Farewell, Year of the Green Horse

godivaThe Year of the Horse was always going to be a wild year. I knew that from the outset but I was of the mind that with the reins in my hands, with firm goals, I would have some control over the wild energy.

The less than salubrious energy began with the arrival of my Lady Godiva necklace. She’d broken from the locket. In fact, when I looked closer she was only glued on. Barely held together and not crafted to make the journey. I should have taken it as an omen and done something radical to transmute the energy. By the time October rolled around and I finally replaced it with a jade horse, so much had already broken me. And the jade medallion lasted less than three weeks before it sawed through the leather strap (enough said!)

We all know how wonderful hindsight is. How we could have, should have, would have done it better if only we’d know.


I don’t want to focus on the bad though. I have tried hard to keep the challenges of the year off the public radar to give me the space to deal with them in my own time and space, with the help of those I chose to confide in (my Furious Lovelies, Helen and Stacey, I would never ever have survived without you). When I sat down this afternoon to do a tarot spread to try and pick through what gifts 2015 managed to bestow, it was clear, there had been gifts some of which I could speak of here and others that I could not, so I will refrain from speaking of any of them.

What I can share is (what I thought was a small) list of things the Year of Audaciousness brought my way. Each in their own way asked me to be a little (or a lot) brave and bold. To take risks.

  • I returned to the QWC for the second year to deliver my editing and critiquing seminar. This year people turned up on the day in the hope that there would be no shows.
  • I taught two new courses: Intro To Short Stories (through a new partnership between QWC and the Brisbane City Libraries) and ‘Beyond Crossing the ‘i-s’ and dotting the ‘t-s’, my first corporate gig focusing on peer review and technical editing.
  • I wrote poetry throughout the year (sporadically but with intent).
  • I completed Post-It Note Poetry in February but compliments of a less than stable life at the time and breaks from social media I don’t have the combined efforts of my work.
  • I took the mic at SpeedPoets for the first time in April (and won to my absolutely gobsmacking surprise!). From then on I became as regular as I could, fighting back the overwhelming tide of depression and anxiety in my every day life to take the mic.
  • I took the mic for the Call Back finals in November where I performed Paper Mache, Body Warmth for Beginners and An Open Letter… I didn’t win but I made sure I did my best and I’m really looking forward to being part of the SpeedPoets community in the coming year. Having the finals at the end of the year kept me trying to write poetry.
  • I wrote a dedicated collection of flash fiction, ‘No Need To Reply’
  • I self published ‘No Need to Reply’ when it did not place in the original competition, and then only one of the stories placed upon the first round of submissions, that I would honour the collection as a whole and the time and effort that had gone in it, to self publish.
  • ‘No Need to Reply’ is the first publishing project to break even and some. The chapbooks outstripped the electronic sales about 5:1 which surprised me. This included busting the mockers and finishing a book cover with a friend from high school – something we didn’t quite manage with the paper version of Elyora that never quite made it.
  • I accidentally spawned the #6in6 challenge, on the back of the original rejection of ‘No Need to Reply’ and wrote 19,000 words in 6 weeks on 6 different stories.
  • The Magic Puppies (an online writing group) grew out of the original accountability post on Facebook about the #6in6 challenge. There are now 31 members and the original #6in6 challenge amassed an incredible combined word total and many of those stories have gone on to find homes with publishers. I had not planned on becoming a ‘group Mum’ but I relished the chance to support and encourage  creative from a diverse group of people. Especially watching one of my oldest friends, Kim submerge into this accidental tribe.
  • I was blessed to have champions of my work behind the scenes, from people within and beyond the writing circle I consider more family and less a loose professional configuration of like minded people. People who believed in me, even when I could not believe in myself.
  • I collaborated with Clare Jansen to write the interconnected story ‘Twenty Four’ – this broke all my rules of how and who you collaborate with and it was a brilliant experience.
  • I wrote three articles for The Writers Bloc (who are awesome – they pay their contributors). The Practical Guide to Beta read made their most read list which was humbling.
  • I subbed stories to pro markets for the first time. I found the submission process brutal, especially as I was struggling with depression. But it was motivating and I have no regrets at the insights which came out of it.
  • I wrote magical realism for the first time – best exponents of these efforts: ‘At Arm’s Length’, ‘Womb-of’Mine’ and ‘Poms and their Bombs’. Then discovered it’s a hard market to crack. But that’s okay, because
  • I made my first pro sale, to the Lane of Unusual Traders (the only market I desperately wanted to succeed in). ‘Womb-Of-Mine’ is an unsettling exploration of  the power of women and their fertility in what will be my first published example of #birthpunk. It will appear sometime in 2015.
  • ‘Ambrosia’ was published in ‘Vine Leaves’ and racked up the honour of my first published poem.
  • ‘Paper Mache’ followed many months later taking the honour of first print publication in ‘No Need to Reply’.
  • My cricket story, ‘First to a Hundred’ found a home with Daniel Young at Tincture. It was a relief to see that it went somewhere, to editors, who loved it as much as I did.
  • I flew to Melbourne to attend Continuum for the first time, and had more firsts staying in the Con hotel, and rooming with Stacey and Helen. I shied away from putting my hand up only for one panel (to do with story telling outside the box) and it was a good thing. I spent most of my time without a voice (or attempting to cough up both lungs) which made all that bar chatter incredibly interesting. I came home and spent another 8 weeks with a voice who belonged to a two pack a day smoker.
  • My social glue was maintained by Furious Drinks once a month at The Fox. I went even when the idea of being near other people made me cry. It was my life line out of the hungry maw of suburban obscurity.
  • I spawned my first brand publishing project in more than three years. Later this year ‘My Heart is an Echo Chamber’ will come out – a sequel to ‘Not Need to Reply’ written by eight people close to my heart. Each story is a reply to one in ‘No Need to Reply.’
  • I returned to ‘work’ after two years rest I stepped up late in the year, to guide the Literary Mix Tapes Film Project to (almost) completion.This included a serious honing of my skills as a story editor, as much as it was remembering how a script is formatted. It also meant I was included (by proxy) in my first ever film shoot.
  • After five years of promises ‘this would be the year I finished my first birthpunk novella’ – I did it. On the 31st January, just before midnight I put the final words down on ‘Encursion’. It came in at 40K. It’s a solid first draft and I’m ready to tidy it up and get a second draft off to beta readers sooner rather than later. I can see how the second will shape up and from that the third and so forth. At the moment I have enough characters and narrative lines to write eight novellas in this world.


