Monday, December 15, 2014


So we sold our house a few weeks back, which means we're now able to buy the one we had a contract on. We'll be moving in January just after the holiday madness. The house we're moving to was built in 1870 and used to be the local school-house. It has no mains water, no mains gas, no air-conditioning and no electrical heating. We're relying on rainwater tanks and log fires. That's it.

Yes, that's a little scary, if the truth be known. In some ways it's like stepping back a hundred years. Our current house has ducted reverse cycle airconditioning and gas appliances and the whole shebang. What it doesn't have is a view from the backyard like this.

That's what I see when I step out of my new office. Which means when I get bored with editing or stuck on an idea for a new story, I can just waltz on out and breathe the air. Which makes any potential hassle more than worthwhile.

And anyway, I like the thought of having a bit of separation from the utilities we've depended on for so long. There's something freeing about knowing your water supply comes directly from the sky, rather than through some sort of mysterious treatment works and several kilometers of underground piping. And if it means we have to learn to manage it better, that's a good thing. Not to mention the cost savings, made even better by the fact there's a 3.8KW solar system on the shed roof.

It should be an exciting time! Now we just have to move. It's amazing how much stuff you pick up when you've been in once place for 15 years.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Groaning Shelves

I have a lot of unread books on my shelf. Over and over I tell myself I won't buy another book until I've read what I already have. Then it hits me. I walk into the bookshop and I get hit by the smell of the paper and the colour of the cover and the voice of the demon on my left shoulder saying "ooh! this look good!" and before I know it I've done it again. Another one to add to the pile.

So, groaning shelf of unread books, what's to be done?

Recently I had a brainwave. What I've been doing is this. Starting at the top left of the shelf I read my way across to the right. Every unread book I get to *has* to be read, or at least attempted, before I can move on. This way I force myself to get stuck into books that I might otherwise have let gather dust for a while, because they're too big or I'm-not-really-into-that-author-anymore or I'm-not-in-the-mood-for-that-one or some such thing. When I get to it, it comes out and I give it a go. It's a deal with myself.

And it's already had some wonderful and unexpected results! I read the first Tales of the Otori book (which came into the "too big" category, but also put me off because I suspected it might be a bit too "literary" for my tastes). It turned out to be so good I bought the other five in the series and devoured them in a few months. Now I'm reading Raymond E Feist's Magician, which has been in no category other than I-just-haven't-gotten-around-to-reading-it. Too early to say how this will turn out, but at least I'll find out one way or another.

And yes, the books are still coming in, and I doubt very much I'll reach the bottom right of the bookshelf any time soon. But I'm certainly going to get my teeth into what's there, and I'm confident of discovering some more dusty gems in the pile.

Monday, November 17, 2014

New Ground

I had the opportunity to give my first ever author talk a little while ago at Prince Alfred College. The audience was a group of about forty Year Twos plus teachers. I've been wanting to do school visits for a while now but holding down a full time "normal" job makes it a tad difficult. Fortunately this particular school is only fifteen minutes' walk from my work so I managed to squeeze the talk into the beginning of the day then power-walk to the office in time for morning tea.

Yep, I was pretty nervous preparing. I've always been in awe of people who can speak to kids that age and hold their attention, so having to step up to the plate and do it myself was something of a challenge. I tried to make it as visual as I could by projecting lots of pictures on a big screen to illustrate my points. I also brought in lots of props, namely a big box full of all my drafts for Ping-Ling plus some notebook and such. 

And I have to say it went great! The kids had been working on their own stories in class and discussing things like the editing process and how to plot, so what I had to say fitted in pretty well with what they'd already been looking at. They asked fabulous questions too, although a couple did ask me when I was going to organise to get their books published. Slightly awkward.

All in all it was great, and it reaffirmed how much I'd love to do that kind of thing more often. If only the day job didn't keep getting in the way.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Post For Which I Could Not Think Up a Title.

Still waiting to hear whether Shamblers is up for publication or not. These things take time, apparently. In the meantime I can happily say I've done no writing at all. That's mainly because we've just signed a contract for a new house, and now we're frantically busy getting the old one into a fit state to sell. Selling your home of 15 year is very unsettling, not to mention time consuming.

I've also been reading. Currently I'm well into Clariel by Garth Nix, and loving it to bits. And yesterday a parcel came courtesy of Amazon (which, I hasten to say, I never buy books from unless they're out of print and difficult to get, as this one is) containing this little beauty.

I read this series when I was about 13 years old, courtesy of the school book club. Absolutely loved it. It'll be interesting to see how my adult self finds it. What I did notice was how thin it is. Thin! When I was 13 it seems like a tome.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Some New Thangs

So Shamblers has now been sent off to my publisher. Initial feedback is good but there are still a few hurdles to jump before it starts through the whole acquisitions process, if it does. Pretty well a repeat of this time nearly 5 years ago. Which I have to say, I'm pretty excited about. Deep down I was worried I might get an outright rejection, particularly as this book is very different from Blue Jade. The initial reaction is very encouraging. 

