Friday, December 28, 2007

Benazir Bhutto

I opened the newspaper this morning to the shocking news that Benazir Bhutto had been murdered and her attacker then blew himself up, taking at least fifteen other bystanders with him. It seems to becoming almost routine to physically attack anyone who does not believe as you do. What is it that motivates these people? They are not all members of oppressed minorities. They come from all over the world and from many different faiths and beliefs systems. In fact the main thing these fanatics (of whatever faith) have in common is a lack of respect for others and a conviction that their way is better than that of everyone else. Surely they would achieve much more by showing that their belief was superior and so attracting converts instead of expecting acts of violence to change belief systems. I can't imagine that those who convert from fear to any faith are going to be genuine believers and lack of true faith must undermine any religion.
Coming, as I do, from a multicultural, multiracial family which includes Christians, Hindus and Buddhists, and where everyone's beliefs are respected and celebrated by us all, I find this quite incomprehensible. We are happy to accept our family members for the people they are and the same goes for those of our acquaintances who are atheist, Muslim, Baha'i or anything else. Why can't the rest of the world do the same?

Summer Days

Maybe it's because I was born in the middle of a heatwave but I'm less worried by heat (as long as it's not humid) than many others but even I headed for relief inside the air conditioned house on Boxing Day. Let's face it, 44.2 degrees Celsius (111.5 degrees F) is pretty warm. It made yesterday's 33.9 degrees C ( 93 degrees F) seem positively cool.
Pisces's family gathers at his sister's beach house at Palm Beach on Boxing Day. It's only a couple of minutes walk away from the beach but this year the heat was so intense that swims were few and very short. Poor Virgo spent some time out in the garden under the trees with her cousins and still got burned. She, who loves the beach, was cursed with the only pale porcelain complexion in the family, inherited from her great grandfather. She looks at me who has to work at not getting tanned and feels very hard done by.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas thoughts

Family all crammed around one table, lots of food, talk and fun courtesy of some very superior Christmas crackers, presents under the tree, wreath on the door- yes, it's definitely Christmas.

Although we are in danger of the beeping of cash registers drowning the original message of Christmas they aren't the important part of the day. Nor is the fact that every year someone just has to remind us that shepherds couldn't possibly have been watching their sheep in the snow because it's the wrong season, the Wise Men probably weren't kings and anyhow the date seems to have been chosen to coincide with the Roman Saturnalia. Then there are those who are convinced that children allowed to believe in Father Christmas will lose all trust in their parents. None of this is important. The choice of date was purely arbitrary since no-one actually knows when it was. The early Church did what it has done ever since and settled on a date that already had a festival associated with it, changing its nature and making it the Church's own.

From a purely religious festival driven by the desire of the faithful to celebrate the birth of Jesus the season has spread to be embraced by the secular part of the community and although some rail about this, I don't think it matters. Amid all the crassness and commercialism, Christmas still brings something special, common to everyone no matter what their belief. It is the reconnection of family and friends - that all important glue that holds society together. This year spare a thought for those who would otherwise spend Christmas alone and do what you can to help them share that connection if only for a while. In my opinion, that's the true spirit of Christmas.

With that thought, I wish you all a merry Christmas and a New Year filled with every good thing.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Summer Idiots

It's summer in the Australia and the pests are out. On the driest continent on Earth with highly flammable bush they arrive every year with their matches and cigarette lighters. From 7:30 am until 3:30 pm yesterday water bombing helicopters were flying overhead, fighting the twelfth deliberately lit fire in a large area set aside for public use a short walk from where I live. It has playing fields for a variety of sports, pockets of bush and parkland with walk trails, picnic areas and stables for Riding for the Disabled among other things. So it's not just the native animals but the horses as well that are at risk. The question is why would anyone want to set fires there?
The bombers and fire brigades are back today because the fire has flared up again and below us the suburb is smothered in smoke. We are fortunate we live on a hill and the wind has until now been blowing most of the smoke away from us - just as well too since Virgo and I both suffer from asthma along with several of our neighbours. We have an evaporative air-conditioner (very popular in our dry climate) and the day is heating up but it's dangerous to put it on because of the risk of flying sparks lodging in it. As a result we're sweltering inside with all the doors and windows closed and the washing, rescued as the wind changed, sogging on clothes airers.
This fire and the ones that annually devastate another bushland enclave, also a short walk from my home, put all of us who live here (and our property) at risk, as do fires set by arsonists everywhere in the world. I find this behaviour totally incomprehensible. What conceivable pleasure is there in causing such destruction? I understand the fascination of fire. I grew up with an open wood fire and wood fired stove providing our household heating and hot water. There's nothing much to match the pleasure of sitting in front of a log fire on a cold winter's day but there's also nothing quite so terrifying as an out of control wildfire. These idiots are lighting fires in the middle of suburbs. What do they think they are doing?

Saturday, December 22, 2007


I just have to share this - created by the inimitable Cat Sparks and seen on Rob Hood's blog.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What excitement!

Sonia Helbig, my writing mate from KSPSF, has taken second place in the fourth quarter of the Writers of the Future Competition. What a Christmas present!
Less pleasant, Virgo, who is house-sitting, woke to find the power off and, unable to find a simple solution, tried to get an electrician to call. The first one she tried advertises 24 hour service but after hours (the only time they could come today) they charge $289.00 for the first half hour. That's about half her weekly wage. She's already lost all her food so she's now trying to track down someone else to come in normal hours tomorrow. When you compare those rates with say a teacher's pay you wonder why anyone would join a profession.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Of Chapters, Synopses and Taos Toolbox

I've spent this week wrestling with the dreaded synopsis while trying to finish another chapter, keep up with the Gauntleteers (Jasoni, Laura and Peter are legends in their own time. We will not discuss any other's achievements or non-achievements.) and live life. I was doing well too, managing to keep all the balls in the air even if sometimes my fists of steel faltered a little. Then, this morning, I made the mistake of looking at the date. I don't want to frighten anyone but Christmas is only nine days off. Excuse me while I go and hide my head under the pillow. Okay, I'm feeling better now. If only every time I lifted the pillow I didn't see the eye of the tiger and feel his breath on my neck. Perhaps if I don't move it will go away and I will wake to find it was all a dream.
Enough maudlin self flagellation. Taos Toolbox Writers' Workshop in the US is now open for applications. Among others (Walter Jon Williams and Stephen R. Donaldson to be precise) Kelly Link is a lecturer. Kelly was one of the tutors at Clarion South this year and I learned an enormous amount from her. I would so like to be there but unless the Lotto comes through...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Jacobean lilies

After last year's flowerless summer, the Jacobean lilies - one of my favourite of all flowering plants - are in bloom. They are incredibly beautiful with rich crimson spidery petals, an elegant narrow white stripe the length of each petal and rich eye of the tiger gold stamens. They simply gladden my heart. They are one of the few flowers I pick and bring inside although the pistil has to removed or it drips sticky nectar all over the table. They are so stunning that I only put one flower in a tall, narrow necked vase and stand it in splendid isolation. Every time I pass it I'm overwhelmed by its magnificence. I grow mine in pots so heavy as to require fists of steel to lift them because they won't flower in the garden beds no matter how carefully I nurture them.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Aurealis Award Finalists

The finalists have now been announced and can be seen here .
It was a real thrill to be at the Awards this year and I'll be crossing my fingers for the West Australian contingent in 2008. It's especially pleasing to see some of my favourite writers such as Glenda Larke, Juliet Marillier and Shane Jiraiya Cummings listed.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Council Clean Up

The local Council has given us ten days to prune, weed and generally refurbish our gardens if we want them to take the results away - free, gratis and for nothing. So since yesterday was Pisces's day off, I encouraged him to help me, his hands being fists of steel compared to mine. We now have a pile out the front but much left to do - and there is rain forecast. Not real rain you understand, of the kind that soaks in and bathes the plants' roots in a bath lasting weeks. No, this is more than likely to be a delicate misting that is burned off in a couple of days but at least it will spare us watering with some luck. The drought has us restricted to two ten minute garden watering sessions a week and the city is showing the effects. I drove past Lake Gwelup today and already the lawns surrounding it are dry and yellow and the centre of the lake itself is now an island.
Everywhere verges are being abandoned into miniature dustbowls. My own verge is still relatively green because gazanias self-seeded there about fifteen years ago and, since everything else I have ever planted there (except for the jonquils that appear miraculously every winter to perfume the street) from natives to desert exotics has died, I'm grateful for their dark green leaves, decorative even when heat stress makes them turn their silver-grey undersides out. Then the garden looks like moonlight by day except for a scattering of flowers ranging from bronze touched with rust through amber- gold, the exact colour of the eye of the tiger, and on to clear yellow, bright as a buttercup. I wonder if I held it under my chin as we did when we were children, whether it would tell me if I liked butter too?
The back garden is a different story. I've given up watering the lower garden. It's not visible from the house and water is very precious. I want to pave it, scent it with thymes in between the bricks and edge it with tough and lovely perenials like agapanthus, dianthus (the gorgeously perfumed clove pinks) and have purple hardenbergia garlanding along the back fence. Hardenbergia, kangaroo paws and banksias are very popular now but I remember when I was a child my mother was regarded as a little odd for encouraging these beautiful natives which everyone else in our sub-division ripped out.
The top garden just outside the house is finally being worked on again. The standard roses have had a first flush of blossom but a second is on the way and this evening I noticed a crimson bud opening on the Mr Lincoln bush. There's still some weeding to be done but in a few days I will plant waterfall petunias (and soften their pastels of lavenders and pinks with white and cream as well). They'll replace the nasturtiums that have finally shriveled under the heat and their delicate perfume can mingle with potted herbs outside my door.
I thought the rest could wait until it rains again but I succumbed to the selection of basils and parsleys at the shopping centre and now they sit in their seed boxes waiting to be planted out. Be patient, little ones. Rain is coming.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Notes for Politicians - of whatever party

