Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Last Train to Brisbane

It's been a project that has been a long time coming. One that I first dreamt of attempting back in 1989 when I was just 17 years old. Back then, I was a high school student whom had just won my high school's writing award for the third straight year, only this time for poetry rather than prose. Not surprisingly, my winning poem was about a railway line. Not your everyday commuter line that rushes into the city. Rather, a railway line that had seen better days. One that was now in the process of being dismantled before nature would spend the next decade reclaiming the landscape that was once rightfully hers. To me it was a powerful visual, one that a Remington typewriter, black and white photocopier and a budget priced 35 mm camera could simply not do justice to. My how times have changed.

Fast forward to the present. Technology has come along in leaps and bounds. Today it is possible for anyone to produce a book, whether it be an eBook full of poetry, or a full colour cookbook of their Mother's favourite recipes. Finally there was a platform for me to launch the project I had first envisioned when I was a teenager. During the time that has passed between the idea first coming to mind and today, the railway landscape that I remembered from the 1980's has altered drastically. Many of the remnants from the steam era have long since disappeared, and following further railway rationalisations around the turn of the Millennium, many structures from the Twentieth Century have followed in their footsteps. The time to undertake a project such as this was now, as I believe that many of the structures featured in this first book will be non-existent in the decades that follow.

Last Train to Brisbane is the first of what I hope will be many Last Train books. Combining hauntingly beautiful railway photography with classic Australian bush poetry, in a publishing sense is a huge risk. It's like trying to find a unique audience within two very niche markets. However, in an age where each year we lose a little more of the Australia that we've so often romanticised in the past, overseeing a project like this not only combines two passions of mine, but ensures that the memory of our railway past lingers that little bit longer.

Last Train to Brisbane is a lasting tribute to the small country towns of south east Queensland where it was once possible to board a train to Brisbane. Towns that still have reminders of our railway past waiting to be discovered by a whole new generation. Not only was writing and producing this project on such a small budget a big undertaking, the research and time spent travelling to each of the places featured in this book was equally time consuming when compared to writing a novel. But when you're busy immersing yourself into the nostalgia of each town and meeting the people who have helped preserve a small slice of our railway history, the reward is more than just the book sales that follow. History has a way of kindly remembering the poets from Australia's past, and while I do trust you will enjoy browsing this collection again and again, I also hope that this work may still be recalled fondly a Century from now.

Available now through specialist bookstores, gift shops and exclusively online through


So with my first photographic poetry collection now available, my thoughts now turn to the next Last Train instalment. The next book will take my love of the rails on the road once more, this time exploring the Brisbane Border Ranges and another of my favourite abandoned railway lines, the Murwillumbah line in northern New South Wales. With each book available in either hardcover or softcover 8 x 10" premium edition print, each title will be colour themed so that they form a beautiful line-up on your bookshelf. With Last Train to Brisbane completed 6 months earlier than announced, watch for the next instalment to be available before Christmas 2017, after which I will already be exploring the south west coast of Western Australia for future editions.

And for those who are budget conscious like myself when it comes to making purchases, keep an eye on Blurb's website, as they regularly have 3 day special offers that can save you 10%, 20% or even 30% off the purchase price by entering the code displayed at the top of their website. Making the title available exclusively through Blurb keeps the retail price 40% cheaper than had I made the book available through Amazon and other online channels, and best of all, the book is posted from either Melbourne, San Francisco or the Netherlands depending on where you are located.

Until next time, take care


Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Where travel writing fails

Don't let my lack of any recent blog posts fool you, once more my creative side is deep in the final stages of nutting out what will be the next chapter in my rather inglorious writing career so far. The problem is, this project is almost impossible to limit to just one new book for 2017. The scope for where I can take this is almost endless. TV spin-offs, travel (hopefully for once it can bloody-well be paid for!) and even merchandise.

After coming up empty handed when seeking assistance to continue my Train Tripping series of books, I've spent the past 12 months concentrating on the small business I run with my wife Denise, and generally planning to do all the things we've always talked about doing together. In 2016, we visited Shoal Bay, Newcastle, the Hunter Valley and saw in the New Year in Port Douglas in far north Queensland. And 2017 doesn't look like slowing down. Next week we head off to Sydney and the Blue Mountains, then Melbourne for the Anzac Day weekend, before finishing the year in Perth and seeing in the New Year at Margaret River in Western Australia. Sounds like I'm a rich travel writer being pandered to by luxury resorts and airlines right? Wrong. In fact, it couldn't be further from the truth.

