Thursday, April 12, 2018

Shapes - Remembering Jean McEwan

This past week, my family said a tearful farewell to a woman who had a profound influence on our lives. Jean McEwan, my grandmother, passed away after a short illness, aged 95 years. Her funeral was less a solemn service and more a celebration of her life - a life that was full and lived well. The following is a piece my cousin and I put together over a couple of phone calls, plenty of tears and a little bit of laughter. We read this together at Nana's service.

Shapes.


by Dean Mayes and Keryn McEwan.

Square.

The squat little heater that sits on the hearth in the North Road living room. Its kerosene globe glows red, warming our bodies as the rain patters the tin roof. We watch the black and white TV; munching her homemade pasties as big as house bricks, or perhaps it was a bowl of her famous pea and ham soup. We play along with the quiz show and we marvel at her sharp mind, her worldly knowledge, as she deftly answers question after question in between the click-clack of her knitting needles - with a wink and a smile.


Cylinder.

The tall glass bottles she collects; Alpine soft drink all the colours of the rainbow. She serves them with ice blocks on warm summer days with her legendary Anzac biscuits and we sit under the liquid amber, playing with Matchbox cars at the base of the trunk, contemplating – but never conquering – a climb of that mighty tree. Her eyes were everywhere, our safety never in question when she was nearby. The empty soft drink bottles we carry to the corner shop, exchanging them for coins to then buy bags of lollies. We return to her in our sugar rush and she greets us by her rose bushes with her wink and her smile.

Triangle.

The chintzy silver Christmas tree, the only one I ever knew existed. Adorned with bright, colourful baubles that reflect the love of family gathered in the living room to exchange gifts, warm hugs and festive laughter. She sweeps into the room with platters of treats, inviting us to eat; her bell voice urging, “Come on, come on, there’s more to come.” The tiny kitchen has been prepared, a banquet of her finest cooking. Christmas ham, vegetables, her handmade Christmas puddings and cakes. She stands at the head of the table, ready to receive her diners, always with her wink and her smile.


Teardrop.

Her beloved fuschias; her pride and joy. Little fingers always found their way to those fat, pink teardrops to squeeze and delight in the pop of the buds – not appreciating it was too early for them to bloom. There’s not much that makes her wild, but a popped fuschia always does. The fallen leaves of the liquid amber to, so easy to kick through, spread far and wide across the hillside lawn. She chases us with the handle of the rake as she scurries to banish the leaves into neat piles. Or our feats of daring involving that clothesline. The run-up was perfect. Our leaps superhuman. Our giggles merciless. No wink or smile from her then.

Circle.

She was at the centre of all of us. Mum, Nana, Little Aunty Jean. As we branched out, embraced our callings and created circles of our own, she gave a little bit of herself to ours, ensuring that she would live on in many lifetimes. We are the chef, the hairdresser, the nurse, the businesswoman, the professionals, the servicemen and women. She has seen us achieve and has reveled in our success – always with that wink and that smile.



A friend of mine recently wrote, “I don’t believe in life after death or even in a moment that stays on beyond itself...What I do believe in is momentum – that one thought leads to another; that people leave shapes in other people, and those shapes carry forward.”

Nana has left shapes in all of us.

DFA.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Dangerous Ideas - A Conversation between Dean Mayes & Alice Fraser

I had the opportunity to catch up with one of my favorite people recently. Alice Fraser is a comedian, writer, podcaster and fascinating interlocutor. Alice is performing her new comedy show "Ethos" across Australia and during her run in Adelaide, we sat down in a little teahouse in the back streets of Adelaide's CBD and recorded an hour of really valuable conversation for her podcast "Tea With Alice".

 
We wrestled with some dangerous ideas that were a little hard to coax from me initially but eventually we got into a flow where I was able to articulate some thoughts I had about the #MeToo movement - my perceived exclusivity of the movement and how, as a male who has experienced sexual violence from a female perpetrator, the movement seems unable to handle the lived experience of those who don't fit an accepted narrative.

