About Me

My photo
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.

Follow me on Twitter

Share a link on Twitter

My Blog List

Blog Archive

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!

Search This Blog

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Favourite Reads of 2008

Several of my blogging buddies are listing their favourite books for this year, and that always seems an appropriate thing to do at the end of December. So, in the order in which I read them, here are the books I loved best in 2008...

The Accidental Sorcerer by K.E. Mills. This is by Karen Miller's not-so-altered alter-ego, so you don't need to be told how good it is! Funny, frightening and fantastic, this one got K.E. Mills's Rogue Agent series off to a flying start.

The Last Realm: Dragonscarpe by Pat McNamara, Michal Dutkiewicz and Gary Turner. An utterly lovely fantasy coffee-table book, richly illustrated and decorated.

Escape by Sea by LS Lawrence. Another excellent YA historical adventure from this author, who under another hat is a fine SF writer.

Hal Spacejock: No Free Lunch by Simon Haynes. Just as funny as its predecessors and showing more character development. Another winner from Haynes.

The Two Pearls of Wisdom by Alison Goodman. A beautfully conceived and written tale set in an alternative-world far eastern country. We can hope for great things from this new author.

Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny. A new edition of the first five books in Zelazny's signature series. I needed no encouragement to read them again - for about the sixth time!

The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. Comprising The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged and The Last Argument of Kings, this has to be one of the best first trilogies to come out in years. Dark, bitter, cynical and incredibly entertaining, this set is on my keeper shelf for sure.

Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan. A quirky, different kind of fantasy set in Elizabethan London, well-researched and well worth reading.

The Siege of Arrandin by Marcus Herniman. This is the first of a trilogy and I'm still trying to track the others down. The world building in this book is amazing - lovingly detailed descriptions of sumptuous clothes and settings almost overpower the reader with their immediacy.

Time Machines Repaired While you Wait by K.A. Bedford. A new twist on an old trope: a murder mystery set in two times. This one has the distinction of being set in Perth, Western Australia - my favourite city:-)

Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier. At last - another Sevenwaters book! Just what so many Marillier fans have been waiting for! That is not to decry this fine author's other works - but there is something magical about the Sevenwaters world of medieval Ireland, and the books are a great introduction to Marillier's oeuvre.

Sword Song by Bernard Cornwell. A richly realised medieval setting from the creator of the Sharp series. Cornwell writes and researches impeccably, so his novels are always convincing.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. A mid-life story of a woman who did just as I did - packed her bags in middle age and went a-roaming in search of Life, The Universe and Everything. Any other dharma bums out there? You should read this. And if you've never gone dharma-bumming you should read it anyway, to see what you missed.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore. A truly original fantasy that includes favourite stock characters, thus giving the reader the comfort of familiarity while opening new doors. One of the best coming-of-age novels I've read in quite a while.

Hammer of God by Karen Miller. The third book in the Godspeaker trilogy, and perhaps the best. A very strong trilogy, this one. The first book, Empress of Mijak, shook many readers to the core - some were so horrified they did not want to read the others! - but when we read the other two, we can see why book one had to be so unremittingly dark. Be assured that if you got through the first book, the others will seem easy:-)

That's about half the books I've read this year, so I've been lucky. Not that the others were awful, but these are the ones that grabbed me and have stayed with me. Let's hope 2009 will bring even more excellent reading our way!

And to close, here's a progress report on Fenris the Furred, as Ru christened my son Kurt's new "baby". He's grown - and keeps on growing! (Fenris, BTW, is the name not only of the guard dog to the underworld in Norse mythology, but of the scariest fighter in print, found in The First Law trilogy - Fenris the Feared.) Here is the less scary version with my dinlaw Erinn.

I hope you all have a great New Year's Eve and a super year to follow. Roll on 2009!
Sunday, 28 December 2008

When a post is not a post

This is a post to apologise for not having posted. I have spent much of the day fighting with a set top box. I've finally realised that it has to go back to the shop and now I'm staggering to bed, exhausted.

I'll do a Real Post sometime during the week. Be well and happy meantime. And Happy New Year, in case I don't get back before then:-)
Sunday, 21 December 2008

Meditation - lifeskill extraordinaire

Oh my goodness, not only is it going to be Christmas in four days; it's also less than a fortnight until the next issue of The Specusphere goes live. I love the work I do for this great little zine, but the days before an issue comes out can be positively traumatic. There are reviews and articles to write, reviews to edit, pictures to find and contributors to hassle, and if it were not for the expertise of our webbie, Amanda Greenslade, I think I would chuck in the towel and make a run for the nearest tall edifice. Don't worry: there are no buildings in Mount Gambier tall enough to leap from and in any case I'm scared of heights, but you take my meaning. I get majorly stressed out.

Being prone to anxiety and depression, I've had to learn to deal with stress. Meditation and Yoga have been my saviours for about the last twenty years. I even lived in a Buddhist monastery in the States for a while, which is where I got the name of Satima. It means "mindful" and I thought it a bit of joke at first, because mindful I am not. Yet hearing others say the name is a constant reminder to work on keeping my mind in the present moment: to be aware of what's going on in the body-mind and in my environment, and now I prefer it to the name my parents gave me.

Now, I am not one for doing things by halves, and I know that joining a monastery will not appeal to everyone. Getting up at four in the morning and spending three hours in Yoga practice and meditation before breakfast isn't everyone's idea of how best to start the day. But meditation is not restricted to Buddhists or even to religious people generally, although all religions admit some form of it into their practices. Everyone, religious or not, can benefit from meditation. As little as ten minutes a day can help calm the body and mind, helping us to think more clearly and to regain equilibrium in times of stress. Because it has been such a life-saver for me, I love to pass on the skills to others, as I have been fortunate enough to have teaching from some wonderful people. I lived for almost two years in all at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts where I worked as Registrar while studying meditation under the wonderful teachers there. When I returned to Australia in 1998, I resumed my meditation studies with Eric Harrison at the Perth Meditation Centre, and when I left Perth he awarded me a teaching certificate, exhorting me to teach meditation here in Mount Gambier.

I finally had a chance to do just that last week, as my Yoga teacher asked me to conduct a workshop. Attendance was small but enthusiasm was great, and I came away feeling that I had done something worthwhile. I hope I have further opportunities to share my love of meditation with friends here and elsewhere. If you've never tried meditation, do give it a go. It's an incredibly valuable tool for peace of mind and self-knowledge.

I wish you all the joy of the season, whatever that means to you - Christmas, Hannukah, Solstice (summer or winter!) or just the joy of spending time with family and friends.

May we all be well and happy.
Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Fire breathing robot dogs!

Science fiction has long been noted for its ability to predict, sometimes with uncanny accuracy, things that will come into being in future years. Recently, though, technology has been catching up - it's very hard for writers to stay ahead of inventors, so fast are things changing.

This was brought home to me very personally yesterday. Over at LinkedIn, members of that network's science fiction group, including yours truly and e-buddy Dave Dunn, have started a "never ending story board". You might've done something similar; one person starts a story and each person in turn adds a paragraph in rotation, continuing until the story comes to a natural end or the writers give up on it (usually the latter, in my experience!)

In the first part of the story, Dave brought in a trio of robots, each fashioned in the image of a giant Jack Russell terrier! I thought they were very funny, so I added to the description when my turn came. They are metallic, probably put together out of bits and pieces of scrap. And they can give anyone who messes with them a nasty electric shock. How original, I thought. How very clever and creative we are!

HA! the very next day, Dave found this article about fire-breathing robot dogs. Someone had beaten us to it!

More imaginative writing can be found at a new site created by ROR (wRiters-on-the-Rise). The group, which includes top Aussie talent such as Richard Harland, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Dirk Flinthart, Marianne de Pierres, Trent Jamieson, Rowena Cory Daniells and Maxine McArthur, has started this site so you can download short stories and even chapters of their books. When I tell you that in recent months, Rowena has sold King Rolen's Kin, a 3 book fantasy series, to Solaris; Tansy has sold Power and Majesty, also a 3 book fantasy series, to Harper Collins; Richard has sold Worldshaker, a children's book, to Allen and Unwin and Marianne has sold Tara Tasse, a paranormal crime/romance, also to Allen and Unwin, you will understand the calibre of work I'm talking about. Go over there and taste for yourself!

Oh, and you might want to look at Edward II (Alianore's blog)
again, too:-) She has uploaded another lot of funny medieval names for our delectation and delight!
Sunday, 14 December 2008

David Gemmell 'Legends' Award - Aussie writers nominated!

David Gemmell (1948–2006) was a bestselling British author of heroic fantasy. His debut novel, Legend, is still his best-known work. His oft-times violent stories explore themes of honour, loyalty and redemption. And he wrote better fight scenes than almost anyone else. Find out more on Wikipedia.

