Ambrosia Published in Vine Leaves #10

vineleavesMy first ever poem’Ambrosia’ is published today in Issue 10 of Vine Leaves Literary Journal. I have to have a bit of a giggle, because it’s a love poem, but as far removed from the angst-ridden and terribly rhymed poems of my adolescent as possible.

The original imagery (of a woman in red stepping from a train onto a grey dismal platform) came in early December, not long after I’d finished writing my novel, my brain broke and poetry came out. While I had various lines of poetry, it took almost three months to bring it all together.

The line about the brulée I recited from Toowong to Wilston, down Coronation Drive, when it came to me en route from Stacey’s place to Lois’s in early February. As soon as I pulled into Lois’s I grabbed my phone and madly tapped the line into notes, so grateful I hadn’t lost it on the trip.

I share the ToC (and ironically, the same page!) with Adam – who also gets to claim the title of ‘published poet’ today. You’ll find us on page 23.

Vine Leaves is a free publication and can be read online with Scribd or can be downloaded as a PDF. Many thanks to the ever-wonderful Jessica Bell for taking a chance on the poem, and those in my writing group for their feed back (especially Stacey who went through it with her trademark brand of razor sharp editing).

Post It Note Poetry: Week One

Last year Adam and I dared each other to write a month of really bad poetry. Adam upped the ante by adding size parameters – the bad poetry needed to fit on a post it note. And #PostItNotePoetry was born, growing to a Facebook group of over 60 people by the end of the month. From the core group of scribblers, we formed a new writing group, The Post It Note Poet’s Society which, almost a year on, is as alive and vibrant as it was in the beginning.

Neither Adam or I committed to Post It Note Poetry in 2014 in an attempt to narrow our focus, resolve our steel to GSD (Get. Stuff. Done). On February 1st, Sean Wright put up his first poem and we were back in, pouncing on words and snippets of colours paper, like seagulls squabble over hot chips.

Here is my first week’s worth of poetry.

IMG_7260 IMG_7263 IMG_7265 IMG_7267 IMG_7282 IMG_7286 IMG_7292You can read Adam’s poetry here.

Sean’s poetic musings are best followed on Twitter @seandblogonaut

Farewell, Year of the Serpent

IMG_5589What can I say? Apparently the Year of the Serpent is meant to be an auspicious year for Oxen folk like me. It is known as a year of rebirth and transformation in all areas of life. I themed it ‘the year of consolidation’ as I set out to strengthen and solidify my writing life, setting aside business to allow me to do this. It was intended as a year of bringing all my skills together, all the experiences, lessons and connections and making them work for me.

What was the reality of it all?

A tangle. An implosion. A life that resembled the Poseidon Adventure, just with a better soundtrack.

A Dramatic Run Down, Sans Bad Acting  [*Cue Appropriate Music*]

The year began in the aftermath of ex-tropical cyclone Oswald and three days without power. Then there was the return of the school shit bearing down on us as Mr D’s anxiety and school refusal peaked in aggressive and violent behaviour. We ended up with five broken weeks of attendance in first term and our household became a tempest of broken promises and expectations, a sense of drowning, hollow hopes and minor wins and more set backs than any human in their right mind can remain stoic in the face of.

Woven through this was the successful submission and sale of my novella Elyora (River of Bones) to Endeavour Press in early March, followed several days later by its inclusion on the Aurealias short list. It was like riding a rollercoaster that never ended.

By the end of April River of Bones had been released, Adam and I had completed the final season of Post Marked: Piper’s Reach, I’d enjoyed (as best I could with the family issues and the first horrendous head cold in more than a year) NatCon and Mr D had been withdrawn from mainstream school and enrolled in Distance Education. Whatever hopes I had left of a year of writing went out the window.

My brain barely functioned creatively as I worked to wrap my head around Maths and English and Science plus weathering the full force of Mr D’s anger and apathy as I worked to have him re-engage with the learning process again, while he emotionally detoxed from mainstream schooling. And dealing with my own version of cabin fever through it all. Working to maintain my own mental health.

