Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Tangled Bank

The Table of Contents of The Tangled Bank e-anthology - to be launched on Darwin Day 12 February 2010 by Tangled Bank Press - has been announced. I am delighted to see, among a very impressive list, my Clarion South 2007 fellows Ben Francisco, Christopher Green and Chris Lynch as well as Brendan Carson who, I believe, attended Clarion South 2009. Chris Lynch is also the editor.

The idea of celebrating Darwin's achievements attracts me and I'm looking forward to reading this.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Toodyay Fires

Toodyay is a pretty little town just north east of Perth. It was one of the early European settlements in Western Australia and so is, by Australian standards, quite old. It has retained many of its historic old buildings which adds to its charm. We were close to moving onto a hobby farm in the area before health issues made it impossible.

Sadly parts of Toodyay been burned out by a bushfire believed to have been started by a fallen power line. Thirty seven homes have been destroyed and miraculously there were no deaths. Film of the fire showed it moving at incredible speed seeming to gulp down vegetation and stubble as it went. Behind it lay nothing but black.

We've had high temperatures recently. A succession of days in the high thirties and on the day the fire started it reached 39.6 Centigrade in the city so it would be much higher inland. That morning I had looked out my back door - in the suburbs near the coast - to see a plume of smoke rising from my neighbour's yard right on the fence line. They were obviously out and my hose is not long enough to reach so I ended up throwing buckets of water over the fence to put it out. When I talked to them later we could see no reason how a fire could have started but it certainly brought home to me just how volatile our native vegetation is.

We were lucky. The people of Toodyay were not.

If you want to help those who have lost everything donations can be made by phoning 13 72 58, going to and follow the Bushfire Appeal link or the Bendigo Bank.

Ticonderoga Publications is donating part of the price of all books sold in the next two weeks to the appeal.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Change in Travel Rules

According to news reports from July the Australian Federal Government has decided to relax the restrictions on flying with dangerous objects like nail clippers and knitting needles. I'm delighted to hear this being a knitter from way back and also objecting to not being able to clip a damaged nail until I retrieve my luggage. This has always been a patently stupid restriction especially as it also affects those who are just visiting the airport to see travellers off and I'm glad to see it go.

I have a question though - as apparently do all the travellers still being stripped of their nail clippers, knitting needles etc at airports. Why has the ruling not come into immediate effect? Are we supposed to believe that nail clippers - to use one of the more ridiculous items on the list of dangerous objects - are suddenly going to cease to be dangerous in July? Or is it that such items pose some inherent danger? If so what is it? If these items are a public danger we need to know about it before they turn on the general population. Is a whole range of new nail clippers etc being manufactured to protect us? If so what do we do with those items we already have? Are they safe? Do we need an amnesty so we can hand in all our old nail clippers and so on and replace them with the new safe version?

Ridiculous? Of course - but is it any more ridiculous than employing people right now in our airports (who are paid out of our taxes) to confiscate something that a) isn't dangerous in the first place and b) will in July miraculously become safe?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What was he thinking?

In a televised interview Tony Blair has stated that even if there were no weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein's Iraq another reason for the invasion would have been found with his support because Saddam Husein was a bad man and deserved to be overthrown.

What was he thinking? Was he thinking at all? Certainly Saddam Hussein was a bad man and was doing terrible things in Iraq but since when has that been a reason for invading another country? On that basis Blair could have ordered the invasion of any of a dozen or more countries with governments bleeding their countries' economies and harming their citizens - and which have been doing this for much longer than Saddam Hussein - but he didn't.

That Mr Blair does not find this even slightly embarrassing is horrifying. He made the decision to commit troops to the invasion of a sovereign nation which posed no direct threat to his own country. Because of that action so many people have died - including Iraqi civilians and British troops - and he doesn't think there was anything wrong with either the decision or how it was made?

I am frankly appalled.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Egoboo WA Post

My introductory post on the Egoboo WA blog is up. Why don't you drop in and have a look. While you're there have a look at the other posts by Joanna Fay, Sarah Parker, Satima Flavel and Carol Ryles. We'd like your comments too.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Garden is Many Things

I guess for most people a garden is a place to relax in, to entertain in and to beautify your home. While my garden has all those functions it has another. For me a garden should supply at least some food and other needs for me and my household. I'm not doing a Tom and Barbara (in The Good Life British comedy of the seventies) - quite apart from the impossibility of keeping pigs and goats in suburban Perth I have no desire to so - but I do like the idea of growing food plants. I've been doing this for most of my life for lots of reasons but mainly because I love to nurture plants and to be able to wander out to the vegetable garden and pick dinner. I'm lucky in that I have a reasonable size block of land with an area ideally suited for growing vegetables and even at difficult periods of my life I've always managed to have at the very least a collection of herbs and mostly there is much more.

What is interesting is that I now find that I have been ahead of my time. There has apparently been a sudden revival of the urge to grow your own food with even apartment dwellers setting up mini gardens on window ledges and balconies. I have to wonder exactly how much they harvest from these minute gardens but it's a trend that can only benefit anyone who tries it. Fresh picked vegetables and herbs are not only good for you - they taste so much better.

And just to prove my point here are some photos of my recently planted vegetable garden.

Not much to show yet with most of the plants still hidden among the mulch but I'll give you an update in a few weeks.

And just to show we have something almost ready to harvest, a few grapes. The last few years we've lost most of the crop to heatwaves and/or powdery mildew. So I've got my fingers crossed.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Twelfth Planet Press Silly Season Sale

Over at Twelfth Planet Press, they have a special offer on their shortlisted Aurealis Award books of free postage in Australia and splitting the postage with overseas purchasers. Go here for the details. I'm heading over there myself.

Saturday, December 05, 2009


I was watching the excerpts from Tony Abbot's press conference on television on Tuesday and I was shocked to see his behaviour towards Julie Bishop, who was elected as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party when he was elected as Leader. He cuddled her and described her as a 'loyal girl'. This is a grown woman who has been elected by the party to serve as its Deputy Leader - which means she is expected to have the nous to be able to act as the alternate Prime Minister should there be a change in government and the need arise - and he calls her a girl and cuddles her?

I can't think of another workplace where a senior colleague would be permitted to behave like this. What gives a man the right to put his hands on a work colleague - and then compound the offense by calling her a girl? This is a term that belittles an adult woman and is usually used as a put down implying as it does that the woman is childish. If Mr Abbot doesn't understand this he needs to have it explained to him. I noticed that he didn't cuddle any of the males present and call them boys.

I assumed that this would be offensive to the majority of people so had no intention of blogging about it but after a conversation today I found it apparently is not - at least not to some men who found my remarks on the subject very mirth-making. For the record I don't find this sort of insulting behaviour either humourous or acceptable and I don't think many women would.

Aurealis Awards 2009 Shortlist

Wow! It's a very strong list. It'a great to see so many of the books and stories I have enjoyed listed. The list is here. Congratulations to all those who are short listed.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Love is...

a purring cat curled on your lap and kneading you gently while he's being stroked.

So That's Where All My Time Went.

My PC died at the beginning of last week and what with being away and catching up again and life in general I haven't had the time to take it to be fixed - if indeed it can be. I had pretty much everything backed up except some fairly unimportant emails and my Internet bookmarks. Haven't missed the emails at all but the bookmarks are a different thing altogether.

Oh how easy it was to just drop down the list and click on my favourite blogs and websites or to roam through them and just have a look at one I hadn't looked at for a while. Now it involves laptops, Google searches and well, time. So I just go to those of my friends which were also bookmarked on the laptop - and guess what? Instead of spending an hour or more trawling through the list and getting distracted and wandering the Net after I check in on my friends I do some housework (Not too much of that. I find it highly over-valued), do some work in the garden, spend some very overdue time sorting the clutter that has needed attention for mumble mumble (well you don't really need to know that, do you), and writing or other writing related activities. That's right - writing - and amazingly I'm finding I am managing at least another hour a day on top of my usual amount.

This is a message from the Universe I suspect.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


You'd be forgiven for thinking not much happened in my world in November if you've been looking at this blog. Not true. Actually I've been emulating the swan - gliding effortlessly over the water while paddling madly beneath the surface.

There were health issues, family issues, a computer that crashed and died and all the other things that make up life, of course, but the big thing was the Egoboo WA retreat. Egoboo WA is a group of five writers, who have made the commitment - the enormous commitment - to read and critique each other's novels culminating in a three day face to face critiquing marathon at Eagle Bay. This involved providing a completed draft of our own novel as well as reading well over 500,000 words - the combined total of the other four novels - and providing detailed comment on each novel. Novels had to be up by October 22 and critiques ready by November 25.

The group is of necessity a closed one because once you get more than five members the volume of reading is too much but it is working for us. We had good advice from the ROR - wRiters on the Rise - group who have a similar very successful set up.You can read their blog - Ripping Ozzie Reads - here.

So now you know why there have been few posts. I've been lost in four amazing worlds and, since I came back, tweaking and playing in my own as I profit from the critiquing skills of the others.

If you want to know more about Egoboo WA have a look at our blog here. We'd love to see you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

KSP Mini Con 2010

Taken from the KSP Mini Con Blog

It's Official!

It's been a while but there will be a Mini Con in 2010. Planning is underway and this blog will be updated as things develop.

