I came across a new feature of WordPress that allows me to convert my posts into podcasts. This is so cool from an accessibility stand point. So now people can listen to a robot ramble on and on instead of having to read it!
To celebrate this awesome (new?) thing, I have converted chapter one of Beneath the Grandstand – for free! Click the play button below to listen.
I’ll update my site to have its very own podcast page. Meanwhile, you can also subscribe to it on whichever platform you choose to listen on:
Today was the big day!
I dragged my butt out of bed at 4:30am, packed Davo’s car, and we headed off to market. Thankfully the roads are somewhat abandoned at 5:30 in the morning, so we were making good time.
Until I sent us the wrong way and we ended up on the M4 motorway heading towards Penrith!!
Thankfully we were able to get off at Wallgrove rd and back track, and made it to the market with plenty of time to spare.
I was most impressed by how well this market is run. There were signs out already, directing us where to go, and the staff were most helpful and organised. In no time, we had our space and were able to set up. I hired a marquee just in case it rained, and soon had our little stall ready to rock.
We went a little QR code crazy seeing as they are cool again, then sat back and waited.
Sadly, there wasn’t nearly as much foot traffic as usual. Of the 138 pre-booked sites, only 55 turned up. The threat of rain was enough to warn off most stall holders and even visitors, not to mention Covid. The day ended up being hot as buggery and not a drop of rain. It was lovely that a few people dropped in to say hi and have a chat, but sadly we didn’t get the chance to meet many others.
This occasion has been a great learning experience. We now know the busiest days of the year, and have agreed that we need more signage to help pull customers in. No one could see our bundle deals from the walkway, so we’re looking into big signs that say ‘Meet the Author’ and ‘Meet the Director’. We also want a sign to say ‘support independent artists’.
For those who are worried about planning events and having no one show: there is always a possibility that you won’t get a single visitor or sale. Take a friend with you and turn the whole thing into something positive. There is nothing wrong with not drawing a single customer; this means you now have valuable market research data, and can analyse it to better target your audience.
We learnt today that the two main demographics were mostly non-English speaking folk, who were there to buy antiques and bargains, not queer books and films. We came at the wrong time of the year and didn’t stand out enough.
I’ll be uploading some hot specials to my store over the next couple of days. so keep your eyes tuned and don’t miss out!
Now that Covid restrictions are lessening here in Sydney, my film director friend and I have decided that it’s time to host a meet and greet. Due to Fair Day being cancelled this year, we’ve had to look outside the box for ideas.
We’ve decided to book a stall at the Blacktown Drive-in Market!
To visit the Facebook event page, click HERE.
Now that work has finally settled down into a quiet normalcy, I have more time, energy and brain power to get some writing done. I’m pleased to say I’ve just passed 15,000 words in The Darkest Realm 3.0, and it’s coming along rather well. Better than the previous two attempts, that is.
I am currently working on Chapter 6 of TDR 3.0. This chapter is set in the desert city of Sepheren, which obviously doesn’t have a lot of water. Those who have read The Lowest Realm would have noticed that the cities on Kia-Mor all have running water and plumbed latrines. There is enough flowing water for that luxury.
In the dry arid lands of the Lorendian Desert, though, water comes at a premium. The people draw it from wells that reach deep into the bowels of the earth. Therefore, when building this city, I realised I couldn’t have the usual plumbed loos. I also didn’t want to make this city a cliche desert city – I wanted something different, that draws the reader into a fascinating new land. I do feel that I need to mention the different latrines in this city, seeing as Nika is from our world and won’t appreciate the open Roman model loos.
This is where research gets a bit shit (pun intended). My searching today has been ancient toilet systems, and methods for wiping. Honestly, I wish I could bleach my eyes from some of the images I came across! I toyed with the idea of having the public latrines outside and letting the turds dry in the sun, but that clearly wasn’t an option.
