Don Grant Award

I am happy to advise that I was awarded Second Place in the Don Grant Award for my book “Two Squatters” at the Annual Awards Luncheon of the Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies (AIGS). This is awarded for the Best Australian Historical Biography with a family history focus.

Featured image

Photograph by Louise Wilson

Good friend and author, Louise Wilson, was at the lunch and kindly sent me photographs and the following statement on her Facebook page.

“Last Sunday I attended the annual Awards lunch of the AIGS (Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies). It was a full-house affair, indicating great support for the many writers who submitted entries from all over Australia. I haven’t published any books recently so did not not enter this year, but my fellow member of the Genealogical Society of Victoria Writers’ Circle, Martin Playne, received Second Place in the Don Grant Award for his book ‘Two Squatters …..’ The judges said he was unlucky not to win, indicating that the scores were very close.”

The book “Two Squatters” is selling quite steadily, and the local bookshops sold out of their copies. More to be provided for Fathers’ Day.

In my next blog, I will be talking about my experiences in being a tutor for a U3A group, where I am presenting a course of 9 sessions on ‘The Port Phillip District in the 1840s’. This Friday’s session is Transport by Water, where we are looking at the ports, harbours, rivers of Victoria in the 1840s and the types of boats and cargo of those times. More on this course in my next blog.

Writing on World War One Ancestors

Dear Bloggers

Many non-fiction writers of social history will be busy this year 2015 in compiling stories of ancestors and their doings in the period 1914 to 1918. Everyone has an ancestor who lived in that period, not all were soldiers or nurses actively involved in a war – some were from countries not at war or neutral – but they all have their stories to tell. Some were farming or involved in factories or teaching children or helping a family to grow up – but they all have their stories to tell.

I have been involved in recent weeks with a group of writers set up by David Down and Margaret Vines at the Genealogical Society of Victoria to assist people who have a story about their 1914-18 ancestor and wish to write a well put together story about that ancestor. Some are doing it to pass on to family, others are planning to publish it more widely.

As part of the process, I wrote what I had on my uncle who was killed in the second world war. I aimed for a  concise article on his life of about 1500 words. His story was not straight forward. He was in a tank regiment in north Africa, was captured and imprisoned in Italy. He and another prisoner escaped, but were recaptured a day later. The commandant in charge of the prison wanted to be shown how they escaped over the wire. When they were demonstrating this, they were shot and my uncle George died. After the war was over, the commandant was arrested, tried by a British tribunal and convicted of murder. It was a controversial decision made harder by the fact that he had joined later the resistance against the Nazis. In spite of this ageing commandant was killed. This 1945 decision has subsequently met with considerable academic dispute among Italian scholars particularly. A sad case of war where nobody wins – all too common.

What it did mean was that I then looked to see what other ancestors I had who took part in WW1. These are Dr Basil Playne, Colonel Bill Playne, Jack Playne (an engineer from Western Australia), Alfred C Playne, and Nesbit Hanlon (who lived in Canada). Last but not least was my great grandmother, Liz Bond Hanlon, Nesbit’s mother. She played a great role in supporting Nesbit’s young family. I am planning to write short articles of up to 2000 words on each of these people, and try to publish their stories in history journals.

I think this is the way to write up one’s family history. Start with 1000 to 2000 word articles on each member. When you have done about 10 such articles, one can compile these into a small publication , primarily aimed at distribution within the family. I think this might be a better way of recording family history – less boring and cheaper. Another advantage in one’s later years is that at least you get some ancestors recorded, even if ill health does not enable one to complete everyone in the family.

I would love to get feedback on how others are thinking of handling this period 1914 to 1918, and of the bigger problem of writing good family history.

