Thursday, 26 June 2014


Look at this amazingly beautiful cat. Her name is Cola.

Now look at the sad expression on Cola's pretty face.

Cola and her mother, Coke, had the misfortune to live with a young human woman. Yes, many young humans are good for cats to live with. This one wasn't. Cola and Coke were not properly fed, or wormed, or their pretty long fur brushed. They were in a sorry state. Infested with worms, matted, dull-eyed and unhealthy with poor nutrition. But they did have a safe home. Until their human mother decided to leave their country home and travel to the Big Smoke.

When she decided to leave her country home and come to Melbourne, she left Cola and Coke with her parents. Now we've all left people or things we cared about with our parents. Good heavens, grandparent babysitting is the oldest and most trustworthy institution humanity has. Who hasn't trusted their mum or dad with someone or something precious? It should have been alright, shouldn't it? I mean, you can trust your parents, can't you?

Can't you?

The first thing this unfortunate young person's parents did was to bundle Cola and Coke into their car and head to their local pound, where they 'surrendered' (dumped) them. They did not know about Ingrid's Haven, and believed the cats would be killed straight away. Oh, but hey, it was no trouble, right?

We don't know if their daughter knew, or cared, or not. Whether she knew that Cola and Coke cried all night, not understanding why their familiar life had gone. Why they were suddenly among strangers. Why their human mother had abandoned them.

But they reckoned without Ingrid's Haven.

Ingrid's Haven is a no-kill shelter for cats. Cats are received from the local pound after they have been surrendered. And so, cold and shivering, infested with worms, crying, filthy, matted and half-starved, Cola and Coke made it at last to the Haven.

It's not perfect. Cola and Coke are two among many at the Haven. Their physical needs are met, but they'd really like a forever home with their own humans. Real humans this time, who won't suddenly dump them. Preferably together, but not necessarily.You could be that human. 'Second chance' cats are wonderful. They have a depth of need for you, and an appreciation of you, that a kitten who's grown up always living a happy, privileged life can't know.

Cola and Coke don't have any particular issues. They've just got a lot of love to share with the right person. Could you be that lucky person? I wonder. Only the truly serious need apply. Cola and Coke have been through enough, don't you think?

Perhaps you don't have a vacancy in your life for a cat. But you can still help. Your donations are needed. Winter is coming, in fact Winter is already here. Cats need heating and extra food. The cold weather takes its toll. They need blankets, heat pads, electric blankets (yes, the cats are cared for at Ingrid's Haven to that extent!) and money to pay the extra electricity bills.

Perhaps you're not very well off and can't afford a cash donation? Consider donating your old blankets, or worn-out sweaters. Warm bedding is always useful when there are so many cats to be kept warm.  Worn-out sweaters are great; cats love wool. Blankets of any size. That old cot bedding that your youngest child no longer uses.

Ingrid's Haven is located a short distance north of Melbourne. The Haven is open for adoptions every Saturday, or by appointment. Call 0417 360 700.

Check out their WEBSITE

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Professor Tomlinson's Last Experiment - now available at Smashwords

I've always regarded the short story form as a kind of laboratory where one can experiment with different styles and techniques without great commitment or risk. This new story represents my first venture into the uncharted waters of science fiction.

Thanks to Patti Roberts of Paradox Book Cover Designs for the wonderfully evocative cover design, which calls to mind the best and the worst of the 1950s science fiction I devoured by the crateful in my teens. 

I came late to science fiction, encountering it for the first time at fifteen. My mother had brought home, I suppose from a second-hand bookshop, several enormous cartons full of old issues of F&SF and IASFM. I'd never encountered science fiction before, and it was an utter revelation to me. Over the course of a long illness that kept me at home alone for many weeks, I read my way through the lot. I'll never forget my excitement when, hunting through the out-of-order piles, I finally found the last episode of Lord Valentine's Castle. Or the first time I read the creepily recursive All You Zombies. Or my bitter frustration when I realised that in all those volumes, I only had the first two instalments of The Dreaming Jewels. My whole world opened up that year.

In the ensuing years, as I left school and started on adult life, I read my way through the complete oevres of Heinlein, Asimov, Sturgeon and Bradbury. My love of extreme and fantastic tales has never abated. And yet, when I set out to write myself, my own work was solidly set in the real world, in the Melbourne where I've lived for so many years. 

So Professor Tomlinson's Last Experiment is an experiment for me too, but most of all it's a tribute to the great writers of yesteryear, who cheered the days and nights of a lonely, sick child.

Professor Tomlinson's Last Experiment is available in all formats at Smashwords.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Tabitha's Excellent Cooking Adventure

Having got my trashed house back into some semblance of order (thank you FLYLADY from the bottom of my heart), I now turn my attention to La Cuisine.

