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.