Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas again

Oops- I accidentally published the last post before I said: Merry Christmas, everyone and may 2011 bring you all all the good things you and yours wish for. Merry Christmas.

Christmas Linkage

A few links I enjoyed, two from favourite blogs and the other via Tehani.

From John Scalzi's blog this.

From Hyperbole and a Half this

And this.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Dove Disaster

I found a nearly fledged dead chick on the ground under the verandah nest yesterday morning and the little hen, who has been sitting very diligently, was not on the nest. When I climbed up I discovered another dead chick in the nest. I have no idea what happened but we decided that perhaps it would be a good thing to remove the nest completely since the dead chick was entangled in it. So now we have an empty plastic crate, less the accumulated debris of several years nesting, back up on top of the cupboard. I hope the doves will come back and rebuild because we enjoy their company. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Island Tragedy

My heart goes out to all the victims of the tragic wreck at Christmas Island - to the families and friends of those who lost their lives, to the injured, the survivors and to those who tried to save them in the appalling conditions. I cannot imagine what they went through and are still experiencing. Let us hope that the urge to make political capital out of an horrific situation is resisted by all.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Music and Writing

I have certain essentials for writing. They are slightly different depending on what I am writing but they nearly all centre around music. I use music partly to block out distractions but also to pull me into whatever I am writing. The novel I finished recently was written entirely to traditional Irish songs, mostly instrumentals played on the harp or panpipes, but sometimes vocal versions. The tunes varied from jigs and reels to slow sad ballads but in some way they tapped into my mood and the story I was working on. Whenever I tried to introduce some other music I would lose my rhythm and it became much harder to tell my tale. I'm now well into the sequel and still using the same music in a continuous loop on the computer. Whenever I turn it on I'm immediately transported to this imaginary world and I am ready to write.

For short stories I like variety. It ranges from musicals ( my current favourites are Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar and Chicago), Country & Western artists specially Johnny Cash, rock in many of its permutations from when it started to the present day, popular music, Scottish traditional music, bagpipes, Andean panpipes, Greek traditional music, Gregorian chants, Abba, folk ... I could go indefinitely. As you can see my taste is very wide ranging but once I have the right piece of music the story flows onto the page.

I tackle non-fiction differently. When I am working on something factual I prefer instrumental and usually opt for something quiet in the background.

Poems are the exception. They tend to come from things I feel very passionate about and I don't want the distraction of other ideas or anything that interferes with rhythm so I tend to not have music on at all when I'm working on a poem.

Thinking about this has made me wonder about how other writers work. I'd love to hear about what are the essential things for you.

BTW I have a rousing version of The Boys of Killibegs on right now.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

This is Just...

Well see for yourself.

Found on Hoyden About Town I give you this. I have no words to describe it but I just had to pass it on. For the best effect view it full screen - and don't let the slow start and the shaky camera work put you off. It gets better.

Whatever did we do without the internet.

Monday, November 29, 2010


I didn't even try to do NaNoWriMo this year. It was a wise decision. I have far too much else happening in my life right now to add that pressure - but there's no doubt in my mind that it can be a worthwhile exercise. There have been some fairly derogatory comments going around this year - people saying that it is a waste of time, that you end up with a pile of unpublishable words, that 'real' writers don't do things like this.

Of course you don't end up with a novel that is complete and ready to send out. No-one thinking about it sensibly would expect that. What you do end up with is a first draft. It will need fixing. No-one will read it and fall at your feet and offer you the treasures of the universe for it in its present state but you will have done the basic starting work and you will have done it in a specified time and to a deadline. I don't know about you but that all sounds a pretty useful way for a writer to spend his or her time.

The claim that 'real' writers don't do this is even more ridiculous. They certainly do - and some of them even become bestsellers once they've worked them over.

Will I do Nanowrimo next year? I can't say yet but I certainly hope so.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More on Arts Funding Cuts

This is a scientist's view on the effect that cutting arts programs can have. Gregory A. Pesko's words resonate with me and should be required reading for all those who advocate cutting the humanities because they don't bring in income. Go here to read his comments. For some reason the link doesn't take you directly to the comment piece but if you use the link and go to Homepage you will find it under A Faustian Bargain.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What is the Price of Civilisation?

I read some interesting articles and posts this week relating to the way governments, particularly those of the right, when deciding we need a bout of austerity for whatever reason, tend to cut back on funding to the arts, research and tertiary education. This is one and this and this are others.

While I don't agree with everything said by these writers they do raise valid questions. Who decided that universities should become institutions for churning out graduates to supply the needs of business? Why are the Humanities becoming regarded as unnecessary and sometimes even as a waste of time? Why is scientific research only considered useful if it pays for itself? Why are the Arts - and I use the capital deliberately - seen more and more as self indulgent? When did we decide that higher education was only of value to the graduate and lose sight of the value to the community and the nation?

It appalls me that we don't see the value to the community of educating everyone to the highest level they can attain. When I was a girl there was a general perception that educating a woman to a high level was a waste of time and money. She would only be getting married and staying at home with her children after all. We have moved past that, thank goodness, but we still have not advanced in other areas. Scientists are often seen as just wasting time and money in laboratories where most of them indulge themselves in esoteric studies. They need to get a real job, we hear, as if living on a pittance of a scholarship, acquiring a crippling student loan debt and advancing our knowledge is just a way to get out of working in the real world. And artists - well, who needs them.

In fact we all need all these people - and we should support them as a nation. Fiona Woods and her team would never have created life saving artificial skin without research and even apparently pointless research can lead to future important discoveries that build on that beginning. While research has obvious physical value, the humanities role tends not to be so tangible. It may not be visible but it should not be ignored because they give us insights into ourselves - our past, our nature and our place in the world.

University education should be much more than the regurgitation of memorised facts. The most important thing learned there is how to think critically. The benefits that flow from this affect every part of life. Certainly some graduates go on to make a lot of money but is this a reason to punish the majority who don't? Maybe that's the problem. We resent the success of the few forgetting the years of study that goes into the making of, for example, a medical specialist.

Let's not forget the artists. Why should we fund people who want to mess about creating music, painting, books? Because their creations feed the spirit. A society where the spirit is starved of beauty and is not stimulated by questions of about the nature of humanity is not civilised.

There is a story attributed to Winston Churchill, himself an artist, that during World War II he was approached by the Finance Minister, who wanted to cut spending to the arts to raise money for the war effort. Churchill's reply was, 'Then what are we fighting for?' He was right. Without the arts, research and a well educated population we are not civilised, anymore than if we fail to care for the disadvantaged among us. Commerce is important. It provides jobs and income but it is only one part of the equation and we would do well not to forget that.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembrance Day

On November 11 at 11 AM, 1918 the armistice marking the end of World War 1 was signed. The survivors of what was then known as the Great War (and hoped by its participants to be the war that ended all war) were slowly demobilised and made their way home carrying their scars (mental and physical) with them. Their hope that no-one would ever have to go to war again was not realised and sadly probably never will be. For their comrades who lost their lives there was no home coming.

I have visited some of the graves of those slain in World War 1 in France and it would break your heart. I can think of little more saddening than to wander a war graveyard and see row after row of white crosses marking the graves of young men, many not much more than boys. In a normal cemetery the graves are mostly of the old. While it is still sad you can imagine that they have lived full lives and seen their families grow up but these young men knew none of that and their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and all those who cared for them carried the loss to their own graves. They gave their lives so others could be free.

May we always be able to say 'We will remember them.'

Saturday, November 06, 2010

In Lieu of...

Real Life is a bit torrid at the moment so I bring you this. These life size wood carvings are just a few of those to be found in Geeveston Tasmania. Lovely and amazingly detailed, they include local identities along with those representing anonymous others, like the timber workers, who contributed to the history of the town. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Hand Dancers

Some things are too good not to share. Have a look at this.

Monday, November 01, 2010

More Congratulations

This time it's the World Fantasy Awards (for works published in 2009) announced at the World Fantasy Convention on October 31. Among the winners are Margo Lanagan (one of the awesome tutors at Clarion South 2007) who was awarded Best Novella for Sea-Hearts and Western Australian editor, Jonathan Strahan, winner of the Special Awards - Professional category for his work in editing anthologies. The full results can be found here.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

2010 Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award

Tasmanian writer Tansy Rayner Roberts has won the 2010 Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award for Siren Beat, a novella published by Western Australian small press Twelfth Planet Press and edited by Alisa Krasnostein.

Twelfth Planet Press has shown it is willing to push some boundaries lately. As an independent small press it is able to tackle the kind of fiction that is not so appealing to the larger publishers. Recent publications include anthologies, collections and novellas. Siren Beat is one of the novellas in the Doubles series where it was partnered by Roadkill by Robert Shearman). Books from this press are sometimes controversial but they are always quality. There is a pile of them sitting on my bookshelf now among my Aussiecon 4 buys.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On Politics, Writing and Uppity Women

The Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, has been describing a statement by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, as 'shrill and aggressive'. Putting aside the hypocrisy of someone who is anything but gentle in his political attacks describing as aggressive any comment by anyone, would any politician use these words when describing a male politician? If they would not, why is it being applied to Julia Gillard? My suspicion is it is to put an uppity woman in her place.