Medical Training in the 1700 and 1800s in England

In a new book that I am currently writing, I am researching several men who claim to be practising as doctors. One of those men, born in 1793 in Lincolnshire, England, claimed to have been apprenticed to an established medical man in a nearby town in 1807. He went on to practise medicine and act as a druggist and apothecary for several years after he trained both in Lincolnshire and in London. Yet, the Apothecaries Company in Blackfriars, London has no trace of him. So how did he train, or was merely working with an established doctor enough?  But when I checked on the training of his supervisor, no record was found at the Apothecaries.  So this led me into inquiring what were the processes of training back prior to 1800. It seemed unlikely that he would have directly become a surgeon by undertaking a study for a MRCS in London. Surely he would some other experience first.  So I looked at a register of medical men in the 1700s called: Eighteenth Century Medics (subscriptions,  licences, apprenticeships) by PJ and RV Wallis (1988) [Project for Historical Bibliography, Newcastle upon Tyne]. Here I found the supervisor listed but the method of his training was not given. I also read a couple of books on barber-surgeons in the 1700s.

From all this, it seems that for many years,  medicos trained by decree of religious orders (see the Lambeth Palace lists), or by permission of a local town council, through the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, as well as by barber surgeons and apothecaries. Of course, by 1800, the training of surgeons was well and truly separated from barbers. So the next step I will be following is to search the records of the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Physicians.

This is a lot of work just to find out if one’s main character in a book was medically trained or not , or did he just demonstrate a good bedside manner and have a useful knowledge of herbal remedies?

In my recently-published book: Two Squatters, the lives of George Playne and Daniel Jennings , of course, George was a doctor, qualifying first as an apothecary in a hospital in 1821, and going on to take a MRCS at the Royal College of Surgeons. But these older men, I am researching now, bring in a need to reconsider the simple path taken by George to become qualified. In any case , one feels a little sorry for them all – no antibiotics, no anaesthetics, and before Pasteur’s time.  Still the pursuit of facts makes writing non-fiction so very rewarding. I will let you know when I succeed.

The Squatters on Pastoral Runs on the Campaspe River, Victoria – 1837 -1854

The Kyneton track was used until ca. 1850, after which the Heathcote track predominated

The Kyneton track was used until ca. 1850, after which the Heathcote track predominated

List Of Pastoral Runs & Squatters On The Campaspe, 1837-54
(not comprehensive, based mainly on information from Randell, 1982)

Axedale, Axe Ck., -McGill, William and Boyd, Thomas Elder, and Ross, James Hunter 1843
Barfold – Yaldwyn, W. H. and John Coppock, 1837; Mitchell, W.H.F.; Thorneloe, Thomas;
Barnedown – Bennett, Henry G. -, 1840-1. In 1846, he subdivided the property (see Muskerry Sta); Lynott, Charles and Peter Imlay took up the west Barnedown station, 1849; Mason, Robert, Patrick Bell and Charles Oliver, 1854 (Lynott retained the homestead area )
Burnewang (30 miles north near Elmore) – Postlethwaite, Edward and William, 1841; Bakewell, John and Robert, 1845; Jeffreys Bros., 1852 (they also owned Kyneton Sta since 1841;
Camel or Mt Campbell Station also called Calbinibbin – Keith, William, 1842; Hyde, Margaret, 1849, then Begg family and Degraves family
Campaspe Plains – Hutton, Charles, capt , 1838; Jennings, Daniel, 1839-51 and
Playne, George, 1839-44; Ebden, Charles H., 1851; Patterson, John H., 1852-

This plan shows the subdivision of the original Campaspe Plains Station, which occurred in 1852

This plan shows the subdivision of the original Campaspe Plains Station, which occurred in 1852

Deerinal – Patterson to Speed, William, 1853
Kimbolton – Patterson, John H., 1853
Langwoornar – Robinson Cocks, 1859
Moorabbee – William Henry and John Holmes Robertson, 1859]

