"I'm just going to write because I can't help it."- Charlotte Brontë

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Standing on the Right Side of History



The 2014 Pulitzer Prize Winners for Public Service:

Awarded to The Washington Post for its revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, marked by authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security.
Awarded to The Guardian US for its revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, helping through aggressive reporting to spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Supa Princesses and a Much-Needed Multi Pass


Supanova was fun, as per usual. Sure it's crowded, and sure you get to queue a few times, but the atmosphere is always incredibly genial and everyone is there to have a good time. I also like that the attendees are of all age groups, with your tiniest tots (there were two cute sisters dressed up as unicorns, and a couple of small Captain Americas with diminutive shields) mingling with happy groups of young gamers and manga fans made up as their favourite characters, right through to veteran oldies. Comics, artwork, books, movies, games, modelling - all aspects of the scene are covered, and it's a place where those just starting out can sell their wares alongside established artists.

And always, there's a parade of costumes to admire, everything from your Wookies to your Doctors, Mulders, Scullies, Leias, Solos, Vikings, robots of different persuasions, samurai, zombies and zombie hunters, one dragon, many unidentifiable (to me) gamer characters, and much Game of Thrones finery, which enthralled many of the small girls present. One particular knee-high admirer just stood in the busy exhibition hall staring up at four female Throners with an air of disbelief, a huge, blissful smile on her face while her dad looked on, and everyone politely moved around the group and made room for her moment. Every year the cavalcade changes. There didn't seem to be any steampunk costumes  this year, no Daleks or Weeping Angels, there was nary a Star Trek officer to be seen, likewise Resident Evil soldiers and girls wearing fluffy cat ears.

But there were princesses. Disney royalty and the aforementioned Game of Thrones ladies were definite hit this year, though some carried it off better than others. At one point, a pink clad figure came schlepping by, her posture stooped, bags hanging criss-cross over her outfit, and she was rather indecorously downing junk food. I felt she was letting the side down. But the others all seemed to keep their princess personas going no matter what, regularly but discretely touched up their make-up and kept an eye on their hair, and were exceedingly gracious to all the little girls (usually in pink dresses themselves) who ran up to them for a close gander, arranging their big dresses and posing with the star struck kiddies for photos.

I bought a few things, of course, including the obligatory, geeky T-shirt (actually, I got three) and a Leeloo Dallas multi pass to  hang on the odds and sods board over my writing desk. It's a bit of a running family joke, and makes me smile when I see it.

We also attended a talk with Gary Lockwood and Keir Dullea from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and heard all about the brilliance of Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C Clarke anecdotes, amusing and serious information about the making of the film, the public reaction afterwards, and much trivia about Hollywood in the 60s. There were plenty of other guests, the stars of shows from the olden days as well as the latest productions, but after a second whizz around the grounds, we called it a day.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Because it's Time to Buy that Annual T-Shirt with a Geeky Message Which I'll Probably Only Wear Whilst Writing.


Plus, this is a family thing. We do it each year.

So, to bed, to bed ASAP, for I'm off to Supanova early in the morning.

I'd better pop the tickets in my bag. Wouldn't want to be halfway to Melbourne and realise I'd forgotten them.

See you there, maybe. There's usually an awful lot of people.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Why, Why, Apple Pie?


I had a piece of apple pie for my lunch dessert today. I have appetite issues at the moment, which is a strange thing to experience after a lifetime of gutsing down heaps of whatever come rain or shine, so if I'm even vaguely interested in some food or another, it's on the menu.

For years, when working in hospitals with dieticians, I spent a lot of time at bedsides trying to entice ill folk to eat and finding ways of talking them into consuming calories, so it's strange to find myself applying those old tricks of the trade on myself. Mind you, back in those days, before the massive budget cuts that made hospitalisation an even more miserable experience than necessary, food was viewed as an important restorative, hospitals had their own kitchens and legions of cooks bustling about whipping up meals on a daily basis, and one could pop down to the kitchen staff and request special meals for patients who were having a hard time with eating. Now, substandard, lacklustre food chosen for its toughness rather than tastiness gets trucked from distant processing places, and trolleys full of already set trays are shoved into giant microwave ovens for reheating. The results are not inspiring, and there's not much, if any, leeway for those who can't force the stuff down.

