Those little candles…

Well, it’s a week later and things out in the wide world haven’t improved. You see, I couldn’t write what I wanted to write last week because I was too angry. I’ve found that I should never write when I’m angry as I usually end up having to apologise and rebuild bridges and do some crawling. It’s better to wait until the red before my eyes has faded. Unfortunately these days, that can take some time. I used to be a certified Pollyanna; a perpetual optimist; a glass-not-just-full-but-overflowing person; a “she’ll be right, mate” sort of gal. These days I’m a certified grumpy old woman, but I keep looking for the things that make me laugh and the people who make me think there’s still hope for humanity. Here’s a few examples. Donald Trump is now suggesting that the border wall between the USA and Mexico could be a giant solar panel and then the Mexicans wouldn’t have to pay as much. How generous. I’m sure the Mexicans are thrilled. (Honestly, can we take anything he says, seriously?) When the tower block burned down in London, the people who rushed to help were Muslims, Christians and people who don’t believe in anything. Everyone helped. It was a case of humanity being humane. This year the saiga antelope, the giant panda, the reef manta ray, the large blue butterfly, the Arabian oryx, the Tasmanian devil and the echo parakeet have all been brought back from the edge of extinction. HOORAY! There is a group called “Preemptive Love Coalition” that has been taking aid into the heart of Mosul for ten years. Even though ISIS is still holding sway there, they persist in taking help to Mosul. Even when their lives are threatened, they persist. They are Christians helping Muslims. That, to me, is what the gospel is all about. And, then there’s all the funny dog, cat and squirrel videos on Facebook. Sanity-savers, each and every one. I keep looking for the little candles shining in the dark night. I hope you find some, too.          ...

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T.V. drama

I’ve been on holiday with the Old Boy and the Wonder Dog in the wilds of South-Western Victoria, enjoying the scenery, while trying to keep warm. As a citizen of the driest state on the second driest continent … though I still don’t know why Antarctica is the driest when it’s covered in snow, which is technically water! Darn. Where was I? Oh yeah, coming from a dry state that is struggling through a very dry winter, it’s fascinating seeing what life in a place with plenty of rain is like. They actually have ponds and puddles and dams and lakes, all full of water. And! Their grass is GREEN. It’s amazing. So, while we were away, relaxing, I managed to get just over 20,000 words added to my manuscript for book 2: Dragon-friend.  I’m starting to feel a little anxious that I won’t get it finished by the August deadline, so these days I don’t do much else. That’s why this blog has suffered in the past few weeks. Today, rather than focus on world affairs (you all know what’s going on) I’m saving my ire for television. I know that, compared to what’s happened in London lately, this is only a drop in the ocean. But, it’s something that drives me nuts, so please let me vent. They’re reporting on a car accident, or a shooting tragedy, or something similar. They have a plethora of adjectives to use – horrific, horrendous, horrible, horrifying – but do they use any of them? No. They go straight for the NOUN: a horror smash, a horror shooting, a horror death… !!!!!! And, how come every victim of a car accident, or shooting, or whatever, is always “the innocent victim”? I mean, the law of averages suggests that some of those people must be guilty of something! And, then there are the phrases that are bandied about willy-nilly. I’ll have you know that not “all of Australia” is holding its breath for the next episode. The Old Boy and I aren’t, and I bet there’s more than just us two. What relevance does “9 out of 10 women” have, when we don’t know which women you asked? Are you implying that 90% of the female population in Australia uses your face cream, or just 9 of them? I’ve never been asked for my opinion for any of these things: face creams, soap, vacuum cleaners…nothing! Every time I’m told that “You won’t believe what happens next”, I discover that it’s either someone’s deceived someone, a character leaves the show, or they’ve made an extraordinary dessert. These things aren’t particularly astounding. We all know you’re just trying to build the drama, to catch our attention, and quite frankly it is counter-productive. The more hyperbole you use, the more you dribble on telling me what I will or won’t like, and the more times you show the same “upcoming episodes” clip, the less likely I am to watch it. There! I feel better. Thanks for listening.          ...

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Put a lid on it!

Bullying has reached epidemic proportions, particularly via social media, and it’s time we put a stop to it. It’s not just kids being mean to other kids. Adults are weighing in with gusto against anyone who dares to think, act, look, or believe differently. I can’t help thinking that being vicious, vitriolic and just plain nasty, is gearing up to be the next Olympic sport. What happened to the art of sensible, reasoned debate? For example: a local brewing company brought out a special, one-off, range of labels to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Bible Society. A nice gesture. Then, the Society posted on the internet a discussion between a pro-gay marriage supporter and an anti-gay marriage supporter. It was calm, polite and civilized. The trolls took offence at polite conversation and began a campaign of hatred against the (non-homophobic) brewing company, urging everyone to stop buying their product. The language used was pure bile. It was extraordinary…or so I thought. Example two: an immigrant from the Sudan, still learning the cultural nuances of being Australian, used the phrase “Lest we forget”, to highlight the plight of people in war-torn countries today. She obviously thought she was being clever using a topical reference (it being Anzac Day). Within a day of posting her statement, someone told her that she might be construed as being offensive to the Australian soldiers who had died in conflict, with whom the phrase “Lest we forget” is associated. She apologised and removed the post. You’d think that’d be the end of that, but no. She was pilloried, mocked, abused, there were calls for her to lose her job and some even went so far as to suggest she “go back where she came from”. The spewing out of hatred continued for well over a week. Did she intend to offend our diggers? No. Did we offend her? Yes. I see it in political posts, too. Now, do I think you might have rocks in your head if you don’t vote the way I do? Possibly. Do I need to say that, in as many colourful ways as possible? No. Two reasons why: i) you have the right to vote however you want and ii) there may be a (slight) chance that I am wrong…maybe. I see no benefit in swearing at those who disagree with me. I see no benefit in posting rude, offensive and, at times, pornographic pictures to mock people. If we just stand along the line drawn in the sand, our chins out and our fists clenched, and just yell at each other, what does that actually achieve apart from high blood pressure and a potential stroke? For goodness sake, people, pull your heads in! Given that not everyone is capable of it, let’s try anyway to resurrect the art of civilized debate. Let’s try to discuss calmly, listening to the other person and trying to understand their point of view. Let’s try to be polite. Let’s try to find the good in people, rather than delighting in destroying their lives. Get a grip; grow up; play...

