About Me

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I am a writer, editor, reviewer and dance teacher based in Perth, Western Australia.

My books

My first novel, The Dagger of Dresnia (Book 1 of The Talismans) is published by Satalyte - it's available from their website as well as from Amazon.com and other online outlets. Book 2, The Cloak of Challiver, is in preparation. I also have a short story, La Belle Dame, in print - see Mythic Resonance below.

The Dagger of Dresnia

Buy The Dagger of Dresnia

The Dagger of Dresnia, Book 1 of The Talismans Trilogy, is available in paperback and e-book from the publisher, Satalyte Publications - click on the cover to visit their online shop. You can also purchase it from Amazon.com and other online retailers. The paperback can also be found in selected bookstores in Australia.

Mythic Resonance

Buy Mythic Resonance

Mythic Resonance is an excellent anthology that includes my short story 'La Belle Dame', together with great stories from Alan Baxter, Donna Maree Hanson, Sue Burstynski, Nike Sulway and nine more fantastic authors! Just $US3.99 from Amazon. Got a Kindle? Check out Mythic Resonance.

Prefer hard copy?

There are still a few paperback copies of Mythic Resonance available, too. Contact me (there's a contact form on my website) if you'd like a copy - $20 including postage within Australia.

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Places I've lived: Manchester, UK

Places I've lived: Manchester, UK

Places I've lived: Gippsland, Australia

Places I've lived: Gippsland, Australia

Places I've lived: Geelong, Australia

Places I've lived: Geelong,  Australia

Places I've lived: Tamworth, NSW

Places I've lived: Tamworth, NSW

Places I've Lived - Sydney

Places I've Lived - Sydney
Sydney Conservatorium - my old school

Places I've lived: Auckland, NZ

Places I've lived: Auckland, NZ

Places I've Lived: Mount Gambier

Places I've Lived: Mount Gambier
Blue Lake

Places I've lived: Adelaide, SA

Places I've lived: Adelaide, SA

Places I've Lived: Perth by Day

Places I've Lived: Perth by Day
From Kings Park

Places I've lived: High View, WV

Places I've lived: High View, WV

Places I've lived: Lynton, Devon, UK

Places I've lived: Lynton, Devon, UK

Places I've lived: Braemar, Scotland

Places I've lived: Braemar, Scotland

Places I've lived: Barre, MA, USA

Places I've lived: Barre, MA, USA

Places I've Lived: Perth by Night

Places I've Lived: Perth by Night
From Kings Park

Inner Peace Blog

Inner Peace Blog
Awarded by Joanna Fay. Click on the image to visit her lovely website!

Versatile Blogger Award

Versatile Blogger Award
Awarded by Kim Falconer. Click on the pic to check out her Quantum Astrology blog!

Fabulous Blog Award

Fabulous Blog Award
Awarded by Kathryn Warner. Click on the pic to check out her Edward II blog!

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Friday, 15 May 2015

Guest Post on Kim Cleary's blog

Kim Cleary, author of Path Unchosen – Daughter of Ravenswood Book One, kindly invited me to guest post on her blog today. I write about the meaning and purpose behind the speculative genres in general and high fantasy in particular. 

Check it out at 
Sunday, 19 April 2015

Battle stations!

The armour is a couple of centuries too new for my
chosen period,but when it comes to free battle pics
there's not much available for the late C12!

It's just hit me that the deadline for The Cloak of Challiver, book two of The Talismans, is fast approaching and I still have a Big Battle Scene to write! This means deciding who can live and who must die. (A chance to play god - woo hoo!) I shall have to kill off quite a few people to make room for the new cast coming up in book three, when (spoiler!) we'll have a princess with a pet dragon as the main character. I don't like killing off my characters, because I love them, and I know a lot of readers do, too, but a handful is going to have to go. 

On a brighter note, I'm looking forward to seeing what the very talented Marieke Ormsby comes up with as a cover for The Cloak of Challiver. If it's half as lovely as the one she designed for The Dagger of Dresnia, it will be utterly gorgeous!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Sailing the Top End

My recent silence has been due to an exciting adventure! I have been on a cruise around the Top End of Australia with my sister, Anne, aboard the lovely Dawn Princess.

We left Sydney on March 24 to travel the 5,517 nautical miles to Perth, calling at seven ports en route. First up was Brisbane, apparently a tricky port to manoeuvre as it involves sailing up the Brisbane River and under a bridge. We spent a pleasant day ashore before setting off again to see more of Queensland’s lovely coast. Airlie Beach was the next port, and I did a bit of self-indulgent shopping. Port Douglas was next, but we decided not to go ashore as the tender was slow to get going and the sea looked very rough.

