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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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!

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Friday, 31 December 2010

Following yonder star

Happy New Year, everyone!

On my old Worldpress blog, I had a post about Astrology for Writers, with a link from this blog. I noticed from my stats that someone recently came to this site looking for it. The link I had up was incorrect, which meant the person may not have been able to find the post. I decided to put the material on this blog so I don't "put people crook" as the old Aussie vernacular has it. Then, of course, I found one of the links within the post itself didn't work, either, so this post actually differs considerably from the original!

Why is nothing ever simple?

I guess at least some of you, dear followers, must be interested in astrology, and I know most of you are interested in writing. So let's knock off two asteroids with one comet and have a look at how astrology can help writers.

Authors have often used astrology in their stories; it’s an important component, for instance, of Kim Falconer’s Quantum Enchantment science fantasy series. Kim, an astrologer herself, has devised an astrological system for her characters to use, and it certainly adds an interesting twist to both plot and characterisation. On her website, she even offers horoscopes according to the system she created for the books!

If you’re going to use astrology in your stories, you need to have more than a superficial knowledge of it. I was amused to read in one of my favourite historical novels set in medieval times that one of the characters had Venus and Neptune conjunct in her horoscope. Now this may well be true, but the character and her astrologer would not have been aware of the fact. Neptune was not discovered until 1846!

If you’re a writer, your own chart will undoubtedly show a bent towards verbal expression and some kind of artistic talent. Those among you who have horoscopes will know this already, and those of you who have not might enjoy a new voyage of self-discovery if you take the time to learn more about the subject. It might also show you the appropriate times to submit manuscripts to give yourself the best chance of success! Perhaps I'll write a whole post on these topics sometime, but for today, let's have a look at how astrology can help you develop and understand your characters.

I know some of you are cynics about astrology, and so you should be – there’s a lot of crap flying around out there on the subject. But even cynics can use this tool with useful results. There are lots of websites to help you and rather than reinvent the wheel I’ll provide links to a couple of good ones.

The Metaphysical Zone investigates various psychological and metaphysical tools for character development, including astrology, the Enneagram and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. In regard to astrology, it suggests going into considerable depth by ascertaining your character's date, place and time of birth and setting up a complete horoscope. This is certainly the most thorough and legitimate way to use astrology - it's what I do, and every time, I am amazed to find that by reading the chart in depth I can learn more about that character's deep fears and desires, which add dimensions I was not aware of and explain why the character sometimes goes off on tangents that seem contrary to the way I want the story to go!

‘But,’ I hear you ask, ‘how do I find out my character’s place, date and time of birth?’

There are two ways. Both require that you first decide the year of birth, which should be easy because you probably already know how old your character is. You probably also know the place.

Having got at least the year of birth, do one of the following:

*Ask the character! Just sit quietly and imagine the character has come to join you, and simply ask him or her for the data you need. It will probably pop into your head immediately, but if it doesn’t, thank the character anyway and accept that the information will come to you later, perhaps in a dream. It nearly always does. Then you can go to any one of the numerous sites that offers free astrology charts and download the character's horoscope. You can get a perfectly good free chart and a simple reading from Astrolabe.

*The second method, which is the one I use, demands more in-depth knowledge of astrology. I look at what I know about the character already and hazard a guess as to possible dominant signs. (Sometimes something else leaps out at me, too, such as a possible aspect between two planets.) I follow my intuition as to which is the Sun sign. That gives me the Zodiacal month. Then I pick what I think should be the Moon sign – that will narrow it down to about three days. Then I look up those days and again just following my nose, I pick one of them to be the birthdate. Then I pick the possible rising sign to get the time to within a couple of hours. A bit of fine tuning and I can sit down and learn my character’s innermost secrets at my leisure!

But of course, it doesn’t matter how well I think I know my characters – if I can’t write them well the knowledge does me no good. Blending characters and plot is the essence of fiction writing and in that regard, I still have along way to go, despite my Air (intellectual ability, verbal reasoning) grand trine (a generally fortunate combination) of Mercury (verbal skill) Neptune (creativity, imagination) and Saturn conjunct Uranus (hard work + sudden breakthroughs and changes).

Ah well, plod on! And that’s Saturn talking. :-)
Sunday, 19 December 2010

My Facebook Year

Facebook is full of wonderful time-wasting activities! Two recent ones have enabled me to look back over the past year to see just how I'd been wasting my time.

First, a selection of my status posts for the year. These do, in fact, give a pretty good run-down of my year's high points.

Then there's the one that looks at which words I've used the most in my status posts. These suggest that I've been a bit of a Pollyanna in 2010, although it's apparent I've had a few friends with cancer. Nevertheless, they do give an indication of my priorities, I think.

Top words from my Facebook status messages:
1: Great - used 9 times
2: Friends - used 7 times
3: Birthday - used 7 times
4: Cancer - used 6 times
5: Know - used 6 times
6: Carol - used 6 times
7: Family - used 5 times
8: Lovely - used 5 times
9: Stuff - used 5 times
10: Yay - used 4 times

And finally, just because it's cute and it's Christmas:

I wish you all a very happy holiday season and all the things you love the best for the coming year.
Sunday, 21 November 2010

In transit, with books

I'm currently in Adelaide en route to Mount Gambier, where I'll be for the next ten weeks. I like summer in the The Mount - daytime temperatures tend to hover around 30 degrees Celsius, with only an occasional day hitting the old century and rarely going higher. What's more, it's a clear, dry heat that I revel in. Water in the air, cold or hot, makes me very uncomfortable, and of recent years, Perth's summers have become more humid.

Even so, I'd like to move back to the West, and have almost decided to give up my flat in Mount Gambier, sell my worldly goods and move to a boarding house in or near Perth, if I can find somewhere suitable. After all, I've been commuting between Perth and Mount Gambier for the last four years, and have actually spent more time in Perth than in The Mount. I have, from time to time, missed a particular book or item of clothing, but by and large, I've managed fine on what I can lug around (with a bit of help from my friends!) in two suitcases and a motley assortment of supermarket bags. Many people on this planet live with far fewer personal effects.

So why does the thought of shedding books terrify me?

My name is Satima and I am a bookaholic...

I have bookshelves in every room except the wet areas, and more books in boxes and cupboards. Yet there is no information in them that I cannot get from a library or on line. Why do I find it so hard to think of parting with them?

I'm working on overcoming this attachment but it's painful. Books have been the one continuing theme in my life. There's never been a time when I did not own at least a shelf full. I've lugged them about from country to country and state to state for over fifty years, and the thought of getting rid of them hurts. Besides, on the rare occasions when I've cut down by giving a few dozen to charity or parted with them for a pittance to a dealer, I've regretted it the next week, because the very book I needed to consult was one of those I'd off-loaded. I might have owned the book for several years and never needed to look at it after the initial reading, but if I part with it, some extension to Murphy's Law comes into play and it will be the only book in the world that contains the information or the quote that I need, dammit.

