Story sale: Sleepers

Sleepers will be appearing in the Fall issue of Deep Magic released next month.

Sale details

Sleepers will be appearing in the Fall issue of Deep Magic released next month. Deep Magic is pro-payment magazine that is, in their own words, “dedicated to professional quality fantasy and science fiction that is free of graphic violence, sex and vulgarity, and with almost no profanity.” They’ve recently re-opened for publishing, so check them out for submissions if you’re a writer. Editions are $3.99 AUD, links on their page. Continue reading “Story sale: Sleepers”

The last comedy of Hannah Gadsby

Hannah Gadsby, Nanette: an experience and a lesson

Hamer Hall

Tonight was the last show of Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette in Melbourne, a show that has toured the world and international acclaim. I went expecting some incisive comedy and some laughs.

And that’s how the evening began. Jibes at the insensibility of homophobia and the rhetoric, particularly in Australia—Hannah is an excellent mimic of the troglodyte slurs.

Hannah lead us through her life, through the pressure of representing a community, to the skills learnt. That comedy is about building tension, and then breaking it.

What it meant for her life, her sexuality, her experiences and internalised homophobia to be the punchline of the joke. How it drowns out the rest of the story: her mother’s evolution from Hannah’s coming out to the recognition and regrets of failures in her parenting; to the end of the encounter with a man who misgendered her, and then beat her.

How she was broken by her community’s debate of her humanity, her right to exist, both in Tasmania in the 1990s prior to homosexuality being decriminalised in the state and in Australia’s shameful opinion poll on allowing LGBTQI Australians to be treated as second-class citizens. Talking about how she internalised that people she loved thinking she was a pedophile and also the rhetoric from the mainland damning those same people she loved as less than.

When people were implored to think of the children, Hannah points out that most of our lives, we spend thinking of the children, our future, regardless of whether we spawned them. It’s too late for her, she says, but other children like her can be saved.

Hannah is anger and fire as she tells straight white men to pull their socks up, implores us all to be better, in public debate, to each other; to re-embrace our humanity. That she’s leaving comedy because it doesn’t allow her to tell her story and requires her to mine her own trauma for laughs. That she’s leaving us with this tension that has never left her body.

As the lights come up on Hamer Hall, there are sombre faces. I wish everyone in this country was there to see all the red eyes, tears from people (mostly women) being comforted. How pervasive this trauma of othering is, whether because you’re a woman or gay or don’t conform to what some Australians think others should be.

Hannah leaves the audience with carefully curated words from John Farnham purposely to leave us thinking as we file out like sheep.

We’re all someone’s daughter

We’re all someone’s son

How long can we look at each other

Down the barrel of a gun?

Review: Greg Chapman’s Hollow House

30968911Greg Chapman’s shorts, and his collection Vaudeville and Other Nightmares, have been part of my reading spectrum for the last few years. Before Hollow House, I mostly would have described his work as gothic, though his collection (reviewed here) demonstrated his abilities within the whole gamut of the horror genre.

Hollow House is Chapman’s first published novel, and it was nominated for the Bram Stoker Awards (highly-regarded international awards for horror fiction). I admit to some trepidation, seeing all the glowing reviews from the horror community, as I’ve not been much of a horror reader for the last decade.

The fears were well founded. Chapman takes the veneer of civility and decency of cookie-cutter suburbs and upends it to shake out all the secrets and deviance. While the story has gothic overtones, he seamlessly embroiders in cosmic horror to the fabric of setting and character.

Most of characters tend toward unlikeable to downright despicable, the perfect garden in which the Kemper House sows its deadly crop. While it would likely have been impossible with such a large cast of characters, some further character development could have given the piece a little more nuance.

Much more gory than my previous experience of Chapman’s work, Hollow House kept to (what I suspect is) Greg’s love of the gothic with a blood-spattered, existential horror. An excellent first novel that creeped and grossed me out; so a solid offering to the genre.

The unspoken divide: books & comics

My love of books and story started before I could really read; my parents tell me that I could happily entertain myself for hours as a little tacker.

As with many of us with a love of reading, this began with picture books, learning many of the basic rules of language: cadence and intonation, grammar and pronunciation.

Long and short: I have always thought of myself as a reader. But when I call myself that, I see weighty tomes, hundreds of pages and not an illustration in sight.

I’ve never thought of myself as someone with an interest in comics.

