Category Archives: Life/Family/Friends

Train Adventures

During primary school we took a long journey on a train. My mum, two younger siblings and myself. There were so many things about it I found fascinating. We were in a sleeper carriage and the bunk was like a different world. A place to not only curl up with a book, but to catch glimpses through the window of the scenery outside. There were stretches of open land, not a house in sight, towns filled with people, railway sidings that if you had blinked you might have missed them. I thought of ways to describe the places we travelled through, wondered about who might have lived there or what was in the area. I also wondered about where we were headed, but was mostly fascinated by where we currently were.

Of an evening, as I fell asleep, the sound of the train travelling across the track made a unique sound. It was mostly a rhythmic lullaby, reminding me I was going somewhere, even as I slept, my dreams filled with equally fascinating adventures.

There were times when the sleeper felt cramped, especially with my younger siblings cooped up inside the cabin too. The corridor outside the sleeper was also an interesting spot. Large windows to the passing world, strangers on their own journeys and two directions leading to other carriages. I would have loved to explore the entire train, but sadly that wasn’t possible. But there was more than enough to keep me interested in the sections where I was allowed and of course I had books with me. When you love to read there is always something to do.

When we arrived at our destination, there was yet more to see. The station was crowded. There were numerous people, a mixture of noises, bright lights and lots of colour. So much to see, so many things to feed my imagination and fuel more ideas for stories.

It’s memories like this that I draw on when writing. Using them to add a touch of realism to even my fantasy novels. The wonder of going to new places, discovering interesting things and meeting fascinating people. I still enjoy travelling. Going to out of the way places and often taking random directions because they look or sound interesting. Not only do I enjoy travelling myself, but I also love to hear about other people’s journeys too. They can be as fascinating as experiencing my own travels.

Working With An Artist

Sometimes it can be difficult working with an artist when you have no ability to draw and you want them to see exactly what you can see in your mind. It entails phrases such as ‘it’s like this, but not exactly’ and ‘a bit like a mix of all these pictures together’ and ‘if you took this bit of that image and a piece of that image and this section of the other image you might be close to what it looks like’.

These highly descriptive comments often lead to a rather cranky looking artist saying, “Draw it.”

“But I can’t draw,” I explain for probably the fiftieth time.

The artist holds out a piece of paper and pencil. “Draw what you want made.”

I reluctantly take the paper and attempt to draw something vaguely like what I have been trying to explain. Handing the artist the piece of paper, I say, “It looks like this. Kind of.”

The artist turns the paper in various directions, frowning. “What’s this?”

“My drawing. I told you I can’t draw. Why don’t you draw it? You’re the artist.”

“I would if you told me what you want.” The artist hands the paper back.

“I’ll send you the description from my book.” Once I’ve done that, I return to the artist and wait until the description is read.

The artist looks up from the computer. “That’s not enough information.”

“I do need to leave some of the details up to reader’s imagination.”

“So I can make what I want.”

“No. It has to be like what I pictured.”

“I’ll make something and if you don’t like it, too bad.” The artist wanders off to the shed, muttering about authors and impossible tasks. There are often a few four letter words included. Well, maybe more than a few.

Days, weeks or months later, depending on the complexity of the task, I finally see the finished piece. “That’s exactly what I imagined. See, I did give you enough information after all.” Although for some reason the artist doesn’t seem overly impressed with my comment.

Parachute Silk Dress

I’ve always been interested in history, even as a child. My nana had a tendency to keep everything so her place was like a treasure trove of things to be discovered. Nana used to be a seamstress so there were old cottons, a treadle sewing machine, heaps of material and numerous buttons. Everything had a story. I spent hours asking her to tell me the story behind all the things I discovered.

One of the items was a dress I loved to wear. It was far too big, dragged on the ground and I used a scarf around the waist to make it look less like a decorative sack draped over me. The stories about it fascinated me. They involved World War II, rations, a lack of material and things remaining scarce even when the war had ended. Nana told me how there was an excess of parachute silk, left over from the war, and some of it had patterns printed onto it so it could be used for dress fabric. She was able to get hold of a piece of the material and make herself a dress. After years of rations and being unable to get much more than the basics, she had something completely frivolous and unnecessary. The war had ended and people were trying to reclaim their previous lives.

