Difficult Times

I don’t want to go on about the situation that has clogged up every stream of information, but hope you’re all keeping safe and healthy, that’s the first thing. The second thing is I hope you’re well. I hope you’re not letting the failure of our economic system to safeguard against what should be a manageable situation get you too down. Capitalism is a wonderful dream. A free-for-all economy where anyone can become anything if they are willing to work hard enough. But humanity doesn’t work that way. A few will abuse loopholes, will form secret allegiances with powerful politicians and they will hoard the abundance that should be available for all. A system of oligarchs has shown just how fragile it is.

Maybe I’m a radical socialist or maybe I’m just a realist, but since it’s the economic model smart economic managers turn to when things go drastically wrong and has never failed to set things to right, I’d say it’s nothing but an inevitability. You might as well argue about whether or not clouds exist. One day, democratic socialism will have to be the system by which all countries are run – it’s that or the end of our civilisation. Even Dear Leader Trump has been forced to resort to socialist measures to safeguard what he can.

I’ve submitted my new manuscript to Tamarind Hill Press and I hope they like it, but the research I did into both Viking and Beothuk-Dorset ways of life has got me thinking about recent times. The idea that a region can be governed by a collective of elected representatives with one neutrally elected “speaker” – chieftain, monarch, whatever you want to call them – and no hierarchy of leaders within the parliament doesn’t seem all that unrealistic. It’s not just a matter of redistributing wealth, after all. The struggle for wealth is the struggle for power. If our halls of Parliament, Duma, Althing, Reichstag, etc were without primary ministers, consortia or political parties, but had nothing but regional representatives with nothing to gain from being there except doing a good job in order to stay there, who would the oligarchs pay off to create loopholes to abuse?

Maybe our ancestors – Norse or First Nations – had the right idea.

Onto other business – I’m currently reading Les Liasons Dangereuses by Choclos de Laclos. Not a big fan of the epistolary novel but it’s pretty good. I’m getting through it. Since a lot of us have a lot of spare time at the moment, I’m interested to see what you’re reading…

February 2020

It’s been a big month!

I’m working hard to finalize the manuscript for my new book, which I’m excited to hand over to Tamarind Hill Press very soon. A long journey is finally coming to an end. I know the Vikings who tried to settle Newfoundland – and ran up against the native people who lived there – was something I wanted to do since I started writing fiction, but it took me forever to come up with an interesting story to go with it. 2017, I finally clicked: wrote two drafts and hated them both.

So, I took some time to write Might Mary, which I’m glad I did because it was such a rich learning experience for me that I couldn’t help but come back to my Viking novel. However, 2019 just wasn’t the year. I’d gone to New York and that’s always a recipe for a massive influx of ideas. I wrote four original first drafts over the course of 2019, and didn’t have a chance to come back to a new draft of my new novel until the last few months.

But I’m happy to say I’m back on track and very nearly there! Watch this space…

Reading a departure from my normal fiction of late.  My review for The Master and Margarita is up on Goodreads and my thoughts on Half Moon Lake by Kirstin Alexander are up as well. I don’t think I’ll ‘review’ Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women, however. It’s really not my place. I will, however, post a comprehensive list of things I learned from reading it, in the hope that it might inspire some other men – particularly men in positions of power – to think again about how we perceive the world.

What are you reading at the moment?

Best wishes,



What a way to start the New Year. Between fires cutting huge swathes through Australia, western nations teetering on the brink of starting yet another war in an already besieged region, the global political climate in general and now the outbreak of this coronavirus, it really doesn’t feel like we’re off to a great start, does it? Thank goodness we have books.

The misinformation that has accompanied every single disaster of the past ten years has been overwhelming. Fortunately, nothing sharpens the eye for it like satire. Read plenty, and you find yourself amongst those who see through the absurdities. For example, you might find the reports of two-hundred arsonists in Australia excessive and find that in fact less than thirty people were charged with deliberately lighting fires, of which most were just stupid, not actually malicious. How could newspapers report such a blatant lie?

Well, people believe it.

The humanitarian crisis that is war and, I fear, will come of this pandemic shows not only visions of great suffering, but great coldness as well. People crying out for the blood of their enemies. Paying no mind to the innocent people who live in the cities they cheer their leaders on for threatening to bomb. But, nothing awakens empathy like reading the stories of the persecuted and forgotten. Those who take the time to read their stories, more so than simply watch or listen, become intimately more aware of what people go through.

It must be easy for everyone else to forget their humanity when they think they’re on the winning side. Nobody “wins” a war. There are countless war novels – fiction, but written by survivors nonetheless – to teach us that.

There used to be a debate over whether insight was a gift or a burden, but I don’t think it exists anymore. Patriotism is the prime currency of every coward. They speak an infectious language laden with lies and false machismo and they’re leading most of the world. The future doesn’t need cowards. Conformists. Loyal flag-wavers. Such notions have led us nowhere. The future needs thinkers. Cynics. People who consider and question and change their beliefs based on what they observe. Knowledge is fluid. The future needs readers.

