About Me

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

My books

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

Buy The Talismans

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

The Dagger of Dresnia

The Dagger of Dresnia

The Cloak of Challiver, Book two of The Talismans

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

Mythic Resonance

Mythic Resonance

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

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Places I've lived: Manchester, UK

Places I've lived: Manchester, UK

Places I've lived: Gippsland, Australia

Places I've lived: Gippsland, Australia

Places I've lived: Geelong, Australia

Places I've lived: Geelong,  Australia

Places I've lived: Tamworth, NSW

Places I've lived: Tamworth, NSW

Places I've Lived - Sydney

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

Places I've lived: Auckland, NZ

Places I've lived: Auckland, NZ

Places I've Lived: Mount Gambier

Places I've Lived: Mount Gambier
Blue Lake

Places I've lived: Adelaide, SA

Places I've lived: Adelaide, SA

Places I've Lived: Perth by Day

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

Places I've lived: High View, WV

Places I've lived: High View, WV

Places I've lived: Lynton, Devon, UK

Places I've lived: Lynton, Devon, UK

Places I've lived: Braemar, Scotland

Places I've lived: Braemar, Scotland

Places I've lived: Barre, MA, USA

Places I've lived: Barre, MA, USA

Places I've Lived: Perth by Night

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

Inner Peace Blog

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

Versatile Blogger Award

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

Fabulous Blog Award

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

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Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 - a reading restrospective

My reading intentions for 2012 grew faster than I could possibly work my way down the list. I now have a to-be-read shelf that holds over 90 books – and that’s not counting the ones lurking on my nice new Kindle, which family members bought for me for Christmas! So I have enough material to keep me going right through 2013 and well beyond!

I tried out Kindle for Desktop and Kindle for iPhone before taking the plunge and asking the family to chip in for a Kindle hand-held device. I decided on a Kindle because it is not backlit and is therefore pretty easy on the eyes. So far, I’m really pleased with it. The only thing that gave me any trouble was getting Kindle books not purchased from Amazon off my computer and onto the device, which was a frustrating exercise. I finally discovered a way of doing it that involved plugging the Kindle into the computer via a USB port, doing a search for the required title in Kindle for Desktop in Windows Explorer and then dragging and dropping the file from Explorer to the Kindle. I could not, for some reason, just drag the title from Kindle for Desktop to the plugged-in Kindle. Amazon, I suppose, would much prefer that I bought all books from them, so they weren’t going to make it easy for me!

I’ve read quite a bit of non-fiction, as usual, ranging from The Anne Boleyn Collection by Claire Ridgeway to a number of ‘how-to-write’ books, such as Marketing for Authors, by Anna Revel. One non-fiction book I especially liked was Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones by Bryan Cogman. I utterly adore the GRR Martin books and the HBO DVDs based on them, so fannish material relating to the series goes down well in my house! In addition to the non-fiction, I read no fewer than 172 short stories for the Aurealis Awards, and at least another eighty for the ASIM slush pile! And that's without even thinking of the books and theses I've critiqued or edited for clients! The list of novels, therefore, is a bit shorter than usual. Here it is, with a few comments:

 Daughter of Hope by Joanna Fay: A disclaimer here – Jo is a personal friend and I had the privilege of critiquing this book during its creation. Jo is one of the most imaginative people I’ve ever met and this book reflects that, in spades! You can buy the e-book from Musa. Be sure to watch out for the sequel, coming very soon!

 Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor - and its sequel, Days of Blood and Starlight. This series promises to be a winner in the trilogy realm. The story is truly original and the characters very different from the archetypal stock characters so often found in fantasy.  

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger – a teenage romp with a nod in the direction of steampunk. A short, easy read and lots of fun. Watch out for others in the series, too.  

John Saturnall's Feast by Lawrence Norfolk – a somewhat ‘literary’ novel with speculative elements. It’s beautifully written, rather along the lines of Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth, but the story is somewhat slight.

Vengeance by Ian Irvine and its sequel, Rebellion - the beginnings of another promising trilogy, with lots of adventure and plot twists. Irvine is a master of the cliff hanger and I sat up far too late on some nights as a result!  

Red Country by Joe Abercrombie – this has got to be one of the best books of 2012. It’s definitely my top pick, being at least as good as Abercrombie's first book, The Blade Itself, which I don’t think he’s ever bettered until now.  

Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier , and also Flame of Sevenwaters from the same pen – that of another friend and one of my favourite authors. Like fans all over the world, I hang out for Juliet Marillier's next book every year! Fortunately, she is a prolific writer and this year we got not only another Sevenwaters book but the start of a brand-new series that could well rival its older sibling. I’m now hanging out for the sequel to Shadowfell!

Stormlord's Exile by Glenda Larke - still another friend from conventions and the blogosphere! (Perth is a small place and has produced more than its fair share of excellent writers.) I think this might even be Larke’s best book to date. She gets better with every tome to hit the shelves. However, she’s worth reading right from the start, with her debut novel Havenstar now available as an e-book on Smashwords.  

Sharp Shooter by Marianne Delacourt - if this book is any guide, this series constitutes a fun romp around the suburbs of Perth with an adventurous young woman who can read auras and therefore see when people are up to no good. An easy read and well worth a look.

The Aphrodite Inheritance by Michael J, Bird – this drama is a blast from the past, now available as an e-book. I absolutely adored the TV series written by Bird in the 1970s, and in fact I still have all of them, converted to DVD format. All Bird’s scripts were set in the Greek islands, and this alone is a good enough reason to make them keepers!  

The Gallows Thief by Bernard Cornwell. I also read several books in the Sharpe series by this author, but some volumes seem to have been lost in one of my many moves from one house-sit to another, and as I want to read them in chronological order the project has ground to a halt until I can find or replace the missing books. I love Cornwell’s work as his historical research is so thorough, but I like his first person books better than those written in the third person as he tends to use an omniscient viewpoint involving a good deal of head-hopping, which I find a tad irritating.  

The Missing Case (Hal Junior 2) by Simon Haynes, yet another friend. I had the privilege of editing the first of the Hal Junior Books, and it was a hoot! This one is just as good and highly recommended for the senior primary age group.  

