azhure: (me phoenix)

Peter M. Ball’s first published SF story appeared in Dreaming Again back in 2007, and since then his short fiction has appeared in publications such as Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine, Interfictions II, Eclipse Four, Shimmer, and Years Best SF 15. He’s the author of five novellas, the convenor of the biennial GenreCon writer’s conference, and spends far too much time tweeting about Conan and pro-wrestling. He lives in Brisbane, and can be found online and on twitter @petermball.

Your most recent work has been a series of three novellas, Exile, Frost and Crusade, collected as the Flotsam trilogy. Can you tell us something about these novellas, and the process of writing them and having them published?

Flotsam got its start when I was doing my honours degree on the Gold Coast and spending two years examining the connection between poetics and place. The Gold Coast is a damned weird place to live, particularly if you’re not interested in the beach, and it feels very temporary. People are constantly moving to and from the city – no-one ever seemed to be from the Gold Coast, originally – and the tourist strip is constantly rebuilding itself.

And yet, when you live there long-term, you discover all these small communities that exist beneath that. There was a surprisingly engaged arts community on the Gold Coast, setting up performance venues and exhibitions in the industrial states and old buildings. Very chaotic, very close-knit, and easily overlooked if you walked past the venues without knowing what was there.

The similarities between those communities and the kind of secret, supernatural communities that tend to exist in most urban fantasy novels wasn’t lost on me, and it occurred to me that the Gold Coast would be the ideal place to live if you were a vampire or a demon or a long-forgotten god looking for a place to hide out. This was in 2003 or so, long before I’d ever thought about writing speculative fiction, but I put down a couple of hundred words about Norse gods hiding out on the Coast in an effort to avoid Ragnarök and promptly did nothing with it.

Eight years later, I dug those notes out and rebuilt the idea into a serialised version of Flotsam that appeared at the Edge of Propinquity. And, literally the day the editor Jennifer Brozek said “yes, we’ like the pitch,” things started to go wrong: my dad had a heart attack; my work situation changed dramatically; my health was slowly deteriorating for reasons I wouldn’t understand until 2015. And so, the year that I thought I’d spend with a certain amount of writing time suddenly became quite constrained. I struggled with the deadlines, again and again, which frustrated me to no end. None of the stories were as well-connected as I’d wanted them to be, when I started the pitch, and I was haunted by the idea that I could have done better.

So, when Jennifer started Apocalypse Ink and asked if I’d be interested in redoing the series as a novella trilogy, I leapt at the chance to revisit the story and fix all the things that had bugged me the first time around. The result is a very different story, with a much stronger film-noir influence, but it’s much closer to the story I’d hoped to write the first time around.

You have written several novellas, as well as many pieces of short fiction. Do you prefer shorter formats over longer length works? Do you feel like the novella is a type of work that has become more popular in speculative fiction over the last few years, and do you have any thoughts on why that could be?

I’m not sure the novella was ever unpopular in speculative fiction – the history of speculative fiction is filled with brilliant novelettes, novellas, and short novels that are part of the common language of the genre. All that’s changed is where we’re seeing those works published, and that’s largely representative of the way publishing itself is changing. Ebooks and print on demand technology changes the business model, which means its slightly more viable to publish a novella as a stand-alone product rather than packaging it in collection or magazine. Suddenly we’re more conscious of that cool novella I just read, rather than that cool longer story in that book of stories I really enjoyed.

But I do love the novella and the novelette as a form, and have done before I ever knew the words to describe them. They walk a balancing act between the brevity of a short story and the narrative complexity of a novel, and that always appeals to me as both a reader and a writer. The novella also allows for the opportunity to take chances with style and content – I still remember the excitement of reading Dirk Flinthart’s crime novella, Brotherly Love, for the first time when I was eighteen, and it was a near-perfect book in terms of delivering an off-beat set of concepts in a short, sharp package.

What can we expect from you in the near future?

My next major project isn’t fiction based – at the moment I’m in the midst of planning for the next GenreCon, which will take place in late 2017. There are very few things I enjoy as much as writing, but convening the first three GenreCons and creating a space for writers to talk about the business and craft of what they do, is one of the most satisfying gigs I’ve ever had.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

I think I mentioned my fierce love of Anne Gracie’s regency novels in the last snapshot, and that hasn’t changed. Except now, when I go to an SF con, I spend a lot more time gathered together with the other Gracie fans in the corner of the bar, getting far nerdier about the romance genre than I ever was about SF. The Summer Bride has just come out, and I am ridiculously excited about this book.

Sticking with the romance theme, I’m also a huge fan of the first book in Kylie Scott’s Dive-Bar series, Dirty. I have learned I cannot start a Scott book after ten o’clock at night, because I will just keep reading until it’s six AM and the sun is coming up.

On the speculative fiction front, my I’ve been rapidly won over by Sean William’s Jump, Gary Kemble’s Bad Blood, and Kate Forsyth’s The Rebirth of Rapunzel.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

Oh, god, no-one. I am a terrible person to sit next to on long flights, and I wouldn’t wish that on any writer. Also, I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of the writers I really admire were quite abominable human beings to be around for any length of time. Can you imagine being stuck on a long-distance flight with a drunk Raymond Chandler, or an incredibly pithy Oscar Wilde just cutting loose on those around him?

That said, I’d quite like to have a long chat with Joe Lonsdale about his work, after working my way through his short story collections earlier this year. He seems to drift effortlessly between genres, has an incredible sense of precision in terms of his narrative voice, and there’s always something pleasingly off-beat about his work. And there are any number of writer-friends I don’t get to see all that often, who I’d leap at the chance to catch up with…



This interview is cross-posted to the 2016 Snapshot blog, along with all the other Snapshot interviews. 

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (me phoenix)
image1Amanda Pillar is an award-winning editor and author who lives in Victoria, Australia, with her husband and two cats, Saxon and Lilith.
Amanda has had numerous short stories published and has co-edited the fiction anthologies
Voices(2008), Grants Pass (2009), The Phantom Queen Awakes(2010), Scenes from the Second Storey (2010), Ishtar(2011) and Damnation and Dames (2012). Her first solo anthology was published by Ticonderoga Publications, titled Bloodstones (2012). The sequel, Bloodlines, was published in 2015.
Amanda’s first novel,
Graced, was published by Momentum in 2015. 
In her day job, she works as an archaeologist.
Your most recent work is Survivor, a novella in the same universe as your novel Graced. The main character of Survivor is a woman who has been traumatised and lives with a resultant physical disability. Can you tell us something about how you approached disability and trauma in this work?
When I started to work on the Graced universe, I wanted it to represent a wide range of people – different races, different backgrounds, image2and different levels of ableness. Billie (one of the main characters) came to me with her disability – a broken and badly healed hip caused by physical trauma.
I have friends and family who have been affected by various mobility issues, and drew on their experience (and my own) to ensure that Billie was well-rounded as a character. I wanted Billie to be Billie, and not a representation of disability.  I was also able to use some personal experience as to how it might feel to have a damaged hip, as I injured mine during a trek on the Inca Trail. I know the pain of stairs when you can barely lift your leg!
As well as being a writer, you’re an editor, and have edited several anthologies, including Bloodlines from Ticonderoga Press, which recently won the Aurealis Award for Best Collection. How do you approach editing anthologies, in terms of story selection and working with authors? Are there any tips you can give people who are thinking of working as editors as well as writers?
When I develop the idea for a collection, I have a vague idea of what I would like to see from authors. But authors often surprise me and send me stories I didn’t even consider fitting with the theme! (I love it when that happens.) But the main things I look for are:
– The story is well-written
– The story has a plot
– The story is on theme
– The story explores new ideas or new takes
Once I’ve worked out which stories work best with the theme, I then have to decide which of those work best together. An anthology is a book, and needs to feel cohesive. Some stories may be fantastic, but if they don’t work with the others, or duplicate certain ideas (e.g. If it’s a monster story and there’s two Godzillas, for example) then I have to pick which one works best in the whole.
For people who want to get into editing, the biggest advice I can give is: Don’t rewrite someone’s work how YOU would have written it. That isn’t editing. Editing is bringing out the best of the story in line with the author’s voice, tone and goal.
What work do you have planned for the future? Can we expect to see more in the Graced universe?
Yes! I plan to write more in the Graced series and I have a the sequel novel drafted! But I have also just started working on a new series, as well. A dark urban fantasy with romance elements 🙂
What Australian work have you loved recently?
Cleverman! I just started this series, but I’m loving it. I’m a sucker for superheroes, and I really enjoy seeing Aussie talent on TV!
Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?
Ohh, this isn’t easy. It would probably change on any given day. Today, I reckon Oscar Wilde. He’d be a blast to hang around with – he’d probably drink the minibar dry.
snaphotlogo2016This interview is cross-posted to the 2016 Snapshot blog, along with all the other Snapshot interviews. 

