Author Interview – Iain Ryan

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Books

Lookout everyone. Literati incoming!

Time once more, clutching decadent mini lobster roll in one hand and trusty **Tequila Mockingbird cocktail in the other, to hobnob with the ridiculously talented creme de la creme of the literary world. And exactly where, you ask, are the household names?  They’re here, it’s just I’ve caught them on the up before the outrageous-success/blistering-sales-figures-train has fully left the station. It’s more interesting that way, anyway. Today we’re meeting Brisbane-raised, Melbourne-based author Iain Ryan.  

CaptureAs someone who’s written both flash fiction and full length novels, what would be your advice to an Usain Bolt-type track sprinter (analogously speaking) who dreams of one day running a full marathon? I heard Sydney novelist Caroline Overington   www.carolineoverington.com  respond to a similar question and say that one approach might be for the would–be 80 000 word novelist to think of the task as simply composing 80 or so thousand word flash fiction stories that each had some connection. Somehow I have a feeling there might be more to it than that.

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That’s not bad advice. If you outline a novel – and I outline mine – they become a long sequence of short pieces. You can tame the idea of the novel as a Herculean task by going about it in this way.  The flash fiction I wrote was about keeping a hand in and working on craft. I tried to write three novels and all three of them were failures. Despite the ongoing failure, I wanted to keep writing. Figuring I couldn’t write novels, I was fishing around for some sort of alternate organising structure for my writing and stumbled upon flash. I wrote a story a day, five days a week, until I had a hundred. Through flash, I eventually built up a repertoire of things I felt comfortable enough writing and took that into my first novel.  

Your most recently published novel THE STUDENT has been described as gritty, ‘regional noir’ and is set back in the year 1994 amidst the semi-rural town of Gatton (86km west of Brisbane). Have you been happy with its sales since from back in July last year when it was released? (Are you even aware of its sales figures and if you are aware how do you come by this information?)

Publishers send their authors sales reports. THE STUDENT has sold better than anything else I’ve written but I’m a long way from giving up my day job.

Genre-wise, The Student can be considered a ‘Campus novel’ as it is set around a university campus. Have you read or are you familiar with any of these other campus novels?

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Book 2

 I’ve read the Wonder Boys. The main two influences for THE STUDENT – in terms of campus novels – are THE SECRET HISTORY by Donna Tartt and THE RULES OF ATTRACTION by Bret Easton Ellis.

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Your next novel THE BARBARIAN, which you are currently writing, is also a campus novel. Could you tell us a little bit about it?

It could be called something else by the time it’s published, if it’s published. I’m not under contract for another book at the moment. It’s a book set in Brisbane, 10 years after THE STUDENT. I’m no good when it comes to talking about the themes of my books – I often don’t really know why I’m writing a particular story – but in brief, THE BARBARIAN is about a researcher who investigates the disappearance of a series of students on campus.

You obtained your PhD at the University of Queensland examining ideology in rock music. You currently live in Melbourne and work as a music lecturer at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. You’ve also played bass guitar in a number of bands. For the fun of it, last year I compiled a list of my Top 50 all-time favourite songs    HERE     Could you list a half dozen or so songs (from any era) that would make your ‘Favourites’ list.

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Gimme Shelter by The Rolling Stones

 Zero by The Smashing Pumpkins

Theory of Machines by Ben Frost

The Diamond Sea by Sonic Youth

Loose by The Stooges

I Know by Helmet

Lastly, would you class yourself as a late-night, early morning or ‘anytime’ writer.

Early morning for sure. I have a young daughter so my mornings are a mess at the moment but given a choice, I will always opt for working first thing in the morning.

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Ps. ** Satisfy your thirst for knowledge about literary-inspired cocktails HERE

 

 

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Sounds Like War

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The Noise Police (me) vs the bureaucracy of ParkRun.

                   I’m fighting a war. 

Ok, it might more correctly be labelled a skirmish or even closer to the truth a difference of opinion, but you know how it is; when you’re up to your knees in it, mere conflicts can appear to take on battle-size proportions.

I’ve heard it said the first casualty of war is truth but I’m going to try to relate the events and circumstances of this tussle as factually as possible.

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Most Saturday mornings for the last six months – including the last twelve consecutive Saturdays in a row – I’ve been going for a 5km ‘ParkRun‘ with a couple of hundred other people, kicking off at 7am. The venue is Rocks Riverside Park, Seventeen Mile Rocks 13km from my house, which I travel to by car.

In the time I’ve been doing it I’ve seen my time come down from around 34 minutes to close to 28 and a half minutes. Considering the men’s world record for the 5km distance is just a single panted breath over twelve and a half minutes, it’s fair to say I’m in no danger of pushing for a place on the Ethiopian Olympic distance running team.

Still, according to statistics from ParkRun Australia www.parkrun.com.au, my time of 28 and a half minutes puts me ahead of what the average recorded time is for joggers completing the distance, which apparently is 31 minutes. For me, the sweat-soaked runner’s high I get after crossing that finishing line lasts me for at least the next couple of hours, making for the perfect start to my weekend. Did I just say perfect? Better make that near perfect…

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Recently the shine has come off my Parkrun experience somewhat, and by shine I refer not to inclement weather (I enjoy running in the rain!). Rather, I speak of the peace-shattering experience of coming face to face – or should that be ear to ear – with the phenomena that is the Saturday morning Parkrunner who insists on carrying handheld speakers turned up to volume 11 (stadium concert level) and thereby treating all other fellow runners within a 50 metre blast radius to their taste in tinny-sounding FM radio-style rock music.

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Carrying one of these hand-held noise-makers set on ‘annoy’, while running amongst hundreds of other people in a tight-knit group, should be enough to get you ‘run’ out of town. Or at the very least be on the receiving end of a stern warning from the Noise Police.

