Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone

Christmas Day 2011

The good:

We got to see family - alway a bonus. There were a few missing - one of my brothers is overseas as is one of my nieces - but we got to welcome some others into the family with another niece's boyfriend - now fiance since he proposed yesterday - and his daughters.

We had a huge family lunch. Thanks to the brilliant cooks in my family there was something delicious for everyone - and in a family where several of us suffer from severe food allergies that's quite a challenge.

My artist niece gave me a portrait she had painted of me and my son and daughter-in-law gave us some framed photos of their wedding. Lovely. So were the other gifts. All thoughtfully chosen and to be enjoyed.

The not-so-good:

It was the first Christmas that we have had without my mother. Although for the last few years she has been too frail to join us for lunch - her increasing dementia meant the noise was too stressful and confusing - part of the ritual of Christmas Day was going to visit her. She is greatly missed.

So that was our Christmas. I hope you and your families all had as great a day as we did.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What's Been Happening?

Around here - not so much. I've managed to be sick for most of December and that has put a crimp in things. December is not the best month to be unwell for many reasons. Christmas is looming and I only managed to put up the most minimal of decorations three days ago and have done none of the other preparations that make Christmas my favourite time of the year. Gifts are organised and that's pretty much it. My family is big on Christmas and we love getting together so it makes for a great day. The thing is the last two years I've been ill at Christmas and it takes off some of the shine. Coming down with yet another bug last Saturday does not bode well. I will not be a happy little camper if I can't throw it off in time for Christmas Day. With that in mind I'm heading back to bed.

Doves - Again

The prime dove nesting real estate on the clothesline ledge on the back veranda has been occupied several times recently. I'm not sure why it's popular actually. Because it's immediately overhead outside the back door - the most used door in the house - you'd think it would be somewhat unnerving to have people and dogs passing almost within reaching distance a dozen or more times a day. There's the cat and doors banging too but the hens just hunker down and pretty much ignore us.

The latest baby fledged about a week ago. Still slightly scruffy, one morning it was fidgetting around on the ledge beside the nest one minute and in the next took off. All very normal. Less ordinary was when next morning it was sitting shivering on the ledge again. There it stayed obviously having decided it had made a serious mistake in leaving in the first place. Every time a dove flew past it optimistically tried to attract its attention, always unsuccessfully. It was quite sad. We went to bed with it still waiting. Next morning it had gone, we hope to a successful life.

I got sick at about that point so I hadn't removed the nest yet - doves are not the most hygienic of nesters so the nests really do need to be removed - when yesterday I noticed a pair - I don't think it's the same ones because the hen is larger - doing some renovations. So now we will wait and see.

Yes, I know they're feral and probably shouldn't be encouraged but they don't take nesting places from the native birds and there is something innately appealing about them.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

And Life Goes On

which is as it should be. Yesterday was Sagittarius's birthday. It's hard to believe that just over thirty six years ago I was rushed to hospital as he decided to make an early and very risky entrance to the world. Now he's about to become a father himself. Next Christmas there'll be a new little person with us. It seems fitting somehow that we will soon be welcoming a new family member in the form of the next generation because this will be the first Christmas without my mother, who passed away in June. It's going to be a different kind of Christmas as a result.

When I think about it, it's as if life has been slowly preparing us for these changes because she wasn't able to join us for the last two Christmases. This was not what we wanted but the noise and crowd were too confusing for someone with severe dementia. It didn't stop us seeing her on Christmas Day though and trying to think of gifts that might give her some pleasure. She had developed a very sweet tooth in later life so every year I made her chocolate truffles and the shortbread biscuits she loved. That's a tradition that is not happening this year although I've always enjoyed giving them to others too. I wouldn't say it was gone, just that it is on hold given the ritual of preparing sweets and shortbread is deeply connected to her in my mind.

Slowly, in gentle steps, things have changed almost without us noticing. There's still a hollow place in our hearts and we miss her terribly. Often a thought comes and I think that I'd like to share it with her and I suspect that will be the case for the rest of my life. I'm saddened too by the fact that she won't have the joy of meeting my grandchild but, at the same time, her legacy continues. This child bears her genes and so the essence of my mother will continue on in this new generation. As her grandchildren grow we'll see an expression or mannerism that will remind us of their heritage and we will remember her with the joy of this new life tempering the sadness of the loss of the other.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


For many years the house behind us was left empty with a jungle of a 'garden' consisting of several tall trees all linked by a dense cover of star jasmine. It wasn't neat but it pretty much blocked our view of the house (highly desirable as it sank into decay) and provided breeding places for a multitude of small birds. Apart from the rats which also infested the area and the potential fire hazard from the over grown yard (which the owner would deal with when someone complained to the Council usually by burning it - not the safest option but there you go) we didn't mind. It made our yard very private and we enjoyed the birds.

Then, three years ago, the property changed hands and the new owners ripped out all the vegetation in the backyard except for one tree, which promptly died. It made life a little difficult for us because now every time we went out our back door we could see straight into their kitchen and, we assumed, they could see into ours but, because they are lower on the hill, maybe not. Their roof was about level with the fence and blocked our view to the street so we still had some sense of enclosure. Anyway we got used to drawing the curtains early but we felt we were always on view.

Little did we know. Last week the house was demolished. It's extraordinary just how this has opened up our yard to public view. Where before we thought we were exposed now we really are. I went out to water my potted plants and found myself in full view of someone looking up from the street below. There'll be no dashing out in pyjamas to grab something off the clothesline now and chasing a small and sometimes recalcitrant dog at night is going to provide entertainment for half the neighbourhood.

It's not all bad. The view, which has always been obscured, turns out to be spectacular and when I go out to watch the eclipse of the moon tonight I'll be able to see it clearly. I'd better not get used to it though. Apparently, although the owners haven't bothered to tell us what their plans are, they intend to rebuild and there will be more changes to get used to. But that's life, isn't it. Everything changes. Sometimes it's for the better, sometimes not. Whichever it is we have to change with it. At least it's never dull.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Vale Anne McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey, a Hugo winning American science fiction writer with a wide ranging imagination, has passed away at her home in Ireland. Her strong female characters were an inspiration to me as young woman. It's hard to pick out which of her novels I liked best because they were all intriguing. If pressed I would have to say The Ship Who Sang - the first of her books that I read - and the Pern novels have always resonated with me most strongly although I do have a particularly soft spot for those set in the Crystal Universe too. In reality I loved them all. Anne McCaffrey also wrote a number of books with other authors including most recently with her son, Todd. She will be missed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bye Bye Nano Target

So a whole bunch of things - mainly health related - decided to attack me all at once and something had to give. It was either me or the word count. I won.

It's not that I haven't still been working on my novel. It's more that I have been less interested in how much I've written and more interested in technical stuff like making sure the plot works and the connections to the first novel are in place so the story arc is where it should be. I'm actually very happy about what I have achieved so far - and, of course, there is still a week to go so there will be more words. I won't do a count up again until November 30 and while that won't make me a 'winner' it will do. I expect the final total will be around 20,000 words added which will advance things nicely - and, given what has been happening, is not too bad at all.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembrance Day 2011

It's just gone 11:00 AM on 11/11/11. We're at home and set an alarm to make sure we remembered to listen to the radio at the hour. When the Last Post began we stopped for a minute in silence in memory of the fallen in so many wars. We do this wherever we are at this time and on this day because we believe it's important, not just because we have lost family members in war although we have. These are men and women whose lives were cut short, who left behind families and friends whose lives were changed irrevocably. They were defending something they believed was important enough to be prepared to lose their lives.

So you will understand how disappointed I was a few years ago at a major shopping centre when there was no announcement over the public address system, no playing of the Last Post and no acknowledgement of those who died. I doubt it would have been noticed even if they had. Anyone in the shops nearest me at the time - trendy fashion boutiques with music blasting so loud it was deafening - wouldn't have heard the announcement. I hope things have changed. They may have given that we have just had the reality of war brought home to us again by recent events in Afghanistan.

The symbol of Remembrance Day is the field poppy. It grows across Europe, its scarlet and crimson petals a poignant reminder of spilled blood and, at the same time, renewal. Many years ago I visited the battlefields of Flanders. It was a grey, blustery early Spring day and the poppies showed bravely against the fields. It was a touching reminder of Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae's well known poem In Flanders Fields. You can find the words of this beautiful poem and more about McCrae here.

As it happens, just outside my window, I can see the last of this season's field poppies in my garden. A breeze has come up and the earth beneath them is scattered with every shade of red as their petals fall like drops of blood. A gentle reminder. Lest we forget.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

NanNoWriMo Report One

By the end of Week One I had reached 11,527 words - and I'm very happy about that especially as along the way I've also written and discarded around 2,500 words that just weren't working. Day One was an effort. I struggled to even reach the magic number needed to ensure there will be 50,000 words at the end of the month (it's 1667 in case you're wondering). For some reason I just couldn't get my writing rhythm flowing. Tried all the usual tricks. Irish harp music - I wrote all of the novel that this one is the sequel to listening to that and it usually switches on my brain. Reading over the plotline - very rudimentary but it does exist. Eating - I suspect it's just as well my scales need a new battery. Nothing worked. Then Day Two and I was away.