Sometimes its a long (very long) time between brushes with serendipity. So long that you forget the magic and wonder when it arrives. November hustled Nic Holland front and centre into my writing life and while he refuses to accept he took me under his wing, adopting me as his writing partner (which was honestly a bloody joke for the first two months – given I spent most writing sessions knitting instead of writing!) he pestered me consistently enough for me to park myself at my desk and write every day through January. Without Nic ‘Encursion’ would still be a 16K pipe dream on my hard drive’. And then in December, Linda Brucesmith quietly took a seat beside me, a seat I am sure has been waiting for her for some time. Our first coffee date lasted three and a half hours and it could have been twice as long.

There were long dinners and shorter coffees with Rob who has come to assume the position of extended family rather than friend. There were email threads with Stacey and Helen, sleep overs, game nights, life lines, dates by the river and all the things that best friends are and better than because these two wonderful women take me as I am and there is something liberating in being accepted for yourself. There were unexpected coffee dates with Clwedd; Melbourne adventures with Sean and Brisbane adventures with Jason; beers with Ben and the gang; beers and babysitting with Tom; brain storming sessions with Emily, along with a liberal dash of interior wall paint and Rowena returned from London to keep me company in the dark hours. There was Whispers with Nicky and the other part of the gang, NatCon planning meetings with Damon and Aimée, Angela was always at the end of FaceBook when needed, Alex and Paul always turned up at just the right time, Rus continued to inspire me from the other side of the world and Adam remained at my side despite the fact Piper’s Reach ended up on the back burner for both of us. And there were my Owlish-Elven sistas Kim and Cat who kept me entertained and sane through the festive season; Kevin, who kept pushing me to see my positive place in the world and Lois initiated me into the arcane pleasure of building worlds, when we weren’t building stories or growing ideas or doing any of the other half a dozen things we do when we get together.


It’s also easy to feel like you’ve done nothing all year when your actual achievements deviate from what you set out to do. It’s why it might be self indulgent to write a list like the one. But essential in the bigger scheme of things.

