Unearth this!

The 7th book in the Dubious Magic will be in your on-line bookstores soon – pre-order now!

The Maine coast isn’t all old world charm, lobster rolls and whoopie pies. There are pirates. Monsters on land and at sea. Danger. Maybe even romance. And magic – definitely magic!


Why I’m ALLIed…

I’m a writer.  By preference.  By profession.

As many of you know, it’s NOT an easy thing to make a profession out of.

There are a lot of obstacles to overcome, challenges to face, traps and pitfalls to avoid, and some sharks to stay well away from.

On your own, it’s an especially hard road to travel.  I’ve found that it’s incredibly useful to learn from the experiences of others who’ve travelled that road across the world.

That’s what the Alliance of Independent Authors is all about.  Investigate.  Join.  Learn. Be supported!


 Alliance of Independent Authors /

NOT another Resolutions List

I received an email today from someone who has inspired me with a great idea.  It may or may not be her own original, but y’know – I don’t care.  I’m going to try it, and promote it, anyway!

Instead of having a ‘New Years Resolution’ list of things I want to achieve, I’m going to concentrate on how to achieve those goals I’d otherwise have written down.

Here’s a starting point:

Your thoughts become your words
Your words become your behaviour
Your behaviour becomes your habits
Your habits become your values
Your values become your destiny
– Mahatma Gandhi

So there’s my challenge.  Not just ‘think positive’ – I already do a lot of that.  But speak that way too, and act it.  Create some new habits.

“Getting better every day” may be a cliche, but cliches only become so by repetition, and repetition doesn’t necessarily mean something isn’t true.

I will try to do my best, and the more I do it, the better that ‘best’ will become.  And that, my friends, sounds like the road to success.

Wherever your roads lead you in 2017, may you travel them with courage.  We can’t always control our destination but we can control the way we carry ourselves in getting there.



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!”

Daily Prompt: Ghost

via Daily Prompt: Ghost


Thanks to this prompt, I’m reposting another early Dubious Magic story, set during the early events of Book 1: The Wizard of Waramanga – in which Wilko gets a little foretaste of the weirdness he’ll come to know around John B. Stewart.

It had been an unexpectedly successful weekend for both of them, right up until very recently.

John B. Stewart and Robert ‘Wilko’ Wilkes were a pair of fairly ordinary Canberra public servants. Except for John B. having magical powers ever since he’d hit his head on a poker machine.

The Tasmanian Wilko didn’t believe a word of that story, no matter how earnestly John B. tried to convince him that his wishes now came true. Not always predictably, he would admit, but results happened.

What they did agree on was a fondness for a game of golf. When the chance arose to play in a social tournament in a little country club a few hours drive west of Canberra, they’d agreed it seemed a good way to spend a couple of days.

“It’s your turn to have a few drinks, mate,” John B. had said. “We’ll take Kraven and I’ll drive us home.”

Kraven was Stewart’s battered but well-loved old Hillman Hunter. Wilko had been slightly concerned – the old car had been the recipient of some of his friend’s rather dodgy ‘running repairs’, but the offer was generous and the Hunter did seem to be reliable at the moment.

The golf had gone remarkably well. John B. had won a ‘nearest to the pin’ prize on Saturday, and Wilko had gone from a decent Saturday to a terrific Sunday, becoming the upset winner of the overall competition.

It wasn’t a great financial windfall, but it was a nice trophy and a few extra dollars to put over the clubhouse bar. So it was rather later than they’d originally intended when they finally waved their farewells and headed east.

John B. had been as good as his word and had very little to drink. A couple of good single malts spread over the hours, interspersed with plenty of soda water. He was tired, though. Sharing a hotel room with Wilko was challenging. The Tasmanian was a heavy sleeper, and completely oblivious to his own snoring. John B. wasn’t so lucky.

The sun was well down as the Hillman trundled along the road. It wasn’t a well-finished surface, and the ride was a bumpy one.

It was one particularly bad pothole that had been the cause of the sudden change in their fortunes. Kraven’s front left wheel had hit hard, the car had bounced and landed heavily. When it did, all the lights went out.

Continue reading Daily Prompt: Ghost


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 Long Dying

I don’t normally post other people’s writing on this site.  But this is different.  Special. It’s written by my mother-in-law Maggie, about her mother.  And what it says has particular resonance for me.  There are people I’ve cared about who’ve died too long, and without the dignity they wanted.  Like Maggie, I don’t want to be among that number.  And especially not because someone else – politician or any other ‘authority’ – denies me my choice.

My mother was 84 when she had a stroke, 88 when she died.

A woman who loved to talk, she became aphasic. Her greatest fear – that she wouldn’t be able to communicate verbally – became reality. She could speak, but what she said made no sense. And she knew it, knew that the words coming out of her mouth were gibberish. She used to beat the arms of her chair in frustration.

I watched when she refused food and drink in a rehabilitation hospital, trying to kill herself, trying to control the end of her life. That wasn’t allowed, and so a naso-gastric tube was forced into her trachea; a second attempt, under xray, managed to get the tube down her oesophagus.

Then I was told I should allow her to have ECT, somewhere between eight and twelve sessions,  “Because her kind of depression responds well to ECT.” When I refused, I was told ‘the case’ would be put before the Guardianship Board which might grant the permission I was denying.

My mother decided to eat and drink again and I never knew just what it was that made her change her mind.

I watched her in the nursing home as she shrank, physically as well as mentally. After four years she was bedridden, curled up like a foetus, her hands like claws. Following multiple admissions to a hospital for treatment for pneumonia I was told I could write to her doctor asking for ‘no more active treatment’. I wrote that letter, feeling both relief and horror. And resentment.

My mother had a long dying.

I don’t want to face a death like my mother’s. I want to be able to choose the time and place of my dying. Surely that’s not too much to ask?


I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve cried more than I would have liked in the last couple of days.

I’ve lost a dear friend in John Bos, who I’d share a drink and a laugh with. We’d help each other out without question or pause. I had the pleasure of actually getting him to appear on stage, just once. He wouldn’t memorise lines, but he did dance, more than willingly, with the woman he loved.

And I’ve lost a mentor, inspiration and yes, even a friend in Sir Terry Pratchett. The privilege of adapting his books for stage was wonderful – even better was the joy of watching his genuine laugh-out-loud delight when I wrote something new for him and he saw it performed for the first time.

I’m not crying for John or Terry. They’re both out of their pain and suffering, gone on to whatever is next in their journeys. I’ve wept for me. Selfishly, for my loss – for the conversations not had, the laughs not shared.

That’s what grieving is. My life is a richer thing for having been touched by both men. Thank you, guys. Be seeing you.

Renoir, Terry Pratchett, Discworld, fantasy writers
Renoir (L) and Sir Terry Pratchett discussing characters

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