The very odd world of political reasoning

The older I get the more I worry about the political environment. After all, it’s what sets the standard of living for most of us. A good government that balances the needs of its people with the needs of industry is the ideal and is extremely hard to come by.

Up front I will say I believe we need to care for the most disadvantaged in our society.  After all, we are, or should be, a community that ensures everyone has food on the table and a roof over their heads. Added to that I feel that the best way to ensure a good future for a country is to have its population educated and healthy. Some will say that makes me a socialist but I see it as being a caring human. I’m happy to pay taxes to ensure that these things are provided. Not everyone is as privileged as I am; not everyone has the same ability to secure well-paying jobs. On top of that, there are a lot of jobs that were manual and or administrative that have disappeared because of technology. Nor are all people willing or able to get a degree at university. And they become the disadvantaged having to rely on the social security system or charities.

In Australia I used to think we had the best of it. At least for a while. But the drop in tax income for governments from pastoral and mining industries has caused an income problem.  Less coming in and more demand. I won’t even mention the fact that most big business pays less % of tax than the individual when they make millions or billions of dollars in profits – it goes to their shareholders instead who benefit from the companies not paying tax.

It just seems to me that recent governments have been focusing on big business to the exclusion of the people that they govern. Workers pay between 35% to 45% tax while big business is able to get away with around 2-5% or none. If jobs are going in the manual and administration areas and full-time work is getting harder to get, especially for young people just out of school, who is going to pay the tax? It becomes an issue of fewer people working, fewer people paying tax and the government has less money to spend. Then the government starts cutting programs, mainly in the social area like health and education. Less education and health means fewer people able to get jobs and it becomes a self-fulfilling circle of less taxation dollars and fewer services.

So, I ask, what is wrong with investing in the people rather than big business which seems to do alright for itself despite what they say. They are happy to get profits and keep it but when they run into trouble they want the taxpayers through the government to save them. And let’s be clear, big business does quite a bit of funding of political parties and candidates so they feel they have a right to dictate policy and be saved when they make stupid decisions – recently look at Clive Palmer and Nathan Tinkler.

And don’t get me started on the silliness going on with Donald Trump in the USA. Really people? A man who switches his beliefs as easily as his boxer shorts?

I’m not naive enough to think there is an easy solution to any of this. Australia is now part of the global community and affected by global economics. But that seems to me the whole problem. The idea that we have to keep growing. Everything has an upper limit in growth with the exception of the universe itself – and even with that there seems to be an eventual falling apart at the end of expansion. So how about we actually look at changing the ‘growth’ paradigm for a ‘sustainability’ paradigm. There is certainly a growing body of economic ideas that could work (Growing a Sustainable Economy) or Ernst and Young’s 2014 report that suggested a re-orientation of the tax system and changes to Non-Government Organisations that supply human services to a secure funding model to allow them to plan and make savings on their services. This is essential in the area of providing services to disadvantaged indigenous communities throughout Australia. Ad hoc, three-year funding with no guarantee of future funding provides ad hoc services that no-one trusts. Good programs that are working get cut with those that don’t work or seem to work – and that issue is a challenge and a whole topic in itself.

The ideas are out there. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would be willing to see a government brave enough to make the needed changes.

But no, governments and opposition alike play popularity games to get in for the next term, to remain in power instead of working for the people they govern.

I will vote this coming election – but I won’t do it happily. There isn’t much choice and there isn’t a visionary amongst the current crop of politicians in Australia.  All too scared of doing the right thing for the country because they are afraid of big business and losing their funding.

I know there are people who will disagree with my views, and so it should be. If we were all the same life would get boring. But I had to have a say and I have a blog and so here it is, out there for all to see. I would just like everyone to consider what life would be like if our government actually cared about us as people and not about ‘liberal philosophy’ or ‘worker solidarity’ or ‘economic growth’ as a basis for government. What is right for Australia, it’s future and it’s people rather than fighting wars on the other side of the world because an economic power/partner asked us to (not to say anything here about the bravery of our soldiers which is beyond reproach).

How about they look at doing the roll-out of broadband properly to each home like in many places in Europe and the USA. It will allow people to come into the 21st Century from all over Australia not just the capital cities. They could access technology and bring in new industries to assist Australians in country and city.  How about funding CSIRO rather than cutting it – the organisation has a huge role to play in R&D for Australia’s future – it has some of the best researchers with the best ideas and history has proven this (top 10 inventions). And how about supporting parents and families who have to work full-time with child care and good education systems so their children can find jobs in the new technologically advanced world. They can then pay taxes to maintain a system for the future for all Australians.

I worry about the vast amounts of money that goes into tunnels and roads in our capital cities rather than alternative energy that will make Australia self-sufficient. The use of fossil fuels is outdated and we are a smart people, we can find better ways of doing things. That’s the Australian way isn’t it?

I know, it sounds easy to say. But all it needs is a leader with vision and courage who has our best interests at heart. Vision that can be communicated to the people and courage to do it despite political games that have become nasty and about personalities rather than the best interests of the country. But I can’t see one in the current crop of Australian politicians. And it’s very discouraging.

