Hell’s Bells, you’ll want to read this!

Hell’s Bells, stories of festive fear penned by members of the Australian Horror Writers Association went live this week.

The Christmas-inspired ghostly anthology of flash fiction contains forty works from emerging and established Aussie authors, and includes my nasty little tale The Carol Singer at the Back.

I’ve always enjoyed writing flash. It’s a medium that is challenging in its brevity; its limited word count forcing the writer to sacrifice elements of more traditional length stories while maintaining a workable narrative.

If you love your dark-weird fiction bite-sized, Hell’s Bells is full of juicy morsels to sink your fangs into. Hell’s Bells is performing very well on Amazon, currently rubbing shoulders with Anne Rice and Dean Koontz among others!

You can get a copy here, and have yourself a creepy little Christmas.

The full  lineup includes:

  • Tradition ~ Martin Livingshells-bells
  • The Christmas Before Night ~ Neil Cladingboel
  • When All Goes Cold ~ David Schembri
  • Oh Christmas Tree ~ Jason Nahrung
  • Christmas Spirit ~ Chris Mason
  • Ever Near To Us ~ Bernie Rutkay
  • I’ll Be Home For Christmas ~ Greg Chapman
  • The Gift ~ Mark Smith-Briggs
  • Three Doors Down ~ Cameron Trost
  • Hairy Plopper and the Half-Blood Pudding ~ Keith Williams
  • When This You See, Think Of Me ~ Deborah Sheldon
  • A Christmas Carillon ~ Joy Loggie
  • Christmas Past ~ Anthony Ferguson
  • Do Not Open This Gift ~ Chris Ferdinands
  • Propellor ~ C S Hughes
  • Feeding The Fire ~ Barb Ettridge
  • All I Want ~ Angela J Maher
  • Grandmother Rina ~ Geneve Flynn
  • Strange How Potent Cheap Music Can Be ~ Rob Barden
  • Santa’s Slay ~ Louise Zedda-Sampson
  • Home For Christmas ~ Trevor Cleland
  • The Carol Singer At The Back ~ Rebecca Fraser
  • Christmas Morning ~ Steve Paulsen
  • Alone ~ Steve Herczeg
  • The thought that Counts ~ Christopher Pulo
  • Roland’s Merry Christmas ~ Gerry Huntman
  • Bitterness Of Brugmansia ~ Helen Stubbs
  • Old Man Christmas ~ Andy Cull
  • Christmas Presence ~ Matthew R Davis
  • Yellagonga ~ Shane Jiraiya Cummings
  • Rescue By Santa ~ Noel Osualdini
  • A Hellish Christmas ~ Onyx D’Castro-Noack
  • A Christmas Retribution ~ Silvia Brown
  • Ghosts Of Christmases Past ~ Darren Gore
  • The Daughter Of Clay ~ Shaun Taylor
  • Three Little Words ~ Steve Dillon
  • The Covenant Guarantee ~ Adam Bertram
  • Living With Loss ~ Alan Baxter
  • In A Perfect World ~ Michael Claudius
  • Deck the Walls ~ Claire Fitzpatrick
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Meet Liz Hicklin, Writer & Performance Poet.

I’ve met many people this year who have enriched my life. One of them is charismatic writer and performance poet, Liz Hicklin, who I met through local writerly circles.

Liz recently launched her latest volume of comedic verse Can’t Drive a Car?, a collection that shines a hilarious spotlight on the lighter side of ageing. With illustrations provided by award-winning artist, Fred Gatte, Can’t Drive a Car?  is their first collaborative foray into the relatively new genre of Illustrated Mobility Aid Fiction!

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The inspiration for Can’t Drive a Car? was drawn from an encounter with a tattooed fellow riding a mobility scooter along the footpath of Liz’s retirement community in Mornington.  “I might be covered in tatts, but I’ve still got my manners,” he observed, as he gave way to Liz. Their little exchange sewed the seed for the premise of Can’t Drive a Car? and ‘Biker Sam’ became one of the verses therein. Other characters include Electric Rhys, Sarah’s Carer, and my personal favourite, Debonair Paul – once the ruler of the dance hall, he now sways to the beat on his walking frame:

 “… With his foxtrot, his tango, his salsa and rumba;

He always went home with a Sheila’s phone number.

