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

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Versatile Blogger Award

Versatile Blogger Award
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Fabulous Blog Award

Fabulous Blog Award
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Thursday, 11 December 2014

Aussie spec-fic - The List!

Alex Caine #1
Alex Caine #2
Over at http://www.alanbaxteronline.com/australian-scifi-fantasy-horror-megalist-xmas-books/ Alan Baxter has put together a huge list of books by Australian SF authors. Can there ever be a definitive list? Probably not, because books go out of print all the time and new ones appear daily - but this is a thoughtful list of currently available books, representative of all the speculative genres. No excuses, now - go and find your next read, or a suitable Christmas gift for a friend or family member! And if you have a favourite that is missing, tell Alan in a comment (or better still, ask the author to check it out and send Alan the same information as is contained in the existing entries) and perhaps he'll add it on the next update. I can see this growing into a valuable resource for readers and writers alike. There are other lists elsewhere but this one gives more information on individual entries.

Alex Caine #3
Oh, and don't forget to check out Alan's  new  Alex Caine trilogy while you're there. Click on the book covers for reviews, previews and purchase options.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Dancing queens

For the past 18 months, I have conducted classes in Theatrical Dance at Trinity School for Seniors here in Perth, Western Australia. I have a lovely class of eight ladies, all over 55 years of age and all keen as mustard to carry on dancing as long as they possibly can.

Each lesson, we do a conventional ballet barre (but no grands pliés or big extensions) followed by ports de bras and centre practice. Our allegro, however, deviates from the normal glissades and pas de chats etc of a classical class - instead, we draw on the modern musical, folk dance and jazz ballet. There are many reasonably simple steps that don't require magnificent turnout or elevation, and we combine these in various ways to light music.
My lovely dancing ladies and their proud teacher

Some of the ladies have never danced before: others learnt ballet as children and have always wanted to take it up again. I am humbled by their enthusiasm and commitment. Quite honestly, if I were to front up one day and find the stars of the Australian Ballet waiting to take class, I would not respect those dancers any more than I do my Trinity ladies. They take the classes seriously, arrive on time, and work hard. What more can a teacher want?

I should tell you a bit about Trinity School for Seniors. An outreach program of the Uniting Church in Perth city, TSFS offers courses in a huge range of subjects, including languages, literature and writing, art, music, fitness classes of various schools of thought including yoga, several kinds of dance, walking tours of the city - the list is a long one and grows longer each year. Fees are extremely moderate and affordable even for pensioners, so the courses are extremely popular, with some classes being booked out as soon as enrolments are open each term.

This Thursday the annual concert will be held in Trinity Church, and six of my ladies are taking part for the first time, dancing to the carol 'In Dulce Jubilo'. We've had a lot of fun putting the dance together and the ladies have cheerfully chipped in to pay for simple costumes, designed and created by class member Nola who has a real flair for making something classy out of a bolt of stretch fabric. If I get pic of the team in costume I'll put it up next week. 

Update 19 February 2015! It's taken a while, but here's the photo, taken by Ruth Points from the office team at Trinity School for Seniors. It shows some of the ladies in their smart costumes, designed and made by Nola. The performance went very well, by the way, with loud applause and cheering for my 'girls'!
Friday, 28 November 2014

Guest Post: Gillian Polack on her new novel - Langue[dot]doc 1305

Another blog swap, this time with Gillian Polack. Gill is a Satalyte author like me, as well as being a blog-buddy of long standing. 
Thank you, Satima, for inviting me and letting me share my new book with your readers.

The novel is a time travel one. I’d love to say "not as you know it”, but that would be a Star Trek joke and it’s not a Star Trek kind of story. Langue[dot]doc 1305 http://satalyte.com.au/product/langue-dot-doc-1305-gillian-polack/ was originally called Probabilities, because it needed a name and one hadn’t found it yet. Before that, it was called Timestream. Langue[dot]doc 1305 was merely the title that stuck. It was interesting that the novel didn’t find a title easily, because it was telling me how it wanted to be written the whole way through. It had a mind of its own. It wasn’t the only one.