IMG_4677In July we got out of Brisbane and spent two weeks in Longreach and the surrounds. It was the reset we needed as a family. I spent the first few days in bed with a fever and then the second week bunking off in the morning to mark up the completed Piper’s Reach manuscript. I returned with the manuscript completed, an idea for a rural romance and the resolve to complete the steam punk romance story I’d penned the opening sections of in Brisbane airport in April waiting to fly out to Sydney. It sucks though how the verve that accompanies you into the first week of ‘real life’ rarely stays put for more than that first week.

Through July and early into August I was a diligent Distance Ed tutor. I did what I was told, I was upbeat and positive with Mr D. We made all our deadlines with work and in some respects, were ahead. I worked hard on the weekends at my steam punk romance, forced myself into the headspace and kept at it even though it kept beating me at every turn. And we became parents again… to a spoodle named Duke.IMG_5375

Mid-August I got glandular fever as my body’s last hurrah to being young, or perhaps my body giving in to eight months of emotional turmoil and the physical exhaustion that comes with. I spent three weeks bed ridden. I had to ask for help. I was so sick it didn’t bother me to ask for help. It was the lowest point in a year of low points, but also the point where I decided enough was enough. In the midst of all the sickness I managed to finally find a pendant for the year, and once I had it, it felt as though the year turned for me as I hung the silver and red coral serpent around my neck. As I crawled my way back to health, I let go of the need to abide by Distance Education’s stupidity. I found a way into my steampunk romance and wrote like a demon. In the end I submitted ahead of the due date but with the fear a rejection of the story would crush me.

October I railed hard against Distance Education, with the repetition and the lack of creativity. I became ‘one of those parents’, even though I knew I was angry with all the wrong people. I despised the way English was conceptualised and taught. I found myself in a pitched battle I was never going to win. I hated what it took from me. I hated how it bored Dylan and how I was responsible for making it engaging and interactive when it was none of that. I was on the verge of the next big decision.

IMG_4910And throughout this, Adam and I chipped away at the edits of Post Marked Piper’s Reach. I got up early each morning and spent an hour editing and revising and every week or so, we got together to revise our revisions, read aloud the letters and deconstruct at a deeper level what was actually going on in the letters. It kept me going when I was able to sustain any other kind of writing.

At the end of October I decided to do NaNoWriMo. I was jacked off with Distance Education, we’d reached THE END as far as I was concerned and I’d decided I was going to withdraw us at the end of the year and do autonomous home schooling. It was partly rebellion against everything Distance Education had sucked out of me, partly hearing Rus Vanwestervelt was doing NaNo that had me decide several days before the end of October to take the plunge and write my steampunk romance out as a novella length work.

I did what Jack Dann advises: give writing the best part of your day. So I wrote in the morning before life and school cluttered my head. I wrote with the aim of getting 2000-2500 words a day, to enable me to enjoy my 40th birthday party later on in the month. And I wrote with the intention of finishing the manuscript. Within the first week I knew it was not going to be a novella, as I suspected and kept writing. And I wrote and wrote and wrote and ended up on November 29th with a 79,000 word completed first draft manuscript of my first solo novel. This meant when the rejection letter came in December for ‘Between Minutes’ it fell with far less of a blow.

In December my head broke and poetry came out. I gave up on Distance Education, surrendered to home schooling and when I did the opportunity for Mr D to attend Brisbane Independent School came to us. It was Mr DIMG_6849’s decision to return to school and while we counted down to school starting across December and January, with twinkles of hope and possibility, I spent the festive season in lock, down-burn out wondering what the hell had happened (another loss of confidence despite having just completed my first novel). The upside was hours spent gazing into the glass water of the water hole at the bottom of the hill at my mother-in-laws.

But come the turn of the new calendar year, a new story came, and I’ve been writing poetry and tackling my birthpunk novella, now entitled “Encursion”. After five years, the writing was fun, and fast-paced and a bit mental! While I didn’t complete the novella as I had set out to do (albeit with a bit of a tight deadline) I’m in neck deep and I will continue until I type: THE END. And Piper’s Reach is finally there. Edited up and ready to send to Toni and Rus. Ready for us to take the next big leap of faith!