I’ve decided that I’ll go with the above Roman style systems, only instead of the ick being washed away or manually removed, it will have a free drop into the desert gorge that the city is built on the edge of. ‘Wiping’ will be a cloth rag which can be cleaned afterwards in vinegar. There is no sharing of such rags, we don’t want to spread germs like in Ancient Rome.
I know this is a gross subject, but for writers, we often have to think of things like this in order to keep our writing realistic. Using the restroom is a natural and essential function of our bodies, and we don’t always have flushing toilets available. I for one will forever be grateful of our current technology of flushing loos, and the marvel that is toilet paper!!
Take care all.
I woke up this morning to find that I’d been tagged in a post on Twitter. After checking my notifications, I was chuffed to read that Beneath the Grandstand was one of Kyler Warhol’s Top 9 fave books of 2020!
Click HERE to see their Top 9 Books post.
Here is their original review of BtG:
Does the synopsis sound interesting? You have no idea of what awaits within these pages, let me tell you! This story is powerful, moving, sexy and cute, but also had me about to collapse more than once. The topics included make it heavy and darker than you may expect. I admit I had my doubts about it before and thought it would just a romanticized story of loss and trauma, but it’s healthy and cute AF.
Reading was painful, and I couldn’t stop more than a bit just to catch my breath and keep going. I couldn’t handle the need to know what would happen, how everything would end, while the characters made me fall in love with them. There is every single type of people you may expect, not only the good ones but also the jerks and the ones you wish you never get to know.
The author has a great style that puts a spell on you from page one. The descriptions, the emotions, the feelings, the insight you get into Cameron’s head, his problems, his very soul and core makes it impossible not to love him! I just wish the ending had been a bit different, because while I loved that plot twist (you will never see that coming, never!) it was left a bit on the air. Just a few loose ends that I didn’t catch that much.. That aside, you need to read this, people!
Reading Beneath the Grandstand, by Amy-Alex Campbell, was a big experience. It is filled with drama, cuteness, a bit of kink, but lots of humanity and understanding. You will see homeless people differently after you are done with this book, because it’s a merciless attack to every single thing you think you know about them. It may be a bit idealized, if you ask me, but with an undenyable power.For full post visit: https://kylerbwarhol.blogspot.com/2020/11/book-review-beneath-grandstand.html?m=1&zx=d89ce4f5897d5996
I just wanted to say a big thank you to Kyler for both the review and the tag. Reviews are so important for indie authors, and each honest review is greatly appreciated 💜
Seeing all my friends post their wrap-ups on 2020 on Facebook has put me in a somewhat reflective mood. Along with posting my own goals and achievements, I’ve been looking back at this time last year.
One of the photos that jumped out at me was a photo of my nephew and his cousin, both decorating a cupcake at a Lions Club stall. There are several bowls of sugary decorations and icing, that any of the kids can put their hand in, not to mention lack of social distancing. There are kids from different families, all just mingling and having fun. The virus was nothing but a news mention at that time.
Another thing that prompted my reminiscing was a comment I wrote in last year’s notes for work. Over the last couple of weeks (last year), we were facing a thick, choking, blanket of toxic smoke here in Sydney. The smoke was coming into the shopping center where I work, and was making me feel sick.
I vividly remember calling center management and telling them about the smoke. I told them I was feeling ill and my customers were complaining. I also made a call to my company’s health and safety team and let them know. After around an hour, the smoke finally cleared. I presume center management eventually turned on the exhaust fans. Seriously though, I never should have been forced to make that call.
Funny thing to add here. Yesterday, a year after that disaster, I received a memo stating an upgrade to those very fans will be taking place over the next few weeks. I guess it’s the old prepper saying: Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
I went through my photos from December 2019, and found some of the ones I took of the smoke. Earlier, I went outside and recreated those images so you can see the stark differences. Last year we had smoke, heat, and bushfires, this year we have clearer air and rain.
Below, we have 2019 vs 2020. The images are 100% unedited – note the lack of birds and the sepia tones – this is how everything looked. Now, the air is clear and the birds are back with a vengeance.
