Survival: A Novella. Available March 2018.

Author: Rachel Watts

Review: Nobody Is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey

Some people make us feel more human and some people make us feel less human and this is as much a fact as gravity is a fact…

Elyria leaves home one day to go to New Zealand without telling anyone, without much of a plan as to what she’s looking for or why. She has the address of a farm handed to her by a near stranger. She has a few hundred dollars and a backpack. The first car she manages to flag down, the driver warns her not to accept a ride from men. But she does, and her disjointed, uncertain journey takes her to the stranger’s farm and back without any real revelations that help her control what she calls her wilderbeest. That animal part of her that pushes her apart from humanity, that makes her flee, that makes her struggle to make sense of the world.

I have long, long sections of this novel transcribed into my notebook. The breathless run on sentences, the unhinged narrator, the inspire an urgency in this slim novel. I read it in a weekend. It’s the novel that forces you into “just one more page” brinkmanship with yourself when you really should be cooking dinner, or at midnight when it’s time for sleep. Now, I realise there was a bit of a glut books about of unhinged women out there, most of them with “girl” in the title, but having not read any of those I found this particular novel compelling, urgent and somehow darkly humorous. Elyria has taken leave of herself in the most complete way possible but I also felt that the world, and those who claimed to love her, hadn’t invested a in her sticking around anyway. The ending is open, and while I was a little unsatisfied, I didn’t see how Lacey could have ended the story any other way.

Nobody is Ever Missing, Catherine Lacey: Three and a half stars.

Publisher: Granta Books.

Release date: December 24, 2015

RRP: £7.99

On writing: a note to my past and future self

I’ve been reading a lot about freelancing lately. Or writing in general. How people earn money by doing it, how to do it better, how to reassure yourself that you’re doing the best you can, etc. These stories have been running alongside a wider conversation about the incomes of writers and how most writers supplement their incomes in all kinds of ways other than writing. The fact that the top 25 per cent of authors in Australia earn an average of only $9000 per year. And there’s a strange vortex surrounding the field where people don’t earn enough to subscribe to the journals they ask to pay them. And yes, it’d be tax deductible, if you earned enough to pay tax from which to deduct.

Anyway, I distracted myself. I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learnt in the past 18 months or so and, while I acknowledge that I am the worst freelancer in history (mostly because my imposter syndrome is so great I have trouble pitching usefully), I do occasionally feel that things are okay, that I’ve learnt plenty and I know vaguely how to move onwards. And while I hardly have any right to offer anyone else advice, I do want to take myself gently by the hand and whisper soothing things sometimes. So I thought I would note these lessons down somewhere I can refer to again, when I feel lost and despondent.

  1. Be patient

I would venture to say that unless you have done a significant amount of research, or freelanced on the side for a time, it will take you a good six months to a year to figure out how to do this. When I started working in this way a lot of people had advice on working from home. You need a routine, they said. Get up at the same time every day. You need an office, they said, you need to pretend like you’re working in a different building from your home. And you know, there’s a lot of truth in that but it’s not the full story. There is no class in this, there is no amount of advice that will suit everyone because everyone is different. So much of this is trial and error, and so many people seem to get it much righter than me much sooner. But it’s important to recognise the professional development you undergo while failing at something. Even that is worth something. And I’m the last person to bang on about seeing silver linings because sometimes things are just rubbish and you’re allowed to call them so. But every rubbish thing will teach you much more than a long series of lucky accidents. It sucks, but it’s true.

2. Get your head in the right place

This is related to patience because it takes a long time to figure out how to think of yourself while you’re doing this. There’s a big shift from thinking of myself as working by myself, to working for myself. When you’re working for yourself you’re your own boss and you need to have the right measure of self awareness to know what you’re capable of and how you work best. It also means you get to choose your assignments, so you may as well make them assignments that light you up, that make you feel alive, and that challenge you in the right ways. Give yourself permission to approach people, give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.

While you’re at it, you may as well give yourself permission to succeed. No one else is going to do it.

The other day I realised that I’m currently working on two books and a degree (with a vague idea for a third novel), all of which a few people seem to believe in, so perhaps I should rise above the fear that I will never work again and actually write them. This is what being a writer is: in one hand paralyzing terror, in the other opportunity. You have to live with them both but you can choose to focus more on one than the other. I am rubbish at this but I am trying.

