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shrinking_menThere has been a lot of confusion and debate recently around the AFL’s decision to adjust the rules around players in possession ducking their heads mid-season. I am personally not at all confused and I think the football public and commentators in particular need to stop screaming that the sky is falling and everyone (including the umpiring fraternity) need to just pay attention to the evolution of the game where it relates to head trauma and head-high contact.

Since the official push for stricter interpretation (Round 10, 2015) of the “ducking rule” (introduced Round 01 2014), I personally think the umpires ARE paying attention and they ARE adjudicating the new rule correctly in many contentious situations. Are they making mistakes? Yes. But they have been told to suddenly start paying attention to a rule in the middle of a season which runs contrary to the protection-of-the-head rule changes which have been in force since 2007. It’s going to take some time for the umpires to adjust their natural response to head-contact. One can only imagine (unless one is Director of Umpiring Wayne Campbell) that it was the contradictory nature of the ducking rule which lead to it being largely ignored in season 2014.

So what is the history of head-contact rules and why is it so natural for umpires to pay the free kick for high contact?

Punching players in the head has always been banned, though probably the biggest deterrent to players actually hitting each other in the head has been television. Only since the introduction of multiple field umpires as video evidence at the tribunal have off-the-ball incidents been all but stamped out.

So what of in-play incidents? When were these rules introduced which wound up with players getting free kicks for head-butting opponents’ stomachs?

It was 2007 when the strict head-high contact rule was introduced. The rule stated that:

  • An automatic free kick be awarded to a player with their head over the ball if head contact was made to them or if any high contact was made in any way. This also became an automatic reportable offence.

The laws of the game document also includes graphics to highlight the areas of the body protected by this rule.

In 2011, the concussion rule was introduced forcing teams to conduct concussion tests on player who had been knocked out during play and preventing them from returning to the field if they failed the test. The contentious bumping rule was also introduced to the effect of:

  • Players electing to bump instead of tackle will be reported should their bump strike the head

In 2013, the concussion rule was amended to allow teams to temporarily substitute a player who was undergoing a concussion test (nicely done, Geelong).

duck_free_kickThe head was now (theoretically) comprehensively protected from a rules point of view. Of course AFL players are professional athletes and will do what they need to do – within the rules of the game – to gain an advantage, so the first thing they did was start to lead with their head. They figured they could draw a free-kick by using their head like a battering-ram on an opponent or throwing their head down as they were about to be tackled. Of course it worked and a huge number of head-high free kicks were awarded in 2013 as marked by the football public and media alike (though comparing 2013’s tackle-head-high frees against previous seasons is impossible because the stat was first isolated in 2013).

So the rule introduced to protect players’ heads was actually having the opposite effect with players putting their heads into dangerous positions more often in order to draw free kicks. This lead the AFL to introduce the High Contact for Players Leading with the Head rule prior to the 2014 season. The rule stipulates that:

  • A player who drives his head into a stationary or near stationary player shall be regarded as having had prior opportunity.  If legally tackled following this he will be required to legally dispose of the ball or he will be penalised
  • Where a player ducks into a tackle and is the cause of high contact the umpire will call play on.

This is the rule which seems to be causing the current confusion, but if you read it in its strictest sense, the rule is clear: if a player in control of the ball intentionally uses their head to make contact with another player, a head-high free kick will not be awarded to them. That’s it. All other rules related to players in possession of the ball are age-old and apply here as anywhere else.

For reasons known only to Wayne Campbell and the umpires, the umpiring fraternity chose to all but ignore this new rule for the 2014 season. Back in May, Campbell himself claimed the interpretation they had applied to the ducking rule was “loose”. So in response to the increasing number of players dabbling in the duck-arts, as of Round 10, umpires are required to actually pay attention to the ducking rule. I think this stricter interpretation comes not a minute too soon for those of us driven mad by free kicks for players who are all but head-butting their opponents.

This year the concussion rule was also strengthened making the interpretation of a knock-out incident more specific and forcing clubs (with the threat of fines) to keep players off the field following a knock-out incident.

To date there is still no official rule relating to “sling tackles”, though one suspects that this will change in the near future.

— I.E. Kenner


elsa_iphoneSo I decided for a change I’d use my actual paid vocation to write a blog post (weird, right?).

