The Art of Onsen

I haven’t updated this blog for a while, mainly due to the fact that we’re travelling, but courtesy of a slight knee tweak skiing yesterday, I’m having a rest day so that I can ski my socks off on our last day, tomorrow. It snowed last night, and I’m sitting in the lobby of the hotel, intermittently looking out the window at a fabulous snowy landscape.

Our hotel has an onsen. Japan is the home of the onsen. For foreign visitors, the onsen can be both a joy and confronting at the same time. You see, an onsen is a bath for soaking in, after you’re clean, in company with others, naked.

When I was a small child in Western Australia, pool and beach changing rooms used to be full of naked women and children. You’d have your swim, shower to get the sand out of the places it shouldn’t be, and then all get dressed together. No-one worried about it – I certainly didn’t – and no-one seemed to spend time looking around at all the different body shapes and sizes or critiquing them. It was just the place that you got changed, just like everyone else.

Here at our hotel, I’ve enjoyed the onsen every day. However, I have been struck by one thing quite significantly. In the female onsen, there are women from about thirty up. There appear to be almost no younger women or girls enjoying the experience.

I was chatting to another woman after we’d dried off, and were trying out all the skin creams, body lotions, hairdryers and sterilised brushes supplied by the hotel onsen, and she commented that try as she had, she was unable to get her teen daughter to join her in the onsen. On asking around, others said precisely the same thing. Even bathing mother/daughter alone is considered too much.

It is somewhat intimidating to strip off and scrub, then bathe with other people, wearing only your skin, however, once you’re past the first effort it’s just fine – and the water is lovely.

So what’s going on? Why are younger women and girls too intimidated to even give it a go? If you keep reading, you’ll hear quite a lot of supposes and completely unsubstantiated thoughts next.

In Australia, it’s common to see girls and women wearing very little, particularly in summer. Quite often what they do wear is tight, sometimes revealing, and figure hugging. Swimwear is often relatively minimal. Frequently, boobs and butts hang out of things. It’s the current fashion to show your assets. If you watch TV, women often wear revealing garments to events – lately it seems to be a contest as to who can show the most skin while still wearing clothing.

If you can wear clothing that leaves almost nothing to the imagination in public, then what’s the trouble with bathing naked with other women in a very controlled setting?

I suspect that it’s body image. Women and girls are constantly subjected to, and subjecting themselves to, body image critique. Instead of celebrating our bodies for the functional miracles that they are, we’re constantly being fed images of how they ‘should’ look. At every turn, women’s bodies are critiqued, poked at, commented on and taken apart in the public arena.

When a female prime minister wears something different, the media goes into a frenzy. When the male one does the same thing, there’s no mention. Famously, in Australia, our first female PM was critiqued by icon feminist, Germaine Greer, for the size of her bottom and her fashion choices.

 

In my opinion, there’s a direct link between body image shaming and being ashamed of nudity in a same sex change room or onsen.

Girls are told “If you wear this, you can enhance this feature, but reduced that flaw.” Not always in so many words, but certainly in many images. Add to that the obesity crisis that we see so much about in the media, plus the fitspo images thrown at us from all directions, and you have girls who believe they aren’t normal and couldn’t possibly bare all that to the critical world.

If we only looked at the media, we’d believe that the only normal way to be female is to have flawless, tanned, skin, a perfectly toned figure, (which somehow still has big boobs and a very curvy bottom), gleaming white, perfectly straight teeth, and nothing that wobbles or jiggles.

Of course in the onsen, we do see each other, but believe me, we’re not critiquing or deliberately looking, because we’re too busy enjoying the feel of a wonderfully clean body relaxing in the hot water. Where I’m staying, there’s an outdoor portion, which looks out onto a snowy garden – totally mesmerising.

So how do we rid our younger generation of feeling ashamed of themselves? I really don’t know, but I suspect it involves reducing the amount of public critique of women. And thus the public control of them.

A very small example for you. In my practice as a physiotherapist, I see a lot of sprained ankles. One day, after I’d taped up a nastily sprained ankle and given the woman her exercises, I cautioned her to avoid heels for a while. She said “But I don’t think my boss would like that. He likes us to look smart, and that means heels.”