3. Learn to love having lots of pots on the boil

I’ve squandered a lot of opportunities in the past couple of years. I messed up in ways that I regret a great deal but also that I couldn’t have helped at the time. One of the biggest obstacles to success has been that I expected freelance work to be like a tap I could turn on. I thought that I would be able to find that one place to get work and that it would replace the security of my full time salary. That is not ever going to happen. The flexibility I get from working like this also means that I am often (always) short of cash. I have to look further ahead. I have to say yes more often than I say no. I have to keep minute track of my finances and consider all money spent an investment – either in my work, in my body, or in my mind.

4. Cross pollinate your mind

Sometimes that investment in yourself comes from unexpected places. Remember to read and read broadly. Make sure you spend time and money on art forms other than the one you feel most passionate about. Remember to spend time outside, under the sky, in all weathers. Remember to spend time with children and remember to spend time with old people. Speak to your family and listen to the cadence of their voices, the way they are all a little bit alike, and also watch strangers in the street and imagine how they might laugh.

I spent a fair bit of time over the past 12 months thinking I didn’t have time for these things but if I don’t have time for these things then I don’t have time to be a writer. To write you need to spend time in the world. To create you need to be close to humanity and you need to find pockets in your mind least explored and shine a light in there and investigate words and ideas from new angles. And a lot of that happens away from the keyboard.

5. Meet people with enthusiasm

This is the one I find the hardest. I am terrible at networking and when you’re working for yourself you need to make the extra effort to put yourself where people you want to work with are. And show them that they should want to work with you too. It might not pay off right away, hell, it might not pay off ever, but at the very least you’ll get some much needed social interaction and I daresay your enthusiasm for your work will be buoyed by that.

When you start to lose enthusiasm, it could be that you need to change something, or it could be that you’re losing your way. This should not be painful. This might be poorly paid, it might be challenging, it might be stressful but when you start to think “my god, I’ve ruined my life” remind yourself that this might, in fact, be what your life was always supposed to be. Let go. It doesn’t need to be perfect. It doesn’t need to be pretty. It’s yours, you own it. Fill up your cup, even if it’s just to reassure yourself that you can refill it again, so you’re not too afraid to drink from it.

Now it’s your turn: what advice would you give to your past writing self?

Review: Dying in the First Person by Nike Sulway

My brother was seven minutes older than me; seven minutes after he died, I passed into a future he had refused. Nobody in the world could speak with me now. Nobody knew those languages, those histories, like we did. I waited for someone to tell me what I should say, what I should do with what was left of my life now that he was gone. Nobody could tell me how to carry on.

For many years twin brothers Samuel and Morgan had been separated by an ocean. But even before then, a distance lived between the unknowable Morgan and his taciturn brother. As adults Morgan lived in Europe and Samuel at home in the Queensland bush. Samuel’s only contact with his brother was via his manuscripts that arrived by mail. The painstaking work of translating Morgan’ writing from Nahum, the language they invented as children, both consumes and inspires him. But now Morgan has died. Ana, the woman he was living with, agrees to carry his body home to Australia. With her she brings one final Nahum manuscript. And some startling revelations.

I have loved Nike Sulway’s prose since I read Rupetta. She has a gift for conjuring place and there is a quietness that inhabits her writing, a reflectiveness pulls you into it, that makes the story sing with a deep harmony just beneath the surface of the words. Dying in the First Person actually addresses some of the problems I had with Rupetta. In Rupetta it felt like Sulway’s mind was fevered. It was an expansive story, so many elements were mixed in there, and as a result I found it difficult to review, difficult to sum up what it was about despite the fact that I adored it. Dying in the First Person is far more intimate in focus. It follows Samuel’s grief, and his meditation on what it means to face someone’s death, the loss of someone’s unique words, what it means to communicate with a person in words, in language, and then to have them die. Samuel’s musings are slow and laboured and, by the end of the novel when he seems to accept his losses and find the way forward, Ana provides the coup de grace that upsets everything he thought he knew.

The last section is narrated by Ana and contains the “revelation” you read about on the back cover. And it is a startling passage, a short chapter really, that I read rapidly, breathlessly. It turned the novel into a house of cards, highlighted a level of uncertainty that comes with any relationship, any conversation, every investment into your assumptions about someone else. It is a wonderful, unsettling chapter to close the novel and I can’t discuss it in any great detail without ruining its affect on future readers, which is immensely unsatisfying but there you are.

