Saturday, December 3, 2011

Reviews of My Stories from Narrator Magazine


I received an unexpected email from the staff at Narrator Magazine on Thursday night. It was part apology and part notification.  The email went like this.

Good afternoon,

Just a quick email to let you know we haven’t forgotten about you! Congratulations on your piece winning a prize in our Spring edition! We’ve had a busy week, so we’ve not had a chance to send your certificates and magazines through the post, but not to worry, we will have them in the mail for you first thing tomorrow morning.

Kind Regards


Hey, I was happy enough that both of the stories I submitted to the magazine were accepted for publication. I didn’t really expect to win any of the prizes.

Needless to say, I jumped onto the website to see which one of my stories won, and which prize it was. I certainly didn’t expect what I found.

Both of my stories placed in the judge’s choice prize. “Always the Children” placed second and “The Dancing Suit” placed third. I was blown totally away.

Today, we had our Writers’ Group meeting and one of the group members congratulated me on the great review of my stories in the latest edition of the magazine.

I’ll add another needless to say here. I came home from the meeting and fired up the computer to check out the reviews for myself.

“Always the Children”

-         A moving, heartfelt story. The life of an ambulance officer is sympathetically drawn and the unimaginable grief of dealing with the loss of a child is beautifully evoked.

“The Dancing Suit”

-         The characters of Robert and Beckett are strongly detailed to create a rich descriptive air of the period. A seemingly innocent and charming anti-hero soon becomes the readers worst nightmare in a surprising twist in the tail story.

They were a little off the mark with the first review as it was the life of a police officer but still, I don’t think I could have asked for a better review.

As an added bonus, I discovered that the prize not only consisted of a certificate but there was a monetary component as well. So this makes these two stories my first official payed literary endeavours. I don’t think I’m anywhere near ‘in profit’ yet, but when the editor loves my new novel once I finish editing it, I may just be on my way.

If you want to check out the review visit: 

You can also read the stories online at the same site. Just click on the "Central Tablelands – Spring Edition" icon or the "Best of the Best 2011" anthology. The stories are in both.  Let me know what you think. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bathurst Arts Trail Launch


(Back row) Rachel Ellis, Karin Smith, 
Colin Fenn, David Lake, Cathie Hale, 
Anne  Glendenning Walton,(front row) 
Mary  Cuppaidge, Merilyn Rice, Louise 
Ranshaw,    Marjo Carter are part of the 
Bathurst Arts Trial. 

BATHURST has A wealth of talented artists and their works are coming to life with a new 
Arts Trails initiative. The Arts Trail will operate on the first weekend of each month 
starting on November 5-6 and operating once a month until May next year.

The idea behind the trail is the opportunity for local residents and visitors to engage with 
the artists, speaking with them about their inspirations and work processes and seeing 
their work in their own surroundings.

Arts Trail chair Louise Ranshaw said in the light of promoting Bathurst as a desirable 
Evocity, it is important to demonstrate to potential residents that there is a cultural heart 
to this city, which we residents live with all through the year.

Thirty-one local and surrounding artists have taken the idea and will link in with 
winery cellar openings to give people a greater variety when discovering Bathurst and the 
local area.

The launch was held on October 25 in preparation for their first trail on November 5th.

“We had more than 50 people attend the launch,” Ms Ranshaw said.

“Everyone was excited to have arrived at this stage and were able to examine a proof
 of the brochure/map which will be placed at the Bathurst Visitor Information Centre 
and various cafes and public spaces in and around Bathurst.”

Brochures will be developed and Bathurst Arts Trail website website will launch in the
coming weeks.

Keep an eye out for the flags and signs. Drop in and say hello to an artist.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What I've Been Reading # 8

Picture Hal Junior - The Secret Signal
Simon Haynes
Bowman Press 2011

Hal Junior – The Secret Signal is the first children's book from WA author Simon Haynes. The book is a prequel to the humorous adult Sci-fi, Hal Spacejock series. Older Hal is good natured, confident in his abilities but an utterly clueless trouble magnet. It was interesting to glean a little insight into Hal’s formative years.