Anyway, this post is not about the good old days (we even used to place doilies on the trays to make it look nicer!), but customer service, or rather lack thereof, as with modern hospital catering.

Take my slice of apple pie today. On the way home from the movies on Sunday, a roadside sign advertised freshly made apple pies. It was the right sign and the right time. We turned back, and ordered two pies. So far, so good. Then we took two tubs of light sour cream from the fridge.

"Is that for the apple pies?" demanded the woman at the counter in amazement.

Yes.

"Really!" she squealed. Honestly, she squealed. Then again, even louder, "Really?"

Yes.

"Really?"

We exchanged looks. Yes. We still hadn't changed our minds. We still couldn't see what the problem was.

Believe it or not, she kept loudly repeating 'Really!' and shaking her head to the point where I was so embarrassed on her behalf that I had to back out of the shop and wait outside. And apparently, she'd kept it up like a demented thing. Apparently, whipped cream and ice cream are the only acceptable products you may have with an apple pie. This fact is etched in marble somewhere. Except, our family has always gone with crème fraiche or sour cream for fruity pies. Which is none of her business. Each to their own. And she certainly shouldn't have made such a huge song and dance about it. As you can imagine, we won't be going back there anytime soon.

But this is not our only bad apple pie experience in this area. Just around the corner from that shop, last year at the local Applefest, another maker of pies was exceedingly rude. All we did, since there were no instructions on the bag, was ask how long they should be heated in the oven. The woman turned into a demon, shrieking "I don't know! I just sell these things!" Maybe it was the end of a long hard day, but still, it was a massively unwarranted response. That was our first and last, local Applefest.

Unprofessionalism in any walk of life gets my goat. I don't care what product or service you're selling, you should always act with courtesy and common sense. You don't have to mean it, just do it. Be an air hostess. Don't vent your personal judgements. Otherwise, if you can't adhere to the basic requirements of your trade, find another line of work.

I worry that my apple pie eating pleasure may have been compromised by bad customer service :) Hopefully, I'll get over it. I'd hate to think that from now on, whenever I eat apple pie, because of two bad-mannered vendors, I'm going to have flashbacks each time, and question my culinary habits.

I know I did today.
        

Saturday, April 5, 2014

GoT v WD


Hot off the press - there's a game in progress out in the back yard of the house next door. It involves two littlies, and as an ear witness, I can testify that it began thus:

"Look, a dragon!"

"No, a zombie!"

"Dragon!"

"Zombie!"

From a such simple beginnings, it went no further. It continued, and still unfolds with that simple script, though running around in circles and squealing has been added to the routine:

"Dragon!"

"Zombie!"

I await the outcome of this titanic battle with bated breath.


 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Bards and Sages Quarterly, April 2014


So it's finally out, a story I wasn't sure would ever see the light of day but remain forever locked away in a dark drawer because it was a bit too, well, you know, weirdy-fun?  Instead, it was picked up by Bards and Sages Quarterly the sixth time I subbed it.

The story of which I speak is A Moveable Buffet,  my humorous piece set in a swank restaurant in Paris in 2029, which features 3 human law enforcers - a Frenchman, an American, and an Aussie - as well as a colourful alien from a distant galaxy. There is international crime, a mystery, a spot of action, and possibly... well, you'll have to read it to find out more.

Presently, you can procure e-copies by either popping over to Amazon or Smashwords.

I hope you enjoy it.

Aaaah, I love the smell of a new publication in the morning.

Monday, March 31, 2014

End of the Month Report: March 2014



Submissions: 3
Rejections: 1
Acceptances: 0 (but I did get a hold request which is looking pretty good)
Published: 0
Stories out in the wild: 8
New stories completed: 1
Mood: What happened to March? Where did it go?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Look What I Just Found:

I was just checking on a link repair, when I discovered they'd put up the cover for the first issue of Lakeside Circus:
 
 
It's odd - my stories are often labelled creepy, and yet I never set out to write creepy. It just sort of happens. Creepy.

There Went That Sunday


After a morning of reading, I've just spent almost 4 hours finishing up a story for the funny anthology and sending it. I keep trying to get into this antho (this is my second sub for this round). I've almost made it a couple of times, but never quite. It's a bone I won't let go of, unfortunately. A challenge I want to conquer, I suppose you could also call it. Possibly a waste of a Sunday, you might also insinuate, or a delusion I won't get real about (Funny! Hah!) The upshot of this writing frenzy is that I haven't done a single domestic thing around the house, and must now get a move on to fit in a few mundane practicalities before the sun goes down.

