Sunday, November 29, 2009

Rain, Fire and a Fatty

We have been having rain, glorious rain for the past week. Thank goodness it held off while we were actually moving.
After ten years of drought it is desperately needed. Melbourne’s water storages are creeping up slowly. An added benefit is that rain now will delay the risk of fire this summer. Unfortunately, government sources are suggesting that the risks of the current fire season are as high as past summer.

Now you have to forgive me I am going to be a little morbid for a moment. Further north the fire season has started early. In NSW as I type there are 50 wildfires burning across the state. My brother is a Rural Fire Service Brigade Captain on the NSW Central Coast. His brigade was called out to 22 scrub fires in just the past month. And it is still only spring.

We drove across the back road through Marysville towards Warburton. This area around Marysville was some of the most badly burnt in the Black Saturday Fires on this 7th February past. I posted about the devastation through this way a while ago.

This time the weather was clear and we could look across the valleys to distant ridges. In some places your eye was drawn to the green patches in the valleys below (green thanks to the recent rain) and things did not seem too bad. But when you looked at the closer ridgelines you really realised how extreme the conditions were.
These few photos show a mountainside totally destroyed. All the trees seem to have perished in the heat. Something almost unheard of in the Aussie bush, our eucalyptus trees are tough as nails. Also many of the trees seem to have been felled as if in a wind generated by a raging fire-storm. These destroyed mountainsides remind me of the destruction caused by the eruption of Mount Saint Helens back in 1980. Like there I think the forest will be decades in regenerating.

All we can hope is we don’t see such conditions again this coming summer.

Enough of doom and gloom.

Not far from these scenes of destruction there is an untouched patch of bush along Badger’s Creek. In there I managed the rare treat of photographing this fat little fellow.He (and I know he is a he because of his colouration) is a Common Bronzewing, a native pigeon species. Although they are, as the name suggests, quite common they are also shy and will not often sit long enough to have their portrait taken.
They are quite gaudily coloured birds and the wing feathers are a metallic sheen that change colour depending on the angle the light strikes them. The first photo only kind of shows the variation because he is in the shade.
This second piccie is not such a good shot. He insisted on turning his back (I said they are shy!) but it does show just how brilliantly metallic those feathers are.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Over The Top

Shortly before I took my moving enforced break I was given an “Over The Top” blog award by Brian at Old Man’s Inspirational Thoughts
Thanks Brian!

And here are the rules for this award:
1.) Thank and post URL to the blog that gave the award.
2.) Pass the award along to 6 brilliantly over the top blogs (blogs you love!) Alert them so they know to receive the award.
3.) Copy and paste this quiz... Change the answers, ONE word only...feel free to fudge here!

1. Where is your cell phone? Desk
2. Your hair? Greying
3. Your mother? Nurturing
4. Your father? Gone
5. Your favorite food? Curry
6. Your dream last night? Forgotten
7. Your favorite drink? Cappuccino
8. Your dream/goal? Publish
9. What room are you in? Study
10. Your hobby? Writing
11. Your fear? Grief
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Content
13. Where were you last night? Home
14. Something that you aren't? Liar
15. Muffins? Rich
16. Wish list item? Camera
17. Where did you grow up? Bush
18. Last thing you did? Read
19. What are you wearing? Casual
20. Your TV? Unimportant
21. Your pets? Gone
22. Friends? Cherished
23. Your life? Challenge
24. Your mood? Happy
25. Missing someone? Partner
26. Vehicle? FIAT
27. Something you're not wearing? Tie
28. Your favorite store? Bookshop
29. Your favorite color? Blue
30. When was the last time you laughed? Morning
31. Last time you cried? Friday
32. Your best friend? Partner
33. One place that I go to over and over? Bed
34. One person who emails me regularly? Friend
35. Favorite place to eat? Seaside

Choosing six bloggers? I hate this point, I read quite a number of blogs which I really enjoy and choosing between them always seems so hard.

