Monday, June 30, 2008

Mermaid Treasures 3

Methinks it's time for another mermaid. This cutiepie in a champagne glass was bought in Vegas in 2004, right after I attended the San Diego ComicCon. She's a Christmas decoration, but she hangs from the door of my mermaid room all year round. Love her colouring and her sparkly spangly tail.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The New Breed of Sexy

Gone are the days when the smart, bespectacled, feisty females were pushed into wallflower status by the jocks who just went for the visual packaging. To check out what I'm talking about, read the following article on AlterNet by Vanessa Richmond– Nerdy Girls Have Attained Sexy Status. It says that,  
... until now female geeks' sex appeal has been roughly equivalent to that of Napoleon Dynamite. Wikipedia describes the nerd girl as a stock character who wear eye glasses, dresses unfashionably, wears pigtails (and other little girl items like mary-jane shoes and knee high socks), is shy and socially inept and either overweight or gangly. More recently, they sometimes have a passion for social justice (see Simpson, Lisa) are feminist or post-feminist (see Granger, Hermione) or come up with the piece of knowledge that enables the plot to be resolved (see Velma from Scooby Doo). And sometimes, just sometimes, they get a makeover and become kind pretty albeit in an awkward way (see Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
Now, as it stands Lisa, Hermione and Willow were my favourite characters in the above cited television shows and books. I wonder why? Doh! You see, by rights I should have claimed nerd-status for myself during my high school days because I fitted most of the criteria cited above. The only thing that stopped me was the fact that the word "nerd" wasn't really popularised until the 1984 release of Revenge of the Nerds, and that came out just as my high school days were at an end. In hindsight, I wasn't treated as a nerd by my school mates, but strangely enough by some of the teachers who seemed to resent the fact that I was smart (mostly because I had a good memory). In fact, there were two male teachers in particular who rather unjustly decided to rob me of two deserved scholastic prizes and reward them to the second place getter – a girl who was prettier than me by the standards of the day. 

The first situation was in Year 11 Biology. There were two classes and I had a female Science teacher – Mrs C. The male teacher – Mr W – headed the other class. Even though we were assessed all year round, the placements in a subject were determined by the final end of year exam. I had worked hard but in the end was beaten by half a mark. I received something like 77 and the other girl received 77.5. I was disappointed when the results were announced to the class, but accepting of them, as she seemed to have beaten me fair and square. However, when Mrs C went over the exam questions and answers, I discovered that one of the multiple choice answers that had been marked incorrect, was in fact right. I went to the teacher and asked her to look at my paper. Indeed, there was nothing on the paper to indicate I had altered my answer or cheated, and she gave me the mark on the spot. When she reported to Mr W that I had rightfully won first place in Biology I could see him seething. He then promptly announced that the other girl's mark of 77.5 was as good as 78 and as it was only half a mark difference we were going to share the prize and come in as equal first in Biology that year. I was quite sickened by this turn of affairs because I know he would never have looked on me as favourably if our positions were reversed. So I had to swallow my protest and my pride and take it on the chin.

The following year which was the HSC year (Higher School Certificate) I took a one-point unit called General Studies, which basically meant you had to write a bunch of essays on cultural and political events. During our half yearly exam, the same girl beat me by two marks. During the moderator exam (which is the final big test prior to the HSC) I beat her by about five marks. The moderator was the exam that was used by the prize committee to determine the place getters for the year, as the HSC marks wouldn't have come out to January of the following year which was too late for the prize giving ceremony. Despite the fact that I had legitimately come in first, I was shocked to discover that the 'male' teacher Mr D had decided to award first prize to the same pretty girl. When I challenged him on it he muttered some weak excuse and said that he thought she would beat me in the HSC and that was why he had nominated her. After the HSC results came out the following year, I discovered I had beated her by six marks!