Another equally obnoxious remark was made about Ms Gillard during the lead up when she was described as barren because she is childless. Then there were the denigrations because she doesn't have a family. What has that to do with her capacity to carry out her job? There are men in Parliament who have no children or who are not married. No-one thinks they can't perform their job. Uppity woman again perhaps.

It's not just the Prime Minister who cops this treatment. When he became Opposition Leader, Mr Abbott referred to his newly elected deputy as 'a good girl'. What? This is our alternative Deputy Prime Minister he's talking about.

In case anyone wonders this is not meant as a comment on the political beliefs of either party. I'm just feeling very incensed that comments like these are still being made by anyone. Sadly it's not only in political arenas that this happens. These tactics are used everywhere.

Whether we realise it at the time or not, I see it and you see it every day. The recent announcement that Jane Austen's 'perfect' prose was assisted by a male editor is just such a case. A writer with an editor? Outrageous. Obviously she couldn't write herself. Chip, chip, chip. Another woman is perceived to be less than she was.

Isn't it time it stopped?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chilean Miners Rescued

I often despair of humanity. We seem to be unable to shake off our dark side and so often we are selfish and thoughtless. Today though I'm cheering for what is best in us. The Chilean miners, trapped underground for sixty nine days, are being brought to the surface one by one. They appear amazingly healthy, given their ordeal. Their rescue has been a remarkable achievement both in engineering terms and in the way it has been handled by all those who have worked so tirelessly together to save them. Everyone involved in the rescue deserves praise for their work - and for restoring our faith in humanity.

I can't imagine the mental stresses that they have been under and I doubt anyone, who has not been in a similar situation, could. Let us hope that they continue to be cared for in the same way as they have been so far and rejoice that sometimes we get it right. We're not as bad as we often believe we are.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Spring is Sprung

One of the signs of Spring in Perth is the emergence of the bob tail lizard (goannas as they are more usually known). They are sometimes called shingle backs because of their rough scales. They are making their way out of their winter hibernation to soak up the sun, feed and mate. I saw the first sad road kill casualties last weekend. Sometimes they sunbake on the roads and they don't move fast if they are crossing. It's easy to not see them until it's too late but ignorance plays a part too and some folk run them down deliberately. It is a sad indictment on our society that we can't live and let live, I think.

We have had a colony breeding in our garden for as long as we have lived here and it's always a pleasure when the first one trundles past. They are shy creatures, preferring to keep out of sight for the most part, but if you frighten one it will open its mouth to expose a pink throat and dark blue tongue in a startling display which is no doubt very effective in discouraging an aggressor. Unfortunately not everyone appreciates these useful creatures and, while it's true they do have a liking for strawberries and the occasional other soft vegetable or fruit, for the most part they do more good than harm. Snails are a favourite snack. At least once a year one of my neighbours comes across one in the garden and has no idea how to deal with it. They are easy enough to handle. Just grasp firmly behind the neck and move to where they will be safe. I usually wear gloves when doing this - not because they will bite (they have no teeth but very powerful jaws but I haven't had one bite me yet in many years of handling them) but because they can carry ticks.

You can find photos of this fascinating creature here.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Of Dentists

I had to go to the dentist yesterday to have an old crown removed and the prep for its replacement done. I've got so many crowns now this didn't faze me at all. With my mouth suitably numbed the dentist proceeded to section the crown and remove it. The first part came away easily but the second wouldn't move and he had to use some force to dislodge it. When it came free the remaining section came with it and shot deep into the back of my throat. Scared to speak in case it slid into my trachea I sat up coughing furiously while the dentist, assuming I was just having a coughing fit - we'd been talking about our mutual suffering with hay fever before - tried to get me to have a drink of water. I could feel the edge grazing my throat and epiglottis - and this was not reassuring. I tried rinsing but the fluid didn't reach that far back. Leaning forward I kept coughing and at last the piece of crown dislodged and landed in my hand. I still have a scratched throat but otherwise all is well.

The reason I tell you this is not because I want to share my fright, unpleasant though it was. It was that the experience brought home to me something which I think we all need to think about. We are all at risk of a freak accident at any time but we go on as if we will live forever. A gust of wind could shove us on to the road. A car tyre could blow. A branch could fall from a tree. It's not that I spend all my time worrying about these unlikely events anymore than anyone else but last year when there were so many deaths happening around me I decided to try live my life in a way that I wouldn't put off until tomorrow anything I could do now. It started well enough then illness (mine, then Pisces and other family members) drained my energy and enthusiasm and it just got too hard.

Yesterday's incident wasn't serious as it happened but it had the potential to be. It reminded me of my resolution. I may not be going bungee jumping or sky diving but I intend to put a reminder up on my notice board and try every day to extend my boundaries. There's a lot to experience and enjoy out there. I'm going to do just that.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Home Again

I didn't mean to take such a long break from posting but internet access proved less accessible than I had hoped during my wanderings during the last few weeks. I'll blog about some of my adventures later but for now I'll just say that Tasmania is amazing to visit. Beautiful and historic - and we could easily have spent another couple of weeks there and still not have seen everything.

But let me start with Aussiecon 4. What an experience. I enjoyed every moment. It was brilliant to catch up with so many friends I see rarely due to distance and to have a chance to be in a space where everyone has similar interests. It was tiring (exhausting might be more accurate), crowded and noisy - and so stimulating. I have pages of notes on panels to transcribe. As Worldcons go this was relatively small and I'm not at all sure I'd enjoy something much bigger so I'm glad I was able to attend this one. If I have a complaint it is that there were so many interesting panels, guest speeches, kaffeeklatsches and readings that I generally found myself torn between at least two - more often three - choices every time. Even my own panels clashed with others I would have liked to have gone to. I was lucky though that they were both on the first afternoon and so left me with time to enjoy the rest of the con without having to juggle that as well.

I have to say to anyone considering it, if you ever get the chance to go to a Worldcon take it. I learned so much, met such interesting people - several of my fellow reviewers from The Specusphere I hadn't met face to face before for example - and came home with far too many books - dealers' rooms are a temptation and so are book launches - and the pre Hugo Orbit party was a blast.

Catching up with so many of my Clarion South 2007 classmates and others was an added bonus as was the opportunity to hear about their achievements which were added to when Peter M. Ball was awarded Best New Talent in the Ditmars and tutor Robert Hood was named Best Fan Writer for his blog Undead Backbrain.

All in all a great five days.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Karrinyup Writers Club Inc. 25th Anniversary

Karrinyup Writers club celebrated its 25th anniversary today. Not bad for a club which has met once a week for all that time except for a brief annual summer break.

To mark the occasion the club held a combined luncheon, readings from the judges' reports and some of the prize winning entries as well as the launch of their latest anthology. I was delighted to catch up with old friends, some of whom I haven't seen for several
years. Among those present were past and present Karrinyup members, the judges - Maureen Helen and Shane Macauley, as well as Chris Oakley and Mardi May from the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre and Helen Iles, Claire Grosse and Frances Richardson from the Society of Women Writers WA. It was lovely to see people from other parts of the writing world supporting us on this special day. I'm sorry that time and the sheer volume of people present made it impossible for me to talk to everyone. I certainly would have liked to.

Karrinyup Writers Club has a talented membership and a record to be proud of as it has helped many Perth writers to hone their craft over the years since Pam Steenbergen put an advertisement in the local paper and Dorothy Thompson answered it. They put together a list of aims that still forms the basis of the club constitution. We all owe them and the many who followed them a vote of thanks.

Happy birthday KWC and may there be many more of them.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Worldcon Here I Come

I'm even on two panels. See.

Thurs 1500 Rm 216: Spoiler alert: reviewing plot-driven fiction without
giving the story away. Ian Mond, Helen Venn, Jenny Blackford, Crisetta MacLeod

Thu 1600 Rm 213: Motherhood in science fiction and fantasy. Helen Merrick, Helen Venn, Marianne de Pierres, Tansy Rayner Roberts

Do bear in mind that details may change so, if you're coming, check on the actual program at the con.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hung Parliament?