All in all I'm happy with the progress. Fingers crossed I can keep it up. I think I can. One of the great things I brought from my experience at Clarion South was the knowledge that I can write to a deadline. It really is just a matter of deciding to do it and not allowing yourself to be distracted.

Friday, November 04, 2011

NaNoWriMo Update

As of 1:15 PM on Day Four I have 6,125 words. Are they all good words? That I can't say but they do all advance the story and develop the characters.

Thursday, November 03, 2011


Okay there must be a reason but why on earth would someone looking for accident lawyer info or monclereshop/ugg boots be directed to this blog? I do hope they weren't disappointed.

So It's NaNoWriMo

There may not be much blogging over the next month, only a few figures now and then, because - I have gone over to the Dark Side. Well not really but I have signed up for NaNoWriMo which is something I always swore I wouldn't do.

For those who don't know about it NaNoWriMo is a bout of collective madness that overwhelms parts of the writing world in November every year. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month because it started in the US but it has since become world wide so the name is not really accurate any more. Who cares. It's a great incentive wherever it's based. The objective is to complete a 50,000 word draft in November. That's a whole big pile of words so there's much need for encouragement and support and the NaNoWriMo organisation provides that. Those who sign up range from complete beginners to professionals and I've been almost looking forward to the experience.

We're now two days in and for various reasons it's been a shaky start but now I've hit my rhythm and things are happening. I'll keep you informed.

Just in case you really don't care about thousands of sweaty writers struggling to get their daily quota down have a look at these treats for Dr Who fans on Tansy Rayner Roberts' blog. She's doing NaNoWriMo as well this year and there are some hints here too.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Guesting on The Battersblog

Lee Battersby has been inviting a series of guests to post on his blog, The Battersblog, over the past weeks on the subject of Art. I was lucky enough to be invited and you can read my post here. While you are there have a wander back through the other Treacherous Carrots posts. There's a lot of interesting ideas there and we've all taken very different approaches to the topic.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Catching Up

So I hit the wall this week. Caffeine can only take you so far and eventually it dumps you. So as I have absolutely no capacity to do anything just now and a list of critical things that absolutely must be done - and I have just realised that it is around eight weeks until Christmas, eek - I bring you this for your entertainment.
Via Heather we have a link to The Princess Bride page and the joys of The Princess Bride board game and via Tim Paper Cuts.

Edit: Somehow I've messed up The Princess Bride link. I'll try to fix it but I'm not hopeful.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Few Thoughts On 'The Slap'

I seem to be out of step with most reviewers about this programme. I keep seeing rave reviews about how good it is and, well, as far as I'm concerned, no. I have to admit that the relentless promos in the lead up meant I was just about over it before it started but I did try to give it a fair viewing. After all the novel by Christos Tsiolkas is a multiple prize winner, the actors involved are certainly talented and the ABC has produced some brilliant drama in the past.

The premise is that one action - the slap of the title - can cause far reaching effects and I expected the story of its repercussions would make for a gripping tale. Its structure is unusual with each episode seen through the eyes of one of eight viewpoint characters and that should help us engage with them. The trouble is I have no empathy for any of the viewpoint characters. I just don't like them enough to care about the consequences of the incident. I start to feel a degree of connection for them and then they go and do or say something that pushes me away. Even those sinned against among the viewpoint characters aren't all that likeable.

Of course, a character doesn't have to be likeable but we do have to be able to engage with them and have either some empathy or some sympathy for them and, for me, this just isn't there in this series. An unflawed character tends to be boring and I certainly wouldn't be interested in watching a parade of saintly goody goodies either but somehow there is a disconnect for me here. The characters all have their problems but for some reason - even when they are experiencing things that would normally touch me deeply - I just don't feel it. I don't think it's anything to do with the actors - I find the characters they are portraying believable if unpleasant - but I just don't care enough to keep watching.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Another TV show - or Two

Last week on ABC 1 there were two new shows that coincidentally connected with each other. The first was Rome Wasn't Built in Day in which a team of present day tradesmen set out to build a Roman villa in six months using only tools from Roman times. The six - five tradesmen and a labourer - had to discard all their 21st century tools (they did find that some tools are unchanged and were able to keep them) and start from scratch using as their guide a text by Vitruvius, a Roman builder from the 1st century BC. This meant they had to make their mortar from recipes in the text, shape the stone and so on, all skills that modern day carpenters, bricklayers etc have no experience of.
As I watched I began to nitpick because it seems to me that there are other factors than tools to consider. Leaving aside the irritating promos where the men are described as 'gladiators',(gladiators were not builders but highly trained slaves who fought for their lives in the circus) anyone who has studied any ancient Roman history knows that Rome functioned using an army of slaves. These might be used simply as muscle or if they were highly skilled (and many were) would be used accordingly. It seems highly unlikely that experienced tradesmen would be expected to waste their time making lime for the mortar for instance. It's time consuming, dangerous work. Would you really waste a skilled worker on this?

Then there was the fact that they had no way of transporting things like the vast amount of stone required. The likelihood of a team of builders not having such a basic item as a cart seems ridiculous but the carpenter set to work to make one according to one illustrated somewhere. Unfortunately he didn't really have the skills (and why would he? He's a carpenter and joiner) and the axle broke. A month later and they still hadn't acquired a cart.

The reason this really irked me was the other programme Mastercrafts. The first in a series, it was about green wood craft as practised by bodgers in the forests of the UK until about fifty years ago. Bodgers were highly skilled workers who cut mainly coppiced timber and worked it into furniture (mostly chairs and stools) and other useful items like bowls, cooking utensils and so on. If you ever get a chance to read The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge you can read a wonderfully evocative description of a bodger's workshop in the 1950s when they were already a dying craft. Using simple tools such as the Romans would have and a pole lathe (the Romans used a slightly different version of the lathe requiring two workers but lathes were in common use as far back as Ancient Egypt) they produced beautifully made objects from the forest.

This episode of Mastercrafts was based around one of the few green wood workers still operating in the UK who set out to teach three very different trainees how to work with green wood in a full time six week course so the practical knowledge is available. So why did the archaeologists running the Roman site not use it?

Rome Wasn't Built in a Day is a fascinating concept but it seems to me to be badly thought out. The builders are doing a splendid job but how much easier it would have been if they had been provided with the things any Roman building team would have had - a cart pulled by a donkey, a labour force and a selection of tools including technology like lathes for starters.

Addendum: I was pleased to see in the latest episode of Rome Wasn't Built in a Day someone has finally supplied them with a donkey cart and, through the efforts of their labourer, they have acquired some volunteer labour so they now have a sensible sized workforce. Why this wasn't arranged by those running the programme is another question. If it was to create drama, well, it didn't work for me. Drama needs to be intrinsic to a situation, not created by inadequate preparation and, given the number of experimental archaeologists around, it would have been more effective if some of them had been consulted before they started.

I did wonder if my irritation was caused because my degree included some study of Ancient Rome but apparently not. Pisces, who has no background in history, ancient or modern, has been equally irritated.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

More From My Sickbed.

No, you are not going to get the gory details. It's just that when you're sick your brain cannot cope with anything that requires you to think too much. Hurts your brain, it does. So you watch daytime and subscription television, carefully choosing that which does not require any brain function at all. It's amazing just how much of that you can find when you make an effort. In the last week and a half - it consoles me to hear that I am not the only one who has this bug and that all my fellow sufferers seem to be struggling to get back on their feet as well. It also makes me very sympathetic to them too - I have watched more home decorating programmes than I knew existed, renewed my acquaintance with Judge Judy - and remembered why I stopped watching her, and spent some time watching programmes on people whose illnesses are much more serious than my current one. Unusually for me I haven't been watching cooking programmes or reading cookery books but I will know I am on the mend when I find myself browsing the bookshelves to select some cook books to bring back to bed with me instead of flicking through the channels. For now I'm snuggling back under the rugs. I'll be back soon.

Monday, October 03, 2011

I watched the first episode of Terra Nova on Channel Ten last night. I'll try to avoid to avoid spoilers but I'll assume you've all seen the promos. So the Earth is trashed and selected people are being sent back in time to the Cretaceous Period to establish a new home for humanity but along a different time line so there are no nasty time paradoxes. Among these are the Shannon family whose selection and arrival is somewhat dramatic. There are some great sets, lush scenery - and dinosaurs. Loved the dinosaurs whether they were the more or less gentle herbivores or the vicious, pack hunting raptors. What a combination. More, we were launched into a seriously action packed beginning to the series.

So we have an interesting idea that is well executed but - you knew there'd be buts, didn't you - there are a few things that bugged me. One is the info dump. Writers are particularly sensitive to this because we have to continually guard against it so it may have irked me more than it would have others but in the few instances that occurred in this episode I found myself shaking my head, totally thrown out of the storyline for a moment. It's not as if they couldn't do it well. They did in most of the episode but when they missed as far as I was concerned they really missed. Another lapse was in some of the characters. A couple of them did not capture my sympathy although there is hope they may develop as the series proceeds. I should add this is not the fault of the actors, more the way their characters were written. As well there were a few not quite convincing explanations for the science but, hey, this is science fiction and as long as we are prepared to suspend disbelief - and we usually are - who cares. Just think about Dr Who travelling through space and time with no real mechanism given, the warp drive of the various Star Trek series or there's the star gates of Star Gate SG1 and on it goes. These are minor flaws as far as I'm concerned and I suspect that they will even out once the series develops.

