Interview for Australian Spec Fic Snaphot 2016

This month I was interviewed for the Australian SpecFic Snapshot 2016.  The Snapshot’s series of interviews provides a great overview of who’s who in the Australian Speculative Fiction Community. It has occurred since 2005, launched by the initiative of Ben Peek.

Today, the Australian SpecFic Snapshot has evolved into a mammoth task, with a team of tireless interviewers posting some terrific questions to speculative fiction writers, reviewers, editors, illustrators, publishers, graphic novelists, and screenwriters around the country.

Head on over and check out the latest and greatest in Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror.

Big thank you to Helen Stubbs for my questions.  You can read my interview here.

https://austsfsnapshot.wordpress.com/2016/08/14/2016-snapshot-rebecca-fraser/

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Contact2016 – It’s a Wrap

This post is a little later than planned but, you know, life …

Over the Easter weekend I attended Contact in Brisbane. For those unfamiliar with the event it celebrated the 55th Australian National Speculative Fiction Convention (aka NatCon).  It was the first time in a decade Brisbane had played host to NatCon and they went out of their way to impress, delivering a first class convention across all levels.

The program was extensive with panels, workshops, book launches and signings, guest of honour speeches, kaffeeklatsches and activities to please every medium and mode of fandom, craft development, entertainment and interest.

Guest of honour included Keri Arthur, Jill Pantozzi, K A Barker, Ben Aaronovitch and Maria Lewis.  Unfortunately my budget and baggage allowance didn’t allow for rampant expenditure on books this year (boo), but I picked up signed copies of the first of Ben’s Rivers of London series, and Maria’s Who’s Afraid?  I also sat in on Maria’s workshop geared towards social media for writers. She’s a wonderfully refreshing communicator with a massive personality.

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The biggest challenge of NatCon was choosing which panels to attend, there was such a comprehensive choice. I spread myself around covering everything from Are There No New Ideas? to New Worlds and Old, Real Fantasy, Dead Ends and Red Herrings, You Read How You Buy, Access All Channels (focused on the portrayal of disability in spec fic), Ripped from the Headlines, Kill or be Killed, Writing the Fantastic City, and Of Men and Monsters … Phew!

I also got the opportunity to pitch my urban fantasy novel to the fabulous Alex Adsett, and attend the Ditmar Awards on Sunday night.

Huge thanks to the committee, panelists and volunteers for bringing the weekend together and working like demons to execute everything with style and humour.

As a side note, conventions are an interesting dynamic no matter which way you are socially geared. There’s the thrill of reconnecting with old friends, meeting cyber friends ‘in real life,’ and making new ones. There can also be times when you’re floating on the fringes looking for an anchor. Thankfully, majority of people at cons have experienced this and are hardwired towards inclusivity. So, if you’ve been thinking of attending a con in the future but the thought of putting yourself out there socially makes ice trickle through your veins, take a deep breath and allow yourself to be swept up in the welcoming, creative energy.

(There’s also the bar. Writers love a bar. And coffee. Both are great for debriefing and regrouping. Did I mention the bar)?

Leaving you with some pictures from the awesome panels. Happy writing, happy reading, and happy days.🙂

 

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What I Read In 2015

Normally I’m a voracious reader. Normally. But 2015 wasn’t really a normal year. It was a twelve month juggling act –  work, freelance obligations, family commitments, and completing a thesis for my Master’s Degree – which didn’t leave a whole lot of spare time for my favourite escape, reading.

I did manage to preserve sanity by escaping to new worlds and meeting new characters on several occasions though, and my 2015 reading list shaped up to be quite eclectic. On reflection, I’m pleased to note fifty per cent of the list is made up of Australian authors. There is so much talent in the spheres of Australian writing, across all genres.

I read more forensically these days than I ever have before, and some titles gripped me more than others with the quality of writing and handling of character and plot. Enjoyment from reading will always be a matter of taste though (as it should be), so I haven’t offered reviews of each, just a few indulgent comments.

Overall, 2015 was a damn fine year of reading, even if it wasn’t abundant.

1.  ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ by Shirley Jackson. Shirley Jackson is one of my literary heroes. She has an innate ability to create a false sense of security before tipping everything on end before you even realise what you’re reading. Merricat and her family stayed with me all year.

2.  ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood.  This had been on my ‘to read’ list for ages. I couldn’t put it down. It stirred many emotions – shock, outrage, frustration, stress.

3.  ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ by Neil Gaiman.  Ursula Monkton is shuddersome! I always enjoy books that tackle the crossover between childhood and adulthood, especially within dark and unsettling parameters.