Campaspie (later Coliban Estate) and Spring Plains Stations – Monro, Henry- 1838 – 43; Brodie Brothers bought western part called Campaspie or later Coliban Estate; McGill, William and partners bought the eastern part, called Spring Plains in 1843 and quickly sold it to Main, Patrick. By 1845, Main had sold it to Easey, William.
Campaspie River – Ogilby, Robert E.,1841; James Robertson, 1846-53; then held by sons of Robertson
Carlsruhe – Ebden, Charles H., and James Donnithorne, 1837; Cumming, William and John J B Smythe, 1840; Gibbon, Thomas A., 1844; John Hughes, 1844-52; Government purchased as a police depot, 1852 (Carlsruhe Hotel was started by Gibbon).
Colliban Station – Mollison, Alexander F., 1838; James Orr , 1848;
Darlington and Den Stations – Brown, Sylvester J. Capt., 1837; (Alexander, Thomas, B. and Cox, William assisted Brown); Baynton, Thomas, Dr – 1841. Thomas Alexander held the Den in 1841, sold the Den to Simmons, George in 1844
Glenhope (prev. part of northern section of Darlington) – Pohlman, Robert W., Pohlman, Frederick R., and Budd, Richard H. , 1840 – 51, later held by Orr, John.
Langley Vale (part of Barfold run originally) and Spring Plains Stations – Beauchamp. Roger and Barrow, Henry , 1844. In 1849, Beauchamp sold Langley Vale to Hogg, Edward J. Beauchamp retained Spring Plains. In 1850 he bought Wild Duck Ck. In 1851 Beauchamp sold Spring Plains to John David and William D Collyer. In 1852 he sold Wild Duck Ck to the Collyers.
Major’s Line Station – Townend, Henry, 1840; Egan, James, 1842; Harpham, William P., 1866
Major Mitchell’s Creek Station – Stevenson, James and Robert B Macpherson, 1841; Buttrass, Thomas, 1843; Barnett, William and John Compton, 1844; Campbell, John, 1856
Mt Alexander North (later Ravenswood) – Sherratt, Charles – 1841; Heape and grace
Mt Campbell, see Camel
Muskerry Station (the eastern subdivision of Barnedown Sta, includes Mt Pleasant) – Bennett, Henry, 1846; McDougall, Archibald, 1853, John Clement, 1865
Pastoria Station – Piper, William 1839; Govett, George, 1851

Hurst, William, overseer – ‘Campaspe Plains’ 1843-5 for Jennings and Playne
Matheson, Donald, overseer – ‘Campaspe Plains’ for Jennings and for Ebden 1850-2
Matheson, D., overseer – ‘Axe Ck’ for McGill 1843
Matheson, D., overseer – ‘Glenhope’ for Pohlman, abt 1845-9
Christie, Charles, overseer – ‘Spring Plains’ for Monro, 1838-40
McLean, Donald, overseer – ‘Pyalong’ for Mollison, 1838-1841
Coppock, John, overseer – ‘Barfold’ for Yaldwyn, 1837
Bissett, William, overseer – ‘Tooboruc’ for John Patterson
Cooper, William, overseer – ‘Restdown Plains’ for Alexander Sim, 1847

This listing covers the central part of the Campaspe River catchment area. It does not cover the upper reaches of the river near Kyneton nor the lower reaches near Echuca.

Corrections and additions to this information would be appreciated.

My interest arises from my detailed studies of the two squatters Jennings and Playne who occupied Campaspe Plains Station (see my book Two Squatters: the lives of George Playne and Daniel Jennings. For more information, see ).

For those that don’t know, the Campaspe River runs through central northern Victoria in Australia.

Images of the two squatters - Daniel and George [drawn by Moira Playne]

Images of the two squatters – Daniel and George [drawn by Moira Playne]

As you can see, I am experimenting with placement of images. I hope you enjoy them.

Selection, obtaining and using images for your book

(first presented at the Writers Group, Genealogical Society of Victoria on 3 Sept 2014)

This article is based on the experience that I gained self-publishing my recent book ‘Two Squatters‘, but I believe will be of use to anyone publishing a social history or a family history.
For details of my book, go to my website:

Use of colour v use of black and white:
All forms of history are enhanced by use of visual images to complement your writing.
Whereas, in earlier times, images were placed in groups in books. Now of course they become part of the text page often. Even colour images do not have to be grouped. Individual leaves with colour images on both sides can be inserted anywhere in the text. This I understand is usually done manually, but even so the cost of colour plates does not ‘blow’ the printing cost of your book ‘out of the water’. Colour plates are supplied to the printer as separate files with clear instructions as to what page each plate follows. One has to be sure of which way round you want your image (eg., sideways facing outwards). When deciding to use an image check what it looks like in B&W versus in full colour before deciding.