So the possibility of a Federal hung parliament looms over us. What do I make out of this? Neither party convinced the electorate that they were worthy of government. The government of Australia rests now basically with the independents and from what I've heard from them so far they seem to be taking the responsibility seriously - which is as it should be. However impatient the leaders of the major parties are to take control they are going to have to wait while these men weigh up the situation and decide on what course they will take. As they are independent, they will have to negotiate an arrangement whereby (whoever they choose to support) they will vote with the government on Supply bills and no confidence motions while either negotiating concessions in return for support of their own policies or voting according to their conscience. It remains to be seen whether this can be agreed and between whom or Australia faces the prospect of another election very soon. If that's the case I hope it's more impressive on the part of the major parties than the election campaign we have just endured.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Builders - Final Report

So yesterday I opened the curtains to see a dove land on the building site only to realise that overnight the anchors had been dislodged. The pathetic remnants were strewn over the veranda. They obviously hadn't secured them properly and now have abandoned the site. Looking at the bits of twig it's easy to see that it would never have withstood even a slight gust. We've had a number of doves build successful nests here and I have to say I've never seen anything less suitable as building material. They seem to have given up now so maybe I should have helped them. As it is they haven't enough time to build before she will have to lay so I doubt the babies will survive. Yes, they are feral and shouldn't be here but they don't do any damage unlike the gorgeous rainbow lorikeets which are multiplying very quickly and literally pushing out the native parrots by climbing into the hollows that both like to breed in and and throwing out eggs and babies.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Birds Again.

The doves are still working on the anchors. While I'm all for their making the nest secure, this is ridiculous. I suspect they are a very young and inexperienced pair. I want to get up there and give them a helping hand but that would only make things worse. Another update tomorrow.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

More Bird Talk

This pair of doves have to be the slowest nest builders in the world. On the other hand the chances of this nest being blown off is remote because they have so many anchors in place. Of course they have done nothing else towards the rest of the nest and they are still discussing every new placement but the nest - if it ever eventuates - will be incredibly stable.

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Builders Are In

No, work has not stared on our long delayed renovations. These builders are an industrious pair of turtledoves which after much discussion and many site inspections have decided the top of the clothesline on the verandah is the place for them. After last year's disaster when a nest was blown down in strong winds, we extended the area with a small piece of wood and it seems to have met with their approval. They are both slower and much noisier than last year's pair. They finally started construction four days ago but have so far only managed to put some of the anchors in place. The trouble is that they have to talk over every step and at the rate they are progressing she'll be ready to lay before the nest is complete. Oh well at least the cat is being entertained. He's an indoor cat so there's no opportunity for him to do any damage but he divides his time between my study window sill and the family room door watching every move.

Friday, July 30, 2010


I'm a writer and a reader. I love words. As a nine year I used to sit on the floor with the enormous Webster's Dictionary open in front of me (because the book was so big and heavy I couldn't lift it) and read - for pleasure. I love the way words can make something come alive or explain something.Above all I like the clarity of words - that each has a specific meaning and function.

So, as you can imagine, I hate it when words are abused - and one thing that is certain about an election campaign is that they will be abused. We have entered the world of pre-election spin here in Australia where the vacuous and illogical slogans emerge, designed not to inform but blur. Some are, if you bother to look at them, simply insulting to the electorate. There is another abuse of language too that seems unique to politicians. This is, once you've pinned down your slogan you repeat it at least twice because all voters are so stupid that they don't get it the first time. I'm not talking about repetition for emphasis here. This is just repetition for its own sake. You know the kind that shouts at you, 'Look at me. I've thought up this really cool phrase. It's so cool I'm going to say it again. See. Isn't that cool?'. So I begin my list of these absurdities now - in alphabetical order and with no interest in which party is responsible. I'm sure you can think of many more.

'Dead, buried and cremated.' Doesn't even make sense, does it? As far as I know if you're buried you're buried and if you're cremated and a burial is planned it comes after the cremation.

'Great big new tax.' What is this tax? Is this a new tax replacing an old one? Does it mean that this is a bad tax? If so why not say it is and explain why?

'Moving forward.' From what? To where?

'Working families.' Who are these families? Those where both parents go out to work full time? Those where one works at home - caring for children or an ageing family member? Those where both work in the home caring for children and in the workforce part time? The retirees who voluntarily work for a charity? Retirees with adult children with disabilities who need on-going care not provided for by the government? Retirees with adult children still living at home?

Feel free to tell me your personal favourites.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Just a Few Books

There's one thing about being convalescent. You get to do a lot of reading - and I spent a lot of time this year convalescing.

So I thought I'd make a list of the novels, collections and anthologies I've read so far this year. They are by no means all speculative fiction as you will see but it does tend to predominate. Some time in the future I might list the non-fiction books read in the same period - but not today
First the novels in alphabetical order by author which was not necessarily the order in which they were read.

Joe Abercrombie:
The Blade Itself
Before They Are Hanged

K.E. Bedford:
Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait This is a reread that will be read again.

Marion Zimmer Bradley:
The Mists of Avalon

Trudy Canavan:
The Magician's Apprentice
The Magicians' Guild
The Novice
The High Lord

C. J. Cherryh: Three old favourites
Fortress in the Eye of Time
Fortress of Eagles
Fortress of Dragons

Robin Hobb:
The Dragon Keeper
Dragon Haven

P.D. James:
The Lighthouse

Margo Lanagan:
Tender Morsels Another reread that I keep going back to.

Justine Larbalestier:

Glenda Larke:
The Last Stormlord A reread while I was waiting for
Stormlord Rising
The Aware Another reread
Gilfeather and another reread
The Tainted as was this

Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy:
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,
The Girl who Played With Fire
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Bevan McGuiness:
The First Weapon

Fiona McIntosh:
Bridge of Souls

Juliet Marillier:
Hearts Blood
Heir to Sevenwaters

K. E. Mills:
Witches Incorporated
Wizard Squared

Audrey Niffenegger:
The Time Traveller's Wife

Ruth Rendell:
The Monster in the Box

Alice Sebold:
The Lovely Bones

Then there are the novellas:

Peter M. Ball: Horn

Robert Shearman/Tansy Rayner Roberts: Roadkill/Siren Beat which are two novellas by different authors in the same book.

Finally the anthologies and collections:

Belong ed. Russell B. Farr

Book of Endings by Deborah Biancotti

Dreaming Again ed. Jack Dann

The New Space Opera ed. Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan

Scary Kisses ed. Liz Grzyb

The Starry Rift ed Jonathan Strahan

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Karrinyup Writers Club Inc. 25th Anniversary Writing Competition

Well now that's a nice surprise. I was notified recently that I have been awarded third prize in the short story section of the Karrinyup Writers Club Inc. 25th Anniversary Writing Competition. I was delighted to find the names of so many people I know on the winners list. I'm proud to be among them. Congratulations to all the winners but especially Joanne Mills, the multi talented Pamela Blackburn, Marlene Fulcher and Pat Fletcher.

Poetry Section

First prize: Kevin Gillam (WA)

Second prize: Joanne Mills (WA)

Third prize: Pamela Blackburn (WA)

Commended: Lorraine White for two poems (NSW), Janeen Samuel (Vic) and Marlene Fulcher (WA)

Short Story Section

First prize: Pamela Blackburn (WA)

Second prize: Pat Fletcher (WA)

Third prize: Helen Venn (WA)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Julia Gillard, Australia's New Prime Minister

With startling speed the Labor Party has removed its previous leader, Kevin Rudd, replacing him with Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. Politics being what they are - all about pragmatism and winning elections - it's not surprising that they decided he had to go but it is an extraordinary event in Australian political history for several reasons.

Firstly, Prime Ministers do not usually get dumped in their first term. It's an indication of how far Rudd was perceived to be out of favour with the electorate. It's easy to see why his popularity had declined. He came to office promising reforms and, in fact, had delivered on many. For example under his government Australia weathered the financial crisis far better than most other countries. However he fell down on communicating his government's achievements to the voters. Then he failed to deliver on two big issues - the emissions trading scheme and the very emotive issue of taking Japan to the International Court over its so-called scientific whaling program. Added to this the badly planned home insulation program, which was good in theory but, due to inadequate preparation and supervision, resulted in a number of deaths, the rise in illegal asylum seekers (for reasons quite external to Australia and out of the government's control), the mining super tax and a perception (fostered by his wordy, obscure use of language) that the Prime Minister was unwilling to compromise all led to a questioning of his leadership. With the increasing popularity of Tony Abbott in the news polls, the ALP power brokers decided they had to act. The interesting question, from an outside observer's perspective, is if Rudd had shown some of the emotion and sincerity he did in his final press conference would he have retained the support of the party and the electorate? We'll never know, of course, and now we have a new Prime Minister.

This change is an historic one. In Julia Gillard, Australia has its first female Prime Minister. Since Australia was one of the first places to grant women the vote it is astonishing that we have had so few women in political positions of power. There have been a few women State Premiers and the Australian Democrats had several women as their party leader but these have the exceptions. Until the appointment of Quentin Bryce we had never had a female governor General either. There have been women Cabinet ministers in both major parties but they have been a definite minority (although there has been a slow increase in both those and the number of women entering Parliament). With the last election both parties opted for women as their deputy leaders, in itself a step forward, although now we have a female Prime Minister with a male deputy, which makes for a nice change.