In case you didn’t know, writing is actually something I do in my spare time (you know, the 6-7 minutes per day) and what actually pays my bills is training people how to fix enterprise (read: large & expensive) computer equipment. I’ve been working with enterprise IT hardware and software for the better part of 16 years and in that time I have learned a few tricks (just a few). Some of these tricks even translate to laptops & phones!

Very often a friend of family member complains of experiencing a crash or freeze and I felt it was high time I wrote down what do in these cases when I have them. The primary piece of advice I can give – regardless of which device you are using – is: MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A BACKUP!!!!

This applies to everything – email, documents, contacts – you name it. It doesn’t really matter whether you back up to the cloud or to a USB hard drive, as long as the backup is verified to exist and to have the right data, you have a way to recover your valuable info!

NOTE: Most of the steps listed below will close your apps and/or shutdown your device and lose any unsaved work, so if you haven’t saved your work, you may want to just wait a bit longer before trying any of this (remember – sometimes the easiest way to recover from IT issues is to wait a bit longer).


android_logo   apple_logo

Apps on Your Smartphone or Tablet (yes, this includes iPhone)

Just when you need it most, one of the smartphone apps has stopped responding. This is standard operating procedure for technology – you’re late for work and the bus timetable app crashes; you need to buy tickets for a concert before they sell out and the ticketing app crashes**; you just paid for a movie and before it seems to complete, the movie app crashes. This seems to happen more often because we always remember it; when things work perfectly, we seem to take it for granted.

Once an app has crashed, it will no longer respond to screen touches. If your app is still responding to screen touches, then it has not fully crashed, but this does not mean these steps won’t help recover it.

  1. Assuming you have tried to close the app using the Back button (Android) or the exit option (if there is one) in the app itself (iPhone), continue with Step 2
  2. Return to your home screen using the home button
    • This will determine if the whole smartphone has gone down or just the app
  3. Close the app using the OS:
    • iPhone: Double-tap your home button
    • Android: touch the change window button android_alt-tab
  4. Scroll through your apps until you find the one which has crashed, then
    • Android: Swipe app icon across
    • iOS 6: Touch and hold app icon until it starts wobbling & you see the little “x”, then touch the “x”  iphone_icon_wobble
    • iOS 7: Swipe app icon up
  5. Test the app again. If it works – HUZZAH! If not, continue with Step 6 (Android) or Step 11 (iPhone)
  6. Open up the Settings for you phone (It’s the sivler/grey cog icon) settings
  7. Touch the Apps menu item apps
  8. Find the app which is not responding in the list & touch it to open its settings
  9. Select “Force Stop” force_stop
  10. Test the app again. If it works – HUZZAH! If not, continue with Step 11
  11. Reboot your phone
    • Hold the power button until the phone prompts you to reboot or power off, then power off and power back on (or reboot – it’s up to you)

Steps for other smartphones:


android_logo   apple_logo

Your Smartphone

So your smartphone has suddenly stopped working entirely. It’s not responding to tapping the screen, so what can you do?

  1. Press the home button (if your phone has one)
  2. Ensure you phone is unlocked, then press & hold the power button for 10-15 seconds
    • If this works, reboot the phone; if not – continue with Step 3
  3. Force-reboot the phone
    • Android: Press & hold the sleep/wake button + the volume down button simultaneously until the phone vibrates
    • iPhone: Press & hold the sleep/wake button + the home button simultaneously until you see the Apple symbol
  4. If this does not work, try plugging the phone into power, then repeat all steps 1-3
  5. If this does not work, try plugging the phone into your computer (with the USB cable provided with the phone), then if nothing on the computer screen helps, repeat steps 1-3
  6. If THIS does not work, it may be time to visit the repair shop



An App on Your Windows PC

So an application has crashed and is not responding to any input (mouse or keyboard) on your Windows PC.

  1. Click the “X” button in the top right-hand corner of the application. red_x  If this doesn’t work, continue with Step 2
  2. Hold down (at the same time) the following keys: Ctrl+Shift+Esc
  3. The Task Manager dialogue^ will appear with a number of tabs at the top. task_mgr  Select Applications
  4. Find the application which has crashed. It will probably report that the application is “Not Responding”. Click the application’s name in the list to highlight it.
  5. Click the End Task button
  6. If this does not work, save your other work & reboot the computer



Your Windows PC

Over the years, Windows has gone through ebbs and flows of stability. Since Windows 7, the stability of the OS has been quite consistent, so I’m not going to talk about Windows for Workgroups or Windows NT, I’m only really covering Windows 7/8 here. If you follow this list, your machine has stopped responding to all input (including Ctrl+Alt+Del). If your mouse is still working, your CPU or memory is just overloaded and you MAY be able to come out of it by waiting a while.