Hal Junior is good natured, confident in his own abilities, an utterly clueless trouble magnet, but he is a well meaning and likable dreamer. The story opens with Hal dangling upside down in a garbage chute by his elastic shoelaces trying to retrieve the only homework he has actually bothered to do. The antics continue from when his mother, the head of station research, gives him a secret signal for help, right to the climax where his earlier misadventures give an idea that might just save the day – or destroy the entire station…

This is a brilliant easy to read but exciting and funny story, perfect for reluctant boy readers. The humour is not as sophisticated and obscure as Simon’s adult series but I still caught myself chuckling out loud while reading the book. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

What I've Been Reading # 7

Picture Fireheadby
Venero Armanno

She used to sell her kisses for caramels; her lips went for long licks of licorice and her touch for tangarines and tutti frutti ...
Gabriella moves in next door to 14-year-old Sam and his life changes forever. There are dark secrets within Gabriella's family.

The story is set in Brisbane during the mid 1970's and delves into love and corruption. Firehead is poetic, dark and beautiful but makes you uncomfortable to read parts of it.
The story is told in parts, the first dealing with Sam's turmoil at the arrival of the fiery redheaded Gabriella into the house next door. It explores their relationship up to the discovery of her secret and her disappearance. The story skips ahead to when a grown up Sam finally discovers what became of Gabriella.

 Armanno is a brilliant storyteller.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Two Stories Published in Narrator Magazine

Two of my Short Stories were Published in Narrator Magazine Spring Central Tablelands Issue.

Last month I submitted two stories, “Always the Children” and “The Dancing Suit” to the Narrator Magazine hoping that the editors might select one of them for their Spring edition of the magazine. I was very pleased to discover that both stories were picked up for publication in the magazine.
Narrator Magazine is quarterly magazine based in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney and publishes essays, short stories, poetry and artwork, mainly from writers and artists from the Blue Mountains and Central Tablelands areas.

I usually write children’s fiction, but the magazine was asking for submissions for an adult audience.  The first story, “Always the Children” is based on personal experiences during my time as a police officer. The second story, “The Dancing Suit” is a subtle horror story about a tuxedo, possessed by the essence of a very nasty man.

The first story is difficult to read and was even more difficult to write. Sometimes I still see that broken little girls face at night when I close my eyes. I had much more fun writing the second story.

If you are interested in reading the stories, the magazine can be read on-line at

If you like the stories, take a few seconds to vote for your favourite in the “Peoples Choice Prize”

I hope you enjoy the stories. Back to writing for kids now…

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Exploring My Heritage Through Art

I found it a little sad when my father was blocked by some of the older great uncles while he was researching our family tree. Grim faced, they warned him off, told him not to stick his nose where it didn’t belong. There was no dark secret, no skeleton in the closet, no mass murdering psychopath to discover. 

The ‘big secret’ was, my great grandmother was aboriginal. I think those great uncles would have preferred the mass murderer. That is the saddest part.

Personally, I’m proud to acknowledge my aboriginal heritage. Frankly, it wasn’t that much of a surprise. You only have to look at great grandma’s photograph. (I’ll have to get a copy from my mother) The other unfortunate thing about the ‘big secret’ is that we missed out learning about a whole part of our culture.

My family are experiencing that learning now in our own separate ways. My brother is attending an aboriginal studies course; my mother and sister are getting involved through my niece’s school, while I am exploring my heritage through art.

The idea came after being asked to design and help the children at the local primary school paint an aboriginal style mural. I like traditional aboriginal style paintings but I also love painting in my own ‘fine art’ style. So, I decided to try incorporating both styles together – the same subject matter in both styles.
The first painting in this ‘Cross-Culture’ series is titled “Turtle Tides.”

And I’m planning on doing a goanna next as the goanna is the totem of the Wiradjuri people, to which I belong.

Other subjects I’d like to paint are the kookaburra, koala, magpie and frog. I’m looking for traditional stories relating to each of the animals I paint to help me better understand my heritage.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What I've Been Reading - # 6

Golden Bat
Sandy Fussell

Golden Bat is the 6th instalment of Sandy's Samurai Kids series and I have to admit I have been hanging out to read this one but forgot all about the launch date and only discovered this week that it has been out for ages.

I love Sandy's writing. As a self-confessed very non-visual person, Sandy can still paint vivid images in the readers mind with a few - seemingly - casually placed words.

