Book Review: Slightly Spooky Stories.

photo 3 (1)

There was a knock at the front door and the dogs went nuts.

They really hate that ‘delivery bloke’.

We had been spending time with a friend the night before. Dinner at an Indian restaurant in Olinda [a beautiful part of the Dandenong Ranges, not far from our home]. A couple of glasses of wine, and unseasonably warm evening, and a couple of ‘slightly spooky stories’ supplied by the owner of the restaurant. When you hang out with Mediums interesting things happen. He told us a few stories about being aware of Spirits and my friends tried to connect him with his grandmother, but the staff were getting restless — it was late and they wanted to go home — fair enough, a conversation for another day.

We went back to our friends house and the conversation flowed well into the morning. Fortunately, I’d stopped imbibing somewhat earlier so my head was in reasonable shape when we heard the knock at the door.

You would think that I would be very pleased to see my latest book in print, and I was, but this moment [six books so far] is always a bit of a letdown.

So much goes into the publishing of a book you probably wouldn’t believe it if you hadn’t been through it. Then the final part of a very long process arrives at your door, and the project is finally complete [well almost, there is always the constant marketing….. like this article].

The idea for this book [anthology] came about while I was writing TRUST: What it feels like to be a medium. I wanted to add a couple of stories that came into being because of the influence of a reading I had given or seen given by others. I then realised that I have written a lot of stories that are vaguely ‘spooky’ [I don’t do horror, it’s not my thing]. I bundled them all together and sure enough, there was more than enough for an anthology. [book two in this series is well under way]

As many of you will know, I often use an illustration or photograph to kickstart a story. Many of these stories happened the other way around and I had to find a suitable illustration to go with each story. This is where my talented son Matthew comes into the story. Matt lets me use lots of his photographs to headline my stories. Naturally, a lot of my inspiration comes from other people’s illustrations and it would not be right to use them in a book without asking permission. This would be a huge task and not viable for a writer who aims to break even and possibly make a bit more to convince his wife that people really do want to read what he writes.

I’ve been a photographer since the early 1970s, but all my early work went missing when we moved house in ’86, and a lot of my early digital work disappeared when I experienced my first hard drive crash, so I’m very happy that I can choose some of Matt’s excellent photos to enhance my stories. Slightly Spooky Stories has several of his photos, but the really important one is the cover shot. I told him about the project I was working on and he sent me this shot and I was blown away. It was taken in the main street of Belgrave which is the next town further up the mountain from mine. Walking distance in fact. It’s a time capsule shot of sorts as the street artwork has deteriorated quite a bit since this shot was taken.

The first story in the collection is a particular favourite of mine and was honoured, a little while ago, by being chosen for inclusion in one of Australia’s premier literary magazines, Southerly [The Long Paddock, their on-line edition]. Naturally, I was very proud and more than a little bit surprised considering the stack of rejection letters I had been collecting up to that point. I don’t submit my stories to Lit’ Mag’s anymore so this might be my last and biggest success [several of my stories have found homes in magazines all over the world and a full list is in the back of SSS]

The stories in the book vary in length with ‘Emily’ being the longest, but ‘An AK47 and a banana’ comes in a close second.

In this modern busy world, this is the perfect book to read on the tram or the train on the way to work.

The longest story takes about 20 minutes to read, but most are much shorter.

If you chose to read the book in bed you will not have nightmares but each story will make you wonder what came before and what happened after.

Naturally, you can purchase this book as an eBook as well as a paperback. It is available from Amazon, Apple, Smashwords [all formats] as well as Kobo and Barnes and Noble.

The paperback is available from me, and if you are in North America you can purchase it from my printers, Blurb [postage makes it a bit more expensive if you are outside of North America].

photo 2 (1)

This book has traveled a long way and so have I.

photo 4

If there is such a thing as a ‘book selfie’ then this is it.

Everyone Wants.


Everyone wants something to explode.

Not literally, but they expect instant action; twists; turns; surprise endings.

Most of the time I can oblige; most of the time it’s what I like too, but every now and then it comes out as something else.

It doesn’t have a lot to do with me it’s just the way it comes out.


Sometimes I forget to write for me and end up writing for someone else.

Not that there is anything wrong with giving your readers what they want, but when it gets in the way, there is a problem.