There were two other similar events that happened to me at high school, which revealed a pattern of unfairness and injustice. Now ... as an ex-hypnotherapist, in principle I totally advocate the idea that we should let things go and by jove, I spent many years cleaning out my emotional closet so I could attempt to flourish as a balanced human being. But this is one area that still niggles at me ... am I bitter and twisted and angry about this? Yes and no. I can still reconnect to the feelings of anger, resentment, and rejection of a 17 and 18 year old based on the injustice of those decisions. These teachers were prejudiced and they were wrong and I suppose they prepared me to learn the lesson that sometimes we come up against people who treat us unfairly in life. The irony of all this (and please don't think I am bragging – I am merely making a dramatic point) is that I was the school captain during my last year, as well as the Dux of my final year.

As I write this blog post I feel exposed, as if I am revealing part of my deeper inner darker side to you that hasn't successfully let these things go. The fact that I kept my old report cards as proof that what I say now is truthful, suggests that I have certainly not made peace with the situation. The fact that I have revealed this information in a public forum also suggests that there is part of my character still craving some kind of restitution in the form of an apology or acknowledgement that wrong was done to my detriment. So I beg your indulgence, for as much as I am an ex-therapist and have a modicum of self awareness, and as much as I have worked on myself, I am still very much a flawed human. And having said that, I have found a use for these old feelings – they can be channeled into storytelling and they are what propel me and other fiction writers to find truth in characterisation and motivation.

Am I going to stew on it forever? Well no. These old feelings stir up every now with a prompt or a catalyst such as the Richmond article, but the energy of those feelings dissipated somewhat because of two things that have happened to me in the interim. I haven't got complete closure, but I don't dwell on these issues either.  

Last year I reconnected with an school mate called Joe who was the maths whizz in our year. We chatted and laughed on the phone about what we remembered about each other and he said he remembered me as being particularly competitive. When I asked him whether he knew why, he said no and then I explained what had happened on these two occasions, as well as two others which I have not talked about here. He went quiet and said he didn't know and that it all made sense. That conversation brought me a modicum of comfort.

The second event which hastened me on the path to healing happened at an informal Year 10 (or as it was known then – 4th Form) reunion. Some of the people who attended didn't continue on to complete the last two years of high school. I met up with a lovely guy Dirk who I hadn't seen in over 20 years. We gave each other a big hug and after he introduced me to his wife, we had a long chat about what we'd been doing. Later on in the ladies room, his wife came up to me and said, "You know, Julie ... Dirk just said the loveliest thing about you. He said you were so smart at school that you were sexy!"

I went silent. I became very self-conscious and just didn't know how to respond, but she did it for me "That..." she leaned in and whispered, "is the nicest compliment I have ever heard him give anyone". 

Well maybe it's time to claim the moniker. I am now officially a "nerd' and having said that ... well you know the rest. Go and read the article!

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Mermaid Calendar

The Mermaid Calendar was not a planned purchase, and the only cues I had to help me make my decision to buy were the cover and the title. 

I like mermaids, and thought this would be a collection of mermaids from different sources. However, the calendar is actually a collection of photos by creator Jason Gold. Generally for me, mermaid photos usually lack interest, as the magic is not as present as when the mermaid is portrayed via a painting.

Jason's mermaids are nicely photographed, making them look like unobserved snapshots – the type you'd expect taken from a boat in the same way you'd take shots of dolphins. As the mermaid is treated as a real subject in these works, the shots of the mermaids are not always that attractive because they are more integrated into the shot like a wildlife photograph, without the posed glamour. This device works well to present the mermaids as real.

In the entire calendar, there is only one clear face shot of a mermaid, so the emphasis is not the mermaid's face and beauty, but more on the essence of the full mermaid form. About 50% of the mermaids presented have tails that look too PhotoShopped to be real, which I feel takes away from the mermaid/wildlife aspect of the shoots. However, when the mermaid tail is correctly realized to look real and part of the photo, then the mermaid and photo become convincing as if we are viewing a real captured sighting.

