A few years ago, just before my wife and I were heading to Europe for a four month holiday we had been planning for years, the two of us went to Comic-con in Melbourne. It remains the best one we ever went to. The guests were terrific that year, we were able to sit in on so many great Q&A’s and see some really amazing stuff. But the thing that made it extra special to us was meeting Billy Boyd.  

It’s no surprise that I am a massive fan of the LOTR movies and Billy’s performance of Pippin is flawless. In person he really does seem like the exact same character! His laughter is infectious and his take on life is so refreshingly wonderful. Lining up to get his autograph, my wife and I were watching the people before us step up, say a few words, get his signature and move on. As our turn approached, my excitement grew. Honestly, I was more excited than any other star I had met at a Comicon, including William Shatner.

We stepped up and handed over the picture of Pippin we wanted to get signed and I decided to ask Billy a question. The first stop in our four month trip was going to be Scotland for a few weeks, as we were flying into Edinburgh. So I told Billy this and asked if he had any particular recommendations for two travelers visiting his homeland. Well…

Billy’s eyes lit up, he looked up with a gleaming smile and turned the picture we had given him around. The excitement with which he talked to us about his favourite spots and recommendations will stay with us forever. As he explained where to go and what to see he drew us a tiny map that sits in the frame right above my computer, a little easter egg that you would only see if you took the picture out.    

Billy’s Map

Whilst the people in line behind us were clearly peeved at us spending close to 5 minutes talking to Billy, it is a moment that has had such an influence in our lives. On our trip we stopped off at his recommendations and drank the whisky he claimed was the best. Scotland remains one of our major highlights and we have BIlly to thank for that. To this day we almost always have a bottle of Balvenie Doublewood in our cabinet and each time we have a glass we remember that day and the joy he brought us.


Project Isles


Sunset at Meteora

What do you do after almost four months of travelling? Apart from shake the inevitable post-holiday depression, you either quit your day job and decide you want to travel for the rest of your life, or you try and find something to fill the void. As much as I loved my post trilogy trip, I am glad to be back on home soil, catching up with familiar faces and sleeping in my own bed! So my eyes have turned to the future. To the next project.

I have been asked many times since returning home whether my journey through the UK and Europe sparked a wealth of new story ideas in my over imaginative mind. My response is generally along the lines of, “Does a cow moo?” How could a fantasy writer not be inspired by the mists hanging over the Scottish highlands, or the clouds casting shadows over the many castles in England and France?

Scotland 1

The Fairy Pools – Isle of Skye

I have always loved Europe and nothing has changed. Everywhere you look there is history. Each corner turned presents stunning landscapes and ancient ruins. The entire continent has such an air of ‘significance’ that I could spend years exploring and learning. I say significance in that so much of the modern world was shaped by actions and events which began in central Europe. Australia is a relatively new country in the eyes of the human race. We have outstanding landscapes and architecture, but we cannot compete when it comes to the cultural wealth of Europe and the UK.


Stop everything you are doing and go to Granada!

In the time since finishing the Valerious Chronicles I have made a point of turning my mind away from writing. So much of my mental effort and time has been spent on working on these books over the last few years that I had almost forgotten how to relax and enjoy my other hobbies. I’ve been reading more books and comics, playing video games again and finding more time for board games and other social activities.

Downton abbey

Yes – This is Downton Abbey

Nevertheless I cannot help but continue to take notes and email myself the ideas that pop into my head at random times. My inbox is full of them. So I am happy to announce that my next book idea has already begun to form. All I will say at this stage is that it will be a single novel in the fantasy genre, and that it will in no way be linked to the Valerious Chronicles.

I will be referring to it as “Project Isles” for now and as the idea develops I will try to document my progress from idea to novel in this blog. It is highly exciting for me to have a completely clean slate and I am truly looking forward to engaging in new world-building. I foresee “Project Isles” being a long project. It may be that in the meantime I will work on short stories or novellas to publish intermittently. Additionally I am keen to see the Valerious Chronicles made available in hardcover with all new cover art. This is something I have already begun working on and will be excited to reveal in coming months.

Tower bridge

Tower Bridge at night

In the meantime, if you are looking for some excellent reads in the fantasy genre I cannot more highly recommend the Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss. I am reading ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ at the moment and cannot put it down.

Seeking out inspiration


Each and every one of us seeks inspiration. It may be to paint a picture, write a story, or take a leap towards a new career. Whatever the reason we all require external stimuli to get the creative juices flowing, or preferably overflowing. There are so many options available to us. Let us take the internet as a brief example.

Healsville We live in an age where by reaching into our pockets we can press a few buttons, or even use voice commands, to access practically 99% of the world’s information. The height of physical exertion required to do so is reaching for your phone. There is no other word to describe it but astonishing.

Imagine going a thousand years into the past, pulling out an iPhone, and showing someone a live stream from the other side of the planet; or heaven forbid a Meme! Likely you would be burned at the stake, or at the very least put on trial for sorcery.

Sorcery Today we take it for granted. Don’t! The internet can be a treasure hoard of inspiration. Want to paint a picture of a toucan? Google it and you will get plenty of ideas. You’ll find help and pictures to allow you to achieve mastery of the toucan portrait. Want to write a story? There is literally no end to the advice you can find online. I mean that. Whilst you are reading advice, someone else is writing and posting more, so it never ends!

However there are times when you must look to other sources for inspiration. Recently I have found one in particular to be most effective for me. That is going places.


Now these places don’t need to be far, in fact they can even be your backyard. Take a moment to step away from the TV, computer and iPad, and go for a walk. Hop into the car and drive to a local forest. Catch a bus to a museum. Go swimming in a lake, with or without clothes. Whatever you choose, make sure you take some pictures. Because it is easy to see something wonderful and fully appreciate it. It is a lot harder to remember it accurately when you are back at home seeking to draw on that inspiration.

Everybody has a phone on their camera now. When you see something which makes you stop and stare, take a quick picture. Collect all of these on your computer and over time build a library of inspiration.

Mitchell River Now this must come with a warning clause. Do not spend all of your time taking photos and not actually enjoying the scenery. That would be pointless. The photos are only there to act as a booster for when you get back home. You need to soak in the inspiration whilst you are actually there witnessing it.

Also take care not to get carried away with taking photos at the expense of the people you are with. It is fine to take a few quick snaps when walking through the old castle with your family. It is not acceptable to make them wait an hour whilst you catalogue every turret and stained-glass window.

Montsalvat A friend of mine once looked through my photos from a trip to Europe and about halfway through asked me why I had so many pictures of doors, windows and random houses. I explained to them that I like to write and when I write, every once and a while, the picture in my imagination isn’t as clear as it could be. In those moments I open up my photos and have a quick scan. Quite often I will find a picture that sets the juices overflowing once more and I am able to get the words out just as I needed them.

rode gardens

This might not work for everyone. But at the very least you will be getting a good lung-full of fresh air. Something priceless for those of us with office jobs.

Here are two of my favourite snaps that I go back to, which remind me of where I have been, and jump start the imagination.



Searching for inspiration


Nothing is too silly to take a photo of. My own motivation to write has been driven by two elements. 1) The writers whose books I have been able to read in my lifetime and 2) the places I have visited.

I am sure many onlookers thought me insane when I was standing around the European countryside taking pictures of corridors, roofs and alcoves whilst they snapped the usual tourist sights. But when I look back at those photo’s now I find the spark that I need to bring life to my writing.

Never delete your old photo’s! Look back to them and bring the memories hidden in the corner of your mind back to the front. There are few better sources of inspiration than the real world.