The David Gemmell 'Legends' Awards has been set up by friends and professional colleagues to celebrate the author's life and literary legacy. The Longlist for the 2008 award is available as a downloadable PDF from the DGLA website. There are several Aussies among the sixty-nine nominees, including Alison Goodman, Fiona McIntosh, Karen Miller, Jennifer Fallon, Sara Douglass, Russell Kirkpatrick and Juliet Marillier. Actually, New Zealand has the prior claim on the last two, but when it's us vs Rest of the World we must stick together. And we will not let the Canadians have Karen Miller back, nor the Poms Fiona McIntosh:-)

Voting opens on Boxing Day, 26 December. The five novels accruing the most votes will constitute the Shortlist, which will be announced during the first week in April 2009. Voters will be in the draw for a prize - a copy of each of the five shortlisted books. The ultimate winner will be announced at the Awards Ceremony in June.

So wherever you are in the world, get over to the Awards web site, look over the nominated books, and consider which you'll name as your favourite when you vote on Boxing Day!

Visit The David Gemmell Legend Award
Monday, 8 December 2008

Cool Names from long ago

Further to the last post, it must be admitted that some people don't need anagrams to be amusing. Over at Edward II: Cool Names Of The Early Fourteenth Century, Alianore has posted some gems from her historical period of interest. As historical novellist Susan Higginbotham says in a comment, Adam le Fuckere and Jordan le Cok so badly need to be the heroes of a medieval erotic novel...

Hie thee to yon blog and have a giggle.
Sunday, 7 December 2008

Anagrams, sweet anagrams! Who'll buy my anagrams?

Over at The Internet Anagram Server (or "I, rearrangement servant"!) you can create anagrams of anything you like. Some bloggers are showing off neat anagrams of their names. Good fun, I thought, so I went and played for a while last night. I tried several of the many handles I've had in my 65 years (my names are legion) and here are some of the results:

Lama flails vet (An eye-catching headline, that!)
Calf Veal Roll (New recipe, Jo?)
Cavalry feral moll (No, no, not me, surely. That's got to be one of those amazing women created by Glenda Larke or Marianne de Pierres.)
Calf Removal Rally (The Animal Rights Activists annual convention?)
Carload in (Yeah, well, these days I guess I am.)
Canard oil (I'm a carload because of all the duck oil I've ingested?)
Rani La Cod (Queen of the Fishes? Ok, so it was codliver oil.)
Lady Valve Elf (A hotrodding fairy?)
Anal cut Troll (Sorry, Troll lady - made a mess of the lad's circumcision.)

The best anagram for SATIMA on its own was "aims at". Yeah, and usually misses...

Strangely, there are no anagrams for FLAVELL on its own. If, as the site assures us "All the life's wisdom can be found in anagrams. Anagrams never lie", then I think we have a problem, Houston.

On the other hand, maybe uniqueness is a virtue.
Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Cut off short

Well, the Deed is Done. My sister Anne was going to the hairdresser yesterday and on impulse I had the cutter also make free with the scissors on the birdsnest that my hair has become since my shoulder's been sore. I'm quite pleased with the result and will try to get a photo of myself to put up for your edification and delight. Actually, the do probably won't look all that different in a photo, as it's still off my face. No, no, I'm not off my face, just my hair...

Although it's easier to take care of, short hair has the drawback of needing constant attention, and as the price of a haircut is about the price of a book, that's probably nine or ten fewer books I can buy in the course of a year. Mind you, I need more books like I need the bubonic plague. I had a parcel of eight or nine turn up from one publisher on Monday. I've sent off an SOS to a couple of reviewers whose tastes, I know, run to the sorts of books that were in the parcel, so maybe I shall find good homes for most of them. I have a pile of things to read on my bedside table already - books I "should" review; books friends have lent me with assurances that they are very, very good and I "should" read them, and a few that I just happen to want to read because they are by favourite authors. I read slowly these days, savouring every word. When I was younger I used to read about 500 words a minute and could get through a sizable tome in a day: I can't read that fast now and nor do I want to. The more leisurely approach, I think, makes reading more enjoyable.

My sisters and I went to see the film Australia today. I had no expectations as the reviews have been somewhat mixed, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really enjoyed it. At least, I enjoyed it once it got going properly. The first half hour I found positively cringe-making - clunky dialogue and acting that was overdone in some cases and wooden in others made me grateful for the amazing scenery of the Northern Territory and the presence of Brandon Walters, the delighful, talented child who played the role of Nullah. Fortunately, the cast warmed up as the script took a turn for the better, and the three hours passed far faster than I would have thought possible. I loved the music - it shouldn't have worked, but did. There was hardly an original phrase in the whole score, yet the pastiche suited the era (WWII) and the themes of the movie. Clever references to - and in some places, out and out theft of - the works of composers old and new lent unexpected layers of meaning. I'm glad I went to see Australia, and I hope that if you go to see it, that you'll enjoy it too.
Monday, 1 December 2008

Reality Check - So you want to be a writer?

This meme was, I believe, originated by Charles Stross, who gave permission for it to be turned loose into the wild. My version is based on the one from Sharon Lee's blog . Lee Battersby has a version and that's where I first saw it. Some users have chucked the references to non-fiction publication, which is about all I can lay claim to, really. So I've put them back in.

* Age when I decided I wanted to be a writer: 8

* Age when I "wrote" my first story: 5 (A play ripped off from Oliver Twist, as I remember! I made my entire family take part, but reserved the lead for myself.)

* Age when I first had something published: 7 (A poem called "Dolly's Lullaby" in what was then the Manchester Guardian.)

* Age when I next had something published: 11 (Numerous poems and descriptive pieces over two or three years in something called "Chucklers' Weekly". Yes, really! I got paid a pound a time!)

* Age when I got my hands on a typewriter: 21 (An Oliver, manual and sort-of portable. My daughter still has it!)

* Age when I landed a paid magazine column: 45 (In the now defunct "Music Maker", later "ArtsWest". I didn't kill it: in fact, it died when I left. The editor said he was unable to find a decent dance columnist, despite trying out several. Then another writer also left and the mag folded. Sad.)

* Age when I wrote my first novel: 53. I'm a slow starter.

* Age when I wrote my first short story: 58. I don't believe in rushing things.

* Age when I first submitted a short story for professional publication: 58

* Age when I sold my first short story: It depends what you mean by "sold" - so far, paying markets have seemed strangely resistant to my charisma. Non-paying ones seem slightly more appreciative.

* Thickness of file of rejection slips prior to first story sale: Unless you count FTL (for-the-love) pubs, that file's still in the fattening pen.

* Age when I first came close to selling a novel: Close? Not within scent of it yet!

* Age when that first book deal imploded (prior to publication): Heaven forbid that it ever happen!

* Age when I killed my first market: 59 - I submitted my first novel to an e-publisher and they went broke the next week. I've never sent it out again for fear of destroying the entire industry.

* Age when I first sold a non-fiction book: I haven't written any. (Addendum: I haven't written any for sale to publishers. I have actually written several family histories, for my own family and for paying clients. Do they count as "sales"?)

* Age when I first wrote a saleable novel: HAH!

* Age when that novel was published: I'll let you know...

* Age when the second saleable novel finally sold: Ditto

* Age when the second saleable novel came out: Hey, lemme get the first one out already!

* Age when the third saleable novel came out: Ditto

* Age when the fourth saleable novel came out: Give over, will you?

* Age when I first won an award: LOL

* Age when I finally shut down the day-job and became a full-time novelist: 59

* Age when the money coming in exceeded my previous salary: HEH!

* Age when I returned to the day-job because of publisher implosion: I'm too old for that to happen, goddess be thanked.

* Age now: 65

* Number of books/poems/articles sold: Not sure. No novels or paid shorts, but probably several hundred articles, a few poems and a smattering of family histories.

* Number of titles in print: 0

* Number of titles fallen out of print: 5 or 6 - all family histories.

Hmm. Maybe I should take up golf.

The original author says: if you write professionally, feel free to post your own equivalent of this list. (Obviously you'll need to customize it to track your career path -- but you get the idea.)
Sunday, 30 November 2008

Back in the Mount

Mount Gambier, you will be pleased to know, is still here where I left it. So is my flat, which desperately needs a good clean but apart from wiping down the kitchen benches I've done little to change that, the main reason being that my shoulder is sore, and has been for several weeks. Make that months. In fact. I can't quite remember when it started to play up, but it must have been as early as June or July, maybe even earlier. Funny how aches and pains sneak up on one, remaining only half in consciousness until the body part concerned starts to scream for attention.

