Monday, September 18, 2017

The Snore Of Destiny Part Quatre.

The glow weave shirt, the nice pants and boots, the teeth brushed thrice. We're going to the surgeon today...

again...


fuck...



***


It's numbing, sitting here in the waiting room, ruminating over the fact that I'm here again. After 18 months, I'm back to square one. I've feel as though I have not advanced a centimeter. I've merely turned a circle. 

I'm reminded of a bee I saw a few days ago whilst out for a bike ride with my daughter. It was turning a circle on the kerbside. I guess it must have slapped into a passing car and, somehow, survived the impact. There it was, turning this futile circle, probably brain damaged, unable to do anything else. I feel a sense of camaraderie with that bee in this moment. 


Futility. Damage. 


I feel I've reached a point where I feel as though things seem irreparable, and no amount of surgical 'tinkering' will get me back to that state where everything just worked. 


I fear sleep because every time I lay down, I wonder if this is going to be the night when I drown in my own fluids? 


I fear speech because of the crass stares I get when my voice begins to fail & it looks as if I'm going to throw up. I see how they look at me. It's a mix of incredulity and disgust. They take a step or two back, fearful of being in the firing line. 


I look at food with ambivalence because I can't taste it, or smell it. I can't smell a flower, or register the scent of Chanel on my wife's skin. There's no olfactory pleasure - just an occasional 'meaty' nothing taste on my tongue that occasionally hints at something rotting. 


I wonder if that's me? Am I rotting?




It's a curious thought, isn't it.

The waiting room is full. It's a nice space, if a little full. There are lots of people around me. 


I wonder if they're warring with their own minds, the way I am right now?


***

Impairment of the right inferior constrictor and laryngeal muscles related to a neuroma...

Recent increase in dysphagia...

A tendency towards micropenetration/aspiration events...

For modified barium swallow with speech pathology...

***

More study. More intelligence gathering. More planning. 

For what?

DFA.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Red Pill or The Blue Pill - Entering the world of Cryptocurrency.

"Be curious. Read widely. Try new things. What people call intelligence just boils down to curiosity" - Aaron Swartz.

I've been vaguely aware of the terms "blockchain" and "cryptocurrency" for several months now - probably since the beginning of 2017. Of course, "Bitcoin" is another term I've heard frequently, though my awareness of it, is older. My attention was drawn back to it, however - like most people I suspect - during the "WannaCry" hacking incident that occurred in May 2017. "WannaCry" was a global hacking attack in which corporate and government IT infrastructure was hacked and held for ransom by actors who demanded payment in Bitcoin before they would "release" their hold over affected systems. It caused all manner of mayhem for several weeks as institutions grappled with a crisis that crippled their networks. 

I think this incident, more than any other really, got me focused on the idea of digital currency. 

Rather than be scared of the idea of digital currency and how it could be used nefariously, I instead became more intrigued by it. What is this supposedly intangible thing? How does it work? I soon discovered that the world of blockchain technologies and cryptocurrency is one offering some pretty serious - if a little volatile - opportunities. 

Right now, there is a whole marketplace that trades in various forms of digital currency. Not only that, the idea that currency used to transact between individuals anywhere in the world - without the need for a third party like a bank - is one I think has the potential to be a game changer in our life time - and not only in the area of currency trading. 

I've dived in to the pool and I thought I'd share what I have discovered so far. Now, I will say up front that this is my own experience to date and a lot of what I describe will require you to do further reading. However, I encourage questions and feedback in the comments section. This will enable me to discuss my experience further and address things I may have left out. 

The process of getting started in digital currency investment and trading was daunting but, when I think back on it now, it was surprisingly easy. To begin trading, you need to visit an exchange, much like a share trading portal. For me, I began with the Australian based BTCMarkets website. 

Established in 2015, BTCMarkets has become recognized globally as a trusted exchange offering a secure trading environment where individuals can buy and sell various digital currencies. 

I registered and account, provided my details and verified my identity, and I followed the recommendations that would enable two factor authentication for my account. This is an added layer of security that is designed to protect you and it is well worth doing - especially given that you are dealing with actual money. Google offers a two factor authentication app that you can download to a smart phone. The app generates a six figure number that you then input into the relevant pane on the BTCMarkets login screen. You need to do this quickly, as the app generates a new number sequence within around 20 seconds that invalidates the previous sequence.