Where: Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre

When: Sunday 2 May 2010.

There'll be panels, booksellers and a chance to meet local speculative fiction writers.

Keep the day free to come and join the fun.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


I've been trying to avoid writing this blog - my normally low blood pressure tends to sky rocket when it comes to politics - but... the Premier has announced his intention to introduce extended shopping hours by regulation because he couldn't get a majority of Members of State Parliament to pass legislation approving it. Parliament can disallow the regulations but the Government intends to introduce them shortly so they will be in force for about two months during the Parliamentary recess.

This is quite extraordinary in my opinion.

In Western Australia a few years ago we had a referendum in which we were asked if we, the voters of the State, wanted extended retail trading hours. We said no - not for the first time. Since then the major retailers have conducted a campaign to have trading hours extended. According to them people don't have long enough to shop, they want choice and - the one that reduces me to helpless laughter every time I hear it - tourists won't visit Perth and/or Western Australia because the reason they come here is to shop until they drop. We live in a very expensive State and it will stay that way. We are isolated and everything that comes here has high transport costs tacked on to it. Why would anyone come here to shop when there is all of South East Asia pretty much next door where goods are infinitely cheaper?

The other arguments are just as flawed. Unless you work seven days a week twenty four hours a day - which is impossible - anyone with a modicum of intelligence can shop and have their needs satisfied as the shopping hours now stand.

There is another highly insulting argument advanced. It's the old 'everyone else is doing it so we should'. There's a saying I remember from my childhood. Whenever I tried the 'everyone else is doing it/wearing it/ buying it' I was asked 'If everyone else was jumping off a cliff would you do it?'. Obviously not. So instead of falling for the 'change for the sake of change' argument or because everyone else is doing it may be we should think it through and decide for ourselves if it is to our benefit or not.

So should we change our relaxed lifestyle, the thing that attracts people to live and visit here, because other parts of the world have? Well actually we (that is the people of Western Australia)were asked that. We thought about it and we said 'No.'

This is why I have gained considerable respect for the leader of the National Party in this State. When the Liberals tried to push the change in retail trading hours through he announced that the Nationals would not support it. This is a politician respecting the will of the electorate as demonstrated by the referendum result.

The Premier, who leads a coalition government, meaning the party he leads doesn't have the numbers to govern in its own right, sees it as progress. I see it as him forgetting that a politician is supposed to be a representative of the electorate, not to tell the electorate what to do according to his personal views.

Monday, October 26, 2009

And the Winner of the Writing Race Is...

Glenda Larke with 17320 words, followed by me at 16601 and Carol Ryles with 16000. Given the sudden out pouring of obstructive energy by the Universe - we all were hit in various ways - I think we did well. We each have a large wodge of new words down and, in my case at least, I managed to resolve some plot issues I hadn't thought through properly. So I think the experiment was a success - and even more important, it was fun and encouragement and all those other things a solitary writer can lose sight of. No NaNoWriMo for me this year because of other commitments but this makes up for it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

More on the Writing Race.

My grand total for the weekend is 1466 words and some plotting fix ups. It might not seem much but given the problems I'm having physically typing at the moment I'm not really unhappy with what I've achieved. This race has got me back to my usual writing pattern which is a good thing. It had been under stress for lots of reasons given this has not been a good year. Ah well the next must be better.

My fellow racers, Glenda and Carol, have also had their own problems distracting them. Did we set off some kind of jinx? I suppose anything is possible.

Despite everything I'm not giving up - and nor are they. I'm off to crank out a few more words. My poor characters don't know what they're in for. I do. Hehehe. Rubs hands with glee.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Writing Race Update.

So it's now the beginning of Day 6. I've managed a total so far of 8969 words in five days - and day four was a dead loss because I was out all day. That sadly puts me just over 1000 words behind target - and that means head down, tail up and frozen pizza for dinner - unless Pisces gets inspired and decides to cook. Nah, that won't happen.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Writing Race.

I'm in a writing race with Glenda Larke and Carol Ryles to see who is the first to reach 30,000 words. Yesterday was the first day and I surprised myself with a total of 2,364. Maybe this is the kind of spur I need.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

What Were They Thinking.

In Western Australia there is a system whereby if you have your your driver's licence suspended for an offense and can prove exceptional hardship you can be given permission to drive in certain situation. For example if it is impossible for you to get to work any other way you might be permitted to drive to certain places at certain times of the day. Whether this is a good thing or not is sometimes questioned but personally I think keeping someone productively employed could qualify as a valid reason. One would assume that such cases would be rare and that the decision would be made only for those who were truly unable to travel any other way and would otherwise lose their job. At least that's how I assumed it would work. Apparently not.

Recently a young man lost his licence for a well reported series of offenses involving alcohol. Fair enough, you might say. I certainly thought so. It would cause him a degree of inconvenience that he might learn from but not jeopardise his employment. He could use buses and trains like the rest of us when he couldn't get a lift with his work mates. That's when we stepped out of the real world. He applied for a restricted licence because of hardship because he can't get to work.

His reason - he doesn't know how to catch public transport! What? Millions of people all over the world catch public transport every day - old, young, even school children - and he can't learn how to catch a bus! It gets worse. He - a strong, tall, fit man - doesn't feel safe waiting at a public bus stop at a well lit bus station in the early evening. Wait, there's more. He doesn't like to travel on public transport because people ask him about what happened.

So being presented with these bizarre reasons does the Court say 'Tough. Punishment is supposed to impact on your life so you will learn and not repeat the offense'? Nope. He's given permission to drive to training and games.

I'm astounded.

Sunday, October 04, 2009


My Clarion South mates have done it again. Ellen Datlow has released her list of honorable mentions for Best Horror of the Year Volume One. On it are Lyn Battersby, Christopher Green and Michael Greenhut from my fellow students and Simon Brown, Margo Lanagan and Robert Hood who were among our tutors.

Being somewhat parochial, Western Australia has its mention as well with Lee Battersby, Lyn Battersby, Stephen Dedman, Cecily Scutt, Martin Livings and Ian McHugh. Ian no longer lives here but has to be claimed because he is also in the book itself.

There is, of course, a generous smattering of other Australians as well and for the complete list go to here where editormum has extracted and listed them all.

Everyone who is mentioned deserves special congratulations. They are in very good company.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Clarion Blast!

Well it's certainly more than just a success. My Clarion South mate, Jason Fischer, air guitarist and writer of many fantastic (I use the word advisedly) stories, is the winner of the second quarter of this year's Writers of the Future. Can't say I'm surprised. Jason has an incredible imagination and the ability to morph what initially seem outrageous ideas into stories that haunt you long after you read them. On top of that he is a really nice guy. Way to go, Jason.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Wish I could Think This Quickly.

Via Glenda Larke's Tropic Temper. Have a read of this post on this. Warning coarse language here.

I'm not much for bad language in general - just don't listen if I happen to hit my thumb with a hammer - but this woman has used it absolutely appropriately. She is quite simply wonderful.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Death of a Whale.

Yesterday a juvenile humpback whale beached itself at City Beach, a popular Perth beach. It was a seven metre long male believed to be about eighteen months old. The wildlife officers who were monitoring said it appeared it had been attacked by a killer whale. Because of its bulk and where it was wallowing in the shallows it was not possible to tow it out to sea and it couldn't be approached close enough to be euthanised. It died early today.

I didn't go to see it but I did see it on television. To me it was as heartbreaking as watching a half grown kitten or puppy suffering. It was so obviously young, frightened and in pain. I wished very much that we could have helped it but the truth was even if it had been towed out to see it probably wouldn't have survived given its injuries.

It was a sunny Spring day in Perth yesterday, enticing many people to the beaches and a small crowd had been drawn to the whale. They stood respectfully for the most part, awed and sorrowful. No-one could help but everyone was touched by it.

Coincidentally last night's Australian Story on Channel Two was about two scientists who some years ago discovered a major humpback breeding ground in Camden Sound on the Kimberley coast. They kept quiet about it except among their peers so the whales would remain undisturbed and have been studying the whales there ever since. The young humpback may well have been one of those born in the sound. He was returning to feed in the Antarctic for the summer as part of the whales' annual migration when he came to grief.

And the reason this breeding ground is now in the news? The State Government has decided that James Price Point, approximately 50 kms south of Camden Sound, is its preferred site to place a large scale industrial development for processing natural gas from the Browse Basin into LNG for export. Not surprisingly there is considerable opposition for environmental reasons and the whales' safety is only part of it. The government says it's the best site and the whales will be fine. They swim past industrial sites all the time apparently with no problems. Hmmmm. And the scientific basis for that is available where?

There is still to be an environmental assessment done but I wonder, given the little we know about whales, how even with the best will, such an assessment will be made. A hundred years ago we thought asbestos was safe to use and an environmental assessment would have accepted that - not from malice or ineptitude, but from ignorance.

The Wilderness Society has some interesting things to say about this plan.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Yesterday. Grey skies, rain sheeting down. We pull up next to an apparently deserted factory unit. On its veranda a black and white border collie, curled up against the cold, wakes, lifts its head, ears pricked, and stares hopefully out to where a bright yellow tennis ball lies in a puddle. Tail begins to wag. "Please?". I felt so guilty as it realised I wasn't getting out (I sent Pisces in instead) but as we drove off I spotted a car around the side of the building which made me feel a little better.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I Think it's Spring

Well actually it really is Spring here in Australia. It's been Spring for nearly eight days. It just hasn't seemed much like it until today. But today - today was glorious. Blue skies, sunny, warm (well to be truthful warmish). What more could you ask.