To Spin a Darker Stair by Tehani Wessely (ed) – wow, this is one of the treasures of 2012. Two novellas, back to back, each one a gem. Again, I must confess to friendship with the editor. I think all Tehani’s colleagues would agree with me that she is one of the best editors of short fiction in this country. She has further consolidated her position with Epilogue - twelve solid, workmanlike stories from twelve of Australia’s best SF short story writers. Like its predecessor, After the Rain, the theme of this anthology centres on what might happen in a post-apocalyptic world. Unlike After the Rain, however, Epilogue presents a face of hope, with each story having an upbeat quality that makes us consider the indomitability of the human spirit.  

Whispers Underground by Ben Aaronovitch takes us on another helter-skelter ride with DC Peter Grant, the cop-cum-apprentice magician who can see ghosts. If you haven’t discovered Aaronovitch yet, you’re missing a treat! You can find reviews of most of these books (and many more) over at The Specusphere.

Here’s to many happy hours of reading in 2013!
Thursday, 11 October 2012

Re-inventing myself - yet again

Every few years, it seems, circumstances conspire to create drastic changes in my life. This latest re-invention of Satima has brought me a huge change of lifestyle, from being an itinerant house-sitter to living in a tiny bedsit on the fourth floor of a large apartment block.

My new home is in Bentley, a suburb close to Perth. The bedsit, of course, only has one room where I must live and sleep, and that room measures just three metres by five metres. It has a sunny little balcony with a pleasant outlook, a perfectly acceptable kitchen and a neat bathroom with an excellent, large shower. It's in a secure building, maintenance is available on call and it's only 20 mins into Perth on the bus - as long as you don't travel in peak hours! What's more, it is very quiet, and having spent so much time in retreat houses, silence is something I treasure.

But oh dear, I have far too many books, CDs and DVDs for a bedsit! I also have a large number of casette tapes - old recordings that I haven't been able to replace digitally. I'm going to have to do as one of my sons suggested - just not allow myself to buy any more books or discs unless what I want is genuinely not available as a download. And having read a book, I must decide at once whether or not it's a 'keeper'. Of course, I have about a dozen favourite authors whose oeuvres I treasure, and I'll never willingly part with those in hard copy.

My family history research is another problem - I really need to keep the hard copies because this is work for future generations, and who knows these days what technology will be outmoded in ten years, let alone fifty or hundred! I have the family tree in a database, of course, but the original certificates, letters, copies of archival documents etc are all safely stored in archival quality materials. They take up a lot of space and I need to buy still another set of shelves...

Nearly two weeks in, and the place is still a mess I'd hoped to put pictures up to show you the chaos, but the pix are on the iPhone and iPhone and the computer, it seems, are no longer on speaking terms. (This too, will pass, I hope!)

I'm embarking on a whole new lifestyle, and it will take time to adjust, but I can see that once I get used to it, I am going to love living here. Already I'm enjoying sitting on the balcony for a while each day to eat a leisurely lunch, with the sun on my back and the spring winds gently stirring the trees that line the quiet street below. I'm looking forward to sharing the experience with visitors, so I hope friends who live in or visit Perth will 'come up and see me sometime'!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

A place to call home

Ever since mid-2005, I’ve been on the move. It all started when the Boom hit Perth, and I learnt from the estate agent who managed the block of flats I lived in that the owner was going to kick everyone out at the end of the year so he could renovate the block (and, of course, re-let the flats at a grossly inflated price).
People were pouring into Perth from the eastern states, lured by the prospect of work in the booming mining industry, so rents were on the up and up. I couldn’t complain – my second husband and I had moved to Perth with our family in 1985 so he could take up a position as a Training Officer with the Argyle Diamond Mines. For the first time in our lives one of us was earning good money! I was able to go back to uni, first to do an Associate Diploma at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts and later to do a BA in Religious Studies at Edith Cowan University.
But then the marriage broke down and I was forced into rental accommodation. In my late forties I found myself looking for a job – and couldn’t get one: Australian employers, by and large, do not like employing older people. By running a market stall at weekends and taking what casual work I could get in between, I was able to scrape by. But pretty soon the pathetic amount I got from the joint resources of the marriage almost ran out, and I decided to use the last of it to fulfil a life-long ambition to travel.
And travel I did, for three and half years. By living and working in religious institutions and hotels, I again scraped by and did a bit of research for a master degree that I hoped to undertake when I got back to Oz.
But when I did get back, three and half years later, I found the course had become one that required fees up front, so I couldn’t afford it. Once again I found myself running a market stall and doing casual work, and struggling to pay the ever-increasing rents in Perth. The last straw was having to leave the comfortable little flat I had in a cosy, leafy suburb only five minutes by train from Perth city so the owner could renovate. The Boom had arrived and rents were skyrocketing.
I undertook a three-month house-sit for friends of relatives in South Australia, then to my relief I was offered a flat back in Perth for only $120 per week. However, it was only temporary – the lady who owned the block did not really want to rent the flats, preferring to keep them for herself and her numerous goods and chattels. In 2006, accommodation in Perth being well beyond my means, I was obliged to move to Mount Gambier, South Australia. That was when I started this blog.
About then, I had a stroke of luck. Kind relatives in England and Germany paid for me to visit them, and I had a wonderful time exploring the old country and the Rhine Valley. (I covered this period in my early posts to this blog.) When I got back to Australia, I was offered several house-sits in Perth, and thus my peripatetic lifestyle of recent years began. If you follow the above link and keep clicking on 'Newer post' each time you can read about my travels in England and Germany.
I really preferred Perth to Mount Gambier (a pretty place, but very cold and wet for many months of the year) and I missed my friends and activities in the West. So every time I was offered a house-sit of any length I would head back to Perth. As luck would have it, I got a lot of house-sits, varying in length from ten days to three months. I was spending almost as much time in Perth as in Mount Gambier, and finally, early in 2011, I decided to cut loose and rid myself of my worldly goods, because I had a full year’s house sitting lined up in Perth.
It hardly seemed worthwhile to pay rent in one town while living in another, so I packed my bags and took to the road. The year stretched to eighteen months and included two six-month sits, so I wasn’t quite as unsettled as I might have been.
Actually, I’ve been lucky. Apparently some people in Perth are living in their cars because they can’t afford the crazily elevated rents of recent years. These days, a flat like the one I had in Daglish would set me back several hundred dollars a week!
I've come to realise, however, that I will not be able to continue this lifestyle for much longer. With one hip dicky enough for the doctors to be mumbling about a replacement, walking dogs and looking after gardens are not nearly as much fun as they used to be. I put my name down at two retirement villages, but was told I would probably have to wait up to two years to get rental accommodation.
But now the house-sits have run out, and to be honest, I am tired of being on the road. Last week, I rang one of the retirement villages and begged them to find me somewhere to live, since within the fortnight I would be homeless! And I don’t even have a car to sleep in. I was starting to have bad dreams about having to sleep in shop doorways.
Miraculously, the village had a bed-sitter vacant. I went to see it and was pleasantly surprised to find it was self-contained with a nice kitchen and bathroom, and in a clean and neat apartment block.
So I am packing for what I hope will be last move for some time! I move in on Saturday and will let you know how things pan out. Believe me, I shall be so happy to put my feet up in a place to call home I will not mind that it is barely big enough to swing a cat!
Sunday, 9 September 2012