Anime for sure–I’ve been obsessed with AstroBoy for as long as I can remember, and Sailor Moon and Miyazaki’s work since my teens–but if you asked me about comics, I’d say not really.

Until this weekend, encouraged by a friend to attend an event at All Star Comics in Melbourne, I would not have said that I read comics. And I would have been lying to myself.

As I wandered around waiting (briefly) for my friend, I looked at the shelves, for names I knew, thinking idly that it seems silly that we don’t have more comics cross-over with spec-fic authors. I saw an author or two I knew, many titles I had read about on social media, and kept thinking about why the two mediums are so divided.

A little voice in my head, trying to be heard, made me think of my love of anime as television, and of X-men. A little more gently, it nudged me to think about how I consume graphic works, largely as graphic novels.

Then I remembered buying the boxed set of Nausicaä, the gifts from people I love from Serenity and Hark A Vagrant properties. To Asterix and Obelix, and The Adventures of Tintin. And more recent (to me) discoveries of Sandman and others.

Lastly, I thought about the last decade of reading webcomics like Bunny, Questionable Content, XKCD and Ctrl+Alt+Del. Of my new loves from Minna Sundberg, A RedTail’s Dream and Stand Still, Stay Silent.

Over the last decade switched-on loved ones have been trying to get me to bridge that gap and recognise the other reading love in my life, and it’s taken me this long to understand.

It might be related to internalised worries about being thought a fake geek girl. It might be a prejudice, an elitism I’ve picked up against “picture books”. All I know is that it’s been silent and unconscious and held me back from a whole other world of stories that I could have loved.

Whatever the reason, today I acknowledge my own obtuseness, and accept that being a reader for me means a love of stories in all their many and varied forms. That perhaps I am indeed a comics reader.

My comic book haul

For anyone interested, the event I attended today was a meet and greet with Katie O’Neill for the All Star Women’s Comic Book Club. Katie writes and illustrates delightful LGBTQI-friendly comics, but to spruik my particular favourite, the whimsical The Tea Dragon Society. Highly recommended.

Post-book depression

Frequently, when I finish a book I enjoyed, or a series of them, I suffer what feels to me like a depressive state. Dragged from that world, populated by characters I could rely on and places vividly expressed in my head, adjusting to the often mundane, gritty and imperfect world is a challenge.

It seems that it depends on how you view books. Are they a gateway to knowledge? Escapism? Easy entertainment? If I answer it for myself, it was immersion. Being somewhere else, someone else.

I was a kid always with my head in a book. My home was always safe, I was always loved and cared for. There were bullies, times of maladjustment and loneliness too, but not on-going ostracism to build this need for a book into something innate. This melancholia, present before I could even spell the word or describe it.

There’s two reasons I can see for it in my case. A book will never reject you. It can disappoint you, be unsatisfying but never specifically make you feel insufficient. Having read it can connect you to others, though I can probably count on one hand the close friends I remember discussing books, particularly formative books with.

The second is you can be the best version on yourself. You inhabit someone’s psyche, a moment in time. You can stand up to injustice, dare to take on the evil, hold someone who you feel deeply for when they cry, and yes, love a little. A great author can make you feel everything.

Their words can take you to places you want to go to but have never been without that cultural disconnect, the jet lag, the biting insects, or soggy socks and bone deep fatigue. There’s no work or cleaning or ablutions. No one needing anything from you.

Regardless of what drives you to disappear into a narrative world, the broken, flawed but very real life seems a disappointment. And the next book is unappealing for a time: it’s not the right world. You can’t know what is between those covers.

Short of waiting, and wallowing, the only answer I’ve found is time, letting the echoes of that previous novel fade before you can begin that new journey.

Until then, I’ll wait over here with my disappointment and personal grey cloud. Just until I am ready to start, all over again.

Benign neglect and facing up to inadequacy

I’m giving my blog a little bit of a dust off. It’s been suffering a bit of benign neglect, like the study you keep meaning to go into but get distracted. On the surface, it might all look fine, and dust motes look so pretty in the afternoon sunshine, but that grittiness sticks to your fingertips, no matter how you rub them. 

Most of it was feelings of inadequacy. Other writers I know were talking about their year’s achievements. Inevitably, this turned into: What have I done? And the answer felt like measurably nothing, whatever has been happening in my personal and other professional life. And I couldn’t think of anyone who would want to know about it.

