Friday, March 30, 2012

APRIL FOOLS DAY: SPAGHETTI TREES AND FLYING PENGUINS


It’s April Fools Day on Sunday. I’m warning you now so you can be alert. Jokes from friends or family are bad enough - but it’s the major broadcasters who are worst.

In Britain, one of the most famous April Fool’s Day hoaxes was run by the BBC's highly respected television news and information program 'Panorama' in 1957. The world was not the global village it is now, and most people in Britain had only eaten tinned spaghetti. They had little idea how it was produced.

Somehow Commentator Richard Dimbleby delivered his lines faultlessly: ‘Many of you, I am sure, will have seen pictures of vast spaghetti plantations in the Po valley. For the Swiss, however, it tends to be more of a family affair.’

He went on to say that thanks to a mild winter and the elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti harvest. His words were accompanied with footage of spaghetti pickers pulling strands of pasta down from trees.

Many of the show’s eight million viewers were taken in.



Another highly respected news show, Australia's 'This Day Tonight', spoofed their viewers on April 1, 1975, telling them that the country would soon be converting to "metric time." Under this new system there would be 100 seconds to the minute and 100 minutes to the hour. Seconds would now be called 'millidays', minutes 'centidays', and hours 'decidays'.

The report concluded with an interview with Deputy Premier Des Corcoran and a view of the Adelaide town hall sporting a new 10-hour metric clock.

The ‘Beeb’ was at it again on April 1, 1976, this time when the hugely respected astronomer Patrick Moore announced on BBC Radio 2 that Pluto was about to pass behind Jupiter causing a very rare "gravitational alignment" which would reduce the Earth's gravity temporarily at precisely 9:47 am that day. He invited his audience to jump in the air and experience "a strange floating sensation". 



After the appointed time the BBC received hundreds of phone calls from listeners saying they had indeed experienced an unbearable lightness of being. One woman even claimed that she and her eleven friends had levitated from their chairs and floated around the room.

In April 1, 1981, Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper got in on the fun, running a story about a Japanese athlete called Kimo Nakajimi, who had entered the London Marathon on March 29, but because of a a translation error, thought he had to run for 26 days, not 26 miles. Race organizer, Timothy Bryant, was quoted as saying that his Japanese was scratchy and that Kimo might have got confused because of "the very long races they have over there".

Please note: None of these runners are Kimo Nakajimi


Another British newspaper - the now defunct News of the World - joined in the fun nine years later, reporting that the Channel tunnel project had run into serious problems because surveyors had realized that the two halves being built simultaneously from Britain and France would miss one another by 14 feet. 

They said French engineers were to blame for insisting on the metric system while the British used feet and inches. It was the same joke that had been used with tunnels in the Alps and Japan but it worked, possibly because the British hate the French so much and thought it was typical. 

author: Edward


On April 1 2004, even Google were at it. They advertised for staff to man a Google moon base to harvest faint electromagnetic pulses in order to recreate the lost first appearance of Pink Floyd on BBC TV. Preference would be given to candidates "capable of surviving with limited access to such modern conveniences as soy low-fat lattes, The Sopranos and a steady supply of oxygen". 

photograph: CoolCaesar


Plenty of people clicked the application button which triggered an automatic reply saying, sorry, try again on April Fool's Day 2104.

In 2007, an illusion designer posted some images on his website showing what he claimed to be the mummified remains of a fairy. "The 8in remains, complete with wings, skin, teeth and flowing red hair, have been examined by anthropologists and forensic experts who can confirm the body is genuine."

It said a man walking his dog had found the tiny corpse at Firestone Hill in Duffield, Derbyshire.

The designer later sold the fairy on eBay for £280.

When the hoax was revealed some people still refused to believe it. Some conspiracy theorists said the designer had been forced into his admission by government pressure.

Four years ago the BBC showed they had lost none of their capacity for practical jokes. It was announced that while filming in the Antarctic for a natural history series they had captured footage of Adélie penguins taking to the air.

Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame) explained that, instead of huddling together to tough out the Antarctic winter, some penguins had evolved so that they could fly thousands of miles across the Pacific to South America to spend winter basking in the tropical sun in the Amazon rainforests.

April 1st is Sunday. You have been warned.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

WE ARE NOT ALONE

The last five days I've been at a writer's festival about an hour's flight from Sydney. They worked me like a dog and made me walk to work every day. But before you feel too sorry for me, I only had to walk three minutes across a bridge, and this was the view from my window.



It was only a small festival, with a couple of big names who never talked to the rest of us. But what struck me was the way all the writers supported each other. It's not always so. One writer told us how she was at an international poetry festival last year and asked a German writer about his German counterparts.

'Why should I tell you about them?' he asked her. 'They are my OPPONENTS!'

She was astonished.

And anyway, it's just not true. We only compete against our own shortcomings, not with each other. It's not a battle, it's a shared passion; we all love the written word, and we love creating stories or songs or poems, no matter what form or genre we write in. 

If we are 'opponents,' then here are some of mine from the weekend: Kate Forsyth, who writes brilliant fantasy historical fiction and is an especially fearsome opponent, because she carries a sword around with her. She also has a huge following in Australia and has won many awards. She has struggled with a stutter all her life - something I never knew until I read it on her website; she is a brilliant public speaker. She is also a notorious underachiever, having only published 24 books into 14 countries

Kate, this time without her sword
Here's her blog right here: KATE FORSYTH'S BLOG.


She is one of the warmest and most generous opponents I've ever had.

Then there was Andy White, an Irish poet and singer; I dare you to download 'If You Want It' and not walk around singing it all day. He travels the world with a twelve string guitar in one hand and book of his poetry in the other. Van Morrison and Sinead O'Connor have both featured on his albums. (He didn't tell me that, by the way, I had to find it out for myself.)
 
if you're in WA he plays Fairbridge 13-15 April

Sophie Masson is another underachiever; only fifty books so far, while also serving as President of the Australian Society of Authors. I suspect she writes in her sleep. I only ever see her at Writer's Festivals; she always greets me like I'm the next door neighbor she sees every day. This opponent writes for the huge US site, Writers Unboxed; here's her most recent post in January:  

Sophie Masson: Writer Unboxed

Sophie after finishing her first book. Not really, but couldn't have been much older ...

Or there was Mark Tredinnick, (who has the most sensational cowhide boots, I was jealous) and last year won the Montreal International Poetry Prize. Again, he never told me that. I researched it.

See his winning poem here: MONTREAL PRIZE

Mark: 'the original title was this long.'

And then there was Bronwyn Lea, one of Australia's most decorated poets. She read this at the Festival, it's some lines from one of her poems, Born Again, about her divorce from her husband:
   Instead of dying, god spoke to him.
   God forgave all his trespasses. But I
   Didn't forgive his trespasses against me.
   My heart was a long ledger.
Read CHRISTMAS DAY or CHEAP RED WINE ('In love, there is always one who suffers while the other gets bored.'). Her poems are both tender and lyrical. I'm not a poetry fan but Bronwyn, Mark, Andy and Kit Kelen converted me.

Bronwyn Lea
 So these were my 'opponents.' As you can see, I didn't stand a chance.

But whether they write fiction, like me, or poetry, or song lyrics, we all shared the same sense of wonder at the language and the spirit of invention. And so, of course, so did the most important people at the Festival - the readers. 

Thanks to the Bellingen Writers Festival (http://bellingenwritersfestival.com.au/) for hosting so many bitter opponents. We had a brilliant time and so did all those readers and writers in training. I'm sorry I missed the Paddle With A Poet though. Next year perhaps - Abseil with an Author? 

It just proved the point Kristen Lamb has made again and again - We Are Not Alone: unless we choose to see other writers as opponents, of course. 

