A mate of mine is a farmer.  A while ago we discussed a series of stories for kids about “Where food comes from” after realising how many ‘city kids’ really have no idea.  Here’s the first.  Tell me if you’d like more!

“Do you know where eggs come from?” the cook asked Nicky.

“Mum keeps them in the door of the fridge.”

“Okay, before they go into the fridge – where do they come from?”

Nicky thought for a moment. “Umm… the supermarket.”

“Do you know where the shop gets eggs from?”

egg-1803348_1280 “From a farm,” said Nicky, remembering something in a book.

“Yes, often they do. How do the farmers get the eggs?”

“Does they grow them? Is that what an eggplant is?”

The cook laughed. “No, that’s a type of vegetable. Eggs come from chickens.”

“Oh! Um… how do the chickens get them?”

“They lay them.   Female chickens start to lay eggs when they’re about twenty weeks old…” the cook started to explain.

Nicky interrupted. “Wait… what do you mean, ‘lay’ them? Where does the egg come from?”

“Well, er, out of the chicken’s bottom.”

“What? Like poop? Ee-uuw!”

“Eggs and poop do come out of the same hole, but that’s okay – they come from different places inside the chicken and don’t get mixed up together.”

“Okay… if you’re sure about that,” said Nicky, looking uncertainly at an egg on the kitchen bench.


“So why do the chickens lay these eggs?”

“Something inside the chicken’s body makes it produce eggs regularly…”

“How regularly?”

“It varies between chickens. Some might be once or twice per week. When a chicken is young and healthy it might be about every 25 hours.”

“There are 24 hours in a day, right? So the chicken lays an egg every day almost!” Nicky was good with numbers.

“Yes. If she lays her very first egg at ten o’clock on a Monday morning, the next will pop out at eleven on Tuesday, then noon on Wednesday, and so on. But most chickens only lay eggs during the daytime, so when that pattern gets to when it’s dark she’ll stop, and lay her next egg in the morning when it’s light.”

“Okay, that’s when – but why is she making them?”

“If there’s a rooster spending time with the chicken, then some of those eggs might get what’s called ‘fertilized’. That means that a chick grows inside the egg. That’s how we get new chickens. But most eggs don’t get fertilized, so there are lots more eggs than chickens.”

“Otherwise we’d have dozens and dozens of chickens in the supermarket instead of all those eggs. Do white eggs come from white chickens, and brown eggs from brown chickens?”

“Not necessarily. Black chickens don’t lay black eggs! Different breeds usually lay slightly different coloured eggs, and each individual chicken will produce pretty much the same colour. Sometimes a bit darker or lighter, or with little speckles – depending on what they’ve been eating.”

“So… if chickens make eggs to make more chickens… where did the first chicken come from?”

“Or, where did the first egg come from? I don’t think anyone has ever quite figured that one out! Now, would you like a boiled egg?”

“Yes please. With no poop in it!”


Here’s a story from John B. Stewart’s early days as a wielder of Dubious Magic.  He still has to learn to think before he speaks.

It was a crisp clear Sunday morning in the Canberra suburb of Waramanga. Minor public servant and unacknowledged wizard John B. Stewart strolled out into the back yard of his cottage. Holding a cup of coffee, he was simply basking in the sunlight.

He knew his recently-arrived housemate Darren had gone out into the yard a few minutes earlier, but was surprised to see the young man sitting on an upturned bin, busily trying to hose something odious from the sole of his gym boot.

After they’d exchanged genial “Good morning” greetings John B. gestured towards his friend’s foot.

“That doesn’t look like something Kat’s responsible for,” he observed.

Kat was a large white Persian – the other member of the little household.

Darren grinned ruefully. “You’d worry if it was. No, this was left by some big dog.”

Stewart wrinkled a lip in annoyance and said, “It’ll be that damned Alsation from two doors up. It wanders up and down the street looking for any yard it can use for a toilet except its own.”

“Well trained, then,” said Darren, rubbing his sole on the grass.

“I wish the bloody dog would learn to stay out of our place,” was John B.’s irritated response.

Darren looked at him quizzically for a moment. Before he could construct the cautious question he had in mind, the final member of the household sauntered out of the open back door.

Kat walked past both men, giving a little mmreh of apparent greeting as he went by. The Persian went off along the path at the side of the house in the general direction of the driveway where Stewart parked his battered old Hillman.

“Where’s he off to, I wonder?” mused the youth.

“Routine inspection of his domain?” suggested the man who’d been best friends with the cat for years.

