‘The Empire Never Ended’ in The Saltbush Review

I have a piece of Tassie nonfiction, ‘The Empire Never Ended’, in the latest issue of The Saltbush Review. This is a new mag out from the University of Adelaide. Lots of really interesting work here, all free to read!

Categories: My Writing

‘New Year Island’ Highly Commended in Stringybark Stories Short Story Award 2022

‘New Year Island’, which is the first chapter of my work-in-progress Diemens, recently received a Highly Commended certificate in the Stringybark Short Story Award 2022. The winning and highly commended stories appear in Fruitcake Frenzy from Stringybark Publishing.  

Meanwhile ‘The Empire Never Ended’, my latest nonfiction piece related to Tasmania, has been accepted to appear in an upcoming issue of The Saltbush Review.

Categories: My Writing

‘In lutruwita’ published in Traces and Backstory Journal

November 25, 2021 Leave a comment

My non-fiction piece ‘In lutriwita‘ recently appeared in Issue 16 of Traces, which is available in newsagencies. It is also available to read free online over here at Backstory Journal. This is my first piece of Tasmanian writing to see publication and there will be more like it over the next few years as I work on my PhD in Tasmanian Fiction at Curtin University.

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Complicity City is out now!

August 22, 2021 Leave a comment

Complicity City is a domestic noir in the style of Megan Abbott’s The End of Everything. The book is set in Perth, Western Australia. It is the story of one woman’s quest for justice for her slain friend Klara, and the dark deeds and secret men’s business she uncovers along the way.

Complicity City is available via Amazon.

Categories: My Writing

Book Review – The Last Asbestos Town by Helen Hagemann

Helen Hagemann’s debut novel The Last Asbestos Town is set in a near future where Western Australia is being terrorised by the Asbestos Task Force or ATF, an aggressive and unfeeling government entity intent on demolishing any building thought to contain this notoriously dangerous building material. May and Isaac are twenty-somethings who have recently moved to the country town of Farmbridge to take up residence in an old Girl Guides building. It isn’t long before they’re being harassed by the ATF and the threat of demolition provides one of the major narrative thrusts of the novel.

The relationship between May and Isaac is developed over the course of chapters told from alternating points of view. Isaac is a bit of a dropkick who can’t seem to hang onto a job for long and his drug habit doesn’t help, but he’s intent on saving their house and he isn’t shy of employing some unorthodox methods in achieving this. May has her own business sewing clothes as well as looking after Isaac and she’s definitely the stable influence in their relationship. As the story develops it becomes clear that, for all his faults, Isaac is the driving force in the narrative, however.

May and Isaac don’t just have the ATF to worry about – their home is also haunted by the ghost of a dead woman, Cheryl, who was murdered years before. A lot of effort goes into investigating the origin of what is basically a poltergeist inhabiting the house, and a major plot point hinges on turning Cheryl’s haunting to their advantage. Isaac makes friends with members of the local Aboriginal community and he eventually gets the idea of using their traditional magic to ward off the ATF as well as a pesky drug dealer.

Hagemann’s background is in poetry and this shines through in some excellent descriptive writing throughout, particularly the descriptions of natural settings. Her writing is visceral and the countryside and rivers of Farmbridge burst to life over the course of the story. Between Cheryl’s hauntings and the magic of the Aboriginal shaman, there’s definitely a supernatural cast to The Last Asbestos Town, which offers a nice contrast to the bureaucratic machinations of the ATF. The author’s environmental concerns are present throughout in asides on the polluting of riverways, but this is also tempered by the human cost of arbitrarily bulldozing houses thought to contain asbestos.

The Last Asbestos Town is a fine debut and promises even better to come. A second novel, The Ozone Cafe, is slated for release this October from Adelaide Books in New York.

‘Travel Derangements’ published in Van Diemen Decameron

January 14, 2021 Leave a comment

I have a travel piece about Covid-19 and Tasmania, ‘Travel Derangements’, published online and free to read as part of the Van Diemen Decameron.

Categories: Uncategorized

‘Mr Agoo’ published in Not keeping mum

 

 

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I’m very pleased to announce that my short story, ‘Mr Agoo’, has found a home in Not keeping mum: Australian writers tell the truth about perintatal anxiety and depression in poetry, fiction & essay. All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to  Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia. I’m especially chuffed to be the only male author in the book. You can check it out here:

https://au.blurb.com/b/10013951-not-keeping-mum-australian-writers-tell-the-truth

 

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Recent Publications: Archipelago and Once: A Selection of short short stories

February 8, 2020 Leave a comment

Some welcome news on the publishing front: three of my short fiction pieces have been selected for inclusion in two anthologies, one in the U.S. and the other here in Western Australia. “Ray”, which was shortlisted for the Sutherland Shire Literary Competition, is slated to appear in the second annual Archipelago  anthology from Seattle publisher Allegory Ridge. “Ray”, set on Tasmania’s Bruny Island, is about one man’s journey as south as he can go with two small children in tow. I’m stoked to have finally found a home for this story and a wonderful home it is too, albeit one on the far side of the globe.

