Conflux 11 – Writers and Fans

Conflux is over for another year.  For the past eleven years the science and speculative fiction writers and fans conference has been held over the October long weekend in Canberra, in the Australian Capital Territory.  It is a conference run by writers of speculative fiction with panels, workshops and activities that both assist writers and provide fun for fans.  It provides an opportunity to meet well-known and respected writers and spend time with them.

This year Isobelle Carmody was guest of honour.21716189560_5cd0c8f435_o  Prolific author of fantasy fiction, she generously gave her time while in the process of completing her latest book, the Red Queen, the final of the Obernewtyn Chronicles, on a very, very tight deadline – the launch is expected in early November.  Between launching books, participating in panels and kaffeeklatches (coffee meetings), she took the time to mingle with attendees and chat. She spent time signing copies of her graphic novel ‘Evermore’ which she produced with graphic artist Daniel Reed.

The Mistress of Ceremonies for the four day event was Laura E Goodin, poet, playwright and short-story 21892265602_6ecdfc8a97_oauthor, Laura had the attendees in stitches as her introductions and announcements were constantly interrupted by urgent mobile phone calls from her home with questions about zombie apocalypses, imminent danger of death and starvation and all from her scotch loving cat.  She also wrote and hosted the Conflux Radio Play performed by several of the Conflux panellists and authors. The audience loved it.21951008176_9030441ee0_o Radio-Play







Another well-know attendee was Sean Williams, author of over 100 short stories and 42 novels with several Aurealis Awards and a Ditmar Award to his name.

Several books were launched:

Striking-Fire-cover-1 The first was “Striking Fire” by Dirk Flinthart, published by Fablecroft Press.  Followed by 

“Hero” by Belinda Crawford, published by Odyssey Books,

The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2014,  andBloodlines-web Bloodlines , published by Ticonderoga Publications,

“The Floating City” by Craig Cormick, published by Angry Robot

“The Time of the Ghosts” by Gillian Polack, published by Satalyte,  

Fanzine, “The Vortex” edited by Tara Ott and Maddy Piggott which can be found on Etsy and

The Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild’s latest anthology, Never Never Land.

The art show E Harvey Award went to Shauna O’Meara for the cover of Never Never Land and was richly deserved.


Cabinet_of_Oddities_flier_smallerFor writers there were pitching sessions that allowed authors to take their novels to a publisher to see if they were interested in their stories.  For fans there was entertainment like the ‘Cabinet of Oddities’ and the Banquet with entertainment by Meri Amber, self-styled ‘geek’ pop-singer, song writer whose delightful voice and wonderful songs had the audience clapping and singing.  I recommend going to her website and sampling her music.MeriAmber





This was my 6th Conflux event.  Every one I’ve attended is fabulous and the workshops and events, as a writer, are invaluable for improving my knowledge and skill as a writer. So much so that I was able to pitch my novel this year.  Whether it will be taken up is another matter, but just the knowledge that I’ve finished it and a publisher liked the premise of the story is a whole deal for me.  Fingers crossed it’s good enough to be worked on and published.  But if not, it was a learning experience I would not forgo.

Also being with fellow writers and fans who love genre fiction is, in and of itself, worthwhile.  For four whole days I was with people who ‘got it’ – who thought the strange thoughts I did, and talked in stories and about stories and had fun with stories.

So Conflux 11 is over for 2015 but now the planning begins for Conflux 12 – Red Fire Monkey. If you’re a writer or fan of speculative fiction, set aside 30 September to 3 October 2016 and come and join in the fun. Put it in your diary.


Time Constraints

toobusyWe are all busy people, at times more than others. Over the past few summer months I’ve had the wonderful experience of having many visitors to our little retreat on the South Coast.  At the same time we have had an increase in interest in our writing group and at least 4 regular new members.  As one of the coordinators this has meant extra work.  At the same time I have begun a new part-time activity; I now teach Project Management from 1 and 2 day workshops to 5 months Diploma level.  All fun and interesting but requiring a lot of my attention.

It has meant that I have not had very much time for writing, blogging or even reading.  I’m feeling out of touch with my author side *sigh*.

Now that autumn is upon us, and the courses are all mostly set up, I’m hoping some of my time can be spent getting to my writing. There is a book that needs editing, several short stories that need completion, editing and submitting and a lot of reading to catch up with all the work my fellow writers group has done over the past three months.

Fingers crossed I can get it all done.


Reading, Writing and Research

A post from a writing friend Leife Shallcross, got me thinking about what I read, how I get ideas, what I write as a result and what research I do. Added to that, another writing friend, Donna Maree Hanson blogged about her writing drought and how she got going using writing ‘dates’ – meeting with fellow writers for the purpose of writing.

