Monday, March 21, 2016


Paul sat on the back porch of the motel and pitched stones into the long grass that covered all the visible land between his perch and the broken fence that failed to delineate the boundary between the motel ground and the abandoned railway line beyond. He’d been stuck here for four days, now, ever since his grandfather’s funeral. Four days in a nowhere town of eight streets so far up the bum of the Western Australian wheatbelt that even the grain trains had stopped rolling through town for lack of interest. Four days with no internet, no TV, no video games, barely any phone reception, one cafĂ© that closed between 1 and 4 pm and after 8pm, three books of which two were snaffled by his Mum and dad and he wasn’t allowed to read the other one because it was ‘too adult’, no kids his age, no kids of any age, no interest from his parents and worst of all, if he stopped to think about it too much—although he didn’t… couldn’t—no Granddad.

One of the best parts of writing Magrit was reading it to Luscious and the kids every evening-- the book started out as a way of giving Master 11 something to look forward to each day to help him cope with the Rumination Syndrome that was destroying his life at the time.  

Now that he's recovered, and Magrit is in print, I've turned my attention to a new kids' novel. That thar is the first paragraph of Ghost Tracks, and just like last time, I'm reading it to the family as we go. 3400 words in as of tonight; there's going to be some lovely nights curled up, finding out what happens next together.


And, for balance, one of my own.

I started out life as a poet: my first ever sale was a poem, to a University magazine, and over the years, I've published at the length far too infrequently. Good poetry is hard, and I am, far too often, far too lazy to craft and mould a good poem from its initial frenzy of wordplay. I've sold less than a dozen over the 15 years of my professional career, which always feels like a lack on my part: I always wish I could write more, and better.

Poetry, to me, is a proving ground of vocabulary, wit, and rhythm. I hit those scales too rarely for my liking.

Working for a Greener Narrative is one of those times. It appeared in Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine issue 36, back in September 2008. Enjoy.

Working for a Greener Narrative

Every time you say you don’t believe in fairies, a fairy dies.
Therefore, by Disney’s Law of the Conservation of Narrative,
If you say you do believe in them...

I believe in fairies,
pirates, honest politicians, dinosaurs, God, atomic monsters, the division of Church and State, yetis, a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, angels, vampires, Nessie, aliens, the Green Man, terror birds, Prestor John, serial killers, the Midgard serpent, zeppelins, children as the representatives of our future, and Daleks.

But I need to find two hundred and forty nine other true believers
Before I can set up viable breeding colonies.


Today is World Poetry Day, a UNESCO initiative to support linguistic diversity and promote the use of poetry to give native and endangered languages the chance to be heard within their own communities. It's also a wonderful opportunity to highlight the lyrical beauty of poetry, and its ability to articulate an image, theme, or emotion within a compressed, heightened, narrative structure.

And to read poems. Because, frankly, poetry rocks.

So, in the interests of sharing the love, find herein attached my favourite poem, Little Johnny's Confession, from the brilliant Mersey poet Brian Patten, from his collection of the same name.

Little Johnny's Confession
by Brian Patten

This morning
being rather young and foolish
I borrowed a machine gun my father
had left hidden since the war, went out,
and eliminated a number of small enemies.

Since then I have not returned home.

This morning
swarms of police with tracker dogs
wander about the city
with my description printed
on their minds, asking:
'Have you seen him?
He is seven years old,
likes Pluto, Mighty Mouse
and Biffo the Bear,
have you seen him, anywhere?'

This morning
sitting alone in a strange playground
muttering you've blundered, you've blundered
over and over to myself
I work out my next move
but cannot move.

The tracker dogs will sniff me out.
They have my lollypops.

So: what's your favourite poem, and where can it be found?

Thursday, March 17, 2016


So, how's about this, then?

Mentioned in the same breath as Seven Little Australians? I'll take that :)

Monday, March 07, 2016


And the reviews, they've started to roll in. Here's the first batch:

Thirteen O'Clock calls it "one of those tales that sweeps you away into the beauty of the macabre and leaves you with a pang of sadness in your heart".

Creative Kids Tales pronounces it "A great book for all ages."

Read Plus calls it "a delightfully dark fairy tale, full of Battersby's whimsy and charm." That's right. I have whimsy and charm, so suck it.

Lamont Books says it is "a perfeect story for your year 5/6 girls who like a good supernatural story with a twist," which is remarkably specific.

And My Best Friends Are Books declares "Magrit i a wonderfully crafted story that is magical, unusual, strange and captivating."

Also, Books + Publishing gives it a 5 star review, which I can't link to because it's behind a paywall and I'm cheap, but come on, 5 stars!

So there you go, then. Turns out, it might be quite good......


As part of the Magrit promotional trail, I've been interviewed over at Kids' Book Review, for their 12 Curly Questions section.