  1. Hold down Ctrl+Shift+Esc – if there is any spare memory or CPU left, this should bring up the Task Manager
    • If the above works, try to use the arrow keys & TAB (if the mouse isn’t working) to select any applications “Not Responding” and End Task on them
    • If the Task Manager does NOT come up, continue with Step 2
  2. Hold down the power system button for 10 seconds. This should power off the system. If this step does NOT work, continue with Step 3.
  3. Turn off the power point which powers your computer. If you are using a laptop, remove the battery also.
  4. If these steps do not resolve the problem, you computer is alive and it may be time to hide in a concrete bunker



An App on your Mac

“What?” I hear you say – “Mac’s don’t CRASH!”. It is a common claim of the Apple enthusiast, but ultimately false. Everything crashes.

  1. Click on the “X” in the top right-hand corner of the app window. If this does not work, continue with Step 2
  2. Open the Apple menu (either press & hold Command+Option+Esc on the keyboard or select Force Quit from the Apple menu in the menu bar)
  3. A new window will open entitled “Force Quit”. Select the app which will not close from the list, then click “Force Quit”
  4. If the app still does not close, save your other work & reboot the computer



Your Mac

Many of you may know that OSX (the Mac OS) is, for better or worse, is a little different from Windows. If you are attempting these steps, your Mac should not be responding at all, as in no Apple Menu, no keyboard shortcuts working and (probably) the mouse not responding either. These steps should work with a Macbook, Powerbook or Mac desktop.

  1. Hold the Control key down, then press the system power button once. This will bring up the shutdown menu dialogue. If this does not work, continue with Step 3
  2. Choose Shut Down or Restart
  3. Press and hold your system power button for 5 or more seconds. This should force the system to shut down. If this step does not work and you are NOT using a Macbook or Powerbook, continue with step 4
  4. Only perform this step if the above does not work. This step will only work on a desktop machine. Turn off the power point which powers your Mac. Wait for 10 seconds, then turn it back on.
  5. If these steps do not resolve the problem, it may be time to take the machine to the repair shop


* The Operating System (OS) is the software which runs your device. Windows is the most common home computer OS, iOS is the iPhone OS and Android is the name of Google’s smartphone OS.

** Actually it’s usually larger-scale crashes (like the ticketing company’s servers or data bandwidth) which cause ticketing purchase headaches, but let’s just run with it.

^ In an IT application or operating system, a “dialogue” is basically a small window which lets you control, configure or change something


marvel_universeSo there I was, trying to install and configure some awesome stuff on my Linux virtual machine (never mind) and then Matt King (@kingmatte) posts his top 5 Marvel Cinematic Universe films on Twitter.

So I start thinking about superhero films…

I configured a couple of servers.

I kept thinking about superhero films…

I installed a few things on the Linux server.

I kept thinking about superhero films…

I ran into trouble with the firewalls on the Linux AND the Windows 2012 servers.

I give up.

Now I’m not going to go with Matt’s concept of only Marvel Cinematic Universe because only us epic comic geeks actually get it or care and I desperately hope somebody reading this is not an epic comic geek….you’re out there, right? Right?

So here it is – my top 10 Marvel Superhero films (all Marvel, not just MCU) since I can remember (yes, sorry, this excludes Batman movies which would be DC Comics and I really don’t like Superman).

avengers 1. Avengers (2012) – The first superhero film which allowed us to believe that superheroes could come together and be completely awesome in the same film. Also: Joss Whedon.







spider-man 2. Spider-man(2002) – My (once) favourite superhero brought to life in the most incredible fashion. I loved this film. Only Avengers has managed to make me feel better than when I saw this film.







gotg 3. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – Perhaps it was my anticipation, perhaps it was the incredible soundtrack, perhaps it was the way 7yo engaged with these characters and this film (even without seeing most of it because it’s a bit serious for him just yet) or perhaps it was just the fun-loving manner of the film itself, but I couldn’t get enough of this film, nor its characters. 7yo and I even went to the last OzComicCon as Gamora & Rocket Racoon (and rocked it I might add).