About a month ago I encountered a runner carrying a blaring handheld speaker. At first I thought he was part of the official volunteer organising crew, perhaps placed in the field to provide some kind of motivating musical accompaniment for everyone. I soon realised he wasn’t there in any official capacity but merely operating under the supremely arrogant belief that the entire suburb would benefit from being treated to hearing his taste in tinny tunes. Apart from the deafening noise it also made for somewhat of a sight. There he was, running along with everyone else, while holding in one hand a speaker the size of an envelope mounted weirdly on a metal stick that looked like a cross between a divining rod and an old-school tv antenna. This chap was even more ‘singular’ (allright, I mean ‘eccentric’) then the gents that run the course in a pink tutu.

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At 7am, even with 250 people huffing and puffing alongside you, it’s quiet. You can hear the birds tweeting in the trees, the flow of the river 10 metres to the right of you, while  the early morning  rays of the sun lightly caress your skin (before the real sweat-soak sets in). But not on this morning. The ‘amongst nature’ aspect of this morning was completely not just absent but obliterated. I noticed that, conveniently, everyone else seemed to pretend the eccentric noise pest was not in our midst and was happy to let him settle in the upper portion of the middle of the field. When he went to run past me I turned and asked, “What’s with the speaker mate?” but he either didn’t hear or chose to ignore me and kept on running past.

30 minutes later when I crossed the finishing line I sought out the event organizer and registered my complaint along with the request that our loud jogger be asked to wear earphones like everyone else who opts to listen to music while they run.

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The following week I turned up again at 7am but this time with backup – a fellow male running mate. Noise guy was there again but minus his boombox-on-a-bent-selfie-stick. Problem solved – or so I thought. One week on again (now two weeks after the original encounter) and the guy was back with his same weird stick-speaker smashing the sonic landscape for all it was worth. This time however there was an added bonus. A young mother pushing a pram (with baby miraculously somehow asleep inside) decided she’d join the ranks of the noise polluters and use her smart phone (minus earphones) cranked to maximum volume to treat others to a selection of delightful (to some) Katy Perry tunes. Not quite to the lawn-mower level of shared audio as handheld-speaker guy but same principle in operation – inconsiderate, attention-seeking behaviour by a lone individual seemingly oblivious to the unwritten rules of shared space and no-one prepared to call them on it.

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At this point I sensed the battle was deepening. My mind jumped reflexively to advice contained within the pages of an ancient text that has stood proudly in my bookcase for many years – 5th Century BC Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu‘s THE ART OF WAR. It was time to switch tact and target the head of the snake. Thus commenced some ‘shots across the bow’ email correspondence between PARKRUN AUSTRALIA and myself –

Good morning,

I wish to register a complaint regarding runners who play loud, blaring music on hand-held speakers or mobile phones while they are running without the use of headphones. This practice is frequent at the Park Run I attend which is at Seventeen Miles Rocks – Rocks Riverside Park. Yesterday there was a male person holding hand-held speakers while running. Anyone within a radius of 50 metres was blasted into oblivion on what would otherwise have been a peaceful Saturday morning.

Also yesterday a woman pushing a pram treated everyone (including her own baby) to her tastes in loud rock music from the speakers of her mobile phone turned up to volume 11.

I have expressed my concerns before to staff at Rocks Riverside Park regarding the inconsideration of these people who refuse to don earphones and instead inflict their noise on others, but a few weeks later the problem returns.

Could someone please contact me regarding this matter.

My phone number is 3372 3958.

Glen Donaldson
Forest Lake

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Hi Glen,

This is a tricky one as while I can completely appreacite that the music is annoying and disruptive to your planned peaceful Saturday morning ParkRun, as the volume wouldn’t be above noise restrictions, we can’t stop people from playing music while they walk or run.

You and the event team can certainly let the people know that not everyone loves hearing music while they ParkRun, but we can’t stop them. We do hope they will take other people’s opinions on board and be considerate of others.

Kind regards,
Nikki

Nikki Waterfall
Operations Assistant
ParkRun Australia

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Hi Nikki,

To be honest I find your response a little weak.

You say that you ‘appreacite’ that the music is annoying and disruptive to ‘your’ (meaning my) ParkRun in some attempt to reduce the size of the complaint to just one person – me, whereas, as with most things of this nature, I am merely the one person who has spoken up on behalf of the hundreds of others that suffer in silence or at the finishing line have a good whinge amongst their mates about the ‘nutter with the blaring speakers’ but don’t take it any further.

Basically you are washing your hands of the matter and wanting me to risk having a possible face to face altercation with someone to convince them against their wishes to show some basic consideration. You say “we can’t stop people from playing music while they walk or run”. Is that what I’m asking you to do? No, it’s not. What I’m calling for is a common sense request that if people wish to play music while they run or walk they do it with headphones on. At the very least, this request could be made by the person behind the microphone who speaks to the assembled runners prior to the commencement of the run. 

Not at all satisfied with the response Nikki so I would like to be put in communication with another person from your organisation – preferably the organiser of the Seventeen Mile Rocks Brisbane ParkRun – so I can discuss what can be done further.

Regards,

Glen Donaldson

Forest Lake

Brisbane

Ph: 3372 3958

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Hi Glen,

 Nikki Waterfall forwarded me the email conversation you have had with her in recent days.

 I would like to reiterate Nikki’s comments that the issue of ParkRun participants running with speakers is not one that we are looking to police centrally.

Since we launched ParkRun in Australia back in April 2011 we have seen 396,855 people participate across 35,047 events and you are the first person to ever raise this issue. I have also spoken with the country managers for ParkRun in the UK, South Africa and Poland and they have never had a complaint about this either.

As such, if there are others who feel the way that you do could you please encourage them to provide similar feedback so that we can see this issue is bigger then it appears and needs to be addressed.

 

Kind regards, 

Tim Oberg
CEO | ParkRun Australia

m: 0414 388 747
e: tim.oberg@parkrun.com
w: http://www.parkrun.com

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Sure thing Tim.

10 million people times by x to the factor of whatever have participated in ParkRuns and no one’s ever mentioned it before. That must prove the problem doesn’t exist then, right? Next time you have a barking dog problem or noisy neighbours after midnight problem please think of this dismissive reply you’ve forwarded me.

And no, I won’t be starting any on-line petition in an effort to attract your attention with the weight of numbers behind this complaint. I still might go ahead and ask a couple of mates of mine to email you but sounds like you’d just dismiss that as merely a few like-minded sore heads that don’t really represent the masses and are just as easily ignored.