Two of my favourite bloggers Kathleen and Wendy are uncomfortable about spreading memes. So in all good conscience I won’t pass this on to them. BUT check out their blogs, they are both published authors in the real world and I think it shows.

This leaves decisions, decisions…

Drum roll…

The award goes to:

Tasha at Heidenkind’s Hideaway. Tasha is an art historian who mainly focuses on reviews, but she chucks in some posts on really varied and interesting topics.

The Accidental Londoner talks about her life as a Midlands (small town) girl adjusting to life in the big smoke of London.

Jenners at Life With a Little One and More. Jenners posts on whatever seems to grab her attention at the time with a general focus on what she learns from being a parent of a “little un”.

Rebecca at Living a Life of Writing. Rebecca writes profusely on her thoughts about writing and publishing.

Shelli at Market My Words. Shelli posts about publishing with a focus on marketing oneself with the aim of getting published.

Lisa at Lit and Life. Sorry Lisa, I’m only giving you this award to compensate you for the strange affliction of being a Geelong Cats supporter even though you live in the USA.
I cant say that! What I meant to say is - Lisa is a profuse poster of book reviews.

As a postscript an image.
This rustic and apparently abandoned farm shed sits beside the road between Ballarat and Clunes on the Central Victorian Gold Fields.
I find this image quite poignant. There is beauty in this image of decay. Yet if you look closely you can see that before this building’s last incarnation as a shed it served another purpose. The large doors in the front are a later addition each of these bays used to have two windows and a narrow doorway that were later bricked up. While the side wall had a large opening with an arched top, maybe a window or a doorway?
One wonders what purpose it served. Maybe a small inn beside what was a busy road? A former staging post for the famous Cobb & Co coach company? Or perhaps a humble dwelling for farm labourers?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Back From the Dead and Sunset.

Well we finally have a broadband connection again. The previous occupants of the house we have moved in to didn’t disconnect their phone service. So until that was sorted out we couldn’t order our new connection.

The nine or so days since I last posted have presented one problem after another. As if moving house wasn’t enough we had to deal with one minor family tragedy and face the fear of another.

On Friday we took the hard decision that we had to euthanize our 14 year old family cat. We have had Sapphire since she was a small kitten. As a purebred Siamese she was getting quite old. Physically she was still fit, but she has been getting confused lately and clearly suffering a cat form of dementia. In the past she has always been content as long as she had her people around her. Previously moving house has never distressed her but this time she was continually crying and was obviously distressed.

So when I came home from work on Friday, four of us took Sapphire up to the vet and said goodbye. Then as Io my middle daughter cradled her, the vet put her to sleep. My three girls were all reduced to sobs and I have to say I was in tears as well.

On Sunday we were over at the old place cleaning up. Lu, our youngest managed to trip while walking backwards. Her head went straight down onto concrete with a sickening crack. She didn’t loose consciousness but she was clearly groggy, and had a lump the size of an egg inside 20 seconds.

You don’t muck around with head injuries, so it was straight up to the ER at the local hospital. The diagnosis “minor concussion”. Lu was held for observation for 6 hours. During that time, she was prevented from going to sleep and had obs taken every 30 minutes. Gradually her condition improved and the doctor said she was fine to be discharged.

The instructions we were given on discharge were that during the night she had to be woken every two hours so we could check she was responsive and assess her coordination. On one level I felt quite confidant that she was “on the mend”, but it was one long night.

The next day Lu was a bit quiet (which is not at all like her), but the past two days she has been back to her normal self. All in all a frightening experience, but no harm done. Except perhaps to my grey hair count!

On a lighter note we are settling in to our new house (although unpacking seems to go on forever). As a bonus the back veranda looks roughly west and we have had a couple of nice sunsets.

Me being me out came the camera:
This was Monday nightAnd this was Tuesday night

Monday, November 16, 2009


As you might guess from the title of this post this whole move really is becoming a saga.

