Archive for the 'Family' Category

Pamela wins an Aurealis

February 13th, 2010
 
Victor's Challenge

Victor’s Challenge
Walker Books 2009

The Australia Day weekend is the time for the annual Aurealis Awards for Australian science fiction/fantasy/horror writing.

Pamela was shortlisted in the best children’s (8-12 years)
short fiction/illustrated work/picture book
for Victor’s Challenge, continuing the story of the nice but stupid prince, Victor whom we first met in Victor’s Quest.

As you can probably tell from the title of this post, she won and from a very strong field.

The rather ghostly photo shows her acceptance speech.

Congratulations to the judges for recognising Pamela’s wonderful writing. And congratulations to the author for a really great children’s book.

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Home Alone

April 30th, 2009

Earlier this month, Pamela and Robert took a trip out to see Lake Eyre which has recently had one of its occasional (every ten years) fill of water. Pamela figured it was worth going to see and she even managed to convince her publisher to do a book on it, thus paying for the trip via the advance and the tax deductions. Unfortunately, I had to work so I had the house to myself for about ten days.

It’s the first time since we were married that this event has occurred. One of us has always been at home with Robert or else the whole family has been travelling. But now he is getting older so this becomes less important. Anyway, it was an odd experience.

They flew out on the Saturday morning so I had the weekend to myself although I had to go up to Gosford twice to see my father. Saturday night was good – it felt almost luxurious to have the place to myself. However, we had arranged to get painters in during the week because Pamela gets very sick from fresh paint so it made sense to do it while she was away. Sunday therefore was spent packing stuff away and moving furniture away from the walls (and driving to Gosford and back).

The painters arrived at 7:00am on the Monday and it was at this point everything went downhill. There is something very intrusive about having strangers trample all over your house. Add to this no curtains on the windows (because of the painting) and the consequent being on display to the world and it all starts to feel a bit uncomfortable. Fortunately, we have an attic room so I made a little bed from an old matress and camped up there. It provided a bit of personal space and made a big difference.

Pamela and Robert are back now and they had a wonderful time. We’ll post some photos in due course. It is great to have them back.

Next time this happens, there will be no painters…

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Frying Flute Flies

February 1st, 2009

Last night Pamela, Robert and I went to see the Flying Fruit Fly circus at the Parramatta Riverside Theater. Try saying Flying Fruit Flies three times quickly.

If you have never heard of them, they are a circus where all the performers are kids between 10 and 17. The FFF has a circus skills school and this is where they get to show off their skills.

They aren’t too bad at all. Occasionally you get a glitch where someone doesn’t quite manage the somersault through the two skipping ropes but they usually make it on the second try. This is fair enough for a mixed bunch of kids with different levels of skill.

Some of them are really good. My personal favourite was the guy upside down on a 30ft vertical pole who suddenly slides down the pole stopping himself by gripping with his legs just before his head hits the matting. His head wasn’t noticeably flat but he must have clobbered himself in practice once or twice.

So it was good but I have a serious complaint with regard to the way it connected with its audience, quite a lot of whom were young children. They wrapped a story around their skills (a perfectly legitimate and venerable device) but their choice of story was unsuited to their audience.

Basically it consisted of a young boy in the Outback. The first scene is his birthday party which is an excuse for some fun tumbling. However, then it all goes wrong, his father is killed in a bushfire and he ends up in the city – apparently with no-one to meet him off the train.

It takes off into fantasy at this point where he becomes a boy elephant trainer (whose father dies – this time of sickness) in a travelling circus. The circus is sold and he is the only one not taken on by the new owner. The circus people sneak him aboard the ship they are taking but the ship gets wrecked in a storm.

This was the first half. I’m not sure what happened in the second half because Robert couldn’t take it any more. He liked the circus bits but all this stuff about death of fathers and abandonment was more than he could handle and fair enough too. It wasn’t what any of us went to see.

I suspect the kids had a lot to do with writing the story. These are the sorts of concerns that interest adolescents and make good stories but they are not suitable for seven year-old kids – or at least not the subset of them to which Robert belongs.

It was a great pity. With a more cheerful story, Robert would have had a great time and gone home inspired to join a circus. Instead, we missed half the show and he had nightmares. I think I might have to write them a little note for next time.

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That was the year that was

January 2nd, 2009

Well, here we are in 2009 so I guess we survived another year. 2008 started much like any other year – I wrote a post just like this one. Probably I watched some cricket.

Speaking of which, the current South African tourists have been putting the feline among the avians of Australian cricket. Australia, in the manner beloved of our British ancestors, has twice snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. At the WACA they allowed the South Africans to chase down a total of 414 and at the MCG they allowed them, in the first innings, to recover from being 210 runs behind with 7 wickets down to a lead of 66.