Well, it finally screamed loudly enough to make me take myself off to the doc. She sent me for a scan and an x-ray, which revealed that I had damaged the supraspinatus tendon in the left shoulder. Such a small piece of equipment to go wrong, yet the pain had reached something like seven or eight out of ten before I finally got it seen to. Not just the shoulder was hurting, but the entire left arm, with shooting pains down to the wrist and constant aches and jabs in the upper arm and elbow. Yoga became more and more difficult and finally I gave up on it, since I was doing the poses so badly I figured it wasn't doing me any good anyway. Doing my hair has taken on the nature of an Extreme Sport as I try to pin up my ever-recalcitrant locks while leaning over to the left to avoid raising the left arm overhead. The wretched arm simply will not lift more than about forty-five degrees in any direction: abduction beyond waist height is agony and putting it behind my back, almost impossible. A few millimetres out of the comfort zone are enough to bring on tears. Isn't it amazing how we don't appreciate the body until something goes wrong with it?

The worst part is that it could take as much as two years to get better and even then it's unlikely to recover its full range of movement. Surgery might help, but then again it might not: apparently they don't recommend it for older people save as a last resort. So I'm stuck with a frozen shoulder, perhaps for good, dammit. Oh well, it's the best excuse I've ever had for the avoidance of housework.

I've tried all my usual therapies, primarily Chiropractic and Bowen therapy, both of which I've found very helpful in the past. Not with this baby. The only thing that's brought a bit of relief is an electro-magnetic device that I've hired from a man in Perth at great expense - $10 a week! On a pension, that's almost as bad as a damaged arm! But it the little gizmo does seem to help, so I'm pathetically grateful for it. Mind you, it set off the alarm at the airport when I flew out from Perth and it took ages for security to decide whether or not I should be allowed on the plane with it. However, we reached Adelaide in almost record time so who knows? Maybe it helped the plane as well as my shoulder.

Anyhow, my shoulder and I are back in Mount Gambier, where, as expected, it is still cold and damp. I'm looking forward to warmer weather within a few weeks. Summer is the main tourist season, largely because of the famous Blue Lake. It's a lovely stretch of water nestled in an extinct volcano, and it turns the most glorious shade of cobalt blue from November to March each year. This photo was taken last year by my niece, Linda, who is a dab hand with a camera.

Nothing's happening on the writing front; maybe in a week or two when I've settled back here...Meantime,I take my hat off to all those enthusiasts who have done NaNoWriMo this year, and I lift it even higher (with my right arm, of course) to the ones who have done the required 50K words and in some cases even more. Noble souls, the lot of them!
Thursday, 27 November 2008

Rainbow Quizz

Here we go again:-)

Your rainbow is strongly shaded brown and indigo.


What is says about you: You are a deep thinking person. You appreciate cities, technology, and other great things people have created. You feel closer to people when you understand their imperfections. People are loyal to you and see you as a natural leader.

Find the colors of your rainbow at spacefem.com.

I don't know about the Natural Leader bit. I'll lead if it's thrust upon me but I'd rather just be given a job to do then left alone to do it. How about you?
Sunday, 23 November 2008

A Farewell Concert

I'm astonished at how sad I feel this morning as I complete last minute chores, including packing. In a couple of hours I'll be on my way back to South Australia for the summer.

Why am I sad? After all, I'm only going for three months. All being well, lots of house-sitting will turn up and I'll be able to stay in Perth for much of next year, as I have this. But I've lived longer in Perth than anywhere else, and it's come to feel like home. I've lived in various parts of Australia, England, Scotland, New Zealand and the USA, but no one city has ever held me for twenty-odd years, as Perth has done. So leaving even for three months is a wrench.

I cannot complain about the quality of goodbyes. I've caught up with several friends this week and yesterday a few visitors dropped in to wish me happy trails. But perhaps the most noteworthy of all was my own personal concert by Andre Rieu and his cast of thousands. This house is opposite the Subiaco Oval, home, as it states proudly on the billboards, of the West Coast Eagles and various other sporting teams. But last night the oval was transformed into an amphitheatre for Rieu's only Perth concert.

The build-up started at about 11.00am with the arrival of the sound people. They fiddled with the volume and quality, on and off, for several hours, giving the neighbourhood a tantalising taste of the program. Snippets of Scotland the Brave blended into Trumpet Voluntary and Bolero with bit of Puccini thrown in for good measure. About 5.00pm they got serious and we actually heard a couple of numbers right through. Then from 7.30pm onwards the musicians were almost in competition with the large and enthusiastic audience. In fact, it was hard to judge which party was making the most noise. And the wee small hours seemed to be devoted to striking the set. They did whatever they were doing reasonably quietly, but still...

Not that the concert was unwelcome noise as far as I'm concerned. I have very plebeian tastes when it comes to music - I love all those hackneyed old tunes, even when they've been transcribed for combinations of instruments and voices far removed from the composers' intentions. So I had great fun singing along while playing Scrabble with Facebook friends. It was just like having my own farewell concert. But anyone who doesn't like classical music or is a purist about its performance would have been running for the earplugs.

I was lucky this time: it was my kind of music. But should local councils be allowed to rent space to events that are almost certain to annoy a considerable number of residents, not just for the duration of a football match, but for the better part of 24 hours? I don't know, but I'm sure glad it wasn't a dance party or death metal or a weird modern opera!

Back to the packing. I'll talk to you again next week, from South Australia!
Sunday, 16 November 2008

A lovely weekend with friends

This time next week, I shall be in Adelaide. That will bring its own pleasures because I hope to catch up with good friends such as David and Annalouise and maybe some of my children as well. Then before the end of the month I'll be back in Mount Gambier for the summer.

Mount Gambier is lovely in summertime. It seldom goes above 35 degrees and is usually in the mid-twenties to low thirties. What's more, it is dry - of recent years, Perth, which used to enjoy a classic Mediterranean climate, has become very humid for much of the summer, which makes the often over-40 temperatures (that's well over the century to my Stateside friends) well-nigh unbearable. We will not talk about the winter in Mount Gambier. Let's just say it's awful. But summer is lovely, and if I can go on having my winters in Perth and my summers in Mount Gambier I will be a very happy little fat gypsy indeed. Of course, it all depends on the house-sitting calendar filling up, and I'll just have to wait and see what happens on that front. However, the plan is to return on 5 March for the first housesit, which will quickly be followed by Swancon, Perth's Speculative Fiction convention.

But a return presupposes a departure, and I've already started to say goodbye to my friends. Yesterday there was a meeting of the Perth Shakespeare Club, with a reading of ActsIV and V of The Merry Wives of Windsor organised by Diana Day. Di asked me to fill in by reading Mistress Quickly, which was great fun. If there's one thing I love it's a good bawdy joke and this play abounds in them. There's one line where Evans, the schoolmaster, is instructing a boy in Latin declensions and he mentions "caret", which cues Mistress Quickly for the comment "And that's a good root!" It's nice to see some slang terms have not changed in 400 years!

Sadly there was a trilogy of last good-byes in the Club this year, as three of our dear members passed on, one of them very unexpectedly. The average age of members must be in the late sixties at least, and it's sad that a club with a history going back to the 1930s is gradually dwindling due to deaths, with no younger enthusiasts presenting themselves to keep the Bard's fan club alive.

Today we had a meeting of the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre SpecFic group, which this month took the form of a workshop under the tutelage of Juliet Marillier. She spoke on voice, with particular reference to the close third POV and how it entails having not one narrative "voice", but one for each POV character. She drew on the works of Joe Abercrombie, Orson Scott Card, Angela Carter and Jacqueline Carey to illustrate her points and then gave us an exercise that involved writing two similar scenes in different voices. I did one in my own version of close third (I say "my own version" because it's not close enough yet!) and another in first person. Like many writers, I find first person much easier, although I don't actually use it often. It's easier because it's rather like acting in the Stanislavsky method - you start with "the magic 'if'". If I were such-and-such a kind of person in such-and-such a kind of situation, how would I feel? What would I do? Starting from that premise makes it much easier to portray different characters. Now, to translate that same feeling of closeness to the third person...A tall order, but I'll keep working on it.

After a very pleasant lunch in Guildford, I headed for home, caught up on emails, rang my sister Anne to remind her that I'll be there in ten days and wound up having a nice long chat, played lots of Scrabble on Facebook and now I'm just starting to think about bed. But I'm also thinking in happy anticipation of several meetings coming up this week, mostly involving my favourite activity: coffee with friends:-)
Sunday, 9 November 2008

Does length matter?

While I'm taking a break from the WIP I though I'd revamp a longish short story I wrote a couple of years ago. It doesn't quite work as a short story, and I’m planning on lengthening it into a novella or a novelette.

The trouble is that it is very difficult to sell works that are longer than 5,000ww but shorter than 90,000, unless they are intended for the Children's or Young Adults' markets. Some short story markets accept works up to 7,500ww, although many of them express a preference for shorter pieces. Stories between 7,500 and 15,000 words are especially hard to find homes for.

Occasionally, however, one does see markets advertising that they are seeking novellas or novelettes. But what is a novella? What is a novelette? How long is too long? How short is too short?

