THINK

The internet is a wonderful place. It’s full of all kinds fascinating stories and information and I think it’s wonderful, amazing and potentially dangerous.

The biggest problems with the internet are its immediacy and its accessibility. In a little while I’ll finish writing this post and then press a button. Instantaneous opinion will appear online, available for anyone with the technology to access it.

Some of you have bravely signed up to follow my blog. In fact very recently I celebrated the 100 follower mark. (Thank you!)

When I post on this blog, I try very hard to make sure that I post appropriately. Most of the time I’m posting my opinion, or updates about my stories. But I could post about anything, and in that lies the power of the internet for both good, and for want of a better word…evil. (Dramatic music..)

As someone with a background in the health sciences and a keen interest in the world, I’m always fascinated by scientific breakthroughs, new research, and as quite a few of you’ve probably picked up on, feminism.

Yesterday our daughter spoke to me online, feeling very angry. She’s away at university, so online is how we often communicate. (One of the other internet wonders.) A mutual friend had posted an image on Facebook touting the wonders of cashew nuts and promoting them as ‘the same as prozac’ for depression.

Our daughter suffers from severe depression and also anxiety. She has my utmost respect for the way she’s dealt with its onset and management. She’s worked so hard to cope with all the issues associated with the ongoing nature of depression, including managing cold turkey medication changes while far away from family. For anyone with a family member who suffers from depression, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s a hard road. It’s difficult for someone who hasn’t experienced it to understand, but much more difficult for the person suffering through it.

Back to my point – although a well meaning post, the post contained no facts, just hearsay. People who are unwell with any kind of illness are vulnerable. They look for hope, and the internet supplies it – no matter whether that hope is founded in any fact at all. Sometimes the ‘hope’ it supplies is dangerous – as it could have been in that particular case. Someone might see it, believe it and cease their medication, and then tragedy in the form of suicide or a psychotic episode might eventuate.

When we click ‘share,’ ‘favourite’ or ‘like’ we really need to think about what it is we’re validating with our clicks. I try and use the THINK acronym.

T – Is it TRUE?
H – Is it HELPFUL?
I – Is it INTERESTING?
N – Is it NICE?
K – Is it KIND?

As far as medical stuff goes – well in my experience it’s a minefield. Like I said, I”m a health professional when I’m not writing and I have training in evaluating evidence. But unless you have a background that has taught you those things, it can be very difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff.

I’m no mechanic, but although I could ‘google’ car issues if my car had one, it makes much more sense for me to actually take my car to the mechanic. (And given that the last time I ‘fixed’ my bicycle, we had to buy a new one, it’s even more essential.) The car mechanic has the tools, the expertise, and the skill to diagnose and fix my car, so I’ll bow to their superior abilities.

I suggest the same approach to healthcare advice online – take yourself to the Doctor rather than consulting ‘Dr Google’ and think carefully before you ‘like’ or ‘share’ something that may not be fact. You could inadvertently set in place the circumstances for a tragedy.

THINK.


Frontier Resistance Is Now Available for Pre-order

Frontier Resistance, the sequel to Frontier Incursion, is now available for pre-order.

It’s available from Amazon, Kobo, and also Hague Publishing.

You can find the direct links here from Hague Publishing’s blog.

‘The Garsal have landed and Frontier has changed forever. Now Shanna and her friends must master their new gifts that will enable them to seek out the alien invaders before they enslave her world.

On the plateau the Council under Tamazine (the Senior Councillor) allies with the Starlyne race. Only united do the Scouts, their starcats, and the Starlyne have any chance of surviving, but Tamazine’s distrust of the alliance creates a fatal weakness.

Below, the Garsal plot. They need a new pool of human slaves to expand their empire, but first, they must locate the humans already on Frontier and subdue them. Time is running out for both invader and settler, and the outcome hangs in the balance.’


A response to the “Women Against Feminism” thing currently creating waves all over social media.

I’ve had this post percolating for a few weeks, but a few things have distracted me from writing it, but finally, here it is.

Some weeks ago I began to notice the whole ‘Women Against Feminism’ thing taking off. As someone happy to be called a feminist at first I thought it was a joke. But it kept on going. There were all kinds of things popping up.

There’s even a whole Facebook page devoted to ‘Women Against Feminism’ with over 20,000 likers. It’s full of pictures with women holding up signs saying things like ‘I don’t need feminism because feminism is not just about equality, it relies on the assumption that women have it worse – I think women have it better.’ and ‘I don’t need feminism because I just don’t. It should be my choice! What I choose to label myself. Stop forcing your feminist label on me. If feminists are fighting for women to have choices why are they shaming me for rejecting their label?’ and ‘I am done with feminism because I have equality and my own voice.’

