Smoph's musings

Just my thoughts on the world

April round-up

So what can I say about last month…

Greg and I got MARRIED!

Sophie Greg wedding

Greg and I. Photo by Andrew Harrison of Passion8 Photography.

Wedding

I know…I feel like a grown-up.

The stress of it had been driving me nuts. My bride-slaves Lauren, Alexis and Nirvana kept me (mostly) on track (they did their best) and sane. Greg put up with me and now he’s stuck with me for life! Muahaha!

Sophie Y girls

The ladies who kept me sane. Photo by Andrew Harrison of Passion8 Photography.

I put together the new Symbiosis Special Edition of SQ Mag within a week, due to a week of horrible illness. Despite this time pressure, I have to say, it’s a great edition so go and read some awesome stories!

Luckily in that week that I was plague incarnate, I had my dear Cassie’s recommendation of the new TV series of Outlander. Scots – tick; time travel – tick. I’ve also started reading the series as I wait for Season 2 episodes. I’m not coming out. Damn it Cassie and Diana Gabaldon!

I’m working on a few pieces of my own at the moment. There’s been some work on my novel, a new science fiction short flash that’s with some astute writer friends and an epic poem that has some stanzas completed. It was inspired by one I composed on Storybird.

On that note, there’s some additional editing afoot. Many things to do! I’ll leave you with the micropoetry from Storybird: SevenBrotherBirds_SYorkston

Post it note poetry month & February round-up

I did imagine doing this post somewhat earlier this month, but here we are. A few discoveries came out of February and some good times writing short poetry and prose. Plus a lovely gift.

First of all, I’ll point you to this post of Jodi Cleghorn’s explaining Post-it Note Poetry month. This is my second go around and I always have such fun (I also wrote about it last year). You can go to the public Facebook group here or check out some under #pinp16 on Twitter.

Most of the prose I worked on in a free form style, like the below:

Tosunshine_SYorkston_pinp16

To sunshine, my itty-bitty ode to a sunny day on the university campus.

SlowAsAWetWeek_SYorkston Fendthegreyday_SYorkston

Slow as a wet week, which was the poem I wanted to write about a stormy day but I wrote Fend the grey day first.

Grinandwheel_SYorkston_pinp16

Grind & Wheel about the skaters in the park near work, searching for more compassion and understanding on a day everything annoyed me.

I was introduced to the zip-ode by my friend MX Kelly, which is a poem with the number of syllables for each number in the zip/ post code. I wrote a couple of others for homes I have had as well but didn’t set them to an image like these; I’ll post them sometime!

Sweet tropics and My Island Home.

 Tville_zip-ode   MyIslandHome_SYorkston  

I commemorated events that I attended, or things that were happening in February that I felt involved with. On the field and Lies Fall Fallow.

OnthefieldLiesFallFallow_SYorkston

I dabbled with a new style coined “octain” by MX Kelly. My poem, Projections, which came out of Melbourne’s White Night. 

Projections_SYorkston
Adam Byatt also introduced those participating to an app, Storybird, which allows you to combine words and images for very short prose. It’s fun though! Do let me know if you’re on it and we can connect!

SevenBrotherBirds_SYorkston

Seven Brother Birds.

Jodi was also kind enough to gift me one of her beautiful pieces, crafted from rice paper origami squares and phrases from a book. It now resides in pride of place on my Vancouver magnet board.

My beautiful gift poem from Jodi

My beautiful gift: a #pinp16 poem from Jodi

Many thanks to Jodi for introducing me to this month’s potential for creativity two years ago and for my beautiful poem; Sean Wright for collating and sharing and being the archivist for this adventure; Adam Byatt for the introduction to the Lark Storybird app and being a co-founding the initiative; and lastly to everyone who participated, because I loved the poetry feed and what I learnt about new forms. A month of beautiful imagery!

One day, I’d like to record my poems so that they can be shared in another way, with another audience. But that’s for another time. Maybe I will get the courage for live poetry readings!

As for the rest of February, I mostly ran around doing things for the wedding, but I did write a little story that’s been kicking around in my head for a while. It’s with an editor for an anthology, so here’s hoping for a good outcome for that little friend. There’s also another I’m writing with another market in mind, hoping that third time will be the charm. My little baby story came back again, so she’ll be back out to another market in the near future.

I’m also lucky enough to have a friend who is a linguist and who was kind enough to help me out with some linguistic patterns for a character and some pointed edits I have to work on for another well-polished piece. Can’t wait to get it back out there again.

As far as I’m concerned, February has been a win given all the other bits and pieces going on. I don’t expect nearly as productive a March…

Contact 2016: Geekery in Bris Vegas

What’s the deal?

Used with permission, (c) Contact2016

Make Contact!

