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.

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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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Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Complaints from a dilettante.

I've just been looking, as I often do, at my list of Facebook friends - all 1,177 of them. By anyone's standards, that's a lot of friends.

Why do I have so many 'friends'? It's because I love too many things. I love ballet. I love belly dance.  I love Yoga. I love fantasy. I love history. I love reading, writing, reviewing and editing. I love genealogy. I love music. I love poetry. I love Shakespeare. I love animals. I love environmental and political concerns. (On those and related issues, I'm an armchair activist!)  I love hanging out with friends, solving the world's problems over coffee - and like the rest of Facebook, I love pictures of, and stories about, animals. I reckon there must be more pictures of cats than of humans in the Facebook world. 
Some friends I have only 'met' online, and many I only see at conventions and conferences. Some are old friends from days of yore, many are my relatives. Some I see regularly in meetings, classes and workshops: others I have never met in the flesh and am never likely to do so.

I know that only a very small percentage of my friends will get to read my posts - Facebook only shows each post to a tiny selection of people on our friends lists. I guess they have to keep the octopus that Facebook has become caged somehow! But I can 'drop in' on any of my 1,177 friends and leave a few 'likes' on their timelines. I can do the same on pages devoted to the things I love. I can take side trips to other sites such as Goodreads and that Great Big Firm that sells books, and report back to Facebook if I find a good review or a book I want to read.

Yes, I spend far too much time on Facebook, but why not? It has to be the best means ever devised for keeping people in touch.Whatever did we do before it was invented? Not that Facebook is our only choice: however, I'm sorry, Mr Google, but I've never really taken to Google+, and nor am I very interested in Pinterest and other social media sites. I set up my Facebook status to be tweeted for folks who can cope with thousands of messages an hour, but I seldom actually visit Twitter. 
Many thanks to Mr Zuckerberg and his friends for their wonderful invention!
Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Recent reading in fiction

I am a greedy reader, and my eyes are bigger than my stomach. (I will not bore you with laments on the size of said stomach.) I have a TBR pile that would stand taller than me if it were really one pile, but in fact it's several piles, which makes the total count a bit less daunting.

In recent weeks I've vanquished a couple of fantasy novels by favourite authors. Glenda Larke's The Dagger's Path continues the story started in The Lascar's Dagger. It begins with a murder, and thus the tone of the book is set. Yes, there's plenty of violence, but as usual, Larke gives us a tale full of exotic places and intriguing characters, which, as she says in her endnotes, pays tribute to her love affair with South-East Asia. The Dagger's Path ends with hints that book three will bring a whole new variety of magic into play. I'm looking forward to it already!


By contrast, Juliet Marillier's Tower of Thorns , the second Blackthorn and Grim novel, is set in an imagined ancient Ireland. Unlike the author's earlier leading characters, the protagonists of this series are mature adults, perhaps in their late twenties or early thirties. Blackthorn is a wise-woman: a travelling healer who has been unjustly imprisoned by the vicious Lord Mathuin of Laois. She and a fellow prisoner, known only as Grim, managed to escape at the start of book one and had a long and adventurous journey home. In Tower of Thorns, they once again set out on a long journey: one fraught with adventures and near disasters. 

Second only to fantasy in my preferred reading are historical novels. Good historical novels: the kind that display the writer's knowledge of the chosen period as well as telling a good story. Of all the people writing in this genre, perhaps my top favourite is Bernard Cornwell. I've recently read his novel called 1356 - a story that pays tribute to the Hundred Years War: the people who lived through it and the people who died because of it. George RR Martin is on record as saying that Cornwell writes 'the best battle scenes of any writer ... past or present'. 

It's impossible to disagree with Mr Martin here, because Cornwell's battles are the go-to pages for any writer wanting to learn how to master the art of mass bloodshed, at least on paper! In the past I have grouched about Cornwell's tendency to 'head-hop' - i.e. to tell us what character A is thinking then in the next paragraph to shift into character B's headspace. Many readers these days dislike this, largely, I think, because of the influence of film, where we tend to stay with the main character for most of the time and only shift to another character if and when there is change of scene. I was pleased to see that in 1356 Cornwell has abandoned this bad habit and given us an even better read as a result.

Right, that's run-down of my recent reading in fiction. I've read a couple of excellent non fiction books, too, which I'll save for next time!

Sunday, 25 October 2015

A little giveaway

With the help of my good friend Robert Denethon, I have created a sampler of scenes from the first two books of The Talismans trilogy. The sampler is free to dowload in mobi, epub and .pdf versions from Dropbox.