Write A List, Before You Beat Yourself Up

The Year of the Serpent wasn’t the year I expected, it wasn’t exactly the year I wanted, but it was a year that was productive despite all the challenges thrown my way. Despite having to give away my dream of a year of writing. I can say that now. Several months ago I was treating myself as an absolute failure.

The year’s work looks something like this (and I am a bit astounded when I actually look at it all):

  • 555 and Nothing New to Begin accepted at Tincture Magazine
  • Completed short stories: Twice Forgotten (4500), Between Minutes* (7800), First to Hundred* (4200) and At Arm’s Length (2200) *Submitted and rejected.
  • Completed first draft of gothic horror novel
  • Completed first draft of The Griefing Yard (with Stacey)
  • Worked on shorts Tag Hubert’s Requiem and The Indictment of Portia Simpson
  • Completed writing Post Marked: Piper’s Reach (87,000 all up)
  • Completed the editing of Post Marked: Piper’s Reach (92,000)
  • Pitched (unsuccessfully) Post Marked: Piper’s Reach to Hachette during GenreCon.
  • Submitted first page of Post Marked: Piper’s Reach to First Impressions with positive feed back
  • Delivered my first editing workshop for QWC
  • Did my first mentoring through QWC
  • Sat on panels at Conflux/NatCon
  • Chaired my first panel (GenreCon).
  • Completed 28 days of Post-It Note Poetry in February
  • Wrote poetry throughout January (2013) for Month of Poetry
  • Read my first poem in public for At The End, Poetry event
  • Participated actively in both my online writing groups, including beta reading on a regular basis.
  • Submitted my first poem to a journal.
  • Partnered with Nicole Murphy to publish In Fabula Divino (launched April 2012) and Prana Writer’s Group to publish The Gold Coast Anthology (for launch in May 2013)
  • Released through eP Tom and Mike’s book The Machine Who Was Also a Boy
  • Was offered several exciting editing and publishing opportunities (that I am, for now, sitting on patiently waiting for the right time!)

When I look at the list, it’s hardly a year of doing nothing, though it felt at times like nothing was happening; a consequence of working on longer pieces that will bear fruit further down the track?

Social Consolidation, In The Best Kind of Way

While it is easy to bemoan the Year of the Serpent as a really tough year, the year that almost broke me, I was blessed in so many other ways: I was surrounded by caring, compassionate and encouraging friends.

IMG_5261Thank you to The Furies: Stacey and Helen (sisters-in-words and so much more!), to Rob (the untangler of knotted narratives and ever-ready coffee partner/cheer squad/all round awesome person), Sean (the wish enabler), Adam (insert bestest before writing partner, friend and chooser of new music), Nicky (the bringer of wisdom and chicken soup), Angela ( fairy godmother in disguise), Kevin (unexpected hoarder of brilliant new friends and ideas), Lois (catalyst for awesome), Rus (Zen master of the mental reset and agent provocateur of the creative), Alex (party planner extraordinaire and generous giver of business wisdom), Tom (partner in beer, sanity disher and listener to obscure narrative ideas) and Emily (the girl voted most likely to inspire Mr D to shower, brush his teeth and leave the house!)

It was the kind of ‘social consolidation’ I wasn’t expecting but I am ever so grateful for.

Thank you also to Dave and Mr D who let me escape on weekends to regroup my sanity and chase words; who were caring, kind and considerate throughout all our travails, especially when I was at my worst.

There are many other people who assisted in small and large ways; if you are reading this, you are probably one of them. Thank you!

The Take Home Message

We rarely get what we want. Instead, the Universe sends us what we need. And I give thanks and gratitude for everything, small or large, brilliant or devastating that the Year of the Serpent wrought; I have changed, evolved and perhaps been rebirthed in some areas of my life, as is the manifesto of a Serpent Year.

Now to welcome in The Year of the Green Horse, with all it’s dashing derring-do.

12 Days Later

Number 12It’s been twelve days since I completed my novel.

In that time I have ridden a roller coaster of amazement and joy served with a side of absolute bewilderment at having finished, and the adrenalin burn out that came afterward with the yawning black hole that desperately wanted to swallow me. I’ve felt utterly lost, adrift, and thought I might never again be able to front up to the page (how is it possible that I can feel that way after achieving something I said I’d never do – write a novel?!) I’ve missed my characters with a bone aching longing that had me (almost) returning to the page to begin a second draft — but held off! It’s only in the last few days that I realised I managed to write my first novel before I turned 40 (not that it was the intention when I set out to write).

