I’m Still Not Active On Twitter; Come Join Me On Instagram

Note: I’m not on Twitter. This is an automated tweet linking to my latest blog post. I will not see any of your replies. If you wish to discuss any of these blog posts with me, or anything else, leave a comment on my blog. I will respond.

This is for all the lovely friends texting me to ask when I’m coming back to Twitter. First up: Awwww! Thank you! I miss youse too.

I miss Twitter. I truly do. I miss the goofy convos. I miss tweeting cricket and basketball games live with other obsessives. I’ve met so many amazing people through Twitter. I’m so grateful. Twitter has given me so much. I’ll definitely be back.

But not yet. My mental health is so much better since I took this break. I don’t miss the trolls. I don’t miss the frequent petty and not at all petty fights. I don’t miss the drama. I’m not ready to return.

Meanwhile, there are lovely convos starting to happen on my brand-new vintage and sustainable fashion and mending instagram: @DrJustineFancyPants. Come join me there! We’re having a lot of fun.

Dr Justine Fancy Pants

Note: I’m not on Twitter. This is an automated tweet linking to my latest blog post. I will not see any of your replies. If you wish to discuss any of these blog posts with me, or anything else, leave a comment on my blog. I will respond.

I’m taking my obsessions with contemporary fashion, vintage clothes, and saving the world to a public Instagram account: DrJustineFancyPants.

You’ll be able to follow my journey through my various vintage finds, my latest designer, fashion historian, photographer, model and textile technician crushes, and watch (and laugh) as I learn to mend and embroider, and investigate what’s happening in the world of recycled, upcycled, organic, biodegradable, magic pixie dust, circular-economy fashion.

I’ll also be dispensing what-to-wear advice and railing against gladiator sandals, espadrilles, and other fashion atrocities.

Come join me, won’t you? (Apologies to Karina Longworth.)

On Packages and Space-Time Anomalies

Note: I’m not on Twitter. This is an automated tweet linking to my latest blog post. I will not see any of your replies. If you wish to discuss any of these blog posts with me, or anything else, leave a comment on my blog. I will respond.

I’ve been having a surreal experience with Australia Post. They claimed to have delivered a package from the UK to me last Friday. There was no package. There was no card in my mailbox saying to pick it up at the post office. Yet there it was on the tracking info: delivered.

The nice man at the post office, when he couldn’t find my parcel, helped me put in a missing parcel claim. When he looked up the tracking number at his end it said my parcel had an incomplete address: it was missing the flat (apartment) number.

Hmmmm, I thought, but the UK tracking has the flat number. Why would it disappear from the package on its journey from the Royal Mail in London to Australia Post in Sydney?

On the way home, a charming man from Australia Post rang to assure me that they were on it, and that most packages were found. I imagined a crack team of Australia Post sleuths on the case. I was vastly reassured.

I woke to an email from Australia Post letting me know that the package had been returned to sender. I wrote to the sender in London warning them my package might be on its way back. They were all, “But how? There’s no return address on the package.” This was somewhat perturbing.

An hour later I got an email from Australia Post saying my package was either in my mailbox or at the post office. I checked. It was in neither place. I was beginning to feel like Australia Post was gaslighting me.

Then an hour later, I got a generic email from Australia Post assuring me they were on the case and would find my package. I was not reassured. I was starting to lose faith in Australia Post’s sleuths.

I decided to phone them, to find out if the parcel had a) been returned to sender despite there being no return address, b) been delivered to a Justine Larbalestier in a parallel universe, or c) was in a happy liminal space about to be tracked down by the valiant sleuths at Australia Post.

After thirty minutes negotiating the endless, confusing phone tree, I got through to the delightful Tracy, who looked at all the info from my claim no. and spluttered “ZOMG! This is ridiculous. It says it’s been delivered TWICE! There’s nothing here about it being returned to sender. Where on earth did that come from? It says there’s no flat number. THE FLAT NUMBER IS RIGHT HERE! It can’t be all these things at the same time! And there’s an update saying it’s on a truck on its way to you now. How could that be if it was delivered last Friday and this morning? Ridiculous! I will sort this for you! I will make this happen!” she said, typing furiously.

I admit that I was half way in love with Tracy at this point. I hung up and did various chores before receiving yet another Australia Post email claiming my parcel had been delivered for a third time. I confess that, despite the fabulous Tracy, I doubted this claim. My buzzer hadn’t rung and there’d been so many false alarms. I trudged down to the lobby, with little hope. But lo and behold, my parcel–with my full address–including the flat number–was there in my mailbox.

Hilariously, the vintage eighties silk shirt inside was made in W. Germany: a non-existent country. Maybe that non-existence disturbed the space-time continuum and created intermingled timelines in which all parcels were in all states of delivery?

Thank you, Australia Post, and especially Tracy, for tackling this space-time anomaly and making my parcel reappear. I’m most grateful and the shirt from the non-existent country is gorgeous.

Pjs, Pockets, and Purses

I spend a great deal of my time in front of my computer in my pyjamas. Thus I wear pyjamas more than I wear any other clothing. They are my work uniform. All my novels have been written while I was wearing pjs. I think about pyjamas a lot.

I like mine to have three pockets, two on the pants, as well as a breast pocket. I like them to be soft and loose fitting, and deliciously comfortable. It’s a bonus if they can also have goofy, gorgeous or gelid1 patterns on them.

I mentioned on Twitter that most women’s pjs do not have pockets and the sadness this fills me with. How I am forced to mostly wear men’s pyjamas which typically do not have as interesting prints as women’s. Soon we were in a discussion about the paucity of pockets in women’s clothing, the awesomeness of pockets, and of pjs, and there was much bonding.

Though there was also some who made distinctions between kinds of pjs. For them pjs are what you wear to bed and lounging pjs are what you wear to write in. Okay . . . sounds very Katherine Hepburn-y, and I love her, so I’ll go with it. But I do not make such a distinction. Then there was mention of “house dresses” which I’d only ever heard of in ye olde Hollywood movies. Must be a thing of the USA.

But there was also a distinct minority who questioned the need for pockets in pjs. I admit to being bewildered by the question but it swiftly became apparent that there are people who only wear pjs to sleep in.

I know. I was shocked too.

Then it turned out that there are people who don’t like pockets. Who don’t want pockets on any of their clothing. There was talk of pockets always having holes, ruining the lines of clothing, making people look fat (!).

I must confess at that point I fainted from shock.

Where do they put their phone? Their keys? Their sekrit decoder ring (when not in the company of people where it can be worn freely)? I don’t understand!

The answer was in their bags (or purses as those from the USA call them). Don’t get me wrong. I have handbags, I have backpacks. I use them. I even have some I love dearly but in my heart of hearts I wish everything I needed when I left the house would fit into my pockets. That I could be unencumbered by bags.

For bags weigh me down, pulling on one shoulder, or the other, or both in the case of backpacks. I am always inadvertently whacking into things with bags or being whacked with them. They are little violent, destructive beasts.

Worst of all bags eat my stuff.

I know the only pen I’ve ever liked is in the bag I bought in Rome many, many years ago. The first fancy bag I ever bought myself. And Italian bag! My Italian bag. I still have that bag though it is faded and frayed and somewhat less fabulous than it once was. The pen should be in there. But can I find it? No, I cannot. That stupid Italian bag ate my favourite pen. I have never found a pen like it since. I no longer like pens. All because of that bag.

In conclusion: Pyjamas are the best WITH pockets. Purses (bags) are the devil. The end.

  1. They only need be gelid in summer. In winter I prefer warmer patterns. []

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Movie Premiere


Next Thursday the City of Bones movie opens here in Sydney. Scott and me will be hosting a first-night screening here in Sydney, courtesy of the wonderful Kinokuniya Bookshop.1 Cassie herself will introduce the film via a special, exclusive to Kino, recording of joyousness. Because that’s how special this night will be.

If you live in Sydney, and how lucky are you to live in the best city in the world,2 and you enjoy watching movies on the first night with people who are very very excited to be seeing this movie on account of having read the books several million times, then JOIN US.

Also, there’s a costume contest. I plan to dress as I imagine Isabelle Lightwood would if she had my taste in clothing. Sadly I will not be eligible to win the prize. I shall coax Scott into dressing as Magnus Bane. I predict, however, that Scott will be there dressed as Scott Westerfeld.

Here’s the event page on FaceBook for those of you who, unlike me, are on FaceBook. And here are the details for the non-FB types like myself:

WHEN: Thursday, 22nd August at 6:30pm

WHERE: Event Cinemas, George Street, Sydney

DRESS: Prizes for best costume

COST: $18.50

Tickets are on sale now and are strictly limited. Purchases can be made at Kinokuniya (at the cashier counter) or over the phone: 02 9262-7996.

Be there or be extremely sad you missed a wonderful event.

P.S. For those of you in Melbourne and Brisbane we will be there very soon at your fine writing festivals. Click here for my Melbourne events and here for my Brisbane events.

  1. My favourite Sydney bookshop—aside from all the other fabulous ones—if you live here and have never checked them out time to do so! []
  2. Other than all the other really good ones. []

Lesser Fears

I am afraid that clowns will take over the world and make it compulsory for everyone to dress like a clown and wear that hideous make up. Yes, I have coulrophobia. I know this will never happen. But WHAT IF IT DID?!