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (me phoenix)
Ian Mond podcasts a little too much these days.  If he’s not travelling vast distances for the latest episode of The Writer and the Critic with his co-host Kirstyn McDermott, or sitting in a granny flat and arguing with Dave Hoskin and Mitch about all things pop culture for an episode of Shooting the Poo, he’s pacing up and down his bedroom as he discusses the finer points of a new release novel with Jonathan Strahan, James Bradley and sometimes Gary K Wolfe (and even Nike Sulway) for an episode of the Coode Street Roundtable.  Other than that he posts stuff on Facebook and now, less frequently, on his blog The Hysterical Hamster.  

 Over the past year or so, you’ve been spending a lot of time reading through novels which have been shortlisted for awards and reviewing them. How has the experience of that been? Is there anything you’ve seen that the works tend to have in common? Have you come across works that you’ve been surprised to not see on awards shortlists?

Because my tastes are eclectic I have trouble deciding on the next thing to watch or read.  As a result I come up with these insane little projects that, by their nature, remove the need to choose.  Cue awards lists.  Why should I worry about what to read next when there’s so many genre awards out there willing to do all the work for me.  It’s a win / win proposition.  I avoid the anxiety of choosing while at the same time reading those novels purported to be the best genre and literary fiction over a given year.

And last year it was fun reading through more than 20 shortlists.  I can’t say I gained any great understanding of the type of book that was being nominated, there was no commonality that leapt up and slapped me in the face, but I was exposed to works and ideas I wouldn’t have bothered with in the past.  There’s no way I would have picked up Ali Smith’s How To Be Both or Rabih Alameddine’s, An Unnecessary Woman or Karen E Bender’s short story collection Refund if not for my slavish devotion to shortlists.  Note the literary bias.  If there’s one thing that became clear over 2015 it’s that my tastes have drifted away from core genre.  It’s not that I’ve jettisoned genre fiction, but a recognition that I’d rather read books nominated for a Shirley Jackson or Kitschie Award then a Hugo or a Nebula. 

This year, though, I made the decision to appreciably cut down the number of shortlists.  I realised that while it did reduce my anxiety levels to have other people choose books for me, I didn’t have time to read those handful of novels that I wanted to read.  So this year I’ve halved the number of shortlists and I’ll probably cull a few more next year.

I was surprised that that Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson didn’t feature on more lists.  I was certain it would get a Nebula nod.  And I was also surprised that Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings wasn’t nominated for a World Fantasy Award this year.  It’s a fantastic book and I’m eagerly looking forward to the sequel due out in a couple of months.

You and Kirstyn McDermott are the co-hosts of The Writer and the Critic podcast, which has also recently launched a Patreon campaign. How has the experience been of creating such a podcast? Do you have any advice for people who want to start their own podcasts or Patreon campaigns?

The experience of creating the podcast has been wonderful, mostly because Kirstyn does all the work.  She edits and produces the podcast, she writes the show notes and she also organised the Patreon campaign.  The biggest thing I have to do, other than read the books and sound vaguely coherent about them while we’re recording, is make the 135 kilometre trip from my house to hers.  It’s now been more than five years and 50 episodes and it’s been a total blast.

Given how little I do I feel a bit silly providing advice.  I’m not sure I’d be brave enough, like a Terry Frost, to podcast on my own.  So if you have zero technical knowledge but a burning need to tell the world  about… I don’t know… your love for all things Rutger Hauer, then find someone with the same Rutger loving passion and then get them to do all the work.

Kirstyn is going to kill me.  She’s also started leaving secret messages in the podcast because she knows I don’t listen to the episodes…

What can we expect from you in the future?

In terms of podcasting, Writer and the Critic will continue for the foreseeable future, which, for our Patreon fans, is probably a relief.

And after a medium-ish hiatus Shooting The Poo – the podcast I host with Dave Hoskin and Mitch – will be back with all new episodes.  We have at least three… or is it four… in the can. 

Finally, in a bid to force me to read books published this year Jonathan Strahan, James Bradley and I (with sometimes guest Gary K. Wolfe and Nike Sulway) started the Coode Street Roundtable in January.  We review one new release novel per episode.

Which Australian work have you loved recently?

A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay is astonishingly good.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

It has to be Stephen King.  I know, I know… boring and predictable, but before Stephen King all I really read was Doctor Who novelisations (Terrance Dicks would be second on my list of people to sit next to).  King didn’t just open me up to a world of horror and dark fantasy but also for a deep love of reading – no matter the genre.



This interview is cross-posted to the 2016 Snapshot blog, along with all the other Snapshot interviews. 

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (me phoenix)

Elizabeth Fitzgerald is a freelance editor and owner of Earl Grey Editing. She runs a book blog ( and is serving out her fourth term as the Secretary of the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild. An unabashed roleplayer and reader of romance, her weaknesses are books, loose-leaf tea and silly dogs. She tweets @elizabeth_fitz

In terms of the speculative fiction scene in Australia, you have your fingers in several pies – you’re a writer, you’ve edited anthologies, you offer an editing service, you work on collating links regularly of interest to writers, readers and publishers, and you are a reviewer. What was it that drew to you all of these different pursuits? Do you find that all of these different facets of your career work together harmoniously, or can it be difficult to, say, be both an editor and a writer?

I tend to view all these different activities as part of the same thing: my abiding love for books. For the most part, I find they work well together. Reviewing helps me as a writer to remain aware of current trends in publishing and offers great opportunities to network with authors and publishers. Likewise, my writer self would be collating links anyway by gathering resources on writing and looking out for publishing opportunities. Offering them to readers of my blog works on a selfish level by drawing in more traffic while also helping to support the community.

There are a couple of places where these facets work against each other to the detriment of my writing. The first is my inner editor and critic make it increasingly difficult to write. I take forever, overthink everything and rarely manage to finish anything. I recently had the opportunity to write some material for Wyrd Games’ role-playing game Through the Breach. It was pure world-building, a sort of creative non-fiction. I was surprised to find it easier than story writing. I think there were a few reasons for this: the deadline meant I had no time to overthink things; I was working within strict parameters which kept me focussed; and the format made me slightly less concerned with writing style.

The other problem with having all these difference facets is time. It’s a lot to juggle. Anything connected to other people or my professional persona gets priority, which generally puts writing last.

However, I love doing all of it and especially enjoy promoting Australian books to an international audience.

As someone who writes, works as an editor and reviews books, what are your opinions on authors who also review books? Would you like to see more authors reviewing books, or do you feel that it’s something that authors should stay away from?

I don’t see a problem with authors reviewing books, provided they approach the practice sensibly and sensitively. Yes, authors may come with biases—particularly in relation to friends and contacts in the industry or to aspects of storytelling. But reviewers and book bloggers have their own biases, for example favourite authors and tropes they hate.

The key thing about reviewing is that it works best through transparency. A good reviewer (no matter their background) will state these biases so that the reader can figure out how to interpret the review. This means explaining how I acquired the book and my connection to the author or publisher, where applicable. It also means stating where plot or character elements didn’t work for me; I might not enjoy love triangles, but other readers adore them.

I’ve not had any really negative experiences of reviewing books where I’ve known one or more of the contributors. However, I’m aware it can be a difficult line to walk. On one hand, I strongly believe I have an allegiance to the reader. On the other hand, I’m also aware that my reviews could potentially impact on my relationships with other people in the industry. I try to be as fair and as transparent as possible. I won’t shy away from being critical (though it sometimes makes me feel a bit guilty if I know the author). Having said that, I’m not a fan of scathing reviews, be they from other authors or reviewers. If I can’t find at least one good thing—however small—about a book, I won’t review it.

It can be tricky to balance, so I can understand why authors might shy away from reviewing.

Do you have any plans for upcoming projects?

Nothing concrete at the moment. This year I’m a judge for the Aurealis Awards. Juggling the reading schedule for that with my review schedule and freelance work is keeping me busy at the moment. I do have a couple of stories on the backburner that I’d like to finish off. I’d also love to edit another anthology at some point in the future. I feel I’ve learned a lot since I published Winds of Change.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

There are many! My favourite series at the moment is Juliet Marillier’s Blackthorn and Grim. It’s a historical fantasy about an imprisoned healer who is offered the chance to magically escape on the condition she spends a year accepting any request for help people ask of her. I love that the protagonist is an older woman and that her experiences have led her to be an outspoken opponent of injustice and violence against women. I also love the strong, yet platonic friendship between Blackthorn and Grim, her former prison mate. They are sensitive to each other’s traumas and do their best to protect each other. I can’t wait for the third book, Den of Wolves, to come out in November.

