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

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The first two novels of my trilogy, The Talismans, are not available as e-books at present, but I expect to get them back online shortly. However, I do have paperbacks of The Dagger of Dresnia at the low price of $25 including postage within Australia. I also have a short story, 'La Belle Dame', in print - see Mythic Resonance below. The best way to contact me is via Facebook!

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The first two books of The Talismans trilogy were published by Satalyte Publications, which, sadly, has gone out of business. I hope to see my books back on Amazon under a new publisher in the near future.

The Dagger of Dresnia

The Cloak of Challiver

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

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Places I've lived: Gippsland, Australia

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Places I've lived: Geelong,  Australia

Places I've lived: Tamworth, NSW

Places I've lived: Tamworth, NSW

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

Places I've lived: Auckland, NZ

Places I've lived: Auckland, NZ

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Places I've Lived: Mount Gambier
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Places I've lived: Adelaide, SA

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Places I've Lived: Perth by Day
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Places I've lived: High View, WV

Places I've lived: Lynton, Devon, UK

Places I've lived: Lynton, Devon, UK

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Places I've lived: Braemar, Scotland

Places I've lived: Barre, MA, USA

Places I've lived: Barre, MA, USA

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Places I've Lived: Perth by Night
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Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Swancon - the Final Report!

One last post on Swancon and then I must set it aside for another year. A terrible thought - what if I can’t be here next year? I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate to have been able to cross the Nullarbor this time, so I won’t count on coming again. But there are other cons in other cities. In fact, there are plans for next year’s Natcon to be in Adelaide, which would be brilliant.

But Swancon was wonderful and my heart is still singing. Of course, I loved the Fantasy panels, including the one I mentioned in my Saturday post called “A Point of Difference: Standing out in Fantasy Fiction”, which involved Glenda Larke, Juliet Marillier, Bevan McGuiness and Karen Miller. There was another good one on Friday, called “Story Building” with Lee Battersby, Bevan McGuiness and Karen Miller. They were discussing the way they put their stories together and I was relieved to find that they are all “flimmerers” – they start with a beginning, probably an ending and possibly some bits in the middle – but they do not write strict outlines. Now I’ve been writing by this method for ten years and still can’t plot my way out of a paper bag. Listening to these guys I realised they have a gift that I missed out on. All of them can access the unconscious almost at will. That was a revelation to me! I caught Bevan McGuiness later and he agreed: this skill is an essential one for a fiction writer. He mentioned a book by Ayn Rand called “The Art of Fiction”. I googled for it and found a whole Wikipedia article on it here. Well worth reading, from the looks of it – but can this skill be learned? I’m not sure, but if I’m ever going to finish the never ending trilogy I’m going to have to try.

Glenda Larke gave a superb Guest of Honour Speech in which she drew together the many and varied threads of her life. She lives in Malaysia and when not writing fantasy, works as an ornithologist. Her blog (see link above left, under my picture) always makes interesting reading and her GoH talk was likewise engrossing. She gave an excellent writing workshop at the con –no extra charge! – which I also enjoyed very much. It was about “Mistakes Beginners Make” and I’ve made them all. Does that mean that maybe I’m not quite a beginner any more?

Space Opera, it seems, is back in fashion. I sat in on a panel given by Ken McLeod, the overseas Guest of Honour, with Karl Schroeder and Sean Williams. They began with a history of the sub-genre, which was a Good Thing for me, since I haven't read anything in this line for years. At one time, I quite enjoyed the works of Isaac Asimov and E.E. "Doc" Smith, but I quickly got sick of the sexist attitudes of the characters, which undoubtedly reflected those of the authors. Asimov, Smith and others of their ilk were men of their time, and we cannot blame them for that, but by the 1960s feminism was already burgeoning. While I had no desire to burn my bra or climb a corporate ladder, I was glad to get a breath of fresh air after the stultifying atmosphere of the fifties. And in the seventies I discovered Anne McCaffrey, so Asimov et al stayed on the bookshelf.

But the New Space Opera, they told us, is darker, meatier, grittier and much more accessible by women. In fact, Aussie author Marianne de Pierres writes it, and, I believe, does it well. I have only read Marianne's Parrish Plessis novels but I shall have to dip into her Dark Space and its sequels to find out if the New Space Opera is something I might grow to love.

One of the last panels was one of the best: In “Writing for Television: A Guide for New Writers”, Grant Watson facilitated a conversation between Rob Shearman, who wrote the Dr Who episode “Daleks” in the recent series, and Graeme Watson, also a script writer of note. It was very entertaining and informative.

