Category Archives: Lightning Strikes

The Big Dig Is Not About …

* filling in a backyard pool with cement so you can have a bigger yard to play in.

* a boy who wins a backyard pool in the Westpac Maths Competition but has to pay for his own fence so he sells the cement his father has left in the shed which was supposed to be used for the driveway.

* a boy whose fence is too small for his pool so he has to put it down the middle but it all works out well because it means he has half the pool and his annoying sister has the other half.

* a boy who builds a solid cement wall around his pool, like a castle, with turrets.

* a boy who tries to dig his own pool but it’s too expensive and there are too many stupid rules so instead he decides to focus on studying maths.

Though I have to say, I like your style, all of you!

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The Price of Cement, Swimming Pool Fencing Laws, and Year 6 Mathematics

These are some of the things I’ve had to research while finishing up my latest novel The Big Dig, forthcoming in July this year (if I can get it done in time!). Anyone like to guess what it’s about?

Email me with your ideas and I’ll post them here when I have a few. If anyone gets close, there might even be a prize!

Hint: if you live in the City of Melville, you may have something of a head start. In a curious alignment of planets, I am writing this from Civic Library in that very city. More on that another time.

Post-Festival, Post-Apropos

Six days of poetry workshops, readings, panel discussions, book signings, and reader-meeting are over. It was both excellent and exhausting. I met some wonderful writers, read some poems, sat in on all kinds of lively discussions, and got to talk about Going for Broke to a lovely al fresco Family Day crowd. If you came past to say hi or have me sign a book, feel free to drop me a line via my ‘Contact‘ page. I always love hearing from readers.

Something else I love is turning up approximately three minutes late to a panel discussion on short fiction and finding standing room only at the (large-ish) venue. It is a real pleasure to be part of such a vibrant community of readers and writers. Thanks to everyone who helped make it happen and everyone who gobbled it up with such gusto. Please, sir, can I have some more?

Could This Book Sound Less Appealing?

Here’s the blurb for Going for Broke from the South Australian Premier’s Reading Challenge:

“Nathan is determined to do well and achieve, but ignores advice to plan and research.”

South Australian Premier, thank you for including my book on your list, but is this really the best you could do? I’m afraid it makes what has been described as a ‘crack-up funny’, ‘laugh-out loud riotous journey of boyhood misadventure’ sound rather like that most odious of beasts – a Book With a Lesson.

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The Big News

It’s official. I’ve just signed the contract for a second novel in Walker Books’ fun Lightning Strikes series. This one is called The Big Dig and again features Nathan, Weasel and Ronnie, the three hapless characters who barely survived Going for Broke.

The Big Dig will be out in July. Which is a little alarming, because I haven’t finished writing it yet.

Must get onto that.

Writing these books is quite a change of pace for me. Somehow, I never saw myself as the sort of writer who would ever annotate a manuscript draft with the note:


It’s a lot of fun.

Going for Broke Is Done

I’ve just sent back what I think are the final revisions on my next junior novel. Going for Broke (one world record, 52 tiny bones) will be out with Walker Books Australia in May next year.

In a curious twist, I have actually done an illustration for the text (although once my editor sees the extent of my artistic skill, she may well place a panicked last-minute call to an actual illustrator).

There Is Only So Much …

… I can do for you, oh seekers of websites. I thought ahead. I know how difficult it is to spell “McKinlay”. I added variations thereof into my secret, hidden keyword thingies, thereby enabling Google to lead you here even if you search for “McKinley”, “MacKinley”, or “MacKinlay”. When Annabel, Again came out, I showed similar foresight. You will find this site if you search for Annabelle, Anabel or even Anabelle.

But there are limits. I’m sorry, seekers of websites. I’m glad you’re looking for my site, but I have to draw a line. If you search for Annibell, Annuhbel or Anabull, then I’m afraid you are on your own. Take heart, though – I have learned my lesson. This is why I have thoughtfully entitled my next novel The Big Dig. Enjoy!

Risky Business

Okay, yes, I admit it. During Book Week, I may have said a few things. I may have admitted to skydiving and bungy jumping and jumping my bike off poorly constructed ramps in an attempt to keep up with my brothers. I may have said that the first draft of Going for Broke contained a scene in which a boy sits in a shopping trolley with a lawnmower engine on his lap, while one friend pulls the starter cord and the other pushes the trolley off a cliff. I may have said that every kid needs a little risk in their life, a little danger, even; that stepping out into the world without a helmet and kneepads is not a bad idea every now and then.

I will stand by all that.

But, seriously, to the unknown Googler who arrived at my website via the search terms “bungy jump” and “shopping trolley”, I can only say: Please don’t. This will not end well.

Not That Nathan Foley

It’s been brought to my attention that the main character in Going For Broke shares a name with a certain AFL player. And that’s not all. Another reader has pointed out that Nathan Foley is also a member of Hi-5.

This is food for some thought. It’s not that I thought my Nathan would be the only Nathan. But it does suggest to me the wisdom of Googling potential character names before setting them in stone, just in case. The last thing I need is to accidentally name a character after some less-than-savoury figure, or even someone whose real-life attributes somehow undermine or parody those of my character (although the ironic potential of naming an advocate for refugee rights John Howard or a conservative, morally upstanding teen Britney Spears is not lost on me).

Hello, yeah, it’s been a while, not much, how ’bout you?

If you recognise the lyric I’m quoting above, you are probably too old to read my books!

So, it’s been a while, and there are reasons for that. I’ve had some time off, but am starting to find that writing space again. Here’s a summary of what I’ve been up to over the last month:

Writing: completed a picture book and a short novel and sent them off with fingers crossed. Uncrossed fingers again because I was finding it difficult to type, and started a new novel. This is another short one and is coming quite quickly so far, which is usually a good sign. I’m also working on a picture book, something I’ve been playing around with for a year or so. It’s very conceptual and a bit tricky to write, but I’m in love with the idea, so keep hammering away at it. Hopefully I’ll find a way through soon.

Launching: attended the launch of the FAW(WA) anthology Lines in the Sand, which contains my poem ‘Ancestor Games’.

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