This past weekend I got going on a shortish story when Donna and Marisol Dunham came to stay for the weekend. Donna actually got around 13,000 words written, Marisol wrote 2000 words but got around a sticky situation with her plot by re-writing bits and planning out a new plot direction to overcome the issue.  I slowly and thoughtfully wrote about 4,500 words of the new story. It was fun, productive and the wine with dinner on Saturday night followed by a game, made it a great weekend.

I’m still learning the craft of writing. I’m told it’s a lifelong enterprise. But what I love about reading is that I now read differently. Yes, the characters and story are still most important, but I now look at what is good about the what I’m reading. Do the words flow? Are the characters well written? If I love them, why? How is the story structured that makes me keep turning pages and going on to the next chapter?

I see from my favourite books that I like a fast paced book that tells me about the character’s background in bits and pieces throughout the story. I like good dialogue and I realise that writers who really love and know their characters, despite what they do the poor buggers throughout a book, get me to like them too. I keep that in mind now when I’m writing. Not that I let my internal editor slow down things too much, but I do write more slowly to ensure some of my writing ‘ticks’ don’t show up. Things like word repetition. It seems I love ‘small’ a lot.  Or slipping into ‘to be’ verbs rather than active verbs.

Our critiquing group has a lot to do with improvement in writing too. It’s hard sometime to hear that something you really thought was good has some hiccups that need fixing but it’s really worthwhile sitting through the pain to get the gain.

And then there are the other writers. One thing I have found is that writers in general are very, very generous with their time and are fun company. Even well-known writers like Isabelle Carmody or Russell Fitzpatrick or Kaaron Warren are happy to come to writing workshops and conventions to talk to apprentice writers.

So I read all the works of writer friends who are published, and that is delightful. Most fun reads recently included ‘Shatterwing’ by Donna Maree Hanson, ‘A difficult second album’ by Simon Petrie, Tehani Wesseley’s anthology ‘Phantazien’ and Alan Baxter’s ‘Bound’.

Then there is the research.  When I’m writing, like this past weekend, and especially when I’m doing a science fiction story, I need to make sure that what I’m writing doesn’t hit a nerve with science that is wrong and/or impossible [although sometimes skipping explanations entirely is useful]. These days we are so lucky to have the internet. A quick read on Wikipedia and follow the links to the scientific paper and journals. Then, before sending it out, a favour asked of knowledgable writer friends and, voila, something reasonably good from that point of view.

I also read many more blogs than I used to. There is so much good and/or fun information out there just for a little time at the keyboard. Between blogs and Facebook writer groups, it does get a little hectic keeping up.

Finally, it seems I also need to stop putting two spaces after every full stop. Apparently it’s old hat, old school, no longer acceptable. But after more than 40 years of ten finger typing, it’s a hard habit to break {hmmm… good title for a song}. But going back and deleting or find/replace is also annoying. Guess I’ll have to change that too.

Having spent time with doing this, I now have to go back to the PowerPoint and notes I’m preparing for a workshop next month. This was decidedly more fun though.


On Climate Change and Other Government Policy

In the early 1990’s I began work with the Environmental Futures Group, a Ministerial Committee headed by the Australian journalist, George Negus.  The Minister was Nick Bolkus, Minister for Administrative Services for the Keating Labor government.  I quickly learned about CFC’s, the hole in the ozone layer, the parlous situation with water in Australia and, something that was not on everyone’s radar at the time, climate change.

As Secretary to the Committee, and with it’s support, I worked with Dr Darren Phillips from the Department of Environment to develop the ‘Creating An Eco Office’ . It covered recycling in offices, energy conservation (timers on lights and hot water systems etc), use of recycled paper and car pooling, bicycle riding to work.  It resulted in the implementation of recycling and energy conservation throughout the Australian Public Service and the ACT Public Service.

Last year, when the current Australian Government decided to disband the Climate Change Council, I was one of the several thousand people who put their money where their mouthes were, and began to support this important body.

I was very happy to see the acceptance by China and the USA last December, of the need to set targets to reduce pollution and environmental damage even though scientists have been clear about the need for more than 30 years – actually greenhouse gasses were first discussed in the 1960’s.