Both men grinned.

Suddenly there was a loud, violent outburst of caterwauling and deep-throated barking and growling from the front of the cottage. Kat came bolting down the path at high speed. (That in itself was a shock – the big feline was rarely observed to move at anything above an amble.) Shortly behind lumbered a large German Shepherd, literally snapping at the cat’s tail.

Kat looked almost to run vertically up the trunk of a pine tree in the back corner of the yard and disappear into the thick foliage several feet up. The dog stood on its hind legs, front paws up scrabbling on the bark of the tree, barking loudly.

John B. was just about to run down toward the tree with a view to getting the dog away, possibly through the agency of a swift kick to its rear. He’d risk being bitten to save Kat.

But Kat didn’t need saving. The big cat suddenly plummeted from a substantial height, claws extended, dropping full weight onto the dog’s muzzle. Two razor sharp claws carved deep slices in the soft black nose

The sound the Alsation made was more like a scream than a yelp. It turned and ran full pelt back up the driveway, never to venture into this yard again!

Immediately after impact Kat had jumped from the dog’s face and now ambled back up the yard as his usual sedate pace, the only sign of emotion being his tail whipping from side to side a few times.

Both men stood looking more or less thunderstruck. Darren looked especially awed. John B. had told him about his ‘wishes-come-true’ magic, but this was the first time he’d seen it in unpredictable action. He was impressed – by both of his new housemates.

John B., for his part, knelt to pat the broad white head of the Persian who sat beside him, meticulously cleaning his claws.

“I’m very glad you’re on my side, old friend,” he said, and meant it.

A Traveller’s Tale

A friend of mine, Julia, just got back from a cruise along the coast of Alaska and Vancouver Island. It’s a great trip, I know – I did it a couple of years ago!

Comparing notes, I asked what her highlight had been. Her answer surprised me.

“It was about seven o’clock on the first actual morning of the cruise,” she said. “I was out doing a little run around the promenade, getting my miles up, you know?”

I get it. I’m used to seeing Julia walking or doing a gentle trot along the beach near where we live.

“A door opened and this lad walked out onto the deck. Nearly collided with me. I suppose he was about eleven. He just stood there, looking around, kind of hugging his stomach and going ‘Wow!’ a lot. I asked him if he was okay – it looked like he might have a tummy ache or something.”

“The boy shook his head and explained he was from a little town in central Canada. It was already dark when they got on the boat last night. He lived near a river, but this was the first time he’d ever seen the ocean.”

“The sight literally took his breath away. That was my highlight – sharing that moment with that boy.”

And moments like that, my friends, are why some of us travel as much as we do!


Another Dubious Magic story – one which takes place quite early during the events of Book 1: The Wizard of Waramanga.  John B. learns more about being careful what you wish for.


It was the definitive lazy afternoon in Waramanga. The leafy Canberra suburb was warm, but not unpleasantly so if you stayed out of the direct sun.

That was precisely what John B. Stewart had chosen to do. He was in the back yard of his cottage, reclining on a deckchair in the shade of a large tree. His housemate Darren was at work. There was no sport of interest on the radio, so he relaxed in comfortable quiet, enjoying the light breeze and the sounds of the garden.

John B. had recently accidentally discovered that he was a wizard. Ever since hitting his head on a poker machine he’d found his wishes coming true. Not always predictably, though, so he was learning to be cautious.

He might, for instance, as he rested there wish for something to eat.

‘Ah, no,’ he thought to himself. ‘At best, Darren might come home early from work bearing leftover pizza. Or at worst a plane flying overhead might explode and leave me showered with in-flight snacks – and other debris.’

Sometimes having a vivid imagination could be disconcerting, although it did, he reasoned, serve as a kind of warning device.

John B. opened one eye and smiled at the sight of his other housemate. Kat was a generously proportioned white Persian cat who was currently lying under a favourite shrub quite nearby. He too was enjoying the shade.

The cat’s posture reminded John B. of the Sphinx, but with the chin resting comfortably on the forelegs.

Kat and John B. were both comfortably relaxed. Neither had moved appreciably for well over an hour. If they weren’t both sound asleep the difference wouldn’t have been obvious to any casual observer.

The lilting chorus of birdsong that John B. had been enjoying took on a new strident note. A noisy mynah had flown into the garden, and as was the way of its type, was aggressively trying to hector other birds away from the territory it wanted to occupy.

“I wish you’d be bloody quiet,” the wizard muttered in mild irritation.

