Getting the Word Out

If you’re an indie author like me, you’ll already have made the discovery that ‘Write it and they will come’ does not work. It will never work.

It doesn’t matter how good your writing is: how gripping your plots, relatable your characters, polished your prose. Your writing will languish unread, unless you find ways to get readers to clap eyes on it.

Fortunately I like a challenge, and I like learning new stuff, so this doesn’t bother me much. In the past year, I’ve had more than a few ‘Eureka!’ flashes of inspiration which quickly turned to ‘Meh …’ realisations. I pick myself up, dust myself off and try something else.

… but also I keep doing what I’m doing – constantly refining and trying to do it better. Building an audience requires dedication and commitment. It ain’t gonna happen over night.

Who needs video games to keep them entertained? This stuff is FUN!

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Old Dogs, New Tricks

Adventures with adult learners

The trouble with being a full-time coursebook writer is that you’re always preparing lessons for others to teach.

With the drawn-out publishing process, there’s about a year’s development from concept to finished work. Even then, the book has to jump through bureaucratic hoops to be approved by the relevant education authorities, before final printing and distribution. By the time you’re actually getting royalties, (usually the only form of feedback you’ll ever get) the work itself may be a distant memory.

It’s all a little … abstract.

That’s why I enjoy opportunities to teach. For me, they’re recreation, not work. They’re also a way of keeping myself grounded.

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The Power of a Change of Place

It has happened again. A couple of days away in our campervan, and I’ve come back with a new tale to tell.

It is not something that actually happened – thankfully – but it was definitely inspired by the place we stayed and what we experienced there. It is a unique tale, then, which would not have been conceived anywhere else.

You’ll have to wait a while to read ‘Badger Hill’, as I’ve submitted it for a competition with my local writers’ group and don’t want to disqualify my entry through conflicting ideas about what constitutes ‘prior publication’.

It’s a little darker than most of my output, although it starts off innocuously enough. A woman receives a minor injury at the end of the first stage of a multi-day hike. At least the campground is idyllic …

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Immigrant Song

Alphons is on the loose

Australia is jam-packed full of spectacular native birds. My wife and I have identified and largely photographed over 130 species, just in our little corner of the island continent.

So why, oh why, would I bother writing about the Common Blackbird – a stowaway from the Northern Hemisphere? An avian anomaly? An incongruous interloper?

Perhaps out of fellow feeling. I too come from a northern land of damp weather and leaf mould, of burgeoning hedgerows and dewy lawns. I too sometimes wonder how I got here.

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Getting Read

My output of stories has been prolific over the past months. Clearly, a world-record series of lockdowns here in Victoria has been good for something!

However, ‘Write it and they will come’ isn’t proving to be a sensible way of getting my writing to readers.

I ruefully recognise that I only started reading some of my favourite contemporary authors after an obituary in the media. That’s a little long-term for this writer. I’d rather be read alive than dead.

So, how to get eyes on pages?

Here are some thoughts:

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Tower Hill

Photo essay on a volcanic wildlife haven

The volcanic plains of southwestern Victoria sweep down from the craggy Grampians and Victoria Ranges in the north to the Bass Strait coast, where they are abruptly truncated at sandstone and limestone cliffs or hemmed by soft dunes and marshy lagoons.

From east to west, the Newer Volcanics Province extends 400 kilometres from Melbourne to the South Australian border. It contains over 400 volcanoes, of which Tower Hill is one of the newest, having erupted as recently as 5,000 years ago. Tower Hill is one of the world’s largest maar (cinder cone) volcanoes.

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Lake Connewarre

Sketch of a hidden gem

The Bellarine Peninsula juts between Port Phillip Bay and wild Bass Strait like the knobbly head of a monstrous sperm whale, toothy jaws agape.

Our northern shores are nibbled by the choppy waves of Corio Bay and Outer Harbour; our southern beaches are thrashed by the big surf. In the jaws of the whale lies quiet Swan Bay. The chain of sand islands which almost close the mouth are the whale’s teeth.

Under the whale’s chin lies the fearsome Rip. All vessels that enter and leave Port Phillip Bay must run this gauntlet.

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Down by the Creek

My morning walk

The little creek near my house is my favourite walking route. Once it was an important thoroughfare for the Wadawurrung people — from the Bay to the waterholes which are the only permanent fresh water in the area. They called the creek Gurnang.

After ‘settlement’ (i.e. theft) of the lands around Port Phillip Bay (Narrm Narrm) by British colonists from 1835 onwards, our peninsula was largely cleared of native vegetation and became an important agricultural hinterland for the bustling port city of Geelong.

When my wife and I came to this area in 2002, the creek, now known as Griggs Creek, was a weed-choked seasonal trickle of water on the edge of town, bordering low-grade pasturage with a few cattle dotted across it.

I’m no great fan of urban sprawl, and was concerned to discover that plans were afoot to build 3,000 dwellings on the other side of the creek — in effect, a brand-new township.

In the event, this well-planned development has brought both recreational and environmental benefits to our community.

Where there was once a gullied cow paddock, there are neat streets of houses — but also wetlands teeming with life. A walking and cycling track winds through parklands planted with indigenous shrubs and trees to the Bay and a perfect view of the You Yangs peaks on the opposite shore.

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The Patch

A Permaculture Adventure

Permie in the Patch, 2016

When I was a kid, growing up in the 1970s on the outskirts of London, there was a TV sit-com that I adored. A quirky, optimistic show with wit and warmth, in the best tradition of British comedy. It was called The Good Life, with Felicity Kendal and Richard Briers.

It was the story of an irrepressibly resourceful couple in a snooty middle-class suburb of London, who absconded from the rat race in pursuit of self-sufficiency. How I loved that show, and the curiously romantic idea of ploughing up one’s lawn to grow potatoes and keep a brace of pigs …

Australia-bound for the Good Life

When my wife and I moved to Australia in 2001, we finally had the space to pursue our own Good Life (sans porcine companions). We were keen to grow a significant proportion of our own fruit and veg.

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