Monday, 3 January 2022

Build A Bookshelf Layout

Another New Year... and another new book project!


It's hard to believe another year has gone past. It's 2022 and the world is still showing no signs of recovery from a Global Pandemic such as COVID. Perhaps it is timely that my latest book, and my first ever Arts & Crafts non-fiction book, takes root from my personal hobby that has kept me occupied through periods of lockdowns and restrictions here in Australia. It's also a hobby that I can now boast having over 40 years experience with. Welcome to my world of model trains, and my new book Build A Bookshelf Layout.



In the midst of a busy Christmas Holiday Down Under, the courier dropped my box of advance release copies of the new book at my door on Christmas Eve. But with Christmas, a short camping trip, New Years Eve, our Wedding Anniversary and my wife's 50th Birthday all condensed into 11 days of celebrations, I think I can be excused from making any announcement until now.


So, armed with a small platter of olives, cheeses and sun-dried tomatoes, and an absolutely exquisite bottle of Chandon bubbly courtesy of my niece Eleisha, I thinks its a safe time to set my next book project loose into the world.


Five years in the making, this 72 page colour instructional book is a great starting place for newcomers and old-head model railroaders alike to read before constructing their next model railway project layout. A good finish begins at the start, and I've often found that overseas books offer little beyond a trackplan and some diagrams that leave you floundering to work out why your finished layout doesn't resemble the masterpiece shown on the cover. This book is the opposite! Its' hands-on, step-by-step approach is designed to fast-track your skills and enjoyment, without learning what works, and what doesn't, the hard way!

There's over 40 years experience laid-out inside, more than 70 photos and enough informative text that will talk you through what you need to consider on the way to constructing an enjoyable small model railway layout. The book covers the planning process, benchwork construction, painting and layout presentation, lighting and basic track laying skills that all result in a rewarding model railway experince.

Two more books covering scenery secrets and trackside tips will also be available in 2022. Build a Bookshelf Layout is to the best of my knowledge, the first Australian model railway how-to book to hit the market.

All my books are also available to download as eBooks direct through Blurb or the Apple store.


 

While my model railway hobby can now boast gracing the cover of Australian Model Railway Magazine and appearing in 8 different model train exhibitions Down Under, seeing my handiwork now spawning a short series of books brings me the uppermost delight. The models and modelling examples you see on the cover of Build A Bookshelf Layout have now all moved on, replaced with a new and bigger project that is taking shape above my desk. Its a hobby that is continually evolving, and one that has now rendered the instructional books of the 1970's that I read as a young child obsolete.

So here's to the next generation of modellers. May this book serve you well as an example of how to fast-track your modelling skills and get a lifetime of enjoyment out of the world's greatest hobby.

Cheers,
Phill O

Tuesday, 7 December 2021

#21 Twenty Twenty Twenty One!


The above photo of grey skies prowling the morning horizon beyond the boardwalk at Happy Valley in my hometown of Caloundra, Australia, does a good job of summing up the past two years. Just when you think tomorrow is about to usher in a brighter day, a storm of some form seems to come along and swallow it up.


Worldwide, 2020-2021 has been a testing time for everyone, and it seems that no-one on earth has been spared from the grip of a seemingly never-ending pandemic. Just when you think we're over the numbers and new cases, another wave of COVID-19 comes along, and like cyclones, they now seem to give each outbreak names. While 2020 saw Australians adopt some strange new habits such as wearing face masks and toilet paper hoarding, as 2021 draws to a close, it worries me that the Australia I grew up in has changed as a result. Everyone I talk to seems to think the same thing. We can't wait for life to return to normal. We just don't know what the new normal is going to look like.


It's been a while since I last tagged a post under the banner of 'Positively Phill'. Three years to be honest, and without sounding pessimistic this will definitely be the last one! Not just because the world has changed, but over the course of the  past 10 years I've been blogging, I guess I have too.


I developed a habit throughout my decade of blogging, of always trying to share some positive inspiration and information, be it on writing, life or travel, beyond the guise of simply self-promoting my own books. For the large part it just went unnoticed, as thoughts on writing and tricks on how to handle yourself as a writer, transitioned from well written text entries on writer's pages, to a bunch of infographics and power words on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. It was something I already shared back in January 2018, 'Is blogging still relevant?' and something that seems to have gone further down the toilet in the years since as positivity was replaced by marketability.


