The appreciation of tea or what makes a good cuppa


I’m participating in a little tea appreciation club. So far, the member count is two; my eldest daughter, Cheyne, and myself. The plan is to make a pot of tea, pour it into proper tea cups, sip a little and then talk about the tea and anything else that crops up in the conversation.

Cheyne has cajoled some exotic sounding samples from the sales person at T2 and prepared a “starter” script. There are two issues I have with the plan.

One: I’m anosmic, which affects my ability to detect flavours (let alone talk about them). I do have a sense of taste, but it is limited. My contribution to a conversation on tea is, therefore, not going to be a major one. However, I do drink tea so I will give it a go.

Two: Of course, we’re not only talking about the tea. That’s just an ice-breaker (so to speak). We’ll discuss current affairs as well. Not a problem, we talk all the time on a great many topics. My concern here is that I tend to clam up when other people are listening or when someone starts recording (I’m a writer not a speaker).

A really good cup of tea is relaxing and energising at the same time. It’s a tradition that goes back centuries and is now part of our culture (Australian/British). Had a shock? A cuppa will fix that. Out of bed early and need to wake up? Sounds like cup of tea time to me. Had a long day and need to relax? No worries, love, I’ll just put the kettle on… The answer to nearly everything can be found in a lovely cup of tea brewed how you like it.

My favourite teacup

My favourite teacup

I prefer hot, strong, herbal and no milk or sweetening. Peppermint is my favourite. It has enough power to make my taste buds take notice without being bitter like black or green tea can be.

Cheyne will go for either peppermint (strong) or green tea (weak). My other daughters like peppermint only. One has weak but hot. The other has strong but half cold. My husband likes ordinary tea with milk.

So what makes a good cuppa? Freshly boiled water, your tea leaf of choice and context.

How is a reserved person who can’t really tell much about what she’s drinking going to get through this?

By putting the kettle on…



BOOK CHEWING: My Interview with Philipp Meyer

I haven’t written a blog post this week because I’ve become involved with Philipp Meyer… well, his book The Son.

Thought I’d share this link to a recent interview with him as, apparently, he’ll be in Australia in September. If you can’t get to see him, read his book anyway.


BOOK CHEWING: My Interview with Philipp Meyer.


Now, enough blogging – back to reading…..


Naming Rights: finding and keeping track of your characters

naming rights name label

Coming up with just the right names for your characters is not as simple as you might think. If you write more than one story, character names can quickly get out of control. It helps to have a list or three handy.

List 1: names you’ve heard that you like

These names might be gleaned from movie credit rolls, people you’ve met or read about, current popular figures (celebrity types, though watch out for clichés – I know, that’s nearly all of them…)

I like the credit rolls from television shows or movies. There are some classics listed. If you’re short of name choices watch the end credits of The Avengers. Thousands of people are listed. I don’t know how this movie made any money with the payroll they must have had!

Names of friends are best avoided unless your character is a fictional version of them and you want them to know. In one manuscript, I have named a group of minor characters after my work buddies at the time (with their permission). I’ve also described them so that there is no doubt about who they are. I’m confident I got them right too as not long afterward we became involved in almost the exact conversation that I had previously written up as fictional!

naming rights namesDM2403_600x353

List 2: names you’ve researched for a specific meaning

In the same manuscript mentioned above, I’ve also used names that had a certain meaning. It isn’t part of the storyline though so most people wouldn’t notice. However, the meaning is referenced by the main character. You don’t have to go to that much trouble. I like playing with names and meanings to the point where it becomes a private joke with myself (scary, I know). I have a novel coming out later this year. If you can find my “private jokes” I’ll send you an e-medal to wear.

naming rights baby_name

With main characters, it could be wise to research name meanings to ensure you don’t give the wrong impression, align it with someone you’d prefer not to, or suggest a stereotype. I use a mix of common and less common names that suit the character. There’s no point calling someone “Mary” when they’re more like an “Isobel”.

naming rights wordle

List 3: names you’ve already used

I do this all the time – get stuck on a name and use it over again. I often find the character is similar as well and have to make changes to both so they can be seen as individuals in different stories rather than a continuation of the same old John, Jane or Henrietta… This occurs when the stories are written a few years apart (how quickly I seem to forget). If you notice this happening in your stories go back to list no. 1 or put The Avengers DVD on to play…

naming rights marvels-the-avengers-movie-poster-26

Links you might find useful:


I use MS Excel for all my lists and planning.

