Alien Zoo is now on Smashwords. The novella is just over 17,000 words and at a price of $1.99 USD should be value for a fun, quick read. You can find it by clicking here. When you’ve read it, I ask that you spend a few minutes providing some comments here.
Last Friday our writing group, the evening group of the Eurobodalla Writers, the Secret Society of Words, published the efforts of our NaNoWriMo from last November. It’s called ‘Alien Zoo’.
My co-editor, Debbie Richardson, and I came up with the premise while having a few wines during last October’s Conflux Conference in Canberra. What if all the magical creatures on Earth were kidnapped by aliens who kept them in a Zoo? And what would happen if a few of them were able to get together and work out a way to escape?
So we gave each of our members the opportunity to pick a magical creature of their own creation, make them shape-shifters and let them tell the story about who they were and how they became part of the plot.
What we got were human/sloths, Tinkerbelle’s that looked like Smurfs, dragons, witch/fairies, multiple personalities and water nymphs. Debbie and I wrote the connecting stories – the two zookeepers Yolaxsis and Zirth; bad and good cop with backstories. We then provided comment and edits to the authors. Voila! our 64 page novella! Debbie did a wonderful job on the cover (above).
Of course this wasn’t SSOWs first effort. In 2014 we got together and wrote ‘The Seven Little Goatlings’; a retelling of the Grimm’s story. One of our authors, who is of German heritage, didn’t like the sound of ‘kids’ for little goats and she kept calling them goatlings, so we went with that. It was fun and the story got good reviews from family and friends. We were chuffed and decided to give it another go. With, what we feel, is great success. Our first print run of ‘Zoo’ is already sold out.
It was my second attempt at editing and I have to thank several of the authors, and especially Debbie, for their eagle-eyed assistance. I’m great at story and character but when it comes to the nitty-gritty of grammar, Suzanne Newnham was fantastic as was Louise Falcioni. Added to that, Louise went to the printers at Moruya and got us a great deal on a quality print run.
I now understand why authors always have so many people to thank in the ‘Acknowledgements’. This type of enterprise is truly never a lone exercise. The writing may be, but then it takes a village to get it to the printed page if you want it to be a good read.
The next big thing is to get it onto Smashwords to see if others like what we did. We figure we can get some feedback for $1.99 that will help us all become better writers, editors and…. publishers. However, that may take another month or so trying to fit it in between part-time work and the pull of life in general.
So from a happy new editor, au revoir.
Hmmm… I wonder what this year’s Conflux will engender? The theme is Red Fire Monkey. November 30 to October 3 at the Novotel in Canberra. Come along and see what happens. Click on Conflux for details.
Here it is Friday, the beginning of the celebration of the death and resurrection of a brilliant prophet just over 2,000 years ago and/or the pagan festival of chocolate.
It got me thinking about life and death.This whole doom and gloom thing for me was helped along by a recent television episode of a detective series where people had themselves frozen, or at least their head frozen, in the belief/hope that they would be brought back to life, or resurrected, at a later time (cryopreservation). Unfortunately, the company went broke and they the bodies and parts were discarded – a bummer but a high probability I would say. Still, a significant number of us seem to have a fascination with life and keeping it or getting it back.
Let me state up front, I believe that when my brain and body stops functioning, that’s it, I’m done and literally dusted. I have one chance to be here and be a good person and I’m not going to stuff that up if I can help it.
But… and there’s always a but, what if there is a possibility that our cells, our DNA can provide a second chance at life. That begs the question, would it be me, the me of now, before death. Or would it be another person that has my DNA but not my upbringing or memories? To me it would only makes sense that it would be the second option; another person who looked like me, talked like me but wasn’t me. It certainly wouldn’t have my memories and the ‘I’ of me would be there, my ego and id, my spirit or soul, whatever you call it, wouldn’t be there because it left when that other body I had deteriorated, died.
So what happens if you have your body or just your head frozen and a time comes when it can be reanimated? If it happens within the next 50 years you would probably be OK, you would still have some memories and experiences that could allow for incorporation into the new society.