These days it’s much harder to kick up his heels,

(It’s not easy to lead a contraption on wheels).

Now the bandstand is silent, girls no longer swoon.

Paul shuffles alone by the light of the moon.”

Liz is a naturally gifted story teller. A life tapestry woven with a rich blend of love, loss, adventure, and entrepreneurship combined with a remarkable sense of recall and a delightfully wicked sense of humour has shaped her ability to bring realism, insight and emotion to her writing, while underpinning everything with her trademark sparkle of wit.

From Manchester to Alberta, and Alice Springs to Armadale, Liz has crossed the world several times embracing life’s great adventures: from an ardent love affair with Poet Laureate Ted Hughes before his marriage to Sylvia Plath (which is a tale worthy of its own blog post), to embracing the heat and hazards of the Australian Outback as a young English rose in the fifties, to all-night card games with soldiers on  a shipping passage from Australia to Europe, and a nursing stint at a rheumatoid hospital, where she’d offer her patients “a pill or a poem.” Of course they invariably opted for a poem, and Liz would recite from one of her literary heroes, TS Eliot, or other twentieth century masters.

After setting up a successful pet shop business with her husband in Melbourne, Liz’s creative streak called to her. Falling in love with the craft through a series of workshops, she became a teacher of reproduction porcelain dollmaking, operating her own studio in Brighton, Victoria.

During eleven highly successful years in the business, Liz felt the need to bring some humour to the industry. The result was her first collection of poetry in 1987, Dedicated to Dolls – an instant success selling 1,500 copies internationally, and prompting requests for live performances at numerous dolls shows and conventions. Dedicated to Dolls – Volume 2 followed, and reflects Liz’s wit and wisdom, and innate ability to hold a humorous mirror up to society.

While Liz has had great highs during her life, she has also experienced the greatest of lows. With the tragic loss of her two daughters, Leeza and Jane, to separate mental health issues, she understands more than most the ever-present ache of grief.  The release of her third book Peter the Parachute gave Liz the opportunity to light a candle among the dark shadows of sorrow, while celebrating the life and talent of her youngest daughter, Jane.

Peter the Parachute is a gorgeous children’s picture book. It combines Liz’s words with Jane’s colourful and uplifting renditions of Melbourne’s landmarks, the places that Jane loved best. It wasn’t until Jane’s artwork was displayed at her funeral that Liz noticed each painting contained an enigmatic man on a parachute, soaring high across a blue canvas sky. Perhaps a metaphor for Jane’s need for freedom and release?

Together with her son, Boyd, Liz worked to bring Peter the Parachute to life. The result is not only a delightful keepsake for lovers of beautiful artwork; it’s a heartfelt tribute to Jane, Leeza, and victims of mental health everywhere. It was launched in conjunction with the Alfred Hospital’s Psychiatric Division, with all proceeds donated to mental health research.

Liz and I became great mates from the first time we met. Perhaps it was our similar sense of humour that attracted us, perhaps it was a shared experience of losing a loved one to the horror of suicide, or perhaps it’s simply a love of literature and life. I suspect it’s all these things, and more. Either way, I’m very glad she’s my friend.

If you would like to get your hands on a limited edition, signed copy of Can’t Drive a Car? or would like to learn more about her performance poetry, contact Liz by email lizhicklin@bigpond.com

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I Have a Story in ‘Killing it Softly’ The Best by Women in Horror

I was thrilled to have a reprint of my story Coralesque selected for inclusion in ‘Killing it Softly’ The Best by Women in Horror (Volume 1).

Released by Digital Fiction Publishing Corp, the anthology contains 31 tales of horror from female writers, including New York Times Best Sellers, Bram Stoker winners, and other genre greats.  I’m sharing a table of contents with some pretty awesome talent.

