Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Duotrope and Grinder.

We're a couple of months into 2013 and I'm coping without Duotrope.

For those late to the game, Duotrope is a market and submission manager for writers. I've used it for the past couple of years and made every effort to ensure my statistics were accurate. I've even donated money to the project.  As of January, they have decided to operate on a subscription basis - no pay, no access.

While I fully understand the operators' need to do this, as well as their right to run the site any way they see fit, I was disappointed at the cost.  $50 a year may not seem like much, but if I were to tally my writing income over the past four years and deducted an imagined $200 Duotrope cost for that same period, I would have spent about as much  on Duotrope as I'd earned.

Yes, I found it useful, and yes, I might join up once my earnings become somewhat more than they are now. But so far I've been able to find everything I need elsewhere online.

Diabolical Plots run an alternative, The Submission Grinder, that seems to borrow heavily from the Duotrope layout. The only downside is it doesn't have anywhere near as much information or useable data yet. Hopefully that will improve as time goes by.

Please, I am not attacking Duotrope for their decision and practices. I'm simply disappointed that I can't justify paying the charges they have set.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Things That Went Bump In The Night.

I spent the weekend at Aradale as part of the AHWA Creative Retreat. It was fantastic to finally meet up with people I'd met online as well as new people. And, to top it all off, we got to spend quality time together exploring these amazing old buildings.

Aradale, a deserted asylum from the 1860s, has a reputation as one of the most haunted locations in Australia. As with most 19th Century institutions, there are many stories of pain, a history of suffering and abuse. But we need to always remember that there is also a history of love and caring as well. We were fortunate enough to bump into a woman in town who'd spent twelve years working there as a psychiatric nurse, and I thank her for the stories she shared with us.

Along for the weekend we had members of the Australian Paranormal Society who undertook investigations. They were a couple of great guys who took pains to ensure their investigation was as scientific and thorough as possible. All natural causes are considered first. Always.

Despite that, it seems they managed to get some great readings, as well as some anecdotal encounters from the weekend. I also suspect they have a lot of audio and video to work through.

I didn't see a ghost, but I did have three minor experiences that I cannot logically explain - one physical, two audible. And I have to admit that the atmosphere, the history, the reputation and my own anticipation and expectations made me look for things to happen. And yet, if I remove every single possibility, there is still one incident that cannot be explained in any way.

And I know of great stories that happened to those around me.

Even if none of it ever really is supernatural, it was a fantastic experience and opportunity to meet up with other writers in the realm in which we write.

Thanks to my fellow attendees for sharing the experience, Nathanial and Adam at Aradale Ghost Tours for leading us through the weekend, Bill and Lionel from Australian Paranormal Society for their efforts, and mostly to GNBraun (and family) for the organisation and leadership.

See you next year, I hope.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


My wife and I spent the weekend in Tassie - Hobart, to be precise - and we had a fabulous time.

The food and wine was excellent and the weather was perfect. The accommodation and flights were paid for by Jacob's Creek for buying a few specially marked bottles. And there were no complaints there.

We did a lot during our visit. We walked a lot, took a river cruise and visited MONA.

From my understanding, MONA was started by a self-made millionaire (through gambling, of all things) originally to house his own art collection, and then to give back to the community. He employs around 300 people, receives no government funds, promotes the arts and has won numerous tourism awards.

Certain exhibits are quite confronting and not to my taste. Some I considered to be simply shocking for shock's sake. There was enough, however, that I enjoyed to make the visit worthwhile. And it's great to see such a supportive patron of the arts.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Year Of The Snake.

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Happy New Year to all my Chinese friends.  It's the year of the snake, and I've been trying to work out exactly what that means for us.

In Christian beliefs, the snake is the serpent representing Satan.  It seems, though, that snakes generally have a bad reputation where ever you go. From my limited understanding of Chinese mythology, it seems as though the snake has some positive and negative traits.

After an internet search, I must admit I'm not a whole lot clearer on what this implies for 2013.  But whatever the astrology might suggest, I certainly wish you nothing but the best.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Life In The Future.

I was teaching one of my junior classes last week, and once again it hit me exactly how much has changed since I was in their place.  And I mean that quite literally.  I was a student at the school in which I currently teach.

My students live in a digital world. They have different social behaviours, pressures, expectations, forms of relaxation, hobbies, attitudes, knowledge and values.  Not wrong, just different.

When I was younger, much of the SF predicted a future with rockets, jetpacks and hovercars. Most of that stuff has yet to come true, but I suddenly realised this week that stuff is the superficial stuff. It was the stuff those earlier writers extrapolated from their current technology. But what was more important was how humans lived, interacted and behaved - not their methods of transport.

Over the past few years there has been an increase in the amount of fantasy read by my students against the amount of science fiction. And I have a theory for this. When I was a kid, worlds with robots and rockets were the unreal - an escape from my everyday life. Now, in a world where we have robots, vast quantities of information at our fingertips and craft on other planets, none of the science fiction I read as a kid is an escape for my students - it's their world.  Fantasy, on the other hand, is an escape for them.

Of course the big difference between me and them, now and then, is that we had a better soundtrack.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


I've been back at school for more than a week now and it's been insanely busy.

Usually I feel as though I ease my way into first term, but for some reason there hasn't been the opportunity to do that. The classes I have are fabulous. I'm truly looking forward to spending this year with these kids. I'm already seeing students responding to these classes.

It's the other stuff, the things and events on the periphery that's using up any free time I have. And all of it seems to be converging at the moment. Not just at work, but out in the 'real' world too.

Don't get me wrong, none of this is bad stuff - just busy stuff that all demands my attention now.

And some of it is excellent.  I'd just prefer it if life could sometimes pace these things for me.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

I Remember When I Was Young.

When I was younger and the world was still black and white and dinosaurs ruled the earth, I used to venture out on the weekend to see live bands.

There ain't nothing quite like the feeling of watching musicians on stage and letting their music flow over you. Several bands from that era stand out in my mind. Tinsley Waterhouse Band was a group of blues players. They were the first band I ever saw where I recognised the rhythm section locking in - drums and bass thumping and driving the whole thing. Another was Reverend Blues and the Blues Messengers. John Santos (ex-Kush) was their musical director, and boy, did they have a great horn section.

Around the same time I used to head down to Carlton to see Tansey's Fancy, a Sydney group who specialised in folk. I suppose now it would be called Medieval World music.

None of these ever became household names, although I recently learned Mara from Tansey's Fancy is still performing, teaching and is doing quite well. But these are the artists who defined that period of time for me.

I've seen Collard, Greens and Gravy a few times (and they are excellent) but generally I'm out of touch with the live blues scene. Are there any great blues bands playing in Melbourne these days?