In some ways, I missed the expansiveness of the Sulway’s Rupetta, I missed the big picture circling the intimate one. But that big picture is still there in Dying in the First Person. What could be bigger than life and death? It’s just woven through the text, through every word and sentence, and so gently, so deftly, that it’s almost out of focus. Sulway’s prose is rich but razor sharp, it cuts right to the heart of a thing, underlines it for further discussion, circles it some more before moving on. Somehow it’s both dreamy and incisive. A hugely enjoyable and strangely uplifting read.

Dying in the First Person, Nike Sulway: four and a half stars.

Publisher: Transit Lounge.

Published: May 1, 2016.

RRP: $29.95

Book review: The Golden Legend by Nadeem Aslam

She opened the safety pin she had taken from a drawer in the kitchen and with it she quickly stabbed the tip of her index finger and held the drop of blood towards him.

‘It’s red. I want you to promise me you won’t try to injure someone else.’ His face was wrenched with emotion but she said firmly, ‘Look at it. You’ve seen now that it’s not black. Look at it.’

There was a silence. When she tried to say something further, he flinched, and then he covered his face with both hands and gave way to tears quietly.

‘I’m sorry.’

‘Promise me.’

‘I promise,’ he said.

Helen is a Christian living in the city of Zamana in Pakistan, and she shows a delivery boy her blood to save him threatening anyone else with a knife to see if it’s true that Christian blood is indeed black. She lives with her illiterate father Lily, who is a servant for architects Massud and Nargis. Massud and Nargis have no children and so Helen becomes almost their own, they argue with Lily about her education, which they pay for. They encourage her to study abroad, which she refuses to do. One day Massud and Nargis go to Grand Trunk Road to help move sacred books hand by hand to the new library they designed and a stray bullet takes Massud’s life. Nargis comes under pressure from military intelligence to forgive his killer just as Helen meets the mysterious Imran from Kashmir. Meanwhile, someone is broadcasting people’s secrets from the minarets of the city’s mosques, spreading fear an an already tense city.

This novel is a stunning work. It tells a story both wide, and spread over centuries, and very intimate. That Aslam manages to step across that gulf so easily, and so frequently, is an incredible achievement. The book that Massud is holding when he is shot was authored by his own father. It is a book of the commonalities of humanity, the lore, the fables and, yes, the religious beliefs, that are interchanged between nationalities, cultures and faiths. And this book, destroyed and painstakingly stitched back together with gold thread, offers Aslam the focal point that makes his story both very specific and universal. The sense of place is breathtaking, the prose is beautiful and heartbreaking.

This world is the last thing God will ever tell us.

A few hours before he was killed, Massud woke at the call to the predawn prayer. It was issuing from the loudspeakers attached to the minaret just across the lane. He imagined the worshipers approaching the eighteenth century mosque in silence, some of them carrying lanterns. The sight of empty shoes at the thresholds of mosques had always made him think that the men had been transformed into pure spirit just before entering.

The highlight of this novel for me was its pacing. In moments of the most extreme violence Aslam resists the urge to pick up his pace, in fact he slows down, describing everything in minute detail, giving the scene a hyper-realistic clarity. A slow motion, almost underwater, inevitability. It’s supremely effective. When, somewhere about halfway through this novel I realised I was reading too fast, Aslam picked up the pace of his story again. And this is where it got strange, because alongside those hyper-real, slow motion moments, the climax of the novel seemed to occur in an emotional numbness, it was almost anti-climactic, the extremes of the story towards the end were smoothed over in a way that surprised me. I’d be interested in how other people read the final scenes, to see if they got the same impression.

Another thing: towards the end of the novel Aslam has the daughter of a cleric realise for the first time how alone women really were. This note struck me as false, having moved back with her father from the desert after a drone strike killed her husband, mother in law and left her son an amputee, and imprisoned in her home, I feel this would have occurred to her long ago. But that there was just one false note in a novel of such ambition is telling. It is beautiful, both timely and timeless. It should be read widely, and enjoyed as thoroughly as I did.

The Golden Legend by Nadeem Aslam: four stars.