There has been much finger-pointing, particularly at the selectors who insist on playing out-of-form and injured senior players. They might as well have let Andrew Symonds go fishing for all the difference he made. I’ve never been convinced that Ponting has been a great captain (let’s face it – I could have won with McGrath, Warne and Gilchrist on my team) but I’m not sure he deserves the amount of mud being flung at him.

But I digress. The first few months of the year drifted along. Robert went into the first grade at school, played a bit of cricket, did some ice-skating and so forth. Pamela and I went to see a bizarre production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (see The Bard from Bengal) which was performed in about 12 languages, only one of which was English. I created yet another website (pascalbonenfant.com) to support my 18th century research and my still-to-be-published novel (of which more later).

In point of fact, I started two new websites but the other one is in a secret identity so I can’t tell you about it. Basically, I’ve started a book review site but didn’t want to do it in my own name so I’ve created a pseudonym. This is partly so that I can give glowing reviews to Pamela’s books (ahem) but also because I was interested in creating a fake identity online. I even opened a Facebook page for said identity but the problem with that is that Facebook is rather boring – particularly if you don’t actually exist. I may reveal this identity sometime over the next year but then again I may not. That’s the good thing about secrets.

In May life got really hectic as we went for a four-week trip overseas. My sister and brother-in-law very kindly lent us their London flat in which we spent a couple of weeks. Pamela visited her British publishers and we visited family and did touristy things. Then on to New York and Madison, Wisconsin for a Science Fiction convention (Wiscon). Then Disneyland (which was interesting but slightly disappointing – just another theme park really even if it was the first) and then, finally, Sydney and home. My health was indifferent (I spent at least part of the trip on antibiotics) and it left me exhausted but it was worth doing.

Things got a fair bit quieter after that. We took Robert to a gymnastics competition in Newcastle which was a qualifier for the NSW State championships. Robert’s team all qualified and they went on to do well in the State competitions in August (no individual medals but they came second overall in their age group).

Also in August, Pamela went across the WorldCon in Denver (see temporary single dad). It is the sort of thing she needs to do to promote herself as an author but apparently it was hard yakka and she probably won’t go to the 2009 version. The fact that it is being held in the industrial town of Bradford in the north of England may also have something to do with that decision.

Oh yes, my writing project. It turns out it wasn’t really as ready as I thought and needed drastic surgery. After due consultation with my resident expert I chopped out about 25,000 words and started re-writing again. Once again, it is nearing completion. It is, I am obliged to confess, a much better book as a result. This year for sure (maybe).

Pamela’s writing is going much better. She is re-drafting the third book of the trilogy (Full Circle) based on her publishers comments. This goes back to them in February and will be appearing in the shops about August/September. She has a contract for another book set about 20 years later in the same universe. She has sold the fantasy stuff to Germany, France and Spain. She has a new children’s book (Victor’s Challenge) coming out which is also being published in the UK and possibly the USA (negotiations continuing). One way or another, that is all going well.

So what’s happening in 2009? A lot of it will be more of the same – we aren’t planning any major events. Robert goes into second grade. He will continue with cricket, soccer and gymnastics as he enjoys all of them and it keeps him very fit. Pamela will continue to write and publish. I will re-write my book again. I will continue to go to work. Anything more will be reported as it happens.

Happy New Year!

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Time in Rieu

November 29th, 2008

On Thursday night, I took my mother to see an André Rieu concert at the Olympic Stadium. She is something of a fan of his so it seemed a good thing to do for her birthday. In case you have never heard of him he is a violinist and entertainer.

Whatever else might be said about him, André certainly understands big. His ‘stage’ was a full-sized reproduction of the facade of a Venetian palace. On the upper floor, above the orchestra, was a dance floor where the Viennese ballet danced several numbers. There were ice-rinks in front of the wings where ice-skaters (I’m not sure of their nationality) skated in counterpoint to the dances. There was even, at one point, a carriage drawn by six white horses doing a lap of the arena. Four very large video screens were mounted on the front of the facade.

It is the presence of these screens which gives away the major problem – the Olympic Stadium is big. Big enough for Olympic events and games of football. Big enough, indeed, for the facade of a Venetian palace.

We were in the reasonably cheap seats in the middle of the football pitch. The orchestra stage was raised so you could see them OK although you only saw the top half of the ice-skaters. But although you could see the orchestra they looked tiny. More expensive seats were available back up in the stands but one side of the stadium is a long way from the other side so, while you would have been able to look down on the stage a bit, everyone would have looked very small indeed. Only the really expensive seats just in front of the stage would have had anything like a good view.

So you ended up looking at the giant screens a lot. There is no doubt the camera-work was excellent – he has been touring a long time now and it was a slick act. Everyone in the orchestra smiled and laughed a lot – possibly a bit strained in places but very professional. There was friendly mucking about and André is a good entertainer who kept the crowd with him.

