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25 January 2014

It was also just over a a week in time where events ran into a number of areas in my usual blog and left me breathless. It started on Saturday the 18th with my having  decided several days earlier to email the nice chap who was my editor for a short story collection due out very shortly. There had been a relevent article in our newspaper on the copyright issue for that and I wanted to mention it to him. In return I got an email when I opened that Saturday, from his wife to say that my editor had died some 6 weeks earlier. I was stunned, surprised, and horrified. I knew he’d been in hospital in November, what I hadn’t known was that he had a serious heart condition and it had caught up with him. We’d only worked together some three months, but he’d been an excellent editor and a nice guy, I’d liked him and looked forward to working with him on more possible publications. I phoned the publisher to say so, (while sending condolences to his wife) and was told that my collection was just out.

And it was. Sunday I looked it up under the title and my name and there, on amazon USA and Uk, was Repeat Business by Lyn McConchie. A collection of fourteen new Sherlock Holmes short stories.  (Repeat Business is available in a trade paperback edition at $14.99 and also available as a Kindle edition.) That’s my first published mystery book/collection and I was really happy to see it. I can add to that, that my article, “The Real Value of a $5 Box” appeared in our newspaper, also on the Saturday.

After which – swings and roundabouts – I was spending the afternoon of the Monday following reading a murder mystery while Thunder reposed comfortably on my feet. In the distance a sound began, swelled, and the house began to shiver. I may not have much over-the-ground speed, but my reflexes are usually excellent. I made the doorway in fifths of a second and clung to the frame while the house leaped wildly. Thunder went past me airbourne and vanished through his cat door into his cat park. My small collection of small owls hit the carpet, joined by a number of loose books from an upper shelf. The shaking stopped, I released the door frame and went to make sure that there were no real problems. There weren’t, but a friend rocketed in right after to make certain that I was still in one piece – I was – and none of the owls were broken either. I also phoned a couple of friends who’d have been in the area getting that quake and they too were fine. TV got its act together very shortly and announced the quake had been 6.2. A very respectable size.

Tuesday we got a solid aftershock, somewhere around the mid-5 I’d have thought, and Thunder is still raising his head now and again looking suspicious. It took me an hour to persuade him back inside after the original quake, he wanted me to stay outside with him instead and I suppose he did have a point. More tiny shocks over the remainder of the week, but things seem to be simmering down. And it occurs to me that if nothing else, earthquakes do sharpen my reflexes wonderfully. I should also get more blutak to affix my owls to their shelf. Saturday finished off the whole week with a cherry on the top. An invitation to submit to an anthology from a publisher who’s taken a number of my stories in the past, this anothology will be pro, well paid, and on a theme I always enjoy writing. AND with ample time to write a submission. That indeed was the week that was. And like the curate’s egg, it’s been very good – in parts!

20 January 2014

And just heard from Whortleberry Press, in whose anthology, Dandelions of Mars (A Ray Bradbury tribute anthology) I had my story, Third Floor. The anthology placed in the top ten in the Best Anthology section of the annual Preditors and Editors poll for 2013. Very pleased, not only that I had work in a top ten anthology, but also for Jean Goldstrom who makes such a great job of publishing the Whortleberry Press anthologies each year.

16 January 2014

softcover, published Peggy Bright Books, 2013.

This book was funny, clever, and throughly enjoyable. It has a faintly fannish air to it, and a line of familiar character names help that, but discounting them, the stories are still rolicking good fun. It’s told in first person, about a woman who wants to live on a farm of her own and have animals, and a pleasant country life. The amount of money she has to achieve this is limited so she ends up going further and further out, until she finds a place she can afford, ramshackle, poorly fenced, but it’s within budget and it will provide what she wants. So she buys it.

She buys two donkeys and a draft horse at a local sale, makes local friends, enjoys visits from her ex-flatmate and his flying dragon (they provide mountains of solar panels so she can stay electrified) and then there’s the neighbours, the alien ones that is, little grey aliens who are polite, helpful, and pleasant to have around. Yes, of course, this is SF, what do you expect? SF writers tend to add stuff to the mundane – until it isn’t that mundane any longer. And then there’s the evolution of her computer… I know computers don’t usually evolve, what part of, this is what SF writer’s do, didn’t you get? Followed by a journalist who comes to find a really really exciting story and ends by heading off into the mountain after something else entirely. Lovely comeuppance! And when I finished reading this, I smiled, sighed, and wished there was more, I hope for a sequel. So head off to Peggy Bright books and buy a few copies, good for those who like gentle humour, the fannish community, SF wit, aliens next door, and the companionship of equines. Buy this book. If enough do, the writer may give us another one.