From there, we ventured into more philosophical territory, exploring how the modern discourse can be overwhelming to someone who is trying to understand and extend their understanding of the world beyond their simple origins. think I made the point at one stage that, as I get older, the less I feel I understand of the world and how to navigate my way through it.

We also talked about my adventures with botox and how it is keeping my throat from killing me. Oh - and my adventures in writing romance...as a man. 

 
Alice Fraser is a rare individual with a lightning intellect, a worldly outlook and a huge heart and I always treasure our catch ups. As I said, she is touring her show throughout 2018 here in Australia and the UK so if you're a fan of thought provoking comedy, I highly recommend you catch her show. 

Download & Listen to our conversation here

Visit Alice Fraser here

Tweet with Alice here

DFA.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Dangerous Ideas - Fae vs. Human: Who Gets To Live In This Forest? A Guest Post By Molly Ringle

I have another awesome guest post for you this week from one of my favourite writers and people in general, Pacific Nor-Wester Molly Ringle. Molly has amassed quite a formidable CV over the past few years, writing in both the romance and fantasy genres. Molly's latest release "The Goblins Of Bellwater" has been critically acclaimed and praised for its melding of the real world and the fantastical and she has proven time and again to be nimble and adaptable across the genres she has written in. 

I recently asked Molly, if she would like to explore a dangerous idea - something that she has been wrestling with both in life and in her fiction. True to form, Molly has come through with the goods and I'm so pleased to be able to present it here for you today. 


Please do check out Molly's work and interact with her - especially if you're into tea, chocolate, perfume...and Goblins!


Molly Ringle, author (image credit Molly Ringle).

When Dean approached me with the notion of writing a post on “dangerous ideas,” my mind immediately brought up some themes that have arisen in my work-in-progress. As with my recent release The Goblins of Bellwater, this story deals with troublesome interactions between fae and humans, and also between different types of fae, and for that matter between different humans. (Nearly every novel deals with that last one, I suppose.) Even though I’m writing fantasy, the reason this idea came to mind as “dangerous” is because it unavoidably brings up the specters of colonialism and race relations—which is not at all what I intended to do. I wanted to make up paranormal adventures and escape our fractious world, for goodness’ sake. However, our world and its problems have an insidious way of slipping themselves into our fiction despite our conscious intentions.


The Goblins Of Bellwater - Available Now. (image credit Central Avenue Publishing).

In my novel-in-progress, I've created an island that, up until a certain point in history, was inhabited only by fae (faeries of many types). The fae eventually let some humans ashore and allowed them to settle there, because they found humans intriguing; they brought novelty and different culture and, for that matter, new potential lovers. However, as inevitably happens in these situations, some of the fae came to resent the growing population of humans, living upon what had been the fae’s land. And violence between the groups escalated until a truce was called, but even that truce remains precarious. (And you just know I’m going to tip it over in my story.)

On the surface, to many observers, including some of my human characters, the anti-human fae are entirely in the right: this was fae land originally. Humans should clear out. On the other hand…yes, the fae are essentially sentient forces of nature, so they are truly tied to the land, but are humans not part of nature too? If humans treat the land and their fae neighbors with respect, can’t they stay? Humans belong to the Earth too, after all. They have to live somewhere. And what of those who are the product of interbreeding, and are half fae and half human? Where do they belong? 


Goblin "Wolf Riders" (artist Adrian Smith.)

(I’m American, and my ancestors have lived here for several generations, but we’re not of Native American stock, therefore I can’t exactly say the U.S. is my “real” home. However, surely if I went to Ireland, England, Scotland, Germany, France—the lands of my ancestors—the natives of those countries would tell me I was most definitely an American and didn't belong there either. Do I and the many, many other mixed-breed, transplanted people of the world not have any “real” homeland? Do we need a real homeland, or is that in itself a dangerous idea, in that it can promote territorialism and tribalism? 

