Anonymous messes with my head while I sleep.

Anonymous messes with my head while I sleep.

The night after Anonymous announced their social media campaign on those guys who would prefer us all to hate our neighbour, I had this dreadful dream that members of the online vigilante group had hacked into the Amazon Createspace server, gotten into my Stroke the Tiger’s Tail file and messed it all around so the words, sentences and chapters where all in the wrong order and the whole book didn’t make any sense at all.

Too easy! I was looking for a scapegoat to blame for any errors in the paperback and now I had an untraceable, loose international association of some of the planet’s best IT minds to take the rap.

I understand that the ability to write complicated, bespoke bits of code is more an indicator of flawless attention to detail than the sort of lackadaisical attitude that leaves all the proofreading of one’s novel to a romantic partner. But it was night, I was asleep, and Anonymous was messing with my head. Ah-ha. Yeah.

Anyway, here is something that requires some attention to detail, but does not require you to be a member of Anonymous, and I am happy to recommend it to you: love your neighbour. 

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New Arrival.

There are a lot of dehumanising narratives going around about various groups of people who are suffering through all sorts of trials at the moment. These words and descriptions encourage us to think of people who are not really all that different from us as outsiders, others and them.

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Could be anything in there.

Once we have placed people in the part of our brain that considers them so different to us that we don’t have to love them, it is easier for us to turn away from their trials and suffering, consider their need as something that can be disregarded, searing our consciences towards any further evidence to the contrary.

I lived in Central Asia for a few years and I have a lot of happy memories from that place. I wrote Stroke the Tiger’s Tail because I wanted to recreate the place that is special to me. For a while I wasn’t going to publish the story. Then I realised one day, in the shower, naturally, that I could leverage this story to do two good things:

  1. I could present people in all their earthy humanity, in their experience of trials and hope. I could offer a humanising narrative amidst some of the more dehumanising ones.
  2. The royalties from the book could go to physically help people fleeing from those who would prefer we hated our neighbour. Hence my arrangement with Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group to receive all the royalties from the sales. (You can get a copy of Stroke the Tiger’s Tail from my CreateSpace page.)
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Making a little difference.

We all have skills and interests that enable us to love our neighbour in our own, personalised way. What unique things are you doing to love your neighbour at this time? 

[Read about my short novel here. Available from Amazon.com and Createspace.]

It might never happen

It might never happen

Tonight I was out with my mates at the local. The Royal is within walking distance. I’ve always thought of it as a pretty good pub, but it has recently become an amaaazing pub with the introduction of the new smoking laws. Previously, people were free to smoke on the balcony. But the new state provisions ban smoking in all commercial outdoor dining areas. This means that the balcony, which overlooks one of the local bush valleys I have written about previously, is now a safe haven for the weak-chested and short of breath. Yes, people of questionable lung function can now sit out in the fresh air, enjoy the tops of the trees, and slurp down a bottle or two of locally-made Bilpin or Hillbilly alcoholic apple cider. Slurpy slurp slurp. Except this evening. Because it was 40 something degrees celsius during the day and even sitting around quietly on that balcony drinking cold drinks poured into tumblers full of ice was going to force us to sweat. So we sat inside where the air was conditioned, the ice melted more slowly, there were lashings of bistro food available for hungry souls, and the band was just setting up for the night.

We had a good evening of cider, nosh and friendship until the musicians informed us in a loud, musical way that they could not get no satisfaction. We realised that there was probably not a lot more discussion to be had indoors in the yummy air-conditioning, and we had the choice of moving  out onto the balcony or meandering off on our separate ways. We wandered home.

Web spinning occurs every evening in our yard, and much of the time my husband and I walk through the silken traps either on the way home from a night out, or in the morning on the way out again.

And when we got back to our place it was dark and we walked through the yard from the side gate, past shrubs and trees and hedges to the main entrance. We walked through spiderwebs in the dark.

And we get into the hall, turn on the light, check ourselves and one another for spiders and tonight, for the first time ever, there actually is an eight-legged friend, measuring about four centimetres across, gripping onto my skirt, no doubt wondering a few things:

  1. Who turned on the sun again?
  2. Could this walking wall of humanity be the catch of my life? or
  3. Would this be the right time to have a small, spidery panic about the situation I now find myself in?

As for me, I reminded myself, as one needs to in Australia, that the spiders whose webs you walk through in the dark are not the spiders that are capable of killing or maiming a human. (As it turns out, that is only mostly true as explained in this Australian Geographic article on the 10 most dangerous Australian spiders.) We flicked the little fella/lass onto the floor and out the front door.

And now I hear you asking, what is the significant, blog-worthy message of this anecdote?

Could it be: Walk through enough spiderwebs and you will eventually get a spider on you? Well yeah, maybe.

But it is more likely to be: I’ve spent my whole life worrying that walking through spiderwebs would end in a spider on my body. And yet it took over 40 years for what I had dreaded to eventually come to pass.

Maybe we all have a dark, cobwebby yard that needs to be crossed to get where we are going in life. How much energy do we put into thinking about the spiders we might come across when we could be focussing on the delight of our final destination? Sure, you might collect a spider along the way, but probably not. And I can’t guarantee that you won’t find yourself stopping momentarily to pick off some sticky lacings of web from your clothes once you reach home.

 

[Read about my short novel here. Available from Amazon.com and Createspace.]

Safety Last!

