Friday, October 30, 2009

Stunning Scarygirl

Jozef and I went to a signing last night at Kinokuniya in the city for Nathan Jurevicius's delicious looking wordless graphic novel Scarygirl. What's interesting about this creative property is that it circumvented the usual publishing process by coming out as a line of designer toys, an online comic and a game prior to being released as a book. Published by Allen & Unwin , the story is about a young girl with an identity problem – abandoned on a remote beach in the middle of the night by a malevolent looking machine, she has no idea who she is or where she came from.

The artwork is absolutely sumptuous. The production values on the actual book are gorgeous as well – even the inside of the dust cover is emblazoned with rich artwork. This is an absolute delight and Nathan is to be congratulated. There are several more books on the agenda so collectors – start collecting. It's targeted at 14 to 18 year olds but quite frankly bridges all ages. We're predicting it will win major prizes. The RRP is AUS$35.00 and it's worth every cent. It comes sealed in plastic so wear your white gloves when you open it at home. Whip out your credit card and put this book in your shopping basket at Allen & Unwin or order it from your bookstore or comics store. I'm reading (or should I say viewing) mine tonight.

Halloween Black Mermaid™ – TWO DAYS LEFT!

We've always wanted to say this and maybe here's our chance – we are the fine (and only) purveyors of Black Mermaid goods and collectibles. Here are some of our personal favourites in the product line up – cushions, ceramic travel mugs and tote bags. There's only a couple of days left to buy them – the Halloween Moon design will be taken off-range on 31 October (11.59 US Pacific time). Hurry! CLICK HERE to go to our CafePress Shop.

Halloween Black Mermaid™ Friends

Kathy from Wisconsin, USA, sent us this pic of herself wearing one of the Halloween Moon t-shirts (this is the fitted-t). We love the look – suits your hair and the shirt you're wearing underneath, K, and we appreciate your patronage to our CafePress Shop.

Flavour Escapes–A Nutty Tale About Nutty Goodness

A couple of weeks ago I received my November issue of Delicious magazine (the one with the coconut and banana pancakes on the front cover) which I've been subscribing to since it was first launched about six or seven years ago – brilliant recipes I must add and dare I state the obvious, delicious as well. Anyway, being the advertisers' dream that I am, I spotted an advert for a new product range which I promptly acted on. There were two things that intrigued me about the products in question – the packaging and the flavours – and possessing the innate culinary curiosity that I have, I trotted out on my next shopping expedition and bought a pack of each from Woollies.

The products I'm talking about are called Flavour Escapes brought out by the Melbourne-based The Gourmet Nut Company. The four flavours on offer are – Thai Sweet Chilli (cashew and peanut blend), Canadian Maple (cashews), Indian Chai (almonds) and Japanese Wasabi (honey peanuts). I also loved the foil packaging in lovely friendly colours (I wear lots of black but I do love and respond to bright colours and my office decor is colour-saturated). I must also mention that I tend not to buy or eat much snack food (dark chocolate being the exception), and the nuts I do consume regularly tend to be of the raw variety – almonds and cashews – which I combine into breakfast dishes such as bircher muesli or yoghurt and berry parfaits.

Anyhoo, got the Flavour Escape nut combos home and tested the first flavour that night with the rest of my family. Well ... before you knew it the entire 175gm pack was gone, promptly followed by a second one. The next night we broke out the remaining two packs which we also promptly consumed. They were excellent! They landed an unrestrained flavour punch that absolutely backed up the inherent advertising promise. If I were to have done a blind test on each of the varieties I would have been able to identify them all distinctly by taste (something I wasn't really able to do with the latest Smiths crisps "Vote for Me" campaign where nothing much differentiated the four flavours tastewise for me).

I also had the experience of my taste buds being able to differentiate the sweet from the spice – in fact there was an inherit complexity in the way the ingredients melded with each other. The ingredients constituted 73% nuts, some sugar, spices and honey. And for the disciplined health conscious person who can constrain themselves to a recommended 25gm serving, a serving contains 553 kJ (127 Cal), 5.2gm (protein), 7.1gm (fat), 10.5gm (carbohydrate) and 91.3mg (salt) which is pretty good compared to many of the other nut mixtures I've seen.

