Norway’s terrorist.

I’m as shocked as the rest of you over recent events in Norway. Early reports said some Fundamental Islamic group had claimed credit (boy do they have egg on their faces now!). Did you think what I did? Norway?! What can possibly be offensive about Norway apart from their strange attraction to pickled herrings? When I think of Norway I think: Vikings, cross-country skiers, Nobel Peace Prize and snow. That’s about it. I mean… Norway?!!! Why would Al Quaeda want to attack little old Norway? Then the news broke: they’d caught the guy and he was a Right-wing Christian extremist. Turns out he blew up the city and gunned down the teenagers as a protest against non-Europeans settling in Europe. Yep, slaughter a bunch of Norwegians…that’ll teach all those foreigners! He wasn’t killing people to get his jollies; he was making a “political statement”. Look, I get the “right-wing” bit. I get the “extremist” bit. But, “Christian”? He might well claim that’s what he is but I’m sorry, he’s definitely not Christian. He says “Christian” but he just means “white European”. The two terms aren’t synonymous. I’m fighting mad (in a passivist manner) about this. Christian? Bah humbug. What a load of codswallop. No one can do such an horrific, bloody thing to children and claim they’re followers of Christ. He said: “Love your enemies. Forgive those who hurt you. Do good to those who persecute you.” It makes me see red that this fellow would have the nerve to link his name with Jesus. (Okay, he’s not the first: Crusaders, Inquisition… But, it still doesn’t make it right!) And why should we give credence to his claim? Before 9/11 we would have said: This dude is a complete fruit loop. Post 9/11 everything is put down to political/religious terrorism. The fact is, every now and then some nutter does something like this and the only reason he’s doing it is because he’s BONKERS. It’s not his religion. It’s not his politics. It’s not because his father left home when he was ten. It’s not because he was a bed-wetter. It’s because he’s a sociopathic nut-case. End of story. When I saw the images from the youth camp on the island, my mind flashed back to Martin Bryant and the massacre at Port Arthur in Tasmania. The spooky thing is the two men even look a bit alike. Of course Bryant had his gory moment pre-9/11 so he’s just a psychotic killer, instead of some sort of religious extremist. I guess it’s all in the timing. My love and prayers are with the suffering people of Norway. This tragedy is a sad reminder that life is a fragile, precious thing and we should treasure each moment we get to share it with the ones we...

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Smiling assassins

Everyone likes dolphins, right? We look at their smiley faces, watch their cute antics in the water, see the occasional video of a dolphin smooching up to a dog/cat/child on a boat and think: awww, how sweet! All my life dolphins have been the quintessential good guys. Sharks have always been the menacing baddies. A typical white hat/black hat scenario. Spiderman V the Green Hornet. With me so far? Well the other day I saw a very disturbing documentary. Some scientists were investigating the mysterious deaths of a group of porpoises. Their deaths weren’t due to illness, or accidental drowning, or even being harpooned by over-zealous fishermen. They had been savagely, horrendously beaten up (massive bruising), slashed and mauled. Several of the scientists even used the word “murder”. And at the end of their investigation the shocking conclusion – and the forensics backed them up – was that the murderers were bottle-nosed dolphins. Okay, even though the wounds were appalling, I thought to myself: obviously some sort of aquatic turf war, or dolphins defending their families or… Admittedly the porpoises were a lot smaller than the dolphins but small doesn’t always mean innocent. But there was more. Further research showed that it wasn’t what the porpoises were or weren’t doing that got them killed; it was their size. And what was significant about that? It’s the same size as infant dolphins. That’s right; dolphin males attack and kill dolphin youngsters. Wait! I hear you cry. Surely that’s just conjecture? Nope. We then got to watch the delightful footage of adult dolphins hunting in groups of twos and threes, chasing a youngster down, flinging it repeatedly into the air, mauling it with their teeth… *Stopping for some happy thoughts: blue wrens; my dog grinning as he runs across the lawn; mama’s little baby loves shortnin’, shortnin’…* Dolphins commit infanticide. I don’t know about you, but my world has decidedly tilted to the left! My head is spinning. Those rotten, smiley, sneaky, butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-their-mouths bas***ds! At least sharks kill to eat. Dolphins kill their own young for the sport! Turns out sharks are just natural predators who like to eat and dolphins are the sadistic killers! Once more we learn that things aren’t always what they seem. You can’t always (if ever) judge by appearances. If I ever write a novel based on life in the sea, I’ve found the perfect villain: the friendly, playful, smiley dolphin. *shudder* And, while we’re at it, I’m sure we can all think of a few “human dolphins”; people who seemed all sweetness and light until the blackness in their heart finally seeped out into the daylight. Truth will out, folks. Forewarned is forearmed… (Fill in your own cliches here ……………...

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A Literary Mid-wife.