Guess also you won’t be turning up anytime soon to the Seventeen Mile Rocks Brisbane ParkRun to hear all the not-so-light-hearted whingeing that goes on at the finishing line regarding the couple of attention-seekers who run with blaring audible speakers minus the headphones and ruin it for the rest of the ‘silent majority’.

Thanks for absolutely no help at all.

How very corporate of you.

Glen Donaldson

Forest Lake

I’m going to blame battle weariness for resorting to dropping all the smart-alecky sarcasm bombs towards the end there but that’s what tends to happen when frustration starts to creep up on you like a slowly rising tide. You feel like someone’s not really listening and instead just smugly quoting statistics in an attempt to shrink the importance of the problem being described down to zero.

Next month a new weekly Saturday morning  ParkRun will begin in my local neighbourhood of Forest Lake. That will mean I’ll no longer have to travel the 13km to the venue at Seventeen Mile Rocks. Would it be too obvious an ending to this post to say I’ll be praying on both knees Mr-Handheld-blaring-speakers and Ms pram-pushingiPhone-blasting Mum don’t both suddenly start turning up to this new venue as well?

Ps. Here’s your medal for getting through a 5km long post.

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Seeing Double with Uncle Chop Chop

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“There was one rat who smashed me over the head with an iron bar in St. Kilda in late 1977. No wonder my memory is half shot to pieces with the blows I’ve taken to the head over the years.

Then prison officer Mick Millson smashed his baton over my head when Jimmy Loughnan and Johnny Price broke out of H Division in 1979 and climbed up on the A Division roof. Mick broke the baton over my head; he hit me between 15 to 20 times before it broke. I should thank him for it because after that, the headaches just stopped.”

Mark Brandon ‘Chopper’ Read (1954 – 2013)

I’ve spoken about former Melbourne underworld identity, gang member and best selling author Chopper Read before (HERE)

And now its time to do it again.

This coming Sunday and Monday nights, Channel 9 is premiering the latest incarnation of the UNDERBELLY crime-drama series (there’s been six series so far, all based on true life events, the first of which aired back in 2008).

This time the focus is on notorious convicted criminal Mark ‘Chopper’ Read who grew up in the Melbourne suburbs of Collingwood and Fitzroy, spent the first five years of his life in a children’s home and by the age of 14 had been made a ward of the state. Between the ages of 20 and 38 Read spent only 13 months outside prison walls. Eric Bana launched his Hollywood career after playing Read in the 2000 film CHOPPER. (See the trailer HERE )

See Read‘s anti drink-driving commercial HERE

See Read‘s anti-domestic violence ad HERE

For the two part series UNDERBELLY FILES: CHOPPER former Neighbours actor Aaron Jeffrey has been recruited to play the sharp-witted standover man. While I’m looking forward to watching the series I must raise the question of whether the producers could have found an actor who bore a closer physical resemblance to the late real life Chopper. 

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While there’s no doubting the New Zealand born Jeffrey’s bona-fides as an actor – he played Thomas Logan in the film X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE as well as appearing in all 23 episodes of Foxtel‘s 2013- 2015 series WENTWORTH in addition to roles in two previous UNDERBELLY series, when a film or television series aspires to present a portrait of a real individual who has lived or is living, then part of the experience of believing what they are seeing for an audience includes how close the physical matchup of the actor playing the part is to the real-life person.

When I spoke back in August last year (HERE) of Channel 7’s miniseries BLUE MURDER: KILLER COP which portrayed the real-life events surrounding the life of corrupt former NSW police-detective Roger Rogerson, I made mention of how incredible the match was between the real-life Rogerson and the actor hired to play him in the series.

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Hollywood as well has done a pretty stellar job over the years in casting actors who look like or are made to look like the real-life people they are playing –

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               Impressive huh?

And how ’bout the one with Leonardo DiCaprio?

I won’t let the fact actor Aaron Jeffrey isn’t a dead ringer for the real Chopper Read impact my enjoyment of the new UNDERBELLY series on Sunday and Monday nights. I’m confident Jeffrey will more than make up for what he may lack in the physical resemblance department  by getting the mannerisms, speaking style and  other nuances that go into creating a character down pat. And in Chopper‘s case that means acting crazier than a ride on public transport, everyone’s Uncle Bob and a zebra in a horserace all rolled into one.

 

 

Seal of Approval

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Last Sunday night a new show debuted on free to air Channel 10.

Don’t think I’ve watched anything on Ten since the time Paul Keating was Prime Minister of Australia.

The show is called SEAL TEAM and stars David Boreanaz, the guy who played FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth in BONES for a number of seasons. Naturally it features a lot of overconfident warrior types strutting around in Disruptive Pattern Camouflage Uniforms, (DPCU‘s in military parlance) flashing pearly white teeth and acting all snarky while going on ‘ops’. There’s lots of chest-puffing lines like “Let’s do this!” and “I got this!” and I noted a number of characters begin their sentences with “So..” cause apparently that’s considered a cool thing to do. The debut episode (the series aired beginning in September last year in the U.S.) adopts a framework of balancing on-the-ground military actions periodically intercut with whatever’s happening with the wife and kids back home related to the soldier’s private lives.

Television critics in the States have labelled SEAL TEAM a bland and forgettable military procedural. The first episode held my interest but Channel 10 would want to stick to the advertised time slot this Sunday night instead of allowing I”M A CELEBRITY – GET ME OUT OF HERE! to go 30 minutes overtime and by proxy forcing viewers to endure the last half of that program while waiting. Pain of that severity is not something even a special forces soldier should have to endure.

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It was around this same period last year I was talking on these pages (HERE  and                 HERE ) about a reality TV series on SBS that put a group of civilians through six weeks of torturous Special Forces training.