Go, read, enjoy.


The dust has finally settled, I've gone back to the real world, and I can finally reflect on a mad fortnight of Magrit-related shenanigans.

First up was a surprise appearance at the Perth Writers Festival-- a surprise to me as much as anybody else, as I was only added the roster 10 days out from the event when Emily Rodda pulled out, long after all the publicity material had been prepared and programmes printed. Even so, an invitation to appear is not one you turn down, so I duly rocked up to the Festival Schools Day on Thursday and spent a delightful 45 minutes talking all things writing with veteran YA author Carole Wilkinson and moderator Deb Fitzpatrick, as well as all the things you usually do on a panel for kids-- pretending to eat the microphone, pulling stupid faces, impersonating Emily Rodda...... you know......

Talking all things kid books with Deb Fitzpatrick and Carole Wilkinson

Friday I rejoined Carol at a session for teachers on inspiring writing in the classroom, chaired by AJ Betts and in the presence of the all-powerful Andy Griffiths, who kindly consented to a selfie and a signed book for Master 11, who was filthy as could be that he was unable to meet his literary hero. Andy was an education-- quiet and internalised off-stage, he came alive in front of an audience, mixing charm, performance and insight, then returning to his quiet, self-contained self at the end. While the session itself was enjoyable, and it was nice to talk about the teaching of writing for a change, exposure to other authors and the way they manage themselves is beyond valuable. Andy and Carole are very different people, and the insight into their working lives was incredible.

Andy Griffith: consummate professional, fantastic showman, and a guy who will turn it on anywhere, anyhow, if it means making a kid happy. An absolute education to work with. 

And then there was Sunday. A solo session, at 9 in the morning, (that'd be Sunday morning), for a pack of kids almost all of whom were expecting Emily Rodda. No pressure, then..... Stuck for ideas, Luscious and the kids jumped on and helped me stuff a bag full of random items from the garage, and while I read sections from the book, the kids used the parts to build a Master Puppet skeleton at my feet. I think they did quite well, too.

Haranguing children while they go into a feeding frenzy at my feet. 
Typical Sunday morning, really.

Pimp my Master Puppet.

The rest of the Festival was a joy, as it is is when you've got an artist lanyard in your hot little hand. Apart from access to the paid sessions for free, it entitles you to access the green room, whereby you can meet the other artists, and comes with an invitation to the opening night party. I bumped into the delightful Melinda Tognini, who I hadn't seen since our first year of University in 1989, Luscious met Jack Heath, which was her entire reason for attending the festival, so much did she love his current novel, and Master 11 got an insight into the professional life of an author. It's one of the reasons I attend every year: I get to breath in the essence of authorship, and realign my compass with the wider literary world beyond the cramped, and increasingly unsatisfying, speculative fiction borders I've inhabited until now.

Also, those big signs they have in the social centre of the Festival?
I may have got a little graffitti-y......

I've three books in my computer, all part-started and all clamouring for attention: another children's novel, a crime novel, and a linked collection of supernatural historical stories. These are the works I need to complete, before I take on anything else. Being at the Festival, exposed to the full range of the literary spectrum, helps me realise how large that literary world is, and how much of it I still want to explore.

Then it was on to Stefen's Books the following weekend, and the official Magrit launch. Stefen has always been good to me, and this occasion was no exception, with a window display, posters throughout the store, and a sell-out crowd that emptied the shop of stock. Some reading, a revival of some of my old stand-up skills (such as they are), and an awful lot of skeletons drawn in an awful lot of books -- a once-only addition to my signature-- and Magrit was officially launched into the world. As is a Stefen's tradition, we then retired to the pub next door for lunch, a drink or two, and much laughter, which is part of what makes his launches so special.

Of course, what that also means, is that you can now get yourself down to Stefen's to pick up a copy of the book, or order it from Walker, or find it at any one of a million billion trillion excellent, good, or utterly dodgy bookstores. Go on. What's stopping you?

The set-up at Stefen's. He knows how to treat an author well. 

I should have knicked this on the way out, I really should have......

Getting my signing on. Those worms weren't all for me-- we passed them through the crowd, just before I read the section where Magrit feeds the new baby by squishing worms through her toes and feeding him the paste. Because what's a reading without sweeties and cruelty?

Let me tell you: a window display never, and I mean never, gets old. 

With Ms 14 and Master 11, who inspired the book and copped 
a dedication for their trouble.

So that's it: Magrit is now out into the world, I've had my annual reminder of what it is to be a real writer, and now it's back to the day-by-day crunch of day job, with a garnish of must-sit-down-and-write-something-today. I've made it know that my next work will be abut a boy who derails a ghost train, so I guess I'd better start adding to the 2500 words I've completed so far, right?.........