It is easy to focus on only the terrible things and I could compile as impressive a list, but I don’t want to. My cards today reminded me that I’ve had significant shifts in belief and head space in the last 13 months. While the nagging fear I will disappear, swallowed by suburbia, never quite goes away, I no longer feel trapped here. I can take the changes in circumstances that have come with homeschooling and make them mine. I can reap advantages and rewards. I can shift boundaries so I don’t feel imprisoned. I can make my life my own. The past is gone and the future is impatiently waiting.

Rather than see myself as escaping a bad situation I can see myself emerging from it, not necessarily stronger, but tougher. As the final lines of the final tarot card said today:

… its time to move on. You’ll need help. Ask for it. Be brave. Be decisive. Feel the winds of change and gaze into a fresh future.


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.

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

Farewell The Dragon!

dragonI’m coming back to a draft of this post, almost two weeks after I sat down to write it: two weeks into the new year. To say I’m not quite ready to let go of the Year of the Water Dragon is possibly the understatement of the last 13 months.

I washed up on the shores of The Year of the Dragon, burned out, disillusioned, without confidence or trust in my abilities as a writer. 2011 was my annus horribilis. I wasn’t sure what would come next, only that I didn’t want to go back to where I’d been.

In the end I decided I wanted to fall in love with writing again. I wanted the deep immersive transportation to another place, to completely inhabit another person’s skin. I wanted the experience of writing when I was 17 and juggling a novel with completing the HSC.

From a business perspective it was time to tidy up loose ends, to stop being a serial starter, to get over the addictive buzz of the new and finally clear the decks.


Love is always a bit of a gamble. So I paired my year of falling in love with the Write Anything call to write dangerously… to get out of the comfort zone. For me, the comfort zone had been for too long, about doing nothing.

Post Marked: Piper’s Reach provided the heady infatuation that grew into something big and wonderful and amazing…and around it my writing flourished. Working with Adam has been a dream, a blessing, a ride full of laughs intersected with moments of serious introspection, inquiries about the colour of toast, planned spontaneity and a ping-pong return of ideas and music. It is proof it only takes on person who believes in you, your abilities and crazy ideas to lead you back to the core of believing in yourself.

From Piper’s Reach came the first flowerings of brand new short fiction. From my shift in focus and routine came the space to write. From tackling unfinished publishing projects came the impetus to return to unfinished pieces of my own writing and complete them.

Did I fall in love? Yes I did…at that deep level, where the world dissolves and disappears, where you find yourself with your heart caught in your throat, heart pounding, holding your breath in anticipation.

I also managed to push just about every boundary in my writing in terms of what I had done in the past and what I was prepared to have a crack at.

In thirteen months, I:

As an editor and publisher, I:


These things don’t happen in isolation. I’d like to thank the following people (in no particular order) for the support, the helpful shoves, the investments in my work and help they gave so generously in 2012 (many of them without even realising!):

Dan Powell, Stacey Larner, Tom Dullemond, Alan Baxter, Laura Meyer, Josh Londero, Jessica Bell, Tiggy Johnson, Daniel Simpson, Benjamin Solah, Melanie Selemedis, everyone in the Sub-Committee Facebook group, Paul Anderson, Peter Ball, Alex Adsett, Paul Landymore, Aimée Lindorff, Meg Vann, Nicky Strickland-Cavalchini, Damon Cavalchini, Jason Nahrung, Andrew McKiernan, Kate Eltham, Lesley Halm, Matthew Lamb, Amy Stephenson, Rowena Specht-Whyte, Tehani Wessely, the literary Mix Tapes authors, Jon Strother, Devin Watson, Dale Challener Roe, Jen Brubacher, Zena Shapter, Lily Mulholland, Nicole Murphy, Jane Virgo, Jack Dann, Janeen Webb, Paul Phillips, Jo McClelland, Susan Talbot, Amanda Roche, The Elyora Brains Trust, the readers of Piper’s Reach, Rus Vanwestervelt, everyone who bought an eP publication, Ty Dawson, Erica Blythe, Greg McQueen, Ron Cleghorn, Leanne Cleghorn, Kate Campbell… and three very special guys:

Adam Byatt, Dave Harris and my Mr D.

This concludes transmissions for 2012 and the Year of the Water Dragon. Thank you for giving me back my passion, my grounding and my will to write again. Roll on the Year of the Water Serpent!