4.  ‘Last Year When We Were Young’ by Andrew McKiernan.  A fabulous collection of intelligently crafted tales. While dipping, and often plunging, into delightful darkness, McKiernen’s work should appeal to any lover of well-told fiction, irrespective of genre.

5.  ‘A Girl Like Me’ by Penny Matthews.   Young adult novel centred around the true story of a tragic crime that took place over a hundred years ago in rural Australia. Nicely told – secrets, characters (real and imagined) that you care about, and an interesting glimpse into social dynamics of yesteryear Australia.

6.  ‘Burial Rites’ by Hannah Kent.  I badly wanted to love this book. Another story inspired by a real crime, but what a setting – Iceland in 1829! Plus a debut novel by a young female Aussie that had received rave reviews and award nominations. But I didn’t love it. I found the middle section a real struggle. Nevertheless I was totally impressed by the achievement of this book – the sheer volume of research, the powerful setting – Iceland’s landscape is brought to life in stunning detail and takes on a dark, cold, foreboding character of its own. I would surely die in a badstofa! What Kent has done is quite astounding and I look forward to her next offering, but I did wish the middle section of Burial Rites maintained the pace of the start and finish.

7.  ‘Remarkable Creatures’ by Tracy Chevalier.  Another work based on historical events. I’m dinosaur mad, and Mary Anning fascinates me, so this was a quick, easy read. Girl Power! (Or as much as we could wield in 1810).

8.  ‘Blood Meridian’ by Cormac McCarthy.  I tried to finish Blood Meridian, but admit I abandoned ship about midway. It was just too laborious and repetitive a read stylistically for my tastes. It has moments of utter literary brilliance (of course it does, it’s McCarthy), but I found myself having to be dragged back to it. I will give it a crack again down the track as I do want to see it through. I’ve noticed Blood Meridian seems to polarise many a reader – it’s either loved or loathed. I need to see it out properly and process before I can offer a more valid opinion.

9.  ‘Do the Creepy Thing’ by Graham Joyce.   The creepy thing the girls do before the creepy thing happens to them is by far creepier than the subsequent creepiness. Got it?

10. ‘Blueback’ by Tim Winton.  I read this in one sitting. I love Tim Winton’s writing, and have such an affinity with the ocean that Blueback was always going to be an enjoyable read.

11. ‘So Much to Tell You’ by John Marsden.  14 year old Marina’s story told through diary form. I didn’t realise this was Marsden’s debut novel.

12.  ‘Midnight and Moonshine’ by Angela Slatter and Lisa L Hannett.  A classy collection of interconnected tales. Stunningly beautiful writing. Rich and intelligent. A unique book that deserves its accolades.

13.  ‘Blockade Billy’ by Stephen King   I much preferred the bonus story, ‘Morality’ at the end of the novella.

14.  ‘Flutes in the Garden’ by Chip Richards.  Beautifully written and illustrated with an important message – ‘a story of miracles and the magic of life’. This book was a gift to my son by the author, and it will always have a place on our family bookshelf

15.  ‘11.22.63’ by Stephen King.  SK delivers in spades. And the research component that underpins it is awe inspiring. I understand it is being made into a movie starring James Franco. Pass the popcorn!

16.  ‘Two Wolves’ by Tristan Bancks. My last read of 2015 –  Middle grade novel with terrific pacing, fabulous chacarterisation and real moments of tension.

I hope everyone had a great year of reading, and if you’re anything like me you already have your ‘to read’ pile growing for 2016. I hope I can squeeze in more titles this year.

What were your favourite reads of 2015?

Happy New Year, everyone … and happy writing, happy reading and happy days🙂

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Scribblings from the National Writers’ Conference 2015

Last weekend I attended the National Writers’ Conference, the two day flagship event of the Emerging Writers’ Festival, held at Melbourne’s Town Hall.

The conference is held over Saturday and Sunday with a range of panels hosted by leaders in their field. With such a fabulous schedule it was a challenge choosing which panels to attend. I selected eight across both days, and geared them towards personal interest as well as those that would offer some benefit in skill development and sharing of experience.

Panel members included the likes of Kylie Ladd, Anna Poletti, William McInnes (who’s a bloody funny bloke), Sulari Gentill, Oslo Davis, James Phelan, Kirsty Murray, and many more wonderfully talented folk.Emerging Writers' Festival

I thought I’d share some little pearls I scribbled down by way of writing tips and advice, and snippets of wisdom I found pertinent to my own writing life:

Kylie Ladd offered “Read widely and forensically, it will help you identify why something does or doesn’t work.” “It’s normal to cringe when you read your own work; normal to doubt yourself.” (Phew). “Write for your art, but edit for cash. I hate to make it sound like that, but publishing is a business.”

