About Me

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

My books

The first two books of my trilogy, The Talismans, (The Dagger of Dresnia, and book two, The Cloak of Challiver) are available in e-book format from Smashwords, Amazon and other online sellers. Book three of the trilogy, The Seer of Syland, is in preparation.I also have a short story, 'La Belle Dame', in print - see Mythic Resonance below - as well as well as a few poems in various places. The best way to contact me is via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/satimaflavell

Buy The Talismans

The first two books of The Talismans trilogy were published by Satalyte Publications, which, sadly, has gone out of business. However, The Dagger of Dresnia and The Cloak of Challiver are available as ebooks on the usual book-selling websites, and book three, The Seer of Syland, is in preparation. The easiest way to contact me is via Facebook.

The Dagger of Dresnia

The Dagger of Dresnia

The Cloak of Challiver, Book two of The Talismans

The Cloak of Challiver, Book two of The Talismans
Available as an e-book on Amazon and other online booksellers.

Mythic Resonance

Mythic Resonance

Mythic Resonance is an excellent anthology that includes my short story 'La Belle Dame', together with great stories from Alan Baxter, Donna Maree Hanson, Sue Burstynski, Nike Sulway and nine more fantastic authors! Just $US3.99 from Amazon. Got a Kindle? Check out Mythic Resonance.

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Places I've lived: Manchester, UK

Places I've lived: Manchester, UK

Places I've lived: Gippsland, Australia

Places I've lived: Gippsland, Australia

Places I've lived: Geelong, Australia

Places I've lived: Geelong,  Australia

Places I've lived: Tamworth, NSW

Places I've lived: Tamworth, NSW

Places I've Lived - Sydney

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

Places I've lived: Auckland, NZ

Places I've lived: Auckland, NZ

Places I've Lived: Mount Gambier

Places I've Lived: Mount Gambier
Blue Lake

Places I've lived: Adelaide, SA

Places I've lived: Adelaide, SA

Places I've Lived: Perth by Day

Places I've Lived: Perth by Day
From Kings Park

Places I've lived: High View, WV

Places I've lived: High View, WV

Places I've lived: Lynton, Devon, UK

Places I've lived: Lynton, Devon, UK

Places I've lived: Braemar, Scotland

Places I've lived: Braemar, Scotland

Places I've lived: Barre, MA, USA

Places I've lived: Barre, MA, USA

Places I've Lived: Perth by Night

Places I've Lived: Perth by Night
From Kings Park

Inner Peace Blog

Inner Peace Blog
Awarded by Joanna Fay. Click on the image to visit her lovely website!

Versatile Blogger Award

Versatile Blogger Award
Awarded by Kim Falconer. Click on the pic to check out her Quantum Astrology blog!

Fabulous Blog Award

Fabulous Blog Award
Awarded by Kathryn Warner. Click on the pic to check out her Edward II blog!

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Sunday, 30 September 2007

New Books - and more on Writer's Block

Well, I'm sorry to report that I’m still not back with the WIP (of which more later) but OTOH I'm delighted to tell you about a super new book by one of my favourite authors, Juliet Marillier. Cybele's Secret is another Young Adult book, following on from Juliet's earlier offering, Wildwood Dancing. I have a real weakness for good YA books and this is the second one I've fallen in love with this year. The first was L.S. Lawrence's Eagle of the East, which I also reviewed for The Specusphere. You can follow the links at left to read my critiques, and if they appeal, hie thee down to thy local bookseller and ask for them to be ordered if they aren't in stock. If you love good historical fantasy you won't want to miss either of these.

OK, back to the WIP. Or rather, back to discussion of Writer's Block, the reason for not wipping this fortnight past. After last week's post, I had e-mails and comments from several writing buddies and I'm sure they won't mind my passing their suggestions along.

Carol Ryles says:
Personally I like to go for a walk and listen to one of my audio books downloaded on my iPod. Before I got the iPod I used to listen to cassette tapes borrowed from the local library on my walkman. It's nice to listen to prose rather than read it. It enters your mind through a sense we under use when reading and writing. Already our eyes our tired from reading, our sense of touch filled up from typing, and all the while, we've been closing our ears to outside sounds, trying to concentrate. Therefore, when walking I can use other senses: the smell of fresh air and the sound of prose in my ears. My mind takes it all in and quite often a spoken phrase or paragraphs connects with something I've been trying to write and inspires me to try again.

