Sunday, January 27, 2008

Aurealis Awards

It's hard to believe that last year I was in the audience at the Aurealis Awards. I'm one of those distant blurs up in the top left hand corner of the auditorium shots. It was great to see some of my favourite authors shortlisted and the winners had to face fierce competition to carry off their prizes. Congratulations everyone. The complete list of winners is here. It was especially pleasing to see Terry Dowling awarded the Peter McNamara Convenors Award for Excellence for Rynemon while Cat Sparks, who has an amazingly busy life but still manages to write, received the Best Science Fiction Short Story Award as well as the Golden Aurealis for the overall best short story for Hollywood Roadkill. The judges' reports are also available on the Aurealis website. To celebrate, Jim Baen's Universe magazine, who published Garth Nix's Aurealis winning fantasy short story, Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz Go to War Again, have made it available free of charge on their website.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Vale Heath Ledger

I, like so many others, was shocked to hear the sad news about the death of Heath Ledger. That he was a fellow West Australian, so talented and died so young, makes it all the more sad. The unsubstantiated and innuendo laden rumours sweeping the world about how he died are more shocking. Heath Ledger has left behind family and friends who, while dealing with bereavement, are also having to deal with reporters and other invasions of their privacy. They have to listen to these smears on a loved son, brother, father. It shames the whole of humanity that gossip-mongers regard a tragic incident as something they can exploit. We are seeing the same thing in the current inquest into the death of the Princess of Wales. That so many feel they have the right to photograph or otherwise intrude on people's private lives truly shocks me.

My heart goes out to his family and friends.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Clarion South writings

One of my fellow Clarion South grads has a story up at Strange Horizons in the 7 January issue. It's "Still Living" by J J Irwin. If you get a chance wander over and read it. It's one of my favourite Clarion South stories.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Planting , planting , planting madly

My garden has been depressing me. Usually I have an flourishing flowerbed outside the family room door, well-mulched shrubs and bulbs flowering and fruiting in the rest of the garden and the vegetable garden supplying us with about half our needs. However, I have discovered an interesting fact this summer - if you spend all your time on the computer because you have to meet some important deadlines, something has to give. In this case it was the garden. Other essentials have to be done so it seemed the easiest route. Another interesting fact though - if my garden is a mess, I'm not happy and if I'm not happy then my writing is less successful. Is that a resounding chorus of "Duh!" I hear?
So I'm about to address the problem, bad back, creaking joints and all. We will have order. We will have flowers, fruit and vegetables. We will plant. Today.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Synopsis Writing

Wouldn't you just know it. After anguishing my way through an outline/synopsis with the help of friends and numerous websites just before Christmas, look what has turned up on Writer Unboxed. Here Therese Walsh gives a neat, concise summary in readable language. It won't make writing the synopsis less painful, of course, but it will act as a useful checklist. By the way, it was good to find out that others hate, loathe and detest synopsis writing as much as I do.

Darwin Awards

The 2007 Darwin Awards are up here.
You may want to take a look if you are fascinated by just how stupid people can be. Every year I'm torn between horror at the way these people died and asking why would anyone do anything so stupid.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Fists of Steel and Balls of Fire

Perhaps I should explain, especially to those who have Googled the phrases above and found me, that they - as well as 'the eye of the tiger' - were part of a writing challenge by some of my fellow Clarion South grads. I'm sure that a blog mostly about writing, gardens and whatever else takes my fancy wasn't quite what the two military visitors from Arlington, Virginia, expected but I hope they enjoyed their visit anyway.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Snapshot of Wildlife in my Garden

I'm lucky enough to live in an area bounded by wetlands (preserved as nature reserves), two well-wooded golf courses (one with a resident mob of Western grey kangaroos) and two areas of public open space, not to mention numerous small parks interspersed between the houses. It's green and leafy with trees although we are only about fifteen minutes walk from the ocean. The last market garden and stables and the wetlands adjoining them were destroyed recently and turned into upmarket housing with the complex flora and fauna of the swamps and pools cast out as the wetlands were turned into sterile, manicured lakes - more's the pity.
It's still very pleasant and it seems birds and other creatures like it as much as we do because in the last week the following happened:

1. I felt a tickle on my forearm and looked down to see a tiny, pale green creature about 5 mm long and looking for all the world like a short fat pin. The pinhead moved and revealed the triangular head and big eyes of a praying mantis. We gazed at each other for a long moment then it opened its wings and flew off. I don't know why but it had never occurred to me before that they could fly, I suppose because I always see them stalking along leaves and stems.

2. The plump pink gecko who hunts across our kitchen window and had been missing for three week returned minus her tail and the eggs that had been clearly visible through her transparent skin as they developed.

3. While folding the washing I discovered two rows - six in each - of dull jade 1 mm diameter eggs glued firmly to an elastic waistband by some insect.

4. A flock of about twenty Little Corellas flew over conducting a loud screeching conversation. We hardly ever see these birds in such numbers here so I suspect it is to do with the continuing drought.