Seven and a half thousand words is the cut off point for most short story anthologies, although occasionally one sees this extended to 15,000ww. Most people today would, I think, call anything in between those two lengths a "novelette", but really, the definitions depend on who's writing them. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America web site defines a novel as a work of 40,000 words or more; a novella as a work of at least 17,500 words but under 40,000 words; a novelette as a work of at least 7,500 words but under 17,500 words and short story as a work of under 7,500 words. These are the definitions they use for their annual Nebula awards, undoubtedly one of the most prestigious awards in the industry, so perhaps these lengths can be considered "correct" for the speculative genres. However, a speculative fiction writer would be hard put to find a publisher willing to buy an adult work of 40,000ww. Most novels today, not counting the ubiquitous "fat fantasies" that sometimes run well over the 200,000ww mark, are between 95,000-150,000ww.

But outside the speculative genres there is great variance in opinion. Over at Google books , The Book of Literary Terms by Lewis Turco suggests that while the term novelette (or novelet) is a synonym for novella in most dictionaries, experts make a distinction between them: the novelette is a sort of romantic formula story while the novella is a serious work of fiction. This distinction is maintained elsewhere, one site declaring that novelettes are more likely to be termed "frothy", "trite" or "sentimental". The Concise Oxford English Dictionary online defines a novelette as "a short novel, typically a light romantic one", while a novella is "a short novel or a long short story", without any reference to length as a determining factor.

Writer Sandra M. Ulbrich uses the following definitions:
Vignette Less than 500 words
Short-Short 500-2000
Short Story 2,500-5,000
Novelette 5,000-14,000
Novella 15,000-40,000
Novel 40,000+
while over at Blurtit.com, Louise Gorman offers the following:
Flash fiction: 2,000 words or less, or sometimes 1,000 words or less
Short story: no less than 2,000 words, but no more than 7,500 words
Novelette: a work that is much shorter than a novel, usually around 7,500 to 17,500
Novella: a piece of work that is shorter than a novel, but longer than a novelette, usually 20,000 to 40,000 words long
Novel: a work that consists of 60,000 words or more
Epic: a work that consists of 200,000 words or more

In other words, there is no agreement on just how fiction works should be defined in terms of length, and the writer must consider the guidelines of each publisher before submitting work. But do we try to tailor works to a specific market, or simply write the story and then look for someone who wants works of that length? I think most writers would say the latter: a story can only be as long as it needs to be: extraneous "padding" will quickly bore the reader, and exposition that tells without showing in the interests of saving wordage is just as bad. Even so, some compromise is possible: I have seen 8,000ww stories cut by a thousand words or more with skilful editing.

Which leaves me where, exactly? Plugging along, trying to write an interesting tale with a very slight plot and trying to put tension into a froth and bubble story.

I'll let you know how it goes.
Sunday, 2 November 2008

Another Specusphere successfully launched!

After nearly a week of solid work, The Specusphere Webzine #05 is ready for you to read here! Just look at all the goodies on offer:

The English Curriculum by Stephen Thompson
Editorial afterthought—The elephant in the room by Stephen Thompson

The quintessential speculative fiction album by Stephen Thompson
3 questions for The Specusphere by Stephen Thompson
Cyborg by Brendan David Carson
The Serendipity of Publishing by Astrid Cooper

Up and Coming
New Books from Gollancz for November-December 2008
New Releases from Orbit

Jaine Fenn in conversation with Maurie Breust
Juliet Marillier revisits Sevenwaters by Satima Flavell

Book Reviews
HEIR TO SEVENWATERS by Juliet Marillier reviewed by Carol Neist
AWAKENING by Lara Morgan reviewed by Carol Neist
THE BEAST WITHIN edited by Matt Hults reviewed by Maurie Breust, Brendan Carson, Felicity Dowker, Ross Murray and Simon Petrie
INFECTED by Scott Sigler reviewed by Felicity Dowker
THE NINTH CIRCLE by Alex Bell reviewed by Ross Murray
PRINCIPLES OF ANGELS by Jaine Fenn reviewed by Maurie Breust
THE BRIDE OF TIME by Dawn Thompson reviewed by Bobbi Sinha-Morey
THE LAST THEOREM by Arthur C. Clarke and Frederik Pohl reviewed by Ross Murray
NIGHT SHIFT by Lilith Saintcrow reviewed by Ross Murray
FLOOD by Stephen Baxter reviwed by Maurie Breust
ALL-STAR SUPERMAN Volume One (Comic) by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely reviewed by Brendan Carson
GHOST WALK by Brian Keene reviewed by Bobbi Sinha-Morey
BEFORE I WAKE by Kathryn Smith reviewed by Bobbi Sinha-Morey
A DISTANT MAGIC by Mary Jo Putney reviewed by Bobbi Sinha-Morey

Nigel's Evening by David Schembri
Call Waiting by Bill Youatt-Pine
The forever-green by Ashley Hibbert

I would especially like to thank my lovely team of reviewers - they've really excelled themselves this time! And as usual, special thanks to webmistress Amanda Greenslade for all her hard work.
Thursday, 30 October 2008

Test Junkie, me

Your result for What's your key signature?...

D Minor

Congratulations, I guess. You’re D Minor, the key that F Major turns to when its lover dumps it. This key is downright depressing, but not in a loud way. This is more the “brooding as you slowly cut yourself in the corner” type of depressing. A member of the totally-real band Spinal tap once said that when D minor begins, “everyone instantly starts weeping." It’s an easy key to play for many instruments, and is quite a nice key for slow jazz ballads, as if you didn’t have enough of the blues.

So yeah, you’re D Minor, but you probably don’t care. In fact, you were probably expecting this when you started the damn quiz. Pessimism isn’t always the answer, friend!

SONG EXAMPLE: So What? By Miles Davis (OK, I know it’s actually in D’s Dorian mode, but close the hell enough.)


* This key is actually fairly easy to rock in if you’re in drop D, but you rarely hear any super punk death metal in D Minor. Odd.

Take What's your key signature? at HelloQuizzy

Monday, 27 October 2008

Blog a dog again

There are no pets at my new housesit, so I've been feeling a bit dog-deprived. But this is the next best thing - you might remember I told you a few weeks ago about how my doctor had a baby guide dog to look after? Well, here she is - dear little Alba. Whoever dreamed up the name had a sense of humour because this little doggie is neither white nor English. She's grown quite a bit since I last saw her, but she's as cute as ever.

Alba's foster mum says she's proving very easy to train. Apparently she's learnt to wee and poo on command, and having potty trained several children as well as countless animals, I must say I find that amazing!

It is a wonderful thing that folk are willing to open their homes and hearts to a puppy that won't be theirs forever, and the success of guide dogs must be due in a large part to these kind people. If you live in Western Australia, you can learn how to become a foster parent to a guide dog yourself here. (Other states and countries have their own guide dog associations, all of whom do very worthwhile work.) As I understand it, you must be able to take the puppy to work with you as that's part of their training.

Seeing Alba reminded me that when I was at university there was a blind guy in one of my classes. He used to sit in the ref surrounded by gushing girls, and finally he must've got sick of playing second string to a dog, because once, when one of them said 'Oh, isn't he gorgeous!' the owner replied in a bored voice 'Yeah, and the dog's not bad, either!'

I had a lovely day on Sunday at a BBQ hosted by my writerly friend Carol Ryles. Carol held one of these last year and this one was even better, so I'm looking forward to next year's already!

In other news, both my Face-to-Face writers group and my on-line one are not happy with the way I've structured my WIP. The consensus seems to be that Ellyria, my MC, is pretty boring. Not good. However, writing buddy Tom Edwards has suggested that I turn the only really exciting thing she does into a prologue and then try to work the first 25% of the book in as back story, placing more emphasis on the romance element. It's a big ask, but I'll give it a try. One day before I die I'll have a publishable novel!
Sunday, 19 October 2008

Icing the WIP - and another great little con

Time, I think, to set the WIP aside for a few weeks. It's all down except the two sex scenes, which have got to be so special I really don't want to tackle them without adequate thought and preparation. You can see that I'm already over my projected first draft target, and I suspect that the book will eventually come in at about 130-odd thousand words. In the meantime, I'll start outlining book two.

But not just yet! This next couple of weeks are going to be busy. I have loads of critting to catch up on, including half a Fat Fantasy I'm beta reading (more on that another time: for now, just be assured it's a great read!) and there's a Specusphere deadline looming on the first of November, which means there are books to review and reviews to edit. What's more, it's tax time, so there's a busy fortnight ahead of me.

Having finished my Freddie-minding for now (although I hope to do more of it next year) I'm back with my son in Mount Lawley for this week. Next weekend I shall move to Subiaco to house sit for friends who are off to India for a month. I'll probably be doing quite a bit of socialising over the next few weeks as I won't see my Perth friends again for several months after I head back to Mount Gambier on 23 November.

