After something of a hiatus, my epic-tome is finally moving forward again. My adventures in Tasmania have left me renewed, refreshed and only somewhat exhausted – but ready to focus on the final stages of production.

Since my plan is now to try self-publishing the tome as an eBook, there are a few hoops I need to jump through to get to launch point. First of these is to make some tough decisions about the cover design.

Given the number of eBooks in the market place, I feel that my cover image will need to be really eye-catching. This will (hopefully) get potential buyers to pause for long enough to become actual buyers. This sounds easy in concept but, for a first-timer in particular, it’s a little less so in implementation.

As is my way, I’ve spent an awful lot of time on the research phase, looking at book covers, both in book stores and online. Whilst there seem to be just about as many different styles as there are books,  only a fairly narrow range of these appealed to me and this had led me to the following conclusions:

  • there really isn’t enough space on a cover for more than a single image, the title and the author’s name
  • there needs to be a reasonably clear link between the cover image and the title – otherwise the potential reader is likely to move on to something less challenging/confusing (I certainly do)
  • the image needs to ‘pop’ as a thumbnail, to be sufficiently clear and eye-catching as to attract attention
  • the font selection needs big enough and clear. Crisp lines seem to work better, overall.
  • likewise, the cover needs to be one that can look good in colour (if used) and also in greyscale.

No presPhoto with permission, Lisa Ryesure, really…

Luckily it’s the end of the convention season, which meant that the creative talents of Lisa Rye have become available – much to my delight. Based on discussions over lunch at our first business meeting, she roughed out seven thumbnails and emailed them through for me to look through while I was in Tasmania. Super efficient.

Suddenly the tome has taken on a whole new dimension – it looks like a real book!

Choosing which image to run with took me much longer than expected, which is amusing since I ended up choosing the one I’d liked best when I first saw them! Lisa is currently developing the concept and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with. Watch this space for the grand reveal soon…

Of course, once a potential buyer has paused for long enough to admire the cover they need to find the text engaging as well. To this end, editiPhoto courtesy of Sandy Limng is all-important. I had the manuscript professionally assessed over a year ago and have had feedback from a number of beta readers since then, resulting in a number of minor revisions for clarity or consistency.

I think I’m on the home stretch now, with the help of talented writer/artist Sandy Lim. It’s been very interesting to have a fresh set of eyes on the manuscript. Sandy’s careful, professional editing and comments – some of which also reached me on holiday (!) – are proving to be most insightful and will result in a tighter, more readable product. No wonder she’s in demand 🙂

With all of this in mind, I’m off to a half-day self-publishing expo this coming Saturday. I’m hopeful that some gem(s) of information/insight will be forthcoming to push the process along. Maybe I’ll see you there…

writers expo_5dec2015

Grant Stone is an icon of WA science fiction fandom, an archivist, a renowned raconteur and one of my favourite people. Spending time with him is always good value and lunch this week was no exception.

As always, the conversation was peppered with fascinating titbits from Grant’s past and present, ranging from his early interest in botany to his later research into the cultural ecology of Barbie (dolls). This time the mix alsnik_1970o included some shared reminisces of our respective childhood years, in Johannesburg (RSA) and near Bunbury (WA).

The tales of Grant’s childhood and teenage years made them sound idyllic, a time of great freedom and adventure. I confess that by the time we parted I felt slightly regretful at not having grown up in WA, although my own childhood was not all that dissimilar.

Like Grant, I have a plethora of happy memories of racing around with friends (on and off bicycles), camping, climbing trees, collecting various things (stamps, plants, posters, etc.) and reading – so much reading. Quite simply, what’s not to love about all that?

Of course, just like everyone else, we also experienced sad, bad and boring times. But all those experiences were processed and allocated varying levels of importance in the time and context in which they took place. They became part of the complex memory-maze of our respective personal histories, which enables us to leave the sad/bad bits back in the past where they belong.

Shaping a coherent mental map that highlights the best in life is a way of being that can encompass all life experiences. One way to do this is try to be both participant and observer of your own life, to mindfully or self-reflexively create your history as you live it.

