Kids and their stories.

I’ve finished marking all the submissions to the children’s writing competition. The courier has collected the very large box, reinforced with kilometres of tape because I re-used the box they sent me. Now I await the short listed entries, so I can go through the process again, but on a smaller scale. (Oh frabjous joy, calloo callay!) I have learned a lot about story writing. Here are the main points:- Your story should always have a beginning, a middle and an end. Don’t kill off the person telling the story. Never, ever, finish your story with “…and then I woke up and it was all a bad dream”. Never! Write appropriately for your market. The contestants were writing for children aged 6 – 9 (a first reader). Unfortunately, stories about 18 year olds, blasting their way through enemies, friends and zombies, aren’t really suitable. If you’re writing about fairy princesses, make them do something interesting. Give at least one of them a bad attitude. Fairies that don’t do anything other than twinkle and float around gardens with unicorns, is not a story. Make sure the ending fits the rest of the story, and is a proper conclusion. Don’t write about kids who are homeless and on the run from the police, (an interesting story and I’m with you so far) and then you realise you’ve nearly used up your word limit so an alien suddenly wipes them all out. Don’t strew huge, obscure words throughout the story. It’s obvious you can use a Thesaurus but hardly anyone, other than adults with an obsession for crosswords or scrabble, will know what you’re talking about. So, how have you all been? I’d like to report that things are a bit cooler here in the Great South Land but, quite frankly, we’re all singed beyond repair. If we were steaks, we’d be well done; so well done, you’d throw us out and eat the chicken instead. (And this from a person who likes their steak well done!) I gather my friends in the Northern Hemisphere are still digging their way out of massive snow drifts. I’d sympathise but, quite frankly, from where I’m sitting (under the overhead fan), that sounds delightful. Our Prime Minister thinks we should turn from renewable energies and use “clean” coal. I assume that’s coal that’s been washed before use. There are many things I could say about that but I’ve decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. It’s been sizzling hot in Canberra, so I could assume his brain has been fried. Then again, he’s been in a right bad mood ever since Mr Trump hung up on him – he even yelled at sweet Mr Billy Shorten in parliament – so, I blame Trump!...

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2017 already!

Hello, readers! I expect some of you have been wondering where I was. Had another bush fire swept through my neighbourhood, forcing me to camp out in a hotel/motel somewhere? Had I partied too hard during the festive season and consequently had to spend some time in rehab? Had the cancer gone a bit berserk, sending me off to hospital? No, no and no. I just couldn’t be bothered. Oh, I gave you all the occasional thought – I really should write another blog – but then I’d think, Nah. I’ve had a similar approach to the Christmas tree. It’s still sitting in the corner of the front room, blinking its cute little lights at me. I think it’s a tree-version of batting eyelashes. “You can’t turn me off. Look how sweet I am.” I haven’t been doing nothing; just mainly nothing. There’s a difference. Yes, there is! Don’t argue. I’ve been madly scrambling to finish the first draft of a new book. It’s nearly done. It’s a faux year-long diary and I’m up to the end of November, so it’s not long now. I’ve also been reading five books to review for Good Reading Magazine. I sent them off yesterday and the relief was palpable. I have a box (a very large box) of entries to a national children’s writing competition, sitting on  the dining table. (I’m one of the judges.) I’m supposed to have them all marked and returned by the end of the month and I’m already having nightmares about it. I saw that one of the entries had the number 930 on it, and it wasn’t the last one! Then there’s Beast Speaker book two to finish. Some of my readers are becoming a tad insistent about it. All I can say is, Sorry, sorry, sorry. I promise I’ll get my butt into gear. It’s just that once you stop, it’s really hard to get going again. And, it’s hot and I’m tired. And, did I mention that it’s hot? I was going to write something chirpy, hopeful and upbeat about a brand new year stretching out before us but, I’m feeling more grouchy than optimistic. We’ve had a number of new years now and we still seem to keep doing the same old junk only, each time, we crank it up to a new level. Thankfully, there are still plenty of unsung heroes and angelic personalities who have their sleeves rolled up and are in there, boots and all, doing their best to lift the load and help their neighbours. Where would we be without them? Keep on keeping on, you champions! You’re an inspiration to the rest of us, and a challenge to keep our lanterns held high. I’ll be lifting mine up any time soon. Did I mention that I’m hot and...

