Book review: Eyrie, Tim Winton

Tim Winton, Eyrie (Pan McMillan)
It is easy to sum up Tim Winton’s Eyrie: impossible heights.

Tom Keely starts out as an unsympathetic protagonist; an impoverished addict after his life came crashing down (ugly divorce, end of his high-faluting environmental advocate career), seemingly without a care for anyone but himself.

If you can get past Winton’s first bloated chapters dwelling in Tom’s misery in Freemantle, it becomes a more interesting story.

Tom begins a touching relationship with Kai, autism-spectrum grandson of a woman known in his childhood. The Keelys, most specifically Tom’s father, have been Gemma’s safe haven since she was small and it doesn’t look like that pattern is going to change now.

Kai dreams of his death, Tom relives his failures and the broad-spectrum abuse Gemma suffered haunts the edges of the story. And over it all is cast the shadow of Neville Keely, the only person that ever protected Gemma and whose shoes Tom could never fill.

Eyrie evokes the gentrified coastal areas of Perth and the ramshackle suburbs. It shines a light on poverty and the cycles of abuse that are manifest in misery. The longing for safety, comfort.

For being all about birds, this novel should have flown but it crawled. The path to redemption and recovery is a long, slow crawl but Winton waited too long to bring the likeable parts of Tom out and so the abrupt ending fell flat.

Despite this, Eyrie is another excellent character exploration, Tim Winton’s hallmark, but I could have done more with the exploration of the Keely family, of the broken relationships surrounding Tom.

Eyrie had possibility that seemed to go unrealised. Engaging as you get toward the end, readable, but if new to Winton’s writings don’t start here (Dirt Music remains my favourite). If you’re a fan of Winton, you’ll enjoy his usual strengths but it won’t stack up favourably to his other works. Tim Winton has written better books.

It is not a protest vote

Warning: rant ahead. 

I am a voter in the electorate of Higgins. Higgins, a (possibly formerly) safe Liberal seat, in previous terms boasting most recently an Assistant Treasurer (Kelly O’Dwyer) and formerly a Treasurer who would never be PM (Peter Costello).

In a shocking development for the LNP, Higgins has been polling strongly for the Greens. Obviously worried, the LNP have been bombarding the electorate. I have received, in the last week, letters from the state representative, Ms O’Dwyer and now Peter Costello.


I’m not really thrilled to be contacted by a former member (by 7 years, the better part of a decade, though Greg tells me that it is legal). However really got my goat in this letter was suggesting that not voting for the Liberals was a “protest vote”.

Let me make this clear for my member and for the Liberal Party, and any other party talking about “protest votes”: anyone in this electorate, or any other, choosing to vote for whoever they feel best represents their view is not casting a protest vote.

They are highly dissatisfied with (undifferentiated) two-party politics.

They are mortified by state-sanctioned cruelty.

They are unhappy that businesses, often overseas enterprises, are being represented before they are.

They are dissatisfied with their representatives appealing to the lowest common denominator and the rise of anti-intellectualism.

They have had it with elected officials outright lying and abusing their privileges at the cost to every Australian, with no one willing to take on a corrupt entitlement system that ultimately benefits them.

They are sick of having money wasted on non-issues, like a plebiscite on who consenting adults can marry, which the government will not regard as binding.

They are disgusted that money keeps being stripped from services that ensure safety, health and wellbeing for everyone.

They are destroyed that politicians seem to think that economic survival can only come at the destruction of our unique, natural wonders and not in innovation.

Not voting for Labor or Liberal in this election is not a “protest vote“. It’s the death knell of the two-party preferred system, at the hands of a public who would like to actually be represented by people who aren’t ok with corruption and don’t want to take away everything that makes Australia great.

And talking down to your highly educated, highly literate electorate is not doing you any favours.

Cleverman: reflections on Australia

Containment, a new episode of Cleverman, dystopian indigenous superhero science fiction series premiered in Australia tonight. Ryan Griffen and the Cleverman team are certainly making sure that we will remember the show.

“But you have to decide who it is you want to be,”  Virgil (Lynette Curran) says to Latani (Rarriwuy Hick) and sets up the whole episode.

Koen (Hunter Page-Lochard) has manifestations of his new powers, complete with disturbing visions of his partners and the woman in his head. Waruu (Rob Collins) has been screwed over once again by the people of the Zone, and his treading of the thin black is making no one happy, least of all himself. Deborah Mailman appears as Aunty Linda, and I hope her appearance won’t be as short as tonight’s exposition suggests.

There’s some very powerful messages to an Australian public, to the world, about dehumanisation. Strip a person of their identity, their name, their language, the markings of their people for a message. Make a race of person a whipping boy, punish them for being different, create an outsider. Refer to them as lesser forms of life: sub-human, monkey. See our country’s actions, both past and present, and find them displayed on the screen before you.

As Australians we don’t even need to look too deeply; this show is a reflective surface of our own record of the treatment of our indigenous peoples, of refugees. “People don’t give a sh*t. We’re not like them so they don’t care,” Harry says, and sums up White Australia’s monocular vision since arrival.

If Cleverman can keep this up, it is exactly the show I was hoping it would be, the show that was promised in the build-up to its release. The elaborate workings of science fiction shining a spotlight on the troubles and inequities of the world today.

Within the first two episodes, Cleverman has delivered compelling narrative, a diverse cast and reclaimed the Dreaming. Let the women lead more of the storytelling and this will be the best (not-so) speculative fiction this country has ever produced. If you aren’t all ready watching this show, you should start now.

Australian stories: a superhero rises in Cleverman

I’m chomping at the bit tonight to see the debut of the new Australian superhero, Cleverman.

On ABC2 we will get to not only get an Australian story, but one lovingly cultivated from Indigenous Australian stories, telling those stories with their own voices.

Well received at Sundance Film Festival, this new series premieres with a notable excitement in the speculative fiction community in Australia.

Creator Ryan Griffen talks about the creation of Cleverman for his son and in consultation with elders, asking permission to tell their stories.

Join me and other excited Australians watching on the ABC at 9:30 tonight!


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.


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:


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.


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.


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

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!


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 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.

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.