I'll be taking some super memories back, though. Today I was at the Wastelands Convention, which was organised by fannish friends John Parker and Sarah Parker. Helen Venn and I were on a panel with John and Sarah about running a small convention. We all agreed that it's hard work but very, very rewarding. Carol Ryles, a very talented lady who plays a mean game of Scrabble, read a paper on Steampunk (the theme of the con) which she is researching for her PhD thesis. Sadly, I couldn't get there yesterday but I'm told Carol was right on form.

I'm really pleased to see that there are at least two genre writers, including Juliet Marillier and Anthony Eaton , short-listed for this year's Western Australia's Premier's Award for Literature. I'd like to think that attitudes towards genre writing are slowly changing as people realise that genre and excellence in writing can often be found within the same covers. Certainly this is true of Juliet Marillier's Cybele's Secret, a historical fantasy full of intrigue and mystery that appeals to real grown up readers, not just its target audience of Young Adults. I haven't yet read Anthony Eaton's offering, but I do plan on rectifying that asap.

There is little doubt that we are spoilt for talent here in the West. I feel privileged to know so many gifted and enthusiastic people.
Sunday, 12 October 2008

Walking with Freddie

My little black and tan friend Freddie is an energetic fellow. He loves to play and go walkies. He's also very keen to share my food! At four years old, he is still youthful, and he therefore has two speeds - full on and sleeping. He sleeps a lot, but as soon as he wakes up he's on the go, non-stop.

Now, I do not, by and large, walk - unless I have to. I think it has something to do with the fact that as a non-driver, I see walking as a means of getting from one place to another rather than a form of recreation. Freddie's owner Anudhara, on the other hand, is a lithe, leggy lady who loves walking, so Freddie's used to being exercised for a good hour every day. I explained to him that he would be short-changed with me, and he didn't seem to mind, so we've been been taking a reasonably fast half hour walk each day. Since Kwinana is about as well known to me as Timbuktu, we've been taking a slightly different route each time so that I can familiarise myself with the area. Two birds with one stone, so to speak. I was feeling quite proud of my initiative.

Nice idea, Satima, except that yesterday we got lost. Not terribly, terribly lost, you understand, but just a little bit lost so that we were walking for an hour instead of thirty minutes. Up hill and down dale we wandered, until we finally found a familiar street name and headed for home. But our adventures weren't over. There was stranger danger in store.

I should explain that Freddie's main ambition in life is to kill and eat a cat. So far, he has been spectacularly unsuccessful, since critters of the feline persuasion are generally far faster on their feet than little terriers, and what's more, they can climb. As a consolation prize, therefore, Freddie has decided that a German Shepherd might serve his hunting ambitions just as well. The fact the his ancestors mainly hail from north of the Humber and were therefore of rather short stature as dogs go does not faze our hero. Every time he sees an Alsatian - or, indeed, any other large dog - he breaks into a frenzy of barking, leaping towards the offending beast and dragging whoever is on the other end of the lead forward with him.

So of course yesterday, while I was already exhausted from unaccustomed excercise, we had to meet an Alsatian. Freddie had already made moves against the odd cat, with his usual lack of success, so he was determined not to let this opportunity pass. It was with great difficulty and not a little terror that the other dog walker and I managed to keep the pair apart.

Cross at being deprived of his prey, the gallant Freddie started up again at the sight of a distant Pomeranian. Forewarned being forearmed and all that, I prudently crossed the road and crossed my fingers that no other four legged being would come over the horizon. I was lucky - no more beasties of any description put in an appearance. I'd hate to see Freddie with a horse.

Freddie is good company. In his quieter moments, he loves to sit still and be brushed from head to toe. But not for long. To keep in training for the real thing, he has a toy cat to play with. Like any terrier, Freddie loves to hold one end of the prey while someone else - in this case, me - tugs on the other. I couldn't film with one hand and defend my end of the cat at the same time, but I did film a little of Freddie's cat-killing technique while he practised on his own.
Today we returned to a familiar route that involves only known dangers. And we didn't get lost, either. Forget adventure - a turn around the local park and a stroll alongside the golf course is a far safer bet.

Update on the WIP:

Six thousand words in three days. Two chapters to go. (Looks like I'll go over the target.)
Friday, 10 October 2008

Sherlock Holmes? Moi?

Now this one I don't believe:

Your result for The Literary Character Test...

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes is the brilliant mastermind whose undoubted prowess in the field of forensics have entertained the world for decades. He is decidedly good in his actions, and his methodical thinking accents his ability, making him all the better at what he does. His ability to overcome any foe, and understand any crime is what makes him so well known, and it appears he will never fail.

Yeah, right, and on my days off I'm Jack the Ripper...

Take The Literary Character Test at HelloQuizzy

I can't resist tests!

It's OK, I've written over a thousand words this morning and I've outlined the next two scenes, so I've followed Lee Battersby's lead and done some tests on Hello Quizzy. Here's the first one:

Your result for The Mythological God Test...


Thoth, the Egyptian God of secret wisdom, intellect, geometry and other forms of higher mathematics, was also the God of books and learning, of writing and numbers. And above all, he was the God of Magic. Indeed, he was the first and greatest of all magicians, said to create miracles from nothing by the mere vibrations of his voice alone.

Within his main temple were said to be stored his books of magic which were open for the edification of all, providing those absorbing this magic understood its sacred content. Over the centuries, these books were said to have been carefully translated by various priests of secret orders until finally, the Greeks compiled them as the works of Hermes Trismegistus.

One book most everyone is familiar with which is attributed to the mysteries of the God Thoth is the Tarot, considered to be an unbound book of symbols that may be read in an endless variety of sequences imitating the random nature of existence itself.

The Fifteen Gods

These are the 15 categories of this test. If you score above average in …

…all or none of the four variables: Dagda. …
Erudite: Thoth. …
Sensual: Frey. …
Martial: Mars. …
Saturnine: Mictlantecuhtli. …

Erudite & Sensual: Amun. …
Erudite & Martial: Odin. …
Erudite & Saturnine: Anubis. …
Sensual & Martial: Zeus. …
Sensual & Saturnine: Cernunnos. …
Martial & Saturnine: Loki. …

Erudite, Sensual & Martial: Lug. …
Erudite, Sensual & Saturnine: Coyote. …
Erudite, Martial & Saturnine: Hades. …
Sensual, Martial & Saturnine: Pan.

Take The Mythological God Test at HelloQuizzy

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Maybe a word counter will help...

I've admired this little word counter on other writers' blogs so I took myself over to Writertopia and filched one for myself. Maybe it will shame me into carrying on, despite my frozen state when I think about the sex scenes...
Tuesday, 7 October 2008

A new canine friend

The usual apologies, dear friends, for my lateness in blogging. I moved house-sits twice in five days and each move takes a good half day out of my life. Not that I resent it, of course, because without the house sitting I could not spend time in Perth, Western Australia, my most favourite city in the world.

My friend Ellen returned from Europe last Wednesday, full of the wonders of the Hermitage, the Kremlin and the Louvre. After touring in the UK, France and Spain, she joined a vast gathering of choristers from all over the world to take part in two performances of Verdi's Requiem, one each in St Petersburg and Moscow. Quite the trip of a lifetime, and I am looking forward to seeing all her photos and memorabilia. She brought me a lovely gift: a CD called We Sing to You, which features Anima, a choral group associated with of one of the six churches that stand within the grounds of the Kremlin. The music soars to heaven, carrying the listener with it, and I know I shall have many hours of listening pleasure from it. You can learn more about Anima here.

Once Ellen was home and settled, I moved to Sara's house for the weekend, waiting for her "mum" to return, and then I moved on to the home of e-buddy Anudhara, who occasionally blogs at More Notes from the Edge Anudhara has a delightful home in a southern suburb of Perth, wa-ay down south of my familiar territory of the inner northern suburbs. She has a lovely garden here and a friendly, lively companion in the person of Freddie, a dear little bitza whose ancestors obviously included a lineage of West Highland terriers. Freddie and I will have fun together for the next ten days while Anudhara visits family living even farther down south. Four hours drive farther, in fact, which takes you to about as far south as you can go without donning wetsuit and goggles.

You will (I hope) be pleased to know that I have only another ten scenes to write and the WIP will come to its final full stop. Since I started Robert Olen Butler's regimen of getting up early and writing before breakfast while I'm still in the "dream space", I have written over 40,000ww. True, that's an average of only 900ww words a day, but seeing as I only wrote about 40,000 words in the whole year before that, it's obviously a vast improvement! My new housesit is in quite an isolated area as far as public transport goes, so I intend to do my own personal ten day retreat while I’m here. So, a scene a day for ten days and I should be able to tell you that the wretched WIP is finished. It's only taken two and half years! I shall have to learn to write books much faster than that, given that I am already 65 years old and have formulated the ambition of having at least one trilogy published before I succumb to the dementia that unfortunately afflicts my family.