Sampler for Kindle readers

Sampler for epub readers

Sampler for .pdf readers 

I hope this tempts a few people to buy book one, The Dagger of Dresnia, and, of course, to stamp impatiently while waiting for book two, The Cloak of Challiver, which is due for release early in the new year.

Happy reading, friends!
Saturday, 10 October 2015

Book review: The Shattered Sea trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

Half the World, Half a Sea and Half a War make up The Shattered Sea, another excellent trilogy from Joe Abercrombie. Not, perhaps, as gripping as the author's First Law trilogy, but a good read with a story full of ups and downs and well-drawn characters.

Abercrombie, as usual, creates excellent characters, well-rounded and individualistic: cardboard cutouts they are not! There is a different central character in each book: Yarvi, the protagonist of Half a King and a somewhat minor character in book two, Half the World, turns up again in book three, Half a War, so he is the unifying factor of the over-arching story. Book two, Half the World, features characters from well down the social scale, yet it contains a touching love story as well as lots of action and a particularly likeable protagonist. 'The girl who wants to be a fighter' is a common stock character in fantasy, but Thorn is so well-drawn we hear her darkest thoughts, see her deepest fears and live with all her strengths and weaknesses, so she is raised from stock character status to leading light.

The shining light in book three is another female - Skara, a young woman who defends her destined role and learns how to deal with opposition on all fronts, and at the end there is a hint that she might also find the fulfillment that most illusory of dreams - true love.

The story overall is a complex one, made up of many threads. To make any sense of the trilogy one should sit down and read the three books in order within a few weeks, at most. The complexity of the story grows out of the complexities of the characters and their supporting circumstances, so there are lots of twists and turns.

This trilogy's main theme is, to my mind, ambition and how dependent success is on character and circumstance. Every character finds his or her own level in life - sometimes moving up, sometimes down, depending the strength of their ambition, their characters and their supporting circumstances. It's a bumpy ride, but it does end on a note of hope for the future - not necessarily a thing we expect from an Abercrombie tale! I'd be interested to read a fourth book, featuring  Skara ten years later, when love's young dream has had a chance to turn sour. Now that would be true Abercrombie style!
Sunday, 6 September 2015

Travel and Triage

Today my karma apparently called for a journey. Mercury was on my midheaven and the north node of the moon was conjunct my natal Neptune, but I don’t think I can blame them for the cause of the excursion. The fact is I lost a contact lens. And I lost it in my eye.  

Anyone who’s worn contacts knows how ornery they can be. I find them exasperating, but I do prefer exercising in contacts rather than spectacles, which have an evil habit of flying off one’s face during turns or other fast movements. On Friday, after my usual exercise class, I took out the right lens successfully, but the left one refused to cooperate. First it folded in half, then when I tried to take it out, it made a beeline for the underside of my eye and lodged there, no doubt laughing at my frustration. I went to the optometrist, but she couldn’t coax it out and as it was knock-off time on Friday she was understandably unwilling to waste any more time on it. Very often, a lost contact will find its own way back into place, and I could always go to the outpatients if it didn’t.  

And it didn’t. On Saturday, the eye became sorer and sorer, so this morning, Sunday, I decided to pay a visit to the lovely new Fiona Stanley Hospital. Thank heaven for the circle route bus, which passes my door and also that of the hospital, although it was about a forty minute bus ride. Once there, I sought out the Emergency Department, where a couple of ladies – obviously on staff but it what capacity I don’t know - asked me where I was from, and when I mentioned the name of my suburb, they asked why I hadn’t gone to Royal Perth Hospital, which is marginally closer to home. My explanation was that RPH is always packed with people waiting in outpatients. I didn’t add that on a Sunday morning at RPH I could expect to fall farther and farther down the queue as people hurt in drunken brawls overnight and kids injured at sports practice filled up the waiting room. Besides, Fiona Stanley Hospital is beautiful, and very new. 

Dr Stanley is an Australian epidemiologist noted for her work in the arena of public health, especially her research into child and maternal health as well as birth disorders such as cerebral palsy. The hospital that bears her name was opened only last year, and it is magnificent. What’s more, they have magic-workers on staff. 

As I approached the triage desk, my sore eye started to water. By the time I sat down I was actually weeping! The young lady whom I took to be a reception clerk asked what was wrong. ‘I’ve got a contact lens stuck under my eye ball,’ I replied.  