Contact 2016 is the 2016 iteration of the National Speculative Fiction convention (NATCON). It’s the premier con that’s also associated with the Aurealis and the Ditmar awards this year. (The Ditmar Awards are the premier science fiction awards for Australia, whereas Aurealis Awards are awards for all speculative fiction).

It’s running in Brisbane over the Easter weekend 25 – 28 March 2016.

Why go?

It’s a fan conference, with everything that’s spectacular about speculative fiction. Something for the fan, something for the writer, a full contingent of cosplay with a whole lot of great guests and people. Plus it’s on in gorgeous Brisbane!

The bonus for me is that Brisbane has a thriving writing community. There’s the Queensland Writers Centre in Brisbane, and Writer’s Activation on the Gold Coast, as well as some very exciting, game-changing projects that have come out of creators in Brisbane. I’m going to connect with some kick-ass writers, who are also organisers of this con. They know spec fic, they know what our nerdy hearts love and they want to give it to us!

There’s also a contest for unpublished writers. Peter M. Ball has been writing some great posts on cons for first timers, and maybe start with his post on why you too should come to Contact!

I know, I know, you’re saying that it will be hard to get there. It might (key word: might) be a little late for folks in some other states, but if you’re in Queensland, and even more specifically Brisbane, why wouldn’t you come on down?!

What I’m hoping will happen at Contact

Mostly what I’m hoping to achieve by attending Contact is getting to know my peers, new (to me) awesome people and my industry a bit more. I’m especially keen to meet up with Brisbane writer friends who I’ve been getting to know online for the past 2 – 3 years. Supportive and encouraging friendships begin from starts like ours, and I’m really looking forward to getting to know people a little better.

I’m keen to know what great projects and fiction is coming out of Australia. If I can swing it, I’ll head to an awards ceremony or two, and see hard-working creators rewarded.

I’m also lucky to have many good friends in Brisbane, including dear Trev and Meg who are putting me up (and fronting up to our wedding a weekend later). One of my oldest friends and I are going to reconnect, which will be wonderful too.

All in all, I’m looking forward to a fun weekend in a city I love and connecting with a whole bunch of people who love the things I do. What better way to spend a weekend!

If you’re interested you can head to the Contact website http://contact2016.com/ or to the Contact Facebook page to find out more! Take a look at the Program. Friday and Monday are more affordable if you can only attend one day.

Also, edit!: I’m keen to meet new people and would love to talk SQ Mag with people, so come on over and have a chat about fiction, editing, whatever! 

Review: Hoffman’s Creeper and other disturbing tales, by Cameron Trost

Hoffman’s Creeper and other disturbing tales is a collection of short horror stories from writer and editor/head of Black Beacon Books, Cameron Trost.Hoffman's Creeper

Trost’s picks for this collection cover a gamut of locations and horror subgenres. Some of the settings leap out in recognition for the familiar. There’s a very human element in many of these stories, which makes for strong fiction, especially when suspecting there might be an element of Trost exploring some of his own fears through his writing.

Hoffman’s Creeper, the title story for this collection was a delightfully dark picture of a man who preferred plants to people, including a creeper from the Australian bush, stolen from our First Peoples. Kangaroo Point is the internalised horrific imaginings of any good Samaritan.

Trost has left many of these stories open-ended. Some certainly felt like they could have been explored further to become truly terrifying. It may be that this was a lot of what he was writing previously, and outside my personal preference. That doesn’t mean that this isn’t a thrilling collection of stories to read, however.

The strength of Trost’s writing is in dialogue you can almost hear, and settings you can smell, see and feel. There’s variety in the types of horror on display, and more of the slow creeping tingle of fear up your neck.

Reading these stories, I feel that Trost’s work has evolved since he wrote them. Like any writer worth their salt, his work gets better and better.

Hoffman’s Creeper and other disturbing tales is perfect for bite-sized fiction sittings–I read mine on my train journey to work–and if you liked these stories, Cameron Trost has many more thrills to offer you.

You can find purchasing details of Hoffman’s Creeper and other disturbing tales at his blog.

Disclaimer: Cameron Trost and I have published each other’s stories. I appear in Black Beacon Books’ Subtropical Suspense with my story Downpour, and he in SQ Mag with The Church of Asag.  Read The Church of Asag here. However, I sought a copy of this for myself and my review has been in no way compelled.

 

February fun

February has been burning through the days post-haste, as if the month wasn’t already short enough. (Can you sense my panic of a wedding deadline rapidly approaching?)

But it’s been fun. I’ve been participating in Post-it note poetry month. You might have seen the poems I’ve been sharing. Post-it note poetry started out of Brisbane with Jodi Cleghorn and Adam Byatt, and is now collated by a SB Wright, or Sean Wright, who you would recognise from The Adventures of a Bookonaut blog.

