The Walking Men of Melbourne

I grew up in Melbourne’s inner west in the 1990s, back when it was still a hotbed of heroin addiction and burglaries.  Before it was cool.  I’ve gotten a bit defensive about this since the area started becoming über trendy, because once upon a time no one knew where Yarraville was and I always had to define it by its proximity to Footscray.

“Oh,” people would say.  “Oh.

Now it’s all, “Yarraville’s so lovely!  That must have been so great!”  And I have to remind them that back in those days, Yarraville was basically the same thing as the rest of the west.  Think Sunshine, think Braybrook.  Explaining it all to people from the other side of the river, who just don’t understand, is the burden I bear for existing in an area before it started gentrifying.

But this isn’t a piece about the east/west divide or the development of my class consciousness, or even about that time in my creative writing class (at the University of Melbourne, for added context) our tutor asked, “Raise your hand if you’re from the eastern suburbs”, and I was the only person who didn’t.  No, this piece is about a unifying oddity I have noticed in the various locales around Melbourne, not one specific to the west.  From what I can tell, anyway.  I lived in Heidelberg for a total of 6 months and found it weird.  There were too many white people*, it was too far from the city, and it was just weird, okay? You can take a girl out of the west …

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Differential Psychology of Character

One of the hardest things to do when writing fiction is to get your head into the space of someone who thinks completely differently to you. It is all too easy to characterise another person’s way of thinking with splashes of parody, misunderstanding or cartoonish mockery. To this end, I think an interesting experiment is to have a look at some of the categories that psychologists use to define people’s outlooks on life, and mix and match a few of them to try and give you a genuinely different psychological perspective from your own. This will tend to not be easily done: even writers who are able to master distinctive dialogue and voice tend to fall prey to giving all their characters the same perspective on time, or the same ideas about pleasure. Without reflecting hard on your own perspective of time, it may be difficult to realise you even have such a thing, and that it may define how you see the world.

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This shows the trails of some specks of colour as they emerge from two moving bodies. The bodies start with a relative velocity not parallel to their displacement and fall towards each other with constant magnitude of acceleration. Meanwhile, each body emits specks of colour in the direction opposite to its acceleration. All the specks of colour move at the same speed and fade as they move. Continue reading

We’d like to present you to the Alonzo Church


I wrote this for piano, panpipes, cor anglais and a contrabass balalaika. I also put in a whole lot of clanging, jangling things, which Sibelius calls bongos, congas, castanets, timpani, a tam-tam and a drum kit.

Throughout, the primary accent falls on the twentieth demisemiquaver of each measure. Continue reading

The Reflections and the Dreamings

This morning I caught an episode of Books and Arts Daily on ABC Radio National. Among the other stories, there was an interview with Arena Theatre Company artistic director Christian Leavesley along with performers Sophie Ross and Phillip McInnes on the topic of their upcoming theatre event for parents and children, The Sleepover (which incidentally sounds magical and makes me wish I were eight years old again just to attend such a thing).

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This shows flecks of colour left behind by several projectiles as they move.

A planet with four moons revolves around a point near the centre of the picture. As they move, the planet and moons shed projectiles in the direction of their acceleration. Before vanishing, each projectile flies a short distance, leaving behind darker and darker flecks of colour as it goes. Continue reading

Self Publishing in the Age of Information Overload #7


This is the second of my cover design posts. In my first post, a while back now, I undertook a bit of an investigation into the dimensions of book cover images that are most suitable for the largest two markets, Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks. I’m going to elaborate on this, explaining how I’ve approached cover design and why I made the choices I made.

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Alternative History: Mojave, 1946


Cowley, Robert (Berkley, September 2004, ISBN 9780425198186)

My contribution to the genre:

Mojave, 1946

1050: Fifty years after Leif Ericsson’s discovery of North America, Norse colonists build a permanent settlement on the island of Newfoundland. Continue reading

Alternative history: Prophet, 999

PROPHET, 999mrblo

Current Affairs: With Pope Gregory V dying, Holy Roman Emperor Otto III seals the Sacred Palace. As Christendom awaits the end of the world, rival Cardinals plot their ascendency to the papacy.

Divergence Point: 974 A.D.: A Christian prophet in Rome introduces toothbrushes, proper sanitation and a form of the underarm deodorant. Continue reading



Alasko, Carl (Tarcher, January 2014, ISBN 9781585429325)

The usual advice on what they call ‘effective communication’ says that you should think of yourself as a guide. Working through ideas he or she already understands, you hope to guide the other party to where he or she can see your meaning for him or herself.

No doubt it works when you go to buy vegetables from your grocer. There, you and the grocer have the same goal. Continue reading



Oar, Ross (Woodcarving Illustrated Books; Fox Chapel Publishing, September 2008, ISBN 9781565233836)

Several Christmases ago, I caught Karen home from work watching a home improvement programme that showed you how to build a procession of plywood reindeer for your lawn. You sawed the antlers and the reindeer out as separate pieces and then nailed the former on to the latter.

Imagine yourself sawing out plywood reindeer in your garage on a Sunday afternoon. What a sense of purposelessness must assail you. You had dreams once. How did it come to this?

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      It took me a long time to stop misreading the title of this novel as The Woman in Black. I think it’s because my to-be-read pile also contains Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White.* This missing plural meant that the introduction of a swathe of women in black in the early … Continue reading