It's a lovely calendar to have, and I'm glad to have it, but it's not the calendar I thought I was purchasing from the Amazon presentation page. I love it as a reference source, but it won't be put on display or used, as I found it to be a bit too bland for my mermaid tastes.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bow to the Queenie

Aussie manga artist, the classy Queenie Chan has just collaborated with suspense and horror writer Dean Koontz to release a new graphic novel In Odd We Trust, based on Koontz's Odd Thomas character – a short-order cook who can see the dead and solve murders. To find out more about the story and art, as well as the creative process check out this Publishers' Weekly interview with Queenie. We just scoured our iPhoto files and found this pic of Queenie who attended the Black Mermaid Brunch we hosted in August last year. The purpose of the brunch was to introduce Australian comics creators and publishers to mainstream book publishers and agents. From left to right in the photo: Karen and Ben Howard from Phosphorescent Comics, Queenie Chan, and artist/comics publishing consultant W Chew Chan (no relation to the Q). You can catch Queenie at the 2008 San Diego ComicCon.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Received a heads up from both US and Australian sources abut stirrings – or rather lack of – on the WOWIO front. For those of you unfamiliar with the name, WOWIO is an ebook distribution site for books and comic book properties. The website has up to now been offering free digital content to subscribers in the US. Publishers and creators whose work has appeared on this site have received regular royalty payments based on downloads of their respective works. The current WOWIO website has gone offline to be replaced with a message that says: "WOWIO is going global" and a promise to go live again in mid-July. An Aussie contact who was well-represented on the website said they received an email yesterday saying that WOWIO was currently in negotiation with a purchaser. Our contact also mentioned they had not had problems with late payments. Our advice is to wait and see who buys out the company, check out the new operating plan and most importantly read the fine print in the intellectual property rights component of the agreement, and then decide whether or not it's in your best interest to do business with them.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Wicked Ways

Was lucky to catch Wicked at the George Gershwin Theatre on Broadway last year with Colleen Doran as my theatre partner. Great production – would have loved to have seen Kristin Chenoweth – whom I'd last seen scene-stealing on West Wing – in the role of Glinda. Lovely energy about her. I'd also liked to have seen Idina Menzel playing and singing Elphaba. Glad to know she's transitioning to screen – I spotted her in Enchanted, playing Patrick Dempsey's character's fiancée. I loved how the Wicked story was reframed from the Wicked Witch of the West's perspective. Going out on a limb and declaring myself to be a philistine here but I much preferred the musical to the original source material which was just too dark and depressing for me (although I do acknowledge the book to be a literary achievement). Anyway, the Aussie production is getting its first outing in Melbourne at the Regent Theatre from 6 July 2008. To read more about the gorgeousness of the costumes go to this Melbourne Age article. Thanks to Sonja for the tip. And by the way, which witch do you see first in the theatrical poster – the black one or the white one? For me it's the former.

Supanova Saturday

Been Supanovaring this past weekend at Sydney Olympic Park. Turned up at about midday and took a look around the Dome pavillion. Not really interested in the cosplay or the wrestling, but really interested in the creators. Had a great chat to Nicola Scott (DC's Birds of Prey) who is looking particularly fine, and who is as thrilled as we are about the casting of beautiful and brainy Aussie model Megan Gale as Wonder Woman in the upcoming George Miller directed film Justice League based on the DC comic series. Caught up with Jason Paulos of Rat Race Comics and picked up his latest Eeek! anthology of "sixteen tales of groovy horror to chill you to the marrow!' Chatted with Marcelo Baez of Diabla fame who Jozef and I voted as having the friendliest smile and most welcoming manner in the entire convention. His sci-fi and children's stuff is exceptional – check out Little Hammer Studios. Tad Pietrzykowski of The Dark Nebula – one of the most dedicated and hardworking writers we've come across – took great delight in exhibiting his new range of graphic novels with sales coming thick and fast on the first day of the event. Caught up with cartoonist Steve Panozzo from the Australian Cartoonists Association who was as energetic and enthusiastic about his craft as we have ever seen. Got off to a shaky start with the seminar session for creators on Book Proposals for Mainstream Publishers which Julie was presenting with literary agent Brian Cook, only because we had to swap venues just as the session was about to begin and we lost about 15 minutes of speaking time under an already heavy time constraint. However, the second room was even better than the first – nice lighting, more intimate and classier. Thanks to the wonderful Tim McEwen who got us organised (for the record Tim we'd love this room for whatever ASA Comics/Graphic Novels Portfolio session we have on offer in 2009). Julie did her very first Powerpoint Presentation which worked quite nicely (next time the audience will get some more fancier special effects!) The audience was great but we ran out of time for questions so if you want to ask any or want a copy of the notes, please email us at: No time for schmoozing after the presentation as we stayed and watched the Will Eisner doco, which heightened our respect for the master himself and his contemporaries and has prompted us to seek out more of his work. Good day on the whole. 

