Conflux 2017…Grimm Tales (Canberra’s Annual Speculative Fiction Convention) Wrap Up [Part 1- Friday]


My first Conflux is over, and I’m looking back at the weekend with a sense of pure post-con joy – what an amazing, talented, and downright awesome group of writers, editors and publishers I had the pleasure of meeting and seeing speak over the course of my three-day attendance!

The line-up of special guests was impressive – International Guest of Honour, Ellen Datlow; Australian Guest of Honour, Angela Slatter, Kaaron Warren as MC, and Meri Amber with her EP written especially for Grimm Tales as Music Guest.

I highly suggest you drop everything and go and buy some of their amazing works. Don’t worry – I’ll wait.

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So now you’re back with a few dozen extra books in your e-reader, right? So let’s get on with the convention itself:


I departed Sydney at 6:30am Friday morning and arrived at Canberra at 9:30am with just enough time to kiss the kids goodbye (they spent the day at Questacon with Dad) drop my bags, pick up my lanyard and make it to one of the first sessions of the day – ‘Big Ideas In Compact Packages’: short stories. It was my first chance to see Ellen Datlow impart words of wisdom, and she was joined on the panel by Jason Nahrung, Imogen Cassidy, and Shauna O’Meara. Plenty of excellent advice and rumination was offered regarding the use of tropes in short fiction, the advantage of being able to write to a deadline, the importance of subtext, the meaning of ‘voice’, and the joy of finding a story that jumps out at you from the slush pile.

The second panel I attended was ‘Things that go bump…clank…mooooooaaan’: ghosts in folk tales, horror, and urban legend. Ellen was again present on this panel, along with Jennifer Breukelaar, Aaron Dries, and Kimberley Gaal. (Kimberley if you’re reading this – I can’t find your website – let me know where it is so I can update it!). I found this a fascinating panel, especially as I’m not a horror writer so hadn’t previously considered ghosts in all their nuances and the way they’re used as plot devices. The two main types of ghost stories were discussed: moving – not scary but tragic, with the ghost serving as a vehicle for emotion and offering the chance to ‘finish business’; and of course, creepy – an unnatural force that needs to be satisfied (or in some of the creepiest stories, cannot be satisfied and is just malevolent evil). There was talk of cultural appropriation of ghost stories and belief and whether this can be done sensitively. Why do children make good ghosts? Are ghosts merely manifestations of regret? Ellen also mentioned a few tropes she’s tired of – the ‘sexy beast’, the ‘hot’ aliens and the ‘bunch of teens’.

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I caught up with Jason Nahrung, Kirstyn McDermott, and Bren MacDibble for a cup of free coffee (with badly labeled milk), and talked gardening, permaculture, alpacas, grants, bees and watching grass grow.

2pm, and I made it to ‘Fairy Tales with Teeth and Claws’, once again featuring Ellen, the amazing Angela Slatter, Leife Shallcross, Kirstyn McDermott and Jason Nahrung. This was another great panel and the discussion centered around viewing Grimm fairytales through a feminist lens, particularly the problem of sexism in fairy tales. The voices of women are often removed from these stories until all that remains are the bad women and the bold boys. The bad women are punished, and the good girls are paraphrased.

My next panel was ‘Beastly Transformations’, with Angela Slatter, Cat Sheely, Leif Shallcross and Claire Fitzpatrick, a discussion of werewolves, selkies, sirens, swans, gender stereotypes, cultural norms and breaking free. Why we are enamored with the idea of animal transformation? Is it the idea of the freedom it allows, is it our terror of change, or our own pride that we don’t like to be considered ‘animals’ giving in to a baser instinct? Transformation can be used as a vehicle to explore freedom of choice, embracing the unknown, not being afraid of change, and what it means to be human.


Afterwards all that panel goodness, I caught up at the bar with a drink with Louise Merrington and Madeline D’Este to discuss Steampunk, publishing (and self-publishing) and of course, writing!

That was as much as I could take in on Friday…phew! I headed off early for some dinner with the kids and hubby (who enjoyed Questacon) and had an early night! Tomorrow, I’ve got more panels and two amazing workshops.

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I’ll fill you in on those in PART 2… (coming soon!)


NSW Premier’s Literary Awards 2017: On mapmaking and fangirling


‘The plays and novels inside our heads are little unmarketed miracles, cosily ensconced in the imagination, the lighting, the sound, the production design is sublime. Inside my head for just an instant, I have a story that has never been told in quite the same way before, and it is playing out pitch perfect.’ Joanna Murray Smith’s NSW Premier’s Literary Awards address – a moving speech about the trials and tribulations of the artist.

I was lucky enough last night to attend the 2017 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. It was a wonderful night – of poignant speeches and gracious winners. The talent, inspiration, dedication and craftsmanship of Australian writers always takes my breath away – and I do not envy the judges who had to choose a winner from amidst such a strong pool of short-listed entries.