But I cannot live in a boarding house with several hundred books, or even several dozen. If I am to move back to Perth, the books will have to go. I'll let you know how I get on with my fight against the book demons!
Saturday, 30 October 2010

Fifteen Novellists

Another meme! Instructions: take no more than 15 minutes to compile your list of fifteen authors who’ve influenced you. I’ve put mine in chronological order on the timeline of my life before the age of 40. Other authors have influenced me since, of course, but the works of the names below are woven into my psyche and no doubt always will be.

You don’t have to list your authors chronologically, of course – you can organise your collection however you choose!

I had to leave one author off because he would have been one too many, but let me acknowledge the debt I owe to A.A.Milne, whose Winnie-the-Pooh books formed the basis of my library between the ages of two and six!:-)

1. Enid Blyton: Part of the fabric of my childhood! Between the ages of 6 and 13, I read and re read the Famous Five and the Adventure Series until the covers were falling off!

2. Rudyard Kipling: Likewise, The Jungle Book and Just So Stories were favourites that I read again and again.

3. J.R.R. Tolkien: In grade two our teacher read The Hobbit aloud. It terrified me! I first read LOTR in my teens and have owned several copies since. Don’t tell anyone, but I liked the films better!

4. Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series was much loved, too, although I don’t think I ever owned all of them.

5. Rosemary Sutcliff: I first read The Eagle of the Ninth when I was eleven and have re-read it many times since, along with Sutcliff’s other lovely historicals. I’ve never succeeded in collecting the complete set, however.

6. Elizabeth Goudge: An historical writer with an eye for the mythical and mystical who was my favourite author when I was a teenager. I would like to read her books again. (On the to-do list!)

7. Daphne du Maurier: I read her avidly in my teens, too, but have never re-read her work. I should, because she must have had an influence on my own writing!

8. Anya Seton: Another historical author whose work I relished as a teenager, especially, of course, her famous Katherine.

9. P.G. Wodehouse: another author I should re-read. I spent many happy hours in my teens rolling with laughter over his stories.

10. L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt: As with Wodehouse, it was their humour, typified by The Incomplete Enchanter and The Castle of Iron, that hooked me. Later, I came to prefer Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, but de Camp and Pratt showed me that humour in speculative fiction is not only possible, but great fun.

11. A. Bertram Chandler: The first Australian SF author I read. My favourite was False Fatherland, which won Chandler one of his several Ditmars.

12. Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke: I’m cheating by lumping the “Big Three” together. As for many fans of my generation, these guys were the saints of SF and their work was Holy Writ.

13. Mary Stewart: The first historical fantasy author I read. I re-read The Crystal Cave every few years and still love it.

14. Anne McCaffrey and Roger Zelazny: Another cheat, because I discovered these authors about the same time, and different though they are from each other, they have both influenced my own writing. The first two books about the Pern Dragon riders and the first five books of the Amber series are still among my favourite re-reads.

15. Ursula K. Leguin: The Left Hand of Darkness is one of my favourite books of all time in any genre.

So, take the meme and run with it, if you like. Let me know when your list is up because I’d love to read it!
Sunday, 17 October 2010

Versatile Bloggers

A couple of weeks back, the very wonderful Kim Falconer passed on a meme/award. Now, I’m a sucker for memes, and as for awards – well, who doesn’t appreciate a bit of kudos now and then?

Here’s the meme part: Award Recipients list seven things about themselves that their readers might not know. Here are my seven – the first one is identical to Kim’s!

1. I love dark chocolate
2. Dogs are my favourite animals, followed by cats, sheep and pigs
3. I love language and communication in all forms
4. History is possibly the one thing I love even more than language, and only just behind language follow ballet (and dance generally) Yoga and meditation
5. My musical tastes run to Folk/Ethnic, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical and Romantic
6. Jobs I’ve worked at include Astrologer/Palmist, Ballet Teacher, Dancer (of the tits’n’feathers persuasion), Database Manager, Editor, English Coach, Housekeeper, Family History Researcher Freelance Journalist and Pig Farmer
7. I have lived in five countries, at a total of over 30 addresses. And that’s not counting house-sits and other temporary places of abode!

And speaking of house-sits, here is my Playmate of the Month, Jayjay. She is a lovely placid puddytat, whose only foible is a spot of tail lashing when dinner is not what she wanted. But she always manages to swallow her pride and eat it anyway! She's my Playmate of the Month because I am house-sitting for her family for the whole of October. This is the longest house-sit I've had this year and comes as a blessed isle of calm after so many moves in such a short few months!

The Versatile Blogger Award is hard to pass on, because most bloggers don’t set out to be versatile. They blog, often very eruditely, on one topic and one topic only. There are heaps of wonderful blogs devoted to exclusively to writing, reading, language, history, music, dance and all the other things I love – and things I hate, too, come to that! But here are some blogs that don’t limit themselves to one topic and so often come up with the odd surprise to keep the reader interested.

First, my friend Jo Wake, who blogs on travel, cooking, reading, current affairs and life's vicissitudes generally.

Then there’s Laura Goodin who can turn her pen to movies, books, fencing (the foils and sabres kind, not the 12-gauge wire kind) as well as fiction writing and topics related thereto.

And my friend and crit buddy Fiona Leonard, who blogs on anything and everything, especially travel and current affairs. Fiona has travelled widely and currently lives in Ghana, so her posts often deal with matters that seem exotic to those of us left behind in Oz! Her posts are often graced by photos taken by her clever partner, Nyani Quarmyne.

Lisa Gold calls herself the Research Maven, and she researches for writers on any and every possible topic. She passes on the gems she mines via the blog.

Author extraordinaire Karen Miller is a woman of many parts, and it shows in her very versatile blog. Karen writes on writing (of course) and also theatre, current affairs, biography, music and more.

Sue Isle is a versatile author as well as a versatile blogger, as she writes both YA and adult stories. And her hobby is keeping rats! If you want to learn about these fascinating and much-maligned animals, Sue’s your woman.

Gillian Polack is another author whose interests are legion. She loves both history and cooking, so the history of all things culinary features largely in her blog posts. But that’s only the beginning. Her blog provides unique entertainment and is often a barrel of laughs, sometimes through tears.

Lastly, a pat on the back for my Egoboo friends, Carol Ryles, Helen Venn, Joanna Fay and Sarah Parker. The five of us together pretty much cover the spectrum of interests and lifestyles, and I like to think this infinite variety is reflected in our posts!
Sunday, 19 September 2010

New Furry Friends

I am currently house-sitting for a friend who lives in the tiny historic township of York, which lies 97km inland from Perth, Western Australia. It is the oldest inland township in the state, having been founded in 1831, only two years after Perth itself was settled in 1829. For the first few years it was merely a collection of scattered farms, but in 1836 an army barracks and store were built, and soon a thriving little community took shape. York is still the centre of a farming district today, and is a popular "tree change" village for people moving here from Perth. Many of these are artists or hobbyists, and the place is replete with things like an automotive museum, art galleries, and arty gift shops jostling with farm supplies and real estate agents.