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mermaid Treasures 2

Got snap-happy with a borrowed digital camera the other day and photographed many of the treasures in my mermaid room. Here's another – my sister spotted this girl in an antique shop a couple of years ago and bought her for me for Christmas. The mermaid is brown and looks like statuary except she is made from some kind of poly-plasticy substance which makes it easy for me to tote her around. She came with a slate that fits in her hands so I am presuming she was originally created for a restaurant and the slate served as the blackboard menu. I am going to hazard a guess and say it was a seafood restaurant. Anyway, here are a few pics of her taken from several angles. I love the sensuous curves to her back and tail.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Dial-up Past, Broadband Future

Would you believe till this very day ... I have been on dial-up with my internet connection. Today I have joined the world of Broadband. I'm excited to see how this will change things.

H2O: Just Add Water – Random Episode

I don't really watch TV – the exception (with commitment) to that (atm) is Desperate Housewives – nothing comes between it and me. So I often miss out on new series. Julie does her bit to encourage series to view that she has either heard are worthwhile, or has tested herself.

I also have a friend who has kindly dogged me to watch a series about mermaids, but each time it was on, I was nowhere near the TV. I also don't have a video recorder, so I constantly missed it. This wonderful friend then saved an episode to his hard drive, and burnt me a copy.

With excitement he delivered this to me to view. Because I was busy and kept forgetting to put it on, I got around to it about 2-3 weeks afterwards. But I did finally watch it. Thank you so much good friend for doing this for me, and dogging me to watch it.

The series is called H2O: Just Add Water. Four seasons have been released on DVD. It was filmed in Queenland, Australia.


I watched this totally random episode, and got the gist of the story pretty quickly. The opening and closing credits have some lovely mermaid scenes, and there are a few mermaid moments that occurred in this episode, but the mermaid aspect in the story did not feel too comfortable in context – partly due to the very pedestrian high school story that worked around it with somewhat questionable acting. The swim sequences of the mermaids are like torpedos, and no tail or graceful movement is portrayed beyond the opening credits ambled swim. Superficial... for sure, but I know what I want to see in a mermaid. So I loved the idea of it and the fact that there are mermaids in it, but did not like the execution or the mermaid story or the acting. However, this was the response to an episode out of context, and when I first saw my first episode of Seinfeld, I was not impressed or liked it either, as I didn't know the characters and had no idea of the unique comedic rhythm of this series. Later, I ended up watching the series, and loving it as one of my all time favorites.

So with that in mind, I've purchased the four seasons of H2O: Just Add Water, and will see if I will connect with the series. I have hope. If it's good, I'll inform Julie and the Black Mermaid Blog.

Mermaid Treasures 1

A few years ago I was walking through the streets of Windsor, a historic country town on the banks of the Hawkesbury River in New South Wales, when I spotted something in a store window. I promptly walked inside to investigate and five minutes later I was the lucky owner of two gorgeous hand-painted mermaid tiles, which have since been given pride of place in my dedicated mermaid room – a bedroom with a bamboo bed (handy for siestas) attached to my work studio. All my mermaid collectibles go into there. So here is the first installment and introduction to the pieces in my mermaid collection (sorry about the wonky photography!). The tiles are by a Western Australian artist Sharon Peterkin. They are bright, fun and happy. Love your work Sharon! 

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Blog Balance

All's been quiet on the Black Mermaid blogging front the last few days and I/we apologise. I actually really enjoy blogging and am glad to be back as in some ways the act of blogging keeps me grounded. Am promising some interesting stuff over the next few days once I get hold of a digital camera – you'll have to wait and see oh curious ones! 