Your Own
Family images, particularly if you have old portraits. Many of us in our research have photographs of buildings, landscapes where we have been during our research. These can be a good source as you definitely own the copyright. Some old family portraits may not be owned by you but rather by another family member. If in doubt, ask their permission and get them to sign that permission. Above all acknowledge that permission.

Pictures Collections
Australia is particularly fortunate in that picture collections are well organised , with the National Library of Australia’s TROVE system the heart of listing available images.
Depending on your subject, you will find images mainly at State Library of Victoria (SLV) and the National Library of Australia (NLA) (the Rex Nan Kivell collection there is really interesting). However, the Mitchell Library and the Tasmania library are also useful. The RHSV has quite a large and unique picture collection, but it is not available on line, and accessing it requires an appointment.
The SLV really has its act together for images. The vast majority I found were out of copyright and could be downloaded free for use in a publication, provided proper acknowledgment and details were given in a caption under the image. The Library has been progressively digitising at high resolution its images. When one searches on line, one gets a low res jpeg image first. Then in many cases one can freely download the high res tiff image. In many cases, the jpg can be about 6 to 10 MB and the tiff as high as 50 MB. One needs to be aware of that because such big images do take time to download. When an image is only available at low res, one can simply order a copy of the high res image. It takes about a week to arrive. Cost in 2013 was $22 each. If you are choosing images with Aboriginal content, this is clearly shown and one has to obtain permission for its use. The library staff will then contact you and advise that the Library’s Koorie Liaison Officer will contact you in relation to whose permission has to be obtained. Because of the number of persons and the fact that they are outside the Library, this process can take a few weeks. However, I found the Liaison Officer very good to work with, and I was in possession of the high res images within four weeks.

In terms of handling large tiff images, I converted them to JPEG files. This reduced their size considerably and gave me less hassle when inserting them amongst text using Microsoft Word on an Apple computer.

The NLA works somewhat differently. They charged in 2013, $45 each for all high res images. They do have a good collection for use by authors, but I found the price was getting prohibitive. They give a quick service and do not seem to require Aboriginal permissions on their images. Probably blanket permissions have been obtained. Both libraries were very helpful and responsive. I did obtain one image from the Mitchell Library (State Library of NSW), which was given freely on the proviso that I send them a copy of the book. This also applied to use a Public Record Office of Victoria (PROV) image. Captioning correctly PROV images can be difficult because of their unique cataloguing system. However, I emailed them and asked if I had the correct information and they responded within 24 hours.

One or two overseas locations wanted to charge over $100 for use of an image (some US University Libraries), but some were free (e.g., National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Dept. Commerce). I did use two Wikimedia Commons images, but was very cautious that I had read carefully the conditions of use, and made sure I acknowledged the owner (a photographer).

UK Archives:
I spent some research time at the Gloucestershire Archives in England, and fortunately obtained permission to use my digital camera to re-photograph some of their historic photographs. I used three of these in my book after obtaining permission and details of each image from them. Their archivist was responsive and easy to work with. No charge was made. However, they requested a copy of the book for their collection. My advice here was to take a good a quality image as possible with your digital camera once you have their permission. If you use your own photograph, you may avoid the quite high charges made by some UK archives to send you a high quality image of the work that you want. I was pleasantly surprised that the Gloucestershire Archives allowed me to use my images instead of theirs. Of course that may just depend on which staff member handles your request.

Finally, in my Acknowledgments, I included this statement:
‘Great care has been taken to locate and contact copyright owners of images to credit them with the work and to obtain their permission to reproduce the images. If correct permission has been overlooked, I sincerely apologise and will rectify omissions in subsequent editions.’

