses? Only time will tell, I suppose, but for this evening at least I can breathe easy and know that I have come along another step further in the process. 

Friday, 6 April 2012

Of A Boy - Sonya Hartnett

It is difficult to know what I should classify this book as, exactly. Written in 2002, Of A Boy appears in the adult fiction section of my local library and, likewise, in the adult book department at Dymocks. On the other hand, the protagonist is young and the writing simple enough that the story should be understood by a reader in his or her early years of high school. To add to the confusion, the copy that I actually own is one of those popular penguin paperbacks, suggesting it has already reached 'modern classic' status. And then there is the fact that the book won The Age Book of the Year and the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 2003 and was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards that same year. So please do forgive me for being a little confused. Or perhaps I should just tell you about the book.

I purchased this one in 2009. At the time, I had just read Alan J. Whiticker's biography of the Beaumont children and their disappearance, which is one of Adelaide's most famous mysteries. (In a nutshell, three children disappeared on their way home from Glenelg.) The story of the Beaumont children was interesting to me for a number of reasons--partly due to the fear that it could have happened to anyone, and partly because in 2009 every day I was traveling on bus route 265 from Brighton to Glenelg, the same bus route that the Beaumont children were supposed to have taken home that Australia Day more than forty years earlier. Anyway, Of A Boy starts out with a similar premise. The year is 1977 and the three Metford children have vanished from nine-year-old Adrian's neighbourhood while they were on their way to buy ice-cream. Of course, the era and Victorian setting are different to the time and place when the Beaumont children disappeared, but the similarities are there. Adrian, an imaginative, introverted child, is obsessed by the mystery surrounding the disappearance, though his mind is too young and innocent to know what has probably happened to the children. To him, they have vanished to a mysterious far away place. This takes up his mind for many hours at school and during his long evenings and weekends outside. Adrian is an unwanted child. His mother can barely care for herself, let alone a child and his father simply does not want him. Instead he has been sent to live with his Grandmother, Beattie, who does not welcome the opportunity to be a parent again. She loves Adrian as a grandchild, but not to the point where she wants to take on the role of a full time, single parent, as this quote shows:
"I thought if I lost the three of you that way - that certainly would have killed me. I would have fallen down and died. But you don't die for other people's children - only for your own. I love him of course, I'll love him and protect him and keep him and do whatever needs doing to get him grown; I wouldn't let him be hurt or lost, he's a part of me but I know that he isn't mine." (p.151).
Neither Adrian's Uncle Rory or Auntie Marta are willing to step up to the role of parent. All three believe that Adrian is too young to know or understand their feelings and appear to be oblivious to the fact that Adrian is a sensitive child. Adrian is sent outside of the house to play often. It is here that he makes friends with an older girl named Nicole. Nicole's mother is dying and she too, is often sent out of the house so that she does have to say or hear anything that her parents do not want to explain. Nicole and Adrian have an uneasy friendship. To Adrian, Nicole is older and wiser and is able to answer his many questions, including the whereabouts of the Metford children. Nicole leads Adrian across town, where she promises that the Metford children will be. Eventually Nicole slip while walking across the pool in the town square--it is the middle of winter and the pool is covered. She drowns, as does Adrian when he attempts to save her. The novel ends with Beattie and Nicole's father realising that the children are missing.

Of A Boy is a novel that is on one level very simple, and on another level is quite complex. It could be read as a tale of what happens to a missing child. Looking deeper, the ending is quite ironic. Adrian is an unwanted child. He only becomes wanted by Beattie after he disappears and she contemplates the possibility that he has met with foul play, thus contradicting her earlier statement. And then, of course, there is the fact that Nicole and Adrian have died during misadventure during their attempt to find three other missing children. Like many of Hartnett's novels (Butterfly or Sleeping Dogs) the novel highlights some of the more depressing aspects of childhood and the difficulty children can have fitting in with the adults around them. Overall, not a bad book, but certainly not an uplifting read. And we never do find out what happened to the Merford children.

Of A Boy was published internationally as What the Birds See.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Henry and June

Today, I'm taking a complete 180 from the pre-teen novels this site has been reviewing in order to talk about another, but very adult book that has a place in my heart. I first became aware of Anaïs Nin as a university student in my early 20s when I found a copy of the well-written but uncomfortably erotic Delta of Venus. At the time, I wondered why an author of such talent was interested in erotica, though there was something wonderfully feminine and imaginative about the tales. At the time I also had other, more pressing questions on my mind, most of them about religion and whether  my application to do Honours in Legal Studies would be successful. (For the record, the Legal Studies department did knock back my application, which I had spent close to a year working on. By a strange twist of fate, another letter from the university arrived in my mailbox the following day, informing that I had qualified for automatic entry for Honours in English Literature. I never looked back.) Anyway, Nin and her work was largely forgotten until one idle lunchtime, when I stopped in at the Angus & Robertson store in the Central Markets. Browsing through the shelves, I found two titles by Nin. A Spy in the House of Love and Henry and June. From the moment that I read the blurb of Henry and June, I knew two things. First that identified quite strongly with the themes of inner conflict. And second, there was probably a lot more to Nin than what her most famous book might suggest at face value. There would be another surprise for me before I left the store. When I took the book to the front counter, the sales person offered me a smile, and informed me that this was her favourite book. "You'll love it," she told me. And in a funny way, I did.