Alarmingly, I notice that there is already the usual silly focus on appearance in some of the media. In Friday's edition of The West Australian a photo of the Governor General, Quentin Bryce, and newly appointed Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, sitting opposite one another after her swearing in had the fatuous headline 'Australia's top women get off on the right foot'. Reporter Yuko Narushima followed this by 'Two pairs of black stilettos pointed towards each other under the desk where history was made at Government House in Canberra yesterday'. If it had been two men facing each other would we have told 'two pairs of shiny black dress shoes pointed towards each other'? I don't think so.

As a woman I am delighted to see an intelligent, competent woman as our Prime Minister. I do not care if she has red or blonde hair, whether she wears stilettos or flat shoes, whether she has or doesn't have children. In short, while I'm pleased to see the majority group in the population finally in positions of authority - and think it long overdue - what I want from my Prime Minister is the ability to do the job. Let's hope this silly obsession with a woman's appearance disappears and instead the media focusses instead on what is important whatever the gender of the leader of the country.

Friday, June 18, 2010

What was he thinking?

Posting has been pretty sparse, hasn't it, but I do have a good excuse in surgery with the inevitable messed with brain post anaesthetic. But it's all good now.

At least I had an excuse unlike Representative Joe L. Barton, who, during the US Senate hearing into the disastrous BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, apologised to BP, describing the establishment of the $20 billion BP liability fund as a 'shakedown' to the horror of all including his own party. He has back pedalled but really - what was he thinking? Go here for more details.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bring Peter Watts to AussieCon

Cat Sparks has set up a campaign to bring Peter Watts to AussieCon in September. Her post is reposted below with her permission.

the bring peter watts to aussiecon campaign

Many of you will be familiar with this story already but for anyone who isn’t:

Last year Canadian marine biologist and science fiction writer Dr Peter Watts underwent a terrifying ordeal at the hands of over zealous border crossing guards in Port Huron, USA. While leaving the United States on December 8, 2009, he was subject to an exit search, then beaten, maced and arrested when he tried to find out what was going on.

A full account of the incident and what was to follow is up on

Or hear him interviewed about his experience, podcast at Starship Sofa

Even though all he did was fail to promptly comply with border guards’ instructions, he narrowly escaped a prison sentence and is now officially a convicted felon and therefore no longer able to attend US conventions.

Peter’s short story ‘The Island’ from The New Space Opera 2, edited by Gardner Dozois and our own Jonathan Strahan has been nominated for a Hugo award. What with Worldcon being on Aussie soil in September this year, I thought it would be a good thing if he could fly out here for both the Hugos and Aussiecon itself.

To that end, with Peter’s permission, I’m conducting a raffle to raise money for his airfare and accommodation. First prize is tuckerisation in his next novel State of Grace. Peter says:

“make sure that all entrants realize that their namesakes will most likely come to a really painful and unpleasant end. And they may not be especially cuddly as characters before then…”

The Aussiecon committee has very kindly donated Peter’s membership. The rest is up to us. If you think the guy deserves a break, how about taking part in the raffle or making a donation?

I’ve never met Peter face-to-face but we’ve been email buddies since I sent him a gushing fan letter after reading his first novel Starfish some years back.

He is well known as an excellent value panelist and would be a fantastic asset to the ‘hard science fiction’ end of the con’s literary stream. He has also consented to participating in Dudcon where he will hand out the Ditmars and generally partake of other silliness as required.

To participate in the State of Grace tuckerisation raffle send AUS $10 via Paypal to

Email me privately if you’d prefer to buy a ticket via some other medium: cat at

If you’re not into tuckerisation but would like to sling a few bucks into the pot, that’s awesome too.

Any funds raised surplus to requirements will be donated to a reputable charity of Peter’s choice.

Feel free to re-post this message on your own blog if you consider this to be a worthy project

Thank you!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Peter Watts

Via cassiphone's Velvet Threads LJ . Many of you will have heard of the run in Canadian writer, Peter Watts, had with border control officials when trying to leave the US to return to Canada resulting in his being maced and arrested among other things. If not you can hear Watts describing the experience on this Sofanauts podcast. Towards the end Watts raises some interesting points about the reactions of the public to his arrest that I certainly found thought provoking.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Time Management

Via girliejones at Live Journal comes this link on Time Management. As a publisher girliejones sees writing in an entirely different way to that of the writer and it's salutary to realise this. Publishers are the people who purchase a writer's work and we need to be aware that they have completely different needs. They need to on-sell the writer's product in a value added way to maintain their business - and it is a business, something that writers sometimes forget.

Maggie Stiefvater's blog deals with something that has been occupying my mind lately. The past year has been a horror one for me and mine. Deaths and illness have taken the gloss off the successes and a serious toll of my energy and enthusiasm. As a result I have slipped behind in many areas of my life. I'd like to say that doesn't include writing but sadly it's not true. In previous years I've worked at it as a job with a set amount of time allocated and as a result I've been productive. This year I felt the need to give my self sick and compassionate leave to deal with what has been happening and, while it was necessary, it's been difficult to get back the rhythm. This blog has reminded me of what I need to do again. What it comes down to is just do it. Carve out that time and use it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

An Author's Job

I was watching Jennifer Byrne Presents: Bestsellers & Blockbusters on Channel 2 last night. I'm not a regular viewer of the First Tuesday Book Club and hadn't even noticed this special was to be on but I didn't turn off as quickly as I usually do after QI. I was very glad I didn't too because Jennifer Byrne's guests were best selling genre authors, Lee Child, Bryce Courtney, Di Morrissey and Matthew Reilly.

In a wide ranging discussion they talked about much more than the process of writing. Very interesting to me was that they pointed out that, although they are very productive and successful commercially, because they are genre writers there is a tendency to look down on them as if they aren't real writers. They made the point that just because they write a thriller it doesn't mean they haven't had to put in the work. Di Morrissey took particular offence at reviewers and critics who claim she 'churns' books out to a formula. For a start, she said, there really is no formula. Genre writers have to spend time and effort on the quality of their writing, polishing it in the same way as any other writer. She is right of course. There are only a few plots in the world and they are used over and over again by all writers. What is important is what those writers bring to a simple plot line, the detail and variation that makes it different and catches the imagination of the reader.

They also had much to say about promotion and marketing and other aspects of book selling. The publishing business has changed dramatically from the days (if in fact they ever existed) when you handed over your carefully typewritten manuscript, caught the eye of an editor, who loving worked through every detail before it reached the shelves in a blaze of publicity so it sold in vast numbers. Authors these days have much more responsibility for promotion of their work and it is just as important as the carefully crafted story. Although I sort of knew this it was really brought home to me by the guests at Swancon this year and here it is being hammered home again.

You can view a video of the show here. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Things That took My Fancy

From the blogiverse:

Over at Twelfth Planet Press there's an interesting article on the importance of editors and how they can help a writer improve a story.

One of my Clarion South mates, Ben Francisco has his story, Tio Gilberto and the Twenty Seven Ghosts, up on Realms of Fantasy website. I read an early draft at Clarion South in 2007 and it was one of the stand outs among many fine stories. You can read it here. Enjoy.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Joys of Publishing

Over on LJ punkrocker1991 has put up some interesting essays on why books cost what they do and the whole marketing chain. It's a fascinating insight to small press publishing in particular. As writers I think it does us good to have the full picture. We spend so much time hunkered down over a computer that we forget the rest of the industry has its own problems to deal with.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

KSP Mini Con Update

From the KSP Mini Con blog

The Absolutely Final Program
We're very excited. Come along to Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre, 11 Old York Rd, Greenmount, between 10:00 am and 5: pm on May 2. Yes, it is this coming Sunday! How did it come up so fast?

The final line up is:

Annette Backshall and Vanessa Boscarello will share MC duties.

10:00: Casting Call: heroes, villains and monsters. Hal Colebatch, Toby Coulstock, Liz Grzyb, Bevan McGuinness and Carol Ryles (mod)

11:00: Writing Intensives e.g. Clarions, Writers of the Future: do they work? Lee Battersby, Lyn Battersby, Carol Ryles, Helen Venn and Annette Backshall (mod)

Or enjoy a Kaffeeklatsch: Nanowrimo with Elaine Kemp and Sarah Parker

12:00: Stuck in the Mud: Writers' block/painting characters into a corner: Stephen Dedman, Sue Isle, David Kitson, Bevan McGuiness and Annette Backshall (mod)

1:00: Should WA writers use WA settings? Lee Battersby, Adrian Bedford, Stephen Dedman, Juliet Marillier and Russell B. Farr (mod)

2:00: Romance in Fantasy. Lyn Battersby, Satima Flavell, Elaine Kemp, David Kitson and Sarah Parker (mod)

3:00: World Building: Dave Luckett, Bevan McGuinness, Helen Venn and Carol Ryles (mod)

Or enjoy a Kaffeeklatsch: E-publishing with Elaine Kemp and Tehani Wesseley

4:00: Turkey City Lexicon: Have some fun with overused tropes of SF. Russell B. Farr, David Kitson, Dave Luckett, Ian Nichols and Annette Backshall (mod).

See you on Sunday.