Packing. Packing.Packing, it seems un-ending.

I had a hire truck booked for tomorrow (not just a ute, a proper 3 tonne van). Then I get an email from the hire company telling me they had double booked and I was the lucky sod who missed out.

As we Aussies are wont to say BUGGER!

So after a little hair tearing I began ringing and emailing around to book another. Finally with a sense of relief I had one booked with another company for the morning.

So all things being equal our move will be mostly over tomorrow evening.

This brings me to another point. I have been fairly slack in posting and in responding to all your comments over the past little while. I'm not super human enough to work, pack and post all in the same limited number of hours we are allotted in any given day. I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has read my posts recently and especially to those who have been commenting. Thank you all for being so supportive as I ruminate about self publishing and the like.

Finally, thanks to the vagaries of the Oz telecommunications system we are likely to be without a broadband connection for some days after the move. The phone line is connected so I will have access to a dial-up connection but that will send me mad just checking email. (Dim dark memories of 300 baud modems in the bad old days briefly surface. Shudder!).
So I expect I will not be able to post again until next week at the earliest. I hope it will all be sorted by then.

In the meantime all of you good people take care!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Self Publishing: a Review.

A while ago I mentioned I received a copy of The Step-by-Step Guide to Self-Publishing for Profit! by Christy Pinheiro of The Publishing Maven

This book has raised all sorts of issues for me. I am more than sick of the grind of trying to get my work published using the “traditional” method. I have wondered about self publishing before. I have also put a modicum of effort into researching the possibility of self publishing through Lulu and BookSurge. I have even looked at Lightning Source

Christy’s book injects Amazon’s CreateSpace into the mix. The cost per copy with Create Space seems much more reasonable than Lulu. Also you gain the benefit of automatic listing with Amazon.

With self publishing marketing seems to be pretty much up to an author’s ability to push themselves. But then again it seems that most “orthodox” publishers seem to leave most of the marketing up to authors these days.

I’ve had my manuscript copyedited a couple of times. I’ve also produced an OK cover for the fun of it.

So in theory I could put it all together as a self published book in a fairly short period of time. Marketing would remain my biggest problem.
Damn it would be nice if it was all easy!

Anyway I have put up a review of Christy’s book on Amazon and include it below:

Title: The Step-By-Step Guide to Self-Publishing For Profit!
Author: C. Pinheiro (co-authored with Nick Russell)
ISBN: 978-0982266007
Publisher: Pineapple Publications

Christy Pinheiro and her co-author Nick Russell have produced a very handy guide to beginning a self publishing business. As the title suggests, the book outlines a series of steps to establish a profitable publishing business. The book works as a practical guide for beginners in the industry.

The book can be roughly broken into three sections, each covering a different aspect of self publishing. The first few chapters cover the basics such as: avoiding vanity publishers; the rudiments of establishing a business; and preparing the best possible manuscript by using services like copy editors. The next section deals with: the specifics of publishing using Amazon’s CreateSpace; it also briefly looks at other services such as Nick Russell apparently uses Ingram’s Lighting Source for the majority of his own business. The third section deals with marketing a self published book and developing an income using the internet. Potentially the most valuable section of the book, it looks at various strategies. A myriad of examples are given including: using Amazon’s features; seeking book reviews; promotion using blogging; establishing a promotional website; and generating income using Google’s AdWords and Amazon’s affiliate program.

From a personal perspective, I found Christy’s book informative and helpful. This book has restimulated my interest in exploring self publishing, despite the fact that Christy specifically suggests self publishing works best for non-fiction. The only section of the book that had no direct relevance to me (as an Aussie) was some technical material on registering a business in the US and record keeping for US tax purposes.