And call me old-fashioned... but rattling off a bunch of power words such as...

STRIVE

    BELIEVE

        BECOME

            EMPOWER

...does sweet stuff-all to improve my life or the lives of those around me. So how do you actually stay positive?


As a new era of acceptance sweeps through society, the broom of cancel-culture seems to be following right behind. When it comes to sharing views on how to survive and stay strong in a pandemic, I'm finding it's becoming increasingly harder to have simple conversations with friends and family, without first needing to gauge their stance on matters such as COVID vacination, gender issues, Faith and real estate! Our so called accepting world seems more devisive than ever.


Sunshine always breaks through. Shelley Beach sunrise, Caloundra, Australia.


It's something I've been thinking about more and more while our country has waded through border closures, hotel quarantines, lockdowns, home schooling and the oxymoronic social distancing rule. I've never had such mixed feelings about the state of our country. From panic buying toilet paper in 2020, to panic buying property in 2021. I've never seen greed played out on such a scale in the Australian psyche.


Having called the Sunshine Coast home for the past 14 years, a mass influx of people moving north to escape Victoria and New South Wales has driven local prices up, and the last of my friends away. You can't blame people for thinking that a move north to Queensland sounds like a good idea, and you can't blame locals for accepting offers $200K over what their asking price was. But when houses are being snapped up only to be demolished, as compared to Sydney prices it is still a cheap block of land close to the beach, you know the playing field has changed. Property values go up, and I know of cases where landlords have increased their rent by $200 per week just because they can. If you can't afford it, there's a waiting list of families in Sydney who can. Beyond the inconvenience of a Pandemic, there's now a Pandemic-led geographical redistribution of finances in play.


I find myself somewhere in the middle of all this. Having run a small cleaning business with my wife for the past 6 years, we've had to negotiate the initial COVID-19 panic and work-from-home practices that saw us lose a large portion of our clients, the stress of keeping the business afloat with the Federal Government Jobkeeper Assistance package, and dealing with having my wife no longer able to work after injuring her back. Finally, just when the economy is supposed to be recovering and I'm running the business on my own, I tear the meniscus in my knee and was told I'd need 8 to 12 weeks off work. Like that was going to happen! And all the while I'm trying to continue with several book projects I have underway. Something has to give.


So let's finish this with the positive. There's only two choices you have whenever something goes wrong. You can either let it defeat you on any level of your choosing. Or, rise above it and find a way around the problem. Sometimes finding a way around a problem is simply accepting what you can no longer do.


The key part of the problem seems to be that the world has changed. I'm also getting older, and have to realise that I can no longer work as hard as I have in the past under the false assumption that I'm getting ahead. With business earnings down, expenses up, and general pain and discomfort with my knee on the increase, 2022 will be a year of change.


Here's hoping for brighter days like this in 2022. With my wife at Caloundra boardwalk.


There's a lot of positives to look forward to next year, starting with my wife and I both turning 50. Trusting that all the State border restriction nonsense will be over with, we've booked a holiday to the red centre as our gift to each other, and will (touch wood) be flying to spend 5 nights at Uluru. Come August, our Daughter will be marrying, making Denise and I true empty-nesters. We'll then kick off 2023 by celebrating our 30th Wedding Anniversary. They're all big milestones that have taken a lot of work to get to! And with all of these milestones marked firmly on the calendar, its also exciting to be working around them as to when we wind up our cleaning business on the Sunshine Coast, put everything into storage, and head off on a working holiday around Australia.


It's something I've always longed to do, but something we've had to put off until our children were both grown, married and in a place of their own. If we don't do it now, there will be Grandkids in the coming years that will prevent us from being away, and who knows if we will both physically be up to the challenge when we retire? Who knows if the average Australian will still be able to afford to retire? It scares me the level of financial stress the next generation has inherited with University HEC Debts and astronomical real estate prices, but at least I know my two are equipped to navigate it.


For a writer who has relied solely on running a cleaning business to earn an income rather than the 16 books I have released to date, the pressure is now on to finish all of my current book projects by mid next year! I want a clean slate in front of me to start a new project on the road, with whatever my camera lens takes a liking to. Heading off after August will give us time to be properly prepared. The alternative... keep doing the same things but having to work harder to make someone else rich, doesn't sit right with me. If that's the game, someone else can play it.