Friday, April 23, 2010

KSP Mini Con Update

Taken from the KSP Mini Con blog

Nine More Sleeps
Until the KSP 2010 Mini Con.

It's getting better by the day. There will be panels peopled by some of Perth's finest speculative fiction writers and publishers. You'll be able to buy a range of books from Fantastic Planet and indie publishers Ticonderoga Publications and Twelfth Planet Press as well as from local authors. And, of course, there are the kaffeeklatsches - but you'll have to be early to book into those. Numbers are limited.

Just to remind you, the details for the KSP Mini Con are:

Where: Katharine Susannah Writers Centre, 11 Old York Rd, Greenmount

When: Sunday, May 2, from 10:00 am 'til 5:00 pm.

Entry: Adults $5.00 Family pass $10.00

There'll be snacks and tea and coffee available at a reasonable price duirng the lunch period.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mother Earth - Mover and Shaker

So first there was the volcano erupting in Iceland and bringing aviation to a crunching halt. Now we have earthquakes - a massive one in China where there have been many lives lost (although we must be thankful it doesn't look like it's going to compare with the Haitian one in January where the death toll was simply horrendous) and, comparatively speaking, some minor ones (below 6.0) in South Australia a couple of days ago followed by one in Kalgoorlie in Western Australia this morning (neither causing major damage) and there have most probably been others worldwide - all in a week. This is Mother Earth going about her business while we cling, rather precariously, to her surface deluding ourselves that the ground we stand on is secure.

Like anyone with even a basic knowledge of the action of tectonic plates, I'm not surprised at how many earthquakes there are world wide each year - twenty six so far over 6.0 in 2010 and many more below that. Most are minor, causing little more than a shaking that is barely noticed. When you live, as we all do, on drifting land masses collisions are inevitable and we have a fair idea of the main areas where fault lines occur so we just need to accept it.

Unfortunately we have sometimes built major cities in less than stable areas in the past when we had a less accurate understanding of the complexities of the planet and this does create problems. Our forebears arrived somewhere that had ample water, fertile soil and lush vegetation and it seemed like just the place to settle. They may have been there for hundreds - even thousands - of years, unaware of any danger from the volcanic crater on the side of which they had built or the hidden fault line their town straddled.

Then the warning would come in the form of an eruption or an earthquake. But they were settled there. Maybe a god lived in the mountain or under the ground and they had annoyed him or her so they would repent, sacrifice and it wouldn't happen again - at least not in their lifetime. Maybe they would think that it was just some strange aberration and when it didn't recur, well, there was no need to worry, was there. By the time it happened again the village would have grown - into a town or a city - with all the infrastructure and population that comes with that. More sacrifices to the gods maybe or, if they were people with enquiring minds, they might work out that these incidents would possibly happen again and they would try to take steps to mitigate the damage. They could shift away but the effort - all that work of dismantling an entire civilisation and lifestyle and rebuilding - well, they could take a chance it wouldn't happen again. So they stayed.

And that's exactly what we are still doing. The benefits of staying put outweigh the work of moving and finding somewhere more suitable. I can understand that. We all make these sorts of decisions - is something worth the work involved - in our lives on a daily basis. If you live on the slope of a volcano where the soil is so fertile that your crops grow almost like magic staying seems a better option than deciding to move because of a possible but not certain future eruption. Just look at any volcanic region in the world. The same applies if you've built a city with a population that numbers millions. The logistics and the cost are enormous even if you can find somewhere to move to. There are cities built on major fault lines - San Francisco and Teheran are examples - and we pretty much cross our fingers and hope that it won't happen.

Sadly, it isn't always the right decision. You just have to look at the loss of life in Haiti in January to see that. It's not always a matter of personal choice either. Our society has become increasingly city centric since the Industrial Revolution began and people have to go where the work is. While I wouldn't want to go back to living according to pre Industrial Revolution ways I suspect this issue is going to have to be resolved one day, I hope without a massive loss of life as an entire city crashes down or is covered in volcanic ash.

But if we can't solve these world problems we can at least help those who, for whatever reason, are suffering as a result of natural disasters. Relief funds have been set up worldwide to aid areas where the major earthquakes that have occurred and I urge you to give what you can. It's not only immediate loss of life that is the problem. In many of these disaster areas people remain homeless and injured long after the world's attention has passed by.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Eagles Flying - at last

Lots of footy this weekend. The Eagles won - which is a good thing- but Daniel Kerr has a hamstring injury - a very bad thing. Then the Dockers v St Kilda was exciting, entertaining football with the Saints really stretched by the Dockers. Better luck next week, Freo.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Well Lookie Here

Ellen Datlow has posted on her LJ lists - and long lists they are too - of those included as honorable mentions in Best Horror of the Year Volumes 1 and 2. There a lot of familiar names in among them so go and have a look.

The lists are very extensive so please forgive me for not trying to list everyone. There are lots of Australians and the Australian contingent includes my Clarion South mates Pete M. Ball, Lyn Battersby, Jason Fischer, Christopher Green as well as tutors Lee Battersby, Simon Brown and Margo Lanagan. Other Clarionites also rate a mention with Michael Greenhut and yet another tutor, Kelly Link, featuring. There are so many more and I congratulate them all.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

KSP Mini Con 2010 Program

Taken from the KSP Mini Con blog.

It's Here.

The Mini Con 2010 program that is. We're excited about it and hope you will be too.
We have some great panellists and topics covering a wide range of writerly topics so come and enjoy them on May 2 at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre, 11 Old York Road, Greenmount WA 6056.

Here's the complete list:

10:00: Casting Call: heroes, villains and monsters. Hal Colebatch, Toby Coulstock, Liz Grzyb, Bevan McGuinness and Carol Ryles (mod)

11:00: Writing Intensives e.g. Clarions, Writers of the Future: do they work? Lee Battersby, Sonia Helbig, Carol Ryles and Helen Venn

Kaffeeklatsch: Nanowrimo with Elaine Kemp and Sarah Parker

12:00: Stuck in the Mud: Writers' block/painting characters into a corner: Sonia Helbig, Sue Isle and David Kitson

1:00: Should WA writers use WA settings? Lee Battersby, Adrian Bedford, Stephen Dedman, Russell B. Farr (mod) and Juliet Marillier

2:00: Romance in Fantasy. Lyn Battersby, Satima Flavell, Elaine Kemp and David Kitson

3:00: World Building: Dave Luckett, Bevan McGuinness, Helen Venn and Carol Ryles (mod)

Kaffeeklatsch: E-publishing with Elaine Kemp and Tehani Wesseley

4:00: Turkey City Lexicon: Have some fun with overused tropes of SF. Russell B. Farr, David Kitson, Dave Luckett and Ian Nichols.

More details soon.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Laptop Hunting

Although I'm typing on it now this beastie is seriously ill. I could list what ails it but it would take much too long and, besides, it's too depressing. While all my work is backed up it's a pain to have to keep on saving things on to a thumb drive every few minutes because slabs of writing can vanish in an instant.

I'm not enjoying the process of trawling through umpteen laptop advertisements where everyone seems to be trying to convince me to buy the latest, shiniest, most powerful laptop on the market. That's not what I'm looking for. I am trying to convince myself that as a writer my laptop is a work tool and only that. I absolutely do not need all those lovely, seductive things - like games and movies - clamouring for my attention when I should be working. What I need is at 4 GB of RAM, a processor that works efficiently and quickly, access to the internet - for research, people, for research - a screen around 15" and a full size keyboard ideally with a battery that actually delivers what it promises and weighs very little. Yes they are out there but oh, it's so hard to decide. Shiny is so enticing - and there is much shiny and pretty to distract me.

I'm Not Talking Footy

except to say that the Eagles - well they still haven't got it together. For a die hard supporter that is not easy to admit - and they were playing North Melbourne, for Heaven's sake.

In the other WA match the Dockers deserve praise for their win over Geelong. What a nail biter! That's how football should be played. A joy to watch.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

2009 Australian Shadows Awards

The winners announced on the Australian Horror Writers Association website are:

Long fiction: Slights by Kaaron Warren, Angry Robot

Edited publication: Grants Pass edited by Jennifer Brozek and Amanda Pillar, Morrigan Books

Short fiction: Six Suicides by Deborah Biancotti from A Book of Endings Twelfth Planet Press

You'll find the judges' reports on the website as well.

Swancon in Detail

There was a lot to enjoy at Swancon but for me the writer oriented parts were the most appealing. I did miss a few sessions in the evenings. I'm still recovering from a recent illness and I was exhausted by 6.30 pm most days. That was a pity because I also missed the book launches. Belong, an anthology edited by Russell B. Farr and published by Ticonderoga Publications features my KSP Speculative Fiction mates, Carol Ryles and Sonia Helbig, among a host of talented writers including Patty Jansen, who is also a finalist with me in the Fist Quarter of Writers of the Future. The other book is Scary Kisses, another Ticonderoga Publications anthology, this time edited by Liz Grzyb, and includes a story by another KSPSF member, Annette Backshall, in an equally exciting list of authors. I have both books in my hot, little hands - and signed by the editors for an extra bonus - and I'll put up reviews soon.