I looked back at her, and asked her if he had the same requirements for the men she worked with. She looked at me as if I was mad, and said, “But they’re men.”

I said, “And? Isn’t that what equality’s about? You have an injured ankle. High heels are inappropriate. Until your boss makes the men wear heels to look smart, I think you’ll be fine.” I suspect that she still thinks I’m mad, however I hope that I’ve planted a seed there about workplace equality.

Baby steps. It’s a complex world.

 

 


Much Writing

It’s a bit late to do the ‘New Year’ post, I suppose. The only excuse I have is that it’s been quite a busy end to 2015 and hasn’t really slowed down yet. Hopefully that’s about to change :)

Anyway, writing wise, I’ve been flat out. I had an idea for a new YA fantasy novel, so for the first time ever, I did Nanowrimo, and then kept on writing. I finished the first draft a couple of weeks ago, and I’ll pick it up shortly and begin the slow process of fixing the plot holes and expanding the characters.

As a writer, I’ve learned a lot about my flaws over the past few years. I’m somewhat verbose, overuse adjectives, and often write stilted dialogue. This time, I’ve attempted to put all the things I’ve learned into practice. Consequently, it’s a much shorter story than I normally write, and hopefully, tighter.

You can find my story’s Nanowrimo page here if you want to have a look. There’s a lot to do still – the first draft is pretty rough and ready, but at least it’s all down on paper (well, in my computer and the external hard drive, and the iCloud…)

I haven’t attempted fantasy before, and now I’ve invented an entire religion, religious order, fantasy world, and fantasy country, not to mention the sacred writings of said religion.

I’ve been using Scrivener, which I’ve found invaluable. Having every thing in one spot has made it much easier to make sure all my characters look consistently the same and even have their names spelt the same way each time. It’s been good to be able to compile it really easily so that I can send it off to my test reader, (aka eldest child), in PDF format so that she can tell me what works and what doesn’t work for her.

I’ve also been writing another story concurrently, which is a science fiction story, set primarily in space. It’s space opera, I suppose, but with conspiracy and a space plague. Finishing that one will be a priority this year. It’s got a pile of rewrites awaiting it, not to mention the fact that I need to finish it, or at least its first draft.

Anyway, I’m off for a couple of weeks, but will be travelling, so this blog may be a bit haphazard for a while – well, more haphazard than it has been over the last few months!

 


Buried Amongst the Tinsel

The glitz of Christmas sometimes seems overwhelming. As the years have galloped onwards, it seems that the Christmas season has become ever more frenetic and frenzied.

I love Christmas. Every year I read the Christmas story anew, and the familiar words bring that same sense of wonder.

I love carols – the songs of joy and hope – and I enjoy the decorations and the lights, and the giving of gifts. Although sometimes I do giggle when I hear some shopping centre playing ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland’ when it’s forty degrees (celsius) outside.

What I struggle with more each year, is the rampant consumerism that seems to be engulfing us all. The push to buy more goes on and on relentlessly, blasting from every speaker, television and sign, and the layer of tinsel and trees seems to grow thicker every second, obscuring the actual story of Christmas.

Regular readers have probably picked up on the fact that I’m a Christian, so the story of the baby in the manger is at the centre of my Christmas. When our children were small, we enjoyed the make believe of Santa Clause – or Father Christmas, which was the name that the big fat bloke had when I was growing up – along with the central themes of angels, shepherds and wise men. It was joyful balance of belief and fantasy.

On Friday, we’ll head off to church, become half of the music team for the Christmas service, and celebrate the birth of Jesus, before heading home for a lunch of prawns, ham, salmon and chicken, and then we’ll top it off with ice-cream pudding and crackers.

It’s so easy to be caught up in the hustle of commercialised Christmas, with its fantasies of snow, reindeer and perfect presents, and forget that there can be a much deeper meaning to the season.