Splash page for BTCMarkets (image credit: BTCMarkets).

Google Authenticator for Android (image credit: Google Play).

Once set up, I then proceeded to the site's facility that would allow me to deposit money from my bank account to my trading account. BTCMarkets accepts deposits from certain banks and fortunately for me, my bank was listed. In order to facilitate the transfer, BTCMarkets partners with Australia Post's POLi Payments. POLi payments allows for immediate deposits from participating banks into trading accounts and I was impressed at just how quickly the transfer took place.


BTCMarkets deposit screen (image credit: BTCMarkets).

With my trading account funded, I was ready to purchase some currency. There is a dizzying amount of currencies being traded on exchanges like BTCMarkets but as an newcomer, I was influenced primarily by what I could afford. The well known Bitcoin currency is currently (as I write this) worth $5300AUD - just one Bitcoin! I told myself right away, I am never going to be able to afford that. The next most prominent currency is Ethereum, which is currently trading at $380AUD - still out of my league with the paltry $50AUD I deposited into my account. I was quickly drawn to a third currency called Ripple, or XRP as it is known. At around 0.28 cents Australian, it was obviously the most affordable but I was interested in why it was ranked so highly on the BTCMarkets charts. 

Before purchasing, I undertook a little research to find out just what XRP actually is and I discovered there is a sound corporate entity underpinning it.


Ripple corporate logo (image credit: Ripple Labs).

Ripple is a San Francisco based company, which has developed a software solution to make transactions between financial institutions in different countries quicker. As it stands presently, sending money to someone overseas is a laborious task, involving multiple steps and it costs - both in time and money. Ripple's software solution allows participating institutions to process payments in a matter of seconds, regardless of where they are in the world, and it works in tandem with the cryptocurrency XRP. The following video, from Ripple, explains this process in a little more detail.



Ripple - the company - has been around since around 2012 but it has emerged as a major player in the cryptocurrency space, not only through its partnerships with banks but also with its XRP currency, which has grown in value exponentially since the start of 2017. 

I quickly decided this was the currency I was going to begin with. 

I made a purchase, a quick and easy process, and confirmed that I was now the owner of a small tranche of XRP. BTCMarkets says on their site that they can hold the XRP in my trading account indefinitely, but they did recommended I consider a longer term storage solution for my XRP off-site, as a secure option. This is the point at which I was introduced to the concept of wallet storage. 

A digital wallet is as its name suggests, a secure storage solution for your currency. It doesn't exist as a tangible object per se, although it does exist as a piece of software and there are many providers of wallet solutions out there. Again, as a newcomer to this, I wanted to begin with a wallet that would offer security and be easy to use and, after a search, I found one that ticked those boxes. 

Toast Wallet, designed specifically with Ripple's XRP in mind, is one such solution that is free to use and relatively easy to set up. I downloaded mine through Google Play and followed the set up instructions that included recommendations for enhancing the security of my account. 


Toast Wallet logo (image credit: StarStone Ltd).

Once I set my wallet up, I was introduced to another new concept - that being the idea of public and private keys. These are the two things that make transferring cryptocurrency possible, where the public key is basically like my public address or the address that I share with others so they can make payments of currency to me. The private key, is my proof of identity and must be kept secret because it allows access to my wallet account in case I were ever to lose it - say, in the instance of deleting the app from my current phone and restoring it to another. Both keys are just a string of alpha-numeric characters much like in the following image.


(image credit: CoinSutra).

It's worth noting here that, in the case of Ripple's XRP, any public key assigned to a holder of XRP is always going to begin with the letter 'r', while the private key will always begin with the letter 's'. This is important because you never want to be caught inadvertently sharing your private key with anyone. The common advice given with respect to private keys is to write your private key down on paper and then secure that piece of paper so that only you can access it.

To initiate a transfer of fund from my BTCMarkets trading account, I copied the public key from within the Toast Wallet app and pasted it into the withdrawal pane in my BTCMarkets.


Toast Wallet's UI featuring a Ripple public address (image credit Google Play/StarStone Ltd).


