Thursday, July 29, 2010

Another of those short, late night, meeting my obligations and little else posts, I'm afraid. I've made a bit of a habit of it this week, I know, but in my defense, we've been absolutely booked solid. Today we were out of e house at 8.30 this morning, and only got back about half an hour ago (it's currently 11.17pm). This is a big day by any standards, it's a particularly big day for a toddler, but Toby has been a complete champion about it. Today's highlight was watching him and his two cousins in the bath together at my parent's house. There was splashing, and squealing in abundance. And I got soaked, even though I was standing a solid three feet away from the edge of the tub.

I should also take this opportunity to apologise for the largish number of typos In the last few blogs. Ive been blogging from the iPad which, while I still love it to pieces, isn't the most accurate keyboard in the universe.

Last night we had the Perth launch for Skyfall at the Fremantle Childrens Literature centre. I want to do a proper post about this sometime in the next few days, so I wont say anything more here apart from the fact that it was a lovely evening. With a very big surprise for me included.

Anyway, that's my token effort for tonight. Off to bed now, another big day tomorrow.

Cheers all,

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Happiness is a Warm Gun

Lennon was being ironic, of course, and not without good reason.

I've never been a gun person. Never really got the whole fascination with firearms thing like a lot of other people, especially guys. When the other boys my age were drawing guns, I was generally drawing airplanes. As an adult, I think its reasonably safe to say that I'm anti-guns. Min and I are agreed on the fact that we won't be buying toy guns for Toby, or even really anything resembling a gun. During our visit to the USA last year, one of the most confronting things for me was watching a little girl getting measured up for her first handgun, in an outdoor store in Texas. She can't have been older than ten or eleven, and the idea of inculcating somebody into 'gun culture' at so young an age is a difficult one for me to come to terms with.

So no, not into guns.

But, I'm also a writer, and currently working on a book I which my protagonist is intimately familiar with weapons of all sorts, including guns.

Which, naturally, poses some problems.

The main one being that, while I'm writing the book in such a way as not to glorify gun use, I still feel very strongly that its the responsibility of a writer to get the details correct - my character uses a handgun, on more than one occasion. I've already written one of the scenes in which this happens, and like always, I did some homework before writing it: a lot of reading up on various types of guns, calibre of ammunition, weights, recoils, type and shape of grip, number of bullets in the magazine, that sort of thing. But, when push came to shove, the scene just didn't rIng true. All the reading in the world wasn't enough to tell me what it feels like to fire a handgun, especially a weapon designed for one purpose only - to kill or injure another human being.

So, this morning, I took myself to a shooting range here in Perth, hired a Ruger 9mm automatic pistol - the same model that I'd chosen for my character, was taught the basics of handgun handling and operation, and then left alone to blast away at some targets.

And, despite my misgivings, I'm glad I did it. For a number of reasons.

Firstly, the physical sensation was nothing like I'd expected. The feel of the gun in my hand, the leap of the recoil, the concussion of the noise, the smell of the gunpowder, the smell of gun oil, the satisfying 'ka-ching' of the spent cartridge ejecting from the firing chamber, the pleasure of seeing a hole punched in your target downrange.

Yes, I'll admit it: I actually enjoyed the experience.

Firing a handgun is a tactile experience, and a powerful one. There's implicit menace and danger in that lump of metal, and when you pick it up off the bench, slot home the magazine and release the safety, there's an odd feeling of implicit power, even in the controlled environment of a shooting range.

I'm also glad I went because of what I learned, and that the whole point of doing research, when all is said and done. By the time I'd shot off my 30 rounds, and then had a good chat to both the range technician and the range manager, I realized that I'd given my character the wrong gun, for the wrong purpose, and based on wrong interpretation of what I'd read. I'm going to be reworking those scenes in my book when get home next week.

I'm also glad I went because it gave me an unexpected respect for the people who handle and use weapons as part of their day to day lives: the police, the military. I never really understood, at a visceral level, how much those sort of jobs include the power of life and death. I know for certain now that I could never point a weapon like that at someone and pull the trigger, or probably even cope with the possibility that I might have to.

So, all in all, a valuable and interesting experience.

Am I still anti gun? Yes. Perhaps even more so. Especially small, concealable, automatic weapons like the one I fired today.

Am I still anti gun-people? Not so much. I won't be rushing back to the firing range, or taking up Olympic shooting, but at least now I can understand, to a degree, some of the appeal.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Kids, Family, Holidays and Sliding

We just got back from three hours in "Kidz Paradise" with Toby, his two cousins, one of my sister's Perth friends and her three kids, all under the age of 5. Aside from the fact that the proprietors can't spell 'Kids', it was a lot of fun.

Three hours of climbing, bouncing, sliding, ball pits, more climbing, running, climbing, sliding and bouncing.

And the kids were quite active, too.

There's that old biblical saying - you know the one; 'When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.' (1 Corinthians, 13:11)

Now, far be it from me to contradict the bible* but I don't think that the people responsible for Corinthians factored in 'Kidz Paradise', because I have to tell you, I suspect that I had more fun than Toby. In fact, it's fair to say that as soon as we were through the gate, my childish ways came storming back with avengence.

Of course, someone had to keep a close eye on Toby. And help him through the ball room. And up the climbing net. And down the ceiling-height tube slide. Even if he didn't think he wanted to go.

And, after all, what are fathers for?

You know the best bit? Adults were free! It cost us $7.00 for Toby, not a cent for me.

So I'm thinking of going back tomorrow, without the kids...

Actually, jokes aside, it has to be said that I wasn't the only person above 5 years of age crawling around in that playground maze. There were an awful lot of fathers, and mothers, and various other adult role models in there too. And they all seemed to be having just as much fun as I was. And watching us all, I realised that it was so much fun not just because it gave us an excuse to revisit our childhood, but it was an excuse to revisit our childhood with our own kids - and to share in theirs.

And so while, for the most part, I have put aside my childish ways, I'm also kinda pleased to discover that having a Toby in my life gives me an excuse to revisit them, every now and then.

I'm still thinking of going back tomorrow without him, though ;)

*actually, this is something of an overstatement. I've been known to contradict the bible on a couple of occasions. I haven't been smited for it, either. Yet. I'm told it's just a matter of time...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

They say you can never go home again...

So we're back in Perth, where we (well, Min and I) grew up and, as always, it's lovely to be back again.