Every now and then I wonder what it’s like to celebrate Christmas in a way that is only fantasy. Of course, many of you reading this probably think my beliefs are fantasy, and that’s fine, but I suppose what I’m talking about is the difference between holding a religious belief (for want of a better description) about the season, versus deliberately participating in something they firmly believe is a myth, whether that be the big fat bloke, or the baby in the manger.

I know that sounds really weird, but clearly my mind does work weirdly at times.

Obviously, other traditions celebrate different things at this time of year as well, so we Christians aren’t the only ones marrying belief with other things – there’ll be a variety of different religious traditions celebrating in their own ways at the same time.

I’d be keen to hear what other people think. How do you celebrate Christmas if Christianity isn’t part of your belief system? Or in fact, do you celebrate it? What do you tell your kids?

It’ll be interesting to hear your views.

 

 

 


What in the World?

There are many things in this world that I don’t understand. On my mind very recently has been the issue of gun control.

I live in Australia. We have very strong gun laws. Since the Port Arthur Massacre in 1996, our gun laws have become even more strict. During that massacre, 35 people were killed and 23 injured. Afterwards, our government enacted ‘The National Firearms Programme Implementation Act 1996, restricting the private ownership of semi-automatic riflessemi-automatic shotguns and pump-action shotguns as well as introducing uniform firearms licensing.’ The legislation had bipartisan support, and was implemented across all states and territories in Australia.

The government then had a firearms buyback scheme, which resulted in over 600,000 firearms taken out of circulation. Automatic and semiautomatic guns were banned. If you own a gun in Australia, you’re subject to strict licensing checks, and guns must be locked away in an approved gun safe, with the ammunition stored separately.

I don’t own a gun. I have never wanted or needed to own a gun. I have friends who do, but they’re either farmers or target shooters. No-one I know carries a gun routinely. No-one I know feels the need to carry one.

Australia isn’t crime free. It’s also not gun crime free, however since the introduction of our gun laws, we’ve not had one gun massacre.

From afar, I’ve watched the repeated gun massacres that occur in the US. Along with many of my fellow Australians, I’ve watched people try and call for stricter gun laws there only to be howled down by others. Politicians have attempted to enact stricter gun laws, but their electorates have resisted them.

I really don’t understand why. (And yes, I have heard of the second amendment.)

Of course, I’ve seen the online memes – those pictures that state things like ‘If you are for gun control, then you are not against guns, because the guns will be needed to disarm people. So it’s not that you are anti-gun. You’ll need the police’s guns to take away other people’s guns. So you’re very Pro-Gun, you just believe that only the Government (which is, of course, so reliable, honest, moral and virtuous…) should be allowed to have guns. There is no such thing as gun control. There is only centralizing gun ownership in the hands of a small, political elite and their minions.’

or

‘Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.’

The first one sounds like paranoia, while the second one just makes me shake my head. Of course people kill people, but having an automatic or semiautomatic gun makes it much easier to kill a lot of people in one go.

I have no issues with farmers owning guns to enable them to euthanise livestock. I also have no issue about those who want to target shoot – as long as they’re licensed and store their weapons safely.

What I don’t get is why anyone ‘needs’ to own an automatic or semiautomatic gun, or why anyone would need or want to carry one in their handbag, or during everyday activities.

I’ve also heard people say that they need a gun to protect themselves, or to overthrow the government at some point, should they disagree with it. (I’ve always thought that’s why we have the vote.) Bizarrely, I’ve even seen posts on Facebook that suggest that if more people carried guns they could prevent a massacre. I fail to see how many people all pulling out their guns in a public place to take down a gunman attempting to massacre lots of people, wouldn’t simply result in more deaths.

Here, I live free from the fear that someone will accidentally shoot me. Free from the fear of massacre, and free from the fear that a child might accidentally find a gun in my house and shoot itself or somebody else.

I’m not naive – I am aware that if someone desperately wanted to, they might be able to plan and execute a massacre, even with our gun laws. However, a spur of the moment thing is going to be much more difficult.