When I quit my day job I promised myself I’d use the ‘spare’ time creatively, that I’d do more things I enjoy and spend more time with people who’re important to me. In this way I’d be shaping a new part of my personal history as something I’ll both enjoy and want to remember.

Social interaction is a richly rewarding aspect of creating that history, but it takes planning and not insignificant amounts of mental energy. One week in, after catch-ups in all directions (including lunch with Grant, an Indie-rock concert and an elegant afternoon tea and lawn bowls with newly-married friends), my hermit tendencies have started to surface. The polite message they’re sending is that not all of this next chapter of my history needs to be shaped in the first week… who knew?  😛


Remaining mentally active and maintaining strong and varied social contacts provides a surprising number of significant health benefits. It helps to reduce the risk of Alzheimers, promotes a longer lifespan and reduces stress, anxiety and depression. I’ve been thinking about this for a while – in fact ever since retirement later this year became an objective. How will I fill the many hours I will (hypothetically) have spare? I have any number of art, craft and writing projects I can finally fall upon like a starving wolf, but most of those can and will be done in isolation in my art shed or study. A little voice in my head tells me that I’ll need more than this, so a couple of months ago I decided I should probably start focusing on the issue now make life more fun for future-me.

I already do some volunteering and have no immediate desire to expand on that, but joining a couple of new social groups sounded plausible. Having decided this, the sociologist in me immediately started to think about the layers of complex verbal and non-verbal cues that would need to be decoded. Whilst many of these are resolved at a subconscious level, social encounters – particularly with new people – require a fair bit of interpretation. There’s always extra information that needs to be processed in any given situation in order to function effectively. This can be exhausting,  but in my experience it can also be stimulating, interesting – even amusing.

Of course, existing groups have their own dynamics, shared history, in-jokes and group behaviours and, as often as not, don’t actively reach out to include outsiders.  They are, after all, already formed and functional and very possibly don’t need to be outwardly focused. The more closely bonded the group, the more difficult it is to gain traction in it. A group of close friends who spend heaps of time together is generally a harder nut to crack than a social group that meets on a regular basis but doesn’t keep in regular contact between meetings – although this isn’t always the case. Either way, the need (of whatever sort and for what ever reason) is largely on the side of the person trying to join in – and it falls to them to do the running, to make the effort. This is obviously made easier if the group is at least somewhat accommodating, but the time and effort still needs to be put in by the wannabe participant.

So how does one go about cracking the code, finding the elusive cryptic clues or secret handshakes that will grease the social wheels sufficiently to promote easy social integration in new situations? In reality there is no one-size-fits-all solution to social interaction, no one thing that will simply make it happen. It takes determination, time, risk and the willingness to listen. Perhaps part of success in this also hinges on finding / choosing the right target audience.

After some thought, I hit on two options for my initial forays. The first of these was to join an aquarobics group at the local pool. This provides me with physical as well as mental stimulation, along with a fair bit of amusement a couple of times a week. My other selection, based on availability and ability,

was to join a knitting group with a friend. Settling in there has been slow going, but the assessing glances and pleasant (but distant) smiles became nods and smiles of recognition the second time round, then warm greetings the next time. We’re starting to fit in and I’ve started to remember some names – and some people seem to have remembered mine. I haven’t knitted much, but I do know quite a lot more about knitting projects that other people have completed (such as a wedding dress, jumpers, blankets, socks and knitted vegetables!) or have underway (just as varied). Common ground is slowly being uncovered – and I’m starting to look forward to the sessions – knitting, chatting, laughing, chocolate biscuits and all.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say mission accomplished, but I think I’m on my way.

I’ve noticed that many adults appear to believe that being an adult means giving up things they enjoy and determinedly getting on with the business of being an adult. Somewhere along the line, the ability to enjoy child-like fun seems to be left behind. University, courting, working, family and bills happen – and the not-very-merry-go-round takes over, often with little fun in sight. How very sad – and how very boring!