When I start putting the questions that way, I quickly see how they might qualify as controversial or dangerous—even when, honestly, I’m talking about faeries, not about different human ethnicities. I also see that I am not going to be able to answer these questions definitively, nor should I. In fact, it scares me a little, the idea of tackling themes like this, as they could easily be taken the wrong way or given interpretations I would never intend. But people say that if a project scares you, you’re probably on the right track, so I’ll keep tussling with this island and its turbulent relationships. 

The one-word theme guiding me, which I hope will keep me out of too much trouble, is “harmony.” Because that’s the only conclusion, the only goal, I can truly get behind: we are a world becoming more mixed and more mobile every day, and yes, that stirs up turbulence, not to mention it disturbs the natural ecosystem. But I can’t help believing that we can handle this; we can find a way to live together in harmony, and honor the land rather than possessively own it. 

Mind you, there are still some swamps and forests and volcanoes where highly treacherous fae live, and we might not be able to change their behavior, so you might just want to go on avoiding those.


Visit Molly Ringle here.

Tweet with Molly here.

Connect with Molly here

DFA. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Writing Through The Roof - A Conversation With Dean Mayes.

This past week, I was pleased to be the in-studio guest of Melbourne based writer and podcaster Madeleine D'Este on her weekly program Write Through The Roof. 


Over the course of an hour or so, Madeleine and I discussed my writing career, the techniques and quirks I employ as a writer and I was given the opportunity to drop some tid-bits about my forthcoming novel "The Artisan Heart".

If you're on iTunes, you can listen to the episode here

If you're on Stitcher, you can listen to the episode here

For all other podcatchers, subscribe and download the episode here.



Originally growing up in Tasmania, Madeleine D’Este now lives in inner city Melbourne surrounded by books.  After studying law (and never practising) and travelling the world, Madeleine now lives a double life, immersed in the corporate world by day and writing female-led speculative fiction by night. Madeleine hosts a weekly speculative fiction review radio show/podcast on artdistrict-radio.com as well as the podcast for writers Write Through The Roof.

When not writing, Madeleine enjoys podcasts, knitting, forteana, indie films, kettle bells and likes her coffee as ‘black as midnight on a moonless night’.

DFA.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Countering Resistance - A Look At Counteract by Tracy S. Lawson.

I'm always up for a compelling dystopian tale - especially one that is frighteningly possible. From the outrageous Mad Max series to the seminal cyberpunk classic Blade Runner to the oppressive The Handmaids Tale, visions of the future that play on our fears of what we see happening in the present a ripe for great storytelling. A series of books from Ohio native Tracy S. Lawson have really captured my attention this past month. Titled the Resistance series, this collection of four books follow a group of freedom fighters in a near future America that is straining under the yoke of a totalitarian regime who seek to control the population through fear and oppression.

Having completed the opening salvo in the series, "Counteract", I've moved onto book two, titled "Resist" and I am completely in thrall with Lawson's storytelling, characters and world building. For today, I'd like to showcase "Counteract" in the hopes it will whet your appetite for the series. 


Two teens discover the government is staging terrorist attacks to exploit and control the public in Tracy Lawson's eerily believable YA debut novel.

In an alternate reality version of 2034, terrorist attacks on American soil continue after the events of 9/11. The Office of Civilian Safety and Defense, created in 2019 to oversee domestic security, rises to unprecedented heights of power by exploiting the people's overriding fear of terrorism.

When Tommy Bailey and Careen Catecher meet during one of the bogus terrorist attacks, they discover the OCSD's darkest secret: an antidote distributed by the government to "protect" people from the effects of imaginary toxins in the air is really being used to lull them into a state of submission.

Tommy and Careen face a difficult choice: stay quiet about what they know--or risk their safety and anonymity to join an underground rebel group that's determined to break the OCSD's grip on the nation.

Counteract explores the nature of power and the consequences and difficulties created when government attempts to control minute details of citizens' daily existence.

I found Counteract to be a taut, engaging & thrilling first entry in Lawson's Resistance series. Its alternative future setting remains anchored in our own real world so, visually, it wasn't a stretch to see it in my minds eye. 