iron_man 4. Iron Man (2008) – Welcome to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They could not have picked a better actor to play Tony Stark, Robert Downey Jnr could not have played him better, the film could not have been better. I didn’t mind Iron Man before this film, after it – Iron Man was one of my favourites.






age_of_ulton 5. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) – I did love this film, truly it was the action equivalent of its predecessor. The character interplay, dialogue and fighting team-up moves were incredible and yet I couldn’t help but think what could have been made of the Ultron character. Almost nothing was actually made of him and he was frankly more menacing and awesome in the original trailer (which is really quite sad). This could have been #1, Joss. Seriously. All of this said, if I’d seen the Hulk vs Hulk-Buster Iron Man armour scene and that’s all, it would almost have made the list anyway.




the_winter_soldier 6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2013) – I really enjoyed the first Captain America film. It was classic, a little hokey and had Nazis: perfect Cap origin story. So where to from here? WOW did they know where to go to from here!?! Incredible fight scenes, superb working of the characters mostly working in civilian clothing and settings and loved setting S.H.I.E.L.D. essentially as a corrupted character. Loved the development of Falcon too.






x-men 7. X-Men (2000) – This was the film which kicked off Hollywood’s meteoric rise to making as many comic-inspired films as possible and it was totally sweet. Except they gave Rogue a name. What the hell was that about?







x-men_2 8. X-Men 2 (2002) – If all I saw of this film was the Nightcrawler scene in the White House it would probably still have been in 8th place.








electra 9. Electra (2005) – I really bloody liked this film. Jennifer Garner worked fantastically, the central character was a strong (yet troubled) female, the plot was intimate and tight and Electra kicked the shit out of a whole bunch of ninjas – what’s not to like!?!







days_of_future_past 10. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) – Really enjoyable film – especially the Quicksilver scene – but I hate time travel, it’s shit*.











* When I write a book about time travel, forget I ever said this, OK?


Everybody, I suspect, who reads my blog (yes, all two of you) will have at some point come into contact with red velvet cake. Anyone who knows anyone who has read a cookbook or weekend newspaper* recently will have heard about it, seen the gorgeous photos of it, tasted it and possibly even made it themselves.

For the uninitiated, you can refer to the pic to the top-left for the visual. Beautiful isn’t it? I mean truly – red velvet cake looks amazing.

What a pity cake isn’t exclusively a visual medium.

If you’d like to know what it tastes like, I suggest you go out, find a large cardboard box, cut it into a series of same-sized circles, glue them together with Perkins Paste, paint them a rather rich, dark red, then microwave them for one minute and thirty seconds. What comes out won’t look as good as red velvet cake, but it will probably taste a little better.

Now perhaps I’m being a little cruel given that red velvet cake is unlikely to make you instantly vomit**, but I have tasted this cake several times, cooked by a number of different people – some of them superb actual chefs who make delightful other cakes, desserts and meals, I’ve tasted red velvet cake with different icings, presented in different ways, with and without syrupy stuff and the taste has been uniformly awful. And it’s not like each of these red velvet cakes had some different issue, no, it’s simply that the actual cake bit – the dark red stuff – tastes like crap. I’ve tasted $2 plain butter cakes from the supermarket with more flavour.

Like a gorgeous, well-dressed person who is a total arsehole, the red velvet cake will disappoint you every time.

AND YET THE BLOODY STUFF IS EVERYWHERE!! Every second dessert recipe I see is “Red Velvet Mufffins” or “Red Velvet Cupcakes” or “Red Velvet Cake with [insert icing with actual flavour in here]”. I do not understand why people persist with printing recipes for it.

What it is about red velvet cake which makes it taste so bad I cannot know, for I am about as talented with baking as I am with spinal surgery (and probably slightly more likely to kill you with it), but I will put forward a theory: great-tasting food doesn’t often look all that flash. I mean just look at a kebab – some brown stuff and red and green stuff mashed into a wrap with goop dripping off it. Attractive? No, but ooooh so delicious.

And perhaps that’s the secret – I mean it is a beautiful looking cake, so any print artistic director would love to see this cake in their pages. Magazines and newspapers are certainly a visual medium and who cares if the people reading your publication go out and bake the cake and it tastes hideous? They already bought the damn thing!