However, what if it’s over 100 years? Think about the changes since 1916 – beside there being a war on in the trenches in Europe. We have computers, we fly in huge aircraft, our species has been to the moon, sent Voyager out beyond our Solar System and we speak quite differently. Imagine suddenly arriving from 1916 into today? Undoubtedly culture shock would set in. It’s a world that is vastly different from the one you left and anyone you knew when you were alive is either very, very old or most likely gone. You’d have to be a very special person to deal with that.
Take another one hundred years and I’m sure it would be very difficult to even make yourself understood. See how much trouble we have with Shakespeare after 500 years.
Sure, with effort we can understand it, especially if it is played by experienced actors. Yet imagine Shakespeare coming to 2016 – he wouldn’t have a clue.
So I’ve decided this time is the only time. I understand where I am, who I am with and being one of the lucky people, I’m happy and as content as possible.
And then there is the after-life. A significant proportion of people around the world believe (or profess to believe) that there is something after death. Of course the ‘something’ is different depending on your chosen beliefs. Heaven or a variation of that suggests that the soul has somewhere to go. And then there is the whole issue of ghosts – those who stay here.
So what if I’m wrong, and there is something after the body dies? Firstly, I’m going to be very surprised but I guess happily so. Secondly, I’m going to try to find out where the hell I am. I mean, before we went out into space we could believe that that’s where heaven was. Now I guess we’re going to have to think of it as another dimension. I guess that could work. And then ghosts could be those who were, for whatever reason, able to cross the barrier between the living and dead dimensions.
But truly, nah, I don’t think so. I’m an empiricist – I think science has it pretty right – check the proofs of the hypothesis before coming to a conclusion and then still keep a little doubt at hand. There are proofs that the brain and body dies and no proofs of life after.
And as I don’t really want to wake up and deal with the billions and trillions of souls in another dimension, or relearn language and culture in a far distant future, I’m happy to stay in this reality, on this Earth as long as I can, do the best I can, live by the guiding principles of community pretty well set out by the guy who’s death and resurrection we celebrate at this time.
And, of course, eat chocolate.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
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 never 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 final 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).I’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.
One of my favourite programs of late has been ‘Person of Interest’. For those who are unaware of it, it follows Harold, who developed a security program for the US government after 9/11 that took all data available, meta-data, phone data, all government data and relevant camera’s i.e. traffic and worked out who could be a terrorist. Harold, worried about its abilities as the system seemed to become aware, only set it up to provide social security numbers to the government. He was afraid of what people in power could do with the knowledge the data could provide.
So last night I was watching ABC’s ‘Four Corners’ where digital dissidents who blew the whistle on government security agencies were interviewed – including Edward Snowdon and Julian Assange. There were two NSA whistleblowers as well and one from MI5. What was really interesting was that Edward Snowdon, in a Skype appearance at a hackers conference recently, suggested the biggest danger to US citizens was their meta-data being taken and analysed by government agencies. That, and their banking and credit card details. So, is there a ‘machine’ like the one from PoI? Maybe it already exists.
These whistleblowers thought of themselves as patriots to their countries and the world in letting everyone know that ‘big brother is really watching’ and that with smart phones, chips in banking cards and credit cards, access to Google and meta-data (a law recently passed in Australia that it is required to be kept for 2 years for access if required) made privacy a thing of the past.
I’ve recently been reading a bit on the internet on those computer scientists who are becoming worried about artificial intelligence – that if we let that genie out of the box, make machines that think for themselves, we are asking to becomes slaves to them. But aren’t we already slaves to our digital machines? This blog, Facebook and other social media, our smart phones that we can’t seem to live without are already intruding on our physical interaction with each other. The caravan park we recently stayed at had a sign that said “We do not have WiFi. Talk to each other instead.”
I’m not one for conspiracy theories but it does seem that our governments are becoming more secretive and we as its citizens are giving away our privacy. Where is this going to lead? I have no answers but I will say it’s beginning to worry me. So much so I have privacy settings on my browsers, https, VPN and delete my browsing history often. Yet I still have GPS going on my smart phone because it’s so handy with Google and maps and photo’s etc. So anyone who is clever enough can know where I am, what I spend my money on, who I talk to on my mobile and just about most aspects of my life if they get onto my FB page.
And I’ve been fully involved in letting it happen. Scary really.
Short history of Qld Art Awards and current crop of fabulous award winners. Thanks Lisa for a great post.
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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