Monday, 4 November 2013

Lost dog seeking help from time management guru.

Having a problem with time management?

Spending your whole life constantly struggling against a tide of ever growing critical ‘must do’ commitments?

Are even the simple tasks of keeping food in the fridge and maintaining basic hygiene a challenge in your insanely time poor world of 24/7 chaos and guilty stolen power naps?

If so then you’ll know what I’m saying when I tell you that having committed to a full time teaching role for  the remainder of the year, I have been struggling just a little with finding large chunks of time to dedicate to this blog, in between continuing my writing.

Personally I’m not even sure if it would bother me, if I didn't know there were a whole subset of disgustingly perfect people out there who can do all this stuff in their sleep.

It’s hard to smile sweetly and say the right thing when some perfectly groomed uber person tells me how lazy they feel for only writing one novel this year when the only other commitments they've had have been juggling the house renovation with their short six month stint building a water treatment plant in that African refugee camp. And how it almost felt like cheating because their six month old triplets are such ridiculously easy kids to breast feed.

 Normally I avoid these people like the plague. I figure why make yourself feel totally inadequate for no reason. But desperate times call for desperate measures and that’s why I’m asking for help now.  

Are you that person? If so I need to know. What’s your big secret? How do you do it? And where do all those hundreds of extra hours come from?

And if you won’t do it for me, then please do it for my family. My daughter’s school uniform is so dirty, even she’s started complaining-and that’s saying something. Plus if the things in the fridge aren't
thrown away soon, someone is going to get bitten.

And that’s not even mentioning the dog.  She’s been lost in our back yard since we came back from holiday. If I don’t somehow cut the grass this weekend, there’s every chance we may never see her again. Would someone who cares about African refugees really want a rotting dog on their conscience? I don't think so. 

So forget all that stuff I said about you under my breath and let’s put our differences aside. We don’t have to be friends forever. In fact I promise I’ll go back to hating you next year as if none of this had ever happened. But just this once, can’t you please share your secret?

Remember my blog may depend on it.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Road Tripping WA

Just a quick post to quash any rumours of an alien abduction. The truth is I have just returned from three adventure packed weeks on the road in the north west of Western Australia.

This is not a travel blog so I wont bore you with the details, except to say everyone involved had a fantastic time. From Perth up to Newman then onto Karijini National Park and over to the aquatic wonders of Exmouth and Coral Bay - 4,500km of red dirt, blue skies and wind!

The highlights for me had to be the amazing colour filled landscapes of Karijini, perhaps only bettered by the fish soup we discovered under Exmouth pier and on Ningaloo reef.

The only low-lights I can think of were barely worth mentioning. Putting a leaky bag of squid in our fridge early on and consequently having to eat squid flavoured food for the rest of the trip wasn't so bad once we got used to the taste.  Even ripping the tent in half with our car during a gale at our Exmouth beach camp, turned out to be not to be such a big deal once we found a great tent repair man in town.

Definitely a holiday to remember and hopefully one to repeat...perhaps without the squid next time though.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Don't worry, we'll think of a title...

Anyone who has read Andy Flegg will know he and I have a bit of an obsession with movies. 

In the novel I’m working on at the moment, I've taken this one step further and included several fictitious movie titles of my own.

The idea is that the main character’s father works as a stuntman on B-movie mockbusters – a genre that I've grown to love since we discovered Universal Channel on our TV. Seriously who can forget timeless classics like SharkNado.

Anyway, as a result I've had hours of fun coming up with my own imaginary mockbusters – such sure-fire hits as Nightmare on Elmo Street, Zombie Clown Killers, Poultrygeist 2: Return to the Coup (yes- it’s about evil chickens) and Silence of the Hams (evil pigs).

But if you think I've lost the plot and they’re too far fetched to be credible, then I’m guessing you don’t watch as many terrible films as I do.

Why not check out the Rotten Tomatoes clip below and then tell me, mine are too stupid. And in case you’re short for time, my personal top five from the video would have to be:
  1. Night of the Hell Hamsters
  2. The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini
  3. Fat Guy goes Nutzoid
  4. Death Bed: The Bed that Eats!
  5. The Incredibly Strange Creatures who stopped living and became mixed up Zombies.


 FYI In case you didn't know, Don’t Worry We’ll Think Of A Title just happens to be the title of a real movie too!