Oslo Davis made me smile with his intimation, “One day people will see me for the fraud that I am.” It’s always refreshing to know most artists seem to harbor that element of self doubt. Oslo also encouraged others to “Not read reviews of your work. It will take 934 good reviews to wipe out the impact of the one bad one you read.”

“If you write well no one will notice an adverb or a speech tag, they will be so caught up in your story.” I loved this advice from Sulari Gentill. I know some editors go crazy if even one adverb is used, denouncing it as ‘bad writing’. I totally get why adverbs are considered in this light but sometimes, sometimes … a well chosen adverb works beautifully, in my opinion.

Sulari also said we should trust our readers and allow them in. With regards to character description, all Sulari supplies is hair colour, eye colour and height, and allows her reader to bring to the story their own interpretation, saying, “It will help them engage with your story. Allow your reader’s ideas to encroach on your own. Be brave enough to lose a little control.”

“If you don’t write your story then no one will. Find a way to believe you are the best and only person to tell your story,” encouraged English Lecturer and all round cool cat, Anna Poletti. She also advocates getting up from your desk and going for a walk or changing activity to bring what is at the back of your brain to the front. As someone who power walks through challenging plot points and problems, I wholeheartedly agree with this advice.

And lastly, the very funny writer and actor, William McInnes, offered this pearl of wisdom, “Never take yourself too seriously, but take what you do seriously. Life is too much fun to disappear up your own arse.” Yes.

All in all, it was a great weekend, with lots of take home value. Melbourne is a wonderfully supportive city for writers of any level, and really embraces diversity and inclusivity. The Emerging Writers’ Festival is a celebration of literature across all mediums, encouraging creativity, innovation and connectivity with a broader writing community. Hope to see you there next year!

Happy writing, happy reading and happy days🙂

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ANZAC Day: A Young Man’s Promise

100 years ago today at dawn’s first light, Australian and New Zealand forces landed on Gallipoli to fight a bloody campaign that would last for eight months and result in the loss of thousands of lives.

ANZAC Day today is a day of remembrance and recognition. A day to commemorate Australians and our New Zealand comrades who served, and lost their lives, in all wars, conflicts and peace keeping operations.

In commemoration, I  introduce a poem written by my Father some years ago.

In “A Young Man’s Promise” the reader is walked across a World War 1 battlefield, where the ghosts of conflict reach out to rattle their chains with resonating imagery, and a young man honours his great grandfather.

For all who have and will serve.  Lest we forget.

 

A Young Man’s Promise

By Richard Forcey

He walks with slow and measured tread

Across the fields where many died

While ghosts of armies long forgotten

March with him, quietly, by his side.

 

And as he picks his way through cornfields,

Scenes once faded fill his eyes,

He hears exploding shells long fallen

Now drowned out by a million sighs.

 

Young men in ragged great-coats cower

In rat-infested trenches foul

And wait the dreaded words,”Let’s go,lads!”

Once more to face the mortar’s howl.

 

As through the cloying mud they blunder

There’s just one thought in every mind,

“Let it be quick! Oh please God, spare me,”

Drawn-out dying, screaming, blind.

 

Moonlight, searchlight, stark white flare,

Each flicker rouses numbing dread

Exposing corpse-strewn blasted earth

A shattered school room, children fled.

 

A row of houses, crumbled, burning

An upturned pram, two bloated cows,

A little girl with death-glazed eyes,

Her blood defiling floral blouse.

 

And stumbling forward, bayonets fixed,

Towards the whites of foreign eyes,

Does any wild spectre think

He’s just a tool the system plies?

 

Now bullets whine amongst the debris,

Announcing battle to commence

The rag-tag horde runs forward, yelling,

To spend themselves in vain offence.

 

The din of conflict, then the silence,

Cold rain falls on cratered ground

The sole survivor, gasping, retching,

Claws blood from eyes and looks around.

 

A reeking, smoking landscape greets

His blurred and disbelieving gaze

A field sown thick with shattered comrades

Will haunt him all his living days.

 

So now the youth who picks his pathway

Through swaying tracts of golden corn,

Reflects upon the needless slaughter,

The “glory” under banner torn.

 

The ghosts recede – Great Granddad’s medal

Laid on the ground by loving hand,

The young man turns, head bowed, then briskly

Walks wondering from the hallowed land.

 

ANZAC-Day-Poppies

 

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Brave New World: Exploring Creative Nonfiction

Last year, one of the sessions I covered at University for my Masters program was Creative Nonfiction. For those not familiar with the term, Sondra Perl and Mimi Schwarz define it best in their book Writing True: Creative Nonfiction is a new name for an old impulse: to write about the real world with grace, power, and personal commitment … It’s about having the legitimacy to say: “Here’s my point of view. Here’s how I see my world.”

