Archive for the ‘mental illness’ Category

Sunflower field at dawn

 What with the remaining cat’s veterinary bills, things are a bit tough financially, but they used to be tougher back around the turn of the millenium. At that time the local paper, the Byron Shire Echo decided to hold a competition for a short story of less than 1,000 words. The winning entry would receive publication in the Echo and prize money of $1,000. Needless to say, I decided to have a go. To my absolute surprise, I was lucky enough to win with “A Happily Married Man’, which told the story of a young man who thinks he’s had a message from God to eliminate the man his wife has left him for.

That was in 1997.

Next year, I decided to try again. This time I wrote about a single mother who’s life is threatened by a jilted lover with a shotgun. I called it “The State of Grace”, to try to explain the sense of calm that came over the her in the end, after she realises she is going to die. I didn’t hold out much hope for the story, but they were judged blind and to my amazement, I managed to win again. Now that’s what I call luck. It kind of made up for all those years of rejections. (I sometimes wish I’d kept my rejection slips; I really could’ve papered a wall with them.)

That was in 1998.

In 1999, Shelley Jackson of Lismore ran a fiction competition for women on the north coast of New South Wales. I was on a roll, so I tried again. The story I entered was called “The Sunflowers”. It was about a woman who’s been married for years to a husband who is physically abusive, but she won’t leave him. Finally, a particular incident involving gardening makes her decide to go. Again, I was lucky.

And there my remarkable streak of luck more or less ended. After that, I concentrated on writing novels and on getting stories published in magazines to improve my literary CV. In those days, you sent the publishers your novel extract by post, along with a pleading letter and what was called a literary CV. A good literary CV might sway editors in your favour. It seemed like a sensible idea to concentrate on this. As the song says, “Know when to fold’ em. Know when to walk away, Know when to run”.

Being only 1,000, 1,000 and 1,500 words respectively, the three stories described above were too short to publish separately on the web, so I’ve put them together in a bundle of 3,575 words called “Trio”. In the short story collection I’m hoping to put out in 2015, these three stories won’t run together as they do in “Trio”, but will appear separately in various places through the book. Anyone reading them to discover the fate of the four main characters in the collection (O’Neill, Johnson, Lawson and Star) needs to bear this in mind.

Trio” is FREE at Smashwords in three formats: EPUB, mobi (for Kindle) and pdf.


PS Many thanks to the people who’ve taken the trouble to review the stories I’ve put up so far. Reviews are necessary to sell anything on the web, so your kindness is very much appreciated.

A note on reviews:

Making life even more difficult for indie publishers, Amazon, the giant in this business, responsible for approximately 70% of all internet book sales, does not link its sites together where reviews are concerned. A review placed on the Australian Amazon site will not appear on the US Amazon site for the same book, or the UK’s —or any other Amazon site, for that matter. You would expect that one review would show up across all of Amazon’s sales sites, but it doesn’t. As it would be a dementing business for well wishers to copy and paste their reviews over all the sales sites, I would suggest placing your review where you think it will do the most good.

Read Full Post »



If you live in Australia, watch out for umanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) when you’re out in the open. My girlfriend and I encountered one last Saturday at Boulder Beach, a little-known beach north of Ballina in New South Wales. This beach is something of an oddity; it’s very different from the sandy beaches of the rest of northern NSW. It’s literally covered in small boulders, washed smooth by the sea.


Boulder Beach

It was lunchtime, we spread out a blanket and had a picnic under a breadfruit tree. After we’d eaten, we went out some 300 metres to paddle in the rock pools left behind at low tide. It was a beautiful day, hardly a cloud in the sky. As we were rolling up our jeans to wade a bit in one of the larger pools, we heard a sound that didn’t fit in this idyllic seascape. A mechanical sound. Into our line of vision came buzzing an unmanned quadcopter about three feet in diameter, all black metal, flying at a height of around 30 feet. Unnoticed by us, some guy in a van had pulled up onshore and launched this UAV, which he kept in our vicinity, the red light of its camera pointing at us. He had the entire empty beach to fly it in but he kept it near  us. It seemed to be a deliberate provocation. We suspected we were being photographed so we didn’t react.

If I’d had a slingshot I might’ve brought it down, but slingshots are illegal in Australia, while anyone can buy a UAV and you don’t need a licence to fly one. There’s so much concern about the increasing use of these drone UAVs the Australian government recently convened a special senate commitee hearing on the subject. The upshot of it was that at present there are no privacy laws in Australia covering the operation of drones in open spaces; only safety concerns can legally be addressed. The Australian Civil Aviation Authority CASA’s ruling is that a UAV must never be closer than 90 feet to any member of the public. This guy’s was around 30 feet.

After five minutes of so we tired of this passive aggression and began to return to shore. The operator brought the drone back in. Although he was standing one metre away from where we’d left our picnic blanket and gear — an unusual thing in itself to do when he had the whole beach to choose from — he never spoke to us when we returned, never made eye contact, though he kept the front of the landed drone facing us and its red camera light remained on.

What do you do in a situation like that? You have no legal rights. If you attack him or damage his drone (the high-end ones can cost well over a thousand dolars), you’ll be the one who ends up in court. If I’d known at the time about the CASA ruling of 90 feet, I might’ve spoken to him; then again, I might not have – I try to steer clear of loonies, especially ones I don’t know and whose behaviour I can’t predict.

I wondered if he had a little online site tucked away somewhere where he put up footage of the women he’d aggressed, or was it just a private kick? This middleaged guy with glasses didn’t look to me as if he’d be game to fly it over any men, unless perhaps they were on crutches. Using the rego number of his van, I found he’d registered with a UAV site in the US on 17 December 2012, so I’m sure we’re not the first women he’s pestered.

The moral of this story is: next time you’re out in the open in Australia and think you’re alone, think again. Some passive-aggresive stalker three hundred metres distant could be sending a drone your way.

Ah, brave new world.


Read Full Post »