Captions and Acknowledgments:
Most owners of images require that an author gives acknowledgement in a caption next to the image. Grouping of picture acknowledgments in a separate part of the book is preferred by some authors but can be frowned upon by owners. Personally, I do not think captions are intrusive. You should include artist’s name as well as collection identification.
Figure 50 – St Peter’s Church, Eastern Hill, Melbourne [Pictures Collection, State Library of Victoria, H 88.21/63, watercolour by Charles Norton, 1850]

Outside Cover:
In a paperback, this is very important. I think more important than even the title, let alone any words on the back cover. It is the buyers’ first impression. So do spend time selecting that image.

Between Chapters:
Fortunately my wife is an artist. Unfortunately, I had no images of my two main characters in the book, but only some written descriptions of their characters. So we came to a view as to their possible visages. My wife then drew them in a number of situations – from wearing a top hat to riding a horse. I then used her images for inclusion on blank pages and at the end of chapters. I think it works but would be pleased to receive comment.

Illustrations, be they maps, street plans, property plans, drawings, sketches, family charts and paintings and portraits all add a great deal to your book, and can make up to some extent in your shortcomings in writing style. Don’t underestimate their value.

Making maps, plans, and family history charts for your self-published book


1. Choose a suitable map from somewhere that you can use to trace an outline of coastline, rivers, roads, towns.

2. Reduce/ increase scale of that map using a photocopier so that you end up with a map which fits within A4 tracing paper. the map should be up to twice the final size in your book if possible

3. Using a black ink pen, such as UniBall, Artline, PaperMate, make your tracing outline of the original on your tracing paper.

4. Thickness of the ‘nib’ of the pen is important. Best to buy a range of sizes (from 0.4 to at least 1.0mm). Bear in mind that if your final image size is half that of the tracing, your lines will only be half width too. Rather than being prescriptive, try out a few sizes to see what suits you personally.

5. Don’t forget to include a scale line, and a compass on your maps and plans

6. Photocopy your tracing onto white copy paper before scanning in order to reduce the ‘grey’ effect you get if you scan a tracing directly

7. Then scan your photocopy into your computer at high resolution (once again experiment with the resolution you need – 150 dpi is adequate). Save your scan as a jpeg on your desktop, or in any other location.

8. Download into your computer Goggle’s Picasa 3 photo program. Its a free down-load. You only need to down-load it once of course.

9. Picasa I find seeks out your image and loads it into its Picasa site on your computer, without asking your leave! So when you open Picasa, you will find it sitting there waiting for you.

10. Picasa is basically a Photoshop/ iPhoto type of program. It allows you to do editing of your image. One feature it has is it allows you to write over your image, text at will. Names of towns, rivers and so on can be done easily in any size, and in any font, in bold , in italics. A very nice feature is the ability to increase/ decrease print size and angle of the text on line without saving. You see what you are doing and what it looks like. Also use Picasa to mark locations of your towns and villages using the letter ‘o’ – this is far neater than trying to draw circles by hand.

11. Picasa also lets you manipulate your image as follows: crop, straighten, red-eye, auto contrast, autocolor, retouch, fill light adjust. Usually, these are not needed.

12. One feature that I would like is to be able to colour fill areas on my map (such as the sea) but I haven’t worked out how to do this with Picasa, but understand that it can be done using Photoshop.

13. Always check that you have included a scale (miles or kms??), and a compass with north marked on your maps and plans.

14. Once you are happy with your added text, save your new image.

15. Sometimes it looks best if you place a black rectangle to ‘contain’ your image. You can always crop this out if you want later. I found it looked better on the book page, if you just give your image, a light shade of grey, and forget black line boundaries. Alternatively, you can add a text box later.