Another great little minicon!

Well, as usual, the KSP Minicon was a fun day with lots of lovely guests. We enjoyed the launch of Lee Battersby's new book, The Corpse Rat King, and it was great to have Lee as well as Amelia Beamer, Cathy Cupitt, Stephen Dedman, Elaine Kemp, Pete Kempshall,  Martin Livings, Dave Luckett, Juliet Marillier, Ian Nichols, Anthony Panegyres, Guy Salvidge, JB Thomas and other local writers on panels. Nice to catch up with Michèle Drouart, Marian Foster and Annette Backshall, too. Many thanks to organisers Carol Ryles and David Kitson, and to  Lynda Donovan and the rest of the team for a great meal, as well!

It was fun being on a panel about critiquing and editing with Amelia, Juliet and Pete. All the panels were worthwhile - I always learn something new at these events!

There were about 60 people there, which is just a nice number for the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre to hold comfortably. The weather gods smiled and the sun shone. It couldn't have been a nicer day!
Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Mini-con time again!

On Sunday, 9 September, the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre's speculative fiction group will be holding their fourth biennial mini-con. If you live in Perth and would like to come along, keep an eye on the group's facebook page - you can actually sign up there and pay only ten dollars at the door. You can just rock up on the day, of course, in which case it will cost you $15, but hey, even that's dirt cheap for a day of panels, readings and kaffeeklatsches! There will be a decent lunch for only a gold coin donation, too.

Isn't this a great poster that Toby, one of the group's members, created?

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Another review

Tehani Wessely gives my story, La Belle Dame, a thumbs-up in her review of Mythic Resonance at http://aussiespecficinfocus.wordpress.com/2012/07/24/mythic-resonance/.
Saturday, 9 June 2012

Writing in dialect etc

I've uploaded a new writing tip post the Egoboo blog. It about how to write in dialect, accent or an unusual register. You'll find it at:

It's a follow up to the earlier post which introduced the topic.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

A Snapshot of Aussie Spec-Fic, 2011-12

The 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction is underway! Three of my Egoboo writing buddies and I were interviewed for the project, which aims to cover a broad spectrum of publishing endeavours over the last two years. Like all the interviewees, we Egobooers have all recently had books or stories published, or have a publishing venture in the pipeline. 

Carol Ryles, editor of Trove magazine, tells us about her nascent writing career as well as her work on Trove at http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/139414.html and Laura Goodin discusses her many projects, which cover music and poetry as well as short stories, at http://champagneandsocks.com/2012/06/02/aussie-specfic-snapshot-2012-laura-e-goodin/. Joanna Fay, whose first novel, Daughter of Hope, is being released this very day, tells us about the experience at http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/140203.html and you can read my take on the last two years and my recent doings at http://bookonaut.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/2012-snapshot-interviewsatima-flavell.html

The Snapshot is very much a group enterprise, with many blogs participating. You will find links to lots more fascinating interviews at the above sites. Eventually the entire project will be archived at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus.
Friday, 4 May 2012

A good review!

Wow, our first review for Mythic Resonance! Feeling right chuffed, I am, after reading what Mario Guslandi says about 'La Belle Dame' on SFRevu. He also speaks well of two stories I edited - Sue Bursztynski's 'Brothers' and Nigel Read's 'Holly and Iron'. And Amanda Greenslade's beautiful cover is right up there on the front page of SFRevu! 

Guslandi ends by saying the Mythic Resonance writers 'certainly deserve wider recognition outside Australia'! 

Yup, right chuffed, me.
Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Mythic Resonance now on Apple

As I've proudly told you before, The Specusphere recently published its very first book, Mythic Resonance, a collection of stories on mythological themes. We released the book in print and on Amazon Kindle in March. Now it's available from Apple, too!

Click here to read excerpts from Mythic Resonance
To purchase Mythic Resonance for your Apple device, simply visit the iTunes store and search for 'Mythic Resonance' in books. It is just $3.99.

Alternatively, it can be purchased in print or for Amazon Kindle here.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Joanna Fay's debut novel

My good friend Joanna Fay, a fellow member of Egoboo (our crit group) is going through an exciting time. Her first novel, Daughter of Hope, is about to be published by a Real Live Publishing House, Musa, in America.

Daughter of Hope is the first book in a quartet, a huge story that Jo has been working on, on and off, for several decades. It's a wonderfuly imginative story about winged beings who inhabit a world where they live on the inside of the planet's crust instead of the outside - but of course, they are just like us in that they make love and war, and they display the properties of good and evil just as we do. Joanna Fay's baddies are very, very bad. You would not want to meet them on a dark night or even a clear one!

