Here come the Visigoths.

I don’t usually get into discussions/arguments about politics, either in my blog, on my f/b page or anywhere else on the Net. I like a quiet life. I do all my seething in the shower. I download my angst to the long-suffering Old Boy, who raises his eyebrows and makes non-comittal grunting noises. And, I tell Rex the Wonder Dog how the world should be ordered and, wise canine, he always agrees with me. That’s as far as it goes…usually. I know that politicians work long hours and most of them have the good of the community at heart. (Please don’t burst that particular bubble; it’s the only way I can sleep at night.) So, unlike most of my compatriots, I don’t spend a lot of time having fun at their expense …tempting as it is. But I have to say, I’m extremely disappointed with our current state government. They’re spending billions of dollars revamping our city’s main oval. Ok, it’s a beautiful cricket ground, much-loved by sports fans around the world and it’ll be nice to also have Australian Rules Football national and state games there as well. But, (brace yourselves, as this will sound strange coming from a passionate Australian who loves sport; it’s part of our national identity, after all!), I think their priorities are up the wattle. There; I’ve said it. On the highway between my state and the next is a series of signs begging for the state government to save a hospital at Keith (a rural town). If it goes bust the people living in that region will have to travel several hours to get to the next hospital. That could be the difference between life and death. Upgrades on oval: several million dollars. Save the hospital: several thousand dollars. The South Australian Writers Centre, which has been the only major support network for the plethora of writers living in this state, as well as a promoter of literature in schools, conferences etc, may have to close down because the government is considering axing the small grant its given in the past. We’re only talking in the thousands. Obviously football is the only thing that matters in this state. Forget health. Forget education. Forget thinking and communicating well. Kill off the arts. Just make sure you’ve got a new oval. Remember the Romans with their campaign of Bread and Circuses? Let’s learn from history. All they succeeded in doing was to weaken the moral fibre of their citizens so that when the barbarians invaded, the empire folded with barely a whimper. But, hey, they didn’t play football so what do I...

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Hanging in there…

I’m having one of those ‘why am I even bothering to try’ times. It might be because the skies have been grey and the rain and wind haven’t let up for several days. I could put it down to a combination of chronic arthritis and cabin fever…or it might be that I’ve been waiting to hear from the publisher for AGES. If I ever get a novel published it’ll probably be posthumously! I don’t have tickets on myself. I realise I’ll never be the next J K Rowling. But, I’m a reviewer. In the past six years I’ve read several truckloads of books. And I have to say, compared to about 60% of them – maybe more – I write as well, or better. Of course, there’s the other 40% or so, who are much much better than me but even so, I’m talking ‘published books’ here. There have been a plethora of times when I’ve thought: How did this get into print? Who did they know, pay, do a favour for…? I bet you’ve had similar moments, when you’ve read the literary equivalent of the movie, ‘Ishtar’. I know it’s a slow process. I know that for us non-Rowling types it takes a long time. But, I’m running out of life-time here folks! It’s so FRUSTRATING! I should be well on the way with book two in my junior fantasy series but I can’t get my head around it. I keep thinking: What’s the point of spending a year working on it, if I can’t get book one published? Such negativity, hey? I warned you: grey skies, rain, wind, cabin fever, chronic pain, SLOW PUBLISHERS… It all adds up to a gloomy state of mind. And I’m on holiday for goodness sake. The frogs are singing up a storm, so they’re loving the weather. The fire is blazing, so that’s a comfort. We found some sugar free chocolate, so that’s a blessing. The Wonder Dog hasn’t had one ‘little accident’, so that’s a miracle. Really, I should be ‘counting it all joy’ my brothers and sisters. I’ll go read a paperback and tell myself I could do much better; that should cheer me...

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Holidays: The Old Boy, Rex and me.

Being on holiday and sticking to your diet – sorry, “Healthy Life-Style Plan” – is dead-set BORING! Especially when it’s winter. Oh for a hot meat pie, or flaky pasty for lunch. Oh for a block of fruit and nut chocolate to nibble on (okay, to wolf down) in the evening. Oh for a gooey vanilla slice or yeasty fruit bun with a cappucino for afternoon tea. Hmmm…I’m beginning to see how I got in this state in the first place! I think it’s because it’s so cold. My internal bear wants to bulk up and then go hibernate until the spring. Rex the Wonder Dog is adjusting to the new place. He had a nocturnal encounter with a kangaroo the other night. The Old Boy was out with him (I was in by the fire). He said you couldn’t see it – fair enough, it was night time – but it must have been close. There was a sudden, distinctive THUD THUD as the beastie bounded away. Scared the dickens out of the mutt. Poor thing must have thought: Blinkin’ heck, that’s got to be the world’s biggest rabbit! The Old Boy has already had a day out “hunting”, but that gold nugget remains elusive. Mind you, if there’s ever a sudden global demand for rusty old metal we’ll be rich. I stayed in and wrote my submission for an anthology with the theme: Valentine’s Day. You’ll be able to read it here next Feb, unless something unexpectedly romantic happens in time to inspire something new. (Don’t hold your breath.) We’re off now to explore the bush with an occasional stop off at an old cemetery. I always find those places inspiring. In the old days they used to write really interesting things on tombstones; little snippets of history. Last time we were out this way I got the inspiration for a short story from one such headstone. I’m always inspired by the courage and hardiness of the pioneers. And, of course, there’s always the encouraging thought that they’re dead and I’m not. At least out there in the bush there’s nothing to tempt me to cheat on the “Healthy Life-Style Plan”. Darn...

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Counting the days.