Now although I can make the world's most perfect vodka martini, it's generally accepted that although a reasonably competent plain cook, and pretty resourceful when the cupboard is bare, I'm not really in the ranks of Escoffier et al.

So today I am attempting White Christmas, using the authentic recipe from my mother-in-law, may she rest in peace. Now there was a really good cook, and the recipe is in  her own handwriting so I am reasonably confident I've got a safe roadmap, as it were. My mother-in-law was a wonderful cook and I'd have gone and lived at her house if I could. Nothing like three really good meals a day to attract a writer, I always think. It's the question I always ask myself before accepting an invitation - will there be free food?

Anyway, I started this morning at about 1140. Emily and I walked up the street to Patel's Independent Supermarket to buy everything. It's only a ten minute walk, but then there is Emily's Public to consider. She gave a number of interviews to her admirers, both old and new, and also stopped to eat some dirt from a bucket the road workers had. Then we shared a strawberry milkshake at Bean Thief. OK. Here are the ingredients:

It all cost $31.73, so that's a pretty expensive batch of sweets. I could have got the big bucket of Maltesers for way less. I notice you can see a lot of brand names, so the manufacturers of all these products can send me a fat marketing cheque at the town address, thanks. I'm in the book.

1307: Now the first step in this exciting and complicated recipe is to mix together the dry ingredients, so I will start by measuring the quantities of everything into a mixing bowl. Here they are - oh, no wait, I didn't need to buy two packets of mixed fruit. One would have been enough. Oh well, it was on special. I can use it to juice up my porridge, and if the worst comes to the worst it can go in this year's Christmas cakes. Don't get excited - my husband makes those. I may or may not document that process for posterity. It goes on all night, so probably not. Right, the dry ingredients, take two:

Here they are in all their glory and a plastic mixing bowl. Most of the time was taken up by finding somewhere to store all the bits that were left, and cleaning up the mess that happened when I dropped the bag of icing sugar. There were quite a lot of ingredients left over. I had to buy an enormous box of Rice Bubbles, heaven only knows what I'm going to do with those, perhaps the dogs will like them. Anyway the important thing is to hide the evidence.

It's now 1328 and I am feeling quite overcome by all this exertion and creativity. I think I'd better pause for a coffee before I go on with the hard bits. While I do that, here is a picture of Emily for you to look at. It was taken last month at Bean Thief, where we had our milkshake today.

Isn't she absolutely divine? You can worship her while I get my coffee, and perhaps a fag too.

1341: As I hate to appear inefficient, I decided to carry on with the next step while I drank my coffee. It's very fine coffee. I love my Russell Hobbs coffee machine even better than I do my Kobo Mini. Here is a picture of it. You can see how beautiful and expressive it is. My brother-in-law, Ivan, gave it to us for an engagement present.

First I mixed up all the dry ingredients. Here they are, looking much more interesting:

It was here that I encountered my first snag. The recipe calls on me to mix in the 'melted copha'. But it is not melted; it is quite solid, in a sort of brick, like butter. At this point I decided to call upon my muse and senior personal assistant, Ferret, who was supervising operations. Here he is:

Ferret explained that you have to melt it yourself in a saucepan. This took quite a long time on the lowest setting, but it melted OK. Interestingly, just before the end when it had melted down to quite a thin slice, I could see an interference pattern in it. I wish I knew more about physics.

Here is the copha melting, and the final mixture after I stirred it in.

By this time it was 1356 and I was getting rather bored with the whole thing, so I shoved it into a tray without further ado. The tray I used was too big, so I shovelled it all up to one side. It has to set now, and I don't know how long that is likely to take. I hope the cats don't mistake it for kittyflakes. It does look a bit like them, and the tray is the same shape as their litter box.

I shall report on the outcome in a later post; it has of course to be tested on someone else, just in case.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

New Book Announcement - Summer Dreams, edited by Alan Seeger

This anthology of short fiction has something for everyone. What's my interest in it, you ask? I'm one of the participating authors, along with Alan Seeger, Shawn Inmon, Carla Sarrett, Lynne Cantwell, Deborah Carney, Alesha Carey, Chris James, M.M. Roethig, Catherine Vickers, Ashton-Kate Wilson and Diana Xarissa.

My  own story, Nigel's Holiday, represents my first venture into the Gothic genre, and if you want to read it you will have to buy this anthology, for it is not published anywhere else. If that were not sufficient inducement, Shawn Inmon has written one of the most beautiful and moving stories about a dog that I've ever read. I sat down and cried buckets after reading it. Yes, this hard-bitten old bitch was howling into the Kleenex like there was no tomorrow. Believe it.