I’m afraid of accidentally punching my boxing instructor. Cause she for sure would sock me back and then I’d finally have that black eye I have never had. Oh, wait, that’s a real fear. Though I would kind of like a black eye.1

I’m afraid of being alone on a desert island with only Moby Dick to read. Or even worse the complete works of Henry Miller. *shudder*

I’m afraid that the next season of Bun Heads won’t be as good as the first. I know it has many flaws but I heart it. What if its next season is like the third season of Veronica Mars? Worst TV season EVER.

I’m afraid of Pants Too High. And every single guy I have ever been with has thought that it was the funniest thing in the world to stomp about the place with his trousers/tracky dacks/pants/slacks/pj bottoms/whatever-you-call-them-where-you-live pulled up way too high solely to torment me. Kind of like this:

As you can see it is an ABOMINATION. It is not funny, it is horrifying. No man should be allowed to do it ever, under any circumstances. It is the fashion crime that goes too far. Frankly, it should be illegal. It has to stop.

But the worst of my minor fears is this one:

I am afraid that as I get older my arse will fall off. Don’t laugh! I have seen this happen with many older people. Admittedly more men than women. They develop this weird baggy seat of their jeans thing where there’s air when there should be an arse. How does one go through life arse-less? Does it make sitting down really uncomfortable? It scares me.

Am I alone? Surely someone else out there fears their arse falling off? We’ve all seen those baggy old people jeans.

  1. What? When I was little I thought black eyes were cool. []

Bad Book Exorcisms

Following on from my post about bad reviews there’s been a spot of conversation about how to exorcise the horrific experience of reading a truly bad piece of excrement masquerading as a book. Some of us write eviscerating reviews and some of us imagine or actually practice violence upon the offending item: I mentioned my desire to stab them. N. K. Jemisin says she throws them across the room.

I have a group of friends who compete to find the very worst books and then read them out loud in order to point and laugh and marvel at how truly bad they are. It is incredibly entertaining. We end up weeping we laugh so hard. It’s also educational. Nothing like reading out loud to truly expose the badness. It’s an extremely entertaining lesson in how not to write. I highly recommend it.

For an out of copyright truly terrible book may I recommend The Shiek by E. M. Hull:

The two men left standing by the open French window that led into the hotel ballroom looked at each other and smiled.

“Some peroration,” said one with a marked American accent. “That’s the way scandal’s made, I guess.”

“Scandal be hanged! There’s never been a breath of scandal attached to Diana Mayo’s name. I’ve known the child since she was a baby. Rum little cuss she was, too. Confound that old woman! She would wreck the reputation of the Archangel Gabriel if he came down to earth, let alone that of a mere human girl.”

“Not a very human girl,” laughed the American. “She was sure meant for a boy and changed at the last moment. She looks like a boy in petticoats, a damned pretty boy–and a damned haughty one,” he added, chuckling. “I overheard her this morning, in the garden, making mincemeat of a French officer.”

Lots of wonderful bad writing tics: flat, unevocative, stage-direction like description; laugh transformed into a verb of utterance; unnecessary repetition “laughed the American” “he added, chuckling,” and un-dialogue like dialogue.

This passage is from early on in proceedings. It gets much much MUCH worse-er after Diana is kidnapped by the Shiek. The dialogue in the book starts over the top but ratchets up from there. Until basically you’re reading a novel where everyone is SPEAKING IN ALL CAPS WITH EXCLAMATION MARKS AT EVERY TURN!!!!!

Reading it out loud and laughing is the only way to cope.

So, dear readers, how do you cope with the truly bad books you’ve had the misfortune to run your scared orbs across? Do you have any handy bad book exorcisms to share?

You don’t have to read my books

To my friends, acquaintances & family: you do not have to read my books! Truly. My being a writer is not meant to oppress you in any way! Read what you want or don’t want. Forget I write books at all! Be free!

Okay, scratch that, family, you do have to! But everyone else is in the clear.

Reading an entire book is a big time commitment. And the older you get the more painfully aware you become that you are not going to be able to read all the books you want to before you die. It’s a very long time since I finished a book I wasn’t enjoying. If it’s not grabbing me within a page or two then we are done.1

It’s also a long time since I’ve picked up a book in a genre that doesn’t interest me. I have loads of friends with zero interest in YA. That’s cool. I’ve known people who write genres I have zero interest in—cosy mysteries—and I don’t read them. I would never in a million years expect any of you2 to read one of my books because you felt you had to on account out of our friendship/acquaintanceship3. Trust me, I wouldn’t read a book of yours unless I thought I’d like it. Feel free to treat mine likewise.

When I first started meeting writers I would always make an effort to read their books. If I liked them, I mean. But, well, here’s the awkward thing. A few of those writers,4 who I adored?

I hated their books.

And then there’s this whole awkwardness as you try to reconcile their awesomeness with the dreadfulness of their book and you can’t and you think about them differently than you did and it would never have happened if you hadn’t been so stupid as to read their book in the first place.

On the other hand, if you read them and they’re a total genius you find yourself staring at said writer as they tell a deeply stupid fart joke5 and wondering if they really did write those books. Reconciling the genius with the regular everyday person is also odd. Why do they not have a genius radiance to them?

Just because I am a writer does not mean you have to read my writing. I have friends who are lawyers who I do not hire, editors and agents who neither edit nor agent for me. I have friends in all sorts of different sectors with whom I rarely have conversations about their working lives and vice versa.

Yes, writing’s a big part of my life. But it’s not the only part and it’s not all I am. You don’t need to read my books to hold a conversation with me. I can talk about cooking, gardening, a multitude of sports, I’m well-versed in politics in at least two countries and have a decent grasp of many other topics—especially fashion and what you should and should not be wearing. Honestly, there are very few things I don’t have an opinion on. I even enjoy talking about the weather.6

And, honestly, talking about my books is just about the last thing in the world I want to do. I mean, I’m thrilled that there are people who have stuff to say about books I wrote. That’s incredible.7 But by the time my books are published I’ve already talked about them a billion times with Scott and Jill (my agent) and with their editor and I’ve done interviews about them and told school kids and book store owners and librarians about them. Even though all of that can be incredibly enjoyable I do wind up being completely over my own books. I’d much rather talk about someone else’s books. Like Courtney Milan’s say. I love talking about the subversive things she does with romance.

Many of my non-writer friends feel the same way. When they’re socialising they don’t want to relive their work day. They don’t want to talk about accounting or waiting tables or banking or gardening or whatever else it is they do to make money. They want to forget about it, speak of other things, gossip, and relax.

On top of that there’s the whole homework thing. “I bought your book!” Someone will tell me and then every time I see them after that they’ll say, “Still haven’t read it yet. But I’ll get to it. Sorry! I really hoped to get to it before now.” I keep expecting them to say: “I’m so sorry but my dog ate your book. Otherwise I would have totally read it by now!”

Gah! You don’t have to read it. No one’s going to test you on it. Certainly not me. If you really feel you must read something of mine: there’s this here blog. Some of the entries are way short. Or how about my twitter feed? Even shorter.

In conclusion: don’t even think about wearing this outfit.

The end.

  1. Okay, often I don’t get past the first paragraph. I know. I’m terrible. Oh, I should be totally honest many times I can’t get past the cover. []
  2. Except my immediate family. []
  3. Is that a word? []
  4. Very few. I seem to have the mostly-meet-good-writers fairy. []
  5. As opposed to deeply genius fart jokes. There are many! []
  6. I’m not kidding. My favourite phone app has a state of the art radar so I can watch the rain coming in. What? Weather is interesting, people. []
  7. I don’t think I’ll ever get over how amazing it is that anyone reads my books who isn’t related to me. It is a joy. []

I’ll Know I’ve Made it as a Writer When . . .

. . . I finish a whole manuscript.

. . . I learn how to rewrite that whole manuscript.

. . . I get five/ten/fifteen/one hundred/etc rejection letters from real-life agents.

. . . I knuckle down and rewrite the book again. And again. And again. Etc.

. . . I get a request for the whole manuscript from a real-life agent.

. . . I get an agent.

. . . I get five rejections from publishers.

. . . I get ten rejections from publishers. (Would you believe twenty rejections? How about thirty? One hundred? One thousand? One million?)

. . . I start writing my second/third/fourth/fifth/etc book despite the fact that the first/second/third/fourth etc book hasn’t sold yet.

. . . I get an offer from a publisher.

. . . the deal is announced in Publishers Lunch.

. . . I get my first real editorial letter.

. . . I have my first hissy fit about my first editorial letter.

. . . I knuckle down and rewrite the book.

. . . I get my second real editorial letter.

. . . I have my second hissy fit about my second editorial letter.

. . . I knuckle down and rewrite the book. Again.

. . . (And repeat. Or not. Depending.)

. . . I get my first copyedit.

. . . I have my first hissy hit about my first copyedit. (Only robots speak without contractions! “Me and LJ” is how my character would say it NOT “LJ and I” because my character is not the FREAKING QUEEN OF FREAKING ENGLAND!)

