At Arm’s Length

Huzzah!! ‘At Arm’s Length’ (affectionately known to those close as ‘The Arm Story’) is out today in the latest Tincture Literary Journal.


The feelings engendered by Publication Day never get old. And it’s been a while (for a variety of reasons) since I had a story published in a journal or anthology, thus today is extra sparkly and a beverage or two may be consumed in celebration.


The first words were put down New Years Eve 2013/14 but it took a really long time to find the final form. The premise (a woman wakes up one morning to discover her arm is missing) is a pretty unbelievable scenario. Because the story asks the reader to suspend their disbelief, I had to absolutely nail all the other real-life details and motivations, and that took a while. The story is pretty indicative of how I was feeling at the time: slowly disappearing into invisibility, losing parts of myself along the way, lost in suburban obscurity.

It was also my first experimentation with the metaphysical side of magical realism which perhaps accounts for the length of time it took to hone and home it.


Many thanks go to my beta readers: Dan Powell, Ben Payne and S.G. Larner. Special thanks to the editors of Urban Fantasy Magazine who provided amazing feedback with their rejection. And last of all, thank you to Daniel for again believing in my work and giving it a home at Tincture.


You can read Daniel’s editorial, peruse the table of contents, add it to Goodreads or more importantly, buy a copy of Tincture Issue 11.

Coming Soon… Tincture 11

A sneak preview of what lingers in the wings as the release of the next Tincture draws closer.
Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 7.33.57 pm At Arm’s Length is a magical realism slice of domestic obscurity and invisible love with nods of the head to the work of Dan Powell and Nik Perring.

Tincture Literary Journal’s 11th issue is released September 1st.

“24” – 06:00

Amber’s breathing moved with the same hypnotic motion of the sea. The sound push-pulled Ben as he teetered on the edge of consciousness. Oh, how he wanted to pitch face first into sleep and lose himself in oblivion for just a few hours. Free from thinking about what Amber had said and everything Helena expected to hear.

A golden fissure glowed in the crack between the curtains and he imagined the dawn stealing in. Seeking him out. Exposing him for what he was.

And he deserved it.

He’d told Helena, just one night to sort Amber out.

Now, oh Christ.

Amber slept against him, head on his shoulder. Sour breath grazed his neck. He extracted his numb arm, climbed out of the tangle of sheets and stood naked at the window watching morning creep across the city. The rising sun lit the curled wisps of clouds in such a way it looked like fire rolling across the bay.

A pending immolation of the guilty, he thought and pulled the curtains closed.

He could anticipate Helena’s response to his news: She’d tell you anything to keep you. In his head he argued back: You would lie to keep me but not Amber, adding after a moment, you can’t fake this.

In the dark he could pretend Amber’s skin wasn’t stretched grey over her cheekbones and the heavy shadows of her eye sockets were just jet lag. And her missing hair was the result of a charity shave-off. In the dark he could reimagine her as she was in the photos: radiant and perfect. Everything he’d wanted and believed he didn’t deserve.

It took several minutes to find his jeans—boxer shorts twisted into them—and dig his phone out of his pocket. In the bathroom, with the light off to avoid the police line up of Amber’s pill bottles on the vanity, he sat on the toilet and stared at his phone.

He could take a photo of the pills and send it to Helena as proof. See, not faking.

What was he thinking? He wasn’t thinking at all.

Sun spilled through the small window above him. The longer he sat, the heavier and sweatier the phone became. It wasn’t difficult. All he had to do was turn it back on and tell Helena it was over. He didn’t even have to call her. Just send a text and admit he’d used her while he waited for Amber to come back online. For her to finish whatever it was she had to do without him. But he couldn’t. Because he wasn’t sure that was the truth.

Last night he’d gone to the airport primed to rip it through Amber for the way she’d played him, and finally move on. But that was before she’d smiled and kissed him and told him she could explain everything. Before he’d held her, real and alive, skin against skin.

Before she’d told him she was dying.

The next part of 24 will be available here at 8am.

Introduction to Short Story Writing

Weedy TypewriterThis Saturday, from 10:30am to 12:00pm, I’ll be presenting “Introduction to Short Story Writing” at the Bracken Ridge Library on behalf of the QWC.

The advertising blurb:

Explore the tropes and structures of short fiction during an exciting workshop for budding short story writers with Queensland Writers Centre.

