About Me

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I am a writer, editor, reviewer and dance teacher based in Perth, Western Australia.

My books

The first two novels of my trilogy, The Talismans, are not available as e-books at present, but I expect to get them back online shortly. However, I do have paperbacks of The Dagger of Dresnia at the low price of $25 including postage within Australia. I also have a short story, 'La Belle Dame', in print - see Mythic Resonance below. The best way to contact me is via Facebook!

Buy The Talismans

The first two books of The Talismans trilogy were published by Satalyte Publications, which, sadly, has gone out of business. I hope to see my books back on Amazon under a new publisher in the near future.

The Dagger of Dresnia

The Cloak of Challiver

Mythic Resonance

Buy Mythic Resonance

Mythic Resonance is an excellent anthology that includes my short story 'La Belle Dame', together with great stories from Alan Baxter, Donna Maree Hanson, Sue Burstynski, Nike Sulway and nine more fantastic authors! Just $US3.99 from Amazon. Got a Kindle? Check out Mythic Resonance.

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Places I've lived: Manchester, UK

Places I've lived: Manchester, UK

Places I've lived: Gippsland, Australia

Places I've lived: Gippsland, Australia

Places I've lived: Geelong, Australia

Places I've lived: Geelong,  Australia

Places I've lived: Tamworth, NSW

Places I've lived: Tamworth, NSW

Places I've Lived - Sydney

Places I've Lived - Sydney
Sydney Conservatorium - my old school

Places I've lived: Auckland, NZ

Places I've lived: Auckland, NZ

Places I've Lived: Mount Gambier

Places I've Lived: Mount Gambier
Blue Lake

Places I've lived: Adelaide, SA

Places I've lived: Adelaide, SA

Places I've Lived: Perth by Day

Places I've Lived: Perth by Day
From Kings Park

Places I've lived: High View, WV

Places I've lived: High View, WV

Places I've lived: Lynton, Devon, UK

Places I've lived: Lynton, Devon, UK

Places I've lived: Braemar, Scotland

Places I've lived: Braemar, Scotland

Places I've lived: Barre, MA, USA

Places I've lived: Barre, MA, USA

Places I've Lived: Perth by Night

Places I've Lived: Perth by Night
From Kings Park

Inner Peace Blog

Inner Peace Blog
Awarded by Joanna Fay. Click on the image to visit her lovely website!

Versatile Blogger Award

Versatile Blogger Award
Awarded by Kim Falconer. Click on the pic to check out her Quantum Astrology blog!

Fabulous Blog Award

Fabulous Blog Award
Awarded by Kathryn Warner. Click on the pic to check out her Edward II blog!

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Monday, 25 March 2013

Book review: Fearless by Rowan Hagen

Fearless by Rowan Hagen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a beautifully written book. It speaks of hankering after the past and of moving forward into the future. It points to the connection between love and service, and it examines the conflict that so often exists between between what we feel and how we act.

The worldbuilding (it's set on the central coast of eastern Australia) is wonderfully executed. Hagen has a way with words that often borders on the poetic, bringing to life both the boredom and the comfort to be found in a country town.

Told in the first person by Joss, Fearless is really two narratives in one. In her search for an old friend, Karmi, Joss reminisces to her new friend, Fletch, about her earlier life. This is cleverly done. The flashbacks are so neatly worked in that they add to the narrative flow rather than interrupting it. I did find that I knew the ending long before I got to it, but I never once wanted to stop reading. It was a case of the journey being more fascinating than the arrival! And that journey introduces us to some wonderfully well-drawn characters who play out events both terrible and sublime.

Fearless is a keeper. I shall no doubt read it again.

View all my Goodreads reviews
Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Write a decent synopsis

When an agent or an editor at a publishing house asks for a sample of your work, s/he will usually want to see a synopsis as well. Even if you’re self-publishing and have done the right thing by engaging a freelance editor to help prepare your manuscript, you will usually find that she’ll want a synopsis. In fact, when I do a mini-assessment for you, it’s one of the things I’ll ask for, too.

Why? Because from a decent synopsis, an agent or editor can see whether your story will 'work'. Does it have interesting characters doing interesting things? Is there an underlying conflict that holds the plot together? Can the climaxes be made to occur in the right places? Is it original? Does it remind the reader of another book? (This can be either a good thing or a bad thing – a good thing if your book has an original take on an idea that has sold well before: a bad thing if you’ve obviously written still another re-hash of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter or Twilight.)

