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Conflux

My local SF convention, Conflux, is on again this year. I’ll be launching books, teaching a workshop, helping host a Frankenstein party, and more!

 

Here are the details:

Saturday, 29 September, 1.30:  Mary Shelley’s Legacy. Guest of Honour Rob Hood and I will talk about all things Shelley.

 

Saturday, 29 September, 5pm. Book Launch! Please join me in conjunction with Conflux 14 and Verity 112 as I launch my two new books.

Tide of Stone, a novel, is an exploration of crime and punishment set on an isolated Time Ball Tower. Edited by Lee Murray, it comes from Omnium Gatherium Books.
A Primer to Kaaron Warren is a short story collection, edited by Eric Guignard of Dark Moon Books. It contains reprints, illustrations and one new and very nasty story.

Lee Murray from New Zealand will launch the books. Verity 112 have invented a cocktail just for the event. There will be a cash bar, yummy snacks available, a door prize or two (warning: they will be very Kaaron-esque door prizes) and more. The bar is open until late and I’m hoping people will stay to chat, listen to music, maybe dance!

For those with a taste for malt, we will also have a whisky tasting, known as ‘Whiskycon”, at Verity 112 after the launch. Hosted by local Canberra writer Rob Hood, Whiskycon requires a booking and payment. If you’re keen, comment here and Tim Napper, the organiser, will get back to you.

Place: Verity 112, 112 Alinga St Civic (the bus interchange)

Time: 5pm till late

 

 

Sunday, 30 September, 12.30-2.30 Workshop at the Green Shed Underground in the city. This shop is full of second hand clothing. We’ll spend some time deciding on characters, then dressing ourselves to suit. Inhabiting the (possibly haunted) clothing of a person helps us to understand them better. There will be a courtesy bus from the convention for this one but you do need to sign up for it.

 

Sunday, 30 September, 3.45. Rob Hood and I will host an afternoon tea for Frankenstein’s 200th birthday! This should be fun. We might try to recapture the atmosphere of that isolated house…

 

Monday, 1 October, 10.30 am: Can Horror be Funny? A panel with Lee Murray from New Zealand and Rob Hood.

 

Monday, 1 October, 2.30pm: Judging the World Fantasy Awards. I’ll chat about the good and the bad books, show some of the covers off, and talk about what you need to do to stand out. I’ll have lots of the submitted books for sale, with proceeds going to a literacy progamme or perhaps a sponsorship. This to be decided! If you have any thoughts on this, please let me know.

 

 

 

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This is a great go-to reading list, with staff choosing their favourite books read in 2017. J. S. Breukelaar , author of Aletheia puts The Grief Hole on her list!

I won!

Absolutely thrilled to win this award. It’s my fourth time winning it, and it carries a lot of meaning to me, because it celebrates small press and Canberran writers. Very, very proud!

Thanks to the ACT Writers Centre for making it all happen, and to the judges Anna Snoekstra and Robyn Cadwallader, both writers I admire greatly.

Thanks also to IFWG Publishing for continued support and enthusiasm. Stephen McCracken showed up for the awards, which means a lot to me!

This means The Grief Hole won the Canberra Critics Award, the Aurealis Award, the Ditmar Award, the Shadows Award and the ACT Writers and Publishers Award.

 

Gosh.

 

 

Baltimore, 2018

News is out: I’m a judge for the World Fantasy Awards 2018. Very happy to be taking on this challenge. It involves an enormous amount of reading in a genre I love, which will give me a good, rounded knowledge of the state of the business. I really like having that overall understanding, having read for international awards before. It makes you aware of writers and publishers you wouldn’t otherwise be aware of, and gives you something to talk about when people ask you what you’re reading!

From past experience, friendships form in the process, and I’m pleased about that, too.

So when I come to World Fantasy next year as a Guest of Honor, I’ll also be there as a World Fantasy Award judge. Busy year ahead!