And that would have to be a pretty sad choice, wouldn't it?

battling the traffic to get to the 2nd day of the Festival

Thursday, March 22, 2012

EXTRACT FROM 'BITTER MOON LANE'


Broome's native and European settlements were clustered on either side of a headland known as Buccaneer Rock. On one side of the town the tin and asbestos buildings of Chinatown huddled between the mile-long jetty and the mangrove swamps. On the other, the pearler's palm-shaded bungalows sprawled in fragrant gardens along wide shell-grit streets.

The Niland bungalow was surrounded by sweeping verandas wreathed in purple bougainvillea. The garden was heady with the scent of mock orange blossom and frangipani. Trestle tables had been laid out and white-jacketed Malay stewards served iced champagne and claret-cup. There was the sound of too-eager laughter from the tennis courts and the croquet lawn.

George came towards Cameron, hand outstretched. He was wearing a Tussore jacket and trousers, white linen shirt and soft collar. He wore an MCC tie with a pearl tie pin.

'Cam. Good of you to come. You've had a shave!'

'Aye, the beard comes off when I'm on dry land. Look at this place! It's a bonny house, George.'

'Not mine I'm afraid. Will be one day.'

'You've put on a spread.'

'Yes, not quite the green fields of England, but it's home for now. You look quite the white master yourself.'

'Just a new suit and a bath, George. I nearly wore my auld Navy uniform but people sometimes mistake me for an admiral.'

George's nose wrinkled in another of his ingratiating smiles. 'Help yourself to a drink. Excuse me a moment. I must go and say hello to the Barringtons. He's our banker. Duty calls.'




Cam watched him go. The perfect host. By God, it was like a little bit of England transplanted here among the sweating palms and the red dust. He allowed a steward to pour him champagne. 'No opium in this, is there?'

'Master?' the man said.

'It does nae matter.'

Cameron looked around. The guests at the garden party were all white Europeans. Even though it was late afternoon it was close to a hundred degrees; the men were sweating in tropical whites, the women in long gowns, with parasols to keep off the sun.

It was then he saw her. She was standing alone, at the end of the veranda, watching the croquet game, all green eyes and strawberry hair and willowy. . Two women were squeaking with laughter as they shuffled around the lawn with their mallets. She looked thoroughly bored.

He went over.

'They say the French gave this game to the English,' Cameron said. 'It was their revenge for the battle of Waterloo.'

Kate Flynn turned her head and stared at him. 'I beg your pardon?'

'Croquet. Do you nae find it an enthralling and intellectually demanding game?'

'It's chess for the gormless. Do I know you?'

'My name's Cameron. My friends call me Cam.'

'I don't believe we've met.'

'I just could nae wait for a formal introduction. I hope you're nae married because you're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen in my whole life.'

'Were you actually invited to this party?'

'Aye, I'm an auld friend of George's. I've not been in Broome long, it's true. My ships' the China Cloud.'

'You're a pearler then.'

'Aye, but I've little to show for it so far.'

Kate pushed a curl from her face with a long finger and Cam experienced the full force of her acute and critical gaze.

'Do I detect an accent?'

'I'm a Scot and proud of it. One of God's tender mercies that I was born on the civilized side of the border. You too by the lilt in your voice.'

'I was born here but my family are from County Cork.'



'You have nae told me your name,' he said.

'Not without a proper introduction.'

'You look like a Beatrice.'

'I do not look like a Beatrice.'

'Prudence would be my second guess. It implies good breeding and a conservative nature.'

'If I had something in my glass I should pour it over you.'

'Then I should refill it. What can I get you?'

'Kerosene and a match.'

He laughed at that. 'What's in your glass, Prudence. Or should I call you Pru?'

'This is fruit punch. My father put it in my hand. I should rather prefer champagne. Do you think you might find me a glass?'

'Of course. We Celts should stick together.'

She smiled. 'My name's Kate,' she said.

'A very pretty name.' She held out her glass but stopped when she heard someone shouting her name. The timbers shook as Patrick Flynn bounded up the steps and along the veranda. He was resplendent in his white tropical suit, but the two black eyes and swathe of plaster across his nose detracted from an otherwise dignified appearance.

'Kathleen, get away from that scoundrel!' He rounded on Cameron. 'What in God's name are you doing here?'

