Saturday, December 23, 2017

Another Christmas in the UK.

I've finished work for the break.

Most of the office went out for a Christmas lunch, which then extended into the evening until I left around 9pm to head home. I must say we had a fantastic time.

I really enjoyed the company of my colleagues. The whole atmosphere was very jovial and we had a lot of laughs. Somewhere in the evening I lost my car keys. It was crowded and someone knocked my work bag off a chair. I didn't realise the keys were gone until I was about to head home. I checked but couldn't find them. Apparently they were handed in five minutes after I left and I managed to retrieve them the next morning.

Hardly the worst thing that's ever happened to me.

Christmas in the UK is still one of my favourite things. People wear Christmas Jumpers - which isn't a thing in Australia. Most of us wear t-shirts at that time of year. But here it gets dark early, the lights are on, and it feels like Christmas is supposed to feel.

It's all very cosy and festive and seems right.

We have family visiting Lincoln for Christmas and Boxing Days, and I can't wait.  Yes, for the family, but mostly because I really enjoy Christmas lunches.

Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope you're not hearing Wham's Last Christmas in the shops too often.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Sherlock Holmes: The Mysterious Authorship of Steve Connor.

I'm thrilled to have been included in this fantastic publication, and completely delighted by the great reviews that have been popping up.

Peter Craven gave us an excellent review in The Australian. And although I was pleased to have had my story mentioned, I am disappointed they got my name wrong. Peter, if you're reading this I'm sure it was an error of dictation rather than your writing.

Yep, I was referred to as Steve Connor. Despite a couple of emails to The Australian, simply asking if they can amend the online version, I have not received a reply and it is still attributed to the elusive Steve Connor.
"The style of the anthology is weirdly geographical and continent encompassing with all sorts of outback stories and stories set under, say, the unaccustomed blue Adelaide sky to balance the ones set in the vicinity of Mrs Macquarie’s Chair or about drowning in 19th-century St Kilda (this last is by Steve Connor and apparently is based on a true case and has Holmes and Watson set out to investigate from their rooms in Fitzroy)."
And it is indeed strongly based on a true story. Try googling The Mysterious Drowning Case at St Kilda, or The Melbourne Morgue Mystery. This was the case which resulted in the police at the time purchasing their first camera.

Craven's summary.
"Sherlock Holmes: the Australian Casebook is born of the lust for idle pleasure and the desire to perpetuate and cash in on a myth that keeps on giving. There are a lot of Christmas stockings that will be happier for this book."
Fantastic to be mentioned, I just wish it wasn't Connor. I've heard he's a hack!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

With Infinite Complacency.

I'm proud to announce the publication of my story, With Infinite Complacency, in the anthology Beautiful Lies, Painful Truths. Published by Left Hand Publishers, this release is described in their own words as a collection of short stories from writers around the world, spanning different genres, to bring you a compendium of tales to provoke thought, entertain you, and even mystify your imagination.

My story has its origin in a throw-away comment made by one of my students one summer afternoon many years ago. But it stuck in my mind, ended up in my writer notebook, blossomed into a story and ended up in this marvelous publication.
Australian astronaut Amanda Jefferies finally makes it onto the International Space Station only to watch in horror as the apocalypse unfolds on the Earth below.
Interested?  You should be. This story has everything. Space, the Rolling Stones and Vodka. And I even throw in some bananas. There is, of course, a lot more - but to find out you'll have to read it.

I know I can't wait to receive my copy, but you can order yours now.  In the meantime, sit back and enjoy the book trailer.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sherlock Holmes: The Australian Casebook.

I've finally received my author copy of Sherlock Holmes: The Australian Casebook, and it is stunning. hard back, with embossed cover, beautifully illustrated and some incredible names within. I feel so honoured and privileged to have been included.

This one has been a long journey. And at times I didn't think it was ever going to happen. Editor Christopher Sequeira, however, kept the faith. He knew he had something special and took his time to find the right publisher. Echo Publishing didn't let us down either. They created an absolutely beautiful book, one that will take pride of place on my shelf.  

I've receieved a  few personal messages telling me how much they love my story and the book. Out in the wider world reviews have started rolling in, and I'm thrilled to have had my name included in a review as the author of one of the outstanding stories.