Safety Last!
excerpt from Don't Bring Lulu (1925)
excerpt from Don’t Bring Lulu (1925)

I bet you’re all wondering what I look like when I’m playing the flute! Here’s your chance.
This is also your chance to hear me introduce music using my hoitiest-toitiest voice, which is very important when introducing highbrow cultural activities in Australia.

Ha! Just kidding! This isn’t the 1950s!

Of course not.

It’s the 1920s! An era of silent film, live musical accompaniment, foley sound effects and sheet music without nearly enough key signatures or bar numbers for my liking.

This was a performance I did with a group of students from my university. I feel I should credit them by name, but I don’t have permission to type their identities all over the internet. It might be enough to suggest that quite a number of them are named ‘Ben’, that you can hear their names on the video, and they would all willingly play for remuneration, and leave it at that.

The footage starts a little early, so if you are up for a hoity-toity introduction but don’t want to watch us fuss over our instruments, start watching at the one-minute mark.
Or you can skip the spoken introduction read the it below and begin the silent movie experience at the three-minute mark.

The act is actually kinda cute in parts. I’m quite proud of what we achieved.

Now, on with the show…

Ladies and Gentlemen, today we will be showing an excerpt from The Goat, an American short comedy film from 1921 written, directed by and starring Buster Keaton:

An innocent man is on the run from the law after a case of mistaken identity. After providing assistance to a young woman in distress he is invited to supper, only to discover that her father is the chief of police.

Starring Buster Keaton, Joe Roberts, Virginia Fox and Malcolm St Clair.

We will be accompanying the visuals with Don’t Bring Lulu, a circa 1925 song by Rose, Brown and Henderson, along with a touch of My Melancholy Baby, by Ernie Burnett, written circa 1916.

Our second offering will be an excerpt from Safety Last!, a 1923 romantic comedy silent film starring Harold Lloyd, Mildred Davis, Bill Strother and Noah Young:

Harold is a store clerk who arranges for his construction-worker housemate, Limpy Bill, to climb the outside of a department store in a bid to attract more customers. Before that can happen, Limpy Bill finds himself in trouble with the law. Harold must take his place on the climb as Limpy Bill tries to evade the cops.

Harold Lloyd lost a thumb and forefinger four years before Safety Last! was filmed, making his climbing feat all the more impressive.

We will be playing Somebody Stole my Gal, by Leo Wood written around 1922, and a Spud Murphy arrangement of Walter Donaldson’s My Blue Heaven from circa 1922.

Like my writing? Consider buying my novel. It’s much more literary and high brow than this blog. All profits go to supporting people fleeing from war and persecution.

What are people saying about Stroke the Tiger’s Tail?

What are people saying about Stroke the Tiger’s Tail?

Stroke_the_Tigers_T_Cover_for_Kindle

A campaign like this would be incomplete without…testimonials!!

So this is a page to record what people have been saying about Stroke the Tiger’s Tail. I’ll add comments to this page as I receive them.

Reader 1:

I have just finished reading this wonderful book and I strongly recommend it to you all. It will take you by the heart into the life, secrets and culture of a (fictional) Central Asian family. Ramona writes the sights, smells, tastes, sounds and textures of these people in a way that makes them feel like your own family. She knows a lot because she lived there for many years. I know a little now, because she has shared so vibrantly and respectfully and beautifully.

Reader 2:

It sneaks up on you in a gentle but real way. So beautifully constructed. It got right into me and at points brought me to tears.

Reader 3:

Oh wow. Just finished! The whole book! I couldn’t put it down! Awesome ending! Loved it! Thank you Ramona!

Here’s a review of Stroke the Tiger’s Tail that a reader put up on Amazon:

This is a haunting and beautiful read. Haunting in its portrayal of pain and shame within a family, beautiful in its description of a culture so far removed from my own, and yet so familiar. As a reader I was drawn into the lives of the characters with all of my senses and with growing empathy. This is the first work of fiction I’ve read from this author. I trust there will be more to come.

And here’s what someone posted on Stroke the Tiger’s Tail’s Facebook Page:

I recommend it as a great read if you love a good yarn and like to be immersed in a culture far away. It is a story you will not easily forget.

What about you? Have you read Stroke the Tiger’s Tail? What did you think?

It’s raining in my mountain village

It’s raining in my mountain village

IMG_1939Today in my mountain village we are living in a cloud. Soft rain sprinkles those who venture outside until they look like they are covered in dew. Three hundred metres up from sea level, the main road is set along the ridge-line. The local shops perch along the spine of the village,IMG_1942 each side of which drops down to rough bush, or, where humans find themselves lucky, residential land. Down behind my favourite coffee shop there is a bitumen road that leads to a bush track. It falls slowly through a fern-lined valley, then winds around the land’s lowest points past a stream, until it reaches a cliff face offering the choice of two equally uncomfortable steep sandstone climbs ending at some of the furthermost points of the village. And the entrance to this wonderland? Hiding down behind the shops! So whenever you are in town, IMG_1937the bush is there beckoning, ready to open herself to you in new and more pleasing ways. Ever willing to give up to you a new, quiet secret, or beat you into a panting, submissive sweat.

actually, I took this one
actually, I took this one

On a drier day, I took the half-day walk along the track with my friend Lyndal. Lyndal knows how to compose photographs, so whenever I saw something beautiful I would hand her my phone and say, “Here. Take a photo of this.” And she did. Lyndal has one of the most honest Christian minds in the business and we talked long and well. So, all in all, five hours well spent.

 

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