It's very cold here in winter by Australian standards, and winter has lingered this year. Only in the last few days have we been frost-free in the early mornings. Yet there has been little rain, and my friend's fledgling garden requires constant watering. We are promised maxima in the mid-twenties Celsius later this week, which will be nice for me but not for the water-starved plants.

My family of four-legged fosterlings comprises a little shaggy dog named Gizmo and three cats - a haughty Burmese named Foxy and two young tabbies, Dasher (she was dumped on a vet's doorstep at Christmas time along with her litter mates, and they were promptly named after Santa's reindeer!) and Kitteny. The two look very alike, but Kitteny is slightly darker than Dasher. Name notwithstanding, she is the elder of the two, but she still enjoys a kitteny game with Dasher now and then. Gizmo quite enjoys a game of tug-of-war, too, but Foxy is far too dignified for such goings on. Foxy has habit of not quite closing her mouth, so her incisors show, making her look like a vampire, but try as I might, I couldn't catch her doing this on camera.

I'll be here for another few days and then I go back to Perth to stay with some other friends of the winged persuasion! House-sitting is nothing if not varied:-).

(The pets are shown here in order of age - Gizmo, Foxy, Kitteny and Dasher, who is taking time to smell the flowers.)
Monday, 6 September 2010

A worldcon is a wond'rous thing, God wot!

Aussiecon4, the 68th World Science Fiction Convention, has just ended. An amazing and sometimes overwhelming experience, it has been a once-in-a-lifetime event for me, since the “Worldcon” is only held in Australia about once in a decade. The four held here so far have all been in Melbourne

The event was both exhilarating and frustrating: exhilarating because of the combination of guests from all over the world, a huge array of panel topics and panellists and activities that included kaffeeklatsches with, and readings by, dozens of writers; the opportunity to buy books and other fan-pleasing merchandise from a veritable army of dealers, and the possibility of falling over a favourite author in the bar or in an elevator.

And the frustration? It just wasn't possible to take advantage of even a tenth of the offerings. Several times I found myself sitting in the foyer, poring over the program, unable to make up my mind which panel or kaffeeklatsch to go to and ending up so paralysed that I did none of them, opting instead for the comfort of a hot coffee or a turn about the dealers' room! Nevertheless, I did attend about a dozen panels, four or five kaffeeklatsches and about the same number of readings. Some of my favourite authors, including Glenda Larke, Juliet Marillier and Karen Miller, sat on panels,and I even took part in one myself. It was about YA paranormal romance, which I list among my least favourite sub-genres, while I was overlooked for all the reviewing panels. Obviously the mode of allocating panellists to panels is beyond my comprehension. However, my fellow-panellists – Crisetta McLeod, Amanda Pillar and Tehani Wessely (who is an awesome moderator) - covered up for any deficiencies I might have!

There were glittering social events, too, and. I was lucky enough to be invited to two of them. The first was a fifteenth birthday celebration for HarperCollins's spec-fic imprint, Voyager. No less a personage than George R R Martin himself cut the cake, to the accompaniment of a blaze of exploding torches outside the windows framing the dais in the Crown Entertainment Complex. Mr Martin joked about authors who do not submit their books on time, to the amusement of those of us who have been awaiting the appearance of his long-delayed opus, A Dance with Dragons. (Perhaps next year, in Reno, brethren...) The second event was a pre-Hugo awards party, kindly put on by the Orion imprint of Hachette Livre. This was another stupendous event, in which artist Nick Stathopoulos proudly showed the shining throng his beautifully crafted award statuette. It incorporated elements of Art Nouveau and Aboriginal creation stories, a mix that shouldn't have worked but did, and that right wonderfully.

Later in the evening, the Hugos were presented. There was one Aussie among the winners – artist Sean Tan, a Perthite now living in Melbourne. Tan is highly regarded, not only for his art but also for his writing and his personal popularity as a humble and generous all-round Nice Guy. Aussie editor Jonathan Strahan just missed out on an award, but I hasten to add that to be shortlisted for the Hugos is as prestigious in the SF world as is being shortlisted for the Oscars in the realm of cinema, so we in Aussie fandom are very proud of both these talented men.

I had hoped to catch up with many of the friends I've made online, and indeed I did manage to kaffeeklatsch with some of my fellow webzine workers, not only those on The Specusphere but others including Nyssa Pascoe, Phill Berrie, Crisetta McLeod, Chuck McKenzie, Simon Petrie, Helen Stubbs, Damien Smith, Brendan Carson and Catherine Gunson. I also managed quick schmoozes with many others including Sally Beasley, Sue Bursztynski, Michele Cashmore, Shane Jiraiya Cummings, Edwina Harvey, Judi Hodgkin (a lovely surprise, that, for I hadn't seen ex-WAAPA buddy Judi since 1990!), Heidi Kneale, Dean Laslett, Dave Luckett, Ian McHugh, Nicole Murphy, Ian Nichols, Gillian Polack and Monissa Whiteley. Plus, of course, my dear friends from the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre: Sarah Parker, Andrew Partington, Carol Ryles, Helen Venn and Jessica Vivien. There were, in fact, well over a hundred Perthites among the membership, perhaps more per head of population than any other city in the world!

What's more, I made many new friends and acquaintances, not least my room-mate at the Melbourne Central YHA hostel, Ruth Anne from San Francisco. I also had the opportunity to consult with the London literary agent who had been kind enough to read the opening pages of my trilogy. He was very encouraging and offered me the opportunity to submit again when I've made some improvements.

There is so much to say about Aussiecon4 that I feel I should stop waxing lyrical about it lest I bore you, since only being present at such an event can give a true idea of its wonder and complexity. There will be plenty written about it elsewhere, and I will probably write more myself for The Specusphere. But let me register here my profound thanks to Sue Ann Barber and the rest of the hard-working team who put the con together. It was an amazing achievement!

I return to Perth tomorrow for another round of housesitting, so I should have pictures of some new furry friends to share with you next time!
Sunday, 22 August 2010

Ups instead of downs

The one thing we can be sure of in life is that things will change. People come and go, workplaces alter, and the weather is a constant reminder of the basic unreliability of life. A lot of changes bring sadness, and even fortunate changes are stressful. All the same, isn't it nice when things look up a bit for a change?

I'm going through a period when positive things seem to be happening. First, there's the keen anticipation of the Worldcon - the World Science Fiction Convention - which will enliven the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre from 2-6 September. I was among the first to put my money down, courtesy of a kind and generous friend, so I've been looking forward to this event for months.

There will be loads and heaps and tons of panels to attend, all featuring writers, publishers, artists, agents, editors and fans of note: names like Ellen Datlow, Cory Doctorow, Glenda Larke, Juliet Marillier, George R.R. Martin, China Mieville, Karen Miller, Charles Stross, Catherynne M. Valente, Sean Williams, and scores of others including the fabulous Guests of Honour: Kim Stanley Robinson, Shaun Tan and Robin Johnson. And I am even on a panel myself, with fellow Aussies Amanda Pillar, Crisetta McLeod and Tehani Wesley. Wow. Me. On a panel. At a Worldcon. Wow.