I’m a historian. A Medieval historian, to be precise. This means that I know the Middle Ages from the historian’s approach, which is dynamic and amazing and wonderful… and really hard to fictionalise. A character (Artemisia) presented herself to me and said “I am the solution to your problems.” And she was. She’s the link between the historian side of me and the fiction side of me. Also, she’s a fictionalised historian. A literary historian, which is quite a different kind of historian to the one the time team needs, but nevertheless a historian.

Literary historians are wonderfully sophisticated. They can get their heads around cultural differences and personal contexts for texts and weird dynamics, like having to explain to a bunch of scientists that the world outside their cave is real and that the history they refused to study at school is happening. They can’t guarantee the scientists will listen to them, but they have the intellectual capacity to negotiate a particularly dangerous space. Artemisia was perfect for my story, even if she did things a bit differently to the way I had planned.

Technically, she was a fix for a technical problem. I wasn’t going to wimp-down my history and I wasn’t going to write a bad novel. Artemisia was never that technical, though. She stole my Zombie Ancestry History theory from me, for one thing. My Zombie Ancestry History Theory is the way I used to deal with the really bizarre assumptions about the Middle Ages that some students carry into class. I’ve developed a new method of describing it because now all the zombies in Medieval Europe belong to Artemisia.

Because Artemisia is also a historian and from Melbourne, people have started asking me if I’m she. I’m not. I’m only partly a literary historian and am not an expert in Clemence of Barking and am not Italian-Australian and… I’m getting defensive, aren’t I? The trouble with characters that overtake in that way is that they can change peoples’ view of you. I got a letter from a reader asking “Is Artemisia you?” in fact, which is what turned me defensive. I knew Artemisia had taken over the explaining most of the history in the novel. I knew she’d stolen my zombies. Maybe she was me and I was missing it because I was too invested in my own writing?

I asked my mother. She laughed at me. Apparently Artemisia is not me. Not even close. So even when a novel has a mind of its own, the characters in it can be themselves, not just shadows of the writer. That’s comforting.

You can read my post on Gill's blog at  http://gillpolack.livejournal.com/1343734.html 
Saturday, 22 November 2014

Book Review: Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

Half a King (Shattered Sea, #1)Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

Fascinating characters, well-depicted, and an intriguing plot. Abercrombie shines, as always, but this time his story-telling approach appears at first to be rather more conventional than usual. We have come to think of Joe Abercrombie as a cynical joker whose characters have even more than the average number of human flaws, but in Half a King, the 'hero', Prince Yarvi, has flaws more physical than emotional. Even so, this is very much a coming of age story, of a young man who must learn about life the hard way. Fortunately he's a fast learner, because there are obstacles to trip him at every step along the trail.

The surprise ending comes as a jolt, and we are left wondering - did Yarvi really just do what I think he's done ...? But we can see that yes, indeed, he did, and he did it out of necessity. Pragmatism is essential if one is to claim power and hold it. So Yarvi is no noble-minded knight in shining armour, and we have to have a quick rethink about this personality we've been barracking for. I wonder what he will get up to in the rest of the series?

The second book, Half the World, is due for release on Feb 17, 2015.

View all my Goodreads reviews
Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Book Review: Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier

Dreamer's Pool (Blackthorn and Grim, #1)Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A new book by Juliet Marillier is always cause for rejoicing, and as usual, this opus does not disappoint. Marillier is a craftswoman of the first water: her words flow like runny honey, with the odd dash of lemon to cleanse the palate now and then.

Dreamer's Pool, like the bulk of this author's ouevre, has as its protagonist a young woman with a problem. If there has been one criticism of Marillier's characters it is that they have a certain sameness. A typical Marillier heroine is a girl in her late teens who has a huge problem to solve, and the fate of the family/tribe/kingdom rests on her ability to 'get it right'. Blackthorn (an assumed name that represents her profession as a healer - we never do learn her real one) and her partner in crime-solving, the taciturn but loyal Grim, are older characters. I'd place them in their early to mid twenties, since Blackthorn is fully qualified in her work and has been active enough in society to come to the notice of the powers-that-be, notably the tyrannical Mathuin, who has thrown her into prison for speaking against him. Sentenced to die, Blackthorn wakes on what she thinks will be the last day of her life to be confronted by the fey lord Conmael, who promises to help her as long as she gives up her desire for vengeance and always uses her gifts to help and never to harm. She and Grim travel north, aiming for Dalriada where Blackthorn plans to set up her healing practice.