There is one thing I could ask for now I think about it. I could be headed north where the wildflowers are in bloom. It's a long time since I've done that and this is a particularly spectacular year in a State where the wildflowers are always stunningly beautiful. The problem is, of course, that when for the first time in years Pisces is not working, he is recuperating from an operation and in no condition to go anywhere. Wouldn't you just know it!

When Sagittarius was two, heading inland to the Goldfields and just beyond Southern Cross we came across a vast patchwork of everlastings in full bloom - pink, white and yellow, hectare after hectare. Sagittarius raced headlong into the flowers, all but disappearing. All we could see was the top of a little blond head as he ran in circles. That's where I want to be now - there or somewhere south of Geraldton - just drinking in the glory of it.

The thing about the wildflower season in Western Australia is that as you drive along the highways and byways even in the hills just out of the city the verges are a mass of flowers. Rich blue leschenaultia so bright it almost hurts your eyes, scarlet kennedia, golden buttercups, hazy mauve-pink myrtle bushes, tangles of purple hardenbergia, enamel blue star of Bethlehem, sculptural red and green kangaroo paws and those are just some of the stand outs. If you get out to look a little closer you'll find the shyer folk - the orchids (spider orchids, pink ladies, donkey and cowslip orchids), pea flowered egg and bacon with delicate whites, pinks, soft blues, yellows and mauves. There's not so many now in the city but the nature reserves and national parks still offer rewards for those who wander in them.

It brings back memories of when I was a child and my family was one of the earliest to move into what was then outer suburban Scarborough. It was almost semi rural in fact, its main claim to fame the holiday flats and houses that dotted parts of the beach front of Scarborough Beach, one of the best surf beaches near Perth. There were still farms around us and periodically the cows from the local dairy farm would wander up the street chomping any tasty shoots from the garden. They were especially fond of new rose growth as I recall.

More important though was that directly opposite was bush, wild and beautiful. We were lucky enough to grow up in safer times and Mum would pack my brother and me lunch and give us a drink and we would go and picnic and wander among the orchids and other delights. Picking was forbidden but in truth we had no desire to. They were so plentiful it was like walking in an amazing garden. Sadly all that area is now covered in housing, the farms are long gone and Scarborough is just another beach side suburb - although it is still one of the best surf beaches.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Anne Fine

I found a reference to this on Margo Lanagan's blog. Anne Fine, a recent Children's Laurate in the UK, answered a question by an audience member on the effect of gritty realism in books on children at a writers' festival. Melvin Burgess, a fellow panellist, describes what happened. Have a look at the Recent Comments section as well. It's interesting.

It all got me thinking about the kind of books I read as a child and whether modern writers have gone too far. You know, I don't think so. I was, as I've said before, a precocious reader often reading well above my age but I was also reading Enid Blyton and similar authors and enjoying them.

When I look back it's no wonder I turned into a speculative fiction writer. These stories were about as divorced from my reality as they could get. As I remember them they were about kids at boarding schools, kids who went off on holiday unsupervised, kids who were able to resolve cases involving criminals and spies without ever getting hurt, kids who were left home alone for a variety of reasons and took care of themselves without anyone interfering. They solved mysteries ranging from who was stealing the chocolate biscuits out of the Upper Sixth's common room to rescuing princesses held captive by evil archdukes and always ended up happily ever after with the making of vast amounts of toffee, the answer to everything.

Whether or not I learned anything else useful I'm certain of one thing - that they didn't teach me how to live in the real world. If anything it left me with a quite unrealistic belief in what the world was like once I had to go out there. When I later became a school librarian a new wave of books was emerging and they started to look at real life, a very good thing in my opinion. There were, and still are, feel good and humourous books available and there should be but that doesn't mean we should ignore the reality of life. Not every child will be mature enough to cope with gritty realism but that is where parents should acknowledge their responsibility in supervising what their children read. Pre-teen reading should be monitored but once you get past that age group they should be being prepared for the world where they will have to make their own way.

What they see depicted on television and on the internet is, in my opinion, far more dangerous than what is written in books in shaping how young folk view their world. At least in books the reader has to apply their imagination but in the media it is all laid out for them. In the last three days television dramas have provided me with - during prime time viewing when most adolescents are watching - seven murders, a kidnapping and a number of violent physical attacks. News programmes have shown me the London 2005 bombings, scenes from the Twin Towers attack, violence in various countries, a suspected murder suicide involving a man and two children, a girl kidnapped and held as a sex slave for 18 years and various other brutalities. There was much more that I don't recall the details of. Children and young adults see all this and no-one raises an eye brow. In fact they are often asked to comment on news stories at school - but read it in a book and the world goes haywire.

Let's be sensible here. Books are not the enemy. They are only a depiction of our society and if we want to protect our children we have to give them the skills to live in that society.

Monday, August 31, 2009

I Hope He's Joking.

On television James Murdoch on the subject of government interference in the media, specifically the BBC. Go here for a report of the speech.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


1. My small but feisty Cavalier King Charles spaniel last night went out to attend to some needs and started barking furiously. On the fence was a large brown owl, bigger than her. She wasn't having any nonsense though and kept creeping forward while the owl tried to stare her down. It decided the odds were too much when it realised we had come out too and lazily flapped off. Dog was as highly impressed with herself as she is when she deals with her mortal enemies, the ravens. I suspect the owl was one of the tawny frogmouths that nest a few streets away. We often hear their mournful 'morepork' cry.

2. Pisces has recently had a pterygium removed from his eye and is suffering post operative discomfort, not the least of which is the antibiotic ointment which has to be applied four times a day. He has long eyelashes - which were inherited by Sagittarius much to Virgo's annoyance. She got my much less lush version and considers it most unfair that the males of the family have the better lashes - and actually getting the ointment in contact with the eye is, to put it mildly, challenging. We are not having fun!

3. We are still pursuing the elusive leak in our front wall and still have bare concrete floors because we can't lay the new flooring until it's been dealt with. Given our overnight temperatures have been down to 2.5 degrees Centigrade again - we are not having fun.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Reminder

My Clarion South mate, Peter Ball - the author of Horn published by Twelfth Planet Press in case you missed an earlier blog - has posted a timely warning on his blog about the need to back up the work on your computer. After reading it you won't ever think 'Oh well I can do it tomorrow' again. I'm off to buy an external hard drive.

Friday, August 28, 2009

More Awesomeness

This time it's my Clarion South mate, Christopher Green, whose story Father's Kill is in this edition of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Chris also has a blog Open Water/Open Air where he has made some insightful entries recently on what it means to be a writer and how you get from aspiring to selling. Have a look. You won't see his legendary boots - you had to be at Clarion South for that - but you will see a writer hard at work with something worthwhile to say.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sexual Assault.

I've just been watching The 7:30 Report and I am still furious - not I hasten to add at the program which handled a sensitive subject with tact and balance. The subject was the handling of sexual assault accusations involving footballers.

I'm not making any comment on specific cases. That's a matter for the police and State prosecutors but let's make this clear for anyone who doesn't get it that any sexual act which does not include informed consent whether committed on a woman or man is sexual assault. Rape. Informed consent means someone is not unconscious or under the influence of drugs or alcohol to an extent that affects their ability to refuse. It includes the right to say no even at a late stage. It also means that no matter what the social status or occupation of a person they have the right to refuse and that right has to be respected. It doesn't matter if the victim is a prostitute, a bus driver or a nun, whether she or he agreed to have sex with someone else before or whether he or she changed their mind after initially agreeing. It's still sexual assault. It's still rape if they do not consent.

I'm spelling this out because a certain percentage of people (mostly men) don't seem to get that this is not 'the boys having a bit of fun'. I wonder how they would feel if it had been their sisters, wives or girlfriends treated with such disrespect. I suspect they'd be thinking my girl wouldn't put herself in that position but I'm pretty sure these other women didn't intend to make themselves vulnerable either.

In many of the cases that have been reported the victim's character is blackened and even if the case is proven there's a lingering suggestion that maybe she's pulling a fast one. She's got a few bruises? Well she likes it rough. Why anyone would accept that I don't know. If someone gives a man a black eye no-one says 'Oh he likes it', do they?

What it comes down to is she - or he - may well have made foolish decisions but does being foolish excuse someone assaulting you? I was once told by a gang rape victim that although she had had too much to drink it didn't give a group of men the right to attack her. She was right.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It Makes You Wonder

how they came up with it.

The State Government has demanded that all State Government Departments institute a cost cutting exercise and lop 3% from their expenditure. There's no question there will inevitably be waste in the public service as there is in any large institution, particularly one which is frequently rearranged into different configurations when a new government or new minister comes along with all the costs that implies. That is certainly undesirable whether it is in the public or private sector but I do not believe that the majority of public servants are any more profligate than anyone else. After all it's partly their own money they are spending. They are taxpayers after all.

