Hi! It seems like ages since I last posted. That’s partly because life is, as ever, a merry-go-round that’s spinning slightly too fast for comfort. Partly because I’ve been feeling just a tiny bit cynical about the cyber-spin of social media: the flash card life of Twitter, Facebook and even this blog. I’m sure I’ll dive in again soon as whole-heartedly as ever, but for now here’s a few lines I penned on the subject.


Strut upon the stage

of social media

An electronic confection

as flimsy and addictive

as spun sugar.


Masked and blinded

shout into the darkness

Here is my soul

but not my real face –

Desperate for approval


Cyber cocooned

the intangible audience

Each one misled

A galaxy of unfound stars

Wit and thought pulped –

by repetition.

Welsh cakes

March 1st is St David’s Day – the patron saint of Wales. I am perhaps a little late, but being Welsh-born I celebrated today by making Welsh Cakes for the first time.

In my memory, my mother always made Welsh Cakes on St. David’s Day, and on various other days, although this is probably the gilding of time. However, I can tell you that I loved them, and ate them in gluttonous quantities, for they are what my partner describes as ‘very more-ish’. For those of you know don’t know – they are small flat cakes – perhaps more like pikelets – full of currants, which are cooked on a griddle.

Mine don’t look quite like this…these must be the caucasian version.

Making them proved rather more time consuming than when I recall my mother doing it, which I suppose is true of a lot of the things in childhood. However, it made me happy for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, it was nice to be doing something for relaxation – it’s been rather busy of late, as evidenced by my atrocious lack of attention to my blog lately.

Also, we don’t have a lot in the way of family traditions, but I like the idea of passing along the enjoyment of Welsh cakes to my lad, who has a Welsh name. I can report that he likes them just as gluttonously as I.

Finally, as I rubbed in the butter and rolled out the dough, I found the words from that great Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, trickling through my mind.

Evans the Death, the undertaker,
laughs high and aloud in his sleep and curls up his toes as
he sees, upon waking fifty years ago, snow lie deep on the
goosefield behind the sleeping house ; and he runs out into
the field where his mother is making welsh-cakes in the
snow, and steals a fistful of snowflakes and currants and
climbs back to bed to eat them cold and sweet under the
warm, white clothes while his mother dances in the snow
kitchen crying out for her lost currants.

I’m sure I’ll be making them again in the future. They are delicious, even if mine did come out just like my mother used to bake – slightly burnt!

What are your family traditions? Do any of them have links to literature? Would love to hear about them. 🙂

Cover reveal! Milk of Female Kindness

Finally, I can reveal to the world the face of all our hard work over the last year! Drum roll please….

Here is the cover of our anthology of honest stories about motherhood – ‘The Milk of Female Kindness’.

MOFK COVER front final

The Anthology is a collection of the work of twenty-eight women from around the world, who have been brave enough to write honestly about their experiences of motherhood. I’d like to extend my most sincere thanks to all the contributors. It has been an honour working with such an inspiring group of people! 🙂

Unlike most other books on the subject, we have a creative focus – there is artwork, poetry, short fiction, essays and interviews.

The collection is deliberately diverse, in all senses. All stages of motherhood are reflected, and really the aim is to broaden the range of stories out there, and allow women to think for themselves what it means to be a mother, rather than relying on the shallow and market focused roles that the media might like to push us into. You may disagree with some of the work: others pieces will resonate with you. Whatever happens, it will make you think more deeply about being a parent.

The book will be released in paperback first, with e-book to follow soon after. Stay tuned for developments!

Fighting the Boredom Beast

office_boredomI’m back at work now, pretending to be all grown up. My partner is taking some time off his work to be a full-time Dad, which is wonderful for us all. I can go to work knowing that my lad (who we have dubbed The Beast) is going to have a fun day, and my partner gets some time with our little guy while he’s still little, which is something I suspect many dads miss out on.Sounds great, right?

It is, and yet, and yet…

I suppose it’s part of human nature to not be able to bask in the glow of contentment for long. Don’t get me wrong – I know I am incredibly lucky, in so many ways which I won’t enumerate here. But take yesterday, as an example. The chaps went to Healesville Sanctuary, and had a lovely time looking at Australian animals in the sunshine. I was bored out of my brain behind a computer terminal. Work just isn’t that interesting. It’s a ridiculously middle class, privileged viewpoint, but I’m interested in discussing what the implications of that boredom are.

I remember quite clearly that in all honesty, I was pretty bored some days when I was at home full time with The Beast, as well. Am I easily bored? My mother would say so, but left to my own devices, I am more than competent at filling in a day. There are an awful lot of things which I’d like to be doing, which engage me and which I can totally lose myself in. The experts apparently call this state ‘flow’.