. . . I get my first ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) of my very own book with my name on the front and EVERYTHING. Oh my Elvis! It’s real, people. Book by me! *faints*

. . . I get my first page proofs and am overwhelmed by the urge to completely rewrite everything and make the book, you know, ACTUALLY GOOD!! (Also notice that I use the word “actually” way too much and that is BY NO MEANS the only word I use WAY TOO MUCH. Wonder if I have also overused CAPS and italics and exclamation marks!!! Consider getting publisher to cancel book. Actually.)

. . . I get my first good review.

. . . I get my first bad review.

. . . I get my first meh review.

. . . I am enraged by an eleven year old who enjoyed my book but wished it was as good as [redacted]’s bestselling piece of [redacted] about [redacted].

. . . I get my first box full of my own finished actually TRULY REALLY book what I have written MYSELF!!!

. . . I open said book on a page with a typo of “actualy” and the CAPS and italics in the wrong places.

. . . I realise that it is the last book in the entire world I wish to read.

. . . I go to my local bookshop and there is my book in a real actual book shop.

. . . I get a query from my publisher wondering where my next book is.

. . . I miss a deadline.

. . . I miss two/three/four/five/etc deadlines.

. . . I get my first query from Hollywood which goes nowhere.

. . . I am sent on tour to promote my book.

. . . I bitch and moan about being sent on tour to promote my book.

. . . I am not sent on tour.

. . . I bitch and moan about not being sent on tour to promote my book.

. . . I get my very first fan letter. Someone read and enjoyed my book enough to write to me! Best. Day. Ever.

. . . the fan letters I get make me cry because they are so moving.

. . . the fan letters I get make me cry because they are so illiterate.

. . . I get more fan letters than I could ever possibly answer.

. . . I become a New York Times bestseller.

. . . I am disappointed when my next book only reaches no. 8 on the New York Times bestseller list.

. . . I am not a New York Times bestseller.

. . . I think about killing those entitled bastards who whinge about their books only getting to no. 8 on the New York Times bestseller list.

. . . I quit my dayjob.

. . . I can live off my advances.

. . . I can live off my royalties and don’t have to sell books on proposal anymore.

. . . I have to live in a garret and eat ramen in order to keep writing.

. . . all my friends are writers.

. . . I don’t have to hang out with writers anymore.

. . . I win the Nobel Prize.

. . . I do an event and half the crowd is dressed up as characters from my books.

. . . one of my books is optioned to be made into a movie.

. . . my book becomes a movie.

. . . my book is made into a movie and I get to complain about how Hollywood destroyed it.

. . . my book is made into a movie and I get to go to all the Hollywood parties for it and stand in the corner because no one’s interested in talking to a writer. Even a nobel-prize winning New York Times bestseller who can live off their own royalties.

. . . all my books are optioned to be made into movies.

. . . all my books are made into movies.

. . . my first book is remaindered.

. . . all my books except the most recent are remaindered.

. . . I fire my first agent.

. . . I move to a different publisher.

. . . even people who don’t read know my name.

. . . only people who read my genre know my name.

. . . only some of the people who read my genre know my name.

. . . I have to change my name and genre in order to keep being published.

. . . I write a book that I am truly happy with.

Because No One Should Suffer Alone

I am hard at work in the writing-sequel-to-Team-Human, researching-the-1930s word & image mines, which led to watching “The Truth About Youth” (1930). Man raises best friend’s son (known as the Imp) after best friend dies and encourages a match between the Imp and his housekeeper’s daughter (Loretta Young). But the Imp is in love with wicked exotic dancer, Myrna Loy, and Loretta Young is in love with the guardian. (Oh no! How can they resolve such a mess?) It’s not bad by early talkie standards. (I.e. it’s bad by any other standards.)

The problem with casting Myrna Loy as a dancer, is, um, well, you’ll see.

Just so you know I do love Myrna Loy. The Thin Man movies fill my heart with joy. But the following? To say that she can’t sing or dance is to be kind. I suffered through it now you should too.

Feast your eyes:

Myrna Loy-The Truth about Youth-1930 by redhotjazz

This post brought to you by demonic voice recognition software. Apologies for brevity, wrong word choices, weird syntax and occasional incomprehensible swearing.

Nonsensical Jibber-Jabber: the Joy of One-Star Reviews

My good friend John Scalzi believes that we authors should all own our one-star reviews. I am with him. It is good and wise to toughen up and learn to, if not love them, at least enjoy them. To this day one of my fave punter reviews ever is from the Barnes & Noble site and declares that Magic or Madness is like a bad Australian episode of Charmed. Never fails to make me giggle.

Some days though I find bad reviews of my own work a bit hard to take. When that happens I turn to the one-star reviews of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice which are the best therapy in the universe and never fail to cheer me up.

Here are a few faves:

Like others, I really did want to like this book. I tried and tried to read it, but it was all nonsensical jibber-jabber. I may try again, but doubt it. It’s torture!”

“Nonsensical jibber-jabber” is now my favourite phrase of all time.

Me no could read that book good. It too slow. Me like better book. Me like Tales from the Crypt. I no think any one should read. I would not read again. If you like torture read book. If you smart spend money on beacon soda.

I’m pretty sure this one is on-purpose funny. I salute it! I too enjoy Tales from the Crypt.

It appears that the odds are against me since most people love this…I don’t even know what to call it. And that is perfectly fine we are not all a like and have a right to our own views and opinions. Nevertheless, I must speak out and let my opinon be heard even though most of you who can’t say enough about this book wouldn’t want to hear.

I am forced to read this book for my lit class and I find this book repulsive. I have never read such a novel that is completly incompetant, complete nonsence, the smallest talks of all the small talks in the world, it is about nothingness, and how several nothings trying and wanting to get married to other nothings for all the wrong reasons in the world. It is about people pretending to be inteligent and pretending to be civilized. It is a book where they compliment women as being handsome and men as being well…also handsome. It is quite contageous I might add because I find myself helplessly imatitating the language that it was written in. I am offended by every paragraph that I read. I have never felt such contemt for any work that I read. I pasionately despise this novel and I could write an entire paper on why. The 17th century English aristocracy and the way the people cary and behave themselves and think so highly of themselves and so low of anybody who is different, is offensive and without merit. You may think “that I simply don’t understand this work” well I don’t and I am not going pretend that I understand this “classic” Perhaps I am incapable of comprehending this novel. I do know however that there are a lot finer book writen in the 17th centuries and earlier and after, which are better, more meaningful then this book and are also classic but some of them are notoverated enough as much as this book is.

Tee. I can’t fault them for getting their centuries wrong. I myself am quite inumerate and am constantly reversing numbers. 17th century, 19th century. What’s the diff? Also I am a pretty poor speller myself. It would be hypocrisy of the first order were I to mock the spelling. And yet . . .

I tried to read it, but I couldn’t. I put it down at about page 100. From a fan of IMMANUEL KANT, this was too boring. Honestly, after I put it down, I had to study the Diamond Sutra and the Book of Job to get the vapid feeling out of my head. Someone on here wrote something to the effect of “as Blake saw the world in a grain of sand, so did Austen see the world in a drawing room”. To this, I’d say that there is a vast difference in seeing the world in a drawing room, and thinking that the world IS a drawing room.

*cough* I will say nothing . . .

I HATED THIS BOOK. I READ IT IN HIGH SCHOOL, ABOUT 9 YEARS AGO AND I STILL REMEMBER HOW MUCH I HATE THE PUFFY PATHETIC NARRATIVE OF WHINY WOMEN IN WANT OF HUSBANDS. It is with deep anguish that I note that there are books on how to teach this book in classes, thereby continuing the legacy of pain to innocent students of this day and age.


Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, is a book about the life of a girl, Elizabeth Bennet. She has five sisters and lives with her mother and father in 18th century England. The story tells of her sisters’ loves and marriages. Elizabeth’s youngest sister gets married to a man of questionable character, who happens to be the friend of the man that Elizabeth herself loves, Mr. Darcy. Of course Elizabeth’s love isn’t that simple, since she first has to hate Mr. Darcy and then blames him for everything that her sister is going through. Jane, Elizabeth’s oldest sister, falls in love with another of Darcy’s friends. All the trouble that any of Elizabeth’s not-quite-normal family has is blamed on Mr. Darcy.

Basically, the whole book is about an 18th century girl whining about her upper middle class life. Of course, at the end, she gets exactly what she wants and everyone lives happily ever after. There is credit to be given to Jane Austen, since she wrote the book in an American household in the early 1800s, with no support from any of her family. She had to hide her writing under knitting or sewing whenever someone approached. She then had a friend publish the books she wrote, without telling her husband. Considering all that, the story really isn’t that bad, but in general, if you were looking for a book by Jane Austen, Emma would be a better read. If you want a predictable love story, “Pride and Prejudice” is a good book for you.”

Bless! How foolish we all were thinking that Jane Austen was English and unmarried and her books were set and published in the 19th century.2 Amazon reviews are educational. Yes, that last review does have a most amusing comment correction thread in response.