Still, I had fun :) Even if the funny folk at the funny antho don't think it's funny...

And in a feel-good addendum, exactly just as I hit send, an email came in about a horror story that might be published if I'm amendable to minor edits - but it's still just a great big MIGHT. Anyway, I'm grinning because the first of the three comments from an editor reads: An elegant and technically precise story; excellent core concept and well maintained rhythm throughout.

Nice. I love a little praise on a Sunday. Or anytime :) See, I put in another smiley face. It's that kind of a day. I'm a bit high on writing, me thinks.

Now, where's my vacuum cleaner? I know it should be in the house somewhere...


***18.40 update. There, housework time wasn't a complete bust. Whilst ironing, I came up with a vague idea for a dieselpunk story, the name of the main character, and a first line that pleases me immensely. Now for the rest of it. I'll play with it tomorrow on the train. It's going to be a nasty one...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Space in the Seventies.


As I've mentioned a few times, according to my childhood ambitions, I should be working on the Moon by now. Or commuting from my otherworldly Arvo Job to my groovy pad in the swankiest district of the hippest, domed metropolis on the Martian plains. At the very least, I should be living on a cool, colony habitat orbiting Jupiter or some distant star.

If you want to relive that dream, pop over to http://publicdomainreview.org/collections/space-colony-art-from-the-1970s/  and see what the future used to look like.

 Forests.

But in space!


In the 1970′s the Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill with the help of NASA Ames Research Center and Stanford University held a series of space colony summer studies which explored the possibilities of humans living in giant orbiting spaceships. Colonies housing about 10,000 people were designed and a number of artistic renderings of the concepts were made.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Suddenly The Chook Seems Eminently Manageable



It stood 11.5-feet tall and tipped the scales at perhaps 500 pounds, with the body of a raptor, the head of a chicken and the crest of a cassowary; it sported big sharp claws and, probably, feathers.

 I surely wouldn't want this turning up at the kitchen door each morning. Thank goodness I missed it by a mere 66 millions years:

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2014/03/20/500-pound-chicken-from-hell-dinosaur-once-roamed-north-america/
 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Doggie Who


If you like dogs, and you like Doctor Who, and if you have time to follow a link, and you can be bothered clicking http://metro.co.uk/2014/03/15/doctor-who-from-tom-baker-as-a-flandoodle-to-david-tennant-as-a-long-haired-chihuahua-all-12-time-lords-and-the-war-doctor-as-dogs-4571926/, you can head across and see DeviantArtist Tee-Kyrin's take on all the incarnations of our favourite Time Lord as pooches.

For example:


And:


In other news, I received a present today. I love unexpected gifts. Anyway, an Arvo Job colleague is in the process of decluttering her house and found an old book from 1963 she thought I might like: How to be Happy with a Horse by John Harrold. The illustrations by Dik are amusing - lots of pointers about the dangers of teeth, hooves and back legs are included. Chapters have titles like "Show Him He's a Status Symbol', 'Yoicks and Bally-hoo', and 'Talk Turkey to your Horse'. It's all very quaint.

 I shall browse through it tomorrow.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Thunder and Lightning, Very Very Exciting


Today I've been catching up on sleep, and slowly, so very slowly, unpacking and washing stuff after a weekend away trail riding along the always stunning Howqua River.

It was an adventuresome couple of days with fantastic horses and experienced riders. The weather was mostly grey and cloudy, but not too hot for strenuous mountain work, or too cold, although it got seriously chilly at times when we left the valleys and were exposed to the full brunt those infamous alpine winds. Best of all, it didn't rain during the days. There was, however, much drama on the Saturday night when a late storm blew in. My sister and I were happily ensconced in our respective tents and snoozing away the tiredness of the day when lightning cracked, thunder rolled, and an almighty wind blew up. The ground actually shook a few times. This was no normal storm. This was a STORM!!!!