 

Writerly updates

Last month I went to Lexicon, the New Zealand Science Fiction convention. I loved the location, Lake Taupo, where the air seems to suit my health. My hair doesn’t frizz, my skin feels soft, my lungs feel clear. And with the massive lake, filled with mystery and beauty, and things stick out of the water, I was creatively inspired as well! To be surrounded by that environment, and by clever, funny, creative people…what a great weekend it was.

Grace Bridges is chairing the 2019 Convention, which will likely be held at Rotorua. They asked me to return as a guest and I absolutely agreed!

Taupo

Lots of exciting things happening during the Conflux Science Fiction Convention which runs Friday September 29 to Monday October 2. I’m lucky enough to be MC for the event, which has two incredible guests: Ellen Datlow! and Angela Slatter! We’ll be doing a one hour event at Muse Bookshop, one of my favourite places in Canberra, on the Thursday night. Conflux is such a good convention for meeting writers, publishers and editors and for finding inspiration in words.

 

 

My story “Mine Intercom”, which I consider one of my scariest, appears in the 2015 Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror. Edited by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene, this book is a beauty with great stories from Australian writers. This story first appeared in Review of Australian Fiction.

 

years best

Possibly the biggest news is the awards! “The Grief Hole” has become the first Australian novel to win the Aurealis Award, the Shadows Award and the Ditmar Award. Absolutely thrilled! It also one the Canberra Critics Circle Award, and I’m beginning to the think they are the predictors of what’s to come, because they also gave me the award for “Through Splintered Walls” and “Slights”, my other two most awarded books!

Here is the book its awards. Admittedly the Shadows Statue is my one from last year, but I couldn’t wait to post the news!

Awards

 

 

Eating the Alice Cake

A while ago, I picked up a pile of books for free from a second-hand book stall. They were on the ‘recycle’ pile, headed for pulp. I loved the covers, so brought them home.

One was Muriel Spark’s Robinson.

What a bizarre, fascinating, creepy novel this was. It’s about a woman who is shipwrecked on an island called Robinson, after the sole inhabitant. He’s a manipulative, brilliant, obsessive man who lives, in part, from the salvage of wrecked ships.

One moment stood out for me, and sat in my backbrain waiting for the right story to come along. The main character refuses to wear the clothes of the dead, or to touch any of the other salvage. Robinson, meanwhile, has no problems with either.

I wondered; what sort of person would live only on the food left over in dead people’s houses?

I know. It’s a very odd place, my backbrain

This inspiration came to roost in my story “Eating the Alice Cake”, which I’ve sold to Ellen Datlow for her Mad Hatters and March Hares anthology for Tor. All stories inspired by Alice in Wonderland! Cannot wait for this one. Look at the amazing writers I’m sharing space with!

Gentle Alice                                        Kris Dikeman  (poem)

My Own Invention                            Delia Sherman

Lily-White & The Thief of Lesser Night C.S.E. Cooney

Conjoined                                            Jane Yolen

Mercury                                              Priya Sharma

Some Kind of Wonderland                  Richard Bowes

Alis                                                     Stephen Graham Jones

All the King’s Men                             Jeffrey Ford

Run, Rabbit                                         Angela Slatter

In Memory of a Summer’s Day         Matthew Kressel

Sentence Like a Saturday                    Seanan McGuire

Worrity, Worrity                                Andy Duncan

Eating the Alice Cake                          Kaaron Warren

The Queen of Hats                             Ysabeau Wilce

A Comfort, One Way                                     Genevieve Valentine

The Flame After the Candle               Catherynne M. Valente

Moon, Memory, Muchness               Katherine Vaz

Run, Rabbit, Run                                Jane Yolen (poem)

 

L.J.M. Owen knows her stuff! Her books are meticulously researched, which I love. I feel smarter after reading her work. We share an interest (obsession?) with the darker side of human behaviour and motivations, so always have a lot to talk about!

You can find L.J. at her website or meet her in person at the National Library for the book launch of Mayan Mendacity

Here she is, talking about how she refreshes her wells:

 

“How do I refresh the wells?

