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As you know, I was bitterly disappointed when Satalyte shut up shop as it might have meant the end of my admittedly short career as a publi...

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

My books

The first novel of my trilogy, The Talismans, is available as e-books 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. I hope to see my books back on Amazon under a new publisher in the near future.

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

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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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Sydney Conservatorium - my old school

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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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Sunday, 11 December 2011

Mythic Resonance


It's been a busy year: one in which I've bitten off more than I can comfortably chew. A bad habit of mine, but I can't seem to help myself - I get all fired up with enthusiasm whenever someone suggests a new project, and I wade in, boots and all, without testing the waters for depth.

So at the end of last year, when Stephen Thompson, our Editor-in-Chief at The Specusphere, decided to publish an anthology, I cheerfully volunteered my services. 'Wow, that'll be fun!' I told myself.

Well, yes. A qualified yes, because producing an anthology is not easy. Slush reading, negotiating with authors, editing, proofreading - it's taken a year to get there, but our destination, that magical place where we shall be rewarded with a Real Live book full of stories, is just around the next curve of what's been a long and winding bit of wayfaring.

When we first called for submissions, they were slow in coming and we started to panic a bit - what if we couldn't make up the quota? But gradually they started to trickle in, and the trickle eventually became a deluge! Some of the submissions were not within the guidelines - some not even close - and those were rejected at once. But the slow business of reading the fifty-odd that remained was angst-making.

It wasn't easy to pick the right content. There were seven of us reading, and most of us read all the submissions. We wanted stories based, however loosely, on traditional material: stories about the archetypal characters that we all know - the valiant hero, the boy on a quest, the trapped princess, the femme fatale, the monster from the deep ... the fabled beings we'd known and loved since childhood.

There were no truly awful stories, so it was a matter of choosing those that best fitted the guidelines and collectively provided a good sampling of the myths and legends of the world, presented with a twist that gave us something new and fresh rather than just a rewrite. And above all, of course, most of us had to at least like, and preferably love, the selected stories.

Reading the different reactions of the slush readers to the same stories was an eye-opener! We didn't quite come to blows, although I think we might have come close, once or twice, had we not been separated by a lot of kilometres. But being spread across the country from Brisbane to Perth, we were able to negotiate until we had a shortlist of about twenty stories.

At that point, Stephen had us list our ten favourites, and promised us that each of the list-toppers would be included. (Except for Stephen, we read 'blind', so none of us knew who'd written what until the final list was in place.) We breathed a sigh of relief to find that our lists were not as different from each other as we'd feared, and I was delighted that one reader put my story, 'La Belle Dame', at the top of her list!

'La Belle Dame' has a long history. I first wrote it back in about 2005 for submission to an anthology that never went ahead. That's not an uncommon occurrence, so I just sighed and put my handiwork away. Every now and then, I would take it out, edit it again and send if off to a possible market, but while it always got shortlisted, it never made the final cut.

Then last year, I decided to enter it for the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre SF award. This is a well-respected competition, many of whose winners have gone on to become successful in the profession. I um-ed and ah-ed a bit, because I'd always felt there was something not quite right about 'La Belle Dame', but couldn't put my finger on what it was.

Finally, I showed it to a well-published friend, and she made a suggestion for the ending that I thought was a good idea but felt I wasn't skilled enough to do. 'Give it a try,' my friend advised, and to my surprise it wasn't as hard as I'd thought. I was delighted when 'La Belle Dame' was selected from a field of about 120 stories for the award's shortlist of eight. But again, no banana.

So I only offered it for the Specusphere's anthology somewhat diffidently, during that early phase when entries were slow and I thought maybe we'd have trouble making up the numbers. You can imagine how delighted I was when one of the readers actually preferred it to all the others! So at last 'La Belle Dame' (a take on the Keats poem, of course) has found a home. And a very nice home it is, nestled under a truly lovely cover designed by the Specusphere's graphic designer, Amanda Greenslade, and in the company of other lovely mythic tales, many of them by well-known and well-published authors.

So now it's getting exciting! Mythic Resonance goes to press early in the new year. (Watch this space!) And yes, we are already talking about doing it again next year. A new anthology, with a different theme! I can already feel that enthusiasm coming on again...
Monday, 28 November 2011

The value of "how-to" lists for writers

A friend on one of my mailing lists sent a message yesterday about a great blog post by author Ian Irvine, on creating suspense. Ian Irvine is the author of 27 novels. His next epic fantasy novel is Vengeance, Book 1 of The Tainted Realm, to be published by Orbit Books in Australia in November 2011, and in the US and UK in April 2012.

You can read the post at http://ripping-ozzie-reads.com/2011/11/26/ian-irvine-reveals-41-ways-to-keep-readers-turning-the-page/.