The point being that there is no book or author that is universally loved. We all of us have our foibles and preferences, blind spots and, well, prejudices and it is through them that we perceive the world and the books in it.3

All of which makes the world a rich and interesting place. There’s room for Jane Austen haters and lovers. There’s even room for the Jane Austen indifferents.

  1. Actually, I quite like The Great Gatsby and am a bit of an F. Scott Fitzgerald fan, but it’s fun to see John Green and English teachers freak out when I say I hate it. []
  2. I know! I know! Those pesky numbers. []
  3. Except for me, of couse, my hatred of Moby Dick and the writings of Henry Miller, Patrick White and Norman Mailer is completely rational and anyone who likes them is just flat out wrong. []

Guest Post: Sarah Cross Tells Lies

Due to boring circumstances beyond my control, I will not be online much in February. Fortunately I’ve been able to line up a number of stellar guests to fill in for me. Most are writers, but I also thought it would be fun to get some publishing types to explain what it is they do, teach you some more about the industry, and answer your questions, as well as one or two bloggers.


Sarah Cross is the author of Dull Boy, a YA superhero novel. She blogs intermittently, posts random videos on tumblr, and is hiding in a unicorn-and-zombie-proof bunker until this whole mess is over.

Sarah says:

You may be wondering where Justine is.

And I am sorry to tell you that something horrible has befallen her.

She’s been kidnapped by unicorns.

Mo' unicorns, mo' problems
Yes: these vile creatures.

You may be familiar with the zombies vs. unicorns debate, and the forthcoming anthology that was inspired by that eternal struggle. If you take a look at the anthology’s cover, you’ll see that the zombies and unicorns are engaged in an epic battle for dominance. It’s a gorgeous panorama of rainbow-colored destruction: severed unicorn heads, zombies impaled on pearlescent-yet-deadly horns, and corpses floating in a sky blue stream.

But one element has been left out of this struggle–and that, my friends, is the human element.

Typical Team Unicorn supporters
Members of Team Unicorn pose with their deadly mascot.

Humans will not emerge from this battle unscathed. They have been forced to take sides. (Vote here … if you dare.) Either you’re Team Zombie, or you’re Team Unicorn; and Justine, unfortunately, as the founding member of Team Zombie, has been targeted by her enemies: those sparkly, bone-crushing, rainbow-mane-shaking, marshmallow-defecating, zombie-impaling unicorns. From what I understand (I’ve been sent several encoded messages, written with a crayon that was rubberbanded to their leader’s hoof), the unicorns intend to hold Justine prisoner until she betrays the zombies and swears allegiance to her sparkly captors. Since we KNOW that will never happen … I was hoping to drum up some support for her release here.

Please, if you believe in fairies … er, believe the unicorns should release Justine, leave a comment here pleading her case. Personally, I believe that zombies, humans, and unicorns can get along. But some people are so frightened for their lives (or so passionate about unicorn domination), that they’re doing their best to disguise themselves as unicorns.

Team Unicorn 4EVA
I think this is Diana Peterfreund’s new author photo …

It’s a sad state of affairs. And yet, given the ‘corns’ legendary cruelty, totally understandable.

Unicorns are more ruthless than the Spanish Inquisition. Their rainbow vomit can induce madness in even the most stable mind.

Rainbow vomit spells your doom
Unicorn torture tactic #1.

And you do NOT want to be subjected to their special blend of “Lucky Charms.” Seriously–you’re better off starving. If they bring you any colorful marshmallow cereal, beg for some gruel.

These marshmallows are not magically delicious
That’s so unsanitary, Mr. Unicorn …

I am posting these lovely unicorn pictures as a peace offering. Please, infernal unicorns, release Justine. Before Sarah Rees Brennan comes back and blogs about another Matthew McConaughey movie.

Guest Post: Doselle Young on Everything (updated)

Due to boring circumstances beyond my control, I will not be online much in February. Fortunately I’ve been able to line up a number of stellar guests to fill in for me. Most are writers, but I also thought it would be fun to get some publishing types to explain what it is they do, teach you some more about the industry, and answer your questions, as well as one or two bloggers.

Today’s guest blogger, Doselle Young, is not only one of my favourite people on the planet, he’s also every bit as opinionated as me. (Though frequently wrong, like his love of Madmen and Henry Miller. Ewww.) I enjoy Do holding forth on any subject at all. He’s also a talented writer of comic books, stories, movies—anything he turns his hand to. Enjoy! And do argue with him. Do loves that. Maybe it will convince him to blog more often? I’d love to hear about the strange connection between Elvis and the superhero Captain Marvel Jr. Fingers crossed.

– – –

Doselle Young is a writer who hates the whole cliché about how writers ‘lie for a living.’ He thinks it’s boring, pretentious, and only meant to promote the author’s self-image as some kind of beast stalking the edges of the literary establishment. Whatever. Get over yourselves, people! Please! We’ve all gotten exceptionally lucky and you know it! When the meds are working, Doselle writes film treatments for Hollywood directors, comics like THE MONARCHY: BULLETS OVER BABYLON, the upcoming PERILOUS, and short crime stories like ‘Housework’ in the anthology The Darker Mask available from Tor Books. Read it. It’s not bad. And, after all, how often do you get to see a black woman with a ray gun? If, on the other hand, the meds aren’t working he’s probably outside your house right now planting Easter Eggs in your garden. Bad rabbit. You can follow him on twitter. He’d rather be following you, though. It’s lots more fun that way.

Doselle says:

Before we begin, I feel there’s something I must make clear: while I write a lot, one thing I am not is a blogger.
Not that I have no respect for bloggers. Hell, some of my best friends are bloggers (and I mean that with a sincerity that borders on relentless). It’s for that reason I’ve lurked here on Justine blog pretty much since the day I met her.
This is a good place, this here blog o’ hers. A smart place and a place with personality, wit, snark, truth, and, when appropriate, outrage.

Wicked outrage.

Kind of like a good local pub without the hooligans, the gut expanding calories and that obnoxious bloke at the end of the bar who smells just like the sticky stuff on the floor just outside the men’s toilet; although, there may be analogues to all those things here. It’s not my place to judge.

What I’ve noticed when trolling though the blogs of authors I know is that, as far as I can, what people fall in love with aren’t so much the personality of the authors but the personality of the blogs, themselves; the gestalt created in that grey space between the author and the audience. An extension of what happens when you read an author’s book, maybe.

And so, as I’m currently sitting here beside a roaring fire in lodge somewhere in South Lake Tahoe and bumpin’ De La Soul though a pair of oversized headphones I paid waaay too much money for, I feel a responsibility to engage with the personality that is Justine Larbalestier’s blog; which is not Justine, but of Justine, if that makes any sense.

On the subject of sports:

I don’t know a lick about the sport of Cricket. Justine loves it (almost as much as she loves Scott, I suspect) so there must be something of high value in the poetry of the bat and the ball, the test match, the teams and the history; some inspiration and beauty to be found there.

The sport that makes my blood race, however, is boxing.

Yeah, that’s right, I said it: brutal and beautiful boxing. Corrupt, questionable, brain damaging, violent boxing.
Maybe it’s a cultural thing but growing up black and male in the 1970s here in the U.S. of A. meant that Muhummad Ali was practically a super hero. Hell, there was even a comic book where Ali fought freakin’ Superman and won (and, yes, I still got my copy, best believe.) Like most everyone, I loved Ali’s bravado, his braggadocio, and his genius with extemporaneous word play. All that, and Ali’s unmistakable style, in his prime it seemed that Ali’s neurons fired to the best of jazz rhythm and when he got older, jazz slowed down to the Louisiana blues tempo—a little sad and melancholy, sure, but nonetheless beautiful.

Update: Image supplied by Doselle in response to Diana’s question

In each of the best fights I’ve seen since, I’m always looking for a hint of those rhythms that make my skin tingle to this day.

On the subject of chocolate:

Not a big fan, myself. I love the taste of vanilla bean and the scent of cinnamon. I love bread pudding and oatmeal cookies and the unholy joy of a well-executed Pecan Pie, but beyond that, whatever.

Screw chocolate. Chocolate still owes me money, anyway.

On the subject of LIAR:

If you’re reading this, I prolly read it before you did, so, nah-nah nah-nah and half-a-bazillion raspberries to you and you and you over there in the corner with that absolutely awful Doctor Who t-shirt.

I loved Liar when I read it and loved it even more when I re-read it. I loved every question and every turn. I loved Micah and her nappy hair and would love to see her again and again. If LIAR were a woman in a bar, I would approach her slick and slow, and be proud be as hell when she took me out to the alley behind the bar and stabbed me through the heart.

In short, LIAR is a killer book and that’s all I have to say about that. Nuff said.

I think Patricia Highsmith, as awful a person as she was, would be proud of LIAR and hate Justine for being the one to have written it.

On the subject of RACE and IDENTITY:

There is no monoculture among people of color or people, in general. Sure, there are tribes, cliques, groups, social organizations, concerns, movements, etc. and I can speak for absolutely none of them.

I can only speak personally. Will only speak personally. Could never speak anything but personally on something so emotionally charged as race and identity.