I've had some major deadlines and been staving off some kind of weird sickness where I only got a semi-dose of symptoms – half a cold, half a sore throat and half a cough. I also had an extremely sore left hip probably for sitting down for longer periods than I normally do – even the regular stretching I do didn't seem to do the trick, although a flying visit to my favourite Bowen therapists did!

I'm usually a very health person, but this time I know what compromised my immunity – pushing myself beyond my limitations to get my work done. Long hours, long days, seven days a week with little let up. Even my beloved colloidal minerals and not-so-beloved cod liver oil didn't shield me from getting sick. 

Add to that the vagaries of life's little challenges and well ... you'll soon get the picture. I've been looking after the family farm by myself for the last two weeks in between working on Black Mermaid stuff. I put aside Saturday to print and package up some of our Elf~Fin proposals. They are finicky things with various attachments and appendices, so I really had to tune in to all the detail. I use an Epson laser printer for our submissions and my HP inkjet for drafts (I double side the pages too for the sake of the environment). In the middle of the job, my laser cartridge decided to cark it and I had no back ups. Drove to OfficeWorks which is about 20km (12 miles) away only to find that the replacement cartridge would cost me $229!!! I can get a new printer for that and, in fact, probably will. Turned promptly around after deciding to use the new HP laser printer that someone else on the farm got for Christmas. Did a great job till half way through that batch – again no cartridge backups (I should have learned my lesson by now). Drove back to OfficeWorks on Sunday – the price was a little better this time – only $23.88. Printed it all up and was ready to go.

My only opportunity to send off the packages was at 3pm the next day. I'm just about to get into my car when suddenly an unexpected visitor drops by, and by the time we'd finished talking it was time for me to feed all the farm and domestic the animals.

Finally posted the proposals out today but only after I had dropped two of our cats (Papillion and Pimpernell) over at the Animal Welfare League to get desexed. They're doing fine by the way according to my pm phone call, although they still have post surgery drowsiness. I'll be able to pick them up tomorrow morning.

Why am I telling you all this? Well it's a good lesson about maintaining balance in life – one of my personality traits is that because I'm good at multi-skilling I tend to overload my schedule. Somewhere in the midst of all the frenetic activity my mind/body starts to warn me that I am overdoing it by having me get sick. This has happened to me on three occasions – in 2000 after I had worked for three years in three part time jobs (including Black Mermaid), taken on two office holders positions in a therapy association I had co-founded, and worked on a huge writing project on weekends and holidays. When I finished the book I was elated but exhausted and then I promptly fell sick – five times in that one year – my worse record to date. After that I had a seven year good health run. I was counting in the way that Jerry Seinfeld did in an epsiode where his 14-year old no vomiting streak finally came to an end. I think it was cookies that did it!  For me it was a major writing job with horrific deadlines which I met but had to pick up the roles of other people in the publishing team whose work kept dropping out at proof stage. This was prior to the 2007 New York ComicCon where Jozef and I had been scheduled to go and where we needed to do a lot of preparation. I got terribly sick post-convention. The wonderful Colleen Doran had told me there were always a multitude of viruses floating around in the middle of a NY winter and that she had been the recipient of several in the past. Anyway I succumbed to one of the worse bouts of bronchitis I had ever had which kept me coughing, croaking and spluttering and on the edge of hospitalisation through the last days of NY, into my Jersey stay with friends and into the first few days of my Vegas sojourn – I think it was the warm weather there that turned it around. But I think the real source of the problem was the fact that I had been working on adrenaline and once I started to relax (and this happens to a lot of holiday makers!) my immunity wasn't strong enough to bear the influx of these germs and it wiped me out. So anyway ... what's the message? Pare back on the overload, simplify, rebalance, create space and flexibility in your schedule for the unexpected, and honour your body. Will I take my own advice? Time will tell. Keep me honest readers. Keep me honest. More to the point – I have to keep myself honest!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Eisner Documentary Screening

Latest news on the Aussie comics circuit – we've just heard that Supanova Sydney and Perth will hold a screening of a new Will Eisner documentary after the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) Comics/Graphic Novel Portfolio seminar sessions (see our previous 28 May 2008 post) on Saturday 21 June (Sydney) and Saturday 28 June (Perth) at 7.00pm.  Entitled 'Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist' this film chronicles the life and art of one of the most influential comics creators of our time. It has previously screened at various film festivals in North and South America. To see a trailer go to the Montilla Pictures website.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Old Words; New Meanings!