A second friend replied, questioning the value of such lists. He pointed out Ian Irvine's suggestion that puzzles and mysteries create suspense through curiosity, and said ‘I agree with this but it only tells you to have puzzles. It gives some examples, but doesn't really tell you how to have a puzzle.’

An interesting discussion ensued on the list, batting the pros and cons of such lists back and forth. There was plenty of food for thought. My take on it is this: the underlying problem is that in fact no one can actually teach us to write.

Lists such as Ian Irvine's are useful because they can help us to identify where our work might be lacking. The lists are written by people who analyse writing after it's been written, by themselves or others. Naturally gifted writers don't need lists - they just do the right things without thinking about it. The process they follow is largely unconscious, and therefore can't be readily taught to others.

Anaïs Nin is on record as having said that one of the essential characteristics of a good fiction writer is being able to access the unconscious at will. I don't think gifted writers always realise they are doing that, but there's no doubt that some people have a gift for knowing intuitively how to plot. When you analyse what they done, it nearly always falls into the three-act structure - inciting incident, three disasters and a denouement. Many of these very talented people also have the knack of knowing how to keep up the tension without any analytical process at all, and might also have a gift for getting characters down on the page in a manner that makes them come across as real live people.

As my second friend pointed out, Ian Irvine doesn't tell us "how to have a puzzle". He just points out that puzzles might be Good Things to Include, and when you think about it, that's the kind of thing that makes up any set of writing instructions. I don't think Mr Irvine or anyone else can actually teach me a formula that would enable me to create puzzles (or other tension--inducing factors) in my stories. By analysis, I can see what really gifted writers do, but all the lists in the world will not make me able to do it myself.

Many of us, myself included, just have to struggle along with the trial and error method. Lists such as Ian Irvine's help us along a bit, that's all. But they form an essential part of a would-be writer's reading, so thank heaven they are available, or some of us would never learn to write at all!
Monday, 3 October 2011

An editor's role


Recently, a friend sent me a link to an article in The Guardian by restaurant reviewer Giles Coren. My friend said that was exactly how he felt about his writing.
As fiction writers, we do feel very protective of our work. Our stories are like babies we have birthed and parented. We like to think they are perfect, and that not one word should be changed.
A few weeks in a good critiquing group, however, is usually enough to show writers that their work is not perfect and can be improved, but even so, there is always that flash of resentment when someone wants to alter one of their darlings. It can take a long time to wean that baby, and the process is painful for the parent!
But we're talking here not about fiction but about writing for journals, and in that light I think Coren’s tirade is sheer wankery. As an editor, I feel I should put the other side of the story forward.
For a start, Coren is not writing the Great British Novel. He is writing ephemera. Writing that goes into a newspaper, journal or online zine is always edited without consultation – it's just the way it's done, because of tight deadlines. And for any writer to be so precious as to be highly offended at the removal of an indefinite article is just laughable.
Nobody likes having their work altered, and I agree that sometimes sub-editing is done less than skilfully, simply because there is a deadline to meet. The worst instance of this in my experience happened when I faxed off a review to the Australian and the next morning received the phone-message equivalent of a poison-pen letter from the artist concerned, complaining bitterly about the "mean-spirited review". I found out why when I opened the paper – my review had been cut in half, and only the negative criticisms made it into print. (I only got paid for the part that was published, too, but that’s the way the system works.)
This episode was largely my fault. The golden rule of criticism is "put the good stuff first", and for some reason, on this occasion, I did not. All the good stuff was at the bottom of the article – the part that got sliced “on the stone” as they used to say in those pre-electronic days, probably to make room for a last minute ad or "stop press" paragraph. Mea culpa, mea culpa – but it taught me never to break that rule again.
As I understand it, when a sub removes a small word, it's usually because leaving it in would result in a "widow" on the next line. Apart from wasting valuable space in a print journal, orphans and widows are anathema to layout people. One sorry little word sitting on its own, looking lost, can spoil the whole look of a page. Because, you see, a layout person is, in his or her own way, also an artist, one with different sensibilities. The rhythm of reading the work out loud means little to the layout person, I fear. And in any case, who reads the bloody newspaper out loud, for heaven's sake?
(A “widow” BTW, is a word or phrase that hangs out on its own at the top of a page or column, while an “orphan” is a word or phrase – usually a heading of some kind – that is left alone on the bottom of a page of column. It does depend, though on whose definition you read!)
But all that I've just said only applies to writing for ephemera. Fiction writing, of course, is a different matter. There, ongoing consultation is the norm, to-ing and fro-ing until the work is satisfactory to both writer and editor – within a given deadline, of course. And in fiction, the writer has the last say – but the editor has right of veto, if not on that work, then the next. A writer who stets every tiny word and every comma will pretty soon find herself without anyone to publish her work. Word of such things gets around.
One only has to look at the morass of badly-written, unedited, self-published works on the market to see that the editor, whether of journals or books, performs an essential task in bringing the reader a product that delivers value for money. And that, friends, is the bottom line in any industry, even an arts-based one. Perhaps especially in an arts-based one, because all performers, all visual artists, all writers, are competing for that same tiny slice of people's purses, and if we produce a sub-standard product it will not sell. The fact that we editors hurt people's feelings now and then must be balanced against the fact that we help many, many others to create a better product. For, make no mistake, a writer's work is a product. It may also be a work of art, but only history can judge that.
An editor is to a writer what a choreographer is to a dancer, or a conductor is to an orchestra. If you're a fiction writer, try to be grateful to your editor for helping you to produce something that really shines, something more people will want to read!
And if you're a reviewer or a feature writer, for God’s sake just smile and take the money.


