I’m delighted to report that my publisher Shooting Star Press has made my new book available for pre-order. Link below. Release date is June 7th. 🙂
Unfortunately, my next novel, Sovereign Assassin has been delayed by my publisher until the middle of the year.
My publisher is working to have it ready in time for the next Continuum Convention (especially if that convention will be held live this year). This will also give us more time to prepare the audiobook and ebook versions. On the plus side this will mean I can focus finalising the follow up to Colours of Death, the draft of which is done, but it needs a final proof read before submitting it to my publisher to see if they will take it on.
More updates to follow. 🙂
Recently, I had the honour of being asked to judge a writing competition. It was an interesting process. I was given the shortlisted (“highly commended”) stories – ie. was not involved in selecting them from the hundred+ entries in each category (thank goodness, that would have been a monumental task). So, what I was really being paid to do was to rank the stories. There were three categories to judge: a 12-14 year old, 15-17 and an adult category. I was given the top ten from each.
The stories were interesting. They certainly reflected 2020 and tended towards themes from the darker half of the spectrum. This led to me borrowing a phrase from The Offspring and exclaiming “the kids aren’t alright” when judging the 12-14 year-old category. Their stories revealed just how much lockdowns and doom and gloom media coverage has affected the youth over the last year. Nevertheless, it is good that they were able to process this through writing and express their thoughts so well in their stories. Not all were darkly themed, some were quite positive and unrelated to 2020.
As part of my judging I had to provide a written paragraph on each story justifying my ranking of the shortlist into the place-getters and highly commended. I’d like to emphasise that these were all good stories. None were unworthy of their shortlisting. However, reading through my notes revealed some common themes about what separated the winners.
The stories which didn’t make the place-getters often had a note (among others) along the lines of “the story ended too abruptly”. This wasn’t just a shock or twist ending problem, but rather stories which had emphasised world-building over action and wound up having less of a proper conclusion. It did seem like this was possibly due to the restrictive word count in their category (it was more common among the non-adult writer categories). Some stories read like the first chapter of a book, so didn’t work as well when read as a short story. Some had conclusions which didn’t match rest of the tale, either by someone acting inconsistently, a switch of focus or contradictions to earlier events (not in an unreliable narrator kind of way, but a plot hole problem).
The better stories were complete tales, even if they left open the possibility of further events in that world. They tended to be more economical with their use of words, had different to usual take on something and produced an emotional response.
The task of judging the stories took longer than I expected as I kept re-reading them. There was a lot of ‘um and ahhing’ over whether a story was ranked first, second, or third. Most of the time the third spot had three stories which were hard to separate competing for the spot. That is a testament to the quality of the stories submitted for the competition, but also to how there is a level of personal opinion in the ranking. For this competition, if you weren’t a place-getter, but highly commended, you gave me a headache in deciding that.
After the awards had been announced I was talking to a writer friend said she had entered the competition. She had previously shared her story with the writers group we belong to. It was a personal, heartfelt, utterly authentic, and dramatic story which, when I read it, stirred up many emotions. I would have had a hard time keeping it out of the place-getters. However, it hadn’t been shortlisted by the selection panel. Which reinforces how subjective such a process is. So, if you entered the competition (or any competition) and weren’t shortlisted, it’s not a comment on your story or you as a writer, but a reflection of the panel/judges tastes.
It takes a lot of courage to enter a writing competition, so kudos to everyone who entered this year, whether shortlisted or not.
2020 was hard, but not without some positives. My family dynamic actually improved over two rounds of lockdown, I started a PhD, and I signed a publishing contract. This latter achievement was a big deal for me and felt like vindication for the effort I’ve put into my fiction writing for the last decade. I submitted to 6 publishers and got two requests for the full manuscript, so that was encouraging too. It was fun to reply to three who hadn’t replied to me with a follow up email to please withdraw the manuscript from consideration. The novel is called Sovereign Assassin and is about an assassin who gets her own reality TV show. It’s a satirical thriller. Yesterday, my publisher revealed the cover, so I thought I’d share it too. Here’s what they said:
Shooting Star Press is very happy to start off 2021 with GREAT NEWS!!! We are thrilled to be welcoming author Robert New to the SSP family! Keep an eye out for his first release with us, ‘Sovereign Assassin’ due out Easter 2021!