Thinking about it this afternoon, it occurred to me that it's been about 18 months since I was last here. This is the longest time I've been away from Perth since I was 10 years old. And it's rather odd, coming back after so long. It's still home, of course, it's still a place I know more intimately than anywhere else in this big, wide world, still a place I love, still one of the most stunning spots you could ever hope to end up. This morning we had our breakfast at Cottesloe beach, which was glowing in the morning sunlight, the Indian ocean its usual, unique deep blue. Twenty kilometers across the channel, Rottnest island crouched on the horizon. We've got a cottage booked there in December for a week - a WA traditional holiday.

As I say, stunning.

But, strangely, this Perth - the one we flew into last night isn't the city where I grew up, and today I realized that for the first time.

Seeing Perth today was like looking at something terribly familiar, but just slightly skewed - the elements of the place, the fundamentals and the essentials are all still there, but somehow now it just feels ... Different. It's still home, but not completely. Or not In the same way, perhaps.

Not sure exactly why this is, or if it'll fade as this week goes on, but it's interesting.

Anyway, it's now 11.30 at night ( see, told you I'd post every day, if possible. How's that for dedication?) it's been a long day and I'm pretty certain this post is one of the least coherent I've ever done, , so I'm going to turn the light out and hit the sack.

Night everyone, wherever you are.

Friday, July 23, 2010

If We Could Have a Holiday...

Actually, we can!

As of 5.00pm this afternoon, I'm on holidays! For a whole week.

Tomorrow night, Imogen, Toby and I fly out for Perth, where we'll spend the week with our respective families.

The reason for this little jaunt is that my sister, Sue, who lives in Texas with her family, is out visiting for a few weeks with her two little girls, so it's a great opportunity to get all the kids in the family together in the one place with some of their grandparents. They arrived in Perth yesterday, after a marathon 28ish hours on planes, all the way from Houstin to Perth, via L.A and Sydney. It makes tomorrow night's flight for us look like a doddle. (Especially when you consider that Sue did the trip solo, travelling with a 3 year old and a 1 year old and no sedatives.)

It's one of the difficult things about this modern world, actually - my poor parents have three grandkids at present - two who live in the USA and one in Canberra. Actually, in part this is the nature of life in Perth - it's one of the most lovely places in the whole world, but also one of the most isolated, and as a result, young people tend to move away from it, especially when they're building careers and /or families which can often take them to far-flung corners of the world. Or Canberra. And as much as I love our life here in the nation's capital, especially during election season, I do regularly regret the fact that my folks don't get regular 'Toby time'. If nothing else, we could use the free babysitting.

Luckily, though, there's always skype, and so Toby does at least get to see and talk to Grandma Margie and Poppa Dave (they picked the names, not me) regularly. And my mother has become an absolute master of the "Skype Toddler Game" - the things she can come up with to play across a computer link have to be seen to be believed.

So it'll be a lovely week. We've got my youngest niece's Christening, the booklaunch for Daywards, a trip to the zoo, and just a lot of general hanging out and being a family to look forward to.

And, of course, blogging. (Now that Trish has put the pressure on for me to see this thing through properly.... ;)

I'm also going to fire a handgun. But more about that next week.

In any case, we're just about ready to go. This afternoon I downloaded an entire series of 'The Wiggles' onto my iPad, which I'm hoping will help all of us get through the flight. (We generally enforce a 'no screens' rule with Toby, so this should be a real treat. Or at least enough to stop him trying to climb onto the other passengers. Fingers crossed.)

So wish us luck. I won't be blogging tomorrow - screen free and intracontinental saturday and all that - but I'll shoot a few posts in from Perth.

Cheers, everyone.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

India Dark

It's always an incredible honour when someone asks you to launch their book for them. Especially so when that someone is a writer who you've admired for years.

Which is why I'm really thrilled to have been invited to launch India Dark, by the incredible Kirsty Murray.

I first met Kirsty almost exactly a decade ago, at the Western Australian Premier's Literary Awards in 2000, when her book Zarconi's Magic Flying Fish and my first novel The Darkness were both on the shorlists. It was a good night, and we both came away winners, which always adds to the evening.

We've kept in touch ever since, and a month or so back, I was delighted to accept her invitation to launch her latest novel India Dark, here in Canberra in August.

Kirsty is a beautiful writer, and I've got my spanky new copy of India Dark sitting here on the desk beside me. I haven't started it yet, but am taking it away on holidays with me next week, and will read it then. It looks fantastic, and I cannot wait to get into it.

In the meantime, if you're in or near Canberra on the evening of Friday the 20th August, then please come along and help us send this book out into the big wide world. The details are:

Venue: Asia Bookroom, Unit 2, 1-3 Lawry Place, Macquarie, ACT
Time: 6.00 - 8.00pm
RSVP: email or phone (02) 6251 5191 before Wed 18th August.

It'll be a great evening.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

In Training

This one is primarily for Darcy, who made the very salient observation in response to this post last week that 'Trains are Always Cool.'

Indeed they are.

Especially if you're 19 months old, it would appear.

In response to our son's current obsessive affair with all things locomotive, and in an effort to utterly wear him out on a rainy saturday afternoon, last weekend we took him to visit Cockington Green Gardens. You may now snigger at the name, if you wish.*

Now, Cockington Green isn't for everyone. Imogen has fond memories of being regularly taken there as a child by her Grandmother, every time they visited Canberra. When we visited, the general crowd fitted into three categories:

1. Grandparents with their grandkiddies.
2. Parents with their kiddies.
3. Perplexed Indian Tourists.

It's a bit difficult to describe Cockington Green, except to say that it is, perhaps, one of the oddest places I've ever visited. There are lots of lovely, beautifully tended, English cottage-style gardens, all filled with miniature buildings. Miniature windmills. Miniature houses. Miniature villiage greens, soccer matches, canal locks complete with barges, a miniature hedge maze, miniature stonehenge, even a *bizarre* miniature tableau of what appeared to be four policemen burying someone alive while watched by a Franciscan Monk.**

And, of course, miniature railways.

Running between the tiny towns and buildings are tiny railways, of various scales and types, ranging from little steam trains to a funicular railway up an embankment, to a high-speed British intercity train, right up to the granddady of them all; a ride-on, gas-fired steam engine, which putters around the gardens at a suitably sedentary pace.

As you can imagine, Toby loved it:

The Miniature Steam Train. You can see Toby and Imogen at the back of the first carriage. They wouldn't let me drive it. Yet...

He especially loved the ride along train which, being steam-powered, made all the right hissing, chuffing and whistling noises. His father was rather impressed with this, too.