This is a fantastic book.

But don't just take my word for it - check this blurb out.

It is the year 1890. Sherlock Holmes’ fame has spread even to the colonies as he and his stalwart chronicler, Dr John Watson, are swept up in an array of mysteries ‘down under’. They find themselves summoned from location to location, traversing all corners of the strange island continent of Australia, challenged with mysteries and a geographical and cultural landscape with which they are unfamiliar.
From eerie shadows on cave walls, to an actor’s most grisly curtain call, an abduction by a demon, and an inexplicable drowning, to the odd affair of the reputed biggest man in Australia, a purloined bunyip, and to sinister, bearded bushrangers, the tales within this collection provide fresh perspective to the Holmes phenomena and will intrigue, delight and entertain readers.
The stories are written in Conan Doyle’s classic Watson persona by a range of Sherlockians, historians, established writers and some exciting emerging talents: Kerry Greenwood and Lindy Cameron, Meg Keneally, Kaaron Warren, Lucy Sussex, L.J.M. Owen, T.S.P. Sweeney, J. Scherpenhuizen, Will Schaefer, Robert Veld, Doug Elliott, Philip Cornell, Raymond Gates, Jason Franks, Narrelle M. Harris, Steve Cameron, and editor Christopher Sequeira himself, and with an introduction by Baker Street Irregular Bill Barnes, and illustrations by Philip Cornell, J. Scherpenhuizen and Marcelo Baez.

It is in the shops, and it is available online. You know you need this.

I hope you enjoy reading this. I am.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Finding Homes.

I'm pleased to have actually sold a couple of stories in the past few months. And, with the impending launch of Sherlock Holmes: The Australian Casebook, it hasn't been a bad second half to the year. I also still have a couple of submissions out, so it could improve further.

Of course this isn't a patch of a few years ago. I haven't written lots of new stuff this year. My attentions have been focussed on other, more pressing matters. But that's OK. Swings and roundabouts and all that. The way things are going I expect I'll be into half a dozen new stories before you know it.

Timing, as they say, is everything.

I love both the stories I've sold. There's something quite special about them. A lot of work went into each of them. A lot of research, editing, and rewriting. I cut some great words, but I believe that made them even better stories.

I'll keep you informed closer to publication date.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Who's Pushing The Pedals On The Season Cycle?

Soon I'll be dragging out my winter coat and scarf as the days grow short and the evenings close in. But for now we're enjoying lovely days. Blue skies, fluffy white clouds and an array of autumn colours in the village.

Ask people around here about winter, and they'll tell you it's not like it used to be. They used to be long and cold, but the last heavy snowfall that brought Lincoln to a standstill and closed the schools for four days was in 2010.  I've seen pictures of it. Family sent them to me at the time.

Last winter was mild in comparison. We really only had two light snowfalls, and the flakes melted quickly - all traces gone within an hour or so. Not that I desire to be snowed in, but it would be nice to have some real snow around - if only for the photos. Long range forecasts for this year are mixed, and suggest it could either be mild again or we could have a really cold one. They just don't know.

Either way, we've already stocked up on firewood. Last Friday was quite cold, and we used that as an excuse to light our first fire for the season. It was lovely, homey and comforting. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed it. I won't need too much pushing to light another one soon.

I've been here more than a year now. We've been through one complete cycle of seasons, and I've enjoyed them all.

But enough on the weather report. I do have more publishing news to share, but I'll save that for my next post.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Pieces Are Falling Into Place.

When I was a teenager I loved doing jigsaw puzzles. For some reason I haven't even attempted one in years. About seven years ago, I think, was the last one. I was in a holiday rental in Germany with family and someone started one. We all joined in and had great fun.

Every now and then I think about buying a jigsaw again. I'll often have a look when I see them in shops, or sometimes I'll browse the second-hand ones in op shops (charity shops). I haven't seen any that interested me enough to buy one.

Until this week.

I was shopping with Lindsey in the local supermarket when my eye was drawn to a 1000 piece puzzle. A photograph of boats in a harbour with sandy coloured buildings in the hills behind. I grabbed it, then went through all the others on the shelf. Again, none of the others stirred even remote interest in me, but I loved the harbour scene. I bought it, and I'm really excited about starting it this weekend.

