Tuesday, February 18, 2020

This Is My Blood.

I'm thrilled to announce another publication. My story, This Is My Blood, is included in the January 2020 issue of Outposts of Beyond.

While it's disappointing the publishers are retiring the magazine, I'm excited to have been selected for inclusion in the final issue. Fortunately, they are creating some new titles to take its place. Alban Lake has always been great to work with, and I look forward to subbing future stories to them.

This Is My Blood is a fantasy story, a genre I don't explore too often. I originally wrote this story very quickly to meet a themed anthology. Unfortunately, at the time, I had missed a single word when reading the requirements. Urban Fantasy. Yes, I'd missed the word Urban and written a Fantasy story. I didn't realise until after the story had been sent and had been sitting in the publisher's slushpile for about a week. But I did the right thing and emailed them, asking to withdraw it from consideration.  There was no point wasting their time.

The story has undergone a couple of minor tweaks since those days, but it's essentially the same tale. I love this story, and I'm very proud of it.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

A Weekend of Words.

I managed to escape my work, my studies and the city for a weekend of writing, laughs and red wine. Over the past two years, I haven't done anywhere near as much writing as I would like. This is mostly due to studies and other life events.

With four other writers, I headed into the countryside to a small cottage for a writers' retreat. We were all very good - well, most of us - and actually spent a lot of time writing. I brought a couple of stories I wanted to revisit. One I particularly like, but it needed work. I've attempted minor adjustments over the past year or so, but this time I went in and attacked the whole ending, which to me was the part that didn't quite work.

Now it does. It still needs another look, and a polish, but I feel it's much closer to the story it promises to be.

The other story is one I'm rather proud of.  Again, it's close but needs something. Before I left Australia, a writer friend gave me a solid critique.  This weekend another writer friend (both excellent writers, by the way) also gave me a critique.  What stunned me was how similar their comments and advice was. If I didn't know better, I'd suspect collusion.

At least I now have a clear plan for the story.

We went out for a meal, drank wine, talked a lot, laughed a lot, and played a fabulous card game for many hours on end. Thanks, team, for the retreat.  I really needed that weekend.

Meanwhile, it's back to work and onwards with these stories.

Monday, January 20, 2020

On Being A Scottish Australian.

A busy cultural weekend coming up.

Friday 25th January is Burns night. A Scottish evening in which we partake of haggis, neeps and tatties. And whiskey. Oh yes, there will be whiskey.  And yes, I have booked in for a Burns supper.

Saturday 26th is Australia Day. The local Rotary club is hosting a Big Australian Breakfast. From what I gather it will be bacon, sausage, eggs, and beans (which is considered a Full English Breakfast, and still far more Australian than Walkabout, a chain of allegedly Australian bars).  I don't hold out too much hope for any real Aussie delicacies, but I am going to support the event, as they are hosting this to raise money for the bushfire appeals.

And while these two dates are somewhat part of my character, the weekend is also the Chinese New Year. I spent a few weeks in China (twice) on Study Tours, in which my two colleagues and I were tasked with setting up a sister school relationship. And I'm pleased the exchanges continue all these years later. While I don't plan to celebrate with dragons or fireworks, I am planning on some Chinese food.

Happy cultural day to you!

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Deep Sleep and Vivid Dreams.

The new year has brought heavy sleep. Although I set my alarm for 6.30 am, it has actually only woken me about three times in the past two years as I seem to automatically wake about 30 minutes before it goes off. The past couple of weeks, however, I have regularly slept until 7.30 or as late as 8.30. And then on my first day back at work (alarm set, of course) I woke at 6.05. I think the back of my brain instinctively knows I need to get up for work.

And it has, for the most part, been deep sleep. Much deeper than I usually have.

I think this is partly the time of year, as we have very short days and long nights. Partly it was my body recharging after a year of work and the trip down under, and partly just because I could sleep in and didn't have to get up.

Interestingly, this has brought vivid dreams as well. I won't give too many details or specifics as I know some budding psychology students will do their best to psycho-analyse me.

  • I dreamed I was invited to a party at Bob Dylan's house. It was a lot of fun, and he sat off to one side, not being bothered and simply enjoying himself. I did chat to him briefly.
  • I dreamed I was back in Japan, where I was supposed to see an ancient book, but they wouldn't let me see it. The people in charge were connected with the Yakuza, and killed a Japanese man who asked for the same book. They let me live.
  • I dreamed I was with a group of people when one of them received a letter informing him it was time to go. Kind of a Logan's Run thing. He had to find the entrance to the afterworld, and once we did he said goodbye and off he went. There was no sadness.
  • I dreamed Paul Young (the 80s pop star) visited us at our home. Also there were some colleagues from work. We had a great time, and he signed an album for me. I have no idea where this came from. I liked his music, but haven't listened to it in a long time.
  • I dreamed about an incident at a swimming pool, which I can only catch glimpses of and don't recall all the details.

And last night, for the first time in ages, I had a lucid dream. I really enjoy these, as I can explore and create adventures. I can never control every detail, but can at least guide and direct them. Last night's, however, was very unusual. At first I could control it, but then it wouldn't permit me to do what I wanted, or anything. Instead I had an experience that I didn't expect. Something I'm still trying to understand. (And no, I won't share - see the comment above about amateur psychologists)

I have looked at dream interpetation books and websites in the past, but they generalise. You dream of a goldfish, it means this.  But what if the dream was about a goldfish that was blue and 20 feet long, while riding a bicycle?  Surely that changes all the meanings.