C.S. Pacat impressed me with the conclusion to her Captive Prince trilogy earlier this year. Being a m/m romance with BDSM elements, it’s breaking new ground for the big publishing houses. I thought it balanced the romance perfectly with a strong political fantasy plot, and it shows Pacat to be an intelligent and subtle writer. I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

I’ve also been enjoying Amanda Pillar’s urban fantasy series Graced, with the most recent novella being Survivor. Like Pacat, she does a good job of balancing fantasy adventure with romance. I particularly appreciate the thought she’s put into her world-building, mixing her fantasy with judicious servings of sci-fi. She’s also built up a great cast of characters I’m looking forward to hearing more about.

I regret to admit I’m a late-comer to the work of Jennifer Fallon. Her most recent novel, The Lyre Thief, was excellent, so I’ll definitely be going back to tackle her earlier novels. I appreciate an epic fantasy where the characters aren’t entirely likeable but that also steers clear of being grimdark.

 The presence of hope was also one of the things I loved about the anthology Defying Doomsday, edited by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench. It’s a book of post-apocalyptic stories featuring chronically ill or disabled protagonists. The anthology actively steered away from inevitably delivering these characters tragic endings. Instead, the character’s disability or illness ended up being a key component in their survival in many cases, even allowing them to be agents of positive change.

 Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

Diana Wynne Jones. Her Fire and Hemlock is one of my favourite books and she wrote such a wonderful range of material. All the accounts I’ve heard tell me she was a kind and generous person. I’d love the chance to chat about books, writing and folklore with her.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (me phoenix)


MartinLivingsPerth-based writer Martin Livings has had over eighty short stories in a variety of magazines and anthologies. His first novel, Carnies, was published by Hachette Livre in 2006, and was nominated for both the Aurealis and Ditmar awards, and has since been republished by Cohesion Press.






CarniesYour most recent project is a re-release of your novel, Carnies, first published by Lothian Books and now published by Cohesion Press. How has the experience been having a novel re-released? How have the two publication experiences differed? Is it something you would recommend to other authors, if they’re given the chance?This is a hard question to answer.  I think in my particular case, the main difference in how the experiences have differed has been in the medium; when Carnies was first (reluctantly) published by Hachette Livre, it was entirely physical, and I could find copies of it in bookstores, which was a huge buzz for a fledgling novellist.  This time around, with a much smaller but more enthusiastic publisher in Cohesion Press, the run is primarily electronic, with only a few Print on Demand copies floating around.  I don’t even have one myself, I gave my copies away!  But it was never really about the books on shelves; for me the biggest attraction in having Carnies re-released was the opportunity to do some re-writing, correct a few of the issues I had with the original manuscript. I’m so much happier with this version of the story, and look at the boxes of copies of the first release I still have with something approaching regret.  Maybe I can build a bookcase out of them…

You have had a lot of short stories published, garnering many awards nominations and wins, as well as having several of them collected in Living With the Dead. How does the process of writing a short story work for you? Do you have any advice for new writers seeking to break into publishing short stories?

I’m one of those writers that does everything wrong when it comes to writing short stories, so I’m really not much use to new writers except as a cautionary tale.  I don’t write every day, I don’t finish everything I start, I don’t submit everything I finish.  So any success I might have somehow found has happened despite my practices, not because of them.  It’s really not rocket science; I get an idea, sometimes I scribble some basic notes, then I think about it for anywhere from a day to five years or so.  I haphazardly write dozens of drafts of it in my head, getting a feel for its shape and structure, very hard things to express or verbalise.  Then, when it feels ready, I write it, usually in one or two intense sessions.  Most of the time, the work produced in these sessions is very much the work I submit, with not much in the way of serious rewriting.  I’m both deeply lazy and easily bored, so once I’ve written something, I don’t like to write it again.  I’ve done that.  I want to do something else.  Like I said, new writers, don’t follow this process, it leads to ruin and madness!

One thing I’ve definitely found useful lately is a writing group I started up called Perth Write Club.  This is the antithesis of most writing groups, which seem to be mainly folks sitting online talking about writing or, more often, trying to sell their latest works to each other.  We take the Elvis Presley approach; a little less conversation, a little more action.  We’re devoted to meeting every Saturday in two locations in the Perth metro area, to simply sit down for a few hours and write.  I think I’ve gotten more writing done in these sessions than I have in the years before it combined.  If anyone in Perth wants to come along, they can search for “Perth Write Club” on Facebook and request to join!

What work can we expect from you in the future?I just checked my own bibliography (sorry, a bit jet lagged!), and noticed that, for the first time in years, I have absolutely nothing in the pipeline. Everything is currently published.  That’s a scary thing!  I’m especially proud of my story “Boxing Day” in At The Edge from Paper Road Press, which has just come out, I think it’s one of my best stories.  And apart from that, I’m toiling away on my current books, a series of zombie spy thriller novels.

What Australian work have you loved recently?I’ve just finished reading Last Year When We Were Young by Andrew McKiernan, and although I’d read most of the stories in it before, it was an absolute joy to read them again, as well as a bunch of stuff I hadn’t previously read.  I can’t recommend it highly enough, especially to new writers who want to see how short stories are constructed, as Andrew is a master of that.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?Having just come back from Scandinavia, and enduring eight flights in all, I would have to say… Sophocles.  Because the level of decomposition would be virtually complete, allowing me to simply brush the last few remaining specks of organic matter off the chair and have it for myself to stretch my legs out.  Ooh, and I could eat his meal as well!

This interview is cross-posted to the 2016 Snapshot blog, along with all the other Snapshot interviews. 

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (me phoenix)


nhaynesNalini Haynes holds a Master of Social Science from the University of South Australia and an Associate Degree in Professional Writing and Editing from RMIT. Her work has been published in various places including the Arts Centre Melbourne (I think I can project 2014), the Wheeler Centre (‘Eye and Prejudice: a Vision for Equity’) and the ACT Writers Centre (blogger-in-residence program). Accolades include the Chronos Award for Best Fan Writer 2013, shortlisting for various awards, two invitations to join the Golden Key International Honours Society, the Dawn Slade-Faull Award 2008, selection for Adelaide Fringe Festival’s upstART program in 2008 and selection for Adelaide University’s ‘Place in the World’ exhibition in 2006.

Dark Matter Zine can be found at these links: WebsiteTumblrTwitterRedditPinterestGoogle Plus.



  1. You’ve been running the successful Dark Matter Zine, a massive website collecting reviews, interviews and all things speculative fiction., which features many regular contributors as well as yourself. What have you learned over the years of running the website? Is there any advice that you’d give to other people who are looking into starting writing reviews and the like?

First I’d like to point out that Dark Matter Zine is not just a spec fic website any more: reviews include everything from literature to nonfiction with speculative fiction as just one of the genres featured.

DMZ started as a PDF in October 2010 and launched as a website in April 2012. I’ve learnt a lot about the mechanics of software, writing, editing and publishing. During my years studying for my associate degree of Professional Writing and Editing from RMIT I focused on forms of writing and editing, for which I was awarded all distinctions and high distinctions as well as a second invitation to the Golden Key International Honours Society.

Advice for people starting reviewing… it could take a day to detail how to set up a website, so I won’t go into that here.

Focusing just on reviewing, I’d say read. A lot. Start writing reviews. Find good reviews — not necessarily reviews of good books, just well-written and well-thought out reviews — and read them. Read good books and bad ones and figure out what you like and dislike about them. Judge a book by what it sets out to achieve: if it’s a frivolous comedy, don’t criticise it for not taking an in-depth look at society. If it’s Cleverman, don’t say it needs to transcend its genre (I’m looking at you, Overland Journal). Trust yourself: if you’re going to check what other people think about a book, make sure you’ve written a draft review and developed your own opinions first or you’ll just echo everyone else.

Before you solicit review copies from anyone, start your website. Demonstrate your ability and your endurance. Gather an audience. Large publishers will ask you for your analytics (how many visits or views your website receives). They will ask you to demonstrate that you have an audience because if they gave books to everyone with their hand up for review copies they wouldn’t sell any.

Every reviewer and author needs an authentic voice. Who are you, what experience and training do you have that sets you apart from everyone else? I have a graduate diploma and a masters degree in social science as well as training and experience working with social issues including disability. This background gives me a unique voice. I have authority to speak on issues while understanding the limitations of my knowledge and experience. This is part of my unique authentic voice.