While I'm waiting, I'm thinking about picking up the Weight of Souls again. It's one of those books that's been hanging around my conscience for years. Over time I've picked away at it so it's in a pretty advanced state. I reckon a couple of months' solid work would have it good to go. No idea where I'd send it afterwards. It's not really a Scholastic type book, I don't think. In fact I'm not really sure what it is at all. Possibly YA? Maybe adult? One day I'll work out the difference, maybe. But whatever it is, I really like it, and I think it's worth continuing to plug away at it whenever I get time.

I'm also hoping to do a bit of reading. At lunch today I picked up a copy of Clariel by Garth Nix. I was a bit surprised to find only a single copy at the back of the shop on an obscure shelf with the spine facing outwards. Come on, folks, this is Garth Nix! This is a new Old Kingdom book! High time he visited that shop for a signing, I would say.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

While We're on the Subject

Another day, another drawing. This is Fib Digonius, a character from Shamblers.

It may well be true that his best days are behind him. Just don't let him hear you say it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Short Wait

After many feverish hours I've finally finished Shamblers and sent it off to the publisher. My timing wasn't brilliant as I found out after I sent it that she's having a week off, so I won't find out whether it's publishable until sometime next week. At least it's not as long as the 3 months I waited the first time round.

Speaking of holidays, I'm on holiday myself this week, and seeing as I now have some evenings free I've been getting into some character drawing. Here is Monsieur Le Ponce De Montbatton, a character from my (as yet unpublished) story The Circus on the Head of a Pin.

This is a pencil sketch that's been enhanced by Photoshop, which I downloaded yesterday and which I've been desperately trying to use. After much trial and error, this is the result.

I must say I'm pretty happy with it. Still lots to learn, but I have 30 days before the Photoshop trial runs out so I should be able to give it a good go.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


This is the week every year when my wife and sons go away with the inlaws and I have the house to myself. As has been the case for the last few years, this means some dedicated writing time, and today didn't disappoint. I've been beavering away at the latest draft of Shamblers for the past six months, and for a while there I was hooting along and it looked like I'd be ready for submission in no time at all. Then I hit a wall and for the past few weeks I haven't been able to get myself back into it again. Thankfully today I knocked off two chapters and that takes me to the half way point of the book. Tomorrow I'm hoping to do another and at least four or five more before the family comes back on Friday.

Part of the reason I've been a bit slack the past few weeks is I've been reading Lian Hearn's Tales of the Otori Book 0 (yes, it's the prequel), Heaven's Net is Wide. I actually bought the book years ago for half price when Border's closed, but something about its sheer size and the fact it was in the literature section put me off trying it out until now. And I have to say, in the words of the young folk of today, it's simply awesome. Easy to read, difficult to put down, beautifully written all the way through. After a few duds on my reading list lately it's great to find that unexpected gem, even if it has seriously dented my writing time. At least I have a little extra time this week to catch up.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Time for a Jolly Good Moan.

Goodreads have this great idea where authors can list their books as free giveaways and people can vie to get copies. The idea is that authors submit their books in the hope they might raise awareness of their work and also garner a few more reviews than they might otherwise get. I've been involved in two giveaways now, one for Jeweller and one for Ghost of Ping-Ling. In both cases I sent out three copies of the books to various locations around Australia and New Zealand. For the mathematically inclined, that's six books.

Alas, my efforts have only garnered a grand total of one review, which is disappointing because Goodreads stipulates that by entering one of these giveaways you agree to write a review. We authors might be a generous lot but the reason we're willing to pay to send out books all over the place is not simply to give people something to read on a wet afternoon. We want reviews! We want feedback!

And yes, even bad feedback will do. Weird as this might sound, and I think I probably speak for most writers when I say this: our nightmare is not having people read our books and hate them. Our nightmare is having nobody read them at all. That's why we happily send out free copies of our books.  

So if you happen to be reading this and you were one of the beneficiaries of my giveaways, please, please, please take the time to read what you were sent, and even if you don't want to write an actual review you can at least give a star rating. I would really appreciate it. And no, I'm not trying to make you feel guilty. Actually, I am trying to make you feel guilty! Very, very guilty. I fear the only thing you can do to assuage such terrible guilt is scurry off and get reading and reviewing. Immediately!

And if you're reading this and you weren't the recipient of one of the giveaways, maybe you should have been! That's not to say you can't still do me a huge favour and give me a review. You can sign up on and do the deed. Go on, it'll make all of us feel good.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Feelin' Philosophical

Well the dust has settled, the books are published, and in many ways I'm back where I was four years ago, trying to scrape together a novel and hoping it'll be good enough to get accepted. It's funny how the whole giddy ride of editing manuscripts and signing books and speaking at conferences seems like a distant memory, perhaps even a dream I had once that blurred into reality. At least I can look up at the books on my shelf and know it was real. 

And the writing goes on. I'm about to hit 50K words on the first draft of the new project. I've even managed to con a couple of beta readers into taking a look at it for me when it's ready. I'm happy to report that the excitement is still there, that wonderful feeling you get when you see a story begin to move beyond a few notes on a page into a living, breathing entity, with a life well beyond what you had originally envisioned. I'm looking forward to seeing where it ends up over the next few months.

It has zombies. Lots and lots of zombies.

But not quite how you're used to seeing them.