Friday, November 28, 2008

More Clarion Good News

During Clarion South we were warned that an incoming tutor did not like stories about unicorns or other fantasy creatures so, of course, several Clarionites saw this as a challenge. Peter Ball then proceeded to subvert all the tropes and place his unicorns in a world so far distant from knights and fair maidens that it took your breath away. He's been working on it since and it has now grown into a novella which has been picked up by Twelfth Planet Press to be published as part of their novella series.

This is no surprise to anyone who has read his work. Peter is one of those writers whose stories get under your skin. Since Clarion South he has been published in Dreaming Again and other places and I can't wait to read the expanded version of his unicorn tale.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


My cat, Cadillac, passed away on Monday. Here are a few photos from happier times.

"In my opinion Christmas is greatly over-rated."

"Excuse me, can't you see I'm sleeping. My paw is
over my eye."

"Give a cat a break. I've got the stupid hat and scarf on. Now you expect me to pose. Sheeze!"

You are much missed, Puss.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Clarion South Revisit

I've just had word from my Clarion South mate, Jason Fischer, that over on Voyager Online they are about to start a series of blog pieces on Clarionites including a number of my fellow Clarion Southers and me. Go here to get an idea of the Clarion experience and, if you are interested in my personal experience, you can read it in the archives of this blog. In fact, wanting a record of the experience is what started me blogging.

It's hard to realise that it is now more than two years since I got the phone call that started me on the way to Clarion South. It really was a life changing event for me and not only in writing speculative fiction. The skills I learned have benefitted me in all areas of my writing including my literary and non-fiction work and even spilled over into my poetry. Just as importantly I gained good friends whose help in so many parts of my life is incalculable.

Although places have closed for Clarion South 2009 there will be others and there are also Clarion and Clarion West in the USA. If you are serious about your writing and love speculative fiction these are the places to go to further your craft.

For more information go to the Clarion South website.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Just adding to my previous post, last weekend a 94 year old man, Joe Hollomby, was murdered in the Western Australian coastal town of Geraldton. In the past twenty years he had raised around $1.3 million dollars for charity by making and selling shortbread. He worked ten hour days producing the shortbread and donated the profits to numerous charities. What a wonderful man - and what a pity his life was cut short. Vale, Joe Hollomby.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Sydney Memorial Service.

For reasons that must have seemed good to them the powers that be originally invited none of the surviving crew members of the Sydney living in Western Australia to the re-interment of the unknown sailor who was washed up on Christmas Island after the Sydney sank during World War Two. Following publicity a last minute change of plans was made to allow the four, who were willing and able, to attend.

What I found most disturbing was the assumption that these gentlemen were too frail to attend.
No-one seemed to have even checked to find out whether this was true. If they had they would have found that the very articulate gentleman in the morning newspaper belied the belief that all eighty and ninety year olds are unable to take care of themselves and live in nursing homes and to judge from the television footage of the ceremony, all four who attended appeared to be quite fit and capable.

Where does this belief come from? I think of those I know - a woman who travelled to England by herself at the age of 89 and another who at 94, with some support from family, was still caring for her very frail husband in their home. I could go on and tell you about the men and women who drive, study, travel and enjoy their lives. I can also tell you of the insults offered to some of these intelligent, self sufficient people. For example the 92 year old who was questioned by immigration authorities because the birth date on his passport was clearly wrong. That would make him over ninety and that couldn't be right, could it, so he must be lying or travelling on a dodgy passport.

Yes, some are unfortunate enough be unable to care for themselves but by no means all or even the majority are in care situations and the assumption that they are is beyond insulting. It is prejudice and should be dealt with as such.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Oh Dear.

The doves I mentioned a little while back have abandoned their nest. The little hen was sitting very diligently so there must have been eggs but about a week ago when I looked out she wasn't there. The empty nest had been pushed off the solid part of the clothesline frame and was balanced precariously on two strands of the line. There were no eggs anywhere either. It was very well constructed for a dove's nest and I doubt its movement was anything to do with her building capabilities. I suspect rats doing some nest robbing.