She makes me so jealous...

What can I say, this is another winner. The characters in the Samurai Kids books are so likable, all with their own strengths and weaknesses. They are like old friends you get to drop in and visit from time to time - with each new installment. It is amazing how Sandy can write about a group of children in ancient asia and still keep the issues they face relevant to children today.

One of the year 6 students where I work was asking me if I knew of any good series to read. He'd finished the Ranger's Apprentice, the Artemis Fowl, Skulduggery Pleasant, Harry - of course and all of Terry Pratchett's books so I loaned him White Crane.

He is hooked. He stops me almost every day to tell me about some part of the series he loved. There is no better praise than that.

Come on India! I can't wait.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Children's and Young Adult Literature Festival

Author Duncan Ball

As always, the trip from Bathurst into Sydney for the Children's and Young Adult Literature Festival was well worth it.

It was a beautiful sunny break from wintery Bathurst weather. Added to this, I got to meet some of my favourite children's authors and had lunch on the lawn with Lisa Berryman from HarperCollins. The festival is always such a relaxed and welcoming place to hang out.

The only slight disappointment of the day was that New Frontier's editor, Sophia Whitfield was unable to attend the festival. I was hoping to meet Sophia, mainly because she has my book Paper Magic under consideration at the moment. It would have been nice if she could have matched up my face with the name on the manuscript.

There were some very interesting and informative panels during the day, and I picked up a couple of leads I will be following up on as soon as possible.

One of my favourite children's authors, Kate Forsyth

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What I've Been Reading # 5

Forever Fifteen
Kimberly Steele

I know that there are a kazillion vampire books glutting the bookshops at the moment. And yes, I'm sick of them too  but this one is a little different.

I first came across this story as a free audio book from (this was several years ago before I was sick to undeath of them) It is one of the few really good audio books I have listened to several times.

The book reads just as well as the audio version. Although I have to admit I missed the haunting soundtrack Kimberly's alter ego, Queenie provided for the audio tracks. I like the way Lucy's character is developed through flashbacks to her pre and post vampiric beginnings.

I found the book to have a calm feel to it, even though it takes the reader through the height of the Black Death, to ripping the life from a child murderer and finally to the bloody betrayal of friendship. Strange...
This is a similar subject matter to Stephanie Myer's books, but I believe Forever Fifteen  is a much better story than Twilight

Monday, June 20, 2011

6th Annual Children's and Young Adult Literary Festival

This Saturday, the 25th of June 2011 is the date frf the 6th Annual  Children's and Young Adult Literary Festival at the NSW Writers' Centre.

This years festival has been given the title New Work, New Directions, New Opportunities. With all the doom-saying about the future of the book industry, a major part of this years festival is being dedicated to opportunities for writers in the digital age. The digital age comes with enormous opportunities for new work and new directions. The blurb for the festival proudly declares "But when a door closes, a window opens."

One of this years panels will address;
Independent Publishing
Independent publishers talk about print books, e-publishing, apps, digital publishing and opportunities now and for the future. With Boomerang Books blogger Joel Blacklock, publisher Debbie Higgs, author Karen Robertson (Treasure Kai series) and Sophia Whitfield from New Frontier Publishing.

A second panel will address;
Beyond the Page
Taking your work to the world through Facebook, Twitter, blogs, websites and video-conferencing. In conversation with Jeni Mawter from Literature Live!, and author and blogger William Kostakis.

I'm looking forward to both.

This will be my third festival and I am hoping to catch up with some of my writing friends.  I am also looking forward to meeting some of my favourite authors for the first time and introducing myself to some of the editors who are attending. I particularly want to meet Sophia Whitfield from New Frontier Publishing. She currently has my Junior Novel 'Paper Magic' under consideration. I'd like to give her a face to go along with the name on my manuscript. I'm sure that has to help in some small way.

If there are any children's writers out there who haven't been to one of the festivals, please do yourself a favour and come along. It is a great day out and you might just catch that break you've been hoping for.

Festival Link

Sunday, May 29, 2011

What I've Been Reading # 4

Cyclone Tracy by Alan Tucker
Picture This is on of Scholastic's My Australian Story series. I have to admit, it is not a book I would have picked myself to read. I'm not really into disaster stories - but this isn't a disaster story.