I should confess my longer term fascination with model railways here: My grandfather, on dad's side, had the most awesome miniature railway set, mounted on an enormous table which winched away into the roof of his garage. It was a proper miniature gauge railway, with stations and points, and tunnels, and sidings and a dozen small engines and rolling stock. There was even a train with a mail car that automatically snatched miniature mailbags from the a tiny gantry hanging at the end of one of the tiny station. When Grandad Percy fired up the train set - that was hours of entertainment, right there.

After he died, the trainset got pulled apart and passed around a little bit until it ended up with my dad, but we didn't have room to set it up, so it's currently in its component parts - most of the rolling stock still in their original boxes, because that's the sort of bloke my Grandfather was - in the attic at mum and dad's house. One day, when I have a house with enough rooms, I've got every intention of bringing that train set back to life.

In the meantime, there's Cockington Green...

The upshot of all this is that, at the end of our visit, we bought season passes. That's right. Unlimited entry. To the tiny village place with the semi-obscene name, the bizarre miniature cops-burying-people-alive scenario and the little trains. We only have to visit one more time to make it pay for itself. And besides, I'm hoping that if I take him there often enough, they'll let me drive the steam train, thus not only making the passes super-worthwhile, but also enabling me to live out one of the archetypal childhood fantasies.

So, if anyone's coming to Canberra and fancies a ride on a little steam train, shoot me an email...

* I know I sure did.

** It occurs to me now that I should have got a photo of that one. Perhaps next time...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

One of those crappy little blog posts

Because I'm in bed, it's been a horribly long day, involving a sick wife, two cars on the other side of Canberra, a brother in law who went above and beyond the call of duty, two takeaway Turkish pide pizzas, and a book on the impact of Charles Darwin on Australian scientific and religious philosophy. And I still managed to get 4000 words written. And I've decided that next week I'm going to shoot a handgun. But I'll post more on that tomorrow. For tonight, I'm merely meeting my most basic blogging obligations. Sorry about that.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Language Warning.

Not going to write a great deal here, today, chiefly because I had a particularly good writing day today, having clocked up just a touch over 4000 words since I started writing at 11.00 this morning.

So, I'm a little typed out at this point in the afternoon.

It's strange, though, because last week I had a complete shocker - at least in writing terms. Got perhaps a couple of hundred words down, in dribs and drabs, and found it almost impossible to get myself settled into the rhythm of the story, so I kept giving up and finding other things to do, and while this is good for my wider productivity, it's not good for my writing career. It's not writer's block or anything like that - I know what I'm going to write, and I know I have to write it, and I know how it's going to come out. It's just the opposite of writer's block, in fact - it's writer's procrastination.

It's not the first time this has happened to me, and it probably won't be the last, either. In part, I think it occurs due to what I generally refer to as the 'This is all shit' phenemenon.

This is something which most writers I know deal with from time to time. With me it's pretty much a constant occurance. Put simply, when I'm writing something, generally there's a large part of my mental energy taken up with telling myself how completely and utterly crap it is. At the same time as I'm plugging the words out onto my computer, there's a little bit in the back of my brain which is constantly whispering 'this is shit. this is shit. this is shit..."

Of course, it generally isn't shit. Well, not more than about 50% of the time, anyway. It's all a matter of perception and self belief.

For me, one of the biggest writing hurdles is just shutting that little voice out and keeping on writing, secure in the knowledge that it probably isn't as bad as I think it is, and that even if what I've written turns out to be unreadable, I'll probably still be able to salvage a couple of hundred words from it. After all, if you don't write anything - even rubbish - then you never get anything written.

But, sometimes, it's just too difficult to get past the feeling that you're going nowhere fast. Especially if you have a lot of other things on your plate, which is the situation I was in last week. And on those occasions, it can be a bit of a vicious spiral; the less you write, the less you want to write. It's why momentum is so important with writing.

So, anyway, this morning I took the Labour Party's election advice and just 'moved forward'* And by mid afternoon, the 'this is shit' voice had finally quietened down a little. By the time I knocked off, about fifteen minutes ago, my book had just ticked over 20,000 words, which is always a nice milestone to hit. I also made a fairly major decision regarding the narrative voice, which means I'm probably going to have to go back and do a bit of rewriting before I get a lot further, but that's all positive stuff. It means I'm re-engaging with the story.

And that's what helps keep the momentum going.

So, wish me luck for tomorrow. If you see me on twitter too often, then shoot me abusive messages.

I'll thank you for it.


*Couldn't let a post go by without some sort of a political reference. It is an election campaign at the moment, after all...

Sunday, July 18, 2010


It won't come as news to anyone that our PM Julia Gillard follows this blog, so I just want to give her a big shout out and say thanks for waving to Toby on the way out of Government House yesterday morning.

We'd been doing a little early morning shopping in Manuka, and on the way home turned on the radio to hear the news that the PM had toddled off to visit the Governor General and ask her to dissolve parliament.

"Well," we thought, "there's no point living in the nation's capital and not making the most of these sort of opportunities. Besides, Yarralumla's on the way home. Sort of."

So we took a quick diversion out to the edge of the lovely parklands that surround the GG's official residence, parked there along with a surprisingly large number of others, and within 30 seconds, the Prime Minister's official motorcade (2 cars, including hers) cruised past.

From the front seat of the PM's vehicle (replete with the little fluttering Australian flags that John Howard had restored to the fleet) the PM gave Toby a big wave as they passed. They didn't stop though, I expect she had other priorities, which was a pity - I was hoping Toby could be the first kissed baby of the campaign...

It was kinda fun, all things considered. And, let's face it, probably the highlight of the upcoming election campaign.

Usually I love elections. I don't know if you've spotted it from reading this blog, but I'm something of a politics tragic. I blame my undergraduate degree for this, specifically my honours year. I did my honours in Political Science* and have been somewhat hooked on the game ever since. So generally when an election is announced, I'm ecstatic at the thought of all the good stuff to come: spurious election commercials, Anthony Green**, accusations of Nazism, Pork Barrelling and, of course, election night.

Last election evening - that glorious night back in 2007 which saw the fall of the Howard government in such spectacular style - I remember well. Or at least, I remember the first half of it. We had a few people around for dinner and to watch the telecast from the National Tally Room (Did I mention that Imogen is also a political tragic? It's a dangerous combination...). I can remember the early counting - the breathless anticipation of the Eden Monaro Result, the first indications from Bennelong that perhaps Howard himself would lose his seat, the increasing sense of jubilation... all of it is as clear as a bell in my memory. I remember dashing out to the local bottle shop at about 9.00 and buying the last four bottles of champagne in the place (we're in a *very* safe Labour seat here...). I remember getting the bottles home safely. After that, things get a little blurry...