‘Would you like me to get it out?’ asked the bright young lady. I was doubtful. After all, she was behind a narrow window, seated at a desk. I didn’t think she’d be able to get hold of it. Besides, wasn't she an admin person rather than a medical one?

‘Yes, I can!’ was her cheerful response. ‘It’s washed itself into the corner of your eye’. And reaching across the desk, she removed the offending lens and handed it to me with a smile.

 I told the two ladies on the way out that the young lady was brilliant and should be a doctor, and one of them confided that my little heroine was a prize-winning, multi-certified nursing sister, certainly bright enough to be a doctor, but she loved being a triage nurse.  

My eye is now fine, and I’ve decided I love Fiona Stanley Hospital!
Sunday, 30 August 2015

Buddhists confer #2

The Venerable Robina Courtin, one of the many fine speakers at the conference
So, at last a round-up of day two of the Global Buddhist Conference, held in Perth over the weekend of August 8-9, 2015.

Once again, the audience was challenged and entertained by a variety of speakers. Unfortunately, public transport could not get me there early enough to hear the first session, in which Peter Fitzpatrick, Dr Eng Kong Tan, Dr Chien Hoong Gooi discussed depression and suicide, topics that touch many of us personally or tangentially.

The second session, Buddhist Journeys, involved Lhakpa Tsamchoe, Sarah Napthali, Bikkhu Buddharakkhita and Ven Miao You. If you saw the film ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ you will know the actress Lhakpa Tsamchoe, who spoke cheerfully and confidently about her journey. As a Tibetan layperson, her spiritual practice was entirely devotional, and it’s only in the last few years that she has started to meditate. However, she made up for the late start by undertaking a three year retreat, after training in the Goenka method of meditation practice. She showed us many fascinating slides of her career. It was almost a travelogue, showing us scenes from the USA as well as Tibet and India.

Sarah Napthali talked about emotional honesty and authenticity. These are hard lessons for all of us, and many of us do not learn them until mid-life, if we learn them at all. She learnt to meditate in order to cope with a difficult workplace. She learnt to judge her day by considering how much she remained in the present moment, rather than by how much she achieved.

The Venerable Miao You spoke on her transformation from corporate woman to Buddhist nun. At work she was known as ‘the dragon lady’ and freely admits that she is by nature a control freak who never said ‘sorry’. After a close shave in an accident she took counsel from a psychologist, who helped her to learn mindfulness through cognitive behavioural therapy.  She realised that the practice of the six paramitas – generosity, morality, tolerance, energy, contemplation and insight – was a key factor in learning to live a wholesome life.

Bikkhu Buddharakkhita from Uganda had a conflicted path into Buddhism. Brought up as Roman Catholic, he only arrived at Buddhism after a journey through Bahai, born-again Christianity and Hinduism. He met the Dalai Lama, and like many who have met this amazing man, was deeply touched by his presence. He first encountered Buddhism in 1990 while living in India and was ordained at the Tathagata Meditation Center in California. I was very interested to learn that he spent eight years at the Bhavana Society, West Virginia, since I also went there in 1995 to study meditation under Bhante Gunaratana. (Believe it or not, I was seriously considering taking robes myself, but quickly realised that I did not have anything like the necessary degree of humility!) Bikkhu Buddharakkhita has also spent time at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, where I worked for over a year as their registrar. He has founded a monastery in Uganda.

The third session was fascinating. Dhammaruwan (who, like Bikkhu Buddharakkhita, has 'done time' at IMS and the Bhavana Centre) Dennis Sheppard, Prof Bernard Carr and Ajahn Brahm spoke on ‘past lives, hypnosis and psychic phenomena’.  Sheppard pointed out that while hypnosis involves dissociation, meditation requires  unification. Professor Carr, who studied under Stephen Hawking at Cambridge, spoke on the interface of science and Buddhism. They both, he said, involve the mind, and psychic phenomena link the two. The panel agreed that psychical research is the scientific study of unexplained interactions between mind and matter. Certainly many serious meditators report psychic phenomena arising spontaneously in their practice.

The final session of the conference involved Ajahn Brahmali, Ajahn Brahm and all the speakers with a final short concert from the Laura Bernay Jazz Ensemble! Ajahn Brahmali gave us a quick resume of the conference and its theme, with particular reference to the concept of ‘robots with consciousness!  And, of course, the necessity to continually refer back to the basic teachings of the Buddha.

Whew! Congrats to any non-Buddhists who've made it through to the end!
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