Like Steve Martin in The Jerk, “I was born a poor black child.”

For the first eleven years of my life, my favorite TV shows were super hero cartoons, Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, My Favorite Martian, All in The Family, M.A.S.H. Sanford and Son, Good Times and The Jeffersons. Even if you’re not Usian (as Justine likes to say), the U.S. exports every piece of television we have so I’m sure most of you will be aware of some of those shows, if not all of them.

I listened to Rick James, Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, Louis Jordan’s Jump Blues, Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones.
Most of my friends growing up were Jewish and the most horrible acts of racism I personally experienced growing up were perpetrated by other people of color.1

All of which should be considered prologue to finding myself at last year’s World Con in Montreal sitting on yet another panel about race (as an African American author I somehow find myself on race panels even when I haven’t requested them on the programming).

I’m sitting there, halfway through a sentence, when I have an epiphany, of sorts: one of those moments where everything comes into a different kind of focus.

The truth is: I don’t have anything to say about race that I can put in a short blog post. I don’t have anything to say about my experience with race and the perception of race that I can tweet. I don’t have anything to say about race on a sixty-minute panel at a science-fiction convention.

My personal thoughts on race and identity (ethnic or otherwise) are just that: personal, and as complicated, convoluted and tweaked as the catalog of experiences that shaped them.

How about yours?

On a related note, when I requested to NOT be put on the race panel at World Fantasy 2009, I ended up on the queer panel and had a blast.

Life’s funny that way.

On the subject of Buffy The Vampire Slayer:

The show’s over, homey! You really need to move on!

On the subject of writing:

Have a life that feeds you. Lead a life that challenges you. Write what you know. Write what you don’t know. Research. Steal. Invent. Be brave. Be honest about what terrifies you. Be honest about your regrets. It also helps if you can spell.

On the subject of God:

Sorry. I still can’t get that jerk to answer the phone.

On the subject of Zombies Versus Unicorns:

Honestly, I make it a rule to never discuss pornography in public.

On the subject of books:

I’m reading Megan Abbot’s QUEENPIN. The back of the paperback dubs Abbot “The Queen of Noir” and, honestly, I couldn’t agree more. Her books are violent explorations into the ruthless worlds of film noir and crime fiction, delving into the cold hearts of the grifter gals and femme fatales who, until now, have only existed at the grey edges of the genre.

If you like books like LIAR, I think you’ll like Abbott’s stuff, as well. Pick up QUEENPIN or BURY ME DEEP. You won’t be disappointed.

Another book I’m reading now is a biography: THE STRANGEST MAN – THE HIDDEN LIFE OF PAUL DIRAC, MYSTIC OF THE ATOM.

If you don’t know, Dirac was a theoretical physicist, one of Einstein’s most admired colleagues and, at the time, the youngest theoretician to win the Nobel Prize in physics. Dirac made numerous contributions to early work in quantum mechanics and was the first to predict the existence of anti-matter (the same stuff that makes The Enterprise’s engines go ‘Vroom.’) Dirac was, as you might expect, also a bit of an eccentric and a very private man who shared his tears with very few if any of the people closest to him. Written by Graham Farmelo, ‘The Strangest Man’ a meticulously researched piece that, nevertheless, maintains its focus on the often-enigmatic heart of its subject, Dirac. If you’re a science fiction fan, take a peep. After all, if a couple of social misfits hadn’t put chalk to chalkboard, we never have split that atom. Boom.

The last book on my nightstand, for the moment, is John Scalzi’s THE GOD ENGINES, published by Subterranean Press. Before I go any further, I should disclose that this book is dedicated to me but I didn’t know that until after I got a copy of the book. So, with that in mind, attend.

THE GOD ENGINES is a dramatic departure from both his Heinlein-inspired military SF and his more tongue-in-cheek material. While using SFnal tropes, the story is, at heart, a dark fantasy; one set in a world where an oppressive theocracy uses enslaved gods as the power source to drive their massive starships. Brutal, fierce and tightly laced with threads of Lovecraftian horror, 
this is Scalzi’s best book by leaps and bounds. I hope to see more of this kind of work from him—even if I have to beat it out of him, myself. I’m calling you out, John Scalzi. Remember, I’ve still got the whip!

Well, I guess that’s more than enough for now. Nine subjects. One post.

Guess that means the caffeine’s working.

As I said: I’m not a blogger. I have no idea how this stuff is supposed to work. I’m sure this post is way too long. I mean, I didn’t even get to address why the show Madmen doesn’t suck just cause Justine says it does; why Henry Miller looks cool standing beside a bicycle on Santa Monica Beach; The Terrible Jay-Z Problem or the strange connection between Elvis and the superhero Captain Marvel Jr.

Oh, well, maybe next time.

In the interim, let’s be careful out there and remember: just because its offensive doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

Best wishes,

Doselle Young

P.S. Those boots look fabulous on you, Justine! Absolutely fabulous!

  1. Being called ‘The N-Word’ by another PoC felt just as crap as being called the same by a white man. That just how I felt and I can make no apologies. []

Things What Are Making Me Laugh

The first thing that’s making me laugh is that Scott is currently making me breakfast. A very happy breakfast:


The next thing is that last night Scott was told about this gadget and now it is all he wants in the entire world:

The Dyson fan with NO BLADES! But how does it work? Because of AIR MULTIPLIER TECHNOLOGY.

Air multiplier technology. Hahahahaha.

This skit is making me laugh even harder. Via the fabulous Snazzydee I was introduced to The Armstrong & Miller Show. Here they are RAF airmen chatting up some fetching gels in Chav speak:

I’m sorry “innit” rendered as “isn’t it” in Posh Pommy Talk (or RP as it also known). I laughs every time.

What’s making you laugh?

Canadian Winner of Liar Sightings Contest

Mary Kuna bought her copy of Liar at Westminster Books in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada but only found out about the Liar contest after she’d already taken the book home. But I decided to relax the contest rules because Liar debuted in Canada first. As you see this is not a photo of Liar in the book shop:

As someone who really hates having my photo taken I admire her strategy here. It’s something I’ve seen lots of people do with the cover of Uglies. In fact most covers that are faces1 lend themselves to the face swap out photo. I’m sure this is not the last one with the US Liar cover that I’ll see.

The Liar sightings contest remains open for those of you in Australia, New Zealand & the US of A. All you have to do is be the first in your country to take a photo of Liar at your local bookshop (or library if you happen to have an amazingly speedy library that gets new releases in as quickly as a bookshop does) and send it to me via email or via a comment here on the blog.

I’m assured that copies of Liar will start hitting shops in all three countries next week. Definitely by Wed in Australia and Thurs in New Zealand. So keep your eyes peeled.2

  1. Of which there are many in YAland. []
  2. But not in a scary way. Never think about potato peelers and eyes at the same time. *Shudder* []

In Which Me and Scalzi Lay Down the Law and then Realise that We’re Full of it

T’other day I was gasbagging with John Scalzi as I do when the writing isn’t going well and IM calls to me. We got to discussing as how we are frequently annoyed by reviews which dismiss a book because the reviewer did not like it but can give no reasons beyond saying that the book sucked. This is something that annoys many writers. We put in all that hard work agonising over every word and someone dismisses the book like this:

This book is bad. It sucked so much. Don’t read it.

Or even more frequently,

This book had golden retrievers in it. I really hate dogs. Also the mother washed her son’s mouth out with soap and the book was set in the 1980s. No parent has washed a child’s mouth out with soap since the 1950s. This book sucked. Don’t read it.

Not liking dogs does not make a book with dogs in it bad. And a belief that x didn’t happen in the 1980s does not make it so either. For the record: a boy I went to school with in the 1980s had his mouth washed out with soap by one of his parents. I hadn’t realised soap washing of mouths happened in real life until then. Why do so many people slide from their experience to “this is how the world is”?

Scalzi and me agreed that there’s a difference between personal opinion and whether a book is technically bad. Netherland is a well-writtten book that bored me into a coma.1 I happen to enjoy some of V. C. Andrews’ books—they’re train wrecks of bad writing and insane plotting. They’re practically a manual of how not to write. I love them.

Lots of what I like and don’t like is because of my personal tastes—I have a strong love of narrative:2 Netherland is almost entirely lacking narrative drive—and my political views often make it hard for me to like books that are egregiously racist or sexist no matter how superbly crafted.

So me and Scalzi decided that more reviewers need to separate their tastes from their personal judgements. So that they could upfront admit that the book was well-crafted and did everything it set out to achieve and then go to to talk about their personal reactions. Because personal reactions are fascinating. I’m constantly amazed by the variety of ways in which books can unintentionally turn readers off (or on). From the very common “I hate books where an animal is killed” through to the less common “I don’t like books set in spring”.

I’ve already been told by several people that they won’t be reading Liar because they hate unreliable narrators and/or they hate people who lie and don’t want to read about them. All of which is fair enough.3 I have zero interest in books about middle aged college professors having affairs with their students so I don’t read them. To be honest, I kind of hate all novels set on university campuses.4

So from now on, reviewers, can we have more separation of your little quirks and kinks from whether or not the book is good?

Thank you. I’m glad we’ve got that cleared up.