16. Once I got the hang of things, I could whip up about six maps an evening. Not very time-consuming.


I use on my Mac, the family history program called Reunion. It is produced by Leister Pro. One thing that I found when I wanted to prepare some small family history charts in my recent book ‘Two Squatters’, which is an A5 sized publication (148 x 210 mm), was that the lines and text on the chart could become quite ‘fuzzy’. After all, by the time you allow for margins on the page, your actual chart area is no more than 100 x 150 mm. First, you have to make sure your font sizes for the text will be readable when your chart is no more than 100 x 150 mm. Secondly, on a one page chart don’t overload the page with two much information. As a guide, maximum of 20 chart boxes is possible, but the chart looks better if there are no more than 15 boxes. Thirdly, to avoid fuzziness of text and lines, take the following steps:

1. In Reunion, make A5 sized chart (boxchart) normally
2. In Reunion, go File/Print/PDF
3. Then open PDF in Preview
4. IN Preview, go File/Export/choose format TIFF (here you could choose instead, PNG)
5. Set resolution higher than 150, say 450 pixels/inch
6. Save to desktop
7. Finally,  print out a copy at the size you want and see if it is sharp and readable

Am not sure how many pixels you need – maybe 300 would be enough. Probably the clue is to increase the resolution, and nothing much else matters.
In my book, (pages 308-313), I managed a two page chart for 9 children, and 16 grandchildren, but that was pushing it a bit for readability. Also it did not connect well between the two pages. My one-page ancestral line chart of four generations and three children of the last generation worked much better, as did my one page charts of the Gauntlett and of the Jennings families.

Danny’s new book ‘MagnifiCat’

Magnificat: an animal fantasy

Not a book that I would have normally picked up, but as it turned up I am very glad that I have read every page. This is the story of a town like Mullimbimby in northern New South Wales and the of the people who live there, with all their eccentricities, their foibles, their loves and hates. The author Danielle de Valera has very cleverly constructed an animal kingdom, where cats are the ordinary residents, the dogs pull their carts, and a variety of other animals ranging from lizards to snakes to wombats all inhabit this town. Importantly, she raises a whole colony of outlaws living in the bush who are rabbits.

The book is a combination of Animal Farm, Wind in the Willows and Alice in Wonderland in some ways, but also I suspect reflects some of her life and experiences. The author starts the story quite slowly, and I first thought that I might get bored, but gradually I got into the story and felt part of the lives of these rather exceptional Burmese cats – Claude, Mao and their family. They reflect the lives and difficulties faced by so many poor families living in relatively isolated towns in country Australia. In a friendly and non-threatening way, the author introduces us to many of the other characters of the town and surrounding countryside. The book simply grows on you. It has all the elements of a good yarn, but beneath that I know that Danny, the author, has a far deeper purpose. She wants us all to feel and experience what live can be like in that situation. The cat family falls into terrible poverty and looks unlikely to survive, but Danny creates a wonderful ending to the book with everyone living happily ever after, but not until the cat heroes have had some terrifying experiences. I loved this book and am so glad that Danny gave me a copy in exchange for a copy of my book, Two Squatters. Danny and I went to university together way back, and have only recently just caught up. Swapping books has been a great way to renew friendships. I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who has lived in a small country town anywhere in the world. Danny has been very brave to create her story around animals, but it works. It makes me want to visit “Tuckaburra” (Mullumbimby) just to see if the residents are really like those she describes. I expect they are. Finally, I should mention that Danny writes with a subtle sense of humour. She obviously loves her animals very much. Well done, Danny, and I hope we see more from you in the coming years.

Danielle de Valera (2014) MagnifiCat: an animal fantasy. (Old Tiger Books: USA) paperback, 272 pages.

Late News: My book Two Squatters is being officially launched on Wednesday 15 October in Melbourne. A tad late but I do enjoy a party! The book will be introduced by eminent historian, Emeritus Professor Graeme Davison of Monash University. The event is part of the Bayside Literary Series organised by the Bayside City Council in Melbourne. For details, see my website:

Making smooth interconnections between chapters


Dividing a book into Parts and then subdividing the Parts into Chapters is often used in non-fiction as a means of splitting a book into logical areas covering different topics, different time periods, or different locations. The danger is that the author sometimes fails to get the writing to flow smoothly from one chapter to another. Even worse, a chapter can be left ‘hanging’ with an inconclusive ending, and another chapter started which does not seem to flow on logically from the preceding chapter. So what can we do about this, and does it really matter?