So without further ado, the winners are:

Christina Stead Prize for Fiction:

The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose


UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing:

Letter to Pessoa by Michelle Cahill


Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction:

Our Man Elsewhere: In Search of Alan Moorehead by Thornton McCamish


Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry:

Ghostspeaking by Peter Boyle


Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature:

One Thousand Hills by James Roy and Noël Zihabamwe


Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature:

Iris and the Tiger by Leanne Hall


Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting: 

The Drover’s Wife by Leah Purcell


Betty Roland Prize for Scriptwriting (joint winners): 

The Code, Series 2 Episode 4 by Shelley Birse

Down Under by Abe Forsythe


Multicultural NSW Award:  

The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke


NSW Premier’s Translation Prize: 

Royall Tyler


Multicultural NSW Early Career Translator Prize: 

Jan Owen


Book of the Year Award: 

The Drover’s Wife by Leah Purcell


People’s Choice Award: 

Vancouver #3 in the series Wisdom Tree by Nick Earls


For more details of the winners and shortlisted books, check out the State Library of NSW’s website here.

On a personal note, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Heather Rose during the after party, winner of not only Christina Stead prize for fiction, but also the 2017 Stella Prize. Heather was so gracious and lovely and kindly signed our books like a pro. Here I am with Robin Elizabeth and Lisa Fleetwood, having a fangirl moment:

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I also have to add that Heather Rose is no literary snob – she co-authored Finding Serendipity (a children’s fiction fantasy novel) the sequel of which, A Week Without Tuesday was shortlisted for the 2015 Aurealis Awards for Best Children’s Fiction. So, Heather, I’m claiming you as one of ours!

Until next time xxx


Reviewing the Classics: Wuthering Heighs by Emily Bronte revisited

wuthering heights

Hi all,

So I went to a live taping a couple of weeks back of a show called The Book Club. It was a great show – Paul Kelly sang a sonnet, and there was much discussion about a little book you might have heard of called Wuthering Heights. The discussion got heated, especially when it came to Heathcliff. For a full recap of how things went down, I’d definitely recommend stopping by Right or Wrong for a very funny, and entirely scientific analysis of the show here.

In the spirit of the debate, and since I haven’t read Wuthering Heights since I skimmed it in second-year university (nearly 20 years ago) I gave it a slightly less skimmed re-read, and what follows is my review:

This classic tale, set on the northern moors of England, has long been acclaimed as a both a torrid tale of passionate love and revenge, and a masterpiece of English literature. The main protagonist, Heathcliff, is considered by many to be one of the most smoking-hot villains to ever grace the page. A large part of it is probably because of his depictions in film looking like this:


And this:


And more recently this:


Ahh Ralph Fiennes…

Yes, they are all very attractive men. But let’s move on shall we? Back to the book.. ahem. I have to say on my rereading of the novel (handsome men above aside), I really struggled to find any attraction to the dark, brooding, taciturn man who essentially tortures and ruins his family.

While the writing of Emily Bronte’s only novel still holds its haunting beauty, and Bronte’s descriptions of the moors are so evocative that one feels as though they are standing upon them, what really stood out to me about this novel on a reread of this book are two things:

  1. The utterly restrictive social status of women during the Regency/Victorian age. As women of any standing (and Catherine, I believe, is landed gentry) were not permitted to work, were given very little education and could often not inherit, a woman’s standing and her future were entirely dictated by an agreeable marriage.
  2. The alarmingly violent intergenerational cycle of physical and emotional abuse (particularly of women, servants, and children) perpetuated by all the protagonists throughout the novel. Heathcliff is a wife beater. Hindley throws his own child over a railing in a fit of drunken rage and shoves a knife between his servant’s teeth. Hindley’s child grows up to be a violent adult. Even more telling, these brutal acts were not dwelt upon by the narrator but accepted as a matter of course.

So, in revisiting this novel, I feel that my age and a modern lense have served to lessen its appeal. As far as Heathcliff goes, I found him thoroughly unlikeable; grumpy, physically and verbally violent, grudge-holding, vengeful and spiteful, and worse – completely unrepentant (except perhaps where his Cathy is concerned). There’s a term in modern romance called: the’Alphahole’ – an Alpha character who is so utterly Alpha, that he is actually a massive jerk. It does seem that Heathcliff appeals to younger women – perhaps he could be considered the pioneer of the YA ‘Hero.’

But what do you think – does Heathcliff still set a fire in your loins?