I watched a documentary on the weekend about the pursuit of happiness, and how having a profession where you are in a state of ‘flow’ much of the time is a big help. All of us who write, or paint, or draw, know that blissful feeling of being carried away to the extent that you forget to eat, and hours zoom by win the blink of an eye. Some people get it through running, or cooking. It is, in many ways, the antithesis of boredom. Instead of time dragging, it evaporates. You emerge tousled, exhausted, and yet joyful.

It’s for this reason that I can’t take on board the prescribed wisdom that to write, you must do so every day, whether you feel like it or not. For me, creativity is a great form of pleasure, and one which should be indulged as a spoilt child – frequently, frivolously, and without imposed rules and schedules.

What are your thoughts? Is being bored a privileged position? Is it necessary to experience boredom to appreciate the joy of ‘flow’?

The struggle

is the atheist’s dilemma
So many babbling mouths
and bubbling minds
and stories
So many.
Billions conceived
and inconceivable.
Arrogant insanity
to think one might be special
A bittersweet paradox
One life must be
intricately worked
To pretend purpose
Bare of the comfort
Of a conveniently omniscient God.

Matter of Opinion

I’m back at work now, which is odd. It’s rather like everyone has been in stasis for the year while so many things have changed in my own life.

There is one person who had some news for me though – he and his partner will be expecting a baby about the same time that my lad turns one. We had a chat about it over lunch one day, as even though he’s already a father, it’s been a long time since he had a baby around. And I’m embarrassed to say that I ended up giving him a bit of an ear bashing. Probably not guaranteed to win friends and influence people when you’re newly back into the fold.

What got me going was his attitude to having a baby. He started spouting opinions like “I think women who don’t breastfeed are just bottle feeding for their own convenience,” and “I don’t believe in sending a child to be cared for by strangers.” He’s entitled to his opinion, of course, and to express his thoughts about raising his own child,  but what got my back up is that both these positions cannot help but have serious implications for his partner, unless she tells him to go jump. If she shares them – fine. It seemed to me that he was making decisions for her which would affect her body, identity and career, and that’s not on in my book.

So I told him what I thought, and knew from other mothers I’d been speaking to. At length, although thankfully not at volume as I’m pretty quiet.


Don’t get me wrong. I’m not always forcing my own ideas down other people’s throats, and I sincerely hope that he didn’t take it in that spirit. That said, when I was about nine, a woman came to the house to ask my mother’s opinions about development of our area. I had thoughts of my own, and let her know them. As she left, she said to my mother, “She’s very…articulate, isn’t she?” Mum decoded this euphemism to mean that I was highly opinionated.

Which leads me to ponder the different books I’ve worked on. My novel, ‘The Artemis Effect’, and the short story collection I’m working on are just fun for me. They’re escapism – a telling of the tales which bubble up in my head. But the Anthology, ‘The Milk of Female Kindness’ is different. It’s an honest account of motherhood – sharing the real story, from real women. Someone commented on this blog recently that there are strong parallels between my novel and the anthology, in that they both deal with some of the same issues. This is true, but more of a coincidence than anything else.

The Anthology is where my passionate, opinionated nature erupts forth. I am, as the lady years ago noted, at my most articulate when moved by a subject I care deeply about. It’s a very good thing that there are so many other women involved in ‘The Milk of Female Kindness’, as otherwise it could become my personal rant, and as I’m pretty new to this whole motherhood thing, that could end up being spectacularly ill-informed! It is deliberately diverse, so that we can all have a rant! 🙂

Hopefully, hearing the stories and opinions of so many different people will allow people reading the book to make up their own minds. It’s a complicated and often ambiguous area, and no-one should have to have a single person’s views forced upon them. Fingers crossed, the partner of my workmate will be thinking for herself.

A different WIP

For the last few months, I’ve been a busy bod. Not only have I been looking after my tiny son, designing gardens and trying to keep myself sane and fed, but I’ve also had two writing works in progress.

One of them is my short story collection, which I have mentioned fleetingly on this blog, and which is well underway. Like my novel, ‘The Artemis Effect’, it is loosely defined as science fiction, but with more stories leaning perhaps more towards the quirky than traditional scifi. No doubt I’ll blog about it more as it develops and grows.

The other is a project which doesn’t really fit into the loose themes I’ve established in this blog, which is why I haven’t chatted about it before. However, it is really stretching me as a writer and so that journey could be worth discussing.

The new work is an anthology, bringing together many talented writers and artists. In a complete departure from my other work, all the pieces will be discussing motherhood, in its glorious complexity and with frightening honesty. The journey started when I became a mum, and found that it’s a relationship that is dealt with very shallowly in popular media. Now that I have a baby, apparently I am only now interested in nappies, shopping and my post baby body. Other women I have discussed this with tell me that the conversation doesn’t really improve as our children grow.