Friday, 13 September 2013

Top ten best and worst things about being a kid's fiction writer

Alright, I've finally decided it's time that I gave something back to the literary world. This post is for anyone who is currently harbouring dark thoughts of becoming a kid's fiction author. But I'm guessing it applies for all kinds of writers really. Anyway here goes:

My top ten best things about being a kid’s fiction writer (in no particular order)
  1. The thrill of seeing your book on the shelf of a large book-shop for the very first time. This is only surpassed by having the opportunity to rearrange their shelves and make a massive display of it, while other members of your family distract the shop staff.
  2.  Having a publisher tell you that they love your work and want to pay you buckets of money to publish it (‘bucket’ is obviously a subjective term here).
  3.  Randomly stumbling across a great review of your book that’s written by someone you’ve never met before.
  4.  Having a reader tell you that they loved your book and they can’t wait for the next one to come out. Or perhaps even better, having a parent tell you that your book has changed their child’s whole view of reading (in a positive way).
  5.  Getting to visit schools, events and festivals and finally fulfilling your secret dream of becoming a stand up comedian.
  6.  Being the star in the spotlight of a really great publicity campaign to coincide with your book launch. Then sitting back for six months and imagining that it’s become a massive best seller, while you wait for the first royalty statement to arrive.
  7.  Meeting other authors and realizing that they know even less about all the stuff that confuses you, concerns you, or that you simply don’t know about being a writer.
  8.  Getting to stay home and take your dog for a walk anytime you want.
  9.  Jumping out of bed in the morning with a desperate urge to rush to the keyboard and pour forth all the amazing ideas that have been banking up in your head. Then discovering that the day has passed in a blur of hammering keys and quality writing that almost certainly won't even need editing.
  10.  The unique sense of satisfaction that can only be gained by knowing  all those months of hard graft turning the germ of idea into something people will want to read, has totally been worth it.  

Top ten worst things about being a kid’s fiction writer (in no particular order)
  1. Getting asked to leave Dymocks after being caught trying to place your book in their front window.
  2.  Having a publisher tell you they don’t love your work (or even worse, receiving a standard format letter implying that they haven’t even read it, but there is still no way in Hell they would ever consider publishing it).
  3.  Reading a bad review of one of your books - Actually this has only happened to me once so far and I didn't take it personally at all because the reviewer was clearly a moron.
  4.  Having a parent tell you that your book has damaged their child in some way. This has only happened to me once too and I didn't worry about that either because I think the kid’s mum was the same person who wrote the review. In fact, I bet her kid never even read the book.
  5.  Doing a school visit and spending a hilarious hour doing a whole routine about how much fun Andy Flegg’s weird words are. Then have a kid ask afterwards if the book had any strange words in it! I think it's called ADD.
  6.  Waiting for six months to find out how many books you've sold, then finally getting the first royalty statement, only to find out that you really shouldn't have been spending all that money on coffee after all.
  7.  Meeting other authors and realizing that they know infinitely more about what they’re doing than you do.
  8.  Having a dog who constantly harasses you to take her out when you are desperately trying to concentrate on getting some works done.
  9.  Spending months of hard graft turning the germ of idea from a thought, to a plan, to a draft, to a pile of poo that you know must never be seen by anyone if you ever want them to take you seriously again.
  10.  Waking up in the morning with absolutely no idea what you are going to write about. Then spending the rest of the day desperately pursuing any household task that will keep you away from the keyboard.
 Obviously these are only my own experiences, but hopefully some of you might find them insightful.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Up, Up and Urrgh...

I know for a fact that many of the people I meet just assume that writers don’t really get out much.

That all  their ideas come from epiphanies in the bath. That if they bother to do any research at all, then it never goes much beyond the wonders of Google.

Well that might be true of some but it's definitely not my style. Most of my inspiration still comes from the classroom. 

Studying school yard dynamics is still a bottomless pit of content for me. Plus stealing great narrative ideas is a doddle when you're the one doing all the marking.

Still, sometimes I find even that's not enough. Like last week as I inched towards the final draft of my latest novel about a school full of phobia sufferers. I could never quite shake off that nagging feeling that there was still something missing. Some essential aura of authenticity.
There was only one possible solution - I had to be my main character. I had to live in his head. To feel those emotions first hand and to know what a gut wrenching fear of heights actually felt like in the flesh.