Two of the scenes are going to take a lot of work, and I'll cover my back by admitting that I possibly won't get these finished in the ten days. One of my characters is a young man who has two relationships, one after the other. The first is with a woman who ensorcels, uses and controls him. When he finally sees through her wiles, he moves on and quite by accident falls in with a young woman whose only earlier sexual experience was a rape. They spend one night together in which they meet as equals in their vulnerability and need for healing. I want to use these two sex scenes to show the growth that takes place in the young man's journey to maturity: a darned big ask for a writer almost totally inexperienced in writing sex scenes! Writing buddy Laney Cairo has been kind enough to give me some pointers so I hope I can do justice to her tuition.

Reading-wise, I'm still on with Marcus Herniman's The Siege of Arrandin. This man's world-building is truly remarkable in its inventiveness and attention to detail. These very strengths make it a slow read, and it's getting close to the next deadline for The Specusphere. I'll probably have to set Mr Herniman aside for a week or two and read at least one of the three books I've been intending to review. Too many fine writers – and far too little time!
Sunday, 28 September 2008

Sara's come to stay

WOW! I can haz Sara? She has come to stay with me and the chooks until Ellen gets home on Wednesday. She loves the garden and spends most of her time out there exploring. When she's awake, that is. Being advanced in years and almost blind with it, she tends to sleep a lot - until a man comes to visit. Then she loses half her years and rolls onto her back giggling like a schoolgirl, the little hussy.

The video shows Sara on one of her voyages of discovery. You can just see the chooks in the background at one point; they appeared to be having a conversation about whether or not Sara was a dog. One or two of them, I believe, thought that perhaps she was a new species of rabbit. However, discretion being the better part of almost everything when you're a chook, they backed off hastily when Sara, blissfully oblivious to her feathered audience, inadvertently approached the fence.

I met another lovely dog this week. On a visit to the doctor, I was astonished to see a black labrador pup tied up beside her desk. It turned out that my doctor has become a foster parent for baby guide dogs, and this was her first little charge. At three months, the little one was obviously bored to tears. She was amusing herself by tugging on the curtain that surrounds the examination table, apparently enjoying the cheerful sound of curtain rings on metal as she pulled it back and forth. Sadly, she will not get away with that kind of thing for long. Baby guide dogs have to get used to sitting quietly for long periods, and in fact my doctor asked me not to look at this one or speak to her, as one of the things she has to learn is to get used to being bored and ignored when in the workplace. It's a big ask for a little doggie. I'm sure owners of guide dogs must give them lots of attention when they're not on duty to make up for it. This pup, BTW, isn't the one from the doctor's surgery, but looks mighty like it. I filched the pic from www.dailypuppy.com.

Of course, the canine species has its rogues, just as ours does. A neighbour rang earlier this week to warn me that I should keep the hens locked up at night because hers had all been killed the night before. It might have been a fox, rather than a dog. Strange as it may seem, foxes have moved into urban Perth and are responsible for some unpleasant things. Not that we can seriously blame the foxes: the fault lies with C19 immigrants who brought rabbits and foxes with them for the sport of hunting. We've been paying for their short-sightedness ever since, for both species are now pests all over the country. And this is a big country, big enough to house more rabbits and foxes than Mother Nature ever wanted, needed or even dreamt of when she invented them.

On another topic, guys, can I ask you, if you follow my blog regularly, to sign on as a Follower? (See left, under my pic.) And if you set yourselves up with the Followers icon, I 'll sign on to become a Follower of yours. That way we drive traffic to each others blogs and we can click on the icons to move on to the next when when we're doing the rounds:-)
Monday, 22 September 2008

All gone Min-con - until another day!

Sunday's mini-con went off without a hitch, thank heavens. Panellists, readers, and audience all seemed to have a good time, and many compliments have come in, some asking when the next one will be! This was the second mini-con the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre's Speculative Fiction Group has held, and although neither one has been hard to organise, the many little jobs that have to be done - mainly in the realms of telephone and email - do take time. I spent at least two days last week doing little but fire off emails, answer the replies, pass information on to others, going back and forth with Qs and As. I know my co-convenor Helen Venn was also rushed off her feet during what was a busy enough period for her without the mini-con!

Readings from Adrian Bedford, Juliet Marillier, and Laney Cairo were especially well received and there is little doubt that the favourite panels were "How to Handle Rejections", with Adrian Bedford, Russell Farr, Simon Haynes and Bevan McGuiness and "How to get out of the Slushpile", with Lyn Battersby, Janet Blagg, Stephen Dedman, Alisa Krasnostein and Tehani Wessely.

Helen and I were more than ably assisted by a wonderful team including Annette Backshall, Toby Coulstock, Dorathy Duperouzel, James and Margaret Hansen, Sonia Helbig, Karen Laneaux, Yvonne Lewis, Joanne Mills and Carol Ryles. Lots of others, some of them unknown to me, pitched in and helped on the day, too, helping to create a really worthwhile event. Hugs and thanks to you all!

Lee Battersby, among others, got some great pics. Check 'em out and see what a great day we had!

Update: More pics, these being from Toby Coulstock, can be seen here!
Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Books, books, glorious books!

One of the best trilogies I've read in a long time is Jo Abercrombie's very first effort, entitled The First Law. I am so impressed with this man's writing I just can't wait to see what he comes up with next. Add to this the fact that the guy is drop-dead gorgeous and you quickly realise he has a Future with a capital Fu. Juliet Marillier has done an indepth interview with him at Writer Unboxed, and you can read part one here. Part two will go up this Friday and part three the Friday after that, to coincide with the US release of the trilogy's finale, Last Argument of Kings. I hope Mr Abercrombie reveals the secret of his magic, because I want to write like him!

As well as interviewing the wonderful Joe Abercrombie and doing guest spots at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre here in Perth (see under the KSP Mini-con entry below for one of them, coming up this Sunday) Juliet Marillier is busy with books of her own. Soon to be released is another in her famous Sevenwaters series, the first in several years. It's called Heir to Sevenwaters and having had the privilege of beta reading it, I can tell you in advance that it's brilliant. It's a beautiful love story centred around an epic journey and involving one of the most unusual characters you're ever likely to meet: a very special baby. And late next year will see another Marillier treasure in print, an atmospheric gothic-style romance called Heart's Blood.

In between those two we'll have another book or two from Karen Miller, and about the same time as Juliet Marillier's Heart's Blood is released we'll finally get to read book one of Glenda Larke's Random Rain trilogy, which is going to be published by HarperCollins Voyager Australia. This one will be out in September 2009, with the other two books scheduled to follow in 2010. I've been dying to read this series ever since Glenda read a bit of a very early draft at Swancon 2004! Good things, it seems, eventually come to those who wait for publishers to stop dithering and start publishing.

I've always wanted to read Glenda Larke's ill-fated first novel, Havenstar. You've probably read the story of how it was one of the novels chosen to launch Virgin Publishing, only to die a premature death when the company folded after only a few months. Copies are as rare as chooks' teeth, changing hands on Amazon for three figure sums! However, my good e-buddy Hrugaar has tracked down an ex-library copy and sent it to me all the way from the UK! And not only Havenstar: Ru was also able to send me another out-of-print book I've been wanting; Marcus Herniman's The Seige of Arrandin, book one of his Arrandin Trilogy. I have started to read both of these gems and will really get stuck into them once the mini-con is over.

Even though I've been flat out with preps for the mini-con, the Specusphere deadline and the five spoilt chookies these three weeks past, I have actually been writing regularly. When I was last in Adelaide, my friend Annalou Larsen lent me a book called From Where You Dream, by Robert Olen Butler. Butler is an academic but also a fine writer, and he has devised a system to help writers contact the unconscious depths where the creative energy lurks. He recommends writing first thing in the morning, before breakfast. And guess what - it works! I've been getting up at 6.30am, making myself a drink of hot water with grated ginger and lemon juice and then sitting down to write until 8.30 or 9.00am. The progress I've made in three weeks of this regime is amazing. Barely awake, and not taking my usual two cups of coffee, I find that I'm still partly in the dream space, where Butler says you have to be in order to write successfully. It works for me. You might like to give at a go as well if you have trouble getting the flow going.

I think I've caught up on all my blogging news now. Next time, I'll have a report on the mini-con. Help me pray for a fine day on Sunday, will you?
Monday, 15 September 2008

KSP Mini-con program!

Another reason I’ve been so utterly flat out of late is my involvement in preparations for the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre Mini-con. It’s been hectic, but we’re nearly there now. Here’s a run down of the goodies you’ll find – or miss, if you don’t live in Perth!