So did I enjoy it? Yes, I did and I'll certainly be watching again next week.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


There are many things I should be doing - I'm not even going to list them because it's too scary - but instead, while I'm waiting for the last load of washing to finish, I'm sitting here eating mulberries. They are so good. Not quite sweet as those I remember from my childhood though. We lived on an unusually large block where we kept chickens and to give them shade there was a mulberry tree. My parents planted it after much pleading from me because we needed, at least in my opinion, a mulberry tree. Quite apart from the berries we had a large number of silkworms to feed. My parents, bless them, indulged me and both I and the hens, which loved any berries that fell and I guess the silkworms - were all happy. My brothers and I used to climb the tree and pick vast quantities of the luscious fruit - and eat as many as we picked. Any that weren't eaten fresh Mum converted into tarts, pies and jam. Yum!

Monday, September 19, 2011

I Wasn't Going To Do This.

Really! But it's International Talk Like a Pirate Day. So ahoy there, me hearties, and ye'll be glad you did. Get ye along to the official web site here. Don't miss the videos at the beginning. Those folk'll show you how to have a good time. Arr.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Some Thoughts On Death

No I'm not dying although over the last two years far too many people dear to me, both young and old, have died. For some reason, following the most recent funeral, I remembered having read this by Sara Douglass, an Australian fantasy author who is suffering from advanced ovarian cancer.
What she says about the expectations the healthy have of the chronically ill or dying was powerful stuff, something I think we all should read and take note of.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

At Home With Julia

For me this so-called sit com on ABC television is just wrong. It's nothing to do with politics and nothing to do with humour. I'd be just as offended if it was Tony Abbott and his wife and for the same reason. Family members and partners of politicians (or any other person in the public eye for that matter) should be entitled to have their privacy respected and to be treated with respect. They are not public figures except by connection so they should not be the butt of misguided jokes. I was already uneasy when I saw the promos but it only got worse. The targeting of the Prime Minister's partner is not political satire. It is insulting and disrespectful.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Ageism in Writing and Film

Having a wander through my blog roll - which is enormous and why I don't get to look at each blog as often as I would like - I came across this on Ellen Datlow's LJ where she has something to say about the way older women are depicted in books and film.

As a woman of mature years myself I am continually amazed at the depiction of women over fifty as somehow on the road to decrepitude while men are apparently ruggedly attractive. It's particularly noticeable in movies and on television where we actually see pairings of the young and beautiful woman with the ageing man. Men, it seems in the world of film, grow more attractive and women - well, in most of these productions, once over fifty, they either morph into The Mother (even today she seems to spend much of her life cooking), The Cougar - what a ridiculous term that is - who is in desperate and inappropriate search of her lost youth or The Dotty but Loveable Fool while in books they often just vanish.

I can't remember ever seeing a steamy love scene involving a sixty or seventy something woman with anyone, let alone with a twenty something man and we see far too many of them, in my opinion, between an older man and a much younger woman (young enough to be his granddaughter in some cases). These are the scenes where the camera focusses lovingly on the youthful beauty while the man is barely visible because, let's face it, his body, just a like a woman's of the same age, is no longer what it was. This, of course, doesn't prevent the man acting as the hero or the romantic lead and nor should it. Movies are fantasy after all but it would be nice if they didn't ignore a very large part of the population. Women don't disappear as they age in real life. Why do they in books and film?

The truth is that while women age so do men. Neither looks like their youthful self and, with maturity, their interests have changed as much as their appearance has. This doesn't mean either is nothing more than a collection of sagging wrinkles, shuffling towards death. In fact most of the women I know in their sixties and seventies are full of life and enjoying new interests as are the men but they are accorded respect while women are not.

Let's be realistic here. Ageing is a progression we all go through and to relegate women to obscurity or to depict them as worn out seekers after a lost youth while pretending the same does not apply to men is highly insulting.

Monday, September 05, 2011

I Hate Spring!

That's it. I will return if I can ever breathe again - and, because I like to believe justice will prevail, those people who thought it was a good idea to plant wattles EVERYWHERE will eventually get their just rewards.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's Fiction, People.

Last night I walked into the room where Pisces was watching Q & A which was coming from the Melbourne Writers' Festival. For those of you in other countries this is a show where a moderated panel, which can include politicians, activists, journalists, social commentators and even comedians, answers questions from the audience on various subjects in the news. As it was from the Writers' Festival last night's panellists included, among others, novelists Kate Grenville and Anna Funder and I came in just as they were discussing Kate Grenville's latest novel Sarah Thornhill.

Kate Grenville has been on the receiving end of much criticism from some historians who see her novels as historical accounts. (Her rebuttals are here.) This would be justified if the books were intended as that but, of course, they are not. They are novels and the definition for that is a work of fiction, a story. In Grenville's case she has taken historical events and characters as the jumping off point for her story and even used some of the actual words of the real characters when it suited her purposes but this doesn't make her novel into a piece of historical research. Instead she allows her imagination to run free, putting her imaginary characters into a setting which is an actual point in time but letting them tell their story.

After Kate Grenville carefully explained this the moderator turned to Anna Funder saying, 'You're also writing history.' She then had to go through the same thing again to make it clear that she has written a novel! A work of imagination. You can catch the whole show here on ABC Iview.

What is so hard to understand about this. These are novelists, writers of imagined stories, stories they made up in the same way as any other novelist does. No doubt they have tried to make the setting feel historically authentic, maybe including actual artefacts or dates of historical events, because if these things jar the reader finds themselves thrown out of the story but this is simply background. In the same way a novelist might describe a modern day New York street to set their characters in place but when a novelist puts a serial killer into that streetscape we do not assume that if we were there we might be his next victim.

t's not historical research. It's not real. It's fiction, people.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I've been...

Well nowhere really. There's been a lot of distractions mixed with a fair amount of pain that I didn't necessarily want to share at the time. The fact is this last bit of surgery has taken a lot longer than I anticipated to get over and has now caused a bundle of other body parts to go out in sympathy. Walking has been challenging, sitting is limited and very uncomfortable and lying down is down right painful. So I've been spending my days lurching from one uncomfortable or painful situation to the next. Every now and then I get fed up and do something silly like pulling the excess of the rioting nasturtiums out of a patch of garden. That, of course, puts me back a few more days.

The house is a mess with painting equipment and boxes and - well you can imagine what a whole house prepared for painting looks like - and has been like that for longer than I want to think about. The painting had to stop when both my hips decided they were being ignored and put on tantrums of their own making climbing ladders impossible. And, just because it can, some sort of bug has mow attacked both Pisces and me leaving us drained and struggling to do the essentials.

So please forgive the lack of blogging. Normal services will resume as soon as possible.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

UK Riots

Like everyone else I've spent much of the last few days appalled at what has been happening in the UK. I wish I could say it surprises me but I can't. I've been following the way the UK government has been instituting extensive cuts in spending and it seems to me that, while they have serious problems that must be addressed, they are making a mistake in cutting social services to those who have most need of them instead of shoring them up. I'm not an economist and I realise that libraries, youth clubs, the arts and so on don't produce a monetary profit but they have something much more valuable. Instead of a monetary value they have a social value. They are the glue that gives the disadvantaged hope and can provide a possible way out of their situation. Take that away, especially at a time when people are losing their jobs due to other factors, and you create resentment.

I certainly don't condone the rioting and looting but there's a sense that many of those initially involved felt disadvantaged and, in their view, they were taking from people they perceive as better off. That's nonsense, of course, and it has moved far beyond that. Setting fire to buildings and looting shops in your own community is pointless destruction that is only going to further disadvantage that community but those involved have become caught up in what is happening and are not thinking rationally. That in turn has left the way open for criminal gangs to take advantage of the unrest and everything has escalated even more. Racist comments are appearing on the internet and are seriously worrying.

I don't know how the UK is going to recover from this and I doubt anyone else does either, but I think any solution that doesn't look into the causes of the violence is bound to fail. Certainly the looters and the arsonists should be punished but something other than the shooting which triggered the initial protest, pushed it further. There is obviously deep unrest in the community and draconian measures won't eliminate it. They may, in fact, exacerbate it.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Of Smoke Alarms

For many years we had three battery operated smoke alarms. They hung there on the ceiling occasionally shrilling when I burned the toast - okay, not occasionally, often - but at least that meant we knew they were working. We checked the batteries regularly but inevitably one would die between times. Then the smoke alarm would beep at a pitch we couldn't ignore until we replaced it. It invariably went off for the first time between 2:00 and 3:00 AM because it could. Maybe it just got bored with no movement in the house and decided to wake people for company. An elderly lady of my acquaintance mistook her beeping alarm for a bird trapped in the roof. It must have got a thrill out of her trying to find and release it.

Anyhow last year, tired of these shenanigans, we decided to dump the battery operated ones and get smoke alarms wired in. No more beepings in the early hours of the morning. Brilliant - and, if we ever decide to move it's all ready to go because, while battery operated alarms are quite legal in old houses here, if you want to sell the house you must have new ones installed that are wired into the house electrical system. Because our house rambles somewhat we did leave one in place as a just in case extra precaution.