The first time you sit down to write a synopsis, you’ll probably tear your hair out when you realise that it’s going to take a lot more than the standard one or two pages to fit the whole story in. (It’s usually fine, BTW, to present your synopsis with single spacing – but be sure to note the requirements, if any, expressed by the person who will receive it.)

The very idea of compressing a 120k story into 700ww or even less throws many people into a tizzy as the task looks impossible! But relax! There’s trick to it – and that trick is that you don’t need to tell the whole story.

The Four Essentials
Any story can be summed up by looking at four things:
1.    Who is the main character?
2.    What does s/he want?
3.    What's stopping him/her from getting it?
4.    How does the MC set about defeating this opposition?

As an example, let’s take a look at Pride and Prejudice. (I’ve chosen this rather than a spec-fic novel because almost everyone has read it, seen the movie, seen the TV series — or all three!)

1.    Elizabeth Bennet, the second of five daughters in a family whose estate is entailed to the nearest male heir, is a self-sufficient young woman who disapproves of her mother’s determination to marry the girls off advantageously.
2.    Elizabeth wants to marry for love.
3.    There is a dearth of even halfway-loveable men in her social circle, yet when two new eligible bachelors arrive in the area, she soon becomes prejudiced against Mr Darcy, a proud man of good family who looks down on those who don’t meet his high expectations.
4.    Elizabeth must conquer her prejudice and convince Mr Darcy that he needs to overcome his pride before they can find happiness together.

Ok, that’s the bare bones of the story. Now, to put flesh on those bones we need to add:
1.    Other important characters, their goals and motivations
2.    Important events in the story
3.    The eventual outcome, at least in general terms.

What you need to do first is to meld those four things into what’s often called an 'elevator pitch' – a short resumé that you could use to interest someone in your story in a very short space of time. It’s really just like a back cover blurb.

So, a blurb for Pride and Prejudice:
Elizabeth Bennet longs to marry for love, but for financial reasons it has to be to a wealthy man, and finding one who is both rich and loveable isn’t easy. When she meets the proud Mr Darcy, she quickly becomes prejudiced against his snobbery and his critical manner. Yet Mr Darcy is not all bad – and he is the one who can save the reputation of Elizabeth’s admittedly embarrassing, socially inept family. But can he overcome his pride, and she her prejudice, so they can learn to love each other?

Once you’ve done this, you have a handy tool for promoting your book – at the start of a query letter, for example.

Now let’s add more flesh to make our blurb into a real synopsis:
Elizabeth Bennet is the second of five daughters. Their family’s estate is entailed to the nearest male heir, the sisters’ obnoxious cousin, Mr Collins. Elizabeth wants to marry for love, and resents her mother’s determination to marry the girls off advantageously – but at least one of them must marry well to ensure the welfare of all five, once their parents have died and the estate has passed to Mr Collins.

The five sisters are quite un-alike, varying in character from sweet (Jane, the eldest) to sinful (Kitty and Lydia, the two youngest, whose main interests revolve around shopping – and flirting with army officers from a nearby garrison.)

When a wealthy bachelor, Mr Bingley, rents a nearby estate, Mrs Bennet’s hopes of pairing off her daughters rise. Mr Bingley, with his two condescending sisters and a well-born friend, Mr Darcy, attends a ball at the local assembly rooms, and it is apparent that Jane and Mr Bingley are attracted to each other. But Elizabeth overhears Mr Darcy criticising the company in general and her in particular, and she immediately writes him off as proud and snobbish.

One of the army officers, Mr Wickham, befriends Elizabeth. He tells her that he has been cheated out of his true vocation — the church — by Darcy’s mean behaviour, and Elizabeth, already prejudiced against Darcy, believes him.

Mr Collins proposes to Elizabeth. She dislikes his obsequious yet conceited manner and turns him down, much to her mother’s ire. The angry Mr Collins then proposes to Elizabeth’s best friend, Charlotte. Being just as poor as Elizabeth but more practical, Charlotte marries Collins at once.