The Australian Federal election 2007 is over in a landslide. We have a new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and a new Government. Now we must wait and see what happens.
So I thought this was a good time to look at what I found most annoying during the campaign - apart from the fact that it was certainly the most boring campaign I've ever had to watch. It was so dull that I suspect there'll be a record number of folk fined for not voting because they fell asleep. For the benefit of those from elsewhere we have compulsory voting in Australia. That way we all have to bear the responsibility.
Top of the list was the phone calls from would be Members of Parliament and/or their supporters. They were all annoying but the recorded telephone call from John Howard put him and his party in the same category as the dreaded telemarketers (if not worse) because it came after 9:00 pm which a straw poll of acquaintances of all political colours agreed is past the time when it is civilised to intrude. Given my attitude to phone pests, and for the same reasons, this did not go down well.
Then there were the trees sacrificed in the name of advertising by all parties. In each week of the campaign our household (with four registered voters and in a marginal seat) received anything up to 10-12 pieces of glossy electioneering, usually with 2-3 sheets in each. This does not include the average of one or two a week during the six months before the election date was announced. With all parties claiming green credentials I have to wonder exactly how they define them.
As a voter I want to know what precisely I am being promised so I sit through media interviews however stultifying. I do not want to see a candidate or member of a political party evade issues and they all did. That's right. No matter what party they represented. I lost count of the number of times interviews became a classic example of the "Yes, Minister" mantra of if you don't like the question being asked answer one you do like whether it has been asked or not. Are they forced to study "Yes, Minister" tapes before they stand for election to learn these techniques?
I became heartily sick of seeing little babies being cuddled and kissed. This is the only time in their lives the poor little mites don't have to think about politics and its ramifications and they can't escape. Just leave them alone, I say.
Then there was the endless and repetitive television and radio advertising, little of it positive with the bulk crudely produced and designed to scare, not inform. My advice: if you want to spend vast amounts of money on advertising at least make it look as if you have something to offer.
Finally, calling an election in the hot months of the year when it isn't forced is not a good idea. While the actual voting takes place inside, the queues of those waiting to get in at the polling booths are broiling. Makes a mockery of the anti-skin cancer campaigns, doesn't it.
Not only the political parties need to think about their actions. The attempt by a commercial television channel to rescue us from the boredom of serious commentary in the tally room by bringing along personalities to make their program of vote tallies entertaining and the filming of skits by a satirical program are hardly treating the election of a government which will determine our future for the next three or four years with the respect it deserves. Unfortunately tally room space being somewhat confined, the entertainment frequently drowned the actual results being broadcast by the only nationwide free to air program. But, hey, why would people without access to big city based channels want to know who their next government was going to be anyway?
So there's my list. Any chance of it making a difference? No, I didn't think so.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Free Rice

I came across this on Glenda Larke's blog. At you get the chance to test your vocabulary. When you are a word tragic like me that's always fascinating in itself but this has the additional bonus of the organisers donating rice through the United Nations World Food Program to starving people. So why not go and have a bit of fun and do something worthwhile at the same time.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Writers of the Future

The quarter finalists, semi-finalists and finalists for Writers of the Future this quarter have been announced and they include two Western Australian writers - pause for drum roll - Sonia Timms, a fellow member of the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers' Centre Speculative Fiction Writing Group, who is a finalist, and - another drum roll - my fellow Clarion South attendee, Lyn Battersby, a semi finalist.
Congratulations to you both. This is a great achievement and you should be very proud given the calibre of the entries in this world wide competition.
I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for Sonia when the prizewinner is announced.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Journal Writing

A question came up in the journal writing workshop I gave to a writing group this week. The emphasis was on written journals and how they could be used in developing an idea for writing as well as self exploration but I touched on other journals - scrapbook journals where pictures, newspaper clippings and so on are kept with personal comments, reading list journals which give a personal review of books read, memoir journals that focus around a particular period or person, gratitude journals and photographic journals. In passing I mentioned blogs and LJs. This caused a lot of discussion. Why would anyone journal on the internet? It's a good question and I've been thinking about it a lot since.
Why do I blog? In the end it's because I like to write and share my writing life with anyone who cares to read about it. I blog about things that are important to me, what is happening in my life and things I hope will be interesting and give pleasure to anyone who finds my blog. My blog is not the journey of self exploration a written personal journal would be but it is an aspect of myself and one I'm pleased to share.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Nuisance calls

So today I'm asleep in bed with the worst migraine I've had in a year and a swollen foot I've been told to keep off and the phone rings. Because I'm asleep and doped with painkillers I'm out of bed hobbling towards the phone before I think about it. Almost there and the answering machine clicks in. Good. I hobble on. The answering machine message is almost finished and as I reach out to pick up the phone - the caller hangs up. This happens regularly - and invariably makes me angry. I assume it's someone trying to sell me something or a charity because everyone else (whether it's personal or business) has the courtesy to leave a message. Yes, I understand that the caller, who thinks the fact that I have my number listed in the telephone directory means I'm inviting calls, does not know whether I'm ill, disabled, hanging out the washing, bathing the baby or in the garden. What infuriates me is that having interrupted my life - and the same applies to everyone else they ring - they then do not have the decency to acknowledge that they have done this by a courteous "Sorry to have troubled you."
Then there are the pests who forward dial so you answer the phone to no response and when or if they eventually deign to speak to you do not apologise for this rudeness. Instead they ask cheerily "How are you today?" and even these are not as annoying as the dinner time callers. Can't they - or their employers - look at a clock?
We've put our number down on the Government's Do Not Ring Register now and considered going ex directory although even that doesn't seem to stop automated dialing according to friends who have private numbers.
The solution often suggested is to evolve strategies to irritate them as much as they irritate us but I'd feel guilty about doing that because the blame really can't be laid on the actual callers. They are simply earning a living, usually with a prescribed spiel, while those ultimately responsible for the invasion of our privacy, their employers, are unfortunately far too clever to get caught actually communicating with those whose lives they make miserable.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

One Year On.

It doesn't seem like a year since I began this blog but it is. It's been a busy year too, full of changes both good and bad. So here's a quick overview.
There was a death, two births and a marriage. There has been serious illness, sadness and great joy. I went to Clarion South, learned so much, and made some good friends in the process. Through it all I've kept on writing. I finished and began editing my first novel and my second is under way. I've completed ten short stories, two of which have already achieved recognition, and ventured back to poetry. I've given several workshops at writing groups and been a guest speaker as well.
I didn't quite meet all my objectives but given the circumstances I'm satisfied. I give myself a gold star.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Conflux podcasts

Somewhat belatedly I should tell you that the Conflux podcasts are available at . As well there are links to blogs about Conflux.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Of Honeysuckle and other things.

I walked out of the laundry this morning to the sweet scent of the honeysuckle. If ever there was a flower more aptly named I am yet to find it. We rarely use the path down the side of the house in the winter. It's damp and dark then and the clothesline on the edge of the vegie patch right at the rear of the house doesn't get enough sun to dry the washing so I use the more winter friendly one out the back. As a consequence I haven't ventured along there for months. The result is a perfumed jungle of dark leaves, starred with cream and white blossoms. I have pushed the trailing swathes aside just enough to let me get through - and they were very obliging. No flicking back to hit me in the eye or stretching across the path to trip me. Even the ferns and a few hardy succulents, which pretty much look after themselves until it starts to dry out, are flourishing.
The bird's nest fern I inherited nearly thirty years ago is obviously happy. It's now large enough to be almost blocking access to mundane but useful equipment like the hot water system and air conditioner. I hate to disturb it but I will have to find some way of suspending it from the pergola although it's so heavy that it is going to be a challenge.
In among the honeysuckle there are Boston and fish bone ferns (my poor holly ferns and maidenhairs didn't survive last summer), strings of delicate chain of hearts succulents, a very tough aspidistra, a crown of thorns - vicious but lovely when it's in flower - and several cacti in the arid area where the sun bakes the only exposed part.
This little garden is one of the joys of summer. It takes the least work of all but it's cool and green and reminds me of the "ferned grot" of Victorian poet, Thomas Edward Brown, in his poem "My Garden".