We had bushfires, covid, lockdown, more covid, and in some areas, floods. Overseas, we’ve seen volcanoes, earthquakes, cyclones, explosions, conflict, and uncontrolled spread of covid. To say in the very least, it has been a challenging year for humanity.
Many people believe that 2021 will be the end of all that misery, but I for one will reserve judgment until I see improvement with my own eyes. It will be a long time until the vaccine has been tested enough to be deemed safe – as in for those on complicated and strong medications that haven’t been tested whether or not will clash with the vaccine.
It will be an even longer time until there is a cure for covid.
2021 is just another year, which will bring in a new set of challenges that we must face together. Maybe this will be the year of the mighty bin chickens becoming our bird overlords.
On that note, may 2021 be your year. Make it the year you want it to be. Be kind, be positive, and let’s all make the world a slightly better place. Together.
‘Twas six more sleeps before Santa arrived, to distribute all the material objects that seem to make children so happy. The shopping centers were filled with frantic folk, doing the last of their Christmas shopping, and buying up as much toilet paper as they could. Another Covid cluster, growing by the day, had people nervous and on edge.
For some, work is over for the year, granting them two weeks off to enjoy the season and their families. For those in retail, though, shit is just about to hit the fan. The last few days, with extended opening hours and more and more stressed customers, was less amusing than a boil in the butt crack. You see, while Christmas is magical and blessed for some people, for those behind the register, it’s a nightmare. Retail sucks what little magic is left from the soul, and leaves one feeling both exhausted and resentful.
This year was no exception. With the news of the fresh cluster and borders being slammed shut, she knew she would not get her one Christmas wish. For all she wanted this year was to see her family, to hug her parents and rekindle her love of the occasion.
Each and every day, she would hear customers’ plans for Christmas. Most of them were grumbles about seeing family and having to cook, or grumbles for going to so-and-so’s for Christmas day. Very few people seem to appreciate their family; for them, Christmas is about giving and receiving gifts, and eating a big meal. Whatever happened to the true – non-religious version – spirit of Christmas?
She found herself pondering daily. Is retail really worth it? Is slogging one’s guts out for the company’s shareholders really that rewarding, when the only day we get off is Christmas day? Where’s our magical Christmas?
Thankfully, not all customers were horrible. There in Western Sydney, she was used to serving people from different cultures and religious backgrounds. With a smile, she remembered fondly a conversation she had with a customer a few years back.
“My family and I moved here from India a few years ago. While we still celebrate our cultural holidays and traditions, I make it a rule in my household to also celebrate Australian holidays and traditions. This is our home now, so we must become a part of the community. Isn’t that what it’s all about?”
Meanwhile, an older couple, perhaps in their seventies, walked into the store. She watched as the man gazed around in arrogant wonder, before glancing at her behind the register.
“It’s so good to hear Christmas carols playing in a store!” This man looked as though he wanted a pat on the back.
“To be honest, the same three albums on loop are tedious after a day or two. The same songs every few hours. I wish could blend them with some other music.” She sighed.
“No, it’s good to hear the carols. Every other store is too afraid to offend anyone!!” He proclaimed.
She stared at him.
She looked across at the Muslim lady wearing a full covering, humming along to ‘Jingle Bell Rock’.
She looked at the Indian family picking out Secret Santa gifts.
She looked at the Bangladesh lady struggling to read a sign to determine what on earth the item was in her hands.
She looked back at the arrogant old white man before her, and stared at him blankly.
With a start of realisation, he turned around in a huff and dragged his wife from the store. Like, seriously?!
Before she could even shake her head at the stupidity of the man, the Bangladeshi lady approached the counter. She could not speak English, but made hand gestures to indicate that she wanted to know if the item was for boy or girl.
“This one for boy, it’s a lunch box. $24.95, after discount, $19.95.” She tried the explain.
The woman stared, the words clearly meaningless. Her eyes reflected her confusion, the dimness of misunderstanding within.