I think I inherited my love for jigsaws from my aunt. She always seemed to be doing them, and I recall her sharing a few with me. There was one in particular she gave me, and it's the only one I recall from my teenage years. I loved that picture, and I wish I still had it. A few years ago I wrote about my search for it. It continues, albeit irregularly. Every now and then I'll get into google, ebay and jigsaw websites trying to find it. No luck so far.

This is how I remembered it back in 2014.

It's a photograph along a cobbled street in Europe, with an outdoor cafe. Set in the late 60s, I think. I think there was probably a harbour on the right, with boats and yachts. Everyone is simply enjoying the sun, eating, drinking. I remember a few people wearing RayBan style sunglasses. No one pays any attention to the camera - except one kid who is gazing directly at the lens, and therefore, at me.

This week I've remembered more. I'm not convinced the street is cobbled. And I'm not even sure it is a street anymore. I think it was probably just a waterfront. There were boats on the right, as I said, but now I remember one of those dark timber speedboats with chrome fittings that seemed so exotic and European when I was a kid. I have a feeling there were other boats, with masts and rigging. Above the cafe I think there were canopies or umbrellas - probably white and square.  And somewhere in the depths of my mind I recall mountains in the background, with a stone square tower nestled among them. I suspect it was between 350 - 500 pieces. My research this week suggests it may have been either a late 60s/early 70s Tower Press puzzle, or possibly a Milton Bradley. Or maybe not. The picture as I recall it certainly had the feel of some of the Tower Press puzzles.

Of course some of the details may be imagined, or meshed with images of other puzzles I did around that time.

Edited to add: Three days later and my research seems to be paying off. I mentioned it had the feel of a Tower Press puzzle,. The photos they used on their European puzzles were of a similar style. Now I discover TP were huge in Australia in the 70s. That fits. Researching European harbours has helped too. I can't find any photos from the same angle, or from the same time period, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if this puzzle is of Portofino, Italy.

I do know that when I see it, I will recognise it immediately. And if anyone remembers the same puzzle, finds an image of it, or can point me in the direction of a hardcore jigsaw puzzle forum, I would be most appreciative.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Another Sale.

It's been ages since I've sold a story, although until about six weeks ago I hadn't submitted one for a very long time. So you can imagine how thrilled I was last week to receive an acceptance email from a publisher in the U.S. It is an anthology with an interesting theme and I was fortunate enough to have a story sitting here doing nothing which I felt would be a good fit.

Now this is a story I really like. And it's a story which came close at a couple of pro-markets, receiving personal rejections and fabulous feedback. I rewrote and slashed away at the story based on those comments and I believe it was an even better story because of it. I am so pleased I have finally found a home for this piece.

Don't forget I have a story in Sherlock Holmes: The Australian Casebook which is due for release in November. This is going to be a fantastic publication and I can't wait to get my hands on a copy. The names in here are fabulous, the stories are great and the artwork looks wonderful. I am truly excited to be in this one. Keep an eye out for it in your local Australian bookshop. Hopefully it will do well enough to warrant an international release.

I have a few other stories out at the moment. Again these are good pieces, and I have a feeling at least one of them will sell. Of course I have my fingers crossed for all four - but publishing rarely works that way.

I shall, of course, keep you informed.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Seeking New Opportunities.

Have you heard of the hidden job market?

It is believed as much as 80% of jobs are never advertised. These positions go to people through other means - usually networking, headhunting and referrals.

Of course this can make life difficult for someone like myself who has only been in the UK a short time and doesn't really have a local network. There are ways to grow a network and I am taking those steps. But it can be a long, slow process.

I have decided to take the slightly unusual step of promoting myself as a potential employee. No, I haven't splurged out and bought time on one of the TV stations, instead I've created a web page. Check it out here.

And if you know of anyone who needs a hard-working administrator, please don't hesitate to share the page with them.

Monday, August 7, 2017

It's Still Rock 'N' Roll To Me.