There’s a twitter hashtag (#womenagainstfeminism) and pinterest sites, tumblr stuff and whole blog posts, and now I’m writing another one.

I suppose what’s saddened me most is that there are so many young women holding those signs up. I might add that most of those young women appear to be from first world countries. (I may be wrong – feel free to correct me.) But in a week here in Australia when it was reported that the pay gap between genders is now the worst in twenty years, I was wondering why they thought abandoning feminism was appropriate.

My thoughts run in two directions.

Firstly, there are some extremist views amongst the more mainstream feminist views. Simply put, feminism is about equality. It’s not about hating men, but it is about speaking up when inequality occurs and addressing the root causes of it. Sometimes it does mean pointing out that misogyny is at work. Sometimes it means addressing patriarchy, and it nearly always means that the status quo is challenged. However there are without doubt some extremists who hate men, and they should be challenged when they attempt to spread their extremist views. Feminism is most definitely NOT about hating men. It’s about having the same opportunities.

Secondly, somewhere along the line we’ve mixed feminism up with sex. It isn’t and never has been all about sex. To some extent feminism has been about reproductive freedom – the ability to choose when to have a child, or even not to bear children, but it’s not about being overtly sexy in appearance or demeanour, or even the converse of not being sexy in appearance or demeanour – it’s about choice. Some women have abandoned feminism because of these things. Feminism is about equality and choice not sex.

I think what riled me up most of all when I looked at a lot of those placards, was the ranting about choice. I’ll say it again. Feminism is about choice. I’m almost fifty. I grew up as a teenager in the seventies and eighties, when the freedom for a woman to choose to have a career was still new. My own mother had to resign from her job just because she was getting married (1964) – she had no choice about being a working married woman, and she was paid much less than a man in the same job BECAUSE she was a woman. She had no choice.

I do not take the opportunities I’ve had for granted. I am thankful for the bra-burning, ranting feminists of the sixties and seventies who gave me the opportunity of education and a career. They fought for the opportunities that some of these placard holding women take for granted. I am thankful for the feminists who allowed me the vote, so that we have women in politics. I am thankful that I could trail blaze as a female volunteer fire fighter and cliff rescuer so that other women would not feel intimidated but could choose to follow their dreams and make a difference. I am grateful for choice.

I suppose I’ve said ‘I’ a lot in this post, but I’m not unhappy with that. Feminism allows me to speak, write and work as I choose. It has also allowed me to be a stay at home Mum for some years when our children were small, while still allowing me to volunteer in traditionally male emergency service roles.

Even now, feminism motivates me to campaign against the objectification of women, children, and men wherever it occurs. It motivates me to speak out against injustice and poverty because feminism is about equality. It motivates me when I write female characters in my stories, and it motivates me when I write male ones. My novels have themes of equality – not themes of misogyny or misandry and I suspect I’ll never write weak degraded female characters because of feministic influences in my own life, and for that I’m grateful.

In summation, I’m disappointed. Disappointed that women who have choice denigrate those who continue to fight for their choice. Disappointed that they ignore the women who still don’t have choice or equality, and disappointed that they fail to understand what feminism is about. Feminists like normal human beings will not always all agree about everything, but it’s extremely short sighted to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ if you like. Particularly when you’re ranting about choice.

I’ll leave you with a link to a youtube video of Kitty Flanagan discussing this subject. She says it fabulously.


Frontier Resistance Cover!

FrontierResistance400x600-1

Frontier Resistance will be published on the 3rd of October 2014.

The Cover art is once again done by Emma Llewelyn, with titles by Scarlett Rugers.


Release of Frontier Resistance

 

Hague Publishing’s current newsletter has Frontier Resistance slated for release on the third of October 2014! Yay!

Scroll down and check out the beautiful cover art by Emma Llewelyn.


Cultural Moments

We have friends who hail from a variety of countries around the world. More and more I’ve been struck by the differences in our cultures, despite sharing the same first language – English. Even more, I’ve been struck by how often we Australians have done incomprehensible things to English language, which must make it almost impossible to understand us at times.

Years ago, I was part of a group escorting a group of US TV program makers in a remote area. Our senses of humour were quite disparate. It took a few days for us all to ‘connect’ properly. Once we began communicating we learnt a few things.

Apparently Australians speak very quickly, (despite what we might think), and we were insulting each other so frequently that our visitors were a bit concerned. After a few chats, they realised that all was not as it seemed. We were insulting each other because we liked each other. This is not done in all English speaking cultures.

My sister lives in the UK. A while back she was relating a story about her job at the local council. She’d been dealing with an issue on the phone, when the caller paused midstream and said to her “Are you from the Antipodes dear?” My sister paused briefly and then replied. “If you mean Australia, well, then, yes I am.” Her accent had given her away. (Just a note: We Australians do not refer to ourselves as being ‘from the Antipodes’- ever.) We all got the giggles when she told us.