Someone else may be the Pauline Hanson of book reviewing. Don’t laugh, she’s ba-ack! (The minion says ‘Buy the domain name RedNeckReviews’.) If his or her voice is authentic, that person will gain a following. The Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies are a thing for a reason, folks. Be authentic and find your unique voice, no matter what it is.

On that note, be prepared for haters. I’ve had my share, including threats. The most terrifying threats are those from locals who may follow through. Be prepared. Have plans in place. Have a privacy policy in place that declares at least some of your plans. My privacy policy states that threats over the internet are illegal in Australia. Anyone who threatens me will be reported to the authorities. I have also named and shamed. You haven’t ‘made it’ until people have started abusing you online so have a plan.

Also have a friend or partner who will provide tissues, treats and hugs when the shit hits the fan. Remember: vilification means your website is being read. You need a plan to help you weather the storms.

Finally, beware of dual relationships. Don’t review your best friend’s story regardless of whether you loved it or hated it. Don’t review a book by someone with whom you’ve had conflict or your valid criticisms will be dismissed as spite; in other words, don’t cast your pearls before swine or they will turn and rend you.

Around the time I started Dark Matter, an author sued a reviewer. Apparently the reviewer had actually lied in her review and the author refused to settle out of court, preferring her day in court to provide public vindication. Always, always stick to the facts. If I post a negative review — a big ‘if’: if the book is bad I usually just discard it before I finish — if I post a negative review, it tends to be cautious, providing detailed justification for being negative. I’m not as cautious with reviews for average books because the Bell Curve is a thing.

In summary: have plans for every contingency; read lots; review lots; read well-written, thoughtful reviews; establish your review website before soliciting books for review; develop a unique authentic voice; plan for haters and even death threats; and avoid dual relationships.


  1. One of the issues you focus on is diversity, and specifically, the treatment of disability in culture (and speculative fiction). Do you feel like the speculative fiction community is improving in its attitudes to these issues? Are there things that you feel we still need to address?

The speculative fiction community’s representation of disability in stories is varied. Much of it is mediocre at best so those books that do it well are to be treasured. Those authors who write disability well are treasures in themselves; I’m particularly thinking of Francesca Haig, Kim Whitfield, Anita Bell and Jo Spurrier whose depictions of disability in SFF stand out from the crowd.

I won’t read books by authors who say of disability ‘I don’t need to do research, I use my imagination’. This is called ‘MISAPPROPRIATION’. Would you read a time travel book written by an author who had never consumed time travel stories? Probably not because you’d expect the story to be deeply flawed, reinventing mistakes of bygone eras. Well, it’s worse for disability: not only are you reinventing mistakes of bygone eras but, because there is so little good representation available, you’re reinforcing the status quo that is so scum-suckingly putrefyingly horrendous that people with disabilities are more likely than non-disabled people to commit suicide. Read this article about racial stereotypes on the Wheeler Centre website and mentally replace ‘racial stereotype’ with ‘minority group stereotype’ to include people with disabilities in this discussion. Don’t be the privileged person misappropriating disability culture or mocking the vulnerable.

In contrast, I applaud people like Francesca Haig who studied disability before representing disability. When I interviewed Francesca, she was cautious about representing disability as a person who is not disabled; she was tentative and respectful.

My own work in progress features a few protagonists including a Chinese American; my writing benefits from research and especially from input from a Chinese Australian and a Philippina Australian who shared features of their home-life that enriched my character’s multi-lingual world. Likewise I urge writers to represent disability after research and to consult with beta readers relevant to the represented minority group, just as you should if you write Indigenous Australians.

The speculative fiction community’s attitude to disability is as variable as its members.

Someone invited me to moderate a panel on disability in speculative fiction and gave limits: only discuss good representation of disability. Shortly afterwards a non-disabled woman harassed me on Facebook via private message telling me that I’m incapable of moderating a panel on disability because I’m disabled. Several times this woman told me (she did not ask) that she was going to run the panel but I kept saying ’no’ then I blocked her. When she realised I’d blocked her for harassment, she switched to email, sending a series of emails asking to at least be co-moderator because, according to her, only a person without a disability is capable of moderating a panel on disability. I have a Graduate Diploma and a Master of Social Science that both include study of social issues including disability; I participated in Reins, Rope and Red Tape, the disability arts advocacy training course by people with disabilities for people with disabilities run by Arts Access in South Australia before it was defunded; as a counsellor and ASO4 Community Health Worker, I have worked with people with disabilities; I have a lifetime’s experience of disability and disability discrimination; and I have published over one hundred podcasts of interviews and panels. Many people have commented that my interviewing skills are excellent. But, according to this non-disabled woman whom the spec fic community touts as an expert on disability, my disability precludes me from moderating a panel on disability. This is disability discrimination in action. This is an issue that needs addressing.

Earlier this year a writing group leader told me via email that disability issues in my short story made her feel uncomfortable and that disability issues do not belong in near-future speculative fiction but she could allow disability issues in far-future speculative fiction. She emailed me twicetelling me to write a memoir and find another writing group. The second time was after I acknowledged her first ‘suggestion’ and explained that writing a memoir, reliving all that soul-shattering discrimination, would destroy me. After her second instruction to find another writing group I requested a copy of the writing group’s constitution to check whether the group is intentionally ableist. The committee retaliated by revoking my partner’s and my memberships without a hearing, issuing a refund of membership fees and failing to respond to my protest sent in reply to their email. Groups within the speculative fiction community are working against the development and publication of stories featuring disabilities when written by people with disabilities; this is an issue that needs to be addressed.

Anthologies touted as focusing on disability need fact-checking and careful editing. For example, I read a short story about a woman with spina bifida, which was explained in the narrative as ‘missing spine’ (a gross simplification that implies lack of understanding). The character dragged herself around with her arms but could urinate without a catheter. [See my impersonation of a goldfish. Then see steam coming out of my ears while I think of all the people I know living with spina bifida and how this story could detrimentally impact them.] If you’re going to write or edit stories about disability, check your facts. Make sure the representation is medically accurate and representative of at least some people with that form of disability. Otherwise you’re misappropriating disability culture while, at the same time, perpetuating or worsening the lived experience for real people.

In recent years the speculative fiction community has increasingly discussed disability and become more aware of disability access issues, however, there is resistance to change and a tendency on the part of privileged people to applaud themselves prematurely. In part this is due to the current trickle of crip fic (see the previous paragraph) but also due to ableist assertions that ‘we have provided disability access’ in the face of complaints.

A few positives: PAXAustralia is the best expo or convention I’ve been to with regards to disability access. I <3 PAX although their program app has dire yet common issues with regards to disability access. (Does no one test these apps with iPad magnification turned on?!) Russell B Farr of Ticonderoga gave me an iPhone 3 so I could experience the joys of large text, enabling me to use SMS. I loved it so much I now have an iPhone 6 Plus. Tom Dullemond encouraged me to turn to Apple for increased disability access, giving me tips on how to set it up. Thanks in part to Tom, I’m sitting in front of a 32 inch Mac today. Back in the dawn of (DMZ) time, people were supportive although I still needed to get runs on the board. Meg Mundell was very understanding and helpful when she was the guinea pig for my first phone interview while I was taking notes without a recording device. Michael Pryor wrote The Extraordinaires, which I both love and criticise simultaneously because the albino is a kick-ass protagonist but glasses cannot fix albinism; using glasses to fix albinism is problematic because it reinforces public misconceptions. Pryor has never lashed out against my criticism and has since come on a Dark Matter Zine podcast as a panelist discussing diversity. Anita Bell has been very encouraging, leaving comments on Facebook or quietly messaging me when she sees discrimination and bullying getting me down. Small acts of kindness, equity and inclusion are like flecks of real gold in the golden shower of life.

The speculative fiction community is as varied in attitude as broader society. There is good, bad and ugly behaviour. Citing examples is to hold a mirror to behaviours, thereby lobbying for change. I use acts of kindness and exclusion to illustrate the spectrum of equity to ableism that is my lived experience when interacting with the speculative fiction community.


  1. What can we expect from you, and from Dark Matter Zine, in the future?

I’m writing a novel featuring a disabled protagonist whose BFF is half Chinese. Dark Matter is embracing more diversity in genre as well as more diversity in characters. I’m aiming at a fortnightly podcast featuring some really interesting authors. Lately I’ve interviewed Will Kostakis, Wendy Orr, Zana Fraillon and Rajith Savanadasa. I’ve been getting two-for-one out of these interviews by distilling the essence of their comments on equity and representation for a series published via the ACT Writers Centre blogger-in-residence program. These posts can be found here as they come online.