Since our new neighbours cleared the jungle in their yard and several other neighbours have cut down their mature palm trees the rats are doing it tough. The passion fruit have finished, there's only a handful of Cape gooseberries left on the bush and nothing else is ripe. I've seen them running long the pergolas in the middle of the day which is very unusual.

The ravens are in trouble too. The smorgasbord of eggs and nestlings that the overgrown garden behind supplied has vanished and they are struggling to feed their babies. Much as I disliked to seeing them hunting around the garden I have no wish to see them starving either.

On a happier note the storage crate on top of the verandah cupboard has another resident pair of turtle doves. We can't actually see the babies in this spot until they are preparing to leave the nest but once they start trying out their wings they need more space so I'm looking forward to seeing some young birds perched on its edge staring down at us with interest for a few days before they fly off.

While there may be less birds there are certainly a lot of frogs. They start their chorus around dusk and it builds to a crescendo over a couple of hours. The garden shrills with dozens of cries of "Listen to me. I sing better than anyone else. What a father I would make for your children." Summer is really just around the corner.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembrance Day - Lest We Forget

Remembrance Day, like Anzac Day, seems to me to be unutterably sad. Heaven knows there have been wars before and since but these days with their memories of the best and brightest of a generation on both sides of the conflict being sent out to die in their hundreds of thousands are especially touching. Somehow they seem to mark the loss of innocence for the world and Australia in particular. Of the young men who marched off to dreams of glory while doing their bit those who came home (physically and mentally whole if they were lucky) bore the marks of their experience for the rest of their lives.

I'll tell you the story of one family, not particularly special but fairly typical of many Australians, during the 1914-1918 War.

At the outbreak of the war Thomas Oglesby King and his wife, Charlotte, had six surviving adult children, four sons and two daughters. They had lost twin daughters in early childhood. Horace Chamberlain King , their third son, aged nineteen, joined up on March 8, 1915 and was followed his brother, Glen Roy, then aged twenty three, who joined up on 25 June 1915.

Horace was posted to the 28 Infantry Battalion as a Corporal and Glen Roy to the 10 Light Horse Regiment as a private. Although I can find no record of it family stories say that their oldest son Bertram also served. Both Horace and Glen Roy served in several theatres of war - a chilling way to describe a place where men are being killed! Horace gained rapid promotion to Captain. He was mentioned in despatches and was also awarded a Military Cross. He was killed in France on 7 April, 1918. He was only twenty two years old.

I said at the beginning that this wasn't a special family and that's true as far as history is concerned but they are special to me because Horrie, Dick (as Glen Roy was known to his family) and Bert were my great uncles. I know the loss of a son and brother remained an ache in the hearts of the family for the rest of their lives.

When I went to France I didn't search for Horrie's grave in the war cemeteries where it breaks the heart to see row after row of white crosses stretching as far as you can imagine. Instead I stood in the fields of Flanders on a bleak day in April where poppies spotted the ground like blood. I remembered them - the men who had lived and died so long ago - and prayed that their sacrifice would be enough and there would never be another war.

I could tell of other families too, of the Martins where a cousin went to the same war and returned physically recovered but never quite the same man as before. Then, in World War 2, there was a family where four brothers and a sister joined the Royal Australian Air Force but not all came home. They were the Ellis family and you can find the details of their lost ones, John and Robert, through the Australian War Memorial. One day I will tell their story too but that's enough for now.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

It's Been a While

But real life has intervened and as there is nothing to do except keep on keeping on, today we have photos. Not very good ones but then I have never claimed to be a good photographer.

This is Angus. Not such a baby now, is he - but he still likes paper.

And of course, if someone else is having a photo taken, Jaz is always ready and waiting. I often wonder what she thinks is happening when she lines up for a photo.

To finish up, here are just a few of the spectacular cactus flowers open today on my back pergolas.

This is wonderfully delicate to look at although it is as big across as my hand.

This one is 23 centimetres across. Not my favourite colour but certainly arresting.

One of my favourites of the creamy whites and you can catch a glimpse of one of the darker pinks in the background.