The truth is, I run a small Mum and Dad cleaning business on the Sunshine Coast with my wife of 24 years Denise. Despite spending the past 10 years throwing everything I had into trying to 'make it' as a writer, for some reason or other, it didn't work out. Somehow, in the space of the past 18 months, our cleaning business did. So with our children both studying full-time at University while also holding down decent part-time jobs of their own, suddenly Mum and Dad have the time, and the money, to travel.

Now you'd think that, (as a writer), I'd take this next opportunity in life to try my hand at travel writing. But again, you'd be wrong. While I've shared some Travel Tales of my own on this blog in the past, and written several small pieces on travel sites, magazines and web e-zines, (all without being paid, or expecting to be paid), the truth is that this is our time, and I'm not about to give it away for the benefit of any website or magazine that wants to offer me the chance of 'furthering my career', under the guise of simply selling advertising space. Don't believe me? Take a good look at the advertising that springs up on most travel related websites. It's all click-generated income built around keywords in the freely submitted travel articles. Honestly, with the over-saturation of travel bloggers on social media these days, resorts, airlines and travel agents have never had it so good.

At the end of the day, professional travel writers get told where to go, where to stay and ultimately what to write. But they do expect to get paid or reimbursed for their work, (even if it's not as much as some people might imagine). In business, time is money. With writing, time is still time. If you're good enough, or maybe just plain lucky enough, someone will talk to you about the money later.

So why would someone like myself, who's had to work hard for 11 months and 2 weeks of the year to afford a 2 week getaway with his wife, feel compelled to compete with the hundreds of thousands of aspiring writers talking-up their accommodation, attractions or airline, all for the opportunity to 'further their career?' It just doesn't interest me anymore. I'd much rather leave a tip and tell our waitress that we had a wonderful meal, thank the reception staff for a wonderful stay and pray to God that our flight home isn't cancelled again as it was coming home from Port Douglas, (thanks a lot Tiger Air!) without the compelling duty to find nice things to say about bad service.

As for the social media 'travel experts' who desperately want to show you how you can make a living traveling the world and blogging about it? Keep buying their books. They desperately need your money.

Me? I plan to keep writing. Why? Maybe because its like my sister, and fellow writer, Tanya Bird says; "we do it Phill because its like a disease. It's just in you so we have to get it out." I do know I'm glad I have someone like my wife Denise to talk ideas over with. Each great book idea I've had pop into my head over the past year, we've had to dismiss due to either the time or money it would take away from our business. Believe me when I say there are plenty of great ideas lying dead in the water! The truth is.... I like to write, and somehow through all that frustrating thought process, we've both landed on an idea for a new book project that is going to work. How do I know? Because the photos I've already taken, the memories I'm already passionate about and the stories are already in me. I just have to get them out.

Steve Jobs once said; "people with passion can change the world." I don't know if my next project will change the world, but I do know it has already changed the way I look at it. So watch this space, because I'm about to venture further off the beaten track than I ever have before!

P.S. no travel writers were harmed during the writing of this post. Nor was Tiger Air, who did give me a full refund and have no doubt since cancelled other flights.
P.S.S. Tiger Air did not pay me to write this article.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Calling all Railway Poets

2017 sees me taking on a project of a different kind. After years of sharing stories and advice with other aspiring writers, I wanted to oversee a project that in turn could provide readers with something more than just a few words of encouragement. That project is The Railway Poets Collective, an open invitation not just to readers of my blog, but to poets around the world who would like to submit an original poem of their own work, with the theme of trains or train travel.

Having published four collections of my own poetry in between working on various other novels and non-fiction titles over the past decade, I know how hard it is to promote your own work, and how frustrating it can be when no-one seems to care about it. Especially when it comes to poetry. I've heard it said many times, that everyone has at least one novel inside them. When it comes to poetry however, I believe that everyone has a lifetime of poems just lurking in the back of their mind. Try publishing a book of poetry however, and unless you can find a way to excel at performing stand-up poetry or win a national award, no-one is ever going to hear of your work, and it will be left to family and friends to buy nothing more than a couple of dozen copies.

