Welcome to Elyora

cover-finalTo celebrate today’s launch of Elyora I’ve compiled a list of facts about the novella, the writing it and other associated tidbits.

#1 Elyora began as a dream featuring a misshapen house, a woman and sirens in the river.

#2 Elyora was the name of the woman in my dream, not the town. It’s pronounced el-yor-ah.

#3 The first draft of Elyora was written during a June 2012 Rabbit Hole event run by the Queensland Writers Centre – 30,000 words in 30 hours.

#4 The original sex scene was written as a word count filler and was intended to be edited out of the final draft. The ending precluded that from happening.

#5 Elyora was edited by Lesley Halm (for Review of Australian Fiction) and if it weren’t for her commitment to the story she saw in the rough, it might never have been finished, much less published.

#6 Elyora was short listed in the Aurealias short horror category in 2012 – two days after the contract was signed to sell it as River of Bones to Endeavour Press.

#7 The a cappella scene was intended to have Suzanne Vega’s Tom’s Diner at the centre of it but words failed to bring it to life at the time. The new edition features Vega’s classic.

#8 The 2nd draft was almost complete before I knew what the menace in the river was. It was an accidental find after months of dedicated searching.

#9 Knowing what was in the river, and its folk history, added a new layer to the story, a new iteration of claustrophobia and fleshed out the backstory of Eleanor and Ethan Lazarus.

#10 Brigadoon, the town that appears for one day every hundred years, was one of the inspirations for Elyora, though my partner, insisted it sounded more like the town in Peter Weir’s The Cars That Ate Paris.

#10 Elyora is not based on the township of Ben Lomond. Ben Lomond has 3 churches and is on the wrong side of the road.

#11 FaunaBate almost hailed from Sydney. The Hume Highway between Melbourne and City was the intended setting. But a road trip in 2011 discounted it.

#12 It was only after Elyora was published that I visited Hal and Jo’s hometowns of Woolomin and Nundle. GoogleEarth was my friend prior to that.

#13 Sometimes it’s okay to read reviews! The new edition has small alternations to the flora and fauna based on Chris-from-Ben-Lomond’s Goodread’s review.

#14 Elyora was my first attempt at horror and I wanted to write something that would scare me stupid. My son managed to accidentally jump-scare me during a late editing session of the final garage scene.

#15 The hardest scene to write was the conversation between Ethan and Stanley. Nailing Stanley’s vernacular and articulation pushed my skills to their limits.

#16 In addition to the dream, two strong visuals components were musts for incorporation: the cars in the back of the garage and the tow hook on the old dodge truck.

#17 One reviewer said she would never again take a bath after reading Elyora. #sorrynotsorry

#18 Petrol actually was 13c/l in 1974. It was one of the facts I collected as part of my research. I also read the original research paper from the FBI Body Farm.

#19 Searching >Elyora< on Spotify will bring up the play list of songs mentioned in the novella. There’s 16 of them.

#20 The number of plays  logged for Yacht Club DJ’s ‘The mostly come at night, mostly’ hour-long mixtape – 82. It was on almost perpetual loop during Elyora’s writing and editing.

#21 Lesley’s original editorial stated that Elyora could be the lovechild of Gaiman and King, consequently, when it was first released, I told no one it had been published.

#22 River of Bones languished in relative obscurity until an Australia Day promo pushed it to #1 on the Amazon (Aus) horror charts and into the general Top 20.

#23 Most of the quirky details, from dashboard adornments to tattoos, were based on suggestions from The Elyora Brains Trust on Facebook during the 2nd draft.

#24 The third edition of Elyora (the 2nd by its intended name) is the only paperback edition. Only one was intended to be printed (as a reference for writing a script) but the idea of a worldwide paperback release refused to be ignore.

When Jo, Hal and Benny arrive in Elyora the absence of takeaway coffee is the least of their problems. At each other’s throats and without transportation, phone service or somewhere to stay, they accept the hospitality of the enigmatic Lazarus at the original Elyora homestead.

As day turns to night, the sanctuary of the rambling house becomes a terrifying alternate reality of memories peeling back onto themselves to expose secrets and paranoia dating back to 1942.

To escape Elyora and return to 2012, Jo must remember who she is and find Benny and Hal before they succumb to  the same fate as those who came before them.


Haven’t got a copy of Elyora yet – no stress. Just click here.

Want to add it to Goodreads. Easy! Just click here.

Coming on 20th February – a Goodreads giveaway. More closer to the date.

Conflux 8 Round Up

(…or how I survived my first Con as participant by losing my car)

The Preamble

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I lost the carpark my car was parked in at the Canberra Centre the Friday night of Conflux and looking back it was the best thing that could possibly have happened.

In weather more befitting of penguins than humans, I walked through the middle of Canberra with my parking docket in one hand and my umbrella in the other, having left dinner early to ‘get in an early night’. I wandered lost round what seemed like block after block after block of identical shops, thwarted by locked doors, at later junctures there no shops and a bleak post-industrialism that appeared totally out of place in the centre of Canberra and at the end I was mocked by carparks that looked remarkably like the one across from where my car was parked, but weren’t.