One thing that is still not as high a profile as it needs to be, to me at least, is the availability of water in Australia. Our water comes from rain, the monsoons up north that feed the Queensland rivers that in turn feed rivers that run into NSW and Victoria,  the Murray/Darling Basin and the Great Artesian Basin. Although on the decrease, Australians use 930KL per person per year. Only the USA and New Zealand use more water per capita than we do. Yet our water availability is sporadic in the driest continent on the planet. Add to that the fact that we haven’t yet won the battle against fracking that has the potential to pollute the Great Artesian Basin and the increased use of agricultural water (it was on the decrease, this government has managed to dilute the policies – pun intended).

And if anyone is in doubt about whether there is such a thing as climate change, just look at the unusual frequency of extreme weather patterns. All these the reports are based on scientific fact.

Then there is the logic, or illogic, of ‘continuous economic growth’. If we use up all the Earth’s resources, while at the same time polluting ourselves into oblivion, all for the almighty $$, what does it achieve? Yes, it will give short term benefits to all the wealthy people who run and invest in the big corporations. For many years now it has been clear the ‘trickle-down’ effect is bogus and no-one benefits from big business except big business. Yet our current government is fanatic about ‘growth’ and removing hard-won gains for those who can least afford it i.e. low-paid workers, pensioners, the disabled and children.

OK, to me less income for the underprivileged and those on low wages means less tax paid, less income to government and this bigger deficit because more will rely on government help and thus increase the deficit (I get dizzy thinking about this). I’d love someone to explain to me how, when there is less money coming in to workers of all kind (high, middle and low income earners), less people working or working full time and more automated manufacturing, who benefits beside big business. Certainly not the people, not even the various varieties of government.

A GST on food will add hugely to the weekly shopping bill of those who are already struggling. A middle income household is one with $41,236 after tax and levies while a low income household is defined as $24,700 a year. And there is no doubt there is inequality in income distribution in Australia (ref: click here). From the 2012 ‘Poverty in Australia’ report that spoke about the situation in 2010 (which is currently worse):

“• The poverty line (50% of median income) for a single adult was $358 per week. For a couple
with 2 children it was $752.
• 2,265,000 people (12.8% of all people) were living below the poverty line, after taking
account of their housing costs.
• 575,000 children (17.3% of all children) were living below the poverty line.
• 37% of people on social security payments lived below the poverty line including 52%
of those on Newstart Allowance, 45% of those on Parenting Payment, 42% of those on
Disability Support Pension, 24% of those on Carer Payment, and 14% of those on Age
• 62% of people below the poverty line had social security as their main income and 29% had
wages as their main income
• 27.4% of people with a disability, approximately 620,600, lived below the poverty line
• The level of poverty was 12.6% in capital cities compared to 13.1% outside capital cities

The proportion of people in poverty rose by approximately one third of a percent from 2003 to 2010.”

Add to that the proposed reduction in Medicare rebates leading to people NOT going to the doctor and, when they do fall seriously ill, put a heavy burden on the hospitals and add to government (note this is probably State not Federal) costs, additional food costs leading to less than optimum food choices for those on low incomes (after all fresh food is currently cheaper to buy than much of the processed food), and the rise in part-time work and thus lower wages and we are beginning to look like a very badly off 3rd world country.

All this stems back to the ‘spin’ provided by the current government when it was in opposition – for it did not provide any policies until 48 hours before the election (and during what was left of the media blackout) and any promises it made have already been broken.  And the media hunt for Julia Gillard and her colleagues because Labor is not all that popular with big business, especially the mining and resources industries.

So the question lies in what do we do now?  Yes, we can vote in another government at the next election and hopefully the Australian public will be sensible and do that.  But much of the damage will already be done.

To my mind, what is really needed is a better education system that allows everyone to understand the way politics really works in Australia – not just people in Canberra who work for, or know someone working for, the Australian Government/any version of State/Territory/Local government.  There is a fundamental difference in the  philosophical underpinnings of the various parties – old and new.  Within that, of course, are the various factions in each party.  I believe if people understood even half of this, than voting would be more informed, provide a better reflection of what it is to be Australian – a fair go for everyone.

I am an idealist, I know.  But taking kids to Canberra in year 6 and then not doing the best to have them understand voting, politics and the rest in years 11 and 12, just when they have to start voting, makes very little sense to me.  I believe it should be part of the curriculum like English and Math.

OK, rant over.  I feel better.  Thanks for reading this far.

What Do I Feel Like Reading?

This morning I finished a delightful book by Garth Nix called ‘Clariel’, a prequel to the Abhorson series that I read quite a few years back.  It made me want to clariel-Cover-Ausread the series all over again so I got them down from my bookshelf.  Then  I looked at all the ‘to read’ pile – those that I haven’t read before.  Meh, I said to myself, they can wait while I go and read the series again.