As I posted recently, most Tuesday evenings I wander down to the local for their open-mike night. Regulars, for the most part, play a variety of both originals and covers - blues, folk, 50s, 60s and 70s. Lap steel guitars, banjos, mandolins, acoustics, electrics, keyboards and even full bands are dragged out. The quality varies, but the passion is there. Always. These folks do it because they love the music.

It's a fun evening. I get to chat to friends, have a pint or two, and listen to some tunes. Every now and again something special happens and the music transcends the time and place. And those performances are the ones I long for.

It's inspired me to pick up my own guitars and play more often - a habit I'd long fallen out of. At the moment I play an hour or more every night, re-honing my skills, learning new songs and toughening up my fingertips. It's a lot of fun.

I've also been inspired to listen to a lot more 50s rock. A couple of rockers play a 50s set, which I thoroughly enjoy. Mark jumps up and sings a couple of numbers. And he's good. He's gotten me into Charlie Gracie who I'd never heard of before, but had a few hits here in the UK. Fabulous and Butterfly are wonderful songs. My listening at the moment includes a couple of fantastic 50s compilations, as well as albums by Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent.

I knew some of these songs already, but I feel like I'm hearing them with fresh ears. And there have been some surprises along the way. Elvis Presley's B-side, Mess of Blues, is just amazing, and should have been a hit.

Hey, hey, my, my - rock 'n' roll will never die.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Most Roads Lead To Helsinki.

Summertime here in the northern hemisphere, and we're rapidly approaching Worldcon. For those not in the know, Worldcon is the World Science Fiction Convention, held annually around the globe. This year, the 75th con, is to be held in Helsinki in mid August.

A year or so ago I had hopes I would attend, particularly since I was now in the UK and so close. Alas it was not to be. Scheduling and other factors worked against me. So I'll be here in my cottage, sitting at the computer and watching with envy as my friends from around the world converge in Finland for fellowship, discussions, beer and more beer. Oh, and possibly even some networking and pitching of stories.

It's the fellowship I enjoy, the sitting, chatting and getting to know new friends.

I wish you all well as you start to pack.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Recent Scribbling.

It's been a good month for writing.

Not only have I submitted four stories in the past two weeks, but I have started another story and written an article. This week I was commissioned to write another couple of articles which will be published shortly.

I love writing, when I can manage to make the time. And I wish I had more time in which to sit and focus my energies on getting words on the screen. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be a full time writer? Maybe not for everyone, but it's what I desire and should I win the lottery I think that's what would happen. Of course winning the lottery would actually require a great deal of luck; even more since I so rarely buy a ticket. But I can dream.

Writing these articles takes a great deal of research. A lot of time spent looking at documents, chasing links and leads, and formulating clear, concise paragraphs that are easy to follow. My feedback from editors suggest I succeed at delivering on this.

My fiction writing is improving as well. I plan on selling four or five stories by the end of the year. My Sherlock Holmes story is due for release in a couple of months, and I think I have another story out by Christmas. All I need is the confirmation and I'll be able to share those details with you.

It's time I found a writing group here in Lincoln. I need to mix with other writers. But finding the right group for you can be tricky. Ideally it should include writers at a similar and higher level than yourself. I've been in groups consisting of only beginner writers, and it was of little benefit to me. They don't have the experience and skills to critique your work as required. A mix is ideal, with new writers and some old hands.

I'll start looking around soon, see what's happening. There should be a group that meets my needs. After all, this is a university city. Surely there are fellow writers geeks.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

All I Know Are Sad Songs.

There's no doubt I'm rusty. I've hardly played my guitar for the past few years. I'm not really sure why as I love making music. Time, other plans, life. The truth is I would make the time if I really wanted to.

And this is exactly what's happened. My local pub has a weekly open mike evening and I attend quite often. The musicians are mostly regulars of varying styles and abilities, with the occasional newcomer or irregular visitor. Some are good, some need more practice, but they all love the music. I always enjoy the evening.

I haven't been game to jump behind the mike, mostly because I am so rusty. But they have inspired me to drag out my guitar and play more often. Actually, I practice about an hour a day at the moment, and it's coming back to me. My fingertips are hardening, my fingers are moving more freely, and the old skills are returning.