So when a familiar beeping woke me around 3:00 AM on Wednesday morning my first thought was it couldn't be a smoke alarm battery, followed by leaving one battery operated alarm is a mistake, especially if you forget to check the battery. I tried to ignore it but they have been really well designed so that is not an option. By then Pisces had also woken up and we all - me, husband, dog and cat - trailed through the house picking up a ladder on the way - did I mention we have quite high ceilings? The battery was extracted. Bliss. Wednesday - in daylight - Pisces put in a new battery and returned it to its place.

Thursday morning 2:30 AM. Beep. Beep. Beep. We all head off through the house again. Pisces climbs up - and the smoke alarm with its new battery isn't responsible and it can't be the wired in ones. We track the sound - not easy because it seems to be coming from everywhere - another clever design feature to ensure you can't ignore it perhaps. Finally we find the offending alarm - hidden on the top of the bookcase. I had been feeling sorry for Pisces until that moment - he had an early start in the morning - but, since he put it there instead of getting rid of it, any sympathy flew out the window. I stomp off back to bed.

All I can say for the sake of a happy marriage is the remaining one had better not beep tonight because I haven't been able to find it yet and I suspect Pisces has forgotten where he put it.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

For a Laugh

I just love The Bloggess. She has a unique slant on life that reduces me to helpless laughter. I should warn you though that she does use language that may offend but I'm willing to accept that for the laughs.

Edit: I confess I haven't read her other blogs and columns which I suspect might be a little more confronting.

Yesterday's post involved writing messages on bananas. Doesn't sound much but what she did with it was hysterical. It inspired me to do the same to all the bananas in my house. The result was better than I'd hoped. To see Pisces do a double-take when the bananas spelled out the message 'Zombies coming. Hide!' then 'Run! Now!' and more was well worth the effort.
She doesn't only make me laugh though. Her weekly list linking to other blogs has some pearls in it too. That's where I found this.

PS: her post on Beyonce the chicken went viral. Read it and you'll see why.

PPS: I also like that she calls herself The Bloggess instead of confusing the diminutive 'ette' with the feminine 'ess' as happens so often. I have to admire someone who knows these things and uses them correctly.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Stormlord's Exile

I don't usually talk about books I've read here - I do occasional reviews at The Specusphere for that - but I'm making an exception for Stormlord's Exile by Glenda Larke. This is not meant as proper review - I will do that elsewhere - just a brief idea of what I felt about the book because I rate it as part of one of the best fantasy trilogies I've read recently.

This is the final book in The Watergivers trilogy and I've been hanging out for it ever since I finished the previous book Stormlord Rising. I was gripped by the world building, the originality of the concept - a society in which water is the basis of currency and can be a weapon - and the believable characters in the previous books and this book introduced us to other lands, equally vivid and realistic, as it told a fascinating story of culture clashes and relationships bringing the trilogy to an unexpected but satisfying conclusion.

I picked the book up from the bookshop around midday on Friday and started reading it. I was so absorbed in the story that I carried it around with me, grabbing a paragraph here and there, even while I was preparing and eating dinner. I finally put it down to go to sleep around 2:00 AM and finished it about mid morning on Saturday and its characters and settings are still buzzing in my head.

It's a rare book that grabs me like this but the same thing happened with the previous books in the trilogy. If you like fantasy - not the fairy and dragon kind but the sort that is grounded in reality so you feel you could walk with these characters in their world - I recommend this trilogy. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Oh Norway.

I've been trying to think of how to write this post but this is the best I can manage. This crime is so monstrous I find it hard to believe it could have happened. In some ways it resonates even more with me because last September I visited Port Arthur in Tasmania. This is a chilling place to visit for several reasons. The first is its history as a penal settlement of terrible barbarity. The second is because this is where Martin Bryant killed 35 people and injured 21 others in a shooting spree in 1996. I can still remember the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as that horror unfolded. This is so much worse.

My heart reaches out to all the people of Norway. I wish I could do something to ease your pain.

Women in Fantasy and Science Fiction

Serendipity - or do I mean synchronicity? Actually, I'm not sure. In any event I'm talking about similar things happening at the same time.

During my recent marathon reading session when I was confined to bed after surgery I read Tansy Rayner Roberts'The Shattered City, Book Two of her Creature Court trilogy. I had thoroughly enjoyed the first book, Power and Majesty, not only because it's a good read but also because her female characters are so strong. Even better the heroine and her friends are women who, when they are not involved in saving the world, make their livings as a dressmaker, a wreath maker and a ribbon maker. There are other women too, the young Duchess who is having to assert herself against the expectations of her mother and her Court and the women of the Creature Court, who have their own agendas, but always act in defence of the city. This is not to say the male characters are not well drawn. They are but it is a delight to have women who make a living in what are traditional female occupations while at the same time they perform heroic tasks. They are both great books and I'm looking forward to the final one in the trilogy.

Then I was looking at Tansy's blog for the latest on the Galactic Suburbia podcasts (always an interesting listen) and took a wander back over a few posts I had not yet read. That's where I found this link where N. K. Jemisin (another writer I discovered during my marathon. I loved The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and I'm looking forward to the next instalment in the trilogy) talks about womanhood in fantasy. I love it when a good idea spreads, don't you.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Small Gloat

Between us the Egoboo WA writers (Satima Flavell, Joanna Fay, Sarah Parker, Carol Ryles and me) have been quietly and steadily achieving this year. There have been competition wins in poetry and short fiction and a bundle of short stories and poems published. This is as well as working on our novels, blogging, interviewing and reviewing. I sometimes wonder how we manage to fit in anything else.

So congratulations to my fellow Egobooers. May our hard work continue to pay off.

PS: if you want to find out more about Egoboo WA go here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Just a Thought

We were at lunch with friends on Sunday - a restaurant in a tavern in the Perth Hills. It's over a hundred years old so lots of lovely atmosphere. Yes, I know that barely counts in some countries but in Western Australia that means quite a lot given the fact that the first European settlers came here in 1829 and enthusiastic razing of 'old fashioned' buildings was all the go until recently. The food was average and the service pleasant if tardy but that's not what I meant to write about.

We were sitting there making our selections from the menu and someone enquired as to what calamari was. Fried squid she was told.

'Oh, I can't eat that,' she said.

I assumed she must have an allergy and asked her about it.

'No, it's because a researcher was doing some experiments using octopus.' (I'm sure you see the immediate problem since we were not talking about fried octopus but I let it pass). 'When it came to the octopus having an electrode attached to its head to measure brain activity the octopus reached around and removed it. The researcher immediately gave up experiments on octopus so I can't eat that.'

She then ordered fish and chips. How is this any different? In either case she is eating a once living creature. Strange and fuzzy thinking there, it seems to me.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Reading, Reading, Reading

Oh and some house painting, a wedding and finally a chance to put away some of the 'stuff' that has been cluttering every conceivable corner of the house for what seems like years. I can't get everything tidied unfortunately because there's still more painting to be done and then the new flooring to go in and another bout of surgery but there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. If you would like to have a glimpse of what I have been reading over the past few months go here where I have posted a list of the books I enjoyed most during my enforced rest on the Egoboo WA blog.

Monday, July 11, 2011

This Shocked Me

but I suppose it shouldn't with the way economic rationalism is being applied to the most inappropriate cases.

This is what shocked me. A disabled woman in the UK has been denied access to overnight care in her home by her local council so she can be assisted to the toilet. She has a bladder problem that makes frequent toilet visits unavoidable but is not incontinent but the council instead supplied her with incontinence pads because it was cheaper. She appealed to the Supreme Court - and they dismissed the appeal.

What are they thinking? More to the point were they thinking at all? What they are saying is that it's fine for a person to be left lying in urine or even faeces overnight because it's cheaper. They would have had a case if the woman in question had been incontinent - incontinence pads serve a necessary function for the incontinent. That's why they are called incontinence pads - but she is not.

I wonder how these wise decision makers would feel if instead of being able to to take breaks during the day to deal with a call of nature they were instead given incontinence pads and told that toilet breaks were an unnecessary cost. Instead they should stay at their work place from the beginning of business until closing time. Pity we can't put them in that position for a month or so.

Addendum: Part of the reason I shouldn't be surprised is discovering an elderly lady, who needed high level care because she kept falling but who was continent, was being forced to wear incontinence pads for the convenience of the staff who then didn't have to come and take her to the toilet. I can't imagine anything much more humiliating than being forced to wet yourself like this.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Is It Cold?

It is by Perth standards. Once the night temperature drops below 4 degrees C we're shocked. Below 1 degree C we're apt to think we're about to freeze solid. Now I have lived where winter temperatures are much lower than this and I don't remember feeling the cold as much as I do in Perth's relatively temperate climate. So why does it seem so bitterly cold here when the temperatures dip towards zero?