The Academic stream, called “SF Histories”, was the most ambitious such program I’ve come across and some say it was the best and most thorough ever presented in Australia. Over twenty papers were read in just two days, in a kind of forced brain-feeding that left the head whirling. I only heard three or four of the papers, but Cathy Cupitt has blogged “notes on several papers from the Academic Stream and some other thinky panels” here while Dr Stephen Dedman, organiser of next year’s academic stream, has even put out “a very early call for papers - on SF, Fantasy, Horror, Slipstream, Futurism, Astronomy, Spaceflight, Forensics, Robotics, Exobiology...” here. I’d like to see Academic streams given due credibility both by fandom and academia. They are heading that way, it seems, for this year’s stream was supported by Curtin University and fans ran back and forth between the regular panels and activities and the academic stream.

The best part about cons is the happiness they generate. Being with like-minded people opens the heart and mind better than almost anything else. Suddenly, the world is heaven, and all one’s friends are angels. As well as enjoying the company of writers, editors, reviewers and publishers I already know, including Lee and Lyn Battersby, Shane Jiraiya Cummings, Stephen Dedman, Sonia Helbig, Glenda Larke, Dave Luckett, Juliet Marillier, Karen Miller, Marianne de Pierres, Carol Ryles, Cat Sparkes, Helen Venn and Jessica Vivien, I also finally met others whom I’d only known by repute or via e-mail, including Trudi Canavan, Brendan Carson, Russell B. Farr, Edwina Harvey, Bevan McGuiness, Joel Shepherd, Sean Williams and Damien Warman. Damien, BTW, is the point person for next year’s projected Natcon in Adelaide. I hope I’ll be able to become involved in getting that up and running, for South Australia has never had a con. It should have, because lots of writers live there, including Fiona McIntosh and Sean Williams.

As a Swancon bonus, I got my grasping hands on two lovely new books to review. One is a historical YA novel called Escape by Sea, by L.S. Lawrence, who is really a specfic writer with the initials D.L. but I’m not allowed to mention the two names in the same context. It’s a rip roaring adventure story with a cliff hanger at the end of each chapter. The other book is a magnificent coffee-table tome by Pat McNamara, Michal DutRiewicz and Gary Turner. Entitled The Last Realm: Book One: Dragonscarpe. It is a visual treat with dragons, knights, wicked villains and fair maidens leaping from every page. Both are already available but my reviews won’t appear in The Specusphere until May.

OK, I promise not to mention Swancon again for a while. Well, not very much. Maybe a little bit, now and then, to remind you how good it is and how you all ought to come next year.

15 comments:

Jo said...

If you want a feminine author who write space operas, try Catherine Asaro, I love her books, then there are the stories of Honor Harrington by David Weber. I still love my Asimov stories though. I too love Ann McCaffery, I have every one of her Pern books, have you read some of the new ones written by her son?

Satima Flavell said...

I'll watch out for those writers, Jo. I'm pretty sure Weber is available here, but I don't think I've ever seen Asaro - although that doesn't mean her works aren't around. Asimov was an amazing writer and a versatile one, with a sound knowledge of mythology and linguistics, which I always admire and look for in a specfic writer. But d'you know, I haven't read any McCaffrey for years! I went off her books when they started to get soppy, which I thought the Pern ones did by about book three or four. I liked "The Ship Who Sang" but none of the spin offs and I haven'seen any books by her son. Do you remember his name?

Marilyn Z. Tomlins said...

I can see why you enjoyed Swancon. I'm sure you'll be back next year.
Marilyn

Jo said...

The son is Todd McCaffrey. However, if you didn't like all her books, you won't like his any better. I loved every one of her Pern books, in fact I haven't anything bad to say about any of her books. I'm a reader, not a writer, so I am not so critical perhaps. The Dragon Flight, Dragon Quest, The White Dragon and All the Weyrs of Pern were some of the best to me. Mind you if there is a dragon or two in a story, I'm sold. I just discovered there is a Dragoncon in Georgia this summer to which she is going, I wish.

Satima Flavell said...

Marilyn, thanks for your good wishes. I hope and pray I'll be here next year, but if not, maybe I will get to a con closer to home.

A Dragoncon? Wow! I do wish you could go, Jo. Is it too far to even think about? North America is twice the size of Oz and even here we have to consider crossing the country very carefully. It's a long way, expensive in both time and money.

Imagine me said...

