Catacomb Categories


George Orwell

You know what?

I came across this article about George Orwell and how his name was really Eric Blair and how they’re building a statue to him outside BBC Headquarters and it made me think. While thinking I checked the catacombs and discovered while I’ve mentioned Orwell 13 times (some of these articles I’ve even published and others are still in draft form) I’ve never actually written about him.

Now you know his real name was Blair and he was born in India but of British descent. And there’s the question I have, if you’re born in India doesn’t that make you Indian? But I’m told he’s British. I’m confused.

Someone should write more about him and I don’t just mean me, I mean a creative story about how he didn’t actually die in 1950 but actually lived a long and productive life. I mean, think about it. Orwell wrote some really excellent works but how many would he have written had he lived longer than 47 years?

Let’s have a look at just two of his most important works.

1984 by George Orwell

1984 by George Orwell

Doesn’t matter whether you use digits or letters this is a really important book. Many people have written about its importance in today’s society and how it foreshadowed the CCTV on the streets and in buildings or how we’re now watched by so many people. Don’t even think about making me look at social media.

But, hey! There’s a thought. I do wonder what Orwell would have made of social media. What sort of book would have come out of that I wonder.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm is all about politics, more specificially, socialism and fascism. But because it’s been set on a farm with the animals working the farm it looks like a children’s book. How brilliant is that? In places where censorship is rife this is one book that’s survived just because it looks like a children’s book. Did he think that through and decide he needed to make sure at least one comment on socialism/fascism made it through and that’s why he’d make it look like a children’s book? Don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

I want to give new authors a chance

I want to give new authors a chance, I really do but you’ve got to meet me halfway and have a decent book to give me. If there are too many problems I’m likely to spit the dummy and send you an email listing some of the problems I’ve noticed with a recommendation to get some lessons in grammar or writing structure or even how to structure a book and also with the recommendation that you spend the money to get it proofread and possibly edited.

I’m now too busy so what I won’t do is to continue trying to torture myself by reading it. I used to endeavour to finish the book and try to write something but sometimes you have to know when to quit.

If it’s just not knowing how to use apostrophes correctly then I might be able to work through them and I’ll finish the book and send you an email, if there are other errors then I probably won’t. This goes hand in hand with my rant from last week.


Sometimes challenging to identify when you need one and when you don’t. You’ve got your contraction apostrophes and then you’ve got some possessive ones.

No, I do not mean you’re having a contraction and about to deliver a baby, I mean the word is made up of multiple words and you get to use an apostrophe to show that. An example is “won’t” which is the word “will” and “not” sandwiched together any old how with an apostrophe signalling that it can be written as two words.

When it’s possessive then there’s ownership involved and you need to look at your object and see if it owns something. The “doctor’s husband” is a bad example of ownership as you don’t actually own people but it fits the rules of ownership and apostrophes. In other words, the husband belongs to the doctor. If you prefer then we could look at “Agency’s office”, the office belongs to the agency, if we were talking about multiple agencies then you’d pluralise it dropping the letter “y” and adding “ies”.

There’s a lot more to apostrophes, if you’re following the above and still getting told off then let your fingers take you over to Grammarly for a lot more information.


Be consistent with your spelling. If your character is called Kevin then you need to make sure he’s spelled that way all the way through.

Capitalise your proper nouns

A proper noun is a name and it needs to be treated as if it’s a little more important than a regular noun, do this by making the first letter a capital. A capital idea!

Learning to trust the reader

Learning how much information to give the reader is a little harder and you’ll need to put together a group of beta readers and/or a writer’s group for help. Just knowing how much information to give them and how much to leave out is tricky but your writing will be better when you’ve learned when to trust that your readers will figure out the information and when you need to give them a helping hand.


There are courses in many countries aimed at helping you to become a better writer. I suggest you look locally first, but then branch out if you can’t find one to suit you. Many places now let you study off-campus (a fancy word for studying from the comfort of your own home so you don’t have to get dressed). There are also websites with lots of information, I mentioned Grammarly earlier, much of what you can get from them is free.


Why do I want you to become a better writer? That depends on why you write. If you’re the sort of person who is likely to email a book blogger and request they read your book then you sound like you want to make money. You’re more likely to make money if your writing is good. You do need a good story as well but I’ve read (or started to read) many good stories or novels that are let down by their writing. The story idea is good and there’s some other good stuff in there but it could be ever so much better.

Always strive to be better, that’s why I’m studying…to be better. I’m not Shakespeare.

Limmud Oz 2016

I’ve mentioned Limmud Oz before, it’s a weekend of learning for those interested in Jewish topics. It’s massive, for every lecture I attended there were generally another two or three I would have liked to have seen. Held in alternating years in either Sydney or Melbourne we have some world class speakers and some not so good speakers but the topics are always interesting and exciting. I won’t tantalise you with much of the programme or what I actually did but here are just a couple of things.

