Tuesday, March 12, 2024

A Long-Cherished Ambition: *The River Quest*

 I wrote this novel in the 1970s, most likely the summer of '78, when I'd been through an English winter and discovered the joys of English spring, including not merely daffodils on the - hoof? wing? ground? but the glory of hyacinths - from the little wild blue grape type to the big cultivated white and purple and fuchsia/pink pinecone-shaped ones with the exquisite scent. So this novel, though it's a classic Quest that begins in a desert-land country in the crisis of a major drought, was first titled Hyacinths. 

Its earliest project was actually to write something that started, "Once Upon a Time," though it would be a kind of YA tale. As with The Lord of the Rings, that didn't survive the first chapter. Not only was I a strong devotee of said LotR, I was just through three years of researching a Punic War novel all round the Mediterranean. Gods, cosmologies and especially ancient Middle Eastern geography and history, were coming out my ears. TRQ was hence a delightfully stuffed compendium.  All that remained of the original project was a proposed tagline that promised "one monster per chapter."

Under whatever name, the novel languished in various formats, from type-written paper to various e-file incarnations, while I went on to write and eventually publish other fiction, until almost last year. It was never the right time, the right market, the right... Eventually, back with the writer's group of Book View Cafe, and determining to get as much of my fiction into view while I could, I returned to Hyacinths.

At that point I firmly decided the title wouldn't work, especially in the high -antasy-saturated 21st Century market, so after a good deal of to-ing and fro-ing I decided on the somewhat old-fashioned but accurate and identifiable new name of The River Quest. It did fit both the book and the illustration I eventually picked for the cover: somewhat old-fashioned, but striking, and not the usual current style.

Followed the protracted actual work of getting into print. First author edits, to sort out the punctuation and so on, then a beta reader, and more editing. Then, designing the actual cover - ie., with the text as well as the picture. Then the excitements of Ebook formatting, with which I was already somewhat familiar from Adventures with a Promethean. And the steeper learning curve of prepping a Print on Demand edition to go to Amazon, including working out the right paper size - in points of a centimeter -  for the interior material, and having someone design the full cover, with a spine, which is far beyond my modest abilities. 

Now, at last, it's out there. I look at the cover with some pleasure and more pride, and most of all, a deep satisfaction: that what began with, "Once upon a time" on a portable typewriter in a back room of a relation's house in Sussex, is now an actual novel, visible to readers. And the characters, who I rather disregarded in the original focus on monsters, are visible too. As an extra bonus, they have surprised me by remaining not merely credible, at least to me, but growing, nuanced, people in their own right. 

 You can find The River Quest in ebook form on Book View Cafe at 


You will need to Convert for a Kindle reader, and do NOT heed the outmoded label on the book page to choose Mobi for a Kindle. There isn't a Mobi edition, because Amazon don't use it any more.

 For the paper version, go direct to Amazon, here:


Thursday, March 7, 2024

Where the Cross Turns Over: Another Story Collection


The second and last short story collection for me. (There may be another novella omnibus, yet.) 

This one aimed to include all the stories that didn't make it into The Strangest Places for some reason, but largely because, as the sub-title states, they were in some way Australian-based.

As with Places, there's a mix of published and unpublished pieces. The back cover copy on the print edition explains the title, and describes the contents well enough:

"Old-time Australian drovers, walking cattle thousands of miles to market, are said to have planned their night-watches by the stars. 'Call me when the Cross turns over,' they would say, 'or when the Pointers are clear.'

These stories happen where the Cross turns over: a regional urban Australian backyard, a regional suburban housing development, a state capital, over a century ago; an Outback waterhole. Another regional townscape, whose characters end off-Earth, a future planed those fauna are, at the least, unusual. But even the Outback can prove . . . weird, here.

 Included here are "Slick," the first short story I ever published, and which still astonishes me when I happen to glance through it, "The Cretaceous Border," which is probably my *most* published story - two separate re-prints -  and "An Offer You Couldn't Refuse," probably the most fun to write, with its glances at so many SF tropes, from Spielberg-type flying saucers to IT geniuses and on to ETs. Then there's "The Sharp-Shooter," written for an antho whose proposition was a spacefaring colony that wants to live as if in the 18th Century, and "Due Care and Attention," which is actually historical fiction, though based round a real person, the first woman doctor in Brisbane, my state capital. Last but by no means least, and again built on a "real life" base, is "Acreage": it takes a look, through something like a horror trope, at one of the most bloody of Queensland murder cases, which remains unsolved to this day.

Looking over this collection, my first thought is, somewhat selfishly, how much fun I had writing them. I hope any readers will find a lot of "fun" - if not all funny-type fun - in reading them.

You can find Cross at Bookview Cafe for an ebook - you will need to Convert for Kindle reader, and do NOT heed the outmoded bookshop injunction to use Mobi for Kindle. There isn't a Mobi edition, because Amazon don't use it any more.


 And for the paperback version, direct to Amazon: