Sailing to Ierusalem

Consider the internet search history of a writer – we look up some very peculiar things. My recent forays have been in travel during the time of the Roman Empire. In my current-work-in-progress my protagonist travels from Alexandria to Jerusalem in 1BC. How long did it take and how much did it cost to travel during the Roman Empire? There is some very nifty software online, from Stanford University, that helped me work it out.

According to ORBIS – the Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World, it would take 4.7 days for a person in a fast ship and carriage to make the 670 km journey, or as my character might have calculated it, 453 mille passuum (Roman miles) or 302 leuga (Gallic leagues). My character is a woman of means so the cost of 193 dinarii per passenger is not an issue. In comparison, to send wheat via slow boat and oxcart would cost 3 dinarii and take 9.1 days.

What strange things appear in your search history?

The Year of the Short Story

Writing a novel is a tedious process. There’s not much to report on a daily basis. I could tell you about the commas I added, then deleted, the verbs I strengthened, the adjectives I agonised over… my labours are akin to watching paint dry. Sometimes a little instant gratification is needed. Enter, the short story.

2019 is my avowed year of the short story. To kick things off in January I entered the NYC Midnight Short Story Competition ( along with 4500 of my fellow hopefuls) and received my first round assignment. The task was to write 2500 words in 8 days with the folloiwng parameters: genre – fantasy, theme – a blood feud, character – a bartender. The process was write, spellcheck, spellcheck and spellcheck, send off, and wait two and a half months to hear whether I made it through to the next round. Did I say instant gratification?

While waiting for the results, I had a short story published in WQ, the quarterly journal of the Queenslands Writers Centre, and I submitted two other short stories to different anthologies. My New Year’s resolution of at least one short a month is still intact.

The Plucked Duck placed second in its heat, much to my delight, and this weekend I have three days to write 2000 words with genre, theme and character provided at 11.59pm NYC time – hence the moniker.

I will post The Plucked Duck here soon, just need to spellcheck one more time.

The Ides of March

The heavens opened in Brisbane this afternoon after months of drought. Is it coincidence that today is the Ides of March (the midpoint of the month), a day sacred to the Roman god Jupiter, god of sky and thunder?

The Ides of March is best known for Julius Caesar’s assassination in 44BC. and Shakespeare’s famous quotation. Although the date proved unlucky for Caesar, its original significance was as a day by which to settle outstanding debts. The delicious irony of the Senate settling its debt with Caesar doesn’t go unnoticed, just as the carelessness, or arrogance, of Caesar beggars belief. Plutach notes that Caesar was warned his demise would occur no later than the Ides of March, yet Caesar believed himself invincible. On his way to the Senate that fateful day, Caesar saw fit to mock the seer who made the prophecy by saying, “The Ides of March are come.” The seer’s reply: “Aye, Caesar, but not yet gone.” If only he’d paid heed…

Four years later the day also proved unlucky for the followers of Lucius Antonius (Mark Antony’s brother). Caesar’s successor, Octavian, executed 300 senators and knights under Lucius’ command to avenge Julius’ death and to consecrate the altar to the newly deified Julius.

The ides used to line up with the full moon, and in the lunar calendar of early roman times the Ides of March occured alongside the first full moon of the new year. This year the quarter moon falls on the ides, and the full moon in March is on the 20/21st. Let’s hope this means we have no need to “beware the Ides” this year. To be on the safe side, I’m dedicating this post to Jupiter.

Blogging from Byron

Byron Bay is an idyllic escape along the east coast of Australia. The sign as you enter the town says “Cheer up, slow down and chill out” and that is my intent. I got lucky with my choice of accommodation – the Byron Cove is an oasis of calm in an oasis of calm.

There is an old world charm to the town where cars stop for you to stroll across the road and strangers smile and strike up conversation.

This little trip is a bonding session with my daughter who lives in Berlin. She’s escaping -4C for a month. I’m escaping routine. We have a plan. Intended activity: sit on the beach and wait for Chris Hemsworth to jog by. Actual activity: seek refuge in a cafe with aircon as the temperature sets to hit 40C.

I have told myself that I am here to write. There are several short story anthologies with submission deadlines for the end of February, and I’ve found a wonderful editor and have to deliver my manuscript by the beginning of March. But as the cool cafe breeze wafts over my almond latte I gaze out at the turquoise sky and sea, at the white-washed, drift-wooded architecture. Surrounded by a plethora of Bali-esque boutiques without the intense sales pitch and haggling my pen lies untouched. The insidious temptation to invest in tie-dyed and crystals beckons.

I’m saved by the empty whisper of my wallet. Time to whip up a short story or two and (hopefully) recoup six cents a word. So, for now, I wish you au revoir.