Published by: Allen & Unwin under the Faber and Faber imprint.

RRP: $29.99

Released: January 2017

What are you reading Wednesday

I read a great post by Lindsay Detwiler about ways in which her husband is her biggest supporter, though he doesn’t read her books. It started me thinking of the generosity of spirit that is needed and shown in an artistic community. So often the journey is a long and lonely one and any support, financial or otherwise, including just plain encouragement to keep going, is worth its weight in gold. Detwiler’s husband Chad is her very own advertiser, roadie and support crew and it’s great to read about the kind of background help people need in this profession.

Something I’ve really taken to heart is that books sell via word of mouth. It’s one of the reasons I started this site to begin with. I love reading, I love talking about reading, so I started a site where I could talk about books I love. I’ve been told that my talking up a literary journal where I had a story published inspired one of my twitter followers to take out a subscription and it was the best thing anyone had ever said to me. So talk it up. Whatever you’re reading, make sure twitter knows about it, mention the author by name, review the book on Goodreads or Amazon or wherever seems most relevant to you. These are the sparks in the dark that makes this feel like a community and not an empty room.

In that spirit I need to recommend two books that I will review when I’ve finished reading them, but am loving too much to wait until then. The Golden Legend by Nadeem Aslam is a simply beautiful novel, written in a vivid, poetic style. Set in contemporary Pakistan it follows architect Nargis who loses her husband to a stray bullet and her Christian neighbour Helen who falls in love with the mysterious Imran.  It feels like a novel that has slowed down, taken a breath, and really drawn the air in to its lungs. I was given a copy by publisher Allen & Unwin in exchange for a review, and it will be posted in the next week or so, but even before I’ve finished it I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Secondly, because I read more than one book at a time, I also have to recommend Nike Sulway’s Dying in the First PersonI’ve only read a little of this novel and already I’m stunned by its beauty. Sulway examines wonderfully complicated ideas in a simple by expansive written style. I was reading recently that some books feel like they were written for you, specifically to you. I read an article by Peter Bishop recently. Writing in the Griffith Review he says: “Reading is a matter of friendship, as music so often is. There are songs that are acquaintances, and we nod to them as we pass in the street – and there are songs that belong to us, and often we know this belonging from the moment we first hear them, and from then on we know them in our deepest selves, and we interpret our lives through their sound.” This feels like one of those books.

On an entirely different, and perhaps selfish note, the publisher of the Dark Magic anthology that I have a story in is running a readers’ choice prize. The winning author will receive a little cash and a super cool bobble-head owl. Go by and vote and you will go in the draw to win a prize pack. The anthology is available here. Leave a review if you read it.

Book review: The Fifth Avenue Artists Society by Joy Callaway

“I’m honestly shocked that you didn’t paint yourself, Cherie. You’re so talented.” I said and she looked at me sharply. Mr Smith laughed and shook his head.

“She did make a little impression with that hobby of hers once upon a time, didn’t she?” Out of the corner of my eye I saw Alevia’s mouth drop open and then close just as quickly. “I can’t remember the last time she’s had time to paint with the baby coming and all of the entertaining.” He shrugged and Cherie’s face paled as she turned her eyes away, refusing to look at us and our wide stares.

Virginia Loftin is a writer in a family of driven women, it is 1891 and the family is doing their best to get by after the death of her father. Her sisters, a musician, a teacher, a milliner, are each ambitious in their own way and her brother, a salesman, travels for work doing his best to keep the family afloat. Every cent that comes in is precious to the family, even the meagre income Virginia earns from her columns for the Bronx Review. Virginia loves the boy next door, Charlie, with whom she has been friends since childhood but in the opening scene of the novel Charlie pulls the rug out from under her by proposing to another woman. Virginia is devastated and starts writing a novel centering on a similar relationship. She drifts into a group of artists that meet at a house on Fifth Avenue, hosted by fellow writer John Hopper, with whom she quickly forms a friendship and romance. But amid the heady atmosphere of these occasions something dark is lingering around the edges and comes to threaten the precious success, and hope, that Virginia and her family gains.