I still have the dress and occasionally wear it, thinking back over all the stories attached to it like threads holding it together. Memories of mine and ones that belonged to others. Of war, loss, scarcity and hope.

No Regrets

Forest Path

I recently had an interesting conversation with someone about some of the many things I’ve done in life and about some of my experiences. They wanted to know what gave me the confidence to do the things I’ve done, particularly when I was very young. It took a bit for them to understand what I meant by, “The thought of not having that experience.” They took that to mean ‘feel the fear and do it anyway.’ Which is miles from what I meant.

It was around my early teens or just before I was a teenager when I first started living my life by two simple rules. ‘If I was to live to a hundred would I regret having done this?’ And, ‘If I was to die tomorrow would I regret not having done this?’ I have no idea how I came up with those questions, but I do know it was when I was trying to make a decision. It isn’t about fear, it’s about regrets and being yourself. About living the life that suits you. Being the person you choose to be.

Fast forward quite a few years to 1991 when I was eighteen and Metallica released their song ‘The Unforgiven’. The moment I heard it I loved it. And I remember thinking, that is it. That’s the reason behind my questions. A person who never had a chance to be themselves and dies full of regrets. That is the person I don’t want to be. Luckily I’m quite stubborn and good at following my own path, even when it’s overgrown and more like hacking through a jungle with a blunt machete, having no compass and no map. Then just when you think it can’t get worse, the sun is starting to set, there’s no torch, no matches and no other means of creating light. Sometimes it has only been my belief in my ability to eventually get there that has kept me moving forward. Even when people were telling me things were impossible.

I’ve had more than my fair share of setbacks, dramas, horrifying events and sorrows. And just like everyone else there have been times when I’m not sure how I’ve managed to keep going. I guess I don’t know how to give up. That’s not to say there haven’t been times when I’ve changed directions, removed things from my life that it isn’t good to have in it and replanned my path. But my main targets, goals and dreams have stayed the same. And the questions have never changed.

Answering those two questions doesn’t mean life will be without heartache, failures, sorrows or pain. It will hopefully be without regrets. It will hopefully be a journey you can look back on and be proud of having experienced. And it will hopefully help you become yourself, not an imitation of someone else.

So who do you want to be? Someone you don’t recognise and who has never done a single thing that matters to you? Or the person who has lived their life on their own terms, following their own path, believing in themselves and not riddled with regrets. I chose to be the person who has done things, not regretted things. Even if sometimes it is the harder path to travel.

 

Metallica’s ‘The Unforgiven’ Official Music Video on Youtube.

Bring On 2017

Fireworks

It’s difficult to believe another year is ending. This one feels like it has flown by quicker than usual. As always, I’m feeling a touch nostalgic as I look back over not only this year, but some of the proceeding ones and the changes they have brought. It shall be interesting to see where 2017 takes me and I’m keen to discover the new challenges in store for me. Hopefully you’ve all collected many treasured memories this year and are looking forward to starting the New Year.

Supanova Brisbane 2016

supanova-2016

Earlier this month we attended Supanova. Like the previous times, it was such a lot of fun. I enjoyed catching up with people from previous events, meeting new people and talking to those who visited my stall.

This time we took a larger crew with us and had people dressed as various characters, from my steampunk series, Rosie’s Rangers. We had a shopkeeper, sky pirates, blood shaman, a human mech and I wore steampunk wings that moved. Our display had also grown and we had a shopfront similar to one from the 1830s. It was nice to have somewhere to display the steampunk critters that are based on the ones from Rosie’s Rangers.

As always I loved seeing the many costumes, people wore to the event, and couldn’t resist taking numerous photos. As did those with me. I put together a compilation of them, with a lot of help, and it can be found on Youtube.

