Look out! Politics.

I’d love to comment on the political scene in Australia at the moment but the last time I wrote anything political (first and last time) the Old Boy made me remove it. He thought it’d upset his family. That’s the trouble with politics; someone is always going to be upset. (Before you get mad at him; he was right even tho’ I didn’t like it at the time. I love the family and, let’s face it, I don’t want to do anything that’d ruin Christmas.) I really, really want to comment on the current scene because I get so frustrated with the ignorance of the … Nope. Even I can tell I was straying into contentious territory then. I must learn restraint. My father was very vocal about his political views. As far as he was concerned the Liberal Party were the up-holders of civilization and the Christian way of life. Everybody else were communists. It never crossed his mind that any member of his family would ever consider voting for a political candidate who wasn’t Liberal. Democrats, social democrats, labor party, independents, greens…they all belonged to the dark side. He was so adamant about this that, when I was a girl, I was convinced that Arthur Caldwell, then leader of the Federal Labor party, was either the anti-Christ or his brother. In primary school my class did a tour of Parliament House and our tour guide was the then leader of the opposition: Labor. I was genuinely frightened of him and kept to the back of the group so he wouldn’t do something ‘communist’ to me. Every time there was an election – state or federal – Dad was quite open about who he would vote for. When I was old enough to vote, he put a Liberal ‘how to vote’ card in my hand, to make it easy for me to ‘make the right choices’. I noticed that my mother never disagreed with Dad. She’d never say anything; she’d just smile mysteriously. When I was heading for the polling booth for the first time, my how to vote’ card clutched in my hand, I asked her what she was going to do. She said, “It’s a secret ballot, so I don’t have to tell anyone how I cast my vote. Do what you think is right.” And there was that little smile, again. It drove Dad nuts that she’d never say how she voted. But, so sure of his own convictions, he just assumed she was ‘doing the right thing’. I often wondered about that. It may well be that she was just playing with him and she was as dyed-in-the-wool conservative as him. But, then again… I wish I could be as restrained as my mother. Unfortunately, I think I’ve inherited too much of my father’s opinionated, heart-on-sleeve, have-to-tell-you-what-I-think way of dealing with things. I’ve blundered my way through too many delicate situations in my life to think otherwise. However, now that I’m mumbly-mumble and, hopefully, a little wiser I am trying to control myself. I don’t want to lose half my blog-readers because of differing political views. Right? I will say this: over the years I’ve voted for the Liberal party, the Democrats, the Greens and Labor and an independent in the Senate. (Not all at the same time, of course!) I base my vote on the policies presented and the local candidate who impresses me. I’m not a communist, an anarchist or a one-eyed voter. I try to think about my choices. My father would be appalled but I think my mother would be proud....

Read More

To kindle or not…

I’m toying with the idea of going over to the dark side and publishing my junior fantasy as a kindle on Amazon. (I know! I never thought that day would come.) You see, I really think it’s a worthwhile story and I’ve done a good job with it. If I was reviewing it, I’d give it at least three and a half stars. (Rosanne Hawke suggested four!) But, I can’t find a publisher willing to take it. I’ve tried. I’ve been patient. I’ve been polite. Most of them couldn’t be bothered to even send a form letter/ e-mail reply. How hard is it to type, “Sorry. No.” and hit Send? I’ve spent nearly three years waiting…waiting…waiting… I can see why many authors, even those who’ve previously had books printed by traditional publishers, now choose to go the self-publishing route. It’s the sheer frustration of it all. I’ve never been a big fan of self-publishing. It doesn’t have a good reputation. Unfortunately, anyone with enough cash can get their book printed, regardless of whether it has any literary merit. Too many times I’ve seen work that hasn’t been within coo-ee of an editor, written by someone who needs to revisit the basics of grammar, spelling and telling a story so that it makes sense. And, sadly, every self-published book is tarred with the same brush. (I know there are some wonderful self-published books. Some of them have been written by friends of mine. I’m not disparaging their work and I hope they realise that.) The other problem is that to use print on demand, or to do co-publishing, or even to simply pay a printer to put your opus together, you have to pay people. I remember how much it cost just to get three copies of my Masters’ thesis into print. I don’t know how people do it, but I guess having a day job is a big help. Unfortunately, I don’t have a job and I don’t have any money to spare. Any loose change goes towards doctors’ bills and medication. (Yes, I edit, but it’s sporadic work for little gain.) Then there is the distribution of the things. I’m just not physically up to loading my car boot with boxes of books; driving across the country-side; lugging said boxes out of the car, into a shop and back again,  to flog them off one or two books at a time. BUT the beauty of kindle or e-books is that it’s all done on the net. No lifting boxes. No storing leftover tomes in my shed. No driving miles across desert wastelands. The cringe factor is still there. Anyone with a bit of technical know how (I’m learning) can upload their stuff. And with e-books, with some companies, there isn’t even the filter of needing enough money! But, these are desperate times. I posted a manuscript (YA historical novel) to a publisher this week, so I’m still giving the traditional publishing world a chance, but my fantasy adventure about two boys forced to become child soldiers, may well be coming to a kindle near you. If the traditional publishers don’t do a major rethink, there may come a day when everyone will by-pass them completely. With PCs, i-Pads and smart phones, the technology is already here. (But, I still love and prefer a paper book!) Anyhoo, watch this...

