Monday, March 31, 2008

Shaking the tree

I've been trying to hunt down more ancestors before I take off; nothing has changed except my frustration levels.

My search has reached beyond the atypical databases, that is 1800 and earlier. Yeah, I know, if my ancestors knew I would be hunting them down, they'd be more attentive in their record keeping. And the powers-that-be would have everything I need accessible and free of charge on online.

But that's okay, I'll hunt them down the old fashioned way: going there and looking up the records.

I have two more sessions at the local family history centre for a final search of online records. Then I'm set. Hopefully, something will shake loose and I'll find the key to the rest of 'em. I think Ireland is the clue; shame I have to go there, really...

The camera and rechargeable batteries are ready, so I'll have some photos of antiquities to post - maybe while I'm touring and maybe when I return. I'm also hunting up some books. It will take two days to get to Denmark, and thirty-six hours to get back - without an overnight stay anywhere. I'm gonna need a few books to keep me occupied and my record with in-flight movies sucks like a drain. Jennifer Fallon and Kylie Chan are at the top of my list.

sigh It's the little things you've got to watch out for.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Five weeks. Five weeks until I'm flying to the northern hemisphere, to Denmark, Belgium, France, England and Ireland.

When it was months, no problem, but it's weeks, and all too soon, it will be days.

My sister is revving up; her family buzz off in, how did she put it? Oh, yes, thirteen sleeps. And she hassling me about stuff I have to do: money, will, transport, accommodation, the usual. Meh. Most of it's sorted.

But. There's that subtle, vague anticipation. The checking of websites to make sure I have all my research in order for the National Archives in Kew, the obsessive checking of currency exchanges - Kroner, Euros, American dollars and Pounds - thinking about the routes I'll travel...

I'm working up a final check list with things like turning on global roaming for the mobile, wireless internet, making sure there's enough food and medication for the faithful hound, copying all travel documents.

And now that I've got all that out of my system, I can go back to not worrying. It is, after all, five weeks before I go...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Imaginary Friends

A conversation I had with my parental unit today.

Mother: Arthur Clarke isn't the only author who died in their nineties, Andre Norton and Betty Neels were pretty old too.

Me (concentrating on driving): Uh huh.

Mother: There must be something about writing that's less stressful than other jobs.

Me (silently cursing at missing the opportunity to overtake a semi-trailer): Uh huh.

Mother (crosses her arms and scowls): I think it has something to do with all those imaginary friends writers have. Less conflict.

Me: Um...

Mother: Well, writing is a solitary pursuit, you know, and if you know the conversation you're going to have, there's nothing to argue about.

Me: Ah...

Mother: You should get out more; meet some real friends. Then you can write about them.

Me: Oh look, it's been raining...

Imaginary friends. We're supposed to grow out of that when we're quite young. I don't think we ever do; they just mature into more evolved characters in our heads. I also think there's a lot of them and we write their stories down to make room for more. Once we've written about them, they retreat into their little homes and await re-reading.

Those 'friends' are made up from external influences and aspects of people we meet, or read about. They're amorphous beings at first, insubstantial and shadowy, slowly becoming clearer as we add more traits to them. Then, we know them, whether written down on character sheets or compartmentalized in our heads and we're ready to use them.

They might float around for weeks, or years, before they give us the story, but until then, they're vague companions, whispering more information to us.

All we have to do is wait for them.

My mother is right in a way: imaginary friends might surprise you, but they'll never harm you.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


The sun is warm, the breeze is cool and Autumn is beginning to show her colours.

I love this time of year. My energy and creativity start to rise, and that's a good thing, because usually, I've written myself into a corner.

Some conundrums remain unsolved. Actually, I have a dozen or so unfinished novels because of corners.

For example, the heroic epic I started oh, years ago where my two heroes were caught by the bad guys and forced to fight in an arena. If they did not, their companions were doomed (note the echo when you say that). I could not, and still can't, think of a way out of the dilemma without introducing an Ex Deus Machina.

Yes, I could delete that part, or change something, but it was important to the story that the heroes find a solution to earn the respect of the people they'd come to try and gain as allies. After failing to find a solution, I set the piece aside. Should I go back to this work, I'll probably wince since I was just beginning to write.

Organic writers run this risk every time they set fingers to keyboards. Plot writers already have it worked out. Damn them! But neither way is easy; one finds solutions while writing, and the other before writing.

These days, I've learned not to do it, or at least avoid a scenario where it might happen. I've also learned to think ahead in the story while writing the current scene. It takes practice, but it's helpful when you're pounding away at the keyboard at warp speed.

