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This has been cooking for a while!

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You can order the issue here.

I really love Michelle’s story. She has a quirkiness, a pure individuality, that is expressed perfectly in “The Jellyfish Collector”.

My story was inspired by a number of things, but mostly by a dream of a small, ghostly boy, playing with a ball in the corner of a house. I woke up feeling desperately lonely, and I wondered why that little boy made me feel that way.

I haven’t done a Sparks post for a while, but with Deborah Kalin’s collection “Cherry Crow Children” coming out soon from Twelfth Planet Press, the time seemed right. I’ve loved Deb’s writing since we did a workshop together years ago. She has a magically original voice and she creates worlds with such depth you can smell them.

Here’s what she had to say about the spark for “The Cherry Crow Children of Haverny Wood”.

“There’s a distinction for me between ideas and Ideas.

The former are odd little beasts, which come at me all the time. A chance overheard phrase will strike my ear; an image will catch my eye; a news story will sail straight on by an intriguing mention or even the whole point. Everywhere I look, listen, or turn, I pick up fragments of stories, and I squirrel them away, along with the thoughts to which my mind immediately run, in an online notebook.

Mostly, they sit there, mouldering in secret. Every now and then, usually when I have a new Idea, or when something I’m working on is stuck and I can’t quite fathom what’s missing, I trawl through that notebook, looking for inspiration – something that, on the surface, doesn’t fit at all but, when juxtaposed with the story I’m telling, helps jolt things forward. Because that’s what ideas, lower-case, are for me: facets, a corner of buried treasure peeping through the soil. They’re never the story itself, they’re just glimpses of something deeper, or a lens through which I can bring something distant or obscure into focus.

Ideas, capital-I, are different. They have heft to them, enough to withstand the scrutiny of a drafting process. Whereas ideas are shiny and make me stop a moment in admiration, Ideas unpack when examined, always yielding up more and more story, often sending out feelers in multiple directions, like a plant taking root. Ideas grab hold of me and won’t let go.

They’re much, much rarer, and usually I have to work harder to unearth them in their entirety.

Sometimes, they arrive as a dream. My first published novel did, as did “The Wages of Honey”, the first story in my upcoming Twelfth Planet collection. For that, I dreamt of a foreigner and a local, standing atop a precarious mountain path while he stared down at terraced fields, and something was coming for them. I woke with their twinned emotional states clouding my mind: the happy awe of the oblivious tourist, and the worried local’s sour, helpless dread.

More often, even if my dreaming subconscious provides me some starting material, I still have to chip away, questioning everything about my starting elements, questioning why my brain insists they fit together.

“The Cherry Crow Children of Haverny Wood” arrived coyly like that. For that one, I had three elements: the title, which brought with it images of birds flitting through forest byways, their swift black shadows a thing to be feared; a dream of a hotel where the admin staff, all women, shared the same doctor, who had stitched up their stomachs with red thread, sewing signs and symbols into their skin to keep them calm; and a memory of a Paul Klee painting I saw while I was in Lucerne, Switzerland. I’ve no idea of the painting’s name, so I’ve never been able to find an image of it, but it featured some stick figures (among trees, I think?), one of which was twice as tall as the others and bore a bright red heart. When I went to scribble that description down, I found a one-line character précis I’d written down four and a half years earlier which meshed in my head with the painting: a boy with a small, round, open wickerwork basket instead of a heart.

Putting all those in the one place together gave me everything I needed: I knew the setting was the hamlet of Haverny Wood, with its huddled inhabitants and its many predators, and I knew two characters: the village girl, and the wild boy of the woods, with his wickerwork heart. And I knew someone in the village was stitching up spleens (I picked spleens because I was in Switzerland when I was brainstorming, and there was a local legend about creatures who stole the spleens of children to make them light enough to climb mountains), which gave me the idea that there was something about dreams the villagers feared, which in turn gave me the idea for the crop by which the village made its living and, of course, the conflict that would surround my village girl.

It still took me nigh on 100,000 words and at least seven false starts to write the story, though. And to figure out who, precisely, were the children of the cherry crows.”

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The Gate Theory

The Gate Theory is in print! It looks stunning, thanks to the clever design skills and dedication of Geoff Brown at Cohesion Press.

Gate Theory Print

The new story is called “The Gate Theory” and is one that has been eating away at me for a while now.

The first public showing of the book will be at the frantic book frenzy that is “Launch of All the Words” at the Noted Festival this weekend. I’m going to be channelling my inner domestic goddess but you’ll have to come along to find out how! (Pictures next week if they don’t get banned).

James Doig and I are taking part in another Noted activity. On Friday night, we’ll be reading ghost stories and leading people to write their own in the amazing St John’s in Reid. I have a bizarre collection of story prompts, loaned to me by the Green Shed, to help people create.

News is out today of Paula Guran’s next Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, and I’m thrilled to say that my story “The Nursery Corner”, which first appeared in Fearful Magic edited by Jonathan Strahan, has made the list. Really happy about this. The story is a very heart-felt one for me and I’m glad that Paula feels the same way.