When the Sandy Hook Massacre occurred, I, like many Australians, thought – ‘Surely this will mean that the US will consider gun control laws. Surely they will, because someone’s just killed a whole pile of little, tiny children.’ Then we watched astounded while nothing changed.

Today we awoke to news of yet another massacre – this time San Bernadino. It seems as if massacres will continue to be a way of life for Americans. No matter how many times it happens, it seems that nothing will change. If the deaths of many small children don’t stir the US to enact stronger laws around gun control, I can’t imagine why the deaths of 20 plus adults would.

At the moment, I’m bracing myself for the influx of memes, comments, and articles from social media friends who are from the US and are pro-gun. My Facebook feed will have a flurry of statements like the ones above. There will be articles explaining that gun control won’t stop massacres because they just won’t, and a whole other stream suggesting that it’s important to have more guns so that massacres will be prevented.

All I can say is that I just don’t get it, and I am forever grateful that our government has taken such a tough stance on gun laws.

In the meantime, I’ll just continue to pray that our overseas fellows might begin to see reason. This is not the first time I’ve queried this subject, and I quite understand that this opinion of mine will be very unpopular in many circles, but I do hope it makes people think.

 

 

 


World Gone Mad

I’m sure everyone knows what happened in Paris yesterday, but I woke up this morning, wandered over to my social media sites and was struck by the chaotic mess of opinions.

Facebook was covered in French flags. Twitter was awash with contrasting opinion, and the news feeds were full of doom and gloom.

I took a while to scroll through the opinions of my social media friends and followers, was somewhat disturbed by some of what I read, and then headed off to church. The thoughts have been percolating since.

Here’s some of the headlines of the things I read this morning on social media:

The quote from Mike Baird over the Sydney Opera House isn’t a Mike Baird Quote, but one from the Bible. It comes from the first chapter of the Gospel of John. It’s one of my favourite parts of the Bible, and is well worth reading in context. For a Christian it reminds us that no matter what might happen in the world, through the actions of man, that there is always hope, and that one day there will be a better place. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m a Christian, but that I only blog intermittently about it. When I saw the meme and the image and the quote, I wondered if many would recognise the words, and whether they’d end up attributed to Mike Baird in popular culture as a result. (Maybe that’s a bit of cynicism popping out in me.)

More than anything, today I’ve struggled with the fact that people are using this dreadful act to push their own agendas, and that the world seems to be ignoring the fact that these kinds of events are happening everywhere, not just places like Paris.

Another friend on Facebook posted this today:

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It came from here.

To me, no matter whether you’re a praying person or not, it says more than any of the other things I’ve posted. It reminds us that we are all human beings. That we are all people. It reminds us that just because we live in a particular part of the world, that we shouldn’t only be upset when people we consider similar to ourselves are targeted by terrorists. It reminds us that there are those who walk every day in places where terror reigns – and that some of those are unable to escape it.

As I sit here, comfortably ensconced in my lounge chair, typing away in my rural Australian town, I am in no danger. Or perhaps I should rephrase that. I am in no danger, just as those who died or were injured in Paris yesterday were in no danger. That attack, like those other high profile attacks, has jerked some of the western world out of its comfort zone, and into a place of mild uncertainty. Those people yesterday probably lived very similar lives to me. Yesterday’s attacks demonstrated that it can happen anywhere, anytime.

Maybe it will raise the profile of the problems of other parts of the world where it happens much more often, but it may not. Today, I’m reminding myself that the enormous refugee crisis we’re currently seeing is driven by people desperate to leave places where yesterday’s attack is commonplace. If that happened regularly in my little town, I’d be leaving too.

I was also thinking about the temptation to blame those who profess to be Muslims. Clearly, judging by the social media I’ve seen, many people do. But then I thought about other conflicts. I’ve just done a bit of reading about antisemitism and Nazism. You see, it struck me that in the nineteen thirties and forties, Germany was considered to be a ‘Christian’ country. Yet Nazism arose under Adolf Hitler. As a result, we had World War 2. (Clearly that’s a bit simplistic, but I’m not a historian.)