One of the year 6 students I work with is a reluctant reader and I loaned him a book last week that I thought he might enjoy. The next day, he handed me this book telling me he thought I might enjoy it too. I started to read it in the afternoon after work and couldd not put it down. I finished it in one sitting.

This book is not really about Cyclone Tracy. It is the story of Ryan, son of the "Big T" the very pedantic and stern deputy Principal of the school. More often than not, the two are at each other's throats. The events leading up to and following Tracy bring Ryan and his father.
The book is written in the form of Ryan's diary. The only disappointing thing I found with this book was that it finished when it did. I wanted to know where the young hippy girl Soo and her family ended up.

The characters in this story are well drawn and make you care what happens to them. What more can you ask of a writer? I am thankful that my young friend gave me this book to read. It was definitely worth it.

What I've Been Reading # 3

Plum Puddings and Paper Moons
By Glenda Millard
Picture I've been looking forward to reading this installment of Millard's Kingdom of Silk series of books. Since starting to read the books, I have thought that the Rainbow Girls have had a bit of a raw deal.
Now it seems Scarlet, the oldest of the girls is getting her day in the spotlight.

 "Plum Puddings and Paper Moons" explores issues dealing with refugees.  It also shows that these very big issues aren't too big for ordinary people to get involved. Big wishes and small acts of kindness can build up and make changes in the way people think and act. If every one does just a little bit, the world could be a better place.

As always, Glenda's writing has it's own magic. Her descriptive passages lend vivid colour to the reader's imagination.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What I Have Read # 2 - "Boofheads" by Mo Johnson


Life is pretty sweet for Tommo, Casey and Ed. But things are changing - and fast. Has it all come to an end for the boofheads.'Boofheads' is the story of three boys who have been friends since starting school but as they go into Year 11, the dynamics of their friendship and lives begin to change.

The premise of this book brings back all the memories from my final years in high school. I rarely see any of my old school friends but thanks to Facebook, I'm slowly getting back in touch.

After reading the book, I’ve come to the conclusion that Mo Johnson must have been a teenage boy in a previous life. She has captured the mind-set of all three of the main male protagonists brilliantly. I have also come to the conclusion that if she based the character of Mrs. McKenzie on herself, she has a delightful self-deprecating humour. The Bagpipe Bitch indeed?

Watching the three boys slowly drift apart in the book was quite poignant, especially as Tommo is the only one who really sees it coming. The opening lines of the book set the tone and encapsulate the essence of the story.

Change tiptoed into our lives with her eyes down, like a shy chick coming late to class. We checked her out, as you do, and found nothing there worth bothering about… but we ignored her and that was our biggest mistake.

I knew a Tommo, a Casey and several Ed’s in the last few years of my own high school life. Part of me was secretly pleased for the whole thing to be over with and I certainly don’t miss some of my old school friends but a part of me was sad too, on that final day.

If the characters weren’t so engaging and the story wasn’t so thoughtful written, Boofheads would still be worth reading just for the memories it will evoke in anyone who ever went to school.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Scrivener for Windows

Last night I was listening to some episodes of Mur Lafferty’s ‘I Should Be Writing’ podcast and heard a very brief mention, in ISBW #176, about Scrivener for Window. That pricked up my ears. I like PC computers, I prefer them to Mac’s but there is one thing I have been jealous of writers who use Mac’s. They had access to the Scrivener program.

Scrivener is basically an organizational and editing tool especially designed for writers. You can use it as a word processor but it is much more than that. It keeps all the information you have on a writing project in the one place. There are character and place templates, places to store research notes and images that are in the program but separate from the actual writing. This makes compiling the finished project easy. There is a cork board function that creates note cards for each section, chapter, scene, location, or character so you can see at a glance what you have and where it is. Because the whole thing is connected, you can plot and outline using the cards, re-ordering them to suit the story and the changes are carried out across the project.

The program makes editing less daunting because of the snapshot function. You can take a snapshot of a page, section or the whole project if you like. When you finish the edit and realize you liked the original better, you can revert to the original with a click of the mouse.

