Saturday, February 28, 2015

Bits and Pieces

My evidently long forgotten desire to post articles here on a daily basis, has resulted only in increasingly sporadic additions. Although I have nothing to say, I feel the urge this fine Sunday morning so here I am. Here's a collection of snippets from my intermittently focussed life.

I've lost interest in Facebook. I jump on every day but rarely find anything to excite me or interest me. It does however, please me to see others, sharing their lives and opinions in words and pictures.

Australia's thrilling one wicket loss to New Zealand. I watched the last couple of hours of this game in which Australia lost 8 wickets for 26 runs and were bowled out for 151 in a World Cup game at Eden Park. Despite the impossibility of defending such a low score, Australia managed to dismiss nine of the ten batsmen required to win the match. After Mitchell Starc destroyed the lower order with fast accurate bowling, New Zealand's Richardson tonked the ball over the fence for a six to win the match. So exciting. I love cricket!

Three men in black body suits. We went to Paddy's Markets yesterday for a spot of shopping and had lunch in the food court at Market City. The three men also carried mini sandwich boards on their backs and were handing out advertising flyers. As they passed us, we walked past a ninety year old man on stilts, who was dressed as a clown and swivelling a hula hoop around his hips. The things people do!

Good bye Dinosaur. I finally bought a new phone and said goodbye to my five year old HTC Desire Z. I bought a Samsung Galaxy 3s, and I've never been happier with a phone. I don't buy the latest technology because I don't need it and I don't have enough money. This twice superseded phone is great: very easy to use and it allows me to do a number of things I couldn't before, for example send and receive MMS, use voice commands and film myself - which might not be such a good thing. 

Lovesick continues to develop slowly. I struggled to write 1300 words on Friday and that is the sum total of my writing for the week. How do I feel about the slow progress? Philosophical. I can't force it and therefore I can't be bothered worrying about it. It will all come together in due course. I don't think it matters how long it takes. I think what's most important is that it becomes the best novel I have ever written...and it will be.

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Monday, February 23, 2015


DraculaDracula by Bram Stoker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a wonderful book. Once again I am left in awe after reading a classic novel. I had heard about the Count, and seen many movies about Dracula and I'd heard about Van Helsing as well, but now I know. Superb characters, albeit in the case of the three fans of Mina,a little absurd, but Jonathan and Van Helsing. Dr Seward, and his fly eating lunatic patient, the ghouls. Loved it. Dracula is a terrific and horrific story well told, tightly plotted and beautifully described. If ever a book put you somewhere, Dracula puts you there. I can still see the images my mind conjured as I read. Adding to all this was genuine suspense, I actually stopped breathing at some points, racing through the text to see what would happen.

I will read this again one day, but until then I am satisfied to know that I have read a great piece of literature upon which so many other books and films over many years have derived inspiration. Read it...with all your lights on.

View all my reviews

Friday, February 13, 2015

More spiders please...

Continuing on with the spider theme, I thought I would share this short story with you. This was published twice by the NSW Department of Education's School Magazine, Countdown.

A Place of Refuge by D.A.Cairns

‘I’m so tired of this weather,’ said Spider.

‘Me too,’ agreed Beetle. ‘I want to be out running around in the sweet, long grass feeling the sun on my back.’ She extended and beat her wings suddenly out of frustration.

‘Calm down,’ said Spider. ‘It can’t rain forever.’

‘It feels like forever already,’ said Fly, coming in to land softly beside Spider.

Watching Fly land and settle himself, Beetle tried to control a shiver of disgust. Flies are so ugly, she thought, so unpleasant, I feel like flying away. Politeness restrained her.

Perhaps, she wondered, spiders find flies equally disgusting to look at and that’s why they eat them. They couldn’t possibly taste good.
‘Aren’t you going to say hell to me, Beetle?’

‘Hello,’ said Beetle in the coldest, most unfriendly voice she could muster.

‘I was just knocked down by a raindrop,’ said Fly.

‘Silly to be out trying to fly in the rain, don’t you think?’ sneered Beetle.

Spider looked at Beetle and then back at Fly, wondering how long it would be before Beetle’s rudeness caused Fly to lose his cool. They might even kill each other, thought Spider happily.

‘I had to try to get home between showers because my wife was expecting me,’ said Fly.

‘It’s been pouring rain continuously for days,’ said Beetle. ‘How could you have possibly flown in between showers?’

‘I’ve been waiting in here for days,’ said Spider. ‘Putting up with the cold and the smell and the occasional human. It could have stopped raining briefly.’

‘Nonsense,’ said Beetle to them both. Then she said directly to Fly.

‘You’ve been buzzing around inside liquor bottles again. You’re drunk!’

‘Now listen here!’ said Fly raising his voice and twitching.

‘Come on, my friends,’ said Spider. ‘As we are stuck in here until the rain stops, why don’t we try to get on. It’ll make it so much easier. I mean it’s bad enough being stuck in here without having to listen to you two argue.’

‘I just don’t like flies,’ said Beetle to Spider loud enough for Fly to hear. ‘No wonder humans are always trying to squash them or poison them.’

Spider reared up on his back four legs. ‘Who cares what humans think or what they do?’

‘That’s right, Spider,’ said Fly. ‘Who cares? We were around long before they came along and we’ll probably be here for a long time after they’ve gone.’

Beetle eyed Fly, then shuffled around to face Spider who was stretching his long hairy legs in all directions. Spiders aren’t exactly the most attractive species either, thought Beetle, but at least they have decent manners, and my, what wonderful engineers they are. Those beautiful webs!

‘It’s not true,’ Beetle said, ‘that we have been here longer than humans. Everyone knows humans came first and then we came along with all the other creatures and humans gave us our names.’