The book is a non-profit venture, with all proceeds being donated to children's literacy projects. At $1.00 for the e-book you just can't go wrong, although I've sprung for the paperback myself. They make great gifts.

You can get it HERE.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

NEW BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT - Little Book of Dogs, by Brae Lynne

This is a short book written by a child, and lavishly illustrated with colour photographs of each featured breed.

My reason for promoting it, you ask? As you well might, since readers of this blog know that I don't do promotion, or anything commercial. Everything you read here is my own opinion and has not been paid for by anyone.

Well, the reason I am bringing this book to your attention is a very special one. The Scottish Deerhound is illustrated with a photograph of my beautiful hound Beau, who went to the bridge on 19 October, 2012. 

No, this is not the picture in the book.

As far as the book's other content goes, it is not extensive and consists of a basic introduction to each breed rather than an exhaustive guide; the book isn't suitable as a reference, but would make a lovely gift for a child, perhaps a child that's almost ready for her first dog, or one who for some reason isn't able to have one.

The book is available from Amazon either as a Kindle book or as a paperback, but I should think the Kindle version wouldn't do justice to the colour photographs which form the main attraction of the book. The paperback can be ordered HERE.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Review - GIT: Onesie, by Marc Corn

This hilarious short article is the funniest GIT I have read yet. In these GIT articles, author Marc Corn lambasts the perpetrators of various behaviours of which he disapproves (of which most sensible people disapprove) - in this case, the most egregious fashion crimes, the onesie and the pants worn below the bottom.

Corn has a real gift for the colloquial, and reading this, one felt as if one had one's elbows on Corn's kitchen table, cutting the goss over a nice cuppa.

There is a whole series of these GIT articles; they're very short, but they're free, so value is not a consideration, and I heartily recommend them. The only reason I haven't rushed off myself to download every single one of them is that they are my secret weapon that I'm saving for a rainy day, to cheer myself up when I'm feeling depressed.

Get GIT: Onesie and the other articles HERE. And while you're about it, don't forget my new book, Dance of Chaos.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Big Car, Little Woman - why is it so?

I just finished reading 'GIT: Big Car, Little Women Syndrome', by Marc Corn. It got me thinking.

My kneejerk reaction as I started reading this article was that it was sexist, but as I read on I realised that's really not the case; Corn's observations, as always, are quite accurate, and it is, in fact, almost always women who do this kind of thing (I recommend everyone to download Corn's entertaining article, but for those who haven't, it deals with the kind of women who drive big expensive cars and do things like double park, cut people off, and generally drive like no one's watching.)

I don't believe it is only women who drive like this, but I have to admit that almost all of the ones I have seen, were. But I don't think it is as simple as a gender thing. For one thing, as Corn rightly points out, this type of behaviour is generally limited to people driving big, expensive cars. So, not all women, but well-to-do women. 

Now I'm purely speculating here, but it's my guess that these women (let's not dignify them with the name of bitches, for I reserve that holy and sacred title to myself) - these, let's call them, for want of a better term, Carlots, are nearly always not gainfully employed. The prevalence of them at school gates at what Mr Corn so aptly calls 'kicking-out time' (seriously, you have to read this guy, you're missing out on a real treat if you don't) tends to support such an assumption. Busy working people's children catch the bus home, or ride their bikes, or walk. Thereby helping themselves not to grow up into a future generation of Carlots. So, these Carlots don't have jobs. 

So they're housewives? I hear you ask. Well, yes and no. A real housewife is busy and hard-working. A real housewife has to clean everything and cook nutritious meals, wash, iron and mend everyone's clothes, help the kids with their homework in the evening, pick up everyone's dry cleaning, keep an eye on the household expenditure, organise repairs, be there to let in the tradesmen.... in short, it's a job like any other. When I did it, I was on the go from morning till night. I didn't have time to be swanning about in an expensive four wheel drive getting on other drivers' wicks.

These Carlots, I speculate, are housewives who don't have to do much. They have cleaners, probably an ironing lady, and they can afford to buy the very best cuts of meat, so dinner is easily sorted - no messing around finding a creative way to use cheap mince for the fifth time that week, or inventing a new recipe using only what is already in the cupboard. They don't have mending to do - holey socks get tossed out and replaced, not darned. Fallen hems, lost buttons etc are either attended to by the premium dry cleaners, or the garment is likewise replaced. A 'little woman' comes each week to fetch away and deliver the ironing. A 'little man' comes to do the garden.