I’m a little mixed on how to review this novel, which is the first by its author Joy Callaway, a historical fiction about love and artists. I generally don’t read romance, it makes my skin crawl, but I was interested in this because of the historical element and the artistic bent. And true to form I found the romance element annoying, I found the toing and froing Virginia goes through as she ponders her future marriages deeply uninteresting. But what did capture my imagination was the way women navigated the society they were in, how they were able to keep their artistic endeavours, that drive to create that informed their very identities, while also pursuing marriage and family. Perhaps counter intuitively, Virginia fears a match with the wealthy John Hopper, with social engagements that would restrict her writing time. A marriage with Charlie, with lesser means like herself, would allow her to pursue a profession out of sheer necessity. She would be able to write.

Callaway’s style of writing is light, her pacing is quick and her plot is engaging. The tone was grating at first, heavy with information dumps in the first couple of chapters and it took me until about halfway through to really come to care about what happened to the characters. But by that stage I was racing through this novel, surprised at how driven I was to unravel the mess the Loftin family found itself in.  While I found the early part of the book full of silly dramas and irritating navel gazing, the second half made it clear that Virginia was a powerful narrator and Callaway made some excellent decisions when it came to mining her own family’s history for the narrative gems.

The Fifth Avenue Artists Society, Joy Callaway: three stars

Published by Allen & Unwin, December 2016, AU$29.99 RRP.

2016 Redux: don’t let the door hit you on the way out

It’s the time of year for all those reflective blog posts, in which we look back, think, and look forward and promise to do better next year. And while I think the world’s internet users have collectively decided that 2016 should get in the sea, generally speaking, on a personal level my memoir might reflect 2016 as a space with no words, pages instead filled with open screaming mouths, things on fire, and me in there somewhere growing increasingly panicked and straight-jacketed by circumstances, finances and in some cases my very own self.

I know I obsess about stupid small things given the people the world forgot this year, and the other people the world collectively screwed over. It does alarm me that people are upset by celebrities dying rather than that by 2050 there will be more pieces of plastic in the ocean than fish. Which is abhorrent, uncited and possibly true. But then I heard that Richard Adams died and I remembered the audio cassette we had of Watership Down when I was growing up and I felt incredibly sad. Sometimes the small sadnesses are worse than the big ones.

Most of the other 2016 posts you read will probably seek some glimmer of hope in the shards. This is not a skill set of mine. The phrase circles my mind, “it’s always darkest before the dawn”, just forces me to wonder exactly how dark it can get. Pro tip: DON’T.

But look I suppose I’ve got my health.

I got 10 (TEN! COUNT ‘EM!) stories published, fiction and non-fiction, at actual respectable journals with editors and stuff.

I created some things that were painful and confronting to write and I think powerful to read.

But don’t take my word for it – I also got some kick arse marks for such pieces at uni.

I did paid work a bit, though not as much as I would have liked. I celebrated people voting for the first time. I survived going door to door for the Census. I learnt how to teach online.

I started to volunteer for arts organisations I really love.

I spent a dumb amount of time looking at my “author” tag on Goodreads.

But in a world in which everything is either on fire, sinking into the ocean or describing itself as not a Nazi while saying/doing things that seem kinda, a little bit, outright Nazi all of the above glimmers don’t seem to matter much.  I spend a great deal of time at my computer, or phone, staring out at the world through a tiny screen, thinking in a horrified whisper: what have we done? 

So here’s the thing. I haven’t reviewed a book for such a long time because I’ve felt a huge pressure to do “constructive” things. But it’s probably better to not view the world through a tiny screen.

Take your own path.

When I run my route takes me through local bushland, the scrub opens up and the sky grows broad. At certain times of year there’s wildflowers, one time I saw a fat lizard, today there were cockatoos taking wing. I keep expecting to see a creepy clown in there on an overcast day (remember when that was the worst thing the world had thought of?), but haven’t as yet. And on those days the world is okay again. For a moment.

I think that that’s the way it works. Sometimes things are a bit terrible, sometimes I feel like I have nothing to say that adds anything useful. And that’s ok. But it’s also important to move often, and to give yourself permission to just watch the colours on the trees change, to eat slowly and to read great books that touch your heart and grab your imagination. Even though I feel I must always be busy, that everything just needs so much fixing, I write more and better when I also do those things. And I feel better too.

So here’s to excellent reading in 2017. Here’s to moving often, learning more, and spending time with people and in places that bring us joy. I commit to that for myself and I wish it for you.