Another fun part of the program, and one that is useful for me and all the other writers who have problems finding the right name for a character, is the random name generator. It is handy for when those pesky, unexpected new characters turn up in your story and you can’t keep on writing until you decide what to call them. Often, by the time you work it out, the train of the story is lost. How easy is it to click on the name generator and find something that at least temporarily appeals?

Although the program is not being released until later in the year, the delightful folks at Literature and Latte have released a free Beta version of the program. There are still a few bugs they are fixing as the Beta testing phase progresses but most of those are minor glitches that don’t adversely affect the functioning of the program.

Check out the Scrivener for Windows page here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Canada Bound

My last five blog posts have been writing related so I decided I needed to do a post relating to my artwork. I have been busy over a last few weeks organising things for my first art sale at the local markets. I know, the markets aren’t the best venue for selling fine art, but I had a contingency plan for that. As well as my original art, I put together a series of limited edition prints of my favourite paintings for people who just can’t afford the price of an original.
The second part of my plan was to produce some small and inexpensive original paintings. Framing plays a major part in raising the cost of a painting so I racked my brain for a cost and time effective solution. I came up with clear acrylic key rings, the type you place photographs of your kids in. And that is how “Paintings For Your Pocket” came into being. The paintings are all original oil paintings on silver birch leaves. Depending on the complexity of the subject matter, I can complete most in well under than an hour painting time.  (I need to allow the background and blocked-in elements of the painting to dry before adding the final detail though).

So on Sunday, armed with my paintings, prints and “Paintings For Your Pocket” key rings, I set up my stall. I decided as a method of attracting customers to my stall, I would set up my easel and paints to work on some of my current painting projects. Over the morning, I had quite a few people stop to chat and watch me paint.

Although I didn’t sell a great deal of stock on the day, I did sell two of the pieces I was working on. A “Painting For Your Pocket” leaf called “Moon Called.” It is scene of a wolf sitting below a tree, looking up and howling at the full moon. The second was one of my larger gum leaf paintings of a giraffe that I was just starting to work the detail in.

The other thing that made the day successful was the fact a lovely lady liked my work so much she commissioned me to paint a series of sixteen painting for her. She will be taking them to Canada with her later in the year as a unique gift for her friends and family. Hopefully I can one day boast that I am big in Canada. I already have one painting living there.

I’m going to be a busy boy. I received a separate commission yesterday for three paintings.

My next sale will be at the Sofala Show on Sunday the 27th of February.   If you are close by, come along and take a look.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I Should Be Writing

Sometimes following links around the internet just for the fun of it can take you to some unexpected and life changing places. One night several years ago I was net hopping and stumbled across a site called Escape Pod. At the time, I was supposed to be writing my book but I was procrastinating as usual, doing anything except write. Anyway, Escape Pod hosts a large collection of short audio stories. I listened to one or two stories that were listenable but only average. As I was about to jump to another site, a story title caught my eye. ‘Stuck In An Elevator With Mandy Patinkin’ by Kitty Myres. I like Mandy Patinkin so I listened. The story was fun but the most striking thing about it for me was the reader. Mur Lafferty.

Mur has a vocal quality and really pleasing accent that made me want to find out more about her. I jumped across to Google, opened some more links and eventually landed in the Murverse.

Vist ISBW site  HERE

When the screen cleared from the down jump transition – Sci-fi talk there – I flushed a little guiltily. Mur’s podcast site is called “I Should Be Writing.” I felt even worse when I finally went to bed, very late that night. I had still done no writing, but had listened to about dozen episodes of Mur’s Podcast.

By the time I woke the next morning, I had made a decision. If I was going to write, there would be no more pretending, no more “I’ll write my book tomorrow.” I would be serious and professional about writing, or not bother writing at all.

Yes, “I Should Be Writing” changed my attitude toward writing, pulling it from a hobby to “I’m really going to do this. Mur’s ISBW podcasts follow her own writing journey and includes tips and pitfalls she has learned along the way, plus interviews from other writers, podcasters, editors and new media personalities. All pass on their own experiences and writing insights. Mur’s site also links to many writing resources and other writerly sites of interest.