I’ve walked the puppy on the cusp of the suburb turning into Schwlatzmas-land with all the lights, at all hours of the evening: at midnight to the dulcet beats of homemade reggae rolling down off the hills at Holland Park and early enough to smell the lingering deliciousness of other people’s dinner. And the most telling bit of it all (other than some random poetry downloads) all the voices in my head have been quiet.

POET-TRY

I’ve written poetry (add one ‘almost-hangover’ from too much sangria, Nik Perring‘s Not So Perfect, a loose end of a Sunday afternoon, a random conversation with Adam Byatt and observe part of your brain break and poetry pour out). Two of those poems been through the critiquing process. If you think it hurts to have your short stories or novel critiqued, have a crack at someone tearing lovingly through your poetry! I’ve also attended my first Speed Poets to support Stacey in her first public reading (she was awesome!)

BETWEEN MINUTES

I’ve had a bunch of conversations with people about Between Minutes since I finished, all of which astound in the support and interest the novel garners (and the fear that comes with the fact I will never artfully articulate it on the page to make up for the blab-factor in person). These conversations have ranged from support at the end of the process to find a publisher and/or an agent, and other conversations with have accidentally broadened my understanding of the characters and their interplay.

SCHMINGLING-DINGLE-DOO

I’ve schmingled the QWC Christmas party and again, missed the hangover bullet. Had impromptu writerly drinks at The Fox on a Sunday afternoon (oh how I miss Sunday sessions – they are the perfect antidote for Sunday Melancholia!). Met with Helen to move forward my next part of The Gold Coast anthology amid chatter, coffee and good food (the best way to work). There have also been important and frivolous conversations in Stacey’s kitchen.

RETURN OF THE BIRTH BUNK

BirthpunkAt Dave’s Christmas party a bunch of his co-workers were asking me about my writing (the blush-worthy moment when someone says: So I hear you published a book? What’s with that?) I somehow got to talking about how I was going to write birthpunk and several really interesting conversations came out of it. Most of which ended with “You have to write this. I want to read it now!” So I knew the tide was turning and I was fighting a losing battle by trying to run away from it.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to catch up with Lois Spangler, not once but twice. The breakfast catch made my brain ‘splode with possibilities: a stage play of Between Minutes, additional novellas for Elyora, a grindhouse style script for Elyora but, most importantly, the undeniable push forward to finish the first birthpunk novella.

Lois has very graciously and generously offered to look at it when it is finished. I believe the date for ‘submission’ is mid-to late January. Knowing the pace with which I can knock out words, that won’t be a problem. My new creative year begins on the 31st January so it’s all keeping to original time frames written down in late September. With the extra bit of time – I might even get a second draft revision done on it.

My head is finally in a place where I think I can write for fun, rather than for intent. With Between Minutes behind me (for now) I have the confidence to tackle the ‘big project’. And with a new opening I think I can quickly gain the momentum needed to move the story where it needs to go (which has been the problem to date – I’ve been writing the end of one of the other novellas in the cycle!)

So I guess this is my way of saying after a mini break I’m ready to start again, and that’s a good thing.

First Impressions For Post Marked: Piper’s Reach

Pipers Reach Promo PictureLast week I wrote about the process of honing the first page and the angst of marrying a non-traditional narrative with a traditional narrative framework to hook the reader. I had been reviewing the opening page in preparation for submitting to Marcy Hatch and Dianne Salerni’s “First Impressions” and agonising over the fit. Wondering if Piper’s Reach was appealing to those outside of our existing fan base. Dreading feedback that said we’d got it all wrong. After reading the comments on both Marcy and Dianne’s blog I know now why I was so worried.

Kittie Howard commented: There’s no middle ground with epistolary writing. It either hits or misses.

So, are we a hit or a miss?

THE HITS

“What’s great about this first page is that it sets up lots of questions about the past between these two people but also suggests a question about the future. Why is the narrator writing to Jude now, twenty years later?” Marcy.