A few years ago, a friend from New Zealand was telling me she’d walked into a deli (delicatessen – a place where all kinds of food is sold) and asked for a ‘pottle’ of chips. The service person gave her a completely blank look and it took some time to explain that a pottle of chips is what we’d call a ‘bucket of chips.’

I was chatting with a Romanian friend years ago. Someone had said “He’s got kangaroos in his top paddock,” to her, and she was wondering what they’d meant. After a friend (who incidentally hailed from Finland but had been in Australia for years) and I explained that it meant that they were implying that the person was a bit crazy, she laughed and said “In Romania, we say ‘bubbles in the head.'” My friend and I then sat down and created a dictionary of Australian slang for our Romanian friend. We discovered that most of our colloquialisms seem to relate to ‘states of mind’ or bodily functions.

It’s not surprising that we have issues communicating at times. Or times when our simplest statements don’t make sense to those from other cultures, causing inadvertent offense. Even our spellings of the same words can be different. I can usually tell where an author comes from by their spellings of different words, or by the way they write their numbers. (One hundred and one vs One hundred one.)

We’re comfortable with the way our culture uses language, but often uncomfortable with the way a different culture uses it. We can misunderstand points of view, or alienate each other accidentally as a result. It’s a tricky road to walk, however it’s enriching, when we take the time to appreciate ‘the local lingo’ and the place where the other person is coming from.

As an Australian who married an ex-New Zealander (he’s had the operation) I have a bit of a unique perspective, so I’ll leave you with this link on How to Speak New Zuland. which is all about accent :)


Thoughts on Editing

I’ve spent the better part of the weekend working my way through Book 3. Frontier Resistance (Book 2 in the Frontier Series) is on its way towards publication, and after completing the first draft of Book 3, I put it away for a rest.

I picked it up again this weekend to re-read and begin the editing process to get it ready for submission. It’s been quite fun to read it after a break. This story ends the trilogy, so it’s been a challenge to write.

I’m very conscious of the issues with trilogies. So often I’ve read a great first book, a good second book, and then an ‘only OK’ third book. I’ve had to remind myself not to be self indulgent, try and make sure the ‘reveal’ is actually a reveal and not a foregone conclusion, and wrap things up nicely.

So far, I’m fairly happy with the first half, but I’m about to find out if the second half works as well as I want it to. That’s the bit that’s been scaring me – have I got it right? It’s a weird thing to try and finalise the story. I’ve always known how it ends, but the getting there has always been a bit of a mystery.

That’s probably a facet of the way I write. I’m a sequential writer, who knows how it starts, and how it finishes, and a bit about how stuff happens in the middle. Just not all of it. And then there’s the moment that you realise that what you thought was going to happen isn’t. And you have to rethink a whole pile of stuff.

Anyway, this is a bit off topic, so back to business. I’ve found a few bits of writing that I’m really proud of, and other bits that may require a bit more tweaking. At the moment I’m working chapter by chapter, and incorporating each new chapter into one document. During the first draft, I save each chapter individually. It’s only when I get to this point that I stick all of them together, and after I’ve finished reading them, I’ll put them away for another couple of weeks and then read the whole thing through.

I always find it amazing just how many little teeny weeny errors creep in. Little formatting or spelling errors, misplaced words, a thread that doesn’t quite hold together, or just a piece of writing that doesn’t quite work.

It’s a process that takes time and effort, and one that is really important – just as important as the initial writing. It’s the polishing that turns a fairly decent story into a better one.

I’m reminded of how many times school teachers tell kids that the first draft isn’t the final one. Now I understand it. Then, I thought it was just an annoying waste of time. Now I wish I was better at it!

Anyway, my fingers are falling off, and it’s time to let the brain have a rest.


Tomorrow

Tomorrow

That stupid song from Annie.
It’s been going around and around inside my head since my writers group decided on the theme. I liked the idea of ‘Tomorrow’ when we talked about it last month. Initial thoughts of spaceships and super-cool technology flashed past my eyes when I first heard it, because, hey, I write Science Fiction!

And then the banal music began its march of sparkly colours through my mind and covered the images with mud. Aargh!

So, instead of five hundred words of scintillating prose that tell a world breaking story of future adventure and hope for the future, you get to hear me rant through the fixed smiles and bared teeth of that song from ‘Annie.’
As I write, all I can hear with my mind’s ear is ‘Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow, you’re only a day away…” All I see, is a small, redheaded child wandering around on stage with a fluffy doggy, eyes fixed on her dreams (or at least her pseudo-dreams), pulling emotion from the theatre going crowd with her voice, so that they drip tears into their handkerchiefs.

