From the Wasteland: what’s it all about?

A new anthology of speculative fiction called From the Wasteland will gather original stories inspired by TS Eliot’s The Waste Land  

I first had the idea for this collection last December while walking the Empress (otherwise known as Aeryn Spoodle).  I was listening to an episode of ABC Classics’ The Game Show (music from video games). This episode had a very dark theme. Naturally my mind turned to my studies into First World War literature, and then to The Waste Land.

The Wasteland begins with a chapter titled The Burial of the Dead. The very first line says that ‘April is the cruellest month’. What an attention-grabbing start!

The 434-line poem is Eliot’s extended lament for the lost lives and the destruction of the 1914-1918 war. He’s talking about the collapse of civilised behaviour, the wanton wreckage, the widespread despair. And he does it in style.

Australian headstones at Tyne Cot cemetery
Australian headstones at Tyne Cot cemetery on the Western Front

When I got home from my walk, I looked up the poem, recalling that it includes dozens of splendid lines. Then I discovered (re-discovered?) that the poem’s first publication was in 1922.

Lo and behold, 2022 would be the centenary!

The idea of an anthology of Wasteland stories burst into my head. Wow! so many good lines there that are almost irresistible as story titles – for something in literary speculative fiction genres. (Literary spec fic? Think Margaret Attwood and Octavia Butler.) Look at these phrases for a start:

  • a heap of broken images
  • they called me the hyacinth girl
  • looking into the heart of light
  • the barbarous king
  • are you alive, or not?

I’ve invited a select band of other active speculative fiction authors to write short stories springing from Eliot’s poem. I’m thrilled to say that we are a merry band of 19 writers. You can see more about them here.

snow covered trees
My story is based on the line ‘Winter kept us warm, covering earth in forgetful snow’, from the first section of the poem, ‘The Burial of the Dead’.

‘From the Wasteland: speculative fiction inspired by Eliot’ will include ghost stories, fantasy, horror, steampunk, dystopia and queer romance. All will be intriguing and amazing tales.

I’m doing my best to ensure that this anthology will come out in the second half of 2022 to coincide with the poem’s centenary. I’m very busy querying publishers–no easy feat when we don’t actually have a completed manuscript on hand yet! And of course, I’m writing up a storm with my collaborators…

It’s going to be fabulous. Keep an eye peeled for more news about this wonderful project.

More new stories: 2022 writing projects

Welcome to 2022

A year of potential, of reckoning, of change and reassessment. A year of the Tiger, a strong character who banishes evil and demonstrates courage. It’s a year to keep going.

For me, 2022 is a year for new writing projects, and the completion of earlier ones. Let me show you my planned journey.

New writing projects

From the WasteLand

An anthology of literary speculative fiction inspired by TS Eliot’s seminal poem The Waste Land, first published in October 1922.

Stories inspired by one of the most important poems of the 20th century

If you are unfamiliar with the poem, suffice it to say that it’s as long as a novella, and its subject matter is the fragmentation of society during and after World War One (WWI). All in beautiful, strange, evocative words. I’ll be writing a lot more about this project soon. It’s going to be wonderful and amazing.

Peggy’s Story

A companion novel to The Stars in the Night

In this novel, I’m focussing on the Australian home front during WWI.

I’m writing a new novel about the women left at home during WWI

If you’re familiar with Stars, you’ll know that it’s the story of two brothers, Harry and Eddie, who fight at Gallipoli and in France. This new book will fill in all the gaps about what was happening back in Semaphore. More about this story as it progresses. I hope to have the whole manuscript completed this year to submit for publishing in 2023 or 2024.

Where the Weird Things Are

Aussie Speculative Fiction are about to publish a guide to the fantastic, freaky, and far-out in Australia and New Zealand.

Coming in early 2022, Where the Weird Things Are Volume 1 will feature a story of mine, inspired by our former bush block in the Otway Ranges.

How could a kangaroo inspire a horror story?

I’ll be working on the edits soon and I can’t wait to see this tale in print.

How to Survive Your Magical Family

My middle-grade novel

Don’t worry, How to Survive Your Magical Family is definitely coming this year, from the wonderful Odyssey Books. There have been just too many interruptions to the publishing industry, and too much pressure on staff due to the pandemic.

How to Survive Your Magical Family (2022 release)
How to Survive Your Magical Family (2022 release)

I’m now hoping for a February release. And I’ll most definitely keep you updated!

Forthcoming stories

In 2021, I kept busy with some substantial shorter fiction for themed anthologies, as well as the odd little tale for drabble collections (a drabble is a tale told in EXACTLY 100 words, no more, no less).