It is, however, a quintessential part of the creative career: many years look like nothing was achieved. And sometimes trying to drill down into that encourages the Imposter’s whisperings in your ear and a fugue of depression and hopelessness settles upon your shoulders. 

So, I just wanted to address that before I say I am back. I want to post about my recent trip to Europe and other bits of life I experience for me, and if any of you want to read that, then that’s great. If not, it’s your life. 

And that’s all there is to it. 

Summer reads 2016 / 2017

Over the summer, when the demands of all my jobs are diminished, it’s usually a time where I cram in as much reading as possible, usually loaned books, pre-lived by others. As summer seems to have returned to Melbourne, it only seems fair to share my brief reviews of the books I devoured whole.

The Guilty, Sean SlaterThe Guilty: Jacob Striker #3, Sean Slater (Simon Schuster)

A Vancouver-based cop thriller, written by a Vancouver cop, investigating a series of inner city bombings. It took me far too long to recognise the Lionsgate bridge on the moody, atmospheric cover.

While it was delightful for me to wander in my head through the locations mentioned, I don’t think they were described well enough for the average reader who hasn’t been to Vancouver to imagine, sacrificed to the hectic pacing. Plot and motivations were twisted enough not to be immediately discernible and full of interesting tidbits about Vancouver police districts and relationship with the federal Royal Canadian Mounted Police.


Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League, Jonathan Odell

Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League, Jonathan Odell (Bantam Australia)

This book came with a sticker that said: “If you liked The Help“. Granted, it is a story of black women of Mississippi struggling at their independence with a flawed white saviour woman. Unfortunately it missed the mark in terms of what made The Help so great, in that it was women’s stories, driven by and about women who were significantly more than sketchy outlines. Men, and one little boy, played too great a role in this narrative to be comparable.

I liked the history notes in the back of the book, and in reading the author’s notes, he explained the novel started as an exorcism of his own demons regarding his neglectful mother. The novel made a lot more sense after that, and I hope he felt lighter for writing it.

A Hundred Secret Senses
, Amy Tan (Ivy Books)The Hundred Secret Senses, Amy Tan

Olivia is Chinese American, and has a deeply troubled and divisive relationship with her fully Chinese half-sister Kwan. Kwan also claims to see ghosts and her past lives with “yin eyes”. Olivia is never quite sure whether to believe her or mock her.

Olivia is quite selfish and entitled in her role as narrator, and awful to Kwan, who just wants to love her and be loved. It’s hard to engage with her. Otherwise, the troubling everyday beauty of the past lives, the intricate descriptions of the locales and the exploration of deeply dysfunctional familial and romantic relationships makes this a worthwhile read; though I admit the ending left me disappointed.

Chaos, Patricia Cornwall (Harper Collins) Chaos, Patricia Cornwell

I’ve been a Scarpetta reader since I was an early teen, enjoying both the science and the intricately twisting plots of Cornwall’s books that lead you on, one post-mortem or investigative clue at a time.

Both Chaos and the previous novel I read in the series both inflate the mundane details, so that by the time you get to the third act of the book, the actual plot is only just getting started. Also, the ending involving one of the series’ most devious, long-game playing villains is almost inconsequential, and thereby an enormous let-down. It’s feeling like time for this reader to give up reading the Scarpetta novels.


The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, Deborah RodriguezThe Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, Deborah Rodriguez (Random House)

Sunny, an ex-pat American settled in the heart of Kabul, runs a coffee shop open to the public but largely frequented an assortment of Westerners. She is supported by her staff of locals, dealing with their own reminiscences about their previous lives.

While the prose was easy reading, and the Western characters a little more fleshed out, to me a lot of the characters, particularly the Afghani characters, deserved more work. Their motivations and story arcs seemed unrealistic to me. Ms Rodriguez did work in Kabul as a hairdresser with a UN contingent, and her memoir on her time there might be of more interest, as her depictions of the city and day-to-day life were quite vivid.


SQ Mag also featured my review of A Little Knowledge, the fourth of the Split Worlds series of novels,  by Emma Newman, so head over to read our great new quarterly edition (and my review).

We Will Rock You: 2016 Australian tour 

Awaiting the show

In the comfort and opulence of Melbourne’s Regent Theatre, the last flames of rock burn on the iplanet. The dreamer remembers the music long forgotten, suppressed by Globalsoft. With the music catalogue of Queen all ready for rock opera, all it took was Ben Elton to update the in-jokes.