But it's a long journey with many mishaps and delays. The resulting adventures of Blackthorn and Grim intertwine with the love story of Prince Oran and his betrothed, the gentle poet Flidais. There is also a dog (a must in a Marillier novel!) together with confused identities and a magical pool. The resulting tale is somewhat more adult and rather darker than much of this author's previous work, and it makes good reading.

As usual, Marillier has drawn skilfully on folklore and traditional tales, rounding out stock characters and developing the magical elements so they become credible plot elements. The cover tells us this is 'a Blackthorn and Grim novel', so it seems we can expect more adventures involving this likeable pair. The contrast between them makes their friendship all the more interesting, and I shall look forward to further books in the series.

View all my Goodreads reviews
Saturday, 18 October 2014

Of prose and cons

Well, it's been three weeks since I said I would write about the Conflux convention in Canberra, and since then I've been to another one, the Crimescene con in Perth. Both were great little cons.

At Conflux my friend Helen Venn and I shared a room in the hotel (Rydges, Capital Hill) so we were able to be there for the evening program as well as the daytime one. All the panels we were on went well, and the performances of Laura E. Goodin's radio play Useless Questions were very well received.  Here's a pic of the cast & director, courtesy of Cat Sparks and Rob Hood.

L.to R. are Cat Sparks,Nicole Murphy, Laura E. Goodin, David McDonald, Stephen Ormsby and yours truly. We were, of course, utterly brilliant  There were nice comments about the panels we were involved with, especially the one on reviewing - in fact, all the panels were good and there were excellent writing workshops as well.

A nice bonus: my son Kurt, who lives in Canberra, took Helen and me on a day tour when the con was over. The best part was the amazing view from Mount Ainslie (right, photo courtesy http://www.tripadvisor.com.au ).

Then on 10 October I had a lovely day at the Crimescene Convention at Rydges hotel in Perth. Great talks and panels with Lyn and Lee Battersby, Stephen Dedman, Alisa Krasnostein, Tehani Croft Wessely, Tansy Rayner Roberts and Glenda Larke Noramly. Caught up with Davina Marjory Watson and others that I rarely see. I bought the first book of Tansy's crime series, written under her new Livia Day brand. How good is my karma? Cons two weekends running!

No more cons now until next Easter, when it's Swancon time again. Can't wait!

And in the prose department, The Cloak of Challiver is out with an editor colleague for final checking before submission. See the guy in the pinkred T-shirt in the photo above? He's Stephen Ormsby of Satalyte Publishing, and he's the one who has to like The Cloak of Challiver or it will never see light of day. Fingers crossed!
Sunday, 28 September 2014

The best part about getting published!

Greenmount's  view over the suburbs of Perth
Yesterday was the annual assessment day at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre in Greenmount, beautifully situated in the hills outside Perth. I was invited to spend the day chatting with writers. And they paid me to do it.

The day started badly. The weather was utterly terrible! I'd dressed myself up to the nines, put pink streaks in my hair and even donned a bit of lippy - but when (after an hour and half on buses and trains) I arrived and saw myself in the mirror I realised that I resembled nothing so much as a bedraggled pink bear.  A bedraggled pink bear with glasses.

Eventually, having dried myself off, combed my straggly wet tresses (which by this time sported odd pink blotches) and fortified myself with coffee, I girded my loins to start work.

'Work' should always be like this. I had the privilege of sitting with five gifted writers, one at a time, to discuss their manuscripts in some detail. Each of these very nice people was working on something that showed considerable promise. I was most impressed by their talent and enthusiasm! Their works were very different from each other, ranging from family history to high fantasy, with a bit of ‘chick-lit’ — and one rather 'literary' short story with which I was particularly impressed.