For the last few weeks, I’ve had a nasty little virus which has turned my body and mind to mush. I’ve been doing my best to read [as in, listen to audio books, because my eyes don’t work too well], but writing has been out of the question.

Hemingway describes what happens to you when you go too many days without writing, and I wish I had written it down when I read it, but if you are a writer you know what he is talking about; it isn’t pleasant.

I have a lot of ideas and heap of characters in my head, and they each demand their time in the sun. It’s good for them, but it does not always serve me well.

I have two novels, both partially written, but the progress is slow because various short stories demand to be written.

If I weren’t enjoying the process, it would be a lot easier.

I could simply lock myself in my writing room and not allow myself out until one, or the other of the novels is completed, but the truth is I love the short form. I love the ‘slice of life’ approach. I love coming in near the end.

I love the feeling of standing at the bar of my local pub and telling a story —- beginning —- middle and end —- all in the time it takes to drink a good whisky.

I love that my main character might be a tough bloke or a suburban housewife.

He might be a she, and either one of them might be a dog or a guardian angel.

They might be an inventor or a murderer or even a damsel in distress.

And yes, they may even be a writer.

While we are on the subject; why do editors of literary magazines hate stories about writers?

A story is a story, so WTF?

Why do they care so much?

Someone wise once said that there are only three stories in the world, and every story stems from those three basic stories.

Victor Gollancz

I had an interesting experience with editors just recently; I submitted one of my favourite stories to a handful of Lit Mags and went back to writing and reading and worrying about stuff; my usual routine.

A bit of time went by and I heard from two different editors about the same story.

In one instance, the story was shortlisted for a prestigious University Lit Mag here in Australia [in didn’t make the final cut, unfortunately], and I was honoured to be on that short list.

I was probably lucky that their theme [they only publish four times a year, and they only publish three stories, so it is a big deal if you are chosen] was ‘Into The Future’ because my story was slightly Sci-Fi.

I don’t write a lot of Sci-Fi, mainly because I’m not very good at it, but this story demanded a Sci-Fi setting.

Now here is the interesting part; when I published this story on WP a while back, you, my lovely readers, commented on the content and the style and singled out certain elements that you particularly liked.

They were the things that I liked about this story as well, so I was very pleased.


Obviously the University Lit Mag editor felt the same way, but when I received a very polite rejection letter from another Lit Mag, they pointed out that they thought it ‘started off well’ but then it fell down in the middle by describing certain places and events and ‘this was time that could have been better spent telling us more about the main characters’.

I laughed when I read this [even though I appreciated the feedback] because these were the very parts that you and I liked about this story.

Can you see my frustration?

Can you see why writers tear their hair out?

I didn’t want you, or them, to know more about the characters; that wasn’t the point of the story.

You and they were supposed to fill in the details for yourself.

Knowing more about the characters would have made the story longer and not necessarily more interesting.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining; I just find it interesting.


I write for me first, but I definitely write for you.

I want you to have as much fun with a story as I’m having.

I want you to wonder about my characters.

I want you to wonder what comes next and what came before.

I want you to feel sorry for them and to be angry and frustrated that they cannot see what you can see; and I want them to make you laugh —- sometimes at them, and sometimes with them.

Above all, I want you to enjoy the ride.


I mean it when I say that I often don’t know where these characters are taking me so I get a buzz as it starts to unfold and I hope that you do too.

Passengers travel on an overcrowded train at Loni town in Uttar

Sometimes I sit on trains and I look for a face that interests me; someone I’m drawn to.

I build a life for that person inside my head.

I imagine those that are around them now as well as those who are passed on.

The ones who have passed on are invariably the most interesting; they are ‘the ones who have come before’.

We all have them; they are the ones who loved us or influenced us or were touched by us, but now they are gone. What would they say if they could communicate? I often imagine mothers and grandmothers who are immensely proud of how a young person has turned out. “He’s such a good boy”, said a grandmother who had watched her grandson grow from a boy to a man; she is so proud.

These exercises can sometimes leave me feeling a little sad but on the other hand, it is fun to think of loved ones being reunited.


I’m not sure what effect these sessions have on my stories, because my stories tend to be in the here and now, but I know that I get a great sense of connection when I practise this. “Everyone has a story to tell”, my mother said this a lot and she was right, they do, it’s just that it sometimes takes a second person to bring out that story.

Zoidberg Horse Eye_2

As this essay is entitled ‘Everyone Wants’, and just at this moment, my dogs are looking at me as if to say, “We have waited patiently for you to type your story, and now it is time to walk in the sun.”

Winter does not produce a lot of sunny days so they are right, it would be a shame to waste a sunny day.

What Are You Lookin’ At??


I know what I like but finding out what you like has been interesting.

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, I’m amazed that you folks take the time to stop and read the stories, memoirs and essays that I write. I know how hard it can be to find time but a heap of you regularly do just that.
The stories etc., that I think are my best are not always the ones that attract the most interest; and that’s OK.
WP suggests that I write more of what you show interest in but you wouldn’t want me to do that, would you?
Maybe you would?


As I would expect, photos get a lot of likes [I do the same thing, it’s easy to decide if you enjoy it at a glance and you don’t feel guilty about not visiting the page if you are busy].
Stories get slightly less views than likes [some people are just being kind and that’s ok, and some people may not know that there is a story to go with that photo; no worries.]
I thought it might be fun to pick out some of my favourites from my first six months on WP and also to point out some that you read/liked more than others. Stuff that appears on both lists will be coloured green……… because I like green! [OK, so I didn’t do this but I left the sentence in anyway].



The Day I Met Chester.


I wrote this several years ago as a script for a YouTube video. It came out of nowhere and I love it. I guess it reminds me of the first feelings of being able to make something out of nothing, just the stuff floating around in my head. You liked it as well, it ranks as my 5th most viewed.
The Spotted Librarian: Some Things Don’t Change.


I have been telling this story, on and off, for forty years and eventually I got it down on paper [so to speak]. It got a good reaction when I first published it and it got quite a few comments. It seemed to touch people in different ways. Some people are, or were teachers and recognised some of the situations. Others have children and are seeing some of these things happening in the present day.
Then it became just another story that I had written but it stayed in my ‘Top Posts and Pages by Likes’ section on the side of my blog. Then, a few weeks ago it started to get several views each day until it has risen to be my second most read post. This might be because it is showing up when I ‘like’ other people’s stuff and they look at my avatar on their email feed and WP list my top three post.
Incidentally, this is how You Cannot Please Everyone became my most read post by a factor of 2 and half! I wrote it as one of my very early posts and it took on a life of it’s own because it would show up on my avatar when I ‘liked’ something [which I do a lot of…. there’s so much to like].
When a Seagull Needs Coffee


I like this one because I wrote it for my granddaughter and it came to life very easily [some stories do that].
You read it as well…. it comes in at number 9
And ‘liked’ it… at number 6
Out There Waiting For You


This is the story that started an interesting adventure. It was meant to stand alone but eventually became part of a trilogy [the only one I have written so far]. It’s very short and I love it [you did too and insisted on more].
You made it my 7th most read post, 6th in comments but 12th in ‘likes’
He Who Loves an Old House


Obviously, this was a very personal post. It is about my house and you reacted to it right from the start. Lot’s of lovely comments. This is the post that has the most integration of my words and my photographs and I think that is why it is one of my favourites.
You made it my 4th most read post, 3rd in comments and 4th in ‘likes’
Not Alone.


I’m very proud of this. It is the third part of a trilogy and a lot of people REALLY wanted me to write it. I put a lot of thought and effort into it. I experimented with the idea of having three points of view and I think it worked very well. I posted it and waited for a response. It got a few likes and a few reads but not the reaction I had been hoping for. This taught me a very good lesson and SIGNIFICANTLY increased my confusion!
Mostly I write stuff and post it and then move on to the next idea. I don’t generally sit around and wonder what people are going to say or if they will like/view it. But, on this occasion I did and it was not pleasant. I got a taste of what writers go through every day….. waiting to hear if that half wit publisher wants to publish their work.
It ranked in 40th in reads, 60th in comments, and probably just a low in likes!