The Government assures us that this universal cut will not impact on front line operations. I'm sorry but I find that hard to believe.
A couple of examples -
Given that we already have a Health system struggling desperately to keep up with demand - and seriously overcrowded if the AMA claim (as reported in The West Australian in their submission to the Lower House committee investigating future hospital needs is correct)- that there are now only five more hospital beds available in public hospitals than there were in 1990 when in the same period the State's population has increased by approximately a third - there is no fat to be cut from the Health Department. In fact those figures look like a serious need for more spending.
Then there are the recent decisions to cut large numbers of vehicles from both the police and FESA fleets. Will police and fire officers be able actually to do their jobs in these circumstances? If so, how? Will we have to go back to police on bicycles and fires being left to burn themselves out? Just saying front line services will not be affected won't make it so.

I could go on but while there are Departments that may well have fat and need to adjust expenditure, there are also those that need every cent they have been allotted (and perhaps need even more) and may no longer be able to provide vital services when needed. In my opinion the Treasurer would have been better advised to require a review of all Departments so he could actually see where - and if - waste was occurring and have it dealt with it appropriately.

Going in and demanding a 3% cut is like going into a street where there are thirty households. Some houses are occupied by one person, some by two, more by three, another group has four, another five and a handful has six or seven. The costs of running each household will be very different. Some are young families, some are retired, some accommodate extended families. All have different incomes and different outgoings. Some have illnesses and harsh medical expenses, others are young and fit. In one house there is a musically talented child with the cost of lessons to be found - and so it goes along the street. Then they are told every household has to cut their expenditure by 3%. How is that fair? A 3% cut to one family will be nothing. To another it will mean going hungry. This in effect what the government is doing. We have Departments that are chronically underfunded who are expected to make the same cuts as the more affluent ones. The thing is that when that happens we - the taxpayers - are the ones who go 'hungry' so we wait for far too long for medical treatment and minor crimes get pushed to the end of the list because there isn't enough manpower available.

I'm not suggesting we shouldn't keep careful control of how the government spends our money on our behalf. It's not easy and I certainly wouldn't like to have to do it but I do believe universal cuts without some consideration for the circumstances are simply inappropriate.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Yet Another Piece of Awesomeness from Clarion South 2007

My Clarion South 2007 mate, Ben Francisco, has a story in Realms of Fantasy's October edition. It's Tio Gilberto and the Twenty Seven Ghosts, and I first read it at Clarion South. It's one of those stories that touches the heart and won't be easily forgotten. If you get a chance buy the magazine. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Parallel Importation Discussions

I have to confess that I am more than a little disturbed by the proposal to lift import restrictions on books. It sounds superficially appealing as books will supposedly be cheaper but there is a downside which is, I suspect, that a repeal may well lead to a flood of overseas books swamping the Australian market with obvious implications for small press publishers and authors in particular. I don't pretend to be an expert but the Australian Society of Authors, the Australian Horror Writers Association and a number of individual writers are to my knowledge all lobbying against it and I'm sure there are others.
If you want to know more I suggest you go to Satima's blogspot where she has details of what is proposed and a helpful list of links to other websites by people involved in the book business.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

In this morning's The West Australian newspaper there is an article on a woman in Malaysia who has been sentenced to six strokes with a rattan cane by a sharia court for drinking alcohol which breaches sharia law. She will be the first woman to be caned in a Malaysian jail. Amnesty International has urged authorities to revoke the sentence and abolish the practice. The woman is described as a model and a mother of two and says she is prepared to accept the punishment. She will be caned in jail next week.

What disturbs me is that the Islamic authorities describe caning as education not punishment. I trained as a secondary school teacher in the days when the cane - a much thinner version than that used in Malaysian judicial punishment - was still used in schools. On one occasion I was working in the deputy principal's office when a boy was sent for punishment. I did not actually see the blows struck but I will never forget the sound of the cane and the boy's white face as he walked out past me. After that I never sent another child to the office.

In my experience with few exceptions the same group regularly caused trouble and there was little improvement in their behaviour whatever punishment was applied whether they were girls (who did not get caned) or boys (who did). In fact "getting the cuts" was often seen as a badge of honour among the boys. This group of young people had problems of many kinds that needed to be dealt with and for the most part were not, either by society or the school. Caning did not educate them because it did not deal with those problems. Indeed, I suspect, it may have increasingly brutalised them.

Caning does not educate people. It punishes them, and if that's why it is used at least be honest about it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Right to Choose.

I have been following the case of Christian Rossiter (an Australian man currently living in a Perth nursing home after an accident left him a quadriplegic and having to be fed through a tube into his stomach). He has been asking carers at the nursing home not to feed for months. He feels his life, with no prospect of improvement, is intolerable and wanted the right to have his request not to been tube fed respected. He is well aware of what that would mean. The nursing home has continued feeding him despite his having the right under the law to refuse medical treatment. Today the Western Australian Supreme Court granted him that right saying he was of sound mind and had the right to refuse nutrition and hydration.

This is such a sad case and I am glad Mr Rossiter can now make his own decisions about his medical treatment. Let us be clear about this. It is legal to refuse medical treatment. If I am of sound mind and refuse to take medication and further down the track I die as a consequence that is no-one's business but mine. It is not the business of a nursing home, a right to life group or anyone else.

I'm not at all sure how I would respond in a situation like this - who can without experiencing it - but if I did make that decision it would be considered and a deliberate choice and I would expect my wishes to be respected. After all I would not be asking for someone to give me a lethal injection, strangle me or cut my throat. I would, in fact be asking for nature to be left to take its course. If the only way I can take in food is by artificial means then I am interfering in the course of nature. I may well think that is desirable and want to hang on to my life and that is fine. I would be making a deliberate decision to avail myself of all the medical options. On the other hand I may think it was not desirable and, knowing the end result would be to die sooner, I may opt out of the treatment which is disrupting the natural course of things. If I made that choice and death was the result so be it. In medical matters just because we can do something doesn't mean it is desirable that we should and the patient's informed consent should be an absolute requirement to any treatment.

One of the things that has disturbed most about this situation is the number of people who see Mr Rossiter's rights as less important than their own beliefs. I'm not going to talk about this from either side of the religious debate. I don't care if you are a religious person or an atheist or anywhere in between. Right now I'm fairly unimpressed with them all. With due respect to all those who have sought to influence the outcome of this case however fervent your belief that you are right it is just that - your belief. I respect your right to hold a belief and to practise whatever faith that is but in return I expect you to permit others to hold whatever belief they have and live by its tenets as long as it doesn't harm others.

At least part of the problem with the issue is that the term of voluntary euthanasia implies giving someone the authority to kill another. We need another more appropriate and less emotive way to describe a situation like this. Mr Rossiter was seeking the right to die naturally. He did not ask someone to kill him. Any responsibility is his and no-one should have the right to deny him the choice.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Of "Tender Morsels".

This is not a real review, just a personal view of the book.

I read Margo Lanagan's novel Tender Morsels shortly after it first came out last year. I was simply blown away by it. It is going to be one of those powerful novels that I come back to over and over. The language is so exquisitely wrought, whether it is one of the horrific scenes (of which there are a number so be prepared but don't let them put you off. This is not gratuitous violence) or the sweet description of two unlikely lovers, that it coils inside you so you live the experiences with the characters. This can be confronting but Tender Morsels is in the tradition of stories like those collected by the Brothers Grimm before they were sanitised into froth and the darkness removed and so is often dark and challenging reading.

What confuses me is the outcry from some sources about the gritty reality of the writing. I've read reviews where it's described in ways that would make you think it is a blow by blow description of the terrible events that befall some of the characters. Where this comes from I do not understand. This is not a book with explicit descriptions of rape, incest or other sexual activity. We are left in no doubt as to what has happened but we do not actually have the mechanics given. The language used is so rich and skilfully worked that the reader is drawn into the experience and our imagination fills in the details. So effective is this that there were times when I had to stop reading for a while because it was too much to bear (no pun intended).

Much of the controversy has been because it is marketed as YA. Do I think this is a book for pre-teens? No. It deals with issues that most would not be able to identify with or understand. On the other hand, teens of both sexes have to learn about a world that is often not safe and where violence of all kinds does happen. More to the point they know it. Unless they are completely insulated from society - no news broadcasts, no television, no peers to talk to, no contact outside their own home - they know these things happen. We may prefer to think they don't and want to protect them but the real world is not a fluffy fairy tale and Tender Morsels involves the good and the bad that happens in the real world.

There is no happily ever after romantic ending in Tender Morsels and it is not a comfortable read but it is an eminently satisfying one. I recommend this novel highly. I am not surprised it received a Prinz Honor Award this year.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Love is...

a cat not normally a lap cat who comes and climbs on your lap, reaches up and gives you a kitten kiss and then climbs up to rest on your shoulder the way he used to when he was a tiny kitten, purring all the time as he reaches over periodically to give you another kiss on the cheek. Not all that comfortable for either of us but sweet.

More Clarion South Goodies

Sadly they're not mine.

First Christopher Green's story A Hundreth Name is up at Abyss & Apex. Why don't you drop over there and try it for yourself. As with anything Chris writes it is worth reading.

