Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What I Learned From Kate (Part 1)

For those not lucky enough to attend the “A Touch of Magic” writing workshop with Kate Forsyth on Sunday, I have decided to pass on some of the things I learned during the day. First and foremost in this regard is that Kate is lovely, she is genuine, funny, knowledgeable and forthright in her advice.

There was just too much information in this workshop to share in one blog post so I will break it up into parts.

I try to attend the children's literature festival and at least two writing workshops each year and always come away riding a wave of enthusiasm and new-found knowledge. This recharge of inspiration inevitably improves my determination, my writing or at the very least my writing habits. I’m not meaning to take anything away from the quality of any other workshops I have attended but this one seemed to strike a chord with me.

The Workshop

After each participant in the workshop shared what they like to read, a little about themselves and their current writing project, Kate wrote two words up on the whiteboard.

FOCUS (One project at a time)


DISCIPLINE (See a project through to the end)

Several participants had three or four projects on the go and some had a bunch of half finished projects they had moved on from. I have to admit, I am one of the latter although more from a lack of planning than from a lack of discipline. 

The other thing Kate stressed at this stage was the need to set a realistic weekly word count, and stick to it.

 Being a fantasy writing workshop, the first part of the day was dedicated to what fantasy is and what the different genres of fantasy are.

My take on the definition of fantasy writing – across all the genres – is:

Fantasy stories draw upon fairytale and myth or have a quality of strangeness and wonder.

The genres covered included;

High (or Heroic) Fantasy

·         Imaginary world
·         Serious tone
·         Epic in scope – grand struggle – good v’s evil
·         Hero’s journey
·         Often multiple volumes
·         Often involve magic rings/swords, mythical creatures
·         Happy ending.

Adventure Fantasy (used to be called Sword and Sorcery)

·         The journey is important
·         Heroes are often warriors, thieves, wizards, pirates or charming ne’re-do-wells
·         Adventures usually end with a happy return to home.

Historical Fantasy

·         Set in our world during a true historical time period
·         Will include elements of fantasy to some degree
          o   Mythical creature
          o   Herbal Lore
          o   Persecution of witches or those with ESP abilities
          o   Fortune tellers
          o   Time Travel
          o   Duel linked time periods

Fairy Tale Retelling

·         Either retells a well known fairy tale, or
·          Deals with personal transformation
·         Quite often YA

Dark Fantasy

·         Focus on stories with elements of horror in a fantasy setting
·         Fantastic creatures – evil to the core
·         Evil appears early, usually after a brief opening scene of calm
·         Evil intensifies as the story continues

Romantic Fantasy

·         Romance – growing love
·         Usually a love triangle
·         Fantasy, magic, mystery elements or setting
·         Blending the two genres together

Urban Fantasy (trend appears to be over)

·         Modern real world setting
·         Fantasy elements intrude into the real world

Magic Realism

·         Magic happens in the midst of everyday events
·         Subtle, the line between reality and fantasy is blurred.

One genre Kate did not touch on is alternate history. Some people believe this category was invented by writers who wanted to write historical fantasy but were too lazy to research all historical details. Any blunders can then be attributed to the “Alternate” part of the genre.

The second part of the workshop looked at The Writer’s Tool Box

·         Character   -   Plot   -   Setting
·         Structure
·         The writing style – language, word choice, sentence structure
·         Parts of novel – Action, Dialogue, Description
·         Pacing
·         Peaks and Troughs  -  Light and Shadow
·         Surprise and Suspense

I will expand on these topics in part 2 of this blog post.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My Brush With Harry Potter Stardom

They say, writers are great observers, brilliant people watchers, noticing everything, collecting stories and creating magic on the page from the things they see. If this is correct, in Harry Potter terms, I would have to be a complete muggle. There will be no magic on my page. I have used the Harry Potter reference deliberately here. Not because I write children’s stories and     J K Rowling’s books are such a big part of recent children’s literature, but because of my recent brush with a Harry Potter celebrity.

Last week while holidaying at the Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort on Moreton Island in Queensland, I spent a relaxing afternoon enjoying a swim in the resort pool with actor Tom Felton. For those non Harry Potter movie fans, Tom played the part of Harry’s nemesis, Draco Malfoy in all of the movies. Tom is in Australia as a guest at the Brisbane Supernova Convention.  As a big Harry Potter fan of both the books and the movies, you would think this would have been an exciting experience for me. 

The truth of the matter is... It wasn’t.

Here comes the part about my not so awesome observational skills. You would think with over 21 years as a police officer and now working as a writer, my observational skills would be honed to an amazingly keen edge. I should be able to shave with the sharpness of those skills.  Wrong again.

I’m now going to relay a conversation I had with Rebecca, one of the entertainment staff on the island, late in the afternoon as the launch made its way back to the mainland.