Of course, there’s a teeny tiny problem with this straight forward separation. Just a small one:

Very few people can agree on what good writing is.

I could give you a long list of all the writers I think are total rubbish and then give you a bunch of links to rave reviews and people saying what wonderful writers they are. Most of them are living though and their fans would kill me. So instead I’ll say that I think Patrick White is dreadful. He overwrites like you would not believe. A Fringe of Leaves is one of the most overwritten piles of dreck I’ve ever slogged my way through. It’s supposed to be written as if it were 19th century prose. It’s turgid and unreadable.5 Lots of people love A Fringe of Leaves and it’s considered a classic. I also have a major hate for the writing of Henry Miller and Ernest Hemingway. Both considered 20th Century masters. I don’t think either of them could write their way out of paper bags.

I have friends who say the same thing about Angela Carter and Jean Rhys.6

Could it be that notions of “good writing” also fall into the category of personal taste? I mean, yes, obviously, we’re taught to recognise good writing in school, university, at writing workshops, from parents, friends, critique partners, from the books we read. But we don’t all learn the same things or have the same teachers. I have heard people say that they don’t like books with too much description and that they consider that to be a sign of bad writing. I have ranted here previously about all the USians who are convinced that omniscient point of view is bad writing. Ditto using adverbs or verbs of utterance other than said.7

So what me and Scalzi are really saying is that we want you reviewers to separate out our notion of good writing (not your wrong version of good writing) from your personal tastes and start your reviews by admitting that our books are brilliantly written and that the only reason you don’t like them is cause of your personal quirks.

Hmmm, turns out we are being unreasonable.8 Not to mention that writers have no business telling reviewers how to review. Reviews are not for writers, they’re for readers.9

Um, never mind then. As you were.

Do me a favour though, the next time me and Scalzi are in total agreement about something, could you remind me that it’s a very bad sign and tell me not to blog about it? Much obliged.

  1. Mad Men is an excellently written and acted show that I hate with a fiery burning passion. []
  2. My love of narrative aligns me with genre fiction (YA, fantasy, sf, crime, romance, historicals) far more often than it does with capital L Literary fiction. Though obviously it’s not that clear cut: my shelves have many books that are classified as Literarchure, such as works by Angela Carter, Isak Dinesen, Shirley Jackson, Toni Morrison, and Dawn Powell. Capital L Literature also keeps rediscovering narrative. There’s been less rejection of genre (and thus narrative) in universities over the last forty years than there used to be. []
  3. Though I’ve already come across some reviews of Liar that begin “I hated this book because I hate unreliable narrators.” To which I can only say: Why did you read it then? The book is called LIAR. On the very first page she says she’s a liar! What did you expect? /rant []
  4. Except Diana Peterfreund’s Secret Society books, of course. And Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim. And those Diana Wynne Jones magical university books. Update: And Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin. Really it’s only realist university novels I hate. []
  5. Which I guess does make it like the worst of 19th century writing. []
  6. Obviously they’re totally insane. []
  7. I’ve had people accuse me of being a bad writer for writing things like “Scalzi and me” instead of “Scalzi and I” because they consider it bad grammar and do not recognise that I am going for an echo of how people actually talk and not how grammarians wish we did. It’s a battle I also have with copyeditors. []
  8. What a shock! []
  9. Yes, we’re both writers and readers but we’re attempting to tell reviewers what to do in our writerly capacity. []

Events, I does them

In addition to my Melbourne Writers Festival events—first one is tomorrow with Scott and Isobelle Carmody *squee*—soon I’ll be off on my second US tour. Pretty, exciting, eh?

I just added a few events to the appearances page. So far I have events confirmed (or close to) for Phoenix, Nashville, Memphis, Austin, Seattle, Portland and New York City. I’m especially excited about those first three cities as I’ve never been to any of them before.

Also: Memphis = Gracelands = Justine hyperventilating. For those of who don’t know, yes, I am a daggy Elvis fan. Goes back to when I was very little.

There will be at least one or two more cities on my tour. I’ll let you know which ones as soon as I know. Here’s hoping it’s your city.

Just so you know, I don’t pick where I go. The wonderful publicists at Bloomsbury make those decisions and it largely depends on which book shops, libraries and schools want me to come to talk to them. It could be that I’m not going to your town because no one there asked my publisher to send me. So get mad at your local book shops, schools and libraries, not at me!1

What will I be doing on tour? Talking about Liar, how I came to write it, my thoughts on lying, and the many other things that shaped the book. I’m also happy to talk about my earlier books, especially How To Ditch Your Fairy which comes out in its brand new shiny paperback edition at the same time as Liar debuts in hardcover. In fact, I’ll talk about whatever you want me to talk about. Last year, at one school event all they did was ask me about food. Oh, and to tell them vomit stories. I live to answer your questions.

Here’s hoping I’ll get to meet some more of you over the next few days and months. It’s my favourite part of touring.

  1. Kidding! Book shops, schools and libraries never do anything wrong. []

My Childhood Falls Out of the Couch (updated)

Our study is being painted so we had to move the furniture out. This particular couch is a millions years old chesterfield that used to belong to my parents. I grew up with this couch. Curled up on it to read, tormented my sister on it, watched tellie from it, and apparently played jacks on it.

Here’s what fell out when we moved it:


I’d forgotten I ever played jacks. Now I’m remembering being a wee bit obsessed with the game. But a Marlon Brando in The Wild One badge? Really?

Update: The hair bobble was my sister’s. Sorry, Niki for forgetting to mention that.

Sydney Cold

Sydney winters are not particularly harsh. But in the spirit of doing things properly, we do what we can to make them seem colder. Hence the lack of heating to be found in so many Sydney homes.

Last night I was toasty warm in bed but my nose was ice cold and getting up to go to the loo was an ordeal. The temperature? 10C or 50F. Go ahead, laugh. But in a flat that’s got no heating and more importantly that’s been designed to stay cool, that’s cold. My nose turned red. It could have fallen off!

I could solve this problem by getting a gas heater but perversely I enjoy it. The days are warm, the nights are cold. That’s how winter should be.

Plus it means I get to wear my toasty warm uggies,1 fuzzy pjs and dressing gown.

  1. INSIDE. People who wear uggs outside are barbarians. []

Water without Ice

One of the hardest things for me in the US of A is getting a glass of water (or any other not hot beverage) without ice. The default, even in the very depths of winter, is a glass that’s at least half ice, half water.

They even put ice in orange juice! In bubbly water! It’s INSANE!

I do not get it. Why so much ice? Why do USians want to have their teeth painfully assaulted with sub-arctic temperature liquids?

Is that truly what they want?

I will never understand it.

Things I Learned Recently

  • Most politicians and journalists would rather spend time arguing about total trivialities than important stuff. No, I do not care about ute-gate. Not any of it. Could you please get back to governing and how about actually doing something about climate change?
  • In the Heights is every bit as wonderful and entertaining as people have been saying. Especially when seen with Robin Wasserman. Musicals make me so happy!
  • Never go anywhere with Maureen Johnson where cockroaches may show up. She told a story about dining with me and Scott and our good friend Alaya Johnson. The way she tells it is very operatic and entertaining but not exactly how I remember it. A cockroach landed on Scott’s shirt, I leaned forward to flick it off, and then something terrible must have happened because MJ started screaming. Alaya leapt up, me too, our hearts pounding, looking in the direction that MJ was pointed, while still screaming so loud my hearing is probably permanently damaged. There were no zombies shambling towards us. It took several seconds to realise that she had screamed down an entire restaurant over a cockroach. Mental note: no camping with MJ. EVER.
  • Sarah Rees Brennan and Diana Peterfreund do not know how not to spoil books and tellie and movies. I’m thinking of starting up a spoilerer re-education camp for them. Perhaps I will use MJ’s screams as part of the aversion therapy . . .

What have you learned this week?

Things That Drive Me Crazy

I’m in a ranty kind of mood. Here’s what made me ropeable today:

  • Hearing all about an explosive and insane blog post after it’s already been deleted.
  • People who spoil books for me. Especially when I’m only a few chapters from the end. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.
  • Ditto for movies. Some of us haven’t seen the latest Star Trek movie yet.
  • Friends who tell me they have Top Sekrit news but won’t tell me what that Top Sekrit news is.
  • Not having any Top Sekrit news of my own.
  • Being told that my genius promotional plan for my next book, Liar, of telling lies all the time until it’s published would just annoy people. Even after I’ve explained that they would be funny and amusing lies.
  • There being no hot water when I have just gotten back from the gym and am covered in sweat.

Anything annoying you lately? Feel free to rant about it.

Annoyances shared are annoyances, um, well, shared, I guess . . .

In Which I Run Around Like a Headless Chook

Today is a day of much stuff of admin-y tediousness. But it must be done. Le sigh.

So while I’m running around like a headless chook1 I would like to ask some more questions of you, my beloved brains trust:

  • How do you feel about unreliable narrators? I have now heard from three different people that they’re not going to read my novel, Liar, because they hate unreliable narrators. But I have not been about to get out of them what it is they hate about them. Do any of you feel that way? Why?
  • What’s the most unpleasant food experience you’ve ever had? Mine was scooping up what I thought was sugar but turned out to be salt.
  • What’s your favourite word? Mine is currently flibbertigibbet. Scott’s is feculent. And Ben, who’s staying with us, likes spigot.