My BTCMarkets account's withdrawal screen where the wallet public address is pasted (image credit BTCMarkets).

BTCMarkets will prompt you to ensure your public address is correct, after which you hit the withdraw button and the process is complete. BTCMarkets say that this withdrawal should take no longer than 5 minutes, however they do add that it can take longer if they need to verify security parameters associated with the transfer. My experience so far has been variable. Out of three withdrawals I've made to my external wallet, two have taken up to 8 hours. I don't know why that has been the case, but they've gone through nonetheless.

So, I now have the tools to trade in cryptocurrency. I have a secure storage solution for my XRP and I have embarked on a journey of discovery into the world of blockchain technologies, digital currency and - for me - a new kind of investment that is undoubtedly exciting, even if it is volatile. 

At the outset, I felt alone and isolated in this endeavor. Certainly, there remains a lot of mainstream antipathy towards cryptocurrency, which is based in part, on a lack of real knowledge around it. People in my sphere - family and friends most certainly haven't heard about it and any conversations I've had have been met with blank stares and or blinks of suspicion. But there is a vast community of cryptocurrency investors out there, as well as communities where vibrant discussions are taking place around currency, blockchain technologies and the opportunities that are reportedly just around the corner. I've signed up with one such community - XRP Chat - and I've been able to learn a lot in a short space of time. Of course, portals like Twitter have proven valuable as well and I've connected with a few people there who offer authoritative discourse on Ripple, XRP and the cryptocurrency space more broadly. 

All of the established rules of investing and trading apply and I'm cognizant of those as I move forward. For now, I intend to take a watch and learn approach. There is a lot of buzz around Ripple - the company and the currency - but I will ignore most of it and instead focus on what comes out from the company itself as well as reputable news sources. 

I'm really pleased I've made this discovery. I'm a curious mind and I'm willing to try new things and I can see the potential in blockchain technologies. 

We'll see where this leads...

DFA.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Lily Among The Vines - A Look At The Vineyard In The Hills by Lily Malone

The Vineyard In The HillsThe Vineyard In The Hills by Lily Malone

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An Australian rural romance about a millionaire wine tycoon, the woman he betrayed and the second chance neither was looking for…

When she cut her viticulture degree short and moved home, Remy Hanley wasn’t thinking about anything more than making the next dollar for her pocket. Working two jobs to keep food on the table and a loan shark from the door, Remy and her mother slowly build a new life together. Then a freak storm tears through the Margaret River Wine Festival — and Seth Lasrey tears through Remy’s life.

Seth is old money. She is no money. He’s the boss. She’s his employee. He is society connections and expectations. She is threats and bad decisions and lost dreams. They seem to be so wrong they can only be right — until a costly mistake and a timely deception drives them apart. Remy picks up the pieces of her life and begins anew. The last thing she expects is Seth to show up in her small town in South Australia, bringing with him memories that she can’t escape and a damaged heart that she’s not sure she can resist.


Having entered into the world of West Australian author Lily Malone, I have come away from my first visit there with a huge, dopey smile on my face - courtesy of this delightful romance. Malone's easily accessible and often lyrical style brings her characters to life, from protagonists Seth and Remy to the supporting players in their respective spheres and she imbues them with just the right amount of complexity to make them thoroughly engaging. Themes of difficult family relationships, love, jealousy, loss, regret and ambition are artfully interwoven throughout the story and they keep you guessing as you delve deeper into the narrative.

Having lived in the Adelaide Hills myself, I was instantly familiar with the settings Malone explored in the central portion of the novel and the warmth of her descriptions with all their attendant textures and colours and scents were just lovely. Equally, Malone's ability to illustrate the less familiar (for me, at least) environs of the Margaret River region is skilfully done and I felt connected to place from the get go.

Of course, the romance factor is where it's at in this novel and Malone shines here, evoking all the senses and responses to good, old fashioned falling in love. The steam factor is certainly welcome also.

I'm so pleased I read The Vineyard In The Hills. Lily Malone is a delightful author, whose command of the genre is as solid as a rock.



Lily Malone (image credit: Lily Malone).

Lily Malone is a journalist and freelance writer who discovered after years of writing facts for a living, writing romance was much more fun.