That's why I invested a large chunk of any potential future royalties in an early morning balloon trip for me and my family. Alright so it tied in very nicely with a bucket list present for my wife’s birthday. But trust me, it was definitely all about the book.

Having my own minor fear of heights certainly helped. But would it be enough I wondered, to truly tap into the sheer terror that a real phobic would experience?

My doubts only grew as the balloon crew assured us that there really was nothing to worry about. That ballooning was quite different from climbing a ladder. That the feelings of vertigo weren't the same at all.

And they were right, it was nothing like climbing a ladder. It was more like dragging a tiny wicker basket a thousand feet up a wobbly pole during a storm and then putting your life in the hands of a giant multi-coloured carrier bag. As for the vertigo I really couldn't say. I was too busy cowering in the bottom of the basket, trying not peak through the gaps.

I did lean over just the once, but that was only because the balloon crew insisted. Whilst writing this post I've just discovered that large hailstones can reach a terminal velocity of up to 180km/h. 

So my guess is that breakfast vomit has to be about the same. The good news is, it seemed to spread out enough not to be much of a danger to anyone watching below.  

Also we were mostly flying over sheep paddocks and I’m sure they've had worse. You could tell by the way they kept running away from the balloon.

So was it worth it. Has it helped? Did I find the true essence of my novel's main character? Hopefully you'll get to read the book and find out.  

Monday, 26 August 2013

There goes Book Week

Just a quick hello and thanks to everyone at Jolimont Primary for the invite to take part in this year's Book Week.  After flogging me to death as their 'author in residence' last year it was nice to come back again and just talk to three classes about the new book.   Sadly the only malfunction on the day was the taking of photographs - not that I'm pointing fingers, Mrs.Showell!  So here's a short Haiku poem that I read instead.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Ow! That hurts...

Many people see writing as a great form of relaxation and when I'm not working to a deadline, I couldn't agree more.  But while it might be good for the soul, I've got to say I don’t think it does much for the body. 

All the sitting in one spot and randomly nibbling on comfort food as you patiently wait for that lightning bolt of inspiration. It’s not exactly training for the Olympics is it? 

So is it any wonder there are so many obscenely obese famous writers out there?...alright I can't think of any either, but seriously there have to be thousands.

While I might not be stacking the weight on myself just yet, sadly it’s clear that I’m not immune to the perils of writing either.  Just recently all that constant hunching over my keyboard and the pressing of my nose against the screen has been giving me the worst neck pain. And before you ask, no of course I don’t need to wear glasses- everyone sits that way don’t they?

Worse still, now my only form of real exercise is beginning to do even more damage than the writing! While a professional career in the English premier league is still a slim outside chance, I've been reluctant to give away my passion of playing social soccer every weekend.

But any hope of catching the eye of the Manchester United talent scouts this year looks more remote than ever, thanks to a truly hideous run of mystery injuries. Three months in a moon boot with my ankle falling off has been swiftly followed up with a string of inexplicable knocks and strains that are beginning to make me wonder if I might be rapidly falling apart.

On the plus side, at least with so many different body parts currently in agony, I hardly notice my neck problem at all at the moment.

Another plus is that since buying an Xbox to help me research Andy Flegg's passion, I have actually got pretty nifty at FIFA 13. Sure, it may not be quite the same thing as actually running around on the pitch myself, but I have to admit my ball skills are definitely better when I've got a game controller in my hand.

Sorry I'll have to stop there. I think I may've just done another hammy in my finger…

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

What are you scared of?

For those interested, right now I am feverishly slaving away at the PC in a desperate attempt to finally finish my latest creative offering before I completely morph into the main character and go totally insane.

Not that he’s mad exactly. But it’s all about a kid with multiple phobias and the many problems they cause him in life.

Since coming up with the idea and doing a bit of research with friends, family and school kids, I've unwittingly dug up a whole world of pain out there! Who knew so many people had thing about peanut butter? Or that butterflies can be so blood chillingly terrifying?

I guess we all have a few hang ups and it’s all a matter of degrees. For example I’m not that great with heights but that doesn't mean I have climacophobia.

Want to know what that is? Check out the video. The phobia is 100% real but I’m not so sure about this cure…. You be the judge.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Andy Flegg’s Word For The Day (or how to avoid hippomonstrosesquippedaliophobia)

Since The Andy Flegg Survival Guide hit the bookshelves last week, a lot of the feedback I’ve received so far has been all about Andy’s weird words.