So generally speaking, elections get me fired up. Not so much this time, though. This time it all feels just a little too tinged with hopelessness. The whole exercise seems a little futile.

One the one hand, we have the Liberals, led by Tony Abbot. There's no way I'd have voted that direction even before Abbot took over. Now it's just not an option. I'd link to the gratutious image of him in his budgie smugglers*** as evidence in support of this position but let's face it - we're going to see so much of that image in the next five weeks, that there's no point.

And on the other hand, there's Labor. I blogged about their spectacular 'Lurch to the Right' a couple of weeks ago, and don't have the energy or heart to revisit it today. Needless to say that a vote for the current Labor Party doesn't really feel like a vote for Labor. More like a vote for 'Liberal Lite', or even the 'Marginal Electorate Redneck Representative Party'.


Still, at least it's only a 5 week campaign this time round, so at least it'll all be over soon.

That's something, I guess.

* (I actually wanted to do it in English Literature, but owing to a nasty breakup with my first girlfriend, and not wanting to ever be in the same room as her EVER AGAIN, I decided that it made more sense to finish my degree off in my secondary area of interest, rather than my primary one. Such are the ways of the heart. But, anyway...)

** For our overseas readers - Anthony Green is the Australian Broadcasting Commission's political guru, and something of a cult figure among Australian Politics Junkies

*** again, for the non-aussies: Speedos, Racing bathers, CJ's, briefs etc.... the current leader of the opposition has something of a predilection for being seen in them. Also mountain biking. And hiking.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Prime Ministerial Stuff....

Okay, so I missed yesterday. Sorry 'bout that. The day started okay, but then from about 11am onwards it spiralled into a succession of meetings which didn't end until 8.30 last night. By which time, under the Chatham House Rules regarding meetings, I'm not permitted to post anything in public. (That, at least, is my interpretation of the CHR's. I got it from quality radio station 2UE)

And it's a pity, because yesterday morning, the minister for Arts, The Environment, poorly synched videos, dressing gowns, bandanas and Silly Dancing, Peter Garret (MHR) announced the shortlists for the Prime Ministers Literary Awards, including - as I talked about the other day - the contenders for both the children's and Young Adult categories. (I for one was both surprised and a little bit sad not to see Jasper and Abby and the Great Australia Day Kerfuffle make the list. Clearly when this particular government knifes you in the back, they do it wholesale...)

Still, aside from this obvious oversight, I'm thrilled at the names on the lists, and will be waiting with interest to see who makes it to the winner's podium.

I'll also be embarking on filling a few holes in my reading, once I get my reading for the ACT Book of the Year out of the way.

I'm particularly looking forward to reading the YA list (and it shames me to admit that at the moment, I haven't read a single one of the titles which made the list, though I do have Jarvis 24 (By David Metzenthen), Stolen (Lucy Christopher), and The Museum of Mary Child (Cassandra Golds) sitting on the shelves in my office, in my 'To Read' pile. But first I Must. Read. The. BOTY. Candidates....

Still, it's just a pleasure reading the list, seeing so many of my writing friends and colleagues names appearing on it, and feeling like my field of writing is getting some real high profile national acknowledgement by the wider literary community, for the first time in, well, forever.

So congratulations to all the shortlisted writers, in all the categories, but especially to those who've made these inaugural children's and YA lists. I'm delighted for you all, and couldn't hope to see a better bunch of names up there representing our little world.

FTW - all of you.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Words You Don't Say, Unless you have an Hour to Spare

Parenthood is all about education, as Min and I are discovering.

Not Toby's education, you understand. That's pretty much looking after itself.

No, it's all about our education.

And, believe me, we're learning a lot.

Mainly in the area of psychology. Which is odd. After almost a decade as a secondary teacher, and then just as long doing school visits and speaking gigs, I thought I knew a thing or two about how to communicate with kids, how to get them onside and all that.

Which just goes to show what an idiot I was.

Nowdays, when it comes to being masters of devious manipulation, both Min and I are well on our way to becoming, well, not experts, but not complete idiots, either. Of course the fact that we're so rapidly developing the classic parental skills such as 'bait and switch', 'distract and act' and of course 'cave in without appearing to' in order to deal with a child who's not yet two years old probably says more about us than it does about him.

Still, we're learning a lot. Toby is training us up nicely.

His favourite tactic is the one best described by the brilliant US author/illustrator Mo Willems in his picture book Knuffle Bunny (an almost perfect literary work, IMHO, and definitely one for the parents...) as "Going Boneless"

By using this one simple technique, our little angel has taught us the following:
  • Don't ask 'Do you want a bath?' Just put him in it.
  • Similarly, don't ask 'Are you ready to get out of the bath'. He'll let us know when he's ready by trying to climb out an nearly braining himself in the process.
  • No, he doesn't want peas.
  • No, he doesn't want to sit in his high chair.
  • The expensive coffee machine is actually a toy.
  • If he wants to go in his carseat, he'll tell us. Not the other way around.
  • Our iPhones are, in fact, his iPhones (I've gone to great lengths to ensure that he doesn't yet know of the existence of the iPad....)
  • Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury's 'Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes' is the pinnacle of contemporary literature.
And, of course, we've learned the magic word. The one that you just don't use under any circumstances. Not, that is, unless you're prepared to spend the next hour (or two, or three) on the floor being wordlessly instructed by a 19 month old.

And that word?

(I hesitate to even type it, even though he's been in bed asleep for the last hour. Oh well, here goes...)


I have no idea why, but the boy is obsessed by trains at the moment. From the second he wakes up, until the moment we put him back into his cot it's "Choo Choo?" (deliberate question mark there, you need a rising inflection to get the full effect.)

And if either Min or I even hint at the word "train" then it's all over for us, for quite some time. Out comes the Brio, and the Thomas set, and the Fischer Price. And then down we all go to floor level.

I'll be honest with you, despite everything, including my better judgement, I say 'Train' quite often....

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

From one Extreme to the Other

After yesterday's little piece of ludditeism about 'Why I don't do Facebook', and in response to the comment there from Penni, I thought I'd answer her question: Do I want an iPad?

Well, that kinda depends.

Don't get me wrong - I love mine. I'm glad I got it, and the longer I have it, the more useful it's proving to be, but it definitely wouldn't be for everyone.

