Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mr Squishy

I thought I could fit everything into two bags: one 80Ltr backpack and 'school' backpack. Nup. I had to add another day pack stuffed with... well, stuff.

Half of the big pack is filled with pressos for the rellos; guest gifts, confirmation gifts and birthday gifts. But, I'm not complaining. Once they're offloaded, I'll have that much more space for buying stuff to bring back.

All up, the luggage weighs in at 30 kilos. I'm rather pleased about that. When I came back from a year in England, the luggage I carried down the street from the Youth Hostel, onto the bus and into the airport terminal was a massive 70 kilos!

If you asked me what weighed so much, I couldn't tell you. Of course, I'm older now and while I can still carry that much weight, I'm wise enough not to. Thirty kilos is fine, thank you.

So, everything is squished in. Sadly, I had to dump the two Kylie Chans I wanted to read; not for weight, but space. The books are just too damned big. Which kind of begs the question: how am I going to fit the books in I intend to buy at the Galaxy in Sydney? F'Ino, is my answer. There is the possibility - though I don't want to entertain it - that I'll have to forgo the Galaxy until I return.

The two books I am taking are: Jennifer Rardin's Biting the Bullet and Lilith Saintcrow's The Devil's Right Hand. I'm hoping the in-flight movies will be good, because I don't see these two books lasting the 25 hours it's gonna take to get to Copenhagen.

So. I didn't have time to write after all, but I'm planning on blogging while I'm away. I'll probably write a travelogue with photos when I return.

Wish me luck.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Three more sleeps until I'm off and I'm driving myself crazy!

There's always something minor I have to do that turns into a major drama. I think it's because I'll be what's called 'an independent' traveller; ie, I'm on my own and I have to get it right.

And I'm disgusted with myself. I've not written a word of fiction, nor read a word of fiction in... okay, a week for writing, but weeks for reading. My mind has convinced me that I'll have plenty of time on the plane - Australia is a long way from everywhere. I'm even suspicious of people who've said 'have a great time'. Someone needs to slap me really hard, I think.

Hell, I'm more organized than the last time I went OT (Over There). I've laid everything out, adding stuff, removing extra, balancing luggage, checking documents, organising the dog and the aged parent. And yet, the anxiety levels are up to the disturbed sleep levels.

Like I said: someone needs to slap me. It will be fun, dammit!

I think I'll go back to obsessing: if I remember my toothbrush, I've forgotten something else; and if I've forgotten my toothbrush, then that's what I've forgotten.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Aussie Spirit

Today commemorates all those Australians who fell during the conflicts this world has seen.

It is: ANZAC Day, born out of the landing of Aussie soldiers on the inhospitable shores of Gallipoli on this day, 1914.

Once, young people saw it as a day off school, as a day where old people marched down the street wearing shiney medals and holding flags designating their armed forces unit, as a day when those marchers went to the pub, played two-up (illegal except for this one day), shed a tear or two in remembrance and got absolutely trashed.

But a new generation of Australians are determined to remember those fallen. Today, tens of thousands of Aussies - young and old - travel to those distant shores to remember and pay homage to the courage and indomitable spirit of the young men who fought and died there.

For the first time in ninety years, a similar memorial service is being held at Villiers-Bretonneaux in France. Here, Australian troops turned back the advance of German soldiers. Every year since, the French have held a memorial service, and yet this year is the first, official commemoration ceremony by Australia.

I now have a personal interest in World War I. I always knew my grandfather fought in Europe, but it was a vague kind of thought. Having researched the tree, his courage and determination is ever more real. He was one of two surviving brothers - four brothers and three sisters having died in early childhood - and his parents must have been alternatively proud and scared silly at his enlistment.

On my mother's side, her father and six of his brothers returned wounded; my grandfather, without a leg at the age of 19.

In two weeks, I'll be searching the WWI memorials for two names: a great uncle and his cousin; one at Thievpal, the other on the Menin Gate.

And when I step onto those long past battlefields, walk where my grandfather once marched, I shall step lightly and respectfully, for here lie the brave and the unforgotten of both sides who fought and died for their country.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Eye: Black
Temper: Simmering
Anxiety: Rising
Sleeps: Seven!