This question arrived at a fortuitous moment. Bone-shakingly tired, having just finished editing the second instalment in the Dr Pimms series, it was the perfect time to divine an answer. It emerged that my process is threefold:  first, deny that my energy reserves are running low; next, avoid replenishing them even when it’s obvious I must do so; and finally, go wandering.

Creative inspiration runs rampant through the pathways of my mind in apparently inexhaustible and chaotic supply. My body, on the other hand, dictates physical limitations *queue synchronised eye-roll from family and friends*. The gap between all I want to do, and what I am actually capable of doing, is an endless source of personal frustration. When in the writing zone I’m annoyed by the need for sleep, the requirement to eat and the passage of time. Is that so unreasonable?

My attempts to ignore the dictates of the physical world result in extended bouts of exhaustion. Thus, my recent proposal to delay sleep for a few months until I “catch up on everything” did not meet with universal support *on the edge of your hearing, that’s a sigh from Longsuffering Partner*.

When my batteries deplete to 30% I insist I’m fine and continue as normal. Since I’m running on an ever-increasing sleep debt of over 2000 hours, I honestly can’t remember what it’s like to not be tired. Once I dip to 20% capacity, however, I will indulge in an afternoon of Midsomer Murders, Terry Pratchett or Kerry Greenwood, and a vat of Earl Grey tea.

In days gone by I learned a trick to side-step mental exhaustion. I dealt with soul-crushing years as a public servant by escaping into out-of-hours study. After degrees in archaeology and biological anthropology came diplomas in librarianship and various languages. I realised, as I prepared for multiple exams, that when one processing centre in my brain fatigued others remained vital. Thus I could study Chinese for two hours, then French for two, then Spanish for two and be ready for Welsh that night. But I couldn’t study Chinese for six or eight hours straight – two hours per language was the limit. At times I could almost feel the worn-out lobes power down as fresh synapses sparked to life.

I’ve since replaced study with creative writing and discovered the side-step trick works here as well. If I’ve temporarily wrung every last drop of prose from my mind I can swap to research, or editing. Each step in the writing process seems to draw on different cognitive repositories.

Occasionally, though, I exhaust all sectors of my brain. If scraping the bottom of the well I will finally concede the need for a short break. When the inner battery levels flash red it’s time for G&Ts, a feast of epic proportions, and binge-watching TV shows like Spaced, Black Books, Green Wing, Firefly, Archer or Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. In extremis I may actually do some housework *audible huff from Sadly Neglected Furchildren*.

Recovered slightly, the replenishment of creative energy begins as I go for a wander among the people and places in my head…

I stroll along country roads, running my fingers through the agricultural crops discussed in a half-drafted recipe book that explores the relationship between human evolution and the domestication of plants and animals…

I nod respectfully to the entire cast of my Celtic Kings series, spread as they are from western Ireland to western China…

I slip by my band of Marauding Steampunk NunsTM rampaging through an epidemiologically-accurate 19th century London. They occupy a disproportionate quantity of writerly daydreaming time as it is!

I have long, in-depth discussions with Elizabeth, the protagonist of my Dr Pimms series. As a young woman in her 20s she’s a passionate archaeologist, introverted and a Whovian, so I have substantial empathy with her. Nonetheless, it took me quite some time to like her. We didn’t get off to the best start as I resented certain freedoms in her childhood denied to me, and she found my insistence that she grow up overbearing. We explore the areas of her life that both she and I are happy with, the parts of her life she’s disgruntled by, and the aspects of her personality I would like us to work on. Self-reflectivity is a good thing, that’s all I’m saying.

As I amble on I turn down narrow alleys of history where women’s stories linger, starved of light. I listen to their tales of adventure, invention, triumph, persecution and betrayal. I meander woodland paths of academic research on ancient civilisations, forensic science and information management.

And finally, the right archaeological artefact or scientific breakthrough or moment in history triggers a neural cascade, another story flashes into existence. *That faint whoosh is a collective shoulder slump from Partner and Furchildren*

I’m off again!”