So, for what it's worth, here's my take on it:

1. Things I love
  • The Tactile Experience. Let's get the superficial one out of the way first, shall we? The iPad is, purely and simply, just lovely to touch. Running your finger across the screen feels nice. The back is comfortably curved and carved out of the same brushed aluminium as the Macbook Pro computers. It's pretty to look at; when you activate it, the resolution and picture quality is superb, photographs look stunning, hi-def apps are a pleasure to behold. From a purely aesthetic point of view, the iPad is a great piece of design.

  • Email. For me, this is a biggie. The email app is fast, efficient, and easy to use. In terms of having easily portable access to my email, and the capacity to quickly read and reply to long emails, without having to poke away at the tiny keys on my phone, the iPad is ideal for me.

  • Portable documents. Tomorrow I have to go to a meeting where I'll require something in the order of 45 different documents. Instead of lugging along a big lever arch file of printouts, I've simply dumped the PDF's into my iPad. This has some nice environmental aspects to it, too.

  • Mobile internet. While in my meeting, I'll be able to easily read webcomics under the table, without having to squint at the tiny screen on my phone. It'll also be very useful when we're in Perth in a couple of weeks, staying in a house with no internet access. (Yes, they do still exist...) It's also proven very handy already in a couple of meetings where things have needed to be looked up quickly - being able to just pull info off the web in seconds is a very handy thing indeed.

  • The calendar function. Is nice. And clear. And handy. Though I have had a few issues Synching it properly with my Macbook.

  • The e-readers. Now, I'm still more a fan of the 'real' book; I don't particularly like reading off a screen, even one like the iPad's which has been well designed for the purpose. BUT there are some real upsides to having e-reading capability in this digital age. Most notably, the ability to download free first chapters from Amazon (to the free Kindle app) and preview before buying the real thing. This I'm liking a lot.

  • Magazines and Newspapers. At this point, there's a dearth of decent Australian newspaper content for the iPad (The only app that I've been able to find is the one for 'The Australian' which is (a) a crappy newspaper and (b)mainly made up of content you can already get for free from their website. This, though, will no doubt change, and fast. A number of commentators have suggested that the iPad might well be the saviour of the newspaper, and I can see why. At the moment, I use the ABC website for my news fixes, and it's pretty good. I've also got the app which allows me to purchase 'The Monthly' direct to my iPad, for about $5.00, in full text and imagery detail. This is a really nice feature. I've also rediscovered my love of comics (sorry, graphic novels) though the Marvel and DC comic apps, which function in a similar way.
The Bookshelf of Tomorrow...?

2. Things I Don't Love Quite so Much...
  • The keyboard interface is a bigger version of the one on the iPhone, and works well enough, but careful proofreading is required. It is possible to buy a small wireless keyboard for the iPad, and this would be a worthwhile investment if planning to produce anything substantive on it. I tried a couple of blog posts, and ended up switching back to my computer, just because it was a lot easier to type.

  • Lack of a camera. A lot has been made of this missing feature, and rightly so. Given the web-based functionality of the device, in this day and age it's just plain silly not to include a camera for skyping purposes and so on. Still, I guess they have to save something for the next model.

  • The speakers. Are good, but not brilliant. They're also all located on the same side of the chassis, which effectively negates any proper stereo effect, unless you're wearing headphones. With headphones, however, the results are beautiful.

  • Calendar syncing - as mentioned earlier, I've had a few teething issues here, which I suspect are more the result of user error than any major glitches in the system. It's not the most intuitive aspect of the device, though, which is the problem, from my point of view.
All in all then, the iPad may be for you, or not. Or you might want to hold out a couple of years until the next generation of them comes out, by which point they will have addressed a lot of these sort of issues. There's no doubt, though, from my perspective, and especially if you combine it with something like 'mobile me' (which I haven't done), that this is a pretty revolutionary and useful bit of technology.

So, do you want an iPad? I'd say definitely. Who wouldn't? (that's rhetorical, by the way, 12 months ago I wouldn't have. See yesterday's post for details)

Do you need an iPad? That depends very much on you.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Status Update:

This afternoon I started a Facebook page.

Now don't get excited and go looking for me there. If I've done it properly, you shouldn't be able to find me. Which, I know, kind of defeats the purpose.

But, the thing is, it's not for me, it's for a class I'm teaching next semester, just an information conduit for the students, to save them having to wade through the university email system to get info about what's going on in the course. I'm told that several of them use Facebook quite often.

And nothing more.

You see, the thing is, I don't do Facebook. I'm one of those deeply suspicious and slightly paranoid types who just blanches at the thought of putting a 'personal profile' up online for all to see. Or even for those I choose to let in. The idea of being 'tagged' in photos that I have no control over irritates the life out of me. It's why I like blogging, I think. So setting up an account for this class is really a step into a frightening new world for me.

There are a few other reasons I don't 'do' Facebook.
  • Time. I have precious little of it to play with as it is. And from what I've seen, Facebook is one of those things which has the potential to just suck down hours and hours of your life, if you are the type of person to get obsessive about these sort of things. Which I am.

  • Privacy. I read an article on Facebook somewhere recently. I think it might have been in Time magazine, but aren't completely certain. It had a lot of stuff in it about how the rise of Facebook has 'redefined privacy'. That's fine, but I liked the old definition. I already run a blog, a website, a reading and writing profile at Goodreads, and have a slight addiction to Twitter. And I think that's about as much of me as the internet deserves.

  • Good old fashioned ludditeism. You know, for someone as oddly fascinated and addicted to technology as me (gently strokes iPad, which hasn't left my side for a week), I've got this little thread of my personality that just plain distrusts technological change. I fight against it, but every now and then it rears its ugly head. I suspect this is one of those occasions.

  • Plain and simple pig-headedness. This is another of those traits of mine. I think mum must have overdone it with the old "Just because everyone else is jumping off a bridge, doesn't mean that you should..." type of wisdoms when I was a kid, because I can tend to be, well, rather contrary. And the more people tell me I really should do something, the longer I'm likely to hold out against it. I was the third last person in the universe to get a mobile phone. I was still using dial up internet in 2005.

  • **See below
Of course, I know that I'm in an increasing minority, but that doesn't bother me. I also know that there are a lot of very good reasons for joining Facebook, and that a lot of people get a whole pile of pleasure from being members. I know about people for whom Facebook or other social networking sites have been - quite literally - lifesavers, and for whom the opportunity to build and maintain online relationships with other people has allowed them to escape their own circumstances and live comparatively normal lives.

So this isn't in any way an attack upon Facebook, nor upon those who use and love it. It's more an observation that social media is many things to many people, and that it's a good idea to be a little choosy when selecting the various aspect of your online persona. And for me, Facebook just doesn't sit well.