Given that upgrading the laptop to wireless broadband is an expense I'm not willing to indulge in, I'll be relying on Internet Cafes during my travels. This, of course, means limited posts and I have no idea if they allow uploads. If they don't, no more stories for a month; if they do, I'll be posting other stories, I think, since they're already written.

I'm also feeling like I'm in mourning at missing the Forward Motion story-a-day marathon. May and November are my big months for writing-under-pressure and I love doing them. Since I can't do May, I've decided to do the marathon in June. I want those short stories.

I also keep wondering whether I have everything. Lists are no good if you've left something... important... off. I'm sure the anxiety levels will drop off, oh, somewhere over Indonesia...

Anyway, I've finally post the next episode of Bounty Hunter over at the Takeaway. I'll try to post one more before I leave, but if I can't... I'll post a short story when I get to Copenhagen. I'm sure D. will loan me his computer.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Lots of things happened today to get in the way of my story.

Real life, when it happens, can be a bitch.

I went off to the Skin Cancer Clinic for a check up - given last year's troubles, it was an excellent idea - and had a little bit done - right on my eyelid, so my eye's swelled up some.

I won't go into the dribbles of warm, red blood, the scent of cauterized flesh and the like, I'll just say the next episode of Bounty Hunter will be up tomorrow morning and I'm going to take a painkiller.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day

Today is Earth Day.

I suppose that means we should consider what we are doing to the planet and how to ameliorate the damage.

It's hard to be absolutely sure in this day and age. The great hope for a better fuel source, bio-fuel, has some originally unexpected side effects; like bio-fuel crops being planted to replace food crops. The consequences we've all seen: food riots in Haiti, India, Sri Lanka, Kenya and so on.

My suggestion would be to plant the food crops, like wheat, and use the stubble, the parts that we don't use for food as bio-fuel. Just an idea...

Anyway, there's a lot to be said for being conscious of how our daily lives affect the planet. Some might think "I am one person, how much difference can it make?" A lot, actually. If you think of your single impact and multiply it by how many live in your state or country, the figures expand rather frighteningly.

Recycle those plastics bottles - if PET, they can be made into polar fleece - tins, papers, whatever. Revitalise old furniture: bookcases into cupboards, cupboards into bookcases.

Check out the various environmental friendly websites like: Environment Magazine, for current information; Planet Ark and campaigns that you can become involved with; The Conservation Foundation have branches all over world you can check out.

I haven't mentioned Greenpeace because I disapprove of some of their practices. But if you feel the need here's the link.

I recycle what can be recycled. I turn off lights when not in a room. I use long-life light bulbs. I turn off appliances when not in use - and I mean at the switch, not the standby button. I think before I use the car and I compost organic material for the garden. I especially pick up litter dropped by the multitude of tourists to our fair village.

Earth Day is just one day, so what are you doing on a long term basis to help the planet?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Resear... oooh, shiney!

For me, research is easy and hard: easy, because I find everything interesting; hard, because... I find everything interesting. I keep telling myself to stay on topic, but it rarely happens because there is so much stuff out there to distract.

Today's example: I'm looking into suppressing electrical fires and find CO2 works fine and water is a really big no-no. But CO2 is also toxic and not quite what I need, so there must be another way and I look up the shuttle accidents and find a list including all space-faring accidents. Ooo, German rockets in World War II - my mother as a child experienced the terror of the V2 - and Max Valier, an Austrian pioneer of rocketry. Of course, then I had to follow the link to the rocket car and the JATO rocket car and then entirely off subject to The Darwin Awards where I happily spent an hour or so smirking at those trying to leave the gene pool.

I'm sure a lot of them thought 'it was a good idea at the time', but you could see disaster from a long way off. So, moving on. One had a link to Mythbusters. I love that show, though sometimes, the science doesn't seem logical to me. But I like 'things that go boom' as much as Adam and Jamie, especially the episode where they blew up the cement truck... and on I went to the Discovery's Science Channel checking out the kids games and interesting articles on Black Holes, singing icebergs, Saturn's moons and ten quick questions with theoretical physicist Micho Kaku, who I find fascinating.