After an hour of this I was cold, wet and ready to totally go to pieces. I started to believe someone was toying with me, shifting streets and urban landscapes just to get a rise out of me.

I had been worried all week about moving out of my comfort zone – but honestly, this was ridiculous! But I was determined to keep it together (even if I kept having flashes of ringing Alan Baxter to help me come find my car, through a torrent of tears and how that would make me feel better in the short term).

In the end, I turned a corner and there was the carpark I recognised, the dead end street and the ramp down into the carpark where my car was parked. And yes, when I went down into the bowels of the shopping centre, my car was gratefully exactly where I had parked it (unlike the bloody carpark!)

The Panels

After that… after the sinking awful fear of being stuck in the city, cold, wet, car-less, my family back in the hotel and me with a rapidly diminishing phone battery, stepping up to sit on my first panel was a breeze. After all, it was warm, I was dry, I had my favourite Galifrey t-shirt on, I knew which room I was due in and was sharing the panel with two of the loveliest and generous souls in spec-fic: Nicole Murphy and Tracey O’Hara. Oh, and on top of that, we were talking romance, sex and the apocalypse. And what a discussion it was!

Romance writers of the apocalypse
L-R Tracey O’Hara, Nicole R Murphy and moi
~Courtesy of Lily Mulholland

Then it was onto a lively discussion of trends in post-apocalyptic fiction with Cat Sparks (chair extraorindaire!), Gillian Pollack and Claire McKenna where I only had one moment of not knowing how the hell to answer one of Cat’s questions.

Sunday I was back to talk about indie publishing with Keith Stevenson (as chair), Keri Arthur, Simon Petrie and Bill Congreve. It was amazing to see just how wide and deep indie publishing is. One size fits all is definitely not a description of indie publishing here in Australia. To sit on a panel with the likes of Keith and Bill was a complete honour. For eMergent to be counted among the spec-fic small press here in Australia.

Which brings me to…

The Book Launch

This was only marginally less nerve wracking than losing the car. I say this for a number of reasons:

1. we were collectively launching five books in one hour – something everyone was pretty sure was a first.

2. And, we were largely playing it by ear with the brilliant Jack Dann leading as MC, huddled near the front counter throwing ideas on how to market, present and entertain on the ground, in the bookstore, minutes before we had to kick off.

3. And, we decided in our pre-launch pow wow with Jack Dann, that we’d each stand up and pitch our books to the audience in sixty seconds or less.

4. And, Smith’s just kept filling with people.

Jodi Cleghorn

Having already run through my 60 second pitch Jack asked me to go a second time while he found his running notes!
~ Photo courtesy of Cat Sparks via Flicker

Again, the nerves were unfounded. Jack makes it easy to play side kick to. His enthusiasm, humour and showmanship is infectious. I’m so very grateful to have had him launch FROM STAGE DOOR SHADOWS.

Jodi and Jack

Thank the goddesses for a prop to keep the shaking hands busy.
~ Photo courtesy of Cat Sparks via Flicker

Jack highlighted the unique nature of what we do (from the mission statement I’ve been developing – now found in the back of the books) and I was able to share how Literary Mix Tapes works and its focus on working with emerging writers. To my ears the audience response was thunderous and it was hard not to cry. Not only was the book launched by I publicly stepped out from beneath the rock I’ve been happily existing under.

Jodi CleghornAnd at the end I got to sit on a table and sign books!

Jodi and Greg

That’s the super talented Greg Mellor beside me.
~ Photo courtesty of Cat Sparks via Flickr

But the best bit of all, was I got to share it with my family. Both my Mr D’s were there to see the book launched, though the younger one was more interested in a book he found on the shelves at Smith’s.

Jodi & Dave

Dave and I post launch.
~Photo courtesy of Cat Sparks via Flickr

Reading Elyora

Sunday afternoon I sat next to Janeen Webb to do my first author reading. After the success of the panels and the book launch, and having run through the extract I’d chosen multiple times (including subjecting Tiggy and Stacey to it during our luncheon at the start of the holidays) I was reasonably confident in pulling off a reading without turning into a bumbling idiot. And honestly, sitting next to Janeen who had been helpful and supportive and encouraging from the first email, I felt I could do it.

And thus, a small section of ELYORA came to life for a group of eager readers including multiple character voices. I remember looking up around page two and could see everyone sitting forward in their chairs and the last of my nerves dissolved and I let myself really enjoy it.

Janeen’s story was a cracker (I was very glad to have flipped and gone first!) As was Alan’s and Ian McHugh’s who followed Janeen and I. (Oh and did I mention how the first thing Alan said about his story, was that he’d decided after chatting to someone else not to read an extract but a stand alone story… and how I was grateful he said that after I’d read, not before!)

Thank You

Many thanks to Jane Virgo, Conflux 8’s convenor whose encouragement and support allowed me to keep saying yes to all the things she sent my way. Thank you to the Conflux 8 committee who worked hard to make everything run smoothly. Thanks to Jack Dann and Janeen Webb for their support and innovation. Final thanks to Alan Baxter who is an awesome wingman to have at one of these events and as always Lily Mulholland, who makes the trip worth while each year just for the joy of her company.

Counting down to next year now…