Just before Christmas I also forewent my ‘to read’ pile, this time for two new Val McDermid books in the ‘Tony Hill’ series.  This is quite a different read from the fantasy of Garth Nix.

In addition, I bought the next Ben Aaronovitch book in the ‘Peter Grant’ series.  And of course, anything Jim Butcher writes in the Dresden Files or Kevin Hearne in the Iron Druid series get an instant read as soon and I can get my hands on them.

So what is it about these and other series that makes me want to buy and read them instantly?

Firstly, I think that there is something in the characters the authors have created that makes them enduring.  Most of the leading characters are quite flawed; In the Abhorson series the protagonists all have unknown magic qualities they either don’t want or can’t use; Tony Hill is only a moral centimetre away from being one of the serial killers he catches; Harry Dresden is impulsive and makes decisions that seem right at the time but quite dangerous in hindsight, Atticus the Druid tries to stay alive but brings down multiple pantheon of gods onto his case and so on.

Secondly, the authors give them redeeming qualities that ensure the reader doesn’t just think ‘Fool’ and flicks the book.  In Clariel, Nix allows Clariel to use ‘Free Magic’ or in Star Wars terms, go to the Dark Side while still believing she’s doing good because she’s uneducated about her world and magic; Tony Hill knows most of his flaws and uses them against the serial killers while his personal relationship slowly burns with DCI Carol Jordan.  Harry Dresden tends to pull things out of the fire at the last minute when everything seems lost, as does Atticus the Druid.  The latter two series also have authors who are able to bring humour to their stories that break tension or are just plain fun.idc

And then there are the storylines; well crafted, exciting and in each case the authors seem to put their characters to extreme tests.

OK, so why do I want to keep reading about them?  What is it about these characters that I just have to know what they are up to, how they are going, makes me barrack for them each time?

It’s not the magic, although that’s fascinating, because then I wouldn’t love the psychological drama in the Tony Hill books. Or maybe it is  magic because what Tony Hill does, and Val McDermid writes so well, is the internal ‘magic thinking’ of those who kill for fun and giggles, so to speak.wiretvcover

For me, I think, it’s the battle against the odds, and finding something within themselves that allows them to go on when many would fail and fall by the wayside.  I would hope that were I put in such awful situations, I would have the strength and wherewithal to get to the end and achieve my goal.  But mainly that I am very unlikely to find myself in these situations and grateful that I’m reading about them, excited for the characters, but NOT be them.  I’m safe in my comfortable armchair/couch following the adventures of others, cheering for them, sad for them, terrified and fascinated, but inherently safe from their woes (hopefully).

A pretty powerful formula if, as an author, one is able to find such a character and storyline, and execute it well.

Time and New Year Resolutions

Happy New Year Everyone.

As always, it’s a surprise how quickly 2014 soared high, burned bright and became a thing of the past. I often hear, ‘this year flew past and it gets faster every year.’ But does it? Time, as we humans have defined it, is a fixed thing. It ticks along at 60 seconds for every hour, 24 hours every day for 365 days in every year, even accounting for some inaccuracies resulting in annual second corrections and leap years. We coordinate our lives by the inexorable forward movement of the clock and calendar.

speed-of-lifeSo if time is constant, it must our perception of the world and events that speeds things along. We all remember as children how long it seemed until our next birthday or next Christmas or simply how darned long the school year was because a) we wanted the presents while it took forever for the next set of gifts to roll around and b) most of us hated the imposition of rules and learning on our time with friends and having fun.

Somewhere along the way, our lives became  intertwined with others. We looked for friends and partnerships that for many of us are still part of our lives. We began work and hated that needing to earn money got in the way of enjoyment. The weeks became blurs and we looked forward to weekends that ended up never long enough for the fun we worked hard for. Then came responsibilities like homes to keep and cars to run; time began to speed up more as even the weekends weren’t enough to do everything we needed to get done (housework, washing, ironing, time with the kids/friends etc). Familiar, right.

internet_connectionAdd to that the exponential increase in connectedness that modern communication has brought. News the instant it happens, Facebook, blogs, Twitter and so on.  As a child it used to take two weeks for letters to get from Australia to The Netherlands and another two or more for the reply. Telephone calls to relatives and friends overseas were ‘hens teeth’ rare and even local calls were kept to a minimum. By the 80’s we had telex machines, then came facsimiles and in the 90’s, with me right on board because it was new, came the internet and mobile telephony. Today, we don’t think twice of a quick call, SMS, Skype, FaceTime call, Tweeting, posts on FB and email – instantaneous connections. I’m absolutely convinced this enhances the perception of the speed of time for so many things are happening all at once, even if we are not directly involved.