Three days' sailing brought Dawn Princess to Darwin, a town I have always wanted to visit. Darwin is the Northern Territory’s gateway to South-East Asia. Having been almost entirely rebuilt twice, once due to Japanese air raids during World War II, and again after being devastated by Cyclone Tracy in 1974, Darwin is now a very modern city. With its tiny population of less than 140,000, it hardly seems big enough to be any kind of capital, yet we were deeply impressed by the lovely art gallery and museum, which kept us engrossed for several hours. Boasting a fine Aboriginal art collection and several important works by French Impressionists, the gallery is, on a smaller scale, as notable as that of any other capital city. Funnily enough, Anne and I had been watching a TV series on the Impressionists on the TV in our ship’s cabin, so we felt very virtuous at having done some homework before studying the sketches and paintings in the gallery.

We had four days at sea before the next port, Broome, which lies many miles around the coast from Darwin. En route, we cruised the impressive Kimberley Coast, which is over 12,000 kilometres long, and is fringed by more than 2,500 islands. There is nowhere in all that stretch for a large ship to dock, but we were entranced by the beautiful scenery.

With the help of a local pilot, Dawn Princess moored at Broome well before lunchtime on 4 April, allowing us a full afternoon of adventures ashore. (For ‘adventures’ read ‘shopping’!) We had a lovely time there, much of it spent eating and drinking! That night there was total eclipse of the moon, and we had an excellent view from the window of Dawn Princess’s dining room.

Then came the highlight of the trip – a run up to Lombok, one of the islands of our northern neighbour, Indonesia. Right next door to the better-known island of Bali, Lombok is relatively unspoilt. On the debit side, that means there are few amenities, and we spent a lot of time in a bus that took an hour to travel up to the town of Senggigi on the island’s west coast. We were left to our own devices for three hours before our coach picked us up for the return journey to the ship. Senggigi has the makings of a lovely tourist spot but it has a way to go before this potential is realised.

Three days of leisurely sailing brought us to Perth, seventeen days after our departure from Sydney. In that short time, we made friends with other passengers and came to love the crew, whose kindness and unfailing good humour were a credit to Dawn Princess. We even had daily exercise classes under the watchful eyes of the ship’s dancers, who doubled as teachers. Apropos, all the entertainers were utterly delightful. The Alegria Strings from Ukraine entertained us almost nightly. If you checkout their site you will see a pic of them playing in the 'Atrium' of one of Dawn's sister ships when it was 'christened' by the Duchess of Cambridge. There were excellent theatre shows on the remaining evenings. I even got to perform one night, when the ‘Pop Choir’, led by the very talented musician and dancer Simon Chilvers, sang as part of a passengers’ talent evening. We’d been practising hard but I still felt a bit scared when confronted by my very own microphone to sing a few lines of ‘I will follow him’ before about a thousand people!

We docked at Fremantle seventeen days after leaving Sydney, and Anne spent the weekend with me in Perth before heading off back to her home in Mount Gambier, South Australia. I am now feeling quite let down, even depressed, but I’m sure that within a few days I will have perked up, feeling happy to be home after a great adventure!
Monday, 2 March 2015

Around in circles I go

I’ve vowed not to undertake any new editing jobs for the next few months. I am too easily seduced into doing more and more things and winding up a nervous wreck.

The past month has been incredibly busy, particularly on the reviewing front. We've had the Perth Fringe Festival, the Perth Festival proper and the Writers Festival – all within a few weeks, with overlaps! I was a bit greedy and took on a lot of reviewing – but  who could resist, especially with the Writers Festival, which was chock-a-block with talks and panels from an impossible number of fine authors.

My colleague Ilsa Sharp and I managed a fair spread of the Writers Festival between us, but seeing as there were generally four things on offer in each timeslot, there was no way we could cover everything! You can read the results of our endeavours on Artshub. Just follow the links.  

Day one: in which we encountered love, biography, and Man Booker Prize-winner DBC Pierre.  

Day two: in which we focused on writing for young adults, gender and fiction, the quest for inspiration and the value of creativity. 

Day three part one: in which the spotlight fell on diverse matters including tales of history and survival, language and human rights  

Day three part two, where we found matters pertaining to politics, personalities  - and roses.

In the Festival proper, I saw only Mozart Dances and Cut the Sky, both very fine shows indeed. But I got a bit carried away by the Fringe. The amazing ladies of Divalicious, Penny Shaw and Fiona Cooper-Smyth, were in fine fettle. They are versatile opera singers par excellence, with a fabuous flair for comedy and glamour. Actress and all-round showie Penny Smith showed her wit and wisdom in an enormously entertaining take on Pride and Prejudice, and a fine parade of comics had us in stitches, night after night. You can read the reviews on Artshub – just Google! 