Rant over!

Knitting Exploits

Over the end of year festivities, I had time to do a bit of creative work that didn’t include writing. Instead, I undertook an adventure in knitting.

I was a tiny three year old when my mother gave me a pair of knitting needles, a ball of wool and spent the next several years teaching me to knit.  It took patience on her part because, like all kids, I wanted to do it instantly and it’s not quite that easy.  I knit European style with long needles, one trapped under the right arm and the other loose to do all the movement.  When you finally get the knack it’s fast and easy.  My Mum spent most of her free time knitting and I wore beautiful jumpers, coats and dresses as a kid. My children also wore her creations.  Unfortunately, she passed away too early. So, it’s up to me now to take over from her.

First effort these holidays was a project started by a friend who left it behind when returning to the UK.  A Minion beanie.  IMG_1071

It was pretty simple and the pattern was easy. Knitting for the body and crochet the eye. Had fun with it though.

Next came something for my grandson – like all nearly 3 year olds, he’s into spiderman. So off I went to the internet and came up with a great pattern by Irene Johnson – Webspinner.  It’s free too. The wool arrived early December and it’s Wool of the Andes – lovely colours and nice to work with. Then I started. I judge myself to be an intermediate knitter but this project shot me up to expert level. It uses a  method I’d read about but never tried – Intarsia. The method is like weaving all the threads so that you don’t end up with lots of threads at the back of the work when it’s finished – but you do while you’re knitting. The 1st photo shows the 12 different strands I was using to get Spidey going in the back. After embroidering the wed, it ends up looking much better on the inside than the fair isle method and ensures the black doesn’t show through the white of the eyes. And kids don’t have anything to pull loose – bonus!

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So I ended up with a nice jacket for the grandson that I now just have to go and find a zipper for. According to the pattern it’s the hardest bit – getting it straight. I have found though, that if you do things slowly and with patience it normally works.IMG_1072

And that’s the point. One thing I didn’t have when I was young and Mum was teaching me, was patience. I managed a few pieces over the years but each took me more than 24 months to finish anything. In fact, I didn’t really pick up knitting again until a few years back. It seems in the intervening years I learned patience – most likely with my kids (at least some of the time LOL). And now the frustration levels are low and allow for these more complicated adventures in crafting something special.

I’m pretty happy with the outcome. I guess now it’s time to find another adventure in knitting. Although I do have to finish collating and editing my writer’s group end of year novella – The Alien Zoo. Plenty of stuff to get on with.

 

 

This Is My War

A great blog about ‘resistance’ to working creatively when the body and mind and ‘down’. Especially useful and relevant to all my writer friends. There are no excuses even at the worst of times not to write.

JamesRadcliffe.com

I am smack-bang in the middle of the hardest part of my current project.

No longer the fresh excitement and boundless possibilities of the new, nor yet the fragrant and tantalising promise of completion, just the work; the seemingly endless and repetitive no-mans-land of the daily grind.

But still everyday I get up, brew my coffee, and get after it.

This post is about why.

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Christmas Reading

For those of you interested in low cost or free books, check out Fablecroft Publishing on Facebook.

For those interested in more about Anne McCaffrey and Pern, check out their site. (click here).

It’s been a busy time with getting all the stories together for our writers group end of year project – The Zoo. Imagine being a human shafeshifter and having been kidnapped by an alien race for their zoo. And now there is a hope of escape. Will be out on Amazon in the first quarter of 2016.

For those in the Christian world, Merry Christmas. For those in other places with other beliefs, have a wonderful end of year with family and friends.

Happy Holidays

Anne McCaffrey and Pern – Isobelle Carmody and Obernewtyn

Recently friends decided to re-read all of the Pern Novels.  So far Tehani Wessely and Marisol Dunham  read the first in the series and blogged about it here. To keep in the spirit of things I decided to read along as well. I had only read two or three McCaffrey novels including The Crystal Singer and loved those.  I Dragonflightnever got around to the Pern novels. So glad I did  because I loved Dragonflight and look forward to the next one, Dragonquest.

Another wonderful series in the same genre is Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn Chronicles.  I’m quickly reading The Sending before tackling the final of the series, The Red Queen, released on 12 November.  I was lucky enough to be able to spend a little time with Isobelle at Conflux and she was still writing the Red Queenfinal chapters – that was in early October and it’s just been released. The woman is magic I tell you.

Both these series have had lasting effects on several writers I know and many readers.  It’s amazing how McCaffrey wrote a whole series with females as the main protagonist, especially in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Isobelle did the same in Obernewtyn with a strong, self-motivated female protagonist. Both series show how the girls grow into strong, able women who are just as capable as men in saving their societies and cultures.  It motivated so many women to do the same for themselves.

It helps that both Carmody and McCaffrey write in a way that is very accessible with a range of wonderful characters and each in an unusual and sometimes dangerous world.

I see that often Isobelle Carmody is tagged as writing Young Adult books but, like Harry Potter, the Obernewtyn series is definitely for adults as well. I find myself reading quite a lot of so-called YA and wonder how these books might miss out on the mainstream reader because they are labeled YA – many are great stories that have, in my opinion, wider appeal.  Still, it’s the publishing world and I’m not sure anyone really understands what’s happening there.

