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Read, Write, Dance

Read, Write, Dance . Those three words could almost be my epitaph. Certainly (bearing and rearing children aside) they are the three activi...

About Me

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

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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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Meet one of my characters


I've written a post about one of my nastiest characters as a guest on Joanna Fay's blog:
http://joannafay.me/2013/04/24/character-column-meet-satima-flavell-and-nustofer/ 

Booze is not Nustofer's greatest weakness, but this 13th century picture from Wikimedia Commons sums up his sneaky character very well!

Thanks to Joanna for inviting me to guest on her blog. You can find info on Joanna and her books  there, too - her second one, Reunion, has recently been published by Musa.
Sunday, 14 April 2013

Book review: Eagle of the East by LS Lawrence

Eagle of the East
Eagle of the East by LS Lawrence

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This review first appeared on the now defunct site The Specusphere in July 2007.

L.S. Lawrence is a nom de plume for one of Aussie fandom's best regarded medieval historians, whose earlier work in the realm of YA fantasy will be familiar to most Speculative Fiction buffs in this country. Out of respect for the wishes of his agent and publisher, his name has been held back from this review. He is, of course, in good company: several other writers use different names for different genres. One who comes to mind is Stateside romance and specfic author Jayne Ann Krentz, who writes under no fewer than seven discrete names!

Based on an intriguing historical vignette, Eagle of the East speculates on the destiny of 10,000 Roman prisoners, who, according to Pliny, were commandeered by the victors to protect the eastern frontier of the Parthian Empire after Crassus's ill-fated expedition in 53 BC. These prisoners, apparently serving as mercenaries, would probably have met the conquering Han Chinese, thus becoming, perhaps, the first westerners to meet people of Chinese ethnicity. From this sketchy episode, Lawrence has developed a richly imagined tapestry of the meeting of three peoples: the Romans, the Parthians and the nomadic tribes of the Central Asian Steppes.

Eagle of the East is largely a coming-of-age novel in which Ardavan, a boy with no father, nevertheless finds his place in the world. Told from the point-of-view of a half-Roman youth of Parthia, the story weaves together themes of jealousy, suspicion, mistrust and murder, giving plenty of opportunity for sword-fighting scenes as well as episodes from the rough-and-tumble life of an army on the march.

While spec-fic fans will miss the magical element that characterized this author's earlier works, young men from eleven to eleventy-one will enjoy Ardavan's adventures. Right from the first chapter, when the youngster defeats a much bigger opponent by squeezing his testicles, we are right in the thick of a world where sharp eyes and ears, together with well-practised self defence skills, are pre-requisites for survival. Along the way, we experience with Ardavan the essentials of Roman fighting techniques, taste the elegant precision of Parthian archery and become embroiled in political and military manoeuvrings and skulduggery.

So many excellent books have been written for young women in recent years that it is a refreshing change to read such a boldly masculine story. Not that the book entirely lacks feminine interest, for the nomadic warrior chieftain Shara will quickly win the heart of any girl who yearns for heroines who are not the usual run-of-the-mill princesses and slave girls so beloved of spec-fic and hist-fic writers. Shara can shoot arrows from horseback faster than I can eat cashew nuts – and that without reins or stirrups. And she gets her man in the end, too, although it must be admitted that romance is only a peripheral element of this unashamedly blokey book.

My only grizzle is that in places I would have liked more dialogue. The narrative is excellent and always in character, but even in the heat of a fight, surely the antagonists would engage in a little light conversation about each other's ancestry and personal habits?

Lawrence has written a story in the tradition of such luminaries of the genre as Rosemary Sutcliff and Mary Stewart. His work, however, is fresh and exciting, being presented in a way that will appeal to today's more streetwise youngsters. Don't tell, them for heaven's sake, that they will be unable to avoid learning a bit of history at the same time. Who knows? Some young men might even find they like it and look for more. Let's hope Lawrence's fertile imagination will come up with a sequel. I, for one, would love to speculate on what those Romans did when they settled in Han country!


View all my Goodreads reviews
Sunday, 7 April 2013

Book review - Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie


This is another review that first appeared on the late lamented Specusphere, this one in cahoots with my old crit buddy Ian Banks - not the Scottish one, the Western Australian one who only has one i.