The problem is one of being spoilt for choice, as there are times when I shall want to attend two or three panels or events in the same time-slot. Not having mastered bi-location yet, I just won't be able to go to everything, but I'm darned well going to try!

You can find out all about "Aussiecon4" at http://www.aussiecon4.org.au/.

You will have gathered that I'm feeling pretty happy at present, and all the more so because I've had a couple of exciting things happen in the last few weeks. First, a well-known and widely respected literary agent from London opened his books to down-under writers who planned to attend Aussiecon4. I queried him by email and he was kind enough to not only look at my package, but to say a few complimentary things about my writing and to give me some very useful feedback. He even said nice things about my blog! And while he wasn't willing to represent my book "in its present form", his generous interest in my work was very encouraging.

Then, a couple of weeks later, I learnt that I'd been shortlisted for the Katharine Susannah Prichard Speculative Fiction Award. I only wound up with a commended certificate and a whole ten dollars in prize money, but to be in the top 10% of a large field in a respected competition feels like a validation of my work. My friend Carol Ryles won third prize. She's a better writer than I am, and more experienced, and having read her story, I know the competition was pretty fierce. I'd love to read the stories submitted by the first and second placegetters, Victorian writers Denis Bastion and Janeen Samuel. Fellow Egobooer Joanna Fay read the winning entry out loud, but sadly I was in South Australia so I didn't hear it.

So, in an optimistic frame of mind, I'm eagerly waiting to head off to Melbourne in ten days' time to see and maybe even meet some of the greats in my chosen genre; to catch up with old friends and meet new ones, and to put faces to the names of some of the many lovely people I've previously only "met" online. Be assured that I'll be back with a blow-by-blow commentary in a couple of weeks!

BTW, those of you who are interested in such trivia might like to check out a post I wrote for the Egoboo blog last week about the different kinds of adjectives, the proper order for them, and when to use and not to use commas while doing so. Fascinating stuff, I assure you!:-)
Sunday, 1 August 2010

Specusphere, August-September 2010

The new Specusphere is live. Just look at the great table of contents!


Voting, FIFA and the Moon by Stephen Thompson


Do I really like speculative fiction? by Stephen Thompson
Medical Bag: Briar Rose by Brendan Carson
Fantasy genre paradigm shift by Amanda Greenslade

Writing and Publishing

Tips for the older writer by Satima Flavell
Challenges and Denizens of the Road of Trials by Stephen Turner
Patience by Anne Hamilton

Book Reviews

* Ancient Whispers by Marie-Claude Bourque, reviewed by Bobbi Sinha-Morey
* Angel’s Blood and Archangel’s Kiss by Nalini Singh, reviewed by Damien Smith
* Burning Lamp by Amanda Quick, reviewed by Bobbi Sinha-Morey
* The Crows of Bedu by Nye Joell Hardy, reviewed by Katherine Petersen
* Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris, reviewed by Felicity Dowker
* Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb reviewed by Satima Flavell
* Instructions by Neil Gaiman, reviewed by Felicity Dowker
* Legends by Jack Dann & Jonathan Strachan (eds) reviewed by Satima Flavell
* Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey, reviewed by Satima Flavell
* New Model Army by Adam Roberts, reviewed by Ross Murray
* Shadow Bound by Erin Kellison, reviewed by Bobbi Sinha-Morey
* The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer, reviewed by Felicity Dowker
* The Song of the Silvercades and The Cry of the Marwing by KS Nikakis, reviewed by Donna Hanson
* Soulless & Changeless by Gail Carriger, reviewed by Damien Smith
* Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes, reviewed by Damien Smith
* White Cat by Holly Black, reviewed by Ian Banks

Game Reviews

Machinarium by Amanita Design, reviewed by Marisa Wikramanayake


Serial 8: Toyol by Yusuf Martin

So hop over to http://www.specusphere.com/ and have yourself a nice big read!

Thursday, 29 July 2010

What is Success?

Another post copied over from my old WordPress blog.

Over at her Year in America blog, my friend Fiona Leonard posed the question, “If you knew you could not fail, what would you do?”

I thought for quite a while about this before posting a comment, trying to identify how I define success and what anchors me in my undertakings. I came to the conclusion that it’s not the lure of success that motivates me, but my passion for the thing I’m doing.

I’ve had many interests over the course of my life: in fact, in a post about a year ago I described myself as being “artistically promiscuous” as a girl, since I loved so many things. I studied piano, singing, speech and drama and several forms of dance as well as a full trencher of school subjects and all the peripherals that go with being a music student – theory, harmony, aural training, history and form of music…my days were full from wake-up time at 6.00am until I collapsed into bed at about 9.30pm. I loved all those activities (or at least most of them, most of the time!) and did not want to give any of them up.

Until, of course, they became too difficult. This happened first with piano. I was a student at Sydney Conservatorium, and I was well aware that although I had above average ability in music, I was never going to be much better at it than I was then. It had become a hard grind. I pushed myself through the required two hours of practice each day, but each session was a struggle. My teacher, Raymond Fischer, told me I was at least three years away from being ready to sit even the simplest diploma exam, and I realised I just didn’t have the enthusiasm to last the distance. Possibly, with a lot of effort, I could have done what my parents hoped and expected I would do – go on to Teachers’ College and become a specialist music teacher in a high school. But the prospect of having to face four or five classes a day for the rest of my life, trying to interest a mob of teenagers in a subject that had already lost its juice for me, was utterly unthinkable.

After a year of Arts at Sydney University, I took a year off study to work in the public service and make a rather unfortunate early marriage. It didn’t take long for me to realise that working in an office environment was not my thing, either, and in 1962 I entered the National Institute of Dramatic Art to try my hand at acting. However, during that year I had my first baby and in those days there were no creches at universities, and as I couldn’t find suitable child care, I had to give up my scholarship and quit the course. I was sad, but not devastated, because at heart I’d already realised that this was not my path, either. I loved Shakespeare, but opportunities for specialist Shakesperean actors in Australia were virtually nil at that time, and the thought of spending my time preparing for auditions for TV commercials didn’t exactly fill me with enthusiasm. Several of my fellow students did indeed become professional actors — two of them, John Bell and Anna Volska, even became specialist Shakespereans! — but many more became bartenders, teachers and insurance agents.

I continued to be involved in amateur theatre and to teach dance for another twenty years, while rearing my five children. Along the way I furthered an interest in astrology that had started in my teens, and tried my hand at farming, even gaining a Certificate in Rural Studies to give myself a theoretical base for milking cows, drenching sheep and mucking out pig pens. Actually this was one of the happiest times of my life in many ways, and not the least happy-making part was watching my children growing up close to nature, seeing first-hand the cycles of life that as urban dwellers we see only dimly, as when someone has a baby or an elderly relative dies. In farm animals these cycles play themselves out far more quickly.