Our post 9/11 paranoia around terrorism has reached a fever pitch, and Lawson explores this and the lengths to which some will go to take advantage of a nations collective fear. Lawson's cast of characters led by the appealing, earnest and resourceful Careen and the enigmatic Tommy - a young man beset by tragedy that is intertwined in the politics of the time, Counteract moves at a crisp pace. 

Its unfolding drama is rife with tension, great character moments and occasional levity that see saws effortlessly with the action. Lawson's writing style is at once accessible and she balances this with an intelligent plot and a fully realized future world that is scarily possible.

As a first entry, Counteract set me up for the subsequent entries and I'm eager to see where the series heads in Lawson's capable hands.


               
Once upon a time, Tracy Lawson was a little girl with a big imagination who was obsessed with telling stories. Her interests in dance, theatre, and other forms of make-believe led to a twenty-year career in the performing arts, where “work” meant she got to do things like tap dance and choreograph musicals.



Tracy S. Lawson (image credit: the author).

Her greatest adventures in musical theatre included creating disco choreography for forty middle schoolers on roller skates in Xanadu, building cast members’ endurance during an extremely aerobic jump rope number in Legally Blonde, and wrangling a cast of amazingly enthusiastic teenaged tap dancers in Crazy For You. She can also spin plates on sticks while she tap dances. Just ask her. She’ll be happy to demonstrate!

Though teaching dance and choreographing shows was a great outlet for her creativity and boundless energy, Tracy never lost her desire to write. Faced with her only child leaving for college and her husband’s simultaneous cross-country job relocation, it seemed she’d found the perfect time to switch her focus. But fear not—she has maintained her ties to educational theatre by returning to choreograph a few shows a year at Bexley City Schools in Columbus, Ohio, so she can continue to nurture students and share her passion for putting on a great show. 

The Cincinnati native now has to her credit an award-winning nonfiction history book, Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More: Explorations of Henry Rogers’ 1838 Journal of Travel from Southwestern Ohio to New York City (McDonald & Woodward, 2012), based on the writings of her great-great-great grandfather. Pride of the Valley, a companion volume to Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More, followed in 2017.

With the release of Revolt on July 18, 2017, Tracy's award winning YA dystopian Resistance Series is now complete. Counteract, Resist, Ignite, and Revolt chronicle the adventures of Tommy and Careen, two teens who meet during a terrorist attack and discover a conspiracy that could destroy their country.

In her spare time, she blogs about YA and classic dystopian books and hosts Between the Covers with Tracy Lawson, an author interview program on the Liberty.Me network.

Tracy, who is married with one grown daughter and two spoiled cats, splits her time between Dallas, Texas and Columbus, Ohio.

Purchase the Resistance series here.

Visit Tracy S. Lawson here

Tweet Tracy S. Lawson here.

DFA.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Destiny's Power - Conversations with Elizabeth Jade, Author.

Over the past little while, I've had the pleasure of conversing with a remarkable young woman and author Elizabeth Jade. Elizabeth's debut novel "Akea - The Power Of Destiny" -  a powerful tale - represents a journey we all take in life in that, in order to find our destiny, we must first find ourselves. Elizabeth has grown up with some unique challenges, requiring her to discover different methods of interacting with the world. Having found writing, Elizabeth has been able to express herself in ways that transcend the day to day. As a result, she displays a formidable talent that is well worth taking notice of.

I've invited Elizabeth to pen a piece that I'm really proud to present here this week. I hope you enjoy it.



I always knew I had a unique take on life, but I only found out two years ago, at the age of 18, that I had Aspergers Syndrome (an autistic spectrum disorder). People have never made sense to me.  In fact, I've made a habit of avoiding contact with them as much as possible. On the other hand, I love animals; and what’s more, they love me.  We understand each other on an almost telepathic level. This affinty with animals lead me into volunteering; first with horses, then dogs, and finally cats.

I've loved working with animals. It was the people that were the problem. We just didn't understand each other and at that time I didn't know about my Aspergers. My mum tried to give me some coping strategies, but I still kept getting confused and in the end I got so depressed and anxious that I couldn't keep it up.