It's a combination of various factors, I suspect. Our summers are hot - by many standards very hot with mid summer temperatures averaging 30-33 degrees C and not uncommonly reaching between 35 and 38 degrees C - so 4 or 5 degrees C feels really cold in comparison. Then there's the fact that, until it actually gets cold here, we tend to ignore the possibility that each winter it can - and will - happen. So double glazing is a rarity as is central heating. Some folk do use reverse cycle air conditioning but it isn't the most common form of heating. Then we get a cold spell and suddenly realise we are unprepared.

As well there's the fact that there are only a relatively few days in the year when this happens so investing in cooling seems generally more economical. You can put on an extra sweater, can't you. Unfortunately just now an extra sweater and a rug aren't cutting it. Yesterday I ended up wearing three sweaters, track pants, thick socks and finger less gloves (so I could type) and it was still not enough. So I did what most Perthites, at least those stuck at home all day, do - guiltily put on the gas furnace at full for a few hours during the day. Why guiltily? Because we don't do that the way people in cold places do. This is Perth, after all. It's fine to heat the house at night but during the day it just doesn't get cold enough to justify it even for those of us who work at home - except, of course, it does.

Don't get me wrong. There are places in Australia where it does get really, genuinely cold, much colder than in Perth at its worst - Tasmania and the Southern Alps spring to mind. Both have have snowy winters and, as we found out while visiting Tasmania last year, snowy spring and summer weather as well. Even the southern inland parts of Western and South Australia have chilly winters. But those are cold places and that's not how we like to think of Perth.

But how we like to think of it and how it is are two different things. Perth does get cold in mid winter, however much we might like to think it doesn't, so I'm caving in. The heater is going on again today so I can dispense with at least one sweater. Then I'll look nearer my true size and shape and be able to move, even bend if necessary. Who knows, acknowledging the temperature might just make me more able to work instead of wondering if my fingers and toes, currently almost numb, will start functioning again.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


Lord Christopher Monckton, a climate change sceptic, recently visited Perth where he gave a speech at Notre Dame University outlining his beliefs. He had caused a furore earlier by referring to Professor Ross Garnaut as a Nazi. Professor Garnaut is an economist who was commissioned by the Federal Government to provide a 2011 review on his earlier 2008 report on the impact of climate change. Needless to say, whether you agree with Professor Garnaut or not, the tag of Nazi and describing him as 'having a fascist point of view' did not go down well and I have no quibble with those who expressed their opinion on this. It is highly offensive.

What I do have a problem with is some of the responses, in particular the petition which was signed by some fifty academics urging cancellation of the lecture at Notre Dame. We live in a democracy and whether or not you agree with Lord Monkton - and, for the record, I don't - he has the right to his opinion and to express it. He doesn't have the right to use offensive symbols or language to denigrate those who do not agree with him and for that he certainly should be held to account but, as long as he doesn't do that and he is not advocating criminal acts, he has a right to speak.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Father's Love

Yes, I know. There hasn't much blog posting going on. Real Life has been handing out a fair few blows and so blogging hasn't been too high on the priority list. I needed cheering up so let me tell you something that touched my heart.

There has been much reading and television watching and, among the dross, there were some gems. This was one.

I was watching a documentary on the migration of herds of zebra and wildebeeste in Africa as they follow the grasslands, often for hundreds of miles, in vast numbers. They cross rivers where crocodiles lie in wait and are preyed on by lions and other predators but nothing short of death stops them. In the case of one zebra in the documentary death did stop her.

A mother with a young foal collapsed and died. The baby attempted to suckle and then tried desperately to rouse his dead mother. Meanwhile, the rest of his family continued on among the herds, soon disappearing into the distance, but there was one exception. The male, who we might have thought would only be interested holding his harem together, stayed close to the foal calling to it. The distraught foal was initially totally fixated on his mother but as time passed he started to look around. Then the male did something extraordinary. He began walking up and down in front of the foal, calling it and kept on for some hours. Slowly the foal's attention shifted from his dead mother to the alive and calling male and he began to move away from the body. The male then came over and shepherded him away and they moved off after the herds into which the male's harem had long ago vanished.

Whether they were ever reunited with the harem we don't know. Nor do we know how the foal would survive without being able to find milk. Perhaps another female would have been persuaded take him on. I would like to think, though, that the father was able to bring his family together again and raise his son. We are so fond of thinking we are superior to animals but I can't see this as anything but an act of love and self-sacrifice. Can you?

Edited to insert missing word.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Is It Me

or is the world going mad?

Some timber companies have been found to be exceeding their permitted cutting allowance in the forests of southern Western Australia. And what, according to The West Australian newspaper, has the Conservation Commission suggested should be done to deal with this situation? Go on. Make a wild guess. Cut their allowance further? Fine them? Nope. They said the allocation is too small and that's why the companies have breached it. The solution? It's simple. Increase their allocations. Then they wouldn't have to cut more than they're allowed to.

Why didn't anyone else think of it before? Because, of course, cutting more of a resource like timber, which is restricted so forests remain sustainable, will work.

The article is here.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

An Appeal

to the universe. There is such a thing as too many deaths happening in one family within days. Please do not apply the Rule of Three this time. Just asking.

Friday, June 17, 2011


House: one completed ensuite bathroom which makes me smile every time I look into it. What was a cramped, uncomfortable space because of its configuration seems to have expanded to twice its original size now it's been rearranged - and that's with fitting in a double size shower.

Today there are men drilling, hammering, sawing and tiling in the other bathroom, toilet and laundry and that also pleases me - even if I sometimes have to resort to ear plugs.

Personal: I've been remarkably pain free after my surgery if fed up with being unable to do anything. Crutches do not make life easy. On the other hand, we've been saddened by a death in the family with all that entails.

On the plus side though I've discovered a lot of fascinating documentaries on pay TV that I wouldn't otherwise watched and I'm half way through reading my ninth novel. Eek! I've just realised that means I'm running out of books. Only one left after this one of what looked like an enormous pile I had set aside.

So a mixed bag really.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

A Rant.

I'm ranting - again.

Australia has been in uproar for the last week or so since Four Corners, a highly respected investigative news programme, showed appalling footage of cattle exported from Australia to Indonesia as part of the live export trade being treated brutally and tortured in some Indonesian abattoirs. It was sickening and disgusting and the outrage is certainly appropriate. In response to this the Federal Government has stopped all exports of live cattle to Indonesia temporally while they work out a long term policy. This is where things get messy.

Before we go any further I should say that I am a vegetarian. This is because I decided some time ago that if I wasn't prepared to kill an animal for food - and I'm not - I shouldn't eat a creature killed by anyone else. It smacked of hypocrisy. I have no problems with those who eat meat. Others in my household do and you will find meat in my freezer for them. My decision was a personal one and my eating choices have nothing to do with my views on the live animal export trade.

I have long been opposed to live animal export trade because I believe it to be inhumane. This belief came from seeing sheep crammed into trucks and moved for long distances. I have seen them with legs stuck through the slats making up the truck cage, being trampled by their fellows or crushed so tightly that they can't move. I believe the farmers and truckers who say this is not deliberate - that no-one sets out to damage a valuable 'product'. That they do not work out better ways of transport though shows a degree of callousness that is still disturbing. Even more disturbing was the succession of live sheep transports on which large numbers of sheep destined for the Middle East died in appalling conditions. While some steps have been taken to mitigate this mistreatment it is not enough. Sheep are still being transported in inappropriate ways. That was - until now - the extent of the live animal trade as far as I knew. The discovery that there was alive cattle trade came as a complete surprise.

I have no problem with exporting meat. Most people eat meat and they should be able to continue doing so if they choose. What I do have a problem with is exporting live animals. It is inevitable that herd and flock animals crammed into tiny spaces are going to receive injuries. It's made worse when we export them to countries that don't have a culture or commitment to treating animals humanely - and anyone who has visited the countries to which we export live animals knows that the cultures there do not generally treat animals as we do in Australia.

This brings me back to the present ban on live exports. Do I want to see the live export trade stopped? Yes. Should urgent action be taken? Definitely. Do I think an instant and blanket ban on all such exports is the solution? No.

In my opinion we should certainly ban any cattle or other animals going to the abattoirs where we know abuse has taken place and we should work out a way to ensure that all the other abattoirs to which Australian animals are sent are subject to random inspections. While this happening we should be doing what we should have been doing years ago - sourcing markets for meat instead of live exports. All an instant blanket ban does is hurt a lot of people who have been involved in a legal business - even if they have had their eyes firmly closed as to what actually happens to the 'product' from that business. Of course, calling animals products is a deliberate attempt to disguise the fact that this business deals in live animals - but that is a side issue.

What we need to do is work out a solution that doesn't destroy the livelihoods of the meat producers and treats the animals humanely. This means the Federal Government must compensate all those affected both financially and by aiding them to diversify. It's not going to be easy and it will be costly because we have allowed this pernicious trade to go on for far too long but we can and should do it.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Of Renos, Weddings and Other Things

We are well into the renos now. One more coat of paint and the en-suite will only need the shower screens installed and they are already ordered. A couple of week's wait and we'll be done there and on to the next set - bathroom, laundry and kitchen. It's an interesting experience, this renovating. People keep asking for minor decisions about things that I haven't really thought about which means there's a lot of'I hope I got that right' going on. So far there's nothing that hasn't been easily fixable but I'm always a little nervous.