I’m looking forward to the next Supanova and we’re already tossing around ideas for what we plan to do. It’ll be tough outdoing the shopfront, but we’re looking forward to the challenge. Now if only we could make a decision between the many crazy ideas we’ve been coming up with. Or possibly come up with one that is a little more sane.

Celebrating Three Years

three-years

Around the middle of November I celebrate three years since my first four stories were released on Amazon. As always it’s been a wonderfully busy year with not only plenty of writing, but also workshops and school visits from North Queensland all the way down to South East Queensland, Australia. It is approximately thirteen hundred kilometres between the two points. It has been plenty of fun, even though at times it’s been a lot of hard work, and I’ve had an amazing year.

During the year I released five short stories, five novellas, five novels and one nonfiction book, totalling 415,260 words. That was 186,555 words less than the previous year, but I was on the road more this year and also started putting content up on Youtube. Both have been fun, particularly travelling to different places, meeting interesting people and inspiring others to write their own stories.

I’ve been working on some of next year’s novels and of course finalising the rest that will be released this year. Next year there will be the usual books in my series Rosie’s Rangers, Demon Hunters, Realms Of The Fae, Plea Of The Damned and Fairytales Retold. There are also other stories I’m looking forward to sharing. Ones I’ve been writing in between working on stories in my different series.

Like last year I’ll be doing National Novel Writing Month in November along with attending Supanova. The lead up to the beginning of my fourth year will of course be full of things to do, new people to meet, friends to catch up with and words to write. But I’m starting to expect life will continue to be busy and full of things to do, which is exactly how I like it. It means there’s no chance of being bored and life is always interesting.

Drop in and see us at Supanova, Brisbane, Australia if you’re in the area on the 11th November to 13th November. There’ll be lots of interesting items on display based on my western steampunk series, Rosie’s Rangers. It’s been great seeing so many things being created from that series.

In all, it’s been another good year and I’m looking forward to seeing what the next one brings. But most of all, I want to thank the many readers I’ve met in my travels and those who’ve taken the time to email me. It’s been great getting to know some of you.

Born Talented?

Avril. Five and a half months old.

Avril- five and a half months old.

I’m often told by people I’m lucky to be such a good writer and they could never write like me as I must have been born with that talent. They couldn’t be more wrong. The only talent I was born with was the ability to see stories everywhere and an imagination that ran wild and came up with the craziest of ideas. One thing I was lucky about was that my family didn’t try and stifle my imagination. At times they even encouraged it.

My early attempts at writing were truly atrocious. I had the ideas, but no way to convey them well. I saw ideas everywhere, including in my dreams. They were in clouds moving and reforming in the sky, in the sound of music and nature, in art and sceneries, in throwaway comments people made and poetry, in the shadows of the night and unidentifiable sounds. Waking or sleeping I had stories running through my mind. Nothing has changed. My head is still constantly filled with stories.

Like every other author I had to learn how to write well. I’ve never met or heard of an author born with the ability to write perfect stories. There’s always some kind of learning curve involved. Since I knew at an extremely young age that I wanted to be an author, I’ve had a lot of years to practice. I’ve kept most of my writing, only a couple of stories being lost over the years, and you can see the gradual improvement of my work.

Writing can be a lot of hard work, but it’s something I love. Something I couldn’t image ever giving up. I will stop breathing first. It’s different for every author. To me, writing is like being in a movie at the side of my characters. Feeling everything with them, experiencing their moments. But I’m not them and their feelings are not mine. I’m like both a parent worried for their child and a nemesis determined not to let them reach their goals.

I’ve met people who’ve said they’ve given up writing because they were no good at it. That after a year or two they realised they were wasting their time. I always tell them they gave up too soon. An apprenticeship is often four years full time and even then you aren’t considered a master in your field. That takes many years more. If you want to write, don’t feel like it’s a talent you need to be born with. It’s a skill that can be learned if you persevere. And like any other skill, it takes different people different amounts of time to learn. If you really want to be a writer, don’t give up. Take the time you need to write the stories you want to share.