Over Christmas I watched a number of musical programmes and enjoyed most of them. One I was not impressed with however was Celtic Thunder Christmas. I’d watched a couple of their programmes before and liked them, but this one didn’t live up to either my expectations or the title. You’d expect something called Celtic Thunder to be lively, energetic, and above all, Celtic. What we got was a mess of English and American songs, including very over-popularised hymns, and the songs mostly crooner type, right down to, for heaven’s sake! Disney’s When You Wish Upon a Star. Celtic Thunder? Yeah right!

In one medley they did sing a couple of verses in what was probably Irish, and that was it. It was insipid to the point of boredom and I was disappointed by the entire event. There was no flash, little dash, nothing to make me sit up and listen, nothing much Celtic and no thunder. Oh, and they did a very bland and banal version of Leonard Cohen’s Alleliuja at one stage. Groan. These guys are supposed to be professionals. I heard that done far better by a recent contestant in X Factor. In short, I felt that the title of this was a misnomer. Don’t do that again if you want to keep this watcher watching.

The geese have now settled down for the summer. The meter reader came a couple of days ago, passed by that lot as they snoozed in the hedge, and didn’t receive even a peep of acknowledgement. Good, I can relax knowing that next time they go berserk it really will be burglars and not friends who forgot to phone in advance. Although time of arrival is a fairly good indication. Few of my friends come creeping over the lawn at 3am…

7 January 2014

Friends arrived on New Year’s day and were able to stay several nights. They are cat-lovers and Thunder was ecstatic, I was very pleased to see them, but the geese – refused permission to eat visitors – weren’t quite so delighted. It was a different thing when they departed. Thunder turned his back on them, on my house manager when she arrived ten minutes later, and on me (when I tried to explain that they couldn’t live here)  and sulked. He did relent when it dawned on him that if he wanted to be cuddled he had to settle for us, but next morning he was at the door of the extension where those who stay reside, bawling for me to ‘open the door quick’ in case they’d sneaked back and hidden there (and he could be patted and stroked and talked to again for ages and ages.)  After considerable checking he found that they hadn’t – and now he’s miffed again. Oh well.

On a current affairs programme recently an ex-soldier who’d suffered severe injuries in the line of duty was complaining that he hadn’t been given reasonable compensation and that he felt abandoned by the Government. He was about to lose his home to debts through no fault of his own and was unable to understand why his Government had turned its back on him. I laughed. No, it isn’t funny, it just illustrates that old saying, that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

A century ago Kipling was writing poems that said exactly what this man is saying. There’s Tommy, which contains the lines, “it’s Tommy this and Tommy that, and “Chuck im out, the brute.” But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country”, when the guns begin to shoot.” And that sums it up. If a soldier dies in the line of duty at a time when we have sufficient attention to give, he receives all kinds of accolades. If he’s injured, he’d better shut up, creep away, and suffer in silence because the Government doesn’t want to know in case assisting him opens the floodgates to other demands. Kipling sympathised with soldiers, many of whom had been friends and he wrote not only, Tommy, but also, The Widow at Windsor. It may have been that poem which put paid to one possibility in his career. Many have wondered why he was never made Poet Laureate. There have been claims that the post was offered and turned down. However the story I heard from my grandmother as a child was that Queen Victoria was mortally offended by the poem and when Kipling’s name was suggested for the job, she emphatically refused to even consider it. (Considering the poem I’m not surprised, Kipling didn’t pull his punches.)

I’m sorry for a soldier who did his best, suffered crippling injuries, and is now unable to understand why a Government that required this of him won’t assist him financially when he is on the point of losing his home because he is unable to work. But sadly and sourly, he doesn’t have that on his own, there’s very many years of historical precedent. And our Government, as can be seen, doesn’t plan to alter the situation any time soon.

6 January 2014

produced by the New South Wales Fellowship of Australian Writers. Softcover, 416 pages, including a useful final section for the reader’s notes.

This is a solid production, the cover is most attractive and the layout and sections are very well done. It covers every aspect of a writer’s trade and makes allowances for the most confused of new writers as well as being informative to those who are more experienced. Sections include writing cover letters and synopsis, dealing with agents and editors, and with the questions and pros and cons of ebooks and self-publishing. It continues with more arcane ideas, such as dealing with Writer’s Block, consideration of e-readers, the possibilities of plagiarism, the uses of onomatopoeia, watching for oxymorons, and pitfalls in typesetting. In short it covers a huge range of aspects of writing. It can be obtained from FAW (Fellowship of Australian Writers) at www.fawnsw.org.au