Do we routinely blame Christians for Nazism? I’ve found a fascinating document called the Dabru Emet. Here’s a quote from it:

“Nazism was not a Christian phenomenon. Without the long history of Christian anti-Judaism and Christian violence against Jews, Nazi ideology could not have taken hold nor could it have been carried out. Too many Christians participated in, or were sympathetic to, Nazi atrocities against Jews. Other Christians did not protest sufficiently against these atrocities. But Nazism itself was not an inevitable outcome of Christianity. If the Nazi extermination of the Jews had been fully successful, it would have turned its murderous rage more directly to Christians. We recognize with gratitude those Christians who risked or sacrificed their lives to save Jews during the Nazi regime. With that in mind, we encourage the continuation of recent efforts in Christian theology to repudiate unequivocally contempt of Judaism and the Jewish people. We applaud those Christians who reject this teaching of contempt, and we do not blame them for the sins committed by their ancestors.”

Clearly, the vast majority of the world does not see Nazism as a Christian thing. Even those most affected by the Holocaust do not either. Consequently, why should we view the hideous atrocities of Isis as those of Muslims as a whole?

Certainly, those individuals and organisations who perpetrate such dreadful things should be condemned, however, blanket condemnation for one group of people is completely inappropriate, even if those who perform such dreadful acts say that they profess the same faith.

I am a Christian, but I am not one of those who claim to be of my faith, while choosing to spew hatred against those who do not share their beliefs. I do believe that Jesus, who healed lepers, socialised with the outcasts of his day, and even healed the hated invader, would rather have me love those who believe differently.

I’ll end with a quote from the book of Matthew, Chapter 5 verses 43-45:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.


Thinking About All Kinds of Stuff

There are some weeks when I just think a lot. This week I’ve been thinking about all kinds of things. A lot of them have been Halloween related – for several reasons. The first reason is that I have a short story in the anthology The Cat the Crow and the Cauldron which is by a group of authors who befriended each other online. Clearly it’s Halloween themed, and as it’s free, it’s been picked up by a lot of people, and has attracted a number of rather nice reviews.

Roast Pumpkin, my short story, tells Anna’s story. She was forced to move to the US from Australia by her parents (work!) and is experiencing her first Halloween – and ends up with more of an out-of-this-world adventure than she bargained for.

Secondly, I live in Australia, and until recently, Halloween has been a non-event here, with most people ignoring it. Due to what I’d describe as the power of commercialism, combined with a more connected world, Halloween is now in every shopping centre and major retail outlet, and has now made its way to pretty well every corner of Australia.

I have pagan friends who celebrate Halloween (you can check out Janis’ blog post here) as part of their yearly celebrations, much as Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter, and there are others who have chosen to hop on board the traditions brought here from other countries. We are a multicultural society.

I have mixed feelings about Halloween. As a kid, I grew up in a culture that didn’t celebrate Halloween or Valentine’s Day at all. In fact, I remember looking them up in an encyclopaedia (yes, I am that old) to find out what they were, after reading a Nancy Drew or Three Investigators book. (Or it may have been the Peanuts cartoons.) For my overseas readers, you’ll probably be incredulous that I had to do that, but it might put into perspective why various Australians feel very differently about the 31st of October.

You see, I’ve been following the local community Facebook pages having ‘discussions’ about whether kids should trick-or-treat, and whether we should be opting in or opting out. I live in a rural town in New South Wales, Australia. It’s not particularly large, or even particularly small (you can drive across the town in ten minutes) but there’s about 16,000 or so people living here. The community Facebook pages have had a variety of comments left on them over the last week or two.

One began something like “If you’re not going to want trick-or-treaters, leave a note on the door.” A discussion ensued. It was full of the “It’s not an Australian holiday!!!!!!!” and “I just want my kids to have fun” extremes. Elsewhere I’ve had friends post about the evils of Halloween (as in spiritual evils) and others posting about celebrating Samhain, which is celebrated between summer and winter, while of course it’s currently between winter and summer here. (If you’re not sure what I’m talking about,  look up what Beltane and Samhain are.)