Now Twitter, on the other hand....

*In the interests of disclosure, I should also add that when I eventually fold on these things, I tend to fold rather hard. For example the fact that until 6 months ago I was a militant PC user, and held Mac products in complete and utter disregard. Now I own all of them. Now that I've dabbled in the dark arts of Facebook, it's quite possible that in two weeks I'll have a full profile up and running, and will be spending 22 hours a day writing comments on people's walls, while playing Mafia wars at the same time...

** I should also probably add 'ignorance' to the list. I'm not fully cognisant of the ins and outs of Facebook, and can't be bothered becoming so. It would be a good idea to read everything in this post in the light of that fact.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Uhmm.. So you know that whole blogging every day thing?

Okay, so I've had a few issues the last couple of days. Mainly to do with the fact that at about 3.00 Friday afternoon my voice went all wonky, then just went away completely. By Friday evening, I was a croaking whispering disaster area. I spent most of Saturday in bed (which wasn't nearly as good as it sounds), and a good chunk of today, also.

So apologies from the disease factory. I'm going to work from home tomorrow, so as not to infect everyone else at work with whatever this lurgy is, and will hopefully get something a little more substantive posted then.

Or I might just stay in bed again.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Only a Quick One Today

Just to point out that yesterday, I posted my political rant, and then this afternoon this happened

So I guess this means the PM is reading this blog.

At least, that's the explanation I like ;)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Lefty Political Rant. (Because this *is* a blog, after all)

*This is probably the rantiest thing I've ever posted. Don't Say I Didn't Warn You...*

In his penultimate address to the nation, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (Currently on holidays, still tweeting rather forlornly under the "KevinRuddPM" username) made a point of emphasising that under his continued leadership (Which, at that point, he had no idea was going to be approximately nine hours) Australian Government Policy wouldn't "Lurch to the right on the issue of asylum seekers"

It's an interesting remark for him to have made, in the light of all that's followed.

I'll admit that when Julia Gilliard took over the top job, I came to it from a conflicted point of view.

On the one hand, I was thrilled to witness the arrival of our first female PM, although I felt a little cheated that it didn't happen at an election, and thus didn't feel like a real achievement. (And yes, I do know how the Australian electoral system works, and that the PM isn't elected by the people but by the party and all that, but it is what it is. It didn't feel quite real.)

I also like Julia Gilliard, as both a person and as a politician. She's from the Victorian left faction, which is where my natural sympathies tend to lie. She also didn't have my mother shot by her security detail when mum accosted her in the carpark at Canberra airport a couple of years ago, which gets her big brownie points in my book.

BUT - I'm also in the school of thought that believes you don't oust a sitting Prime Minister unless things are terminal. As in, unless he or she is regularly appearing on the balcony of Parliament House with a rifle and shooting at visiting schoolkids, or something similar. You sure as shit don't do it just months before a federal election, which, according to a lot of the pundits I've read, you're not likely to lose in any case! You don't do it to a PM who has successfully steered the country through the GFC without putting it into recession. You don't do it in response to pressure from the mining lobby, and you don't do it at the behest of the NSW right. Call me old fashioned, but an awful lot about the spill of June 24th just plain rankled with me.

Still, politics is a dirty game and, true believer or not, sometimes there's no point maintaining your rage. All you can do is accept things for what they are, offer your regrets to the outgoing PM, don't 'unfollow' the poor blighter on Twitter, and look forward to happier times ahead.

Which was my plan.

Until yesterday, when our new PM announced her intention to address the Asylum seeker issue through the establishment of an offshore processing facility in East Timor. Or, put another way, Pacific Solution 2.0 (And, despite protests to the contrary, there's an awful lot to suggest that this 'solution' to the refugee issue isn't meeting our international human rights obligations so much as 'managing' them for political harm minimisation.)

"Lurch to the Right" Indeed. Makes you wonder just what sort of pressures the former PM was under in regard to this area of policy.

In her 'softening up' speech, the day before announcing the East Timor proposal, the PM suggested that the debate on asylum seekers was hindered by the fact that people felt the need to be 'politically correct' in regard to the issue, and that everyone should openly express their concerns and worries.

Okay then, here's mine:

I'm concerned and worried that our politicians and BOTH major political parties spend far too much time worrying about and pandering to the perceived political clout of ignorant, racist elements of our society in marginal electorates than they do considering the humane and morally just possibilities of the asylum issue.

I'm concerned and worried that our elected leaders, who should be leading and taking the high ethical, moral and social road are so scared of taking a hit in the polls that they would prefer to give ongoing credibility to inhumane and paranoid opinions of talkback radio jocks and bigoted rednecks. And I don't even care all that much that the bigoted rednecks might be a major demographic in the aforementioned marginal electorates - if enough pollies from both sides of the equation had a little more moral fibre in regard to this issue, then perhaps it wouldn't be an issue. At the moment, I'm pissed off at both sides of politics, but I'll still end up having to vote for one of them; let's extend that privilige to all Australians.

I'm concerned and worried that we as a country allow and encourage certain elements of our media to fuel and fan the fires of ignorance, and to make 'issues' out of xenophobia, rather than trying to encourage thoughtful and open debate.

I'm concerned and worried that our willingness to embrace the issue of 'illegal immigrants' (who aren't in any technical sense of the word, illegal) and 'border security' and turn it into a three-yearly palaver of fear-mongering is putting us increasingly out of step with world standards and with the obligations of civilised nations.

This is the point that Tim Hollo - Greens media advisor - made beautifully when writing for Crikey yesterday:
Australia is not an island.

Not on this increasingly small globe, it isn’t. And it’s not earth-shattering to note that population is an issue of far greater significance globally than it is locally. Population stresses overseas dwarf any here in Australia. With business-as-usual approaches to foreign policy, aid and climate, those stresses will inevitably boil over and inexorably head our way.
And, here's Barry Cassidy, writing at The Drum, on the issue, taking a somewhat more balanced approach to mine.

Of course, it's all very well for me to sit here and rant away. What about a solution?

Well, for what it's worth, here's mine.

Go ahead with the proposed 'Regional Processing Facility'. But do it properly, not as the cover for yet another shonky 'keep them offshore' campaign. Get the region on board. New Zealand, Indonesia, East Timor - all the local stakeholders. Put together a joint funding plan and build a state-of-the art immigration processing facility where unofficial immigrants can have their applications for asylum assessed, processed and acted upon with a minimum of psychological and emotional harm.