Best Served Cold takes place a few years after Abercrombie’s breakout trilogy, The First Law. It involves a few subsidiary characters and features one or two memorable cameos from people we got to know in that series, but it is a stand-alone volume.

It is the story of Monza Murcatto, a mercenary captain who has schemed her way to the top of her profession and into the confidences of her employer, Duke Orso, who has been using her to expand his interests. Unfortunately, though, she appears to be too popular with the masses for Orso, so he arranges to have her and her brother murdered. Monza survives the murder attempt and plots avenge her brother’s death by killing all the men who took part.
She begins by recruiting agents to her cause and assembles a wild bunch indeed. There’s the disaffected Northman, Caul Shivers, who just wants to be better than he is; Friendly, the convict savant who loves numbers; Morveer the poisoner and his assistant, Day; and several other colourful and well-drawn characters.

The story doesn’t follow the epic pattern established in The First Law but plays out more like a western, with Monza assembling her team, seeking out information, uncovering a wider scheme in which her revenge is only one factor in a greater fight, and then building to a bloody and unbelievable climax in which it seems that she may have taken on a job that even her ruthless nature cannot stomach.

This is great read: it sprawls across countries and cultures, with memorable characters and some great scenes and, as expected with Abercrombie, fantastic dialogue. He also raises a lot of questions about the nature of revenge and of nobility which make this quite a meaty story. In many ways it’s an easier read than the First Law Trilogy, because there in only one plot and one set of characters who interact in various ways as they swap allegiance or interact with minor characters.

All this more than makes up for the shortcomings of this novel, such as they are. Fans of The First Law will enjoy meeting some old friends and revisiting some places around the Circle and Azure Seas. Mention is made of the greater, shadowy conflict that served as the basis for the denouement of that earlier series, but newcomers may find it all a little confusing when the story delves into that realm if they haven’t either read the earlier books. Also, some of the scenes seem a little too over-the-top when you play them on the large-screen television inside your skull. There is one in which the team has to cross from one tall building to another by hitching along by clinging under a rope with hands and feet. The resultant misadventures, both real and imagined, would make either a terrifying dark horror movie or a screamingly funny slapstick, depending on how it was played. 

Abercrombie has also, perhaps, gone overboard with the sex, violence and bad language: more than one reader has given up on Best Served Cold because of these. In the earlier trilogy these elements fitted seamlessly into the plot: in this book they sometimes appear gratuitous. It could well be, also, that some readers will be annoyed by the little tricks Abercrombie plays, especially in the last third of the book. He leads us to believe certain things are happening or have happened, and then a few chapters later more or less says 'Hah! Fooled you!'

But these are small flaws when put against what is on offer here: a revenge thriller with great characters and snarky dialogue. If you enjoyed Abercrombie’s earlier books, you will find much to savour here. If you’ve also enjoyed The Good, the Bad And the Ugly and any kind of vengeance story in which the payoff may be more than the characters are willing to come at, you will have a ball with this.

Book review - Arrows of Time by Kim Falconer

Arrows of Time (Quantum Enchantment, #2)Arrows of Time by Kim Falconer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Another of my reviews that first appeared in the now-defunct webzine, The Specusphere, this one in September 2009.

In Arrows of Time, Kim Falconer continues her story of the many-worlds, which she started in The Spell of Rosette. She uses it to explore three concepts of time – forward, backward and circular. These ideas have been discussed by thinkers religious and philosophical since time immemorial, and in recent times have come to be discussed by physicists, too.

Time is, of course, a toy much loved by speculative authors. Ideas of time travel, parallel worlds and so on can be found in the works of authors as disparate as JB Priestley and Richard Carpenter, not to mention the plethora of more overtly spec-fic writers from HG Wells onward. Its permutations are legion; its possibilities, endless. This won't be the last time-based story you will read and I’ll bet it's not the first, either, unless you’re very new to the genre.

Falconer has an interesting twist to her use of the time-toy. Rosette and Jarrod find themselves in separate time-streams. Rosette is caught up in a seemingly endless time loop and Jarrod, it seems is lost altogether. Rosette looks to alternative futures for help.