That’s all for now!

Writerly Updates

Lots of exciting news.

The cover for my issue of Midnight Echo is released. Photography is by Tammy Ruggles, a highly talented artist. I wanted to capture the idea that Sinister exists in real life as well as in the imaginary world, and Tammy’s work does that beautifully.

I was reminded of this concept on the weekend, when I visited the Monte Carlo Homestead in Junee. Fascinating old place, with plenty of ghost stories to share. The scariest moment came, though, when we were talking to the owner. We asked if she was scared of the ghosts, and she said, “I always say you should be more scared of the living than the dead. The dead can’t actually hurt you.”

Gave me goose bumps.

Also, the first guests are announced for Genrecon in Queensland, and I am one! Absolutely thrilled, and cannot wait to get there.

Another exciting upcoming event is the new Noted Festival in Canberra. James Doig and I will be leading a writing workshop as well as reading ghost stories in one of Canberra’s scariest locations. Excellent fun!

Speaking of workshops, I’m running my Dream Workshop for the ACT Writers Centre this year. I first ran this workshop for Geoff Brown at the wonderful Aradale Asylum ghost hunting retreat and I am really looking forward to playing with people’s minds again!

Midnight Echo shortlist

We had a large number of submissions for my Guest Issue of Midnight Echo, and there were a number of stories that stuck with me, and a number of writers I was seriously impressed by. I’ve read stories by many of them before, but others were new to me. In the end, I decided to publish a shortlist before I made my final choices, because I wanted to publicly annnounce; there is good stuff happening in Horror fiction, and these are some of the writers who are making it happen.

From the Midnight Echo blog:

“The submission period is over, the stories are read, and I am suitably disturbed. There are some seriously sinister horror stories in my pile.

In fact, there are so many good ones we’ve decided to publish a short list. This may not be the ordinary way to do things, but Midnight Echo is no ordinary outlet for horror.

In the end, I’ll only be able to choose five or six stories. But in the meantime, check out these authors. Talented, every last one of them.”

The List

Anthony Wright

Daniel Nathan Horn

Ben Pienaar

Janine Langley Wood

Alistair Rennie

Vincent G McMackin

Lars Kramhoeft

Vivian Trask

Patrick Lacey

Evan Purcell

Ben Stewart

Jarod K. Anderson

Mark Farrugia

Josh Donellan

Greg Chapman

Marija Elektra Rodriguez

Sean Mulroy

Melia Donk

Tara Calaby

Lawrence Salani

Nick Hartland

Angela Rega

Shauna O’Meara

Jackson Creed

Claire Fitzpatrick

Kyla Ward

Deborah Sheldon

Emily Craven

C S Hughes

Trevor Mason

David McDonald

Stephen Dedman

Cthulu: Deep Down Under

Cthulu: Deep Down Under is a new anthology, filled with stories inspired by the Lovecraft world of monsters. Every story is illustrated, full-colour. It is a beautiful book.

My story is “In the Drawback”, about what happens when the tide goes out and never returns. Chris Roberts, AKA Dead Clown Art, illustrated my story, with a layered, disturbing and heart-tugging depiction of my monster.

I want this book to happen.

I WANT THIS BOOK TO HAPPEN.

So to support the crowdfunder at Indiegogo, I am offering something I have never offered before, and will probably never offer again.

For a short time only, I will change a name in my story “In the Drawback” to your name if you buy into this perk. There are five only, and the perk only runs until December 5. NB I have only one named female character, so will need to adapt female supporter’s names!

This is is your chance to appear in one of my nasty, creepy, skin-crawling stories, as a nasty, creepy, skin-crawling character.

Go! Do it! There are some other great perks, too.

Events

Thursday Night will find me launching the exciting new novel from Rebecca James, Cooper Bartholemew is Dead.

6pm at Electric Shadows in Braddon.

Cooper

Then I’ll be in Melbourne this weekend, attending Armageddon Expo on the Saturday. I’m there for the crowdfunding launch of CTHULHU: DEEP DOWN-UNDER, an incredible anthology of fiction and art, featuring my story “In the Drawback”, which is illustrated by one of my favourite artists, Chris Roberts. Prints of many of the illustrations will be available at our Booth (number 74, I believe).

This anthology was edited by Christopher Sequeira, Steve Proposch and Bryce Stevens. Steve bought one of my very early stories, A Positive for his Bloodsongs Magazine, and I credit that sale and his response to my work as an inspiration at the beginning of my career. So it’s very cool to have sold him another!

Also in the book are writers Stephen Dedman, Geoff Brown, Janeen Webb, Lucy Sussex, Robert Hood, Jason Franks and lots more, with art from Nick Stathopoulos, Jan Scherpenhuizen, Shauna O’Meara and of course Chris Roberts.

The crowdfunding site is here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/cthulhu-deep-down-under

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