And then my mind is drawn away from the magic of theatre, with its ability to place ideas and hopes in front of audiences sitting happily in their well-fed chairs, while feeling more emotion for fiction than they do reading the morning news.

The morning news. That harsh reality that tells not of Tomorrow, but of Yesterday and Today. That tells of the hopes and dreams and sorrows of many. That should move us to think, to help and to hope with our fellow humans, yet so often passes us by. That news, that speaks of real people, whose lives and despairs should move us to tears, but so often doesn’t. That news that tells us of so many whose ‘Tomorrows’ have been cut from the future, or whose ‘Tomorrows’ will be unending days of fear and persecution.

‘Tomorrow.’ Only a day away, yet so, so far away for so many. Yet, despite it’s banality, ‘The Annie Song’ has a context of hope. And that’s why it moves the audience, why it elicits real emotion.

“How can we turn the morning news to a context of hope?” You might ask.
“Get off your bottom,” I might reply. Choose to stand up and make a difference. Read the news, see the people, remember they’re real. Much more real than the fictional characters who’ve already moved us to tears. Let the power of their stories move us more deeply than the unreal, and work to make sure they have ‘Tomorrow.’


The Bravery of Ian Thorpe

As I write, I’m watching Ian Thorpe’s interview with Michael Parkinson. I’ve always loved to watch swimming. I swam competitively myself, not at a particularly high level, but high enough to understand what he meant when he talked about ‘having a relationship’ with the water. Our kids swam, and the swimming is the one bit of the Olympic Games that I love, and I watched his victories in the pool with great enjoyment.

For the last forty minutes, Ian Thorpe has spoken about his life as a swimmer, his relationship with the water, coming out as gay, and more importantly, how he’s been living with depression since his childhood.

The interview has been promoted heavily, with nearly all of the advertising focusing on the ‘Are You Gay Question.’

I wasn’t sure if I’d watch it, but I have, and I’ve been astonished at Ian Thorpe’s honesty, integrity, and most of all, bravery.

Mental illness is a horrible thing and an enormous struggle for so many. Depression affects not only the depressed, but all of those around them, and is often misunderstood by well meaning friends and family, which makes it even harder for the person dealing with it in their life. Ian Thorpe has spoken so frankly about his struggles, that I’m sure his story has resonated strongly with many.

Mental illness is common, but often hidden. At Continuum X, the Sci-fi convention I attended recently in Melbourne, a very brave group of people put themselves out there and allowed authors and others to question them about their sexuality, their lives and mental illnesses so that one day, we might write characters experiencing those things and get it right. I’m still astounded that they were so brave.

I’ve just watched the Australian 4*100m freestyle relay team win Olympic Gold, while reliving it through Ian’s commentary. So much elation, national pride, and joy. Well done Ian Thorpe, and best wishes for your future. Thank you for talking so frankly about your struggles with mental illness.

 

 


Ethics and the Internet

I’ve been pondering ethics today. Ethics and truth, to be precise. There’s a bit in the Bible I rather like, which says ‘let your yes be yes, and your no be no’ – it’s in a bit where Jesus is talking about oaths – or ‘swearing by something.’

I like it, because it is about ultimate integrity and honesty. In the ideal world someone’s word would be completely trustworthy, and there would be no misinformation, complete understanding and no misinterpretation.

Sounds great.

Sometimes I engage in discussions on Facebook about things that I feel passionately about. Today I did so, and had possibly the most bizarre discussion I’ve ever participated in. It ended up with one of the other participants suggesting that I needed to be exorcised. Not usually how I finish a discussion.

It led me to ponder on the internet and the wonderful place that it can be, as well as the dangerous place it can be, when attempting to source reliable information.

In my part-time job as a physio, I often have to explain to people that their self diagnosis, aided by ‘Dr Google’ is wrong, and then I have to explain why. I’m also having to spend more and more time explaining that the weird treatment they think they’d like isn’t appropriate, and why the explanation that they’ve read is anatomically and physically impossible.

There’s a fine line between plausible sounding information and reality. The biggest difficulty in explaining stuff is the limitations placed on people by a science deficient education. Basic chemistry and biology seem to have passed many people by. It’s a problem, and makes them an easy target for expensive yet ineffective treatments for improbable injuries or illnesses.

On the internet, anyone can say anything, without any need to back it up with evidence. That’s when yeses and nos can mean anything, and the vulnerable preyed upon. Add to that, the preponderance of trolls who spam threads and abuse people they don’t agree with.

It’s not an ideal world, but we can choose to communicate with integrity and and honesty. We can choose to source our information carefully, and look for the evidence and we can choose politeness over snarky trolling.

I think I’ll keep crusading, occasionally embarrassing our kids as I do it, but hopefully working on making sure my yeses and nos are clearly spoken.


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