It's about this time I realise I've kind of deviated from my original task: electrical fires and how to put them out if you're in space.

I really should try and settle down to find what I need, learn discipline. But there's always something new to learn and the advent of the internet is a blessing and curse. Knowledge is never wasted, merely stored away for future use. Anyway, back to electrical fires... oh, there's just that one item on supervolcanoes...

Friday, April 18, 2008


Hands up all those who know where Sark (fr. Sercq) is?

Nope, I didn't know either until an interesting story on Wikipedia came up.

Sark is one of the Channel Islands and just off France. Until this month, it was also considered the last Feudal state. How about that?

The Seigneur of Sark was, prior to the constitutional reforms of 2008, the head of the feudal government of the Isle of Sark (in the case of a woman, the title was Dame). Many of the laws, particularly those related to inheritance and the rule of the Seigneur, changed little since they were enacted in 1565 under Queen Elizabeth I. Wikipedia

Feudalism in the 21st Century. Not that I'm criticising, I find it fascinating and I'm curious as to how the citizens, historically, related to it. This history is interesting, too, but go and read the article. I'm sure the socio-political status could provoke a number of stories.

The island also has some wonderfully named executive officers like, Seneschal, Prevot, Greffier and Vingtenier.

It's the little things, the unexpected things and the out-of-the-way places that inspire me... though I still haven't found a solution to my do-or-die ending...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Lookie, lookie

Oh, boy. Ya make a little comment - okay, rant - and suddenly (and temporarily) you're popular, everyone wants to look.

I don't mind, I think it's a curious part of society, especially in Blogland. But what I want to know is: How does a blog piece attract the attention of people with no contact with that blog?

I wrote a piece on comment sense (see below), about the fashion industry using under-developed girls for catwalks and as clothes horses. No big, just me having a little vent.

A couple of days later, I checked my counter statistics and thought, "hmm, not many people came to my blog this week, it's almost a flat line except for... Holy Smoke!" A spike of a hundred visitors on Tuesday. What? Where? Who?

Where did this legion, this crowd come from? Answer: here. Colour me gobsmacked. A site I have never heard of and never thought existed. Oh, that's me, currently - at this particular juncture in time - at number eight on the list. Yesterday it was higher, above the Keira Knightly link (take that Domino!)

It's what I love about the world-wide web: you never know who's gonna come a'visitin'. But being curious by nature, I can't help but wonder how I got linked. No, I don't want any confessions (the title was changed on the site), I just think it's cool and surprising. I'll leave it to Secret Squirrel.

Now I have to go off and find a solution to my ongoing story. Nothing has occurred to me yet...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Scribd and Rhianna

I now have a Scribd site, much to my annoyance.

Why am I annoyed? Because I thought to wait until I returned from OT (Over There) before tossing my metaphoric hat into the ring.

However. Lynn Viehl has a new book of free short stories up. Near Dawn is about the Darkyn and has excerpts to Twilight Fall and Stay The Night. Unfortunately, I couldn't download the book - to read at my leisure - without signing up; so I did.

I have every intention of posting free stuff on my new Scribd site but not until June when I'm back.

In the meantime, Hard Ground is up over at The Takeaway. I'm off to read Lynn's book now...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fair and Balanced...

Five things that have pissed me off this week:

1. The man who wears Prada shoes, Cartier sunglasses and hand-tailored clothes - otherwise known as God's Rottweiler, the Grand Inquisitor and... the Pope - while millions of Catholics live in poverty.

2. Robert Mugabe, the man who doesn't know when to quit even when his country's people suffer.

3. All those green groups who forced and otherwise manipulated countries into drastic cuts in carbon emissions without considering the consequences, like food crops being sold for biofuels. And we've still to hear from them.

4. Tibet. 'nuff said.

5. The greed of OPEC for the price of oil and the idiots who forced the 'credit crunch' by loaning money to those who couldn't pay it back.

