Category Archives: Books

It was time to refresh my website

I have just attended to a long overdue clean-up of my website. I was embarrassed by the state my books page was in. Some of the information about the books and their publishing dates was out of date. The description of the titles in preparation was a bit sloppy – particularly that for my half-written novel Editing Constancy. I have a tendency to rush things which means I have to return continually to tidy things up. Its a character trait that I have never been able to correct. 

My books page illustrates that other fault of organisation I owned up to in my bio page. I have no trouble sitting down to write. But I have trouble staying with the one project. I have at least four books in various stages of writing. One thing is sure, though. My book on Tony Abbott will be finished pretty much as scheduled – at least the first draft.

Where I’m up to with my book about Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott and the Times of Revolution

When I decided to write a book about the fall of the Abbott Government, I feared I might have bitten off more than I could chew.

My specialty – to the extent I have one – is philosophy,  specifically political philosophy.  My Master’s thesis was on Edmund Burke. Although I follow politics fairly closely, I am more interested in the ideological motivations and clashes than the day to day political activity. My mind concentrates on the logic and consistency of a politician’s ideas and the implementation of those ideas in the concrete circumstances.

What always appealed to me about Tony Abbott was the depth and consistency of his thought, qualities few people appreciate. The caricature manufactured by the leftist media has dominated the political discourse. I wanted to show that his demise was due more to the unrelenting attacks by his ideological enemies (including those in his party undermining him) than to his record and the policy program he was pursuing. His program was a solid conservative program, economically and socially. The appalling ideological pig-ignorance of the President of the AMA was just one illustration of what he had to deal with. 

The problem I thought might be my lack of knowledge of the detail necessary to my analysis. Nevertheless, I decided to go ahead to see how far I could get.

As I proceeded with my preparation, I saw that I had underestimated the reading necessary for the background I had planned to sketch. The prelude to Abbott’s political career was the 1960s and his time as a student politician in the second half of the 1970s. After much reading and making pages of notes, I sat down to write. 

I discovered as I wrote I had to do more reading if I was to succeed in establishing those critical influences that made Abbott what he is as a political player. I had reached around 25,000 words when it occurred to me that Abbott’s time as a student politician was a story in itself – a fascinating story. I split the project into two books. Back to my reading and research.

Months passed while I amassed more than 300 pages of notes.  When I went back to my writing, I made good progress. I have a clear schedule now, the result of a strict ordering of the notes. I hoped I could catch up on the deadline I had set myself which was March this year for the first draft. 

I’m happy to say that I am steaming ahead, reaching 95,000 words as of today (3 Feb). I probably won’t achieve the end of March deadline, but it won’t be much beyond that. Stay tuned. I am sure many will find Tony Abbott the student politician as fascinating as I have. 

I must do more blogging

Every year around this time I promise myself I will do more blogging during the coming year. Professionals, I read everywhere, insist that blogging is one of the most effective promotional tools for a writer. Despite the advice, I must have one of the worst records of any writer anywhere. I know how bad I do because of some of the blogs and vlogs I follow. I am amazed at the output of some people. I don’t how they do it. Have I an explanation or excuse for this sorry neglect? I do – perhaps an unconvincing one.

You see, I get so tied up in my writing I barely have time for anything else. And the subjects of my writing demand a lot of research. I am presently writing a book about Tony Abbott’s student time. That required an enormous amount of reading before I could get started. In addition, this year (2017) I completed a thorough revision of the two Winterbine titles for new paperback editions. Both books are long. Then there’s my contribution to the Edmund Burke Society website. I just can’t find the time normally.

I will make the same undertaking at the beginning of 2018. More attention to the promotion of my books. Let’s see how I go.

To usher in the new year, I am posting photos of my ‘operations room’ – where I do my writing – to persuade you I am doing what I say, that is, spend most of my time on my writing. On the monitor is text of my Tony Abbott book. If you look closely I am beyond 72,000 words and pushing ahead strongly.

You’ll notice on the table beside my desk a copy of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, a map of Bath (UK) and a copy of The Bestseller Code. The Bestseller Code was a Christmas present. An utterly fascinating book that attempts to explain what makes a bestseller. The map of Bath and the copy of Persuasion are a demonstration that I have continual difficulty in remaining with the one project.

Around three years ago I suddenly had an idea for a novel. I thought it interesting. So I would not forget it, I began writing. I got to 30,000 words before I shelved it. Since then I’ve been back to it several times when bored with what I was doing. I am now at 42,000 words. This morning was another moment of distraction. The map of Bath, and Jane Austen’s novel have to do with the setting and theme of the novel.

I wish you all a Happy New Year.