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Daylight saving myths

Can't help myself. Western Power research published in The West Australian today shows that there was a barely measurable increase in energy consumption during the daylight saving period last summer instead of the decrease which is always hyped by its supporters. I'm guessing there would have been more of an increase if we hadn't had a milder summer than usual given that coming home when it is close to the maximum temperature (the hottest times of the day in summer are usually 2:00-3:00 pm Western Standard Time which is 3:00-4:00 pm Daylight Saving Time) will inevitably lead to more use of air-conditioners. But will logic affect this debate? We must wait and see.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Of cactus flowers and roses.

Most of the year the cacti sit in their hanging baskets looking at best boring and at worst plain ugly but come October and they are splendid. Their strappy, uninteresting leaves trailing to the ground become garlands draped with enormous flowers rioting in a range of colours that is literally breathtaking. My collection ranges from white, through palest cream to gelati yellow and on through baby pink to scarlet and most dramatic of all, a stunning flower, the size of a cantaloupe, with a vivid cerise (verging on purple) centre surrounded by a hot pink skirt. Their perfume is subtle but sweet and the bees are as enamoured as I am.
The roses are spectacular too just now. Not quite as exhibitionist as the cacti, they go for the massed bouquet look. I wasn't expecting too much of them this year. The mild winter meant they never lost all their leaves and the Queen Elizabeth climber managed at least a couple of flowers all through the cold season. They are beautiful though in their first flush of the season. The Peace, Apricot Nectar and Princess de Monaco standards are rewarding me for taking them out of their pots and planting them in the garden. They are all smothered in blossoms. Up close they look a little ragged now after the wind, rain and hail of the weekend but from a distance they are still glorious. The Icebergs, on the other hand, seem quite happy to produce continual flowers, even in their pots on either side of the steps. Mr Lincoln, Papa Meilland, First Love and Pascali are not quite as generous with their blossoms but when they come they are a joy especially the two crimsons which produce a heady perfume that wafts in the back door.
And now to give everything a good weeding. They deserve it.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Okay, this is bordering on the absurd. Since last Thursday - 31 degrees Centigrade maximum, bright sun, cook in the car on the way home - we have been lashed by gales, battered by hail, drenched with rain (given the drought, I'm not complaining about that) and, even with our winter woollies hauled out of the cupboard and layered on, so cold that this morning I had to put the heater on while I sat huddled in a blanket to read the paper. This is the end of October in Perth, Western Australia. We do not have overnight lows of 4 degrees Centigrade at this time of the year. Usually we only get a handful of them in mid-winter. And there was snow on Bluff Knoll in the Stirling Ranges in the south of the state. It's all gone now, of course, but it was snow none the less. This only happens about once in fifteen years - in winter.

As of yesterday we have daylight saving which doesn't, of course, save daylight at all since the amount of daylight remains the same no matter how you fiddle with the clock. This means that one of the great pleasures in my life - that hour just after dawn before the sleepyheads get up and the noise of the day begins denied me through winter - is now denied me all summer as well.

Another illogicality seems to have escaped our leaders too. We are being offered subsidies to save energy, told to turn off stand by on our household gadgets, replace our light bulbs with energy efficient replacements and to turn off lights when we leave the room. All very sensible - except with daylight saving, it's dark when we get up so in a house of say four people at any one time there are at least four lights on and since it's not energy efficient to keep turning fluorescent lights on and off there may well be five or six. To get these people to their educational or work places the trains, buses etc. all have to run longer hours in the dark too with the workers involved starting earlier and having to turn on lights. In theory the lights then go on an hour later at night but in my house at least, because the day stays lighter longer, we eat later which means we stay up later so the lights are then on for the same period as they were before at night. This in turn makes for sleep deprived cranky folk who are now getting, as a result of being unable change their Nature ordained wake up clocks, an hour less sleep. And yes, I do know I could go to bed earlier. Unfortunately, my body doesn't feel the same. If I go to bed earlier, I don't go to sleep until the time I usually would. You know, the one prescribed by Nature. I must say that I now have a much greater appreciation of the stresses endured by shift workers though why that has to be inflicted on everyone I fail to see. So enlighten me, we are "saving" what exactly?

I will try not to rant again on this subject but I promise nothing.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Clarion South 2009

The tutors for Clarion South commencing January 2009 have been named and they are:

Week 1: Sean Williams
Week 2: Marianne de Pierres
Week 3: Margo Lanagan
Week 4: Jack Dann
Week 5: Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant
Week 6: Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant

Details of the workshop can be found at

Applications open February 1, 2008.

Friday, October 19, 2007

New Holland Honeyeaters

The New Holland honeyeaters are back. They're a bit late this year due to the way the seasons are changing no doubt. They are slender little birds, striking with their vertically striped, very dark brown and white waistcoats and faintly striped dark backs echoing their fronts. They're swaying, bold yellow wing panels making a bright flash, on the slender twigs of the standard Iceberg rose, where the first rosy buds are just starting to unfurl into white blossom. They're noisy creatures, often in crowds, squabbling and chattering. They plunge into the bird bath then sit on nearby branches to shake and preen. White cheeked honeyeaters sometimes arrive about the same time. The only difference between the two is a large white patch below the eye. Apart from that they all seem to be part of the same argumentative cohort.

Monday, October 15, 2007


I'm allergic to Spring, parts of Summer and Autumn as well but the whole of Spring. This is highly unfortunate because after the cold grey of Winter, Spring looks gorgeous. There are pleasantly warm sunny days, the weeds are growing even faster than the plants I want to grow and the birds... The thicket of star jasmine (may our neighbours never become gardeners) strangling the trees on the fence line next door is alive with birds - aggressive red wattle birds seeing off anyone or anything that dares to come near, squeaking, chirruping, squawking babies, frantic parents - mudlarks, singing honeyeaters (the only honeyeaters I can recognise because they are the only ones daring enough to stay for a moment when a human approaches. The others skedaddle in a whirr of wings the minute they sight you.) and little wattle birds. Unfortunately this population explosion brings the Western ravens (known locally as crows) to feast.
This in turn causes much stress and distress for a small tan and white dog who regards it as her absolute obligation to rid the world of big black birds even if they are nearly as big as she is and armed with a long sharp beak. So there are many mad barking rushes out into the yard followed by scratching on the back door and the pleading of "I can't do this by myself. Will you please come and help?"
The ravens are well aware of her limitations so they position themselves just out of reach and stare down at her setting off another barking frenzy. They're not at all sure of me though so they fly off when they see me pick up a pebble, with a fighter squad of honeyeaters diving on them as they go. They really have no need to be afraid of me because even if I threw the pebble they are much too far away for me to hit them and I wouldn't really want to anyway. After all they are only doing what they are meant to but I just prefer not to see them doing it so let's just keep it our little secret.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Since I had no internet access I wrote my blogs daily and now I’m transferring them to my blog. The dates will be weird but hey, if it doesn’t bother me…

Thursday 27 September, 2007

I’m at the airport waiting in line to check in. I’m juggling a walking stick, a carry on bag on wheels, a suitcase, also with wheels, my handbag, laptop, camera and ticket folder. I’m more than usually hampered because on my way here – in the car in fact – I suddenly developed severe sciatica. Simultaneously three check-in lights start flashing. Virgo, who dropped me off at the entrance and went to park the car, is nowhere to be seen and the line behind me is getting restive. You’d think the walking stick shuffle might have alerted them to my limitations but they seem to have the idea that I’m messing about. In fact I’m trying, not very effectively, to move forward without losing my grip on my belongings. Then I manage to drop just about everything. That helps a lot. With difficulty, I gather up my possessions and head for the nearest window where I drop another bundle. This does not make for a confident approach but the check-in itself goes smoothly and I’m offered and gratefully accept a wheelchair. At that moment a harried Virgo appears and takes over.

We head for the security check and the laptop is extracted and my bags get dumped in trays and we’re in the gate – to the accompaniment of loud beeps. This always happens to me! Why? Anyway I’m hustled away – as usual. Will I consent to a pat down – like I have any choice. A consent form and a pen are shoved in front of me and I sign. I offer to stand. Not necessary. Surely it would be less trouble for all concerned but I’m not going to cause any trouble. I’m not sure that much could have been concealed under a pair of jeans and a fitted sweater but if it makes them happy… Besides my very ample figure probably looks suspiciously oversize but I make it on board to wait out the delays caused by a late connecting passenger coming from the International Terminal and a disruptive passenger who has to be removed and we’re off. At least my journeys are full of exciting moments, aren't they.