Among other things I was surprised at just how many people had heard about my shortlisting in the Writers of the Future.

There were other highlights though too and here are a few of the sessions - and other activities - I particularly enjoyed.


I got waylaid chatting with various friends: Satima Flavell, Carol Ryles, Annette Backshall and Sonia Helbig in particular so I missed most of the morning sessions. Yes I know - naughty - but that's all part of the con experience too.

I did get to Scott Sigler's GOH speech and interesting it was too. Scott has made an art form out of promotion of his work, going to places I would never have thought of including giving away free downloads of his books on line. It seems obvious now he has pointed it out - and this was recurrent theme from all the professional writers - that publishers have limited funds for promotion and it's down to the writer to do as much as they can to promote their own work. I will certainly be applying some of Scott's suggestions because they make sense.

Ian Irvine's talk, 'Getting Published', was another useful - if depressing - session giving an introduction to the realities of the publishing world.


Yes well mornings did seem to disappear in chatting but it was fun.

A session by Gina Goddard on trends in YA proved interesting and her list of recommended books - and there are a lot on it - will certainly be getting checked out.

Ian Irvine's GOH speech was illuminating as much of what he talked about added to his talk on the previous day. His ways of promotion are different from Scott Sigler's but equally effective. He's a good speaker and I learned a lot.

Ah yes the Xena Warrior Princess retrospective with Sarah Parker. What a hoot. I was always a fan of Xena and I was surprised to see how well the series had aged - and now, dammit, I'll have to get a complete set of the series.


I was somewhat late due to injuring myself in a fall on Saturday night but I still managed to browse the market stalls - and, of course, chat some more - well, a lot more - and I have still more books, A Book of Endings by Deborah Biancotti, edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Ben Payne and Roadkill/Siren Beat by Rob Shearman and Tansy Rayner Roberts, both published by Twelfth Planet Press.

The Promoting Your Book session with Ian Irvine and Narrelle M. Harris was, for me as a writer at this stage in my career, invaluable. Their advice was sensible, practical and entertaining. I have notes to transcribe. Boy, do I have notes to transcribe.


Somewhat miraculously I got to a 10:30 am session where Richard Harland, Ian Irvine, Dave Luckett and Stephen Dedman talked about the differences inherent in writing short and long fiction. There were a few light bulb moments for me in there that are going to be very useful.

Richard Harland followed on with a session on the art of telling speculative fiction and again, I have notes, many notes.

Only two sessions to go by then - one on how to make science work in speculative fiction and finally SFF and Romance. Both gave fascinating insights into how different writers work but also showed their similarities. All good stuff.

I bought one final anthology, The Starry Rift, a prize winning anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan.

And then we were done. I grabbed a coffee with Satima and Juliet while I waited for my lift for a lovely end to a great con.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Swancon 2010

It was a great weekend. I've heard suggestions that having Swancon as a four day con over Easter is too long but having attended both three and four day cons I can't see this is true. I'm bushed now but I have been equally exhausted after three day cons.

As far as Swancon itself went, the guests were generous with their time and knowledge and the panels ranged over a wide variety of topics. It was an opportunity to learn, to catch up with old friends and to make new ones. Even a fall on Saturday night that left me with a swollen and extremely painful hand and wrist didn't spoil the experience - although not being able to drive and having to hire cabs as a result did put a crimp in my book buying budget.

My only cause for dissatisfaction - and it was a minor one - was that the academic stream of previous years was not run.

I congratulate the organisers on a well run con. I really enjoyed myself and I'm looking forward to the next already - and in the meantime there's Aussiecon 4 only five months off.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Oh Eagles

Why don't you start playing the way we all know you can? You could have won by five goals yesterday. You know you should have.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

At Least They're Not Burning Them.

Instead they're giving up buying them! Well I suppose that's something.

Apparently the Western Australian State Government - in the interests of saving money, I suppose - has decided to cut the amount it allocates for buying books for public libraries. The way the system works in Western Australia is that local councils provide the infrastructure, staff and maintenance for public libraries while the State Government funds book purchases. In a cost cutting exercise which is hard to fathom it's been reported they have cut that allocation from the 2008-2009 financial year amount of $10.8 million to $7.95 million in the current financial year with a proposal to cut it to $6.5 million in the 2010-2011 financial year. You can read the article here.

To me this seems to be a decision that is totally out of touch with reality. Public libraries provide an invaluable service that the internet, useful as it is, cannot. For all the talk of books dying out, the truth is that libraries are one of the best ways of encouraging research and providing an inexpensive source of fiction reading. One of the most valuable aspects of library research - and something the internet cannot provide - is a knowledgeable librarian to direct you to what you need.

Books are expensive and for most of us there is no other option but to borrow them. If I had the money I would fill my house with books but I don't have that sort of income. As it is when I read a library book that delights me I do go and buy it (if it is still available) - just ask Pisces about the ever growing bookcases in the house - but there is no way I could buy and store every book I've read through the library.

Libraries have been a part of my life from childhood when a free lending library opened near my home. My children joined the library long before they could read, around the age of two (once they were past the chewing on books stage). They went to Story Time every week and the craft session that followed. They started borrowing - or more precisely I borrowed on their behalf - books for bedtime stories. As they got older they made their own selections and used the library for research into school projects. As a former teacher I find it difficult to imagine a child successfully passing through the education system without using a library. Then there are the old or disabled who rely on books being brought to them by the library or who need large print or talking books. Libraries serve all these people.

I know that part of the justification will be that books for e-book readers will mean 'real' books will fade away. That may well eventually be the case but at the moment e-books are rare beasts. Even if you have a reader the list of available titles is very limited. Then there's the sheer impracticality for some readers. I don't know how you feel about handing a three year old an expensive piece of electronics to read about 'The Hungry Caterpillar' or the 'Cat in a Hat' but I'd be worried and even more I'd be sad that they were missing out on the tactile interactive experience that books provide.

There seems to be an attitude developing in this state that unless you can put a monetary value on something it's really not worth anything. We're continually told we are a 'booming' state but the usual result of an economic boom has been to foster the arts usually by a combination of private and government funding. In the Gold Rush days of the 19th century, soon after a permanent town was established, a theatre would be in place, or even an opera house in the larger towns, and money was as likely to be donated for art prizes as for building sports grounds because this part of society was seen as valuable and to be encouraged just as much as the more pragmatic and necessary infrastructure.

Cutting funding for library books may seem a far cry from this but it is not. When you limit access to books you also cut the access of a proportion of the population to education and awareness of a wider culture. This means those with the least economic options to obtain books and alternative electronic equipment are prevented, as absolutely as if they were physically locked out, from developing and growing to their full potential.

The amount of money being 'saved' here is nothing in the grand scheme of things and the harm it will do is irreparable for generations.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


The dreadful storm we had on Monday is still affecting life - human and other.

One of Perth's greatest assets is the river system it is situated on. The Swan - named for the black swans that fascinated early explorers - divides the city with the CBD located on the foreshore. Its tributary, the Canning which joins it a short distance downstream and together they form a glorious - and well used - sweep of water.

When I worked in the city my office overlooked the river and a very pleasant distraction it was when tedious report writing had stalled. Even during the week there are catamarans, yachts, paragliders and sailboard riders as well as the occasional motorboat or kayak and on the weekend the yachts multiply into graceful fleets. Small ferries chug their way from the CBD across river for those who prefer not to brave the bridges, larger ones and cruise vessels head to and from the port city of Fremantle. The river water is estuarine and salty at this point and dolphins fish up and downstream. Driving to work it was common to see rowers gliding out on the mirror like surface.

Sadly the river is now suffering. The storm was so ferocious that it dumped massive amounts of debris into the streams. The mix of soil, sewage and rotting vegetation has caused severe depletion of oxygen and fish and other aquatic life are dying while the crustaceans are abandoning the polluted water and trying to find somewhere else.

In an effort to retain breeding stock the authorities are collecting survivors and transferring them to clean ponds. You can see more about the rescue effort here. Let's hope it's successful.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Storm over Perth

Perth and its environs are having a pretty rocky start to the year. First there were the disastrous Toodyay bushfires and now we have the aftermath of a severe storm that has left thousands of homes without power(158,000 in the first instance, now down to 80,000), flooding, shattered windows, hail destroyed cars, water damaged houses, traffic lights still out more than a day since the storm struck and even a landslip onto a major road leading into the city.

We are fortunate that, miraculously, there are no reports of serious injury and that the weather has been kind since - trying to make up for its tantrum perhaps. There is something eerie about a city in darkness. When I looked out last night at 8:00 p.m. I could not see anything but black. Usually I look out at twinkling lights spread warmly across the hills to the north but the heavy cloud cover cut out all natural light from the moon and stars. The only light came from an infrequent motor vehicle whose driver had decided to ignore the advice to stay home - not that many needed to be told - and the lightning sizzling across the sky.