I never really thought about why the twenty year gap (I was thinking of all the other whys) or the inherent question regarding the future (even though we set up the original tagline as: When the past reaches into the present would you risk a second chance.)

There’s just the right amount of past and present mixed together, and enough places mentioned to provide a clear image of setting without being confusing. Dianne

Again, I hadn’t thought too much about the setting on the first page (too worried about character and voice and conflict), even though Adam and I had spoken during the editing process about properly locating both the towns early on, something missing from the original letters.

To follow finish off Kittie’s comment: There’s no middle ground with epistolary writing. It either hits or misses. This one hits!

Alex J Cavanaugh commented: That simple letter says a lot. The authors nailed so much in just a few paragraphs.

You can read the full critiques and all the comments on Marcy’s and Dianne’s blogs, or add your own there.

THE MISSES

Some of the readers were slightly confounded by Australian colloquialisms such as ‘sea change’ (though apparently it was Shakespeare who first coined the phrase in The Tempest!) and ‘pashed’. Adam in true Adam style explained pash in the comments and added ‘pash rash’ – oh, I’d totally forgotten that! Chatting over dinner last night Dave and I agreed ‘pash’ really does belong (rather than snog) because it is one of those iconic 70’s and 80’s teenage Australian words – those all or nothing kinds of kisses at blue light discos and school socials that traded etiquette for raw momentum. If we want to keep true to the Australian voice of the characters we will need to be mindful to accommodate an international audience in the context of those words.

There were some punctuations glitches to fix and a small tweaking of one sentence regarding ‘stuff’, which is quite shameful given years ago I walked into my soul sister’s Year 8 English class where she had written ‘stuff’ and ‘things’ on the board and was running through ways of better articulating these generic terms!

So the worry was for nothing. Easy to say in retrospect! The project overall is unique enough to pique the interest of readers and there is enough in that first letter to hook the reader in. Now to worry over the next 321 pages!

Many thanks to Marcy, Dianne and their readers. Their comments and insights have fuelled the second stage editing rocket ready for launch next week.

If you have a manuscript and are interested in being part of Marcy and Dianne’s ‘First Impressions’ drop by either of their blogs for more information.

My Muse Is Not A Muse

My muse is not a muse
Though my not-a-muse does amuse

He swears off pants, though undies on head is
The perfect attire for a super hero
With very mild superpowers
Who cuts through bullshit
And index fingers with equal aplomb
A horizontal slice is his kryptonite.

My not-a-muse walks with a prayer in his heart
A jam donut in hand
And a Dad joke on the tip of his tongue
His footprints are words
His legacy left in ink and precision folding
Two skills to rule them all.

A rouged rhythmist
With beige bravado and TARDIS blue nails
My not-a-muse sorts the jigsaw
To help me construct 1000 pieces of blue sky
And hang a moon in it
Over the lighthouse in Piper’s Reach

My not-a-muse is aIMG_3862
Future Miles Franklin winner
Present day philosopher and
Former creativity denier
Who held my hand as I climbed onto the rail
Of a sinking ship and dived toward my future.

My not-a-muse is a muse.
In everything but name.

Happy Birth Day, Adam.

Author Update #1

Happy Dark Moon. This is the first of what will hopefully be a semi-regular round up of my writing plus the writing and projects of those around me.

A MONTH OF POETRY

February was #postitenotepoetry month. I came out of the month with just under 40 poems—well ahead of the ‘dared’ 28. Unlike the “29 Days of Haiku” last year, I loved every minute of #postitnotepoetry. It became an unexpected and very welcomed outlet for a lot of difficult stuff I faced behind the scenes.

PODCAST

During the January heatwave, I sat down in my air-conditioned writing room to chat with Sean Wright for his Adventures of a Bookonaut podcast. I’ve done a few interviews (including on 4ZZZ) but this was the first time I’d been interviewed as a writer, and it was so much fun. The glowing feedback from Sean came at just the right time, as I sat poised on making the BIG decision to spend a year away from editing and publishing to write. It was also on Sean’s insistence that I sent ELYORA out into the big wide world.  Which brings me to…

ELYORA

My horror novella, published as part of Review of Australian Fiction’s Rabbit Hole special, is out in the wild. It has a brand new beginning, new title and hopefully a new home with the prospect of some financial return. Fingers crossed for good news in the next couple of weeks.