Of course it matters. Its the author’s responsibility to (a) keep the reader engaged and keen to read on, and (b) to arrange his material so that it follows a logical sequence. So how do we do this?

I had a look at my recently published book ‘Two Squatters’ to see if I could select some examples of connections between chapters that actually worked. I know that I struggled with this aspect of my writing, and am seeking ways to improve this in my next non-fiction work. Any ideas would be very welcome.

Essentially, the techniques I used were:
-using recall from the previous chapter at the start of the next. The danger here is that one sounds repetitive if this is overdone. A single line of recall is enough.
-using a short summary or synopsis (in a smaller font) of each chapter at the start of the chapter. This leads the reader to decide if the chapter will be of interest to them.
-using chronology of events as the major decider of the order of the chapters.

In a non-fiction work, does it matter if the chapters are distinct entities, and are not particularly related? I noticed towards the end of my work that I had several rather disconnected chapters, e.,g., land investments, a bank cashier, a voyage in 1854 with La Trobe, and retirement. However, I think that worked OK because there was some chronology in all that. Also, I think that by that time you probably have the reader ‘hooked’ fairly way, or am I wrong there?

Finally, is there a role for dividing a book into Parts. I had four parts: Introduction, Campaspe, Melbourne, England. So essentially, I was dividing my book up into four locations. Did this matter, was it necessary, and did it help the reader? I don’t really know the answer to these questions. To me, it was the instinctive thing to do, but maybe I like putting things in boxes.

i have attended a few book launches lately, partly to find out how book launches work best. I am planning to finally launch ‘Two Squatters’ in August or September. The books launched were: Norwood: it changed the face of Melbourne by Roland Johnson; Cultured Colonists: George Alexander Gilbert and his family, settlers in Port Phillip by Margaret Bowman; and Dark Emu – black seeds: agriculture or accident? by Bruce Pascoe. All three were enjoyable and friendly events. The first was held in the Brighton Beach Bowling Club, the second in the Melbourne Mechanics Institute, and the third at Readings Bookshop in Carlton. Which brings me to the question, should I be using this blogsite as a place for short book reviews of books like these? What do you think?

The most difficult parts of writing a non-fiction book

What are the most difficult parts of writing and self-publishing a non-fiction book?  I found them to be the last chapter, the inter-connection between chapters, deciding on the amount of factual detail to include (or in fact what not to include), and finally the most difficult of all – marketing and promotion. So I will discuss each of these in turn in the coming weeks.

The Last Chapter
There are many theories on how one ‘rounds off’ one’s writing. Some writers make the last chapter very short – only a page or so, whereas others make the chapter a lengthy and sometimes boring summary and conclusion. How do you make it end so that it does not leave the reader just hanging there? I am not at all happy with my final chapter. It really became a character analysis of the two main characters in my historical bibliography, “Two Squatters” – what they were like, what they had achieved in life. I also placed most of my speculation on matters of their lives when no records are left. For example, who was his first wife, where did she come from. Historical records simply call her ‘Mrs Jennings’. What was her first name? I formed the view that in a non-fiction book you lose integrity if you simply create solutions. The only way therefore is to have a final section covering all these speculative situations, clearly labelled as speculation.

It did occur to me that perhaps one could write another shorter book in which you the author just created a novel around the skeleton of the facts – in fact that would be quite fun to do, although I suspect one would get bored by the repletion of the story.

The Next Book
Changing tacks a little, once I get the marketing and promotion of “Two Squatters” under control , I must get back to writing regularly again. The best way to get that discipline of a daily writing time will be to decide on the next book. Lots of ideas – but limited time.

Next time, I blog I will discuss the difficulties of good interconnection between chapters.
This is Marty Playne signing off for now.