The reader, however, is not shown exactly what is going on. We do not recognise Rosette when she first resurfaces, and nor are we privy to the actions of several other characters. This makes for an interesting, if somewhat confusing, read. Generally, I prefer books in which I am allowed to follow the main characters’ doings in temporal sequence and to know their thoughts and feelings, and I find more circuitous means of story telling somewhat distancing. But these characters have their own charm, and as in The Spell of Rosette, I was entranced by the Lupins and the Temple Cats as much as the human characters. If 'science fantasy' is your thing, and you love a good time-travel story, you will find Arrows of Time a great read, more especially so if you also have in interest in New Age religions and philosophies.

View all my Goodreads reviews
Friday, 5 April 2013

Book review: Rayessa and the Space Pirates by Donna Maree Hanson

Rayessa and the Space PiratesRayessa and the Space Pirates by Donna Maree Hanson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A romp though space with a pair of adventurous teenagers. Ideal light romance for the 12+ age group. A version of the following review first appeared in the now defunct webzine, The Specusphere, in February 2013.

With this charming novella for young adults, Canberran author Donna Maree Hanson takes her first step into longer-length publishing. She already has a good handful or two of short stories under her belt, and she won respect and acclaim from fandom with her Australian Speculative Fiction: A Genre Overview.

Escape Publishing is a new imprint (should we call it an imprint when its product is entirely digital?) from Harlequin, purveyors of fine romances for many years. They are obviously keen to move with the times and to suss out exactly what readers want. Whether you’re after romantic suspense, historical romance, GLB romance, erotica, fantasy or sci-fi romance, you will be sure to find something to your taste at the Escape shop. What’s more, they are not frightened to publish e-books of any length from short stories to fat fantasies – and for all ages from 12 upwards! Search their website and you’re sure to find something to suit your taste.

Rayessa and the Space Pirates is light and frothy fare: an easy read and very suitable for the younger end of the target age group. Girls 12-15 will love this one, and older readers will find it entertaining, too, although they will question the credibility of some of the situations. It would be unfair to reveal these because they will inevitably result in spoilers, but I must say that I, as an adult reader, kept thinking, ‘Hey, wait a minute – that can’t be right!’ I don’t think the little solecisms will bother the younger readers, though.

This is one of the earliest books released by Escape, and it was done in something of a hurry. Unfortunately for Rayessa and the Space Pirates this shows up in an apparent dearth of copy-editing. I noticed several typos and even one or two misused words. This is a shame, and I hope Escape will lift their game now the rush of getting the imprint up and running is over.

Congratulations to Donna Maree Hanson. May Rayessa be the first of many romantic heroines to spring from Donna’s keyboard into publication!

View all my Goodreads reviews
Thursday, 4 April 2013

Book review - Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan

The Brides of Rollrock IslandThe Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This lovely book (alternative title Sea Hearts if you live outside the USA) captures snapshots of well-drawn characters in typical Lanagan style. If you love selkies, mermaids and tales of the sea, this could well be a book for your shelves!

I did not love it quite as much as Tender Morsels (if we could give half stars on Goodreads this one would be three-and-a-half) as I felt the construction precluded any real denouement - the story follows several different protagonists through three generations, and their stories aren't really drawn together in a truly meaningful way. The plot is a slight one - sea people come, sea people stay awhile, sea people go. I am not a fan of several generations being crammed into one book, since no character is there throughout. I find that creates a feeling of something being out-of-joint. However, other readers may not mind that at all.

Nit-picks apart, Sea Hearts is an enjoyable read that arouses sympathy for the characters and the difficult situations they find themselves in due to the deliberate scheming of Misskaella, an unhappy woman with witchy powers. We can never quite like her, but we can see what misery made her into the person she became - and we can see the kind of ongoing disruption that can be caused in a small community by one bitter soul such as Misskaella.

This would make a great book-club read as it seems to arouse strong feelings in its readers. As many people are averse to it as are its devotees, so some interesting, if not heated, discussions are likely!

View all my Goodreads reviews
Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Another Easter, another Swancon


Easter in Perth means Swancon, Western Australia's state Science Fiction convention, has rolled around again. This year marked the 38th convention. The oldest SF convention in Australia, it was founded by Grant Stone, who has since become one of this country's top pop-culture gurus.

It is ten years since I first attended a Swancon, and in that time I've been to some seven or eight of them, and I've never failed to enjoy myself immensely. However, they do vary greatly in focus, and therefore, to some extent, in content.