I too loved the earlier McCaffrey Pern books but then somehow she started to sound like she was only writing to a formula. Her writing got more and more pedestrian and mostly it was a long, long history lesson. She did write several other series that started out well too for example the Crystal Singer ones but she didn't/doesn't seem to know when a vein has been mined out. And I'm sorry, Jo, but I wasn't impressed by the one I read written by her son.

Satima Flavell said...

I agree, Helen. In all her series, McCaffrey seems to have over-milked the cow that gave her the stories, or with Killeshandra, over-mined, as you say, the vein. In fact, she killed that heroine in a novella and then wrote more books about her!

There's no denying, however, that the opening scene of the first Pern books is one of the most delightful I've ever read in any genre.

Jo said...

I guess this is a case of each to his own (her own) I am still a fan of McAffery and probably always will be. I guess its just as well other people feel the same as me so her books sell for her. A book I am struggling with is the Dark Materials Trilogy, very slow going.I am on the third book now and persevering.

Satima Flavell said...

When push comes to shove, Jo, it's all a matter of taste, isn't it? One thing that makes me a bit cranky is that we are taught all sorts of dos and donts when learning to write, yet time and time again we read books that not only break all the "rules" but do it clumsily, and I find myself wondering how on earth such works get out of the slush pile, let alone onto bookshelves. Yet these books sell, sometimes very well, so yes, it's all in the literary tastebuds, eh?

I agree, Pullman is a difficult author - all those historical and religious references! There's a good story buried in there, though, if you can overlook the axe he's grinding. It must have something going for it, what with the big movie deal and all. I believe the first film didn't do well in America and they might not make any more. Thats a pity, because I quite enjoyed the first one, although more for the special effects and for seeing Nicole Kidman as a baddie than for the realisation of Pullman's story.

Jo said...

Obviously, not being a writer, I don't know about the dos and don'ts of writing, but surely the main thing is to tell a good story which will appeal to everyone. If you want to write a great novel, it probably wouldn't make you a lot of money.

As for Dark Materials, the film didn't do too well because of its religious, or do I mean irreligious story, North Americans are very concerned with their faith. As you say, a good story, but too much padding which makes me struggle.

Satima Flavell said...

Ah, yes, I'd forgotten that Americans tend to be religious conservatives. In Oz, few people go to church and it really is a secular society. Of course, The Golden Compass did draw a few letters to editors from the religious extremists but it did fine at the box office. However, the Oz market is very small compared to the US so that's the market that counts.

Of course you're right about the "great story" angle, Jo. It's just that some people seem to think the strangest things are "great stories" and it's quite unpredictable. Many books don't even sell out their advances while others with equally inane plots go into the millions. Who knows? If anyone could predict best sellers with certitude the publishing houses would pay them pots of money to do it. Even the best publishers and editors have a hand in creating flops from time to time. It's a strange business, this writing game!

Lee Battersby said...

I remember reading some advice from scriptwriter William Goldman a wee while back. It was for film writers, but it holds true for novelists: nobody gets fired for passing up "Jaws", but they do get fired for accepting "Ishtar".

It's a lot easier to pass up something that might not work in favour of what looks like a sure-fire winner. I'm more surprised that Pullman was published in the first place than anything else-- it must have looked like a dodgy proposition on face value. Given the choice between an anti-religious polemical fantasy and something more cosy....

So more power to the decision maker on that one. it gives the rest of us dodgy-proposition writers a ray of hope :))

Just on McCaffrey and Asaro-- I'm in the ranks of those who enjoy McCaffrey's early series work but dropped out once they seemed to lose steam. That said, at her height she is a powerful writer indeed. I'm not a fan of Asaro, unfortunately. Her writing's okay, but I find her stories simplistic and too easy to pick.

If you've not read her, I'd recommend Elizabeth Moon. She writes evrything from military Sf to fantasy, and is invariably entertaining, for mine

Satima Flavell said...

I feel guilty at not having read anything by Elizabeth Moon, for everyone speaks highly of her work. Actually, I lie, because I read a short story she put up on OWW once, as re-telling of a true story about a black boxer who was believed to have been murdered. She made it that he'd actually sacrifced himself, like a king in ancient times as described by Robert Grves et all. A very moving piece that sent shivers down my spine.

Jo said...

OK I have just put a hold on one of Elizabeth Moon's books so I will see if I enjoy her writing. I am sorry my personal faves are not too popular around here, but there it is. I read a vast amount so there are bound to be differences between likes and dislikes.

Satima Flavell said...

When I come back from the retreat, Jo, I'll be looking forward to hearing how you like Moon. It will also be interesting to see how she compares to McCaffrey, in your opinion. It's a good thing there are so many writers about, to cater for all our varying tastes!

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