My personal opinion is that if people wish to celebrate Halloween, by all means let them do so. Having said that, I don’t believe that I need to ‘opt out’ of it, as it’s not a well founded cultural or traditional celebration (yet) in this country. It’s probably more about people ‘opting in’ and indicating in some fashion that they have done so. I also have mixed feelings about taking your kids to knock on the doors of perfect strangers, looking for lollies…

Having said all of that, if my neighbours had wished to celebrate Halloween, I would probably have wandered over to admire their decorations, just as I admire Christmas decorations. At this point, it’s still quite polarising here in Australia, so it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few years.

I’ve also been thinking about being a nerd/geek. Clearly I like science fiction and fantasy, but a confession: I like Halo. Ever since our youngest son introduced me to the first Xbox game, I’ve liked it, and of course Halo 5 came out this week. Needless to say, I played Halo today. Apart from shooting aliens, Halo has a great story, which I’ve followed not only in the games, but I confess to having read a couple of Halo books. I also confess to playing Runescape. :)

I also like talking about Star Wars, Dr Who, Pern, The Stormlight Archive, YA Dystopia, Stargate, Marvel Movies and I’ve recently become addicted to both Teen Wolf and Orphan Black.

I am clearly a nerd, or a geek, or whatever combination of the two you’d like to subscribe to. (I just looked the definitions up and they seem to be poorly defined.)

In the end, the one thing that all of the above have in common is stories. Stories are powerful. They enthral us, teach us, and provide hours of enjoyment. I’m reminded each time I read one, play one, or watch one, that stories remind us of hope, humanity and the idea that how it is, isn’t how it always has to be.

Stories are powerful. For as long as humanity has been around, we’ve told stories. We’ve used them to maintain our histories and our traditions, to illustrate faith and science, and for pure enjoyment. They are, in every way, wonderful, and I’m very happy that my own storytelling has made people happy.


The New Star Wars Movie

I’m really looking forward to seeing the new Star Wars Movie. I was twelve when the first Star Wars movie was released. I remember going to the theatre with my brother, who was seven at the time, and being astounded by the special effects, and the sheer hugeness of what I was seeing on the screen.

When those first lines ‘A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away…’ rolled across the screen, and that astounding music began to play, I was hooked. I sat there mesmerised, enthralled, and completely swept up in the story that was holding me spellbound in the theatre. Some of you who are younger are probably giggling at the idea that Star Wars: A New Hope was ever the highest pinnacle of science fiction theatre.

As an adult, I can now re-watch the movie and see the flaws in the story, the sometimes lacklustre acting, and the special effects that now seem dated and rudimentary. However I still enjoy it, and still remember that first time I saw it. Of course, we all waited with bated breath for the sequels, and I saw Return of the Jedi at least three times – once from the front row, where I had to turn my head to watch Darth Vader stalk across the screen.

When our kids were small, The Phantom Menace aired. We went along to the theatre with great anticipation, and once again, the special effects were amazingly memorable, and the story intriguing. There were a couple of down points – Anakin Skywalker, midichlorians and the comic relief. The Attack of the Clones followed, and then The Revenge of the Sith. Although it was good to see how George Lucas envisaged the rise of Darth Vader from Anakin Skywalker, there were clearly some issues with the both the story line, the screen play, and the acting. (Put it this way, Hayden Christenson is not one of my favourite actors, and some of dialogue still makes me cringe.)

One thing that stood out through all of the movies was the music. I loved the first film’s score, and still do. And in the newer three movies, it was wonderful to hear how the composer had woven Darth Vader’s theme music into Anakin’s theme.

No matter what you think about Star Wars as a franchise, or some of the individual bits and pieces of any of the movies, something about the story intrigues people. There’s the bones of a good story in there. In some ways it’s an eternal story – that of good versus evil, dark versus light, and the triumph of love over hate.

I watched the new trailer recently, and it looks as if there could be a really good story coming up in ‘The Force Awakens.’ There were enough hints in the trailer that the story might be complex and satisfying. I know many fans have been apprehensive about the transfer from Lucas Arts to Disney, and the memes have certainly abounded.