Speaking of which, I need to go off and try and get Rhianna Sagan out of the latest mess she's fallen into. Next instalment is up at The Takeaway.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Oh, yeah. Chocolate overload. I full expect a few adolescent spots to break out, but it's better to consume the chocolate before it goes off. (That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!)

And then there are the hot cross buns (with fruit, of course). I love 'em. I think I'm over Mabon - Autumn Equinox in the southern hemisphere. In the north, it's Ostara, the Spring Equinox, though with the current weather it still looks like Winter! How many believed the groundhog back in February?

I think I have room for one last hot cross bun.

Just a note of trivia: The church works out when Easter - a Christian holiday - is by the first full moon of the northern Spring - a pagan holiday. Just another example of Christianity using paganism for it's own use.

I mean, the guy allegedly died on a particular day, how can that change so frequently? Christmas never changes, so I'm curious about that. I'm just askin', you know?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke

And so passes one of the great icons of Science Fiction writing.

This is the guy who wrote about satellite's decades before the first one took off, who wrote non-fiction as well as tapping into his vast imagination for the pleasure of those who read his books.

Better yet, he brought science to the average reader; and while some of his works are metaphysical, all provoked conversation and thought.

Sadly, in his latter years, he wasn't as erudite. I saw him at CanCon in 2006 via video link from Sri Lanka. His answers were vague and all credit to the interviewers for holding it together with short monologues before asking the next question.

His legacy is to have encouraged a spectrum of new writers in the genre, to expand the perception of what the future could hold for us, to open closed minds to the concept that we are not alone in the universe.

To be remembered, to be - willing or not - a mentor to generations of sci-fi writers... what better way to impact society than to encourage the breaking of boundaries, to demonstrate there is no limit to what an imagination can create, or what humans can achieve.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Arthur C. Clarke

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


A most curious thing.

I went to a political meeting last night to hear what the group had been up to.

Turns out, it was mostly a discussion on how to raise funds for the coming campaign.

One attendee spoke about the current U.S. Presidential campaign and raised this issue:

"Well, Hilary Clinton raised $US5 million in a week from corporate donors. But Obama raised much, much more from family groups. I think we should start Obamaring."


Indeed. We all understood it to mean we should try the citizenry for our funding rather than business groups. Get the local people, individuals, involved.

My mother has a saying: "Many a mickle makes a muckle." Meaning, that every penny counts towards a pound. If fifty percent of the locals donated small change, we'd soon have a nice tidy pile to match the corporate donors of the Big Evil Counsellors.

But... Obamaring? Could this be a new word that will become a part of everyday speech?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

HMAS Sydney

Yesterday, the Prime Minister and the Finding Sydney Foundation announced the final resting place of the HMAS Sydney had been found twelve nautical miles from the wreck of the German raider Kormoran.

The location of the German ship caused a stir of excitement around the country and the hope that the Sydney would be located soon. Now, the speculation is the two ships were discovered shortly after one another.

Why the delay in announcing HMAS Sydney's location when it is clearly the more valuable to Australians? Apparently, they wanted to make absolutely sure it was the right ship.

I wonder, though, if it wasn't more important to keep quiet until HMAS Sydney was found then announce its discovery first, then Kormoran.

For me, I'll be interested in seeing the photographs due to be taken this week of the ship. There's been 66 years of controversy as to the damage both ships took before sinking.

Of the 646 crew of the Sydney, only two shipmates were ever found: one body washed up on Christmas Island, and the other, Eric Button, was ill with the mumps and couldn't sail. Of the ship itself, a life raft and life jacket were found and they are in the Australian War Memorial.

Monday, March 17, 2008

St Patrick

St Patrick’s Day celebrates the bringing of Christianity to the Irish, but to some, it’s not a day to be cheery about.

What many people don’t know is that St Patrick brought about the destruction of an old religion: Paganism in Ireland.

Patrick was born in Roman Britain, but enslaved and sent to Ireland. He escaped and began training as a Catholic priest in France.

He then set about converting the Pagans of Ireland to the new faith.

The story of his banishment of the snakes doesn’t refer to the reptile, but to the Druids and pagans of Ireland. The snake is a symbol of the Pagans.

What's of more interest, is that he used Pagan ways to do it. For example, he used the three leaf clover (Shamrock) - another symbol of paganism - to represent the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost to teach about the Holy Trinity. To pagans, it represents the three faces of the Goddess: maiden, mother and crone.