Dance was the one thing that never lost its appeal for me, despite my short legs and hockey-player’s build that rendered me unsuited to classical ballet. In my forties I returned to study at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, where I completed an Associate Diploma in Performing Arts (Dance) with the intention of “updating my expertise” so that I could catch up with the latest doings in the dance world, especially in teaching. My forty-odd-year-old body complained terribly and it took three years for me to complete the two year course, but complete it I did, and I was quite proud when I walked across the platform to receive my scroll. Concurrently, I’d started a BA in Religious Studies, which I loved. I complemented it by converting my Associate Diploma to a Dance minor, and also started another BA in Languages. This was in those heady days of the 1980s when all tertiary education was free, so I was merrily undertaking units in French, Italian, English Literature, Linguistics, Psychology and Journalism. However, when I was part-way through this second BA, my second marrriage broke down and fees for university courses came back, so I could not afford to finish it, much less go on to do the masters in Religious Studies that I’d hoped to do. Of course, none of those transcripts actually qualified me to do anything, and I was getting older and becoming less and less employable in a country that has always valued youth above almost everything else. So I turned to my other interests to put bread on the table, and these are the things I still do today – writing, editing, astrology and meditation. And I still love all of them.

Writing fiction, however, is just as heartbreaking as music, dance and acting. The chances of any individual “succeeding” at it are very low indeed. For every thousand manuscripts that are started by hopeful would-be authors, only one or two, at best, will eventually be published by one of the major commercial publishing houses. I frequently become discouraged, and talking to my fellow writers, I realise most of them do, too.

Nevertheless, I will keep up the battle until writing loses its juice for me. And when might that be? If my past experience is any guide, it will be when I know that I’ve reached the limits of my ability, which to me isn’t failure; it’s just a fact of life. I have the good fortune to have better-than-average talents in a lot of directions, but I have never proved to be outstanding at any of them.

The nine Muses dancing with Apollo

But is this a bad thing?

I think not. If it were, I wouldn’t have had the chance to do so many wonderful things because I would have spent my life focussing on the prospect of success in just one of the things I love. I worship all the muses, and while, perhaps, none of them loves me quite as much as she loves her dedicated votaries who have just one talent in abundance, I can nonetheless bathe in all their sacred pools and come away refreshed. And that may be the best gift of all.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Once I thought I'd like to be an editor

Here's another post recycled from my old WordPress blog.

As I wrote the title to this post, I thought it sounded vaguely familiar. Then I remembered a silly little song my father taught me when I was five years old, which began, “Once I thought I’d like to be a cricketer”. I can still remember the words, so just for fun I put them up here.

But this post is not about cricketers, but editors. How does one become an editor?

I suppose it’s not unlike the way one becomes a cricketer or anything else: you watch other people doing it, then maybe you get someone to teach you a few things, and from then on its practice, practice, practice. That’s certainly the way I learnt, but that was twenty years ago. Things are a bit different now, in that there are tertiary courses devoted to editing and publishing and the Institute of Professional Editors has set up a qualifying examination. But a lot of people, even today, just fall into it, as I did.

I was at Edith Cowan University and had just started to write for Music Maker Magazine, in which I had my own column. Fellow students, therefore, thought I might be some kind of expert and they would often ask me to check their work for spelling and grammatical errors before they passed it in. I soon realised I was, in fact, not bad at copyediting. After all, I come from a generation that had the Rules drummed into them from an early age. It horrified me a bit to realise that in my French classes there were young people fresh out of school who literally did not know a noun from a verb. The lecturer was in despair. ‘How can I teach them French grammar,’ she asked, ‘when they don’t even know the rules in English?’ I sympathised completely, and I felt sorry for the students, who had never had chance to learn the beautiful intricacies of our language.

If our own young people cannot understand English grammar, what hope does a foreigner have? So when a few years later a student from Nepal asked me to help him learn to speak and write better English, I was happy to help. Jaganath (who has since become a friend) somehow persuaded his university that they should pay for his English lessons. The university responded by sending me more students, and it didn’t take me long to realise that they didn’t want conversation practice nearly as much as they wanted help with their assignments.

In some countries, styles of writing differ considerably from the linear point-to-point-to-conclusion logic that we are used to in English. Rather, scholars there prefer a rather more circuitous approach. This difference puzzles a lot of students for whom English is not their mother tongue.

What’s more, academic English, especially in the sciences, still prefers a formal style with a preponderance of Latinate words rather than plain Saxon-based ones. Formal written English is almost a different language. Naturally, lot of students, not all of them foreign, find this really confusing. Formal English uses Latinate words for historical reasons – after the Norman invasion of 1066, the ruling classes, who made and enforced the laws, for several centuries did not speak the same language as the predominately Anglo-Celtic people they had conquered. When I explain this to students it’s a joy to see comprehension dawn in their eyes, and some of them get the hang of the different “feel” of the two forms of English very quickly.

And so it was that I fell into editing quite by chance. As more and more students were awarded their degrees, so my confidence grew. By this time I had become interested in writing fiction, and other writers would ask me to critique their work. At first, I would only copyedit their offerings, but here, too, I gradually became bolder and more confident and as my expertise grew I took on more and more complex editing jobs and felt I could charge a reasonable fee for my work.

If you feel drawn to editing and would like to learn more, find your state’s society of editors (There’s a list on the Society of Editors WA website.) If you live outside Australia, try an internet search for society+editors+Antarctica, or whatever other country you live in. The internet is full of wonders and you’re sure to turn up something!

Of course, if you’re young enough to want to make this your career, you can enrol in a formal course either in journalism or editing and publishing. But a lot of freelance editors are older people like me, who learnt formal English in school and who may have some journalistic or teaching experience; who have read widely and taken appropriate workshops when they’ve had the opportunity, and who are willing to go on learning.

There’s room for all kinds of editors. Few freelancers make a full living from their editing activities, but that’s not a bad thing. Many people today depend on a portfolio of skills for their livelihood . If you love language and enjoy helping people, why not make editing one of yours?

Monday, 26 July 2010

Genealogy in a multicultural world

This is another post that I've copied over from my old WordPress blog.

When I was a child, ethnicity was a relatively simple matter. England was full of English people, Chinese people lived in China and in the south sea islands there were people who wore grass skirts and possibly ate missionaries. Of course, it wasn't really quite as simple as that, but that was how it appeared to me at three or four years of age.

I remember Mother calling me to the window one day, saying, "Look, there's a Chinaman!" I leaned over the windowsill and gazed down at the street below, but all I could see was the back of the man's head as he hurried along like everyone else in the bustling crowd, heading for a bus stop, his workplace or the shops. (I should explain that we were between houses and at this stage were living in a flat over a butcher's shop. It was at 26 King St, Stretford, Manchester, if you'd care to consult Google Earth!)

My illusions were shattered! The man wasn't even wearing a long robe like the mandarins in my picture book.

The world was already changing. The end of World War II left millions of people displaced, and they often ended up somewhere far from their place of birth. Other emigrations involved young women from Japan and Germany who had married soldiers from the UK, America, Australia and other countries. My own eldest sister married a refugee from Serbia and our house was often filled with his friends, many of whom spoke little or no English. And when we emigrated to Australia in 1952, we already found the beginnings of a multicultural society.