  1. What Australian work have you loved recently?

Lately I’ve loved The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon (OMG everyone should read this novel about an Australian girl and a refugee boy, it’s the new Boy in Striped Pyjamas with a more hopeful ending), Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr (a strong female protagonist aged 12), Sidekicks by Will Kostakis (a teenager dies then his diverse friends have to come to terms with his death and their lives), Ruins by Rajith Savanadasa (set in 2009 in Sri Lanka as the civil war officially comes to an end)… the list could go on.


  1. Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

Margaret Atwood. If you have to ask why, you haven’t read enough of her work.



This interview is cross-posted to the 2016 Snapshot blog, along with all the other Snapshot interviews. 

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (me phoenix)


Defying Doomsday, containing my story, To Take Into the Air My Quiet Breath, is now officially released.  You can nab yourself a copy over at Twelfth Planet Press, and other book retailers, in ebook or paperback versions right now.  I’ve read through the anthology, and though I’m obviously biased, I can highly recommend grabbing a copy.

I’d also like to link to a very nice article about the anthology, originally published in the West Australian, in which Tsana Dolvicha and I talk about the anthology and I get cranky about inspiration porn.  You can read the article here.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (me phoenix)


The cover for Defying Doomsday has been revealed, and isn’t it gorgeous?  This gorgeous artwork comes from Tania Walker.

You can also now pre-order the anthology from Twelfth Planet Press, and add it over at Goodreads.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (me phoenix)

The 2015 Aurealis Awards shortlists have been announced!  I convened the Best Science Fiction Novel panel this year, and I’m also a nominee!

The two stories I had published last year are both shortlisted for the Best Fantasy Novella award (do I have to duke it out with myself now?) and the anthologies they were in, Bloodlines and Hear Me Roar are both shortlisted for the Best Anthology.  Also up for Best Anthology is Ticonderoga’s Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2014, which reprinted my story, Escapement.

Huge thanks to all of the judges and the committee, and congratulations to all of the nominees.  Thanks also to the editors who published my work!

I’m particularly excited by the list for the first Sara DouglassBook Series Award and in serious awe of the amount of reading that panel had to do!

The full list, taken from the Aurealis Awards website:


A Week Without Tuesday, Angelica Banks (Allen & Unwin)

The Cut-Out, Jack Heath (Allen & Unwin)

A Single Stone, Meg McKinlay (Walker Books Australia)

Bella and the Wandering House, Meg McKinlay (Fremantle Press)

The Mapmaker Chronicles: Prisoner of the Black Hawk, A.L. Tait (Hachette Australia)


The Undertaker Morton Stone Vol.1, Gary Chaloner, Ben Templesmith, and Ashley Wood (Gestalt)

The Diemenois, Jamie Clennett (Hunter Publishers)

Unmasked Vol.1: Going Straight is No Way to Die, Christian Read (Gestalt)

The Singing Bones, Shaun Tan (Allen & Unwin)

Fly the Colour Fantastica, various authors (Veriko Operative)


“In Sheep’s Clothing”, Kimberly Gaal (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #61)

“The Nexus Tree”, Kimberly Gaal (The Never Never Land, CSFG)

“The Miseducation of Mara Lys”, Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press)

“The Heart of the Labyrinth”, DK Mok (In Memory: A Tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett, Sorin Suciu)

“Blueblood”, Faith Mudge (Hear Me Roar, Ticonderoga Publications)

Welcome to Orphancorp, Marlee Jane Ward (Seizure)


“Bullets”, Joanne Anderton (In Sunshine Bright and Darkness Deep, AHWA)

“Consorting with Filth”, Lisa L Hannett (Blurring the Line, Cohesion Press)

“Heirloom Pieces”, Lisa L Hannett (Apex Magazine, Apex Publications)

“The Briskwater Mare”, Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press)

“Breaking Windows”, Tracie McBride (Aurealis #84)

“Self, Contained”, Kirstyn McDermott (The Dark, TDM Press)


“Night Shift”, Dirk Flinthart (Striking Fire, FableCroft Publishing)

“The Cherry Crow Children of Haverny Wood”, Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press)

“The Miseducation of Mara Lys”, Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press)

“Wages of Honey”, Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press)

“Sleepless”, Jay Kristoff (Slasher Girls and Monster Boys, Penguin)

“Ripper”, Angela Slatter (Horrorology, Jo Fletcher Books)


“The Giant’s Lady”, Rowena Cory Daniells (Legends 2, Newcon Press)

“The Jellyfish Collector”, Michelle Goldsmith (Review of Australian Fiction Vol. 13 Issue 6)

“A Shot of Salt Water”, Lisa L Hannett (The Dark, TDM Press)

“Almost Days”, DK Mok (Insert Title Here, FableCroft Publishing)

“Blueblood”, Faith Mudge (Hear Me Roar, Ticonderoga Publications)

“Husk and Sheaf”, Suzanne Willis (SQ Mag 22, IFWG Publishing Australia)


“Lodloc and The Bear”, Steve Cameron (Dimension6, coeur de lion)

“Defy the Grey Kings”, Jason Fischer (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Firkin Press)

“Broken Glass”, Stephanie Gunn (Hear Me Roar, Ticonderoga Publications)

“The Flowers that Bloom Where Blood Touches the Earth”, Stephanie Gunn (Bloodlines, Ticonderoga Publications)

“Haunting Matilda”, Dmetri Kakmi (Cthulhu: Deep Down Under, Horror Australis)

“Of Sorrow and Such”, Angela Slatter (


“2B”, Joanne Anderton (Insert Title Here, Fablecroft)

“The Marriage of the Corn King”, Claire McKenna (Cosmos)

“Alchemy and Ice”, Charlotte Nash (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #61)

“Witnessing”, Kaaron Warren (The Canary Press Story Magazine #6)

“All the Wrong Places”, Sean Williams (Meeting Infinity, Solaris)


“Blood and Ink”, Jack Bridges, Prizm Books

“The Molenstraat Music Festival”, Sean Monaghan (Asimov’s Science Fiction)

“By Frogsled and Lizardback to Outcast Venusian Lepers”, Garth Nix (Old Venus, Random House)


The Abandonment of Grace and Everything Thereafter, Shane Jiraiya Cummings (Brimstone Press)

Striking Fire, Dirk Flinthart (FableCroft Publishing)

Cherry Crow Children, Deborah Kalin (Twelfth Planet Press)

To Hold the Bridge, Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin)

The Fading, Carole Nomarhas (self-published)

The Finest Ass in the Universe, Anna Tambour (Ticonderoga Publications)


Hear Me Roar, Liz Grzyb (ed.) (Ticonderoga Publications)

The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2014, Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (eds.) (Ticonderoga Publications)

Bloodlines, Amanda Pillar (ed.) (Ticonderoga Publications)

Meeting Infinity, Jonathan Strahan (ed.), (Solaris)

The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 9, Jonathan Strahan (ed.) (Solaris)

Focus 2014: highlights of Australian short fiction, Tehani Wessely (ed.) (FableCroft Publishing)


In The Skin of a Monster, Kathryn Barker (Allen & Unwin)

Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club, Alison Goodman (HarperCollins)

The Fire Sermon, Francesca Haig (HarperVoyager)

Day Boy,Trent Jamieson (Text Publishing)

Illuminae, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Allen & Unwin)

The Hush, Skye Melki-Wagner (Penguin Random House Australia)


No Shortlist Released


In The Skin of a Monster, Kathryn Barker (Allen & Unwin)

Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club, Alison Goodman (HarperCollins)

Day Boy,Trent Jamieson (Text Publishing)

The Dagger’s Path, Glenda Larke (Hachette Australia)

Tower Of Thorns, Juliet Marillier (Pan Macmillan Australia)

Skin, Ilka Tampke (Text Publishing)


Crossed, Evelyn Blackwell (self-published)

Clade, James Bradley (Penguin)

Illuminae, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Allen & Unwin)

Their Fractured Light, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)

Renegade, Joel Shepherd (Kindle Direct)

Twinmaker: Fall, Sean Williams (Allen & Unwin)


The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin [The King’s Bastard (2010), The Uncrowned King(2010), The Usurper (2010), The King’s Man (2012), King Breaker (2013)], Rowena Cory Daniells (Solaris Press)

The Watergivers [The Last Stormlord (2009), Stormlord Rising (2010), Stormlord’s Exile(2011)], Glenda Larke (HarperVoyager)

The Lumatere Chronicles [Finnikin of the Rock (2008), Froi of the Exiles (2011), Quintana of Charyn (2012)], Melina Marchetta (Penguin Random House)

Sevenwaters [Daughter of the Forest (2000), Son of the Shadows (2001), Child of the Prophecy(2002), Heir to Sevenwaters (2009), Seer of Sevenwaters (2011), Flame of Sevenwaters (2013)], Juliet Marillier (Pan Macmillan Australia)

The Laws of Magic [Blaze Of Glory (2007), Heart Of Gold (2007), Word Of Honour (2008),  Time Of Trial (2009), Moment Of Truth (2010), Hour Of Need (2011)], Michael Pryor (Random House Australia)

Creature Court [Power and Majesty (2010), Shattered City (2011), Reign of Beasts (2012)], Tansy Rayner Roberts (HarperVoyager)

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (me phoenix)

I am very happy indeed to be able to announce that my story, To Take Into the Air My Quiet Breath, will be appearing in the Twelfth Planet Press anthology, Defying Doomsday.  I contributed to the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for this anthology, and really don’t have the words for how excited I am to be able to be a part of it!