Have a fabulous day. Think compassionately of me running from boring task to boring task. Later!

  1. If you don’t know what a “chook” is then google it. []

My Week as a Primary School Kid

On Tuesday we went to the Extreme Mammals exhibition. It was good. There were very big mammals and very small ones. I liked the ones with the really big eyes best. Weird. It was a good day except for when we walked through Central Park afterwards and my juice box exploded.

On Thursday we went to the school days pre-season New York Liberty game. That’s basketball in case you don’t know. It was good too. There were six thousand of us primary school and middle school and high school kids and some grown ups and we yelled A LOT. My favourite part was everyone dancing to Beyonce and when the cheerleaders fell down from being balanced in the air and when the Liberty won. We yelled EVEN MORE then. It was so loud my ears exploded.

Then we went to our dance lesson. The teacher was nice. She says I stick my elbows out and take too big steps but my knee bends and hand holds are good. There were lots of mirrors and we were sposed to look at ourselves in them. I was too embarrassed. We had to say slow-slow-quick-quick a lot. Scott had to learn to spin me. The music was bouncy. It was hot. We sweated. Afterwards my foot hurt exploded.

The End

Sekrit Business

Today I am engaged in very sekrit business, which I cannot tell you about so don’t ask. That’s what “sekrit” means, people. Something so very very secret and important that if you even ask what it is there will be dire consequences.

I’m leaving Cobweb here to keep an eye on you all and make sure you behave. She’s a squirrel glider who currently resides at Taronga Zoo with her sister, Moth.

They’re both vicious killers with a taste for human flesh, but Cobweb is by far the more vicious of the two. Trust me, you do not want to get on Cobweb’s bad side.

You have been warned!

Behold the face of a killer:

What to Do on May Day

I think the most important thing you can do today other than, you know, getting the workers’ revolution going is to buy a copy of Maureen Johnson’s Suite Scarlett. It’s Maureen Johnson’s funniest book to date and is now appearing in the eminently affordable paperback edition.

Highlights include:

  • A most appealing heroine: I hug Scarlett to my chest!
  • Romance!
  • Romance gone wrong!
  • Romance gone right!
  • Romance gone in between!
  • New York City as you’ve never seen it before!
  • The shabby gentility of a crumbling hotel!
  • A crazy Broadway lady!
  • A unicycle-riding, prat-falling, seriously hot older brother, Spencer!1
  • Many!
  • Other!
  • Wonderful!
  • Things!

I urge you all to go forth and buy it! If you’re broke and cannot afford it right now I urge you to encourage your library to buy a copy. Or bully your richer friends into buying one so you can borrow theirs. This tends to only work for books. I tried to get a richer friend of mine to buy a Vivienne Westwood ballgown in my size. She did not and now she isn’t my friend anymore. I’m not sure what went wrong . . .

Other things you could do on May Day:

  • If you’re sick you could lie in bed and shiver or sit on the couch coughing up a lung.
  • If you’re well why not prank call your enemies from a different enemy’s mobile phone?
  • You could also spread panic by sending this link to all your guillible friends: ZOMBIE STRAIN OF SWINE FLU REPORTED BY BBC SO MUST BE TRUE! That’s not really a BBC site, by the way. You can tell by looking at the URL. Just sayin’ . . . (via Carrie Ryan.)
  • Or if you’re in New York City you could go back to bed because it’s cold and grey and miserable. But that would be deaftist!
  • The best plan of all is to wear red and dance in the streets. Well, unless there’s sniper fire. Or a zombie apocalypse . . .

Happy May Day, Everyone! Have a good one!

  1. I know he’s fictional and much younger than me but I can’t help it I really heart Spencer. []

Tale behind the joke Weasel cover + PSA

Thanks to everyone for playing along with mine and Scott’s joke yesterday. It was very kind of you.

Here’s how it happened:

Ever since I showed Maureen Johnson the US cover art for Liar she has taken to pushing her hair across her month and making her eyes go wide.

So I took a photo. A very bad photo. Then I thought it would be fun to make it look like the Liar cover and post it here claiming that my publisher had decided to change the cover. Sadly, I does not have photoshop on my computer so I gave it to Scott to do.

He ignored my instructions and invented the new Maureen Johnson book Weasel. Naughty Scott!

I laughed my arse off. Then I sent it to Maureen for permission to post. She said, “plz!” Then I posted, hoping you’d all enjoy the joke as much as we did.

My apologies to anyone who thought it was for real. Honestly we did not intend to trick anyone. Was solely for the giggles.

Brooke Taylor supplied some more tee hees:

Oh noes! Another lying Maureen Johnson cover! She must be stopped!

And in late breaking news I have found the perfect way to stop her. Maureen Johnson has just publicly declared that if her next book: the paperback edition of Suite Scarlett (which comes out in cheap cheap paperback on 1 May 2009) hits the bestseller list she will GO TO TRAPEZE SCHOOL.

I encourage every single one of my readers to buy Suite Scarlett on 1 May. Even if you were thinking of buying one of my books. Don’t! Buy hers instead. I want her to suffer. I need her to suffer.

Send Maureen to TRAPEZE SCHOOL!

This has been a Public Service Announcement.

Cover theft? You decide (updated)

I don’t know if any of you have noticed but there are quite a few covers in YAland that look alike. Lately there have been so many covers with girl’s faces that I admit I’ve been a little concerned that the US cover of Liar will get lost. But people have been reassuring me that it’s different to the other girl face covers, that it will pop.

Then someone anonymously emailed me the image you see below. Apparently it’s the cover of a forthcoming Maureen Johnson book.

Am I being oversensitive in thinking it looks more than a bit like the US Liar?

You can be honest with me. Do you see any similarities between this:

And this:

What do you think?

Are they the same? Could it have been done on purpose? Or maybe the two designers just happened to use the same stock photo?

Update: Full story is here.

Request to mad scientists everywhere!

Some of my writer friends are going barking mad waiting for their books to come out. Especially the newbies. I have decided the only solution is for the world’s mad scientists to drop whatever they’re working on1 and instead invent a brain patch that stops the thinking-bout-next-book-coming-out part of the brain.

Could you do it now-ish, please? Some of my friends are OUT OF CONTROL.

I, of course, am completely sane and rational as I wait for Liar to come out.

  1. Turning us all into twitttering pod people, taking over the world’s supply of mangosteens, turning the lakes of Canada purple etc. etc. []

Hair frivolity

Went shopping today with my friend Alaya who knows where to buy good, cheap hair accessories in New York City. I made out like a bandit:

Thanks, Alaya! (Happy birthday for Monday!)

Windsor Project: Attempts the first & second

I mentioned recently that my big goal for 2009 is to learn to tie a full windsor really well.

This is my first attempt:

Perhaps, I need a longer tie. Yes, um, that’s what’s wrong with it.

Herewith my second attempt:

Okay, I didn’t need a longer tie. This one’s an improvement but it’s still not triangle-shaped enough. More work needed.

No criticisms of the photos please. Is very hard to photograph your own tie when you’re wearing it. Or it was for me, anyways. Stupid camera.

By year’s end my double windsor will be perfect and my life will be complete!

Authors are humans! Yeah, right. Tell us another one.

I hate to be the one to say it, but my dear friend, John Scalzi, is telling lies. He claims that authors aren’t machines.

So, not true. We’re all robots. Every single one of us.

Especially Maureen. She is one of the screaming author models.

Scalzi, himself, is one of the lazy author models. I know this because I am too. Once or twice we’ve gotten through cons by swapping out parts. (There’s not always time to get a tune up in the middle of a busy con.) It’s one of the bonuses of hanging out with same prototype robots.

I hope that’s cleared things up for everyone.

In which I am naughty

I have a mountain of work, admin, packing, and correspondence to catch up on, but instead I am reading through my new favourite blog, Cake Wrecks, which I discovered via an old favourite blog, Jenny Davidson’s Light Reading. I’m sure all of you have been enjoying it for years. What can I say? I am slow.

So far it has led me to many pleasures but few top the delight of the world’s worst Dalek cakes. I confess that I laughed so hard I cried.

Then it led me to this. The making of the most incredible cake I have ever seen:

Apparently it took twelve days to make. Wow. Just wow.

Bagpipes on Second Avenue

There’s a guy marching down Second Avenue playing the bagpipes. About twenty-five people are following him, clapping and yelling in tune.1 If I did not have a book due I would grab a camera and take photos.

This is not the first time this has happened.

I wonder what it is about Second Avenue and impromptu live music? Whatever it is I heartily approve.

I miss the tuba though. That was truly excellent.

  1. Or, um, some approximation thereof. []

My husband = teh crazy

Scott did it!

He bravely responded to Lauren Myracle’s dare and faced his worst fear.1 And, um, well, go see for yourself. Yes, that is me you hear laughing. C’mon, wouldn’t you have laughed?

I can’t believe he did that . . .

I seriously can’t believe it.

