Insignia Vol 3, and a story flashback…

Recently, (which when I check turns out to have been three years ago… the mind boggles at just how fast time passes) I had a story published in Insignia vol #1 Japanese Fantasy Stories.  Just over a fortnight ago, Kelly Matsuura released the third volume of Insignia stories: Southeast Asian Fantasy, and she’s posted excerpts of the stories on her blog. There are two in particular that have caught my interest: The Third Eye by Sheenah Freitas,  and Horse Feet by Celestine Trinidad. (If you click on the titles you’ll be taken to Kelly’s blog where you can read the excerpts for yourself.)

Insignia vol 3

With a steadily growing pile of library books, I haven’t had the chance to read this collection yet, but as usual in the Insignia Volumes there is a mix of literary and genre stories, and in this volume, a good mix of locations, such as Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam.

Keep reading for a snippet of my story ‘Kitsune’,  published under my maiden name in 2013, in Insignia Vol 1.

Akio carried the tiny mouse in his hands as he hurried home. It seemed to be dehydrated; listless and weak, it had barely moved when he approached to pick it up. A movement caught Akio’s eye and he glanced up in time to see a shadow disappear between two trees.

He called after it. “Help, please, do you have a little water?”

The shadow hesitated, and Akio took a step closer. “Please, this little creature has been injured. She needs water. My flask is empty and it is a distance to my home. Please.”

The shadow emerged from the trees, revealing a tall thin figure, dark hair and pale skin barely showing beneath the scarf wrapped around her face. She pulled out her flask and allowed a few drops to fall into Akio’s outstretched palm.

“Thank you,” Akio said. “I am Akio.”

“Chiaki.” The young woman pulled the scarf away from her face and peered down at the little mouse. It shivered as it drank from Akio’s hand, and she pulled a handkerchief from her pocket, folded it in two and placed it over the poor little creature.

“Do you often save the lives of small things?” Chiaki asked.

Akio laughed. “Only when the opportunity comes my way,” he said. “After all, if the larger creatures of the world cannot take care of the smaller, what use are we?” His thoughts turned to Sachiko, a lump forming in his throat as sorrow threatened to overwhelm him.

“Are you alright?” Chiaki noticed.

Akio began to nod his head then stopped.

“No,” he said. “I lost a dear friend yesterday.”

“I’m sorry to hear it,” Chiaki said. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Akio looked at Chiaki. He did want to talk about it. He wanted to talk of Sachiko’s laugh, of the smile that lit up her eyes, and the gentle kiss she’d placed on his cheek the day before she’d died. But how did you tell someone you’d fallen in love with a creature from a folktale?

To read more you’ll just have to purchase Insignia Vol# 1 – available at all the usual ebook outlets.

And if you write Fantasy stories set in any Asian country with main characters who are also Asian, check out Insignia’s submission page for future submission calls.


#AWW2016 Review – My Year Without Matches – Claire Dunn

So I’ve fallen in love with this book, and the adventure behind it.

My Year without Matches

It’s a memoir; Claire’s experiences living in the bush for 12 months in a wilderness survival program. With her tribe of 5 others (also taking part in the program) as well as organisers Kate and Sam, and a variety of other ‘elders’ – those who come to lead workshops and teach Claire and her tribe some of the finer details of living on the land: bird watching, basket weaving, pottery making, tanning hides – Claire  navigates not only the outer landscape of her new home, but also the inner landscapes of her emotions.

“Its not being alone that worries me, but the company I keep sometimes when I am alone: the characters who come out to play in the empty rooms of solitude, the shadow walkers within.” (p.160)

Following Claire’s tale fills me with the urge to head out to my own trees, my own wilderness. I’m lucky in a lot of ways – home, at the moment, is a four-acre block, about half of which is bush, and surrounded mostly by bush. The neighbours are not too far away, but not visible either. Unlike Claire who lived in Sydney prior to her escape into the wilderness, I have my own bush, literally at my backdoor, and I find myself wondering how I can duplicate her experiences, here.

But it’s not only her experiences I want to emulate, I’d love to be able to write as she does, too. Her descriptions are so crisp, so clear: “a wisp of campfire smoke, curling….”, “palest of pink dawn skies…”, “Amber spreads in an arc across the horizon as the first star appears”. Beautiful. I know this is a weakness in my own work – the lack of description, something to think about in the next polish of my manuscript.

There were so many things worth reading in Claire’s book, but I’ll leave you with two thoughts:

“Survival is violent. It demands blood and bark, burning the flesh of trees and animals alike. In the city it is hidden under packaging and buffered by distance…Here it is in my face: ugly, raw, and real. A letter arrived from a friend the other day. He asked me what I was giving back to the land. Perhaps it is this, the willingness to confront the violence that supports my life.” p. 140


“The fire gives off a large crack. Mark [a local Gumbaynggirr guide] stops, a serious look coming over his round face. “What you’re doing out here is important. We gotta keep the old ways alive, and it’s not just up to blackfellas anymore. We gotta get back to Mother Earth.”… In an ideal world, Mark would stay and hold our hands as we learn to walk the old ways. He would be our bridge, passing on the customs and gestures appropriate for this land… [Because] the world needs a new  dance more than ever. It needs people who feel so inextricably linked to the Earth that to damage or destroy it is akin to ransacking the family home.” (pp. 66-67)

In a way, this latter quote is what my novel is about – learning the ways of the land from those who knew it best. Fingers crossed I’ve managed to achieve that.