10.00 am: "How to Handle Rejections"
Panellists: Adrian Bedford, Russell Farr, Simon Haynes and Bevan McGuiness
followed by readings from Sonia Helbig and Helen Venn

11.00 am: "Clarions; gains and losses":
Panellists: Lee Battersby, Lyn Battersby, Carol Ryles, Helen Venn and Jessica Vivien
followed by readings from Jo Mills and Elaine Kemp

12.00 noon: "What's Hot and What's Not - trends in Speculative Fiction":
Panellists: Elaine Kemp, Alisa Krasnostein, Ian Nichols and Grant Stone
followed by readings from Juliet Marillier and Ian Nichols

1.00 pm: "Lies, Damned Lies and Research":
Panellists: Dave Luckett, Hal Colebatch, Satima Flavell and Juliet Marillier
followed by readings from Hal Colebatch and Dave Luckett

2.00 pm: "Hooks and Sinkers - writing a killer first line"
Panellists: Adrian Bedford, Stephen Dedman, Russell Farr and Bevan McGuiness
followed by readings from Adrian Bedford and Stephen Dedman

3.00 pm: "Steampunk"
Panellists: Toby Coulstock; John Parker; Carol Ryles and Grant Stone
followed by readings from Deb Ratcliffe and Carol Ryles

4.00 pm:"How to get out of the Slushpile":
Panellists: Lyn Battersby, Janet Blagg, Stephen Dedman; Alisa Krasnostein; Tehani Wessely
followed by Q&A and wind-up.

I'm proud and happy to be involved an event with so many of my friends, mentors and favourite writers. It should be a wonderful day. Do come if you can!
Sunday, 14 September 2008

New Specusphere issue

No, I haven't taken a job in Antarctica, or moved to Kathmandhu, I'm still here in Perth and the last three weeks have been truly hectic, hence no blogposts.

Here's part of the hectic-making stuff: a shiny new issue of The Specusphere. As usual, there's a rare mix of articles, reviews, fiction and poetry for your delectation and delight. Take a look at the Table of Contents:

Where do I come from? by Stephen Thompson

Irrealism and the Bizarro movement by Stephen Thompson
Ray-guns for Rocketeers by Jeff Harris

Up and Coming
Ford Street Makes Waves
The Wisdom of Water by John Archer
New Books from Gollancz for September–October 2008
New Books from Tor for September

Creating Memorable Characters: interview and discussion with Fiona McIntosh by Astrid Cooper

Writing and Publishing
Where do (writing) ideas come from? by Bill Youatt-Pine

Hell Hath No Fury by David Such
Dolphin Dreaming by Ashley Hibbert
Chopped up Cut up by Damien Kane

The Curse by Felix Calvino

Film Reviews
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, directed by Rob Cohen
Journey to the Center of the Earth, directed by Eric Brevig
The Happening, directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Hellboy II: The Golden Army, directed by Guillermo Del Toro

Book Reviews
The Wheel of Darkness by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Son et Lumiere by Ian Nichols
Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross
Phantom Pleasures by Julie Leto
Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan
Black Ships by Jo Graham
Bewitched by Sandra Schwab
Incandescence by Greg Egan
Heart-shaped Box by Joe Hill
Swiftly by Adam Roberts

This month's reviews were written by Bobbi Sinha-Morey, Maurie Breust, Ross Murray, Simon Petrie and yours truly, and I think we did a pretty good job!

I have lots more things to blog but I'll come back during the week with a catch up post. Meantime, do check out The Specusphere. You'll see a link in my profile box at the top of the page.
Sunday, 24 August 2008

Another animal post

This house-sit, as I mentioned before, involves chooks. There are five of them; all young and just coming into full lay. They are very tame and will even let me stroke them, which I've never before known chooks to do. Their "mum", (aka Ellen) tells me it's because they have been bred not just for their excellent laying (they turn out lovely brown eggs in profusion) but also for their docility.

They are Isa Browns; not a true breed but a cross between a Rhode Island Red and Rhode Island White and originating from France, where they were deliberately developed in the 1970s by the Institut de Sélection Animale, hence the ISA. I tried to photograph the five of them this week but in the end I had to take a video to get them all in. Even now they are not all in view at once so you'll have to believe me when I say there are five. Not that it matters; I suspect that if you've seen one Isa brown you've seen 'em all!

In other animal news, I just received a photo of my latest "grandchild". My son Kurt and his partner Erinn bought a cute little five-week-old puppy three months ago. They called
him Fenris. Now, Fenris was the hellhound in Norse mythology, and at five weeks the pup didn't look anything like a hell hound, did he? However, he is now four months old and just look at him! He is looking more and more like a real one as the weeks go by. Kurt thinks he'll be waist high by Christmas, and I wouldn't be surprised if his prediction comes true. How can one teensy weensy pup grow so much in such a short time? Well, he is of Irish Wolfhound stock, which just might account for it!:-)

Update 16 July 2011: Over the last month, this post has, for some reason I don't understand, become the most popular post on the blog! If you are reading this, will you please take time to leave a comment and tell me why you landed on this page? It's a mystery to me!
Sunday, 17 August 2008

Birthday Meme

Here’s a meme that’s going around: I pinched it from Mikandra.

To play this one, look up your birthday in Wikipedia. Pick 4 events, 3 births, 2 deaths and 1 holiday.

My birthday is 4 March, and I’ve only met a handful of other people whose birthdays fall on that day. There was a little club on ICQ, years ago. The founder said we were special “because we March Forth!” Looking at Wikipedia, I found plenty of others who march forth, so I picked events and people I felt I could relate to for various reasons, which I’ve given below to make the meme a bit more meaningful. At least, I hope it does:-).

1461 - Wars of the Roses in England: Lancastrian King Henry VI is deposed by his Yorkist cousin, who then becomes King Edward IV
Both these guys were 2nd cousins 16 times removed of mine, and Edward was stepfather to Thomas Grey, my 13th great-grandfather. His mother, Elizabeth (née Woodville, right) went to Edward to complain that she’d had no pension when her first husband, Thomas’s father John, had died in battle while fighting for Edward. Edward liked the look of Elizabeth and secretly married her. When his advisors found out there was hell to pay! And there was sadness in store for Elizabeth, for her two sons by Edward were the poor little “Princes in the Tower”, who were done to death. Let’s not go into whodunit, as it always starts arguments.

The Wars of the Roses provide an object lesson in human stupidity. Ancestors of mine—and no doubt yours, if you have any Brit in you—died on both sides of this idiotic conflict. What’s more, they did it all again in the seventeenth century when our ancestors fought over which version of the favoured Imaginary Friend of the day was the better. Sheesh!

1877 - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's ballet Swan Lake premieres at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow
This beautiful fantasy story of love, betrayal and death did not find public favour at its premiere and was quickly dropped from the repertoire. It was only in 1895, when it was revived with new choreography by Marius Petipa, that it gained the popularity it enjoys to this day. Petipa is responsible for that curse of all aspiring ballerinas, the thirty-two fouettés, which he incorporated into the third act pas de deux. His ballerina, the Italian Pierina Legnani, apparently found it a simple matter to stand on one toe and whirl around on the spot thirty-two times, to the despair of every ballet student since. I could never manage more than a dozen, even on a good day.

1917 - Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia's renunciation of the throne is made public, and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia publicly issues his abdication manifesto
We all know the tragic story of a man unable to see the writing on the wall; a man temperamentally unfit to lead yet forced to try, whose refusal to do away with autocracy led to the violent deaths of his wife and children as well as himself.

1945 - In the United Kingdom, Princess Elizabeth, later to become Queen Elizabeth II, joins the British Army as a driver
What the princess joined was actually the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), which my eldest sister Erica joined a year or two earlier. In fact, she joined up soon after my birth, since she couldn’t face the thought of still another younger sister in the house! Erica saw service in Germany, near Hamburg.

1188 - Blanche of Castile, wife of Louis VIII of France (d. 1252)
Louis and Blanche were 22x great-grandparents of mine and I am proud to share Blanche’s birthday. She was the strong one: Louis was a gentle person who died young, leaving Blanche to bring up their large family alone, as well as to quell a rebellion by a bunch of stroppy barons and to fend off an offensive by the English. She ruled as regent both before and after the accession of her son Louis IX (later canonised) and was respected by friend and foe alike for her diplomacy and her grasp of military strategy.

1898 - Georges Dumézil, French philologist (d. 1940)
I drew heavily on Dumézil’s work for a paper I wrote at university on Indo-European religion. I had to read the book in French because no translation was available – eek! It was one of the few papers that Martin Wiltshire, a really tough marker, ever honoured with an A grade. It’s nice to feel appreciated sometimes:-).