Fair to say I’ve read a few books as well in my time on Special Forces soldiery, probably  up around more than a dozen over the years including these recognized silver bullets of the genre –

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The most recent addition to this repository of ‘Above Top Secret’ literature laying bare previously highly classified military methods and missions is a book released last year titled THE OPERATOR. This is the third account I’ve read written by Special Forces soldiers present on the ‘capture or kill’ mission targeted at terror mastermind Osama Bin Laden back in 2011. What gives this latest book its mark of distinction is that it is penned by the soldier, Robert O’Neil http://www.robertjoneill.com/ who actually put the three bullets into the head of the notorious Al-Qaeda (remember them?) leader.

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Being somewhat of a ‘veteran’ when it comes to these type of reads, I can report these kind of books all follow a similar pattern –

  • Opening chapters detail the soldier’s childhood
  • Next comes reliving the agony of passing the tougher-than-nails Special Forces selection training
  • The middle section gives readers grandstand seats to a number of lesser known covert missions the soldier has been a part of
  • The best is saved to last when the operation the soldier is most famously connected with is recounted in all its glory

THE OPERATOR follows this blueprint to a T.  It’s middle pages include recall of two other famous sorties O’Neill was a part of  – (A) the 2005 mission to Afghanistan to rescue Lone Survivor’ Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell and (B) the 2009 mission in the Indian ocean to rescue Captain Phillips and his crew aboard a container ship hijacked by Somalia pirates. The account of the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden occupies less than 40 pages of the 360 page text.

Included in that 40 pages is the following ‘money shot’ paragraph regarding the circumstances of Bin Laden’s death –

“I turned to the right and looked through a door into an adjoining room. Osama Bin Laden stood near the entrance at the foot of the bed, taller and thinner than I’d expected, his beard shorter and hair whiter. But it was the guy whose face I’d seen ten thousand, a hundred thousand times. He had a woman in front of him, his hands on her shoulders. In less than a second, I aimed above the woman’s right shoulder and pulled the trigger twice. Bin Laden‘s head split open, and he dropped. I put another bullet in his head. Insurance.”

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O’Neil candidly recalls the personal backlash he suffered in the days and weeks after the mission when the Seal Team became known worldwide in the wake of the historic success of the mission. Much to his disapproval he was singled out for extra glory as the trigger man and felt jealousy and disdain from his teammates as a result.

As I’ve well and truly donned the cammo paint for this post I may as well mention the fact that of the two movies based on OPERATION NEPTUNE SPEAR (The U.S. Navy Seal mission to capture or kill Bin Laden) I’ve seen – the big budget, Oscar-nominated, Kathryn Bigelow directed ZERO DARK THIRTY  (17 U.S newspaper critics rated this film their # 1 movie of that year) and the no name, made-for-television (though I own a DVD copy of it) SEAL TEAM SIX, I would rate the no name, made-for-television SEAL TEAM SIX as by far the better film, and at a modest estimate ten times more engaging.

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Ps. A new ‘Special Forces’ (Green Berets) movie is due to hit cinemas soon starring Thor (Chris Hemsworth). It’s called 12 STRONG and you can read an early review of it       HERE  or see the trailer  HERE

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PSS. SEAL TEAM airs on Channel 10 again this Sunday night.

PSSS. Thankyou to everyone who responded with suggestions last week as to what this blog’s 2018 slogan ought to be. Indecision has seized me like an arthritic joint in the dead of winter with the result being readers will be greeted with a series of ever-changing ‘taglines’ below the words SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK throughout the year, beginning today.

 

Tag Me!

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Go straight to the head of the class if you’ve ever noticed this blog has a slogan.

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Now that Season 2 of Scenic Writer’s Shack is underway, I’ve been thinking maybe it’s time for a little nip’n tuck in the tagline department?

Someone once observed (someone whose middle name was most likely ‘Marketing’) life isn’t about finding yourself – it’s about creating yourself. With that thought in mind I’m wondering if “Words. Wares. Woomph.” still carries the same woomph it did a year ago.

The issue came up at the inugural performance review meeting that Scenic Writer’s Shack was the focus of  last week. The suggestion was made that the slightly ‘Homemaker-ish’ sounding tagline that presently greets readers might be better replaced with something a little more dynamic and alive that didn’t sound so much like an unintended homage to Ikea or Costco (take your pick).

SkyHere’s a list of 50 new ones my usually asleep-at-the-wheel marketing department came up with. They’ve asked if I’d  test-audience them here now for the purpose of coming up with some type of shortlist to be put to the board of directors next month. While it’s  obvious some of these were conceived towards the end of the day possibly after injesting  magic mushrooms of one variety or another, there’s a few I reckon that might just have the right amount of X Factor or as they say in French ‘jene sais quoi’ to get them over the line.

Here they are, in no particular order –

Pulsating Word Ectoplasm

Weird, But Weird Is All I’ve Got

The Artist’s Urge

The Artist’s Purge

The Only Blog With No Vampires

Strong As An Ox And Twice As Hairy

A Fierce Dissapointment

Are You Even Listening To Me?

You’ve Been A Brilliant Audience

I Hate Novels

I Hate Reading Novels

Angles That Never Add Up

From The Hood

Bonkers! Bonkers! Bonkers!

Made With The Scent of Juniper And Witch Hazel

Proper Huge

Proper Mini Huge

So Stupid It’s A Pleasure to Be With

I Know Nothing About Sri Lanka

Everything’s Premier But The Price

Shelve That Idea

You Wouldn’t Take Driving Lessons From A Blind Fellow Would You?

No Hand-Eye Coordination Needed

If You Like Beyonce You Might Like Pink

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What A Funny Place Man!

Better Than Iron Man 2

Breakfast Is The Most Important Meal Of The Day

Daddy Donaldson’s Dulcet Dungeon

Daddy Donaldson’s Dolby-Surround-Sound-Equipped Dungeon

More Uplifting Than The Great Potato Recession Of The 1840’s

You Don’t Need To Audition To Get In

Pleasure Swollen Guaranteed

My Own Personal Ring Tone

Quite Mental

Go Get ‘Em Tiger!