I liked the music too. There is nothing inherently wrong with tunes you can hum and we got a lot of the well-known classics. There was even an Andrew Lloyd Webber number and while this is one more than I would included, I could put up with it.

The forecast thunderstorms never materialised (a good thing when you are seated in the middle of the arena) and it was a pleasant evening. By leaving before the encores finished we even managed a quick getaway rather than having to fight the crowd of 20,000 and the inevitable traffic jams.

But somehow, when the music has of necessity been heavily amplified (and the stadium was not built with acoustics as a primary design feature) and when you have to watch the video screens in order to properly see what is going on, you can’t help wondering if you might be better just buying the DVD and watching it in comfort.

I don’t regret doing it and we both enjoyed it but I don’t think either of us would do it again.

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Cirque du soleil – Dralion

August 24th, 2008

Cirque du Soleil
Back in October 2006 we went to the Cirque du Soleil courtesy of some of Pamela’s relatives. We enjoyed it so much we decided to go again when it returned to Australia with Dralion.

Our seats this time were not right next to the stage which was actually a good thing because we didn’t have to look up all the time. We were partially obscured by a light tower but there were unoccupied seats right at the back which were not so we appropriated them.

Cirque du Soleil is a wonderful circus. It has no animal acts – it is all about human skills. These are pretty extraordinary. The highlight for me was the hoop jumpers with a whole troop jumping singly and seriatim through a tower of vertical hoops. There was a pretty impressive trampolining act as well although having seen more gymnastics via Robert I was probably less impressed than I would have been two years ago.

In fact the whole thing was slightly down on last time. The trampolining did not match up to the equivalent act with swings last time. The clowns were ok but I didn’t get the side-splitting laughs that I got from one of the acts last time. The set wasn’t quite as spectacular either.

Having said that, we still had a great time. Robert got slightly bored in the first half where a lot of the acts were impressive but more a matter of slow control than spectacle. He picked up in the second half where there was more movement.

Will we go again next time? Absolutely!

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Temporary Single Dad

August 10th, 2008

Pamela is currently at Denvention, the World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, being held in Denver. Now that she is writing for adults she needs to get on the convention circuit and spruik her work. On our recent world trip (see the May 2008 menu on the website front page) we stopped in at Wiscon in Madison, Wisconsin for precisely this purpose.

However, there has been one unfortunate side-effect of this – Robert and I have been left by ourselves for a week. This is the first time this has happened to us and we have had to adjust.

Robert was a bit dubious about the concept to start with but he came round. Life has continued pretty much as normal for him. He has been doing school and all his usual activities and he had a sleep-over at a friend’s place last night as a result of which he got a reasonable amount of sleep and I didn’t because I was watching the Olympics until one in the morning.

I have been adjusting to single Dadhood (fortunately only temporary – how do single parents cope?). I have cheated a bit because I have taken four days annual leave so that I don’t have to juggle school and work. This is easier for both Robert and me as he doesn’t have to go into after school care and I don’t have to rush around like a headless chicken.

Pamela is considering going to England next year for Eastercon. This may not happen as it is being held in Bradford and, unless you are interested in the history of Dark Satanic Mills (brother of the more famous John), there’s not much to attract. It depends a bit on what her British publishers advise I expect. Had it been in Stratford-on-Avon in the middle of the Shakespeare season things might be different…

Pamela is back early on Tuesday morning. Robert and I are both pretty keen on this idea. She will undoubtedly be totally exhausted but we will be a complete family again. I don’t think this single parenting is a good idea at all.

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Home once more

June 2nd, 2008

Well that was quite a trip. After a world circumnavigation taking four weeks we are home once more.

The return trip was without incident – we slept for about eight or nine hours on the plane from Los Angeles – except for the fact we couldn’t find my house keys when we arrived. After a long, frustrating search through the luggage in the rain we found them in what used to be a carry-on bag which had subsequently been packed into one of the suitcases. Apart from this minor hiccup all was well – the house was unburgled, the roof had not leaked and no rampaging herds of elephants had trashed the garden (although the weeds hadn’t done a bad job in that regard).

For Pamela, the trip was successful from a business point of view. She met her publishers in London and New York and had, I gather, fruitful discussions with them including ideas for future volumes. At the Wiscon convention she began the task of creating an international fan base but it will take a lot of time and effort to build it up. She will be returning to the US in August to attend the worldcon in Denver and continue the good work.

I didn’t achieve as much as I intended on my 18th century research in London, mainly due to poor health, but it wasn’t a total waste. If nothing else I picked up a couple of good research volumes and walked down a few 18th century streets. Sometime we’ll have to do another trip.