Thought you might like this! The Washington Post has apparently published its annual list of alternative meanings for common words (although I can't find the relevant page on the website). The winning definitions are:
1. Coffee, n. The person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted, adj. Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.
3. Abdicate, v. To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade, v. To attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly, adj. Impotent.
6. Negligent, adj. Absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.
7. Lymph, v. To walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle, n. Olive-flavored mouthwash.
9. Flatulence, n. Emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.
10. Balderdash, n. A rapidly receding hairline.
11. Testicle, n. A humourous question on an exam.
12. Rectitude, n. The formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13. Pokemon, n. A Rastafarian proctologist.
14. Oyster, n. A person who sprinkles his conversation with yiddishisms.
15. Frisbeetarianism, n. The belief that, after death, the soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
16. Circumvent, n. An opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

Winter Mornings

I do not have a fondness for winter mornings. Despite the fact that I am an 'A' (see my 1 May 2008 post on Circadian Rhythms) it's difficult to get up to cold dank dark weather because like many Australians – warmth and water are my thing. However, this morning was different. The sunrise was orange and pink and gorgeous. I traipsed the farm in my gumboots, sinking into ankle deep mud in places – a side effect from the heavy rainfalls we've had over the last couple of weeks. I walked to the top of the hill and looked across a large vista of mist in the pastures below and just made out the silhouettes of horses and cattle. Around me were the shadowy frames of deciduous trees still clinging to some lone yellowing leaves. Two peregrine falcons screeched from their perch on a gum tree – new neighbours I believe – they've been here for about a fortnight and I think they're going to stay. A flock of ibis flew overhead in formation and I heard the call of black cockatoos again which means more rain. All in all it was a wondrous morning. Sometimes it's good to find a bit of stillness and appreciate the natural world.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Elf~Fin Leaks & Peeks 2

Been holding off blogging for the last week because of dreadful deadlines, and because we wanted the next post to be the latest Elf~Fin installment. So here are the girls as we like to call them (from left to right) – Tatsi, Sisatii and Lemoray – who just make us smile. In the meantime, if you want to see more of Hyfus, go to the Black Mermaid Productions website.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Kitty 4 & 5 Staying in the Family

I'm glad to announce that Kitty 4 & 5 are going to my sister and her partner. Here's a pic of them both – the tabby is a boy; the tortie and white is a girl. They're gorgeous and a little older than when these photos were taken. And in case you were wondering what's happening with the Squeaker Sisters (see 10/5/08 post) who were dumped at about four weeks old in a box on a neighbour's doorstep, well they're staying with me. The grey one has been named Sasha and the champagne pink and white is called Sihri. Liz, the wonderful woman who took Kitty 2 and 3 (see 26/5/08 post), has named them Aslan and Sylvester. We're all going to the vet together in a couple of weeks to get all six kittens microchipped and vaccinated. Followed up on Kitty 1 (see 2/5/08 post) the other day and she is loved and adored. I can breathe easy now.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Mermaid Video Watch 1

Caught the Foo Fighters' "Resolve" video today – there's a mermaid in it. Got me thinking about other music videos with mermaids. Instantly recalled Madonna's "Cherish" which has got a whole bunch of sexy mermen in it tossing their hair and frolicking in the surf. Are there any other's out there? The criteria would be a merman or mermaid with the quintessential fish tail. Delta Goodrem comes close in the second verse of  "Believe Again". Her makeup and shimmery scaled body suit are gorgeous but alas she lacks the prerequisite tail and fin, which makes her a mere pretender in the mermaid world. Let us know if you come across any others, so we can compile the definitive list.