Captain Highhorse

The Chronicles of Captain Highhorse

Better Than Sugar Free Breath Mints

Easy To Wind Up

Easier To Wind Up Than A Toy Soldier

Normally Peculiar

Ridiculous For Ridiculous Sake

Better Than The Shopkins Movie

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Take It or Leave It

Not Wearing Cologne

A Gardener Of Erratic Brilliance – A Blogger Of Even More Erratic Brilliance

100% Pineapple Wedge Free

Thinking ‘Here Goes Nothing’ Could Be The Start Of Everything

Standing Ovation   Normal Ovation

Tastier than Oily  H’ors Devoures

First Draft Only Draft

If This Blog Was A Toy It Would Be A Fidget Spinner

90% Bogan 10% Class

Show Tell Eat Sleep Pray Love

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If you’re done with the non-stop head-scratching that a number of those slogans no doubt induced, pick a favourite (or two) and let me know in the comments box below. In the absence of any guidance on the matter, and since there were actually 52 and not 50, as stated, I’ll have little choice but to opt for the non-static revolving sign system and choose a different slogan each week across this year from among the lot listed here.

And that could likely end up quite absurd.

Any one of these could be the game changer that helps propel Scenic Writer’s Shack to the top of the blog A-list (‘A’ stands for asinine) but I just need to know which one.

So please, go ahead and advise me!

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Ps. Not trying to influence anyone’s decision-making but just FYI – my seven year old daughter (she’s on my Board of Advisors so it’s right I listen) informed me her top three choices for a new slogan are –

Standing Ovation   Normal Ovation 

Show Tell Eat Sleep Pray Love

The Artist’s Urge

PPs. Unearth this week’s bonus read    HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Howzat for creativity!

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I promise this is not a post about the game of cricket.

If it were, I know I might run the risk of a sizeable portion of the readership of this blog (I’m thinking here mostly of female and overseas followers)  clicking off – maybe forever, never to return.

This is a post instead dedicated to saluting ingenious plot lines in television shows – one show in particular. Before launching into that however, and since I’m already on the general playing field, I thought I’d chance a comment directed at saying how much I  enjoyed this summer of cricket’s Ashes series.

For those unaware, The Ashes are a series of cricket matches played between Australia and England. They represent one of sport’s oldest rivalries, the first game being played in 1882. Australia won convincingly the 2017/2018 series 4-0 (one match ended in a tie). Overall, the gap between the two countries for victories is very narrow. Of the 70 Ashes series played down through the years, Australia have won 33, England 32 with five series being declared a draw.

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During this most recent summer of cricket, ABC Television had the good sense to run a cricket themed episode of MIDSOMMER MURDERS (a British detective series that’s been going since 1997).

The episode, titled LAST MAN OUT, featured a character murdered by the most unusual means. Fastened sucurely to the far end of an indoor cricket net, a bowling machine set on maximum speed then unleashed a procession of rockhard cricket balls – at ten second intervals – at the helpless victim, unable to move, in excess of 100 km an hour. A direct hit in the heart region is ruled the cause of death by the coroner in the show.

Not sure what a cricket bowling machine is?       ALLOW ME

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I recall sitting through some pretty creatively choregraphed deaths while watching the slasher flicks of the 80’s (including one where Jason Vorhees (Friday the 13th) picked up by the feet a teenage camper still in his sleeping bag and repeatedly flung him against the trunk of a tree, like you would if you were dusting off a carpet mat. But death by bowling machine? I guess compared to the sleeping bag method you could at least call it a little more ‘team sports’ or ‘high performance’ orientated. If you had to. Compare, that is.

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Ps. ‘Indie’ (meaning independent) book stores have been on the endangered species list for a number of years now, so imagine a small town with not one but five independent book stores. To find out where   CLICK HERE

Author Interview – Stuart Aken

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Alines

When it comes to mapping out futuristic worlds far beyond the imagination of most people, there are few who apply themselves to the task more creatively than English sci-fi author Stuart Aken. Hard at work on book three of his  acclaimed Generation Mars series and with a website boasting in excess of 23 000 loyal followers, Stuart has indeed been kicking some serious intergalactic goals in the world of science fiction publishing across the last few years.

He agreed to speak to me from his secluded bugalow hidden amongst ancient woodlands somewhere near the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, England on the condition I not reveal its exact location. Stuart, your secret is safe with me.

 I read recently a well known author say the reason they became a writer was so they’d never have to feel alone again. Can you relate in any way to that thought?

 Being alone is essential when I’m writing. Luckily, I have my own little study where I can cut myself off from the distractions of the world. But to be alone in life isn’t for me. I started writing fiction at the age of 19, and had a girlfriend then. Now I’m a tad older and my 2nd wife sits in our bedroom on the other side of the wall and delves into family history as I imagine my worlds and translate ideas into tales.

As a writer of science fiction novels how do you respond to the slightly old-school sentiment expressed in this cartoon about the genre?

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 Those readers who denigrate the genre miss out on some seriously good work. I always respond with the same question – “Have you read ‘Brave New World’, ‘1984’, ‘A Handmaid’s Tale’, or ‘Pincher Martin’?” Most avid readers have read one of these, or at least understand their literary reputations and I explain that all can be considered as science fiction.

CaptureIf Hollywood came knocking tomorrow and wanted to purchase the film rights to WAR OVER DUST who would be on your wish list to direct the movie based on your book? Let’s imagine for challenge sake Spielberg was unavailable due to filming the sequel to his CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND.

If you’re denying me Spielberg, I guess I’ll have to settle for either James Cameron or Ridley Scott.

How ‘bout your choice of A-list actors to play the main characters from WAR OVER DUST of DaisaGabrielStefan – and Zaphod?

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Tell us your opinion of these classic sci-fi films Stuart –

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(A) LOGAN’S RUN – starring Michael York  (B) SATURN 3 – starring Kirk Douglas    (C) BLADE RUNNER – starring Harrison Ford  (D)  CONTACT starring Jodi Foster

Logan’s Run – Watched and enjoyed this foray into a future fraught with the problems caused by overpopulation. Of course, it was made too early to envisage the inevitable tragedies of climate change.

Saturn 3 – Not seen this one.

Blade Runner – A piece of genius, in the writing, the casting and acting, and the settings. I’d definitely watch this again. 

Contact – Not seen this one either. My education in films is sadly lacking!