Robert seemed to have a pretty good time. He got a bit tired of London museums although he had a good time playing in the Science Museum. Legoland in Windsor was a great hit and I have to say I enjoyed it as well. At Wiscon there were scheduled activities for kids. He is a social animal and enjoyed that. And Disneyland, of course, was great although he was a bit tired and ratty by the end of the long days. I don’t think he would have wanted to miss the Buzz Lightyear ride which he did nine times. He also coped remarkably well with the long flights which bodes well for future trips.

Back at work now. It’s funny how it seems like you have never been away. At least this time my pot plants got watered.

For a complete list of trip reports see the May 2008 menu items at http://stephen-hart.net/

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Woman with Badger on Head

May 29th, 2008

We have just lobbed into Southern California after several days at a SF Convention in Madison, Wisconsin. Upon leaving New York I predicted Madison would be a bit different to that city. Well, I called that right.

Madison is a beautiful town located between two lakes. It is a university town with that special kind of energy that university towns always have. It is also the state capital and doesn’t seem to be short of a quid. The people are warm and friendly and seem to have enough time that they can spend some talking to you.

In short, I really liked the place. Locals tell me that it freezes solid in winter but in late May is was very pleasant. If it wasn’t for the winters I could live there. I understand why the people of Madison are proud of their town and are more than happy to tell you why.

The title of this post relates to the statue atop the capitol building. The capitol is exactly what a capitol should be – a big dome in the middle and faced with marble. The statue on top is of a woman and we are reliably informed that she has a badger on her head. The badger is apparently Wisonsin’s totem animal.

The SF Convention (Wiscon) was much like a lot of others except that it was far better run than most. It has been held annually at the same hotel for the last thirty or so years so the kinks have been pretty much ironed out. During the day they have activities for kids so Robert was kept occupied for several hours without effort on our part.

I’d like to see something a bit different being done at Cons. The whole panel discussion thing seems to be exactly the same as when I was at uni which is some time ago now. Given the startling advances in science of the last twenty years it would be nice to have a Science strand where experts could provide some hard data. Just what is the state of the art in, say, AI and how far away is HAL?

The Con was hit by a nasty gastro bug which bit Pamela. Because she was there in a professional capacity she struggled through it personfully but it can’t have been fun. I say this because it followed us to California and has laid me low today. Pamela and Robert have been doing Disneyland while I have spent most of the day lying on the bed. We have another day here so hopefully I can catch Uncle Walt’s vision tomorrow.

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New York, New York

May 24th, 2008

Sitting in LaGuardia airport waiting to leave New York for Chicago and thence Madison WI. I’m not altogether sorry to be gone. I don’t think I’m a New York sort of person although there are a number of things I enjoyed.

The Empire State Building was great. There’s something about the crypto-fascist nature of 1930’s architecture which continues to fascinate me although God forbid that I’d actually have to live with it. We elected to pay the extra money to get up to the 102nd floor (rather than the standard 86th floor). The building is very small up there – sort of like being at the top of a lighthouse – but the view is fabulous. You can see Robert’s take on it here. Oh yes, and it is very, very tall. For a building as early as it is the height is extraordinary.

The Natural History Museum is the best I have ever seen. We didn’t have anything like enough time to see it all but the planetarium was great and the ‘scale of the universe’ display is both clever and informative. There is a huge suspended sphere maybe 20 metres across which is also the planetarium. Outside it are a series of ‘if this sphere is the size of X then this is the size of Y’. An example is the sphere as the sun with smaller spheres representing the planets. It goes from the largest scales (superclusters of galaxies in the observable universe) down to the smallest (a proton in a hydrogen atom).

The dinosaurs were much better than London and there were whole galleries we had to walk past because we just didn’t have time to explore them. I’d like to go back there some time.

Other good bits – we went to see the Lion King on Broadway. A spectacular production although the actual musical/story is not especially exciting. We had fun afterwards taking a little motorised trishaw back to the hotel. This seems typical of New York to me – a small niche market of people coming out of theatres who can’t find taxis filled by an inventive idea.

Robert and I managed a spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to visit the Statue of Liberty. As we were queuing up for tickets in Battery Park they announced that it would be an hour and a half wait and there were no more tickets for the statue itself – all you would be able to do was walk around the outside. These things we declined to do.

F.A.O. Schwartz, the largest toy shop in the world or so they say, was worth seeing. They have turned stuff toys into an art form and this was by far and away the best part. Although I have to say the giant piano was pretty good as well – you can dance on the keyboard to make tunes.

On the whole however New York was too nervy and fast for me. I know a lot of people enjoy it for just those qualities and the fact that I was on antibiotics probably didn’t help but I can do without that sort of tension. Especially when I am on holiday. I notice I have used a lot of superlatives. That’s New York for you.

I have a feeling that Madison WI is going to be very different…

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