'Ah, the pearl thief. I see your nose is a little shorter and broader than it used to be.'

'Get away from my daughter!'

The smile vanished from Cameron's face. 'Your daughter?'

'Are you leaving or will I have you thrown out?'

Cameron looked at Kate, then back to Flynn. 'I dinnae know she was your daughter, Flynn. She certainly does nae look like the daughter of a liar and a cheat.'

Flynn looked around desperately. People were staring.

George Niland suddenly appeared, still smiling. 'Ah Patrick, you've met my old friend Cameron then. We were in the Navy together. A wonderful fellow. He's a pearler too, you know.' He put a hand on Flynn's shoulder and whispered: 'For God's sake, keep your voice down. This isn't the hotel. My father's watching. I don't want any brawls on Niland property, all right?'

Cameron glanced at Kate, then at George. 'It's all right, George. I do nae want to spoil your party. I can nae play croquet anyway.' He gave a small bow to Kate. 'Miss Flynn. It was a very real pleasure.' Then to George: 'Thanks for the invitation.' Finally he turned on Flynn. 'Till we meet again,' he said and left.

He walked off.

'Sorry old boy,' George said to Flynn, 'thought it would be an opportunity for the two of you to bury the hatchet, so to speak. Didn't quite work out the way I planned.'

Flynn drained his champagne glass, scowling. He suddenly needed something a little stronger. 'Stay away from the bastard,' he said to his daughter and went to look for more lolly water. 

This week Bitter Moon Lane, and four other novels from Who Dares Wins publishing will be free on Kindle here: FREE BOOKS AT WHO DARES WINS

Monday, March 19, 2012

DON'T BLEACH AND IRON YOUR WORK

Today I'm delighted to welcome Alice McKenna Johnson, who's going to talk about how to write characters from different cultural backgrounds.



Alica writes about "snarky girls, kind boys, and the adults trying to keep them alive." After day dreaming for the first thirty years of life, Alica finally began writing her stories down. Her latest novel is Phoenix Child. 

Tips for adding diversity to your writing.

1-     I cheat. My YA series which has many people from different cultural backgrounds as well as taking place in different countries. I have written it in 1st person. My MC is female who was raised without an ethnic culture of her own, but was exposed to many cultures and lifestyles growing up in group homes in San Francisco. I don’t have to know how the other characters cultural background influences their perspective- I only have to know what they show my MC. And yes they do show cultural differences, but this is not as in depth as other POV’s need to be.

2-     I read books written by people and about people from many different backgrounds. I also watch foreign and LGBT films. And yes a media portrayal of people from other countries isn’t necessarily a clear picture. Neither is my book. It’s a fantasy- a story of fiction, and the books and movies allow me to add little details that make my characters come through clearly. They also help me to break stereo types.


3-     Basic research. I read travel books- specifically children’s books as they give a greater sense of culture flavor. I also watch travel shows- Bizarre Foods and No Reservations being two of my favorites.


4-     I’ve take classes on writing about people from other cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Two of my favorites were How to Write Realistic Native American Characters and How to Write Realistic Gay Characters. I loved both of them and learned a lot! I learned what stereotypes are and what things are culturally true. I learned that like everyone else there is a huge range of personalities and backgrounds.

5-     I’m not afraid to offend people. I don’t go out of my way to offend people, however if I want my curvy blond to be panting for the sexy black waiter with the great round butt, then that’s what I’m going to do. That being said- I will do research and ask someone who is black to read my story and see what they think. Is every black person going to be happy? No- but I can’t make everyone happy anyway. There are white characters I don’t relate to at all. I ranted through the movie 30 Days of Night because I lived in Alaska and there were big technical errors- it happens. Tell your story, research, get advice, do your best, and write.


6-     Not everyone grew up in a cultural household. I’m mostly German; you wouldn’t have any idea of that by watching my life. I have a friend who is Zuni. Going into her house gives you no sense of her cultural background and she grew up on a reservation and still practices the Zuni religion. I have a friend whose family is Italian. At Thanksgiving they have turkey, stuffing, smoked octopus, pasta, and pumpkin pie. You get a sense of her culture because that is how her family lives.