We of the Egoboo group are very proud of Jo - she is, after all, the first of us to sell a long work to a publishing house! I'll let you know when Daughter of Hope is ready for you to buy online!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Another Swancon comes and goes

Easter is over and I’m feeling sad. That’s because Swancon, the annual Western Australian Science Fiction Convention, is over for another year. Every year, as summer draws to a close, I start to look forward to four days of socialising with fellow fans and sitting in on panels — usually in the audience but sometimes on the podium — about books, writing and other topics of interest to aficionados of genre fiction in all its forms. This is the eighth one I have attended and Swancon has never yet disappointed me. There are always interesting, knowledgeable guests from Australia and overseas, as well as plenty of good company.

This year was no exception. We had two excellent Guests of Honour: American author Brandon Sanderson, successor to the late Robert Jordan and author of well over a dozen excellent books and the very versatile and gifted Marianne de Pierres, author of the Sentients of Orion trilogy, the Parrish Plessis series and, writing as Marianne Delacourt, the Tara Sharp books, as well as several novels for teenagers.

Local authors, including Bevan McGuiness, Stephen Dedman and Sue Isles, also lent their presence to various panel discussions on books, comics, games, reading, writing, authors, film, TV programs – two or three panels or talks in an average of eight time slots on each of four days. There is no way any one person could be at all of them!

There were a couple of book launches, several author talks, classes on subjects as diverse as poi twirling, how to run a convention and how to play the game ‘Magic the Gathering’, a favourite pastime of our overseas guest, Brandon Sanderson.

I always enjoy the panels on the techniques of writing. Our guests offered many hints on finishing a manuscript, breaking through writers’ block, inventing new worlds and other aspects of the craft, among other salient subjects.

I was involved in three panels: one on how to rewrite or revise a manuscript, one on how fairy tales are used in modern films and books and one on what happens — or should happen! — after you’ve finished your manuscript. I thoroughly enjoyed all of them as I had excellent team mates including my fellow Egobooers Helen Venn and Carol Ryles and fellow editors Alisa Krasnostein and Jonathan Strahan.

But sadly, it’s all over now until next year.Hopefully, I'll be able to attend at least a couple more cons before then.
Monday, 2 April 2012

Do you know about Writer Beware?

A client recently wrote to me asking if it was OK for an agent who was interested in his MS to offer an assessment – at a price. My ‘Writer Beware’ antennae went up at once.

By and large, it's considered unprofessional for an agent to try to sell services to potential clients. There are many, many agents around - some with the best of intentions but with very little professionalism - who add extra services to their practice because the agency itself isn't making enough to live on. That being the case, can that person be the best possible agent for you? I suspect not. Personally I think full MS assessments are a waste of money in any case. I only offer 'mini-assessments' because you can usually see a writer's main problems within the first twenty pages or so. After that, the process turns into mentoring while the writer improves his or her skills prior to a full edit.

Remember, too, that you can go on altering a book in line with conflicting advice until you've actually wrecked the story. No two critiquers will ever agree completely on what's needed to 'fix' a book, and quite often their views will be diametrically opposed. Ultimately, you have to rely on your own judgement. So take all advice – whether you’ve paid for it or not – with a pinch of salt.

If in doubt as to an agent’s credentials, check out Writer Beware. This highly respected website tells you just what you should and shouldn't get from an agent. Every writer should be aware of Writer Beware - it's one of the best sites for learning some of the ins and outs of the publishing game.

It's also not a bad idea to Google for an agent's name before submitting to see if anyone complains of bad experiences with the agency in question. The whole publishing game, including agents, is fraught with traps for the unwary.

Getting a foot in the door with a reputable agent has always been hard and at present seems to be almost impossible. But perhaps you don’t really need an agent. In Australia, Penguin, Allen & Unwin, Hachette and Momentum (a new e-book arm of PanMacmillan) are all currently open to unagented subs, as are several small presses. Good luck!
Sunday, 25 March 2012

On being an Aurealis judge

The Aurealis Awards are Australia's premier award for speculative fiction. There are fourteen awards each year, for best novel and best short story in each sub-genre (fantasy, horror and science fiction) together with best graphic novel, best young adult novel, best young adult short story, best children's novel, best children's illustrated work, best anthology and best collection. There is also the Peter McNamara Convenors' Award for excellence, which is judged by the convenors' panel. Each award requires three judges, which means the organisers have to find 39 good folk and true every year to undertake the onerous task. Several friends have been judges in the past and some have done it for several years in a row. 'How hard can it be?' I thought. 'I should also do my bit for the genre and put my hand up.'

And so it was that I came to be a judge for Fantasy Short Story section of the 2011 awards. Trust me to throw my hat in the ring for a year with a record number of entries! One hundred and seventy-two of them, to be precise. Eek!

We started reading at the end of 2011, and I seemed to be reading short stories back to back for over three months. Very little other reading and even less reviewing issued forth from my desk during the reading period, which co-incided with the final push to the finish line for the Specusphere's Mythic Resonance anthology, to which I was also committed. Remind me not to volunteer for two such major undertakings at the same time ever again!

The judging process for the Aurealis Awards is straightforward. Each of the three judges gives a mark out of ten to each and every story. The process is inevitably subjective. No matter how hard one tries to alot points for various essentials such as plot, structure, originality, quality of writing etc, in the end it comes down to personal preference. Furthermore, even though there were so many entries, we were bound by the contest rules, which stipulate that only five stories can go forward to the final round. And it is the five stories that attain the highest average mark, of course, that have to be selected. I gave the extremely high mark of 9.75 to one story, which I considered outstanding and as good as any short story I had ever read in my whole life, but sadly, one of the other judges didn't care for it at all so it didn't make the final cut.

In fact, of the 172 entries, I thought at least thirty were good enough to short-list. So there were at least 25 excellent stories that will never gain the appreciation they deserve, unless they are lucky enough to be among the winners in another award.

I was deeply saddened by this. We work so hard on our stories, but in the end it is the preferences of judges, agents or publishers that decides a story's fate.