Lily juggles writing with the needs of a young family, and when she isn’t writing, she likes gardening, walking, wine, and walking in gardens (sometimes with wine).


Buy The Vineyard In The Hills from Amazon here.

Visit Lily Malone here.

DFA.

View all my Goodreads reviews

Monday, August 28, 2017

For Goblins Do The Bells Toll - A Look At The Goblins Of Bellwater by Molly Ringle.

The Goblins of BellwaterThe Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Most people have no idea goblins live in the woods around the small town of Bellwater, Washington. But some are about to find out. 

Skye, a young barista and artist, falls victim to a goblin curse in the forest one winter night, rendering her depressed and silenced, unable to speak of what happened. Her older sister, Livy, is at wit’s end trying to understand what’s wrong with her. Local mechanic Kit would know, but he doesn't talk of such things: he’s the human liaison for the goblin tribe, a job he keeps secret and never wanted, thrust on him by an ancient family contract.

Unaware of what’s happened to Skye, Kit starts dating Livy, trying to keep it casual to protect her from the attention of the goblins. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Kit, Skye draws his cousin Grady into the spell through an enchanted kiss in the woods, dooming Grady and Skye both to become goblins and disappear from humankind forever.


It’s a midwinter night’s enchantment as Livy, the only one untainted by a spell, sets out to save them on a dangerous magical path of her own.

I had the opportunity to read an early version of The Goblins Of Bellwater by Molly and this forms the basis for my review.

The Goblins Of Bellwater, in many ways, marks a significant left turn for Molly Ringle after the rather epic Chrysomelia Stories. True to her talents as a story teller, and a nimble one at that, Molly Ringle returns with a one shot novel that, it could be argued, packs just as powerful a punch as her re-imagining of the Persephone mythology.

Taking inspiration from the works of Christina Rossetti and the visual genius of Brian Froud, The Goblins Of Bellwater offers a fantastical premise, complete with an ancient curse and a hidden population of goblins, which Molly injects seamlessly into a contemporary Pacific North West setting.

The balancing act from the very beginning of this story is perfect and, through the character of Skye - the victim of that curse - we are invested, experiencing her terror and helplessness as she endures it from behind a veil. Likewise, her sister Livy is a vividly drawn character, struggling to cope with something she interprets as something far removed from dark magic, but a something that is no less frightening. Into the mix, comes Kit, an unwilling witness to the machinations of the Goblins, while his cousin Grady, who falls for Skye in the midst of her ordeal, is unwittingly drawn into a conflict that threatens both his and Skye's very existence. Livy's trajectory in the story is, perhaps, the most compelling as it is she who has to find courage and the resources to confront this ages old curse as well as a tribe of beings who have only ever existed in imagination.

The Pacific Northwest, once again, leaps from the page in all its color and life and vibrancy, and I had no trouble immersing myself in a place that I can see is very special to Ringle. And, as she did with her Chrysomelia Stories, Ringle takes an established mythology and turns it on its head, resulting in fresh storytelling that crackles anew and surprises and delights.

The Goblins Of Bellwater is Molly Ringle at her fantastical finest.

The Goblins Of Bellwater hits bookshelves on October 1st 2017.


Molly Ringle (image credit: the author).

Molly Ringle was one of the quiet, weird kids in school, and is now one of the quiet, weird writers of the world. 

She likes thinking up innovative romantic obstacles and mixing them with topics like Greek mythology, ghost stories, fairy tales, or regular-world scandalous gossip. She's into mild rainy climates, gardens, '80s new wave music, chocolate, tea, and perfume (or really anything that smells good). 

She has lived in the Pacific Northwest most of her life, aside from grad school in California and one work-abroad season in Edinburgh in the 1990s. (She's also really into the U.K., though has a love/stress relationship with travel.) She currently lives in Seattle with her husband, kids, guinea pigs, and a lot of moss.

DFA.

View all my Goodreads reviews

Monday, August 14, 2017

My Strange Addiction - Bad Reviews & Where To Find Them.

Bad reviews.

They're nothing new. They are part and parcel of being a published author and, if there is one thing I've learned after seven years of writing and being published, you are bound to get one - or two.

You know something?

They still hurt.