Australia’s Energy Future

Hi again, after a long absence, I have finally managed to get through all the proofing processes for my new book Two Squatters, and at last it was released just prior to Christmas. Sadly this was a bit late to catch the gift market for Christmas. However its starting to sell well, even with limited publicity so far. I will follow up my promise soon to tell you of how the book started, and of the processes that I went through with the research, the clues, the interpretation, the writing and re-writing and finally the illustrations and the publication process.  I am still flat out setting up and improving my new website , as well as getting the message out that I am selling a book, which I think you will enjoy. But before I get down to all of that, I found this uncompleted work on energy sources in Australia, and the dilemma we face in this country of a political system that seems to lack a long term view. I wrote this a couple of years back, when I became annoyed. For those that don’t know, I researched alternative energy fuels back in the 80s. So I have a long-term interest in the area. Here it is:  AUSTRALIA’S ENERGY FUTURE

The political leadership of this country at federal, state, and local government levels has not demonstrated a willingness or an ability to tackle the fundamental issues which affect our needs for energy supplies for the next 50 years. We need to overcome this inertia, and this fiddling at the edges, which is what is happening at present. We must overcome it urgently.  We have squandered the last 25 years. At the time of the last oil crisis in the mid 70’s , petrol prices rose dramatically, people sold six cylinder cars and bought small vehicles, and we had active research programmes into alternative energy supplies. We were taking action. Then the crisis eased as OPAC supply policies changed in the Middle East and Africa. We soon forgot. The Government cancelled energy research programmes. We did not learn. Now, we are paying the price for that inertia.

Twenty-five years ago, Australian scientists led the world in studying the effects that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels might have on climate, and on food supplies. As a nation, we did not  use that knowledge. Our research teams investigating solar energy, passive energy design of housing, and alternative fuel supplies were at the forefront globally, but government and industry did not take on the challenges of implementing and commercialising that knowledge.  Although we have lost ‘a window of opportunity’ to lead globally in alternative energy systems and advanced waste treatments, and to develop them commercially as a new manufacturing sector, we now have a second chance. We are blessed with sunshine, a warm climate, large areas of agricultural land, large supplies of coal and uranium, and enough light grade oils to provide at least 30 to 50 % of our petrol needs for the next 20 years. We have an abundance of natural gas, which we mostly export. We have many options. We are indeed ‘the lucky country’ (still).

The main issues facing us today are the increased cost of liquid transport fuels, and the need to develop energy systems that do not generate carbon dioxide.  The most immediate impact we can make is for the per capita energy use to decline. We are the second most prolific user of energy per head of population in the World – an unenviable claim to fame!  This is especially serious as most of us live in a warm temperate climate, with little need for heating and cooling of our living spaces. For the most part, we show little regard for saving energy. We love our cars; we despise public transport; we drive our children to school in large energy-inefficient 4WDs; we travel large distances compared to European counterparts.  We need to alter these habits. How can that be done? We need an attitudinal change. We need government to subsidise public transport and continue to improve its frequency, cleanliness, safety and comfort. We need to replace annual vehicle registration fees and insurance charges by adding those charges onto each litre of fuel consumed. This merely replaces an outdated system with the ‘user pays’ principle. Obviously, implementation of such a change will be difficult and impose on some huge and probably unbearable cost burdens. During the change period it will be necessary for government to support those worst affected. Those in fringe suburbs around our major cities with poor public transport infrastructure will be worst affected. Transport costs of food and consumer goods will also increase markedly. It is for governments to plan this process. More freight trains and fewer double B road transports could mediate freight cost increases. We see little sign of such thinking by our politicians, with few exceptions.

However, transport fuels are not the only problem facing society. We need to get away from present housing trends – the Mac mansion with a large floor area per occupant, no eaves, little passive energy design, fully air-conditioned by electricity, surrounded by concrete.  Large footprints indeed!  Government incentives for design, for solar equipment for hot water,  heating and cooling, and water-saving all need to be increased, and indeed to be compulsorily-regulated in new housing.  Private housing is not the only culprit – commercial buildings need vastly improved designs to improve energy efficiency. It can be done. We have examples such as the recently completed building in Melbourne. The most glaring example of poor commercial design is the huge atriums that exist at the entrance of most recent commercial buildings – usually heated day and night to an ambient 20 degrees!

Reducing our present rate of energy consumption per head of population is only one part of the Energy Action Plan that governments so urgently need. TO BE CONTINUED….