You’re a commercially published short story writer as well. Could you fill us in regarding the background to the writing of this story from 2011. Would love to hear what the motivation was behind conceiving the maverick and downright convention-busting double comma title.

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 This is my only free book. I’m a believer in artists actually being paid for their work but the odd ‘taster’ is fine. This was produced as a Christmas gift to my readers. The original Frank Loesser lyrics have been much messed with by singers over the years, but the mood of the song matches the teasing content of the story very well. And the ‘But’?  Hopefully the story itself explains the need for that addition to the original first line of the song. The comma is the pause for effect.

Lastly Stuart, would you describe yourself as a late night, early morning or ‘anytime’ writer?

I perform at my best in the early morning, rising bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to pen my first words while the imagination is still in that dream-drenched state before full wakefulness takes over to drench me in reality. Late nights? I can, if I must. But the red wine’s generally taken over by then and I’m maybe a bit too much under the influence. Freedom of thought might just be a little too liberated for many people if I write with no inhibitions! 

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Ps. In light of the subject of Stuart’s latest novel series, it seems timely to mention this Saturday night SBS Television is premiering the 2nd season of the Ron Howard produced MARS drama series. Set in the year 2033, it tells the story of the imagined attempt to establish a colony on the planet Mars and the human dramas that play out within that setting.

Pss. Wanna see a trailer for the new MARS series?   CLICK HERE

All the fascination in the World

 

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‘Fifty shades of fascinating’ barely begins to cover it.

The high-definition, multi-angle level of interest – not to mention raw controversy – surrounding master director Ridley Scott‘s latest movie has baited a hook that’s been hard to look away from. 

The on-screen goings on are crazy-interesting for starters. This film depicts the real-life kidnapping back in 1973 of the 16-year-old grandson of billionaire oil tycoon Jean Paul Getty, who only seven years previously, had been named as the world’s richest man. More on that later.

The other aspect to this film bumping up its interest factor are the off-screen events surrounding the unprecedented recasting of one of the film’s major supporting characters. In case you missed it, just seven weeks ago the film’s producers made the decision to recast the role played by Kevin Spacey after the actor became the subject of a slew of historical sexual harassment claims from roughly a dozen independent and unconnected claimants.

This involved hiring another actor (88-year-old Canadian Christopher Plummer) to play Spacey’s role, requiring 22 scenes (400 shots) be filmed all over again. The crew is reported to have worked 18 hour days to complete the monumental feat which added $10 million to the film’s budget. Co stars Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams (ex partner of Heath Ledger) also agreed to come back to reshoot scenes together with Plummer.

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Filmmakers have had to reshoot parts of films before – two examples that come to mind are when Paul Walker died during a break in filming for FAST & FURIOUS 7 and when Oliver Reed suffered a fatal heart attack during a break from filming GLADIATOR (another Ridley Scott movie) – but reshooting a film to the extent that Scott undertook for ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD under the circumstances that prompted it and within such an insanely small timeframe, has never been done before. 

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As to the drama on screen, there’s flood-level amounts of that as well – all of it depicting in accurate detail the true life events of the 1973 kidnapping and ransom demand.

As history records it, at 3 a.m. on 10 July 1973, John Paul Getty III then age 16, was kidnapped from the Piazza Farnese  – a building that today serves as the French Embassy in Italy – in Rome. He was blindfolded, transported, and imprisoned in a mountain hideout in the southern Italian region of Calabria. A ransom note was received, demanding $17 million in exchange for his safe return. When that ransom message arrived, some family members suspected the kidnapping was merely a ploy by the rebellious youngster (who had been previously expelled from Boarding School) as he had frequently joked about staging his own kidnapping to extract money from his notoriously frugal grandfather John Paul Getty.

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A second demand was received, but had been delayed by an Italian postal strike.

John Paul Getty II asked his father, John Paul Getty, for the money, but was refused arguing that, were he to pay the ransom, his 14 other grandchildren could also be kidnapped.

In November 1973, an envelope containing a lock of hair and a human ear (the movie’s clever tagline is “Everyone wants a cut”) was delivered to a daily newspaper with a threat of further mutilation of the grandson, unless $3.2 million was paid: “This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits.”

At this point the reluctant Getty Sr. negotiated a deal to get his grandson back for about $2.9 million. Getty Sr. paid $2.2 million—the maximum amount that was tax-deductible—and he loaned the remainder to his son who was responsible for repaying the sum at 4% interest. When it came to frugal, Dicken’s Ebeneezer Scrooge, Scrooge McDuck, Shakespeare‘s famous moneylender Shylock and let’s throw in Lady Mary Crawley from Downton Abbey fame as well, all had nothing on John Paul Getty Senior in the penny-pinching stakes. The kicker was –  SPOILER ALERT – after his release from the kidnappers John Paul III called his grandfather to thank him for paying the ransom but Getty refused to come to the phone.

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Anyone interested in further reading on this topic is spoiled for choice.

I saw this movie at Springfield Event Cinemas on the day it opened (yesterday) with 14 other people in the cinema. This is not a movie in any danger of setting box office records and if there’s such a genre as ‘Eccentric real-life billionaires’ biopics’ then I’d be inclined to say I preferred watching Leonardo DiCaprio portray American business magnate Howard Hughes in Martin Scorcese‘s 2004 film THE AVIATOR more, but ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD is a film well worth seeing if you have any interest in knowing more about the famous kidnapping or wish to see Christopher Plummer give an Oscar-winning acting performance.

Ps. **Changing topic completely** – It was around this New Year’s time two years ago musician David Bowie passed away. Bowie was apparently a voracious reader and in tribute to that fact his son (Duncan Jones) has now started THE DAVID BOWIE BOOK CLUB. The idea is to read a different book each month from David Bowie‘s Top 100 Favourite Books list he compiled back in 2013. Those interested have until February 1st to read the first book selected which is English author Peter Ackroyd‘s HAWKSMOOR (published in 1985).

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After February 1st a discussion of the book will launch on Duncan Jones’s Twitter page  https://twitter.com/manmademoon (he’s got a mere 328 000 followers).

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Pss. For anyone interested in seeing all the titles that made Bowie‘s TOP 100 FAVOURITE BOOKS list –

CLICK HERE

 

 

That’s a wrap!