We might be progressing on the bathroom front but my foot and knee surgery is still to come - at the end of the week- and the prospect of negotiating a messy house (there are rooms full of items that have been ousted from their usual homes so the work can keep progressing) on crutches is rather daunting. A friend of Virgo's called in this morning and poked her head in the bedroom door as she went past saying 'Still a construction site, I see'. The living room may not be a construction site but but it looks like one of those hoarder's houses you see on television with the contents of the bedroom and en-suite piled in there. The dining room is no better. Pisces is going to have to do all the organisation for the rest of the work. He's not enjoying the prospect but things have to keep moving or we'll be living in this state forever.

Then there's the back veranda. Half of it is bare and the other half is crammed. This is courtesy of Virgo's pup who we've been puppy sitting until today. She is recovering from surgery which requires a large plastic cone around her head and that she does not run around. The only way to ensure this was to keep her tied up and the veranda was the only place suitably sheltered.

At the same time plans are underway for the two weddings coming up in the next eight months. There have been visits to bridal shops looking for wedding dresses, bridesmaid's dresses, mother of the bride outfits etc. I admit I heaved a sigh of relief when Virgo took a quick look at the mother of the bride outfits in several places, shook her head and announced 'You're not going to wear anything like that.' I'm afraid I'm not the standard mother of the bride type and so nothing I saw in the bridal shops was ever going to work for me. Sagittarius is having a casual wedding and, as the groom's mother, that choice was much easier. My outfit for that is already hanging in the wardrobe since I won't be able to even think about going clothes shopping for the next three months. I love it when I have an excuse not to go clothes shopping.

Not much writing happening, did you say? Well, that has been the case for the last few weeks but once I'm recovering and very limited as to what I can do that will all change. The freezer is full of ready prepared meals and the itch to write is there. I intend to indulge myself to the full.

Monday, May 23, 2011

I Don't Know How I Missed This.

I don't know how I missed this. I guess life was a bit on top of me - there's been a lot of that lately - but the Table of Contents has been released for The Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror edited by Liz Gryzb and Talie Helene to be published by Ticonderoga Publications in June, 2011. Included, among an impressive list of talented Australian writers, are stories by three of my Clarion South mates - Peter M. Ball with L'esprit de L'escalier, Jason Fischer's The School Bus and Christopher Green with Where We Go To Be Made Lighter. I've read a number of the stories on this list and they were all gripping so I'm looking forward to reading the rest.

Edited to fix the kitty caused - and unnoticed by me - typo.

Reverse Sexism

I was part of a conversation a few days ago that truly shocked me. I grew up in the early days of feminism when women began asserting their rights to equal pay and equal employment opportunities and my feminist hackles still rise at some of the inequities that continue to exist. Things may have improved greatly since as a young woman I found my way into one of the professions blocked because I was female but there is still a way to go. While women on average still earn less than men (just Google gender pay gap and you'll see what I mean) I thought that at least with all sorts of employment opportunities opening up into jobs that were once reserved solely for one sex or the other all the nonsense about work being judged as appropriate only for one sex was well on its way out. Seems I was wrong but not in a way I would have expected.

The conversation started with me mentioning the work of a local textile artist who happens to be a man. He had just won some prizes at a quilt show and I thought this was worthy of praise. Instead, to my horror, it provoked giggles and eye rolling. Why? Because he sews and appliques fabric to make his artworks. When I asked why this was so hysterical I was told it was because he was a man. Apparently a man should only do 'manly' art.

'So if he went out into his studio and created sculptures out of metal with a blow torch would that be taken seriously,' I asked.

'That would be fine,' I was told.

What rubbish. These young women have grown up with the benefits of the struggle of my generation so that their options are much wider than those of women of my age. So many occupations were denied us because they were 'men's' work. Now if a woman wants to drive a giant dump truck at a mine site she can. If she wants to join the navy and captain a vessel she can. It goes the other way too. Half the carers who look after my invalid mother in a nursing home are male and when I was in hospital recently three of my nurses were men - and why not. They did a perfectly competent job and that's all they should be judged on.

So why did these young women find a male textile artist so strange? He's by no means the first in the field. Honestly I don't know. What I do know is that, while women still have a way to go to gain true equality, attitudes like this are just as intolerant as those women have faced and are still facing. They are just as sexist and just as inappropriate. When we talk about equality it should be just that - and that means mutual respect just as much as equal pay.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jason Fischer and Ticonderoga Publications

I'm truly excited that my Clarion South mate, Jason Fischer, is to have a collection of short stories, Everything is a Graveyard, to be published by Ticonderoga Publications in late 2013. The press release is here. Ticonderoga Publications has recently put out some outstanding anthologies and Jason should fit well into their list.

I've just been working my way through some of their books that I bought at Swancon. Heliotrope by Justina Robson was a fascinating compilation of stories. This author is well established as a novelist but this is her first collection of short stories. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Her stories stretch the imagination and that is always a good thing.

I've also finished Dead Red Heart, a collection of Australian vampire stories, edited by Russell B. Farr, and there are some great stories in there. Who'd ever have thought that the vampire could adapt so well to our harsh, sun-drenched continent. My fellow Egobooers, Joanna Fay and Carol Ryles, figure here. Then came More Scary Kisses, edited by Liz Gryzb, a collection of vampire romances, including two stories by fellow members of the KSP Speculative Fiction group, Annette Backshall and Carol Ryles (yes, she's in two books recently released by Ticonderoga). What sexy creatures these vampires are but it's not at all the way the original vampire stories portrayed them either.

On my list of still to be read is The Girl With No Hands by Angela Slatter, (she blogs here)and another writer whose work I very much enjoy.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Tomorrow morning - allegedly at 8:00 AM but I'll be ready by seven. I've been caught before - men will come armed with jack hammers and other tools. They will take to the en-suite bathroom, ripping out its fixtures and fittings in preparation for more men to come and replace that which has been ripped out, retile and refurbish. They will, I am reliably informed produce more dust in this process than I would believe possible. To avoid this I have decamped from my bedroom, which adjoins the en-suite, covering everything I couldn't take with me in plastic and hope. There will be noise and a panic-stricken cat to deal with as well as a small dog who will want to help. I don't think there'll be much blogging - but who knows. Anything is possible.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Swancon and More Glenda Larke

I had intended to blog about Swancon earlier but Real Life and all that - but I have a moment now.

Being local, I usually only attend during the day but there were such interesting panels on Thursday night that I decided to share a room with some friends. Then I came down with a monumental migraine on Thursday and had to postpone booking in until Friday morning so I missed them after all. The fantastic con bag was some consolation. They gave us books - lots of books - and current ones at that.

Once I got the hang of the Hyatt - boy, there are a lot of stairs there and very limited disabled access. It's bad enough for those in wheelchairs or with prams but for those of us who find walking difficult it's an even greater challenge. Once I got in though most things were accessible by lifts - unless you wanted to go to one of the two restaurants on the ground floor.then the only options were several steep flights of stairs or to go to the back of the hotel complex, use the ramp and then go right around the building on the outside and come in again at street level. This was a considerable distance to walk for someone with a knee awaiting surgery. Apart from that quibble once I got there the central bar was a great place to hang out because everyone had to pass it to get anywhere else so it was a great place to catch up - with con goers that is. It was not so easy to catch up with wait staff even if you only wanted to pay a bill. An hour and a half to do that is really not satisfactory or, on another occasion, the same time to actually get my order.

None of this reflects on the organisers, of course, who put together a host of fascinating panels and kaffeeklatsches and then there were the book launches and the dealers' room. My interest is largely entered on writing - both skills and as a business - and there was a multitude of these panels. My biggest problem usually was choosing which of several interesting panels to go to. One which particularly interested me had Glenda Larke as a panellist. I was really intrigued by the way she approached writing a trilogy. She began by mapping it out and then writing the first book. While she was trying to sell that book she would move on to the next trilogy and do the same. I am not sure how she does that. While I see the logic I find have to complete one story before I move on to the next - and if that's three novels so be it. Glenda was interviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts while she was at Swancon and in the interview she expands more on this. You can hear the podcast here

Other highlights were catching up with some of my fellow Clarionites as well as tutors and organisers from Clarion South. There were lots of others too, old friends and some new ones including some whose writing I've been admiring for quite a while. I always enjoy Swancon. It's friendly and let's face it, where else except a con can you be sitting in a bar and see an ewok go by or a glamorous steampunk lady.

My only regret, apart from missing Thursday night, is that I couldn't buy all the books I would have liked. I simply couldn't have carried them. Oh well I'll just have to go off to the bookshops, won't I.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Interview with Glenda Larke

It occurs to me that you might have missed this. Over at Egoboo WA we've been interviewing people involved in the writing business. Among those we've interviewed is Glenda Larke. She was kind enough to drop by and answer a few questions for me. She has some interesting things to say so why not have a look.

Monday, May 02, 2011

On Disability - Pensions and Access

I'm about to rant.

I'm truly appalled at the perception being fostered that disability benefits are easy to get. We have the Prime Minister saying the Government is going to tighten the already stringent criteria - the Leader of the Opposition has always espoused this. I'm not sure why. I doubt there are vast numbers of people out there rorting the system. I am sure there are some. I'm also sure they are the minority.