For a while there, with my little canvas world wildly flapping around me and giant raindrops pummelling down, I was worried my tent might not be up for it (I had visions of it blowing over, and myself running around in an undignified manner in the middle of the night with my soggy belongings looking for a place to rest my weary head), but after all our trips to the mountains together, I should have had had more faith - my trusty tent stood strong and stayed dry, the storm passed quickly, and I snuggled up in my sleeping bag and swag and slept soundly til morning. Apparently, my sister and I discovered the next day, the residents of the nearby (too crowded for my tastes) bunkhouse had been thanking their lucky stars that they weren't in tents, totally unaware that we were as snug as bugs in those proverbial rugs.

All in all, we had a great time. It was just what I needed to clear out my head and re-energise my body. Horses and mountains are good for that kind of thing.

And yes, we're already lining up another ride :)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Because You Can Never Have Too Many Punks


Every now and then, scooting around the internet looking for writing markets, one bumps into a project that immediately appeals to something deep within one's psyche. Most themed anthologies are slow burners that sit in the back of my head until a eureka moment hits, or I already have a half-done story that seems to fit the bill so I get back to work on it, but occasionally one makes me sit up and want to get started on it from scratch right away. Like now! 

This submission call for original fiction for The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk is just such a one.

As it proclaims: If you need to know what dieselpunk is, it's a subcategory of steampunk, essentially, covering the 1920s through to the 1950s, including the Roaring Twenties, the Depression, World War II, and even a little beyond that.

I like this site for its classy pictures and atmosphere. I really need to give this project a go, I think, if only for the sheer fun of it.

 I see trench coats and smart little hats, a wintry night, dark Northern climes, mountains, trains... I do love trains. Maybe an explosion or two. Or not. A Depression Era tale maybe? And both World Wars always make interesting settings for weirdness set amidst global chaos. Not sure yet, but my brain is on it.

Go brain.

And after that?  Check out all the punks here.

Elfpunk maybe?

Hmmmm.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Happy Day


It was a good day.

I aired my tent in preparation for an upcoming Big Horse Ride, and felt happy imagining the mountain trails and just thinking about the fun to come. I got a hold request for a story, and felt happy that someone likes that particular story enough to maybe publish it. I wrote flat out for 2.5 hours, almost finished a story, and felt happy about the work I'd accomplished. I only napped once, did some reading, and generally got things done.

Yes, 'twas a good day.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Way Way Too Awwwwww To Not Share

Gigja Einarsdóttir and her family rescued a foal found wandering off on its own one night near their home just outside Reykjavik, Iceland. They sheltered the foal, which they named Brogi, for the night and eventually found the mother.

But before they did, Einarsdóttir’s 4-year-old daughter got to run around with Brogi, and it's the cutest thing ever.


Check it out here


All together now: aaaaaaawwwwwww.
 

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Lone Chicken


For any poultry aficionados who happen to drop by to check up on The Chook, well, she's baaaack.

Last reported here as missing (turns out blogs are useful for the keeping track of errant fowl), seven weeks later, on Saturday to be precise, with not a single visit in between, she turned up very early at the kitchen door for a feed. I tossed her a handful and headed off to town, thinking I probably wouldn't see her again for a few days, that she was doing one of her slow re-entries, but there she was, still pottering about when I got home late that afternoon. When I opened the kitchen door, she promptly headed on in and made herself at home. She's been hanging with the cats ever since.

I'm not sure what seven weeks is in chicken time, but she's certainly a quick adapter. And presumptuous. But such behaviour is pretty much par for the course with this particular critter.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Hair-Trigger Scribes?


Reading Jane Turner's regular column 'Turning Pages' in The Age this morning, I was pointed towards a piece from last year in Ploughshares magazine by novelist Rebecca Makkai.

Titled 14 Ways to Tick Off A Writer, the content is, I think, self-explanatory. If you're in doubt, she opens with: Writers are fun and easy to annoy. Minimum effort, maximum rage. She goes on to provide details about how to poke your favourite scribe with a stick just for the heck of it. Mind you, she's mostly referring to novelists with actual publications under their belt, so much of this was news to me.

Anyway, the one I liked most is: Turn up at a reading. Raise your hand to ask a question. Launch into a ten minute description of your novel-in-progress. But in a whiny voice, with a question mark at the end. That totally makes it a question.