1916 - Hans Eysenck, German-born psychologist (d. 1997)
This highly regarded psychologist was not frightened to publish his research into astrology and stand up to say that the statistical evidence spoke for itself. (H.J. Eysenck & D.K.B. Nias, Astrology: Science or Superstition? Penguin Books (1982))

1193 - Saladin, Kurdish sultan (b. 1137)
In early primary school, this man (Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb) was held up to us as a model of chivalry, and indeed his good works are worthy of renown. Sadly, I can’t claim kinship with this one, but he should be an inspiration to us all. The following info was lifted almost wholesale from Wikipedia, partly paraphrased and edited:

Saladin’s relationship with Richard the Lionheart was one of chivalrous mutual respect as well as military rivalry. When Richard became ill with fever, Saladin offered the services of his personal physician. Saladin also sent him fresh fruit with snow, to chill the drink, as treatment. At Arsuf, when Richard lost his horse, Saladin sent him two replacements. In April 1191, a Frankish woman's three month old baby had been stolen from her camp and had been sold on the market. The Franks urged her to approach Saladin herself with her grievance. After Saladin used his own money to buy the child, "he gave it to the mother and she took it; with tears streaming down her face, and hugged it to her breast. The people were watching her and weeping and I (Ibn Shaddad) was standing amongst them. She suckled it for some time and then Saladin ordered a horse to be fetched for her and she went back to camp."

When he died on March 4, 1193 at Damascus, Saladin’s advisors found there was not enough money in his treasury to pay for his funeral. He had given most of it away in charity.

1238 - Joan of England, Queen Consort of Scotland, wife of Alexander II (b. 1210)
Few medieval women got the chance to show their metal as did Queen Blanche (above). Poor little Joan, (July 22, 1210 – March 4, 1238) daughter of King John, was much more typical. She was brought up in the court of Hugh “le Brun” de Lusignan, a much older man who had been the childhood sweetheart of her mother, Isabelle d’Angoulême. Maybe Joan was a consolation prize. However, when King John died, Isabelle decided to marry Hugh herself, so Joan was sent back to England, where a marriage to King Alexander II of Scotland was being negotiated for her. They were married on June 21, 1221, at York Minster: Alexander was 23 and Joan was 11. They had no children. On 4 March 1238, Joan died in the arms of her brother, King Henry III, at Havering-atte-Bower, a favoured hunting spot of the Plantagenets. She was buried at Tarant Crawford Abbey in Dorset.

What a sad, short, little life! I hope Joan had some good times, somewhere along the way.

Feast Day
Humbert III of Savoy
Humbert was a 24xgreat-granduncle of mine: his sister Mathilda married Affonso I of Portugal and became my 24x great-grandmother a dozen times over – and an ancestor of half the rest of the world as well:-). Humbert, however, was not nearly so prolific. He was a man who would almost certainly have preferred to be a monk, and indeed he was in and out of monasteries for most of his life – between marriages!

His first wife, Faidiva, died young and his second marriage, to Gertrude of Flanders, ended in divorce, at which point Humbert became a Carthusian monk. However, the people of Savoy begged him to marry yet again, which he reluctantly did. This third wife, Clemenza of Zähringen, gave him two daughters, and when she died Humbert attempted to return to the monastic life. However, he was prevailed upon to marry for a fourth time, and this wife, Beatrice of Viennois, produced a son, Tommaso, who would ultimately succeed him.

After all that the poor guy deserved his canonisation!

This collection of useless knowledge took me several hours to research but at least I’ve got some snippets for my family history out of it. And who knows? Maybe grist for the story mill as well.
Sunday, 10 August 2008

How much is too much?

Over on e-buddy Jo's blog we had a bit of discussion last week about fantasy books we've enjoyed recently and the kinds of magic the authors had invented.

I must be odd. I don't read fantasy for the magic, but for the characters. My premise is "What if there were a world just like ours but with different races of people, some of whom could do magic and some of whom couldn't?" My primary interest is not in the magic per se, but in its effects on human relationships, so I don't often show magic going on, but assume it as a "given" for my invented world. The reader often sees the results of magic, but not its performance.

Some readers, however, read fantasy primarily for the magic. I found this out when I was a member of Online Writers Workshop, an online critiquing group for speculative fiction writers. It was apparent from the comments of several OWW critters that I don't show nearly enough magic for some people's taste. As a result of those critiques, I've started to include a lot more of the actual workings in my books. But how much is too much? While I'm a firm believer in giving the public what it wants, I feel the gratuitous depiction of any one thing impinges on whatever modicum of artistic integrity a work might possess.

Gee, does that last line sound pretentious, or what? Nevertheless, I put it to you that it's possible to use magic gratuitously, just as it's possible to overdo sex or violence. Do many people really like to read about magic even when it has little bearing on the plot and does nothing to show character development?

Some fantasies I've read go way overboard with magic. That's way overboard for my preferences, of course: as with all things, everyone has the right to draw their own line in the sand with regard to what constitutes "too much". One person's erotica is another person's pornography. One person's vivid description of violence is another person's horror. Where do you draw the line, magically speaking? Post a comment and let me know.

I'm about to start a new house-sitting gig, this time for my friend Ellen, who is off to Russia to take part in an international choral festival. Choirs from all over the world are getting together to sing Verdi's Requiem in St Petersburg and Moscow. What a wonderful experience that will be for the performers! As always, when my friends go away, I wish I could go, too! BTW, Juliet has blogged her marvellous Baltic experience at Writer Unboxed. It was obviously a trip full of contrasts, from the joy of a Latvian Folk Festival to the darkly emotional experience of WWII concentration camps. Russia and the Baltic are not common destinations for Aussie tourists, so I love to get reports of such expeditions.

No dogs and cats at Ellen's place: just five chooks. (Chickens or hens to those of you who don't live in the Land of Oz!) I haven't looked after poultry for well over twenty years, so wish me luck!
Monday, 4 August 2008

A spot of name-dropping

I am constantly amazed at how clever my friends are. I'm not talking about the ones whose cleverness is already well-known, such as the published authors whose blogs I follow and whose books I read assiduously, but the guys who turn up in my life and jog alongside me for months or years before I find out how gifted they are.

One such is Joel Fagin. He has just shyly admitted that he and an English artist, Robert Bracey, have spent months putting together a Japanese-inspired comic. It's called "Tengu"; it updates on Mondays and you can find it here:

Website: http://tengu.comicgenesis.com/
First comic: http://tengu.comicgenesis.com/d/20080310.html
RSS Feed: http://tengu.comicgenesis.com/rss.xml

Do check it out. It's brilliantly well done.

Joel is a fellow member of the KSP Speculative Fiction group. Other group members draw, paint, sculpt, weave and write verse as well as turning out amazing spec-fic stories. One, Carol Ryles, is just now on her way back from spending six weeks at Clarion West, a spec-fic writers boot camp in Seattle. Another, Sonia Timms-Helbig, has just arrived in LA to take part in the Writers of the Future workshops. Both these activities are highly competitive: you have to be bloody good even to get a look in.

Yup, I am very proud of my clever friends:-) Just as I am proud of my clever children - but I'm not allowed to mention them.
Sunday, 3 August 2008

Two Mini-cons

I’ve spent a happy weekend hanging out at the Conflux Mini-con. This is a great idea: a precursor to the live convention and a wonderful second-best for people who, like me, can’t get to Canberra. I lurked around and occasionally commented on discussions led by some articulate and entertaining people including Jack Dann, Simon Haynes, Bruce Gillespie, Glenda Larke, Sharyn Lilley, Karen Miller, Marianne de Pierres, Gillian Polack, Cat Sparks and Sean Williams. Writers and fans from all over the world joined in. One new e-buddy, Pema Lloyd, from Tucson, Arizona, stayed up all night so she didn’t have to miss any panels! Now that’s dedication for you. If you’d like to read the words of wisdom that were bandied about, go to the Conflux forum and check out the entries. And bookmark the page for next year! On another part of the site you can even download recorded talks from last year’s Conflux.

Congratulations are due to the team, comprising Phill Berrie, Stephen Herring, Nicole Murphy and Gillian Polack. I'm looking forward to next year already.

In between the great discussions at Conflux, I've been planning a mini-con of my own. Well, not just mine, you understand, but mine and a few other people's brainchild - (Ta Da!) - The KSPSF Mini-con!

We held the first one of these two years ago and it was successful beyond our wildest dreams. We thought maybe twenty or thirty people would show up, but in fact half Perth fandom appeared to be there. Trouble was, it rained, and activities planned for out-of-doors had to be held indoors. This time we've planned it for later in the year so hopefully the overcrowding won't happen.

Confirmed panellists include Adrian Bedford, Janet Blagg, Lee Battersby, Lyn Battersby, Hal Colebatch, Stephen Dedman, Russell Farr, Simon Haynes, Elaine Kemp, Alisa Krasnostein, Martin Livings, Dave Luckett, Bevan McGuiness, Juliet Marillier, Ian Nichols, John Parker, Grant Stone and Tehani Wessely.

Our Fearless Leader, Helen Venn, has set up a blog for the minicon here. I've linked to the site (see left)so you can check for updates about guests, food, books for sale, activities etc as they are added to the schedule. It should be a great day - and guess what? Just one gold coin will get you in! A cheap lunch will be available as well as ongoing refreshments. If you live in Perth or not too far away, write it in your diary now - Sunday 21 September, 10.00am-5.00pm. Barring a naked orgy in the woods, what better way to spend the Equinox?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...