I’m going to release a new novel this year. At least I aim to. It’s called Saga of the Ice Forest, and it’s about the last attempt by Vikings to colonize Newfoundland around 1000 AD. I’ve been working on it since 2016. I set out to examine the notions of loyalty and subservience but to disguise it in a fictionalized retelling of the clashes that occurred between the Natives and the Nose. The research has been an immense ordeal but deeply rewarding. I’m particularly excited about the antagonist of the piece, the formidable Freydis Eiriksdottir. She’s appeared in fiction before but I just don’t feel like she’s been done justice.

I’m excited to bring it to you. I’m excited to have got so much reading done over the holidays – Half Moon Lake, Do androids Dream of Electric Sheep, a Keeper, The Canterbury Tales and Woman on the Edge of Time got me through the downtime.

Let’s keep the conversation on what’s important. What have you been reading?

September 2019

So, I’ve posted my review of The Great Escape but I’m still in awe of its content. How inventive those amazing people, held prisoners in Stalag Luft III, really were. Making things out of things I wouldn’t even equate as relative. Just incredible. And speaking of incredible, I’ve moved on to Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5, of which I love the subtitle, The Children’s Crusade, as well as the story behind that title as told in the introduction. Vonnegut is a model of contemporary authorship but he also breathes a sensitive, touchingly vulnerable new life into the telling of World War Two stories. A survivor of the Dresden bombing (which was done by the Allies when he was a POW) it isn’t hard to see why he’d have hated guns, hated war and hated aggression. But his ability to communicate that over to a story is a marvel. At the time, the 1960s World War Two stories were told with gung-ho masculinity and focused on the heroics. The Great Escape is no exception, despite its tragic outcome. Vonnegut’s antithesis on the popular Allied Heroes conception came early in America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, and might just have given birth to the arts’ immense antiwar movement of the ’60s and ’70s and beyond.

What an achievement!

Speaking of, I’m still working on my next novel. Following Mighty Mary isn’t easy. The true story of a circus elephant doesn’t really leave any opening for what might come next. But I’m working. And I love what I’m doing.

Almost There!

Well, I’m hoping everyone will get to see what I’ve been working on lately maybe next year or early 2021. It’s been a lot of fun which I haven’t had writing something since Dino Hunt. Not that writing isn’t an exciting process, because you’re discovering quadrants of your own imagination and unlocking these hidden little gems that complete a story that was only vague in your head, which is an exhilarating process. But there’s also rewrites and making the whole thing coherent, which is where the work comes in. Often it feels like pulling the bottom floor out of a building so you can put it at the top. But I know something’s not good when writing it feels like pushing an acorn uphill with my nose. That’s not how the current manuscript feels. It’s one I can’t wait to get back to work on each day, so that’s exciting. I can’t wait to show it to you.

Reading The Great Escape. My review still to come but I’m loving it. Might need a pen and paper to keep track of all the names but wow; I’m just struck dumb by the ingenuity and resilience of these people. Makes me feel even sillier for complaining about writing being difficult sometimes!

I hope you’re all enjoying your month and keeping safe.


A new month!

Has a month gone by already?

Oh, well. I’m not just a writer, I’m a keen academic and I work full-time in education. Unlike many a writer, I don’t intend to ever give up my day job. I like researching, I like learning and I love passing on information and helping people along their way. But add to that my volunteering, my need to remain fully qualified and properly trained and practiced in all my disciplines and well… it gets a lot. Very much looking forward to the end of the year when I can relax a little bit and go to England for Christmas and spend New Year’s just hopping about my beloved Europe. I love and miss her.

Still reading! I finished McCarthy’s Outer Dark and posted the review on Goodreads. Now I’m on to The Silence of the Lambs.

And writing. I’m working on what I’ve decided will be my next book. It feels right and I intend to have it out sometime next year. Watch this space.

Suddenly 30

So I hit a bit of a milestone on the 31st of May. Thirty is often a daunting age, or so I was told, but then I was also told life begins at 30. I have to say I’m experiencing neither. Maybe I’ve been 30 for some considerable time but society’s little critiques, insofar as I have been subjected to them, have never mattered much to me unless they related to my acting or my writing. Even my acting I never invested too much of my own ego in. And critiques for writing? Well, you can learn something from all of them. So none of them are bad. There are rules, of course, you’re supposed to own a house (I don’t) have started a family (I won’t) and drive some degree of enviable car (ugh – never). But I don’t think people who had six books published before they turned 30 wrote those rules. Success is precisely what you want it to be and nobody can measure your success but you. I wanted to be a writer. Now I want to be a better writer. This will never end. I’m quite happy with that.

Dino Hunt has been expecting a sequel for about four years now and I’ve been given another possible release date. July of this year. I’m not sure how I feel about something so old being given such sudden new life but I suppose when we put our work out there we are forever reminded of where we came from. That isn’t to say people in general don’t like Dino Hunt. It was a phenomenally popular book, for what it was. I hope, for ASJ, that its sequel enjoys as much enthusiasm.

But I’m on to new projects. Manuscripts galore at Casa Davine. I can’t wait to show those to you.