I don't mean to gripe, because it's hard to imagine the system working any other way, but I do think it's sad that some excellent work never gets the exposure it deserves because it just doesn't happen to land on the desk of the right person at the right time. In the publishing world, for instance, a writer might have produced a lovely historical fantasy set in, say, China, and sends it to four literary agents. The first agent dislikes historical fantasy of all kinds and will not represent it. Another does not want any more historical fantasy writers at present, thank you. A third is looking for a historical fantasy set in Africa, not China. And the fourth has just signed an author with a nice Chinese historical fantasy, so will not want another any time in the near future. This is the kind of story that is repeated over and over again, be it in seeking an agent or a publisher or entering awards or competitions.

Oh well, to borrow an old saying, I guess 'that's showbusiness'! If we love writing enough, we'll keep writing anyway!

You can read the full list of 2011 Aurealis finalists in all sections at http://www.aurealisawards.com/finalists2011.pdf
Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Guest posts at The Great Raven

Over at The Great Raven blog, fellow scribe Sue Burstynski is running a series of guest posts from people who were involved in writing and/or producing the Mythic Resonance anthology. It was my turn earlier this week - you can read my post at http://suebursztynski.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/saga-of-short-story-by-satima-flavell.html - and while you're there, stay and check out some of the other guest posts! Collectively, they give quite a bit of insight into how such an anthology is put together.
Saturday, 3 March 2012

Hey, I'm a real live published author!

And the reason for my upgrade is that the Specusphere's long-awaited anthology, Mythic Resonance, is hot off the press and ready for purchase. You can buy hard copy at the great price of only $19.95. An e-book version is also available for just $3.99! (See link in the margin.)

Mythic Resonance contains a lovely line-up of stories and authors, including my own effort, 'La Belle Dame'. It's a sad story (a spin-off, of course, from the Keats poem) but there are also funny ones and thought-provoking ones. We selected fourteen stories from over 50 submissions. I hope our readers will agree that we have a nice blend of adaptations from myths, legends and fairy tales. Here's the final line-up:

The Salted Heart — N A Sulway
The Everywhere and the Always — Alan Baxter
Annabel and the Witch — Paul Freeman
Through these eyes I see — Donna Maree Hanson
A Tale of Publication — Les Zigomanis
La Belle Dame — Satima Flavell
Glorious Destiny — Steven Gepp
Meeting my Renaissance Man — Vicky Daddo
Wetlands — Jen White
Man’s Best Friend — Tom Williams
In Paradise, Trapped — Kelly Dillon
Holly and Iron — Nigel Read
Brothers — Sue Bursztynski

So I'm in good company, aren't I? Several of those authors have novels in print and most of them have been published in other anthologies. And I didn't get on on the strength of being a Specusphere editor, either - the stories were read 'blind' and mine was picked by one of the readers as her favourite one of all!

The anthology was edited by Stephen Thompson, with contributing editors Amanda Greenslade, Sue Hammond, Linda Stewart and me, together with associate editors Astrid Cooper and Jennie Kremmer. Amanda is also responsible for the beautiful cover, all that tricky design and layout stuff and the atmospheric book trailer, which you can watch here on YouTube. If Amanda's lovely work whets your appetite, check out the story excerpts. I do hope you love them enough to buy a copy!
Sunday, 26 February 2012

An apology

I'm going through a sad period in my life due to the serious illness of a family member who is not expected to survive. Now you know this, I am sure you will understand if you haven't heard from me recently, and I would especially like to apologise to any clients I didn't contact with a personal apology. As least one dropped off the bottom of the list and quite understandably wrote me a rather harshly-worded complaint at having paid for an assessment he hadn't received! He graciously accepted my apology when I explained the situation and returned his payment, but it's made me wonder if any other clients have been likewise disappointed. I'm normally an efficient and reliable administrator and I'm sure you realise that the best record-keeping system can fail due to human error in times of stress. I'm getting back into work now, so if you haven't heard from me about your editing job, please do get in touch so I can give you an idea when it will be done.

Thank you for your understanding.
Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Just for Fun

I have a slight spinal deformity that makes walking or standing for long periods rather uncomfortable, so I avoid those activities as much as possible. However, I have friends who are fanatical about regular walking, which horrifies me. So I've collected a few jokes about walking from forwards I've received via email and I've saved them here to justfy my aversion to walking.

So - the importance of not walking...

Walking can add minutes to your life. This enables you at 85 years old to spend an additional five months in a nursing home at $4,000 per month, in geriatric nappies. As I see it, the only advantage of exercising every day is so when you die, they'll say, 'Well, she looks good doesn't she!'

I only like long walks when they are taken by people who annoy me. In fact, the only reason I would take up walking would be so I could hear heavy breathing again! But I'd have to walk early in the morning, before my brain figures out what I'm doing… Besides, you can get lost walking. My grandpa started walking five miles a day when he was 60. Now he's 97 years old and we have no idea where the hell he is.

Despite the above, I know I’ve had a lot of exercise over the last few years, just getting 'over the hill'. Mind you, I did join a health club; spent about 250 bucks. Haven't lost a pound. Apparently you have to go there more than once! But once was enough for me. Now, every time I hear the dirty word 'exercise', I wash my mouth out with chocolate.

We all get heavier as we get older, because there's a lot more information in our heads. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. I'll admit to having flabby thighs, but fortunately my stomach covers them. (Every time I start thinking too much about how I look, I just find a pub with a Happy Hour and by the time I leave, I look just fine.)

I know that if you’re a walking enthusiast, no warning from me will stop you. But please, if you’re ever tempted to try cross-country skiing, for heaven’s sake start with a small country! Or take up Nordic Walking instead, like Marko Kantaneva in the pic. He invented it, silly man... (Picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

You could run this over to your friends but why not just e-mail them the link? It will save you the walk.
Monday, 30 January 2012

Studying Anatomy or How One Thing Leads to Another

One thing all writers have in common is the fact that they’re into words, bigtime. A gift for languages is not uncommon: most writers I know have at least a smattering of knowledge about languages other than their own. And words can even be the key to getting us to learn other subjects. I love it when I have to write a scene that demands research such as a sword fight or a walk in a northern hemisphere forest in spring. I not only garner facts, but new words to add to the collection. These ventures have some practical spin-offs: most writers are useful to have on your team at a quiz night and can be relied on to play a decent hand at Scrabble. And they can bandy about words that are not usually found outside specialist dictionaries.