Even with all of the advice I've received about bad reviews and the knowledge that you can't please everyone all of the time, there are occasions when the bad review cuts - and cuts deep.



(image credit: Goodreads.)

Of course, one nexus where authors can almost be guaranteed of seeing bad reviews of their work is Goodreads. The Amazon owned, global hub of just about any book that has ever been published is either a blessing or a curse for the working author.

I still haven't decided which.

Sure, it's a platform that gives exposure to an author's work, allows discussion and interaction about that work and literature more broadly. 

In the past couple of weeks, some reviews have appeared on the Goodreads entry for The Recipient that are less than kind. In a word  - they suck. I won't relay the details of them for you here. You can visit the entry for yourself and check them out. Suffice to say, there are no positive take aways in them. There is nothing in them that I could use to apply to better myself as a writer. Over the course of several hundred words, their basic take-home is, 'This is shit. Move on.'

You maybe asking, why would you do this to yourself Dean? Why would you visit a site like Goodreads, if you know that the reviews may not all be good?

Well - because reviews matter. Reviews are still the pre-dominant indicator of an individuals decision to purchase or not to purchase. If the reviews are bad, and they come from a reviewer of influence, that is quite a powerful position to be in.

I've had plenty of advice, saying to avoid reviews - good and bad - and I know, intellectually, that is the right thing to do. 

But sometimes, I have moments of weakness. I've had a few moments of weakness recently.

I'm close to a stage of burn out. I've recently had two patients at my work pass who I were really close to and I think they affected me more than I am willing to admit. There has a constant pressure associated with the daily grind. Work, the school run, the weekend sports, juggling the house hold budget, my health. Not to mention the challenges of trying to remain creative and finish a story that I've committed quite a lot to emotionally over the past year.

I missed a pressure release valve somewhere along the way.

In those moments, I find myself indulging in a crazy little game of self flagellation. There is something about bad reviews that is strangely attractive. It's almost like, seeing a bad review acts as a sort of leveler. That, even after multiple titles, you're not actually top stuff at all. You're not even decent. You're a fraud.


(image credit: REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail.)

The best place, it seems, to do that is by visiting Goodreads and checking up on your reviews. Ignore the good reviews and go straight for bad ones and bask in them like some strung out drug addict. 

Feels good, don't it. 

I've endeavored to adhere to the idea that all reviews are valuable. All reviews offer something that an author can use to better themselves. Truth is, not all reviews are helpful. In fact, there are actually bad, bad reviews. 

And it still hurts.

DFA. 



Thursday, August 10, 2017

Remembering The Lineman.

The death, this week, of country singer/songwriter Glen Campbell affected me more than I anticipated. For me, Campbell's music has always been an affectionate fixture, even if it hasn't figured prominently in my playlists. Whenever a Glen Campbell tune came on the radio, I would invariably turn the volume up.



This was especially true for the Jimmy Webb penned Wichita Lineman.

My grandfather was a lineman for the State Electricity Commission in Victoria, Australia. It was his first job when he returned home after the war (WW2). 

I remember the stories he used to tell me about driving the big old electricity commission truck that had the line barrels on its rear and how he would drive out to where the lines had broken to repair them. He was also responsible for the erection of many of the poles and wires across that remain in existence across large parts of the Gippsland country side. 

I like to think Pa was quite proud of the fact The Wichita Lineman talked about men and women like him - those who established such a vital infrastructure. It was he who introduced me to the track on his old HMV record player.



I hear you singin' in the wire,
I can hear you through the whine
And the Wichita lineman is still on the line...


Pa went onto become a night watchman at the Yallourn Power Station. He wore a uniform and a hat and worked in a station house onsite. Basically, he was the equivalent of a policeman. I have vague memories of visiting him with my Dad when he was on shift. The tearoom at the station had a jar of teddy bear biscuits and he'd often find one for me. He was a proud man.



Glen Campbell's was a voice I've known my entire life and Wichita Lineman is a song I'll forever associate with my grandfather. 

I am emotional, even as I write this.

Good things pass too frequently.

DFA.