Sunday, 11 September 2011

Walking with Harry and Pip


I am looking after a couple of my furry friends while their “mum” is away at the Geraldton Writers Festival. Pip is a miniature pinscher and Harry … well, I’m not too sure about Harry. He is long bodied and short legged, like a dachshund, but he has the head of a terrier and the woolly coat of a poodle or a bichon frisé. Let’s say his mother married below her station, and leave it at that. (The pic, courtesy of Wikipedia, is of a Real bichon frisé.)

We all know that the highlight of a dog’s life is walkies. Just mention the word, no matter how sotto voce, and Harry and Pip will appear within seconds, bouncing like rubber duckies in a turbulent bath. Little as they are (neither one stands more than 20 cm at the shoulder) they need a lot of exercise, and they keep reminding me of the fact. There is much excitement and chasing of tails – one’s own and others – as we make ready for our outing. Mini-pins have tiny necks and can often slip their collars, so Pip must wear a harness. No matter how often I apply a harness to her tiny personage, I almost always have to sort the complicated structure of straps, rings and buckles several times before we are ready to go. The picture (courtesy of Wikipedia) shows what minipins look like. Pip is just like the tan one on the left!

This harness business seems to have an effect on Harry’s libido. As a neutered male, he should be uninterested in sex – but I suspect he harbours a kinky bent because the sight of the harness on Pip’s back seems to make him randy. Pip tries to tell him that she is a decent, well-brought-up young lady who will have no part in such shenanigans, but Harry is undeterred. He always tries his luck at least once.

Finally, we are kitted up with leads, harnesses, poo-bags, mobile phone, door keys and the essential doggie treats. Sometime I almost think the treats are main reason my little friends are so keen on walkies! But perhaps not. There are some lovely walks nearby. My favourite is a stroll down to the old oval in the early morning. Nestled in a wide triangle formed by the junction of two waterways and surrounded by native trees, the oval is a slice of nature within the sprawl of suburbia. A short walk down a gentle slope and we are in the bush. The oval is seldom used now, but one can imagine that in the olden days locals would have gathered here on Sundays for a picnic and a genteel game of cricket. There is something very English about this area – it was settled by free immigrants, not convicts, and it shows in the gracious architecture and the numerous parks and reserves. The photo, of course (where would we be without Wikipedia) is of a Real Dachshund, which Harry resembles not all all except in length.

This photo (Wikipedia again!) is, of course, of a Real terrier! Apart from his woolly white coat, Harry actually does resemble this one about the head, golden eyes and all.

Although the main road is only a few hundred metres away, it might as well be on the other side of the country. There is no sound of traffic, and apart from a few early morning fishermen and the odd rowing crew out for a training session, there’s rarely a soul in sight when we reach the bottom of the hill. Even so, it’s a rare morning when we don’t meet other canines and their humans. This would be fine but for the fact that Harry and Pip between them have the biggest Napoleon complex this side of St Helena. It’s most noticeable when they are on the lead, but even off the lead they can’t be trusted not to chase any pooch, big or small, that comes within fifty metres. Yesterday they chased off what looked like a Husky, and they definitely have it in for a rather large Dalmatian that we often run into. One day they will pick the wrong mark and get eaten, but they don’t seem to have considered this possibility. On the streets I’ve learnt to cross the road at the first sight of a canine silhouette on the horizon, but when we go to the oval there is often no escape. Sightlines are good and there’s plenty of open ground to give chase. And give chase they do, loudly.

Tiny as Pip and Harry are, there is no way I can keep up with either of them once they get some speed up. And I get no warning. From a standing start to full speed ahead takes them about .05 of a second. I waddle along after them, calling their names and cursing the wombs that bore them, with no effect whatsoever. The rapid take off seems to demand that they sacrifice hearing for speed, and they are deaf to my calls. By the time I catch up with them their quarry has usually fled, tail between legs, with the two canine Hell’s Angels hard behind. Panting, I arrive to find the victim quivering at its owner's side and gazing down in horrified disbelief at the miniature terrorists. I offer humble apologies while trying to get leads on the two struggling dogs, then flee in disgrace. But do Pip and Harry care? Silly question.