How to find the time to…


crop maze
Following one of my more delightful time-fillers as we explore the Crop Maze in Hagley, Tasmania 🙂


“How do you find the time to…?”

I’ve been asked this question quite a bit over the past few weeks – on Instagram in relation to my reading habits, and by a couple of different people at the recent Tamar Valley Writers Festival when discussing my writing.

I have three children; two I home-school (in grade 4 and 2 respectively). The youngest is an active toddler, at the stage of getting into anything and everything the moment my back is turned, and ever so full of mischief. We also have a large garden (mostly neglected, but still somehow providing us with an abundance of tomatoes and potatoes and apples), chickens, a sheep, a cat, a dog, and a goldfish (the animals are the children’s responsibility for the most part: feeding and collecting eggs are fairly easy chores, after all).

When I’ve been asked how I manage my reading/writing with such a menagerie, I tend to laugh it off, giving one of two ‘joke’ answers: that I neglect the children, or else bribe them with screen time. The latter is sometimes true – though screen time is usually a reward for completed school work and chores, so it fills two purposes (a reward for completed tasks, and giving me some free time for my own work). Other times I have a self-imposed deadline to meet and I need to finish something – so movies are a great way to entertain the kids for an hour or so. Even the toddler will sit quietly for the duration if Mary Poppins is playing – (well, except when she gets up to dance along with Mary and Bert and the chimney-sweeps). And I don’t only distract them with the screen. With around 4 acres of land – around half of which is bush – the older two have no problems entertaining themselves for hours at a time, and if I can align that with a toddler napping there’s plenty of time to make progress on whatever I’m working on.

But to answer in the above manner excludes two very important reasons why I can achieve so much reading/writing. The first is the most important of all – my husband. His support and encouragement has been a great motivator – along with his willingness to back up his words with actions by taking over the homeschooling/child care/housework on the days he doesn’t work while I hide away for the day to write/research/edit, and even whole weekends so I can attend writers festivals.

And the other important thing is making the most of what time time I have available. When I’m hanging about waiting for my kids outside dance or aikido, I’m reading, or editing, or working on my author platform, or jotting down story ideas. If I know I’ve only got a short space of time to myself, I make sure I use it in the best way possible (and yes, sometimes this means an afternoon nap if I need it).

But I think there is another factor at play here too, and I think it’s summed up best in a quote I found on my twitter feed the other day:

“Motivation comes from being committed to the path you are on.” Jeffrey Shaw

And there’s another quote that works here too:
If you really want to do something...



#AWW2016 Review – Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven

Heat and Light

I got to hear Ellen van Neerven speak about her book, as well as many other issues faced by Indigenous people today, at the Tamar Valley Writers Festival just a few weeks ago.

Though Ellen’s book, ‘Heat and Light’, is presented as a collection of short stories, she said many people see it as a novel. It’s comprised of three sections – the first two are longer stories following the same story – though the first section it is told by many different characters, while the second follows one character in particular – followed by a collection of shorter tales in the third section of the book.

While I enjoyed all of the stories (though I did get a little frustrated at an unfinished storyline in the last part of the book), it was the second part,  ‘Water’ that really struck a chord with me. Set sometime in the future, this story tells of Kaden, a young Aboriginal woman  who has been employed to liase with the ‘Sandplants’ or ‘Plantpeople’, a recently discovered species of plant that has many human characteristics, including human-like faces, and the ability to unroot themselves from the soil and walk around. Kaden’s job is to convince these plantpeople to give up the islands that are their homes, so that the land can be remade into a new home for Aboriginal people whose land was taken from them. Seen as plants, and therefore not human, the company that employs Kaden, along with many others, do not see the problem in removing these beings from their home.

But as Kaden gets to know the plantpeople in general, and one in particular, she sees that they are more than just plants, and ends up in a relationship with one.

At the festival, Ellen had a bit to say about this story. Many say it is fantasy, speculative, a myth. ‘Speculative’ is a word Eleen was happy with, for the story speculates a possible future, but as she points out, ‘myth’ is a convenient word when discussing Aboriginal stories. It is a word that suggests old, ancient stories. But the stories of the Aboriginal people are held in the land, they’re still there, they’ve always been there. And (I’m aware I’m generalising here, I hope I can be forgiven) the spirits of these stories are as real to the Aboriginal people who hold those stories as they’ve ever been.

I really cannot recommend this book enough, and I desperately hope Ellen is writing more along the lines of her ‘Water’ story. I’ll certainly be keeping my eye out for more of her work.