Friday, July 21, 2017

Being Badly Motivated - A Look At The Bad Motivators Star Wars Podcast

The best Star Wars conversations, in my mind, are the ones that recall the best bits of your childhood. You know those ones - where you would gather round with your bestest friends, who were as equally in love with the saga as you, and you would wonder, speculate and imagine where George Lucas would take the story next. 

In the early 80's, that was my experience. Riding my BMX around the back hills of Yallourn North with my friends, playing cricket in the park, talking Star Wars whenever the opportunity arose. In those heady days, particularly during the years between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, there was never more enthusiasm for the franchise. There was a wide eyed wonderment, an innocence - and there were none of the complications modern day Star Wars fandom seems to attract with ferocity.


In the 80's, I was the kid in back (image credit 21 Laps Entertainment.)

I thought those innocent conversations were a thing of the past and I've often lamented it. With the advent of podcasting, a whole world of conversation is now available at ones fingertips - literally! And while this is welcome, for me, it's been a quest of mine to find a show that harkens back to those days in the early 80's when Star Wars was king.

The Bad Motivators podcast is, perhaps, one of the best examples of Star Wars commentary that captures the essence of my childhood wonderment around Star Wars. The brain child of Eric Strothers, Luke Cruser and Dallas Woods, The Bad Motivators broadcasts weekly and covers the latest news from the Star Wars franchise, discusses the hot topics which has captured the attention of fans and explores the wider themes from the franchise that have so inspired millions around the world.


The Bad Motivators album art  - (image credit TBM)

The genius of the show - which takes its name from a scene in A New Hope where Luke Skywalker informs Uncle Owen their initial droid purchase from the Jawas has a bad motivator - lies in the infectious enthusiasm of the hosts, who approach Star Wars in a way which recalls that childhood wonderment I spoke of earlier. I've noted a tendency for Star Wars themed podcasts to approach the franchise with a cynicism, a need to knock aspects of the franchise they don't like. These shows also make the mistake of making the show about themselves and they assume a sort of ownership over Star Wars that leaves little room for inclusiveness, a variety of viewpoints and a respect for the franchise. 


"This R2 unit has a bad motivator. Look!" - (image credit Lucasfilm Ltd.)

The Bad Motivators approach their fandom with reverence for the saga, a positivity that is refreshing and an enthusiasm for their audience. They invite you in, make you feel welcome and you leave with a smile on your face.


The Bad Motivators & friend - (image credit Dallas Woods).

I often wonder what it would've been like to have lived back in the 80's and had access to the kind of podcasting The Bad Motivators produce. I think it would have made the experience just as cool. In this day, and age though, The Bad Motivators shines a positive light in the dense world of Star Wars fandom. 

Tweet with The Bad Motivators here.

Subscribe to The Bad Motivators on iTunes here

Subscribe to The Bad Motivators RSS feed here

Shop at The Bad Motivators store here

DFA.   

Monday, May 22, 2017

Adventures In Beta - Journey To Walhalla Journal Entry 2.

I'm sitting here at my computer on a rainy Adelaide afternoon. My daughter is home sick from school today - her chest sounds like a freight train. It's cold outside and very gray. 

I've just completed the initial editing phase on my manuscript and I have just submitted it to my publisher, Central Avenue Publishing

I kinda, sorta can't believe it! 

In the month or so since I last posted here, I have been furiously working on the manuscript, going through several phases of editing. Part of that process has involved putting together a team of beta readers.  A beta group is something that will be familiar to a lot of writers in the pre publishing phase, but for the general audience, a beta group for a story works the same as a beta version for a piece of software. 

I put the draft out to my group to test the early version and I sought their participation to get their impressions of the story, to offer advice on what works and what doesn't and to discuss the technical aspects of the narrative. The group came through in spades and I took all of their feedback, printed it out and stuck it on my office wall so I could refer to it as I worked my way through the editing process here.

And, to me, they're not just any readers. They are an amazing group of people - my own Story Group, if you will. I want to take a moment to give them a shout out here, because each of them have brought something really to this part of the process. 



Molly Ringle is a Seattle based author and ridiculously brilliant word smith. I have come to regard Molly as my mentor and shadow (me being the shadow). 

Molly has had a fantastic career an author who has routinely explored multiple genres. Her works have explored the paranormal, romance, coming of age and epic fantasy.