Well there you have it people, problem solved: do not allow newspaper or magazine artistic directors anywhere near your dessert menu. And enjoy your red velvet cake with your eyes only. ;o)


* Which are basically gossip mags mixed with recipe books anyway

** No, that would take probably two slices


So my Twitter diet lasted 7 days (almost exactly). In the end I think I returned to Twitter because I had learned a couple of things:

1) Twitter allows you to connect with and be contacted by like-minded (and oppositionally-minded) people. This is its great strength.

2) I like to have a day on a lot of things & Twitter is the one place I can do it in the moment before I forget all about it. This is Twitter’s blessing as well as its curse.

If I can control the urge to tweet when I really shouldn’t (been doing it for 7 days now), Twitter could stop being so much of a curse.

I’ve been slightly less angry lately which is good. Let’s see how the next week goes. Hopefully Twitter is not a factor, but if it is, then there will have to be significant changes.

In the end, the wonderful Leigh Sales & Anabelle Crabbe and their podcast Chat 10 Looks 3 were my Achilles heel. They were talking about TV show intro music and then they mentioned the West Wing which is a show Co-Consul & I loved (twice) and a show with intro music which still gives me chills. It it also intro music which soothed 7yo when he was a newborn, so it has multiple layers of brilliance for us.

Righto…back to Twitter.  Ah…I mean writing – yes, writing, not Twitter. Haha! Aaaaah shit.


wait_whatNo, this post has nothing to do with food, veganism, paleo, juicing, organic produce or any other gastronomic fuckwittery. Oh no, like all of these celebrities I seemed to find on Google when typing in “quitting twitter”, we’re talking zeroth-world problems here – I’m taking a break from Twitter.

Yep, hold onto your collective hats.

So…unlike these celebrities, I’ve received pretty lightweight mean tweets and I have only a few hundred followers and the question you would really like to ask (I’m sure…right?) because you totally give a shit what I’m doing with Twitter…you’ll bite, right? Go on – ask me why!!!


OK…SO glad you asked!always_angry

You see recently I’ve noticed (as have those around me) that I’m quite angry. Like all the time (Bruce Banner-style). Unlike Bruce, there is precious little in the way of upside to my anger. I’m trying a LOT of things to control it – anger management techniques, relaxation thingies (not drugs…yet) and I figured – hey I’ve been spending an awful lot of time on Twitter, why not give that a break for a couple of weeks too? Just in case those arseholes* I’ve actually been attracting tweets from lately have actually been affecting me.

So it’s day 4.

…and I’m writing a blog post about it already. What addiction?

Anyway…not sure how my anger is responding because it’s only been 4 days.

What I’m really noticing is the times when I would automatically open Twitter, read a few posts and respond to them. Instead I’m going to click on Twitter, resist, then open Facebook instead, get depressed at how much clickbait shit there is and close it again.

I’ve also still been reading Twitter infrequently. Yes, shut up, I’m reading Twitter. SO DESPERATELY want to reply, retweet, quote and get involved, but my unwritten rules specifically state that I’m not going to do that. So here I sit. Writing about not tweeting instead of tweeting.

Yeah, shut up, it’s been 4 days.







*Some may call them “Trolls”, I like to call them what they really are.


wordleRecently I began to follow a new tweep because of their name. Now I’m not likely to get a follow back because I told them I was following because I love their name & that’s just a little creepy, but it got me thinking about character names and place names in fiction and how we, as authors, decide on those names.

Characters in novels have a few things they need: contextual consistency (their name needs to make sense in relation to their backstory), cultural consistency (as above, but to do with the backstory of their parent culture), timbre & rhythm (whether it’s deliberately cool or deliberately jarring, they should be at least readable if not easily pronounceable).

Names for my characters usually come to me as a flash of a good name while I’m trying to think of one or randomly, whilst driving (I hate that). Names which I struggle for are the peripheral characters or secondary characters (who do, occasionally get promoted to main characters because they are cool). For the names I struggle to make up, I have a spreadsheet of first names and last names which I’m always adding to and from which I draw many of my peripheral character’s names. I have, however, been known to Google up a baby names site for the right sounding name (I’m a big believer in that timbre thing).

One particularly wonderful group of names I stored away for later was from when I was a part-time swimming coach. In one school group I ended up with 6 girls each of whom had a wonderful name (and in typical fashion I told them all this at the time). In this group of six girls there was: Hannah, Madeline, Victoria, Leana, Fallon & Jancis. Every one of those names made it into the names spreadsheet and, though I have only used one as a major character (thank you, Fallon), I think every one deserves to be used at some time in my career. They were also nice girls and swam really well.

Place names I operate somewhat differently. With place names I try my best to follow a logical geographical consistency, though often I’ll look out the window or just around where I’m currently sitting and make up an anagram based on a word I see, then give it a regionally consistent monika like “steppe” or “plains”. Either that or I think of a groovy show I watched one time and throw in a little reference to that (intertextuality! HUZZAH!).

The City names of Bifrost are peculiar in that I invented them a very long time ago when I was very fond of a particular teen-powers TV show and chose to draw inspiration from the names of the cast. Having used the same names for so long and for so many hundreds of thousands of words, they have become like family. I’m not really concerned with regional consistency for those – they ARE the regional consistency.

One thing I do find myself avoiding is using names of people I know. I try (as much as is possible) to avoid using names of people in our lives just in case, should anyone ever read my books, they find themselves feeling like they have been written about. I tend to use certain features of people rather than their entire personality when I write a character and the rest of their horrible personality comes directly from the demons in my skull rather than any violent nutjobs I know personally.

Names are funny things in that you can use them, as Dickens did, to convey personality (though please don’t be as obvious about it as he was – this is the 21st Century) and you can use them to hint at cultural & familial connections, help describe the scene to the reader and also to help round out the world of the character or the setting, but whichever way you do it, remember that the best way to get your names to own their space is to have your characters own those names. Nothing is less engaging than when a terrifying, dark place is referenced by the characters in a book and none of them seem to get that sick feeling they should when talking about something horrible.

Righto, better get on & invent some new names. I only have 50-odd named characters in Bifrost so far…



literary_surgeryI have been a writer most of my life. At some points I’ve convinced myself that I could be a comic artist or cartoon creator, though my talent in drawing compares only slightly favourably against the work of a talented 6-year-old and my observations on life are only funny you are one of those same 6-year-olds.

What can I say, despite everything, I’m still a master of Dad Jokes.

But apparently I do have some amount of talent for writing a story which is how I managed to earn a private writerly-advice session with (now Sir) Terry Pratchett. Sparked by the terrible sadness I feel about his death this week, I felt I needed to document the one and only meeting I had with him back when I was a teenager and had everything to learn. I have no notes from this time because I was not interviewing him, I was a late-teenage writer speaking to an idol about my own writing and all I have is a very fond, vivid recollection.

It was during a particularly prolific time in my writing life, when I was supposed to be studying for a certificate in IT and ended up procrastinating by writing an unsolicited, 120-page fan-rulebook for my (then) favourite roleplaying game. As part of an upcoming gaming convention (no, not gambling – roleplaying & wargaming), an opportunity arose for me to have a piece of my writing critiqued by Terry Pratchett and meet him for a “Literary Surgery” session (as only he could call it).

I chose to write a story specifically for the purpose because the event was being run by the local gaming community and I had no idea who would be reading the story aside from Terry himself. I already had a number of stories written and polished which contained my own characters and ideas, but in my young, self-important mind I felt that I didn’t want anyone “stealing my ideas”, so I wrote some fan fiction based on the same roleplaying universe in which my fan-book was based.

Terry had the final say as to the pieces he would critique and thankfully mine was one of the pieces chosen. As an hugely famous author, Terry was booked to speak at the end of the day, but much of his day, he dedicated to helping young writers hone their craft which is something to this day amazes me and for which I am forever thankful. Though I never knew him personally, from what I have read about him in his public life, he gave a great deal of himself to others.

I waited outside the room in which I would receive my Literary Surgery for some time, ensuring that I was not late and was eventually called in. I found Terry Pratchett sitting behind a desk, rather angry. Apparently many of the people who had been chosen to meet with Terry and have their work critiqued had chosen not to show up!! What. The. Fuck. Not only this, but the organisers had chosen not to bring me in early even though I’d been waiting around for 20 minutes. Terry Pratchett was still there. He had not stormed off in a huff – he was still sitting, waiting, ready to give a young writer some advice on how to be a better one. Neil Gaiman has written that Terry was an angry man, but that his love for humanity and its failings allowed him to rise above the rage and I witnessed exactly that.