There is only one thing that concerns me. Much of the evening consists of 50s rock and 60s pop. Happy, jangly tunes. The songs I would play are sadder alt-country. I'm not sure if I want to be seen as a downer playing songs they don't know.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Good Ship, Fandom.

Continuum 13, an annual sci-fi convention, was held in Melbourne over the weekend. Obviously, having moved to the UK last year, I wasn't able to attend. It felt a little weird missing it as I have attended every year since Continuum 5.

From all accounts it was a great convention. Well organised and attended, with interesting panels and workshops. I'm really pleased by this, as I must confess that over the past few years I haven't gotten as much out of the convention as I would have liked. There has been a gradual shift in the focus from the science fiction I like towards pop culture, most of which I have little time for.

Now this is where I am in danger of being misread. I really need to emphasise I'm writing here about my tastes, my preferences, the things I enjoy. Give me old school sci-fi and fantasy any day. I'm not big into superheroes, anime or most other pop culture. I found fewer panels and sessions I was interested in attending each year. Fewer spaceships and robots, and more people with capes. Fewer discussions on classic books and more on TV shows and superhero films. And I'm just not interested in them. Honestly, I couldn't tell you your Magneto from your Brian Mannix.

Over the past few years there have been panels where I struggled to see any connection to SF, fantasy or horror at all. But that's fine. It doesn't matter. The convention isn't solely about me. It's about fandom, and what they want.

You see, if I had my way rock bands with guitars would rule the Top 40, science fiction films would be more like Arrival than X-Men, and reading would be compulsory for everyone. Conventions would have more panels on classic books alongside the newer ones.

But, as I said, it's not about me. There are lots of things that generally don't excite me at the moment. I've already mentioned superhero films. Let's add to that the current trend in retelling fairy tales, urban fantasy, and more vampires. Maybe I am getting older, but like the music I like, I know what types of fiction I like.

If we stick with the music comparison, you'll soon realise I don't have to like it. There are plenty of alternatives for me. And if I dig around I can find plenty of new bands I do like. I don't want to buy a Beyonce album. She doesn't speak to me, and the music leaves me cold. But there are plenty out there who love her music. Me, I'd rather buy the new Roger Waters album.

Yes, I do read new SF books. I have to be a little more discerning in my hunt for them as they're usually not the same books that appeal to my friends. I've tried many of those, and I often find them underwhelming. Taste, again, I suppose.

We all don't have to like everything. Or even the same things. There's room for us all in the good ship 'fandom.' But remember, I don't deserve name-calling or abuse because my interests and tastes lie elsewhere.

Having said that, I've been quite excited about the impending release of Wonder Woman. And I wasn't disappointed. I thought it was fantastic.

You never know. Maybe someday someone will play me a Beyonce track that I actually like.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

How Will I Know?

I've been writing again. Re-writing, actually. But this isn't just a skim and edit, I'm completely rewriting the entire story, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, and trying to be ruthless with it. In fact I spent about three hours today completely restructuring a 350 word opening.

I hope it's improved.

This is a story I love, and it received great personal rejections from three pro-level markets. So there's hope for the story, and I'm hoping the changes I'm making at the moment give it the push it needs. I'm using those comments, as well as a solid critique from another writer, as my guide. These people know what they're doing, so I'd be a fool not to pay attention. The question is can I get it right.

But wait, as they say in the infomercials, there's more.

A couple of years ago a well-known and admired writer very kindly sent me three pages of notes and advice on things she'd learned along the way. At the time I read these notes, tried to apply them and thought I'd done a decent job. This week, as I prepared to delve back into this story, I re-read the notes. And that little light metaphorical bulb in my brain went on. Now I'm approaching the story with so much more rigour and determination than I've ever applied before.

Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees, and I just now as I re-read what I'd written, I had doubts as to whether it was better or not. And that's why distance and time, and a decent beta-reader, makes all the difference. So I'll get this piece done, have another set of eyes go over it, then send it out into the wild world.

Who knows? This time it might even survive.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Don't Bring Me Down.

Some people really can't help themselves. They simply cannot allow another person to be pleased or happy.

Four times in the past two days I've seen Facebook friends be brought down by naysayers. Something that's occurred, a great social commentary, encouragement meant for another - all considered to be great news by the poster. And then you read the comments.