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It is done!

SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK commenced life on December 30th last year with the following post –

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That means it’s now a year old and Season One is officially, as the movie types might say, ‘in the can’.

Not many of you have heard the story of how this blog came about, or how it almost had the plug pulled on it after taking just its first couple of breaths, so… on the eve of the first anniversary of SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK, allow me to share with you the events of that fateful morning back on December 30th 2016.

After a number of years as a practising sideline commenter on other people’s blogs, I decided sometime during last year’s Christmas holidays that perhaps it was time I acquired my own digital digs with an online space I could legitimately call my own.

In a fit of boredom fuelled equally by curiosity to find out if I had the technical smarts to create digital life in this form, I set about the task like some mad inventor with glassed over eyes in a dusty lab. Incredibly (to me!), within less than 20 minutes, the spawn of my creation was up and running and I was now father to a bouncing baby blog.

There is, however, something few people know. Something I have kept hidden all this time, the guilt of which has, in many moments, been an almost impossibly weighty cross to bear. For the first few hours after the birth of SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK I was consumed with the most dastardly thoughts of ending the life of this innocent newborn. Ending it in the most devastating and final way before anyone had a chance to lay eyes on ‘it’. Why? Because I was unsure of what I had done. Unsure if I wanted to step onto the stage of public opinion and allow my creation, and by extension myself, to be exposed to the harsh light of judgement.

And then, after several hours of this torturous indecision about whether or not to finalise the life of the creation I had just single-handedly brought into the world, a funny thing happened.

I got my first follower.

It was a High School teacher who lived 14 000km away on the other side of the world in Atlanta, USA. His name was Matt Pavlak.    (View his own blog here)  Bolstered by that initial interest and show of belief from one single other human being, I decided to spare the hours-old life of my kicking and writhing offspring (who at that moment was already attempting to curl its tiny fingers around my pinky) and from that day forward I’ve become hopelessly hooked on the feeling of attracting fresh sets of eyes and minds to what I’m writing.

Over the ensuing weeks and months new readers began to trickle in. By the time  October clocked around, I had 100 followers and a magnificent letter from Her Majesty The Queen to commemorate the occasion.    (Remember that?)

 

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Milestones are there to be marked and celebrated and so, having reached the first birthday of SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK and before the ribbon is cut on the 2nd Season, I thought we’d take a brief look back at some of the highlight ‘moments’ of the last twelve months on THE SHACK. God knows you guys have put up with some regular shenanigans here (and I promise there’s lots more where that came from) so in honour of the whole gloriously weird and cobbled together shebang, here’s the skinny on what’s gone down throughout 2017 –

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          – TV SHOWS –   

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Special Forces Ultimate Hell Week (Jan)

Inkmaster (Jan)

Million Dollar Cold Case (March)

Millionaire Hotseat (July)

Blue Murder: Killer Cop (August)

 

    –  MOVIES –

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Sing (Jan)

Moana (Jan)

Scarface remake (Feb)

Boss Baby (April)

Cars (July)

Terminator 2 in 3D (Aug)

Blade Runner 2049 (Oct)

Borg vs McEnroe (Nov)

The Teacher (Dec)

         – BOOKS –

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Mein Kampf re-release (Jan)

Face the Music – Paul Stanley’s Autobiography (Feb)

Roger Rogerson (May)

Chopper from the Inside (June)

Dissapearing off the Face of the Earth David Cohen (Sept)

Ms Runway & Australia’s Next Top Merino – Matt Porter (Oct)

Stephanie Chiocci & the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Chase – Matt Porter (Oct)

Lincoln & the Bardo – George Sanders (Oct)

The Search for Anne Perry (Nov)

Tell Tale – Short Story Collection by Jeffrey Archer (Nov)

The Hornet – Jeff Horn’s Autobiography (Nov)

Uncommon Type – Short Stories by Tom Hanks (Nov)

Unbreakable – Jelena Dokic’s Autobiography (Dec)

Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge (Dec)

Billy Slater Autobiography (Dec)

A World Without Whom by Emmy J. Favilla (Dec)

What Would Nietzsche Do? by Marcus Weeks (Dec)

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              – MUSIC –

Jean-Michael Jarre’s Oxygen 3 album (Jan)

Beatles White Album (June)

My Top 50 songs list (June)

Ariana Grande’s Brisbane visit (Sept)

 

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– AUTHORS –

Matt Potter (August)

David Cohen (Sept)

Tom Hanks (Nov)

Jeffrey Archer (Nov)

Sue Townsend (Nov)

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  – OBITUARIES –

                  Bill Paxton (Mar)

                 Jerry Lewis (Aug)

                  Tom Petty (Oct)

            Charles Manson (Nov)

             Jana Novotna (Nov)

               Jim Nabors (Dec)

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– LITERARY EVENTS –

Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest (Mar)

Love Your Book Shop Day (August)

Brisbane Writer’s Festival (Sep)

Man Booker Prize (Oct)

Qld Book of the Year Award (Oct)

Qld Writer’s Centre 8 Word Story Comp (Nov)

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  OCCASIONS

Asteroid Florence Flys Past (Sept)

Halloween/ Brisbane Zombie Walk (Oct)

World Teacher’s Day (Oct)

Melbourne Cup (Nov)

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    THE ISSUES

Driving Tests (Jan)

Trump (Jan)

The Spirit of ‘Pay It Forward’ (Feb)

Cyclone Debbie (March)

Airlines’ Economy Minus Class (April)

Standard of Coffee Shop Service (May)

Same Sex Marriage Laws (Sep)

Cultural Stereotypes (Oct)

Phone Scammers (Nov)

Book Clubs (Dec)

Music Piracy (Dec)

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THE BONUS READS

Falling Like Dominos (Mine)Jan

The Rise & Fall of a Finger Dazzle Master (Mine)Feb

Done and Dusted (Mine)July

Unearthed (Mine)Sep

No Brain Pickers For Her! (Mine)Sep

Halloween Coming Out – Oct

Indigestible Books – Nov

Cupcake Mistake (Mine) -Nov

Piano Man (Mine) – Nov

Jumpin’ Jellyfish (Mine) – Dec

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      QUIZZES 

Famous Novel Covers (Jan)

First Billionaire Author (July)

Famous Novel Covers 2 (Sept)

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Weird! Wacky! Wow!

