Saturday, 29 November 2014

Kathryn's Inbox Exclusive: Woman Shocked to Learn that Sesame Street Muppets Are Asexual

NOWHERESVILLE, AUSTRALIA--After years of speculation, local resident Irene Moore was allegedly "shocked" to learn that the characters from television's Sesame Street do not have sexual identities and are, in fact, puppets designed to help preschoolers learn basic, age appropriate lessons such as counting and all of the letters in the alphabet. Moore had spent many afternoons with her friends around at the local cafe, speculating on the personal lives of each of the muppets. "I would have said that it was obvious that Bert and Ernie were meant to represent a gay couple," Moore sighs. "The girls from the cafe agree with me as well. After a lot of discussion, it was also decided that Cookie Monster was meant to represent people with unusual fetishes and that Mr Snuffleupagus was masturbation fodder for Big Bird, with Snuffleupagus' trunk representing the penis that Big Bird wished that he had. We also felt that Zoe was a bit of a slut, but we changed our minds when one of the girls, Glenda, said that she felt offended by that."

Moore's theories on the characters from Sesame Street were disproved when her teenage son, Alfred who identifies as homosexual and is tired of being constantly bombarded with gifts of Bert and Ernie t-shirts from his mother, shared an article on his facebook that included a quote from the Sesame Workshop CEO stating that the characters "... do not exist below the waist."

When asked by our reporter why she would take so much stock in the sex lives of puppets, Irene Moore politely suggested that we go and get a life and to consider reporting some real news for a change, instead of publishing badly written pieces of satire than no one cares about anyway ...

Friday, 28 November 2014

Friday Funnies: Ming Tea - BBC

This weeks Friday Funnies comes courtesy of Faux Retro band, Ming Tea, whose song BBC inspired the hit film Austin Powers International Man of Mystery. Originally, Ming Tea would perform on Saturday Night Live, however Mike Meyer's character Austin Powers eventually went on to star in his own feature film and the band re-recorded their hit and it was included on the Austin Powers soundtrack. 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

1980s Nostalgia: Fabuland

The Fabuland House, as featured on Brikipedia

Like many kids born in the early 1980s, I had a Fabuland set (okay, I actually owned several,) and spent many happy hours building the sets and coming up with new creations. Made by Lego, Fabuland was first released in 1979 and was intended to be a kind of bridge between Duplo and the smaller and more complex regular Lego sets. Fabuland featured characters with animal heads and humanlike bodies and the instructions came in the form of an awesome booklet that included pictures of the figures putting the sets together. Fabuland proved to be quite popular and in 1986, a television series based on the sets Edward and Friends was produced. (This was later developed into a series of books.) Lego stopped making Fabuland 1989, though some Duplo sets have figures that look similar and many of the same pieces were included in the Mickey Mouse Lego sets in the early 2000s. Edward and Friends has never been released on DVD (despite the fact that Lego has become increasingly popular once again in recent years,) though many episodes are available to watch on YouTube, such as the one that I have included below ...

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Writers on Wednesday: Shiriluna Nott and SaJa H

Welcome to another fine edition of Writers on Wednesday. This week I am talking with the brilliant writing duo, Shiriluna Nott and SaJa H, co-authors of The Arden Chronicles ...

Tell me a bit about yourself …

Shiriluna: I am an (almost) 30 year old girl living in the southwest US. I grew up in a (tiny) town in upstate New York, a skip away from the Canadian border. I live with my amazing, supportive boyfriend and our four “fur babies”, three dogs and a cat. I’ve always loved reading and writing—the fantasy genre in particular. There is something about being swept away to an entirely new world that enthralls me.

SaJa: I am an aspiring author who hopes to lend my voice to the many equal rights movements across the world. I live with my spouse and children and hope that one day the world will no longer need ‘heroes’ to fight battles for something as basic as human rights. We are all human and we should all be treated as such.

Tell us about your most recently published book?

“A Call to Arms” is told from the perspective of a thirteen year old boy named Gibben Nemesio. His story encompasses what it is to be a poor child in an unsympathetic world. When he’s drafted into the military, as is custom in his land, he’s taken away from his two younger brothers who depend on him, since their parents are dead. Gib is tossed into a world of highborns and politicians and he quickly learns that not everyone is who they seem. The book deals with many real world issues—poverty, war, women’s rights, and LGBT rights. It’s a coming of age story that we feel many people will be able to relate to.

Tell us about the first time you were published?

We just became published on October 15th. It has been a long road since we’ve been writing and planning these characters and plot lines for fifteen or more years now. It is exhilarating to finally have our voices out there and being heard!

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

Again, being that we are newly published for the first time, our proudest moment is simply getting our story out there. We began developing these characters and stories from about the age of thirteen, so they’re really very personal to us. We are grateful that we’ve been able to take this opportunity to share our story with the world.

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

We are currently working on book two of this same series. Gib’s story is going to be five books long and we plan to take the reader along to experience what joys and hardships shape him into the man he will become. The world of Arden will also reflect some of the struggles in the real world and hopefully send out a beacon of hope to others who have found themselves oppressed. We want to be a support for these people and show them they are not alone.

Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

So far we’ve only experienced indie publishing. If that changes in the future we’ll let you know! But as of right now, self-publishing seems to be an excellent way to get your stories out there for the world to share.

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

SaJa: I am partial to too many series and books to list just one. I would encourage people to read as much and as often as they can. Reading keeps your mind fresh and full of ideas, whether you’re a writer yourself or a reading enthusiast.

Shiriluna: I’ve always been a huge fan of Mercedes Lackey. Her characters are so deep and I always become so invested in their story—she has inspired me to create my own memorable characters. I also love The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice, and the Shannara Series by Terry Brooks.

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

Adelaide, Australia you are amazing. Thank you so much for all of your support and giving us this opportunity. We appreciate the interview and hope to keep on writing and touching the lives of people all over the world.


Mailing List:

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Review: Fake by Beck Nicholas

How well do you really know the people that are closest to you? Your mum? Your dad? Your boyfriend? Your best friend? When seventeen-year-old Kath McKenny uses the internet to get sweet revenge on her ex-boyfriend who dumped her for the local mean girl Laura and who humiliated her in front of the whole school, she ends up uncovering a lot more than she intended to. It turns out that everyone she knows is keeping some surprising secrets ...

Fake is an absorbing YA novel that has a surprising amount of depth. Although marketed as a tale of sweet revenge, this one also has a lot to say about human nature and the ways that we sometimes, quite willingly, choose to deceive ourselves and others. It was also wonderful watching the relationship between Kath and Sebastian develop, despite some interference from Laura and the fact that both of them were keeping some pretty big secrets. There is also some subtle themes of forgiveness and redemption that I found quite lovely. And each of the characters and their secrets, though huge and sometimes surprising, were always believable.

I highly recommend this one--it's a great read for the intended YA audience and also has enough material to keep adult readers entertained and guessing. 

Monday, 24 November 2014

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

Do you remember to always validate your metrocard, or to buy a ticket when boarding a bus, train or tram? If so, Adelaide Metro like you and in this series of ads, which have been posted at various tram stops, train stations and bus stops around Adelaide, they want to call you a "fare player". (This poster pictured above hangs on a fence at Noarlunga Interchange, looking east toward the railway line.) Presumably, the thumbs up means that they think you are doing a good deed, but I would not be surprised if a tourist or two may have been a bit offended by that signal.

Apparently, the opposite of a fare player is a "fare bludger" and they too have their own poster, which comes completely with a small, white figure giving the thumbs down signal.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Review: Charming the Outback by Leesa Bow

Charming the Outback is a lightweight romance, set against the backdrop of the Australian outback that will be sure to please fans of both new adult romance and rural romance. (I suppose you could call this one a crossover and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.) Maddy McIntyre is an Adelaide girl, who is tired of the city and limited employment opportunities for graduate primary teachers. To further her career, she takes up a post in Broken Hill. But is that the only reason why she has moved to the small, mining town? Or could Luke White, the man who broke her heart several months ago and left Adelaide for his hometown be the real reason that Maddy is so interested in moving to the outback ...

This one is a lightweight romance that works as a perfect companion novel to Bow's previous Destiny Romance title, Winning the Player. It is what it is and it is difficult to say too much about the novel without giving away the very elements that made me want to keep reading. So I'll say this. The author writes a mighty fine romance with characters who are human, believable and all the more enjoyable to read about because of their flaws--too many books have flawless heros and heroines whose issues are caused by unfair circumstance; the characters in this novel have a little bit of blemish, do annoying things and sometimes make bad decisions, and that makes them all the better to read about. 

Finally, a big shout out to Penguin Books and Netgalley for my review copy. Thanks!

Friday, 21 November 2014

Friday Funnies: Garfield Minus Garfield? Part Three

Source: Go Comics
Today's Friday Funny is another weird, Jon-themed Garfield comic. We are, of course, only led to assume that it is Garfield who is using that saw ...

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Peanuts Teaser Trailer

Well, it looks like another trailer for the upcoming Peanuts movie has arrived! I'm cautiously optimistic about this one, looks like it could be a lot of fun ...

Monday, 17 November 2014

Cover Reveal: Everybody Hates Abigail by Kathryn White

Below is the cover and blurb for my next novel Everybody Hates Abigail which I am currently in the process of preparing for publication. I hope to have the novel ready for release in December. This one is very special to me, as not only is it a prequel to Being Abigail (my favourite of all of my published works,) but it is based on some short stories that I wrote when I was in my teens. The editing process has been quite rigorous, though a couple of original paragraphs made it all the way to the final edit. 

Anyway, without further ado ...

Abigail Carter may be daughter of a chart-topping rock star who is taking the world by storm, but that does not mean that her life is interesting in any way, shape or form. Expelled from a prestigious Adelaide boarding school, Abigail is sent to live with her aunt and uncle in Maripaninga Valley, South Australia's most boring small town. There, Abigail spends her days fighting with her classmates and wondering why the star of the local football team wants to date her. When one of her classmates disappears under mysterious circumstances Abigail begins to discover that there may be more to Maripaninga Valley than she realised and that the truth about Rose DuBois' disappearance may be closer than she first thought ...

Everybody Hates Abigail by Kathryn White. Coming December 2014

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

This bronze chap, who I believe is named Oliver, has lived in Rundle Mall along with his three  piggy companions since 1999. Currently located near the City Cross Arcade (like nearly all works of art in Rundle Mall, the pigs have recently been relocated,) the pigs initially copped a lot of criticism, though in recent years they have become regarded as a beloved and unique Adelaide icon. They are also remarkably popular with kids--nearly every weekend or during the school holidays, you can be guaranteed to see a child playing on or around the pigs. 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Review: All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

The 2014 Miles Franklin Literary Award winner, All the Birds, Singing is a slow, unsettling and quietly menacing tale of an isolated woman with a terrible past. Someone is stealing the sheep from Jake Whyte's farm, but who? It could be foxes, kids, the mysterious man who has arrived at the farm or something more sinister entirely. Interwoven with this story--which is set on an isolated English isle--is that of a young, Australian woman who is living a life on the run. The parts set in England are in present day, while the Australian parts of the story move backward in time, describing Jake's life on the run until we eventually learn how she got the scars on her back and how her entire life has been shaped--and perhaps ruined--by one silly, teenage mistake.

All the Birds, Singing does not always make for light or easy reading. Much like Tim Winton's In the Winter Dark we are left guessing about some of the sinister forces at work and the author makes some interesting metaphors about bird calls, particularly in the scene where we discover Jake's 'original sin.' As exploration of human nature and how one mistake can lead to many more, however, it makes for wonderful reading and the author tells the story with a good dashing of empathy.


Friday, 14 November 2014

Friday Funnies: Garfield Minus Garfield Part Duex

Source: Go Comics
This is another weird Jon Arbuckle moment that did, quite legitimately, appear in the Garfield Daily comic strip, in July 1987. Frankly, I think that the store owner is just as stupid as Jon, but hey, that's the comics pages for you ...

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Review: Crash by Sean Williams

Just as action-packed as its predecessor Crash (published outside of Australia as Crashland,) opens directly where the events of Jump (or Twinmaker) left off. Clair has betrayed her friend Q (an AI with some very humanlike qualities,) and the D-Mat network (a teleportation operation system, similar to what was used on Star Trek) is broken, leaving many people around the world stranded. A number of groups with conflicting philosophies want to work with Clair, and the peacekeepers want to use her to track down Q who may hold the key to fixing the d-mat network. There are a number of dupes who want her killed. And then, of course, there is Clair's budding relationship with abstainer Jesse. But who can Clair really trust?

As I said, this one is just as action-packed as the first book in the series. The narrative is a little confusing at times as Clair tries to navigate her way safely through this new world and attempts to track down Q. The answer to who is responsible for most of the drama is a surprising, though fitting, one. Clair is a resourceful heroine, but she also has many humanlike qualities that give the character a real sense of balance. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of Jesse--as a character who has abstained from the technology in the book, he felt to me as a reader to be a bit of a link between the real world and the futuristic world that is depicted in the series. Or maybe that's just me. 

One element of the book that absolutely deserves more discussion is Q. Q is six day old Artificial Intelligence with some very humanlike qualities--Q has a gender and an emotional range that causes her to spend most of the novel sulking and refusing to answer Clair's repeated calls for help. As one of the characters notes about Q, she is smarter than the characters in the book, but what keeps her at their level is her inexperience. (She is, after all, just six days old.) And Q is, of course, the real reason why so many groups are interested in Clair. Whoever can reach out to Q--or possibly control her--is the person who holds all the power. 