For those that haven’t read the book, After Andy’s mum instructs him to include a new word in each of his diary entries in an attempt to help improve his vocabulary, Andy reluctantly starts trawling the internet in search of good ones to be his Word for the Day (WFD).

I have to say this was lots of fun to research for me too and I honestly learned almost as much as Andy. For example who knew that cacology was a bad choice of words or that a pronk was a weak or foolish person?

If you like this sort of stuff then please go and buy the book. But I wanted to list a few of my favourites here if only to encourage myself to start using them in everyday language.

Just imagine how your friends and family will look at you in a new and admiring light when they ask how your school day was and you can tell them it sucked because your wlatsome teacher is a total blatteroon who threatens dippoldism every time one of your friends snurts, snirtles or feffs. And worst of all his breath is jumentous and you think he’s a blattoid crissum.

Or for the boys amongst us, when you meet a hot girl and you can tell her she’s totally pulchritudinous, and you have an epithymy to go out with her because you are ensorcelled by her callipygian figure. Then when she’s in awe of your language skills and instantly accepts you can say that’s skookum news and you are totally mabsoot.

 Seriously, how could that fail to work as a great chat up line?

So if this kind of thing appeals to you then the good news is that there are literally hundreds of fantastic words out there just waiting to be rediscovered. I used heaps of sources for the book but just to get you started this is a link to one of the better compilations that I found.

Remember just check to make sure they’re not ersatz and never try to hornswoggle. But other than that, go for your life! Who knows maybe one day you’ll be a WFD cognoscente just like Andy Flegg.

By the way in case you are wondering what they all mean I failed to find a clever way of linking the text to the definitions so have resorted to listing them all below instead.

wlatsome (adjective) –repulsive loathsome, detestable

blatteroon (noun) - senseless blabberer or boaster who will never stop talking

dippoldism (noun) – the act of beating school children

snurt (noun) – the explusion of mucus while sneezing.

snirtle (verb) – to suppress laughter, to snigger, to snort

feff (noun) – a foul smell associated with a child breaking wind.

jumentous (adjective) – smelly like horse urine

blattoid (adjective) – having the characteristics of a cockroach

crissum (noun) – a bird’s anus

pulchritudinous (adjective) – beautiful, angelic, charming, hot, cute, dazzling

epithymy (noun) – a vigorously lustful desire

ensorcelled (adjective) – bewitched or enchanted

callipygian (adjective) – having finely developed, beautiful or shapely buttocks.

skookum (adjective) – the best, ultimate, excellent

mabsoot (adjective) – happy, joyful, pleased 

ersatz (adjective) -not real, fake

hornswoggle (verb) – to trick or deceive

cognoscente (noun) – a person who has a vast or superior knowledge in a particular 

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

It's arrived and I don't mean the Royal baby!

After many months of waiting, The Andy Flegg Survival Guide has finally arrived on a bookshelf near you (hopefully)!

I’m guessing the fact that you’re even reading this means you already know what it’s about so I won’t bore you with that. However just in case you were still looking for that American plastic surgeon also called Mark Pardoe and found me by mistake then this very first review at Books &Publishing should enlighten you a little.

What I mostly wanted to say was a big thanks to all at Penguin for picking it up in the first place and giving me so much support and enthusiasm to get it to this point. You know who you are, Lisa et al.

No doubt Heather’s wonderful and tireless editing has made it a far better book than we started with. Although I must admit I was wondering how long it might take when we were still changing several things the day before the print run!

Also I am sure readers will be relieved to hear that Penguin wisely pulled in a great illustrator (Tony) to revamp my original lame attempts at doodling. The illustrations were supposed be Andy’s and no one actually said so but we all knew that my artistic skills didn't quite match that of a typical 11 year old's. In case you’re wondering, no I didn't ever mention that I once did a 12 month stint as a primary school Art teacher. Sorry kids, but we did have some fun and who could forget that paper mache fight?

Finally thanks Tina for turning me into a global celebrity (work in progress but well on the way). And in a nutshell, it’s hard to imagine working with a better publishing team.

So go on, off you go. Go and read it. And please let me know what you think!

Friday, 19 July 2013

Alan O’Leeffe, I forgive you.