Five things that have made me happy this week:

1. The 'accidental' rescue by Iraqi forces of kidnapped CBS journalist, Richard Butler. The Iraqi forces needed the morale lift.

2. Australia's appointment of the first woman Governor General, Ms Quentin Bryce, current Governor of Queensland.

3. JK Rowling's lawsuit against Steven Vander Ark's Harry Potter lexicon. No matter that JK is worth buckets of money, Vander Ark is trying to profit from JK's work.

4. The lack of protests as the Olympic Torch made it's way through South America, Africa and the Middle East. The Human Rights Advocates have made their point, enough already. Oh, the torch had it's genesis in the Nazi regime; maybe we should drop it altogether.

5. Sixteen days until I fly out for Europe. Who wouldn't be happy with that?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Yay, for common sense

Australian Fashion Week has axed under-age Polish model, Monika Jagaciak from the cat walk.

Better yet, Vogue magazine has decided not to show the 14-year-old on the cover and fashion magazine Marie Claire has called for a minimum age of 16 for all models.

The Editor of Vogue, Kirsty Clements said that Jagaciak's case is symptomatic of a sick fashion system. "I mean there's the obvious sexualisation of very young girls ... but also the reason that they are using them so young because they haven't actually developed women's bodies yet. And that is a whole other part of the business that's a problem," Clements said.

As Ms Clements pointed out, the fashion industry is built around selling clothes to women and to use a girl who's yet to develop curves is ridiculous.

I agree. For too long the fashion industry has promoted the ultimate woman as flat-chested and stick thin when the truth is a long way from that. The average woman has a lot more curves than ruler and to suggest otherwise is a lie.

Worse, it encourages young girls to try to conform to such a image resulting in chronic eating disorders. That's not to say that all models contribute to the problem, but look how popular (from an Australian point of view) Elle McPherson and Megan Gale have been. And I understand that some models are just genetically built to be skinny as a piece of gum. But for the industry to tell the rest of the world they are ideal is wrong on so many levels.

I hope the industry days of wanting women with the shape of adolescent boys is over. I also hope that a pretty girl like Monika Jagaciak has a long and successful career, but not before she's ready, and not before she develops some womanly curves.

* * *

And in another cheer for common sense, giant confectionery company, Cadbury-Schweppes, has lost a court case it brought against confectioners Darrell Lea to stop them from using the colour purple.

Justice Peter Heerey ruled Cadbury was not the only company that used the colour purple to market its chocolate.

Buying chocolate would be a drab affair indeed if all chocolatiers were banned from using purple, I think.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I've just finished reading Vicki Pettersson's The Taste of Night. This is the second in the Zodiac series (the first is The Scent of Shadows) and set in Las Vegas. The series revolves around balance, the bad guys - Shadows - and the good guys - Lights. All represent the signs of Zodiac.

The Shadow Zodiac is typically cruel to mortals as they try to defeat the Light. The good guys follow the rules, protect the innocents while trying to maintain the balance. Enter the chief bad guy whose powers are... scary.

Our protagonist, Joanna Archer, is a woman of both Shadow and Light. For that reason, the Light don't always trust her and the Shadows just want her on their side. Why? Because she is the daughter of the chief Shadow, a creature made flesh from thought, and the most powerful of all.

And so we have the clash between super villains and super heroes, though Joanna wants to be neither. Oh, no. She wants to settle down with Ben Traina, love of her life. But since her 'accidental' death she has to keep those she loves out of the line of fire or her Shadow side might just consume her.

I can't remember the last time a read a book where the main character was so wonderfully selfish for what appears the right reasons. Joanna Archer came to the Zodiacs late, and when both sides realise who she is, the head Light agent begins to only teach Joanna what is absolutely necessary for a mission for fear she will use the information for the Shadows. A fact emphasised by the Shadows and used by them to manipulate her.

She's between the rock and the hard place and has to do things her own way because of the lack of trust. This has catastrophic results and while The Taste of Night neatly wraps up plot threads, there are more portents of disaster given for the next book. It seems everything Joanna does leads to more death and destruction, even though she thought, at the time, she was doing the right thing; even doing nothing has consequences.