Due a weird conflux of having two books out with editors and catching up on my day job as a teacher over the school holidays, this weekend I found myself bored and with time on my hands.
I wound up painting an artwork. This is my first time doing such a thing for myself. The artwork is straightforward a block of black 3.0 surrounded by white 2.0. That’s it. But, like most artwork, it is the story behind/about the artwork which is what brings it to life.
A story I wrote for my forthcoming sequel to Colours of Death involved me researching colour, in particular Black 3.0 and White 2.0, both paints created by Stuart Semple for CultureHustle.
I was fascinated by the story behind the creation of the paints. A few years ago a blacker black was created. Known as Vantablack, it was the blackest known substance (absorbing 99.96% of light). However, Anish Kapoor bought the rights to it, thereby preventing the art world from using this incredible product. Out of spite, Stuart Semple created Black 2.0 and then Black 3.0. Black 3.0 absorbs 99% of light (regular black paint is about ~90%). It’s the blackest freely available paint on the market. What I particularly loved was that when I went to buy some I had to sign that I was not Anish Kapoor, nor associated with him in any way.*
This led me to ponder the broad intellectual debate as to whether or not a colour should be ownable. Semple refers to people/organisations which have tried to control certain colours as colour criminals*2
It’s an interesting concept. I mean if you invent a process to create a pigment then do you have the right to control that? In 2009, a new blue pigment was accidentally created as the byproduct of research into multiferroics. YInMn Blue (for yttrium, indium, manganese) is the name given to the pigment, which has at least been made available under licence. But what if someone wanted to own a specific colour? Would it be ethical for a colour to be controlled by one person or group? Given much of the fine arts are about use of colour what impact would this have on artists?
I’m not going to attempt a full argument along these lines, but I think the questions are worth thinking about. For what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s ethical to control the use of colour.
Among the main protagonists, the debate is at times a heated one, but it’s not without a sense of humour. For example, Stuart Semple makes his glow-in-the-dark pigment (called LIT) available for free to Anish Kapoor, so that he can see the light.*3
*Here is the text:
Note: By adding this product to your cart you confirm that you are not Anish Kapoor, you are in no way affiliated to Anish Kapoor, you are not purchasing this item on behalf of Anish Kapoor or an associate of Anish Kapoor. To the best of your knowledge, information and belief this material will not make it’s way into the hands of Anish Kapoor.
*2 here is the text about them:
Why are the colour criminals banned?
- Anish Kapoor & the creators of Vantablack for hoarding the material and for generally being rotters.
- Dupont for the imprisonment of tech consultant Walter Liew for espionage, after he stole and sold blueprints for their secret titanium white process for over $30million.
- T-Mobile & its parent company Deutsche Telekom for claiming magenta as their own and suing small businesses for using it.
- Scientists at ISIS Neutron and Muon Source who are in the process of investigating polar bear fur, insect scales and fathers for industrial and commercial applications.
- 3M for their ownership of Canary Yellow.
- Daniel Smith, for buying up the last reserves of quinacridone Gold pigment in the world, so that only they would be able to sell it to artists.
*3 Especially Anish Kapoor. If you are Anish Kapoor, can prove you are associated with Anish Kapoor or to the best of your knowledge information and belief this substance is going to make it’s way into the hands of Anish Kapoor, your order will be free! We want you to know how lovely it feels to #shareTheLight
My book Colours of Death: Sergeant Thomas’ Casebook was released just on a year ago. I’m pleased to say it has sold over 500 copies in that time. A reasonable portion of those came from my most recent 99c promotion. I used a few different promoters this time and whether it was just the fact that my book was new to their lists or that they are just better lists, it was my most successful promotion ever. I sold over 150 copies. This was enough to put me on a bestseller list. That’s me at #6, outselling Sherlock!
