Thursday, February 28, 2013

I don't even like beer, but...

Welcome to another Jen-got-busy-and-holy-crap-it-was-time-to-post-something post, proudly brought to you by Jen's work, Jen's pseudonym, and Jen's sleep patterns. What do you mean it's Thursday? What do you mean it's February

This week I am showcasing beer commercials. I don't like beer, except for this sort: 
It's passionfruit beer, people. 

And yeah, I'm pretty sure it doesn't make me a beer drinker. It just confirms my status as a girl. 

Anyway, beer. I don't like the product, but I love the advertising. Here are a few of my favourites, from Aussie breweries: 

From the ridiculous, to the strangely sublime: 

And my personal favourite: 

Oh well, back to my cider. 

Care to share your favourite ads? 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

I feel pretty, oh so pretty

Do you know what I really hate? 

(No, it's not the bogan neighbours at the flats next door who insist of playing crap music at 11 p.m. on a Sunday night -- hey look! I got old!) 

What's annoying me this week are all those YA heroines who don't know how pretty they are. 


I'm fairly sure that teenage girls know if they're good looking. If they don't, the boys soon let them know. Good-looking is like cool. You either have it or you don't, and in high school, you sure as hell know which camp you're in. 

I won't. I'll hate you because you're either oblivious, or you're being wilfully dissembling. 

It's like Bella in Twilight, and how she complained about her flawless pale skin and her flowing dark hair. The author wants us to think that Bella thinks she's not beautiful, but really, we're supposed to know she's actually beautiful. 

And I get that. It's a workaround. Nobody is going to warm to a narrator who goes on about how wonderful good-looking she is. Except for this guy: 

And this is where showing, not telling, is your friend. Show us how people react to your heroine. Show us boys who ask her out. Show us best friends who wish they had her hair. Show us siblings who get jealous. Show us, but don't stab us in the eye with it. Readers are smart. We'll get it. 

Because it is possible to know you're good-looking and still be nice and smart at the same time, isn't it? Because if we really think that every beautiful teenage girl has to be the bitch of the story, then something has gone horribly wrong. 

And if we think that if we write about that girl -- that smart, pretty, nice girl -- that we'll alienate our readers, then what does that say about sexism and feminism and prejudice? 

Here is my mother's sage advice on feminism: "You girls can do anything you want, but don't burn your bra. Bras are expensive." 

What's annoying you this week? 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The sleeping patterns of the soon to be certifiable...

So let's say I started off the week with the best intentions. When I saw "started off the week" I mean last Tuesday. Because that's what shift work does to you. You don't start on a Monday morning. You start on a block of shifts after a few days off, wherever they might fall. 

So my week started last Tuesday, with three 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. shifts in a row. 

Now, 2-10s are my favourite shift. Really, they are. Because they mean I get to sleep in until noon, and stay up until about 2 a.m. writing. I write best at night. No idea why, that's just the way it is. 

On Friday I started a run of three night shifts -- 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. And these are my second favourite shifts. Not because there is anything so great about them (except the possibility of watching The Love Boat, Magnum PI, and that one with the helicopter that appears to be a rip off of Knight Rider), but just because I hate them less than morning shifts.  

My least favourite shift is the dreaded 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Because my alarm goes off at 5 a.m, and I don't wake up until at least 11 a.m. I'm always quite surprised when it happens. Hey look, I managed to drag myself to work again. I even appear to have operated on autopilot competently enough that nobody noticed. What do you mean my shirt's on inside-out? 


After night work came three days off, and I had some plans for those three days, let me tell you. Those would be my Writing Days. Hell, yes. I'd get those line edits done, I'd catch up on my emails, I'd actually reply to comments on my blog, and I'd really get to grips with the WIP that's been tormenting me since December, and get a start on the new one that I want to finish by May. 

So here's how that went down... 

Monday is a write-off. You finish at 6 a.m, so it's not like you can spring straight into action. So you set your alarm for about 11, figuring that you need to keep a decent balance: enough sleep so you can actually almost function in the afternoon, but not enough that you aren't too tired to go to bed at a reasonable hour that night. 

I was so good, I promise. I staggered out of bed at 11 a.m. I tidied the house. I sorted out my mail, and possibly even posted some in the right envelopes. I struggled to stay awake until 9 p.m, and then I went to bed to read for an hour. Which turned into six hours. Which turned into a 3 a.m. marathon of Modern Family, complete with toast and strawberry jam. But it was okay, see, as long as I could switch my body clock back on Tuesday. 

I finally got to sleep at 5 a.m. on Tuesday morning.  To be fair, I blame a lot of this on my pseudonym's co-author, who is in the US and emails me at odd hours. And I get those emails and read them. And reply to them. And suddenly it's daytime. 

I slept through until 9 a.m. on Tuesday when the alarm went off. I managed to exchange some polite pleasantries with the plumber, who turned up to fix a leaking pipe. (When he turned up, my back door was open and I was sitting at my dining table. With my head on it. That still counts as up.) Then I took a brief kindy nap at lunchtime, just for an hour. Fast forward to 4 p.m. when a hungry dog woke me. 

But on Tuesday afternoon I at least got my line edits done, and sent back to my co-author. And I started on my new WIP. Did some nice world-building there. And I went to bed at 11 p.m. That's reasonable, right? 

So I lay there a while, realised that the new WIP is just god-awful, and got up and switched on my computer to double check. Yep, god-awful. There is one paragraph I like. One, in the two thousand words of drivel that I wrote. But one is better than none, right? So I brainstormed for a while, watched an episode of Sherlock, wished I'd written that instead, and now what? 

Well, now it's 1.53 a.m. on Wednesday morning, I'm back at work on Thursday, and that whole sleeping pattern thing that I'd intended to sort out on my days off? Yeah... 

I think it's time to declare myself my own time zone.  

Saturday, February 16, 2013

WTF: Adventures in Cover Art

I'm sure you've all seen this by now:

Source: The Guardian

It's the model from the cover of a new edition of Anne of Green Gables, and it brings up a very important question: WTF?

I have ranted about this a lot to people this week. Some of them even pretended to care. My top three rants, in no particular order are:

1. Anne is eleven when this story starts. Eleven! No way is that cover model eleven. In fact, somebody needs to give that cover model a quick talk on safe sex, because she looks like she's about to get herself into all sorts of complications.

2. Why is she wearing a cowboy shirt? Anne would not wear a cowboy shirt! That is not period clothing!

3. Anne's hair is RED. RED, not blonde. Everything else I might have overlooked, but Anne has RED HAIR AND FRECKLES. YOU CAN'T CHANGE THAT!

In other recent cover art adventures, here is Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. Chick lit, anyone? Yeah, a woman wrote this book so that's probably what it's all about, right?

Source: The Guardian

This one caused a bit of fun backlash, with people redesigning classic covers as they saw fit. And while I appreciate this cover for its what-you-see-is-what-you-get...


I loved this one for Lord of the Flies:


And then there was this:


Perfect. I love it when literate people get angry. So much fun! 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

P2P and Fan Fiction

P2P: Pulled To Publish 

Okay, first of all, I'm not opposed to fan fiction. I love it. I've read some fantastic stuff online, and I have no problems whatsoever with people who write it or read it. I even wrote some, back in the day. I didn't put it online, but I think it's great that people do. And if it was left online, that would be fine. 

Where it gets murky for me, is when that fiction is picked up by an agent or publisher, and pulled to publish. I have no problem with writers of fanfiction being discovered this way. But what I do think should happen is an agent or publisher should be able to say, "That's fabulous. Now show me something original."  

Fifty Shades of Grey is probably the most famous example. It started as very NSFW Twilight fanfic. I never read it, because I was never a Twilight fan. And while there were occasions I wanted to slap Bella around as well, let's just say that she wouldn't have enjoyed it so much.

(There is an awful lot of NSFW stuff in fanfic...

...but that might be a topic for another day.)

So what happens when something is pulled to publish? Well, obviously if you intend to ask for payment for your former fanfic, then you're in serious danger of breaching someone else's copyright. So you change the names, and change the details, and maybe change pretty much everything, but is that enough? 

Legally, maybe. Ethically, I don't think so. 

Because you built your story in someone else's world. You took someone else's intellectual property, your altered it, and you sold it. And I think that's wrong. 

Cassandra Clare is a very successful writer who has been accused of copyright infringement. And yeah, there appears to be some evidence of it back in her fanfic days. Bad form, sure, but this is fanfic on the internet. Nobody particularly cares, and why should they? Nobody was making any money from it, and I presume that the suspect passages were removed long before the books were published as The Mortal Instruments series. What bothers me the most is that what remains, however disguised, was built from someone else's world. In this case, J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books. And that's where I have an issue with the ethics of P2P. 

If you want to write for profit, then create your own characters and build your own words. Don't be a cheap knock-off of an original. There is a very, very thin line between a homage and a copy. It's as thin as the line between legal and ethical, I suppose. 

If you want to write for pleasure, then go nuts. I've got this great idea where Harry and Draco get trapped in a dragon's cave and Sam and Dean from Supernatural have to rescue them... but I'd never expect you to pay for it. 

Where does everyone else stand on P2P? 

Friday, February 8, 2013

My failings as a YA romantic heroine

From some of the YA I’ve read lately, you’d think it was the natural state for teenage girls to be constantly moping around after dark, mysterious boys. And you know, it really isn't. At least it wasn't for me, and it wasn't for my friends either. 

It wasn't love. It was never love. When it hit it was hormonal, and it was all over the place...and all over in seconds. The first flush of romance I felt in home room had usually worn off by lunch time, leaving the afternoon free for homework, swimming, and writing terrible serial fiction that had something to do with a usurped prince and an evil sorcerer. It was awful. I should find it and burn it. (See, even now I remember more about the stories I wrote than the boys I liked. That's called priorities.) 

It was generally the senior boys I liked, not the boys in my year level who were either a) repulsive, b) my friends, or c) my repulsive friends. But the senior boys, since I didn't know them as well, had an air of mystery that allowed me to fill in the gaps with generous speculation. There was one who I shall hereafter refer to as The Boy to denote his importance, who I might have loved longer if only he'd maintained that mystery. 

Once, my parents went to New Zealand for a holiday. They figured that my sister, in Grade 12 at the time, and me, in Grade 10, were old enough to look after ourselves for two weeks.

“This is the deal,” Kath said to me. “I’m having a party here and you’re not invited. You can go and have a party at Shelley’s place and come back tomorrow.”


Stone’s Ginger Wine. Under no circumstances should you drink this. Even in the circumstances where you have no money and Shelley’s older brother buys it for you from the bottle shop. Looking back, it could only have been a cruel joke.

Yes, it was exactly like this. Neato!  

So there I was afterwards, 5 am in the morning, in the middle of a freezing Goondiwindi winter, walking back home from Shelley’s place. The bottles in the pockets of my duffel coat were clinking, my hangover was gnawing at the edges of my tipsiness, and I wanted to sleep for at least forty-seven hours.

I made it home to the dark house, and clinked and rattled my way through to my bedroom. I turned on the light, and there he was: The Boy. The hottest senior boy in school lying asleep in my bed wearing only his underwear. A thing of beauty. In. My. Bed. And it wasn't even Christmas. 

I drank in the sight of him -- the curls of dark hair, the lean, tanned plane of his back, the curve of his backside -- and waited for that magical moment when he would wake up, smile at me, and say something that I probably wouldn't be able to hear over the sound of angels singing joyously. 

And, as I waited, reality crept on in. 


Maybe it was my Disney sheets (shut up, I was being ironic). Maybe it was the disapproving stare of my Tom Cruise poster (shut up, he was almost normal then). Or maybe it was the clouds of bourbon fumes that The Boy exhaled with every snore.

You know what? I get the appeal of the dark and mysterious boy, but he only works from  the distance. Bring him into sharper focus, and guess what? He's just a dumb boy who drank too much, took his clothes off, and drooled on your pillow all night.

Less Byron, more Beavis and Butt-Head. 

Clink clink clink back down the hallway.

Knock knock knock on Kath’s door.

“There’s a boy in my bed.”

Kath lifted the blankets off her head. “What?”

“There is a boy in my bed. Get him the hell out. I’ll be asleep on the lounge.”

Romance isn't dead. It was never alive to begin with. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Most Terrifying Possum Story Ever

Tonight at work a friend showed me a picture of her sister's newest housemate. Here it is, living in the special little house that has been built for it: 

Awww...I mean ARGGGH! 

Cute, right? 

No, Possums are not cute. They only appear that way to lull you into a false sense of security. 

The following is a true story. 

Last night at the pub we got to talking about possums. As you do. To be fair, we started with home renovations, which led to the architectural features of old Queenslanders, which led to tin roofs and wooden shutters, and there we were. The important thing is, we started off on an adult conversation, right?

And, you guys, you know my possum stories are fairly horrific, but last night I heard the Most Terrifying Possum Story Ever. You might want to read this in the daylight.

This story comes courtesy of John and Joey. No last names, to protect their identities.

The scene: the Police Academy, Oxley, Brisbane.

A stinking hot summer day.

After a hard day working (insert artistic licence here) John went to the Coke machine to get a cold drink. He put his money in, pressed the button, then stuck his hand in the chute for his drink. He didn’t get it.

Instead, he got a handful of irate possum that – having crawled up inside the machine to escape the heat – was not happy about being brained by a can of Coke and shoved out into John's waiting hand. 

The possum, needless to day, freaked out. 
So did John. 

Meanwhile Joey, attracted by the sound of screaming (John’s and the possum’s), almost wet himself with laughter.

He was still laughing about it last night; laughing so hard that he could hardly breathe. To his credit, so was John.

If it was me, I’d be this guy:

The horror, indeed.


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