There’s actually no compelling reason not to have fun or, indeed, not to do at least some of the fun things one did as a child. Admittedly bills do have to be paid, families call for attention, meals require planning and preparation – but surely this need not preclude enjoying the simple pleasures of childhood. Building sand castles, playing on the swings in the play park, jumping in puddles on rainy days, drawing and colouring-in, wandering around barefoot – these are just some examples of things we seem to forget to enjoy.

Last week was Adult Learners Week and our local library organised a morning of colouring-in for adults. The event booked out so quickly that they had to arrange a second session – also booked out – and have gone on to add colouring-in for adults to their ongoing programme of events. It turns out that colouring-in is now widely considered to be a beneficial pastime for adults. It stimulates areas of the brain related to motor skills, the senses 47802-5-beaglesand creativity and this in turn reduces stress and improves general health and wellbeing.

22 people turned up to the first event at the library – and, yes, I was one of them. Colleen, the branch librarian, told us that this pastime apparently emerged in France, where so many adults have taken it up that sales of colouring-in books now outrank those of cookbooks. Indeed, five of the 20 best selling titles on Amazon are currently adult colouring-in books! This information resonated with several people in the group who had purchased books for themselves, although most hadn’t been game to actually put colour on any of the pages as yet. The fear of making mistakes or colouring outside the lines, combined with the long-held stigma attached to writing in books, had made them too anxious to try.

Luckily the library staff had provided printouts of a number of open-source pictures found on the internet, along with a wide selection of brand new pencil crayons. In no time at all everyone was colouring away happily, chatting and laughing, reminiscing about the last time they had used coloured pencils and about life in general. By the end of the session, anxiety – about colouring-in at least – appeared to have fled completely. All the participants left for home relaxed andfun with colour_3sept15 smiling. Those who had had their own colouring-in books said that they felt much more comfortable about putting pencil crayon to paper; others took the librarian’s advice to heart and said that they’d print free designs off the internet and use those. Most people said they’d be back the following week, both for the colouring-in and for the company.

I fell into all three categories – and am delighted that colouring-in for adults is a trend that’s here to stay, for now at least. I’m feeling pretty chilled, my colouring book is on my desk (instead of in a drawer), I’ve unearthed my watercolour pencils and I’m eyeing off some gel pens at the local newsagent… If you’d like to reclaim a little of the fun you had as a kid, why not print off a picture (from one of numerous free sites) and try colouring it in? Don’t judge – just use whatever pencils, felt pens or whatever you have to hand and enjoy the process. Feel the serenity 🙂


To paraphrase Billy Joel: it’s 4am on a random day, the regular crowd shambles in, insomnia’s sitting next to me – worn like a loose second skin.

Technically,  insomnia is characterised by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep as long as desired, by waking too early in the morning and/or feeling tired when one wakes. Despite my best efforts, my shopping basket has come to include all of those items. On the upside, the house is very quiet in the early morning and I generally find that most conducive to creative ramblings and/or catching up on work stuff – so all is not lost.

I usually have something bumbling around in my head when I wake up at oh-my-goodness o’clock – and I mean other than “aargh – it’s oh-my-goodness o’clock – again.” This morning was no exception. With the end of my current work contract in sight (at the end of October), my thoughts are turning increasingly to what I’ll do with what people are referring to as ‘all that extra time’ I’ll apparently have heaps of. All too frequently I’m asked what I plan to do with myself, whether I’ll be going on a long trip, if I intend to hunt for a new job, and so on.

The answer to all and each of those questions appears to be what my brain stews over when I am asleep, although no particular clarity has emerged so far. In essence, and unless I have an early morning epiphany, my plan is to take three months off to contemplate the question. I’d like to get creative in my art shed, garden and kitchen, to finish some projects and start some exciting new ones, to ride my bike and go to the beach more regularly and to generally relax a little. Perhaps even a lot. The New Year will, I feel, be quite soon enough to wrestle with bigger questions – and by then 4am will hopefully be something I know  about, but don’t experience in person quite so often.

In the interim, staying up late, using earplugs to drown out the chickens and determinedly snuggling down when I wake up is helping somewhat: my wake up time is gradually stretching out and I’m feeling more perky as a result. Or could it be that the end of October is approaching and I’m already winding down…?