Just because your character has brown skin doesn’t mean they identify or were raised in an ethnic and cultural environment. You don’t have to be perfect, you can stay within the things you know and are comfortable with. Maybe your Chinese character has a Buddhist alter in their home and hates egg rolls. Mix it up!

7-     We are all people. Under the bindis and jeans, bling and manicures, Chanel no 5 and sandalwood, we are all people. We want to feel safe and loved and special. We want a home, a family, and to be happy. What that looks likes differs from one person to another. A home in the burbs with two kids and a dog can be the dream of an interracial couple, a lesbian couple, yet might be a nightmare for an Indian couple.


No matter what your skin color or who catches your eye, lust, longing, love they all feel the same. Does the shape of a mouth change the passion and nervousness of a first kiss?

8-     It’s okay for them to have flaws. While stereotypes are wrong concerning everyone of a race, religion, or sexual orientation some come from a problem, issue, or quirk that is common within that community. There is an alcohol problem among Native Americans; they also have a higher risk of diabetes. Not all Native American have either of these issues, but they are a concern within the Native American Community. Don’t believe me, go to tribal websites and see what programs and services they offer, many have drug and alcohol programs and some have nutrition/diabetes programs. People have to deal with drugs, alcohol, abuse, and gangs- it doesn’t matter what color they are, who they have sex with, or how much money they make. Having a character dealing with these issues doesn’t mean you are stereotyping them.

We are all people with stories to tell. So tell them. Be brave and see your characters uniqueness. Don’t Bleach and Iron you’re books, no one wants to read that. Delve into your creativity, your heart, and your mind. Imagine what life is like for someone else- you do it all the time- unless some of you really are vampires and werewolves.

And for those of you creating whole new worlds- there is no excuse for not having more diversity in your characters. You don’t have to deal with social issues in a steampunk alternate universe with dragons- just let that go and have people living together peacefully (well except for the soul sucking demons).

For expanded versions of these tips, plus foreign film reviews to help you broaden your cultural knowledge come to my blog www.alicamckennajohnson.com


Sara's dream is to find her family but she doesn't count on discovering magical creatures or catching on fire. On her fourteenth birthday a surprise inheritance changes her appearance, abilities, and identity. Welcomed into the family of the Phoenix she is taught to use her new powers. Will Sara embrace being a Child of Fire or will the evil that killed her parents destroy her as well?



Sunday, March 18, 2012

STAR WARS CANTEEN

There's no moral to this one. I just laughed out loud when I saw it. If you like Lego and Star Wars, what's not to like? Be warned, Darth Vader has terrible language off camera. The stress is clearly getting to him. He must be forever topping up the Swear Jar on the Death Star.



Tomorrow we have a guest post from YA author Alica McKenna Johnson - 'Don't bleach and iron your work - tips for adding diversity to your writing.' It's a great post, don't miss it!


VENOM has just been published for the first time in the US and is exclusive to Nook through Who Dares Wins Publishing. Find it here at Nook.




Friday, March 16, 2012

HOW IRISH ARE YOU? THE SAINT PADDY’S DAY QUIZ


Tomorrow is Saint Patrick’ Day; the day when anyone with even the vaguest Irish affiliation exaggerates it beyond belief as an excuse to take a day off work and drink themselves under the table. This year they have been partly foiled; Saint Paddy’s Day falls on a Saturday.

It is a celebration of Irish culture in general, characterized by wearing of the green and the lifting of Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol. (The latter prohibition is not only 'lifted' but hurled out of sight beyond the horizon.)



A good mate is lifetime treasurer of my local Irish club and as a great fan of Guinness I have enjoyed some wonderful Saint Paddy’s Days - or so I’m told, I don’t remember. 

