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We are more than half way through November and I have not written a blog post. Life goes on as usual: Mondays and Tuesdays I teach dance. W...

About Me

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I am a writer, editor, reviewer and dance teacher based in Perth, Western Australia. You might enjoy my books - The Dagger of Dresnia, the first book of the Talismans Trilogy, is available at all good online book shops. Book two, The Cloak of Challiver, will be available again shortly. Book three, The Seer of Syland, is in preparation. I trained in piano and singing at the NSW Conservatorium of Music. I also trained in dance (Scully-Borovansky, WAAPA) and drama (NIDA). Since 1987 I have been writing reviews of performances in all genres for a variety of publications, including Music Maker, ArtsWest, Dance Australia, The Australian and others. Now semi-retired, I still write occasionally for the ArtsHub website, and I still teach dance at Trinity School for Seniors, an outreach program of the Uniting Church in Perth.

My books

The first novel of my trilogy, The Talismans, is available as an e-book from Smashwords, Amazon and other online sellers. I do have paperbacks of The Dagger of Dresnia at the low price of $AU25 including postage within Australia. I also have a short story, 'La Belle Dame', in print - see Mythic Resonance below. Book two of the trilogy, The Cloak of Challiver, will be available again shortly. The best way to contact me is via Facebook!

Buy The Talismans

The first two books of The Talismans trilogy were published by Satalyte Publications, which, sadly, has gone out of business. Book one, The Dagger of Dresnia, is up on the usual bookselling web sites as an e-book, and I have a few hard copies to sell to those who prefer Real Paper. Book Two, The Cloak of Challiver, will be available soon. The easiest way to contact me is via Facebook.

The Dagger of Dresnia

The Dagger of Dresnia
Want a copy? Contact me at satimafn(at)gmail.com

The Cloak of Challiver

The Cloak of Challiver
Available again as an ebook soon!

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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Sunday, 30 August 2009

The promiscuous artist

Over at the Mad Genius Club, Rowena Cory Daniels recently posted a piece called You know you’re a writer when… It’s a fun post, but one that pulls you up and makes you realise, Yeah, me too…

I’ve loved stories ever since I began to understand English, and as English is my mother tongue that was a while ago! I was lucky in that being the youngest of four sisters, I had lots of stories read to me, and by the time I was three I could read my favourites to myself, largely because I knew them by heart. Gradually the squiggles on the page started to make sense. What liberation, to find that I no longer need rely on my elders to read to me!

When I was four, I bullied my family into taking part in a dramatisation of Oliver Twist's meeting with Fagin. My older sisters had just seen the film and on hearing about it I immediately wanted to be Oliver, and the only way I could be Oliver was by collecting a company and rewriting the script. My father had to be Fagin, of course, and my sisters the other urchins. My mother was an audience of one. (I was lucky. Being the youngest by a lot of years meant I got indulged a fair bit.)

For a long time I wasn't sure whether I was an actor or a writer. I continued to be interested in stage and film, but at the same time, I lived a double life, in which I was not me, but a girl named Jill who had more adventures than anyone else in the world. The yarns I spun in my daydreams came out in pictures that I drew, because I was too young to write. I got right into Jill’s character and started to think of her/me in the third person, which is a worry. I wonder if this tendency to dissociate is common among writers?

My pictures often involved dramatisations of stories I heard, translated to the stage. A year or two later, when I could sort-of-nearly-almost-write (apart from a dyslexic misunderstanding of the difference between d and b) I discovered Enid Blyton. I immediately wanted to be the author of stories like those, and told everyone I wanted to be a Children's Authoress.

But then one day I went with my sister Anne to visit her friend Maureen. Now Maureen had a younger sister, Jacqueline, who was learning ballet and tap dancing. World War II had just ended and clothing was still rationed, but Maureen’s mother had cut down one of her old evening gowns to make a costume for Jacqueline. To my satin-deprived eyes it looked fit for a princess in one of my stories, and I was immediately hooked. I wanted to be a dancer, too.

Unfortunately, my family was not theatrically inclined, so I was not allowed to take lessons like Jacqueline. Even so, the Sadlers Wells (later the Royal Ballet) company was a shining light of beauty and glamour in the shabbiness of a war-torn country, and my sisters had several books about ballet. They and their friends would argue among themselves about who was the most beautiful, Margot Fonteyn or Moira Shearer. I spent hours poring over those books and eagerly thumbing through magazines for pictures of my idols. But it was only when I was eleven that I finally went to classes, which I paid for myself out of my pocket money, forgoing the weekly matinee at the cinema to do so. Mother was willing to pay for me to learn piano, but not dancing.