Harry is addicted to chest scratches, and is much given to lying around on his back in case a willing scratcher should pass by. In fact, he sometimes falls asleep waiting! He is going to obedience classes but I don’t think he’s realised that the classes are supposed to be preparation for Real Life. Still, I cling to the expectation that one day he and Pip will both come when called, no matter what the circumstances. I must admit, though, that this probably is a forlorn hope. The terrible two are having too much fun saving the area from all other furry four-legged creatures. This week, the oval; next week, the entire state of WA!
Sunday, 21 August 2011

Cousin Pheobe and the Fire of London

A couple of weeks from now falls the 345th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, the great conflagration that swept through the city from Sunday, 2 September to Wednesday, 5 September 1666. It consumed over 13,000 houses, and many churches and other public buildings, including the old St Paul’s Cathedral. The number of lives lost is unknown, but the death toll, said to be in single figures, was not as bad as it could have been. However, given the destructive nature of the fire, it is likely that many bodies were incinerated. It is likely, too, that many more died of disease in the makeshift refugee camps that sprang up in public parks and on the outskirts of town. (Thanks to Wikipedia for the wonderful image of Ludgate in flames, with St. Paul's Cathedral in the distance. Oil painting by anonymous artist, ca. 1670.)

None of my direct ancestors, as far as I know, was affected by the fire, but some distant cousins quickly got in touch with family in Yorkshire. A letter written by Phoebe LISTER (née HEMINGWAY) of Halifax to her son Samuel of Upper Brea, Yorkshire, passed on the news that her cousins were safe. Phoebe (1608-1695) was my third cousin – eleven times removed!

Her letter, which is in the archives at Wakefield, is transcribed below:

Samuel,

I need not acquaint you with the lamentable accident that hath befallen London. I know you have heard of it and indeed it is a most heavy judgement not only upon them but upon the whole land. John received a letter this day from my cousin Thomas*. He saith that the Lord hath dealt most grievously with them. Though their house be burnt yet much of their best goods is safe. Thomas Dickenson hath writ to Mr Palin that he is now reduced to the same condition he was at first. Whereas he was able to relieve others he fears that he shall now need relief. I suppose you have a great loss with the rest at Blackwell Hall but we must be content to submit to the wise providence of God and as we have had a hand in the sin that hath brought this judgement so let us be content to submit to the punishment. I would not have you discouraged but trust in the Lord. He hath bidden us cast our cares upon him and he will certainly provide for his in the worst of times. He knows how to bring good out of these sad providences. I have not yet heard anything of Jeremy**; whether he be alive or no. Remember my love to Mary and to all our friends at Shibden Hall and Lower Brea.

Your loving mother
Phebe Lister

Write whether my bridle came home with the horse or no.

*Possibly her cousin Thomas LISTER, who was also her brother-in-law. They liked to keep things in the family in those days!
**Possibly another cousin, Jeremy HEMINGWAY.

PS - I do wish I knew the story of that horse and bridle!
Sunday, 17 July 2011

Yoda lives - in English

This post is really about substantive verbs, sometimes called "linking verbs". The verb “to be” is sometimes called The Substantive Verb, and some people just call it a substantive, not a verb at all. Be is not the only verb in this category, though. There are several others, notably become, feel, go, remain, stay, stand.

A substantive verb does not have an object. You can turn the sentence back-to-front, Yoda-like, and it will still have the same meaning, although it will probably read like something from a nineteenth century poem or novel if you do.

Look at these examples:
The air sits heavy in monsoon season: if we invert it we get “Heavy sits the air in monsoon season”


Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown: inverted: The head that wears a crown lies uneasy.

John became a doctor - A doctor John became

The grass remains dry - Dry remains the grass

She felt unhappy - Unhappy she felt

The woman went crazy - Crazy went the woman

The athlete will become a coach – A coach the athlete will become.

He remained a lawyer – A lawyer he remained

Mary stays at home – At home stays Mary

Bill stood still – Still stood Bill

These sound rather poetic, don’t they – or maybe rather like Yoda on a bad day – but we do sometimes use this form of expression, even in speech: for instance “He always wanted to be a farmer, and a farmer he became”.
Sunday, 3 July 2011

Yeomen of Yorkshire

Because a lot of my friends are more interested in family history (and history generally) than in writing, editing and reviewing, I thought I might start to add the odd snippet of family history to this blog. I’ve been very lucky – I’ve been able to discover my ancestors on several lines for many generations back.

My maternal grandmother, Frances HINCHCLIFFE, was born in Liversedge, in Yorkshire’s Calder Valley, where her ancestors had lived for hundreds of years. Frances’s maternal grandmother was called Edna HEMINGWAY. There have been Hemingways around Halifax for at least 600 years, ever since the time surnames as such were coming into common use. The name originated near Halifax: one possible derivation is that it means “Heming’s Way” and was, perhaps, a place name in Viking times – Heming was the name of several Viking heroes, including a king of the ancient kingdom of East Anglia.