What's more, I have signed up for French and Italian classes this term as well as continuing my various keep-fit and dance commitments, so this will be a busy year, if I don't collapse in the meantime. You can see why I haven't been blogging - or writing book three of The Talismans. Back to the workspace, Satima!

Pic courtesy of https://myfinalchanceforlife.wordpress.com/
Thursday, 5 February 2015

Why waste a perfectly good review?

Perth's Fringe Festival is in full swing, and I am in full-on reviewing mode. I've seen four shows so far - the most recent, Matt Prince's A British Bloke's Guide to Being a Man, was last night, and a very funny and touching show it was. (My review should go up within the next couple of days.)

However, due to 'clerical error' not one, not two, but THREE reviewers from Artshub attended the third show, Promise and Promiscuity. Two of us found out about the glitch and we agreed I would submit a review while the other lady took a break  - but we didn't know that a third reviewer, Mariyon Slany, was also in the house and unlike me, she was prompt in submitting her review. You can read Mariyon's review here But that meant I was stuck with a review that would not see light of day unless I published it myself. On the premise that no performer, writer or artist can ever have too many reviews, here it is!

Ahem (clears throat noisily) Cue review-writing mode ...

Billed as ‘A new musical by Jane Austen and Penny Ashton’ Promise and Promiscuity lives up to its title in many and varied ways. For starters, New Zealander Penny Ashton is a performer full of promise, and she is quite promiscuous in pinching bits of other people’s work to create something new and wonderful.

Much of the ‘pinching’ comes from Austen, of course – Ashton tells the audience that there are thirty-three quotes from that author’s work in the show (I must admit that some of them passed below my radar) and the characters, as might be expected, are lifted from Pride and Prejudice. And the music is plagiarised from Beethoven, Strauss and the Top Forty, inter alia.
(Spoilers follow!) Of course, the plot is loosely based on Pride and Prejudice. The Bennet family, however, has been pruned down to the widowed Mrs Slowtree, her two daughters, Elspeth and Cordelia, and an obnoxious cousin, Horatio. Mr Darcy is there, of course, in the form of one Reginald, and – here is where the plot departs from Austen – he has a friend who is Elspeth’s first choice in the husband line. However, the said friend turns out to be under the thumb of his titled mother and leaves poor Elspeth in the lurch. For, as Reginald wisely observes, ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young man in possession of a fortune wants to keep it’! Mention should be made of one more character, Mr David Smith, who is pulled from the front row of the audience to learn to dance. And in the end, he is betrothed to Cordelia. (End spoilers!)
The show is funny, clever and full of subtle bawdiness (Elspeth finds balls attractive) and there are clever anachronistic jokes, such as reference to a new ‘topless Aston-Martin carriage’. Apart from the gentleman drawn from the audience, all the above roles are played by Penny Ashton, and it is one of the best solo shows I’ve ever seen. In fact, a truth that should be universally acknowledged is that Penny Ashton is a brilliant and extremely versatile performer who knows her Austen inside out, perhaps thanks to her degree in Drama and the Classics from Canterbury University. She plays all the above roles with aplomb. For just over an hour, she chats, sings, mimes and dances her way around a minimalist set, consisting of two chairs, a table, and a small screen to hide the various props. The characters are clearly recognisable, each with individual mannerisms (e.g. Cousin Horatio snorts a lot). Ashton even gives each character an individual curtain call.
A look at Ashton’s web site shows that she is a pro-active performer, full of creative ideas that have given her a repertoire of solo shows as well as a place in the ConArtists Improv Company. Multi-talented Ashton is proficient in dance, acting, singing, mime and, one suspects, stand-up comedy. She also plays a mean ukulele and knows enough about the publishing world to make in-gags about writing contracts and fan fiction (with of course, bawdy undertones). What’s more, she moonlights as a marriage celebrant! She is taking Promise and Promiscuity to the Adelaide Festival next, and Edinburgh after that. I hope the Scots love it as much I did.

Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Panache Productions Present
Promise and Promiscuity
Written and performed by Penny Ashton
Music by various composers arranged by Robbie Ellis
Workshop Director: Ben Crowder

Fringe World, Perth
29 January – 3 February, 2015

My other Fringe reviews so far have been of  the delightul Divalicious  and the loveable  La Soirée  - both of them were also 5-star performances. Never before have I given three shows in a row five stars apiece, but Perth Fringe is now attracting world class artists, many of whom spend part of every year travelling from fringefest to fringefest. Next on the circuit for most will be the Adelaide Fringe Festival, and after that, Edinburgh. If you live in either of those places watch out for the above acts. Take my word for it – they are excellent.


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