Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Ranting Returns

As promised, double-barreled names. Or, to put it more accurately, names that should not be double barreled.

Reminder: all rants are personal and utterly biased. If you have a double-barreled name, read on at your own risk.

Some poor folks are ancestrally burdened with names that will never fit on an application form. Take one of Scotland's old families, the Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpes. Triple-barreled. Mmm. You'd feel sorry for them if they weren't so rich. Interestingly, they inherited the Gough-Calthorpe part of their name along with a pile of money in the 1800s. Gough-Calthorpe on its own is an application form challenge, however, so I think we must forgive the current generation their outstandingly pretentious name on the grounds that they had no choice in the matter. And respect the daughter of the family, who while trying to make it as an actress, has dropped two of the three names. Sensible lass.

Clever readers, as you all are, will, I'm sure have noticed the use of the word 'pretentious' in the above paragraph. Yes, that is the emotion double-barreled names evoke in the Furbrain. Within the wondrous shores of that land known as Britain, a great many double-barreled names belong to the upper class. That doesn't greatly bother me. Their names are ancient and have often been created as part of marriage deals or financial settlements many centuries ago. Sometimes it indicated that a woman had married beneath her. Now they're stuck with them.

Times have changed, however. What sets my pretensionometer blaring is when people choose to double barrel their names. None of the reasons often cited work for me:

1. 'Well my husband has a very common surname, so we thought if we used both our names it might make it more distinctive.'

The Koala solution: use your name, let him use your name, better yet, don't marry him at all.

2. 'I wanted to keep my maiden name.'

Go right ahead. Keep it. Don't use his nasty patriarchal name at all. In fact, don't marry him.

3. 'I wanted to keep my maiden name and use his name too.'

Go right ahead. We have these handy slots known as 'middle names'. Or, don't marry him.

4. 'I wanted my kids to share my maiden name.'

See answers to 1, 2 and 3 above. Look, just don't marry him. End of problem.

I will, graciously, make one exception. If a child wants to use his/her family name, as well as that of a step-parent, then that's the child's decision and it's a good way to honour all parents. Only if it's the child's decision, though and said child has been thoroughly warned about the pitfalls of application forms.

And so, on to the connection with writing (yes, there is one!). Had you noticed how many writers, particularly female writers, use double-barreled names either with or without hyphen?

Ladies, it is unnecessary. What's more, it is one of the many, admittedly personal and largely senseless reasons, why I will not take your book off the shelf. Georgette Tingle Bingle, you would be unique under either name. Portia Piffleton Prune, likewise. Jane Smith, I have some sympathy for you, but with everybody else fancying up their names like Christmas trees, why not keep it simple? You might find you are the only one. And I might buy your book.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

We take a break from our now-regular ranting... pose a question.

Are you a heavy or a light user of the comma?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Here's another thing I hate...

I'm having such fun ranting! I think we will call this The Ranting Series. I'm sure I can keep it going for quite some time.

This is a writing-related one again, luckily, what with this being a writing-related blog and all. I think.

I cannot stand...when the title of a novel is followed by the words 'A Novel'. As in 'The Story of Pluhjibberycasket. A Novel.' Also 'A Novel by...'. As in 'The Leap Over Frisquagibbet Canyon. A Novel by Persephone Plasket Hughes'.

Usually when I pick up a novel I find most of the clues pointing to it being a novel are obvious enough for me not to need to be told. Often, novels are found in the fiction department, because they are, wait for it, fictional novels (heh heh). In most cases a quick scan of the blurb at the back provides more handy clues that the story within is unlikely to reflect reality (normally particularly obvious in the fantasy genre). Some authors helpfully point out that events and persons in the book are in no way related to real events or people (although am I alone in reading that as a clue that they just might be? Whoops, do you think Aunty Meg will spot that Mrs Jones is based on her, complete with hairy mole, six fingers on her left hand and nasty scratching habit? Hm, better put in that handy disclaimer.)

As for 'A Novel by...'. You are not Jane Austen or any of the Brontes. Really, you're not. This is archaic, unnecessary and, to me, the height of pretension. OK, I might let some elite authors get away with it, but it doesn't mean I'm going to like it. As for the rest of us. No. Don't do it.

The next episode of The Ranting Series will feature double barrelled names. Oooh, don't get me started on double barrelled names...

Feel free to rant on this or any other topic in the comments.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Beverley Hills 9021lessthan0

It was an attempt to relive the good times. The days when we'd huddle around the tv early on Saturday night and attempt to decide whether we fancied Dylan or Brandon the most. (Dylan for me, every time).

So when the new 90210 started, despite the knowledge that it was probably a crime for me to ogle the boys, I thought I'd give it a look. In fact, I hardly noticed the boys. It was the incredible thinness of the girls that caught my eye - after I'd missed their appearance on screen a couple of times, because of their incredible physical absence. Thank goodness they talked, that's all I have to say.

Now I'm a skinny one. When I was at school my nickname was 'matchstick legs' (witty, weren't they?). But even I never achieved such verge-of-death, skeletal skinniness. And this is attractive? Not when I was a teenager (unfortunately for me - I'd have been hot in 90210-land).