Rebecca “The guy who played Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies is on the launch, heading back on the launch. He was here on a day trip.”

Me “Really, I love Harry Potter. It would have been brilliant (Ron Weasley quote) to have met him.”

Rebecca “He did a segway tour along the beach earlier but spent most of the afternoon swimming in the top pool.”

Me “Oh, hang on. I spent most of the afternoon swimming in the top pool!” 

So there you have it. I spent a lazy afternoon swimming in a resort pool with Tom Felton aka Draco Malfoy and didn’t even realise it. Am I embarrassed or what?

In my defense  last night I Googled images of Tom for something a little more recent. He has actually changed quite a bit from the smug, pale skinned blond kid who played the part of Draco. That is my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

But I am determined to work on honing my muggle-worthy observational skills or I may never find the magic again. 


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Geeking Out Again

It has been a while since I posted a blog but today I went to the Heroes and Villains Pop Culture Expo. at Penrith. Two actors I really like were guests and I have been looking forward to meeting them since I heard about the event.

It is probably not fair but when you meet celebrities, especially ones you admire, you have certain expectations about them. It is such a wonderful feeling when the real person lives up to those expectations you have of their celebrity. It is an even better feeling when they exceed them. Marc Singerand Amber Benson are just really lovely, genuine and friendly people. 

Marc Singer is a favourite actor of mine. I loved the movie Beastmaster when I was a teenager and he was great in his starring role on the original 'V' sci-fi series. 

I bought a nice leather bound book a few months ago. The cover is tooled with Celtic designs and has brass clasps and the paper is thick and beautifully handmade. 

I decided to use the book as an autograph book. - I actually decided to do that after Supernova when I saw Kate Forsyth, one of my favourite authors using a similar book for autographs. - This was the first opportunity I had to use it. 

I wanted to make the book a little bit special so I decided I would sketch all the celebrities I get autographs from. One page for each celebrity. If I know I'm going to meet them I'll do the sketch first. If I don't know I'll add it in later.   Mark thought his sketch was awesome.

He is officially the first person to sign in it.

Amber Benson has a special place in my heart. Not only is she a great actor from one of my all time favourite TV shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she is also an author of horror/urban fantasy books. Writing, especially speculative fiction, is one of my great passions. 

Amber loved the sketch I did of her and asked if I was an artist. When I told her I was a writer and my first book was coming out later in the year, her face lit up and she gave me some great encouragement. When I told her my second book was a horror story for kids, she cheered and knocked fists with me.

 My son met one of his favourite actors too. Manu Bennett from the series Spartacus was another really nice guy. 

It was an awesome day. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bathurst Arts Trail Website Opens

Last year I joined an arts initiative in called the 'Bathurst Arts Trail.' This involved about 30 local artists getting together to market their work while tapping into the local tourist trade. It was decided that during the first weekend of each month, the artists would open up their private studios or galleries to the public. Since the opening, I have met some interesting people who dropped in to visit and see some of my work.

So far, the initiative hasn't resulted in a huge boost to my art sales but I have been selling pieces at a steady rate. This is actually a good thing because I have been spending a lot of time working on illustrations for my book Paper Magic and for a series of bedtime stories I am illustrating. The other bonus is that I know I will have at least two full days trapped in the studio to paint. It's not really being trapped but sometimes I feel a little guilty abandoning my family while I paint. It might sound a little silly but that is probably while I have falling into the habit of doing my writing late at night after my wife and kids have gone to bed.

Back to the Arts Trail, there are some amazing artists who are a part of the initiative and you can check out some of their works on the Arts Trail website galleries. The site went live last week.

I encourage you to take a look.

Enter Here

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

SQ Mag - Cover Illustration

SQ Mag, is a speculative fiction magazine produced by IFWG Publishing. They publish bi-monthly on-line editions, and an annual best of print anthology full of sci-fi, fantasy and horror stories and reviews.

The May edition of the magazine has just gone live. This issue contains tales of Psych Horror, Fantasy, Dark Fantasy and Science Fiction. There is also a review of Brett J Talley’s horror novel “That Which Should Not Be”   The winner of the 2011 JournalStone Horror Writing Contest. 

The other great thing about this issue of the magazine – and I have to disclose a vested interest here – is that I did the cover illustration.

I received an email from one of the magazines editors tonight passing on some amazing feedback received for the cover art.
In his words,

“I can’t tell you how much positive feedback has been given for the cover, including from some luminaries in the writing field. Over a small space of time we got 200+ hits, and I am sure your work has contributed to it. Much heartfelt thanks.”

I recommend taking the time to look at SQ Mag – and not just for my creepy artwork. However, if it is my artwork you are checking out, I also did the illustration for the magazine’s  science fiction serial, “Avoiding the Searchers” by MF Burbaugh.