Recently, on my last day of employment at my old school, a friend and I left together. As we were walking out for the very last time someone asked what we were going to do next. My friend announced she was thrilled she'd already found employment - and then came the comments. Why would you want to work there? I've heard it's awful. I wouldn't go there in a pink fit. And so on.

Really? Is that all you can offer? Remember, this isn't someone asking your advice prior to making a decision. This is someone who has already achieved their goal of new employment.

Even if you think those things, or have some inside knowledge, why can't you just congratulate someone on their achievement? You really have to bring them down?

For the record, my friend is happy with her new role, and none of the warnings of dread turned out to be remotely true.

But it's happened to me. Decisions I've made in many areas of my life - personal, career and hobby - and there often seems to be someone prepared to bring me down. Am I an eternal optimist? No. I am, in fact, quite the realist. But when I share some good news or an achievement, be respectful. How about a simple 'congratulations,' or 'well done?'

Build people up, don't bring them down.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Diving Back In.

I subbed a story to a pro-market this week. It's been a long time since I've subbed anything anywhere, and I must say it felt great.

Partly because of the move and trying to settle in at a new job while focusing on a new curriculum, but also for a number of other reasons, it's been while since I've written very much at all. I haven't written any new words yet, but I've done a major rewrite on one story, started rewriting another, and read through a few more that need work. Time and space between writing and self-critiquing is a wonderful thing. Fresh eyes pick up flaws.

I've also finished and submitted the edits on my Sherlock Holmes story. Even at this late(ish) stage I found a typo, clarified a few sentences, and cringed at the repeated use of the same word in a couple of sentences. But the proofs look fantastic, and I love the illustration for my story. Thanks to Christopher Sequeira and the publishing/editing team for their work. This is an anthology I'm really looking forward to. Very proud to be a part of it.

In the meantime I have continued making notes in my writer notebooks, the ones I carry almost everywhere I go. I never let up on those so there is a collection of ideas, thoughts, sketches and thumbnails waiting to be harvested.

For the first time in ages I actually feel optimistic about my writing again. It's a great feeling.

Look for more words from me soon.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Home Is Where The Heart Is?

Some of you may not know I am actually Scottish by birth, not Australian.

True, I sound like an Australian when I speak (although my accent is not as strong as many I know), and I prefer AFL and Vegemite to Soccer and Marmite, but I was born in the highlands and emigrated to Australia as a small child. I've been naturalised, so I have Australian as well as my British citizenship.

As a child I wondered what Scotland was like. We didn't have the internet then, so my knowledge was limited to encyclopedia entries, pictures on postcards, and wild imaginings based on stories by relatives. This, of course, led me to believe such things as all Scots children walk 16 miles to school each day in snow 6 feet deep. I think I had my dad to thank for that one.

As I grew older, Scotland continued to call to me. I was proud of my homeland and its history. It was an almost mythical place, and I yearned for any connection. From books and movies to music and food, I lapped it all up. And then, in 1985, I returned for the first time since leaving as a 'wee bairn'.

I was not disappointed.

Scotland was truly beautiful. It was a gentle, peaceful country with generous, funny people. I felt at home, and I remember telling my parents that one day I would return to live in the UK.

I am pleased to report, that after spending the past two weeks on a road trip, Scotland is just as beautiful and the people are still the same.

We drove from Aberdeen, my father's hometown, through my grandparents (both sides) hometowns (Buckie and Cruden Bay), saw the house where my mother was born, caught up with second cousins, visited a fantastic museum which has photos and information on the trawlermen on my mother's side (including my grandfather and his brothers) and stayed for a couple of nights in Inverness, the city where I was born. We toured through the highlands, lonely, desolate, magnificent mountains dominating our landscape.

We drove past Culloden, where the Camerons fought exhausted after marching 50 miles in two days, and Cawdor, which is only a few miles from my birthplace. I guess I could have been a thane.

Macbeth too (in the play, anyway) was based in Inverness. I could have been a king.

And, of course, Loch Ness. Don't even mention I could have been a monster. You don't think I spent half my childhood hearing that one?

This has been an important time. A time of reflection and appreciation for my relatives and ancestors. A time to consider what was and what could have been. A time when I felt a connection with the land around me.