And he used cruel 'magic', but justified it as the only way to bring the pagans into christianity: In his struggle to discredit the Druid elders and gain the confidence and later the souls of the Irish population, he was (in his own words) forced to "curse their fertile lands, so that they became dreary bogs; to curse their rivers, so that they produced no fish; to curse their very kettles, so that with no amount of fire and patience could they ever be made to boil; and as a last resort, to curse the Druids themselves, so that the earth opened and swallowed them up." The Sacred

In the pagan calendar, Ostara - the Spring Equinox - arrives on March 21 (not co-incidentally, Good Friday). Legend also has it that Patrick arrived on Tar Hill and lit the ritual fire for Ostara before the Druids could get there; a desecration of the pagan religion.

The deliberate timing of this event, and others throughout the Christian calendar was designed to subvert the pagan religion by placing Christian holidays on or near important pagan days of celebration. It also served to demonize paganism. Christmas is also the Summer Equinox, or Yule, Halloween is Samhain, for example.

Yet... paganism is a religion of peace and balance with nature. Patrick's brutal suppression of Celtic pagans and was a part of future oppression perpetrated by a patriarchal organisation against a matriarchal organisation and those who would not submit.

So, no St Patrick's Day celebrating in this household. Paganism has been around for thousands of years; it was here before Christianity, and will survive Christianity.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Raider Found

For more than sixty years the resting place of two ships remained a mystery. Now, part of that mystery has been solved with the discovery of one of the ships.

On 17 November 1941, HMAS Sydney, a light cruiser, headed north up the coast of Western Australia on escort duty and was supposed to return. She was never heard from again.

The German armed raider, Kormoran was also in area, though her profile had been changed to look like a freighter and flew a Dutch flag.

As the Sydney approached - on or about the 19th of November - she asked for identification which the Germans deliberately muddled. As the range finders zeroed in on the light cruiser, the Captain ordered the German flag raised and all guns to fire.

Devastating fire poured into the Sydney, but the rear turret managed to fire back, hitting the Kormoran before veering away.

That shot went through Kormoran's funnel and poured ignited diesel into the engine room.

HMAS Sydney turned south while the Kormoran still fired at her until out of range.

Hours later, Kormoran's electrical system went out and they could no longer fight the fire. The Captain ordered the ship abandoned. The last life boat left before midnight and just over an hour later, the armed merchant cruiser, Kormoran blew up and sank with the help of scuttling charges.

Of HMAS Sydney and her crew, nothing was ever heard.

Three hundred survivors from the Kormoran were picked up several days later and, without any problem, told the story to their captors.

Well, today, it's been announced that the wreck of the Kormoran has been found. It's hoped that finding HMAS Sydney will now be an easier task.

For sixty years, various groups have searched for the ship and what happened to her. It is one of our great naval mysteries. Now, the search can narrow and one day soon, we may know the light cruiser's final resting place.

Both ships, once found, will be treated with the utmost respect and protected as War Graves.

The story of that day can be found here.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Gun culture

I often wonder at the suitability of some news items, especially those coming in from the U.S. I can't get behind the almost excited glee of deadly car chases, suspect arrests or endlessly dissecting shootings.

I'd prefer if the reporters gave the story and moved on, unless they have something critical to say.

We don't show live car chases, or arrests, or have such gun violence here in Australia, but I guess watching all those stories on Fox or CNN had to have some affect. So it grieves me to see this, with the headline: "Police Shootout Man Planned Mall Massacre".

Worse, he was aiming for a "U.S. Style" massacre and had the ammunition to do it.

The story has a happy ending after the man was intercepted by police. But this is... this doesn't happen here.

We live in a global community where any information is available at any time, to any one. And yeah, there are some nutters out there who focus on how cool guns are. (If I sound pissy, check LKH's blog on how she thinks a gun is 'safe' just because it's unloaded).

But this is an argument that I could rant about for days. It's one of my own personal buttons. I'll stop now and hope it will be years down the track before somebody else picks up a handgun and decides it'll be fun to be just like an American gunman.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Hard Truth

The continuing sah-gah of Rhianna Sagan, bounty hunter, is up at The Takeaway.

Not much else is happening around the traps and I don't feel like lifting my head out of the book I'm reading to search the 'net for something to comment on.

Hmmm.... still in a pissy mood, I see...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More sins

So rumour has it seven deadly sins aren't enough; the world needs more to reign in excesses.

According to this item and others I've seen, the sins need be less about individual sin and more about global sin.

Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, who heads the Catholic Church's thought police... um... the 'body that issues decisions on matters of conscience'... whatever..., thinks the sins should 'take into account modern developments such as genetic modification, experiments on humans, pollution, causing social injustice, causing poverty, taking drugs and obscene wealth.

What's that? Obscene wealth? From one of the - if not the - richest organisations in the world today? Hip-hip-hypocrasy Sorry, the sneeze got away from me.