Finally as this book produced by POD, a brief word about the book’s physical characteristics is worthwhile. I was impressed by the overall quality of the book. The paper is of good quality. The printing is excellent throughout with no technical errors or problems such as bleed. The cover is full colour and printed to a standard equivalent to any retail book. The only slight quibble I would voice is that the cardstock used in the cover would benefit from being a slightly heavier weight.

Christy has just posted that BookSurge and CreateSpace have been merged by Amazon.

And finally.
A male King Parrot I snapped him up near Badger Creek a few weeks ago. A lot of Australian parrots are fairly easy to photograph, they seem to be curious about what you are doing.

This guy was so relaxed about my presence he took some time out to preen before flying off.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Writing Lost.: A Guest Post

Now while it is still Remembrance Day, and as a slight change from my usual fare, a Guest Post!

I am privileged to host the following guest post by Canadian blogger Rebecca Emrich of Living a Life Of Writing.
Rebecca Blogs profusely about blogging and writing in general.
Rebecca has also chosen to write with a theme of Remembrance for this post. By the way the piccies are my selection Rebecca deserves no blame for them. They are from Wikimedia Commons. Without further ado take it away Rebecca...

Writing Lost

The War to End All Wars? Not really the First World War ended the golden age of literature in my line of thinking. The result in the States was the 'Lost' generation of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and many others. A similar thing happened in other countries, but I'm not going to write about them but of the writing lost.

Writing Lost You Say?

In one particular battle, budding writers took bullets in the head, were blinded, maimed and countless others lost, not physically but mentally. It is impossible to even begin to count that loss. A Poet, unable to write anymore, his body broken, or dead in the mud of countless fields in France, in Russia, in Germany. It is impossible to imagine the loss of a single writer in their youth, perhaps with countless stories that they would write.

I think of The Russian Army and a young prince, Oleg Romanov, who if not for blood poisoning and death would have become a more powerful writer than his father the great Russian writer Konstantin Romanov.
Oleg Romanov
Of Two young German Princes who knew what war was about before they saw it, and still died. Hundreds of others dead or dying.

A Generation Lost, a Generation of Writers Lost.

Do we forget them or do we praise them, by continuing our writing, and recall their sacrifice to the old cry of King and Country?

To all these writers lost: We Shall Not Forget.
The Canadian War Cemetery at Dieppe.

Monday, November 9, 2009


The Eleventh of November is Remembrance Day. Commemorating the end of World War One, Remembrance Day is the second most important Memorial Day in Australia.

As it was in many places, WWI was greeted with enthusiasm in Australia.

Initially the Australian government promised 20,000 men as its contribution to the British Empire’s war effort.

Australia was never directly threatened during WWI, our involvement was entirely based on loyalty to the “Old Country” (Britain) and “Empire”. Patriotic events were held all over the country to drum up recruits, the most famous of which were recruitment marches such as the “Cooee march”. Men flocked to the call and by the time the war dragged to an end in 1918 over 330,000 recruits had been raised from a population of only 4.5 million. All Australian recruits in WWI were volunteers, as two plebiscites on conscription were defeated during the war.

The Diggers ("Digger" is Aussie for an Aussie soldier) first went into action alongside Kiwi troops as part of The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) in the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign of 1915.

Gallipoli landings 25 April 1915

As a slight aside, ANZAC Day, commemorating the Gallipoli Landings, is easily the most significant memorial day in Oz. In fact ANZAC day is probably the most important public event in Oz in any given year. For many if not most Aussies ANZAC is more important than other times such as Easter, Christmas, or for that matter Remembrance Day.

Following the Failure of the Gallipoli Campaign the Diggers fought in the Palestinian Campaigns in the Middle East, with the 1st Light Horse Regiment playing a significant role.

Australian Light Horsemen

Diggers also played a role on the Western Front in France and Belgium, with five Australian Divisions eventually being formed into the Australian Corps under General John Monash.