Read More

The writing process.

Mug of coffee: check. Pillow in the small of my back: check. Old Boy out of the house: check. Wonder Dog fed and sleeping on back of armchair: check. Okay, I’m ready to rock and roll. I open up the Writing folder in Word documents. I go to the piece I’m currently working on. I read the first three paragraphs and realise I’ve bored myself stupid. I find myself thinking, once again, of the myriad of programs and/or apps I could purchase to assist me in my “craft”. Would having Scribblers Inc in my PC make the writing any less boring? Perhaps not, but it’s handy to have something to blame other than myself. I’ve got to liven up the prose. Strong verbs are important. “He walked into the lounge room…” Hmm, let’s see: walked, strolled, ambled… That all sounds a bit too casual. I’ll leave it for a bit and come back to it. Why the lounge room? Why have him go there? Did I walk him there just for something to do, or is there a deep dark purpose that’s essential to the plot? Maybe I should forget the lounge room and keep him sitting in the kitchen? Yeah, that’s the ticket. He’s draining (much better than “drank”) the last dregs  of coffee from his mug… Oh wait – he has to go into the lounge to get the magic book. It’s sitting on the top shelf of the bookcase. Okay we’re back to walking: crept, slunk (slinked? No, I’m sure it’s slunk), slithered… Don’t be ridiculous, he’s not a reptile! I’ll let my subconscious wrestle with that while I check out publishers and agents. No fantasy, no fantasy, no children’s books, no young adult books, no children’s fantasy, no submissions without an agent… Okay, switching to searching for agents. No fantasy, no children’s, no children’s fantasy, no new clients… Ooh, I found one that’s open to new clients and they do fantasy! Wait a minute, they sound familiar. That’s right, I submitted to them already. Their fantasy reader/editor is no longer with them so they don’t do that genre any more. I guess they haven’t updated their website. Strode, marched, goose-stepped, stomped: all a bit too aggressive. Time for another cup of coffee. Sip it while it’s hot and pretend there’s chocolate to go with it. There would have been if  I hadn’t weakened last night, while watching  the football. I’ve got to develop more moral fibre! Why do I even have to walk him into the lounge room? Couldn’t he just go there? Teleport? That’s a bit over the top, isn’t it? Besides, he hasn’t found the book so he can’t do that stuff. Don’t forget, he doesn’t yet know the book is magical. I put a load of washing in the machine and wonder what it would be like if the dryer could double up as a time machine. Main problem (taking the invention of time travel for granted): it’d have to be way bigger than that. At the moment only the Wonder Dog could fit in. He keeps trying to climb in as soon as I open the door. Maybe he knows more than he’s telling. I have it; I’ll just start the story in the lounge room. No need for him to walk anywhere! Delete first two paragraphs. Simple. I’m on a roll! Lunch time.  ...

Read More

The good things

The Old Boy, the Wonder Dog and I spent two weeks in a cabin on the edge of a forest. (Sounds like the start of a fairy tale, right?) Every morning we’d put out the crumbs and then sat back to watch the customers rush in: blue wrens and red-eye finches, blackbirds, and one little bush rat. Rex had to content himself with running back and forth in front of the window and growling menacingly. The hungry hordes couldn’t have cared less. In the forest and surrounding hills we saw wallabies, echidnas and one kangaroo. There were bucket-loads of cockatoos, crimson parrots, rosellas, lorikeets, kookaburras, little hawks and we even saw three wedge-tailed eagles. Now I’m back, sitting at my desk, telling myself I should get busy. In the last few weeks a few more of my friends have been diagnosed with cancer and one has died. Bloody disease! (Pardon my French.) Lately it seems that every second person I know has it. I saw Dr P yesterday for my monthly dose of essence of ancient Egyptian(den-o-su-mab). I asked him if he ever feels as though he’s trying to sweep back the tide with a hand-broom. He said that he’s the doctor, not a patient, so he gets to go home at the end of the day, have a big glass of red wine and turn his brain off.  He also said that perhaps, at the end of the year, he might reduce my visits to every three months. Obviously, he said,  my regular visits to the hospital were depressing for me. I nodded sadly but inside I was doing the happy dance. Every three months? Why, that’s almost as good as being cured! Perhaps partly inspired by my time in the wilderness, and partly by the recent diagnoses, I’ve found myself pondering life: the meaning, the journey, the joys, the speed. (The rate, not the drug.) The Bible says we are like flowers in the field; here today and gone tomorrow. When I was young I thought, “Get off the grass! We can live for ages. Why, Mrs So-and-so is 102!” Now I’ve entered the “more mature” years I think, “Where the hell did it all go?” My little holiday reminded me of the simple joys that make life worthwhile: driving down roads so thickly lined with trees that it feels as though you’re driving through a leafy tunnel;  hearing the kookaburras laughing in the morning; the smell of good coffee; eating fish and chips on a beach; listening to music so exquisite it brings tears to your eyes. My life is rich with people who love me and whom I love. I have faith in love and mercy and I am guided by hope. Living without hope is like living with the lights off. Let’s all do our best to shine some light into our little corner of the world. Maybe, together, we can make it a better place....

Read More