Father’s Day

Sailing

On Sunday the fourth of September it will be Father’s Day here in Australia. For me it’s a time of both sorrow and joy. Sorrow because I’ve lost one of my fathers and joy because during my life I’ve been fortunate enough to have not just one father, but two. At times that’s made me feel extremely lucky, especially when I think of the people who’ve never had a father in their life. Or worse, a father who has mistreated or abused them. During the years I was a foster parent I learned about far too many instances of people who’d endured such fathers. When people found out I was a foster parent they would sometimes tell me their own stories of ending up in the system and the reasons behind it, or in some cases wishing someone had come along and removed them from the situation they were in as a child. Some were grateful to have been foster kids, others weren’t. But all of them had harrowing tales to tell.

Both my fathers are completely different to each other. My biological father was laidback, regularly gave a helping hand to mates and was nearly always late. I had many philosophical discussions with him, learned a lot about electricity, including how to wire up my dollhouse, and we spent hours fishing together. My second father, who came into my life when I was a teenager, is extremely reliable and has good advice, which although I don’t always take it often helps me think of other options. He’s also good at building and making things from timber and helps me out even when he’s shaking his head and wondering what on earth I’m thinking.

I couldn’t imagine what my life would have been like without either of them. It certainly would have been far less rich than it currently is. And there would be so many things I wouldn’t have experienced. Glass bottom boats with my father, sailing with each of them at different times, Expo ’88 with my step-father, using a cast net with my father, watching my step-father design houses and endless other memories. There have of course been disagreements with each of them, particularly when I was a teenager, but nothing so bad that I ever wanted a life without them in it.

So as Father’s Day approaches I often find myself thinking about the many reasons why I’m glad to have had two fathers in my life. And being grateful that I was lucky to have two fathers, who although neither of them are perfect, have been the perfect fathers for me.

Dictionaries

Dictionaries

My love of books includes so many different types, including reference books such as dictionaries. Over the years I’ve added to my collection of dictionaries, unable to resist some of the beautiful editions I’ve found. I’m often asked if I really need that many dictionaries. What can I say? Obviously. I own them, don’t I?

My oldest dictionary doesn’t have a publishing date, but the pages are yellowed and there is a photo of the King and Queen, along with the royal princesses, taken at the time of the Coronation. It was my grandfather’s book and was given to me many years ago. It’s The Modern Standard English Dictionary And World Atlas. In the back of the dictionary is a section titled Austral English. This section contains Australian slang words and colloquial expressions of the time. I’ve found it a useful reference when I’ve wanted to find out more about that era. There’s also a section on prominent Australians, Fauna, trees, how to address persons of rank, countries of the world and an atlas. When trying to narrow the date down as to when it was published I looked through some of the list of prominent Australians and couldn’t find a date after 1939. When checking the dates of some of the people listed who had no date of death, I came across Clement Hill who died in 1945. So the dictionary was likely to have been published some time between those two dates.

Another dictionary I have is Webster’s New World Dictionary. It may not be the oldest dictionary I own, but it’s the one I’ve used for the longest. My father bought it when I was ten years old and it has coloured pages with lists of different things such as trees, rocks, shells and animals. I used to pour over those images for hours. They were great for seeing what different things looked like so I could describe them in my early stories. Things I’d never seen personally, but because of that dictionary I knew what they were called and what they looked like. To me that dictionary was almost magical. It could help me imagine all kinds of things and places and fuelled so many daydreams and stories. Decades ago my father asked me if I wanted it, having remembered how many hours I’d spent looking through it.

I still have the school dictionary we were required to have in late primary school. The Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary was a handy tool I used on an almost daily basis. More for my writing than for schoolwork. I also read that dictionary from start to finish in a bid to learn more words I could use to create my stories.

I also have dictionaries I found in secondhand shops that looked interesting, ones I inherited and beautiful glossy ones that I couldn’t resist buying when wandering around bookshops.

You can never have too many dictionaries. Obviously. Only take a look on my shelves and you’ll see that for yourself. One is never enough.