I like To Watch


I wrote this post in response to someone else’s post about the disparity between ‘likes’ and ‘reads’.
I enjoyed writing it and even though I wrote it when I had not been here for very long, my opinions have not changed.
You love it. LOTS of likes and heaps of views. It is my 3rd most viewed post!
I guess it is topical. At some stage we all ask ourselves the question, but I must say that I’m a little surprised that it ranks so highly.
You Cannot Please Everyone


I think I understand why this post took off, but I’m still a little surprised that it got so many reads. It was early days and WP had to list something with my avatar and this was the post that got a bit of attention.
I wrote it out of frustration and disappointment. I had just gotten a piece published [which was and is still a big deal for me] and my friend gets all upset because she recognises herself in the story! Why not be happy for me? She knew that there had not been a lot of successes in my life at that time. So why not enjoy it with me? I guess my emotion comes through in the piece and I guess you guys have experienced similar disappointments.
Shagpile Carpet


Those of you who subject yourself to my stuff regularly will know that I write these types of ‘unusual’ stories from time to time.
A lot of them are inspired by a fellow WP person who likes to post macro shots and ask people to guess what they think the photo is about.
Sometimes I look at them and these crazy ideas start to form. I write them down and sometimes they come out as a bizarre story which appeals to me so I post it in her comments section. I keep a copy and when I come across it again I’ll work on it some more and post it with an appropriate photo.
You have liked and read quite a few of these but for some reason, this is the one that you have read the most.
I’m not sure if I think that it is my best but I do like it, so fair enough.
You have made it my 6th most read post! Impressive.
Not Alone.


See above.
One of my favourites and it ranks as my 45th most read post!
It ranks below several of my photos which don’t have any words and they still got more reads!!!!!!



The Spotted Librarian: Some Things Don’t Change.
By a long way.
You Cannot Please Everyone
He Who Loves an Old House
I like To Watch
Not a lot of surprises here I guess. If you liked to read it there was a chance you had something to add.



You Cannot Please Everyone
The Spotted Librarian: Some Things Don’t Change.
I like To Watch



These are stories that you might like to read when you have nothing else to do [I’m smiling at the thought that you wouldn’t have anything else to do]
The Mouse Who Liked Cheezels.


Ophelia Drinkwater Has Lots of Cool Stuff.

John William Waterhouse - Lamia

Let’s Eat Grandad



That’s it for now but I will write write a post about my more recent stuff at some later date.
If you were bored shitless then blame WP, it was one of their ideas.
I must admit that I had fun doing the research and I was surprised that your reactions to my stuff matched my own with only a few exceptions.
I was all ready to give you guys a serve and then I had to pull my head in.
Some would say that I should do this more often.

I Like To Watch.


I always read my stories to my dog and she hardly ever falls asleep. OK, so this was a particularly long post.

I wrote this initially as a response to someone else’s post.

He was lamenting the disparity between ‘likes’ and ‘views’.

It got me thinking (sometimes I cannot stop that process), and the piece below was my response.

That is a really good question and one that I have not seen anyone ask in the brief time I have been on WordPress.

I too have noticed that good photos get a lot of likes, which does make a lot of sense as most people are visual first and verbal second. So I guess a ‘like’ or a comment on a written piece is worth ten on a photograph?

Maybe five?

In any case, this place beats the hell out of Facebook. My ‘friends’ expect the one liners. I can do that, and I do, but I would like my friends to enjoy my longer thoughts, but I guess they are just too busy most of the time.

Here it is different.

Here, people find you (and you find them).

Here, people read your stuff because they are free to do their research.

My stats show that a lot of people view my stuff and a few comment and a few like and a very few ‘sign up’ for more, which is very cool.

Those that look and do not follow are not wasting their time (or mine).

I know that when I write it is mostly for those who want to read.

That’s very cool.

In the past I wrote because I had to, then because I had a column in our local newspaper, but even then I got little feedback, so it was hard to know if anyone liked what I wrote (I guess my editor did and that’s what counts) I did get the occasional, “I read your article”, etc and I do have a few people who say that they look forward to the next issue (and the occasional one who did not like what I wrote [] but it was not until I came here that I felt that what I wrote, and photographed, would be seen and appreciated.

Don’t get me wrong I like having lots of followers, and I hope to have more but, even if there were only a few followers and I knew that they got a kick out of my stuff, I would be very happy and would be motivated to write and photograph even more.


When I have finished writing for the day, I put my precious stories in my briefcase and Honey sits on it and guards it till morning. You don’t want to break into my house and try to steal my stories. Honey is crazy, she’ll take you out!