If you don’t like the past change it: non-definitive history

Each age tries to form its own conception of the past. Each age writes the history of the past anew with reference to the conditions uppermost in its own time.

Frederick Jackson Turner


All history is non-definitive.

It is based on facts, situations and experiences that are based on interpretation.  Interpretation is based on the experience of individuals. An individual’s experience comes from their education, skills, culture, and the time they live. The knowledge and background of an historian from the 1920s will be radically different to a contemporary historian.

For a quick example of how history changes, read How Stuff Works’ article on 10 historical misconceptions  while have 5 baffling discoveries proving our history books wrong!

wellspring - Darwin waterfall2

Knowledge is not static. It is a living, growing wellspring.

Stories from our past are layered.

The layers are the viewpoints of the people involved and everybody has a different viewpoint. Ask any writer or reader of historical fiction.


One army conquers another. The report of what happened is written by the general in charge, which is passed along to the ruler of whichever country is involved. It is tarted up here and there to make it more exciting and impressive, and spread around to the general public. The years go by and the tarted up story becomes the truth (persay). When enough time goes by the story becomes history. However, this doesn’t take into account the experience of the soldiers who fought in the war or the stories of the losing side. The experience of the families and villages involved is also missing.


Monument to Leonidas & image from the movie “300”

We can see this too in the missing histories of women.

Traditionally, the stories of women in many periods of history have been either ignored or downplayed. I’ve recently read, Kate Forsyth’s The Wild Girl, the story of Dortchen Wild, wife to Wilhelm Grimm and source of many of the stories the Grimm Brothers are famous for. Little is known about Dortchen yet Kate has researched the history of the period and the Grimm Brothers extensively to create a believable story that speaks true to the reader.

A person might also think that women in Ancient Greece did nothing but sit silently in a corner somewhere with no involvement in their community; no opinion, no skills, no voice. Ancient historians saw and reported everything from the point of view of men. Try finding information on what the women were up to as recorded by Herodotus or Aristotle. Our knowledge of women in Ancient Greece has been put together by modern historians based on interpretation of artworks, drama and poetry, and stories from surrounding cultures, and even that can be sketchy. Take a look at this blog post on Ancient Priestesses more powerful than supposed for an example on how unbalanced our general knowledge of history can be.


The history of the dispossessed is not always kept.

History has been too one-sided. What has happened to women can also be seen where the dominant culture ignores the indigenous culture (or even just the one that went before), where one culture writes stories down and other cultures speak their history, and where languages fade away and die. Many histories would have us believe that before the “white man” landed, indigenous Australians or Americans (and no doubt many other cultures) had little in the way of perceivable civilisation.

aboriginal artwork darwin

Rock painting, ca. 6000 B.C.E Anbangbang Rock Shelter, Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia. For more info on the art & history of Australian Aboriginal cultures –

Modern historians more often take the broader view as well. They look in the spaces of a story to find the fuller picture yet their work too is shaped by experience, culture, interpretation, by the stories they are told, and sometimes, by who pays their wages. There are still viewpoints not being heard and there always will be.

Modern writers take an even broader view than historians. As long as somewhere in their story is a kernel or two of truth, the truth they weave around it can be more believable than any history textbook. This works especially well with topics where little is known.

In my upcoming “yet to be named” novel, I go way back and fill in some of the gaps left vacant by early historians. With as much research as possible, I’ve tried to create a story where “facts” can be checked and others are interpretation of what might have happened.  My research net is cast wide so that the journey of the story has a good foundation.

I’m attempting to do the same thing about people who are recorded in the history of Ancient Gaul as little more than footnotes. A hard task, but not impossible if you’re prepared to look far afield to pull the strings of story together.

Defining history is as impossible as possessing ultimate knowledge or holding time still.

blog vortex

If you do not like the past, change it.

William L. Burton

(in American Historical Association Newsletter 20:2 (1982). The Use and Abuse of History)