For the first time it started on Saturday afternoon with a couple of interesting sessions at the Theodore Herzl club before finalising the Sabbath with a beautiful Havdalah Service, a break where we ran home for dinner and back to Monash University in Caulfield for the normal Saturday evening sessions and the opening night’s concert. After the concert I was introduced to some cousins, and no, I’m not name dropping here. Then back to Monash Uni in Caulfield for 9:30am Sunday and then again 11am Monday for learning. Normally by the end of Monday my brain is dead from all the information but I took time out Monday afternoon to attend a funeral, not someone I knew but in Jewish tradition we need 10 Jews in attendance for various services and I went to help make up the 10.

One of the sessions I attended on Saturday afternoon was about a short story by Sholem Aleichem. You’ve heard of Aleichem, he wrote the original stories that became Fiddler on the Roof. He wrote in Yiddish, I’m thanking translators at this point as it means I’ve been able to read his works, my Yiddish is pretty awful and I’m discovering most of the words I know are actually quite foul so the number of Yiddish words I will use is diminishing rapidly. It’s quite a colourful language and during the session the lecturer had people read out the story paragraph by paragraph, some read in English while some in Yiddish, there was much laughter with the paragraphs in Yiddish.

Other highlights were watching snippets from Orange is the New Black and discovering all the Jewish bits in it. A very gritty programme, it doesn’t pull many punches. Annika Hernroth-Rothstein is a Swedish journalist who managed to get a visa for Iran and spoke about her experiences travelling round and talking to Jews there, she was given a minder, he’s 33 years old, Muslim and single – so much subtext there.

One more story before I leave you drooling for more.

My last session for the day was a fascinating one about reclaiming one of the 330 or so lost Aboriginal languages in Australia. Ghil’ad Zuckermann came from Israel as a linguist to work in Adelaide and looked around to see how he could give something back to Australia. As a linguist he found much information about some of the languages we used to have here and has started studying with people of the Barngarla language to revive it, the results have been fabulous. It was only during the last video he showed that I figured out how I’d known his face before. Last year as part of my English Language classes we were shown parts of Stephen Fry’s Planet Word, during one episode he was driven around Jerusalem by a personable young linguist and they discussed how Hebrew was reclaimed and how it has taken on many words from other languages including English, Zuckermann screened part of that episode…you’ll never guess who that young linguist was. Anyway, I mentioned to Zuckermann how I’d already seen that episode, he was amazed to find his fame spread far and wide. I now await a reply from an email I sent to my teacher from last year, this should be interesting.

Oz Comic Con and finally…

The panel with CS Pacat, Isobelle Carmody and Marianne de Pierres was interesting. They talked about a number of topics including getting published in Australia, how much work you need to do on your manuscript before submitting it to a publisher and their different journeys to publication. Carmody got her start when things were easier whereas Pacat started publishing her writing on a blog before attempting approaching publishers and finally hitting the mark by self-publishing. They also talked about the importance of getting your manuscript edited, talk to editors about their editing before engaging them, not every editor suits every writer. Carmody talked about pitching, where you learn how to talk about your manuscript so as to be able to pitch to the publishers quickly and succinctly, practicing is a must.


CS Pacat, Isobelle Carmody and Marianne de Pierres

Another panel for comic book creators was also interesting. While I’m not so interested in graphic novels or comic books I was fascinated by their discussion. They talked about what publishers do and how important they are in this business, including making sure the talent gets paid and helping make their work better. When creating your story don’t put in cliches and don’t be parochial, make sure to put in the human element with real emotion. There’s not a lot of money in comics so you have to be dedicated. And there is a Melbourne Comics Creators Meet Up, held the first Saturday of every month at the Bull and Bear in Flinders Lane from 2pm till 6pm, I’d say this is a must attend as here you’ll get feedback from those who understand what’s happening and much more importantly, you’ll make contacts which you’ll need at some stage.

Andrew Constant, Katie Houghton Ward, Marc Noble, Wolfgang Bylsma

Andrew Constant, Katie Houghton Ward, Marc Noble, Wolfgang Bylsma

I’ve also got some notes for another talk I attended but I don’t understand them. I’ll have a good read through and see if I can knock them into some semblance of understanding for everyone. The big problem with attending talks is being able to write fast enough to take proper notes so I can understand them later and while I managed it for two talks it seems I need to practice this skill a lot more as the third one is just a mess of words.

Summary: Australian female authors by alphabet

While I have internet I’m taking the opportunity to do this summary for you. It should have appeared yesterday but that’s another story.

A is for Debra Adelaide

B is for Jesse Blackadder

C is for Isobelle Carmody

D is for Ursula Dubosarsky

E is for Hazel Edwards

F is for Mem Fox

G is for Kerry Greenwood

H is for Traci Harding

I is for Tania Ingram

J is for Noëlle Janaczewska

K is for Thalia Kalkipsakis

L is for Ginny Lowndes

M is for Sophie Masson

N is for Julie Nickerson

O is for Mietta O’Donnell

P is for Christine Paice

Q is for Tarella Quin Daskein

R is for Heather Rossiter

S is for Taku Scrutton

T is for Tangea Tansley

V is for Valerie Volk

W is for Edel Wignell

X is for Xanthé Mallett

Y is for Beth Yahp

Z is for Fay Zwicky

Q is for Tarella Quin Daskein

Thanks to some friends I’ve now got an author for Q.