The People You Meet and the Books You Read.

“You are who you are today because of the people you meet and the books you read”

Charlie Jones


Being able to get out and about is one of the great delights of home schooling. You are not restricted by the walls of a classroom and the restrictions placed on you by our modern obsession with ‘health and safety’.


Photo credit:

Our home schooling journey included many excursions, some special and ‘one off’ and others normal and ‘every day’. Life is for living and children are interested in the everyday life of their adult parents. I have mentioned elsewhere that we turned our weekly supermarket shopping trips into an investigation of prices and value for money in our local area. This was practical maths in action not to mention all the work that went into deciding which foods should be included in the survey. This project led on to a discussion of which goods are made in Australia and which companies are Australian owned. This led to an investigation into what goes into our processed foods and what affects these ingredients have on us. The boys got quite good at understanding what the various codes on the containers meant.

One of our regular journeys took us to Knox City Shopping Centre. Now, I’m not a big fan of shopping centres, and I never have been but this was where Dymocks book stores had a branch which stocked an extensive range of Star Trek books and our boys were avid readers in general and specifically of this series.


The staff and the owners got to know us very well and would often stock certain titles because they knew the boys would be interested.

Money was always tight at our house and being on one income didn’t help but we somehow found the money for books. We were so pleased that the boys enjoyed reading and we wanted to encourage them.

After a very pleasant time at Dymocks1 we would wander over to the food court for a sandwich and a drink.

Our favourite place was Cafe Navona where we were often served by an older waiter named Chris. Our boys named him ‘Farouk’ because he reminded them of a character from the movie “The Castle”.


Chris was always friendly and would spend some time talking to the boys and it got to the point that we would all look forward to seeing him and disappointment would set in if we turned up on his day off.

As the boys grew older and began their working lives we stopped visiting Knox City, or should I say that when we did go there we got in and out as fast as possible.

Amazingly the café is still there after all these years though the bookshop has gone (the ABC shop is the only bookshop left at Knox City). Naturally we were pleased to see that one of our old haunts was still in business so my wife and I stopped for refreshment. I spoke to the young lady who served us and tried to describe Chris to her and asked what had happened to him. She said that he had passed away a few years earlier.

I was surprised by how upset I was at hearing this news. Chris was only one story in our long adventure but I felt sad to think that he was no longer out there doing his thing.

I sent a message to Andrew and Matt letting them know that Chris had died but we have not had time to discuss him since. I’m not sure what their reaction was but I know that I am sad.

Chris was an important part of our journey and I would like to think that he is up there somewhere serving delicious sandwiches and teaching young people the value of gentle conversation.

Thanks Chris, you are remembered.


Terry Barca is the author of ‘SCHOOME: An Adventure in Home Schooling’

He Who Loves An Old House.


“He who loves an old house never loves in vain.”
– Isabel La Howe Conant, late 19th Century author


And every old house needs a backyard and a dog………… or two.




This amazing, little old house was built nearly one hundred years ago and the oak tree that you get a glimpse of in the first photo (on the right) is one hundred and seventeen years old (you can measure the age of an oak tree by its circumference. one inch per year). This means that the original couple who built this house probably laid out the garden many years before they began building. We know a little bit about the original owners because when we moved in there was a very old bloke living across the road from us and he had lived in our street for many years. He remembers when they died and the family came and dug out many of the plants that they had nurtured! He was disgusted. He would be very sad to know that his descendants unloaded his excellent old house the minute he died. The lady who bought the house has been a good neighbour, most of the time.

The window in the photo above is the reason we now own this house. The owner at the time asked me to repair this window and I instantly fell in love with this house. Years later the next owner asked me to repair another leadlight panel for him and I told him that I’d been at his house before. He showed me around and showed off all the improvements he had made and as I was leaving I said that if he ever wanted to sell the house that he should ring me. He laughed and said that there was no way he would ever sell that house.

Fast forward a decade and he makes that call.

A few months later and we are the new owners of this house.

One day I will post the story of our journey to living here. It is an excellent story and deserves it’s own post.



The 117 year old oak tree is on the right.

ImageThe lamp belonged to my grand mother who came to Australia in 1910. My dad smuggled it out of her house when she died to avoid a family feud.