Sunday’s performance was my first experience of this musical, in its 2016 Australian tour. Costumes were glorious, sets a little utilitarian but they lit up with spotlights, little galaxies swirling beneath the cast’s feet (I absolutely loved this). One annoyance was the atrocious capitalisation and punctuation in the first screens that appeared. Argh! Scripting obviously has been updated by Ben Elton since it was initially written, and there’s some on-point music in-jokes and lyric insertions.

Unfortunately for the gents, they can’t avoid an inherent internal comparison to Freddy, and those are some sizeable shoes to walk briefly in. George Michael, in my opinion, is the only one I’ve heard who even comes close. Some strong voices in the cast, but none quite so rich as the “star”. On the night we saw it, the women’s sound balancing was unfortunately deficient, so little lyrical twists may have been missed.

Scaramouche (performed by Erin Clare), without exception, had the strongest performance of all the cast. Excellent voice and pitch that melded well with Queen’s sound, with consistency of character and stage presence that was not matched in her counterpoint, Figeuro (Gareth Keen). Casey Donovan however, turned on a surprisingly good performance as Killer Queen–her voice not in doubt, only her experience on the stage–and her costumes and movements fit the actress-related interpretation of the character well.

Oz and Brit matched each other perfectly for chemistry and energy, bouncing off one another like electrons. Khashoggi as Killer Queen’s foil was superbly smarmy. Supporting cast did a bang-up job between dozens of significant costume changes and dance routines.

I got most of my favourite songs but find it utterly perplexing that, despite being so heavily referenced throughout, the whole of Bohemian Rhapsody doesn’t appear within the musical itself. I know it is a bit of an enigma of a song but as Queen’s most identifiable, industry shattering song, to not have worked it in smacks of a job half-done.

For a fun time and some excellent music to sing-a-longto, I can say you’ll get your money’s worth with this production. Performances currently scheduled until end of October and tickets can be purchased from TicketMaster.

From Queen's announcement of the tour


Repost: 5 Steps to Good Writing

This may just be the narrative inside my head.

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

1. Write. Sit down and write.

2. No. Turn off the solitaire. No, don’t open the web browser. For crying out loud, stop distracting yourself.

3. That is not the TV remote. Seriously. There isn’t even anything you want to watch.

4. Cleaning?! You hate cleaning. What are you even doing?

5. Fine, go for coffee. It’s not like you were doing anything productive anyway. That one sentence doesn’t even count.


Reposted from my deactivated Readwave profile. Can you tell I was having a great writing day?

Hunt for the Wilderpeople: NZ indie film fun

New Zealand comedy: romping the field


New Zealand is definitely making her mark upon the world with funny, whimsical, tongue-in-cheek film. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is no exception.

I saw this a few months ago at Palace Cinemas with my brother who loves this exact type of film. You can still find it playing across Australia.

Ricky, characterised wonderfully by Julian Dennison, is an at-risk foster kid with a penchant for trouble. He is relocated to the bush to live with motherly Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and reticent Hec (Sam Neill).

Several times Ricky runs away until he comes to accept his new situation. But Bella dies and Ricky is going to be taken from his new home, so he takes up his old ways and runs. Into the bush.

Queue a romp of ridiculousness as Hec follows Ricky, and the police and social services get involved in a nationwide man-hunt.

Scripted wonderfully and run with, Julian is hilarious as ne’er-do-well Ricky, and is ably supported by Sam Neill.

However standout performances came from Rima Te Wiata as the quirky and practical Bella in her cat jumper. My major disappointment was that Bella ended up as the woman in the fridge trope, as her performance was so delightful it was a travesty for her to disappear so early from the film.

Rachel House cracked the whole audience up as dogged social services officer; consistently funny, finding the mark in every scene as the government officer who goes way over the top. Also, great banter with Andy, played ably by Oscar Kightley.

Special mention for movie daughter-father duo, Tioreore Ngati-Melbourne and Troy Kingi, who did much to elevate the comedic value at the end of the movie.

Only, be warned animal lovers: these characters are hunters, so there’s several (largely not gory) animal deaths.

If you like to laugh though, Hunt for the Wilderpeople will leave you with a smile on your face and the pleasant after-effects of a good time.

Edit: I originally incorrectly identified Kahu’s father as Stan Walker. Thanks to Jacqui Brookes for pointing it out to me.