Then there's Laura E. Goodin, who, creative person that she is, between writing plays, stories and much else, has set up Outlandish Voices, podcasts showcasing writers from the Wollongong area. The first three stories are by Richard Harland, Robert Hood and Cat Sparks and you'll find them here.

It's been a pretty messy year for me and mine so far and as a result I think I might have missed mentioning that Peter M. Ball's novella Horn published by Twelfth Planet Press is also out in the wide world.

I do try to keep up with all my Clarion South mates but I have a horrible feeling that sometimes I miss one. If I have missed you it wasn't intentional so let me know if you had something published and I'll add you to the ever growing honour roll.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Football...

has just finished and the Eagles showed they can still play football. That was a exciting match and the win was well deserved.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

What do we really see?

If you watch a cat or dog (or any other creature for that matter) you can't help noticing how aware they are of where they are and what's happening around them. Even pampered, indoor pets respond to sounds, sights and smells. They may not do anything about it but ears prick, noses twitch and they focus on whatever disturbed them until they are told or work out that no danger threatens.

So what has happened to those instincts in humans. Granted we live in cities for the most part where there is little unfamiliar. We tend to follow the same routes and routines to the point that most of us have at some time found ourselves where we were going without any real memory of how we got there.

It seems to me that we are either losing these basic instincts or cutting ourselves off from the world in which we live. I'm not suggesting we should all go out hunting game to revive our awareness or live in a hut in the bush. Nor should we become hyper sensitive to the point that we are afraid to go anywhere or do anything. What I do think is that we should try to experience the world in which we live to the fullest extent we can. It's a pretty amazing place and along the way we might actually, by learning from what is happening around us, make ourselves safer.

What started this train of thought was something quite unimportant. Last Thursday Virgo and her partner headed off on their travels beginning in South America. Pisces and I were standing in the airport terminal waiting for them to check in. Before I go any further I should tell you that we are both passionate AFL - Australian Rules football - supporters. There are two teams in Western Australia - the Eagles and the Dockers - and the Dockers have a uniform which is largely a very rich, deep - and one would think unmissable - purple.

So we're standing chatting, watching Virgo progress along the check in line, when two young purple clad Dockers players come out of the check in and walk past us. After this a camera crew from a local television channel sets up about four metres away from us and are joined by a newspaper photographer. Two minutes later three Dockers go by, then two more, and another five, then the coach. Then a second camera crew arrives.

At this point I ask, "Where are the Dockers playing this weekend?"

Pisces asks, "Why?"

I say, "Because they are here. Didn't you notice them?"

Pisces does a double take and realises for the first time that we are pretty much surrounded by players, support staff and cameras.

By the way the Dockers match is on television at this minute and they look as though they're in for another drubbing. Not that I can crow. I'll be surprised if the Eagles do any better tomorrow - but I can still hope in spite of everything, can't I.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

More Clarion South Achievements.

Editormum has posted a list of the Australians mentioned in The Year's Best Science Fiction Twenty Sixth Annual Collection edited by Gardner Dozois.

Among them I noticed Western Australians Lyn Battersby, Lee Battersby, Stephen Dedman, Alisa Krasnostein and Jonathan Strahan.

Clarion South 2007 did well too with Peter M. Ball, Jason Fisher, Ben Francisco and Chris Lynch as well as Lyn Battersby. Tutors Lee Battersby, Margo Lanagan and Simon Brown figure too. No wonder it was such an amazing time.

To see the complete list go here

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Writers of the Future

I was very excited to hear my Clarion South mate, Jason Fischer, is a finalist in the second quarter of Writers of the Future after having been a semi finalist in the first quarter this year. He's having quite a year with his writing achievements - and thoroughly deserves it.

Not quite as spectacularly I have an Honorable Mention in the second quarter, my second this year. I'm very pleased. Next story about to be sent.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Got the 'Flu?

I'm just emerging from it and it's the 'ordinary' seasonal kind, not the panic inducing swine 'flu. I'm well aware that influenza is a serious illness but I'm not at all convinced that as 'swine' 'flu has spread out from its source that it is anymore serious than any other kind. But I'll tell you one thing ... I'd rather not have had either.
BTW sorry to those of you who came across the unfinished version but there's the proof of how sick I was. I actually was struggling to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes and must have touched Publish by accident instead of Save.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


I learned a lot during my time at Tom Collins House - and not all was related to writing.

Before I go any further let me say that I am very much in favour of there being more use of bicycles for environmental and health reasons and I understand that there is a serious lack of suitable cycle paths in Perth. I'm not talking about people forced to ride on the road because they have no other option.

What irritated me as I drove to and from the Centre every day was the total lack of consideration of many cyclists for other road users. The route I took has a cycle way along one section and a cycle lane on both sides most of the rest of the way. It's a busy section of road which takes a large volume of traffic travelling at the speed limit of 70 kmh. A cyclist is vulnerable in these conditions but every day without exception there would be cyclists either not riding on the designated sections of road, blocking traffic and putting themselves in danger.

I would have thought that riding in the section of roadway where cars do not go would be the most appealing options not to mention the safest but apparently not. Many compounded this situation by listening to music and apparently not even being aware of the cars coming up behind them as they wandered over the road.

Then you get the cyclists who think the white line marking the cycle lane is the appropriate place to ride. They wobble along it, their bodies swaying into the vehicle lane, causing traffic blockages because to pass them the cars have to move into the next lane.

There were responsible cyclists, of course. Unfortunately over fifty percent - I started to count after a few days - were not.

Ditmar Results

You can find them here - and many other places.
They're all well-deserved. Congratulations to all especially two of the 2007 Clarion South tutors Margo Lanagan whose novel Tender Morsels was awarded Best Novel and whose short story The Goosle tied for Best Short Story and Robert Hood who received Best Fan Writer for Undead Backbrain as well as Western Australians Alisa Krasnostein and Angela Challis who also scored.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

One of Those Months

It was full of highs and lows with much sadness at times but much joy at others.

Among the joys was the Tom Collins House Writers Residency. It made the point that if you want to be a professional writer you have to be professional in your approach. That means you go to work every day and write. This is not news or rocket science and it's the way I try to do my writing. The problem is that my workplace is my home and even if I manage to ignore the household chores (this is not something I find all that hard to do, you understand) interruptions still occur. The phone rings. Someone comes to the door peddling something I don't want. A friend drops in. I'm sure this applies to most writers, for that matter, to most folk who work at home but it's not easy to overcome.

I was quite amazed (although I probably shouldn't have been) at the volume of work I achieved while working at the Writers Centre. It's brought home to me that I need to make my office a place more apart so I can shut the door, figuratively if not actually, on the world for a set time every day. I'm not entirely sure how but I'm starting by removing all the clutter that Pisces and Virgo have dumped in here. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Andrew Mallard Compensation

It's amazing how soon things become old news while those who were the focus of that news are still having to deal with the fall out. In the case of Andrew Mallard we have a man who was wrongly convicted of murder and spent 12 years in prison before he was released. He understandably feels entitled to substantial compensation. The Western Australian State government has made him an ex gratia payment of $3.25 million and has not denied him the right to take legal action over his imprisonment. This figure apparently includes the $200,000 previously given to Mr Mallard.

The State Government has described the payment as a 'gift' to allow Mr Mallard to get on with his life. It does seem a rather strange 'gift' though because, according to newspaper reports, they have also said that if he receives a payout from his legal action against those involved in his conviction he will have to repay this money out of such a settlement. Isn't a gift something given freely with no strings attached? It is according to the dictionaries I have consulted.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Life Happens

A lot has happened in our lives over the last month including several funerals. Pisces came home from the third in less than two weeks and said "I'm all funeralled out." I know what he means. It has been very sad even though none of the deaths were unexpected.
But life goes on and while all this has been happening I've been working steadily away at Tom Collins House Writers' Centre. I'm very happy with the amount of work I've done - much better than I would have expected considering the external stresses and interruptions. The sequel to my first novel has reached the 45,000 word mark and I've also done some serious editing and rewriting of other work. All well and good you might say but it has brought home to me that trying to work full-time at home is not so easy unless you can go off somewhere that normal life can't invade. I am deeply envious of those writers who have a sanctum away from the house.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Rain Rain Come and Stay

I was sitting in my room at Tom Collins House this morning gazing out the window - having just discovered I had a plot hole about five miles wide so I had to rewrite a whole section instead of moving forward - when the sunlight disappeared. Rain had been forecast but we all know that doesn't signify much, does it. I wouldn't want to be a weather forecaster. Would you? Talk about a thankless task! Anyway I assumed clouds were passing overhead and went back to work.

Then I heard it. The sweetest sound in a dry land. The first soft kiss of rain on a corrugated iron roof, gentle as a caress. I went out onto the veranda to welcome it. It's been so long since we had any rain and we've just had the driest April on record. I couldn't help it.

"Hello, rain," I said. "I'm pleased you've come."

The drops stuttered. For a horrible moment I wondered if that was it, if the shower had finished, but no, it was only gathering strength to become steady soaking rain.

As it built up kookaburras burst out in a fanfare of laughter - it seemed they too were welcoming the rain. They started in the high branches of a eucalyptus tree just outside the door then moved in a graceful swoop to the very top of the enormous Norfolk pine opposite. I heard them for the first time yesterday afternoon as I was about to leave but they were so high and the sun was so bright I couldn't see them. Today, up so high, they looked like miniatures of themselves, bathing among the top most branches and laughing raucously all the while.