I love a good old-fashioned book in my hands when it’s a new release or it’s a series I want to keep to re-read. That said, I’m happy to buy ebooks as well because often the cost is less. If I’ve  not got any books in a series then I will buy the e-book series but if I already own hard copies, I will wait till they are on special or have free shipping and buy from Booktopia (my favourite online book store I must admit).books-vs-ebooksI’m hoping that with the birth of my second granddaughter Darcy, I will have a chance to read these novels to her in time if my daughter doesn’t get there first.  I will get a chance with Ashlyn though and that suits me just fine. And whether e-book or hard copy, I’m good either way.

 

2015 Queensland Literary Awards

Short history of Qld Art Awards and current crop of fabulous award winners. Thanks Lisa for a great post.

Welcome to my Library

Another host of talented Australian writers have been honoured in the 2015 Queensland  Literary Awards on October 10th. I am a a couple of days behind on sharing the news – but here it is!

The former Awards once included the title ‘Premier’s‘ but funding was withdrawn and the awards abolished  by Premier Campbell Newman, shortly after winning the 2012 Queensland state election. Thankfully,  in 2012 a group of passionate Queensland volunteers and advocates for literature established the not-for-profit Queensland Literary Awards (QLA).

The Awards recognise and reward outstanding Australian writers. The 2012 and 2013 Awards were made possible by the generosity and commitment of many partners, donors and volunteers.

It brings to mind a thoughtful, but passionate article written recently by author Kate Forsyth about funding for the arts and why it is so important. I quote: ‘Storytelling is absolutely crucial to human culture. Speaking up, writing it…

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Writer Conferences and the Aftermath

It’s been six days since Conflux 11 finished and it’s funny the ‘down’ you get after such an event.  Over the next few weeks and months there are several more writer conferences in Australia including the Sydney Writers Freecon 6-8 Nov, GenreCon 30 Oct to 1 Nov, SuperNova 24-29 Nov to name just a few.  For the full listing see Events at http://www.cannedgeek.com.

As a writer it is very tempting to go to more of these conferences just for being amongst those who think and have fun like you do.  However, the cost, particularly of travel, can be prohibitive.  But it’s oh so tempting.  It’s a pity that those I really want to go to, those named above, are all so close together.  I guess it will take some planning but GenreCon or SuperNova for 2016 might be on the cards for me.

creativity word cloud on blackboard

creativity word cloud on blackboard

The other thing that these Cons engender is renewed energy to write. Several of my friends who attended are also writing madly at the moment. With NaNoWriMo coming up, I can see several great stories coming out of Conflux alone.

Even I have been working on what started out as a short story and is turning into a Novella. The writing mojo seems to be revved up and running and that makes me happy.  Added to that I have a few weeks where there are no visitors to Chez Sheely and no part-time work at the moment so plenty of time to get the fingers flying over the keyboard.

It’s Sunday but I decided after several weeks of neglect, the housework needed doing. As I cleaned toilets, bathrooms and laundry, dusted and wiped down cupboards etc I got a great idea for progressing my novella – adding in an additional plot line to make one part of the story much more interesting.

So I get creative ideas while doing housework. Hmmm.  That could end up with an overly clean house if I keep it up *chuckle*.  But I don’t think my husband would mind much. ht_apple_wireless_keyboard_ll_120716_wbOther writers I spoke to over the previous weekend used showers, swims and running to get the mind woken up and plotting. Seems just sitting at the keyboard can be detrimental to creativity.

And then there is the plotting – to plot or not to plot – that is the question (to hijack Shakespeare). Most writers agree that you need to know where your story is heading or ending to write.  I couldn’t disagree with that.  But how to get from beginning to end seems to be what suits each writer.  Some undertake detailed plotting with each chapter and scene dealt with before writing starts.  Others undertake a synopsis that provides the overall direction Plottingof the plot but leaves the freedom to move as the characters develop – updating the synopsis as you go.  I may add, that’s probably what I do and thanks to Marisol Dunham, writing as M.A. Dunham, who did a great workshop on that at Conflux.  Then there are those who simply sit down and let it happen.

All through the past ten years as I’ve been learning the craft of writing, there have been a lot of times when the advise is that you must plot. That’s great advice.  But it seems overall, that it is really each individual writer’s own process that needs to be developed.  You take in all the advice, structure, world-building, character development and so on, and then incorporate it into the way you, as a writer, work best.

So in general it is very much worth going to Cons and workshops and listening and learning from experienced and published authors, editors and publishers. The more you hear and take in, the more you begin to work out your own process. Advice is good, practice and writing and getting out there with your stories at critique groups. writers groups and submissions, is even better.

To me, writers conferences have two influences; the first is learning about other people’s processes and working out your own and the second, and to me the most important, is the energy to keep going and get creative.

 

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.

theneverneverland

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.

I am delighted to thank Cat Sparks for the wonderful photo’s. Her coverage, as in past years, was terrific.

 

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.