2019 – A great year

2019 is indeed a year of hard work. I haven’t had time to really think about a blog post… I’m really quite involved in a manuscript I’m working on at the moment. I hope it’s as good as it feels! I’m still not sure which one I want to follow Mighty Mary with – there are a few options – but you’ll all know soon enough.

Still reading From Whom the Bell Tolls. I forget what an absolutely stunning writer Hemmingway was. I mean, I remember it in theory – I know it is powerful – but it’s not until I pick up his work that it absolutely entombs me and I remember viscerally what a master he truly was.


Writing prose has always been a passion of mine, but when people talk about giving up their day jobs, I cringe. I’ve been there, briefly, and it didn’t work for me. I love having a job. A place to go in the morning, people to engage with, a community to serve, and a time in which my desire to go home and write can burn brighter and stronger for when I finally get the chance, come the end of the day. It makes for a busy schedule, yes, but you’ve got to interpret life as a writer and I just don’t see how you can do that if you spend too much time away from it. I’ve also been an editor and script doctor in my time, and the number of screenplays I read that are about writers writing screenplays nearly drove me crazy. Films and books about the industry exist. It’s been done and done exceedingly well.about killer Writing prose has always been a passion of mine, but when people talk about giving up their day jobs, I cringe. I’ve been there, briefly, and it didn’t work for me. I love having a job. A place to go in the morning, people to engage with, a community to serve, and a time in which my desire to go home and write can burn brighter and stronger for when I finally get the chance, come the end of the day. It makes for a busy schedule, yes, but you’ve got to interpret life as a writer and I just don’t see how you can do that if you spend too much time away from it. I’ve also been an editor and script doctor in my time, and the number of screenplays I read that are about writers writing screenplays nearly drove me crazy. Films and books about the industry exist. It’s been done and done exceedingly well. Like movies about killer sharks, there is nothing to add to it. It’s done and over for the rest of us. We have to find our stories elsewhere – in history books, in everyday activities like standing and in experiencing what happens when we throw ourselves out there.
I’m sometimes asked what my advice to young writers is and it never changes – live. Date that person. Tell them what you want to do with them. In graphic detail. Go on that road trip. Go on that holiday. Get lost. Get found. Get active. Join that sporting club. Go camping. Hate it. Love it. Whatever. Nothing great ever happened by sitting still – penicillin excepted. Participate in community activities. I’ve upset my mother again this year because instead of spending Good Friday relaxing with family, I’ll be on a fire truck collecting donation from the neighbourhood for the Royal Children’s Hospital. I’m going to see faces both dismissive and open, ugly and beautiful, charitable by nature and fed up with being asked. I’m going to subject myself to a world of inspiration and do a fantastic deed while I’m at it. Get out there. Open those flood gates and let life pour over you. There is such a lot of world to find, as they sung in Moon River.
I’m studying to get my teaching qualifications, and next year I want to commence my PhD in literature. I’ll find the time to keep writing, you can bet, and you will too. You won’t be able to help yourself.

Happy adventuring.

Thank you Australia!

I’m not going to talk about literature for a minute.

It seems to shock a lot of Americans and the English (the latter most profoundly) that so many of Australia’s firefighters are unpaid volunteers. That we do all the things the professionals do, except forgoing any remuneration for it. Of course, where populations are concentrated there are paid firefighting agencies who are always ready to go. But the simple fact of the matter is that outside of dense population centres, Australians really aren’t that many. I am a volunteer firefighter in Belgrave, Victoria. It’s approximately forty minutes’ drive from the city of Melbourne, where firefighting is done by a different agency and they are paid. I do in a month approximately what that agency does in a day. But what we do is no different. We’ll strap on BA and go into burning houses. We’ll go to car accidents to cut people out or, if they are particularly unfortunate, help clean up what’s left. Then there are suicides, other accidents, house and building collapses, floods. We’re there for all of it.

But this being Australia, the thing that plays on all our minds the most are the bushfires. The Australian forest has evolved to burn. Eucalyptus trees have a special oil in them that helps them do exactly this. If we knew what we know now about how extreme bushfires can be, we never would have built homes amongst the forests of this country. The indigenous peoples did everything to warn us, but we went ahead anyway. There are people who live out there. And they love it 99% of the time. But every few years or so, it burns. Sometimes it takes us by surprise, and we have cases like Black Friday in the late 20’s, Ash Wednesday in the early 80’s, and worst of all Black Saturday in 2009. There are others. We are there to prevent these events from taking place, because in these events, lives are lost. In the case of Black Saturday, 174 of them. I count one extra for my fellow firefighters who lost a patient in an unrelated house fire.

I’ve just got home from some massive fires in country Victoria that did not escalate to Black Saturday-level events because of the hard work of volunteer firefighters, as well as our paid colleagues, our friends in Forestry and Parks and the countless residents who have attended our information sessions and prepared themselves for what can happen. I’m young and still new to this. But I have seen firsthand the years of experience, honed instinct and incredible skill that has developed in these firefighters over years of unpaid dedication. Houses stand today because of us. People are alive because of us. I am alive because of them. I salute them. I thank them for being there and imparting their knowledge so that I may one day work at their level and be worthy of the praise and admiration which is so completely due to them.

Thank you, the volunteers of Australia.