Mostly, though, it has been a time of gratitude.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Sherlock Holmes Down Under.

I've had to keep this one under my (deerstalker) hat for a while, but I'm thrilled to announce my inclusion in this fantastic anthology.

'Sherlock Holmes: The Australian Casebook' is due for release later this year. Edited by Christopher Sequeira, this collection includes stories by some fantastic authors. I am privileged to be alongside so many great names, including Lucy Sussex, Kaaron Warren, Kerry Greenwood, Lindy Cameron, L.J. M. Owen and Narrelle Harris.

The development of this project took quite some time, and I'm indebted to Chris for his determination to see this book published.  The cover is fantastic, and I can't wait to see the internal illustrations.

Keep watching this space for further details closer to its release in November through Bonnier/Echo.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

So Is This How It Ends?

Finished work at LCHS yesterday. And, for the most part, it's an odd kind of feeling.

Disappointment in not being able to follow students through their entire academic year, but a relief that the end date has been reached. It's certainly been busy over the past few weeks, both at work and at home. Lots of marking and assessment to ensure no extra work is left for my colleagues who remain at the school. And we had a visit from Ofsted.

For those who don't know Ofsted (and until late last year I didn't know much about it), they are the inspectors who visit schools and classrooms to determine their teaching and administration standards. And, certainly within the teaching world, they have achieved a myth like status for being brutal. Teachers rip their own heads off rather than face them, administrators wail at the merest mention of them, and principals become blubbering, thumb-sucking wrecks from their visits.

Yes, it was terrifying, and for someone like me who is rather new to the system, stressful beyond belief. But somehow we survived their visit. All we have to do now is await their report, and they weren't giving any clues away. Anyway, I won't be around when it's delivered. For my colleagues' sake, I truly hope it is favourable.

Last night I had a few drinks with my colleagues. My friends, actually. The English department has been wonderfully supportive, and I know I'll miss you all. And to the others who are moving on from LCHS, I wish you nothing but the greatest successes.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

My Kind Of SF Movies.

It's been a while since I've seen so many SF films that I've enjoyed. For a few years now I've been disappointed with the long breaks between quality SF film.  Sure, there's been a ton of superhero movies, and while many love them they are not my cup of tea.

In fact I was recently speaking to someone in the film industry, and they were lamenting the current domination of these films - Marvel in particular. So much Marvel product is being made that it's affecting investment and production in other, non superhero movies.

But I digress.

Don't get me wrong. There have been SF movies that I enjoyed, or even loved. Ender's Game, The Force Awakens, The Lobster and Ex Machina are films I adored. I might even be one of the few who will openly admit to quite liking Jupiter Ascending as well. But for every one of these there is a Prometheus.

Bleah!  (And please, remember this is only my opinion on these films. Like most art, taste plays a large part of what is considered quality.)

Interstellar needed work. It dragged on and then turned metaphysical with a 'happy ever after' ending. From all accounts Christopher Nolan ignored the original, darker ending and rewrote it. I think Nolan is over-rated as a writer and director. Most of his work needs clarity and focus, and a much gentler touch. Inception, for example, could have been so much better. I've also yet to love a movie by Neill Blomkamp. I've previously written of my disdain for District 9, a movie which most people seemed to rate highly. Elysium was even worse. It made little sense at all, and was full of plot holes Nolan could drive a starship through. Latest word is he may not be attached to the Alien sequel after all, which I consider good news. In addition to these, there were a lot of other so-so SF films during these years.

But in the past 15 months or so I've enjoyed the two Star Wars films, The Martian, and Arrival. Guardians of the Galaxy was a lot of fun, and even Passengers, which seemed to upset a lot of people, was nothing more than it pretended to be. And I quite enjoyed it. And there was a lot more. Ghost in the Shell, while not the deepest of films, was visually beautiful and better than I expected it to be. I must point out the setting reminded me of a cleaner, more prosperous Blade Runner world.

Speaking of which we have the new Blade Runner movie to look forward to - and if it's anywhere near the quality of director Denis Villeneuve's previous work, (Incendies, Sicaro, The Arrival) we should be in for a real treat.

Plus the new Star Wars movie in December.