I was surprised - mainly because it is so long since we had rain - at how its scent filled the air. First there was a hint of freshness that turned to the unique aroma of dry wood being doused in water. Then as the rain continued, came the perfume of the wet Australian bush - damp earth, eucalyptus leaves and moist air. Wonderful.

The builders at work on the restoration of Matty Furphy's house have a radio on - its "easy listening" music a counterpoint to the birds all of whom have come out for a noisy bath, the background swish of cars on the wet road and the pat pot pat of raindrops on dry leaves.

The rain lasted about an hour but we need more before it will do much good. The ground is so dry streamlets carried most of it down into the hollow.

And when I got home Pisces was out in the front garden among the parched plants cleaning out the bone dry drain. Not one drop had fallen here.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Of Work and Funerals

I had a really productive week at TCH with about seven thousand words added to the WIP plus getting the structure sorted so it works better and some general tidying up. I'm well pleased with that but would be happier if I hadn't been laid low with a bug all weekend which I'm still struggling with today. Still with only four hours available today I managed to get down around 700 words, update the character list and fix the map. This has been bugging me for months and given my characters wander over a vast area having a map to work from is critical. So not so many words but much else of use and relevance.

The reason for there only being four hours at the writers centre was there was also a funeral to go to today. The father of one of my oldest friends has passed away. I feel rather surrounded with death and dying at the moment with friends and family suffering serious or terminal illness. It has made me think about a lot of things and involved considerable reassessment of my life. It has also made me think about how we as a society live our lives.

Within living memory it was common for babies to be born at home attended by a midwife or a general practitioner if there was reason to assume that there might be a problem with the birth (or when a father-to-be panicked). Obstetricians were only available to those with considerable money. The better off women might go to a lying in hospital usually run by a midwife with a doctor on call but the majority of babies came into the world in their mother's bed in their future house. Later, when they grew old and infirm, they would be taken care of in the family home to eventually die in their own bed surrounded by their families.

Contrast this with the way we live today. We are born in hospital - the new family birthing suites may be pleasant but it's not home - and babies are routinely induced for reasons of convenience (for medical staff or the parents) and when we die it's most often in a hospital, not our own bed in our own home.

It seems to me that somehow we have lost the continuity and rhythm of life that we used to have. We hand over responsibility to others or in some cases have it taken away from us. As a result the natural processes of birth and death become shrouded in some degree of mystery and we lack confidence in our ability to deal with these events. Many people never see a dead person in their life time. Surely this is wrong. Death comes inevitably to us all and we should not pretend it doesn't.

I'm not suggesting that we go back to "the good old days" necessarily. I've lived long enough to know that for all the good parts of those days there were many not so good and the same will apply to those looking back on this time. What I guess I would like to see is an acceptance that birth and death are parts of life, where we acknowledge that there is a time for life to come to its end and that there is less interference in that natural process.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Ditmar Nominations Are Out

Congratulations to all who have been nominated.

The complete list is here but I'm especially pleased to see Robert Hood and Margo Lanagan, tutors at Clarion South 2007, nominated in several places, and Peter M. Ball and Jason Fisher, who were among the Clarion South 2007 contingent, nominated in Best New Talent.

I hope I'll be forgiven a little parochial but there is a strong Western Australian representation too including in Best Novel section Hal Spacejock: No Free Lunch Simon Haynes, Best Collected Work 2012 ed. Alisa Krasnostein and Ben Payne, Black: Australian Dark Culture Magazine ed. Angela Challis (also nominated for Best Achievement) and The Starry Rift ed. Jonathan Strahan and Shane Jiraiya Cummings and Grant Watson both nominated in William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review.

Water Rebates - Going, Going, Gone

Is it just me or is the fact that Perth is having one of the driest Aprils on record, the Water Corporation is pleading with us not to water our gardens even the permitted twice a week and the Gnangara Mound, which supplies approximately 60% of Perth's drinking water, is drying up at the same time as the State Government has decided to axe the rebates on water saving products, including rain water tanks, bizarre?

The rationale, according to the Government, is that they are no longer needed. Here on the Water Corporation website are the details as announced on 9 April, 2009, by State Minister for Water, Dr Graham Jacobs.

I'm not sure exactly when they would be needed more. In my view when there is a drying climate - and it seems obvious that it is drying - that is exactly the time to encourage people to purchase water saving products. Things like - oh I don't know - rain sensors, subsurface irrigation systems, swimming pool covers, flow regulators, grey water reuse schemes, water efficient washing machines, domestic rain water tanks and domestic garden bores. Oh that's right, they were giving financial incentives for all those things and, as of 1 July, 2009, they're not.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Day One at TCH

I arrived at 9:05 am and left at 4:45 pm and I was so involved I kept on while I was eating my lunch.

It truly is amazing how much you can do if you have no interruptions. Today I finished - at least to first draft stage - the first chapter of my current novel. I'm not sure what it will be called yet so as a working title let's go with MotS which is a combination of the initials of the original idea. I have already written around a third of MotS but although I knew what I wanted to say somehow the beginning had eluded me. Then a few days ago when I opened up the scrappy bits that constituted the file I saw how I could make them work together - and it did. I'd made a start on some of the plotting and structural planning over the weekend too so I had something to work with which helped.

I also managed to track down another story which I had researched and half written last year and then had managed to misplace the file on the computer. That's been bugging me for such a long time - and now I can get it finished.

So a productive day and I'm feeling industrious - and extremely tired although that is not the fault of the day's work. Darned TV last night. Just wouldn't turn itself off.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tom Collins House Writer in Residence

And that would be me. I'm very grateful for this opportunity because, as all writers know, the hardest thing to find is uninterrupted time to write. To have a place to go to every day with no demands being made on you by the outside world is an incredible luxury. The last time I had this was last year when I had the use of an unoccupied flat for four weeks. I was amazed at how much more work I managed in a day without the distraction of phones, housework and garden and I'm hoping for the same over the next four weeks.

There's an added frisson to be working in such an historic building. It was the home of Joseph Furphy after he moved to Western Australia from Victoria in 1904. He, as Tom Collins, wrote the Australian classic Such Is Life. The heritage listed house is now the headquarters of the Fellowship of Australian Writers WA.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Anzac Day

Lest we forget.

In memory of Captain Horace Chamberlain King MC, 28th Bn Australian Infantry who died of wounds, aged twenty two years, on 7 April, 1918 and was buried in France, Flight Lieutenant John Ellis, Royal Australian Air Force, who died on 22 March, 1944, of injuries received earlier and Warrant Officer Robert Ellis, Royal Australian Air Force, who was killed in a flying battle 14 December, 1944, and all the others who gave their lives in the name of their country.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Asylum Seeker Tragedy

I've been listening appalled to the suggestions - all made with no supporting evidence - that the boat people involved in the dreadful tragedy off the Australian coast set fire to or blew up the boat they were on after being intercepted by the Australian Navy.

It seems obvious that fuel ignited somehow but what could possibly lead anyone to assume that means it was a deliberate act? Of all the scenarios I can think of that seems to me to be the most unlikely. We're talking about a boat here, people. Fuel hoses leak and fuel gets spilled while vessels are being filled all the time and boats blow up as a result.

We don't know if a cooking gas bottle exploded, or a cooking stove got knocked over or whether somewhere in this obviously not well maintained craft there was a build up of petrol fumes that ignited when someone lit a cigarette or if there was a crazy person on board who decided to kill himself and everybody else so why should we conclude it was an act of sabotage? It could be, although I'm at a loss as to what the motive would be, but let's wait until we actually have some evidence before we decide.

This has happened before. Remember the "children overboard" scandal when asylum seekers whose boat was sinking ended up in the water and we were told they had deliberately thrown their children overboard? That was another one of those scenarios that after a few moments thought should have been seen to be obviously ridiculous but a large part of the population swallowed it and those of us who said "Hey, wait a minute. That doesn't make sense." were regarded as somewhat weird, out of touch, soft on "queue jumpers". After all it was on the news and in the papers. It must be right, mustn't it?

But it wasn't. Let's not jump to conclusions. This time let's wait and see what really happened.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Shop-opening Hours

There's a deal of discussion going on where I live about extending the hours that shops are permitted to open - driven mainly by the large supermarkets who say it is about providing for their customers but are more likely to be driven by a desire to gain more market share because small businesses won't be able to compete. There's much talk about how convenient this will be when you can go and buy what you want whenever you want. The claim is that as businesses decide their own hours those who don't want to open won't have to but this is obviously not going to work. If you don't open your competitors will attract your customers away and your business will suffer. Of course, it will also suffer if you do open because your turnover will be affected by increased wages with little likelihood of more customers compensating for it because they have only a finite amount of money they can spend and the only difference will be the time at which they spend it.

No-one would deny that shopping hours are a complicated mish-mash here. Except in the city tourism precincts large retailers including supermarkets are open six days a week for varying hours according to the day of the week while smaller ones can - but usually don't - trade twenty four hours a day seven days a week. Shops that are deemed to be necessary for emergencies, convenience or recreation may trade between 6:00 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. seven days a week. This includes among others hardware stores, garden centres, boating shops, motor vehicle spare parts, video shops, souvenir shops, newsagencies and bookshops. You will note it doesn't include motor vehicle sales which have their own rules - consisting of five days a week with one evening and Saturday morning trading. The sale of fuel is unrestricted. However what can be sold at the service station shop is restricted.