Or sometimes, a cigar is simply a cigar, and dreams are purely our brains re-organising memories and creating narratives to entertain us. Whatever they are, I sure enjoy them.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Back in the UK.

I've been back a week or so, and the trip panned out pretty much as I had predicted. I even had a Chiko Roll and enjoyed it.

It was wonderful seeing my friends, family and former colleagues. The one thing that surprised me was how much the staff at my school had changed. It is 20 months since I last visited, and it was 18 months before that. The changes this time were far greater than the previous time, which is logical, I suppose, as you become further removed in time. I went to a morning tea, and I didn't know more than half the people in the room.

On the way back I stopped in Abu Dhabi for a couple of nights. First to break up the long flight and reduce jetlag before returning to work, and second to have a bit of a holiday somewhere new after a hectic two weeks at home catching up with people.

I really enjoyed it. I loved every second. The food was great, the people were friendly and helpful, and there was so much to do. I could easily have filled another couple of days. The Louvre Museum and the Old Fort were definite highlights. Brilliant.

One of my favourite moments was simply heading off the main road and wandering in sidestreets until I got myself lost. That is something I try to do in cities I visit. Sometimes you find the most remarkable places and people, and this adventure was no exception.

And the absolute bonus for me was being upgraded to a suite instead of the room I had booked. I had three rooms, a huge TV and sofas. That was cool.

Thank you, Abu Dhabi. I will return.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Up, Up And Away.

I fly out to Australia tomorrow. It's been almost two years since I was home. I'm really quite excited about the whole trip, especially catching up with family and friends.

I'll be staying with my parents in the house in which I grew up. The house has changed a lot, so it's not quite as nostalgic for me as it might be for others returning home. There is nothing there which was mine from my teenage years, for example.

I will visit my old school, where I was a student and then a teacher before I moved to the UK. It's only a couple of hundred yards from my parents' house and is home to many of my best friends. It's also earmarked for rebuilding, and parts of it, including the staff room, have already been stripped. This will be the last chance to see it as it was.

My hometown is a bit of a sleepy hollow, but I know it well, having grown up, taught and policed the area. It has changed dramatically in the last 50 years (we moved there in late 1968) and I will be interested to see what has changed in the last couple of years.

I'm also looking forward to a couple of food items you can't get over here. Vegemite is readily available, I love Tim Tams but don't yearn for them, and you can get kangaroo steak here if you look for it (I haven't).  No, these are not the things I miss. What I really long for is a dim sim or two.

Dim sims are a uniquely Australian take on Chinese dumplings. They're cheap, they're nasty, and they are completely wonderful. They can be served steamed or deep fried (always deep fried for me) and they're something I've been craving for the past two months.

I'm also looking forward to a Chiko Roll. Yes, I know. They're usually awful. They seem like a good idea until you have one, then when you do buy one, you remember why you haven't done so in a long time. And I think I might buy a meat pie - Australian style.

I've rented a car this time so I will have more mobility, be able to go further afield and visit people I didn't get to last time. Already I have plans to drive out west to visit and old friend, and then up north-east to visit my brother. I do love a good road trip. MP3 player at the ready.

Tomorrow I'll be in the air, and I think that's the only thing I'm not looking forward to. It's a long haul, and the airlines continue to dehumanise their customers by decreasing space, offering fewer services, and charging for things that should be included.

I'll see you on the other side.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Move Close To The Fireplace.

Winter is coming, which it is, and isn't any sort of reference to Game of Thrones.

It's getting colder, the days are getting shorter with dark mornings, and the leaves are falling. I've already had a couple of icy mornings where I've had to scrape the windscreen. Firewood has been delivered, which means the Chateau Cameron is cosy in the evenings, and we're eating more soups and stews than in the warmer months.

Christmas, as a festive season, seems more real here.  Growing up in Australia, Christmas always seemed out of place. I remember watching The Proposition, the Nick Cave film, a few years ago. It's a gritty Australian 'western' and is very much a commentary on the hostile landscape and environment in which the colonists and convicts lived. Here's the thing - they simply didn't belong, and I seem to recall dialogue along those lines. One scene that stands out is the family trying to have a traditional English Christmas lunch in 40c heat while being swarmed by flies. It belongs firmly in winter, and is very much a northern hemisphere festival.

Oh, and that in no way, shape or form suggests I never enjoyed Christmas in Australia.

But once again I am reminded of Marigold by Steeleye Span. (From the Sails of Silver album)

When the marigold no longer blooms
When summer sun is turned to gloom
See the forecast winter snow
See the evergreen that lonely grows
Move close to the fireplace
Neglect the garden
See the ground harden
At a ghostly place
The golden summer sun is silver now
The fruit has fallen from the bough
The season moves to chestnut time
Toffee apples, treacle and mulled wine
Quilts and furs and woolens gay
You wrap around you
But the cold confounds you
On an autumn day
Stout and strong the walls of home and hearth
Curtains drawn against the draft
The rake has reaped, the blade has mown
Nights draw in to call the harvest home
The quiet of a heart at rest
In peace abounded
By love surrounded
Here the home is blest