There is almost always at least one Guest of Honour from overseas. This year it was author Charles Stross from the UK. His books are numerous and varied, and only yesterday he revealed on his blog that he is expanding into film-making.

Stross is a man of unlimited imagination. His series The Laundry Files, for example, consists of science fiction spy thrillers about a field agent working for British government agency 'the Laundry', which deals with occult threats, while The Merchant Princes is an alternate history series in which some humans have an ability to travel between parallel Earths. However, his works can all be categorised as either hard SF or Space Opera that sometimes borders on Fantasy.

Australian author John Birmingham was also a Guest of Honour.  Birmingham is best known, of course, for his first book, He Died with a Felafel in his Hand, which has since been turned into a play, film and a graphic novel. A sequel, The Tasmanian Babes Fiasco was turned into a play that went on to become the longest running stage play in Australian history.

For SF fans, however, Birmingham is best known for his Axis of Time Trilogy, an alternative history of WWII. More recently, he has produced another series, starting with Without Warning, set in an alternative world in which most of the population of America has disappeared on the eve of international war.  There have been two follow-up books - After America and Angels of Vengeance. Further books in the series will be released electronically by Momentum.

Other works by John Birmingham include a crime novel The Search for Savage Henry, and How To Be A Man, a semi-humorous guide to contemporary Australian masculinity. Nothing if not versatile, Birmingham spent four years researching the history of Sydney for Leviathan: the unauthorised biography of Sydney which won Australia's National Prize for Non-Fiction in 2002.

Birmingham gave one of the most entertaining GOH speeches I have ever heard. In the persona of a street-wise journalist blended with an old hippie put out to grass (and I use that word deliberately) he had us in stitches for a good half hour, then in more stitches as he fielded questions from the floor. One thing's certain - if Birmingham tires of writing he has a future in stand-up comedy. I suspect the hippie journo is just one facet of a complex and fascinating personality, which explains the enormous variety of his oeuvre.

Other guests included comics writer Gail Simone (I missed her panels, unfortunately) and Melbourne based author, editor and critic Lucy Sussex, whom I heard in a most enjoyable panel on Urban Fantasy with Charles Stross, Helen Duffill and Katherine Mc Farlane. Fan GOH's were my friends John and Sarah Parker, who have been active in fandom for almost as long as anyone can remember!

I must admit that as one whose interests lie in reading, writing, editing and reviewing, I was a tad disappointed  that there were no literary or academic streams in this Swancon. It was quite deliberately aimed at fandom, and while I and some other writerly types might have missed out, the convention brought in a younger crowd, some of whom, I suspect, might have come to fandom via the extremely popular commercial conventions run by Supernova. This can only be a good thing, since one of the big discussion points in SF circles in recent years has been the ageing of fandom generally. While there were few panels or talks of interest to writers, one that did impress me consisted of a group of young people discussing Young Adult spec-fic literature. They revealed themselves to be knowledgeable and discriminating (no Twilight fans here!) in the way they described how SF had helped them learn about the world and their places in it. I left the panel wondering if I had just heard the voices of tomorrow's writers.

I missed out on a Tin Duck, but was delighted that several of my friends were recipients. The winners included Adrian Bedford, Juliet Marillier, Sarah Lee Parker, Liz Grzyb, Talie Helene and Elaine Kemp. I was delighted, too, that my friend and fellow writer Sue Isle, who received a Tin Duck last year for her lovely YA book Nightsiders, gained her 33 years award for attendance at Swancon.

Congratulations to ringleaders Tom Eitelhuber, Andrew Sharp and their team for another fun-filled convention! Despite my aforementioned disappointment, I enjoyed the con a lot. As usual, it was a great opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues. What's more, I left mollified by assurances from the convenors for 2014 and 2015 that the literary and academic streams would be reinstated at least for the next two Swancons!

PS. I should point out that the weekend did not entirely lack opportunities for professional development - time spent in the bar chatting with colleagues carries Brownie points, too! :-)

PPS. You can see the Tin Duck winners and shortlistees at
 http://wiki.sf.org.au/Tin_Duck_Award#2013

I feel really chuffed to see my name up there alongside those of so many gifted and hard-working people!

Picture credit: By Donell w (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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