Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Go Us!

We're at it again and we've been doing it for years!

Australia Day has come around again and Aussies are all out backslapping, barbequeing, drinking, having citizenships ceremonies and generally celebrating.

Two hundred and twenty-three years ago, Captain Arthur Phillip and 11 ships with 1332 souls aboard sailed into Port Jackson to establish the first European settlement on Australian soil.

While the First Fleet first landed at Botany Bay, between 18-20 January 1788, it was decided the bay wasn't suitable for the establishment of the colony. There was no protection as it was an open bay, the trees (probably ironbark) proved too tough for the tools brought and there was no fresh water nearby. On the whole, not the best spot for a colony and little like the perfect place Captain Cook described.

Captain Phillip took a small party in boats and sailed up the coast. There, he found Port Jackson - named, but not explored by Cook. Phillip spent three days at Port Jackson and decided to move the colony.

He wasn't the only European looking around. On a scientific expedition, Jean-Francois de La Perouse had expected to find a settlement where he could repair his ships and re-provision. Instead, he found the convict fleet worse off than his ships. Although La Perouse and Phillip never met, some of the officers of both nations did have cordial conversations.

Captain Phillip moved the fleet to Port Jackson on 26 January 1788 and began construction on the colony at Sydney Cove, inside the harbour. The French hung about until early March before moving on.

Captain Phillip did not lose one ship on the 15,000 mile journey. Given the lack of proper medical care, the threat of scurvy, small ships, crammed conditions and rough oceans, the First Fleet's journey to Australia has to be one of the greatest sea voyages in maritime history. Yes, 48 people died along the way, but for the time, this was considered a win.

It must have been terrifying for the voyagers, travelling halfway around the world and not knowing what to expect once they arrived. Australia would be totally alien to them, with different trees, astonishingly weird animals - Botanist Joseph Banks compared the kangaroo to a giant mouse - bright, hot sunlight and wary indigenous people who knew more about the land than they ever would.

Today, we celebrate the sheer tenacity and courage of the First Fleet colonists and convicts. Today, we welcome new citizens from around the world, all of whom, throughout our history, have made Australia what it has become and what it will be.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Back at it

We waved off the last of the visitors on Sunday and I returned to work today.

Not writing work - I'm organising the furniture so it can be more easily moved when the carpet peeps turn up - but my work at the moozeum. I didn't want to go; I have too much stuff to do, but once I got there, all the stress of the last few weeks fell away and I wallowed in historical research.

I sat in my shared office and checked over all the work I had to do and had missed since December. It all reminded of why I love history and why I'm at the museum. Regardless of the personalities I deal with, I can plug in the MP3 and get on with it. No telephones, no requests, no interruptions, just me and all those juicy databases I can explore in the pursuit of bringing a little known part of history to those interested.

There isn't much on Lady Gertrude Denman, for whom the museum is named - okay, it's actually the ferry, but the ferry was named after her. Most Australians know her as the woman who announced the name of our new capital city, Canberra. But she did so much more, did so much here and in England. Her husband, Lord Thomas Denman, Governor-General of Australia between 1911 and 1914 also has an interesting history and yet is almost consigned to the dustbin of history.

I need to write more fact sheets and finally get started on those extended pamphlets/books I've been planning for the museum. Other staff members are dealing with the local history stuff, but I'm more interested in the the people who shaped this country and have a local connection, in particular, the Denmans.

I haven't forgotten the fiction writing - I'm anxious to return to that, too - but with downstairs about to get a make-over, I've hit the pause button until next week.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cyberspace finds

With downstairs still in disarray - slacker that I am - I decided to bring the broadband modem upstairs rather than laboriously wait on the dial-up. The damn thing kept giving me local access only, not a global environment to explore.

It took me about an hour to realise I still had a split filter on the line. Now I've sorted that, I'm free to roam fast and still take phone calls.

While surfing the gnarly cyber-waves, I came across JM Tohline's weblog post on the 12 biggest mistakes writers make when querying agents. It's a long post, but well worth reading.

Paperback writer has some sub-ops peeps might be interested in, or you can go direct to the source at Ralan, a marvey database constantly updated with opportunities.

And... speaking of Lynn Viehl, I am now going to sit down and read her latest, Frostfire - now that family have departed to their various homes. I'm off tomorrow to find some new carpet.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

And now, the new

So I've worked like a... well, worked hard today, taking photographs of the damage, breaking furniture down and tossing out stuff.

It's not like Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania or northern NSW, but it's miserable enough. Now, it's the insurance company and getting new carpet. All week, I've seen the carpet cleaner vans pull into driveways and next time - if there is one - I'm calling them.

I could lament the destruction, but I'm not going to: it's an opportunity to buy new things, and who wouldn't want that? Whether the insurance company comes across or not, I am going shopping and I'm rearranging the office. Then I can get back to work.

I miss not sitting at my desk (it's in pieces for easy shifting), my books (stored up high in another room) and the creative process (too busy with the other immediate stuff of child care and visitors).

I am determined to read a book and edit a book by the end of the month. So far, that's looking like a dream. Come... ah... next weekend? I might just have a chance at it. I'm over Summer; the consistent humidity and heat is awful and I want the coolth of Autumn and Winter.

And gee, only another six weeks to go...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I am wrecked. Oterly and tutterly wrecked. I promise never to curl my lip at the men who dig trenches and lean on their shovels ever again. It is hard work.

It looks like we're going to be hammered again with rain on Saturday, similar to that of Sunday, so it was imperative we initiate some flood abatement methods. That meant digging a trench along the driveway and at the back of the house.