I'm not Irish - but every March 17 I'd really like to be. So - how Irish are you? Here's a short fun quiz to help you find out:


1. What is the Irish name for tree fellers?

(a) Shillelaghs
(b) Leprechauns
(c) Blarneys
(d) Paddy, Mick and Seamus

2. If you ask for an Irish coffee, what will you get?

(a) coffee with whisky
(b) coffee with mashed potatoes
(c) coffee with Guinness
(d) tea

photograph: Dirk van Esbroek


3. What days are the pubs not open in Ireland?

(a) February 29
(b) Judgement Day
(c) the 12th of Never
(d) Christmas Day and Good Friday


(a) Jack Dempsey
(b) Gene Tunny
(c) Jack Sharkey
(d) Muhammed Ali



5. What book idea originated with Irishman Hugh Beaver?

(a) Cooking with Guinness
(b) the Guinness Book of Records
(c) How to Stay Sober Till Lunchtime. Morning Sobriety in Just 3 weeks!
(d) Ulysses


6. Who said : "I spent 90% of my money on women and drink. The rest I wasted."

(a) Dublin author James Joyce
(b) playwright and poet Brendan Beahan
(c) Irish soccer superstar George Best
(d) the Archbishop of Dublin 



7. Which famous tune is thought to have been inspired by a blind Irish harpist who died in 1738?

(a) Danny Boy
(b) the Mountains of Mourne
(c) When Irish Eyes are Smiling
(d) the Star Spangled Banner

8. What is the capital of Ireland?

(a) Dublin
(b) Belfast
(c) Boston
(d) I

9. What are the colors on the Irish flag?

(a) green and white
(b) green and white and orange 
c) a union jack with a harp in the middle
(c) black with a creamy froth on the top


10. Which of the following US presidents does not have Irish blood?

(a) Jack Kennedy
(b) Gerald Ford
(c) Barack Obama
(d) Ronald Reagan

Answers: 

1. The answer is (d) A shillelagh is a stout walking stick, a leprechaun is a miserly dwarf and the Blarney Stone is something you kiss to get the gift of the gab. Paddy Seamus and Mick are available to trim overgrowing branches at very reasonable rates.

2. Irish coffee has whiskey in it. You can drink coffee with Guinness; the coffee tastes better but the Guinness tastes worse.


3. Being a good Catholic country, pubs are shut in Ireland on Christmas Day and Good Friday.

4. The answer may surprise you. Dempsey’s father, Hiram, was of Irish and Cherokee descent; both Gene Tunney’s parents came from County Mayo. Muhammed Ali’s great grandfather was born in Ennis, County Clare and emigrated to Kentucky in the 1860’s, where he married an African-American woman. The non-Irishman was Jack Sharkey, who was born Joseph Paul Zukauskas, the son of Lithuanian immigrants, in Binghamton, New York. He took his ring name from his two idols, Jack Dempsey and heavyweight contender Tom Sharkey.

5. Sir Hugh Eyre Campbell Beaver, KBE, was managing director  of Athur Guinness & Son from 1946-60, and printed a thousand copies of the Guinness Book of Records in 1954 as a marketing giveaway. This free promotional stunt went on to sell 100 million copies in 37 languages.


6. I’d love the answer to be the Archbishop of Dublin but I’m afraid it was just another quotable quote from Georgie Best

James Joyce


7. Star Spangled Banner is based on the tune 'To Anacreon in Heaven' by John Stafford Smith. However Smith is thought to have been heavily influenced by the work of a blind harpist named Turlough O’Carolan. It was adopted as the US national anthem in 1931.



8. If you said 'Belfast' go to the back of the room and prepare to defend yourself. And if you said 'Union Jack with a harp' in (9), check the locks on your door very carefully before you go to sleep tonight. The answer is green, white and orange; the green represents the Catholic southern republic and the orange the Protestant north. The white is for the peace that was hoped would someday come between them. Hmmm.

author: DehMadLad1


10. This one may surprise you, as well. The answer is (b). Although Barack does not have ginger hair and freckles his great, great, great grandfather was Falmouth Kearney, who fled the potato famine in Ireland on March 20, 1850 bound for New York.  The odd one out is Gerry Ford.