He watched the newcomer for a few moments. It seemed utterly oblivious to him, and unconcerned at his annoyance. John B. sighed and closed his eyes.

After a while the mynah’s voice grew louder as it came closer to the deckchair. John B. opened his eyes again without otherwise moving.

The bird had evidently taken note of the lassitude of the yard’s two occupants. It was hopping about on the ground quite close to them both, foraging for whatever it is that noisy mynahs forage for. Once, twice it hopped right by Kat. The big Persian didn’t so much as twitch his nose or open an eye.

But on the bird’s third pass the left paw shot out and back almost too quickly to be seen, and there was an audible crunch.

John B.’s eyes widened. Most of Kat hadn’t seemed to move at all, but under the left paw was the mynah’s body. Its head was missing.. Eyes still closed, the Persian was contentedly chewing his afternoon snack.

A small drop of blood on the white fur of his chin was the only clue of his culpability. Well, other than the headless corpse still idly held.

The wizard made a silent apology to the mynah’s ghost, shook his head and said to Kat, “I’m glad you’re on my side, mate.”

Kat swallowed, and purred.

The influence of others

I wonder: how much to read while I’m writing?

DSCF2751 I posted this comment on the excellent page of WitheringThyme (recommended reading, BTW).  As I wrote it occurred to me to ask this question of my own readership…

I find I’m torn when I’m in the process of writing (and that’s most of the time).  I love to read other writers’ work, especially though not exclusively fantasy.  I’ve gotten past the whole “Oh, I’ll never be as good as this” self-doubt thing, realising that we’re all different with different things to offer.  But I do worry that I’ll find myself channelling or copying their style or content, consciously or otherwise.  I’m curious to hear others thoughts?  Thanks!

(And remember – you’re invited to visit my Market Place page to see what I have ‘out there’ at present!)

My purpose

I would like to share this with you all…





If you’re a regular follower, I trust this gives you some insight into me.  If you’re new here, please look around, read what appeals to you.  I’d value your feedback – it helps me know how on track I am.  Thanks – Renoir

Breaking Bone

A Dubious Magic story.  This takes place immediately after the events of The Wizard of Waramanga… Check out the Marketplace page to order the book!

They’d made it into Barandilla not long after sunset.

You couldn’t call Barandilla a town.  It didn’t even appear on a lot of maps.  On a lonely stretch of the highway running through the Central Australian desert, it had a pub, two petrol pumps – one of which had an ‘Out Of Order’ sign that had hung on it so long it had almost faded to illegibility – and a stray dog.

‘Bob’s Hotel’ served as a rest stop for passing trucks and the occasional drover, and a social hub for folks from the surrounding cattle stations.

It had been a long day.  Well, that was probably an understatement.  The four of them had been shot at and almost consumed by a gigantic demon from some dark Other Dimension before narrowly escaping the cataclysmic cave-in of an underground military complex.  No wonder Wilko, Darren and Scarlet had just wanted to have a quick meal then go crash in their respective rooms.

John B. Stewart was still too wound up to sleep, though.  Since hitting his head on a Canberra poker machine he’d found he had a strange wizardly power.  His wishes came true, although not necessarily in ways he anticipated.  It had been his unpredictable magic that had gotten them into danger, and admittedly out of it.  Bidding his friends goodnight he went to get as good a Scotch as he could find.

As well as the dining room, there were two bars in Bob’s Hotel.  John B. very deliberately chose to walk into the less well-lit option.

There was only one other customer.  Sitting near the end of the bar was a dusty Aboriginal wearing the checked shirt and jeans that were almost the local uniform.  He looked up at John B. then quickly looked back down at his beer, considerable surprise on his face.

Continue reading Breaking Bone

50 ways to say “Thank you”

masvita      baraka laufik       kyai zoo tin baa dai      aw kohn

doh je        meitaki                hvala          dekuji

amasay ganala            motashakkeram           vinaka

kiitos          merci          tapadh leat                  danke

ehvkhahreesto    aabhar       mahalo       shalom       kurssurnurm

dalu           terimah kasi        domo arigato gozaimasu

goh mab seumnida      paldies       achiu          xiexie

bayarlalaa           shukran     takk            dziekuje     obrigado

multumesc          spasiba      hvala          ndatenda   istuti

kea leboha          gracias       asante       nandri        khop khoon

thoo jaychay       barkallaoo feek            tesekkur ederim

caym on     enkosi        aagbabire           ngiyabonga

a huge great HUG!