I’ll be sharing:

  • why I love short fiction and the advantages of writing it
  • the different forms
  • the mechanics and anatomy
  • and a few tips on how to write compelling short fiction

Even though it’s only 90 minutes there will be plenty of opportunity to get fingers a little inky.

Places are free, but limited.

All bookings via Bracken Ridge library on 3667 6060.

2013: As It Was Read

IMG_3821Regular readers will know that I am a bit weird. I don’t run my writing year as per the Gregorian calendar, but instead by the Chinese calendar. For convenience sake, I’ve been using the standard year as my goal posts for reading (simply because it is easier and I am lazy!)

Despite the shit fight that was 2013, I managed to keep a comprehensive list of the books. I read 34 books (2 short of what I had been aiming for – with 3 books a month). November was pretty much a write-off for reading, as I poured 79,000 words out in four weeks for NaNo.


I’m picky with my books, so it’s often hard to pick a best of. This year, THE SHINING GIRLS by Lauren Beukes stood head and shoulders above everything else I read, both in storytelling and in writing. Filling out the rest of the top five in no particular order were:

CLOUD ATLAS David Mitchell
WARM BODIES Isaac Marion
THE LAST BANQUET Jonathan Grimwood

Honourable mentions:

PERFECTIONS Kirstyn McDermott
PATH OF THE NIGHT Dirk Flintheart
NEUROMANCER William Gibson

Best anthologies:

     – this came out before I was even writing again!
MIDNIGHT AND MOONSHINE Lisa L Hannett and Angela Slatter


Re-Reads (6)

THE GREAT GATSBY F. Scott Fitzgerald
THE RED TENT Anita Diamant
ROIL Trent Jamieson

Anthologies and Collections (8)

IN FABULA DIVINO Ed. Nicole Murphy
THE TURNING Tim Winton (Re-read)
MIDNIGHT AND MOONSHINE Lisa L Hannett and Angela Slatter
NEXT eds. Simon Petrie and Robert Porteous

New Reads (18)

CLOUD ATLAS David Mitchell
LETTERS FROM SKYE Jessica Brockmole (E)
WARM BODIES Isaac Marion
SCARE ME Richard Jay Parker
AURORA: DARWIN Amanda Bridgeman
PERFECTIONS Kirstyn McDermott
PATH OF THE NIGHT Dirk Flintheart (E)
THE LAST BANQUET Jonathan Grimwood (E)
NEUROMANCER William Gibson
RYDERS RIDGE Charlotte Nash

Novellas (2)

DARK RITE David Wood & Alan Baxter

Virtual Launch Interview

For those who missed the virtual launch of “Thieves and Scoundrels” and my interivew – here it is. Apologies for the dodgey formatting in places – it is an artefact of cut and paste.

And finally, our very last author of the day, joining us from Brisbane Australia, Jodi Cleghorn.

Jodi’s Bio:
In a world-building master class in 2008 Jodi was overheard saying, ‘Oh, but I don’t write science-fiction’. Up until that point she’d never given any real thought to genre.
While her characters are still unwilling to allow their muse to be shoe-horned into any one genre there is a growing appreciation of the freedom to explore ‘what ifs’ in speculative- and science-fiction, along with urban fantasy.
Love, betrayal, identity, dynamics of power and time travel are recurring themes in Jodi’s writing.
As well as writing, Jodi has a passion for editing and publishing, and is the co-owner of eMergent Publishing with Paul Anderson, creating short story anthologies which push the boundaries under the Chinese Whisperings brand.

Good morning, Jodi!

Good morning Tina. It’s 8:45am Sunday morning here in Australia and the mist is hanging about the trees in my suburb. Thanks for having me along.
Well thanks for getting up early for us.

Still hard to believe I’m talking to someone from the future (it’s only 4:45 pm on Saturday here)

Why don’t we start off by you telling us a little bit more about you? Where are you from, what do you do, and how did you find out about the Flash Fiction Challenge?