In Australia, and the other countries I have some knowledge of, it is not easy to get disability benefits. It's hard. You can't just rock up and say 'Gimme.' You have to jump through hoops and keep on jumping through them for as long as you are in receipt of benefits no matter how bad you feel.

Then, even when you convince the authorities, if your disability is invisible (Many are. Think mental illness, CFS and chronic migraine for example.) people are always going to be suspicious of you. If you try to make the most of your life by doing as much as you can when you can you will be judged because if you can do that (whatever that is - going to the beach, visiting friends, going to a convention etc) obviously you are just wasting the money the public has given you or you really are fit and should be at work.

Posts on two blogs recently here and referred on from the first here deal with what it's like to have a disability and how hard it is to just keep going - and how frustrating it is to be dependent on others.

The truth is most people on disability benefits are in pain of some sort, living on a pittance and would like nothing better than to be able to work. Yes, it's hard for someone who is fit and healthy to understand what living with a disability is like but it would be really good if they made the effort instead of attacking the recipients. Life's already hard enough for them.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Elephant's farewell

Today I was watching a documentary on animal migrations. The subject was elephants in Mali. They and many other animals were crowded around a rapidly drying out lake when a calf was born. Sadly underweight and weak, it died after a few hours while its mother and grandmother tried to shelter it from the heat. A week later the little corpse had completely dried out leaving shreds of hide and exposed bones and the herd, scenting rain in the south, was preparing to move out. Before they left though the entire herd gathered around the remains. With extraordinary delicacy and gentleness they each touched and lifted the bones and one even rubbed the skull over its cheek. It was one of the most profoundly moving things I've ever seen. It reduced me to tears - not a common occurrence. After watching that I was convinced that the arrogant human presumption that we are the only ones who love and whose hearts can be broken is just that - arrogant- because if that was not an expression of love I don't know what love is.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

RIP Elisabeth Sladen

I was genuinely saddened when I saw this morning that Elisabeth Sladen had passed away. She played Sarah Jane Smith, one of the Doctor's companions, in Dr Who for three and a half seasons.

Female Doctor's companions tended to be the girl who had to be rescued. Not Sarah Jane. There was no putting her in a box and expecting her to stay put. She may have done a fair bit of screaming - I probably would have done the same in some of the situations she ended up in - but then she got herself organised and did what had to be done. This often involved doing exactly what she was told not to by the many men around her. Sometimes she was right, sometimes wrong but it was always her choice. What a role model for a young woman in the heady early days of feminism.

Much of this character development comes down to the actors. They may be given the lines but how they deliver them is what actually makes the character come alive. Elisabeth Sladen made Sarah Jane Smith into a vibrant, real person. That's quite an achievement.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Oh my. It's just dawned on me that Swancon (combined this year with Natcon Fifty) will already be underway by this time next week. For the program go here.

There's a great line up of guests too. You can find the guest lists here. I've just had a look and it includes Ellen Datlow, Justina Robson and Sean Williams, Glenda Larke, Jonathan Strahan, Juliet Marillier, Bevan McGuiness, Lyn McConchie, Nicole Murphy and Mary Victoria. That's quite impressive. It's going to be a fantastic weekend. Hope I see you there.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Literary Agent Blogs

I'm so glad I subscribe to Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents blog. Apart from information on established agents it provides lots more. It introduces new agents, notifies of agency closures, interviews writers at all stages of their careers and has articles on how to hone the dreaded pitch, cover letters and so much more, often reminding me about something I've forgotten as well as great new information. There are giveaways too.

This link came into my Inbox yesterday. Among the blogs are some I already follow - Rachel Gardner's Rants and Ramblings On Life As a Literary Agent and Kristen Nelson's Pub Rants - but others were new to me. They are all now on my list of blogs to follow on a regular basis.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Income Streams

Tansy Rayner Roberts, a writer and blogger I enjoy very much, usually blogs at Stitching Words, One Thread at a Time but she has been on what she describes as a slapdash blog tour to publicise her new book The Shattered City. One of her stops was at Egoboo WA and she has listed some of her other guest blogs here and here.

One that particularly interested me was at The Journeyman Writer where she describes the ups and downs of a writer's life. The first advice given to anyone who sets out to be a professional writer is often 'Don't quit your day job'. You don't have to be around this business too long before you realise that full time, professional writers like J. K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyers and Stephen King who make squillions and get big advances are the exceptions. Most writers make their livings in a combination of ways - writing, teaching, corporate work etc.

Having just read this post I came across something similar at John Scalzi's blog. It confirms just how erratic a writer's income stream can be. It's a lesson we all need to bear in mind, I guess, because for many writers the business side is something we would rather not think about too much - and we should.

Apology: I completely messed up my links here. They are now corrected.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Progress Report

I know I've quiet but it's been head down and tail up for a number of reasons. I've been furiously editing to a deadline - nearly there - while dealing with some health issues affecting both myself and Pisces and getting the renos underway - selections done. Now we just have to live with the mess starting in a couple of weeks. We've been puppy sitting as well with Virgo's pup too young to be left by herself and proving a somewhat destructive distraction. As of tomorrow I'll be taking a deep breath and I hope having a short break before we get into the next round of 'stuff'. Before that though I need a good, long sleep.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Dreaded Synopsis

I've been working on submissions lately and that includes the dreaded synopsis. I don't actually know anyone who likes writing these horrible beasties. You spend an inordinate amount of time trying to strip a novel that you drafted, crafted, edited and generally made sure that every single word had a purpose and need to exist and then - just when you have it polished and perfect - you have to summarise it in one or two pages and in such a way that whoever reads it will be overcome by your skill and wit and will want to buy it. Well there's only one thing to do in this situation, isn't there. No, screaming abuse at the computer or the person demanding this of you or, for that matter just screaming, won't cut it - although you may temporarily feel better.

What you have to do is to write it. So I have. I'll let you know if it works.

Oh Japan

My heart bleeds for the people affected by the unfolding disasters there. I feel so frustrated that I can't help. May things improve soon.

Monday, March 07, 2011

What I've Been Learning From Other Writers

I've blogged about things I've learned from other writers - in particular, Rosanne Dingli, Neil Gaiman and Bill O'Hanlon - over on the Egoboo WA blog. Come by and have a look. We've some interesting interviews coming up there too.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Christchurch Earthquake

My heart goes out to all those affected by this terrible disaster. I'm lucky that I have no family there but I do have friends and I, like everyone else, am scouring the news reports and Facebook to see if they are affected. The Earth seems to have gone crazy just now.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Library Crisis in the UK

I've been watching the protests surrounding the enormous cuts in government spending in the UK with a nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach. This is not anything to do with the political colour of the UK government - I don't live there so that is irrelevant as far as I'm concerned - and everything to do with the increasingly strident calls in many parts of the world that put a monetary value on government services.

Yes, there was a major financial crisis and many nations are still struggling with the aftermath and governments need to find ways of cutting spending to deal with the situation. That is a given. What is disturbing me is where these cuts are being made.

In the UK among sensible decisions there have been others that, in my opinion, are counter productive. Increasing student fees was one. A nation that encourages higher education is one that in the future will have an educated, innovative society, which will in turn create employment and financial stability. Closing doors to those who cannot afford to pay for education means that many who have the ability will not be able to develop their skills. This is a waste of resources that no nation can justify. What wise government wouldn't want to exploit all the ability its constituents have? Seems counter productive to me.

Another strange decision is the funding cuts to libraries, many of which now face closure. The argument to justify this is confusing. Apparently libraries are expensive and everyone now has access to the internet so libraries are no longer necessary. The flaws in this are obvious. Apart from the fact that everyone does not have access to the internet - not everyone has a computer or can afford internet access - libraries provide services beyond just storing a lot of books. Yes, you can google just about anything. Unfortunately there is no way to be sure of the quality of that information and, in many cases, once you move to research papers and similar sources the information is not free. All you will get is an abstract - if you're lucky - or the title and a few words from the beginning of the paper. If you want to read the whole you will have to pay a fee - so not available to all.

Libraries have librarians - and despite what we see of their work - they do much more than just put books in the right order on the shelves, check out books and collect fines. A good librarian has a wide knowledge of what is on the shelves and where else you can find it if it is not in their library. The internet cannot give this sort of information.

We need libraries - and now more than ever. Libraries are no longer book collections. They stock information in media of many kinds - have done for decades - and they promote reading, one of the most valuable skills anyone can have. My children joined the local library as babies -yes, they were catered for at that age. As three and four year olds they went to Story Time where librarians read to them and gave them activities to do that sprang from the stories. They borrowed books even at that age and had them read to them until they could read them themselves. Now, as adults, they still have enquiring minds. I have to wonder whether this would have been so if they had not been encouraged as young children. The library opened opportunities to them I could never have provided otherwise. Financially it would have been impossible.

Beyond that, libraries provide services to the disabled - large print books for the visually impaired being one area, the elderly - books are taken to those who cannot access the library, and those with limited finances. There is no way I could possibly read the number of books I do if I had to buy them and I'm sure there are many in my position. They also, in many countries, provide an additional income flow to authors, through Public Lending Rights payments. The internet does not and cannot provide these services.