So here is 2015. Yet I’m sure only a few years ago, 4 or 5 maybe, that I was watching the 9pm fireworks from the courtyard at New Parliament House in Canberra on 31 December 1999. Michael and I were there with two of our closest friends to attend the Millennium Ball. We spoke of the past and wondered about the future. We were still in our 40’s but the 50’s were looming and the 60’s were out of sight. Our kids were in their late teens and doing their own thing for only the second New Year. We had a ball at the Ball and we looked at the new millennium with awe – after all we had all read/seen Asimov’s ‘2001 A Space Odyssey’ and even if space was not as close as those in the 50’s and 60’s might have dreamed, we knew more about it now and how much harder it would be to make those long journeys.

love quotes about life (16)Life went careening along and our 50’s came and went. Mike and my 60’s arrived with a happy and delightful combined 120th birthday party and we counted our blessings. So, last night, at the stroke of midnight, Mike and I were abed and snoring. Our kids, with kids of their own, were spending the time with friends and their children, and 15 years had rolled past in the blink of an eye. I find myself delighted at being a grandmother, semi-retired, living in a new place with new and fantastic friends that my 48-year-old self, ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhhing’ at the midnight fireworks of 1999/2000, would never have guessed at. And life is still very good.

So why does it seem only a few years ago since that Millennium Ball, or even 1980 when I had my first child? For me the answer is that I filled every day with exciting, fun, scary, difficult and fascinating things to do, people to meet, kids to raise and get through school, more work and retirement to plan for.  Every day began with ‘What have I got on today?’ and headed forward from there. Only occasionally did I glance in the rear view mirror to see what happened yesterday or the day/week/year before.

looking-backSo when I did, or do, glance in that rear vision mirror, the years seem to have sped by at a faster and faster rate as I filled them with more things to do, a partnership to nurture and revel in, kids to support emotionally and financially, life goals to achieve, careers to build, friends to cherish and visit, family to keep in touch with, hobbies to find and do and far too many good books to read. Along the way there were a lot New Year’s resolutions that ended up unfulfilled, at least in the year I made them.

So my conclusion about the speed of time is that I filled it with wonderful people; my husband and children, my parents now long gone (sigh), the extended family on hubby’s side and those fantastic people who became family to an odd Dutch girl (you know who you are) and so many careers I lost count at 6. Now I am embarking on anther career in vocational training, although part-time. So another factor in the perceived speed rushing years is as a result of a full, hard-working, useful existence.

My New Year resolution for 2015 is that I will take a few moments each day to reflect on how absolutely privileged my life has been so far in the hope that it might slow time a tiny fraction; a look at the past, throw a comma into my life, along with a small prayer of thanks sent into the Universe for being one of the extremely lucky few able to say that I am happy and content. And if it doesn’t slow things down, Meh. I love being me so….

Happiness-is-a-choiceIn editing this I realised I never mentioned the difficult times. Those times simply made me stronger and more appreciative of the good times. And yes, my glass is more than half full and I’m an optimist.

Dear Reader, I wish you all the best in 2015 and the years to come. I hope you find time to look back at the good things in your life, and even if 2015 races by faster than you would like, I wish you the ability to find happiness and joy so you may appreciate every single moment of it.




An Eclectic Mix of Stories

It’s not strictly true to say ‘what I’ve been reading’, more accurately which books I’ve finished.  Beside actually reading a physical book or an ebook, I also listen to audiobooks when I’m in the car, knitting or just relaxing. I actually had no idea how many books a year I actually finish until I undertook the Goodreads Challenge this year.  I started out with what I thought was a reasonable number, 30.  I had to update that by end of March to 40 and so on.  Currently I’ve set the total to 65 and am only 6 books short of the target… again.  And then there is the slush reading I do for ASIM which at times adds another 3 or so short stories a week to my total reading list, although they do not count on the Challenge of course.

I love any sort of speculative fiction but will happily read biographies and good fiction, often because they have been recommended to me.  In the latter category I recently read ‘The Guernsey 8013752Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ by Mary Ann Shaffer, given to me by a friend last Christmas.  I took so long to read it even though it kept rising to the top of the ‘to read’ pile because it seemed rather ‘twee’ to me.  Silly me, really.  It is a delightful book, full of real people that captured my attention.  On top of that, the style of writing in the form of letters was unique and very well done.  I admit I had to stop looking at the dates of the letters because I kept wondering how these missives could flash across a city in less than five hours and across the channel to Guernsey in one day.  Once I just let it flow I became wrapped up in the story of wartime Guernsey and it’s people, and the unusual romance that eventuated.  Definitely deserved 4 stars out of 5.