I rarely have this enthusiastic reaction to new foods and am pretty tough in my rating system, but I was so impressed I rang the company the next day to let them know how fantastic the nuts were. If I were an American multimillionaire and all cashed up I would have bought the company! (In-joke – anybody born post 1980s who didn't watch Remmington shaver commercials on Australian television won't get it.) Had a great chat with Kerrie, the Quality Assurance Manager, who seemed to be delighted with the call. We discussed our respective favourite flavours (in order mine were – sweet chilli, maple syrup, chai and wasabi), and a whole bunch of other stuff.

So having said that ... if you're Australian go and check them out (that means you too Marcelo Baez, you snack-lovin' comics art genius you who lured me temporarily into M&Ms territory on your last visit!) I'm now looking forward to tasting the Lemon Myrtle flavoured variety in another Gourmet Nut Company range. The Flavour Escapes website hasn't been launched yet but keep checking to find out more or just trust me and go straight out and buy them. Jozef – I'm sharing the next pack with you!

Clarity from Decluttering

The last couple of months I've been decluttering my home and office. It sounds like an awful long time but I've accumulated an awful lot of junk from the last few years. I still had boxes of paperwork from the time I shared a house with Jozef and ex-Black Mermaid Productions business partner Bruce – and I had moved out 13 years ago! That's ridiculous! Anyway, I've been sorting, filing, archiving, cleaning, donating and chucking. I'm about 65% there but have such a heavy work schedule at the moment that I need to keep doing it one box or basket at a time until such time that it's all finished.

About a month ago I bought a shelving storage unit for my office. It was reasonably priced at $228.00 from OfficeWorks and it took about three hours to put together (thanks, Paps!). All my filing trays are now off the floor and organised according to colour – Black Mermaid (black trays) and my own work (pink trays). All the receipts, computer cords, business cards, paper (recycled for drafts and new paper for final copies) and all my beloved ornaments and toys have a place now including the I Dream of Jeannie cookie jar with a miniature Jeannie inside which my sister and I gave to our grandmother (Babushka) for Xmas many years ago. After my Babushka died the cookie jar returned to me. It has great sentimental value.

The act of decluttering has had psychological benefits as well. I've felt a huge energy shift inside me. The only way I can describe it is prior to decluttering I felt like much of my energy was leaking out of me like water leaking out of holes in a dam wall. Once I started cleaning, some of those holes miraculously plugged themselves up and I was suddenly able to access that energy again to complete many of my other jobs. The result – clarity, peace of mind, productivity, and enormous focus accompanied by a lightness of spirit.

In the past I tended to gravitate towards two extremes – being either ultra obsessively organised or exceptionally messy – although strangely enough all the interiors of my cupboards and desks were always clean and tidy. When I was really busy and stressed I would just throw things onto piles on the floor after I have finished using them rather than return these objects to their proper homes (I think I was reverting to 5-year-old behaviour!). Now what's happening is that I am conscientiously putting things back into their allocated place. The receipts I need to sort, record and file are put in a manilla folder in one of the trays. The bills go into another tray until such time during each week that I work on finances. I'm putting books back in their rightful spots and my story notebooks, diary/day planner and seminar notes all have their place.

Jack Canfield and Janet Switzer who co-wrote The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, which I consider to be the definitive self-motivational book about orienting and creating the present/future you want for yourself, talk about "Cleaning Up Your Messes and Your Incompletes" in Chapter 28. They advocate getting into "Completion Consciousness" because failing to do so robs you of valuable attention units. Furthermore, the book discussions the four D's of completion – Do it, Delegate it, Delay it, or Dump it! It basically all comes down to this – "If there's anything new that you want in your life, you've got to make room for it" – psychologically and physically.