Secondly, two of my flash fiction stories, “Super Snipe” and “The Ballard”, appear in Once: A selection of short short stories from new WA outfit Night Parrot Press. I recently attended the Perth launch for this anthology and met some of the other authors included herein, as well as editors Linda Martin and Laura Keenan. “Super Snipe” is about a love triangle involving a vintage car and “The Ballard” is my love letter to the late, great J. G. Ballard.

I have a handful of other stories doing the rounds presently, so with luck I’ll be able to report on further publication successes in the near future. Here’s hoping!

Categories: My Writing

Invisible Books: Sergei Dovlatov

October 11, 2019 Leave a comment

I hadn’t heard of late Soviet-era satirist Sergei Dovlatov until I saw the biopic on Netflix about him last year. Intrigued, I ordered copies of the three of his books in print in English. My favourite of these is probably Pushkin Hills, a semi-autobiographical account of a struggling writer’s angst at the thought of his ex-wife and child leaving for the West while he fritters away his time providing tours of the Pushkin Estate to bored Eastern-bloc tourists in the 1970s. Dovlatov has a light touch, reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut, and his stories are always amusing. The Suitcase is a collection of short tales about items supposedly contained in the protagonist’s suitcase when he finally follows ex-wife and child to America. Finally, The Zone is an account of the author’s time as a prison-camp guard in Brezhnev’s USSR. All three of these titles are well-worth reading and readily available from Alma Classics. 

Dovlatov died of cancer in his mid-forties, but he lived long enough to produce plenty of books and even publish a number of stories in The New Yorker. The only other title of his I’ve been able to track down cheaply secondhand is Ours: A Russian Family Album which, like The Suitcase, is a loose but very enjoyable collection of tales.  Overlook Press supposedly re-published Dovlatov’s The Invisible Book a few years back, but I can find no copies of it for sale either new or secondhand, and so I can only presume it was never released.

 

Lastly, there are two other books published in English, A Foreign Woman and The Compromise, but these are long out of print and horrendously expensive secondhand. I’m hoping that Alma Classics may consider expanding their Dovlatov collection in the near future, perhaps in part due to the increased attention Dovlatov has received due to the biopic. I certainly hope so, because I think the author may be among the very best of the chroniclers of the absurdities of the late-Soviet period.

Enjoy Yourself, It’s Later Than You Think

The mild Western Australian winters have always appealed to me more than the harsh summers and I’ve often done my best writing at this time of year. As a high school English teacher, I know when my windows of writing opportunity open—for two weeks in April, two weeks in July, two weeks in September/October and six weeks in December/January. Twelve weeks a year when I can write instead of going to work. At least that’s the theory.

The winter holidays have often been my most fertile period of the year. In July 2013, I wrote ‘A Void’, which was later shortlisted for the Carmel Bird Award and published in The Great Unknown. In July 2014 I wrote ‘Enter Sandman, Exit Light’, which found a home in Tincture Journal. In 2015 it was‘Epoch O’Lips’. 2016 was a rare winter strike out, but in 2017 I produced ‘The Centre Cannot Hold’, which won the Joe O’Sullivan Writer’s Prize and was published in Award Winning Australian Writing. 2018 was another bust, but I had the excuse that my wife had just given birth to my third child and thus I was otherwise occupied. Between July 2018 and July 2019, I wrote precisely one story. Not surprisingly, I called it ‘Mr Agoo’.

In writing short stories, I’ve often found it helpful to rely on some kind of visual or musical stimulus. Some competitions, such as the City of Rockingham Short Fiction Award, require authors to respond to a painting in written form. In 2015, the painting was of a lighthouse in Fremantle entitled ‘(Light) House of the Rising Sun’. In preparation, I listened to the famous song by The Animals before starting work each day to get into the mood. For once the planets aligned for me and ‘Frank’ became my most successful story, not only winning the City of Rockingham Short Fiction Award but also finding homes in Award Winning Australian Writing and Westerly: New Creative.

This probably helps to explain why I carried around a leaflet from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, pictured (on fire!) above, for more than six months even though I am and remain the staunchest of atheists. It was the title, ‘It’s Later Than You Think’, which inspired me. At nearly thirty-eight years of age, I’m conscious of the fact that my time in this vale of tears is limited and no one knows just how limited it might be. Turns out there’s an old song by Guy Lombardo, ‘Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think)’, that the Jehovahs had (presumably unwittingly) referenced in their leaflet. I’m sure you can picture me huddled over the computer screen, religious material in hand, listening to a song from 1949 that exhorts listeners to seize the day by asking, ‘how far can you travel when you’re six feet underground?’

In a celebratory mood upon finishing the draft of the story, I finally got to do something I’d been itching to do for months—burn the leaflet. It’s not that I have anything against the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but the symbolism of a cleansing flame appeals to me deeply as a sort of writerly ‘scorched earth’ policy. So, phone in hand to capture the requisite picture, I burned it. And now, the more I look at the photograph, the more I can see a hummingbird or maybe even a penguin jumping out of the flames at  me. What does it all mean? Who knows, but if I’m lucky I might get another story out of it.

Maybe next winter . . . .

Categories: My Writing