13067519Another unexpected gem was ‘Athena’s Promise’ by Annetta Ribken. It was a delightful speculative fiction story that doesn’t fit into any specific genre although it had zombies, trolls, centaurs and vampires all dealing with a human heroine who was the front desk manager in a hotel.  The catchphrase ‘more numbah’s’  will stick in the mind after reading it.  Again, definitely deserves 4 stars from me.  I’m looking forward to the next instalment when it is released.

23264189I bought ‘Difficult Second Album’ by Simon Petrie at Conflux 10 held in Canberra on the long weekend in October and available from Smashwords and Amazon if you’re interested. My husband told me I wasn’t to read it in bed of an evening because I kept giggling and snickering and putting him of his reading.  Simon has a wicked sense of humour, is a wonderful story-teller and very, very well. Not all the stories have humour in them and they balance out the book very well. He also writes flash fiction and some of those in the book are real gems.  I highly recommend this one and give it 5 stars.

23056339Donna Maree Hanson’s ‘Shatterwing’ was another Conflux find.  It is a fantasy with very dark passages that some may find very confronting.  The world-building in this, the first book of the series, is excellent and I found myself hooked in the trials and tribulations of the characters.  I have a personal issue in that when I become interested emotionally in a character, I find it difficult to let them go halfway through a book and take up the point of view of another character.  The first half of the book is about Salinda who, after years of tending the vines for the Dragon Wine, undergoes terrible physical harm before she can escape the vineyard.  Salinda is the keeper of a power she finds difficulty using and does not understand.  We leave Salinda in a situation that seems somewhat safe and learn about Laiden who accompanies an elder mage who unexpectedly dies.  As a result she gains a similar power to Salinda and has difficulty managing it.  She must also run for her life.  I have the second in the Dragon Wine series and will read ‘Skywatcher’ over the next month.  Overall, I rate the first book a 3 stars, I liked it and am looking forward to reading the next in the series.

Now for a couple of audiobooks.  The first, The Child by Sebastian Fitzek, was an excellent story but the audio-play had too many distractions – rain that went on forever, pauses in dialogue that ended up being totally frustrating despite the fact that the actors, including Amelia Fox and Rupert Penry-Jones were delightful to listen to.  So I will have to find a written copy of this and read it.

Kevin Hearne”s ‘Shattered’, the 7th in the Iron Druid Chronicles, was the exact opposite.  The narrator, Christopher Ragland, did a wonderful rendition of all of the characters, male and female and18525883 irish wolfhound.  Atticus the last Druid on Earth now has graduated Granuille, his apprentice as well as liberating his Arch-Druid from a time spell – so now there are 3 druids in the world that can access the powers of Gaia.  Atticus and Granuille both have delightful companions in their wolfhounds who can speak and provide the light relief during stressful times.  If you love Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files you will definitely love the Iron Druid series.  Another 4 stars from me for this one.

23265559Finally, there is the audiobook of ‘Bones Never Lie’ from Kathy Reichs and read by Katherine Borowitz.  The last two Reichs books were a bit of a disappointment for me but this one returns Reichs to her previous best with detailed forensic descriptions alongside the continuing life of her heroine, Dr Temperance Brennan.  This is a 3 stars only because I have certain expectations from these books and I liked it but fell just short of loving it.

7028848I am currently reading Phillip K Dick’s ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ and can see why it has become a classic.  I’m about 40 pages from the end and will finish it today.  It will definitely get 5 stars from me despite it being slightly dated because Dick wrote it in the late 1960’s and set it in the early 2000’s.  Not his fault that space exploration and the idea of settling on Venus and Mars turned out to be highly problematic.

18076835I’m also listening to ‘Lexicon’ by Max Berry and read by Heather Corrigan and Zack Appleman.  It is a story about the power of words and how some people are trained to use words to influence others.  It is intriguing and suspenseful and I’m not sure where it is going.  I like that, a lot.

My ‘To Read’ stack keeps getting taller and includes titles from Gillian Polack (Langue [dot] doc}, Craig Cormack (The Shadow Master) and an anthology by Tehani Wessely entitled ‘Phantazine’.  I guess I’ll make my 65 books this year, and maybe more as there are still 7 weeks to go this year.