Friday, 28 September, 2007

It’s years since I’ve been in Canberra so I spent some time this morning checking out the city centre before heading to the Gorman House Arts Centre for the first workshop I’d booked into – The Noble and Knightly Art of the Long Sword. What an experience! A mix of age and gender and all shapes and sizes, we lined up to be taught a few of the basics of handling a long sword. We stepped, lunged, attacked, defended. The difficulties of co-ordinating hands, feet and body while remembering exactly what moves had to be made provided a challenge, lots of laughs and near misses. It has to be the best fun I’ve had in years.

I caught up with some fellow Clarionites at the opening ceremony. This was a blast and MC Jack Dann had us in fits of laughter. The official guests were introduced. Most exciting from my point of view, Laura Goodin, one of my Clarion South mates, was presented with her prize as the winner of the Conflux Short Story Competition. Congratulations, Laura!

Then Larissa Stoljar gave an amazing performance of a vocal work – not singing but sounds familiar to us all from cartoons arranged into a co-ordinated performance piece. Truly extraordinary – and unforgettable.

Saturday 29 September 2007.

So many panels – and I want to go to all of them. They cover so much – paranormal romance, world building, blogging, magic, genres, publishing. Add the interview/question and answer sessions with the official guests and workshops and we barely have time to breathe. Fortunately the panels are all being transferred to pod casts so I can pick up any I miss later. Yay! Tonight I’m skipping the Regency Gothic banquet and out to dinner with friends. It has been so great to catch up with all those people I rarely get to see. And, even more exciting, some more Clarionites have arrived.

Sunday 30 September 2007

So now I know a lot more ways to kill someone efficiently using a dagger, long sword or short sword. Hmm. At last my heroine will know what she's actually doing which I'm sure will be a relief to her. I also know about writing tie-ins, where exactly YA fiction sits in relation to urban fantasy and more about blogging and using LJs. Most of us Clarionites turned up to the panel on Clarions and decided that we had been a fairly functional group as these workshops go. Then a couple of us wandered out into the cold Canberra night in search of pizza – and very good it was too. The Masquerade was in full swing when we got back and we peeked in but retreated from the noise and into the bar.

Monday October 2007

Dammit, I missed the panel on what makes a good villain due to yet another elevator malfunction. The lifts have been the one irritation of the weekend. They skip the floor you’re on or stop at every floor whether they have been called there or not. They arrive without a light indicating they are moving or which direction they are heading. You press the down button and are swept non-stop up to the top floor and back down to the basement before you’re spat out on the ground floor. Those who could tried the fire escape stairs but that led straight to the basement where the exit doors were locked so they had to take another lift, when it finally arrived, back up to the ground floor. You can wait with an ever increasing queue to go back to your room and on one occasion the lift never came – at all. We trailed around after a helpful staff member like a flock of ducklings and crammed in to the service elevator with the room service trolley. The worst though was when a lift full of people got stuck and they were rescued only when someone heard them hammering on the door. No-one (including me who finds stairs very difficult at the best of times) was brave enough to take the lift either up or down between the 1st floor (where the convention rooms were) and the ground floor (the bar and restaurant) so there was continual traipsing up and down the spiral staircase, which fortunately sweeps widely making it feasible for all but those with toddlers in pushers.

So what else today? Readings by Jason Nahrung, Kaaron Warren, Rob Hood and Richard Harland, a KaffeeKlatch session with Simon Brown, a fascinating panel on the role of the female in speculative fiction including insights into the success and otherwise of women writing male characters and men writing women and some thoughts on space opera. And finally the closing ceremony followed by the Dead Dog party in the bar.

By then we were just about dead from exhaustion and I wouldn’t have missed a moment of it.

Tuesday 2 October 2007

Apart from my blog entries I haven’t written a word over the four days but others have. Some disappeared to laptops in their rooms and a few settled in the bar with files or writing pads. While I really want to go to sleep now - for a long time but the plane flight home will have to suffice - I feel re-energised as well. My head is buzzing with ideas that I want to put on paper. Maybe a nice little horror piece on lifts? We shall see.

It was strange at breakfast this morning to see the change in those eating there. Only a handful of Confluxers remain, those of us who like me intend to do a bit of sightseeing or have awkward plane times. Most of the new cohort appears to be part of tour groups here to visit Floriade and that’s where I’m off to now.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Conflux bound

I've booked my tickets, my hotel room and have my Conflux receipt. What else is there to do except pack and fly? I'm off to Canberra very soon. I'm definitely planning on a visit to Floriade as well as attending Conflux and spending some time with east coast friends but Canberra has a lot more to offer than that. It's been a long time since I was there last and I hope to cram in some more sightseeing as well.

I look nostalgically back to the days when flying meant fronting up to the counter an hour or so before your flight left, depositing your suitcase and heading off for a cup of coffee until your flight was called. Then you picked up your hand luggage, kissed a few good-byes and wandered off to the gate. Once on board - at least at Perth Airport - you could see families and friends standing on the verandah waving the plane out of sight.
I traveled a lot at one time in my working life so packing and flying doesn't worry me but the complications brought about by the airport security changes do. I accept the world is different now and there is a very real threat of terrorists using aircraft for their own purposes but some of the security requirements are simply bizarre.

A friend, going to the airport to farewell her brother returning home to another state, forgot she had nail clippers in her handbag. You know nail clippers - those little objects about half the length of your little finger, with a blunt ended nail file approximately one and a half centimetres long that acts as a lever so you can open the clippers just enough to insert a finger nail? They showed up at the security check and she was asked to hand them over.
"Can I collect them on the way back?" she asked - not unreasonably I'd have thought. The rest of the family meanwhile continued through and waited.
"No, if you want to go through we're confiscating them. You don't get them back."
"Can I say good-bye to my brother over the barrier then?"
"No, if you won't give us the clippers we'll go and tell him you said good-bye."
Okay maybe she should have just handed them over no matter how absurd it was but by then she was feeling stroppy. The officer went and spoke to her brother and she went back to the car.
Before the plane took off she got a phone call. Her brother was not happy. According to him the officer had said she refused to comply with the confiscation because she wasn't interested in seeing him off. Petty and nasty.
All this over a tiny item with no potential for use as a weapon while at the same time anyone can take cabin luggage and a laptop on board, both of which are heavy enough to be used to disable flight crew or anyone else who gets in the way if someone is so inclined. For that matter why can't these items (legal everywhere except airports) be returned to someone who is only seeing a passenger off and not going near a plane? Use a check system like a cloakroom. It works in libraries, museums and art galleries.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Winged Eagles

I'm not saying Collingwood didn't play well. They did and they certainly deserved their victory on the night. But the Eagles were beaten as much by injury as another team. Without Chris Judd, Daniel Kerr and Ben Cousins playing, then losing Ashley Hansen to injury after fourteen minutes of play as well as David Wirrapunda and several others carrying an injury, they really played an amazing game to bring it to a draw. That they just couldn't manage to score the vital goal in the play-off is not a reason for them to beat themselves up. Well done, Eagles, and thanks for an exciting season. Better luck next year.

It's hardly a surprise (to Virgo and me at least but maybe we're just prescient) but it's just been announced that Chris Judd is not re-signing with the Eagles and hoping to sign with a Melbourne club for next year. If that had happened early in the season I would have thought it was a disaster but the way the team played after injury reduced his performance to about 60% I think there's still plenty of hope for next year. We'll hear the Club song again.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Australian Horror Writers' Association Flash and Short Story Competition 2007

I'm sure the results for this are already well known but my friend, Marlene Fulcher, gets a big woohoo from me for receiving a commended in the flash section of the competition. Her story, Come to Mummy, is a creepy little tale and deserves the recognition. Marlene's ability to chill the reader in very few words is unnerving and I suspect relates to the skills in paring down language she has learned as a poet.

Monday, August 27, 2007

And the new novel...

Is gone. I still like the idea but I couldn't get excited about it. That's the bad news.
The good news is that I have had a character wandering around in my head for weeks and she seems to be growing every day. Last week she set off on a vision quest with no help from my conscious mind and wouldn't you just guess, it's all ending in tears. The story is obviously much bigger than a short story so now I think it might be, "Welcome to the new new novel." We shall see.
By the way she's a much more interesting character than the main character in the previous novel attempt. Maybe that's why she's grabbed my attention so firmly. I'm looking forward to following her adventures.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Katharine Susannah Prichard Speculative Fiction/Fantasy Awards 2007 2

Here is the list of winners for this year.