I write science fiction adventure, and the new film could give the written equivalent a bit of a leg up. Or not, depending on how it all works out. One of the good things about movies is the ability of the visual art to penetrate into every household. I think it’s possible that people who wouldn’t normally read science fiction might actually consider it after enjoying Star Wars. The key of course is whether the written science fiction they pick lives up to the thing they’ve watched.

I hang around on Goodreads a lot, and on several of the Science Fiction groups there’s a lot of passion about the type of science fiction that certain readers consider ‘valid.’ Some only like ‘hard’ sci-fi, and others only like space opera, or military sci-fi. Some consider that if it’s modern, it isn’t good, while others consider that if it’s an old classic it’s a disaster.

As far as I’m concerned, as long as the story’s good, I’m happy. I don’t really care whether it’s hard, soft, opera, military, or cyberpunk, but I do care that it has a plot, a story, and engaging characters. I don’t care if someone else doesn’t think it’s ‘valid’ under their definition of valid. I figure that if it’s fictional, generally has some form of ‘space’ in it, or some connection to space or the future, then that’s probably good enough.

Anyway, I seem to have rambled off a bit. So where am I up to? Right, Star Wars. I’m looking forward to the next instalment. I’ll be listening hard to hear what the composer’s done with the iconic themes, and I’ll be hoping for a great story.

In the meantime, I’ll keep on writing. I’m currently two thirds done on a disease-in-space conspiracy thing, three chapters into a fantasy (YA), have a variety of short stories under my belt, and recently woke up from a really good dream that I’m going to turn into a story. Just have to figure out the rest of the plot.


A Slightly Belated Post and a New Release.

I’ve been a little absent from my blog for the last few weeks. Firstly there was the Scone Literary Long Weekend, which you can read about in the post below, which I reblogged from Kaz Delaney’s site, and then the worst thing that can happen to a writer happened. (Well, maybe not, but I think it was pretty bad.)

My computer died.

Not just a tiny little hiccough of illness, but complete and utter death. The grey screen (I have a MacBook Pro) of death with the flashing folder with the question mark struck terror into my soul.

First thoughts: “When did I last backup?”

“Did that backup actually work?”

“Maybe it didn’t work and I’ll have lost it all!

“Nooooooooo!”

Rapidly followed by, “Oh no! What if it’s totally and utterly dead? What if I need a new laptop? And how much will it cost to fix?”

This year has been the year of disasters for us. So far the body count goes something like this. New dishwasher. New hot water system. New brakes for the car. Medical bills for everyone. Flooded bathroom, bedroom and spare room. And now computer death.

You can imagine the pain our bank account has felt this year. My husband and I sat down and looked at each other, and both of us decided that it would be really nice to be able to put something into the bank account rather than taking it out, some day in the future.

Fortunately Apple was very nice to me, and replaced my hard drive for free, despite the laptop being out of warranty. Something about customer satisfaction, they said. That works for me! So now, after restoring everything from backup, checking that all the important things were still there, and working my way through seven hundred (yes, 700!) emails, I am now back up and running. (No pun intended!)

During my disconnected time, I realised how much I’m accustomed to being connected. I still had my phone, but replying to an email on a phone is very awkward, at least for me.

And of course, while I was disconnected, a group of author friends and myself published a Halloween Anthology. It’s called The Cat the Crow and the Cauldron and is free on Amazon. My story is called Roast Pumpkin. So, with no further ado, here’s the cover art, and the link. Pop on over and pick it up!

Screenshot 2015-10-20 13.38.52

The Cat the Crow and the Cauldron on Amazon


Feelin’ the Heat in Downtown Scone and looking for Agatha Christie

A great weekend at the Scone Literary Long Weekend!

Kaz Delaney

  Scone lit fest logo

The state was experiencing a heatwave but in the 150 year old church, now the home of the Scone Arts & Crafts, with its 60cm thick stone walls, there was barely a bead of sweat in sight.