Life is good.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Start Making Sense.

When I was young, my grandmother used to read a magazine called The People's Friend. First published in 1869, it's still in existence. It contained recipes and knitting patterns and anecdotes from readers about their grandchildren, but is mostly famous for its short stories.  But the one thing I always remember from reading this magazine when I visited my grandmother is the cover art.

At the time, and through the eyes of a child, I thought the artwork was basic and not particularly skillful. I also thought the colours were wrong, that they were too primary. And since the artist, J. Campbell Kerr, produced a new cover each week, that perhaps they were churned out to meet the need.

I recently recalled Campbell-Kerr's name, and was surprised to learn she or he didn't exist. It was merely a pseudonym for a team of four watercolour artists who took turns to produce the covers. But during this moment of research, the main thing I finally understood after all these years is why I knew the colours were wrong. They weren't Australian colours.

The Australian landscape is quite different to the British landscape. The colours are different, the trees are a different range of greens, and on a beautiful spring day the grass, flowers and sky are more primary than the drier, harsher hues of the Australian experience. This is something I knew intellectually, of course, and have been aware of for many years, but when I finally connected this with Campbell Kerr's artwork it really hit home.  This art works in Britain.

But that's not all. As I explore the British countryside I am constantly amazed at how much of my reading experience now makes more sense. Even going back to The Famous Five novels, some of my favourite books when I was a kid, smugglers, secret panels, small islands, copses and coves feel at home in this landscape. Even the work of Tolkien and other British writers now gives me different images and interpretations to the ones I had growing up.

I expect this is completely true in reverse. When I read a story set in the Australian bush I can easily picture the sight, the sounds and the smells, whereas an overseas reader would overlay the text with their own understanding of a woodland.

Context and experience. Live and read widely.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Crossroads Of Canopy.

Thoraiya Dyer is a writer I truly admire.

I've only ever met her twice in real life, and our digital correspondence is far from frequent, yet she's a wonderful writer and a great person to boot. I was fortunate enough to spend a little time with her last June at Continuum in Melbourne, but even then we didn't end up with enough time to chat. And I'm not really sure why. It just didn't seem to work out timewise.

I always enjoy her writing, and she has given me some solid advice and encouragement.

So I was especially pleased last year when she signed a deal with TOR to publish her trilogy. The first book is out now, and although I've yet to buy a copy, I'm hearing good things about it. Online reviews have been highly favourable as well.

Set in a giant mythical rainforest controlled by living gods, Crossroads of Canopy is the first installment of the Titan’s Forest trilogy. Be sure to look out for launch dates and events near you.

Oh, and buy a copy of this book.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

It's Time To Re-open Those Files.

I haven't been overly-active on my website since I left Australia. There are a number of reasons for that. Settling in to a new life and job, learning new curriculum, trying to make friends, setting up a house, and so on. Mostly, though, because I haven't written very much fiction since before I left Australia.

It's been far too long, and I've been far too busy to find writing time. Or should that be 'make' writing time. Planning and organising the big move, and preparing our house for sale were our major priorities for so very long. Writing was, unfortunately, some way down the list.

But I'm about to get back into it. I've been looking over a few stories that needed rewrites, and I've even made notes on them. Tonight, for the first time in ages, I even wrote some new words. They'll probably never get used, but it felt great to be back behind the screen and typing again.

And, very soon, I promise some exciting publication news. I can't wait to announce this one.

Onward and upward.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Last In, First Out.

A few days ago I was informed that due to budget concerns, approximately 18 teachers will be finishing up at Easter this year. All teachers made redundant are on short term contracts - basically 'last in, first out', and unfortunately I am one of the 'last in'. This means I have approximately 13 weeks of teaching left.

This decision seems to have taken all staff by surprise. My colleagues, managers and even some of the leadership were genuinely shocked by this. None of the students have been informed yet, and I won't be the first to tell them. I know some of them will be quite upset by this.

You know what they say, "One door closes, another opens."  Yeah, that's not something to which I ascribe. Doors are made to be opened, or sometimes kicked in. I've never been one for automatic doors. I'll certainly be making time to take stock, consider my options, and choose which door I plan to open.

I look forward to the opportunities I may discover along the way.