I've felt huge shifts inside me since I started and am determined now to get to the end. If I'm experiencing lightness at this point of time when I'm only two-thirds there, imagine what I'll feel like when I finish this job and hold my arms out to embrace and receive the good things that are coming into my life – the publication of Elf~Fin being one of them.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Golden Starfish Xmas Black Mermaid™ Just Released

Jozef and I've been remiss in the blogging department of late – heavy deadlines, late working nights and seven-day per week schedules with some of our part-time income generating activities which are going to support the upcoming Elf~Fin™ project. However, Jozef's just come up with this brill new "Golden Starfish" Xmas design in our Celebration Black Mermaid™ range. Halloween isn't over yet and Witchy-mermaid is still around for another few days but we're still bringing Xmas to you now cause we're excited and because she's already up and live on our CafePress site. Outside of adoring this facet of our business and seeing our Black Mermaid™ up and alive in all these different action poses and moods, every dollar of profit we make helps us get to publication faster. Having said that, you get to look great in the clothes, you get to swig out of the Sigg bottle at the gym while you're pounding away on the treadmill, you get to keep your coffee hot on wintery mornings with the ceramic mug or conversely get to keep your drinks cool in hot humid climes, and you get to ease back and relax in an array of soft comfy cushions. Jozef's actually collecting the cushions, my mum's collecting the tile coasters and I'm starting with the tote bags. And for all you Aussies out there reading this – the exchange rate is excellent now so get your Xmas shopping over early. You can find the "Golden Starfish" Xmas Black Mermaid™ online so just CLICK here to get to our CafePress shop.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Tango Collection

Australian mainstream publisher Allen & Unwin has been going great guns building its graphic novels list with both local and overseas talent. The latest offering is a bumper 264-page anthology called The Tango Collection – "a feast for the senses and a celebration of love in all its guises" – featuring the creme de la creme of Australian and New Zealand talent. Edited by Bernard Caleo, the anthology gathers stories published from eight issues of Tango romance comics anthology. The Tango Collection sells for $35 in Australia and will be available in December 2009 so put it on your Christmas list. For more information go to the Allen & Unwin website. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rural Sydney Skyscape Contrasts

A few weeks ago – on 26 September 2009 to be exact – Sydneysiders woke up to a red dust haze so spooky that many people thought they were experiencing the final countdown to Armageddon. For me it was a moment of wonder. Tynney my family sheep was the one who alerted me to the phenomenon with his insistent baaaing. I took one look out of the window then grabbed the digital camera and ran outside in my PJs to get as many shots as I could. It looked and felt as though I was stepping out into a red swirly fog. 

Well, I finally downloaded the pics onto the computer and then compared them to a beautiful May 2009 sunrise. I thought you all might be interested in some of these contrasts taking from a similar vantage point near a tree which faces the east. The top pic is the May sunrise, the middle one is the red September haze, and the third shot was taken two days later when we were hit by another less potent dust storm which lacked the red tinge of the first. I have an enormous respect for nature and this is another good reason why.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Marge Simpson Poses for Playboy

Read it in the Sun Herald last weekend so it must be true – in the Simpsons' 20th anniversary year Marge Simpson has posed for US Playboy magazine on both the cover and in the centrefold with an accompanying interview entitled "The Devil in Marge Simpson". Hilarious but sort of upsetting at the same time as Marge (along with Lisa) seem to be the only Simpsons with a little bit of commonsense. Don't know whether a nude spread establishes her as an independent woman with a naughty streak or whether it will complete ruin her reputation and street cred. How can we talk about her in this way? Well, the Simpsons are as real to us as Dame Edna Everage whose purple hair is as famous as Marge's blue bouffant. The magazine hits newsstands on 16 October 2009.

Australia Council Emerging Writers/Illustrators Initiative Grants Recipients

A BIG FAT CONGRATULATIONS to four Australian graphic novelists who have picked up between $10,000 and $15,000 each in grants to develop their respective projects. They are Tom Taylor, Patrick Grant and Dave Jones–all hailing from Victoria–as well as Julie Wynn Hunt from Tasmania who applied to fund a children's graphic novel/picture book hybrid. All in all, there were 174 eligible applications across several genres and mediums of which 10 were comics/graphic novels projects. As the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) Comics/Graphic Novels Portfolio holders we had anticipated that perhaps two comics/graphic novel proposals would pick up grants but we were delighted to discover that there were four recipients, which constituted  28.5% of the successful field. That's pretty good for this emerging medium. What's more important is that it will give these creators some quality writing/illustrating time so they can maintain momentum and complete their projects without distilling their creative energy by being forced to take on part time work. For more information about the grant process, go to the Assessment Meeting Report or to the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) website.