Originally I had planned to release a collection of my own railway poetry in 2017, but then I thought of how much even I would rather enjoy sitting down to read a compilation of railway poems penned by different poets offering different views of trains from around the world. The problem was, there isn't any such book that I am aware of. So I am going to compile my own, and you Dear Reader have the opportunity to have your name included on the front cover.

In submitting your poem for consideration, there are a number of points I would like to clarify. So please read the following points first, as submitting you poem for consideration will be a form of acknowledging that you agree to the terms.

  1. I can only accept works which are both 100% original and your own. The rights to the poem will remain 100% your property at all times, even after being published in this book, meaning that you are free to include them in any of your own published poetry books in the future.
  2. The poem must be to the best understanding of the reader, railway related and communicate the common theme of trains or train travel. Please keep the line length to between 24 to no more than 84 lines to help with book formatting.
  3. The submitted poem must be written in English. Australian poems will be kept in Australian English just as American poems will be kept in American English to preserve the theme of each individual work.
  4. The submitted poem cannot be one which has been previously published by a commercially or legally recognized publishing label, both small or otherwise. Previous independently published poems that have been released solely under your own name by means of Smashwords or any other self-publishing method, will however be considered. Please make mention of this in your submission and I can even give a free plug to where your other work is available within the book. It is after all, your poem.
  5. The submitted poem cannot be one which has already appeared in another poetry or writing anthology or magazine. If someone else has already been kind enough to publish your work, then please show them the respect by not submitting the same poem to another publication.
  6. The submitted poem cannot be one which has been the recipient of a major or commercially sponsored prize or award. Although the legal rights to the work in question may still legally be yours, my including it in this compilation aren't. If you are that talented and still would like to be included in this compilation, then please send me something fresh.
  7. Absolutely, positively no crude, suggestive, vulgar language or innuendo. You may use whatever language you'd like as an artist in your other work, but I'm looking for a collection of railway poems that will be enjoyed by readers of all ages.
  8. The finished book will be compiled and produced by myself before being published in printed form and distributed through Blurb, with each book being printed and shipped from either Melbourne Australia, San Francisco U.S.A., or The Netherlands. An eBook version will also be produced through Smashwords for upload through their premium distribution channel to the likes of Kobo, Apple's iTunes Store, Barnes & Noble and in France. Unfortunately there is no guarantee which, or if any, of these channels choose to make the book available for sale. The author's name on this book will appear as Compiled by Phillip Overton, without this the book cannot be legally distributed through any sales channels. The names of each poet will appear on the front cover (shown above) in lieu of the words Your Name. For those unsure of the finished quality, please browse the Books page on this blog to sample the other eBooks and full colour print books that have been produced by myself.
  9. Unfortunately, no payment will be provided for any entry which is included in this compilation. A free code to download the eBook from Smashwords will be forwarded to each person whose work is included, and printed copies will be available for purchase online through Blurb. Submitting your poem also waives any right or claim to any commission generated from the future sales of this book. I'm envisioning sales of between 100 and 200 copies from this compilation with a projected retail price of between $5 and $6 AUD for, (at maximum), a 64 page 13 x 24 cm trade quality paperback book. (Believe me, I'm not going to get rich for the amount of time that this project will consume!). Any subsequent future compilations of The Railway Poets Collective may include a free printed copy mailed as a form of payment, pending solely on the success of this compilation.
  10. Email your poem for consideration to using the words Poetry Submission - (followed by) Your Name in the heading. Please attach your poem in word.doc format making sure the title and your name are at the top of the page. Using 12 point font will help greatly.

So, seasoned poets and first-time poets alike, I hope that the coming months see a flow of great railway poems arrive in my inbox. Please remember that this is not a contest. There is no First Prize, just the opportunity for 20 poets to be selected in The Railway Poets Collective. Those unsuccessful may be notified and kept on file in the chance that there is a second Railway Poets Collective published in the future. I'm sure that this book will become a highly collectible book by poets and railway enthusiasts alike. So best of luck, and get to it!

Kindest Regards,
Phillip Overton