I’m on countdown mode for a holiday; only four more sleeps to go. I’ve just got a final check-through to do, and a report to write, for an editing job (I’m having a short break, sir, and then I’ll be right back to it) and then I’ll be free! Well, sort of. I’m taking a stack of reading with me, none of them my choice. I’m one of the judges for a competition and I have a bucket load of books to get through in the next month or so. And no – I won’t tell you what competition in case you’ve entered it and you end up disappointed. I value what little health I have left. I’m sure most of the books will be enjoyable and the others will make me feel better about my own efforts. So, thank you in advance to those people. (See why I won’t say which competition?) I’m hoping to get some of my own writing done while I’m away. I have a deal with the Old Boy (my darlin’): we alternate days. One day he goes poking about in the dirt, hunting for rocks and I pound away at the keyboard. Okay, I admit an awful lot of pondering, day-dreaming and solitaire playing – just to break the monotony – also goes on, but you know how it is. Some days, the muse just doesn’t want to come out to play. And in any case, at the very first writers’ workshop I attended, the expert assured us that day-dreaming was an essential part of the writing process, so I refuse to feel guilty. So there! On the alternate day we do something together: wandering about in the bush looking for other rocks (for him) and gold or wildlife (for me); visiting something touristy; finding the best available bakery/coffee shop (requires extensive research); or getting lost on dirt roads. The Old Boy claims that, unlike myself, he never gets lost. Once we were interstate, heading into the capital city. It was dark and the streets seemed to be getting seedier as the minutes passed by. Eventually we pulled up under a street lamp and the Old Boy took out a map. The offspring and I chorused: Admit it. You’re lost! ‘Not at all,’ he said. ‘I know exactly where we are.’ And where are we? ‘We’re right here.’ He then got out of the car to stand under the light, so as to see the map better…and possibly so he couldn’t hear our derisive laughter. This is the first time Rex the Wonder Dog will visit this particular holiday spot. We haven’t been there for a few years. The last time was with Mickey the Mighty, (a chihuahuaXterrier) who has now gone to that great foot cushion in the sky. It should be an interesting experience for the mutt. Lots of lovely smells out in the country-side. Mickey used to go positively mental whenever he had the chance to roll in fresh kangaroo poo. We’re going to have to take a jumbo bottle of dog shampoo with us: Rex is white. (Stupid colour for a dog!) It’ll be a nice change of scenery and a break from the usual routine and… Actually, it’ll be a nice change of scenery. Let’s face it: I still get to cook the meals, wash our clothes, do the dishes… So, not much change to the routine. My idea of a real holiday is a four or five star (I’m not picky) hotel, with room-service, a fabulous dining room and all-you-can-eat buffet. If there was enough money, I wouldn’t bother washing my clothes, I’d just buy new stuff. Sigh. I know there are people who actually get to do that sort of thing. I’ve read the magazines. One day, when I’m rich and famous… Meanwhile it’ll be a little old farmhouse that we’re paying peanuts for, with linoleum floor coverings (so cosy in winter) and the toilet at the opposite end of the house from the bedroom. (Nothing like combining piddle breaks and walking/jogging exercise at the same time.) It’ll be fun. Honestly. No, really. Don’t forget the scenery! And the kangaroo poo… I’ll be posting the next couple of blogs from there, so watch this...

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Thank you, doc!

Visited my doc the other day, clutching my list of ‘things-I-must-remember-to-ask-him’ in my sweaty hand. It doesn’t matter that we’re in autumn/winter; my hand always sweats when I go to the doc. Also, my brain goes into an ‘oh-lord-the-doc’s-again’ fog and I usually forget why I’m there; hence, the list. It was going to be a quick visit. (Mind you, I say that every time. I’m a glass half-full person.) I thought I’d be out in 5. But, we got talking about authors and literature and… ‘Have you heard of James Lee Burke?’ the doc says. Yes, I say, I know the name. I wasn’t lying; the name did ring a bell. But, I was in the fog zone, so that was as far as it went right then. I googled him when I got home. He’s a crime novel author, and a darned good one at that. ‘I saw a documentary about him on the TV the other night,’ the doc says. ‘One of his novels (the Lost Get-Back Boogie) was rejected over 100 times (111 times over a 9 year period) before it was finally picked up. When it was published it was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize! How about that? I thought it might encourage you.’ I’m still working out whether I’m encouraged, disheartened, numb, bemused, annoyed… I mean, everyone and his flipping dog rejects the thing and it’s nominated for the Pulitzer?!! That’s just WRONG. My doc said, ‘Who makes these crazy decisions? It’s a miracle that anything decent gets published.’ Amen, brother, you’re preaching to the choir. I don’t have any expectation that one of my books will ever be nominated for a prestigious award (but fingers crossed, and please-oh-please-oh-please). However, I’ve read, reviewed and edited enough books to know that my latest effort isn’t too bad. In fact, I dare to say it’s pretty good. But, I thought that about the other rejects. sigh. I think it’s high time we get the accountants back to the bean-counting room, and out of the editorial decision-making. Too often I’ve heard: the editorial staff all loved it, but the money people don’t think it was worth the risk/didn’t think it’d sell enough/don’t think there’s enough profit in it. I think the literary experts should decide what’s worth publishing, and then the marketting wallahs can actually do the marketting (instead of leaving it to the author), and the accountants can go back to balancing the spread sheets, investing the profits and counting the cash. I realise it’s a revolutionary concept, but I reckon it’s worth a try. It’s so crazy, it just might work! One thing I have learned from Mr Burke’s example: You’ve got to have bucket-loads of self-belief and a tonne of perseverance (or sheer bloody-mindedness). Okay: putting shoulder back to the wheel, nose to the grind-stone and (despite the uncomfortable and, let’s face it, ridiculous...

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