Personally I have always found it simple enough to work around these hours because my hours have been nine to five, five days a week. There is ample time to do the shopping for anything I want if I give it a little thought.

It's not so simple for Pisces or Virgo, both of whom are in jobs that involve weekend work and are frequently rostered on Saturday or Sunday or both. Neither begrudges working but they both resent the social implications of working these hours. Obviously this applies to a lot of people - nurses, doctors, those who work in the hospitality industry, transport providers and many others. They all have the same problems. Here are a few.

When you work on weekends you can't:
1. play sport as part of a team because you can't play in a weekend match
2. attend sporting matches to follow a team on a regular basis
3. attend daytime events scheduled for weekends - festivals, concerts, picnics etc. Even twilight or early evening times mean the function is half over before you get there.
4. meet up with friends for a chat because when they are free you are working.
5. meet new people.

I heard someone ranting about this recently. Her view was that she can't buy what she wants because she is at work when the shops are open. This is not true, of course. She is a public servant who works in the City and doesn't work on Saturdays or Thursday or Friday evenings - depends on where you live - when all shops are open and she has lunch breaks as well.

I don't find this at all convincing - more, I think it is very selfish. Perhaps it should be all or nothing. I will support extended shopping hours when all businesses, including the public service, banks and other corporations, are also obliged to be open for the same time. Something tells me that she wouldn't find this as reasonable.

At present only a limited number of people's lives are affected but if we make the kind of changes that are proposed we are going to find there are hidden costs - those that the shift and weekend workers are already well aware of. We need to consider those costs before we follow blindly what has been done elsewhere. My personal view is that we, as a society, are better off when we keep one day a week free for the majority of the population to function as a family day. The irony of those supporting daylight saving as being better for family time while calling for extended trading hours which will take even more family time away has not escaped me.

Keeping things as they are won't improve my family's life much (Pisces will still miss out on social activities as will Virgo and I will still have to accept invitations to go by myself instead of as a couple) but if it is better for most people I think we should stick with it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Another Reason Why I Don't Like Daylight Saving.

I've always had cats living with me and, out of consideration for the wildlife and neighbours, they are not allowed out at night. For the last twelve days, Puss has got up somewhere between 5:15 and 5:30 a.m. and rampaged around the house demanding his breakfast, trying to open the container it's kept in (we put it away to discourage the ants) or wake us to feed him. He's not at all happy and neither are we but it wasn't until yesterday that I realised why this is happening.

Daylight saving ended on April 1 and we are now getting up at normal time around 6:15-6:30 a.m. instead of 5:15-5:30 a.m. in real time by the interfered with clock. Unfortunately Angus can't tell the time and in his view breakfast should come when it always has.

Can't blame the cat (it's not his fault he doesn't run his life by the clock) but I'm sure blaming the politicians.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


A few weeks ago I wrote here about a hard life lesson. Someone I know, a young man with a wife and baby, had a cardiac arrest, was revived but is still in a coma. We don't know what the outcome will be.

It has made us think about our lives and reassess where we are and where we would like to be because if this can happen to a healthy, young man, it can happen to any of us.

We have done this in very different ways. Virgo has decided that now is the time to travel and she and her partner have booked and are off in a couple of months while Pisces and I have seriously started work on changes in our lifestyle. We all feel as if those things we have taken for granted are now on very unsteady foundations and that we need to be better prepared for whatever life may throw at us. It has meant among other things that we all are looking at what we should do to make things easier for family and friends in the event of injury or death.

So we have been looking at what everyone should have in place - and it's a scary but not difficult to achieve list.

Everyone needs to make a will and keep their will up to date.

Everyone needs to have in place an enduring power of attorney.

Everyone needs to make sure that someone they trust knows or can access important information like who needs to be notified in case of death, where assets are kept, are there life insurance policies and with which companies, are there outstanding loans or mortgages and with whom.

Everyone needs income protection insurance.

Everyone needs have some life insurance to protect their family.

Everyone needs either a pre-paid funeral plan or insurance to ensure that funeral expenses are covered.

Everyone should keep a regularly updated written record of their medical history including their doctor's contact details and what medications they are taking and make sure that someone knows where it is. If you are unconscious you are not in a position to give that information and even close family might not know or forget the details under stress.

It's so easy to think you're too young to think about this or that it won't happen to you, that it's too expensive or it can wait but the truth is age has nothing to do with it and you really can't afford not to be prepared. It's too late to do anything about it once you are in a tragic situation.

None of these things are difficult to arrange but we keep putting them off. I'd rather be safe than sorry. Wouldn't you?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Night Visitors

On the arch over the steps: a tawny frogmouth doing a spot of hunting. This is unusual here although I know there is a nesting site a couple of kilometres away. It clung to the curve, rather out of place as it tried to look like part of a tree trunk. That might have worked very well if it had been on a tree but instead it looked as though a small log had fallen from oout of the sky and landed on the wire.I brought the dog back inside but left the lights on for a few minutes and it gradually gained confidence, slowly turning its head so we could see the bristles over its beak. Then I turned off the lights and when I let the dog out again later it had gone.

Mostly we get southern boobooks, with their mournful boobook call. We know by the shrieks of the mice and frogs it catches that one is a frequent visitor. We don't see it very often although it too likes the arch. Occasionally it sits there focussed on its task, big-eyed, head swivelling, and completely ignoring the lights, the dog and us.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Whale Stranding

Hamelin Bay on Western Australia's south coast has be one of the most beautiful places in the world. It's a sheltered bay with white sand so brilliant it dazzles. By the beach the water is literally as clear as glass slowly changing through palest aqua to turquoise as you go out into the ocean. It's a pleasant holiday spot with good swimming and fishing, close to the tourist region of Margaret River, well known for its vineyards, caves and surf, and the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park.

This tranquil place was the site where more than eighty long finned pilot whales and a dolphin were reported to have beached themselves on Monday. Only twenty five whales were still alive when they were discovered so they had been there for some time. A frantic rescue effort was put in motion with people coming from as far away as Perth to try to keep the survivors alive. Trenches were dug around them to help support their body weight and volunteers worked through the night, wrapping them in wet towels and dousing them with buckets of water.

It was decided to move them a few kilometers along the coast to a bay with deeper water to lessen the likelihood of them beaching again. Sadly by then, despite the best efforts of the vets and volunteers, only eleven were still alive and eventually only ten of those were successfully released. Reports have just come in that a number of dead whales have been sighted off the coast. Let's hope that they are incorrect.

Situations like this, and the human response to it, are what gives me hope for our species. While Japanese whalers are hunting and killing whales in Antarctic waters (claiming scientific research as the reason) Australians are working together to save other whales. Instead of killing whales more useful scientific research might be to try and find out just why whales beach themselves and where they fit into the network of species vital to the ecology of our planet, the one we are all part of.

I understand that there are cultures that have used whale products to enable them to survive for centuries and, although I don't see the need for it in the present day, I'm willing to accept that this is a customary right but I see no other reason for killing them.

I visited the Cheynes Beach Whaling Station near Albany in Western Australia shortly before it closed in 1978. A whale was being flensed at the time and I was overwhelmed by the size and stench, so much so that I had to leave. As I stood outside looking over the bay, another whale carcass was being hauled off a whale chaser, armed with a harpoon gun at its prow. The water was alive with big, shadowy shapes, that I presume were sharks drawn by the blood from the whale. I have not felt comfortable about the killing of whales since and my distaste increased when I discovered that a harpoon does not always kill instantly as the tour guide implied.

Perhaps there was a time in human history when such killing might have been justified by need but that time is long past. Looking at the photos of the people working so hard to save the whales at Hamelin Bay I have to say I hope the few remaining whaling nations will realise this and soon.

You can see photos of the rescue attempt here

Edit: Sadly, six of the released whales have again beached themselves, this time in an isolated and difficult to reach area, and died.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Media Responsiblity

Sexy photos purported to be of a young Pauline Hanson were printed in a number of newspapers this week. I'm not much into scandal so I didn't bother to read the story but apparently a lot of people did. Then other media outlets jumped in to take their bite. In the end it was impossible to ignore what had happened as the details appeared in news bulletins all over the place.

Most disturbing to me is that anyone actually bought these photos in the first place.

I don't agree with Ms Hanson's politics in any way but certain sections of the media seem to delight in seeking to embarrass her (and many other public figures) at every turn and in areas that have no connection to public life. Even if they had been genuine what possible relevance to anyone are some sexy photos taken over thirty years ago of a very young woman to the person she is today? The invasion of privacy is nothing short of outrageous.

To make matters worse the person who authorised the purchase is quoted in this morning's newspaper as saying he always said that if the photos turned out not to be of Ms Hanson he'd be the first to apologise. So now they've proven it he's saying sorry. That is supposed to make up for a week of scandal and humiliation where the story was taken up by other media outlets as well, is it? Not in my book. I hope Ms Hanson sues them and wins.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


My poor garden is suffering badly at the moment. A series of difficulties - personal physical problems mainly - has led to infestations of couch grass, crab grass and scale just about everywhere. As a result I'm finding it rather depressing just at a time when I need uplifting. But there are still a few delights among the misery.