They say change is inevitable, and I agree. But when change comes, you always have the option to change with it, or let it change you. 2022... I'm ready to see what life changes there are!


Positively Phill... Over and out!


Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year! Wherever you are, may 2022 be better for everyone.

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Great Aussie Campfire WEEKEND!


Ready for some poetry around the campfire at Lake Borumba Camping Ground, QLD. Australia.


Sometimes you just have to pack up the 4x4 and get away for the weekend. It doesn't matter where, why or what-for. You just need to feel small in the vastness of the Aussie bush to put all your troubles into perspective. Stars overhead. Wife by your side. Suddenly nothing else matters.


So, after flicking through the pages of my newly arrived copies of my latest book Great Aussie Campfire Poems, we decided to mark the occassion by turning it into a Great Aussie Campfire WEEKEND!


Living on the Sunshine Coast, we are really spoilt when it comes to how quickly you can leave the beaches and crowds behind, and be surrounded by nothing. Less than an hour's drive up the Bruce Highway we were cruising some country backroads in the Mary Valley until we came to the town of Imbil. I'd strongly recommend a lunch at the historic Railway Hotel, before continuing on some 15 minutes over several single lane bridges that harken back to the good ol' days of driving. And soon you reach the Lake Borumba Caravan & Camping Ground.


They market this area as the Noosa Outback... although its far from anything remotely dusty. Trees, trees and a great Aussie swimming hole called Yabba Creek. My wife Denise and I are lazy campers. We throw a self-inflating mattress in the back of our Mitsubishi Outlander, some pillows, a sleeping bag, a change of clothes and a small toiletries bag. Along with an esky full of drinks and a picnic hamper, a pair of folding chairs and a battery powered lantern are usually more than enough for us to get away for a night.


This time we also packed our togs. I'm glad we did as the temperature hit 37 degrees Celcius on the day we arrived. Yabba Creek by comparision felt about 15 degrees.


Cooling off in Yabba Creek. You don't get a more Aussie bush camping experience than this!


Lake Borumba Dam. Campgrounds are downstream, water skiing upstream of the wall.


We've lived on the Sunshine Coast for almost 14 years, and this was our first visit to Lake Borumba. It definitely won't be our last. If you're into boating, the dam itself offers plenty of parking for boat trailers, and the lake looked full of jetskis and water skiers. Downstream by the campground however is a different story. Nice, quiet, and plenty of level camping sites for families with caravans and tents. And night time.... Just perfect! Stars overhead, and plenty of firepits available to place where you'd like. We enjoyed a night around the campfire, shared a few poems from my latest book, and polished off a bottle of wine or two.


And the perfect book to leave packed in our camp kitchen bag... 'til next time that is!


It's funny how time changes your perspective. A decade ago I would be busy drumming up interest for a newspaper article, promoting a book launch, followed by organising a book tour at whichever library, bookstore or the like would have me. These days.... not so much. Not only has consecutive years of COVID-19 enforced lockdowns put an end to that, but the cost of organising public indemnity insurance to safegaurd yourself against being sued for a papercut makes a simple blog post like this, or sharing the pictures on social media far more profitable.


One thing that came from a weekend away in deep conversation with my wife about the future, turning 50 next year and all the uncertainty that the world has to offer right now, was recognizing that I've always strived a little too hard to live my life purposefully with the aim of trying to get ahead. Turns out nothing much has come from that. Our kids are both raised. My books haven't made me rich at any point in the past 15 years, and whatever investments we have haven't changed our lives. In the process we've only gotten a little older, and a lot more fond of wasting time on the simple things that bring us enjoyment. I would very much like to live the next 15 years less-purposefully! That is, making time to waste time, instead of telling myself I should be working on this or that before I can sit back and enjoy everything.


That said, its nice to be able to have all my campfire-inspired poetry from the past 30 plus years in a neat pocketbook. Even if it is only to come out around the campfire. I feel it is finally time to sit back with my writing, and recognise the hard work I have previously put in. Even if it is just a case of honouring the personal satisfaction that has come with each and every release. Who knows? Wasting some time around a campfire may lead to a few more bush poems when I'm good and ready.


My book Great Aussie Campfire Poems is available now through Apple's iBook Store, eBay and direct from the publisher at Blurb.com I hope you preview it, or better still, buy a copy for when you next go camping. Go on, get out there!