Having recently completed a trilogy of novels informed by Greek mythology, Molly is about to release a another genre bending epic with The Goblins of Bellwater which is due for release later this year.








Scottish based Australian author Georgina Penney has been a mainstay of romantic fiction in this country over the past few years with her much loved series of novels set in the gorgeous Margaret River region of Western Australia. 

Georgina has also been a strong supporter of up and coming romance authors and has spoken widely about the genre to writing groups and professional organizations. 

This year saw the release of her latest novel "The Barbershop Girl" which marked the conclusion of a series of books following the Blaine sisters.

Georgina has been a champion of mine. She kindly offered her assistance on my previous novel "The Recipient" and her romantic nous has been invaluable on Walhalla. 





Another of my Central Avenue Publishing stable mates is Minnesota author Abbie Williams whose Shore Leave series of romance novels along with her more recent Civil War epic romance novels have won hearts all over the world as well as significant plaudits from her peers. 

Abbie has been a constant support of both myself and other Central Avenue authors and we've benefited from her astute story telling skills and eye for detail. She's encouraged me to be brave with the editing process. Whenever I have felt unsure about how to proceed (or whether to proceed) Abbie has been there, giving me the nudge towards editorial courage. And I've loved it. 









I've been a fan of Melbourne based author Ashleigh Oldfield for a long time now and she has always been in my corner, encouraging me and offering her perspective on story telling which I have always valued. 

Ashleigh is another author who consistently steps outside of her comfort zone, exploring multiple genres and occupying them handsomely, with rich narratives and bold characterization. 

Ashleigh has been great in identifying little character nuances and encouraging me to explore them deeper. 






Queensland based blogger and reviewer Gem Blackwell has been a dear friend of mine for several years now. We've shared the coal face as paediatric nurses and we've continued our friendship into our respective writing pursuits. 

Gem is a food and health blogger and she has extended herself into longer form writing, undertaking further education in creative writing. Gem is another writer with an astute eye for word economy and I've valued her advice greatly. 



It has been a long and laborious task. Working back through a years worth of material, you come across scenes and story that you may not have looked at for a considerable amount of time and it can be a little jarring. You see all of its warts and imperfections. You see how bloated and full of repetition, over description and riddled with errors it is. It makes you cringe and want to tear it to pieces. Well - it did me.

Somehow, the ingredients were all there, laying underneath the fat and blubber. Gradually, I've uncovered them, cutting away all of the gunk and grunge and, I have to say, it's looking pretty sharp. 

The process is not over and, indeed, the life of this book is not yet assured. But, I am encouraged to be in the place that I am now and free to think a little more clearly before I delve back into more revisions. 

Stay tuned. 

DFA.

Monday, April 17, 2017

When The End Is Just The Beginning - Journey To Walhalla Entry 1.

It never ceases to feel special to me, whenever I type the words "The End" on a writing project. 

For my latest work in progress, a romantic fiction novel that carries the working title "Walhalla", I reached that milestone yesterday - and I almost couldn't believe it.


I've spent just short of a year working on this one, if you include the time that I spent *not* working on it because of some health challenges, and it was because of those health challenges that this milestone feels all the more sweeter. 

When I lost my voice after I had surgery on my throat and vocal cords, I mistakenly believed that I would actually throw myself into the project during my enforced convalescence at home. In truth, I lost all motivation for writing. My writer's voice had become just as silent as my physical one and there were times when I thought I would abandon "Walhalla" completely. I grew to hate writing and I grew to hate myself because I hated writing. 

What pulled me out of the hole I found myself in?



She... (image credit Lucasfilm Ltd.)


Carrie Fisher's death in December of last year had an impact on me. Apart from the fact that she was my most favorite "bad-ass princess" throughout the now 40 years of Star Wars, Fisher was widely regarded as a brilliant writer and script doctor - able to weave complex narrative tapestries and turn the most parlous of screenplays into something special. And she did all this while waging a none to secret battle with mental illness. In the ensuing obituaries and reflections on her life, I guess I received something akin to a kick in the pants from her. 

Somehow, I clawed my way out of the hole and I recommitted to this story. I realized that I actually loved it. For this is a story that I think will likely be my most personal one.