It was largely European multiculturalism, of course, for at that time the White Australia policy was in force. It suited the authorities to forget the Aboriginal people their ancestors had displaced, the Chinese adventurers who had settled here during the Gold Rush of the mid-C19, the Kanakas from the south seas islands who had been kidnapped and brought to Queensland as slave labour, the Afghan camel-drivers of Australia's Red Heart and the Japanese divers who worked in Broome's pearling industry. No, Australia was White, and White it was going to stay.

But Australia was flourishing and people all over the world were on the move. Laws had to change to bring in much-needed labour. Young people of the developed nations discovered the joys of travel, and many of them brought home foreign partners or settled in other countries. Students began to attend universities in lands other than their own, and by the 1960s countries that had been reasonably homogeneous, population-wise, found themselves turning into melting pots. Multiculturalism had arrived.

Now we have second and third generations of children whose parents or grandparents came from other lands. In some families, the immigration took place long ago, as in the the case of the Chinese gold-diggers' descendants. Some time ago, I met a girl from Broome whose four grandparents were Japanese, Aboriginal, Afghan and Irish. She was, I might add, extraordinarily attractive!

Two of my children descend from a part-African slave trader from Jamaica, who brought his family to Australia in the mid C19 when that terrible trade failed. Two more of my children are part-German. I have nieces and nephews of two generations who are part-Serbian, part-Greek or part-Polish, and step-grandchildren who are part-Italian.

All this has made for some interesting research in my family tree! I have not attempted to follow the Italian, Serbian, Greek and Polish laterals, leaving those for closer relatives to investigate, but I have found out a great deal about the ex-pat Jamaican line and that of my German children. Family historians are incredibly generous in sharing their research, and in fact my German cousin-by-marriage, Elfriede, came to visit me with her husband, who is Indian, a few years ago and I was fortunate enough to visit their lovely home in the Rhine Valley in 2006.

The ever-increasing mixture of nationalities must surely strengthen the gene pool, although it might create problems for genetically-based medicine in the future. Already we occasionally hear of someone who cannot find a tissue match because of their unusual bloodlines. But as genealogists, we face our own challenges. We are very lucky today in having access to so much information from all over the world. Not all of it is readily accessible, but even so, many of us can trace our ancestry back for at least a couple of centuries if we are determined enough. But who knows how long this happy state of affairs will continue? Borders alter, governments fall, mass migrations of people can happen almost overnight, especially in the event of war or natural disaster. All these things can mean gaps in the records. Anyone with any sense of history, anyone with any feeling of family pride, anyone with any sense of curiousity and wonder, wants to know about their ancestry. It is of vital importance, therefore, that this lucky generation of family historians should collect and preserve all the records they can for their multicultural, multi-coloured descendants! Write down everything you can remember of the stories your parents and grandparents told you about life in the old country, and their difficulties in learning to live in a new culture. Don't throw out those old photos, documents and letters Opa Jan, Aunt Mary, Uncle Ngobo or Cousin Takeko left in the garage. Rather, preserve them in archival quality folders and albums. Your great-grandchildren may well thank you for it.
Sunday, 25 July 2010

Authorial voice, passive writing and the passive voice

How do you like my new-look blog? Kudos to my clever son Scott over at ManeyActs.

I've decided to import some old posts from the WordPress blog that I no longer use, and as Blogger won't let me import the lot in date order, I shall copy and paste them one by one. Here's one I posted in March of this year:

On sites that offer writing advice one sometimes reads instruction that confuses “passive writing” with “passive voice”. We see this among critiquers in writing groups as well, and it’s a source not just of confusion but also of misinformation.

I think there are two sources for this confusion. We often read that a writer needs to develop his or her own “Voice”. (I’ll capitalise this hereafter, to distinguish it from the other meaning of the word, which I’ll deal with farther down.)

“Voice” in this context really refers to those distinctive elements of a writer’s style that remind us of who is writing. If we look at authors of bygone days, Voice is not hard to see. Charles Dickens, for instance, had a distinctive Voice. So did Rudyard Kipling and DH Lawrence. In fact, pick up a work by any well-known author active before about 1980 and if you’ve read a few of that author’s books you will probably recognise the Voice straight away, because it did not vary much from book to book within that author’s oeuvre.

Few authors today have that kind of truly distinctive Voice. This is, I think, because of the popularity of the so-called “deep third” (AKA tight third or close third) Point-of-View (POV). It is currently fashionable for authors to hide behind their characters, giving the reader a seamless experience in which the author almost “channels” the POV character. In speculative fiction, two authors who demonstrate remarkable mastery of the deep third are Joe Abercrombie and Margo Lanagan. It is easy to lose oneself in their characters; to feel the character’s sensations and emotions and even to feel as if one is thinking that character’s thoughts. The author’s Voice and the voice of the POV character become one.

Some other authors use the close third only for moments of high tension and drama, retaining their own voice for narrative passages. Guy Gavriel Kay’s work is largely written in this style.

That more obvious, capital-V voice found in authors of past decades is easily confused with another sense of voice – passive writing. If a writer employs a lot of unnecessary auxiliary verbs (forms of “to be” and “to have” as part of an action, such as “He was running”) and constantly uses weak verbs such as walk and go (or went) people say the writing is passive. It’s only a short step from here to thinking that the writer has a “passive” Voice, and here’s where the trouble really starts, because the expression “passive voice” has a clearly defined grammatical meaning.

The “passive voice” as opposed to the “active voice” means using a verb without close reference to the doer of the action, as in, for example, “The ball was thrown by John” instead of “John threw the ball”. The giveaway is that little word “by”. A verb in the passive voice is followed by a preposition, most commonly “by” or “to” (as in “The award was given to Jenny”).

Let's look at examples of the three matters under discussion here – authorial voice, passive writing and the passive voice:

1. An author’s voice (I'll stop capitalising it now you 've got the picture!)
Here is Dickens’s famous opening of A Tale of Two Cities:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

The opening gives us an excellent feel for Dickens’s very distinctive (authorial) voice.

2. Passive writing
Here’s a passage I’ve just made up:

I was walking along the road, having just been to the dentist, when I was hit from behind by a cricket ball that had been thrown by a schoolboy. I had been intending to go to visit my mother, but the blow to my head gave me such a migraine that I found myself thinking that perhaps I should be going straight home to lie down.

That is passive writing. We don’t get any feel for the action or for the character’s feelings and sensations because we are separated from them by wases and –ing words – and one example of the passive voice! Can you see where it is?

3. The passive voice
Yup, that’s right: “I was hit from behind by a cricket ball” is in the passive voice, grammatically speaking. The passive voice is best avoided in fiction writing because it is frequently found as an element of passive writing.

But don’t get the terms mixed up. Passive writing is not always in the passive voice. Passive writing, as I’ve said above, is characterised by too many auxiliary verbs, weak verbs and probably weak nouns as well. It may or may not include use of the passive voice.