Awkward Author Photos (Jan)

Mad Magazine (April)

Opening Prisoners Letters (June)

The Amazing Anti-Wrinkle Removal Machine (June)

Inner vs Outer Beauty of Bananas (Aug)

Competitive Punning (Sept)

Band T-Shirts (Oct)

Letter From The Queen (Oct)

Old Quotes Notebook (Nov)

What’s Your Band Name? (Nov)

Hanging Out The Laundry (Dec)

Hamsters (Dec)

Like any year, 2017 came with its own variety of highs and lows – and I recorded a few of them on this blog. My car crash back in April with my seven-year old daughter inside at the time definitely served up one of life’s not so pleasant curve balls (no injuries sustained). But equally my first placed entry in the New Yorker Caption Competition in May was reason for celebration (considering it took me 105 consecutive weeks of trying!).

However there can be no doubt who the real star of SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK debut season has been. She of the wilting death stare – she of the elbows cocked, cage-fighter- worthy tough-walk – the one-of-a-kind stalking femme fatale of shopping centre carparks, the snarling and untamable devourer of innocent women and children – I speak of course of none other than Megan the Malpractising McDonald’s worker.

Anyone who’s been following this blog from at least as far back as July will remember my encounter with this evil-spell conjuring 18-year-old assistant McDonald’s manager based at Indooroopilly Shoppingtown and the wash up to the ‘inquiry’ that was launched to bring young Megan to account.

God that was a ride and a half! This ‘coke & fries’ flavoured little misadventure was the only topic during 2017 that somehow managed to stretch across three consecutive weeks of posting. If you’re reading this Megs, I have some none-too-original words of wisdom for you. Ready?  What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Actually, who am I kidding? Those words are for both of us Megan!

As to the bare stats for the first year of SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK, check out these little sprouting turnips for size –

Followers by year end – 141

Posts – 67

Comments – 454

 Total Views  of Posts – 4004

Total Views of the site itselfclose to 2000

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Most Popular Month for Page ViewsJuly

Most Popular Day for Page ViewsSaturday

Post with Most Views – Quiz Who is Publishing’s First Billionaire Author? (July)

Post with Most Comments – What’s your Band Name? (Nov)

Post with 2nd Most Comments – Top 50 Songs List (June)

Shortest Post – The very first.

Longest Post – You’re reading it.

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While figures like these won’t put me in the league of Kim Kardashian, Selena Gomez or celebrity gossip site TMZ any time soon, they are nonetheless MY figures, and at this particular juncture in time, I’m pretty proud of them. With in excess of 400 million blogs in operation throughout the world (with as much as 30% of that figure thought to include still registered blogs that have been abandoned after only weeks or months) I figure it’s only right I should leave some followers for the others. Right?

Now seems the perfect time to thank the people who’ve been along for the journey since back in January as well as those who’ve joined more recently. A special thank you must be extended to my already mentioned very first follower Matt Pavlak as well as the entire GASS crew. Without you guys I definitely wouldn’t have a blog, or if I did, it would be a very scaled down version of what is already a pretty humble little enterprise to begin with. I’d also like to acknowledge all the people from outside of Australia who have signed up to be followers of SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK as well as the professional authors who I’ve somehow managed to convince to allow their inbox’s to welcome my often rambling, pop-culture heavy posts. Last of all I’d like to thank my Mum who reads every post.

And with those words of recognition still rebounding pleasantly in your ears, if any of you are interested in signing up to my Platinum VIP Subscribers Package *, please just drop me a line! That goes for you too Mum!

Season One has been a lot of fun. I live in hope** that Season two will be just as wacky, just as trivial and self-absorbed and just as unflinching when it comes to tackling the big issues, like sorting why burgers and kebabs fall apart in your hand when you’re trying to eat them or why Siri can’t pronounce your name or identify a particular song title.

See you all on the other side (of 2017) for the mad-cap, (possibly) hilarious 2nd Season!

Capture 3* There is no Platinum VIP Subscribers Package. There is however a Gold VIP Subscribers Package and, sad to say, if you’re able to read these words now, you’re already signed up to it.

** I heard someone observe recently that “Despair is a walk in the park. It’s hope that kills you.” With that in mind, I will keep my expectations for SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK’s 2nd Season suitably contained.

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Ps. Don’t tell me you’ve waded through all that and you still want a bonus read? Alright, if you insist. This one is my lookback at another blogger’s year –

SEE IT HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can you stomach it?

 

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If your favourite food over this Xmas holiday period has been seconds, then at least one thing is certain – you’re not alone!

‘Tis the season when lapsed exercise routines and eating like an entitled King or Queen is what passes as normal. Around this time of year a lot of folk could list their hobbies as eating and complaining they’re getting fat.

But not if you’re the little furry guy pictured in the first frame above.

See, he’s got a neat trick involving using a certain part of his body to store up to half his body weight. I’ll tell you where and which body part in a moment.

First though, for the benefit of Aussie readers where this animal is not found, comes the education-scented portion of this post. Hamsters are members of the rodent family and are commonly found in parts of Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the U.S. There are 26 different species and they are a common household pet as well as laboratory animal. Hamsters are born blind and hairless and continue to have poor eyesight during their lifespan. Back in 2010, automobile maker Kia released a series of commercials featuring hamsters driving around in a new Kia Soul while other hamsters ran in place in their wheels. TASTE THE SILLY HERE

Now you’re knowledged up about hamsters, back to the question –

Where in their bodies can hamsters store half their own bodyweight?

Answer?

Their cheeks.

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Ps. Seasons greetings from everyone in South Korea (Population 51 million)

Lost in Space

Pss. At this time of year many people release their ‘Best Books of the Year’  lists.

This first list is from the staff at local West End bookshop AVID READER

SEE IT HERE

The second list is from the staff at U.S online site LIBRARYTHING

READ IT HERE

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