5. The dog disturbed a grey-green frog the size of my fist in the potted mint. I don't know who was the most surprised. We have three resident species of frogs in the garden at present - motorbike frogs (named for their incessant call), moaning frogs (very aptly named) and another I have not been able to identify. There used to be a number of brilliant emerald green tree frogs but fifteen years ago all the frogs vanished. They started to return five years ago and now we have a dense population again except for the tree frogs. Sad really.

6. The giant marri tree in my front yard has burst into a mass of rich pink blossom - all delicately fringed. It buzzes loudly with industrious bees from earliest light. It is over three weeks late in flowering this year as it is usually in full bloom by Christmas.

7. Red Wattlebirds lining up along the fence to take turns to bathe in the bird bath. They 'chuck chuck' loudly as they emerge from the water sodden, fly up to a nearby branch, shake and do it all again. Keeping the bath full is a daily job because of their vigorous ducking and splashing.

8. A flock of Short-billed Black Cockatoos flew over on their way to feed in the Star Swamp Reserve. When we first moved here the flock numbered well over a hundred. Now there's around thirty-thirty five. Their nesting sites (they favour hollows in eucalyptus trees) have been cleared and these are mostly old birds, the remnants of the past. There are always a few young but this flock at least is not reproducing quickly enough to sustain itself. I hope the others are doing better.
One of my most memorable moments came from these birds. About ten years ago I went out along the side of the house to the back garden - fortunately for once without the dog. As I reached the end of the house I saw several large black birds sitting on the fence. I stopped, looked around and realised the whole triangular fence area was topped by grave cockatoos who stared at me without moving or showing fear. In the palm trees next door others were flapping and squawking. It took a minute of watching to understand what was going on but then I heard the unmistakable sound of a young bird being fed. Deciding I was no threat, the fence-sitters stretched their legs, scratched, preened a bit and chattered quietly among themselves while they waited occasionally inspecting me. I had the distinct impression that they were including me in their conversations. We stayed like that for about ten minutes then suddenly, in response to no apparent signal, they lifted into the air where they called raucously for a moment and flew off. I was so overwhelmed that I literally could not move for some minutes and even now the same feeling of awe fills me at the memory.

So there you are - a snapshot of the wildlife in my garden. Not bad considering we are only fifteen minutes along the freeway into the city centre.

Friday, January 04, 2008


If you have a chance, wander over to Horrorscope where there are best of 2007 and writers to watch in 2008 lists. Fellow West Australians Sonia Helbig, Lyn Battersby, Martin Livings and Shane Jiraiya Cummings feature on the to watch list and Americans, Ben Maulbeck and Daniel Braum, both at Clarion South this year, also rate a mention. Well done, guys.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Wildfire Deaths

The tragic deaths of three West Australian long haul truck drivers has caused an outpouring of grief here. I doubt any of us will ever forget the sight of the shells of prime movers and their trailers sunk axle deep into melted tarmac. I know that stretch of road and can well imagine the fire rushing through the dry bush and how little chance there would be to escape it. My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones.

It brought back memories of a bush fire near my home when I was a child. We were among the early residents of what is now Scarborough. The beach front already catered for day trippers with a motley collection of milk bars, fish and chip shops, the local amusement park and the vaguely disreputable Snake Pit where bodgies and widgies danced the night away to loud rock 'n roll and jive. Most businesses only opened during the summer to supply the jumble of holiday flats and houses, mostly shacks built by keen fishermen and let out for extra income. Between there and Mt Hawthorn closer to the city, farms and market gardens were still the norm.

We moved into one of the first half dozen War Service homes being built in the area. It was an idyllic place for a child to grow up. Surrounded as we were by bush, Mum would pack our lunches, hand out hats and strict instructions to make lots of noise - to scare the snakes and a necessary warning given the number of dugites and tiger snakes around - and to be back on time for dinner then let us loose. We climbed trees, admired the wild flowers (picking was forbidden) especially the orchids - pink ladies, donkey orchids, three kinds of spider orchids, blue enamel orchids and cowslip orchids to name only a few and all largely vanished now, chewed the coconutty stem bases of grasstree leaves and caught tadpoles in the swamps.

We felt perfectly safe until the afternoon a fire broke out in what is now City Beach some kilometers away to the south and raced north, great columns of smoke shutting out the sunlight and showering us with ash. By evening the area south of us was glowing a dull red with flames - incandescent and red-gold - flaring high into the sky as tree after tree ignited. Dad packed us into the truck cab and we went to investigate. I don't think I will ever forget the sight of the fire and my parents talking calmly as we huddled up together. They must have been worried although they didn't let on to us. Even so we picked up on the tension and I can feel that unnerving hollow in the pit of my stomach to this day.

We were lucky in the end. The fire was stopped before it reached us. I'm not sure what happened. Maybe the nearby swamp where the local dairy farm was located, was wet enough or the fire brigade got there. I was only five at the time. It has left me with an abiding respect for the power and unpredictability of fire though and an awareness that perhaps those who live in Perth's inner suburbs and have never seen a bushfire at first hand don't understand.