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Will Santa make it into Aleppo?

The Christmas tree is up and glowing. The front of the house is incandescent with Christmas lights. The presents are bought and ready to be wrapped. (There’s no point doing that early and leaving them under the tree, because the Wonder Dog would wee on them.) Meanwhile, in Syria, homes are being turned into rubble and families are being exterminated. I hear that Santa is calling Syria a “no-fly” zone this year. I don’t blame him. I guess the best we can hope for is that a few ageing rockers will put out a single, similar to, Do they know it’s Christmas?. We’ll sing along and feel sad for a bit. Maybe some of us will donate money to the Red Cross or a similar organisation, in the hope that it will help alleviate some of the suffering. I don’t think we’ll see world leaders linking arms and strolling through the streets of Aleppo, to show the world’s solidarity with the victims of the obscenity that is the conflict in Syria. After all, they’re not Europeans; they’re Middle Eastern. The majority are Muslim so, these days, it’s not politically correct to care what happens to them. However, I believe that the message of Christmas is that God cares about all of us, not just the white, middle-class Europeans. What is more, he expects us to love everyone as well. The message of Christmas is that we live in a broken, damaged world, and we all need forgiveness and a change of heart. So…I care, Syria. In my heart, I’m standing with you and your suffering people. Santa might not make it into Aleppo this year, but I pray that you will know, once more, days of peace, security and safety. “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”  ...

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Walking…walking…

As I sit here in my quiet house, the Wonder Dog asleep on the top of my recliner and the birds chirping in my garden, thousands (some say, millions) of Shia Muslims are walking, walking, walking on a pilgrimage to Karbala in Iraq. They do it to honour Imam Husayn Ibn Ali who, in the 7th century, was killed while taking a stand against tyranny and oppression. Some of the pilgrims have walked for over a fortnight. They have walked through a couple of nations or more. (I have my groceries delivered because I have trouble walking around a supermarket!) They walk, knowing that they will be attacked by ISIS. In fact, this year, over 60 pilgrims have already been killed and ISIS threaten to keep attacking them, so there will be more. They walk, knowing their lives are at risk. They are frightened, they are ignored by the rest of the world, they are simple, ordinary people, taking a stand for what they believe is right. I’m in awe. ISIS have killed thousands of Shia Muslims. They don’t just kill Christians and Jews. They kill anyone who doesn’t subscribe to their form of Islam. It reminds me of the days when Catholics and Protestants took turns oppressing and killing each other. Thankfully, those times ceased several centuries ago. Islam has yet to catch up to the idea that two ideologies, that have the same foundation but have gone slightly different routes since inception, could actually get along. You know, it is possible to think and believe differently to someone else and still be friends. It’s possible to peacefully co-exist in spite of differing political views. All we have to do is choose to be patient and kind, and focus on the things we have in common. Oh, and one other thing: don’t be so obsessed with having power and being in control. It’s do-able. One person at a time. Meanwhile, I pray for the safety of those pilgrims, bravely walking into ISIS territory, to celebrate a man who died for peace, kindness and...

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I’m back.

I’m baaa-aaack! I was going to say something about the kingdom of Trump but, you know what, I’ve decided not to. America has chosen and now Mr Trump has the opportunity to be the best president they’ve ever had – just as he has promised – or he won’t. Only time will tell. I wish you well, USA. The world is watching with bated breath. There’s a plethora of things going on in the world that I could address, but I won’t. I think that most of us are suffering sensory overload. These days we are constantly bombarded by news, opinions, gossip, misinformation and the venom of cyber trolls. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is what has contributed to the swing towards the far right in a lot of countries. People have got sick of hearing about everyone’s problems and they just want to get inside their bunkers and pull the shades down. So, instead, I’m going to do a little bit of quiet, private (for now) celebrating. It’s my birthday next Tuesday. I’ll be mumbley-mumble years old and, quite frankly, there was a time when I didn’t think I’d get to be that old. Next week it’ll be five years since I was told the cancer was back and it’s incurable. FIVE YEARS!!!  Whoop! Whoop! I realise there may be some who receive that information with mixed feelings but as for me, I’m delighted. I’m grateful. I’m even just a tad happy. Let’s not forget that in the midst of misery, disappointment and even fear, there are still good people, happy events and moments of joy. Happy birthday to me!  ...

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