“It’s an anthology of detective stories, following the same detective and following the theme of colours. Each story has a different colour as the title and that colour is plays a role in the mystery. It was great. I love the ingenuity of the author in figuring out some of the deaths. I’d never thought of any of those methods before so each one was a real eye-opener.”
“So, do I recommend it? Oh, definitely.”
You can read the full review here: https://www.suzs-space.com/colours-of-death-robert-new/
I’m pleased to report I’ve now written seven out of a planned nine stories for a sequel collection. I’m really happy with how the stories are turning out, even in first draft form. It’ll probably take me another month or two to write the last stories, but hopefully I’ll be able to get the book in ‘time for the editor’ shape by the end of the year. Who knows, maybe it’ll even be able to be out in time for the next Continuum, which I can only hope will run (& in a world which has eliminated covid).
TL/DR: a prebiotic (not probiotic) called inulin can help you get more restful (and longer) sleep.
Most people will have heard the usual “rules” for getting better sleep – consistent bedtime and wake time, no devices for an hour or two before sleeping, no late snacks, no coffee after 3pm and so on. These have helped me, but other than making it easy for me to fall asleep, they haven’t improved the quality of my sleep.
Last year I caught the end of a Michael Mosley documentary The Truth About Sleep. At the end of the video (from 45.55min) he and some colleagues experiment with ways of improving sleep from meditation, warm bath, eating two kiwi fruit and taking a prebiotic.
The prebiotic was rated as 9/10 as a sleep aid. Take it an hour before going to sleep.
Don’t confuse prebiotics with probiotics which are found in yoghurts and the like. The difference is that probiotics are the good bacteria (in your gut) and prebiotics are like their food. Prebiotics, in particular, inulin, are what was being trialed (also don’t confuse it with the similarly named hormone, insulin, they are not related). Inulin is readily available from health food shops and online retailers. I was able to buy a pack by visiting the shopping centre near my work. From memory it was about AU$14 for the packet. I’ve since bought larger packs for ~AU$24 inc shipping.
The very first night I took it – I started with a third of a teaspoon – I had noticeably more dream filled sleep. Within a week I noticed I was much calmer overall and my mind didn’t race as much. I also slept longer, when sleeping past 6.30am wasn’t usually something I could do.
I finished the pack after a couple of months, and didn’t get around to replacing it as I was sleeping well (and had started long service leave which meant I was less stressed). That is until this year and all the complications it has wrought, made me need to get my sleep back under control. I ordered another pack (online) and have been back using inulin over the last month and once again I concur with Michael Mosley’s findings in his documentary. It has helped me get the mentally refreshing sleep I remember having as a child. An unexpected consequence is that I’ve stopped craving chocolate and coffee throughout the day like I used to – as though my sweet tooth has been turned off.
If I know I need to get up early for something, I stop taking inulin a two or three days beforehand and then have no trouble getting up at an earlier time. On the whole though, I find I naturally get an extra hour to ninety minutes sleep each night I take inulin.
I recently had some friends who are insomniacs try it with the same result. For them that was near miraculous.
Inulin is a cheap, readily available, safe (though like any food an allergic response is possible) and, in my opinion, an effective sleep aid. I’m not a doctor; this isn’t medical advice; see your doctor if symptoms persist.
I’ve since read some of the research on inulin (I’m a PhD student and have access to journal articles, links to research abstracts are at the end of this post).
Most studies have been done on rats, so take the following with a grain of salt.
Inulin supplementation has been found to:
– Increase the duration of sleep
– Increase the amount of REM sleep (the mentally refreshing sleep)
– Reduce sugar cravings (through improved sleep)
– Better memory of your dreams.
– Increase life expectancy (in rats when 10% of their lifelong diet is made up of it)1
– Improve cognitive performance and lower stress (in rats when taken for two weeks, at a significant dose)2
– Improve bone structure in lactating female rats3
– Improve intestinal flora with many positive consequences on things like digestion, cholesterol, bones and inflammation (many human studies)4
I am curious about other people’s experience supplementing with inulin. If you have tried it, please leave a comment below.