Shire of Mundaring National Young Writers' Awards

1st place Melissa Wellam (ACT) The Succubus
2nd place Monica Revy (WA) The Day of Reckoning

Stephanie Wong (WA) Unfolding Plots and Story Lines

Open Section

1st place Helen Venn (WA) The Healing
2nd place Susan Wardle (NSW) The Chance

Highly Commended
Helen Venn (WA) Surrogate

B.J. Thomason (VIC) Uptoun Wells
Sonia Helbig (WA) Trillion Dollar Baby
M. LeGuier (WA) Deathwatch
Monica Carroll (ACT) Dog Luck

I am over the moon and don't expect to land again sometime soon.

Katharine Susannah Prichard Speculative Fiction/Fantasy Awards

I'm off to the Katharine Susannah Prichard Speculative Fiction/Fantasy Awards presentations today where, having been short-listed, I am reading from two of my stories. I'll post the winners when I get back.
I've arranged for a guided tour of the Writers' Centre for some friends before it starts and, although I have attended workshops there for years, I have never been on a tour. The centre is based in old home of author, Katharine Susannah Prichard, on Greenmount, right on the edge of the Darling scarp behind Perth. It's a wonderful setting and I'm looking forward to learning more of its history.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I've spent most of the day going through all the story beginnings I've accumulated in years of writing. They have come from a wide range of sources: journal entries, writing exercises, workshops, writing marathons. They are snippets written in hospital waiting rooms, at my writing group, on retreats, while waiting for the dentist, physiotherapist, doctor, on buses and trains, in cars, under trees on freezing winter mornings, on baking beach sand in summer, in churchyards, on river banks and snuggled into bed during a winter storm.
There are hundreds all filed away for later. Many of their companions have already morphed into completed stories and, in their time, so will these. They come from a variety of triggers. An idea or a word, something from the news, a new scientific discovery, an overheard fragment of conversation or something as simple as my cat hiding (unsuccessfully) behind a blade of grass.
The best though is the writing marathon. A phrase, a sentence or a word chosen at random sends me off into places I'd never have come to without it. Sometimes these beginnings seem to have no future and I file them away for days when inspiration is running low but others nag at me and I find myself thinking, planning and writing. And a new story is born.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sunshine and Flowers

It's amazing how a few sunny days changes my life. The computer is abandoned and I'm out in the garden, taking the chance to treat the roses and grapevines to their overdue pruning. I know the grapevines will be grateful because as I cut away the dead wood on every plant I discovered tiny ant nests. Each must be the offspring of the flying ant swarms in late autumn where queens, desperate for homes, settled on the gaps where the centres of the dead stems hollowed out as their cores shrank. From there they had chewed out nurseries to raise silvery white larva. If they would stick to the rotten sections I would be happy to leave them alone but they inevitably encroach into the living wood and that can be fatal.
The sun has brought out the bees too. Dozens of them buzz around the potted camellia sitting outside the family room all winter as it scatters its saucer sized blossoms in a carpet of rich pink and white. Jaz, who is allergic to bee stings, dices with death whenever she is let out. Fortunately she is not very good at catching them.
Tiny grey skinks sun themselves on the brick wall, some not much bigger than a matchstick, with scales like fine, delicate lace, and, along the back fence, the trees are packed with nesting honeyeaters and wattlebirds. The eggs and nestlings are very popular with the raucous ravens that squabble loudly in their home tree in the next street. They drop in for a snack far too often. I know they have to eat but I'd rather not see their predations. Jaz loathes them, having been cornered by one when she was a puppy. They are big birds, handsome in their glossy black, and quite capable of doing a little dog an injury. Although she no longer has to worry about that she has not forgiven them and throws herself at the door barking frantically until someone lets her out.
All the signs are there. Spring is just around the corner and we are enjoying the prelude.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Of TV programmers

Looked in the TV guide this morning. No Torchwood tonight. Checked another guide. Still no Torchwood.
What is it about television programmers? Don't they realise that if we get messed around too much we stop watching their channel. That means we don't see their advertisements either. That means advertisers begin to wonder why they are paying lots of money etc etc etc... I've already lost interest in Medium because of the insertion of repeats and out of sequence episodes by the same channel and Torchwood is still establishing its audience here. Wouldn't it be a good idea to lock us in before you start playing around with it? Just a thought.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Conflux - Virtual Minicon

What fun it was! I wasn't sure it would work but it did - beautifully. I managed to visit the author sessions I most wanted to - Simon Brown, Melaina Faranda and Glenda Larke - with a look in at a couple of others. Then I hung out in the virtual Lounge for a while where conversation largely centred around chocolate and alcohol or the two combined. It was especially good to see Laura Goodin and Peter Ball at Melaina's session. It made a mini-reunion of Clarion South 2007 with the four of us there, mini being in this month apparently.
I'm still trying to organise my finances so I can go to Conflux 4 in real time. After last night I want to go all the more. We shall see.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Putting a toe out into the world again.

This has certainly been a nasty little bug. I'm only just beginning to feel human again although I am still wheezing and coughing intermittently - and I am one of the lucky ones. A lot of sufferers (Virgo is one) have developed chest infections. She's still grey and wheezing with asthma but has avoided the pleurisy and pneumonia so many others have come down with.
A lot of doctors are booked out for anything up to a week because of the volume of cases. When Virgo obviously needed antibiotics we first tried our GP, then half a dozen others before we could get her an appointment and that wasn't until the next day. If we hadn't managed that, our only other option would have been the Emergency Department but the winter ailments have made them desperately over-crowded.

The short-sightedness of our politicians, and the squabbling over funding between State and Federal governments, has left the whole system struggling. Okay, if what you have is life-threatening, you will get quick and efficient treatment. It may be on a trolley in the Emergency Department or you may be stuck in an ambulance for hours but you will be treated. In the meantime other patients will be waiting for hours, all unwell, many in pain and often having to deal with bored children who have had to come with them because no-one was available to take care of them.

When we had occasion to visit an Emergency Department about eighteen months ago Virgo and I sat in the waiting room for over six hours watching as ambulance after ambulance pulled in. It didn't impact on us because they had taken Pisces in quickly and we knew he was receiving treatment. We were fortunate. Others in the waiting room before us had been there for eight or more hours and some of them were in considerable pain.

Many could probably have been dealt with by a GP but that is not an option on a Sunday. It's a big enough problem during the week because (at least in part) we are suffering the consequences of the decision of the previous Paul Keating Federal Labor government which decided that Australia was oversupplied with doctors and cut the number of places - not that the present Liberal government has improved things in this area.

All this highlights the need for another major hospital in our city and the State Government is going to build one. Isn't that great? Well yes, if they weren't planning on building it in the suburbs the south of the city and then closing down the central teaching hospital, Royal Perth. This will leave the central city area with no hospital services.

If there's a gas explosion, the equivalent of the recent steam pipe explosion in New York, for example, where will all the injured go? Will they be able to be carried to the central hospital if ambulances can't access the area? No. They will have to be carried out to ambulances and transported for a considerable distance to outlying hospitals. Will the walking injured be able to get themselves to hospitals? No again. They will have to make their way to ambulances which will have to ferry them again to the outlying hospitals, tying up all available ambulances and causing delays in treatment that may well end up costing lives.

Perth is growing and we certainly need a new hospital south of the city but not if we lose our central city hospital.

Rant ended.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Winter ills.

Virgo and I have spent the week feeling very sorry for ourselves having both come down with the virus currently rampaging through Perth. When we've managed to stay upright for any time at all whatever energy we've had available has had to be spent on critical things - like going to the doctor. We did manage a visit to the shops for groceries on Friday and returned with a rather strange collection of goods and some weird omissions. Still it's enough to keep us from starving if this goes on much longer. What is infuriating is my inability to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time. I haven't gone near my homework. It's due for discussion on Wednesday night and the way I feel at the moment I don't think it's going to be done by then. Ah well.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Go the Eagles! Oh they went.

I curled up on the sofa with Jaz on Saturday afternoon and stayed awake until just after half time Since I meant to go and visit my mother after the match, not waking up again until well after 4:00pm was not a good thing. At least it spared me the misery of seeing the Eagles get their wings clipped, not to mention having their tail feathers pulled out. Not that I expected them to win (with nearly half the team out with injuries how could they?) but I didn't anticipate it would be so bad.
I'm very tired at the moment so it's not surprising I fell asleep but tonight I'm staying awake to watch Torchwood somehow. I was disappointed in the first episode but it's growing on me. Jack is convincingly enigmatic and I like Gwen, although why a no nonsense copper is among this rather flawed group I find hard to accept. At least in Doctor Who you know that the Doctor and his companion are the good guys and in the end they don't usually do something irretrievably foolish however many mistakes they make along the way. So far in Torchwood we have had three of five staff members who have between them put the Earth and everything on it at risk, not including Gwen who is still learning and entitled to the occasional error. I have to ask myself if these are the best people to be protecting the planet, self appointed or not. Couldn't Jack have recruited others who could be a little less unstable? On the other hand, of course, totally unflawed characters are extremely boring. We shall see how the series develops.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Writing, Writing, Writing

I've spent much of the last few days critting for others as well as revising those of my own stories not currently making their way through the system and generally getting them ready to send out. It's interesting how much suddenly becomes visible after a break from a story. Typos jump out, convoluted sentences confuse even me and sections I thought were as good as they could be snag holes and the story unravels into ladders. The good bit is that all of this is fixable. The scary bit is that I missed them in the first place.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The End

That's it! I've just written the last word of my final chapter!
I have a few bits I'm not happy with but they shouldn't take too long to fix. Then a thorough check of spelling and grammar (during which I will no doubt find other flaws needing fixing) and a few unfortunates of my acquaintance who have volunteered to crit it for me will get their copies.

Of wayward girls

In the penultimate chapter of my novel two characters are supposed to have a massive argument so the story flows logically on to the climax. They are not co-operating because they are, to put it bluntly, too nice. They don't want to hurt each other's feelings. I am not impressed and am off to prod them. Something sharp should do the trick.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Stormy Weather

There is something really pleasant about a cosy room on a stormy day. So far we have escaped any damage although I just looked out to see a large limb has fallen off a neighbour's tree into what would be garden if it wasn't for the drought (I abandoned that part of the garden two years ago when the drought started to bite to cut down on watering). A combination of high tides, rain and wind has put some of the roads along the river underwater so last night Pisces drove home with wavelets lapping near the doors of his car and then, as he reached higher ground, was nearly blown off the road by winds gusting up to gale force. But we have rain. Whether it will be enough is another question.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Of Storms and Blue Moons

Coastal Australia is being inundated by winter storms. The East coast is awash with flooding and king tides while here on the west coast we're still way under our rainfall for the year with most of the inland farming and pastoral areas everywhere pretty much gripped by drought. We have had some rain over the last few weeks in Perth though and this afternoon a severe cold front is expected. We have been advised to stock up on batteries and candles because there are likely to be power failures. The last time such a strong front came through was, if I remember correctly, in May 1994 and areas of the city were without power for over a week. We shall see what happens.

On another note, I remembered to go out last night during a gap in the clouds and look at the moon. Sadly I have to report that I have been the victim of false advertising. A blue moon is, I am disappointed to tell you, just the normal colour. Should I send in a report to Consumer Affairs? As well I think someone should be sued for my distress and mental anguish at this deception by the media and meteorologists which has been going on all my life. $10,000,000 should cover it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Word Counting

The current word count stands at 134,238 and I estimate about another 4,000 - 5,000 to go and of that about 3,500 is in a chapter which needs to be completely rewritten. So I'll be a bit more than my original estimate. This is because I omitted one completed chapter in my first count. Then I have to do a line edit. Tell me again ... exactly why am I doing this?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Revising and rewriting

I've just saved today's work onto a couple of memory sticks. The current word count for my rewritten and edited chapters (give or take a few bits I have yet to extract like choosing between alternative chapter headings) is 116,333.
I estimate I have about another 20,000 to go. (It has to be an estimate because as I rewrite whole sections get discarded but others expand. Boy do they expand!) In the process I have found some minor plot flaws and fixed them and generally tidied up. Of the remaining chapters one has already been fairly well edited and the remaining four need a lot of attention. But I'm so near the end now that I can almost believe I am going to make it by my self-imposed deadline.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


I have actually completed and posted my three homework exercises for this month. This is worth celebrating!

Now I will go and try to sleep off a migraine which has come back with renewed viciousness. Since we are supposed to be going to the movies tonight with friends we meet with regularly once a month - to see As it is in Heaven, a Swedish movie with good reviews - I need to be both pain free and alert. Painkillers will ensure pain free. Alert I'm not so sure about.

This group of friends is something quite unusual I think. Most of us, or our spouses, have known the others since primary school, secondary school or university days plus a few others met along the way since. There are currently eleven couples and two singles. Others have stayed for a while and left over the years but the core has remained. Between us we have accumulated a large number of children and a few grandchildren.

When the children were younger we went away for long weekends as well as socialising and going out together to kid-friendly places. Now we go to theatres, movies, picnics, restaurants and whatever interesting places we can find. Recently we've gone to the Gravity Display Centre in Gingin, the Perth Observatory and on a walk through an historic township among others. We still visit each other's homes and we have been known to party. We're close-knit and support one another much like a family. Virgo was trying to explain the relationship to one of her friends recently and ended up saying, "It's been like growing up with a whole lot of extra aunties and uncles and cousins." And that I think is as good a way as any of describing how we are.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Writing, Writing, Writing.

I set myself an end of the month deadline for editing my otherwise completed novel. It seems silly to be working on the next on for Tansy's class without really finishing the previous one. So I've been sitting at my computer whenever I get a minute and I am progressing. I have another fourteen chapters to work through which equates to one a day and is theoretically possible, I suppose. Unfortunately with all the other unavoidable demands on my time, I rarely have the luxury of more than half a day at a time when I would like to be treating this as a nine to five job. This means after dinner I head back to my study (usually known as The Playroom because it's where I "play" according to my family). As anyone who knows me is well aware, I'm an early to bed, early to rise, eight hours sleep a night girl. I consider bed around 10:30 pm a fairly late night - but I want to finish this so badly I'm crawling into bed around midnight. It's starting to catch up on me too. I hope it's worth the effort.

As well I have two other short stories (begun as writing exercises at my local writers' club) which are nagging at me to finish them. One is almost finished and the other is about a third of the way through. Well they'll just have to wait, won't they, and given the end of the month is only fifteen days away, they shouldn't have to wait too long.

Best of all, I'm finally keeping up with the 100 word a day challenge.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Winter Long Weekend

It has been perfect weather for a long weekend. Although we desperately need rain I'm one of those people who get dragged into the Slough of Despond by too many days of grey skies so a few sunny days with the chance to be outside for a while lifts my spirits. Then there's the joy of sun dried washing with its fresh, clean scent.

Pisces also has a day off work today (unusual because he usually works long weekends) and we've been out in the garden. We've had very little time for the past couple of months to spend any time together so it has been a real pleasure.

I'm actually feeling quite inspired. Yesterday a friend had lunch for a group of fellow writers. Lots of discussion of favourite books and authors, writing techniques and all the other things dear to writers' hearts. We sat in her beautiful garden until the evening chill forced us to leave. Many years ago I used to teach at the secondary school in this area but I had forgotten how aptly named Mount Pleasant is. Then I drove home along the broad waters of the Canning and Swan Rivers where they intersect near the middle of Perth. For the first time in weeks I feel that if I sit down and write I'll achieve something. About time too.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Paris je t'aime

What a wonderful movie - mostly in French but with excellent subtitles. I went with one of my oldest friends and we laughed and cried our way through a series of perfectly presented little stories linked only by the fact that they were all about love (of many kinds) and set in Paris. With a stellar cast including some of the best known actors of France, the U.K. and the U.S.A. playing minuscule cameos, combined with wonderful photography and inspired production, this is to be recommended to everyone.
It has certainly inspired me to go back to my writing with a fresh eye. So much was said in such a succinct and beautiful way with not a surplus moment. That's what the best writing is too - spare and lyrical at the same time. Now to see if I can manage the same with words...

Friday, June 01, 2007

Trials and Tribulations

Since I enrolled in Tansy Rayner Roberts' course a couple of months ago, the Universe has continued its attack on me.

I've been been laid low with a particularly nasty bug, visiting my hospitalised mother, making arrangements to be made for her when she is discharged and all the other stuff of life ever since.

It's not that I don't want to write. I have ideas and characters and worlds buzzing in my head that I need to put down. The problem is partly finding time and but, more importantly the energy, to write. I challenged one of my classmates (who is also having trouble managing to fit in the exercises) to committing to 100 words a day hoping this would make me keep up. I'm struggling with even that workload - and my normal daily output is around 1500-2000 words. I hope she is doing better.

I think we sometimes underestimate the work that is involved in writing. Because we love what we are doing we think of it as relaxing. Pretty silly when you think about it. We play sport, hard, and end up exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. Why shouldn't brain work be the same?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Of novels and other things

I've enrolled in an on-line Write a Fantasy Novel course run by the talented Tansy Rayner Roberts. The idea was that I'd have at least a faint idea of what I wanted to write about before I started the course. Then life came crashing in and it was the first session and I still hadn't made a decision. The problem wasn't so much that I didn't have ideas, more that I had too many of them and hadn't had time to sift through them. I was told at Clarion South that my two first stories felt like the beginnings of novels and I have a number of other thoughts and beginnings, not to mention the half finished novel that I've always intended to return to so there is quite a lot to select from. This doesn't mean I can decide which one to go with though and that is the problem. Tansy suggested awesomeness is what is needed. Unfortunately they all feel awesome to me. So I now have to make a final decision - soon - or I'll be struggling all through the course. Wish me luck and a few days when I have time to think.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mouse in the house

At least we think we have one - it may be past tense. Not that I would count on Cadillac's hunting ability. He has been known to corner the odd gecko or skink but I usually get to rescue them then because he doesn't seem to know the next step. I suspect it's his biscuits that are the attraction since it has set up home at the back of the freezer in the laundry where they are kept. When we moved the freezer to clean behind it we found much rodent evidence. No wonder Jaz has been so upset in the night and trying desperately to get under there. This means that on the nights that Virgo declines to have doggy company in her room there are outbursts of barking and scratching until I go and pick Jaz's bed and dump it on the floor beside my bed where she happily snores until Cadillac decides he'd like to sleep there instead and abandons my feet to roust her out. Jaz then comes around to me and starts pawing until I wake up and remove him so she can go back to sleep. Last night he did this three times. Grrrr. If he's not careful it'll be the laundry for him on a permanent basis .