When I was fourteen I struck a deal with Mother. She paid for me to have four dance classes a week on condition that I also studied Speech and Drama. (She was a Yorkshire woman but I had been born in Manchester. We were by this time living in Australia, and my polyglot accent grated on Mother’s ears.) I was a pupil at the Conservatorium High School in Sydney. Fellow students included future internationally known artists such as Roger Woodward and Charmian Gadd, who threw all their energies into their musical education. Not me. Then, as now, I loved too many things. I was artistically promiscuous. So my days were very full indeed – Piano, Singing, Speech and Drama, Ballet, Character Dancing, Modern Dance – as well as normal school lessons. Oh, did I mention Theory, Harmony, Aural Training, History and Form of Music…Ye gods, these days it exhausts me to think about the schedule. Some nights I would get home at about 9.00pm and go almost immediately to bed, only to get up at 6.00am to catch a train at 7.05. During the hour long journey to the city from Liverpool, then an outer suburb of Sydney, I did my homework.

I started to help with children’s ballet classes at a local dancing school, and later I taught on my own account. My story telling now went into choreography rather than pictures. I still read voraciously, but I did not write fiction. Although I used to win prizes for poetry and prose, my prose was all descriptive. The stories I dreamed up were simple things that translated better into dance than the written word. There's more than one way to spin a yarn.

I only went back to writing fiction when I was in my fifties, after I'd given up dancing and acting. But that’s a tale for another post.
Monday, 24 August 2009

Schlepping towards publication

As most of you know, for the last four years I have been writing a fantasy novel. This is my third – the first one took me seven years to write and it was pretty terrible, although I still love it and read it for fun sometimes! One day I might serialise it and put it up on the blog for you all to laugh at.

The second book was better: I started in it 2003 and at the end of 2005 I sent my “package” (synopsis and three chapters) to four literary agents. None of them was interested and after putting the manuscript away for three months I realised why – it had far too many characters and a confusing two-strand plot. George RR Martin might have got away with it: I certainly couldn’t. Funny how I couldn’t see that when I was writing it, but after a break from it the shortcomings were painfully obvious.

Well, the time has now come for the latest opus to start “doing the rounds”. The procedure has changed a little since I last looked for an agent or publisher. I am amazed at how many agents have shut up shop and how many more have closed their books in the last four years, so there are not as many places to try for representation. Also, fewer publishers are taking un-agented submissions and more want a professional assessment if you aren't agented. Heck, even some agents want a professional assessment before they will look at your work. Hard times breed hard policies, I guess, but it means the chances of getting published are lessening with every passing year. Bring in Parallel Importation (see last post) and we newbies will have no chance at all.

What’s more, reading the publishers’ guidelines, I can see that epic fantasy, which is what I write, is not wanted at present by many publishing houses. The American publisher Juno, for instance, used to publish a lot of it, but now they only want urban or near-future fantasy. Vampires still rule, and look like doing so for a while yet. I don’t do vampires, sorry. But even if I did, and wrote the world’s best vampire novel within six months, by the time I’d found a publisher the craze would certainly have passed, and there’s no predicting what the next Big Thing will be.

Every agent you submit to takes several weeks to respond. Every publisher takes several months. And “simultaneous subs” — sending your package to several agents or publishers at one time — is becoming increasing frowned upon. Furthermore, I have two or three friends who took several years to find agents, and those agents have still not sold their novels. What a slow process it is! Hey, I am 66 already. I could die before I get published!

I can see why people get sick of it and decide to self-publish, like my friend Fiona Leonard with her lovely Dancing with Zebras, which I blogged a few weeks back. But self-publishing and e-publishing have their own problems – no distribution network, no editorial help, fear of plagiarism or outright theft if you put the book on line…

I'll give it a year of trying the conventional agents and publishers before considering other channels but I’ll be honest. I am not hopeful. But nevertheless, I will be getting on with book two of the trilogy!
Saturday, 15 August 2009

Blog Carnival!

Nyssa Pascoe, editor of A Writer Goes on a Journey, gave me the opportunity to host this month's Blog Carnival. The host's job is to note blogs of interest from the last four weeks. Obviously, posts will be selected that reflect the host's interests of the moment, so I focus mainly on writing and on the Big Issue facing the industry at present: Parallel Importation.

Most publishers, writers and booksellers are opposed to Parallel Importation, which would see all import restrictions on books lifted. It could have dire ramifications for all branches of the industry, resulting in job losses and fewer books with Australian content on the shelves of the shops that survive. Instead, we could find ourselves restricted to American books, with American spelling and idioms. The only businesses that stand to benefit are the big chains such as Coles, K-Mart and Target. They already discount their books to prices that the "real" bookshops cannot hope to match, and if they are allowed to import more mass-produced and remaindered books Aussie authors will be hard pressed to earn a living. As it is, the average Australian author pays little or no tax, because the average Australian author does not earn enough. If a book sells at its Recommended Retail Price (RRP) the author might get 10% of that, at best. If the book is sold for less, the author will get proportionately less. There are, friends, too many $1.50s in a week's wages.

Almost all other countries protect their authors and publishers and have no intention of changing. New Zealand is one that no longer does, and apparently book prices have not come down there by more than a few cents, if at all. Our British and American colleagues think we are mad for even considering it - but they will profit if we do, for it will then be worth their while to print huge numbers of books and sell them cheaply to the Aussie market.