  


Saturday, 2 October 2021

Favourite Australian Railway Scenes

Surprise encore release for 2021. A sequel for Favourite Australian Railway Stations!


I've kept this closely under wraps for the best part of 2021, but in a surprise announcement, Favourite Australian Railway Scenes is now available. Proof of this momentous occassion can be garnered from the above photo, which shows it is possible to orchestrate a grand book launch in the midst of a Global Pandemic. Albeit, a launch party for two.


To ensure I wasn't just sitting alone at my desk, I spared no expense on putting on an elaborate spread to be sure that my wife would join me on the couch, and you should have seen the launch party. The two seater couch was packed!


Nonsense and celebratory prattle aside, in the midst of pandemic-led border closures and restrictions here in Australia over the course of the past two years, suddenly my personal collection of over 10,000 railway images that I have taken across Australia since the dawn of the digital camera have become valuable. Even if I wanted to set off on a cross-country trip to photograph some remaining, decrepit, half fallen down railway structure in some far flung corner of the country, right now I simply couldn't. It led to me sit and once more collate another Favourite Australian Railway collection in the wake of how well 2020's release of Favourite Stations was received.


So now that this book featuring 80 unique never before seen images is available, once more in hardback, softcover, eBook or as a .PDF download, I can return to completing the next new release/releases I have planned for 2021. "What might that be?' I hear you ask. Well, you'll just have to wait and see.



60 page premium colour featuring 80 images.

  


Favourite Australian Railway Scenes is now available through Blurb, with the title to become available on iBooks in the coming weeks. (Click on the links above). Watch out for a special offer of signed copies available through my Philden Model Railway eBay store next month!


Once again, a huge thank you to all my readers, both here and on phildenmodelrailway , your ongoing support is much appreciated.

Phill O

2nd October, 2021

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Great Aussie Railway Poems

Something new for 2020... and completely unannounced. Great Aussie Railway Poems.


This comes as a complete surprise, even for myself. After posting back in March that I was happy to call it a day with my railway themed books after releasing Favourite Australian Railway Stations, I go and do something out of the blue like release another railway book! A 72 page b&w paperback or eBook, it is packed with 45 great Aussie railway poems, (hence the title) that I have collated from a career that now stretches back to 1987. Inside are all of the poems from my Last Train series of photographic poetry books, along with every railway poem from each of my previous poetry eBooks. At $12.99 plus postage for the paperback, or just $3.99 for the eBook, it is a much more economical alternative for railway buffs and poetry aficianados alike.


So why the change of mind? Well... to be honest it was all a little out of my hand. With my past novels and poetry eBooks parked in retirement with Smashwords.com and doing sweet nothing sales wise, a letter advising that I needed to update my W8-BEN form to satisfy the U.S. Government in order to continue receiving royalties forced a decision. Ordinarily, filling out a W8-BEN form doesn't spell the end of the world. However, if you're a non-resident alien (as the U.S. like to call people from outside of America who earn money from inside of America) it does pose a conundrum if you just so happened to have sold an investment property in the past few years and got off the whole money-churning U.S. Tax merry-go-round. Fill out the W8-BEN form, and I'm suddenly back on it, even if merely to fill in non-lodgement forms stating again and again that we no longer own property within the United States. All for the sake of the few remaining books that weren't selling.


Removing all of my titles from sale was the easy part. What to do with a lot of hard work that had essentially amounted to nothing took a little more thought. Collating all of my railway poems from my previously available eBooks seemed the logical first step. Releasing them locally here in Australia through Blurb was the next one. At least here in Australia I am set up with an ABN to sell and distribute my own books as a sole trader. So one down, and a few different instalments to follow. Great Aussie Bush Poems will come next.


After that I'll be looking at re-releasing my four novels in print form once more. For someone who was happy to sit back and concentrate on my next projects, (namely completing the model railway that you can see in the top photo), I suddenly have a lot of work on my hands. I remember hearing at a writing conference back in the early 2000's, that a book only stops selling when you stop selling it. So I've also taken the time to completely refresh and overhaul this site. You'll notice a lot of changes, and there'll be a lot more to follow, beginning with a new approach to blogging that I'll be commencing in the coming weeks. What will it be? You'll have to follow this blog, or bookmark it and come back to see just what its all about.


Until then, try to stay safe in what is a very trying 2020, and be sure to preview the book over at Blurb.com.