We can identify a Henry HEMINGWAY, born about 1410, probably the father of a Richard and a Robert: it seems likely that we are descended from Henry through Robert. The family quickly proliferated in the area, many members becoming prominent landowners. Two of the Hemingway properties were called Shibden Mill and the Walterclough.

Hemingways intermarried with other notable yeoman families including the Sutherlands, Crowthers, Drakes, Reyners and Listers – all still common names in the area.. Through such marriages, the Hemingways improved their status and wealth, and were instrumental in the founding of local charities.

Although it is not possible to be absolutely certain of the relationships amongst the various Hemingway lineages in those early days, I can positively identify one Thomas HEMINGWAY, my 11xgreat-grandfather, who died at the Walterclough on the 23 October 1579. His son John, my 10xgreat-grandfather, left a will, which, unusually for the time, directed that all the children were to have a share in his property. John describes himself as a “yoeman”, and gives directions for the payment of his debts and funeral expenses. “I will and devise” (he continues) “to the said John Hemingway” (his eldest son) “Arthure, Michael, Abraham, Richard, Marie and Anne, my children, all that messuage and tenement, houses, lands etc in Southowram which I, the said testor, occupied in the lifetime of Thomas Hemingway, my late father, deceased, and also one close of land and pasture called Jony Ridinge in Southowram - - - for the term of 21 years at the yearly rent of 8s”. He decreed that his wife (the former Agnes Mawde, whom he had married on 26 October 1557) and all the children except Grace, his oldest daughter, who was already married, should be joint executors of the will. To Grace he left 6s.8d., provided her husband, John Wilkinson, release to the executors “all manner of demands to my goods”. John must have been on his deathbed when the will was made, as it is dated 1 October 1587, and John was buried on the 5th. The will was proved on 15 December in the same year.

I am descended from Richard, John’s youngest child, who was only ten years old at the death of his father. He grew up to marry Frances ARCHER in 1604, having moved to Dewsbury along with an eponymous younger cousin once removed. It is possible that, together with quite a few other citizens of Halifax, the two Richards moved to Dewsbury to escape the plague, which was apparently rampant in the Halifax area during the closing years of the sixteenth century.

 But after the cousins left, the Hemingway name continued to flourish around Halifax. Some of their doings make interesting reading! For example, Richard’s cousin Edward, who owned the Shibden Mill property at that time, shows up in the Wakefield Manor Court Rolls as follows:

Wakefield-- At the great Court held there 29th April 1614: We payne Edwarde Hemyngwaye, of Sibden Milne, that he shall att or before the feast of St. Michaell next, take awaye, pull, and caste downe one greate dame of water, newlie erected in August last, demmed over all the whole broke and hyeway att Damhead, to the great daunger of drowninge both men abd cattell, and to the annoyance of all passengers, and especially of the Inhabitants of Northowran, in payne, xxxxix.s.xd.

A funny corollary to this tale: when my second husband and I were farming in Tantanoola, South Australia, one of the local farmers did exactly the same thing as Edward – he dammed a roadside ditch, which flooded the nearby road. His neighbours were up in arms, of course, and he was fined heavily, just as Edward was all those centuries ago!

Another distant cousin, Mathew Hemingway, is found in the West Riding Session Rolls (1602 to 1611) in this wise:

 fforsomuch as ther hath bene divers orders made in the Court for the educating of a base Child begotten by Mathew Hemyngwey on the body of Dionis Savile, all which orders are now determined & for that Henry Savile father of the said Dionise, in respecte of his povertie craveth further allowance until the next Sessions for the relief therof: Yt is therefore ordered that the Towneshipp of Southowram wher the said Child was borne shall pay iiijd. & Richard hemyngwey ffather of the said Mathew ijd. weekely until the next Sessions towards the education of the said Child, And that in the meane tyme the said Dionise shalbe whipped for her offence.

Poor old Denise! It would be nice to think that Richard gave Mathew a thrashing as well, but I don't suppose he did! The sixpence a week, however, (four pence from the township and tuppence from Richard, father of young Mathew) would have at least given Denise and her “base child” a decent living in those days.

 Meantime, the two Richards had settled down in Dewsbury and founded lineages which contributed much to the development of that town over the ensuing centuries. Another time, I’ll tell you what became of them, and give you some insights into the lifestyle of our “yoeman” ancestors.

I am indebted to many other researchers for much of the above material. They are too numerous to mention, but all of us owe a debt to researchers of earlier generations, notably Henry Hemingway, surgeon and antiquarian of Dewsbury (1790-1875) and John Leonard Noades Hemingway of Southport, Lancashire (1884-1955).
Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Back on the reviewing trail

Regular readers will know that for the last few years I have been Reviews Editor for The Specusphere, a webzine for the SF community. Friends of long standing will also remember that at one time I garnered a fair proportion of my livelihood by writing reviews and feature articles for arts-oriented journals such as Music Maker (which later became ArtsWest), Dance Australia, and others and also for newpapers incuding The Australian and The West Australian. Not only did I get paid, but I got free tickets to many fabulous shows.