New Qualification

Well, I did it.  I completed my Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.  Phew!  I admit I enjoyed doing it.  That probably had to do with the facilitator, Erin Riley from Wisdom Learning who, without a doubt, knew her stuff and was able to communicate it clearly while we were doing hard things and making it seem like fun.  And this time I didn’t have the pressure of a job to hassle with.  When I did my undergrad, I had a husband, new house and two kids under two as well as working part-time and studying full time.  It was, to say the least, hectic.  When I did my Grad Dip Psych, I was working in a senior position in Defence.  My Dip PM luckily was a case of getting documentation together to allow Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) yet even that took several intense weeks.  So getting time to digest the information, sit back and re-read notes and manuals and then doing the work was shear luxury. I wish I had realised that when I was a school kid *sigh*.  Still, can’t put old head on young shoulders as the adage goes.

One of the most interesting topics of this course was that of Adult Learning.  Although I had covered this in my Psych degree from a purely brain function/dysfunction point of view, I found the practical side of using the information and models much more compelling.  And of course, realised why I loved the way Erin facilitated the course. Crossword puzzles for review that tested key words from the previous sessions made ‘wracking one’s brain’ to go back a week to remember stuff a fun activity. She used minimal overheads and even when she did have them, she spoke to the topic so well I didn’t even read them.  The course was structured so we learned, practiced, built more learning, practiced and learned some more.  It certainly worked for me.

Now I just have to ‘do’ it myself when I do my first professional presentations i.e the ones I will get paid to do.  Fingers crossed…challenge-accepted.jpg.pagespeed.ce.9QPX0E4mDu

Conflux 10, NaNoWriMo, Life and Me

A little distance is often a good thing.  I attended Conflux 10 in Canberra on the October long weekend.  This is the fifth time I have attended the conference and each time I’ve come away happy, tired an9837-Conflux-10-Logod a little overwhelmed by the friendships I’ve begun and being included in the network of wonderful writers – both well-know published authors and those, like me, just learning the craft. Added to all this, I was joined by two writer friends from the Eurobodalla Writers and we shared a wondrous weekend, cementing friendship, laughing and learning.

On Friday I attended an all-day workshop run by Russell Kirkpatrick and Nicole Murphy on writing opening chapters that catch the reader, summaries of novels and letters to publishers to catch their attention.  All very important skills and a great workshop.  That night we dressed up and attended the Hogwarts’ Pyjama party and, along with some fun games and laughs, had far too much sugar just before bed.  Saturday consisted of an interview with Margo Lanagan, the launch of several books including Simon Petrie‘s ‘Difficult Second Album’ and a horror short story competition suitably won by Shauna O’Meara.  Her story of a WWI pet rat on a battlefield was both charming and horrible.  Margo Lanagan came in a close second with a Halloween story.  After that we attended the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party with music, food, talking, a bit of dancing and, not least, the dressing up.  My friend Marisol Dunham won the price for best costume and thoroughly deserved it.  The best cosplay group was Tim Napper, his gorgeous wife and son, dressed in Deep Space 9 uniforms.  Very, very nice.  Sunday, a few more book launches including Donna Maree Hanson‘s ‘Shatterwing’ and Gillian Polack’s ‘Lang (dot) doc’.  Then the ‘Around the World in 80 Minutes’ banquet to finish off the day.

Highlights included a kaffeklatch with Isobelle Carmody and a beer meeting with Kaaron Warren.  Learned so much including that writers are normal people with some weird brains that I totally relate to.  I just hope I can someday become 1/10th as good as these ladies.

At the same time as all of this is going on, I’m completing a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.  Thoroughly enjoying the course facilitated at Wisdom Learning by a fantastic teacher in Erin Riley.  Lots of work involved and I’m doing it so that next year I can facilitate a Diploma Course in Project Management for Wisdom.

Prior to all this there was a wonderful week of babysitting my grandson Elliott and a visit to his cousin Ashlyn in Newcastle.  It certainly tested our resources but we did have fun with the grandkids.  They grow up so fast it’s hard to keep up.

The Tuesday after the return from Conflux the evening chapter of the Eurobodalla Writers met and we decided on our story for National November Writers Month – each of us doing a chapter.  The planning went very well and we are hoping to get it together in a book for our families.

I’ve finally got some time to get back to some knitting and writing and the weather is warming up so regular swims in the pool are a definite benefit of being home.  I can now take a deep breath before the onslaught of the Christmas silly season.  It’s silly because we end up running about like silly people to Canberra, Newcastle and even Sydney.  And then the family comes to us for a few days – which I love.  So I’m also looking forward to it even as I know by January I will be well and truly over it.