Adventures in literature: 2016 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival

This is probably the latest blog post on the Ubud Writers Festival you’ll read this year, um, but better late than never? The tagline for this blog, though it’s a bit hidden with the new site, is Adventures in Literature and this year I had a chance to literally go adventuring with a trip to the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. For those of you who are unaware, the festival runs annually in Ubud, Bali. It’s a four day festival and gathers together writers, performers and publishers from all around the world. I was able to tie in some of my university work with the festival, so I didn’t feel too bad about going away during semester. Here’s some thoughts, quotes and great moments from the four days.

  1. Magda Szubanski: “Don’t know, don’t care” – in response to a question on whether or not male comedians were intimidated by her writing (and thatubud-wrf2016 of other female comedians). I saw a lot of Szubanski in the course of the first day and I found her to be thoughtful, smart and expressive. She spoke about the pressure on her to write a comedy memoir, which is understandable, and how when she thought about it the book she wrote Reckoning, was the one that was in her heart. She also spoke about its being wrapped up with her coming out and what that meant for her.
  2. Charlotte Wood: “It’s the lack of anger that perpetuates it” – on the “deep belly” anger that fueled her latest novel The Natural Way of Things. I go out of my way to see Wood as I find her to be a wonderful speaker on the process of writing, as well as the big picture her novels are placed in. She said if she thought too closely on ideas of misogyny she became paralysed, her best way to write the book was to focus on the characters. It was comforting to hear her say that each book teaches you how to write it  and that it’s a process you have to learn over and over again.
  3. Hanya Yanagihara – “As a writer I’m asking questions that keep me awake at night, not because I think writing the book will answer them but because I want to say to the world ‘this is what I’m thinking about, do you think about these things too?'” I didn’t get to see enough of Yanagihara (the author of my latest favourite novel A Little Life) during the festival but when I did I found her every word to be intelligent and useful to me as a writer. Something that stuck with me was her comment that you don’t need to do a lot of research on trauma because there are very few ways for humans to react to hurt. Food for thought.
  4. Books to buy, read and share: There were so many writers with so many amazing books over the course of the four days that I find it impossible to prioritise recommendations. I left the festival with Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan (which I haven’t finished reading yet but find hugely enjoyable) and The Years of the Voiceless by Okky Madasari. I’m also interested in the work of Susana Moeira Marques who read beautifully from her non-fiction book about death, Damon Young whose panel on The Art of Reading I wasn’t able to get to but heard great things about, Ariel Leve, Baz Dreisinger and David Dyer.
  5. This festival is bigger than you think. I mean seriously. I had arranged to meet a friend at the afterparty and it was only when I arrived that I realised when you add up the attendees, presenters, authors and volunteers you’re talking thousands of people. Suffice to say I had trouble finding her. The main program runs all day for four full days across three venues. There’s also special events, workshops, a food program, a cultural program and an after dark program. It’s big.
  6. Respect is free. This is probably the thing that struck me the most. A lot of the people you will meet are either volunteers or are paid not much for a significant workload. Nothing’s perfect but that most events ran smoothly means there’s been a million logistical victories behind the scenes. Most importantly it’s important to respect the hosts. I was witness to an MC being belittled by a panelist and it was hideous. Just be cool.

Your shopping list: buy Australian women writers

I don’t want to alarm you but Christmas is just about six weeks away. I know. It felt too early to write this post, but the world seems a little dark lately and I wanted a distraction. You’re welcome.

I’m in a group of Australian women writers on Facebook, a group of smart, passionate, talented women who share job opportunities, resources and advice. A thread on there of publications this year made me think about gift giving. I’ve written about giving books as gifts before. It is possibly my favourite thing ever. I’ve given books as gifts to children who can’t read yet. (Yep, I’m that aunt. The useless one.) But it is important to support local artists and the local industry, so I’ve gathered a list of fiction published this year by Australian women authors for your interest. When I started this I had no idea how long the list would be, and how diverse. Please do make sure you make your purchases at local book stores, where you can, and support the industry. It’s also worth considering a charitable donation that supports literacy, my go to such charities are the The Footpath Library and the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

Oh, and of course, this list is obviously not everything published this year, so feel free to add your recommendations of Australian books published this year in comments.