Since I've been on the pension there has been no money for such frivolities as theatre tickets, so when a friend recently pointed me in the direction of ArtsHub the lure of free tickets led me to investigate.

Artshub is a kind of clearing house for all matters pertaining to the arts. It is a very comprehensive site, and well patronised. Their articles and reviews are of a high standard. So I thought, "Why not", and asked to be added to their list of reviewers. Now, for the first time in years I am going to the theatre again!

I've reviewed three shows so far, two of them marginally related to matters Shakespearean, and the third a wonderful dance performance by Daryl Brandwood, a fellow WAAPA graduate. I hadn't seen Daryl dance for about fifteen years, so it was a joy to watch the show, Helix.

And the two Shakespearean ones were very, very funny. You can read my reviews of all three shows if you're interested:

The Enchanters

Helix

The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged)

While it's fun to be reviewing again, I feel a bit uncomfortable about the fact that I am doing it gratis - apart from the free tickets, that is! When I was writing for print journals, I would be paid anything up to about $350 for an article. But web sites simply can't afford to pay people. The Specusphere, for example, is run completely by volunteers, and, in fact, our editor-in-chief has to cough up the necessary to have the site on line at all. We tried taking advertising, but it brought in little or nothing. What's more we had no control over the content, and some of it was dodgy, to say the least. (Be published today! It will only cost you an arm and leg and last year's income...)

I suspect this is another sign of the amateurisation of so many things that seems to be a result of the internet. Maybe it is not such a bad thing - it means everyone's voice can be raised.

But in the cacophony, who is listening?
Sunday, 5 June 2011

Common misuses - confusing words

Some words have two negative forms, which can be confusing. Two such words are "satisfied" and "interested". Both have two negative forms: one starting with dis- and one starting with un-. These  negatives, in both cases, have very different meanings.


Dissatisfied/unsatisfied

If a person is dissatisfied, he or she is feeling upset or disappointed in some way. For instance “Cheryl was really dissatisfied with the service at her hotel.”

But someone who is unsatisfied hasn’t had enough of something: “I was still unsatisfied after the meal.” (You might say this after going to a posh restaurant where they served you miniscule piece of salmon and an artistic trail of sauce, garnished with some unidentifiable herb.)

Disinterested/uninterested 

These examples show the difference:
“We need a disinterested party to adjudicate the competition” (i.e. someone who has no vested interest in the outcome. A parent of one of the competitors would not be disinterested!)

He or she might, however, be uninterested. E.g. “Our daughter likes to compete in gymnastics competitions but her father is totally uninterested.” (In the vernacular, he couldn’t give a stuff about gymnastic competitions even if his daughter is competing!

In neither case are the two negative forms interchangeable, because each has its own clearly defined meaning.
Sunday, 29 May 2011

Amazing Amazonian friends

No, I don't mean the kind that lop off one boob and go around shooting arrows off at all and sundry. I mean the kind who are brave enough to put their books up on the web for people to buy.

Lots of authors, including some pretty high profile ones, are e-publishing these days. Given the volatile nature of the print publishing industry and the ever-growing interest in e-books among the reading public, publishing online is beoming a viable option. Some new authors - notably Amanda Hocking - have done extraordinarily well via this route, and several authors already established in print, including Jo Konrath and Scott Sigler, are also doing very nicely, thank you.

What's more, e-publishing as an independent author already carries less of a stigma than it did even a year ago. The standard of e-books - until recently notorious for poor presentation and lack of editing - is rising all the time. The reading public is, by and large, reasonably selective. If your work really stinks people are not going to buy it, in e-copy or in print.

Three former critiquing partners of mine, Fiona Leonard, Patti Jansen, and Phillip Berrie have recently become "indie authors". I dips me lid to these enterprising people, nervously wondering whether and when I should follow in their footsteps. I know their work is good, because I've read it. (In fact, I had the privilege of editing Fiona's novel The Chicken Thief, a political thriller set in an African country that has become a dictatorship. Sound familiar?) Check it out. It's one of the best reads I've had this year.

If you don't believe my fulsome praise, hie thee over to Amazonian territory and seek out Fiona's and Patty's books. (Patty's work is scifi, and she has a good handful of stories waiting for you, the latest of which is His Name in Lights.)

And over at the magic land of Smashwords you will find Phill's book The Changeling Detective, an entertaining SF/crime crossover. If you like Jim Butcher you'll really dig Phill's work, too.