Friday, May 11, 2007

Mary, Mary, quite contrary

Well not really. It's the next bit - how does your garden grow - that applies to me at the moment. And the answer is ... not very well. While I was at Clarion South the couch grass invaded just about everywhere and as I had left my garden in the charge of two non-gardeners no-one noticed. It's taking me forever to get it down to manageable levels again so the vegie garden has still not been planted for winter. Some parts are doing well in spite of the previous neglect. I have a forest of basil which is steadily being converted into pesto and put away in the freezer. The spring onions are looking splendid and there are masses of parsley, chives, shallots and garlic so all is not lost. But now I need to start putting the greens - broccoli, lettuces, coriander, chard for starters - and the roots like carrots, onions and beetroot as well as peas of all sorts and other winter herbs.
I garden for several reasons. I like to know what I am eating to start with and I know this way that there are no unwanted chemicals affecting my crops. I can pick what I want out of the garden and have it on the table fresher than anything I could buy. But the main reason is that I get enormous satisfaction from gardening. I like the feel of the earth, watching the plants grow and spending time in the open air. I find too that this is a time when all those shadowy ideas I want to write about coalesce and after a session outside I am ready to come in and start writing a story. It's rather like walking or exercising. The rhythm and lack of need to think sets the brain free to work in other ways so it investigates and plays with ideas in a way it wouldn't otherwise.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Of cats and dogs

We have a visiting cat. Apparently he started coming around while I was at Clarion South. He's a handsome fellow, with a black Batman's mask on a white face and beautifully balanced black and white markings over the rest of his body. The only thing that mars him is that the black patch under his chin extends on one side up to the corner of his mouth. We wondered for a while if he was a stray because he spends so much time in our yard but he has acquired a fancy red and white collar with Phoenix and a phone number written on it so apparently he has a home. He also has (although I'm betting his family doesn't know it) a number of other meal providers including my neighbours and, I'm sorry to say, us. This is because Virgo was convinced he was starving - and he certainly was skinny - so she felt obliged to feed him to protect the large number of honeyeaters, wattle birds, willy wagtails and doves we encourage around the garden.
And Phoenix is good. He creeps across the garden every centimetre saying "Excuse me. I don't mean to intrude but seeing I'm here I wouldn't say no to a snack." Then when a handful of cat biscuits are produced and consumed there is much rubbing around legs accompanied by plaintive little mews as if to say "Thank you so much. I really do love you. You can pick me up if you like." and, of course, Virgo does just that while Phoenix smooches and purrs.
All this is, of course, very disturbing to Jaz, because she's about the same size as the cat. She vacillates between "Gotta get rid of the cat. Let me at him." and "The cat's looking at me and I don't like it." which is usually followed by "I think I'll go back inside now."
Cadillac, on the other hand, is an inside cat and generally speaking not the heroic type. He usually runs for cover whenever he hears the door bell and doesn't emerge until the visitors have left. When Jaz first arrived Caddy was so horrified that he headed under my bed where he remained except terrified forays for food and to use his tray for over two months. Finally we lured him out with a pheromone diffuser which was almost as disturbing as him living under the bed. He just sat swaying in front of the diffuser, eyes glazed, while we gradually weaned him off it.
So it was something of a surprise yesterday when Cadillac, ensconced on his favourite chair under the family room table, decided enough was enough and started to growl at Phoenix. The growling grew louder and then he started hissing and spitting. This is not quite as brave as it sounds because he was hidden by the table cloth and peeping from under a lifted corner of it. Phoenix crouched outside the door and hissed back. This sent Caddy, fluffed up to twice his normal size, racing for cover under the dining room table at the other end of the house where he pretended it had never happened.
But today Cadillac defended his territory again from the same vantage point. This time he didn't run away. Maybe he has decided it's time to assert himself at last.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


I'm not fond of visiting hospitals. It's probably due to spending more time than I like in them as a patient. But at the moment with my mother confined to bed with a cracked femur visiting is what I do. I'm always amazed at the inadequate parking provided for any major hospital whether it is privately or government run although the government institutions are by far the worst. I do understand that there are limits on just how many places are available but I also understand just how valuable visitors are to recovery.
My mother is presently in Royal Perth Hospital, a major teaching and primary care hospital in Perth. Because my father doesn't like to drive in the city (neither do I but that's another issue) I have been driving him to the hospital and parking is always stretched. This is despite the fact that there is a train station not far from the hospital and a free bus service from the main city bus station which enables many people to visit the hospital without taking their vehicle. In our case public transport isn't an option so we have to struggle to find a spot close enough for us to be able to walk. We're managing but the State government has decided to build a new hospital in Murdoch to service the south of the city. This is a good idea in itself because there is an obvious need in that area. However when they do this they have decided to close Royal Perth Hospital diverting much of its patient load to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, which is already struggling under its own workload. Is this rational?

Monday, April 30, 2007


We have an early start to winter it seems. Given we are just over half way through Autumn after a very dry summer this is something to be grateful for. By 9.00 am yesterday we had already exceeded our average April rainfall and there has been quite a bit since. We are still lagging behind the average for the year to date but this is going to mean that the gardens will need less water which will put less strain on the dams and the underground water which Perth supplements its water supply with.
We have a new desalinisation plant in operation now but there is so much more that could - make that should - be done if only our politicians had the foresight. Sadly whenever someone comes up with an innovative idea it gets pooh-poohed. It won't work. If it could work it will cost too much. It will take too long. We don't have the technology. What rubbish. By that criteria the Western Australian goldfields wouldn't have had a water supply piped in from the coast a century ago. The massive works of the Romans would never have happened. We wouldn't have the Panama Canal. The list is endless.
It seems to me that with climate change altering where rain will fall we should be trying every way we can to collect water and we should be encouraging everyone to be involved. When we built our house twenty five years ago we looked into options for installing rainwater tanks and recycle grey water believing that to do that then would make us environmentally responsible and that it would be cheaper than to try and do it later.
"No, you can't do that," we were told. "Rainwater tanks breed mosquitoes and there is no way to recycle grey water." The fact that it was being done in other parts of Australia successfully meant nothing. Things have changed dramatically in the last few years. Rather too late don't you think.

Oops you've caught me ranting again so I will calm down and go to the vet to pick up Jaz who is having some work done on her mouth. Poor little dog.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Life after Clarion

There has been a succession of family crises since I came home. It's as if the Universe saved everything up to throw at me as soon as I got off the plane. I'm spending so much time ducking and weaving it's a wonder I even get near the computer let alone write. So now you know why the blogging has been sparse.
I am starting to make some progress with the goals I set myself - much more slowly than I'd like but something is better than nothing in the circumstances. So here's some of what I have achieved on the writing front. Another Clarionite and I gave a talk about the experience to our local speculative fiction writing group. I also gave a talk on the Clarion experience to my local writing group. I have edited four of my Clarion stories and I think they are ready to go out. I ran a workshop at a writers' group on critiquing techniques and conducted a follow up workshop where those techniques were applied. I have several stories underway and am working on them whenever I can grab a moment. Finally I have been asked to be a guest speaker at a meeting of State branch of a nationwide writing organisation.
Well, that's not as bad as I thought it was. I think I'll mark my report card "Making progress but could do better."