I’ve been introduced to new forms–my poetry is often free form prose–which has been a great new avenue for me. Mostly I’ve been posting my own page, but there’s also a Facebook group for Post-it note poetry or you can check out the #pinp16 hashtag on Twitter to see many gorgeous poems. Below are two of the poems that people seemed to like the best: Grind & Wheel and To Sunshine. I’ll also do a wrap up at the end of the month.

Grinandwheel_SYorkston_pinp16   Tosunshine_SYorkston_pinp16

It’s also WiHM, or Women in Horror Month. It’s been great to see well-deserving writers getting the press and attention they deserve for their work and careers. And it should be every day, but it isn’t and until that day, we need to keep promoting.

Simon Dewar, editor of Suspended in Dusk, has collated a series of interviews with women from all aspects of the horror genre over at his blog. He even interviewed yours truly!

In honour of the month, I’ve been working on a disturbing short for publication; hoping I can polish it up a bit more in time for a looming deadline.

SQ Mag Edition 25 is also in the works, so I am busy getting that together.

But boy, what a fun and productive month (not to forget hectic) it has been so far!

Waking dreaming

Grief is an uncaring emotion. When you think you’re past it, it sneaks up on you years later and hits you straight in the solar plexus, leaving you emotionally bruised and struggling. It can be even worse when it hits you when you’re unguarded; when you’re low or lonely, when you have none of your regular conscious defenses.

In my case a simple conversation about beloved dogs (I believe) triggered mine; the boss and I were talking about how dogs have individual characters. Going to sleep, I wasn’t even thinking of that conversation, and besides, I like to remember Tam, my family’s first dog.

We lost Tam, our very own red dog, over 6 years ago. She lived to a ripe old age for a mid-sized dog, and she went without trauma or suffering.

Tam

Our beautiful old girl

She has been a frequent character in my dreams since we lost her. There was one time she had a very Death Becomes Her cameo, complete with cartoon-ish hole in the middle (she was happily trotting around, unawares, so it wasn’t all terrible). I often remember these dreams, so in a way it’s good to have a memory of her there.

The grief that has hit me was only a little bit about missing my first dog. It was what I said to her in the dream.

“Haven’t seen you in a while.”

And it’s true. She hasn’t been a part quite of my dreams for a good while.

It’s reality; life stretches on and you have other experiences. You won’t remember one person, entity, memory quite as frequently. And so it goes.

And that is what is driving my waking grief today.

My writer brain is trying to step outside, to think about how this applies to stories I might write. The compulsion to write is there, hence this blog post.

Grief is also tricky to capture. It’s a diverse experience, that has no time limit, few hallmarks of returning to life. It can be crushing, melancholic, hovering.

I’m feeling, wanting to talk about my grieving today. We are often encouraged to go on, ignoring that loss doesn’t follow the same course for everyone. If you do want to talk about yours here, feel free to drop me a comment. Or if you’re feeling sad but want to chat, drop me a line any way you know how.

 

Review: Suspended in Dusk, Ed. Simon Dewar

Suspended in DuskI’ve been wanting to read Suspended in Dusk for some time, given all the praises flying around in my social media circles. SQ Mag (the ezine I edit) competed against this anthology in a strong field for the Best Edited Work of 2014 in the Australian Shadows Awards, from the Australian Horror Writer’s Association. Some of the eminent Australian speculative fiction authors even featured in both our works.

In Suspended in Dusk there’s monsters in the traditional guise and monsters loosely associated with human beings. There’s a tangible thread of the threat of dusk woven through this collection of thematically diverse stories, each bearing up a dark or horrific element. While the thread linking the stories is tenuous, Simon Dewar has collated some excellent pieces.

Alan Baxter’s palliative care nurse protagonist drifts dreamlike through wards, compassionate and available, in Shadows of the Lonely Dead. Rayne Hall’s Burning world is pure small town nightmare. Maid of Bone draws out the ostracised, the lonely in an intimate way Tony Bennett seems to know. Miriam Vale is seemingly picked straight from memory by S.G. Larner, and that phenomena where the stranger always knows best. Tom Dullemond perfect captures the clinical detached psychopath in Would To God That We Were There. Wendy Hammer’s Negatives is an excellently painted twin horror in a deserted theme park.

There’s other situations that are unexpected, like vicious coral zombies and devolution, in truly abhorrent settings like fat camps. Angela Slatter turns some post-apocalyptic tropes on their heads in The Way of All Flesh. Where recognisable creatures from the dark appear, the authors have tried to give their kind a new twist, a deeper meaning.

On the whole, Suspended in Dusk is a well put-together anthology. Some of the stories are reprints, if they seem familiar, but each was a piece worth reinvigorating. As with any collection, some of the pieces had a style or voice or plot that was more appealing, but that’s the downside of collected works: short stories are always compared.