Crash was an enjoyable read and I highly recommend this series to anyone who is looking for a Sci-fi book with young, resourceful and realistic characters, and a read that does not rely on the usual YA/mass market tropes. 

Highly recommended.

Finally, a big shout out to author Sean Williams for my copy of Crash

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Writers on Wednesday: Rowena Holloway

Welcome back to Writers on Wednesday. This week, I'm chatting with Adelaide-based debut author Rowena Holloway. Welcome Rowena!

Tell us a bit about yourself ...

I’m an Adelaide writer of short stories and novels. It took me a while to be able to claim the title of writer. When I left school I apprenticed as a hairdresser, then decided to move into a more corporate world and studied marketing and business. I gained a clutch of degrees, decided the corporate world was not for me (apparently, I’m ‘too nice’) and became a tenured lecturer. All of this convinced me that the fictional world is preferable. So after years of dreaming about it, I finally took the plunge and committed to becoming a published author. Of course, I did everything I later learned not to do (like quitting my day job), but I’m happiest when writing.

Tell us about your most recently published book?

Pieces of a Lie has just been released and I have to admit it’s exhilarating to see it out in the world. Pieces of a Lie explores my favourite themes of fractured families and a killer secret.
Mina Everton is the daughter of an embezzler. Though he disappeared with the cash years ago, that one fact still overshadows her life. Then she finds his prized fob watch in a local junk store. Lincoln Drummond is investigating a series of robberies. Simple. Until he meets Mina, who gets to him in ways he’s never faced before, and it soon becomes clear the truth behind the robberies is far from simple. Mina’s search for her father draws her into the sinister underbelly of the suburbs and a web of deceit twelve years in the making. Despite her feelings for Drummond, Mina can’t bring herself to trust him. And the closer she gets to her father, the more she looks, and acts, like a suspect. To expose the truth, she must choose—destroy herself or the only man who believes in her… Sometimes love isn't enough. 

Tell us about the first time you were published?

This is my first published novel and I published many papers as an academic, but nothing compares to the very first time I had a short story published. I’d been sending short stories out and while most of them never got a mention, the odd prize would turn up at my door – usually a certificate and a letter of congratulations. But the first piece I had published was something I’d written for one of my writing groups (I was once a writing group groupie!). I submitted it to one of the small FAW competitions, not expecting anything, and it won first prize. I thought I had just been lucky due to a lack of competition (I’m full of confidence like that), but for the encouragement of a friend I submitted it for consideration for the Melbourne Books’ 2011 Anthology of Award Winning Australian Writing. And they picked it for inclusion! Cue walking on air—until the next rejection.

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

Well, I’d have to say the previous experience ranks pretty high, but my proudest moment to date was when I opened the first digital proof of my novel Pieces of a Lie. It downloads as a virtual book and as I flicked through the pages checking for formatting and other issues I remember thinking that if I never achieved anything else in my life, I’d be satisfied. Of course, that lasted for about a day and now, like an addict, I can’t wait for that feeling when I see the digital proof of my next book. And then there was that day I opened the box with my first print proofs and saw the printed cover—there might have been a bit of kitchen dancing involved.

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

I’m in the throes of finalising my next book, All That’s Left Unsaid ready to publish in March next year. Once more I explore the themes of fractured families and secrets that could get the heroine killed. This one is set in my favourite holiday destination—Italy. There’s also a sexy Italian love interest (I confess to a weakness for tall, dark and handsome). It is a little softer than Pieces of a Lie, but still a killer read. I’m also most of the way through my third novel, set in London, which explores ambition and friendship amidst death and family secrets.

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

Nothing compares to the smell of a freshly minted paper book. There is a reverence to opening the cover and not wanting to mark it in any way, but also a delicious need to get into the story. I don’t think I shall ever lose the joy of a paperback. Recently, I’ve been converted to the convenience of ebooks. Partly it’s because I’m now so busy writing during the day that I only get time to read at night—something my partner despairs of, so the backlit screen contributes to marital harmony! They also save space and allow me to buy as many books as I like without comment from said partner. So the e-reader solves a lot of problems.

Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

Both. Indie publishing is wonderfully liberating, but also a great responsibility. I’m still building a dependable team and several times during the process would have happily handed it all over to a sympathetic publisher, though I have witnessed the constraints some authors experience with traditional publishing. Now that I’ve experienced how much is involved in going Indie, I have a new appreciation for the time and economic investment traditional publishers give their authors.

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

One book? Umm … I’d say everybody should read their favourite novel by their most admired author as many times as they like and then study it. Mine is currently Maggie O’Farrrel’s The Hand That First Held Mine. The emotion she can elicit with a few words is incredible, and how she builds her novels is a real masterclass on structuring. My copy of THFHM is filled with colour-coded Post-it notes.