As a freelance copy and content writer, I write about the real world all the time – but not so much on a personal level. In my fiction, my perspective may slip through in the thoughts, dialogue and actions of my characters, but readers wouldn’t know that.

A new name for an old impulse. The impulse was certainly there, although inhibited; as can be my writing at times if I start peeling off the layers (I am working on this).

I wrote several pieces for assignments last year, and found that the more I delved into the different aspects of Creative Nonfiction, the more I felt like I was exploring something of value to myself and my writing. Applying the narrative techniques of fiction to works of nonfiction is a wonderfully challenging, personal experience, and I encourage writers of any level to have a crack.

I had one of my pieces, Brave New World, published in Issue 6 of The Quarry Journal. It’s a combination of theme and place, drawing on self exploration during a transitional period in my life. The setting is one of my favourite places on the Mornington Peninsula. The Briars in Mount Martha comprises 220 hectares of wetlands, woodlands, bush walking tracks, and a historic National Trust listed Homestead that once belonged to the Balcombe Family who farmed the region of from 1846.

If you would like to read it, click here: http://thequarryjournal.com/brave-new-world-rebecca-fraser/

The BriarsIn other news, I recently turned forty (dun dun dun DAH)! I used to think forty sounded so old; but then I used to think that about thirty, too. And twenty. And thirteen.

I’m happy to say that forty is a good place. I made it through my turbulent teens and twenties. They weren’t that different from anyone elses, I suppose. The usual roller coaster of ups, downs, triumphs, tragedies, love, laughter, heartbreak and happiness. My thirties were a decade of self-examination and ‘feet finding’ in the new, stable environment that had been created by joining my life with supportive, caring, hardworking Steve’s, and the joy, love and terror of motherhood.

I’m supposed to be older and wiser. I think that I am. I still have a lot to learn, explore and develop in many areas of my life. But I am happy – and I declare that my definition of success for now.

Happy writing, happy reading and, of course, happy days🙂

Rebecca

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Interview with Galactic Chat and Continuum X Download

This week I’m thrilled to be featured on Galactic Chat, a podcast that showcases interviews of Australian speculative fiction authors.

Helen Stubbs filed the interview and asked some great questions including why I love horror, how environment and landscape shapes my stories, and my involvement with writers groups. We also talked about dealing with rejection, what I’ve been covering in my studies towards a Masters of Creative Writing, and social media.

I often find it difficult to talk about myself, but Helen has such a pleasant and relaxed nature that she soon put me at ease, and I rabbited on with enthusiasm🙂

You can listen to the interview here:

http://galactichat.podbean.com/e/galactic-chat-49-rebecca-fraser/

Galactic Chat picked up a Ditmar Award for ‘Best Fan Publication in Any Medium’, presented at Continuum X at the InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto. (Huge congratulations to Galactic Chat along with all the other winners and nominees across all categories).

I attended Continuum on the Sunday and was truly impressed by the sheer range of panels, activities and workshops available. I wish I could have cloned myself and been in multiple places so as not to miss anything.

As well as catching up with old friends and meeting many new ones, it was a real highlight to connect with a large number of my online friends. It’s something else to chat across the interwebs – sometimes for a number of years – and then finally meet in the flesh.

There is something very special about the Australian Speculative Fiction community. They are an inclusive, supportive lot that generate powerful energy to motivate and uplift.

10361595_10152738007826501_3916098765150028297_nBetween all the social flitting, I managed to tick off quite a few events from the Sunday program including:Young Adult – All Grown Up, a lively panel with Tehani Wessely, Ambelin Kwaymullina, Amie Kaufman, Leonie Rogers and Sue Bursztynski; The Twelfth Planet Press Book Launch of Secret Lives of Books by Rosaleen Love and Perfections by Kirstyn McDermott; the Guest of Honour Speech by the very empowering and empowered Ambelin Kwaymullina; the Ticonderoga Mega Launch for Death at the Blue Elephant by Janeen Webb and steampunk romance anthology Kisses by Clockwork edited by Liz Grzyb. The afternoon saw me at Lost Origins with Jason Nahrung, Amanda Pillar, Leisl Leighton, Dan Rabarts and Norman Coates; and finally, Live Slushpile, a very interesting panel with Cat Sparks, Jack Dann, Sue Bursztynski, Amanda Pillar and Dirk Flinthart.

I’m looking forward to next year already…

Happy writing, happy reading, and happy days🙂

Rebecca

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