The rest of the TOC announcement, copied from here:

After much submission wrangling and shuffling, we are finally ready to announce the table of contents for Defying Doomsday!

(One quick disclaimer: it’s possible that the exact order of stories might change a little bit between now and publication time, but we’re pretty sure it will look something like this.)

So without further ado, the table of contents for Defying Doomsday!


Table of Contents

And the Rest of Us Wait by Corinne Duyvis

To Take Into the Air My Quiet Breath by Stephanie Gunn

Something in the Rain by Seanan McGuire

Did We Break the End of the World? by Tansy Rayner Roberts

In the Sky with Diamonds by Elinor Caiman Sands

Two Somebodies Go Hunting by Rivqa Rafael

Given Sufficient Desperation by Bogi Takács

Selected Afterimages of the Fading by John Chu

Five Thousand Squares by Maree Kimberley

Portobello Blind by Octavia Cade

Tea Party by Lauren E Mitchell

Giant by Thoraiya Dyer

Spider-Silk, Strong as Steel by Samantha Rich

No Shit by K Evangelista

I Will Remember You by Janet Edwards


Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (me phoenix)

Nominations for both the Ditmar and Tin Duck Awards are currently open.

I have two stories eligible this year:

  • “Broken Glass”, Stephanie Gunn, in Hear Me Roar, Ticonderoga Publications.
  • “The Flowers That Bloom Where Blood Touches Earth”, Stephanie Gunn, in Bloodlines, Ticonderoga Publications.

For the Ditmars, these are in the novella/novelette category, and in the Tin Ducks, they would be in the best WA professional short written work.

I’m also eligible for best fan writing awards for my reviews, should you have found them useful over the past year.

You can nominate for the Ditmars here (and a full list of eligible works is here)

Information on nominating for the Tin Ducks is here.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (me phoenix)

2015 has, overall, been a very successful year for me.

Healthwise, for the first time in a long time, things seem to be improving.  New medication is making a huge difference, and while I’m still not able to work a “normal” full time job, I am generally doing better than I have been for the last handful of years.  It’s kind of awesome, and I am frantically knocking on wood, lest it end.

I’ve got to watch my son keep on growing into an amazing individual.  He finished his first full year of school, and has done incredibly well with it all.  There have been some hiccups along the way, but such is life.  Sometimes I find myself just watching him do things and just be utterly floored by the fact that he exists.  Parenthood (or more precisely, parenting a baby and toddler) has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, and I am so grateful that I’ve had the chance to do it.

Writing wise, it’s been a slower year in terms of getting things finished than I’d like, but there’s been forward motion.  A few years ago, I sat down and wrote out a list of achievements that I would like to make in my writing career.  This year, I achieved three of them.  The last one I can’t talk about yet (but hopefully soon, for I am incredibly excited about this project).  The others?  I had a story, Escapement, nominated for both a Tin Duck and a Ditmar (my first non-fan writing nominations) and had the same story reprinted in a Year’s Best anthology).  I am so thankful to the good folks at Ticonderoga Publications and editor extraordinaire for publishing my weird steampunk dystopia story.

I do feel like I’ve levelled up a bit as a writer, and I am really happy with the works I’ve had published this year – Broken Glass in Hear Me Roar and The Flowers That Bloom Where Blood Touches Earth in Bloodlines, both from Ticonderoga.  Huge thanks as always to my brilliant critique partner, Pia van Ravestein, without whom none of my stories would be what they are.

In terms of reviews, I’m less than happy.  I did manage to finish my Australian Women Writers Challenge pledge, but I have fallen way behind on my Netgalley reviews.  Next year, I really want to tackle them and try to increase my review percentage.

Overall, though, a fairly good year.  Only a few more days, and then we’re onto 2016.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.


Dec. 17th, 2015 11:55 am
azhure: (me phoenix)

From now on, I’m not going to be posting reviews here to my website, but have set up a secondary website for them: The Forest of Books.  Feel free to follow me over there if you want to keep up with my reviews.

I’m planning on going back and copying all of my past reviews over to that website as well as time allows.  All of my reviews will still be crossposted to Goodreads, and I’m going to try to remember to post over at Amazon as well.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (me phoenix)


The Grimm Brothers published a beautiful version of the Beauty & the Beast tale called ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’ in 1819. It combines the well-known story of a daughter who marries a beast in order to save her father with another key fairy tale motif, the search for the lost bridegroom. In ‘The Singing, Springing Lark,’ the daughter grows to love her beast but unwittingly betrays him and he is turned into a dove. She follows the trail of blood and white feathers he leaves behind him for seven years, and, when she loses the trail, seeks help from the sun, the moon, and the four winds. Eventually she battles an evil enchantress and saves her husband, breaking the enchantment and turning him back into a man.

Kate Forsyth retells this German fairy tale as an historical novel set in Germany during the Nazi regime. A young woman marries a Nazi officer in order to save her father, but hates and fears her new husband. Gradually she comes to realise that he is a good man at heart, and part of an underground resistance movement in Berlin called the Red Orchestra. However, her realisation comes too late. She has unwittingly betrayed him, and must find some way to rescue him and smuggle him out of the country before he is killed.

The Red Orchestra was a real-life organisation in Berlin, made up of artists, writers, diplomats and journalists, who passed on intelligence to the American embassy, distributed leaflets encouraging opposition to Hitler, and helped people in danger from the Nazis to escape the country. They were betrayed in 1942, and many of their number were executed.

The Beast’s Garden is a compelling and beautiful love story, filled with drama and intrigue and heartbreak, taking place between 1938 and 1943, in Berlin, Germany.


This review is presented as part of my contribution to the Australian Women Writers Challenge.

An eARC of this book was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’m a longtime fan of Kate Forsyth (I vividly remember stalking the bookstore shelves waiting for each Witches of Eileanan book to be released), and particularly loved her last two books, The Wild Girl and Bitter Greens, and was thus extremely happy to be asked to read and review The Beast’s Garden.

I will admit up front, I went into this book with a small sense of trepidation.  I had very high hopes, based on how good The Wild Girl and Bitter Greens were, but I did wonder about the premise of The Beast’s Garden– namely, combining a version of the fairytale Beauty and the Beast (specifically, The Singing, Springing Lark) and Nazi Germany during World War II.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t sure that Forsyth could pull off such a story, I wondered if anyone could pull it off.

And now that I’ve read the book, the question: did Forsyth manage to pull it off?  The answer is a resounding hell yes.

It should be noted that this book isn’t going to be for every reader.  There are scenes set in a concentration camp, and while Forsyth doesn’t linger overlong on any of the atrocities, neither does she shield the reader from the true horrors of of WWII and the Holocaust.  If any of this is a trigger for you, this isn’t going to be the book for you.  But please, if you haven’t done so, go and read all of Forsyth’s other books.  They’re more than worth it.

In the role of “Beauty” we have Ava, a German girl who is training as a singer.  In looks, Ava takes after her dead Spanish mother, while her two sisters are blue-eyed and blonde-haired, fitting the Aryan ideal.  Ava and her family are not safe beneath Nazi rule.  Ava’s own darker colouring puts her at potential risk of being declaimed as having Romani blood, and one of her sisters has a daughter who is possibly learning disabled.  More, Ava’s family are close to a Jewish family, the Feidlers.  After Ava’s mother died, Ava was practically raised by Mrs Feidler, and regards Rudi Feidler (an out gay man) as a brother.  Ava and Rudi are both musicians, and both attend illicit jazz clubs together.  To protect all of her blood and found family, Ava marries a Nazi officer, Leo von Lowenstein.