I can recommend “I Should Be Writing.” It is one of the most professional podcasts I have listened to. It is sure to have something of interest for anyone with an interest in the writing industry. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Thanks to PASS IT ON Newsletter

My thanks have to go out to Jackie Hosking from the PASS IT ON newsletter. In the opportunities section of issue 321, back in December2010, Jackie listed a new on-line children's magazine 'Literature For Kids' was seeking stories, poems and reviews. The magazine has themed issues and although I had no stories that matched the current theme, I contacted the editor and offered to submit a cover illustration for consideration.

Happily, the cover was accepted for the February Issue of the magazine with the theme of Love and Friendship. You can see a copy of the cover art in my Illustration gallery or visit the magazine ste at;

I recommend to all the writers out there, if you don't already subscribe to the PASS IT ON newsletter, it should be the next thing on you To-Do list.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What I've Read - 'All the Colours of Paradise' by Glenda Millard

This is the 4th instalment from the Kingdom of Silk.

Perry Angel is the newest Silk. 'He arrived on the ten-thirty express with a small and shabby suitcase embossed with five golden letters. It had taken him almost seven years to find the Kingdom of Silk.'

Perry loves drawing but something happens and he may never draw again. Perry may need all the colours of paradise to draw again.

Glenda Millard's books are sensitive and seriously beautiful. Stephen Michael Kings pen and ink washes are delightful but Glenda's writing paints the best pictures. Her words are vibrant and full of colour.

After reading 'All The Colours of Paradise' I still have to say that the first book in the series, ' The Namong of Tishkin Silk' is still my favourite just for the raw emotions it evoked. But this installment has all the hallmarks of Glenda's writing; simple, evocative and full of colour. It makes me want to move to Cameron' Creek. I'm glad that some of the Rainbow Girls have stepped out of the background in this book.

I have a confession, part of the reason I like this book as much as I do is that I can relate to this one personally through the character of Mr. Jenkins. Not because I tidy the local cemetery - although I do quite like cemeteries. Like Mr. Jenkins, I work at the school with children who need help to adjust and to understand. Being a School Learning Support Officer (Teacher's Aide) is my all-time favourite job that I have held. I have been blessed to work with some wonderful and challenging children.

Another brilliant part of 'All the Colours of Paradise' is that we get to see things through Perry Angels eyes. Even ordinary things become fresh and full of innocence. Did you know, laughter is the colour of watermelons and love is like chocolate melting in the quiet dark? Well you do now.

'All the Colours of Paradise' is a book that young girls will devour. I know a few boys who would enjoy the book, although they probably wouldn't admit it to their footy mates.

Highly recomended.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Paintings For Your Pocket

I have found that one of the first reactions I get from people looking at my leaf paintings is;

“How can you paint them so small?”

I didn’t think the paintings were all that small, not really. I was sure I could paint smaller.

Plus most people don’t have the wall space to display really large paintings, especially after they have them mounted and framed. This is one reason why many people buy paintings on the wrap-around canvases.

Next month, I’m going to set up a stall at the local Sunday Markets to sell my traditional and leaf art. I realise that not everyone can afford to buy original art. I started to think about how I could offer lower price alternatives to make the market stall more profitable. Obviously, prints of my work were the first thing to come to mind along with bookmarks displaying prints of my work. I can produce both quite cost effectively and sell them at a reasonable price that even kids with some pocket money can afford.

The next thought that came to mind was to shrink some of my paintings down to a size small enough to fit into those clear acrylic key-rings, the ones you can place photographs in.

I’m still thinking on that one, and I may do some to see how they go, but I last week I had an even better idea. I decided to put my money where my mouth is and prove I can paint even small than the gum leaf pictures.

I bought a box of key-rings and discovered that the smaller leaves from my two silver birch trees in the front yard are the perfect size to fit inside the key-ring. I’m talking a 35mm x 24mm space. I have decided to call them “Paintings For Your Pocket.” The main thing I wanted to do was make sure the paintings were still as realistic and detailed as my other work.

I started work on them last night and finished adding the details and highlights on the first four this morning. I’m having some serious fun painting these pictures and trying out new techniques.

If any of you would like a “Painting For Your Pocket”, or want to challenge me to paint something particular, just drop me a line.

I’ve decided to price the paintings at an even $10.00 each.