I didn’t quite get to all the New Year resolutions I made this year but I got to the most important ones – get fit, keep up with the grandchildren, learn some more about writing and writing itself.  I finished my novel but now am in editing mode and it’s going slowly.  However, it is going so that’s good.

I’m a contented Cat, YAY!

low key


Lifelong Learning

If there is one thing I love is finding out new information whether it be scientific, humanitarian, political or just fun.  Thus research for my stories is quite a bit of the fun of writing. But currently I’m doing a Cert IV in Training and Assessment.  It’s one of those things that I need to do if I’m going to provide training in Project Management. Yes, I’m officially going to undertake training with a ????????????delightful organisation called Wisdom Learning.  And boy, am I learning.  Not so much an issue of content but how to go about training in the current environment, how to assess that training and, as from this week, how to design proper training programs.

I thought it would be a slog but it’s fun.  And BTW, my mother is currently rolling around in her grave in frustration. She’s muttering ‘I wish you’d realised you were a good student when you were 10’ over and over again.  My response to my beloved but long departed mother is that the schooling in Australia when I was 10 was abysmal. The teacher, OK the Nun, stood in the front of the class and talked, scratched on the blackboard and talked some more, THEN, had the hide to give you a mountain of homework.  Like I was going to do that! And of course, there was the ruler… and my hand still bares the scars, as do the back of my knees from the cane end of the feather duster.  All of this was in primary school.

allgirlsclassbigLuckily, high school was better.  I had some great teachers.  Mrs Stanger (in yellow in the link) taught History and English and she was brilliant… she was a storyteller and that was utterly compelling.  And I did really well in her class: I even did my homework for her.

After school I went to business college and learned shorthand and typing.  The latter has been a beneficial lifelong skill – roughly 100 words per minute when I’m copy typing.  Shorthand went by the wayside very quickly. I tended to persuade my bosses that sitting in front of them taking shorthand was wasting their time and mine,  a dictaphone was a better option – we could both work and get more done.  Phew!  I never could read all my squiggles back anyway, and relied on short-term memory for some of it.

Two years into the workforce and I’d had enough.  I joined the Woman’s Royal Australian Navy (WRAN) and became a Medic.  I topped the class because I loved what I was doing.  Got promoted veryCatharina age 19 - Version 2 quickly and ended up a Petty Officer after just over 4 years.  Then I had the hide to get married and I had to leave the Navy.  The marriage ban was lifted some years before but there was absolutely no guarantee you would be posted with you partner.  It was bad enough that he would be away sailing the 7 seas, but being in another city when he was in Australia didn’t appeal, so I left.

When you leave the services they do provide additional training so I refreshed my shorthand and added bookkeeping.  Again, dropped the first but bookkeeping has been another lifelong skills that  stood me in good stead in my working and private life.  Got great marks because I loved it.

We ended up in Canberra 6 months after the wedding when hubby paid off from the Navy.  Yes, of course I married a sailor. What else would you expect?

I finally got into the Australian Public Service, after building a house and having two kids when hubby also left the Service, and found I hated the low-level I was working at i.e. lousy pay with heaps of responsibility (my boss had me and three other staff, I had 24 secretaries and 12 people in the typing pool to look after as a Typist Controller – and all the other bosses to deal with when their secretaries/PA’s were sick, did the wrong thing, were unhappy etc – shitty job). So it was suggested I go to uni.  And then of course there was the delightful Mr Whitlam who had made uni free.  So I went. And I did well.  And yes, I loved it.

After my undergrad, I managed two post-grads and an advanced diploma among other things like OHS, law and IT courses.

project-management2And now, after nearly 25 years of being a Project Manager and Director, I get to go back to learn how to train people.

Both in my Psych Degree, various Train-the-Trainer courses and this Cert IV, it is very clear that people have to invest in their learning to get anything out of it.  Well, DUH! I guess I learned that all by myself over the years.  If you like/love what you are learning it’s easy… even when it’s hard (like assignments and research and writing papers on boring stuff).

But knowing this and then being able to develop training that people want to do, have an interest in, get something out of… that’s now my challenge.

I will say that my current trainer, Erin Riley, is one of the most dynamic and motivating people I’ve ever had the pleasure to be educated by.  I’m taking lots of notes and if I can come halfway to being like her, then I might just make a success of it.

Guess by now it’s clear that I also love a challenge.  Fingers crossed I can meet this one and haven’t bitten off more than I can chew.  OK, probably have but I will just chow down and keep chewing till I get it.

Truth is, I hope I can keep learning new stuff until the day my number is up.  And then I might still learn something… what, if anything, comes after.

Cool huh.