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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

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Versatile Blogger Award

Versatile Blogger Award
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Fabulous Blog Award
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Monday, 28 December 2015

Message for blog followers from Google



The following info comes via Michael Goddard, Software Engineer for Google:


In 2011, Google announced the retirement of Google Friend Connect for all non-Blogger sites. They made an exception for Blogger, to give readers an easy way to follow blogs using a variety of accounts. However, over time, they’ve seen that most people sign into Friend Connect with a Google Account. So, in an effort to streamline, in the next few weeks Google will be making some changes that will eventually require readers to have a Google Account to sign into Friend Connect and follow blogs.

As part of this plan, starting the week of January 11, Google will remove the ability for people with Twitter, Yahoo, Orkut or other OpenId providers to sign in to Google Friend Connect and follow blogs.

So if you don't have a Blogger account, now is the time to set one up! It's quite painless, I promise you!


Friday, 11 December 2015

A very busy day



In fact, it's been a very busy week! The weeks that lead up to Christmas are invariably busy for nearly everyone, so I don't expect the busyness to ease up for another fortnight. I've also had an influx of editing work lately. I've had to tell people that I'll try to get onto the work between Christmas and New Year, but let's face it - some might not get tackled until January.


Busy-ness abounds from all directions. Last Sunday, for example, was the annual Open Day at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre (aka KSP) in Greenmount, a suburb that is almost a sleepy country village about a forty-minute drive from my place. Seeing as I don't drive, it's actually a one-and-a--half hour trip by bus-train-train-bus. If I lived closer I would spend more time there, since it is, in a sense, one of the cradles that rocked my writing ability. They have great workshops and talks from local and visiting writers, and several competitions every year that attract entries from all over Australia.


One event for the Open Day was the presentation of prizes for the poetry competition. My good friend Jo Mills was one of those shortlisted for the poetry competition, so early in the morning I girded my loins (I always gird my loins before leaving the house) and headed for the hills. KSP was packed with visitors. There were also interesting talks about the Centre and about Katharine and her family, and plenty of people to catch up with and new acquaintances to make.


The busiest day of the week, however, was yesterday. After an early chiropractic appointment, I hastened into Perth. It’s a bit hard to hasten a journey dependent on a bus arriving on time to meet a train. It didn’t, but thank heaven the next train was only a few minutes away. I arrived at my usual Thursday destination – the Citizens Centre on Perth Railway concourse, where our belly dancing class was gathered for its annual party. It was a happy-sad event, because our teacher of many years standing, Ayesha Watson, is retiring. I had promised to perform, but silly daft me hadn’t brought music. Thanks be to heaven for the resourcefulness of Lissa, our teacher–to-be, who just happened to have a version of the tune I wanted on her phone. I got up there and jigged about for five minutes, and no one actually booed so I guess I must’ve done OK! Anyhow, we all had a great time and went away full of food and champagne.


Then last night, joy oh joy! My dear son Bruce (please note that they are all dear, all four of them, and I have a dear daughter as well) took me to see
Florence-Leroux-Coléno-and-Dancers-of-West-Australian-Ballet-in-Cinderella.-Photo-by-Emma-Fishwick


the WA Ballet performing Cinderella, choreographed to the Prokofiev score by Jayne Smeulders. It was a simply lovely performance, and the score was beautifully executed by the WA Symphony Orchestra. I was deeply touched by Bruce’s generosity because, like all my children, he had to take ballet classes as a child whether he liked it or not, otherwise I would have had to pay for childcare! None of them was especially keen on ballet, and as far as I know, attending performances is not generally among their hobbies. However, all of them except Bruce have artistic interests: the eldest plays guitar and sings; the second also loves music and used to sing with a band; the third is a sound guy and a very competent heavy metal guitarist, and the youngest is also a sound guy – and a dance photographer as well. I am much blessed in my children and grandchildren.


So yesterday was a busy, but very happy-making day. May we all have many more such days this holiday season!



Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Complaints from a dilettante.


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

Why do I have so many 'friends'? It's because I love too many things. I love ballet. I love belly dance.  I love Yoga. I love fantasy. I love history. I love reading, writing, reviewing and editing. I love genealogy. I love music. I love poetry. I love Shakespeare. I love animals. I love environmental and political concerns. (On those and related issues, I'm an armchair activist!)  I love hanging out with friends, solving the world's problems over coffee - and like the rest of Facebook, I love pictures of, and stories about, animals. I reckon there must be more pictures of cats than of humans in the Facebook world. 