We sat in the soft glow of an old oil lamp and flickering candles to eat a scratch meal and listened to the radio - and you know, even though we knew the morning would show just how much damage the house had sustained - we could hear water running in the garage - it was kind of nice.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Let me fill you in.

I ordered a book - Glenda Larke's Stormlord Rising - in January from my local bookshop. Meantime I kept The Last Stormlord by my bed - I won't say how often I reread it because that would show just how eagerly I was waiting for the next book and that would be pathetic. I was told the new book would be out March 1 and they would ring me when it arrived.

Then Glenda's teasers went up on Voyager Online. Three chapters doled out at weekly intervals. I started counting the days. I tried reading other books. Didn't work. If I chewed my nails there'd be none left by now. March 4, 5, 6. No phone call. Books sometimes get delayed reaching the far distant West so I controlled myself. Confined to the house with a bout of ill health I couldn't even go and check for myself - and Pisces already thinks I have too many books so I couldn't send him. March 6,7,8. This was ridiculous not to mention stressful. Finally I made to the shop on March 10.

There on the shelves was Stormlord Rising. Off I went to the counter book clutched firmly and trying to be polite.

"I ordered this book a couple of months ago. How long has it been in?"

"Oh since March 1. Any orders that weren't picked up we put on the shelf."

My jaw literally dropped. "Excuse me."

"Any orders that weren't collected were put on the shelf."

"But when I ordered it you said you'd ring when it came in."

"We did. We rang everyone and if it wasn't picked up we put it on the shelf."

"But I've been home sick for two weeks. No-one rang."

"We rang everyone."

I felt as if I'd wandered into an alternate universe or perhaps Basil Fawlty had gone into the book selling business. This conversation was not going anywhere and there was obviously no point in my pursuing it.

"Well, I'll take these." You didn't really think I could walk into a book shop and only buy one book, did you?

I left with the manager muttering darkly about "checking up out the back".

I'm not sure what that might achieve because this is not the first time this has happened. I've even been notified that a book is in and gone there the next day only to be told on one occasion it hadn't yet arrived. That was a year ago and apparently it still hasn't arrived. The sad thing is that I will still have to patronise this shop because the shopping centre has replaced the other book seller with two new fashion boutiques.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Stormlord Rising

She's done it again! Glenda Larke, in Stormlord Rising , the second book in her Watergivers trilogy, has again combined extraordinary world building, strong characters and a plot twist that will have you desperately hanging out for the concluding book of the trilogy.

The wait for this novel was certainly worthwhile. There are very few books that I literally can't put down but this and its predecessor, The Last Stormlord, are among them. I picked it up from the book shop at around midday and started reading it while I ate my lunch - Pisces realised fairly quickly that he wasn't going to get any sense out of me and gave up on conversation. It accompanied me out to do the hand watering - sorry, plants, I suspect you got a fairly erratic drink that evening, while I cooked and ate dinner - jazzed up frozen pizza which was all I could think of that wouldn't require close attention, and only got left while I had a quick shower. I finished it at 2:15 a.m. - and I'm usually asleep by 10:30 p.m. at the latest - then couldn't sleep with it buzzing in my head. I doubt there will be many fantasy fans who won't find it as impossible to put down as I did even they don't read as fast as I do.

I recommend Stormlord Rising highly. Not only is there a gripping story with memorable characters, its setting in a water starved land has a real resonance in much of the world today. The questions raised about how to conserve water and ensure its availability to all are important to us all.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Aussiecon 4

Accommodation booked. Yippee! Seems more real now somehow. There's still all the other stuff to set up but it's a start.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Midnight Echo#4

Edited by Lee Battersby this issue of the AHWA magazine promises a lot to judge by the Table of Contents. Dan Braum and Christopher Green, two of my Clarion South mates, are included along with an impressive list of other talented writers. Just to prove the point snippets of stories are being posted on the AHWA website (where you can also find information on where to purchase the magazine) and Lee Battersby's blog.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Katharine Susannah Prichard Speculative Fiction Award 2010

This award is now open for speculative fiction short stories, ranging from science fiction, fantasy, horror and supernatural right across the genre. Stories must be between 1500 and 3500 words and the closing date is 28 May, 2010. First prize $600.00, second prize $300.00 and third $175.00.

This is a serious competition, folks and the prize money reflects this. Competition Conditions of Entry and Entry Forms are available from the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre and can be downloaded here.

While you're there you might like to check out the other competitions and activities run by the Centre.

I'm Interviewed

By Nyssa on A Writer Goes on a Journey. Why not drop in and check it out.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Tangled Bank

Talking of Christopher Green in my last post reminded me that Chris Lynch (yet another Clarion South mate) of Tangled Bank Press has released the anthology The Tangled Bank. Christopher Green features, along with fellow Clarion Southers, Ben Francisco and Chris Lynch, among an impressive list of contributors. To give you a taste of the anthology you can read Christopher Green's story Darwin's Daughter on the website here.

Rejection Report

Hmm, you may remember that I started the year trying to match my Clarion South mate, Christopher Green. Chris aimed at having one hundred rejections by the end of the year. The idea is that to have that many rejections you have to be sending out work - which is how you get the acceptances you want. Simple and logical. My only variation from that plan is, because of my focus on completing my novel, I have modified it a little and I am aiming at fifty rejections.

Unfortunately - and somewhat embarrassingly - so far I have had only two rejections. There are a whole lot of excuses (all valid)I could offer but the truth is I haven't sent out enough. I'm setting the grindstone a-spinning now. Can you hear it? "I must do better. I must do better. I must do better."

It's Nice to Know Such Talented People...

Peter M. Ball (one of my Clarion South mates you may remember and a writer of elegant, imaginative stories which have been garnering awards lately) has had his story, On the Destruction of Copenhagen by the War Machines of the Merfolk, included in the Year's Best SF 15 edited by Kathryn Cramer and David Hartwell. The Table of Contents is here.

If you'd like to read Peter's story it was originally published by Strange Horizons 6 July 2009.

Way to go, Peter.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

What Can Happen in a Couple of Weeks.

While I've been away not having fun - don't ask - lots has been happening in the writing world.

My Clarion South mate, Jason Fischer, has a novella After the World: Gravesend out and available here. It will also be available from newsagents next week.

Russell B. Farr at Ticonderoga Publications has released the Table of Contents for his anthology Belong and I'm delighted to see my fellow Egoboo WA writer (and also a member of the KSP Speculative Fiction Group), Carol Ryles, on the list with her story Deeper Than Flesh and Closer. You can read Carol's latest Egoboo WA post on how she approaches a second draft here.

Also on the Belong Table of Contents is fellow KSP Speculative Fiction Group member (and a finalist in Writers of the Future in 2008), Sonia Helbig with her story Initiation. The complete Table of Contents is here.

A Book of Endings by Deborah Biancotti, edited by Alisa Krasnostein, and published by local Western Australian publisher, Twelfth Planet Press, was shortlisted for the Crawford Award.

The reports from the Judging Panels for the Aurealis Awards are now available here. Scroll down to the end of the page.

Finally, the ballot for the 40th Annual Locus Awards is here. Here's an opportunity to vote for what you consider the best work in 2009 and to nominate others which haven't been listed to date.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Aurealis Winners Announced

Out of my sick bed for just long enough to check this out.

The Aurealis Awards were announced last night and I'm delighted to see among them two of my Clarion South mates.

Peter M. Ball Best Science Fiction Short Story for 'Clockwork, Patchwork and Ravens' Apex Magazine May 2009.
Christopher Green joint winner Best Fantasy Short Story for 'Father's Kill' Beneath Ceaseless Skies #24 Congratulations.

Others include fellow West Australian Jonathan Strahan (ed) Eclipse 3 Night Shade Books for Best Anthology and Cat Sparks receiving a very well deserved Best Young Adult Short Story for her haunting tale 'Seventeen' in Masques CSFG.

The rest of the list is a catalogue of good writers which you can see here. Congratulations to all.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Egobooing Questions

I have a post up on the Egoboo WA blog answering some of the questions we've been asked about how the Egoboo group went about critiquing on the Eagle Bay retreat.

Why don't you drop in and have a look and while you're there have check out some of the other posts including Joanna Fay's exquisite translation from the French of To Paint a Bird's Portrait, a poem by 20th century French surrealist poet, Jacques Prevert. Highly recommended as reading for any artist or creative person. As well there are posts about a whole range of writing related matters and what the group members are doing in their writing lives.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

One Month On

This is my vegie patch a month after the last pictures I posted. What a difference.

And from another angle.

Yet more.