Yes, some people are naturally thin, I'm proof (although not as much as I used to be - childbirth, people, childbirth). A magazine here showed photos of two of the girls before they started the series. Slim, yes, but healthy-looking. Now they look like starved ex-show ponies. And, I'd say, they've been made to do this for the series. The justification was that 'well, that's what everyone in LA wants to look like' . Well, that's no justification to me.

It's both sad and dangerous that girls watching might aspire to this look.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Another unsatisfying read

I'm not having much luck with my random reading list at the moment.

My latest disappointment was a horror story, of sorts. It was reasonably chilling, most characters showed some kind of character and it had absurd moments of hilarity to counterpoint the horror - so on that level it kind of worked. just went on and on for 350 pages at the same level of tension. The creepy things that happened in the first creepy scene, hinting at something more, just continued to happen. Creepy scene after creepy scene, all well written, but all essentially repeating the same thing. Spooky noise, check, spooky sensation, check, spooky shadow, check...and on to the intervening 'scene of normality'...then on to the next creepy scene: spooky noise, check, spooky sensation, check, spooky shadow, check.

What was lacking completely was the story arc. There was no build up. There was a climax, of sorts, but the eighteen or so creepy scenes prior to that all did the same thing. Spooky noise, check, spooky sensation, check, spooky shadow, check.

For some reason I read to the end. I guess it was because the other elements were all in place and all well handled, so I did keep going - I did have some sense of being in the hands of a capable writer - but in the end it all fell flat.

What are you reading now? Should I read it?

Blogger is bursting with fun new features at the moment. I'm going to mooch through the 'blogs I'm following' thing later. It might be an easy way to relink to you all! Not sure if I can promise PJD his deserved pole position, though, seeing as I have no idea how it works. It might not even be a linky thing at all.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


We've been hearing on News for the Eucalypt Dwellers about Hurricane Ike and the mandatory evacuation of parts of Texas. No doubt we are not hearing as much about it as our American blogging friends - I'm sure we get the most dramatic pictures - which are pretty horrific - and the headline stories - likewise. It looks to me like half the state of Texas has been blasted away.

I think that had I been asked to evacuate, I would have done so instantly. I'm chicken. I also have kids. A house is a house, a eucalypt is a eucalypt, but it's nothing compared to their lives. I see that most of the people asked to evacuate did so. But some didn't. They chose to stay, despite multiple warnings that fatalities and injuries would result. The post-hurricane photos seem to make it pretty clear that the warnings were not exaggerated. Now rescuers are going in to try and rescue some of the people who chose not to evacuate.

Does that seem right? Yes, in that people are in pain and difficult situations, and they need rescue. There is no reason why their needs should be neglected. Some may have had good reason for staying - for example, perhaps illness meant that some people couldn't leave and family chose to stay with them etc.. But some of these people at least chose not to leave a danger zone. They're on the news here - declaring confidently pre-hurricane 'well a hurricane hasn't carried me away yet, so why should this one'.

So now, there's a little streak in me that is muttering 'well, I hope they rescued all the people that didn't deliberately choose not to evacuate first; the people that either had no choice or weren't expecting the hurricane to veer their way'; I hope no rescuer is putting their life in danger for somebody who made a deliberate decision to stay without good reason'. Is that wrong? Am I bitter, twisted and hateful?!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

When an ending isn't an ending

Thank you, patient readers, for faithfully checking in every now and again, even when there was nothing to read. Here I am again, slightly tattered, but nothing a glass of wine and a big bag of chips won't fix. Video is safely edited and all twelve minutes of it will soon be unveiled, hopefully to the accolade of much corporate success for my client.

So, let's talk for a while about endings.

I read a book recently that didn't have one.

I'll sketch the plot - a woman is kept prisoner by her family in a suburban home, while three strangers who have cottoned on to this try to rescue her. At the end of it, they succeeded. But, you know, it wasn't an ending.

I'm sure that sounds strange, but let me explain that the members of the family and the rescuers all had sub plots. That made the book multi-layered, because every character was detailed, had their own motivation and their own reason for being there.

Not a single one of those sub plots was tied up. Not one. I put the book down feeling utterly discontented and frustrated.

If anyone read Crusie Mayer's workshops last year, they talked about the introduction of plot and sub plots as a formula that had a specific order. I'll probably mess this up, but basically plots come into play like this, in order of importance: ABCDE. In an ideal world they should be tied up in reverse order - least important first: EDCBA. So the overall plot structure of your story looks something like this: ABCDEEDCBA. That's a simple version. But it helps me to understand why the book I read was so frustrating. Its structure was ABCDEA.

It freaked me out. In addition to the discontent and frustration I actually felt slightly disorientated when I put the book down. The loose ends in my head were aching. It took me a few days of thinking and remembering the Crusie Mayer formula to figure out exactly why. There's a dissatisfaction to a half-finished job; and equations without all their elements will never work out.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A rare roast

I'm stoked about this upcoming week on the Book Roast. Agents and editors, people, agents and editors! Starting with the wit and cynicism of Evil Editor on Monday, and finishing with the wit and cynicism of Janet Reid on Friday. Hmm. Is there a theme there?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A Koala Reads Ril

Thank you for your patience, and taran tara, here is the McKoala version of Ril's beautiful extract.

A Koala Apologises

Mostly to Ril and Robin. For my voicelessness. Have been editing all day (mini movie almost finished!) and haven't had a chance to speak or listen to a word. Must sleep now. Tomorrow, tomorrow...