Anatomy, for example, is longstanding fascination of mine. The parts that make up a physical being, be it a flower, a mouse, a raven or an elephant, form such wonderfully cohesive wholes that one wonders how the heck it all happened.

Physiologists, geneticists and experts on evolution can give us some answers, but they are hard put to explain their findings in terms ordinary mortals can understand. Me, I just look at the petals and stamens and wonder at the beauty of the flower and stand amazed at the cleverness of the evolution that brought it about. Any deeper interest I have in anatomy has to do with its wonderful vocabulary.

As a uni dropout back in the early sixties, when I had no money and less sense, I did whatever I could to earn a crust. This involved doing a great many things that my parents wouldn’t have approved of, some of which required me to get naked. One such money-spinner was posing nude for artists and photographers.

A regular gig was posing for the art students at East Sydney Tech, now the National Art School. The school was (and still is) housed in the old Darlinghurst Gaol, an ancient edifice with thick stone walls that kept the sun out and the cold in – nice in summer, but it made for little joy in nude modelling in winter-time! The door would be open to let in light, and they would put a two-bar electric radiator close to me. This meant that one half of my anatomy was freezing and one half burning. I remember one time when the lecturer completely forgot to give me the obligatory stretch break after 20 minutes. When she finally remembered, I had trouble standing up. The cold half had gone completely to sleep while my buttocks must have been ruddier than the cherry, although it would have taken more than a Handel aria, or even a Puccini one, to warm my tiny hands, to say nothing of my entire front and most of my left leg.

I didn’t only model for straightforward sketching classes. One nice gig – I got to keep my clothes on! – was posing for the portrait class. It was mind-blowing to look at the students’ work as it took shape, week by week. Of course, the lighting was subtly different for each one, depending on what part of the room they were in. Some added glamour to my appearance, some painted me half in shadow, but the most surprising one was of me as a boy! The features were there, but the clothes had somehow become masculine and my trade-mark pony-tail had metamorphosed into a short back and sides! OK, so maybe my girl-friends calling me The Titless Wonder was not entirely unwarranted…

But the most interesting term was the one in which I was the female model for the anatomy class. It meant taking my clothes off again, but the weather was better by then so I didn’t mind as much. I hadn’t done Biology in high school, so the entire subject matter of the course was a revelation. As a dancer, I knew how to pose, of course, and I also knew what poses would make which muscles stand out. What I hadn’t known was the names of the muscles. We spent several classes on the visible musculature of the leg, and I think I can still, even today, recite the names from hip to toe, for the lecturer was determined that his students should not just able to sketch the muscles, but know their names and functions as well: gluteus maximus. fascia lata, sartorius, plantaris, tibialis, gastrocnemius, extensor digitorum longus and a dozen more. I can’t remember exactly where they are or what they do anymore, but the names still roll trippingly off my tongue, and what lovely words they are! Latin, like its grandchild Italian, has a poetic, sonorous, musical feel to it. I could listen to either language for hours.

I got to know some very interesting people through modelling, including Thea Proctor (1879-1966), the well-known artist. She was nearing the end of her life when I modelled for her and her friends, but she was sprightly and intelligent, her mind still as sharp as her lino-cutting tools. I still have a sketch she did of me, which funnily enough did not look remotely like the ‘me’ of the time (I was dancing then, and weighed less than 50 kilos) but it looks very like the mature me with curves more voluminous than voluptuous!

Naturally, the snippets of anatomy I learnt from modelling stood me in good stead when I later became a dance teacher and later still, when I decided to update my expertise by studying at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. There, our anatomy lecturer would take contorted poses that looked like something from one of those statuary groups that depict an attack on some helpless tribe by another that wasn’t so helpless, sometimes twisting one arm behind her back or overhead in a dramatic manner that made me think she should have been an actor instead of a physiologist. She was a hard taskmaster, making us name the agonist and the antagonist and other such technicalities that I never did quite figure out. But I learnt a lot more lovely words: pectoralis major, brachialis, latissimus dorsi, supraspinatus...

Isn’t it funny how one thing leads to another in life? In the last decade or two, I’ve done quite a lot of academic editing, and I am quite fearless in tackling theses and papers in the medical arena. I’ve had a crack at most of the health sciences, predominantly physiotherapy. After meeting extensor digitorum longus and his mates, fascinating facts concerning COPD or female incontinence hold no terrors. And it’s unlikely that I will be intimidated by any jargon, ever again!

Pictures courtesy Wikimedia Commons:
by Ralf Roletschek [GFDL 1.2 (www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons (Even though that pic is from Germany, it looks a lot like the environs of the old gaol where I worked!)
by Mikael Häggström (w:Gray's muscle pictures) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Thursday, 19 January 2012

Real self-publishing

Graham Clements, a colleague on the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre's spec-fic mailing list, recently complained on his blog that he'd just read a book from a well-known publisher and found rather a lot of typos.

I am not surprised by the news. In the current economic climate, I suspect that a lot of shortcuts and cutbacks are being made by publishers. But on the brighter side, I'm pleased to report that more and more self-publishers are engaging freelance editors before uploading their work.

I like to distinguish between self-publishing and what used to be called 'vanity publishing'. A better name for it might be 'desperation publishing' because it seems to pull in people who haven't a clue how to get their work out there and in desperation they pay some dodgy outfit to publish their books.

Bad idea.

Much better to do it yourself.

True self-publishing means that you engage your own editor, designer, layout person and printing firm and buy your own ISBN, which makes you a publisher in your own right and therefore a true 'self-publisher'. Paying some firm, even a relatively reliable one, to do all those tasks for a few hundred dollars — well, you get the book you deserve! Three rounds of editing, which used to be the standard at publishing houses, don't come cheap, and nor do all the other services needed to get a book up to scratch.

With vanity publishing, editing is the first thing to go. If you're lucky you'll get a light copy-edit, and some firms don't even do that much, even though they say they do! If you absolutely must publish through a vanity press, at least get your work edited first by a reliable freelance. Like me. (Ok, a bit of self-promotion there, but I'd be the first to admit that I'm not the only one! Check out the listings on the Society of Editors website for your state.)