This I can relate to. It gives me flashbacks of the uncomfortable sort. I love attending literary festivals, buying books, bumping into folk and chatting, hearing the wise sages of writing dispense interesting facts and advice, but am far less enamoured with the question times after.

Sure, every now and then, you get a good session, with smart people who raise interesting topics that aren't all about them. However, more times than I can count, I've curled my toes and stared hard at the floor while long-winded people try desperately to impress the writer up on the stage with their own brilliant output by going into great detail about the amazingly different novel, which is sort of like the guest speaker's, they're presently working on. Or worse, they give a not so quick rundown of the three manuscripts at home in their drawer that no publisher will take, the inference being that they'd like the guest speaker to champion their masterpieces. Or they launch into a dissertation about how they, with their particular genius, interpreted the writer's work in a way that no-one else has ever done before and they've made a fifty point list of fascinating observations that they alone have uncovered which they would now like to share...


Cue groans.

I feel sorry for some of them, I do, the ones with their neediness so nakedly on display or those determinedly struggling with awkwardness so as to seize what they believe is their big moment, but at the same time, such behaviour seems rather obviously ill-mannered to me. Festival attendees are supposed to be smart people, yet some simply cannot comprehend that the audience has paid to hear pearls from the proven writer, not listen to the ramblings of floor stealers.

I suppose it's all human nature though, the kind of boorish behaviour that celebrities draw from certain types. You get the wannabes and attention seekers at conventions of all kinds, be the speaker a star of SF, a Wall Street predator imparting advice on how to smilingly rip money from the hands of the gullible masses, or a combination of the two, namely a Kardashian.

Friday, February 28, 2014

End of the Month Report: February 2014


Submissions:4
Rejections: 4 (the 4 I submitted)
Acceptances: 0
Published: 0
Stories out in the wild: 6
New stories completed: 1
Mood: My output was only a slight improvement on last month. Alas, just as I was building up steam, I was, as per usual, derailed by the Real World. I'm presently dragging myself out of a deep funk. The Arvo Job events of a few weeks ago hit me harder than I'd wanted (or been willing) to admit - first came the numbing shock, then the anger, then, unbeknownst even to myself for a goodly while, I slowly slid into a bluesy kind of place full of glum thoughts and the not much doing of stuff. But I've rallied and am tottering forwards. A nice weekend of writing, that's what I need to clear my system. Life is too short to waste too much headspace time on stuff one cannot control. Moving on.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Space on a Shoestring



I'm excited about how the race to Mars seems to be hotting up. We might just get off this rock yet. And I like this NY Times article with NASA  / Hollywood budget comparisons and much philosophising about what maketh a viable space program. Money? Ingenuity? Poorly paid technicians?:

Just days after the launch of India’s Mangalyaan satellite, NASA sent off its own Mars mission, five years in the making, named Maven. Its cost: $671 million. The budget of India’s Mars mission, by contrast, was just three-quarters of the $100 million that Hollywood spent on last year’s space-based hit, “Gravity.”
“The mission is a triumph of low-cost Indian engineering,” said Roddam Narasimha, an aerospace scientist and a professor at Bangalore’s Jawaharlal Nehru Center for Advanced Scientific Research.
Ever since MIR, I've been a fan of not-so-shiny Soviet technology - I just have this notion that if they ever do get into space and start working there, the Russians will have the type of vehicles you can crash into an asteroid, stick back together with gaffer tape, siphon some vodka into the depleted warp drive, kick into gear, and keep heading for the stars (and watching Solaris decades ago only strengthened this belief.) India seems to agree:

It is a question of philosophy, and each country has its own,” explained Mr. Radhakrishnan. “The Russians, for example, believe in putting large amounts of time and resources into testing so that the systems are robust.”
 And for those who always argue that there are far more pressing problems than space exploration that need money thrown at them, there's this neatly Indian perspective:
Scientists have also said that space exploration and the alleviation of poverty need not be mutually exclusive. “If the Mars mission’s $75 million was distributed equally to every Indian, they would be able to buy a cup of roadside chai once every three years,” said Mr. Narasimha, the aerospace scientist, referring to the tea that many Indians drink.
“My guess is that even the poorest Indians will happily forgo their chai to be able to see their country send a rocket all the way to Mars.”

Of course, said poor people, if given half a chance, might just voice their disagreement. Sometimes, a cup of chai is just what you need to get you through the day.