Henry and June is taken from the unexpurgated diaries of Anaïs Nin. During the latter years of her life, the author was a celebrated diarist, having published heavily edited extracts of her diary in the United States, which spanned over forty years and told of her life in Paris, New York and Los Angeles, as well as numerous holidays abroad. She had worked as a model and later, a dancer and was the daughter of a narcissistic musician who left her mother for a much younger woman when Nin was just eleven. She knew a great number of writers, including John Erskine and Henry Miller. However, a close examination of the diaries suggest that readers never really get the full story. It clear that Nin is married, however at the request of her husband, Hugh Guiler, all mention of him are removed from the diaries. And so to was mention of Nin's affair with Henry Miller and her obsession with his worldly wife June. In the 1980s, after the deaths of Nin and Guiler, Rupert Pole, the executor of her estate and second husband (Nin married Pole in the 1950s, despite still being legally married to Guiler, the marriage to Pole was later annulled,) began to release unexpurgated versions of her diary. The first four volumes were released as The Early Diaries of Anaïs Nin and detailed her growth from child to woman and her marriage to Guiler. The fourth volume depicts her unsuccessful marriage to Guiler and an affair with John Erskine, which falls just short of being consummated. And then comes the fifth unexpurgated diary, Henry and June.

The diary opens in Paris in the early 1930s. The depression has hit and the Nin-Guiler's have found themselves in greatly reduced circumstances. Nin's husband, Hugh (or Hugo as he is affectionately known,) is a banker. Previously, the pair had lived a comfortable existence in Paris. Nin soon becomes acquainted with the then-unknown writer Henry Miller (and she may, quite possibly have been the inspiration for 'Tania' in Miller's book Tropic of Cancer that was set in 1930s Paris,) and develops an obsession with Miller and his wife June, to the point where she would slavishly put her own needs second in order to satisfy their whims. Nin considers June to be the most beautiful woman that she has ever met. When June eventually leaves, Nin begins an affair with Henry that leads to a sexual awakening and a lifelong friendship between the pair. The diary is interesting as it chronicles Nin's transformation into from a mousy girl to a flamboyant artist who would have numerous extra-marital affairs throughout her lifetime with little thought of the consequences to both herself and the people around her. (And who would become more famous for the imaginative erotica that she wrote for one dollar a page than for any of her novels, diaries and short stories.) Nin believes that she can love others fully, and without asking for a thing in return and that should be compensation enough. It is also interesting to note that she adores June, rather than feeling any kind of competition with her, a common (but sometimes false) stereotype between wives and mistresses. In later unexpurgated diaries, she often becomes friends with the wives of the men she has affairs with.

It is difficult to say why I love this book. Certainly, I'm not interested in affairs with married (or in this day and age, taken,) men, or adopting any part of Nin's lifestyle. The prose is surprisingly good, though not her best (keep in mind it was never edited, or intended for publication.) There is, however, something wonderful about the inner-conflict that the author details. She knows that she has a comfortable, respectable life with her husband. Hugh Guiler can not only offer her financial stability, and not only does he love her, but he is a good enough man to be able to turn a blind eye to her affair with Miller. What Hugh lacks is a passion for the arts (Nin more or less worshipped artists,) or sexual compatibility. These also happen to be the two things that the egotistical and brutish Henry Miller can offer her. Henry can never match Hugh in terms of respectability, but sexually the pair are a good match.

I think what is wonderful about the book is the way the author details her inner-conflict without demanding sympathy. Through her vivid, passionate prose, the reader gets the sense that she truly loves Henry. She makes the decision to stay with her husband and continue her affair with Henry so that she can get the best of both worlds. It's difficult to say whether Nin was simply out for all she could get and damn the consequences, or if she truly was a romantic, who was capable of loving many different men. My guess is that she is a little of both.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

The Editing Process Continues, and Other Writing News

Manuscript for Behind the Scenes
and my trusted copperplate red
correction pencil.
After two and a bit weeks, the process of reading and re-reading the printed manuscript for my novel, Behind the Scenes is slowly coming to an end. With my trusted copperplate red correction pencil by my side, I have discovered numerous grammatical, punctuation and continuity errors within my manuscript. And then there are the scenes that just need to be fleshed out that little bit more. Writing a little more about a key character's backstory might just help explain his motives. Is it truly clear that a key character's change of heart has nothing to do with wanting to help the heroine, but that he knows there is going to be trouble and he wants to cover his own backside?

 There have been moments when I have wondered how anyone who claims to be a writer could make such an obvious mistake, other times I have breathed a sigh of relief that I picked up the error sooner rather than later. And maybe it is just my ego talking, but I am actually quite happy with how the book has turned out as a whole. I look forward to making the changed to the word document version and seeing how I go from there.

In other writing news, I am also in the process of rewriting a novella from scratch. (For some reason, I seem to work best if I do editing and research in the mornings and writing in the evenings.) In 2010 I wrote a strange 25,000 word novella about a young woman who wakes up in hospital with amnesia and may or may not have murdered her ex-boyfriend. It was an interesting tale, but I felt that some of the characters lacked depth and the story did not have a satisfactory conclusion. My aim is to rewrite the story, giving the characters the depth that they so badly need and an ending that will keep readers interested. I'll keep you all posted on that one.

P.S. In book review news, I'm planning to take a quick detour from some of the children's book reviews/spoofs that have appeared on here in recent times and write about a few books for adults. Feel free to offer suggestions in the comments box, but be warned, I shy away from reviewing anything in the current best-seller lists. I'm more interested in nostalgia, little known authors or very new releases.