“Buy this one. Ten dollar. Better gift for boy,” she offered instead, pointing at a more appropriate gift. She could see that the woman was still confused, but smiled and nodded.
The woman paid and managed a thank-you.
There. Was it really so hard to be nice to people from other countries?
The next person in line looked purposefully at the other woman leaving, then plonked their items on the counter.
“How did you know that gift was more appropriate than the one she brought up to the counter?” They asked curiously. “I don’t mean this in a racist way, but I couldn’t understand her at all.”
“Mate. I have been in retail for 18 years. This is a kid’s store, so:
“A. She’s here for a kid’s gift. This brand is well known all over the world, even in her country. So she knows she’s in the right store.
“B. When you have been doing this job as long as I have, you learn the international sign language that indicates boy, girl, roughly how old they are, and so on. She was shopping for six year old boy for his birthday, but wasn’t sure if that lunchbox was right. She thought it was a pencil case, so I suggested a more suitable option.
“C. She may not speak English, but we were still able to communicate. Just because we don’t speak the same language, it doesn’t mean she’s stupid and can be taken advantage of. I treated her just as I would treat any other customer.”
“You can really tell all of that just by a few hand gestures?” The customer looked awed.
“Yep. Just like I can see that you are buying for a boy and girl, presumably around 5 or 6 years of age.”
“Oh wow, you’re good!”
“In that case, I have these balls here on special for $4 each. They are so much fun, you should get them one each. They’ll love playing with them.” Her eyes glinted mischievously.
“Oh ok, sure thing.”
The customer paid for their goods, and she packed them in two separate bags and handed them over with the receipt. The customer was oblivious to her sly upsell technique; anyone who works retail knows about KPIs an such.
“There you go. Have a Merry Christmas, and make sure you spread the kindness around. The world needs as much kindness as possible right now. Bye bye.”
As the customer left, she leant on her elbows on the counter and stared out of the doorway. Sure, Christmas sucked for her, but she would not be grumpy about it and spread bitterness amongst her customers. She knew that her own attitude, and the way she treats others, has the potential to make or break someone’s day. The least she could do was serve them with a smile, and give them the best experience possible. Maybe, just maybe, she could be the magic that gives someone a very special, merry, Christmas.
Another bloody Christmas is here.
I know I should feel excited, and show my festive spirit or whatever it’s called. But this year, I’m being a grinch. There is only one gift I want this year, and it’s not some cheap junk, a dvd or electronic device you can buy in a store. It’s expensive, or should I say priceless?
All I want for Christmas this year is to have a few days off to visit my family interstate, and be able to wake up on Christmas day to spend it with them. Due to Covid and lockdowns in Victoria, I haven’t seen them since March, just before NSW locked down. I had planned a trip there in November, but the border was still closed. To say I felt isolated was an understatement.
I know some people had it worse, and my hearts go out to them. It has been a trying experience for us all, and I am not trying to gain sympathy here. Even were the border open, I still would not risk exposing my family to Covid.
Family is the most important thing to me, and always will be. Working in retail, our soul gets drained as we are blasted with 9 hours of non-stop Christmas carols on loop. There is very little enjoyment, getting screamed at by Karens in the queue, having kids mess up the displays we did two minutes ago, and people trying to steal whatever they can get their hands on. After a few years the magic dissipates, and it’s sad. The only magic for me is spending time with my family, those who love me for who I am, and whom I love back. Christmas is about being together with those we love, not fighting through crowds just to get presents for people they probs won’t even use.
I’m barely ok this December. It’s been hard these last two weeks, a real struggle if I’m honest. I won’t go into details, but life happens and my mental health suffers as a result. Once again, I know some people have it much worse. These things are temporary, we will get through it (just hopefully sooner rather than later).
So whatever you do to celebrate this year, please try and do a random act of kindness every day, be it in the supermarket or shopping center, or wherever, and try and spread some true Christmas spirit. Because you never know what someone is going through, especially at this time of year.