As a go-to book for support and inspiration I often turn to Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write (1938). It’s not a ‘how to’ as much as a ‘why you must’. She fills it with anecdotes of her students and how they overcame their various struggles to find their unique writing voice. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with rules for writing, I find this book immensely liberating, which is probably ironic when you consider the relative status of women in 1938. As an aside, what is most surprising is that the issues she covers are not so very different from today. For example, she has a chapter entitled ‘Why Women Who Do Too Much Housework Should Neglect it for Their Writing.’ Words to live by, I say!

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

Hello Adelaide! Except for that time when my parents whisked the family back to England for a year, I’ve lived here all my life and I love it. I’m always discovering new things, finding new friends and what I appreciate most about Adelaide is that once you start looking there are creative people everywhere.


Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Monday, 10 November 2014

Footrot Flats Stamp: D is for Dog

Who would have thought that Dog from Footrot Flats would make it on to a New Zealand postage stamp? Then again, who else could the New Zealand post office even consider putting on the stamp, which forms part of the A to Z of New Zealand series. In any case, I love it ...

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Kathryn's Inbox Exclusive: Vegan Cake Decorator Sued For Refusing to Ice Cake With Pro Duck Shooting Message

NOWHERESVILLE, AUSTRALIA--Dave Smith, owner of a store selling vegan cakes to the public is being taken to court for refusing a request for a cake that featured a picture of Daffy Duck and the slogan Support Duck Shooting. Smith, an avid animal rights campaigner, declined the request on the grounds that he personally found such a message to be abhorrent. "As a private enterprise that supplies non-essential goods to the public in exchange for money, I feel that I should not be forced to support causes that I personally find upsetting," Smith explains. "Now, it seems that I am being sued for discrimination and will probably lose my business for refusing to decorate a cake that makes a mockery of my feelings about duck shooting."

The cake, which has a value of approximately $40 was requested by the Legion of Duck Shooters of Nowheresville and was to have been consumed at their annual meeting. "Duck shooting is legal in this part of the country," a representative explained. "Therefore it's my right to be able to purchase a cake from any store, at any time, with a pro duck shooting message." When questioned why the Legion of Duck Shooters had chosen that particular bakery, knowing that the owner had a conflicting viewpoint and that the cake could have easily been purchased elsewhere, the representative refused to answer. 

Friday, 7 November 2014

Friday Funnies: Garfield Minus Garfield?

Source: Go Comics
I stumbled upon this one a few days ago was amazed to discover that this weird Garfield strip was not a piece of fan made artwork, or part of the Garfield Minus Garfield series but, in fact, an actual Garfield Daily Comic strip that ran in July 1987. It is actually one of the few strips were Garfield does not appear at all and Jon's actions seem somewhat out of character. 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Review: Can You Keep a Secret by Caroline Overington

Colby and Caitlin are quite an unusual couple. He's a wealthy, Wall Street based businessman that enjoys a predicable but high flying lifestyle and places a great deal of importance on loyalty. She is from a remote part of Australia, is young, attractive and seemingly innocent. The pair meet just before the dawn of the new millennium when Colby takes a trip to Australia with some friends. They marry in the aftermath of September 11 and eventually adopt a child from Russia. Caitlin notes the family's adventures on her blog, but it soon becomes clear that she may not be all that she seems ...

Can You Keep a Secret is a page-turner with a real surprise twist at the end. It examines the idea of toxic relationships, toxic personalities, and the level to which people are willing to deceive themselves--in Caitlin's case self-deception goes as far as presenting an idealised version of her family life on her blog, a version that goes a lot further than offering the odd white lie about her husband and son's accomplishments. I do feel, however, there are many places where the author could have developed Colby and Caitlin a bit further. This, I feel, would have given the twist at the end a bit more credibility. 

My feelings on this novel are very mixed. Author Caroline Overington certainly knows how to write a page-turner and the writing itself is clear and easy to understand. The novel is driven more by plot than by the characters which is a bit of a shame given the complexity of the issues that it examines. The choice of ending the novel with such a surprise twist is a brave one. Would I recommend this one? Yes, though it may not appeal to all readers. 

Monday, 3 November 2014

Around Adelaide: Street Art

What's your story? A few weeks ago Colleen, this delightful teapot shaped caravan stopped outside the Grote Street entrance to the Central Markets and passersby were asked to talk about their favourite places to go in Adelaide. The project forms part of Picture Adelaide, an initiative intended to help shape the future of Adelaide.