I currently in Brisbane – in what often feels like the end of the world (or the beginning) when working across massive time zone gaps. I’m a full time writer, as well as co-managing a small Indie publishing house, eMergent Publishing, which produces conceptual anthologies under the imprint Chinese Whisperings…
I first learnt of AXP and the FFCs last September through a writer who contributed to Chinese Whispering’s debut anthology, ‘The Red Book’.
Awesome. Without giving away the plot of the story, can tell us about what you’ve written for Thieves and Scoundrels?
Many of my stories come from that wonderful question “what if?”…
“The Chameleon” is a sci-fi story, unashameably influenced by my own domestic situation in December last year (though the actual story bears no resemblance to it). The spark for the story came from a conversation about 24 hour retail trading…
“The Chameleon” was also shaped by the growing numbers of reports of identity theft, as well as the themes of loss, love, the dynamics of power and time travel – though in this regards it is not time travel in the most literal sense…
I guess it addresses important questions regarding identity, scientific innovation, psychology and humanity .“The Chameleon” asks… are we more than just the sum of our parts? Is there something more than the reductionist version of science?
Wow. Pretty deep stuff. Is this what readers can expect from your other work? More thought provocking science fiction?
Yes… well I hope…
In past I haven’t written sci-fi though I seem to be pulled more that way because of the freedom for exploration the genre offers and the ability to really probe social issues…
Plus I love being able to toy with science, technology and innovation – push it beyond know boundaries and then apply it back to the human experience…
Right now I’m working on several sci-fi projects: a novella set in a society where natural birth has been outlawed as a crime against the State, punishable by death. The main characters are young midwife, a fallen angel and a Government agent hell-bent on getting ‘his woman’; also a cross-genre detective serial named “Hartog”…
There are several other short stories in varying arrays of “finished-ness” and I’d by lying if I said I wasn’t fishing for a story to submit for the next FFC. There are two scenarios gestating – but as of yet, no definite story emerging from either idea.
Well I guess that answers what you are working on right now. 🙂

Are there any authors or books which you particularly admire, or which have influenced you as a writer?

It does…
The more I read of Margaret Attwood, the more I like her writing and admire her as a woman and an author. Her ability to produce such diverse work, of an amazingly high standard is something any writer would aspire to. I am in awe of her descriptive narrative (something I struggle with in my own writing) and ease of story telling…
As for influences – it seems I take a little from every book I read and apply it in small and large ways to whatever I am working on at the time – it is often completely subconscious…
I’m lucky enough to belong to a wonderfully talented and supportive community of writers – both on and offline. A small group of these writers are my beta readers and it is their insightful comments and critiques which help to shape the final drafts I produce. “The Chameleon” is an example of how a good story can be made a great story with the critical input of others.
That’s great.

What is the hardest part about writing for you, in general or just flash fiction?

Telling a rich, evocative story in just 1000 words isn’t easy at the best of times. Throw into that mix, the need to do some type of world building and you have what I consider, the hardest part of writing flash fiction in the sci-fi genre…
For “The Chameleon” – my world building had to be based on small, potent symbols. I focused on technology to build Clarissa’s world. There’s no space to explain them, so I used simple, easily recognisable items or concepts… then pushed out from 2010 usages into a place in the not too distant future…
“The Chameleon” utilises three novums – an identity chip in the back of the hand, DNA rewriting and DNA litmus paper.
You mentioned that you also manage a small press. Would you rather be known as a writer or as a publisher?
Jodi Cleghorn:

This seems to be a question which keeps popping up recently – a bit like would you prefer critical acclaim or popular success…

I’d like to be greedy and be known for both I think. I wish I could be one or the other, but it seems I am pulled in both directions.
I can understand that.

Maybe you can tell us when and why you began writing? What gave you “the bug” so to speak?

I began writing aged 10 with a sappy piece about Willy the Australian mascot for the LA Olympics…
Jodi Cleghorn:

It was the light bulb moment that I could string together my own sentences, create worlds, action. A bit of a “God” moment so to speak…

As I got older the pull was to escape. My life wasn’t particularly awful – but there was something about being able to escape into a world were you had ultimate power (what teenager wouldn’t want to do that?)…
Now I realise that it is my characters who control me to tell their story, and not the other way around!
Alright, one more question before I open it up to the audience. How can readers get in touch with you?
Jodi Cleghorn:

There are three ways…

Facebook fan page!/pages/Jodi-Cleghorn-Author/294766224588?ref=ts
Jodi Cleghorn:

Twitter @JodiCleghorn

Wonderful. Thank you Jodi.

Looks like we have our first question…

[Comment From Robin Robin : ]

You seem to have some profound insights into people. Do you have a degree or anything in psychology?

Nicely picked Robin… I have never finished my degree in Psychology – but have definitely spent a fair chunk of time at uni studying for one. My son came along to spoil my last attempt to get my piece of paper. I’m also an avid people watcher and like to think a lot about what makes people tick…
I’m also blessed by the appearance of many interesting and complex characters who choose me to share their stories.
We’ve got time for one more if anyone has another question for Jodi.
[Comment From Trixy Trixy : ]

What kind of story are you writing for the next FFC?