Torn Asunder — Rebecca Snow

Lambent Lights — H.R. Boldwood

Nosophoros — Christine Lucas

What the Rain Brings — Gerri Leen

Taking it for The Team — Tracie McBride

Here We Go Round — Rie Sheridan Rose

Songs for Dead Children — Aliya Whiteley

Music in the Bone — Marion Pitman

All of a Heap — Jenner Michaud

Traitorous, Lying, Little Star — Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert

Truth Hurts — Carole Gill

A Trick of the Dark — Tina Rath

Abysmoira — Airika Sneve

Skin Deep — Carson Buckingham

Orbs — Chantal Boudreau

Rule of Five — Eleanor R. Wood

Guilty by Chance — Nidhi Singh

Ecdysis — Rebecca J. Allred

Coralesque — Rebecca Fraser

The Funhouse — Jo-Anne Russell

Graffiti — K. S. Dearsley

Complete — Amanda Northrup Mays

Ellensburg Blue — M.J. Sydney

Abandoned — Rose Blackthorn

The Call of the House of Usher — Annie Neugebauer

Ravens — Elaine Cunningham

Foxford — Sandra Kasturi

The Root — Jess Landry

Long Time, No See — Sarah Hans

Millie’s Hammock — Tory Hoke

Changed — Nancy Holder

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It’s great to see an anthology that gives voice to, and celebrates women in horror. There are misconceptions out there that women are incapable of writing horror effectively, and we’re often underrepresented. I’m happy to say that this mindset is starting to shift, thanks in part to anthologies like this, and publishers recognising the demand for diversity across all demographs.

‘Killing it Softly’ is now available in Kindle or Paperback, and can be ordered here, just in time for Halloween!

Happy writing, happy reading, and happy days 🙂

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I Had Lunch with Tim Winton

Ok, so did a whole bunch of other people, but that’s not important 🙂

On Friday I got to meet one of my literary heroes when Tim Winton came to the Safety Beach Yacht Club on the Mornington Peninsula for a literary lunch to coincide with the release of his latest book The Boy Behind the Curtain.

For most, Winton needs no introduction. He’s published twenty-eight books for adults and children, won the Australian Vogel Award, won the Miles Franklin Award four times, and twice been shortlisted for the Booker Prize.  I’ve long admired Winton’s work – he writes with such authenticity and lyrical beauty that at times I’ve stopped reading to reflect on the magic I’ve just experienced, or to wonder if I could ever inspire such depth of emotion in my writing.

The themes of Winton’s books capture Australian life and culture in all its rawness and realism.  Family dynamics are explored and probed, coming of age issues, environment, spirituality, nostalgia, and gender are all brought to life through well-rounded characters and plots cast in familiar settings.  It’s the settings he writes so vividly that I find most satisfying about Winton’s work. He has a talent for writing landscape and place, so that the very locations of his books take on a persona of their own and become as significant as central characters.

This was echoed in Winton’s response to an audience question about what kick starts a story idea. “I start from a place – a social or physical ecology. For me background comes first, that’s why landscape is so important in my writing. I steep myself in a place … and out of the heat wave, a figure comes.”

Winton was generous with his time, reading two excerpts from his new book, a memoir delivered through reflections on events that have shaped his life and impacted his writing. He conversed at length with facilitator Paul Kennedy (author of Fifteen Young Men), before signing books and graciously posing for photos.

I was a slightly author struck, but (amazingly, for me) managed not to say or do anything to embarrass myself! The day was made more enjoyable by sharing a table with some of the lovely crew from the Peninsula Writers’ Club – who are all die hard fangirls – and we got a group shot to celebrate the momentous occasion.

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Author talks and literary lunches are a great way to meet likeminded people, and get motivated and inspired. And when you get to meet one of your literary heroes it’s a shot in the arm that makes you want to dust off that manuscript buried in the bottom drawer, or get started on a new project right away.

Happy writing, happy reading and happy days.

 

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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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