Some friends I have only 'met' online, and many I only see at conventions and conferences. Some are old friends from days of yore, many are my relatives. Some I see regularly in meetings, classes and workshops: others I have never met in the flesh and am never likely to do so.

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

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

Many thanks to Mr Zuckerberg and his friends for their wonderful invention!
Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Recent reading in fiction



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

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

 

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

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


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

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


Sunday, 25 October 2015

A little giveaway




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



Sampler for Kindle readers
 

Sampler for epub readers

Sampler for .pdf readers 



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

Happy reading, friends!
Saturday, 10 October 2015

Book review: The Shattered Sea trilogy by Joe Abercrombie




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

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

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

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

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

Travel and Triage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buddhists confer #2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whew! Congrats to any non-Buddhists who've made it through to the end!
Monday, 24 August 2015

Sci-Fi and the Buddha dhamma





Let’s get back to the Global Buddhist Conference, held in Perth over the second weekend in August.  As promised, here is my take on the final panel of Day One.

It was a Lulu of a panel, especially for a conference concerned primarily with matters spiritual! To me, as a writer, it was the dhamma taught by means of science fiction. What is a cyborg?  When does science fiction become science fact? Where does the physical stop and the spiritual start? Where does humanity stop and technology start? Where does imagination stop and reality start? 

As the opening speaker on this panel, Bhante Sujato, reminded us ‘Jedi Knight is just a subset of Buddhism’. The Jedi Knights, of course, are characters in the Star Wars movies, and the concept of Jedi as a religion was probably seized upon first by people who resented the census question on religious preference. The idea took off: at last count, over 60,000 people in Australia chose to state ‘Jedi Knight’ as their religion in the census. Jedi-as-faith took off in other countries, notably Canada and especially New Zealand, where, if census figures are to be believed, it was the second largest religion in 2001! Where does sci fi stop and religion start? It will be interesting to see what the numbers are in next year’s Aussie census!

Can we bring science and wisdom together to create the future? Neil Harbison, a real live cyborg, suggests we can. He was born with vision that only recognises grayscale: he cannot see colours at all. As he explains with a rueful smile, to him, France, Italy and Canada all have the same flag!

A musician as well as an artist, Harbison persuaded a surgeon to set him up with an antenna that would enable him to ‘hear’ colours. The antenna sprouts from within his occipital bone and is now a permanent part of his anatomy. He can now ‘hear’ colours of all kinds, and can compose music just by observing the world around him. Red comes out as the musical note F, blue is heard as C sharp. He can even hear ultraviolet and infrared. And he can ‘listen’ to people’s faces!

The next speaker, Stelarc, is an artist with an interest in science, especially in regard to the human form. He performs with mechanical and electronic devices that through external stimuli program repetitive movements. Having seen Stelarc perform before, I knew what to expect. It is quite eerie. Through movement, he can activate a model of his head, complete with vocals. He looks forward to the day when it will be possible to replace an ailing heart with one that works by the same method and doesn’t even need to beat. Only a man who has had himself strung up by metal hooks though his back and has a cartilage ‘ear’ implanted in his arm could have that kind of imagination.

GuyBen-Ary, Artist-in-residence at the Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts at the University of Western Australia, was the next speaker. Most of what he said was beyond my comprehension, but I understand that he does really strange things such as growing his own cells in a petrie dish then connects it to a synthesiser to create abstract-sounding jazz. Check out his website to learn more.

Damith Herath obtained his Ph.D. in robotics from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Autonomous Systems (CAS) at the University of Technology, Sydney, having earlier completed his BSc Eng (Hons) degree in production engineering from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. He has worked as a researcher, academic and consultant in fields related to Robotics, Automation and Manufacturing (and Robotic Art).

What does intelligence mean in regard to machines? Date and power do not add up to sentience or consciousness, Herath says, and we are a long way off being able to create truly intelligent machines. Perhaps it is actually impossible. But who knows? It has long been realised that SF anticipates science and always has, ever since the days of HG Wells and Jules Verne. In response to a question from the floor on the wisdom or otherwise of taxpayers’ money being spent on the arts, Herath assured us that Intel employs a writer to create sci-fi stories for the company’s engineers to turn into reality.

Overall, this was, to a speculative fiction writer, the most intriguing panel of the conference. It left me wondering, ‘Where does spec-fic stop and the dhamma start?’ 

Next time, I'll write about day two of the Global Buddhist Conference.



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