Elizabeth Jade, author (image credit EJ).

After years of struggling, my mum insisted that I see someone about my anxiety and depression.  I have to say that my experience with CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service) was not at all pleasant, but it was here that the possibility of Aspergers was first explored.  Cats Protection then opened a re-homing centre on the edge of town and my mum spoke to them about my talents and difficulties.  As it turned out, the staff understood exactly where I was coming from and they were certain that volunteering would be beneficial for me as well as the cats. They quickly dubbed me the Cat Whisperer and I gained a great deal of satisfaction from seeing pussy personalities changing, even though I mentally struggled to go in as often as I would like. 

Another outlet for my depression and anxiety has been in writing stories; animal stories naturally. The stories come pre-written in my head and fight at all hours of the night to make their way onto paper. In an attempt to boost my self-confidence, my mum decided to prove how good my stories were by finding me a publisher for my book ‘Akea’- not an easy task.


Akea - The Power Of Destiny.

Akea is a Siberian husky who was born into a family of sled dogs and a life which should have followed a predictable path, but from the day she first saw the wolf Kazakh, Akea knew her future lay beyond the safety of her home.  She soon leaves her family and with the help of Kazakh and the wolf pack, she finds her inner wolf, but unexpectedly the pack turns on her, casting her out to fend for herself. After spending some time in an animal shelter where she learns the fate of her first family, she is sent to live with a new one, but when Kazakh finds her again, she willingly abandons them too and follows him. Kazakh is well aware of the reason for the wolf packs animosity, but Akea’s destiny is clear and he must make sure she is in the right place at the right time, even if it costs him his life.

My brain then went on to write book 2 and parts of books 3, 5 and 6.  It seems I have as much control over what order I write in as when I write it, which isn't much, but as this was obviously planning  to be a series, I added ‘The Power of Destiny’ to the first title to help me keep track of things.  Cats Protection was good enough to let me have my book launch at the Re-homing Centre last summer.  It was this familiar setting that enabled me to actually attend and 25% of sales on the day were donated to Cats Protection as a thank you. 

Marketing is a challenge for any author, but for me it’s virtually impossible.  I can’t handle any of the personal appearance methods; to be honest, I’m not up to any marketing and again it’s something my mum plays a big part in. Through our social media connections we have come across some great advice and some equally great people. We have been given the opportunity to include Akea Book 1 in a new magazine for parents and we hope this will lead to some more sales, helped to set up a newsletter and shown how to approach newspapers in a way that is more likely to get you accepted. 

I still have more bad days than not so bad ones and my self-confidence is still pretty low, but I am immensely grateful to all those who continue to support me in doing the things I love most.

Purchase Akea - The Power Of Destiny here.

Visit Elizabeth Jade here.

Tweet with Elizabeth Jade here

DFA.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

I Have Some Exciting News - Meet "The Artisan Heart"

So I've been sitting on some news for quite a while now. I've been steadily working away for the past year or so on a brand new novel. Now, thanks to the amazing team at Central Avenue Publishing in Vancouver, Canada, I'm able to share the news that later this year, that new novel will be released to the world. 

Rather than recount the news in full here, I'd like to invite you to click through to Central Avenue Publishing's official blog and read the sneak peek Michelle Halket and the team have shared there.

Of course, I can't help but share the amazing cover art that has been put together by Michelle. We nutted this design out over a few email back and forths and we had some late, breaking inspiration from my 8 year old daughter who, in her enthusiasm for Daddy's new project, was inspired to try her hand at some artwork of her own. Her inclusion of the railway tracks in her design ended up transitioning across to the final design. I think you'll agree it's a beautiful addition.


The Artisan Heart - final.


Concept Art by Lucy Mayes - aged 8.

I'm excited to tell you so much more about this novel but I'll hold off for now and share some more insights with you as the clock ticks down to September this year. For now though, let me know what you think in the comments and, if you're keen, sign up for my exclusive newsletter updates as we roll forward towards the Southern Spring/Northern Fall. 