Anyway, don't just listen to me. Check out some of these websites for better explanations -

First, there is Richard Flanagan's excellent piece in the SMH, to which many other commentators refer: http://www.smh.com.au/news/entertainment/books/losing-our-voice/2009/05/29/1243456730637.html
Clear and helpful commentary can be found at:
http://savingaussiebooks.wordpress.com/
http://girliejones.livejournal.com/1415806.html
http://simongroth.com/2009/07/30/parallel-export/
http://stephen-dedman.livejournal.com/224986.html gives a slightly different slant to the argument.

So, having done my bit for the Down with Parallel Importation campaign, I turn to my own involvement in the industry; learning the craft of writing -

We've all been to a class or a workshop in which the leader gave us first line for a story and asked us to continue, haven't we? Well, Heidi Kneale came up with a novel way of kick starting a story: last lines! She got some beauties, too, by asking for suggestions! http://hkneale.livejournal.com/168081.html
Patty Jansen blogged on the value of social networking to an author:
http://pattyjansen.wordpress.com/2009/07/24/its-only-useless-banter/
and then on how annoying unfamiliar references can be:
http://pattyjansen.wordpress.com/2009/07/31/do-you-want-your-reader-to-feel-like-this/
which was coincidentally followed up with this post on brand names from Rowena Cory Daniells: http://madgeniusclub.blogspot.com/2009/08/brand-names-and-world-building.html.

BookEnds, LLC - A Literary Agency blog gives tips on the submission process:
http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2009/07/submissions-101.html

Lee Harris of Angry Robot (the newest imprint of Harper Collins) tells the serendipitous tale of how Aliette de Bodard got her big break!
http://angryrobotbooks.com/2009/08/angry-robot-signs-aliette-de-bodard-lavie-tidhar/

Over at Ripping Ozzie Reads, Rowena Cory Daniells has written about Point-of-View, with particular reference to "deep third". (It is also called "tight 3rd" and "close 3rd".) "Deep third" is closely related to the technique known in literary circles as "Free Indirect Discourse" (FID). Check out Rowena's post here.
And quite co-incidentally, Edittorrent (Alicia Rasley) has written a guest blog on when not to use "deep" POV at
http://jordanmccollum.com/2009/08/not-use-deep-pov/

Also at ROR, Rowena has posted on how to structure your work.

Juliet Marillier writes on inspiration through pictures, music, poetry and more here.

On the Borders Blog, Karen Miller discusses a number of topics as guest blogger. She kicked off with this one in which she cogitates on the sanity - or otherwise - of writers in general.

On research:
Gillian Polack's Food History Blog is always good value and she has recently had some fascinating input from guest bloggers, Simon Brown, Mary Fortune and Lucy Sussex, Laura Goodin, and Alma Alexander.

Lisa Gold, Research Maven, gives
tips on attaining accuracy in your work.

On Cabbages and Kings:
Patty Jansen took part in a forum with the PM on climate change. She blogs it here.

And Glenda Larke has the last word - on the trials and tribulations of travel!


Sunday, 9 August 2009

Dancing with Zebras

Now there's an intriguing title for you! It's the name of a new e-book by my writing buddy Fiona Leonard. Fiona is a former Australian diplomat who spent three years living in Zimbabwe and travelling in southern Africa. Dancing with Zebras is an exciting tale about an adopted young woman’s relationship with her birth mother – but the story behind her adoption is strange and complex, filled with mystery and intrigue.

This is Fiona’s first novel and there are three good reasons why you should buy it:
1. It’s a bloody good read
2. You choose the price you want to pay - as much or as little as you like.
3. My name turns up (in good company) in the dedication

And, of course, if we don’t all buy the book Fiona and her family may have to swim back to Oz from America.

You can find Dancing with Zebras over at Smashwords. Check out Fiona's Smashwords profile and read more about Dancing with Zebras.

And to find out what Fiona, her husband, daughter and dog are doing in America, check out their blog at http://www.yearinamerica.net

Next week I hope to have a really special blog post and if I am to meet the deadline it will go up a day early. So come back on Saturday for a Carnival!!
Sunday, 2 August 2009

Just checking in

I'm on the road at present, staying for a few days in Adelaide en route from Perth to Mount Gambier. I've spent worthwhile time with friends Annalou and David and caught up wth mutual friends from Annalou's writing groups as well as Facebook friend Lee Masterson. I also had a pleasant get-together with fellow Specusphere writers Astrid Cooper and Maurie Breust. Helen Blake, whose book Boy Phoenix I had the privilege of editing, also stopped by for a drink. The book is lovely, with lot of photos. Since Astrid had a copy of her new book, Starlight to show us as well, there was much back-slapping all round.

I'm just about to catch the bus to Mount Gambier, a trip of six hours. Crazy, isn't it - less than three hours to travel the 1,800km from Perth to Adelaide and six hours to get from Adelaide to Mount Gambier, a trip of only 600km. But as the plane costs well over $100 and as a pensioner I can do the bus trip for less than $40, there's no contest.

I'll be back with a "proper" post next week, by which time I should be thoroughly settled back into my apartment in "the Mount".
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