One of the great things about e-books is their affordability. You can buy a short story, novella or novel for prices ranging from 99 cents to 3.99. And you can get free samples, so there's nothing to lose. Compared to print books, there is no contest, is there?
Sunday, 22 May 2011

Common misuses: pronouns – subject and object

Pronouns. Little words. But they can give writers – or, more likely, editors! – nasty headaches.

Look at "I" and "me". They fill me with despair. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve shuddered at things like “The boss gave Damien and I a rise last week” or “Chantal invited Jenny and I to her birthday bash”. This has become increasingly common in both England and Australia and no doubt in other English-speaking countries as well, and I suspect that within a few years even the Oxford Dictionary will give in and list it as normal usage.

You would never say “The boss gave I a rise” or “Chantal invited I”, would you? When in doubt, try taking out the first name. If it still sounds OK (as in Queen Elizabeth’s classic “My husband and I are very happy to be here", then you can safely say “Damien and I”.

That’s because “I” is the nominative case. It is used when the speaker is the one performing the action, such as the Queen (as above) being pleased. So “I invited Damien and Chantal to the barbeque” is correct. But if I’m one of the people being invited, “me” is the correct pronoun – Damien invited Chantal and me to the barbeque”.

Another misused family of pronouns includes who/whom and whoever/whomever. Here again, the first-named is the nominative case, as in “Who stole my pen?” The second of each pair is the objective case, and the problem is that usage is in the process of changing. For example, If I said “Did you know Jack’s been charged with assault?”, you might reply, “Who did he assault?” and no one would blink an eye. In fact, if you were to use the correct form “Whom did he assault?” you might even sound a bit old-fashioned and pedantic.

But there are times when many of us still use “whom”. For instance “Did you know Jared was assaulted last night?” might well draw the reply, “Assaulted by whom?” We’re tending, more and more, to use “whom” when it’s preceded by a preposition, but “who” when it’s not, and many people don’t use “whom” at all, preposition or no preposition. Or they use it in the wrong places, thinking it makes them sound more refined. In other words, many people haven’t got a clue about who and whom, and I suspect that within a few decades, “whom” will disappear altogether.

Whoever and whomever are of the same ilk. Basically, "whoever" is nominative; and "whomever" is objective.

But in practice it gets complicated.

The reason is that these words often turn up as subjects of subordinate clauses, so they have to be in the nominative case even if the clause itself is the object of the sentence. The rule is that agreement is always within the subordinate clause itself, even when that clause appears as the object of the main clause.

For example “Give the prize to whoever/whomever arrives first”. Now, on first glance, it’s tempting to use “whomever” because it appears to be the indirect object of the first clause.

BUT it is also the subject of its very own clause “whoever arrives first”. So “whoever” is the correct form here.

I cheerfully pinched some examples from http://www.englishforums.com/English/WhoeverVsWhomever/cxcp/post.htm which is part of a worthwhile site for all matters pertaining to English grammar.
Give it to whoever pays the highest price.
Give it to whomever you like best.
Introduce whoever you think is the tallest to whoever you think is the shortest.
Introduce whomever you invited first to whomever you invited last.
Introduce whoever arrived first to whoever arrived last.

While we’re examining who and whom and their kin, what about “whomsoever”? It’s rather a quaint, old-fashioned sort of word, dating right back to Chaucer’s day and possibly earlier, but it refuses to die altogether. It is pretty much interchangeable with who and whom in expressions such as “To whom/whomever/whomsoever it may concern”. The nominative form “whosoever” is very rare. More often, we use “whoever” in the nominative.

So, another part of our language that is changing – but it’s still advisable to use who/whoever and whom/whomever correctly in writing, even in places where you might not do so in speech – unless, of course, you’re writing colloquial dialogue!
Sunday, 10 April 2011

Common misuses: common expressions

When editing or critiquing, and even in everyday conversation, I am often jolted by the misuse of common expressions, so I thought I might don my pedant’s hat today and talk about some of them in this post.

As Such
One of these misused expressions is “as such”. This phrase is seldom used correctly these days, and its incorrect use often renders the sentence laughable. Some people misuse the phrase completely because they have mistaken its meaning, thinking it means “therefore”, which is just plain silly.

In order to make sense, “as such”, a pronominal phrase, must refer back to a noun in the previous sentence or clause. It cannot be used to refer to a verb.

Consider this: “I’ve worked in the hospitality industry for some years now. As such, I’ve learnt a lot about cleaning equipment.” The speaker obviously intends “as such” to refer to “worked” which is the verb in the previous sentence, but grammatically, “as such” can only refer to a noun. You could say, however, “I’ve been a hotel room attendant for some years now. As such...etc”.