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Clarion South - summing up - from a writer'spoint of view

Clarion South is an intensive writing and critiquing workshop held over six weeks in Brisbane, Australia - and it is intense. The format is a crit session lasting from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm Monday to Friday with afternoons, evenings and weekends free to write, crit, socialise and do mundane housekeeping tasks like washing and eating.
During the course you are expected to write at least six stories and critique those of the rest of the group. This means writing one story and reading and critting a minimum of sixteen stories a week. The daily average was three stories to be critiqued every day which can be anywhere in the short story range. The longest story at this Clarion South was, from memory, slightly over 8,000 words. I found reading and critting a story usually took me between between one and one and a half hours. The crit then had to be distilled down to a two minute summary for the crit room. With sixteen classmate's crits plus the tutor's unlimited time and a general discussion this limit had to be adhered to rigidly to get through the work load. The person being critiqued is not allowed to comment until the class crits are done.
Inevitably some participants find it hard to have their work dissected so intensely. Clarions can prove difficult for those who take criticism of their work as criticism of themselves but the work being submitted is not polished. It can't be. It is first draft and I counted myself lucky if I could manage a spell and grammar check before I handed it in. Crits were honest and meant to help in my experience because we were all there to improve our skills in writing and critiquing and there was no point in any other approach. Because there is such a range of sub-genres being produced it is not always easy for those whose interests lie in one particular area to comment on another with which they are unfamiliar but over the workshop everyone's writing became more experimental as we were exposed to ideas and styles.
My goals in attending Clarion South were to gain skills in writing to a tight deadline, to try writing in areas I had not tackled before and to improve my critiquing skills. I feel I achieved all these objectives but I also gained in other ways. I am now much more confident in backing my own opinion in writing and critiquing and that increase in self-esteem flows on to other areas of life. The website is still active and there is continuing contact between the group with celebration and support available in equal measure.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


About thirty years ago I was in Port Hedland on business when a cyclone hit. In the time it took for my clerk and me to fly from Perth the cyclone was upgraded to a yellow alert and quickly after to a red alert. I was impressed at the time at the efficient steps taken by the local officials to ensure the safety of all in the town. Federal, State and local government staff were scouring the streets to ensure that all debris was removed or secured and that all inhabitants were safely housed. We spent a day in the motel (fortunately located in South Hedland and so not right on the coast) with winds howling round us except for when the eye of the cyclone passed over. The gales were so intense that trees were bent over to the ground and the motel swimming pool had waves about a metre high. The bar was opened at about 10:00 am and the more intrepid or intoxicated spent some hours body surfing from one end of the pool to the other ending up on the pool's concrete surrounds and sporting an impressive array of grazes as a result. Compared with Tracy (which destroyed Darwin) the damage was minimal and there were no deaths or injuries.

I have considerable sympathy for the residents of Port Hedland as a result but I am forced to wonder why in, a time when governments and employers are supposedly much more aware than they were thirty years ago, we have construction camps destroyed and lives lost when we have had well over a hundred years of experience of these annual, natural events. In Port Hedland thirty years ago they had a well devised action plan and carried it out (and this was before Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin). Why do communities (however temporary) not have the same ability to protect their residents now?

Saturday, March 03, 2007


I've spent today going through my Clarion photos and by the end I felt quite bereft. I'm close to being ready to write about the Clarion experience but not quite. It's hard to explain to those who haven't been through it just how intense the workshop is and how close the relationships formed become. At the end of our last crit session we were asked how we felt about the experience. I had to agree with the guy who said it ranked with one of the most wonderful experiences of his life. It was for me too on so many levels. It was hard - hard work, hard emotionally, hard physically - but all that was balanced out by the highs and the sense of achievement. I'd urge anyone who wants a career in speculative fiction to aim at attending a Clarion. I can truthfully say it is an experience like no other.

Later on I will try to give a better idea of what is actually involved and what the experience itself is like - but not yet.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


The fortnight of the end of February and beginning of March are crowded with birthdays - Pisces, my father, my brother in law, one of my brothers, and two nephews. My father's was yesterday and we had a family dinner. Since Virgo and I decided to become vegetarian a little over a year ago the family have been having great difficulty in catering for us - or more specifically me because I have such a complicated diet for medical reasons - but last night, with a potluck meal, all but one turned up with a vegetarian dish, all delicious. Since yet another family member announced last night that he has given up meat I suspect this will be the norm from now on.

I had wanted to give up eating meat for a long time before we took the plunge. I was very unhappy about the treatment of food animals and felt a hypocrite for being prepared to eat meat but knowing if someone else didn't kill it I wouldn't do it myself. At the same time it seemed too difficult to cater for in a family of meat eaters especially when my diet already requires so many exclusions. I had compromised by making at least four main meals a week vegetarian but Virgo's decision meant it was easier to go to the next step. There have been side benefits apart from the moral ones. The past year has been one of my healthiest in a decade and while I can't be certain it's not eating meat I'm hoping it will continue. I caught far fewer viruses and consequently actually achieved much more. My only problem was iron deficiency and this has happened to me on a regular basis for years so I doubt it has anything to do with my diet.

Now we have more birthdays to look forward to. Pisces' is next weekend and since he's working the whole of the long weekend I'm not sure what we can do. Maybe Virgo and I will take him out for a meal if either of them aren't working at the same time. Shifts that involve all weekend work are a real pain. Most social lives are arranged around Saturday nights and Sundays and I can't remember the last time we were able to go on a picnic with friends or family or even visit for a Sunday lunch as a family unit. The government trumpets about full employment but so many people are working weird hours or cobbling together two or more part-time or casual jobs just to survive. I'd like to see governments caring a bit more about the social consequences of this life style where often married couples and families don't see each other for more than a few minutes a day let alone keeping in contact with their extended family.

I will now step down from my soap box.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Home safely

My box of crits has arrived. Why the Australia Post courier didn't use the door bell I'm not sure because, if it hadn't been for the door dog, (Jaz) I wouldn't have known they were there unless I had had to go out the front for some reason. I don't really care. I am just so happy they have arrived. Now I can get down to some serious work. So far I have just been fiddling with the stories I started but hadn't finished in the last week of Clarion.

What else have I done since I got home? Slept - a lot. It's almost impossible to describe to anyone who has not been part of the experience just how little sleep figured. I had a routine appointment with my GP and he took one look at me and put me on the scales. I have lost nearly eight kilos since Christmas. This was not deliberate. All the time I was at Clarion I was eating well balanced meals and having far less exercise than normal due to my back flaring up. All I can put it down to is the mental energy involved burning up the calories. I'm not unhappy about this you understand, and my doctor is positively cheering, but I don't want to lose much more.

Today I had coffee with a friend, Satima, also a speculative fiction writer who was passing through Perth on her way to England and that was my first social activity since I arrived home. I haven't so much as made a phone call to anyone outside the family. But tomorrow life will begin again. By then I will be awake enough to be coherent.

Friday, February 16, 2007

All packed up and tomorrow we're off.

Because we are leaving so early in the morning - 7:45 for me - everything had to be packed up today. My crits and manuscripts are posted (and I'll be biting my nails until they arrive in Perth). It was so hard to hand them over at the Post Office because this is all the work that I've done here and although the stories themselves are on the computer and backed up the crits are not. The only things left in my room are two suitcases, one locked and one holding what I'll need tonight and first thing in the morning. All that makes it even seem like my room any more is the throw rug on my bed and my pillow - and Teddy, of course. He's been my connection to family because he normally sits on my bed at home. The throw rug is staying out because it has been chilly the last few nights - yes I know it's summer in Queensland. It's just Queensland that doesn't know - and the doona is a bit too heavy. So in the morning I'll pack up my laptop, put my pillow and throw in my bag and I'll be away.

And there will be tears in the morning if not before bedtime.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Of Crits and Packing Up blues

Let's start with the happy stuff. I had the best crit ever this week. My little flash fiction works and the feedback was just what you want to hear. A few things to fix up and then it's out there to where it has to compete with the rest of the hordes. It's one of those times when I wrote without effort because I was in the zone and the joy of that experience is still lingering. And this makes the fact that it worked and people liked it even more exciting.

On to other things:

Everything is winding down now and we're starting to get organised to go home. You know the sort of thing - confirming flight bookings, working out just how much to post home (and trying not to think about the cost), presents, packing, cleaning out the fridge. The convenors have been worried that we might be in a state of denial, I think, but much as we would like it to be otherwise we do know that come Saturday this amazing experience will come to an end. As a result, although we're looking forward to seeing family and friends, we're all feeling a bit down at the same time because this is something we can never experience again.

We're going to miss the type of bizarre conversation that only a group of speculative fiction writers can have. An example: last night we were sitting in our living area doing our crits. They are done individually without discussion but when we've written them down we sometimes have a general chat about things we might not have understood and so on. So three of us were going over a sex scene in one of the stories and how it fitted into the story structure when the fourth person in the room looked up from her crit and asked, "Are ship's doors made of metal or steel?" This had absolutely no connection to the stories any of us were critting or anything else but after a couple of puzzled looks we answered the question, she went back to her crit and we went on with our original discussion.

We will miss being able to wander into someone else's flat and sitting down to crit or chat with them. We will miss feeling free to bounce ideas, however weird, off 16 other minds. We will miss the hysterical laughter when an idea goes gonzo. We will miss each other.

We are trying to make arrangements to meet up or stay in contact in the future because we trust each other, both as writers and individuals, and we don't want to lose this.

So forgive us a few tears and hugs (or may be a lot) on Saturday morning and weave them in among the many happy memories.