Monash was a significant figure in a number of ways. Unlike many senior officers of the time, he argued a General’s primary responsibility was the safety and well-being of his men. Monash was also a great tactician and became a pioneer of combined operations. Finally as an Aussie of Jewish faith, the reverence he was held in post-war helped increase tolerance in Australian society.

The casualty rates for Australians soldiers in WWI were horrendous as the Diggers were often used as "shock troops", 64% of Aussies serving overseas in WWI became casualties.

Australian society, like so many others, was traumatised by the carnage. Arguably as the war came so soon after Federation (1901) the war may have had a deeper effect than elsewhere. Every Aussie town, city and state has a war memorial of some kind.

Here in Melbourne the Shrine of Remembrance is the memorial to Victorians who served in WWI. Situated South of the city on a raised point in “The King’s Domain” The Shrine looks up an avenue into the heart of the city.

Like so much of early Victorian Architecture The Shrine is built to a classical theme.

The whole structure is supposed to be based on the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus while the Northern and Southern entrances are reminiscent of the Parthenon.

Four Goddesses stand, one at each corner of the Shrine.

This is “Patriotism”

And this “Sacrifice”The Forecourt of The Shrine holds Victoria's WWII memorial.

While a short distance away Sir John Monash contemplates the changes that have come to his city.

As to Aussie society, in some ways we have changed immeasurably, in other ways not at all.
Loyalty to "Empire" has taken the Diggers to many wars in the first half of the Twentieth Century.
Since 1951 loyalty to "ANZUS" has taken us to many more, the latest in Iraq and Afghanistan where so many are still dying.

So I for one will pause for a minute on the "Eleventh hour, of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month" to contemplate all those who fell in "The War to End All Wars" and also those who continue to fall until today.

The Moving Saga Continues

Not a proper post at all this evening. I’ve been busy, our house move has run into a minor hurdle. We have decided to hire a truck and move our stuff ourselves. This is because we can save about $1000 on the best quote we got from professional removalists by doing it ourselves. This means a slight delay until I can get a mate to help with shifting the heavy items.

Anyway not wanting to be entirely idle I hired a ute and began moving our bookshelves and book cartons over the weekend.

The hire ute loaded to the gills with bookshelves and cartons.Next week, when my mate is available, I will hire a 3 tonne truck (lorry for my UK readers) and hopefully bring our moving saga to a quick and relatively pain free end.

In the mean time we have been packing the rest of our all too numerous possessions. I knew I should have listened to those arguments on not being too materialist.

Next: Remembering.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

EEK It’s all too much!

My house is littered with book shelves.
For example:
I custom built these shelves for the house we used to own, but couldn’t bring myself to leave them behind, so they moved with us.


This is the hutch on the back of my writing desk.
(for those who are nosey curious, you can see the titles of the sort of things I have been using for researching my second novel).

Just for a change
The head of my bed also has a little light reading material taking a rest. My youngest mainly uses hers for homework and trophy storage.
I have to admit that there are a few more book shelves lurking in sections of the house that were just not tidy enough to spread across the internet (all this reading leaves little time for housework, that is my excuse and I am sticking to it)

So all this is lovely and we’ll never die of boredom for want of a book.

But we’re moving after only 12 months in this house. Yuk, Yuk Yuk!

As you can tell I’m a big fan of moving. NOT!

So all these wonderful treasures have to be packed along with all our other bits and pieces, odds and sods and the cat. The only saving grace is we're just moving suburbs, not interstate.

So far we have packed the books on the big shelves in the first piccie. They are big but also misleading. They are deep, so all of the paperbacks are stacked in two rows.
20 book cartons so far. From one set of book shelves!

Did I say 20?

So if I am a little inconsistent with blogging over the next little while please forgive me in advance. I'll be busy tearing my hair out.

Now just ‘cause I need to de-stress.
A headland near the famous Bell’s Beach.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Generosity of Others

I spent a long time the other night on the phone to the UK.