All of this luxury and free time could be used to benefit humanity by volunteer work, or to pursue a consuming passion, such as writing, philosophy, or birdwatching. However, it is not, because the people who fill their days with these things also don't have time to swan around in late-model Mercedes convertibles clogging up the disabled parking spaces; they're busy saving the planet, or writing the novel of the year, or devising an unbreakable ontological argument. No; these Carlot types are idle. That, along with a comfortable level of disposable income, is their defining characteristic. And it leads to a sense of entitlement.

It is the presence of a sense of entitlement that drives nearly every really annoying and second-rate person. I'll park in the disabled spot, because I'm entitled to convenience. I'll queue-jump, because I'm entitled to speedy service. I'll cheat on my tax (thereby causing others, most of whom are less able to afford it, to have to pay more) because I'm entitled to keep my money. I'll grab anything and everything, never caring who is hurt, because I'm entitled to have what I want. It starts in early childhood, when people run round after their toddlers as if they were some kind of little tin god, shoving a dummy in their mouths the second they start to cry, dropping their adult conversations the instant a sticky little hand tugs on their clothing, getting a second mortgage to pay for all the useless junk that's being pushed on television that week. We've raised a generation of people with the attitude to life of a toddler. Me, me, me, now, now, now. No wonder divorce rates are through the roof. It takes two adults to make marriage work. No wonder people have started dumping elderly dogs at shelters and buying a new, young dog. It takes a grown-up to nurse a geriatric animal through his golden years, and to have, or even to understand, the commitment that makes it necessary.

It's my own belief that the female gender of these types is an accident of society; in gay couples, at least all the ones that I know, both people work, and I suspect that as same-sex marriage becomes more prevalent we will see some male Carlots arriving on the scene, driving the same expensive cars and flashing the same expensive blonde hair and the same expensive manicures. Only time will tell.

You can find the article that started my thinking along these lines HERE.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Book review - Bloggybook complete 2013, by Marc Corn

Bloggybook Complete 2013 is a compendium of one whole year's blog posts by a young man battling pain and medical problems.

Who is not (openly or secretly) intrigued by the opportunity to look right inside someone else's life? Certainly not me - there may be folk not nosy enough to want to read this kind of thing, but I've never personally met one, and if I have they were lying.

Marc Corn, with his trademark generosity, welcomes the reader inside his personal world and shares the ups and downs of his daily life, his struggles with pain and illness, his hopes and dreams, and all the little successes and pratfalls of everyday life. I found it utterly charming and virtually unputdownable. By the time I was half way through it, I felt that I knew Marc really well, and not only liked him a lot but had a good deal of respect for him.

Marc greets the vicissitudes of his life with gentle humour, with warmth, kindness and sly wit, which is sometimes sharp but never unkind. His love of children, his determination to succeed as a writer, and above all his courage and tenacious cheerfulness make the book a delight.

There are some spelling and grammar errors, but these don't detract from the reader's experience in a work of this kind; the writing is spontaneous and from the heart, and I thoroughly enjoyed Bloggybook and will definitely be looking for more.

Available from AMAZON.

While you're there, don't forget to pick up a copy of my own new book, Dance of Chaos.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Book Review - Waking the Dragon, by Pamela Martin

This marvellous book, following on from Hard Whispers but standing alone as a novel must, is exciting from start to finish. An adventure story on the grand scale, in the tradition of John Buchan, it sweeps the reader off his feet on the first page and doesn't slow down until it deposits him, slightly out of breath, at the wonderfully satisfying conclusion.

I didn't love it quite so well as I did Hard Whispers, mainly because it doesn't have as much of the resourceful Pamela Graham, but I loved it quite well enough to give it five stars, and to look forward very enthusiastically to future offerings from this brilliant new author.

Available at Amazon.

While you're there, don't forget to pick up a copy of my own new book, Dance of Chaos.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Book review - Undertow, by Lynne Cantwell

I've always had a soft spot for the concept of the Unity of Religion, the notion that all religions are true and that only our human limitations prevent us from seeing it. So this wonderful series, of which Undertow is the fifth book, really strikes a chord for me.

Beautifully written and presented, with believable, all-too-human characters and pleasingly slimy corporate villains, the series presents to us a world in which all of the gods have come back to intervene in human affairs - Gaia, Jesus, Thor, Wotan, Diana, the whole shebang. This difficult subject has been tackled with fearless audacity - not many writers would dare to use Jesus Christ as a minor character - and is brought off with aplomb.

In this volume, we see the newly improved god-laden world threatened by reactionary terrorists, and given the way America has behaved in recent years it is all too believable. A thoroughly exciting and satisfying read, either as a standalone novel or as an instalment in a truly wonderful series.

Available at AMAZONand SMASHWORDS.