I have two ideas kicking around in my head at the moment Trixy – both will end up being sci-fi I guess. One has an element of time travel and the other about the complex nature of love and regret. They are only seed ideas and the actual story has yet to come. I was lucky enough to have some pretty potent dreams while I was away over Easter.
And one more…
[Comment From Red Red : ]

How do you balance your publishing, writing and home life? Any useful tips for achieving the discipline needed to make it all happen?

It is like juggling – as friend once said to me – you keep your eye on the ball in the air…
I have to admit I get the balance really askew. I am lucky enough to have a wonderful husband and son who are ever patient and allow me to do what I do…
The only advice I will give – is make sure you give writing a priority status. Until I made writing a priority (and it was only on a Friday night!) it languished for a decade untouched. I am sad that I lost those years.
Well it has been wonderful chatting with you this morning Jodi. Thank you so much for getting up early for us.

And thank you to Robin, Trixy, Red and Jim (whose question was very similar to Red’s).

Thank you Tina… and thanks to those last minute questions!
You’ve just watched the interview of Jodi Cleghorn, who wrote the story ” The Chameleon” in the Theieves and Scoundrels anthology.

“Thieves and Scoundrels” is a publication of Canadian Press, Absolute Xpress. Stories were selected as part of AXP’s third Flash Fiction Challenge.

The anthology available from Amazon (US$14.95) or as an eBook from Smashwords ($3.00)

A Short Story a Day

A short story a day, keeps the creative merde away…

Beginning in earnest next week, I will be committing to read one short story a day, for a year… as my own weird twist to the 365 Day challenge and also as one area of my professional development for 2010’s Year of the Silver Tiger.

Why short stories?

I write them, but I never read them. Despite my best efforts I find anthologies impossible to get through, cover to cover. At night I’m too tired and distracted to want to make the investment to get to know a new character and go on a journey with them. I want to pick up a book where I already have befriend the character and am eager to continue on with the story. It might only be five pages some nights, other nights it could be 20 or 30 pages.

It seems pretty likely that I am not going to stop writing my own short and flash fiction any time in the near future, so I’m adopting the philosophy that you should ‘read in your genre’ (substituting genre with form).

For the past three mornings I’ve taken the ‘story a day’ for a test drive with some pretty amazing results.

Day One (Monday) I grabbed the first anthology my hand fell on, which turned out to be 10 Short s\Stories you Must Read, a promo anthology (not for sale) from the Books Alive 2009 campaign. Our old flat mate scored it last year and it got left behind when he moved out.

I was in a pretty awful mood, if I’m being totally honest Monday morning. It was my son’s fourth day at school and ‘the empty nest syndrome’ was descending on me like grief shroud, sapping my will to do anything and killing my creativity dead in its tracks. Enter left of stage Robert Drewe and his wonderful story View from Mount Warning.

By the time I had finished it was out of my funk, had drunk my pot of tea and was inspired to get in the car, go home and get on with it. It wasn’t the story per se which was the motivator – it was act of shifting my attention away from feeling sorry for myself  and into a creative space which seemed fifteen minutes earlier, was most definitely light years away and perpetually barred from me.  It seemed a pretty strong indicator I was onto something.

After Monday I felt a short story was the perfect way to ‘warm up’ for the day and embarked on my second,  Kathy Lette’s Hate At First Sight and William McInnes’ Life in a Hotel.

While three days is hardly enough time to ascertain if the committment will last – it has given me a window into how it might work. I’m confident of a few things about reading a short story a day:

  1. It is a great way to start the day
  2. It definitely has an easy fit slot into my writing day – simple to start, easy to finish – completed in the time it takes to drink a cup of tea.
  3. It is getting me reading stories I would have missed or have been meaning to and never got around to.
  4. It is getting me reading authors I would never normally come into contact with.
  5. It is giving me a better feel for the form and structure of work which is published.
  6. It has me wearing all my hats at once; reader, writer and editor in a way where they can all hang out together as equals.
  7. It has me thinking and writing criticially about what I am reading.
  8. It is cementing my love of the the short story.

I’m going to continue on for the next 11 days and imagine it will be a seamless transition into the ‘officia’l story a day for a year on the 14th.  Care to join me?

Image via One More Chapter.