Suspended in Dusk is a strong first anthology from the collaboration of Simon Dewar and Books of the Dead Press. If a creeping chill is your choice of entertainment, Suspended in Dusk won’t disappoint. It is obvious why this appealed to the Australian horror community, and its follow-up anthology will be eagerly anticipated.

The year that was, 2015

When I first wrote this post, I got to the end and walked away disheartened and depressed. I know we’re all supposed to put our positive out into the world, but the reality is when I laid it all on the table, I was disappointed with my year.

The first post I wrote was lauding all the personal successes I had this year: anything to avoid looking honestly at how this year had been for me as a writer and editor.

If you step back to look at my year, it looks pretty darn good. Adventures in the States, both short breaks and one long holiday, which was incredible. No regrets about the travel; it was an experience I won’t forget. I had two groups of wonderful writer friends who inspired me and gave me great feedback and critiques.I had this novel–I’ve written more of The Whale Singer than any other novel idea I’ve ever had–whose idea and protagonists I loved. I had two polished stories that no one had given me criticism of, but seemed to be in search of the right homes. There were ideas bursting out my ears thanks to my muse with her wanderlust.

SQ Mag had a year of wins. We won the Shadows Award, an award from Australia’s preeminent horror organisation, the Australian Horror Writer’s Association. There were international award wins and recognition from the profession by the selection of SQ Mag stories for Best of Anthologies. We’ve also had some wonderful solicited authors.

The reality is that while there were some amazing happenings this year, my writing has not been at its best. Buoyed by the confidence of placing a story in two anthologies (still proud to have worked with Cameron Trost and Black Beacon Books, and also the team at Phantom Feather Press, Alicia Ponder, Eileen Mueller and Peter Friend), I thought this year might be the time I got cracking.

However, the uncertainties in my life did not add up to a good writing practice. I felt and still feel out of control in my editorial world. My polished stories did not find homes, though one was with a big name publisher for quite a while (I’m looking at that as a pro, that it wasn’t rejected outright, but con, it was still rejected).

As a writer, there were no successes for me this year.

I’m a realist: I know you can’t win all the time, certainly not in most to all of the areas of your life. There is also much that I have to be grateful for.

That didn’t stop it being disheartening. I put a bit of myself in my stories, and I’m a rejection wuss, though am better when it comes with helpful critique from someone genuinely trying to make your work better.

So for 2016, I think my work-to idea is one step at a time.

One step for my own practice and honing my craft.
Another step for doing a little bit at a time, and forgiveness if I didn’t do what I thought I could.
One step forward with a submission at a time.
One step forward with words, a chapter, anything to progress this novel toward the finish line.

And reminding myself, there will be backwards steps too. I might go nowhere, have no more measurable success. But that if I don’t work at anything, there’s no chance my writing will ever go anywhere. And I’m really at my first step, the early stages of any writing career I want to have.

My wish for 2016 for everyone is that there are at least little wins, and enough striving for better to make them feel worthwhile.

Striving for the little wins

Light the Night at Lillydale Lake

LightTheNight1

Greg and I took a wander at Lillydale Lake Friday afternoon and came across an event we had forgotten was occurring on the public holiday (in honour of football parade–what the hey Victoria?!). Light the Night, an evening walk in honour and to support people with blood cancer.

My grandfather died from his red blood cell leukaemia and we have other friends with blood-related problems. So for us, it was a no-brainer to purchase a lantern and join the walk around the lake in the balmy evening.

What a sight. The lights stretched out behind us for kilometers, each a family or couple there to represent or support someone they loved.

LightTheNight4This evening was only one across the country (except you Perth; yours is next week on the 9th, so get to it). A well organised and well attended event for the Leukaemia Foundation. Congratulations to all involved.

If anyone wants more information about the foundation’s good work, head straight on over to http://www.leukaemia.org.au/

 

LightTheNight5

Image saga update

This post relates to my previous posting on being an internet sensation.

As of today, I’ve had one response from News.com.au to say that they are looking into it after my post–no doubt after it started to garner some wider attention from people who were friends of friends (we all know how that can go). It’s been another two days since their response to my post on their wall.

I’ve sent two online queries under two different sections, unsure of to which category my query related.

So, to upping the ante, which is apparently the only way to get a response out of anyone…

There’s this post over on the Facebook Page (where I got my response):

And also this post on Twitter:

Finally, this post on Google+ for anyone that uses it:

GooglePlus status request copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If anyone wants to help me get answers, please comment on the Facebook post or like it. Twitter users, retweet or write a tweet of your own while sharing the original tweet as a retweet. Resharing or commenting on the Google+ would be cool too, if anyone has the time.