On a visit to the newly-weds, Elizabeth runs into Mr Darcy and his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam, who tells her that Darcy has separated Bingley from Jane. Then, unprepared, Elizabeth receives a declaration of love from Darcy. She confronts him about his ruin of the budding relationship between Jane and Bingley and Wickham's account of Darcy's mistreatment of him. Darcy leaves, too shocked to reply, but he sends Elizabeth a letter telling of his estrangement from Wickham, who had tried to seduce Darcy’s young sister, Georgiana. Darcy also confesses his repugnance for the behaviour of certain members of Elizabeth’s family, which is why he persuaded Bingley to stop courting Jane. In this Elizabeth has to admit he is right — her mother and younger sisters often exhibit quite unseemly behaviour. Her opinion of Darcy softens.

Elizabeth, with her aunt and uncle, visits Darcy's estate. He unexpectedly returns home. To Elizabeth’s astonishment, once they have both overcome their embarrassment, he makes an obvious effort to be friendly.

The cautious new start to their relationship is interrupted by news that Lydia has run away with Wickham, apparently with no intention of marriage. This will reflect badly on the entire family, and Elizabeth is convinced that any chance of a relationship between her and Darcy is in ruins.
However, news comes that Lydia and Wickham are married. Elizabeth learns that this was almost entirely due to Mr Darcy’s intervention – he paid Wickham to marry Lydia. Bingley returns and proposes to Jane – and Darcy once again proposes to Elizabeth!

Et Voilà!
That’s just over 500 words – one single spaced A4 page. The bare bones of the story are there — enough to give agents and publishers an idea of whether or not you have a workable storyline, and whether or not it’s the kind of thing they are looking for. You don't need to mention all the characters and you can leave sub-plots out altogether unless they impinge on the main plot in a big way. You will notice that I haven't mentioned Eliza's father or Lady de Vere at all, and the story still hangs together.
If you start with those four basic elements - the main character, what s/he wants, what’s stopping him/her from getting it and how s/he sets about defeating the opposition – and build up from there, you’ll come up with a decent synopsis every time.

This article first appeared in the now-defunct webzine, The Specusphere, on 10 September 2011.

(Picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons: © 2007 Nuno Pinheiro & David Vignoni & David Miller & Johann Ollivier Lapeyre & Kenneth Wimer & Riccardo Iaconelli / KDE / LGPL 3)
Sunday, 10 March 2013

Busy, busy, busy

I've been incredibly busy this last couple of months. I was engaged in a lot of reviewing for The Perth Festival, the Fringe Festival and the Writers Festival, and I also managed to fit in a weekend belly dance intensive!

The busy-ness is not over yet - I have two more shows to review in the next ten days. (You can read my reviews, BTW, over at Artshub.) Then of course, comes Swancon, the annual Perth SF convention. It is always held over the Easter weekend and attracts a lot of fans from interstate as well as local ones. I am particularly excited this time, because my short story 'La Belle Dame' has been shortlisted for the Best WA Professional Short Written Work section of the Tin Duck Awards. (OK, have a giggle - but the Tin Ducks are WA's state awards for SF and to be shortlisted is considered quite an achievement.) I'm pleased to see several of my friends and writing colleagues shortlisted, too, in various categories. Juliet Marillier has two books shortlisted in the Best WA Professional Long Written Work section, along with Joanna Fay, Adrian Bedford and Dane Richter. Joanna also has a short story up against mine, as does fellow Egoboo member Sarah Lee Parker. There are two other excellent contenders in this section - Martin Livings and Stephanie Gunn. It could be a close call -  may the best story win!

You can read 'La Belle Dame' in Mythic Resonance, now available as an e-book on Amazon for only $3.99. The print run is just about sold out, but I still have a few copies for sale. Leave a comment below or find me on Facebook if you're interested. Mythic Resonance contains 13 top-class stories, mostly derived from myths, legends or folk / fairy-tales.

I'm also on the list for best fan production for my work as Reviews Editor for The Specusphere. This is a nice bit of recognition for the eight years I've spent in this voluntary post, and is especially poignant because The Specusphere closed down just last week. We were all worn out, I think, and especially our webmistress, Amanda Greenslade, who now has a business to run, with two young children at her feet!

Vale Specusphere. It served a very useful place in the Aussie spec-fic scene and won a lot of respect for its reviews and articles. However, there are several other webzines that will, I am sure, close the gap left by 'The Spec'.

Hard on the heels of Swancon come the 6th IPEd National Editors Conference and the national SF convention, this year to be held at Conflux in Canberra. I shall be on panels at both these events, and I'm really looking forward to catching up with interstate colleagues in both editing and writing.

So the year doesn't look like getting any less busy! I'll try to keep you posted by blogging all these events.
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