But - and here's the thing - build the damn thing in Australia. In a capital city - Perth or Darwin, perhaps, where there's appropriate infrastructure, a large labour pool to help with the processing, and the capacity to build the requisite facilities at minimum expense, without having to ship supplies and expertise to some out-of-the-way island. Build it somewhere with the infrastructure to allow pending applicants to live comparatively 'normal' lives, preferably in the community, while they have their applications processed. In short, take responsibility for our international obligations; don't just manage them along the most politically expedient lines.

Yes, it means allowing asylum seekers ashore on the mainland, and yes, that gives us certain obligations to them, but so what? As a signatory to the UN declaration of human rights, this shouldn't be a big deal. We have those obligations anyway. The moment one of our patrol boats - flying the Australian Naval Ensign from its stern - intercepts a refugee boat in international waters, we have those obligations. The moment one of our coastwatch planes identifies a boat of asylum seekers approaching Australian waters, we have those obligations. The moment we sent our troops into Afghanistan, we took on an obligation to the people of that country and - from my point of view, at least - this is just another aspect of that same obligation.

You might be getting the impression that I'm rather pissed about this. And I am. For a plethora of reasons, but primarily because this is not the sort of government I signed up for when I voted labour in 1997*. This is the sort of government I voted to get rid of.

*okay, so I'm a decade out, unlike our asylum seeker policy, which is 50 years out...

Edit to add THIS LINK which is, I think, the best thing I've read to date on this subject matter, and speaks my argument above with a great deal more clarity.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged....

Nothing like a bit of old fashioned biblical wisdom to kick off a post. Especially this one which - according to my blogger records - is my 100th post! (Actually, now I think about it, it's probably about my 110th, because before I set up shop here at blogspot, I kicked things off over at Goodreads)

Either way, it's an achievement that calls for celebration. Or at least a biblical title. Just because.

At the moment, I'm buried in the middle of judging for the ACT Book of the Year Award. This means that I've got until the middle of August to read through about 25 books and then pick a single 'Book of the Year' from among them.

Naturally, I can't say anything about the specifics here, but it's probably okay to mention that they're a diverse range of books, covering just about every possible genre, readership, subject matter and style.

Of course, as a writer, I've been on the other side of the equation many times: having your books entered for various prizes and competitions is all part of the publishing game. And in all honesty, it can be one of the more difficult aspects of the job. Of course, it's lovely when you win one; it means recognition, praise, sometimes even a cheque.

Prizes are also important in that they contribute to the cultural zeitgeist: the type of books selected for shortlisting in a significant prize like the Miles Franklin or the Booker will often reveal an awful lot about a society's concerns and preconceptions.

And then there's the value that big prizes add to various fields of creative practice: earlier this year, it was announced that the Australian Prime Minister's Literary Award would be expanded to include two new categories: Children's and Young Adult Fiction. With a tax-free prize of $100,000 per category, this is by far and away the richest and most lucrative prize for children's and YA writing in the country. For one lucky Aussie writer (and it won't, sadly, be me. At least not this year,) that prize has the potential to make an enormous difference to their writing career - aside from the prestige and profile that'll come with it, there's also the fact that - for most of us - 100 grand is an unthinkable amount of income - it'll allow the winner to actually write for a while, instead of having to eke out their living in other ways.

Aside from the benefits to the individual winner, though, there's also the broader cultural consideration: the addition of these two categories, and the placing of them on equal footing with the 'adult' literature and 'history' categories is a significant shot in the arm for all Australian writers of children's and YA fiction, because it's a very positive indication of wider acceptance of the importance of children's and YA literature in the broader literary discourse. (I actually talked about this on The Book Show on Radio National earlier on this year - link here, if you're interested) Just the fact that RN was prepared to run a 20 minute discussion on the subject is a sign of the impact that prizes of this magnitude have in terms of a field of writing's cultural capital.

But, of course, competitions need to be judged, and the process of judging requires judges, and as soon as you find yourself in that position, you quickly come to the unpleasant realisation that the process of judging other people's creativity is, ultimately, a process concerned more with exclusion than with inclusion. It's a process of bringing to bear your own personal experiences, likes, dislikes, knowledge and opinions on the creative output of other people, most of whom wil generally be very different from you. It is, in short, a horribly subjective process, no matter how much you wish it would be otherwise.

As a writer, I work very hard not to tie any self worth to my successes or failures in literary prizes - you can't afford to. It's difficult, though, and I know writer's who've been crushed at being overlooked in competitions which they felt their 'babies' should have won. And, with a different set of judges, perhaps they might have.

Because from a judge's point of view, that's the biggest challenge - reading these books and knowing from experience the hours of labour behind every last one of them, and that it's my job to help select one - just one - for the honour of being 'the winner'. Yes, it's a subjective process. It has to be. But it's an important process, too - it's a contribution to broader society, and someone needs to do it.

Ultimately, all I can do is read each book with care and an open mind, talk honestly and thoughtfully about them with the other judges, and we'll see where we end up. And whichever book does eventually get across the line, it's important to remember that the selection of a 'winner' is a judgement upon the perceived merits of that one book - not the perceived weaknesses of all the others.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Cold Morning and Me.

There's just something about cold mornings which really appeals to me. In that way, I'm perfectly suited to life here in Canberra.

This morning, when I got out of bed at 7.00, it was a heady -3.5 degrees outside, and the view through the kitchen window was of a world rimed with white. The frost was so heavily settled that for a moment or two I actually thought it might have snowed during the evening: the roof of the house across the road was coated with a thin skin of darkly glimmering ice. In the vegie garden, our sage bush glistened silver. Out beside the BBQ, the black oven mitt which I'd accidentally left out there last night while retrieving our dinner from the Weber was frozen firmly onto the glass top of our patio table, and cocooned with frost.

Stepping out into the dawn, still dressed in my flannel PJ's and a dressing gown, the cold seared the back of my mouth and my breath clouded and hung, motionless around my head forseveral seconds. Even through my heavy-soled ugg boots, I fancied I could feel the cold radiating upwards from the ground. Not a bird called, not a soul moved, the sun was hidden behind the wreathing fog. Yesterday's washing hung stiff and solid on the clothesline - cardboard t shirts and rigid the towels that we'd used to wash the dog on the weekend.

On these mornings, you feel the cold as though from outside yourself; beyond your senses. It's more than just the numbing of skin and the prickling of tiny hairs. On these mornings, the cold is a light blanket; enfolding, embracing; it doesn't flow through you so much as wrap itself around you and settle over your whole self.