Alright Alan, I know we were only twelve or thirteen and at the time and of course it’s been a fair while since I last saw you. But I can’t help wondering, where you are now and what's happened to your amazing creative talent?

Are you still the size of a small dwarf or did you have a late growth spurt in your early twenties? And did your voice ever break or do you still squeak like a guinea pig on helium? That would be pretty embarrassing, even for a middle aged dwarf.

Don’t get me wrong. Of course I’ve got over it by now. It wasn’t your fault that you were the only shining star of our English class. That Mr Bignell thought the rest of us were only there to give you an audience.

Sure most of the other kids hardly even noticed. But then they weren’t the ones who sat next to you.  They weren't the ones that had to hold you up on the palm of my hand so that you could squeak out your latest literary wonder for the rest of us?

Sorry if  this all sounds a little bitter. Was it your fault that Mr Bignell barely knew my name? Was it you who said there was only one creative genius in his class and if anyone accidentally stepped on them we’d be answering to him?  No, it wasn't and I had no right to drop you on the floor as many times as I did.

So what happened anyway? It seems you didn't make it after all. I haven't seen your name on a single best seller. You’re not even on Amazon and anyone can do that! Or am I wrong? Do you write under a pen name- John Grisham? Dan Brown? The woman that wrote Fifty Shades of Grey perhaps?

No, I don’t think so. More likely you’re some poor washed up local rag journo, jaded and faded, sick of churning out four line obits and dumb 'cat up tree' stories.

Poor Alan. If only it had been you that Mr Bignell had totally ignored. If only it had been you who had their entire literary ambitions so effectively ground into the dust at such a tender age. Perhaps then you too would have been forced to do something more interesting with your life and then who knows, maybe you’d have something to say now?

Really, I feel sorry for you, Alan. What Mr Bignell did to you sucks. And if any teachers are reading this now then let’s hope it gives them cause to think twice, before putting midgets on pedestals and ignoring the rest of their class.

Ouch! – That was supposed to be funny but maybe I’m more messed up than I thought! 

Actually this is a mostly partly true tale that I have recounted on several school visits in an attempt to encourage kids to have faith in their own abilities, regardless of what encouragement or lack of, they may get from anyone else. Sadly the only feedback I've received so far has been a noticeable increase in bullying attacks on unusually small children.

Thursday, 4 July 2013


Today my family and I are very excited to be off to Melbourne for the school break. It will be great to meet my virtual friend’s at Penguin for the first time, and what could be better than 2 weeks of R&R in Victoria’s legendary winter climate. 

It’s only been five years since we left the cultural heart of Australia to move here to wonderful deserts of Western Australia, but I’m sure the weather this time of year can’t be as hideously disgusting as I vaguely seem to remember. 

T-shirts – check; shorts – check; sunblock - got it.  Here we go!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013


If I was you and I’d accidentally stumbled onto this blog in search of some decent lion taming tips, or had perhaps Googled my name looking for the American plastic surgeon also called Mark Pardoe and found this instead, then I think these might be the sorts of questions I’d be asking:

Why have you started this blog?
Because my second book - The Andy Flegg Survival Guide is being published by Penguin Australia this month. And after twelve months of hiding under a rock since my first book - Not Bog Standard, came out,  I have finally decided that if I want to take this writing thing vaguely seriously then I should probably stop being completely invisible.

Why have you decided to take this writing thing vaguely seriously?
Because some people seem to like what I am writing and despite being trapped inside all day with my dog, I actually enjoy doing it a great deal. Also I think my dog really appreciates the company.   

Why do you write for children?
Because I can't write for adults.  Actually I've never tried that but to be honest I’m not sure I've got a choice.  Despite being a little older now, my brain still seems to be hard wired to think like a twelve year old kid's. I know this for a fact because my thirteen year old daughter tells me to grow up almost every single day. Also my favourite TV shows are Doctor Who and The Simpsons.

Why did you start writing in the first place?
That needs an entirely new post. Coming soon.....

Why is it called life in the lion cage?
Because if I had the chance to live my life again and I wasn't reborn as a baby girl named J.K Rowling. And I still failed to make it as international soccer or rock star, then I think I would like to go and work in a circus. No, of course I don’t condone keeping endangered wild animals in tiny cages and poking them with pointy sticks to stop them from eating me. 

But come on! Who wouldn't want to be a lion tamer!