Let's see:

genetic modification - so it will be a sin for scientists to modify crops so they can grow in drought-stricken areas to feed the starving.

experiments on humans - hmmm, any medicine used on a human for the first time is experimentation, so no new medicines.

pollution - is more a corporate problem, but... since we pollute the air around us with expelled gas, blow germs out our nose and mouth, defecate and urinate, vomit, this is going to be a tough one. But I'm being facetious. You cannot live without polluting, even if it's a small amount.

causing social injustice - again, one for hypocrisy given the oppression of the church throughout history and today by denying the basic human right to decide how many children a woman should have, or deny the right of priests to have children (yeah, we know they do, but they get into trouble for it). That doesn't even touch on the misogynistic attitude of not allowing women to become priests or teaching the poorly educated to trust only in an archaic book written just under two thousand years ago.

causing poverty - yet another one for the church given devoutly religious people will donate to the church and then worry about feeding the family. How many towns are there with amazing churches and yet kids running around the dirt streets wearing rags?

taking drugs - I'm going to hazard a guess here and say illegal drugs, because we wouldn't want the church to be responsible for the deaths of thousands who didn't take their medicine. And having seen the result of illegal drug taking, I don't have a problem with this.

obscene wealth - if you earned it, why can't you keep it? The church, as an institution, is exceptionally wealthy. And when you consider how they came to horde such wealth, why are they bitching now? If Warren Buffet can give money to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, why not a nice large swodge from the church? Oh, and does this mean Warran, Bill and Melinda are exempt from this sin since they're using their wealth for good? Can you imagine the conversation? "Forgive me father for I have sinned. I earned another billion this year." "You must send the money out to those in need, like the church. Ten Hail Marys. Go, and sin no more." "But if I do that, thousands of employees will be out of a job and descend into poverty." "Another sin. My son, you are going to hell." "Umm... can I have a handbasket?"

The original Seven Deadly Sins - envy, pride, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth - are enough and cover these. The proposed new ones will only cause more problems than it solves, ie, since no-one can avoid polluting, everyone is going to hell - or the Catholic version of it.

None of them are going to change the world; in fact, if they come to pass, I think more - not less - people will be looking for a new religion.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Dust: Bite

Well... harumph! Another one bites the dust.

Noctem Aeternus Magazine is shutting down after one issue. Creator, Michael Knost, cites personal issues - new baby on the way, new house, not enough subscribers - as the reason for the closure.

And that's a shame. Then again, online magazines are popping up and closing down all the time, but I thought this one would be different; I'm sure Michael thought so too.

I found the stories curious in that two were about failure when battling against the odds, rather than success - or survival. It's a topic that is rarely explored in fiction.

At least we still have Ralan to find our markets and to let us know when another magazine has gone belly up.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

In the mood

Family stuff is taken care of, now I can get back to the 'it's all about me' blog.

And I have to say, I've finally worked out why I've felt under a malaise. You know the feeling? I don' wanna write, I don' wanna edit, I don' wanna do nuthin' but veg in front of the teev.

It's been a month since I've read a good book. Oh, I've looked at a few, read a number of chapters of books I know are good, but I've been distracted. By what? I have no idea. It's been like I'm just not in the mood for those books. And I really hate that, because it taints the reading when I am in the mood. I'm not going to name names - that would be unfair.

Still, it's affecting my writing; not ideas, they're still roaming around like lost sheep searching for home, but the actual sitting down and writing part. I get a good deal of motivation from reading, as well as the entertainment and research value. A good book will put you in the mood; a great book will have you reaching for the pen and any scrap of paper.

I guess it's part of being a writer to sit down and do the job, even when you don't want to. And I've had this before, I just haven't 'fessed up to it. Having to write the next instalment will help; once I make a promise, I stick to it. It's why I rarely make promises.

I'm going off to read a few favourites: Elizabeth Moon and Tanya Huff. I think that's all the time I'll have before Wednesday's deadline.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Serial offender

For the past week, I've been thinking about the story I posted on the Takeaway and thought it unfinished; I had to write more.

Sometimes, short stories don't want to be kept to a minimum, they haunt you, and taunt you and dare you. Hard Bounty isn't the first story to do this to me, nor will it be the last.

I've written a number of books from short stories I wrote for the Story-a-day marathon over at Forward Motion. It's a marathon that's invaluable to me and I'll miss while I'm overseas.

Anyway, I thought I'd do the serial thing. I remember as a kid reading magazines that had serialisations in them. I'd be disappointed - of course - that it continued the next week... Okay... I confess... They were comics, but the principle is the same.