– Start with a small dose. The pack might say to work up to full teaspoons or even several teaspoons. I’ve never needed to use more than half a teaspoon. Using more just makes me gassy upon waking up and didn’t have any additional benefit in terms of sleep quality.
– This doesn’t help you get to sleep as it doesn’t make you drowsy, however, it will make you sleep longer and get more mentally refreshing sleep.
– It tastes good. It’s about one tenth to one third the sweetness of sugar. You can mix it with water, juice, milk or other drinks.
– It can cause intense dreams. If you have nightmares, it can make them worse (also worth noting if you’re going to give it to children). On the plus side, there is research evidence you will have better memory of your dreams while taking inulin.
– Commercial inulin is usually extracted from chicory or artichoke. I’ve only used ones extracted from artichoke.
– I found the zip pack started clumping due to the zip never quite working properly. I’ve since bought a small tub and that’s remained powdery, so I recommend that if possible.
– It helps my kids sleep in on the weekend, so we can too. 🙂
1Effects of lifelong intervention with an oligofructose-enriched inulin in rats on general health and lifespan
Rozan, Pascale ; Nejdi, Amine ; Hidalgo, Sophie ; Bisson, Jean-françois ; Desor, Didier ; Messaoudi, Michaël
British Journal of Nutrition, 2008, Vol.100(6), pp.1192-1199
2Behavioural and cognitive effects of oligofructose-enriched inulin in rats
Messaoudi, Micha??l ; Rozan, Pascale ; Nejdi, Amine ; Hidalgo, Sophie ; Desor, Didier
British Journal of Nutrition, 2005, Vol.93(S1), pp.S27-S30
3Maternal Dietary Supplementation with Oligofructose-Enriched Inulin in Gestating/Lactating Rats Preserves Maternal Bone and Improves Bone Microarchitecture in Their Offspring.
Bueno-Vargas, Pilar ; Manzano, Manuel ; Diaz-Castro, Javier ; Lopez-Aliaga, Inmaculada ; Rueda, Ricardo ; Lopez-Pedrosa, Jose Maria
PLoS ONE, April 26, 2016, Vol.11(4)
4Significance of Inulin Fructans in the Human Diet
Schaafsma, Gertjan ; Slavin, Joanne L.
Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, January 2015, Vol.14(1), pp.37-47
My son, Michael and I wrote a book together. It’s available for sale as of today. This is my most important book, because of what it meant to produce something like that with Michael. It was a fun project to work on together. I’ve recently written a post on how you can do this too. The book can be purchased from most online retailers, including Amazon (US, AU, UK), Readings and Book Depository
Here we are seeing it for the first time. The eagle-eyed among you will notice in this proof copy Michael’s name isn’t on the cover. That’s because he insisted I leave it off as “Daddy had done all the hard work putting it together.” However, his Mum and I were eventually able to convince him his name belonged on there and this remains the only copy without it! Here’s the real cover:
Michael worked with me on the story, storyboard and feedback for the illustrator. He also chose the landscape design. Michael was so enthused when we received the proof copy that he spontaneously started reading it to his sister. The story is about Eddy the echidna who digs up a treasure chest and tries to get it open with his friends from the Australian bush. We set the book at Michael’s grandmother’s house in Peterborough, Victoria. We often go there for holidays and have seen all the animals in the book there at one time or another.
Later that night, instead of the usual reading we do, he wanted to write a sequel and began talking about writing a series of adventures starring the animal characters we’d created.
I’ve never seen my son write a story. I knew he could type a little bit from watching him put commands into Minecraft. However, this was the first time I’d seen him write imaginatively. To say it warmed my heart is an understatement. Writing is something I’m passionate about, and to see Michael enjoying something I love was one of those moments I dreamed I would have from the moment I knew I was going to be a parent. That’s why this book means so much to me.