Fortunately, my b-i-l is here and assisted with the shovelling of mud and the vacuuming of excess water out of the carpet - and the shifting of furniture. Because of the continued humidity and showers, the carpet is... damp and only dry in parts. With the weather conditions due to deteriorate, it's not going to be completely dry any time soon. Do I even bother given we've decided to replace it? The carpet is robust and has weathered a number of floodings - the underlay, not so much. Who knew when it gets wet, it smells like dead fish?

I broke the bookcase, so that will have to go. It's made of particle board, and when I tried to move it, the top shifted but the bottom didn't. It broke neatly under one of the shelves. This is my first bookcase; one that has moved house with me for more than twenty years. Heavy, unwieldy, it has hosted my favourite reads for two decades. But now... I don't know whether to keep as a truncated bookcase or buy a new one.

The what-not is doomed - also particle board - and the top, glassed in piece is squashing the soaked bottom part. (I don't know what the proper name for it is, but I'm guessing it's usually used for the storage of dining-ware.)

The good news is that only four books perished - some Betty Neels of my mother; I'm hoping I can replace them for her.

I've yet to get to the back storage area... that is going to be ugly because I know I stored stuff in cardboard boxes. It can wait, the outside is more important.

So. I've been kept busy, especially with the kids I'm looking after at the same time. I currently have three under ten, one teenager and four adults - two of whom are unable to help out. All leave tomorrow.

It feels like it should be later than the middle of January; I've been on the go since before Christmas. No writing, no reading, no work at the museum.

My youngest sister is arriving on Saturday with a ute to cart away the wreckage; my oldest sister is coming Friday night to help with the back room and furniture moving. We'll have a couple of kids again, too, for the weekend.

Sigh. I need a day off... Maybe next month.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Water, water everywhere...

I know Queensland is being deluged by buckets of rain and so there's flooding all over the place, but... we got hammered today.

The heavy, tropical rain started at 5.30 am and did not stop until about ten o'clock. Needless to say, the drains in the backyard, and three out on the street didn't cope.

It has temporarily stopped, but we're expecting more. Which is really bad because we've been inundated by water. The carpet is a mess and I've spent some significant time this morning sweeping water out. Since the next couple of days are also going to be rainy, I'm not hopeful of drying stuff out any time soon.

Still, I have no choice but to persevere in mopping up and digging alternative trenches to funnel the water away from the house. Since the drainage problem started with the villas being built next door, I'm returning the water to their system.

I am grateful to my neighbours on the other side who came when I called for help and worked so hard to shift the water and also help with the trenches. John works for the SES so he knew exactly what to do. Yay!

For now, I have to get back to mopping. Oh... joy, it's started to rain again...

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Twain, Austen and Angry Robots

Controversy first? A competition for literature? Or an opportunity?

Controversy, then, because this kind of shit always makes my blood boil:

Publishers Weekly is reporting, in my opinion, an assault on a much-loved classic. Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is about to have the word 'nigger' removed by Auburn University Twain scholar Allen Gribben. Quote: "This is not an effort to render Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn colorblind," said Gribben... "I'm hoping that people will welcome this new option, but I suspect that textual purists will be horrified," he said. Unquote.

Is it ever okay to change literature so as not offend the sensibilities of current schoolchildren? My answer is a resounding 'no'. Yes, the word nigger is offensive in today's socially and politically correct climate, but that does not mean it has always been offensive. You cannot change history and to remove a legitimate word from an historical piece negates the value of that piece. There was a reason Twain put the words nigger and injun into his works to make a point; to remove them devalues the book and denies kids the ability to analyse literature.

And while some supporters of this move suggest NewSouth is only a small press and that the idea seeks to make Mark Twain a more attractive option for teachers, I think the argument is a metaphoric pat on the head and a 'don't you worry your little head about it'. I find that contemptuous.

What would be the outcome if an academic decided to change Bronte, Dickens or Austen because they found something offensive in the work?

* * *

And speaking of Jane Austen, the website Bad Austen has a competition: "Write Like Jane". The prize is money and the entry published in an upcoming book, Bad Austen. What makes this fun is that you can write in any genre. The site has works up already and you can vote on your favourite. You need to register to submit your entry.

You're not asked to change any works of Austen, but write in the style of Austen.

* * *

Here's a rare opportunity, Angry Robot Books is holding an Open Door Month in March. This means it will be open to submissions from authors who don't have an agent.

Angry Robot’s Editor, Lee Harris, said, “We’re delighted to be able to offer this opportunity to unpublished and unrepresented novelists. There are a lot of exciting authors out there, just waiting to be discovered, and we’d like to be able to help them kick-start their careers.”

So get your manuscripts ready. It's a new year with new opportunities.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Faffing about

While mooching about the internet, I came across an article: Ripping yarns can take their toil by Caroline Overington.

It reminded me that it's time to get back to work. I haven't written anything since November so the books have stewed in their own juices for long enough.

I also recalled that I needed new ink for the printer; for some obscure reason, but probably a total mental freeze up (got teenagers here - had a nine-year-old, too - so I'm working on fumes) I bought the wrong colours, ie, I missed the black cartridge and bought more blue and red. I'm guessing reading a blue or red manuscript will be hard on the eyes. Why I think I'm constantly out of those two colours, I don't know, but the black will have to wait until tomorrow.

Then I can start editing a book for a beta reader in preparation for submission. And I really need to get going, rather than sitting on my duff watching American College Football, or the NFL. Hah! The Saints are gonna hammer someone next week!

Er... right. Faffing about doing bugger all on the wips. It's time to stop and get back to work, once I get the ink cartridge... and now, the teens are 'gonna die if they don't get snackage. sigh