On these mornings the cold brings with it an odd, almost indefinable sense of tranquility; as through the world has stopped, paused for thought, just ceased - momentarily - to function, perhaps in contemplation of the day and week ahead.

Back in the kitchen the coffee machine hisses, the heater thrums warm air into the room, Radio National chatters softly in the corner, and from his bedroom I can hear Toby starting to stir. I sip my coffee - the heat of it ticklish in my still chilled mouth - and allow the thawing of it to creep through me.

I really like cold mornings.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Screen free saturdays

Now, I'm certain that the astute among you a have noticed that already, just three days into July, and I've already managed to break my commitment to post something here every day. This is because I forgot to factor in screen free Saturdays. This is something that Min and I have been doing (well, attempting - with various degrees of success), for the last month or so. Simply put, we try, on Saturdays, not to use any screens. That means no computers, no iPhones, no television, and this week - to my horror - no brand new iPad. (Alright, I'll admit right now that I did cheat a couple of times yesterday, and steal a few quick moments with my new toy while Toby was asleep, but for the most part I did okay)

We got the idea from hearing Susan Maushart talking about her new book at the Sydney writers festival in May. She and her family went "off the grid" for six months, and this got us talking about the degree to which various forms of screen time have imposed themselves, by degrees, upon our day to day lives. Those of you who follow this blog will know that, for some members of this family, at least, our relationship with screens - of various types - is really something close to an obsession. Especially since someone introduced me to the products of the evil empire that is Apple Corporation. And so I'll admit that I came to the notion of screen free Saturdays with just a little trepidation.

But you know something? I really like them. Saturdays have become my excuse not to check my email, and in doing so to completely get all work-related matters out of my head for a while. They've re acquainted me with the pleasures of working in the garden and around the house. Of taking the dog out for exercise. Of board games. Of reading for pleasure, rather than work. It means that we do stuff together as a family. Not that we didn't before, you understand, but it just takes one major distraction and timesink out of our days.

Screen Free Saturdays have also driven home to me the degree to which this new, ultra connected age in which we find ourselves (and I know that if my grandkids ever read that last sentence, they're going to piss themselves laughing) imposes an odd, subconscious, sense of obligation upon us, just as much as it connects us. The first time we did screen free saturday, I felt guilty for not checking my email at least a couple of times. What if one of my students had a question about something? What if somebody had emailled me with an urgent query about an upcoming event?

But, of course, when I did get to my email on Sunday morning, neither event had occured. And if they had, it wouldn't have mattered. It was all in my head, and that's - I think - the most useful aspect of screen free Saturdays for me; they remind me that I don't need to be connected all the time. At least, not to the rest of the world. And in not being connected to the rest of the world, I get time to work on my connections with my nearest and dearest, which is far more important. No offence intended.

So while I'll have to hold my hand up and plead guilty-as-charged over my lapse yesterday, I won't be apologising for it. Yesterday we took Toby and Chelsea to the local dog park for a run around. We went to the farmer's markets and did our shopping for the week. We did some cooking. We did a little work around the house and in the garden. All in all, it was a good, screen free day.

Of course, it has to be Saturdays, because tonight is "Masterchef" night.

And, after all, you have to have priorities ;)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Day Two: Going Strong

See, a post a day. Not hard at all. The challenge will be keeping them interesting. And not resorting to lists and links of other people's content.

Speaking of which...

I've been working at home this morning, in a manner of speaking. Actually, the first hour and a half was spent tracking down and buying the last iPad in Canberra. (Well, probably not technically the last, but pretty damn close to, I suspect). It's rather nice, and shiny, and will be useful for work and travel. And lots of other things, I'm sure. Like meetings - I've been going to lots of meetings lately, and conferences, too.

That's my position on the matter, anyway.

Actually, on the subject of taking positions, a friend of mine, who'd prefer to remain nameless, is among those bashing away at this blog here and provides some thoughtful (and more than occasionally amusing) ideas for general consideration.

I've also, in recent months, been thoroughly enjoying the contributions to the blogosphere made by one John Birmingham who is - in my humble opinion, one of Australia's most versatile and edgy writers. JB's blog is a ripper and hits that nice, and often hard-to-achieve balance between provocation, humour, and intelligent social commentary.

Anyway, I've got a brand spanking new iPad sitting here on the table beside me and so, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go and play.

See y'all tomorrow

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Okay, then. Here we go...

A post every day for a month. How hard can that be, right?

At the risk of kicking things off with blatant self promotion, there's a little event coming up in Perth in a few weeks which it might be worth flagging:

Tuesday the 27th July, at the Fremantle Children's Literature Centre, in (of course) Fremantle. (The FCLC is the same place where both Nightpeople and Skyfall were officially shoved onto an unsuspecting public, (and also, oddly enough, where Imogen and I got married) so I'm thrilled, as you can imagine, to have the chance to finish the trilogy off in the manner to which it's become accustomed.) If you're in Perth (or, you know, want to fly to Perth from wherever you are,) please let me know if you'd like to come along. The more the merrier.

The book will be launched by the Federal Member for Fremantle, Melissa Parke I met Melissa a couple of years ago at a function, soon after her election to parliament, and since then she's proven to be a great supporter of the FCLC, and of literacy generally. She's also an avid spec-fic reader, so I'm really pleased to have her as the launcher.

And, as long as I'm on matters Darkland-y, while doing a trawl for some reviews of my books for the new-look website (which is almost done, and looking really nice) I found this:

Which is, I think, pretty cool in its own way. Just the fact that someone took the time to really think about the book and then talk about it so intelligently is pretty nice, from my point of view. Even if she didn't like the characters or story (and, I'll be honest, she's not the first to make that observation...) I tried to send her a response but to do so I need to sign up for a youtube account and don't really want to. Either way, if you ever read this, Anna, then thanks.

It's probably also worth mentioning that, following on from her comments, setting 'Nightpeople' in an Australian context was a very deliberate response to the fact that a lot (though not all) of spec fic by Australian Writers tends to be set in worlds that are either completely 'other' or based on a European and often medieval framework. There are very good commercial and artistic reasons for this, but with the Darklands books I really wanted to challenge this trope a little, so it's really nice to know that this aspect of the books worked out for some readers. (I'm also not the first to do this, by a long shot. Sean Williams, among others, has written some *awesome* antipodean spec fic. (Actually, his 'Books of the Change' were among the big inspirations for the Darklands Trilogy - they're awesome!)

Anyway, day one of my month of blogging and I've already resorted to banging on about myself. I'll try for something a little more interesting tomorrow. Promise.


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