And not all writing that uses auxiliary verbs is passive, either. For instance “The pretty girl was dancing when I first saw her” uses the auxiliary “was” to indicate the past continuous tense. Some critiquers might try to persuade you to replace it with the simple past – “The pretty girl danced when I first saw her”. They would be wrong, because the simple past tense in that case would be incorrect and somewhat ambiguous. It might suggest, for example, that the pretty girl started to dance because I saw her!

What I’m trying to get across here is don't confuse authorial voice with the passive voice and especially don't confuse passive writing with the passive voice. “The pretty girl was dancing when I first saw her”, and, for instance, “The pretty girl will be dancing next time I see her” are certainly not in the passive voice, and, used correctly, are not necessarily examples of passive writing, either. They are perfectly legitimate uses of continuous forms of the verb “to dance”.

We are fortunate in having so many ways to express things in English, and the continuous tenses have their place. The skill lies in knowing when you can get away without using them, rather than making blanket statements about "passive writing" or worse, confusing them with the passive voice.
Sunday, 27 June 2010

A winter's tale

This is the fourth winter running that I've been able to spend in Perth, rather than in the colder climate of Mount Gambier, where I've offically lived since late 2006. Not that Perth is actually tropical, especially in winter, but it's five or ten degrees warmer than Mount Gambier much of the time.

I manage to spend so much time here by house-sitting for friends and friends of friends. In previous years, I have enjoyed at least one long house-sitting engagement of two months or more, but this year all the gigs have been relatively short, some as short as a week or even less. Now, while variety may be the spice of life, moving house several times a month is disconcerting and confusing. I sometimes find myself waking up in the morning quite unable to remember where I am!

I've just moved into a three-week sit, my longest for this winter, in South Fremantle, only a stone's throw from the beach. This is a lovely house with lots of livestock - laying hens, a worm farm, a veritable lake (far too grand to be called a pond) full of lovely big fish - and the star of the show, a furry four-footed friend called Nila.

Nila is a most interesting kind of bitza. Her mum was a Labrador-Blue Heeler cross and her dad was a Mastiff. She's a just a bit bigger than a Lab or a Heeler, but her head and feet are as big as those of a Mastiff so look as if she's never quite grown into them. She loves to play ball and she likes to herd the chooks, which characteristic no doubt comes from her Blue Heeler grandparent.

For the next three weeks, Nila is my New Best Friend. As with most of my canine fosterlings, she will no doubt claim a special place in my heart and I shall miss her when I move on. But meantime we will have fun!
Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Swancon 2010

I came back to Perth especially to attend Swancon, and a friend has very kindly put me up for the nonce, since my first housesit doesn’t start until Thursday. I have house-sitting or other accommodation lined up for the next three months, so I shall avoid at least half of Mount Gambier’s beastly rotten horrible cold wet winter.

Are you wondering what “Swancon” is? It’s Perth’s annual Speculative Fiction convention. Easter every year is special for Perth fans. We descend on a hotel — for the last few years it’s been the All Seasons in Northbridge — to play RPGs, to listen to speakers, to socialize and to dress up for the masquerade that’s held on the Saturday night. There is always a Guest of Honour from overseas (this year it was American Scott Sigler) and an Aussie Guest of Honour (Ian Irvine from NSW filled that role for 2010). They are both interesting speakers who are keen to advise and assist less experienced writers. Scott Sigler had us all enthused about the benefits of self-publishing (he’s one of the rare birds who gained contracts with publishing houses via that route and has now become a bestselling author) while Ian Irvine offered useful tips on writing and publishing, as did other authors including Narrelle Harris, Richard Harland, Dave Luckett and Stephen Dedman. These are the panels I love best and I find it a great privilege to sit at the feet of writers who have made it to the revered status of professionally published author!

As last year, I was on a Romance panel, again with Juliet Marillier, one of my favourite authors, who won the Tin Duck, a prize awarded by popular vote to the WA author who has had material published in the last year. Juliet won the trophy for her novel “Heart’s Blood”. Three other friends — Laney Cairo, fellow Egobooer Sarah Parker and fan Samara Morgan — were on the panel with Juliet and me, and despite a certain amount of sometimes overwhelmingly enthusiastic participation from the audience I think we gave a pretty good account of ourselves:-)

There were book launches, too, notably Belong, an anthology about finding and acknowledging one’s true home, and Scary Kisses, a good fun blend of vampires and other shape-shifters with suspense, horror and humour. Both are published by Ticonderoga. Several friends and colleagues, including Annette Backshall, Astrid Cooper, Carol Ryles, Donna Maree Hanson, Felicity Dowker, Nicole Murphy, Patty Jansen, Simon Petrie and Sonia Helbig have works in one or other of these anthologies. Scary Kisses will be reviewed in the April issue of The Specusphere, which goes live this Sunday. We hope to have a review of Belong ready for the June issue.

Swancon’s all over until next Easter, but meantime I’m eagerly looking forward to the Katharine Susannah Prichard SF group’s mini-con on 2 May and the much-anticipated Worldcon in Melbourne in September.
Saturday, 27 February 2010

Trials of Old Age

Things are still pretty chaotic in my neck of the woods. No sooner had I finished rejoicing at the end of limited downloads and successful publication of the latest Specusphere than my eldest sister, who is nearly 85, had a "funny turn" - her third - and wound up in hospital. She is home now, but sadly, she is not only becoming physically feeble, but mentally so as well. She needs constant attention, so I'm now busier than ever.

I'm one of four sisters, and three of us live here in Mount Gambier. Although we're spread out in age, we are all getting old and we constantly laugh at our forgetfulness, our aches and pains and our poor eyesight and hearing. You have to laugh or you'd spend all your time moping.

The poor hearing alone gives us a lot of giggles. Last week I went with a book club run by my other sister, the one closest to me in age, to the new Mount Gambier library. It's stunning, BTW, and has been hailed by one overseas expert as "the best small library in the world". The picture at left is of the children's corner - a magical place full of caves and tunnels and frogs - even the automatic check-out is shaped ike a giant frog. The link above will take you to a page from which you can hop to the library's site and also to the town's tourist site to see pics of this unique and attractive little city.

The librarian who showed us around noted various areas of interest - the Les Hill local and family history room; the coffee shop, the magazine collection..."And here," she said with a wave at a trio of screens, "is where we keep the Weed."

"Good gracious me," thought I. "They are really determined to get the youth of the town interested in books if they are growing dope in the library". Common sense prevailed. "Pardon?"

"The Wii. You know, games and such."

Ah, yes, well. Ah hem...

Then at dinner, my sister read out a letter from a mutual friend. Said friend was talking about their home and its surrounds. "And Josh still likes to walk across the park in his undies to get to church", the missive concluded.

Again the mind boggled. The vision of an elderly man strolling across the park in his boxer shorts - or maybe long johns - and entering the church, thanking the sidesman for the prayer book and parish paper, making his way to his customary pew...

I was starting to get ideas for a story. Why was Josh half naked? Was this a particularly eccentric brand of Christianity, one with which, for all my degree was in Religious Studies, I remained entirely unacquainted? Or was Josh making some kind of protest, making a statement about the need for non-judgemental acceptance of each other's idiosyncracies? Alas, common sense again reared its head and I realised the phrase "in his undies" must really have been written as "on Sundays". Pity.