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays to the other religions also celebrating at this time of year. Much love to you all <3
It’s been a while since I’ve posted. Given the ramp up in retail as Christmas approaches, I’ve been having a small break while trying to keep my sanity.
Thankfully for relaxed Covid restrictions, we were able to get away and head out West for a few days during November, and do some site-seeing. It was such a nice break after the crazy year we’ve had.
I must admit, after the release of Beneath the Grandstand, I’ve been feeling a little uninspired. I have ideas, but after the success of BtG, I feel like I need to step up my game a bit. This short trip has certainly given me some fresh perspectives (and air!), and I have been able to start outlining my next project.
But I digress. During the trip, we visited Bathurst and Mudgee, and stayed with family in Kandos. For anyone who doesn’t know, Kandos and surrounds are just south-westish from the Blue Mountains, and is absolutely beautiful to visit. There is a lot of history out this way, and so many old buildings that have stood the test of time.
I was also super lucky that Mother Nature put on a spectacular storm while we were visiting Mudgee! And so I shall add all of my photos below for a treat.
As many people know, I love storms (so long as I’m under cover), and I love tracking them via weather maps. I was tracking them this day, and managed to capture a cyclone that didn’t quite touch down! It was right in the middle of Mudgee, so luckily it didn’t fully form. The sudden icy-cold and strong winds that hit just before we ducked inside was freaky – it was an almost instant change.
We got to see a lot of old buildings too. We visited the tiny historic towns of Sofala and Lue as well, which didn’t disappoint.
And, as always, I love taking photos of flowers and nature.
And finally, no trip is ever complete without photos of an old train station.
All up, we travelled 342.3km / 212.7 miles. Every time I come here, I get to see something that I haven’t seen previously. This area is truly a hidden gem.
As luck would have it, as we drove home through Capertee, we spotted another old train station down a side street, so we back tracked and went to have a look. A photographer from the local paper was there, and I realised an old historical train was due to pass through. We hung around for a bit, and were not disappointed.
I’m not sure when I’ll be releasing my next book. I’ve briefly outlined a plot which didn’t grab me, so I’m still tweaking it and mulling it over. Eventually, it will hit me and I’ll be able to start writing. I’m also rebuilding The Darkest Realm from scratch, and might even redesign the map. It’s such a lot of work, but I know it will be worth it when it’s finally done and released.
Take care everyone <3
OMG, It’s finally here!!!! Thanks so much to all of you who pre-ordered a paperback or eBook. The paperbacks are still slightly delayed due to Covid, but I should hopefully get them tomorrow. They are in the local AusPost facility where they have been all day.
With any new release, it’s always interesting sitting back and reading the reviews as they come through. While I always engage with beta readers before publishing to ‘test drive’ the story, the opinions from the public domain are always so different. These people are reading for fun, not because they have to provide feedback to the writer. I’ve already had three reviews for BtG, and I almost teared up as I read them.
This book is different. Sure, it’s a romance, but it’s so much more than a typical romance. It contains a number of ouch themes, which I think I handled rather well:
* Mental health
* Childhood abuse
* Toxic relationships
I am so proud of this book. It is way different compared to Catalogue of Disaster; I want each of these books to be separate stories that can be read alone, with no pressure for the reader to read them in order. Where CoD is short, a quick-fire romance, BtG is slow and drawn out over several years, and delves deep into the characters and story.
Unfortunately, due to life being an arsehole, I had to cancel my editor appointment in December for The Darkest Realm. I’m still stuck on 31k words, and once again I hate it. It’s not moving at the pace I’d like, nor is it going where I wanted it. It needs a LOT of work on fleshing out the back stories and getting it right. I know some fans are waiting for book 2, but I want to write something they will love.
I have a few ideas for more Marsden Park books, but at the moment I’m in a slight slump. My muse is broken and my inspiration escaped out of the door before I could close it in time. But those who read my post on writer’s block will know that I am not giving up, I’m just approaching it from a different angle until I get things right.
Anywho, that’s all for the moment. I’m off on leave soon for a week, so watch this space for a travel blog 😀