Graeme Simsion, Moi, Anne Buist Graeme Simsion, Moi, Anne Buist

The old church was almost to capacity as folk from the Upper Hunter & surrounds gathered to hear from guests and locals alike. I was privileged to be one of those invited guests  – along with Phillip Adams, Graeme Simsion, Samantha Turnbull, Ged Gillmore, Anne Buist & Nick Brasch.2015-10-03 11.53.38

Outside where we gathered for lunch we forgot the heat and just allowed ourselves to be swept up in the amazing garden setting. Honestly, I felt like I was in an Agatha Christie novel! The old English cottage garden, the sweeping trees that shaded us, the bees buzzing lazily, the jugs of lemon infused chilled water, the easy chairs and…

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Writing in 2015 (So far)

It’s been a year of writing lots of stuff so far. This year seems to have been my year of having too many ideas – although I’m yet to be convinced that having too many ideas is actually a problem if you’re a writer.

Earlier this year, Frontier Resistance (Book 2 in the Frontier Series) was released in paperback format. I finished writing Frontier Defiant (Book 3), and it’s now gone through its first round of edits. It’s officially the end of the trilogy, but I’m finding that my mind keeps returning to Frontier, so at some point I may write some more Frontier stories.

In addition I’ve also written approximately two thirds of a new novel – this one set primarily in space, and about twenty percent of another YA novel, this time a fantasy. I seem to be having idea after idea after idea, every one of them initiating a great desire to write them down immediately. I’ve compromised by writing their beginnings so that I don’t forget them, so in addition to the aforementioned stories, I’ve written the beginnings of a middle grade fantasy and a middle grade science fiction story. Consequently I now have four new, completely different, stories sitting on my laptop screaming for attention.

Then I began writing short form, just because I’ve really been enjoying reading them. Earlier this year, I went to the NSW Writers Centre Speculative Fiction festival. There was a great panel on short stories, full of accomplished authors, and one of the things I took away from it, was that there’s a huge difference between writing long and short form. For me this has been true in theory and in practice.

This year, one of my short stories found a home. It’ll be published in the Novascapes 2 Anthology later this year, or early next year, and another one has made the second round for another anthology. I’m still waiting to hear about that one, but that’s OK – you learn to be patient when you’re a writer. I’ve also had a number of rejections for another couple. Some of the rejections have returned with feedback, which I’ve found extremely helpful.

One of the reasons it’s been so helpful, is that twice now the feedback’s essentially said the same thing – namely that I write my short stories like the beginnings of novels. Apparently the readers generally like the stories, however I clearly haven’t mastered the art of completing a story in short form particularly well. The first time I received feedback like that, I was sort of pleased, mainly because I’d been playing around with the character to see if she’d be good to write a whole novel with. The second time (different story), I realised that the idea I’d had might possibly be good for a whole novel, although I’d really like to make the story work in short form, partly because I want to master short story writing, and partly because I think a few more edits might sort it out. (And I really, really like the idea.)

The whole hope/rejection cycle is an interesting one, though. You think you’ve done a good job, but your story might not be the right fit, or maybe it works better inside your head than on your page, and you’re waiting, and then it’s either elation or, “OK, time to rewrite.”

Another thing that I took home from the Spec Fic Festival was that sometimes a short story just has to find the right home. That appears to be the case for the Novascapes one. Having said that, it’s had several re-writes and several re-imaginings along the way. Each time I put a story away for a while, it helps me look at it with fresh eyes, and I’m much more able to see the flaws in my original work. Some of it’s because I’m growing (or so I hope) as a writer, and some of it’s because distance helps me to be more objective. It also helps me to see what I actually wrote, and not what I thought I wrote…

I was also part of a self published anthology earlier this year – May the Fourth: A Collection Across Time and Space, and I’ll have another story published in another self published anthology in mid October. We’re a collection of writers who’ve met online. We began our May the Fourth stories from the same first line. This time around we’ve worked on a Halloween theme – rather challenging for an Australian who doesn’t do the Halloween thing. I had to really think about that one!

Anyway, I’m in the middle of yet another short story, so I’d probably better get back to it, before I watch Dr Who this evening and fold the washing. (Much less fun than either writing or watching TV!)


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