One of the funniest misunderstandings due to deafness actually involved my father, who was very deaf from quite early in his adult life. It was an occupational deafness - as a power station engineer, he spent a lot of time in noisy environments, and away from them he was as deaf as a post. For some reason, he took me to work with him one day when I was about four years old - I think Mother must've been in hospital or otherwise indisposed - and I was amazed to find that alongside a boiler his hearing was perfect. It actually frightened me a bit. This couldn't really be my father. My father was deaf, and was always asking me to speak up. Yet now I was the one who couldn't hear him until he bent down close to my face. "No need to shout, lass," he said. "I can hear you."

But back to the story - one morning my father was getting ready for work when a neighbour came to the door. "Fred's dead," she announced sadly.

"Oh, I'm so sorry," said Dad. "Is there anything I can do?"

"Fred's dead!" repeated the woman, louder this time.

"Yes, I'm sorry to hear it. Can I do anything to help?"

This time, the neighbour shouted. "For heaven's sake, lend me a loaf!"

She had been telling Dad she was "out of bread".

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Chaos reigns

Apologies for my long silence, friends! So far, 2010 has been all Go-Go-Go. I bought a new computer and loading it ate up all my download allowance. It would have to happen at Specusphere time with its attendant panic, wouldn't it? Then one of my sisters was hospitalised, which further complicated my life.

Things are settling down now - I'm back on line with a whole 2GB to play with, the February Specupshere is up, Erica is safely home and there's a nice mini-interview with me on A Writer Goes on a Journey.

More posts soon, all being well:-)

Sunday, 17 January 2010

A Day at the Zoo - with Pandas!

I've had a lovely time this past week, because I caught up with friends and family and enjoyed the hospitality of my good friends Denise and David in Adelaide.

Last Sunday I went with my Perth family to Kings Park for a picnic, something we haven't done in years. My granddaughter Cassie is starting high school this year! Then on Monday I had coffee with my friend Harriet, and on Tuesday my friend Jay, whose dogs I'd been minding, took me to the Perth airport. We thought my bags were heavy and I was dreading putting them on the scales, but the bigger one only weighed 16 kilos - a record for me as I usually have more than I'm supposed to be allowed. I guess any bag over 10kg feels darned heavy to an overweight, unfit type like me.

What a flight to Adelaide - lots of turbulence and a head wind that slowed us considerably. But the next few days made up for that. Denise and I had coffee with Robert N. Stephenson, who kindly gave me a review copy of his newly released book, Uttuku. You could file it under vampire books, but it's based on an even older legend - that of the uttuku of ancient Assyria. However, it's a modern book, set in Adelaide, and I'm enjoying it, even though I Do Not Like Vampire Books!

On Friday Denise and I visited Funi and Wang Wang. What? You don't know them? Allow me to introduce you - here they are, in their new bamboo forest home. Funi (left) is still a bit nonplussed by the change of scene, perhaps because her new keepers don't speak Chinese, but more likely because people will keep taking pictures of her with nasty flashes. So flash photography has been banned in the panda enclosure. Even so, I still got some nice pics, although they had to be taken through the glass.

Wang Wang, however, seems quite at ease. Here he is lying on his back, munching bamboo and apparently thinking "Yeah, right, more visitors. Whatever."

The keepers, of course, are delighted with their new charges and are hoping the pair will breed in a year or two, when Funi is old enough.

It was a hot day and we were exhausted by the time we trudged back to the car. I was OK - straight into an air-conditioned bus for the six-hour ride to Mount Gambier, but poor Denise had to drive herself home.

So here I am, back in "the Mount" complete with a nice new little netbook which I'm still setting up. The mobile wireless keeps dropping out so downloading software is proving tedious. I guess I'd better get back to it!
Tuesday, 12 January 2010

And more rejoicing!

Even more of my friends will be showcased in Worlds Next Door, 12th Planet Press's planned anthology for children. Congratulations to: Bren MacDibble, Dave Luckett, Dirk Flinthart, Edwina Harvey (again!) Felicity Dowker, Jenny Blackford, Martin Livings, Rowena Cory Daniells, Tansy Rayner Roberts and Sue Bursztynski.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Rejoicing at my friends' success!

Six of my friends - Donna Marie Hanson, Edwina Harvey, Sonia Helbig, Patty Jansen, Simon Petrie and Carol Ryles - have had stories accepted for Ticonderoga Press's forthcoming anthology Belong. Yippee!

Update 12 Jan - If you've clicked the above link without finding Ticonderoga Press, don't worry. Ticonderoga is having website problems and is seeking a new server. I'll post the new address when it's up and running.
Sunday, 3 January 2010

Reading, 2009

These are the Fantasy and Historical novels I read in 2009. I read a couple of things that don't fall into these two genres, and odd bits of non-fiction as well, but the names of these escape me. I guess that shows where my interests lie! Some of these were read in order to review them, some were recommended by friends and the others are re-reads of old favourites.

Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait by K.A. Bedford
The Priestess and the Slave by Jenny Blackford
In Ashes Lie by Marie Brennan
The Magician's Apprentice by Trudi Canavan
Kushiel's Scion by Jacqueline Carey
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
The Champion by Elizabeth Chadwick
The Running Vixen by Elizabeth Chadwick
Sword Song by Bernard Cornwell
The Spell of Rosette by Kim Falconer
Arrows of Time by Kim Falconer
Hand of Isis by Jo Graham
The Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb
Shadow Queen by Deborah Kalin
Riversend by Sylvia Kelso
How to Ditch your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier
The Last Stormlord by Glenda Larke
Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin
Subversive Activity by Dave Luckett
Wind Follower by Carole McDonnell
Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier
The Road to Camelot (Sophie Masson, ed)
The Reluctant Mage by Karen Miller
Hammer of God by Karen Miller
Witches Incorporated (Rogue Agent 2) by K.E. Mills
Sasha by Joel Shepherd
Petrodor by Joel Shepherd
Tracato by Joel Shepherd
Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliffe
Red Gloves by Beth Vaughan
White Star by Beth Vaughan
Rosa and the Veil of Gold by Kim Wilkins

I haven't included books I couldn't finish - there were half a dozen of those. I get sent a lot of material to review that simply isn't to my taste, and since I review books for the love of it I'd rather not read things I don't enjoy or can't find at least a few things about them to commend! But if you're looking for a good read, stick a pin into the above list. I'm sure you'll find something to enjoy in all of them, although having said that, I'll cover my tracks by admitting that reading matter is very much a matter of taste!

I also beta-read, critiqued or edited half a dozen novels or non-fiction works and a considerable number of short stories. My own writing, however, languishes. Again.

And for 2010? I'm looking forward to more from Simon Haynes (of Hal Spacejock fame) Glenda Larke (second book in the Rainlords Trilogy) Juliet Marillier (another "Sevenwaters" book) and Karen Miller (K.A. Mills) who has at least a couple of new works in the pipeline. All these authors are Aussie born or resident and in my top faves list:-)
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