May Review Raves: Soulless by Gail Carriger and Mythmaker by Marianne De Pierres

I’ve got two books to add to your must-read pile this month (if you haven’t read them already). Both on these books sit on the fringes of the fantasy genre. Both are utterly fabulous and worth an immediate read. First up:

Mythmaker by Marianne De Pierres


Genre: Urban Fantasy / Sci-fi / Western

Details: 320 pages, published 2015 by Angry Robot

Blurb: Virgin’s in a tight spot. A murder rap hangs over her head and isn’t likely to go away unless she agrees to work for an organisation called GJIC with Nate Sixkiller as her immediate boss. Being blackmailed is one thing, discovering that her mother is both alive and the President of GJIC is quite another. Then there’s the escalation of Mythos sightings, and the bounty on her head. Oddly, the strange and dangerous Hamish Burns is the only one she can rely on. Virgin’s life gets… untidy.

My Review: Virgin Jackson is back in the second instalment of Marianne De Pierres’ Peacemaker series. This one’s just as action packed as the first, as gun-toting ranger, Virgin, aided by the taciturn US cowboy Nate Sixkiller, her spirit animal and her possibly psychotic self-appointed bodyguard, Hamish, set out to discover the truth about the Mythos. She’s got a mystery to solve and her name to clear, and a bounty and a murder rap both hang over her head. Beautifully written and tightly paced, De Pierres’ novel takes us from wild, open spaces to cramped city slums and back again. Urban Fantasy meets sci-fi, meets western, this is a book that will grip you from start to finish. Yee-haa!

Grab it here (Amazon) or support local Australian bookshops, and grab it here (Booktopia)

You can read a stellar review of its predecessor, Peacemaker here.


Soulless by Gail Carriger



Genre: Paranormal Historical Romance

Details: 373 pages, published 2009 by Orbit

Book blurb: Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette. 

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire — and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. 

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

SOULLESS is the first book of the Parasol Protectorate series: a comedy of manners set in Victorian London, full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.

My Review:  A blend of Victorian, steampunk, regency comedy of costume, romance, horror, paranormal (werewolves and vampires) – Soulless is a librarian’s worst nightmare when it comes to deciding on a shelf to put it on. The storyline and concept, however, are both absolute crackers, and if you haven’t read this book (and I know I came to this party late) you really ought to!

Alexia Tarabotti is an outspoken, self-professed Victorian spinster who carries a cane just to beat up potential attackers. She’s attacked by a rogue vampire, who discovers (much to his dismay) that he’s messed with the wrong girl. Alexia has plenty of tricks up her sleeve (not the least of which is her Soulless ability which neutralises supernatural power)

Enamoured by the gruff, yet dangerously attractive Lord Maccon (who also happens to be a werewolf), Alexia must survive assassination and kidnapping attempts, her attraction to Lord Maccon (unsuccessfully), and her best friend’s terrible choice in hats. Written in a delicious Jane Austen style, there is enough absurdity in this book to make you laugh, and enough mystery to keep you turning the pages well into the night. Can you tell I’m Miss Carriger’s new number 1 fan?

Grab this book here.

Should I quit writing?

The Australian Government has proposed parallel importation of books and a drastic reduction on intellectual copyright – these measures would be disasterous – please sign the petition.

Josephine Moon

I am distressed.

Right now I feel like never writing another book. And I’ll try to explain why as simply as I can, trying to untangle the messy political drama that is about to change the entire Australian publishing industry and how it affects me personally.

The government has proposed and recommended that Australia does two things:

  1. Introduce parallel importation
  2. Drastically reduce copyright protection to just 15 years.

(You can sign the petition to tell the government you don’t want this to happen right here.)

How does parallel importation affect me and you?

  • The first point I want to make sure you know is that our contemporaries, the USA and the UK do not have parallel importation. We would be going against them. (Which doesn’t make sense, right?)
  • The next point I want to make is that New Zealand lifted their parallel importation laws and rather than seeing cheaper…

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Dr. Watson, I Presume? The Importance of Killer Sidekicks

A brilliant post by author Susan Spann on the importance of secondary characters.

Writers In The Storm Blog

by Susan Spann, @SusanSpann

Sherlock Holmes, mystery, writingWhether you write detective fiction, romance, historical novels or fantasy epics, a lone protagonist never receives as great a reaction as one with a well-developed supporting cast.

Foils serve to reinforce and highlight the hero’s good (and bad) characteristics, and also give the protagonist a chance to shine outside the primary narrative.

Although a “sidekick” isn’t mandatory, a strong secondary character improves many stories in several important ways:

1. Introducing an Alternate Point of View.

Sidekicks rarely agree with everything the protagonist does, and often have a radically different worldview. This gives the author a chance to present alternative theories, new opinions, and thoughts that the protagonist or hero might not propose on his (or her) own.

A sidekick proves especially effective where the sidekick has a different gender, religion, or race than the protagonist. In addition to adding great diversity to your fiction (and forcing…

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Which publishers publish fantasy novels?  

Looking to bypass the agent route and head straight to a publisher? Or just interested in discovering who the major players are in the fantasy publishing game? This fantastic list compiled by A J Dalton outlines publishers who publish fantasy, as well as giving links to their sites and whether they accept direct submissions from writers. Definitely worth a look!

Source: 8. Listing of fantasy publishers