Tarella Quin Daskein often published under her maiden name of Tarella Quin. You might know of her good friend and illustrator, Ida Rentoul Outhwaite.

Quin wrote many fairy stories. They number amongst the best in Australian literature at the time. Her works were carefully detailed and innovative but she didn’t pull her punches and children actually died in her works, unlike nowadays where there is generally a happily ever after.

She has an entry in The Bibliography of Australian Literature showing her works and a four line biography and also in the International Companion Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature, although I haven’t been able to view this entry.

Growing up on sheep and dairy farms in both NSW and Victoria would have fueled her stories, most especially the romance novels about outback life.

I had some issues finding information about her. She was born in 1877 in Wilcannia and died in 1934. I do wonder if she’s one of those writers whose books need resurrecting and reading in detail.

Friday Photos at OzComicCon

My software began working again today but I’m still going to leave Friday Photos. For this last official day of Friday Photos I’m giving you some shots from Oz Comic Con but I’ll put all the rest on Instagram for you, loading them a few at a time to tease and tantalise and make me feel as if I’m still at Oz Comic Con.

Ander Louis

Ander Louis

Ander Louis is a lovely man, always patient with me despite me not being able to pronounce his name.


Avatar: The Last Airbender

I don’t watch Avatar religiously but instead I catch up on the odd episode when someone else in the house is watching it. I was quite taken with this cosplay.

Beards and Beads

Beards and Beads

I have forgotten what this person is meant to be, maybe you know and can fill me in on the details. I did love how she took the time to create some props out of Hama Beads.

Jacinta Maree

Jacinta Maree

The talented Jacinta Maree. I didn’t manage to interview her on camera but she writes young adult paranormal romance and won the 2014 Horror of the Year.

Vampire in bathroom

Vampire in bathroom

The things you find in the bathroom. I came across this young lady putting on her nails and teeth. Once they were on they looked as if they had grown like that.

Z is for Fay Zwicky

Picnic by Fay Zwicky

Poetry is an interesting creation. It’s something I have issues with but also great admiration for anyone who can write it. Fay Zwicky has spent more than 60 years writing poetry and in 2005 the committee of the Patrick White Award decided her efforts had not been recognised appropriately. When they rang Zwicky thought it was a hoax, she doesn’t expect recognition.

One of her most famous works is called Kaddish. It was written as an elegy for her father who drowned without having had Kaddish recited for him. The Kaddish (prayer, not poem) is a very beautiful prayer which is recited when someone dies and then at various points in the mourning process. It’s not Hebrew but Aramaic and rather than talking about the deceased it actually talks about the living, I’m not sure why it generally has me in tears. One day I’ll find Zwicky’s poem and read that to see if it has the same effect on me there.

As Zwicky is fourth generation Australian and born in Melbourne I’m prepared to bet she knows my family. Having said that she has lived in Perth for many years and I’m sure would be absolutely horrified to find I’ve used her in this series. She seems to be a quiet lady who just ‘gets things done’ and doesn’t expect anything else.

She’s been writing during an interesting phase in Australian Jewish writing and has made some pertinent observations about the ways Jewish female writers are marginalised in Australian literature in her book The Lyre in the Pawnshop. I would have linked to that for you to look at but I can’t find it available for sale as a new book.

I’d like to meet her.

Videos from OzComicCon

People were very patient with me at OzComicCon. I have 10 interviews for you to enjoy. You’ll notice the slight amusement at the end when I unveiled my signature question. Despite my low technology everything came out fairly well.

Ander Louis

C.S. Pacat

Troy Barnes

Craig Bruyn

Marianne de Pierres

Nath Stones

Melanie Tomlin

Isobelle Carmody

Doug Holgate

Michel Mulipola

Oz Comic Con!!!!

Not enough exclamation marks for my liking today. Looking at me I’m sure I look cool, calm and collected but this weekend is Oz Comic Con and I’m going, not only that but they’ve been kind enough to give me media accreditation.

So, just because I can and because I have permission and all that kind of stuff I’m putting in their logo!

It’s going to be all sorts of fun and games this weekend. The guest list includes a number of writerly type people and I promise not to haunt them too much but I will be looking at them critically with a ‘you’re a writer, drop at their feet and bow’ type of eye.

I will bring my usual photos of stalls and books throughout the weekend on Instagram and then later on Twitter, Facebook and then a round up with various photos and squees here on the blog for the next week or two until I run out. So, watch out for the hashtag #OzComicCon

One of my good readers here sent me some notes as to the writerly type of presentations happening over the weekend and I’ll endeavour to get to some of those and report back on how they went.

I know John Barrowman will be there but as I’m only small fry I really don’t expect to even see him except from a distance. Bearing in mind my propensity to lose my mind, and become a dribbling mess whenever I come across a luminary, I suspect that if I did actually meet him my mouth would open, my mind would disappear and all sorts of rubbish would come out.

I will finish my Author by Alphabet at the same time as I really don’t like leaving a series in the middle.

Newsletter Sign Up
Thank You
I want to thank the Koolin people for their thousands of years of guardianship and caretaking of the area where I live.