DFA. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

I Dreamed Of A Chateau - A Look At Le Chateau by Sarah Ridout.



Le ChateauLe Chateau by Sarah Ridout

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What really happened at the chateau?

When Charlotte regains consciousness after an accident, she finds herself living a stranger’s life. The previous five years are a blank, and her husband, Henri, and daughter, Ada, are strangers. Arriving at their family chateau in southern France, she hopes to regain her memories. Instead she feels isolated and unsettled. Strange events hint at underlying darkness and menace. Charlotte doesn’t know who to trust.

Did she really have an affair with their charming Irish neighbour, as her enigmatic mother-in-law suggests? And what of Henri? He seems loving and kind, a good parent, but Charlotte is wary. Then there is Ada, a little girl who just wants her mother back.

With the help of her friend and fellow Australian Susannah, Charlotte starts to piece together events, but her newfound confidence is shaken with news that puts a deadline on her quest…

Le Chateau is a suspenseful gothic tale that will appeal to readers of Daphne du Maurier and Kate Morton
.
 


I very quickly fell into the dream-like, gothic story scape of Sarah Ridout's "Le Château" and, by its end, I was very reluctant to leave. Told through the first person perspective of the protagonist Charlotte - who recovering from a mysterious accident that has robbed her of her memory - "Le Château" captivated me with its unfolding mystery as Charlotte struggles to rebuild her shattered life. Faced with a husband and daughter she cannot remember, and hints of darker truths she discovers in the idyllic French countryside estate her family shares, I was with Charlotte, experiencing her journey in equal measure as she. Ridouts patient story telling, her vivid visual style and her complex characterisations made this an all consuming reading experience for me - one that continues to echo long after I have finished it.

Le Château is a dream-like masterpiece.



Sarah Ridout has a Masters in Creative Writing (First Class Honours), from University College Dublin (UCD). UCD is the alma mater of James Joyce, John McGahern, Neil Jordan, Colm Tóibín, and Emma Donoghue, among others.


Sarah Ridout (photo credit: Merilyn Smith photography).

Over the past eleven years she has lived in four countries with her husband and two children. Her eight years surrounded by the vineyards and chateaux of southern France produced a baby, family of Francophiles, and the seed of this novel, completed in Dublin, Ireland. Le Chateau draws on her experiences as an expatriate, her knowledge of France, its people and customs. 

Le Chateau was selected to participate in the prestigious Queensland Writers Centre /Hachette Australia Manuscript Development Program before it was acquired by Bonnier Publishing Australia (Echo Publishing).

Sarah has been writing throughout her public relations career, before commencing memoir and novel writing.

The complexities of the role of women interest her as do identity and place as signifiers, and the multiple effects of displacement on identity.

Sarah loves travel and the immersion into other cultures provided by her twelve years living in Europe. She enjoys reading, film, music (especially David Bowie), and is an avid art lover and collector.

Purchase Le Château here.

Connect with Sarah Ridout here.

Tweet with Sarah Ridout here.

View all my Goodreads reviews

DFA.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Trailer Park.

One thing I've done in support of marketing my books is to put together a book trailer. It's not a new concept and plenty of authors are doing it. With a little bit of imagination, and some patience, book trailers can come out looking pretty good.

Of course, You Tube is the best avenue for uploading and promoting your book trailers, but Facebook, Amazon and Goodreads all offer a similar facility for uploading video trailers.

Here are three trailers I've put together for my three books so far.

One of the best pieces of advice I've received in creating book trailers is that no trailer should be more than roughly a minute long. Attention spans for an unknown or obscure quantity are only good for about a minute, after which, you can be guaranteed they'll switch off. 

I think I've broken that minute rule with every one of these trailers. Did you last? Let me know in the comments. 

DFA.

2016 International Teaser Trailer for "The Recipient" by Dean Mayes.



2012 International Teaser trailer for "Gifts of The Peramangk" by Dean Mayes.



2010 International Teaser Trailer for "The Hambledown Dream" by Dean Mayes.