I’m not one to blow my own trumpet but lately I’ve had some lovely feedback from some of my editorial clients. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you with a long list of testimonials; that’s not why I’ve mentioned this.) I confess that I took a few moments to bathe in the warm happy glow that suffused my being. Once I’d recovered from my self-indulgent gosh-someone-likes-me interlude, I realised I rather enjoy being an editor. So? you may well ask. Well, the funny thing is, I didn’t think I would. I only began doing some freelance editing as a means to earn a bit of income while I tried to get someone to publish my book/s. (Still waiting to hear from the publisher who has my latest manuscript!) The first job I did was for a friend of a friend, and I began it a little begrudgingly. It took so much time away from my own writing and I didn’t want to be an editor; I was a writer. Right? But, it was very satisfying to see the end result, the customer was happy and the little bit of money helped at Christmas time. Then I got a second one and I told myself: It doesn’t hurt to do this occasionally… Then there was a third, a fourth… Even though this might sound weird, when I’m editing a manuscript I feel as if I’m the midwife who is helping bring it into the world… or the grandmother, or something equally soppy. I was present at the birth of my first grandchild. I stayed with my daughter throughout that long night, not even taking a toilet break. (A miracle!) But when little Halle finally made her grand entrance it was all worth it. I fell instantly in love with her and even though I hadn’t physically brought her into the world, my feet and back ached just as much as it did when I gave birth to her mother! In some ways, editing another writer’s book is a similar process, except that I take plenty of toilet breaks!. It’s such a privilege to have input into someone else’s work. I feel so proud when I finally see their book in print. I think to myself (just a tad smugly): I had a hand in that. Don’t get me wrong; I’m still a-hopin’ and a-prayin’ that one of my ‘babies’ finally makes it out into the world. However, in the meanwhile I’m enjoying all the other ‘writerly’ things I’m doing. How blessed am...

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War stories

As you may or may not know, I review books (mainly children’s and Y.A. Lit). In the past few months I’ve noticed a bit of a theme going on. There’ve been a number of books about war, or the consequences thereof. I guess it’s a reflection of the times we’re in. It’s interesting to see how different authors have approached the subject. McRobbie, David 2011, Vinnie’s War, Allen & Unwin: Vinnie, an orphan, is evacuated from London during W.W.II. The story is based on the author’s experience as an evacuee and includes posters, advertisements, recipes etc from the era. It’s an interesting vignette of social history, as well as an engaging story about Vinnie’s search for a place to belong. Heffernan, John 2011, Harry’s War, Omnibus Books: Harry’s Grandpa fought in W.W.II and was a hero. Harry’s father was a Vietnam Vet and came home a damaged man. Harry idolises his Grandpa, until he discovers that neither men were who he thought they were. This a story about truth and consequences. Having experienced being conned by someone I loved, Harry’s pain pressed all sorts of buttons for me. Wilkerson, Carol 2011, Fromelles, Black Dog Books: An interesting mix of historical records, letters etc and fictional accounts of individual soldiers, based on historical research. An indepth account of “Australia’s Bloodiest War”. I think it’s summed up beautifully by the quote on the frontispiece: In war, there are no unwounded soldiers. (Jose Narosky) Hof,Marjolijn 2011, Against the Odds, Allen & Unwin: Kiki’s father belongs to Medecins sans Frontieres. He’s missing and the odds for him getting home alive aren’t in his favour. Kiki decides she must do something to shorten those odds. This is an exquisite little book which resonates with truth, grief and hope. It’s my favourite in this selection. My only criticism is that it will be appreciated far more by adults than children. Park, Linda Sue 2010, A Long Walk to Water, UQP: Park combines two stories. The first is about a little girl, Nya, who lives in the Southern Sudan. Her life is a daily grind of walking hours every day just to collect water for her family. The other is about Salva, a boy who becomes separated from his family due to rebel attacks. He becomes a refugee and walks for weeks through the desert in search of his family and a safe haven. It is based on a true story and should be read by every first world kid who complains about his/her life. Finally there’s a little memoir self-published by a fellow in Sydney. It’s aimed at the adult market, but I think children from middle-school up would find it easy to read. Fleischmann, Tomas 2010, Lolli’s Apple, Griffin Press, NSW: When Fleischmann (a Jew) was six years old he and his mother were separated from his father, and sent to a concentration camp. We get a rare insight into life for a Jew in W.W.II seen through the eyes of a little boy. Due to his irrepressible nature, and childhood innocence, even though we learn of unspeakable things we aren’t overwhelmed. We see the triumph of love and the human spirit in appalling circumstances. The memoir then takes us into life after the war, but in many ways I think it would have been better if Fleischmann had finished at war’s end, with perhaps just a postscript about his return to his family estate in his senior years. Take your pick, or read them all. (Why should children & teens be the only ones to read these things?) As for war: I think of the adage, If we don’t learn from history, we’re doomed to repeat it. I guess most of us need to spend a lot more time studying the history books, because so far we’ve not learned much at all – other than how to wage war in bigger, more efficient and bloodier...

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