Carol also recommended two excellent web sites:
Exercises for Writer's Block
St Cloud State College Literacy Education
Each offers helpful tips, some of which echo those given here and others that range from the quick fix for temporary blocks to serious long-term projects for the hard cases.

Joel Fagin says:
If it's a case of not wanting to write what you need to write, then I'd say: don't. Write something that's purely fun just for you and come back to the thing you don't want to do after a bit of a break.

Sonia Helbig says:
I've learned three tricks which help me when I'm stuck.
(i) Write out the crap (be prepared to write whatever comes out, be non-judgemental about it, in fact expect it to be crap which gets rid of my nasty editor that perches on my shoulder).
(ii) Believe that I often will have to write my way into the story (keep writing, keep the hands moving, and eventually something useful will appear on the page)
(iii) Have fun (if I'm not having fun, why will my reader)

Over the course of this week, I've actually come to the conclusion that the reason I can't get on with the WIP is that I'm not happy with the way I'm presenting the main character. Several critters have commented that she seems "too nice", lacking depth, even uninteresting. I want to get across what I see as her greatest strengths - her ability to withstand stress without getting riled and her way of treating people, even servants, with humanity and respect. I want her to come across as a decent woman who takes on more than she can cope with when she enters into a pact with an otherworldly being and finds she has to pay the piper. Her biggest fault is her tendency to push unpleasant things aside and when she has to confront sheer nastiness she tends to dither. She's always been the nice lady who helps and counsels people, which apparently comes across as shallow and boring. Problem: how do you write such a character without making her into a Mary Sue?

Any and all suggestions gratefully received!
Sunday, 23 September 2007

Writers' Block - the dreaded malady

I'm at the dreaded two-thirds mark of my WIP and find myself stuck. There is no reason why I should be stuck—I have what looks like a workable outline and I'm reasonably happy with the first two thirds, at least for a first draft—but somehow I can't seem to motivate myself to write the last third.

I've struck this blocking point before and I've read of it happening to others, too. I've spent hours in self analysis. Am I really happy with the outline? Am I scared to finish the novel? Is the room too hot? Too cold? Do I need more vitamins? More chocolate, maybe? Or do I just need a swift kick in the pants?

I wish I knew. If you have any cures for this malady (other than an 18 month break, which is how long it took me to get back to my first novel after the same blocking point!) do please share it with me.
Sunday, 16 September 2007

Another test to try

Here's a meme that's doing the rounds (I got it from Simon Haynes who had it from Anysia.) I've blogged my weakness for doing tests before - I've even signed up for Hey Cupid (and Cupid is the last deity I want to notice me, thank you!) because of the entertaining range of tests the site offers.

This one, however, is a bit more serious in intent, albeit good fun to do. Go to Career Cruising and sign in with the username: nycareers and the password: landmark. Take their "Career Matchmaker" questionnaire.

What did they come up with for you?

My results, obtained after three rounds of questions, demonstrated yet again that the things I like and am good at don't make any money – unless you're very, very good and very, very fortunate. My top three? Ha! Historian, Anthropologist and Writer.

If all the people with MAs or PhDs in history or anthrop had jobs in academia those departments would have ten or twenty or a hundred times the number of staff. As it is, such graduates can be found in working in offices and factories; as bus drivers, mail deliverers and in all sorts of other jobs that are, by and large, quite uncongenial to their personalities. Of course, with another year or two of training they can become teachers or librarians, but I'm sure if they'd wanted to be teachers or librarians they wouldn't have signed on for a higher degree in the first place. It's a sad fact that a higher degree in the Humanities only sets you up to be an academic. If you can't get an academic job you have to do something else altogether.

With writing, it's just as hard. A degree in creative writing will not guarantee you publication. Nor will many years of starving in a garret while you learn the craft of putting stories together. Here again, there are only so many books published in any given year and there are so many good writers about that it really does boil down to luck when it comes to attaining that elusive goal – getting published. And sadly, the performing arts are just as bad or worse.

My list of 40 possible occupations included lots of things that I've had to do in the many and varied jobs I've had, such as ESL teacher (#9) Critic (#11) Researcher (#16) Technical Writer (#20) Archivist (#32) Dancer (#35) and Print Journalist (#40). I've only incidentally taught in scho0ls (teaching crops up again and again on the list in various guises) but I taught dance for over 20 years and in the process had to be a Special Effects Technician (#13) Casting Director (#30) and something of a comedian (#6). In days long past, I trained as an Actor (#7) and a Musician (#21). I even have some training towards being a Foreign Language Instructor (#15). Mind you, there are a few things on the list (#5 Political Aide, #18 Artist or #23 Criminologist) that I can't picture myself doing under any circumstances but by and large Career Matchmaker is as good a vocational guidance test as I've ever done. It showed me yet again that like many people whose gifts lie in the Arts and Humanities, I'm a jack-of-all-trades. I take consolation from the fact that most published writers have the same kind of story to tell.