Leo, naturally is the “Beast” of the tale, and it is the romance between Leo and Ava which drives much of the novel.  At first, Ava fears Leo, only knowing him as a Nazi officer.  As she gets to know him, and see beneath the public mask he wears, she discovers that he is a lot more than he first appeared.  Like her, he is fighting against Hitler’s rule, and is part of an underground resistance movement.

The story follows Leo and Ava as they both navigate Nazi Germany and the various plots to disrupt Nazi rule and attempt to assassinate Hitler.  We also get to follow Rudi after he is arrested for “subversive activities” and deported to the concentration camp, Buchenwald.  Yet another story thread is shown via Rudi’s sister Jutta, who evades arrest and lives in hiding from the Nazis.

On the surface, it is hard to see much hope in any story set in WWII Germany.  Forsyth doesn’t shy from any of the horrors: we get to see the Jewish people suffering both in the camps and in hiding, as well as the German people starving as their country begins to bend and break beneath the weight of Nazi rule and the war.  But in the darkness, there is light.  Even while deathly afraid, Ava finds ways to fight.  And in Buchenwald, Rudi plays illicit music, saves others where he can (and is saved in turn) and even finds love.

Forsyth skilfully weaves in many historical figures and events into the narrative, giving a real weight to a book that, in less talented hands, could easily have become little more than a fluffy romance between the Brave German Girl and Nazi With a Heart of Gold, or something extremely problematic.  If you’re worried about either of these issues, let me put your worries to rest right here.

With The Beast’s Garden, Forsyth cements herself as one of the most talented authors writing historical fiction (with a good dash of fairytale retelling) in Australia today.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (me phoenix)

April books

This has been an odd month.  I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished much of anything – school holidays ate two weeks of the month, for one thing, and my health has been a bit wobblier than usual, meaning that the fatigue has been extra bad.  I’m glad that I’ve started writing this series of posts, since it’ll let me look objectively at what I’ve done.

And yes, there is a shiny stack of books (though I honestly thought I hadn’t bought many until I came to take the photo).  I’m especially chuffed with Rupetta, since I managed to chase down a second-hand copy of the lovely signed limited hardback.


  • This is where I feel like I haven’t accomplished much, mostly because I’ve been bashing my head against the same damn short story all month.  I am not a fast writer of short stories – it takes me a few drafts to figure out what the hell the story is about usually, and this one in particular is being quite evasive.  I’m having to write to a strict word count, too, which is a learning process in and of itself.  No idea if I’m going to have something that’ll sell at the end of it, but we’ll see.



  • I started listening to a brand new podcast – The Worried Writer, link via Stephanie Burgis (who is also interviewed on the second episode – I really, really enjoyed this interview and can recommend listening to it because Stephanie is gorgeous).  Really liking the podcast so far.
  • Swancon happened!  I happily sat on a short story writing panel (seriously, give me a place where I can spruik awesome publishers and writers and I am Happy) and bought some books and only caught up with a few of the people I’d wanted to, but that’s okay.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (me phoenix)

City overlooking desolate desert landscape with cracked earth

Apocalypse fiction rarely includes characters with disability, chronic illness and other impairments. When these characters do appear, they usually die early on, or are secondary characters undeveloped into anything more than a burden to the protagonist. Defying Doomsday will be an anthology showing that disabled characters have far more interesting stories to tell in post-apocalyptic/dystopian fiction.

Defying Doomsday will be edited by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench, and published by Twelfth Planet Press in mid 2016. Defying Doomsday is currently crowdfunding via Pozible. To support the project visit:


The Myths of Disability in Life and Fiction

by Holly Kench

There’s nothing black and white about disability. I don’t think it’s the sort of topic that many people would assume is black and white, and, yet, that’s definitely how it tends to be treated by a lot of society and mainstream culture.

It’s sometimes hard to see beyond our limited expectations, though, when all we are offered are clichés, stereotypes, and cardboard characters. There are so many damaging myths surrounding disability, as much in real life attitudes as in fiction, and both perpetuate each other.

What myths am I talking about? Gosh there are lots. From the broadly offensive myths that all disabled people are helpless, in need of pity, or objects of inspiration, to impairment specific misconceptions like all people in wheelchairs have no use of their legs or all deaf people are fluent in sign language.

When we accept these myths, it’s as though we are accepting ‘rules’ for how people experience disability. And by accepting these rules, we are doing a lot of things: We’re suggesting a scale of disability (suggesting that some people are more or less disabled than others), or even suggesting that, if someone doesn’t fit our black and white view of disability, then they aren’t disabled at all. We’re suggesting that we know better about how other people live their lives than they do. We’re doing a whole lot more too, but most of all, we’re suggesting disabled people have no experiences to offer other than the two dimensional characterisations we’ve assigned them, in life and in fiction.

The awesome thing about sharing narratives in fiction is that we can help break this myth cycle. We can write characters who have complete experiences, experiences which include the realities of being disabled, and experiences which show being disabled is just one aspect of any character’s narrative.

There are two ways we can include narratives of disabled characters in fiction: 1. We can use cardboard cut-outs that perpetuate the myths I’ve described above, or 2. We can look at the experiences of disabled characters like we should any other characters, and realise there are shades of grey to all experiences, and our characters are more than just one character trait.

Tsana Dolichva and I are editing an upcoming anthology exploring narratives of disabled characters in apocalypse fiction. Most importantly, it will be an anthology of stories that break myths and bust stereotypes, with disabled characters who are more than just a one-dimensional view of disability. Defying Doomsday will be an anthology of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stories, featuring disabled, chronically ill, mentally ill and/or neurodiverse protagonists. We are currently holding a crowdfunding campaign through Pozible to fund the anthology. To support the campaign or to preorder a copy of Defying Doomsday, visit:

Your support is greatly appreciated! You can find out more about Defying Doomsday at our website or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.



Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (me phoenix)

The Ditmar ballot for 2015 has been announced.  You can see the ballot here, and if you’re eligible to vote for the awards, you can do so here.

I’m kind of stunned that my weird steampunk dystopia Escapement has made it to the novella/novelette ballot.  I doubt I have a hope in hell of winning, given who I’m up against, but I am chuffed to be nominated.  And I also snuck in on the Best Fan Publication as part of Snapshot.

Best Novel

  • The Lascar’s Dagger, Glenda Larke (Hachette)
  • Bound (Alex Caine 1), Alan Baxter (Voyager)
  • Clariel, Garth Nix (HarperCollins)
  • Thief’s Magic (Millennium’s Rule 1), Trudi Canavan (Hachette Australia)
  • The Godless (Children 1), Ben Peek (Tor UK)
  • No Award

Best Novella or Novelette

  • “The Ghost of Hephaestus”, Charlotte Nash, in Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
  • “The Legend Trap”, Sean Williams, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “The Darkness in Clara”, Alan Baxter, in SQ Mag 14 (IFWG Publishing Australia)
  • “St Dymphna’s School for Poison Girls”, Angela Slatter, in Review of Australian Fiction, Volume 9, Issue 3 (Review of Australian Fiction)
  • “The Female Factory”, Lisa L. Hannett and Angela Slatter, in The Female Factory (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “Escapement”, Stephanie Gunn, in Kisses by Clockwork (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • No Award

Best Short Story

  • “Bahamut”, Thoraiya Dyer, in Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
  • “Vanilla”, Dirk Flinthart, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “Cookie Cutter Superhero”, Tansy Rayner Roberts, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “The Seventh Relic”, Cat Sparks, in Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
  • “Signature”, Faith Mudge, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • No Award

Best Collected Work

  • Kaleidoscope, edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2013, edited by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • Phantazein, edited by Tehani Wessely (FableCroft Publishing)
  • No Award

Best Artwork

  • Illustrations, Kathleen Jennings, in Black-Winged Angels (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • Cover art, Kathleen Jennings, of Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
  • Illustrations, Kathleen Jennings, in The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings (Tartarus Press)
  • No Award

Best Fan Writer

  • Tansy Rayner Roberts, for body of work
  • Tsana Dolichva, for body of work
  • Bruce Gillespie, for body of work
  • Katharine Stubbs, for body of work
  • Alexandra Pierce for body of work
  • Grant Watson, for body of work
  • Sean Wright, for body of work
  • No Award