I was very late planting this year but after only seven weeks I have harvested lettuce, basil, chives, coriander, two kinds of parsley and there are cucumbers, and zucchinis just about ready.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ways to Prevent Sexual Assault

Yes, I know it's a provocative title but it's an important topic. Women are continually given advice on how to avoid being sexually assaulted and it usually consists of advice on how the woman should modify or restrict her behaviour. It's refreshing to see it turned around. This was snurched from Laura Goodin's blog, A Motley Coat. Thanks to our mutual friend, Heather, who posted the link on her Facebook page.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Aus Spec Fic Carnival

Egoboo WA is hosting January's Aus Spec Fic Carnival. Go here to catch up on the latest happenings in the Australian Speculative Fiction World with news from blogs and LJs as well as about forthcoming events.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Glenda Larke's Stormlord Rising

Glenda Larke has a taster - well teaser more like - up on Voyager Online. In a piece of exquisite cruelty we're given Chapter One of her new book, Stormlord Rising, Book Two of her Watergivers trilogy. How could they? I devoured it in minutes and wanted more. If this is any indication of the rest of the book, we're in for a treat on par with The Last Stormlord (one of my favourite books for 2009 - and deservedly shortlisted for the Aurealis Awards).

I've ordered my copy (due out on March 1 in Australia). I only hope I can stand the strain until it's in my hot little hands. (It might be eased a little by the fact they are putting Chapter Two up online on January 22. Thank you.)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

TOC for Belong

Here is the Table of Contents in detail and I'm delighted to see my fellow KSP Speculative Fiction members Sonia Helbig and Carol Ryles on the list. Ah the delights of bathing reflected glory.

Cross Gender Writing

Carol Ryles has an interesting piece on this topic here on the Egoboo WA blog along with articles on various writing topics by Satima Flavell, Joanna Fay and Sarah Parker.

In Defence of ...

all those who can't eat what 'everyone' does.

This post was prompted by an article by Nicola Conville in this morning's Sunday Times. In it model Annalise Braakensiek describes how she is plagued by food allergies which she can only control by carefully watching everything she puts in her mouth. As a result she says that she is often regarded as 'picky'.

She has my sympathy. In my family there are several food allergy sufferers and while most folk have got a handle on the idea that sugar is poison to diabetics (not true but at least the need for diabetics to follow a particular dietary regime is acknowledged and accepted) and that peanuts can be fatal to those who are allergic to them, pretty much every other food problem is regarded as the sufferer being 'picky'.

The problem is that the other allergies, sensitivities and illnesses which involve food are not well publicised. Sharing food is an intrinsic part of human culture and society to the point that refusing to share - even on medical grounds - is often seen as an insult.

Annalise Braakensiek is quoted as saying that when she is forced to have a meal out she can often find nothing on the menu that she can eat. This has been our experience too. For example at a recent wedding there was literally nothing on the menu that one family member could eat except for a bread roll. The same thing happened at a Christmas potluck gathering. It's bad enough at weddings, birthdays and other parties but dinner parties are a nightmare. Plane journeys are just as bad though, to be fair, they do cater for vegetarians which is more than many others do. (By the way catering for vegetarians is not saying they can just have the vegetable side dishes like everyone else.) Most infuriating of all though is when having sat watching everyone else eating at a restaurant while we can't eat more than bread or rice we are expected to pay an equal amount of the bill - because we are being 'picky'.

There are many folk out there suffering like this - and make no mistake it is suffering - and there is little or no attempt to understand by the majority of the community. As a family we have reached the point that we now have a meal before we go anywhere that we are expected to eat because we know the likelihood is at least some of us will go hungry.

It's weird isn't it. The ones whose health is endangered are regarded as the problem. Try looking at it this way. Someone with diverticular disease risks serious (even life threatening) consequences if they eat certain popular foods. Someone with a shellfish allergy could die if they have even a tiny amount. Is this being 'picky'. The consequences for people with gluten intolerance, hypoglycaemia and a number of other illnesses and allergies may not be fatal but do you really want people to suffer to make you feel better by eating food you have offered that will harm them?

Another aspect of being unable to share food is that sufferers tend to become socially isolated. In a world where sharing food and eating together is a social glue and not joining in is seen as snobbishness or being picky, at a certain point it becomes easier to just withdraw. Humans are social creatures but very few people want to keep battling community indifference all the time particularly when you are being ground down by disapproval.

Can I make a suggestion? Next time someone irritates you by refusing a food don't immediately pigeon hole them into 'picky'. Chances are they have a very valid reason.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

I'm Probably Being Pedantic

I just heard someone on the television in the next room inform the Australian public that Lake Eyre is a salt pan that fills only once in a generation. What? In my memory there have been a number of times the lake has filled. The most recent before the 2009 event was in 2000. I looked it up to make sure I was right. So either generations are contracting or this was laziness. I know which I think it was.

I may be being pedantic about what was probably a little poetic licence but television is one of the major sources of information for many Australians. If commentators (especially those from media sources that pride themselves on providing accurate information) are unreliable they create a pool of people in the community who are ill informed. In this case it's not all that important. It's a long standing myth that's being perpetuated but will have no lasting effect.

Edit: okay, I've now realised that they were talking about the lake being totally filled and in 2000 it was only partly filled but the point I was making is still valid I think.

But what if it had been something that did matter - something like an allegation that asylum seekers threw their children overboard to force the hand of authorities for example? This is where we need to understand that as far as possible news and documentary sources should be accurate whatever the issues, however big or small.

So does it matter that someone incorrectly stated something that could easily have been checked? Yes, I think it does because the media helps shape public opinion and a misinformed public can be a dangerous thing.

Sunday, January 03, 2010


I won't necessarily be blogging each rejection as it occurs - more likely in monthly batches I think - but this is the first for 2010 for a story sent out just before Christmas. So ninety nine to go.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Time for a Review

I can't say I'm sorry to say goodbye to 2009. There have been some high spots but there were many more lows. Too many deaths of those dear to me and mine have made it very hard to maintain the enthusiasm I would have liked. But that's life, isn't it. There are good times and bad times and in spite of the losses there have been joys.

On the writing front I have had a patchy year. Deciding to concentrate on completing my novel and to move the sequel along meant that I had less time and energy to devote to short stories and poems. I've submitted less than I should have too although I did enter a few competitions and while I didn't win, I'm happy enough with the honorable mentions I received, especially those from Writers of the Future.

My time as an Emerging Writer in Residence at Tom Collins House Writers Centre was an undoubted highlight and I can't thank Tricia Kotai-Ewers and Pat Johnson enough for their help and encouragement while I was there especially as it coincided with a difficult period in my life. During the residency I completely edited my novel and the sequel came close to the half way mark - and has kept on growing.

In October Glenda Larke, Carol Ryles and I had a writing race aiming at each getting 30,000 words on the page in 15 days. None of us actually made it but the encouragement of knowing there were two other people out there working away at the same time was a wonderful encouragement as I balanced my lap top on my knees in bed with the worst back pain I'd had in years. In the end Glenda won with 17320 words, followed by me with 16601 and flu-ridden Carol just behind with 16000. In the circumstances not a bad result.

The formation of the Egoboo WA group in the second half of the year with my friends and fellow writers, Joanna Fay, Satima Flavell, Sarah Parker and Carol Ryles, was another huge incentive to get words on the page.

Once the idea of Egoboo WA was mooted we contacted ROR, a similar group, and they were of great help. Following their advice we each committed to having a completed novel ready for critiquing by October 22. It ended up as a total of around 610,000 words between us! That was an immense amount of reading in itself but then we had to write a detailed critique on each of the other four novels. Bear in mind we are speculative fiction writers so these novels were huge. By the time I had finished I had well over 12000 more words just in my critiques - and that's not counting the comments on the manuscript itself.

We Egobooers took ourselves off to Eagle Bay on the south coast for a critiquing retreat at the end of November where, in beautiful surroundings, we worked our little butts off. With two crit sessions of around two and a half hours each a day and using the Milford method, each of us was subjected to a detailed critique by each of the others. It's not easy to sit and hear how flawed your darling is but we did it - and we all agree that we learned an enormous amount. We came home armed with pages of notes and comments to work through. We also decided to set up a blog where you can read writerly things and follow the group's progress.

I've done a couple of reviews for The Specusphere - not as many as I should have, I'm afraid, which is a bit odd really because I actually enjoy writing them. I made a brief appearance on the Voyager Online blog and guest blogged on The Battersblog

At the same time as all this was going on, the KSP Speculative Fiction group has been expanding. We are welcoming new members at each meeting and on our email list. We're running another KSP Mini Con in 2010. Keep May 2 free, folks, if you are interested in a day where you can meet local writers at historic Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre. It's going to be good.

So my goals for 2010:

Finish the edit of my novel using the Egobooers' critiques and send it out. I'm glad I waited but now it's nearly time to fly. Just a little more flapping on the edge of the nest to strengthen its wings first.

Finish writing the sequel.

Follow my Clarion South mate, Chris Green, in aiming at 100 rejections in the year. His philosophy is that you have to be sending out to get rejected. He's right and that's what a writer should be doing do.

Get myself set up with an internet domain name and website.

Keep contributing to the Egoboo WA blog.

Attend Aussiecon 4 in September.

And above all else keep writing.