The more I started to look into it, the angrier I became. The density of information which descends, most of it unsubstantiated, seems calculated to bewilder and pressure mothers. That the best role model we can aspire to is apparently a ‘yummy mummy’ I find patronising and frankly rather offensive. The genuinely complex feelings we have around raising children are sometimes blanketed by a sentimentality which stifles a real discussion.

So – we’re trying to put together an alternative viewpoint. I’m gathering work from women with a whole range of different experiences, from all stages of the motherhood. There will the essays, artwork, poetry and interviews.

I’m learning lots of new skills, and it looks like it will be a hell of a ride, rather like motherhood itself, but both will no doubt be eventful journeys!

Cultural sensitivities

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that all English-speaking places have more or less the same take on things, but I am occasionally reminded of the advice that was given to someone I know when they were moving to the U.S.:

It will be easier if you think of Americans as aliens who speak English.

I realise that this may be an incendiary comment to some people, but the logic behind it is reasonably sensible. There are undeniable cultural differences between nations, and trying to pretend that we are all the same might not only make you miserable when you can’t understand why people react or act in a certain way, but also denies the richness and diversity of all those nations. How dull would it be if we really were all the same?

However, as an author, there are certain pitfalls which I think it pays to be aware of, even if we decide to ignore them.

In my novel, The Artemis Effect, I chose to set the story in three nations: Australia, the U.S. and Britain. Now, as I live in Australia, I was fairly confident of not tripping up too badly there. The others I felt I had to be more careful with, even though I have lived for years in the UK, and have spent a fair bit of time in America. Only my readers will be able to advise me how badly I screwed up the cultural mores of those places.;)

One of the first pieces of feedback I received when the book came out was from a distant relative in New York. She said that she really enjoyed the book, but had to decipher some of the terms I’d used, such as ‘the boot of the car’ (as trunk). Now this was something that my editor and me thought about carefully when we were finishing the book, as it is available in the US. Should we Americanize the spelling and vocabulary? I know that many authors do, and I’ve read specific reference from Neil Gaiman that he has assistance to do this, and so doesn’t accidentally call a ‘sidewalk’ a ‘footpath’. In our case, we decided that as we were unlikely to be able to pick up everything, it was best to stick to Australian spelling and vocabulary except where absolutely necessary. The risk of doing it so that it didn’t read properly in either nation was too great.

Another book I’ve read recently has a different cultural issue: that of humour. Now everyone has a different sense of humour, and some poor people have none at all. However, as a gross generalisation, there are cultural differences in humour, although they are probably getting increasingly blurred as mass media makes everything available to everyone. However, in my eyes at least, the Brits often have a blacker sense of humour than the rest of us, and Australians have quite a dry sense of humour. The book I mentioned above, although beautifully written, had what seemed to me quite an American sense of humour. I could see that it was funny, but it just didn’t make me spontaneously hoot and snort with laughter.

Even countries as culturally close as Australia and New Zealand have different vocabulary, and of course we have great fun mocking one another’s accents. Fush and chups, anyone? A casual kiwi I used to work with, who always wore those shoes made of flat rubber to work, strenuously denied that he wore ‘thongs’. He said that a thong wouldn’t suit him (as in skimpy underwear), but he liked his ‘flip flops’. Likewise, no Australian talks about ‘jandals’, ‘trundlers’ or ‘chilly bins’. To us, they are ‘sandals’, ‘trolleys’ and ‘eskis’. I’m not 100% sure what an eski is to someone from the U.S., but I can tell you that the term ‘fanny bag’ makes anyone from Australia or Britain blush.

What can we do as authors in an increasingly international book market? We could have different editions for each country I suppose, with suitable vocabulary and grammar, but the amount of work would be phenomenal.

Vive la difference, I say.

Monster in training

A poem inspired by my experiences on public transport…

My fellow commuters

If you were a beast,

What a strange one you would be!

Fish breathed and stinking of perfume,

straddled legged and hard kneed.

Slumping into slumber, while standing,

or comfortably on someones shoulder.

Rubbing your bottom against my shoulder

and fragrantly farting in my face.

Talking loudly to yourself

and turning the air blue,

Bleeding scarlet pinpoints on the floor.

Throwing yourself against the windows

Doing chin-ups on the handgrips.

Singing out loud, and

kindly sharing your music,

whether we want it or not.

Resting your newspaper

on top of my head, and

your laptop comfortably

on my knees.

Shovelling your food,

Slopping your drink and

filling the air with greasy aromas.

Picking your nose, and

wiping the results carefully

on the handgrips.

The more multitudinous you become

The more legs, and mouths and bottoms you have,

And yet how scarce your brains.