After a only moment of venting his displeasure at having his valuable time wasted by people I can only refer to as idiots, Terry began to ask about my story. Immediately he asked me why I had chosen to write fan fiction. I explained that it was due to concern over my own ideas and who among the gaming folk would be reading my story. He seemed to empathise with this, though I imagine internally thought I was a bit full of myself given how young I was & how unpublished I was. But then he told me this:

Never write fan fiction

He explained that though there are a few fan fiction authors who make decent money from writing for franchises such as Star Wars and Star Trek, the lion’s share of the proceeds go to the owners of the intellectual property rights. Many years *ahem*decades*ahem* later, this is exactly the reason the book was about fifty shades of demented, rich control-freak and not about fifty shades of demented, sparkly vampire.

Terry commented on my dialogue and that though it was good and realistic he told me that my dialogue was in what he called the second stage of dialogue writing. Each one of my passages of dialogue was wrapped in descriptive words and the name of who was speaking.

He told me that in the beginning, writers use simply “she said”, “he said” and “they said” over and over and over. When writers realise that their dialogue requires emotive, descriptive and audio cues, they start using them EVERYWHERE after everything every character says. This was where my writing was. He said that once a writer matures, they begin to use the words around the dialogue to affect the way the dialogue is read and, while still using “said” and the descriptive terms to enhance the writing, a good writer will also leave them out (or indeed remove them during revisions) to make the writing flow.

The last piece of advice he gave me was something just about every writing teacher and author says to budding writers and it boils down to: “show, don’t tell”. Terry Pratchett did not use these words, of course, because he probably knew that any person who has sat in a writing course or read a book on how to write will have read these exact words (along with “write what you know”). Instead, he read me a passage of description I had written – one in which I go into explicit detail about the particular militaristic culture in which the story was set, my passage even went into a 20th-century analogy to try and provide almost essay-like understanding to the reader. The passage was terribly, obviously.

Terry explained that a story’s dialogue, physical surroundings and the personal interactions of the characters will inform the reader of the type of culture in which the story is set – explicit, descriptive passages telling the reader all about this culture were not only clunky, but boring. He recommended that if I wanted to learn how to write a militaristic culture, I should readh Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (though Terry called it “Starship Poopers” which at the time I didn’t get and, oblivious, I even wrote down “Starship Poopers”…he must have my utter ignorance quite hilarious).

My literary surgery ended too quickly and I thanked Terry nowhere near enough and I was on my way. I re-read my fan fiction story and saw exactly the parts Terry had flagged, but I never actually revised it. In fact I’ve not written a single piece of fan fiction since.

As I sit here now, it strikes me how much of the meeting I remember a if it were yesterday and it saddens me so terribly that this simple act of recollection was taken away from such a wonderful, intelligent, curious, generous person.

It is a gift to the world that we can still pick up a copy of any of Terry Pratchett’s books and enjoy the hell out of them (again). I’m about to do just that now.


That close mask of the scent of sweat,
The cigarette you just sighed before I saw you,
Your shirt rides up,
Reveals your glistening stomach as you slide closer to me…

…and crush me into window.
You fat jerk.
I hate the bus.

rio_yorkOK, so our abject failure Prime Minister doesn’t believe in climate change. Fine. No brains in a statue.

But how’s this for an observation: this summer has been the summer of tropical weather in Sydney (a city many hundreds of over 1000km/700mi from the tropics). I’ve spent a little time in Brisbane (very much in the tropics) and I can tell you that during the wet season (tropical climates do not have 4 seasons, they have two: Dry & Wet) every afternoon, you get a torrential downpour.

This summer, in Sydney, we have experienced basically exactly the same thing and though our top temperatures haven’t quite reached the heights of previous years, it’s been pretty consistently hot & sticky. Yesterday I learned that 2014 had the second-highest average temperature for Sydney ON RECORD. This follows 2013 which had the HIGHEST average temperature on record. Here’s the people who actually monitor this stuff:

Bureau of Meteorology: Sydney in 2014

So it’s been warm. I did think that winter 2014 was pretty meek. Right now I’m sweating, it’s 11:30pm & every window is open.

Anyway…I’m hot is all, dammit. I know you poor suckers in the USA are freezing right now, but – hey the world’s getting warmer, so don’t worry you guys will be the same temperature as Brazil in no time! Hooray for climate change!

…you know, except that hot areas will all become deserts and coastal towns will become scuba diving exhibits…but hey – warmer weather!




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