‘You are so stupid to believe that, Beetle,’ said Fly. ‘You think like a baby – I suppose you still believe in Santa Bug.’

‘I’ve had enough. I’m sorry Spider, but I am going to have to leave. It was nice chatting with you until Fly came along,’ Beetle said, staring at Fly for as long as she could stand the sight of him.
Fly buzzed right up to Beetle’s face but backed off when Spider reared up again to threaten him.

‘I’m sorry too,’ said Spider as he watched Beetle zoom up towards the gap in the toilet block between the roof and the wall. ‘Really sorry.’

Fly watched Beetle as she flew straight into a web and was helplessly entangled before she knew what had happened.

‘Excuse me,’ said Spider to Fly. ‘It’s lunchtime.’

‘Sure,’  said Fly suddenly worried about spending too much more time in this place of refuge. ‘I have to get going, anyway.’
‘What about the rain?’ called out Spider as he scurried up the wall towards Beetle who was lying still, trapped in his beautiful web.
Fly ignored the question as he buzzed upwards and headed for another gap in the toilet block wall. He could faintly hear Spider speaking over the sound of his own wings beating but he didn't care to listen. He just wanted to get out of there alive and home to his wife and children.

Spider has spun intricate traps across all but one of the exits from the toilet block. Unfortunately, Fly chose incorrectly.
Now ensnared and still, Fly cold hear Spider talking to Beetle.

‘It’s nothing personal, Beetle.’

Beetle thrashed around in one last desperate attempt to free herself, but Spider was soon upon her, and Fly watched in silence knowing he was next.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


Work is under way on the cover and layout for my novel Devolution which Dream House will deliver into the heart of the huge Indian market. Novel number four, A Muddy Red River will be published by Rogue Phoenix Press, and my W.I.P, Lovesick is now 32 chapters strong (albeit first draft).

At the 28 chapter mark, I reached a crossroads with Lovesick, and felt that the story was running out of steam. I had to pause and wait for some inspiration. The first spark came while I was out on my early morning road run. The second, in the bathroom several days later. I am surprised that I did not think of these major plot developments and structural deviations earlier, but that is the craft of writing: sometimes you know where you are going, and sometimes you get lost and have to wait until the rescue party appears.

A novel is a living thing, infused with life by the imagination and skill of the author who finds strength in the support and encouragement of other writers, and friends and family. A writing friend gave me some good advice recently which I initially rejected out of pride. I have since contemplated her words and allowed them to permeate my thinking.

The advice was to think less about sales and more about writing. Thanks Rebecca.Rebecca's website 

Monday, February 9, 2015

What the Orb Spider Told Me

Unfortunately, I had to disturb an Orb spider today because he had spun his beautiful web across my path. Born with PhDs in engineering these much maligned creatures do not intend to scare or annoy us...yet they do.

Anyway, after I broke the part of his web which was connected to the ground, at an angle of 45 degrees over a distance of two metres, I watched his reaction. The impact of my action was immediate, as was the response of this marvellous arachnid.

He quickly gathered the remnants of his web, first going down to the other ground anchor point, then back up, bundling as he travelled all the way back to a crack in the brick work on the wall. 

I began to wonder if he grumbled as he worked. Was he furious or just irritated? Was he complaining bitterly about the carelessness of humans before running off to have a whine to a friend with a sympathetic ear? Do spiders even have ears?

None of the above, I'm sure. Quickly and without fuss, he did what had to be done. Collected his web, and retreated to safety. He'll probably set up shop again tonight once the sun goes down.

The spider did not speak to me, because he couldn't, (he was too busy) but I was reminded of the uselessness of complaining. If there is a job to be done, just do it! Interesting timing given my last post. God bless the Orb spider.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Complaint about Complaining

I was going to talk about trust but I don't trust myself to stay within the safe boundaries of generalisations, so I'm going to have a whinge about complaints instead. Here too, sadly, I run the risk of identifying culprits of unreasonable grumbling. To be sure there are fault finders galore in this world, but I do not wish to name and shame those I know, nor even make obvious insinuations. Also, I have been known to bleat as well, so far be it from me to throw stones.

However, the question on which I wish to focus is what is reasonable complaining and what is not. Is it fair, for example, for my neighbours to complain about the sounds I make in the kitchen as I rise early to prepare for the day? A few plates banging, the kettle boiling, the toaster popping. It may be only five thirty in the morning, but this is the time I choose to get up and who could reasonably complain about the normal noises I make?

If I add the sounds of As I Lay Dying to the audio mix then perhaps I am going too far. If I sing loudly, or stomp or take no thought for the clashing of cups and cutlery in the sink, then maybe there are reasonable grounds.

There are things which we simply have to endure. No matter how annoying or disturbing they are. I find the sound of motorcycles irritating, for example, but I can hardly expect all the riders, lovers as they are of those two wheeled machines, to stop assaulting my senses simply to please me. I don't understand rudeness or laziness but I have neither the power nor the authority to do anything about it.

What I can do is fill the ears of like minded people with my cavilling. On this common ground, we cement an affinity which makes us feel good. Justified even. Dare I say righteous without inferring self righteousness? (because that is another thing I don't like) - I didn't know how to properly punctuate that sentence. Some readers will complain about that which is fair enough too because I do purport to be a writer.

This is so much fun, I have no desire to stop and yet, I must.

My first attempt at a book was called What's Your Problem? It was a book about complaining which one editor said they "did not get", and I gave up. That was many years ago, and I have learned much since in terms of doggedness, and understanding that many people do not 'get' me or 'get' what I write, but I don't care.

I invite you to a have a whinge. Moan away right here in the comments. Go on. You know you want to get something off your chest.

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