What's different is that I'll be doing this week-to-week; not much chance of revision, but it is an excellent lesson on being concise while packing as much in as possible. Good books are roller coasters; high points and low points, action-filled and resting.

I have to keep the story going, yes, but also include some back story from the previous week's instalment and still keep under a three thousand word limit.

All this is going to be a challenge, but one I hope will improve my writing (and I'm sure someone will pick me up on boo-boos; they are welcome, encouraged to do so).

So: do I simply post an instalment each week and dump the singular short stories? Or do I do both and keep the short story timetable, have two posts every third Wednesday?

Monday, March 03, 2008

That bitch

It sucks. It all sucks like a vacuum.

Huh? What?

Your words. They ain't singing to me, babe.


They're flat, bland, uninteresting. In other words, it's all a load of crap.

You're not reading it right.

Dudette, honey-bunch, darling-sugah-pop. I'm only saying this because I care about you. I'm reading as you're writing. I'm in your head; of course I'm reading it right.

So... it doesn't work for you?

Not on any level. You should try something new, like, oh say, getting a real job.

Now you're being mean. I love writing and...

Yes, but it's never any good is it.

I've written a lot, though and...

Give it up, sweet-cheeks. Dump this crap. After all that work, don't put yourself through this again. You're wasting your time, my time and anyone else's time by posting this bilge. It's time to do something else. You'll never write anything of worth and I hate to see you beat your head against a brick wall like this.

Maybe if I write something new... something different, another genre perhaps...

* * *

Ah, the inner critic. Everyone has that bitch; that voice in your head undermining your craft. It's sourced in childhood when it seemed everything you did was smirked at or you were patted on the head, condescended to. It didn't have to be that darling little story you wrote when you were ten, the sweet little picture you painted at aged six that looked nothing like the object and everyone had an opinion.

"Oh, well, it's just a phase..." "She'll/He'll grow out of it." "Talent? Of course, but it takes more than that, doesn't it, to make a living."

Parents are excellent at explaining embarrassing gaffes their children inadvertently perpetrate on them. But the intent stays with the child, as if creativity isn't as important as one day finding a well-paid real job. As if mediocrity is more important than finding your own way.

For my siblings and I, it was higher than average IQs. "An A-? Well, we're sure you'll do better next time. We know you have the potential." "Nearly an A? Nearly isn't good enough." Wow, that still rings in my head today. So dismissive and created in us the overwhelming urge to be perfect.

It also creates the inner critic, the one that says 'nearly isn't good enough' that any mistake is catastrophic, an embarrassment, a crushing defeat. It can also block any attempt to succeed, because if it ain't perfect, or award winning, or [insert list here], it's worthless.

So, the only solution is to Kill That Bitch:

It sucks. It all sucks like a vacuum.

Huh? What?

Your words. They ain't singing to me, babe.

Lucky for me then, that I'm not writing songs, or that I'm writing for you.

Sure you are. Without me, you'd...

Have a much more peaceful life. Less stress, more creativity, more success, be happier.

Nah... I'm here to protect you from failure, from embarr...

From getting on with it, from listening to the muse, from taking con-structive - rather than de-structive - criticism and making my work better. So piss off, would you.

You don't mean that.

Yes. I do.

I'll be back; you know I will.

I know that, but you'll get the same comment.

Oh? And what's that O Great Sage?

My fingers in my ears going "La-la-la-la, I'm not listening!"

Yeah... LA-LA-LA-LA... Hey! LA-LA-LA-LA... I'm a part of you; you can't... LA-LA-LA-LA...

And the next time you show up, I'll introduce to mah liddle friend: The Inner Editor!

You wouldn't dare! Damn you, TIE!!!!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Noctem Aeternus

It's a chilly end to Summer and a nippy start to Autumn, which I figure means a cold Winter, just as I like 'em.

Anyway, I was reading Sci Fi Weekly - as you do - and came across a rarity: A free fiction magazine. Noctem Aeternus is a new online horror magazine by Michael Knost.

In an interview with Sci Fi Weekly editor and publisher of the magazine, Michael Knost, says: "I wanted to make this project something to help readers introduce fiction reading to children and teens; therefore, I wanted to make it available to all fiction readers at no cost."

Advertising will pay for the production of the magazine.

I've downloaded my copy and it's interesting; not for everyone, but it does pay the authors, which can only be a plus.

The stories are well-written and have messages - some good, some not so good.

If you're interested in reading a magazine, but not ready to sign up, I'll send you a copy - I have permission from the magazine to spread the word, so that's what I'm doing. Send an e-mail for the first edition.