Partake of/partake in/take part
Another word whose misuse is becoming widespread is “partake”. It really means “to take a share” and has traditionally been used to refer to the sharing of food, as in “We partook of a delicious seafood banquet last night”. However, it has long been used in a figurative sense, as in “partaking in each other’s joys”, which carries the implication of sharing. The difference between the two usages lies in the accompanying pronoun, in or of. If we partake of, we each take a share of something – I eat my share of the food, you eat yours. If we partake in, we share mutually – your joys are also mine, my joys are also yours. Can you see the subtle difference between the two?

But the main problem is that some people are now using “partake” where they should use “take part”, as in “We partook in a football match yesterday”, which to my mind ruins a nice, rather subtle little expression. However, language is constantly changing and I don’t think I can do anything to stop this particular change!

Two more misuses can only be seen in writing, as both ways of using them sound the same in speech. I’m talking about “all together” vs “altogether” and “on to” vs “onto”. Let’s look at the second phrase first.

Onto/on to
The word “onto” is quite new. It used to be considered altogether incorrect when I was a child. However, it is now considered quite OK to say “I put the plate onto the shelf”, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Where the word gets misused is in sentences such as “He went onto say how pleased he was with the new house” or even “The plane flew onto London”! In cases such as these, where something is definitely not being superimposed on something else, we should leave the two words separate.

Altogether/all together
I hope I haven’t got you altogether confused because I’ll now go on to “all together”. When we do something as a group we do it all together, as in “We left the party all together”.

The word “altogether” is another matter altogether.

If you were to write the sample sentence as “We left the party altogether” it would mean that you left the party absolutely, utterly and completely, never to return. You might apply that to a political party, but not the social gathering sort of party, which you might have left early because you were tired, not because you were in high dudgeon over something, although I suppose that’s also possible!

I plan to do a few more of these posts, so if you have any words or phrases that you're not sure how to use, let me know and I'll try to incorporate them.
Friday, 18 February 2011

On being bewilderingly busy

This fun, zany pic is Circus Amok Jugglers by David Shankbone, New York City. This is how I've been feeling lately. I am really four people, each one juggling several objects...

I don't know what has happened to my life over the last three months. Actually, I do know, in a piecemeal kind of way - I've moved back to Perth from Mount Gambier, where I've officially been living for the last four years, even though I've actually managed to spend a good deal of my time back in Perth, house-sitting. I'm still doing that, and because I had an almost full year of engagements--if you count the Swancon SF convention and a meditation retreat!--I am assured of accommodation. Thanks to a kind friend, I have a place to stay between engagements, so I decided to take the plunge by giving up my flat in Mount Gambier and taking myself back to Perth on the strength of little more than a wing and a prayer. I am now busily applying for various kinds of accommodation for next year, since public housing and retirement village rentals both have long waiting lists. Wish me luck!

Anyhow, moving house tends to take at least three weeks out of my life. I know this because I've done it so often - my current address is about my fortieth! There was, of course, the usual Christmas kerfuffle (I become a stauncher supporter of the Bah Humbug brigade every year) and also I was desperately trying to get the magnum opus revised in time to send it to an agent who was kind enough to express interest in it last year. This agency only opens its books a couple of times a year and I was most disgruntled at having to pass up that window of opportunity. But with everything else that has been going on, the magnum opus has had to sit on the backburner much of the time, and I've been feeling very depressed as a result. A writer who has no time to write is a sorry creature indeed.

Yet as soon as I got back to Perth, the editing diary suddenly started to fill, which gives me confidence that I have done the right thing. Isn't it funny how when a thing is "right", we know it, because things start to flow along freely.

Another bit of busy-ness is, of course, The Specusphere. This year we are reverting to a rolling system of publication. Instead of putting an issue to bed on the first Sunday of each even-numbered month, we are going to put up reviews and articles as they come in. You can see the last formally dated edition here - just click on the cover for a list of contents. There are ten new reviews, thanks to our doughty team of reviewers, and we shall add more over the coming months as they come to hand. Here are the newly harvested ones:

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, reviewed by Bobbi Sinha-Morey
Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis, reviewed by Satima Flavell
Chains of Ice by Christina Dodd, reviewed by Bobbi Sinha-Morey
Taken By Midnight by Lara Adrian, reviewed by Bobbi Sinha-Moery
The Alchemist in the Shadows by Pierre Pevel, reviewed by Astrid Cooper
The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi, reviewed by Ian Banks
The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell, reviewed by Katherine Petersen
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, reviewed by Ian Banks
Tymon’s Flight by Mary Victoria, reviewed by Carol Ryles
Wolfborn by Sue Burstynski, reviewed by Katherine Petersen

And if you're a writer who loves myths and legends, be sure to click through to our submission guidelines, too. We are planning an anthology of speculative fiction stories and poems based on old tales. We have a few very good submissions so far but we're also receiving a lot of material that isn't suitable, one way or the other. Rather than change the ethos of the anthology, we're going to hold off publication until we get our ten or fifteen really great stories that owe their inspiration directly to a myth, a legend or a folktale. Please write one for us!
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