The link to get to the magazine is:  http://www.sqmag.com/sq-mag-edition-2.html

Monday, April 9, 2012

Getting My Geek On

I stumbled across a reference to this years Supernova Expo. I was going to go last year but life got in the way and I only remembered it was on when I saw a story about it on the news. It was too late to get tickets.

The Sydney Supernova Expo is on the 15th - 17th of June. I'm getting my geek on and have already put the date in my calendar.

There is a huge line up sci-fi and fantasy stars from Movies, TV, Books and Comics to tease out the nerd in all of us.

Here is the full list of stars.

Movies and TV
  • Christopher Lloyd - the very popular Emmett ‘Doc’ Brown from Back to the Future
  • Yvonne Craig - from the Golden Age of television, Batman’soriginal Batgirl and an original alumni from 2002
  • Michael Rosenbaum - Smallville’s Lex Luthor and Justice League’s The Flash
  • Hayden Panettiere - Heroes’ indestructible cheerleader & passionate activist seen in The Cove
  • Callum Blue - The lovable Mason from Dead Like Me and the complex villain General Zod from Smallville!
  • Mercedes McNab - This ‘Scream Queen’ is best known as Harmony from Buffy & Angel
  • Natalia Tena - Harry Potter’s heroic ally, Nymphadora Tonks, and Osha from Game of Thrones.
  • Colin Cunningham - From Stargate SG-1 to Falling Skies, with stops by The 6th Day and Elektra on the way!
  • Bob Wall - World champion kickboxer who featured in Way of the Dragon, Enter the Dragon and Game of Death with Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris.
Voice actors:
  • Jennifer Hale - videogame superstar, Hale voices Shepard in the Mass Effect Trilogy and many other characters in Metal Gear Solid, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
  • Vic Mignogna - fan favourite Vic voices Edward Elric in theFullmetal Alchemist anime series, Broly in Dragonball Z, Ikkaku in Bleach, and hundreds more
  • Christopher Paolini - the American novelist is best known for his Inheritance Cycle, comprising Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance.
Comic-book creators:
  • David Mack - critically acclaimed comic-book illustrator and creator of the Kabuki series and another returning 2002 guest
  • Jim Cheung, British illustrator renowned for his work on Marvel Comics’ Scion, New Avengers: Illuminati, Young Avengers, and Avengers: The Children’s Crusade
PLUS Seattle’s own fabulous Nerd Rock band, KIRBY KRACKLE - see kirbykracklemusic.com

I must have brought up my sons the right way because they are as excited as I am.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

New Blog Site

Hi to everyone who is following my Words and Pictures Blog.

I would love to invite you to come across and take a look at my NEW Blog -

The Fairy Book Reader


I will still be making general posts here on this blog but most of my posts, particularly those about writing and children's books will now appear on        The Fairy Book Reader blog. 

This new site is purely about children's books, children's writing and anything relating to children's literature. It will contain book reviews, author, illustrator and editor interviews, news, views, articles, poems, contests and what The Fairy Book Reader recommends.

I hope to see you all there.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Year of Jeffery

I was swapping emails with my writing friend Mo Johnson over the New Year break. We were catching up with what we had been up to. I mentioned a couple of thing that I was excited about, finishing the first draft of my new novel, winning some prizes with two of my stories published in Narrator Magazine, selling quite a few pieces of my art and getting some illustration work.

Her reply was, "It sounds like it's going to be the Year of Jeffery."

I thought about Mo's comment and decided that she was right, and that I was going to make 2012 the Year of Jeffery.

I have a number of manuscripts that I am sure are ready to find a home. I have a new manuscript with a storyline that turned out much better than I originally planned - with some serious editing it could be something special. And I have been doing some artwork that I am really delighted with. So this year is definitely the time to do something serious about it.

While looking at some publisher websites researching the best fit for my stories, I found one publisher based in Melbourne that publish speculative fiction novels, a magazine and a small number of children's book each year. One interesting thing about IFWG Publishing's site was that they have a list of their artists. I queried to see if they were interested in considering my chapter book ' Paper Magic' when they opened their books for submissions in March, and I also asked how to apply to become one of their illustrators. I left a link to my web gallery just in case.

I received a reply the same afternoon with an offer for an illustration job. It was an internal colour illustration showcasing a serial novella, 'Avoiding the Searchers' which will feature in all five issues of SQ Mag this year. The Editor loved the illustration and asked if I wanted to submit a illustration for the cover of the May edition.

SQ Mag is a speculative fiction magazine that prints science fiction, fantasy and horror stories. The last few covers have been sci-fi and fantasy oriented so I thought I would do an atmospheric horror based illustration. I emailed a copy off today and received a reply about ten minutes later. They loved the illustration and if approved by the magazine's Chief Editor, it looks like I'll have another illustration credit to my name.

Hopefully, they will also love 'Paper Magic' when I send it through at the end of the month.