  1. As, um, I did not. Not because I’m more cowardly than Scott but because I’m busier! My books don’t write themselves, you know! Okay, neither do Scott’s, but my book’s trickier than his! Honest. []

Apocalypse survival (Updated)

Some of the folks on the not-driving thread seem to think that driving a car is an essential skill come the apocalypse. I think they are wrong. Even if the apocalypse isn’t caused by a petrol-eating bacteria, the days of oil-fuled cars are numbered. And once civilization breaks down there will be no more drilling for the little oil that’s left. Cars will only be useful to sleep in or to scavenge for spare parts to make something that’s actually useful.

I reckon genuine survival skills include:

  • Being fit and strong
  • Knowing first aid and/or being a doctor
  • Knowing how to find food (i.e. knowing what’s edible) and water in even the least promising circumstances
  • Being good at making and fixing stuff

I’m also unconvinced about the usefulness of guns. For starters they’re really really really LOUD. If things turn heap big awful bad, keeping a low profile to prevent the marauding nasties from finding you will be a high priority. One shotgun blast and that’s your low profile gone. It’s much more useful to know a martial art. It keeps you fit and teaches you how to look after yourself. It’d also be useful to know how to use quiet weapons like knives, or bow and arrow or, best of all, the mighty crossbow. Similar range to many guns but much much quieter.

By my own critieria, I’m pretty much buggered. All I got is that I’m reasonably strong and fit, but I fail on everything else even if my surname does mean “crossbower.” Unless there’s a big demand for storytellers, someone with a lot of Elvis trivia, and the ability to roll their tongue.

How about youse mob?

Update: I has added related poll. Look to right hand sidebar. Top of page.


I was just reading Meg Cabot’s blog. You know as you do when you have a deadline and you’re worried that it may defeat you. Because Meg Cabot writes around four thousand books a year and never misses a deadline. So I figured reading her blog might make her productivity and non-lateness rub off on me, who has never written more than one book a year. Fingers crossed.

And what did I discover? Meg Cabot doesn’t drive either! Doesn’t have a license. I am not alone.

Well, actually I know that because I live with someone who doesn’t have a license and hasn’t driven a car since 1988. But he knows how to drive. Whereas I do not. I had exactly one driving lesson and it did not go well.1 Besides I’ve never really liked cars and have always lived in cities where you don’t need to drive.

So who else of my readers—over the age of 18—doesn’t drive? Any of you?

  1. Do not ask. []


I’ve been playing with wordle, which is a lovely app by Jonathan Freiberg that a bunch of writers have been playing with on account of it is irresistible. You plug in your novel (or whatever text you want) and the app makes it all pretty. You can futz with the layout, the colours, the fonts etc. Procrastination heaven!1

I fed in a bunch of my novels. And oohed and ahed. And then I fed in my novel what I is currently writing and lo and behold not just pretty but useful. I could see at a glance what words I’m overusing and which characters and threads are getting the most attention. Interesting . . .

Notice that I have made it small enough that there are no real spoilers. I am so good to you people.

And did I mention pretty?

  1. What do writers on a deadline live for but to procrastinate? []

Lazy Extroverts

I had an argument with a friend recently, you know, cause I’m an argumentative kind of a gal, about whether he’s an extrovert or not. He’s an extremely social, bubbly, chatty guy. He denied that he is an extrovert on the grounds that he’d be just as happy to stay at home, that he likes being on his own and therefore is fairly introverted.

I called rubbish and said that he is, in fact, a lazy extrovert.

Just like me. I loves hanging out and chatting with the peoples. I also love being at home in my pjs, reading and hanging out and not going nowhere. Because I am lazy and when I’m home I just want to stay there. Getting up, and actually going somewhere is an effort, even though almost always when I go out I has a most excellent time. Like tonight when I saw the New York Liberty crush the all-star lineup of the Seattle Storm. Women’s basketball is fun! People are fun!

Now I am home. I could happily stay here forever. And not just because I has a book to finish. So, I’m extroverted. It’s just that I’m really lazy about it.

Lazy extroverts. We are everywhere.

Gypsy skirts. C’mon, you know you hate them.

I can’t believe no one’s voted against gypsy skirts either. Mis-matched flaps of coloured cotton (or worse synthethic) piled layer on top of layer in an unholy mess. What’s to like, people?

Also the next person who writes to me defending their hideous taste in liking ballet flats/espadrilles/formal shorts/shrugs/other fashion atrocity will be hit with a bad fashion curse. That’s right I will hex you so you never look good in clothes again. EVER.

Though, come to think of it, perhaps you’re all writing to me to defend these fashion atrocities because you’ve already been hit with the bad fashion curse. Hmmm. I will have to think further on a better punishment . . .

And for those who seem unable to find the poll: It’s to your right. In the sidebar. See? Where it says “Polls”. You’re welcome.

Little round up

Firstly, the polls: I thought you all should know that the result of the poll was that Nevada is our chosen smoking state of the US of A. Closely followed by Wyoming. Hope you’re happy, Mr Williams!

The new poll is on fashion atrocities. I’m a bit cross that no one has voted for espadrilles yet. Oh, how I HATE them! Soles of shoes are not supposed to be made of rope! It’s UGLY, people! Are you all blind?! (Poll is to your right.)

Matter the second, the word count discussion has been interesting and enlightening. In fact, it made me realise more fully the why of my word count dislike. I do not care to share my day-by-day process. Don’t get me wrong I adore talking about process. But I like to talk about it overall: here’s some thoughts on rewriting, here’s a very silly set of suggestions for writing a novel, here’s how I wrote this book, here’s how I find looking at other people’s writing incredibly useful and so on and so forth.

But posting daily on my struggles or successes in the writing coal mine? Nah. Too close to the bone. I feel like I’ll come across as a massive whinger (Oh my Elvis writing this book is killing me! Why are leopard ballet sequence so bloody difficult?! What was I thinking?! I’m a hack! A talentless hack!!) or the most conceited self-satisfied writer in the universe (Wow, I am a genius! I am the Lord Barham of writing! Look at these pearls of unspeakable genius that I crafted today! How could perfection such as the crystalline words that coruscate from my fingers exist in this oh so imperfect world?! It astonishes me!). So I confine such thoughts to myself.

Oh, hang on—wooops!

Look over there: Leopards dancing! Flying giant woolly squirrels playing badminton with quokkas!

There is no matter the third.

As you were.

Rules for writing

The responses to Scalzi’s talking about whether writers should be married or albino or live in igloos or smoke crack have flooded the internets. It’s so out of control I’m not even going to link to any of it. I am merely going to offer my own rules for writing:

  1. Write.
  2. Try not to procrastinate too much in your efforts to avoid 1.
  3. Unless procrastinating really helps with 1.
  4. If procrastinating to avoid 1. doesn’t help with 1. then never give me your IM handle.
  5. Don’t even give your IM handle to someone who might give it to me.
  6. Memorise Matt Cheney’s rules for writing. They totally will ensure that you do lots of 1.
  7. Split as many infinitives as you can.
  8. Always add at least one zombie—even if it’s not to your writing.
  9. Seriously, giving me your IM handle will ensure that you never write again. Don’t do it.

There’s no rule no. 10 because I’m living in a barbaric country that doesn’t have metric. Whatcha gunna do?

Zombie idol!

So, the whole Maureen Johnson stick a zombie into a novel thing has just gotten heaps bigger. Like heaps. You need to go over there to check out the extent of the bigness. I heard a rumour that there are more than a gazillion entries already! A bazillion gazillion trabillion! So many that’s she’s extended the competition.

And gotten some judges in. Stellar judges such as Meg Cabot, John Green, E. Lockhart, and, um, me.

I’m excited and delighted and slightly nervous. How long does it take to read a bazillion gazillion trabillion entries? Also—Oh. My. God.—I’m a judge with Meg Cabot. I think I’m going to faint.

To forestall the fainting fit here is my little take on the whole thing:

I got him to propose to me yes even though I am a zombie he said yes first I gave him the bit of seedcake out of my mouth and my God after that long kiss I near lost my breath yes he said I was a flower of zombieness and yes so we are zombies all a zombie’s body yes that was one true thing he said in his life and the sun shines for zombies today yes that was why I ate his brains because I saw he understood or felt what a zombie is and I knew all of his grey matter and pain and I said yes I could leading him on till he asked me to say yes take my brains take my bones take my marrow take my everything and I wouldnt answer first only looked out over the sea and the sky I was thinking of so many zombie things he didnt know of Mulvey’s brains and Mr Stanhope’s brains and also Hester’s and father’s and old captain Groves’s and the grey matter of sailors playing all birds fly and I say yes your brains are the best and the pink and blue and yellow zombie houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar awash with blood and bones where I was a zombie of the mountain yes when I put the blood in my hair like the Andalusian zombies used and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall with his brains calling to me and I thought well as well him as another his brains are bigger and greyer and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower zombie and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my teeth all perfume on his skull and yes and his heart was going like mad and yes brains I said braiiins yes I will Yes.

Please don’t sue me, Joyce estate . . . is parody. Also it just sang out for zombies. Don’t you reckon?