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Boffins are my super-heroes

With Mr T chucking missiles out, left right and centre, insulting America’s allies, and continually displaying his ignorance about the rest of the world, I can understand it if world affairs might be leaving you a bit wobbly. So, today, I thought I’d share something positive. Something encouraging. Something nice. The scientists – that great community of dedicated boffins – are slowly but surely winning the war against cancer. Go Team!  Okay, there are still plenty who don’t win the fight, and it’s especially devastating when it’s a young person. But, just think: twenty years ago, when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I was told that if it came back there was nothing they could do for me. I would die. So, when it did turn up again in 2011, I thought I might not make it to Christmas. But, here I am in 2017. I’m discovering that there are lots and lots of us who are living with cancer, rather than dying (quickly) from it. Okay, we’re all going to die of something, some time, and for me it most probably will be the cancer, but for a lot of us this disease is no longer a bullet train into eternity. YAY! Back in 2012, I was one of the first patients to whom my oncologist gave Denosumab. (Denosumab helps my bones fight the invading cancer cells and reduces the pain levels. God bless it.) It was still “experimental”. But these days, I often meet other people living with metastasised cancer, who are on this wonderful drug. Instead of sitting hooked up to a drip for half an hour every month, we get a quick jab in the tum; all over in minutes. Okay, for the next couple of days, I feel lousy, but it’s worth it. I was in the chemo room yesterday, waiting for my jab, when I met a lovely lady whose husband is also on the big D. He has been living with metastasised prostate cancer for the last nine years. Nine years! I can remember the days when that was an automatic death sentence of months, if you were lucky, not years. So, hooray for all the boffins, slaving away in laboratories all around the world. God bless you and your work…and I pray you’re kept safe from stray missiles and nasty budget cuts.   PS Please don’t send me diet tips; links to sites about marijuana; information about ‘faith healers’; links to articles about how the medical community are keeping the secret of the cure from me, in order to make money, or anything about the wonders of mung beans, tofu and aromatherapy. You might think I’m pathetic, but I choose to trust my oncologist. So far, what he’s doing is...

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TA – DA!

I have often wondered whether this day would ever come. I watched the years go by, with no indication of a result. Oh, I had little victories: several short stories sold and published; a few non-fiction articles; a regular spot in a satirical magazine for a few years; bucket loads of reviews published and, finally, a self-published book of which I was proud. But still, the big one eluded me. It wasn’t for lack of trying. I’ve written several novels but couldn’t get anyone willing to take them on. I have been ignored by some big names in the publishing world; not even a “no thanks” email. Others were very encouraging. “We like your style. We love the story. Your characters are interesting. But, you don’t suit our list/We don’t think we can sell this/No thank you.” I’ve been told by an agent that they were excited by the book and were passing it on up the food chain, only to find out – about six months later – that particular agent had left the agency and the group no longer dealt with fantasy. I’ve been asked to rewrite a book to change it from adult to young adult, but when I did that the agent told me it was “too young” and the publisher told me it was “too adult”. I’ve been told by a publisher, who specialises in authors and stories particular to my state, that “true stories don’t sell”. Even though, that’s their speciality. When I finally scraped some of my husband’s money together and self-published, I had trouble selling enough books to make it worth while. It’s really hard to do it all on your own. (Okay…it’s difficult for me.) But now – finally – I can announce that I am under contract!  A traditional publisher, Stone Table Books, has signed me up. They’re going to publish Dragon-friend (book 2 in the series: The Flight) and also do a reprint of Beast-speaker (bk 1). They will be launched together, later this year. That’s because I haven’t finished book 2 yet. That’s right! They signed me up for two books on the strength of my writing in the first book. Amazing! I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have someone believe in my work. Someone who is willing to back me and support me, and push to get my work in print. When I was first offered the contract, I admit it: I cried. I still find it all a little surreal. Is this really happening? What’s the catch? Perhaps I’ll finally believe it when I see the new covers, done by a proper illustrator. Perhaps I’ll finally believe it when I’m sitting at the book launch, signing copies. And, if it’s all a dream, then WOO HOO! Dream...

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