I am truly alarmed at the prospect of a decline in libraries - and it seems that many in the UK are similarly alarmed. They are doing all they can, in a wide range of innovative ways, to draw attention to the problem. You can see some of them here, where poet, Katy Evans-Bush, tells us what libraries mean and have meant to her, and, for an Australian response on the importance of libraries to us all, here, where Tansy Rayner Roberts talks about her local library. I wish the UK protesters luck because it seems to me that this insidious attack is spreading. Everywhere knowledge is, on the one hand, more widely available than ever before but, on the other, being closed off.

I referred in a post a while back to the comment attributed to Winston Churchill during World War II. In an attempt to save money his Finance Minister reputedly suggested that funding to the arts be cut. The response was 'Then what are we fighting for?' In my opinion, this is just as appropriately applied to things like cuts that make knowledge less accessible.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Writing Strong Women

There's a great series of posts going up on Mary Victoria's blog. She has a whole bunch of authors posting as guest bloggers on writing strong women. So far there are blogs by Nicole Murphy, Gillian Polack, Glenda Larke, Kim Falconer and Tim Jones with more to come. The posts are fascinating and so are the discussions in the comments. Why not have a look?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Perth Bushfire Disaster

Seventy two homes destroyed, more than thirty damaged. Miraculously no lives were lost - and how did this happen? In part, according to media reports, it was due to someone deciding to use an angle grinder in the open, despite a total fire ban (which includes using machinery). As angle grinders give off a shower of sparks while they cut through metal, these set fire to the surrounding area. There is little comprehension of how even a small spark can set fire dry grasses. Add in strong winds such as we had over the weekend in Perth and even one spark is a recipe for disaster.

This is indicative of the lack of understanding of the danger of fire in the community. We are increasingly a suburban society and people don't have the experience with fire of previous generations. Our homes are for the most part surrounded by well-watered and maintained gardens and for many a backyard barbecue doesn't involve a fire but gas, in house cooking is with gas or electricity and we are increasingly abandoning wood fires for alternative heating. So for most people fires, if they have any experience of them, are small and easily controlled.

For where total fire bans are in place and what you can and cannot do when a total fire ban is in place in Western Australia go to the FESA website.

Swancon Short Story Competition

The details of the Swancon Short Story Competition are out. Go here to find out how to enter. There's lots more information on the website too.

Monday, February 07, 2011

KSP Speculative Fiction Awards 2011

The KSP Speculative Fiction Awards 2011 are open. All Australian residents are eligible to enter and the prizes are pretty good too - in the Open section $600 for first, $300 for second and $175 for third and there are prizes for young writers too. Any form of Speculative fiction is acceptable so, if you have a speculative short story sitting around, why not have a look at the entry conditions on the KSP Writers Centre website. Entry forms are available there too.

And Now We Have...

fires in the hills surrounding Perth. In a firestorm that started yesterday at least 41 homes have been destroyed so far and the fires are still raging. This is scary - and strange because, where I live on the coast, I can't even see smoke on the horizon but there's a faint smell of smoke and a slight brassiness in the air betraying its presence.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Egoboo WA Interview with Chris Lynch

Today I interview my Clarion South mate, Chris Lynch of Tangled Bank Press, over on the Egoboo WA blog about his anthology The Tangled Bank which is to be launched on Darwin Day, 12 February 2011. Call in and see what he has to say.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

And Just When You Think the Weather Can't Get Worse

Flash floods accompanying severe thunderstorms are hitting Melbourne and surrounds while Perth is experiencing a drought. Sydneysiders, on the other hand, are in the middle of a heatwave. And it's not only happening in Australia. There are massive snowfalls in the US. Is the Earth trying to tell us something?

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Poor Australia.

For those of you who do not live in Australia, it's hard to imagine the magnitude of the natural disasters that have happened here in the last two months. Flooding in the Gascoyne area of Western Australia, twice in a month, was followed by massive floods in Queensland inundating an enormous area of southern Queensland and including a devastating flash flood in the Lockyer Valley and serious flooding in Brisbane. Northern New South Wales also experienced severe flooding, fortunately not on the scale of Queensland. Just as the water began to recede in the north flooding began in Victoria where what has been described as an inland sea is still moving and inundating huge areas and there was local flooding in several parts of Tasmania. While this was going on bushfires caused serious damage just south of Perth in Western Australia and a few days ago storms cut through the central wheatbelt in Western Australia damaging homes and farms while an errant tropical cyclone raced along the west coast, threatening but fortunately delivering little damage. Now we have Cyclone Yasi, a Category 5 Tropical Cyclone with winds up to 295 kmph, (as a comparison think of Hurricane Katrina where winds reached 281 kmph) which hit the north eastern coast of Queensland last night causing enormous damage to crops and although it is now downgraded to a severe tropical low pressure system as it pushes inland it is still bringing strong winds and rain and with that the potential of more flooding.

Among all this devastation there have been relatively few deaths - although any are too many - and this is largely due to the efficiency and preparedness of our emergency services. Yes, there were mistakes, and yes, in some instances it could have been done better but generally the various government and volunteer agencies have performed well in difficult circumstance, especially when compared to the way some governments in other countries have handled their own disasters.

We have a long way to go still and the cumulative after effects of what has happened are going to impact on every Australian for a long time. Many areas that have been devastated are major suppliers of our fresh fruit and vegetables and beef growers are also affected. Prices will inevitably go up but we will survive.

In the meantime we should remember those who risked their lives and made a terrible time better. Thank you to all who have done so much.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Reflections on Sombre Music in News Telecasts

This is probably one of the imponderables of life - but having just had an update from a relation living in Queensland on her and her family's experiences during and since the floods I remembered something that really bugged me when the floods were at their height. No, it wasn't the way the television coverage recycled the same limited footage every few minutes - although come to think of it that was pretty annoying. Actually extremely annoying. A similar thing happened when Virgo was travelling overseas in 2005 and staying in a hostel located in the square where the bus was blown up in London. Unable to contact her, the last thing I wanted was same images of destruction endlessly repeated. All that did was make us worry all the more.

But that is a digression. What was infuriating me during the recent flooding was the way the television coverage - when not accompanied by a reporter desperately trying to extract a few words from people who were generally far too busy doing something useful to have the time to waste with the exception of the one woman who was interviewed at least three times - was the way they played sombre music as they shown the impact of the flooding. Yes, I do understand that you need something and if the filming lacked sound - although it would certainly surprise me if they couldn't have taped what was actually happening - given that television involves both sight and sound, something has to fill the gap. But this music was intrusive and distracting. I wasn't the only one who was annoyed by this. Queenslanders I was in contact with were equally irritated.

So a hint to whoever sorts out the background music: we shouldn't notice it. If you are watching a movie are you aware that there is music except when there is dialogue? No, I didn't think so. It's certainly there but it's subtle - and if they can do it surely whoever selects music for news broadcasts can do the same. Create and keep a library of appropriate music and they won't even have to think. Is that too hard?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

More About Doves

I know, I do go on about them - and, yes, they are feral, introduced and probably pests - but I kind of like them.

In my experience doves have only two uses for bird baths - to have a drink and occasionally to stand in them for a minute or so, presumably to cool down. I have never seen one actually splash and bathe - until now. Apparently nor have any of the other doves living around here because when one of their number plunged into the bird bath and started splashing a few mornings ago they all stopped drinking and stared. It splashed more, ducking its head under and flapping enthusiastically. They all pulled their heads back and pushed their chests out. It hopped onto a vacant part of the rim, fluffed its feathers, took a drink and flew over to the fence to fluff again. The other doves decided to ignore the whole thing. Some drank and two hopped into the bird bath, stood for a minute then hopped out. It was as if they collectively decided to show the errant dove how it should behave. It didn't work. It was back again the next morning bathing happily. Perhaps it will start a new trend.

Friday, January 14, 2011

After The Rain - Fundraisers for Queensland Flood Victims

It doesn't take long for folk to pull together in a disaster, does it.

Tehani Wessely of FableCroft Publishing has put together a limited edition ebook of After the Rain (the full version is to be released in April 2011) to raise money for the Queensland Flood Relief Appeal. The authors have donated their work and all proceeds will go to the flood relief. The list of authors is impressive so it will be a worthwhile read while you are helping those in need. Go here for full details including a list of contents.

Monday, January 10, 2011

What Do You Think?

The Family Court in Perth has legally separated an elderly couple, married for forty years and who want to remain married, because the wife has to go into full residential care. The husband has been ordered to pay his wife around $600,000 as a result and this may force him to sell the family home. See here.

I'm no lawyer but this seems to mean that a person's home (which is not normally counted as part of a pensioner's assets) can be taken away at the behest of the Family Court, leaving one partner potentially homeless, and that marriages can be dissolved without the consent or wish of the married couple. This frightens me. If it can happen to one couple does this mean it can happen to anyone - your parents or maybe you or me? Besides not everyone who goes into residential care is elderly. Does this mean that if say a young man is injured and needs permanent residential care but neither he nor his wife want to divorce, the Family Court could terminate the marriage and force his spouse to sell the family home? I don't know. As I said I am not a lawyer but it seems to me the decision raises all sorts of questions and in an ageing population I doubt if I am the only one wanting some clarification.