PS The photos are sharper on my FB page

North and South DVD review

Television or film productions of books – especially your favourite novels – can be disappointing. There are bad – even appalling – productions of Jane Austen’s novels. I am not too keen on the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice that appears to be the favourite of most Jane Austen lovers. Colin Firth’s Darcy  is not the Darcy of the novel, and Mr Collins is such a farcical caricature of the novel’s clergyman that all the satire of Austen’s pompous hypocritical cleric is lost.  That’s to start with. In the class of the appalling, I put the 2008 production of Persuasion, my favourite Austen novel. Whatever possessed the screenwriter to change a crucial part of the story is beyond me. 

On the other hand, the most recent production of Sense and Sensibility (2008) with with Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield as Elinor and Marianne Dashwood is the best production of any of Jane Austen novels. It is very true to the novel. Hattie Morahan’s performance is pitch perfect.

I have recently been introduced to Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels. I find them almost as good and engaging as Jane Austen’s – at least the two I have so far read: Cranford and North and South.  The television productions of these two books are first class, although Cranford is actually a combination of the novellas Cranford, Mr Harrison’s Confessions, and My Lady Ludlow.

I’m tempted to say that the television production of North and South (2004) is even better than the novel in bringing out the intense relationship between leads Margaret Hale played Daniela Denby-Ashe, and John Thornton played by Richard Armitage. Richard Armitage said in an interview the part was one of a lifetime. Indeed, he played it as one of a lifetime – a rough. smouldering, tormented mill owner who finds it difficult to control his passion for the cultivated girl from Hampshire who rejects him.  Below is the link  to a review on the tenth anniversary of the production:

10 Years Later, ‘North & South’ Remains the Greatest Period-Drama Miniseries of All Time

Postscript: It has nothing to do with the quality of the production, but Daniela Denby-Ashe has the most perfectly formed lips of any actress I have seen. The opening scenes display them in mesmerising closeup. I’m sure the producers knew what they were doing here. The reviewer claims the kiss at the end was the best television kiss ever. Women sent the BBC switchboard into meltdown. I was not particularly moved by the scene, although I imagine Daniela Denby-Ashe’s lips were an important motivation for Richard Armitage.

The Catholic Novel is my genre of novel writing

Until now I have not felt the need to place my fiction writing into any particular genre, happy to let the novels speak for themselves. I adopted this attitude even though the three novels I have written so far certainly fit into the genre of the Catholic novel. 

I did not want to put any limitation on them. I was convinced that the stories’ framework would not inhibit the interest of the discerning reader. I was right about this. A number of readers said that the Catholic characters and circumstances did not prevent them from liking the novel. 

I have, however, changed my mind and think it best that I ‘come out’, so to speak.

First, I don’t see myself writing anything other than a novel in the genre. I have two novels planned, one already at 35,000 words, and they will be in this market. There is no point in hiding the fact. Indeed, it will link me explicitly to that market.

Second, there has been such a polarisation in Australian society that I feel I must make an explicit stand on where we are heading. The issues of ‘same-sex’ marriage, the Safe Schools program, and euthanasia are just a few of the issues that have, and will continue to polarise Australian society.

Third, in coming out, I would like to promote the market and encourage readers and writers to have a closer a look at the novels and novelists in the genre of the Catholic novel. To this end, I will make comments and provide links to writers and their works.

What does the genre of the Catholic novel entail? I have devoted a page to explaining what is it and who are its foremost proponents. 

Complete works of Evelyn Waugh in preparation

Evelyn Waugh’s writing is being comprehensively re-edited at last, more than 50 years after his death. 

Under the general editorship of his grandson Alexander Waugh, Oxford University Press, in association with the University of Leicester, where Waugh’s biographer Martin Stannard is based, is publishing a Complete Works, bringing together all of Waugh’s extant writings and graphic art, including much that has never been seen before (some 85 per cent of his letters, for example). It’s a huge undertaking and a thrilling prospect for all who love Waugh’s prose. Read on…

THE WITCH HUNTERS – released 15 August 2017

My new publication (15 August 2017) THE WITCH HUNTERS is available in paperback and ebook format on Amazon.com and in ebook format on smashwords.com. 

I am offering a special promotional price of $0.99 on smashbooks.com. The offer runs until after the Pell trial. For the special price, go to the title page and fill in the code SL98 after you have clicked the ‘buy’ button.

Revision of The Castle of Heavenly Bliss complete

I have finished the revision of The Castle of Heavenly and posted it on Smashwords here.  I will post it on Amazon shortly.  

THE REVISION: 
The intensive style and text revision was for a new paperback edition. Except for a small but important adjustment to the character of Estella in the final chapters and additional material to bring the story more into line with In This Vale of Tears, there has been no change to the story. The minor adjustment to Estella aimed to bring out character traits established in the previous chapters whose consequences did not emerge clearly enough in those final chapters. Because most of the story takes place in 1975, I  expanded the background of the vast social and political changes of the 1960s. This background is indispensable for the story. Otherwise, I trimmed the text and corrected faults of style as pointed out by reviewers and readers who were otherwise generous in their praise. I am confident the revisions present a far more polished and consistent story leading into In This Vale of Tears, the second book in what will now be at least a three-part series.