If you should get a chance to participate in such an event, do take it, for it is a really worthwhile experience to be able to chat about your work and your plans, and maybe go away with some new ideas. The KSP Centre gave me many such opportunities when I was starting out, and I am delighted now to be on the other side of the conversation. It would have been nice to get all those lovely people together so they could share their work with each other, but the program of one hour individual time slots did not allow it. Perhaps we might be able to do that another time.

Next weekend is the Conflux Convention in Canberra. I am going with Egoboo buddy Helen Venn. We shall sit on panels, drink a lot of coffee and maybe guzzle something stronger now and then, and we'll talk about writing and publishing with like-minded people for four whole days! I should also be able to catch up with my Canberra-based son and daughter-in-law and my lovely publishers, Stephen and Marieke Ormsby of Satalyte Publishing. Watch for my full report in about ten days time!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Author interview: Fiona Leonard

A few years ago I belonged to a critiquing quartet. We used to meet regularly, and between meetings we would send each other our latest chapters by email. 

One of other members was Fiona Leonard, and the highly amusing political thriller she was writing then, The Chicken Thief, has since been published by Penguin. Fiona and I have done an interview swap: my interview of Fiona (who currently resides in Ghana) is below, and you can read her questions to me and my answers at http://www.fionaleonard.net/2014/09/author-chat-satima-flavell.html
Q. The Chicken Thief is one of my very favourite books. It is whimsical and funny, yet it has edge-of-the-seat moments with plenty of tension. Alois is a delightful character with very human desires and failings, and we can’t help but cheer him on. How did you get your inspiration for the story? Have you known someone like Alois?
A. I spent three years living, working and travelling in southern Africa. During that time I read a lot about the liberation struggles of the respective countries, and that research very much provided the foundation for the story. That said, Alois is very much a product of my imagination. If anything, Alois is more of an exploration of my experience with the region. Of all the characters, he's the one I associate with the most – although maybe that's simply a product of having lived with him for so long!

Q. Have you written (or are you planning to write) more books about Alois and his friends? If so, when might we expect them?
A. There are two more books in The Chicken Thief series. The second is finished and I'm in the midst of a final rewrite of the third. I am hoping that book two will go to print next year.

Q. You must be familiar with African cultures, having been a diplomat in Zimbabwe and now living on the other side of the continent in Ghana. Are you planning any books – fiction or non-fiction – based on your own experiences of the continent?
A. No, I'm actually planning to take a major detour with my writing and shift continent and genre. The next book – which is very much in its infancy – is a YA fantasy that will be set in London!

Q. What else would you like to write about?
A. I'm actually really excited about writing a YA fantasy. I'm a passionate advocate of promoting reading amongst teens and have often wondered why it is that I love researching and finding YA books and yet I don't write them. It's very much out of my comfort zone, which is both terrifying and also very exciting!

Q. What sort of books to you best like to read? Do you have a favourite genre?
A. I believe very strongly that in order to be a good writer you need to read, and read a lot. I read a book a week and try to read across a range of genres. I keep a very long wishlist and add books to my kindle on a regular basis – I think I have about thirty-five unread books on there at the moment! Sometimes if I need inspiration in my writing I will focus on a particular genre – for example reading thrillers when I feel like I'm struggling with pacing.

Q. Do you see yourself returning to Australia in the foreseeable future, or are you planning to seek other pastures?
A. There are no plans to return to Australia at the moment, but there's a reasonable chance that we will be on the move again soon. I have a serious travel bug and start to get nervous if I stay still for too long! Stay tuned for updates!

Note from Satima: You can buy The Chicken Thief from Mr Amazon or any one of a number of gentlefolk who trade in printed matter on the web.

And the delightful chook picture is from Wikimedia Commons.
Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Fifteen thoughts of gratitude

There is a meme going around on Facebook that requires participants to name three things they are grateful for, every day for five days. Lorraine, a Facebook friend, challenged me to join in. I found it so thought-provoking that I decided to collate my responses and republish them here.

Day One:
1) I am grateful for the ability to turn on a tap and have clean water whenever I want it.
2) I am grateful for my dear little apartment in a secure building that I have for very moderate rent.
3) I am also grateful that I live in Perth, surely one of the most beautiful cities in the world - and with a nice warm climate!