The Three Miss Allens, Victoria Purman

Sentinel Rising: The Reardon Files, Andrea Drew

The Paper House, Anna Spargo Ryan – A beautiful novel about loss and recovery. Five stars.

Vigil, Angela Slatter

Shield, Rachael Craw

We At the Road Like Vultures, Lynette Lounsbury – I have not read this but have heard good things and have it on my list.

Tailor Made, Clare Havens

Journey’s End, Jennifer Scoullar

Love Eliminiation: Sarah Gates

She’s the One, Bronwyn Stewart

Dying in the First Person, Nike Sulway – also haven’t read this, but Sulway’s Rupetta is amazing and you should read everything she writes.

Hospitality: How to Make the Most of Your Miserable Underpaid Existence, Yasmin O’Sullivan

Everything is Changed, Nova Weetman

Le Chateau, Sarah Ridout

The Twisted Knot, J. M. Peace

Bound For Eden, Tess Le Sue

Luxeville Dolls, Erin M McCuskey

Promising Azra, Helen Thurloe

The Blood Apothecary, Cayt Mirra

Skylarking, Kate Mildenhall

Dead in the Water, Tania Chandler

Dove, MH Salter

Who’s Afraid, Maria Lewis

Like I Can Love, Kim Lock

Falling Pomegranate Seeds: The Duty of Daughters, Wendy J Dunn

Game Day, Miriam Sved

The Science of Appearances, Jacinta Halloran

The Permanent Resident, Roanna Gonsalves

The Adventure of the Colonial Boy, Narrelle M. Harris

Castle of Dreams, Elise McCune

Wild Chicory, Kim Kelly

Jewel Sea, Kim Kelly

An Isolated Incident, Emily Maguire


White and Red Cells, Jessica Knight

Tongue Between Teeth, Jessica Knight


A Feast of Sorrows, Angela Slatter

Alien Artifacts, various

Crime Scenes, various

Fine, Michelle Wright

Leaving Elvis and Other Stories, Michelle Michau-Crawford

Dark Magic: Witches Hackers and Robots, various (including yours truly)


Black, Fleur Ferris

The Squishy Taylor Series, Ailsa Wild

The Other Side of Summer, Emily Gale

Worm, Nicki Greenberg

My Dog Dash, Nicki Greenberg

The Naughtiest Reindeer, Nicki Greenberg

The Secrets We Keep, Nova Weetman

Our Dog Knows Words, Peter Gouldthorpe, Lucy Gouldthorpe

Wormwood Mire: A Stella Montgomery Intrigue, Judith Rossell

HIjabi Girl, Hazel Edwards and Ozge Alkan, illustrated by Serena Geddes

Becoming Aurora, Elizabeth Krasmer

The Leopard Princess Book 2: The Tales of Jahani, Rosanne Hawke

Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact, Alison Goodman

Go Home Cheeky Animals, Johanna Bell, illustrated by Dion Beasley

All These Perfect Strangers, Aoife Clifford

Penelope Perfect (series), Chrissie Perry

Non fiction: 

Doing it: Women Tell The Truth About Great Sex, Karen Pickering

No To Feminism, Rebecca Shaw – I predict this will be excellent.

Things My Mother Taught Me, Claire Halliday

Game Changers, Leena Van Deventer, Dan Golding

Enemy, Ruth Clare

Use Your Words: A Mythbusting, No Fear Approach to Writing, Catherine Deveny

Speaking Out, Tara Moss

Vagabondage, Beth Spencer

From Victims to Suspects: Muslim Women Since 9/11Shakira Hussein

We Are All Going To Die, Leah Kaminsky

Suburban Nightmare: Australian True Crime Stories, Emily Webb

Quiet City: Walking in West Terrance Cemetery, Carol Lefevre

When Hope Speaks, Jessica Morris

Paved with Good Intentions: Terra Nullius, Aboriginal Land Rights and Settler Colonial Law, Hannah Robert


New work: Dark Magic anthology

darkmagicMy science fiction story The Wasteland will be one of many excellent works to appear in Dark Magic: Witches, Hackers and Robots. The anthology will be released today by Owl Hollow Press. You should grab a copy.

This story took a while to find a home for so I’m thrilled to see it in such a great home. Sometimes when a work is accepted there’s a feeling of everything just clicking into place. That this is the perfect, indeed the only, place for this particular story. This was one of those times.