With the cooler nights the roses have begun their Autumn flush of flowers. Because a number came from my parents' house when they moved I don't know all the names but they range in colour from rich, dark reds through pinks, apricots and yellows to whites.

On the family room table I have a vase of crimson roses - Papa Meilland, Mr Lincoln and another that came from my parents' house. They are gloriously fragrant, filling the whole area with their perfume. They have been under constant assault by Angus cat, who, I have just realised, had never seen flowers in a vase close up before. He's usually a quick learner - no doubt how he survived his traumatic early life - and learned not to put so much as a paw on a table in his first couple of weeks in the house. But the roses fascinate him. He started by sitting on a chair, eyes fixed, until he couldn't stand it. He made a rush across the table, batting with his paws until a blossom fell out then he grabbed it in his mouth and carried it off. It was about when he reached the floor that the thorns started to dig in and he dropped it and ran off. This happened a few times. Now he's wiser but still can't resist creeping up on them at least as far as the table edge.

Jaz, of course, finds the whole thing disturbing and barks furiously.
"Will someone come, please. The cat's being very bad. Please come."
Unfortunately she disapproves of so many of the cat's activities - looking at her, sitting on the arm of the sofa, walking across my bed, going into the bathroom, lying on the living room window sill, lying under a chair, to mention only a few - she's more likely to be in trouble for barking than praised even if the end result is Angus also in trouble.

I'm truly delighted at the progress Angus has made. It's hard to believe that it's only nine months since he was a terrified little scrap of a kitten, frightened of literally everything. Now he's happy, confident and affectionate within the family although sudden noises and strangers still send him running for cover.

Friday, March 13, 2009

2008 Australian Shadows Awards

These are the awards for the best dark fiction by Australian writers:

And the winner is: Lee Battersby for The Claws of Native Ghosts. Lee is a local Perth writer with an awesome gift for story writing. A well deserved win. Congratulations, Lee.

Also on the shortlist were:

Sara Douglass: This Way to the Exit
Jason Fischer: Rick Gets a Job
Christopher Green: Lakeside
Paul Haines: Her Collection of Intimacy

Jason and Chris attended Clarion South 2007 with me and it doesn't surprise me in the least to see them listed here. They both have a great future in front of them.

Well done, all of you.

Go here for the judges report.

Writers of the Future

Honourable Mention. My first in this competition. Doing happy dance. Just what I needed at the end of a very bad week.

Monday, March 09, 2009

New Ceres Nights

Twelfth Planet Press have put out a press release for a special offer in March.

"Leading up the release of New Ceres Nights Twelfth Planet Press are offering the anthology 2012 at the special price of A$16 to anywhere in Australia including postage or A$20 to anywhere outside of Australia including postage for all of March!

We want to get the word out so we're also offering a free electronic copy of the Aurealis Award nominated "Fleshy" by Tansy Rayner Roberts for every blog entry spreading the word about our 2012 Special Deal for March.

Each of the stories in 2012 presents an original take on the imminent future of humanity. Each has something to say about who we are and who we might want to be. 2012 is both a call to imagine the future of the world and a call to create it.

2012 collects stories written by: Deborah Biancotti, Martin Livings, Dirk Flinthart, David Conyers, Simon Brown, Lucy Sussex, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Kaaron Warren, Angela Slatter, Ben Peek and Sean McMullen

2012 received an Honoroble Mention in the Anthology Category at the Aurealis Awards 2009.
“Fleshy” by Tansy Rayner Roberts, was shortlisted for Best Science Fiction Short Story, Aurealis Awards 2009

2012 March 2009 Special Deal

-- offer ends March 31, 2009 --"

More information here.

Life Lessons

Do not ever put anything off until tomorrow if you can possibly do it today. You may not get the chance again. A lesson learned in a hard way.

Sunday, March 08, 2009


I have observed the following:

1. An adult raven can bathe in the bird bath albeit with great difficulty but much enjoyment.

2. Jaz has learned that dropping one piece of banana in hopes of being offered more does not work. Either it will be taken away by the boss or the cat will try to get it.

3. Angus (the nearly grown up kitten) has discovered that while dogs lurve banana, cats do not.

4. Angus loves to play with plastic bags to the point of stealing them from the tube shaped storage bag. They are even better when filled with shredded paper.

5. Muscat grapevines, when thwarted in delivering their bumper crop by birds and rodents, will sometimes set another, although not so prolifically.

6. A creek lilly pilly in full blossom is a wondrous sight.

7. An upturned flower pot in an overgrown garden bed is a serious threat to a small Cav. It's even worse when someone sprays it with a hose so it makes frightening hollow sounds - then laughs.

8. Perpetual spinach will grow successfully in a large pot. Guess what we are having for dinner.

9. Men and women shop for food entirely differently - even with a specific list - but at least we won't starve.

10.I have an irrational hatred of the phrase "Very much so".

11.Rose fertiliser works so much better on roses than ordinary fertiliser. Who'd have thought it.

And now I am going to have my lunch before a nap to rest my brain. I'm guessing you wish I'd done it in the opposite order.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Wendy Richard

I have just read that has Wendy Richard passed away from cancer. It brought back so many memories especially of her days as the flirty, sexy Miss Brahms in the sitcom Are You Being Served and the early days of the BBC soap Eastenders where she played Pauline. My interest in Eastenders soon disappeared but I continued to admire the versatility of Wendy Richard, who having previously played a variety of minor roles, (in the Carry On movies among other things) effortlessly transformed herself from the sexy girls of those parts into the dowdy, matronly Pauline showing her considerable performing range. It makes the point I think that we underestimate the ability of soap actors. They work for the most part with frankly unbelievable story lines and yet create characters who become real to their viewers. Considering the millions who tune into them that's quite an achievement.

Clarion South Fundraising Appeal

Clarion South are holding a fundraising appeal during March.

I cannot over-emphasise how much my attendance at Clarion South has impacted on my life. I learned so much about writing and professional skills as well as gaining a support group and friends who I believe will stay with me for the rest of my life. The care taken of us by Kate, Rob, Heather and Bob (all volunteers) was extraordinary in its generosity.

You can make a donation by going to here or help by advertising the appeal on your blog, LJ, Facebook, My Space etc. Further information about the workshop and the appeal can be found at

Please consider giving to this cause or promoting it where you can. It may seem less important than the other appeals where people have lost their livelihoods and homes but it is an investment in the next generation of speculative fiction writers. You only have to look at the list of graduates to see how many are now making a career for themselves and giving pleasure to others in the process.

Sunday, March 01, 2009


When I got up this morning the air in the back garden was still and heavy with rose perfume. I can't remember it ever being so strong in the morning before. It's not as though there are masses of roses out at the moment either or that they are the most richly perfumed varieties. I suspect it was a combination of the scents of the rose blossoms that are open and the rose geranium foliage.

Maybe the electrical storm we had around 5:30 am set it off. It woke me with lightning that lit up inside of the house, blinds drawn and all, and thunder rumbling loudly but only a few drops of rain. Then again perhaps something (a cat?) had brushed against the rose geranium foliage releasing its fragrance. Very strange whatever the cause.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hope: a Fundraiser For the Victorian Fire Victims

Taken directly from Satima's Blogspot:

Hope is a new multi-part fanzine raising money for bushfire relief in the Australian state of Victoria. Issue #1 is now available in a PDF edition in return for donations. How much you donate is up to you - a minimum of AUS$5.00 seems reasonable.

If you wish to subscribe to the entire series (it looks as if it's going to be five issues long) then maybe a donation of at least AUS$20.00 would be appropriate. You're getting a great collection of stories from some fine writers. Hope #1 contains contributions from Mo Ali, Sophie Ambrose, R.J. Astruc, Lyn Battersby, K.K. Bishop, Matthew Chrulew, Stephen Dedman, Mark S. Deniz, d.n.l, Paul Haines, Simon Haynes, Kathleen Jennings, Ju Landéesse, Damian Magee, David A. McIntee, Simon Petrie, Andrew Phillips, Gillian Polack, Robert Shearman and Daniel Smith. The cover is by Rebecca Handcock.

Hope #1 contains 46 pages of fiction, non-fiction, artwork, and even a comic book script excerpt! You can make a donation to the project via Paypal by clicking the link below. (Funds are being collected by Grant Watson, one of the many caring fans and writers who are trying to help the victims of the bushfires.)

The link to Paypal is on Grant's LJ: (I couldn't get Blogger to accept the code, dammit, but you won't mind visiting Grant, will you?)

Once you've made a donation, please confirm it by e-mailing Grant at to let him know whether you were after just the one issue or the whole series as it's released.

Limited print copies are available, if dead trees are your thing. If it's a print copy you're after, let Grant know in your e-mail along with your address. He'll handle the postage. (Obviously he'd prefer you went for the PDF, but the option is there.)

If you want to promote Hope on your own LJ or blog, please do so - the more the info spreads, the more money we may raise for the people of rural Victoria.

I couldn't get the link to Grant's LJ to work either so please go http://angriest.livejournal/ for the Paypal details and other information about Hope. It's a very worthy cause.