Now, all I have to do is get a book or two finished and start taking tickets in that Publication Lottery!
Sunday, 9 September 2007

Favourite Modern Authors and Books

OK, friends - here are my favourite modern authors and their books. This is not the definitive list, you understand. It's a list of my current faves in the fantasy and historical genres. I won't put them in order because that varies day-by-day, let alone week-by-week or month-by-month! Instead they are in order of author, by surname. Top ten? Hah! This is my top 25 + ring-ins and even so I'll bet I've left someone out.

Here and there I've had to include a series 'cos I just can't separate them. These are very subjective opinions so don't take them as required reading. Your taste might be quite different – as might mine, next week!

Anthony, Piers: Cthon and Prostho Plus. I was at one time a serious PA fan and these are the two I remember enjoying the most. Two more different works from one author would be hard to find. I must check them out again some time in light of my now advanced years and superior wisdom:-)

Carey, Jacqueline: Kushiel's Dart. Her others in that trilogy are nearly as good, and it's possible that her new trilogy, starting with Kushiel's Scion, is just as good or better. What do you think?

De Camp, L. Sprague and Pratt, Fletcher: The Incompleat Enchanter and other, related works. These have a complicated publishing history and have appeared under a variety of titles. All are very funny, but they are a bit dated now.

De Pierres, Marianne: The Parrish Plessis books. Incredibly original cyberpunk fantasy. Not normally my kind of thing, but I loved these.

Gaiman, Neil: American Gods and Anansi Boys. I mean to read more Gaiman as I suspect I'd enjoy all his work, as I love anything with a mythological basis. These two obviously come out of sound scholarship in that field.

Haynes, Simon: The Hal Spacejock series. These are really, really funny!

Hearn, Lian: Tales of the Otori series. I'm looking forward to reading her new prequel, Heaven's Net Is Wide.

Hobb, Robin: The Farseer Trilogy. I've actually liked all of this author's work to date, but I hope she goes back to the world of these early novels soon.

Jerome K. Jerome: Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog!) and Willis, Connie: To Say Nothing of the Dog. I had to pair these because I bought them together and read them sequentially. The original was my favourite book when I was twelve and revisiting it with Connie Willis's take on it to follow was a delight.

Kay, Guy Gavriel: The Sarantine Mosaic (2 books). I love all this man's work, especially A Song for Arbonne, Tigana and The Lions of Al Rassan. My admiration for this writer, as with Carey, Luckett and Marillier, is based not just on his excellent plots and easy-flowing style but on his scholarship in the fields of history and linguistics.

Kerr, Katherine, Daggerspell. This was one of the best fantasies I'd ever read but sadly, I couldn't learn to love the sequel and haven't read any of her others. That's my failing, not Kerr's, and I shall try again some time.

Larke, Glenda: The Isles of Glory Trilogy and The Mirage Makers Trilogy. One of the most original writers on my shelf. The Shadow of Tyr, book two of Larke's second trilogy, is one of the best reads I've had in the last ten years.

LeGuin, Ursula K.: The Left Hand of Darkness is a strong contender for my very favouritest book of all. I also love her Earthsea books, which are officially YA but I don't let that bother me!

Lewis, Ada: Jenny. A sentimental fave from my teen years. Like others of that era, Lewis's work is a tad dated now. Nevertheless, I re-read this one every few years.

Luckett, Dave: The Tenebra Trilogy. (Officially YA, but see above!) Luckett is meticulously correct with his history and linguistics, even though his books are set on another world.

Marillier, Juliet: Wildwood Dancing. Another YA book. I love all this author's books but this is my top fave. Her three series, Sevenwaters, The Bridei Chronicles and the Saga of the Light Isles are also top-notch in my book. Like all good historical fantasy writers, Marillier does her research thoroughly and as with Carey, Kay and Luckett, we can be sure than her history and linguistics are up to scratch. Watch out for my review of her new YA one, Cybele's Secret, coming soon!