Day Two:
1) I am grateful for the privilege of rearing my five beautiful children
2) I am grateful for my amazing grandchildren
3) I am also grateful that I still enjoy reasonably good health in old age, and that I am fit enough to attend belly dance and keep fit classes and to teach my own class on Theatrical Dance for mature adults.

Day Three:
1. I am grateful for the opportunities I've had to exercise my talents, mediocre though they may be. I've been involved with dance, music, acting and writing and sometimes I've even been paid! But like everyone who loves the arts, I have willingly undertaken assignments gratis if I've liked them enough.
2. I am grateful that I'm still fit enough to dance and still have good enough eyesight to write.
3. I am grateful that Satalyte Publishing bought my first novel, enabling me to get the story I've sweated over for so long out there for all the world to read!

Day Four:
1. I am grateful for the fact that ever since I was two years old — D-Day in 1945 — I have lived in countries at peace and been free to travel wherever I wished (or could afford!)
2. I am grateful for the marvellous tuition I had when I was young, in dance (Scully-Borovansky and Beth Dean, inter alia), music (Sydney Conservatorium) and acting (NIDA).
3. I am equally grateful for the tuition I've had as an adult in dance (Valrene Tweedie, WAAPA and others) and in writing (various people via the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre.)

Day Five:
On the last day, my three gratitudes pertained to matters spiritual.
1. I am grateful that I live in a land where freedom of religion is taken as a given. At different times in my life, I have practised Christianity, Wicca and Buddhism (both Tibetan and Theravada) sometimes more than one at a time. I also practise hatha yoga in the Iyengar method.
2. I am grateful to my spiritual teachers in all those disciplines for their instruction, advice and support. Christianity gave me an appreciation of the power of prayer: Wicca taught me the power of ritual, Buddhism taught me the power of sitting in meditation and yoga taught me power of moving in meditation.
3. I am also grateful to my tutors in the secular domain who encouraged my reading and research when I was studying for my BA in Religious Studies. An intellectual understanding can often prepare us for the inner understanding that is essential to all true spiritual practice.

I think I’ve covered every dimension of my life and realised how much I have to appreciate!
Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Still getting good reviews!

More good reviews for The Dagger of Dresnia! There are now eight on Amazon, where the average is 4.6 stars. Readers are saying things like:

And here's a really nice one from Marie Cox's Facebook timeline! 'I have finished reading the first book of the Trilogy, "The Dagger of Dresnia". It is such a great book, loved the characters (Pillars of the Earth meets Fifty Shades of Grey) and can't wait until the author, Satima Flavell, publishes the next book in the Trilogy. I purchased my copy through The Book Depository.'

There are nice ones on Goodreads as well, where the average is 4.17 stars. For instance, Ian Banks says: 'Flavell’s skill at mixing these strands of plot and character make this a gripping read and the way which these stories intertwine is clever and natural, leading to a climax that is gripping and a conclusion that, while sudden, does wrap up this story while still leaving openings for the future volumes in this series.'  (This review first appeared at http://stuffianlikes.aussieblogs.com)

And Tsana Dolichva says of the ending: 'I had a suspicion it was coming but the way it actually happened was great. (No spoilers!) It was hilarious, like a pun ...'

While Dave Dunn's five-star review says, 'In short, the story of Queen Ellyria and her sons reads more like a realistic work of literature than some purple-prosed Tolkien imitation, which the same material in lesser hands could have turned out to be. These are real people who love, hate, doubt themselves, use the restroom, have sex, and at times, curse like sailors, and that is the real magic of this decidedly magical tale.'

And Helen Venn says, '... a great read with a nicely realised mediaeval world where magic can be good or evil. It's a well written tale with a complex and wide ranging story line with many twists but its closely observed characters are what lift it above many other similar novels. While there is plenty of action it was the relationships and interplay of the characters that engaged me most and it was a pleasant change to see a mature woman as the protagonist, something that is all too rare in speculative fiction.'

I hope I don't sound smug, but I feel really chuffed by all these kind people taking time to review The Dagger of Dresnia!

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