I kept wanting to skip pages to see what happens; wanted to, but didn't. Ms Pettersson writes with passion and cleverness, she lures the reader in and onwards with the promise of maybe a not-so-happily-ever-after ending, with characters who display both realistic and unrealistic traits.

I recommend these books to anyone who wants to read paranormal, but not vampires, werewolves or other preternatural creatures. These superheroes are flawed, tortured and sometimes desperate; the supervillains are... evil, cruel and enjoy being that way.

I'm hangin' for the next instalment, The Touch of Twilight at the end of May, because this series is already re-readable and has the makings of a classic fantasy series.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Temporary oops

It's so easy to end your WIP by accident.

In my current endeavour, I'm practising conciseness; that is, to write meaningful text, with a beginning, a middle and a cliff-hanger end but when I put it all together will amount to a novel.

They're bite-sized pieces I write on Monday, edit on Tuesday and post on Wednesday (my time), so I'm making it up as I go along. It's also good for scheduling and getting into the habit of writing at a particular time and editing at a particular time.

Marathons like the story-a-day at Forward Motion in May, or the novel writing of Nano in November serve a purpose, but a writer has to sit down and write more than two months of the year.

Being an organic writer, it's tough to write to a schedule, to write on demand rather than 'when I feel like it'. All writers - published or not - go through it; that rebellion, the bottom lip quiver and mental hissy fit because the shopping centre is calling, or the latest, riveting television series is out on DVD, the kids are sick, housework needs doing, or a thousand other reasons why writing is not the sugary lure it was yesterday.

Me, I look outside to the perfect autumnal day and want to go walk on the beach, or go massacre (read: prune) something in the garden, read the book I've been waiting months for or surf sites dealing with my trip in three weeks.

And with that mindset, I wrote a temporary ending to Bounty Hunter, did a left turn where a character did nothing to stop being shanghaied - totally wrong, totally unlike them and totally too soon.

Sure, I might have difficulty with the continuations in May, but I just have to arrange that, work around the problems and stay true to the story while I stay on track.

Obviously an impending trip to other countries is a distraction, but that's no excuse... okay, it is... but the important thing is to maintain continuity. I'm going to try at least.

The next instalment is up at The Takeaway. Now I'll have to give some thought as to where next, and what now and is it all as bad as it seems...

Monday, April 07, 2008

It's all about me me

Over at The Lost Fort, Gabriele has a character meme. I love memes, they hand out interesting bits of information. One day, I might even track one down to its creator.

In the meantime, I'm going to do this 'Four' meme about, well, me me; coz it's all about me!

Four jobs I've had
1. Newspaper editor
2. Beetroot packer
3. Dining Room Manager
4. Waitress

Four movies I could watch over and over
1. Lord of the Rings
2. Terminator
3. Appleseed
4. Aliens

Four TV shows that I watch
1. Torchwood
2. Dr Who
3. Star Trek: Voyager
4. CSI

Four places I'd like to be right now
1. Scotland
2. Pacific Northwest
3. New Zealand
4. Staring at my name at the top of the NYT Best Seller list.

Four favourite foods
1. Chicken parmesan
2. Red Wine casserole with herb dumplings
3. Beef Roulade
4. Lemon cheesecake

Four places I have visited
1. Fiji
2. Copenhagen
3. United Kingdom
4. United States

Four events I'm looking forward to this year
1. Godson's confirmation
2. WWI battlefield tour of Belgium
3. A particular party at the end of the year that's a secret.
4. Niece's graduation from a French language school.

Four people who should post four things
Anyone who has a burning ambition to post them.

Saturday, April 05, 2008


Like a lot of the world's population, I've been watching Zimbabwe with some interest. Why? Well, I like to keep up to date with world politics. How populations react to their governments or candidates, is a good way to start developing your own socio-political world.

World building isn't just about land, weather and how many suns in the sky. But I digress.

Mugabe was once a hero to his nation, 'free-ing' the land of 'oppressive' British rule. Ha! He has taken a country known as the 'bread-basket of Africa' and bankrupted it in under thirty years.

Inflation is at 100,000 percent; unemployment at 80 percent; the life expectancy for men is 37 years and for women, 34. The central bank has just introduced a $ZIM 50 million note - worth about 50p in pounds, 80 cents US, and about 82 cents Australian. Fifty million!

And who does Mugabe and his 'liberation' war veterans blame for this catastrophe? Why, Britain of course. You'll remember that Mugabe handed over profitable white-owned farms to the veterans. These veterans had no concept, no idea of how to run a farm and those farms are now in disrepair and nothing is produced. Loyal farm workers were either run off or killed, as were the original owners. This group were also used for intimidation and violence against opposition supporters.

In a recent statement, veteran Jabulani Sibanda, said: "It now looks like these elections were a way to open for the re-invasion of this country (by the British)."

I doubt Britain has any plan whatsoever of invading Zimbabwe, but it's a useful scare tactic - or was. Now, the veterans are used as thugs so an 84-year-old can hang on to power of nation with no money, no infrastructure and a declining population.

If it continues, he'll be president of an empty land. Then again, he and his cronies have stripped the wealth, secreted the money in offshore accounts. You can bet they don't want to be arrested and charged with human rights violations, fraud, vote-rigging and any number of charges they deserve.

We all know this, but what startled me was the naive and ineffectual comment from South Africa's President, Thabo Imbeki, who suggested people 'wait for the official results' before taking any action.

Official results? Mugabe stole the last election by rigging the votes and intimidating the voters. In this election, an extra three million ballots were produced. How easy would it be for opposition votes to be replaced should the outside world demand to see them as proof Mugabe won as many as he says? After all the Electoral Commission is headed by his appointees.

In the meantime, he'll delay the 'results' while working behind the scenes to ensure his re-election; either that, or he's working on an escape plan.

His people are starving, they have no jobs and currently no prospects of one, they have no money and nothing to spend it on. And yet, he wears his hand-tailored suits, drinks and eats the best foods while his lackeys join in.

If ever a man needed to be... disposed of, Mugabe is he, if only to save his nation from his own excesses.

Why do I care about a country so far away? I worked with a rather gor-jus young white Zimbabwean some years ago while in England. His parents were farmers and I find myself wondering what happened to them. Did they safely get to South Africa? Or did the worst happen to them? I like to think they made it, but my creative mind can think up some stories revolving around their escape; or not.

Zimbabwe is the perfect lesson on how to take a profitable, viable nation and destroy it. And all we can do is... wait.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Our Rudd-er

Big bad Kev has just finished his tour of the U.S. Our Prime Minister made a number of announcements, all of which should have been made on home soil.

Like… going for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. No mention of the $AUS30-40 million dollars it will cost, nor the greater cost of compromising our stand on certain issues: Japanese whaling, South Pacific government corruption, Chinese human rights violations, and so on.

It’s not as if the U.N. has proven itself worthwhile in recent years. In fact, I’m wondering if it’s a lame duck. It sucks up enormous resources and money, for little visible return. Remember Bosnia? Within a week the U.S. had done what the U.N. failed to do in years of talks. Afghanistan? It did nothing to stop the Taliban execute women for showing ankles or begging on the street or any number of bullshit crimes. Iraq? For ten years Hussein thumbed his nose at U.N. sanctions – of course he had help from U.N. members France, Russia and China. For ten years he rattled his sabre and threatened biological and chemical attacks; did, in fact, kill thousands of Kurds.

Rule by committee does not work and the larger the committee, the less work is done.

Nope. We don’t need to be on the Security Council, we can continue to work behind the scenes. But our PM wants us to be more involved in world affairs – but do we have the international clout for that?

Mr Rudd also had a chat to Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and John McCain, though Barack Obama was only available for a phone call, coz he was so far away in Pennsylvania.

* * *

It being Wednesday, there’s another instalment of Bounty Hunter up on the Takeaway.

And now, since we have ferocious winds coming up the coast, I’d better go and batten down the hatches (Melbourne and Tasmania have copped a beating today, and I have no doubt… we’re next).