Martin, George R.R. A Song of Ice and Fire (series) I can't separate these, and in fact one should not because they are one long story, broken into instalments. One day it must end, I shall grieve…

McIntyre, Vonda N. Dreamsnake. This is the only thing I've read by this author, one of the most highly acclaimed of the last 30 years, but her fans assure me all her stuff comes up to the mark.

Miller, Karen: Kingmaker, Kingbreaker (duology). These are hard to beat for intrigue and adventure. Miller is just one of the many wonderful female fantasy writers Australia has produced in recent years. If I included them all this blog would fill the page.

Seton, Anya: Katherine. Not as historically accurate as a purist might like, but a good read and a sentimental favourite from early teen years. In those days I devoured Elizabeth Goudge as well but her work is hard to come by now and I didn't keep any of them, more's the pity. Mary Stewart and Rosemary Sutcliff date from that era as well.

Stewart, Mary: The Crystal Cave Another contender for top favourite. I found the others in the series good reads, too. Another meticulous writer, whose research is second to none.

Sutcliff, Rosemary, The Eagle of the Ninth (OK, what is it with me and YA books?)

White, T.H. The Once and Future King. A classic, and rightly so.

Woolley, Persia: Child of the Northern Spring. Unfortunately I didn't catch this author until her famous King Arthur trilogy was O.P. and now the books command ridiculous prices second hand, so I haven't read the others:-(

Wyndham, John: The Chrysalids. I have all Wyndham's books and read them again every few years, but this is my favourite.

Zelazny, Roger: Nine Princes in Amber et seq – at least up to book five, when I thought they started to fall off. Funny thing; I haven't really liked anything else of his.

So there you have it! Do we share any favourites? Please tell me yours!
Sunday, 2 September 2007

My Top Three

I intended to make a list of my top ten books for this blog, but when I started I realised that perhaps I should do my top ten authors, since in the Top Ten the same authors often appear more than once. Then I realised that my top ten authors would take up at least three posts so I cut it down to the Top Three. Anyway, my top ten books fluctuate month by month, and while in many cases the authors on them change only over decades, my Top Three, Shakespeare, Tolkien and Chaucer, never change.

That doesn't mean I read these guys regularly: in fact, in the case of Chaucer I'm too lazy to read the original language. And when it comes to Tolkien I liked the LOTR movies as much as the books. (Do I hear mutters of 'philistine' from among the ranks?)

Shakespeare, however, is different. I do read his works, preferably in a group and out loud. It's sad that many school children today find his language as difficult as I find Chaucer – but then, they find Tolkien as difficult as I found Dickens when I was young. Language changes and with modern technology it is changing faster and faster. The language-based arts, therefore, have become more ephemeral than ever.

Nevertheless, like many English speakers, I still admire William Shakespeare most of all. In my book, he was the best fantasy writer of all time - and he did it all with words. His plays were intended to be spoken on stage with minimal props and sets, so his words needed to stand alone without the help of the brilliant FX available to modern screenplay writers. He hardly ever came up with an original plot, either, but do we remember his sources today? Of course we don't. His contemporaries likewise plagiarised earlier writers and we don't remember them, either, until we study English lit at uni and are made to learn about them and their works:-)

And Shakespeare wasn't only the best fantasy writer but also the best poet. Not only are his plays are full of poetry but also his sonnets, read aloud, are perfect little monologues. He bridged the boundary between reading and performance better than anyone else I've read.

Tolkien I love not just for his stories and his influence on my beloved genre, but for the tremendous amount of background work he put into his writing. Anyone who invents a dozen or twenty languages, several of them in great detail, while holding down a day job deserves a medal and a pension. But his books are far richer because of this work and in my book he has set the mark for all fantasy writers after him. It is one of the things I harp on in my critiques. We can't all be Tolkien – in fact, we don't need to be – but if we are writing works set in another place and time language must be an important component. I recently mentioned in a critique that consistency in naming patterns and language generally can be a big help to the reader in sorting out who belongs to which race and fights on which side. Guy Gavriel Kay, a disciple of Tolkien, is the modern master of this discipline.

And Chaucer? I love him for his stories and his witty, wicked, compassionate understanding of human nature, but even more so because he is generally credited with being the first person to use the developing English language, rather than Norman French, as a medium for popular fiction. He is the twenty-somethingth great-grandfather of us all.

Several other writers almost make it – Defoe and Austen, for example, are probably four and five on my list, and if we look beyond the boundaries of our own language where do we stop? Dante, Horace, Goethe… Hey, I have to get ready to go out!
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