But I can’t afford it! I hear you cry.

If you do the sums, it is indeed frightening. Three rounds of editing will take at least 40 hours. Most editors charge at least $40 per hour, and many charge more, so it’s safest to allow a minimum of $2000 for editing. Allow another thousand for your ISBN, art and layout. So an e-book is going to set you back about $3,000, and a print book a good deal more. For a firm to advertise that it can do it for a tenth of that price, you’re just not going to get as good a job, are you? As with all things, you get what you pay for.

But here’s the escape clause. You can cheat a bit by doing away with one round of editing. To do that, you need to have a very high standard of self-editing, friends in your critique group who are already advanced and proficient writers, and half a dozen beta-readers-cum-proofreaders with eagle eyes to pick up typos.

Here’s the sequence:
1.    Thoroughly learn your craft in regard to spelling, grammar, syntax and punctuation.
2.    Join a crit group that contains writers more advanced than you are, people who, perhaps, have already had a few short stories or even novels published by traditional publishing houses. If you can’t find such a group, go to workshops. Lots of workshops. Or enrol in a writing class, online or face to face. Many people do all the above.
3.    Read as widely as you can on the craft of your own genre. (And it goes without saying that you will read other things as well, both fiction and non-fiction!)
4.    Be prepared to write, rewrite and rewrite again. Two full drafts are a minimum and you might find you need to do four or five!
5.    Only when you and your critters feel your book is as good as it can be, engage an editor. Most editors are honest souls who genuinely want to help writers, so ask the one you choose to give you a considered opinion of the story and the way you’ve written it. Editors vary in their procedures, but I like to do what I call a mini-assessment first, based on the first twenty or so pages and a synopsis – and I often find I have to teach the writer how to create a synopsis! So if this is one of your bugbears, read my article on The Specusphere about synopsis-writing.
6.    When you’ve finished working with your editor, find half a dozen new people willing to read your manuscript, making sure at least some of them have really good English skills and can pick up spelling and typographical errors (‘typos’).

This procedure will speed up the editing process enormously, saving you at least half the cost you’d have to pay if you sent your raw first draft to an editor.

Remember that anyone who wants money from you to publish your book is a vanity publisher, even if they claim not to be. Writers are much better advised to set up their own outfits, be their own bosses and have complete control over every stage of the work.

Let's face it, you aren't likely to make a fortune from any self-published book, although with e-publishing there are notable exceptions and anyone prepared to do a bit of marketing and promotion can at least hope to break even eventually. So why be a cheapskate? If you're doing it for love, surely it's better to spend more and be proud of what you've done? As my mother was fond of telling me, if a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. And a well-written, well-edited and well-presented self-published book can hold its head up in any company!
Monday, 2 January 2012

2011 - my personal retrospective

I’m pleased to report that 2011, while not the Perfect Year I’ve been looking for since 1943, was somewhat better for me than its seven or eight predecessors! I hope all my friends and family have enjoyed the year and can look forward even better things to come in 2012, Mayan calendar and end-of-the-world doomsayers notwithstanding.

I found late in 2010 that I had a pretty full calendar of house-sitting engagements for this year, so I decided to use the opportunity to move back to Perth. After due consideration, I gave up my flat in Mount Gambier, South Australia, and sold or gave away all my furniture and most of my personal effects. I even cut my wardrobe by half and my bookstock by two thirds! So all I have in the world now will fit into a few suitcases and 40-odd cardboard boxes of the kind you buy at the post office for $2.20-ish. Much of my stuff is stashed in the garage at the home of my sister Anne and her husband Brian in Mount Gambier and the rest requires a couple of camels or the motorised equivalent thereof to shift me from house to house! However, for the second half of the year I’ve been in one place. Since mid-June, I’ve been house-sitting for my friends Tom and Wendy, who are away on a protracted and very exciting world tour. A wonderful experience for them, and for me, it's nice to feel settled, if only temporarily!

In mid-January I move on again, this time out to York, which lies about 100 km inland from the city of Perth. I’m going to stay with my friend Pam, who has an enormous garden and is keen to have help with the hand watering, as she spends about half her time in Perth on business. Every summer she loses a few little plants and every winter she replaces them and adds more, a kind of three steps forward and one back sort of arrangement. So hopefully this year the losses will be minimal, since I will be there to keep the water up to them over the stinking hot York summer. It’s a tiny town of only about 2,000 people. You can find out about it in the helpful Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/York,_Western_Australia. Those of you who live in gentler climes will wince at the climate details – in summer it seldom drops much under 30 degrees Celsius in the daytime and in winter the nights can sometimes be freezing. It’s also in a bush-fire prone area! All being well, I shall stay in York until Easter, and I’m hoping that after that I’ll rise to the top of the waiting list at the retirement village where I’ve had my name down for nearly a year. If not, I shall have to look for more house-sitting.

Having a rent-free year means I’ve been able to save enough to replace my furniture when I do find somewhere to live. Of course, despite my good intentions, I’ve already replaced with new titles a fair number of the books I sold or gave away before leaving Mount Gambier. However, my recreational reading time has been sadly reduced due to other commitments. With my Specusphere colleagues, Stephen and Amanda, I’ve been involved in the production of an anthology of short stories. (See my blog post Mythic Resonance to learn more on that one.) It’s our first venture into hard copy and my first time at helping to edit an anthology, and while it’s been very time consuming it’s also been very worthwhile from a personal and professional development standpoint. Mythic Resonance will be available sometime in the next few weeks, all being well. Watch this blog for details!

Another commitment has been membership of a judging panel for a national speculative fiction award. As it’s still in process, I won’t comment further at present, but it is also proving a most interesting and valuable, if time consuming, experience.

Due to all this busy-ness, my writing has been virtually moribund and even my blogging has suffered – I’ve barely kept this blog alive and haven’t posted on the Egoboo one since May! Fortunately, my colleagues there – Carol Ryles, Helen Venn, Joanna Fay, Keira McKenzie, Laura E. Goodin and Sarah Parker – carry the blog along. Sarah, especially, always seems to come up with something timely, even it’s just a link to another blog. Many hands make light work.