As an aside I find that natives of England tend to refer to their homeland as “England”. Whereas in my experience, people from the other lands in the British Isles seem to be as likely to say “I’m from the UK”. They then say as if an afterthought “I’m from…” and insert Scotland, or Wales etc. as necessary. I often wonder what causes the different approach. Surely the Union is not more beloved by the non-English subjects of Her Majesty’s domain.

I’m straying off my point. As I said I was on the phone to the UK. This is not an infrequent event, as I have a much loved brother who resides in Coventry and we talk frequently (as far as I know he was not “sent to Coventry”). On this occasion I was not chatting to my brother. Rather I was talking to a gentleman (and I use the term advisedly) by the name of Don.

Don is in his eighties and is a Royal Navy veteran of WWII vintage. I had the privilege of being introduced to Don (via telephone) by my brother.
For close to an hour Don talked to me about his war time experiences.

Don served on HMS Narborough, a Captain class frigate.
HMS Balfour a "Captain class"
Captain class frigates were built in the US and supplied to Britain under Lend-Lease. The Captain class frigates were named after captains who served in Nelson’s navy. A quick note about the photos on this post, all are available on Wikimedia Commons click on each photo for a link to its source.

Serving on HMS Narborough Don went on the perilous “Murmansk run” to Northern Russia. They went up during winter in atrocious weather and continual dark.
Arctic Noon taken on HMS Sheffield
At one point Don says the sea was so rough that he was seasick 28 times in 24 hours.

He also talked about Exercise Tiger when during a D-Day rehearsal an Allied convoy was attacked off Slapton Sands. The attack resulted in the deaths of 749 American servicemen.
The Slapton Sands Memorial
The disaster was hushed up at the time for fear of compromising the D-Day invasion. As a part of the “hush up” Narborough was dispatched to the middle of the Atlantic and spent the next weeks steaming in circles providing weather reports.

HMS Narborough returned from the Atlantic in the teeth of the gale that almost postponed D-Day. After oiling and storing they crossed to the British beaches with the invasion fleet.
50th Division landing at Gold Beach
Don described having a "ringside seat" while watching the landings.

On D+1 they were off Omaha Beach. When the USS Susan B Anthony was hit by a sea-mine The Narborough was one of the ships tasked with getting 2,689 soldiers and crew off..

Don says it is a heartbreaking experience watching a ship going down. The Susan B Anthony "reared up and then went straight down stern first. Like an arrow fired at a bullseye."
Don was relieved that on this occaision all were rescued without loss of life. However, he added the rescued soldiers were immediately transferred to landing craft and landed on Omaha Beach “without a rifle between them.”

US First Division Troops Landing on Omaha Beach D-Day
Post war Don took up a scholarship to Cambridge University and later worked as an engineer. He is articulate and concerned that his and others experiences are recorded for posterity. As a result he is a mover in the museum dedicated to the Captain class ships. He has also recorded a great deal of information for the Imperial War Museum.

It was in this spirit that he most generously shared his time with me (and offered to not only share more but also to put me in contact with other veterans).

As a fiction writer my main tool is imagination. However, that imagination is stoked and supported by research. I read personal accounts and formal histories endlessly. For WWII history I also can get access to invaluable resources such as photographs and film. Yet, for me, it is always personal accounts such as Don’s that are the most potent spurs to my imagination. Ten minutes speaking with a veteran can be worth a years’ research to me .

Over the years I have been privileged to speak to many people who lived and survived through those years. For most a lot of the experiences are still traumatic, even after all this time, and some can or will say little. In such cases the silences are often as informative as what is said. But some, like Don, are not only able to share the events but do so absolutely candidly. Of course for some the war years were a highlight in their lives, not only a time of privation but also a time of certainty, of shared purpose, of comradeship. Whichever is the case, I am enormously honoured by the generosity of others, in sharing their stories, their memories, and a portion of their lives with me.

So to Don and to all the others I have spoken to over the years, thank you.