Back in the day I was approached by a bloke who collected tins. He wanted to sell a big chunk of his collection so that it would not be a burden on his wife when he died. He was a great bloke and although I could not afford to keep all of them I did manage to hang on to a few.


Our front deck looks over a creek so we get a few visitors who drop in to dry off after bathing.

ImageOld dogs love old houses too.

My wife gets the credit (or the blame) for photos 1, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10 and 11



My good lady is a very talented person.

She creates all sorts of beautiful things and one of them is jewelery. I encouraged her to share her creations with the wider world and she signed up to exhibit at our local ‘every couple of months and when the weather will allow’, craft market.

It’s called the Grassroots Community Market and until very recently it was held in Upwey. That is until a few short sighted business owners complained about the lack of parking on market day! One Saturday every second month and they complained. The council is fine with the market but the organisers are very good people and they are upset by the ‘agro’ and have decided to suspend the market for the foreseeable future. Which is a real shame because I get these amazing photos (I’ll put a few more up at a later date).

This photo is of a stand that makes all the amazing things you can see using a hand fret saw! The quality is amazing and as you can see it makes for a great photo. Natural light was a big help and my wife brought the red shoe and gave it to her colleague for Christmas. It went down very well.

WINTER: My Time Of Year.


I’m starting to get a bit sick of people complaining about winter.

One of the delights of living in this part of the world* is the fact that we have four distinct seasons.

I can be a tad cynical at times but that cynicism is generally directed at the activities and dishonesty of my fellow humans, but I tend to leave Nature alone.

I am genuinely surprised and delighted as each new season unfolds.

Winter has a special appeal.

To start with it is usually too cold and wet to work in the garden. Which is an absolute bonus as far as I’m concerned. My mum was an avid gardener and as much as I tried I could not catch that particular bug. I like looking at gardens and I enjoy sitting and walking in them, I just don’t enjoy working in them and these days my ancient body really lets me know it when I venture out with good intentions to make the garden look presentable. I do have to mow the lawns occasionally as the dogs are tiny and they tend to disappear into the long grass. They think it’s great fun but the Vet bills tend to push me outside to keep the grass and weeds down so that they don’t irritate their delicate skin.

Apart from not having to do anything in the garden there is the absolute delight of sitting in front of the open fire, sometimes writing, sometimes with a glass of whisky or a decent red, and sometimes just meditating. You can feel your stress and worries disappearing up the chimney; it’s brilliant.

If you have dogs in your life you will know that they love to cuddle up and in summer that can be a bit of a problem but in winter they are very welcome and as dogs temperature is a full degree higher than humans, they are like little hot water bottles. Our dogs like to sit on our feet and this is very comforting in the cold weather.

Sitting in a cafe at any time of the year is OK by me but it is special in the winter because you can sit there in the warmth and look out at the atmospheric weather. Because we have dogs we often sit outside and during the summer it can be difficult to find a seat but in winter we can have our pick and we get many compliments on our courage, although they might also think that we are a bit crazy.

I get a lot more work done in the winter. 

Like many writers I can invent a thousand distractions so that I don’t have to face that blank page. The warmer weather is full of wonderful distractions but winter helps me stay put, concentrate, and get on with it.

I guess it’s a bit like eating your favourite food every day, the initial joy wears off and it becomes commonplace. That’s how it is for me with seasons. I love winter but by the time we get to the end of it I’m ready for something new and along comes spring, and so it goes. Sometimes I think that the Universe designed it that way just so that I would not get bored.

After all, the Universe does revolve around me.

Thank you Universe.

* 37.7833° S, 144.9667° E

As I post this we are coming to the end of the longest run of 30 degrees C plus weather ever recorded in Melbourne, for March. So you can understand that when I found this piece, that I wrote a few months back, I wanted to remind myself of the joys of cooler weather.

Even though we live in the Hills outside of Melbourne it does not get so cold that it snows. It makes headlines when it does, but it does get cold none the less. I live on the edge of a remnant of rainforest called Sherbrooke Forest, so it rains a lot here.


This photo is not mine but from a fellow Winter lover


Photo credit goes to:

I have some excellent Winter photos and I promise to add them as soon as possible, in the mean time thank you to the photographers who contributed these shots.