Best Fan Artist

  • Nalini Haynes, for body of work, including “Interstellar Park Ranger Bond, Jaime Bond”, “Gabba and Slave Lay-off: Star Wars explains Australian politics”, “The Driver”, and “Unmasked” in Dark Matter Zine
  • Kathleen Jennings, for body of work, including Fakecon art and Illustration Friday series
  • Nick Stathopoulos, for movie poster of It Grows!
  • No Award

Best Fan Publication in Any Medium

  • Snapshot 2014, Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely, and Sean Wright
  • It Grows!, Nick Stathopoulos
  • Galactic Suburbia, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Andrew Finch
  • The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond
  • Galactic Chat, Sean Wright, Helen Stubbs, David McDonald, Alexandra Pierce, Sarah Parker, and Mark Webb
  • No Award

Best New Talent

  • Helen Stubbs
  • Shauna O’Meara
  • Michelle Goldsmith
  • No Award

William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review

  • Reviews in The Angriest, Grant Watson
  • The Eddings Reread series, Tehani Wessely, Jo Anderton, and Alexandra Pierce, in A Conversational Life
  • Reviews in Adventures of a Bookonaut, Sean Wright
  • “Does Sex Make Science Fiction Soft?”, in Uncanny Magazine 1, Tansy Rayner Roberts
  • Reviews in FictionMachine, Grant Watson
  • The Reviewing New Who series, David McDonald, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Tehani Wessely
  • No Award

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (me phoenix)


FLEX: Distilled magic in crystal form. The most dangerous drug in the world. Snort it, and you can create incredible coincidences to live the life of your dreams.

FLUX: The backlash from snorting Flex. The universe hates magic and tries to rebalance the odds; maybe you survive the horrendous accidents the Flex inflicts, maybe you don’t.

PAUL TSABO: The obsessed bureaucromancer who’s turned paperwork into a magical Beast that can rewrite rental agreements, conjure rented cars from nowhere, track down anyone who’s ever filled out a form.

But when all of his formulaic magic can’t save his burned daughter, Paul must enter the dangerous world of Flex dealers to heal her. Except he’s never done this before – and the punishment for brewing Flex is army conscription and a total brain-wipe.


NOTE: This book was received as an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.


I’ve been a longtime reader of Ferrett Steinmetz online, and his short stories remain some of the works that have resonated with me the strongest (seriously, if you haven’t read Shoebox Heaven, you should.  Bring tissues.).  I was therefore extremely happy when Steinmetz announced the sale of Flex to Angry Robot, and happier still when I managed to snag an eARC.

This is the world Steinmetz gives us in Flex:  people who become obsessed with things become ‘mancers, their obsessions strong enough to become magic that can bend the rules of physics.  ‘Mancy comes with a price – every “flex” of reality creates “flux” as reality bends back.  ‘Mancers in Europe have created enough Flux that they have literally broken reality; as a result, ‘mancers are seen as something that needs to be kept controlled.

This magic can also be distilled into a physical drug, known as Flex.  Snort Flex, and luck will bend to your will.  If a bullet is fired point blank at your head, the universe will find some way – even the one in a billion happenstance – that will make you not die.

Paul Tsabo is an ex-cop who lost his foot to the last ‘mancer he hunted.  Paul Tsabo also loves order, is obsessed with the idea of finding the “Unified Universal Form” that will make bureaucracy simple.  Paul Tsabo’s obsession is so great that it has made him a ‘mancer, a discovery that will change everything about his life, and about the life of his daughter, Aaliyah.

This world is amazing – just the idea that an obsession can bend reality enough to create magic is a brilliant one.  We see all kinds of ‘mancies in this book – gamemancy, Paul’s bureaucromancy, musclemancy.  The idea on its own brings something fresh to urban fantasy, and was enough on its own to draw me into the book.

Paul himself is also an interesting character.  His relationship with his daughter is finely written, and I never wavered in the belief that he would do literally anything to save her life.  I may have literally yelled at my Kindle at one point early in the book, just before I realised that something bad was going to happen, I already cared about Aaliyah so much as character from seeing her through her father’s eyes.

My only issues with this book are Valentine, the gamemancer who Paul joins forces with, and Anathema, the ‘mancer they hunt.  Both characters felt a little thin to me.  It’s clear the Steinmetz made an effort to develop Valentine, but she still came off a lot of the time like someone being drawn to fit a particular box in the story, and not a fully-developed character.

Despite these issues, I enjoyed this book a great deal.  The world alone is fascinating – and I really hope that Steinmetz returns to it, because I really want to see just how broken Europe is, and I want to see how Aaliyah’s story develops.  If you’ve burned out on a lot of urban fantasy, I can recommend picking this one up, as I believe Steinmetz brings something new and fresh to the genre.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (me phoenix)

Avery - cover image

The people of Kaya die in pairs. When one lover dies, the other does too. So it has been for thousands of years – until Ava.

For although her bondmate, Avery, has been murdered and Ava’s soul has been torn in two, she is the only one who has ever been strong enough to cling to life. Vowing revenge upon the barbarian queen of Pirenti, Ava’s plan is interrupted when she is instead captured by the deadly prince of her enemies.

Prince Ambrose has been brought up to kill and hate. But when he takes charge of a strangely captivating Kayan prisoner and is forced to survive with her on a dangerous island, he must reconsider all he holds true . . .

In a violent country like Pirenti, where emotion is scorned as a weakness, can he find the strength to fight for the person he loves . . . even when she’s his vengeful enemy?

Avery is a sweeping, romantic fantasy novel about loss and identity, and finding the courage to love against all odds.


NOTE: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This review is presented both as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015 and as part of the Avery blog tour.  You can find the previous blog tour stop at Words Read and Written and the next blog tour stop at A Word Shaker.


Avery is the first book in a new Young Adult series by Australian author Charlotte McConaghy, The Chronicles of Kaya.

When Ava’s bond-mate Avery is killed, Ava naturally expects to die as well.  But Ava does not die.  She fades, grows numb, loses her sense of taste, but she does not die.  Rejected by her family and friends, she sets on the only course she can: revenge against the Queen of Pirenti, murderer of Avery.  Pirenti is a barbaric country where travelling as a woman is too dangerous, and so she disguises herself as a boy and takes her dead lover’s name, Avery.

In Pirenti, love is seen as weakness and power comes from violence.  The princes of Pirenti are Ambrose and Thorne.  Thorne is married to the fragile and strange Roselyn, a woman for whom he can express his love for only as violence.  When Ava’s path crosses Ambrose’s, and eventually Thorne and Roselyn, everything must change for them all.

This is a book that I would have adored as a teenager.  The hook–lovers bonded for life–would have grabbed me and not let go.  I can easily see this book and series being a gateway for many younger readers into fantasy, especially those who have mostly read only mainstream YA.

As an adult, and especially as one who has read a lot of fantasy (aimed both at YA and adult audiences), I was initially wary of many of the tropes McConaghy uses in the book.  The bonding between lovers veers very close to love at first sight, and the fact that Kayans have colour changing eyes seemed yet another recycling of old tropes.

However, as I read on, I found that McConaghy was pushing past many of these tropes.  The colour-changing eyes was used to good effect, and the bonding was shown to be something that didn’t necessarily have to be instantaneous.  More refreshing is that Ava herself is never a weak character–she doubts herself at times, but she’s never a damsel in distress.

Some readers will likely find the parts of the story which focus on violence against women (especially Roselyn) confronting, and may wish to avoid the book on that basis.  However, as with the other plot threads, I felt that McConaghy explored this with respect (and with an actual cultural reason for the said violence in Pirenti).  I actually found Roselyn to be one of the most fascinating characters in the book, and I hope that her story is further explored in the future.

All in all, this was a satisfying read for myself as an adult reader who has consumed a great deal of fantasy, and I could see it easily being an almost obsessive read for many a younger reader.  Highly recommended.

Celebrity_photographers_sydney_glamour_nudes_art_photography_SeductiveCharlotte McConaghy grew up with her nose in a book. Her first novel, Arrival, was published at age seventeen, followed by Descentwhen she was twenty.
She soon started her first adult fantasy novel, Avery, the prologue of which came to her in a very vivid dream. Avery launched The Chronicles of Kaya series, and is followed by Thorne – Book Two and Isadora, the third and final in the trilogy. She then published Fury, and Melancholy, the first and second books in a dystopian sci-fi series called The Cure.
Charlotte currently lives in Sydney, and has a Masters in Screenwriting at the Australian Film, Television & Radio School.


Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (me phoenix)


I’ve participated in the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge for the last three years.  It has been one of the most rewarding challenges I’ve joined, and I encourage anyone who’s interested to sign up as well.

For 2015, I’m participating at the Franklin level again – reading at least 10 books, reviewing at least 6.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.


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