"Walhalla" is set in a little mountain town in Victoria, Australia - a place I have known and loved my entire life. Steeped in history and the site of one of the biggest gold rushes in 19th century Australia, Walhalla has refused to die - even though it was thought many times that it would. Somehow it has endured and is undergoing something of a renaissance, thanks to a renewed interest in its history and the opportunities afforded to it by tourism. 

For me, Walhalla serves as the setting for what I hope will be an engaging love story between a Doctor who has returned to his home town after the failure of his marriage and a Baker whose tragic past has instilled her with a steely determination to succeed with her nascent business. Walhalla - the story, like the town - is filled with a cast of quirky characters, all of whom are derived from people who have been a fixture in my life and I hope their presence will leap off the page as I develop the story further.


Because, even though I have typed the words "The End" on this first draft - it is really just beginning. 

Editing is a process that I love. It is challenging, frustrating and rewarding all at the same time. Once I have completed my first pass over the manuscript, I'll have a team of people to whom I will pass a second draft onto to get their insights, advice, criticisms and recommendations. I will incorporate all of those into a third draft - and then I'll be at a stage where I hope to submit it to my publisher.

I hope you might like to join me on this journey. I'll keep you updated - not too frequently - about my progress and I'd like to share a little bit of ephemera about the actual town Walhalla and how it has influenced me over all these years. 

DFA.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Dragons Rising - A Look At Fyrebyrne Island by Ashleigh Oldfield.

Among the small community of independently published authors I've come to know here in Australia in recent years, Melbourne based fantasy scribe Ashleigh Oldfield has stood out to me as an individual of immense talent. Bursting with imagination, enthusiasm and commitment, Ashleigh has worked studiously over the past few years to hone her craft, producing literature across a number of genres that showcase her abilities. I'm proud to say that I have sought out Ashleigh's keen eye on my own books, contributing important ideas to both Gifts of the Peramangk and The Recipient. Now, Ashleigh has achieved that most special of milestones with the arrival of her first major release, Fyrebyrne Island.


Here of course, is the guff first and foremost;

With a thunderous roar it fell from the sky, all gleaming yellow scales, talons the size of broad swords with fanged teeth to match, wings held out from its sides like sails, magnificent and glorious. The time has come for thirteen-year-old Rachaya to embrace her dragon heritage. Not everyone is pleased by her arrival on the dragon sanctuary, Fyrebyrne Island, however, and her mother's enemies may well have become her own. Will Rachaya live long enough to take on the mantle of Queen of the Dragons or will her enemies prevail?

I had the opportunity to beta read an early draft of Fyrebyrne Island and, even its early stages, it was clear that Ashleigh Oldfield had crafted an exciting opening salvo in a projected three book cycle, bristling with a kind of old world literally magic that is essential to the fantasy genre. Central to this coming of age story is 13 year old Rachaya a human girl with trans-formative abilities that conceal a dragon persona - a key trait of most of the cast in Oldfield's meticulously constructed world. Rachaya is plucky, wide eyed and eager to harness the legacy of her kind on the sanctuary island of Fyrebyrne Island but her journey will be tumultuous as she finds herself at the center of an epic struggle that will threaten her future and test her resolve to the extreme.

Featuring vivid characters, sprawling, medieval inspired landscapes and a cinematic narrative that crackles, Fyrebyrne Island: Book 1 promises a thrilling adventure that will keep readers, young and old, on the edge of their seats from the first page to the last.


(image credit: A. de Niese.)

Ashleigh Oldfield is a fantasy fiction and children’s writer from Melbourne, Australia. Always having a love for  the written word, Ash wrote her first stories by moonlight at the tender age of five, long after her parents thought she had gone to bed. To this very day Ash still prefers to write by the light of the moon long after any sensible person has succumbed to sleep. 

When she is not working on her latest piece of fiction, Ash enjoys drinking good coffee, taking her dog for walks on the beach and hanging out with her two cats. In 2012 she took the plunge, quit her day job and has been writing full time ever since.

Fyrebyrne Island is out now. 

Purchase Fyrebyrne Island from The Book Depository.

Purchase Fyrebyrne Island from Amazon.

Connect with Ashleigh Oldfield here

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