ONE SMALL STEP: AN ANTHOLOGY OF DISCOVERIES

Fablecroft’s next anthology ONE SMALL STEP: an anthology of discoveries is now available for pre-order. The all female anthology will launch at NatCon/Conflux next month. Looking at the ToC, I still pinch myself…that “Firefly Epilogue” sits alongside stories of some of my favourite authors.

FIRST TO A HUNDRED

A story idea for a piece of flash fiction, spawned by Adam’s commentary on cricket and tennis over summer, grew in one afternoon to a 5000 word story (in one sitting – making it the one easy story afforded a year – in the second week of my creative year!). “First to a Hundred” will be my entry in the Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize. In a quirk of narrative, the story steps aside from weird spec-fic I’m used to penning and is instead a YA coming-of-age story set on a Victorian beach in the late 1980’s. It’s the story that made all the important men in my life cry!

BIRTHPUNK

I have started on my set of six interlocking birthpunk novellas. I’m currently working on “Sylvie”—the original story that inspired the entire concept of birthpunk. With so many debates going on around the world about women’s corporeal rights (ie. Rights to choose what happens to their bodies) it would appear this is the year to be writing about a world where women’s corporeal rights have been stripped away. Where the Government controls all aspects of fertility and reproduction.

It is hard going at the moment, getting my head around the world building, with some extra distractions going on behind the scenes. The enormity of what I’m attempting weighs heavily on my confidence, despite the small, but dedicated cheer squad who keep telling me it’s awesome and I can do it. I’m hoping to have the first novella completed in the next fortnight.

POST MARKED: PIPER’S REACH

Adam and I have reached the point where we’re acknowledging the end is nigh. But if you think either of us has any idea how it ends, you’d be wrong. It’s not going to be in the next couple of letters, it might be even longer than a few more after that, but it’s definitely on the horizon.

I might not know how it’s going to end, but I do know what I had in mind for the ending this time last year, has been somewhat gutted by the unravelling of events in the last 12 months. There has been discussion that it will end where it started…with a letter from Ella-Louise. We’ll see.

Adam and I are planning to gift print copies of the Christmas Special as a chapbook, accompanied with Jude’s mix tape from 1991. We’re compiling a list of fans and supporters. If you have been a lurker, now would be the time to out yourself.

AROUND THE TRAPS

Joanne Anderton’s debut short story collection, THE BONE CHIME SONG is available for pre-order through FableCroft. I can’t wait to see what is between the pages and looking forward to getting a signed copy at NatCon.

Jessica Bell released her novella The Book in last January and followed up with a short story The Hum of Sin Against Skin last week.

Chris Chartrand unveiled Worth A Thousand Words podcast last month. It is wonderful mash up of photo prompts, writing, podcasting and interviews. I’m currently gestating a story for submission. I’d love to hear something I wrote be narrated by Chris.

Maria Kelly’s story “Parker’s Pygmallion”, a twist on Shaw’s concept, won the Phi Theta Kappa Florida Regional award for Best Short Story—Fiction.

Nicole Murphy released the yearly anthology from In Fabula-divino mentoring project yesterday. It contains a bunch of truly awesome stories, including S.G. Larner’s “Regret” (definitely one of my favourite stories of Stacey’s!)

Emma Newman’s BETWEEN TWO THORNS, the first in the Split Words Trilogy was released by Angry Robot in late February and my copy arrived on Friday. You can purchase at the following locations: UK Edition – US Edition. Em was also the featured author at SFX magazine’s Issue 233 with a corker photo that had Angry Robot’s Marc Gascoigne nominated Em as the next Doctor!

Dan Powell was joint winner of the Carve Esoteric Prize (2013) for “Storm in a Tea Cup” and his short story collection “Looking Out Of Broken Windows” is short listed for the International Scott Prize for Short Stories. You can read an interview with Dan here on the Salt Publishing website about the collection.

Sean Wright sat on the other side of the interviewing desk with Emma Raven of E-book Revolution talking about a bunch of things from attending local writing events to the best use of Twitter and and Goodreads.