Being a glutton for punishment, though, I’ve started a third blog, this one for the Perth Shakespeare Club, at http://perthshakespeareclub.blogspot.com/ but there I can rely on other members to do at least some of the posting and if nothing comes through I can just report on the latest meeting!

I’ve also started a Facebook Page for the Shakespeare Club and have kept up my personal presence there, too. It’s by far my favourite of all the social media sites. However, through another site, Friends Reunited, I have been in touch with Gudrun, an old school friend from Tamworth, NSW, where I lived for about four years in late childhood. Gudrun has recently visited Perth and, and we met on Boxing Day – our first meeting in almost five and half decades!

I’ve also caught up with an old WAAPA friend, Angela, and through her I’ve joined a Dhamma group. It’s a private one, held at the home of some kind friends of Angela’s. They have set up a big screen TV with Skype so that talks by Buddhist teachers can be brought to us live from the UK. It’s great to be with like-minded friends to hear the dhamma and to meditate. We had a lovely end of year celebration with a ‘Buddhist Christmas tree’! That’s got to be multi-culturalism at its best!

Angela has been my transport mainstay for nights at the theatre, too, now that I’m writing theatre reviews once more. It’s been wonderful to go to shows again, since being on the pension means most of them are out of range financially. Here’s a list of the shows I’ve reviewed so far. It’s more for archival purposes than to bore you witless, so don’t feel obliged to read any or all of them! But most of the shows were very, very good, demonstrating that Western Australia can come up with top-flight entertainment, both home-grown and imported.

The Enchanters (Prickly Pear Ensemble)
Helix (solo dancer Daryl Brandwood)
The Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged) (The HOO-HA)
Julius Caesar (Bell Shakespeare)
Neon Lights (West Australian Ballet Company)
When Dad Married Fury (Janus Entertainment)
We Unfold (Sydney Dance Company)
The Taming of the Shrew (West Australian Ballet Company)
Chamber Jam – September (North St Music/Ellington Jazz Club)
Chamber Jam – October (North St Music/Ellington Jazz Club)
The Magic Pudding (Janus Entertainment)
When the rain stops falling (Black Swan State Theatre Company)
Symphony by the bay (Perth Symphony Orchestra)
Blood Brothers (IAJ International)

Family history-wise, the big find of 2011 was the will of my 3x great-grandfather, Samuel Flavell, who died in Sedgley, Staffordshire in 1864. The will, which was made in 1856, came to my attention through a link on the Sedgley mailing list (hosted by Rootsweb.com) and I acquired a copy via the Staffordshire Record Office. If this is your bloodline, too, and you’d like to purchase a copy, these are the details you’ll need to order it from the archives:
• Harwood and Evers, Solicitors, Stourbridge - Deposited by Messrs. Harward and Evers, solicitors, of 1 Worcester Street, Stourbridge, Worcs.
• [no title] D695/1/13/1/2 1856-1892
• Contents: Draft will and probate of wills of clients of Gould & Elcock including J. Greenway, J. Wakefield, R. Venables, E. Harvey, B. Jevon, J. Webb, J. Harland, S. Flavell.

The last one is our Sam and a copy of his will only costs six pounds. It tells us that he left a widow, Dianna, and three adult children – Edward, Samuel and Rosehannah – and he was wealthy enough to leave each child a couple of houses. What happened? Recent generations have been lucky to own one! I wonder if Sam fell on hard times in the last few years of his life and had to sell his properties. Such is life.

In October, I had a very pleasant break in Mandurah (see the Wikipedia article on this lovely town at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandurah) with my sister Anne, her husband Brian and their daughter Frances, together with canine friend Lulu, who is quite a dancer! She can stay on her back legs longer than any other untrained dog I've met. We had beautiful weather and enjoyed some lovely times at the shops by the jetty or just gazing at the yachts on the bay from the front veranda of our borrowed holiday cottage!

Health wise, things haven’t been too good for me this year, and it’s my own fault! Once I was settled in the longest house-sit ever, I decided to use my improved financial state and proximity to the city to participate in a number of keep-fit activities. I can walk into the city from my house-sit, and did so several times a week. However, I found I was getting out of breath every time. I’d already been doing belly dancing for several years and attending yoga classes on-and-off, too, but I decided I needed to engage in more aerobic activities. This turned out to be a bad idea, because my heart wasn’t up to it and after three weeks of classes I had to give up. More visits to the health-care professionals, more medication, more expense … So now I’m on a weight-loss kick, eating very little (for me!) and exercising only for short periods a couple of times a day. I do hope I can lose a lot – I should really be aiming to lose 30 kg, but being realistic I know that probably won’t happen. Nevertheless, if I can lose enough to get back to the fitness classes under medical supervision I’ll be happy.

Financially, things are looking up, though. I have had more editing work this year than in the previous two years together. This is largely due to the rise in self-publishing, and I’m pleased to see that many authors are having their work professionally edited before taking the plunge into print. I still do some academic work, but doing ‘mini-assessments’ for aspiring authors has accounted for much of my work this year. That’s got to be a good thing, because the standard of self-publishing, historically, has been abominably low. If I can do my bit to raise the standard a little I’ll be very happy.

And to finish with, here’s a list of the books I’ve read and reviewed for The Specusphere this year. It’s a pathetic effort compared to previous years. I really have taken on too much in 2011!

The Thief Taker’s Apprentice by Stephen Deas
The Folly Series by Ben Aaronovitch (first two books: Rivers of London and Moon over Soho)
Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis
Horses for King Arthur by LS Lawrence

I have read a lot of other books, including nearly half the oeuvre of Bernard Cornwell and Ken Follet's medieval duology. Along with fantasy, my favourites are historical novels. Good, well-written ones that don't take too many liberties with the facts!

So off we go into 2012! A new year and hopefully lots of new adventures of the enjoyable kind! Best of luck to all of you for the coming twelve months. May we all be well, happy, peaceful and at ease with the conditions of our lives.
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