New Tales of Old Volume 2

New fantasy tales based on old myths, fairy stories and legends.

New Tales of Old Vol 2

This features my story ‘Starting Over’, set in the same world as The Chronicles of the Pale. It’s being published by Black Ink Fiction — and yes, I’ll let you know as soon as it’s available.

Fantasy on Four Feet

Tales from the animal kingdom: fantasy stories coming in 2022

Original stories from the animal kingdom

This fantastic (pun intended) anthology is coming from Black Ink Fiction in March. My story features the Cwn Annwn, ghostly hounds of the Welsh hunt.

Ancient Gods

Stories about a fantasy ancient kingdom inspired by Greek myths and legends

Ancient Gods: tales inspired by Greek mythology (2022)

In this wholly realised world, gods and demons vie for supremacy, with humans at risk. Twelve inter-linked stories unfold the tale of the semi-divine women who must face the demons. My story is  ‘Ione and the Sea Demon’. This is also coming from Black Ink Fiction in 2022.

Cursed Shards

Fantasy tales of a malevolent magic mirror

Lady Marian’s Gambit in Cursed Shards…coming in 2022

An ancient curse, a lingering threat: these stories tell of the evil effects of the broken mirror’s curse. The stories are all based on legends and all feature the fateful Fae mirror. My story ‘Lady Marian’s Gambit’ plays with the Robin Hood legend. This is coming in 2022 from the groundbreaking Australian independent Black Hare Press.

Winter Shocks

This wintry horror collection features my drabble about the Sugar Plum Fairy. The book is available now from Black Ink Fiction. Here’s a link: Winter Shocks

Winter Shocks – tiny tales of terror published by Black Ink Fiction

And not forgetting From the WasteLand

…but a whole lot more about that next time.

Till then, happy reading.

 

 

My Five Star Reads of 2021 … and a peek at 2022

taking-baby-for-a-walk

Here are (some of!) my five-star reads from 2021.

Of the 80 or so books I read every year, some stand out. As I’ve mentioned previously (see my post on book choices), I’m pretty good at judging what books will suit my readerly needs. I should be, after reading so many!

If your reading preferences are anything like mine, you might like to check out this selection from my 5-star reads this year.

Recommended Reads 2021

Permafrost

A stunning debut collection of wonderful short stories

 

Permafrost by SJ Norman

Coralesque

Prepare to be amazed. A great book to take on your beach holiday, full of scary seaside stories

Artifact Space

A wonderful first instalment in a new coming-of-age series. take yourself to the stars and beyond with this exciting and diverse novel

Worldshifter

A brilliant little novella about a world-building alien who just happens to be one of the sweetest -dog-like characters you’ll ever meet

Worldshifter by Paul Di Filippo
Worldshifter by Paul Di Filippo

Taking Baby for a Walk

A terrifying story about a missing child, set in an ordinary Queensland town. Unputdownable. How about that cover in the top image of this post?!

Danged Black Thing

Black fiction that leaps and cavorts, alive with challenge, wit and a very big heart. Read these stories with gusto and amazement

Before You Knew My Name

An unusual read for me. This is the best murder mystery I’ve ever encountered, and I love the way it foregrounds the victim instead of the vile killer. Eye-opening and such great writing.

Court of Silver Flames

My favourite of the entire series. An insightful and tender exploration of depression and anxiety through the lens of dark fantasy.

The Gulp

Ha! Want to be terrified on your summer road trip around Australia? Meal-sized tales of antipodean horror from a master.

The Harp of Kings

The first of a new series by Juliet Marillier, whose evocative writing immerses the reader in ancient Ireland. Myth, romance, adventure and tragedy combine in this wonderful story.

Watch out for in 2022

As a reviewer, I’m privileged to read quite a few books prior to their release, in the form of ARCs (advanced reader copies). I love being considered an advanced reader LOL! Here’s one I adored for its teeming, lush fantasy world.

Saint Death’s Daughter

And here’s two that I can hardly wait for! From the marvellous Odyssey Books, out early in 2022:

Fleetwalker by J Victoria Michael
Fleetwalker by J Victoria Michael

Fleetwalker

The eagerly-awaited third book in the GriffinSinger series … and of course

How To Survive Your Magical Family

A fabulous new fantasy from yours truly 🙂

The link is to the Booktopia pre-order page, but I’ll have my own pre-order page early in the New Year. Keep your eyes peeled!

 

How to Survive Your Magical Family (2022 release)
How to Survive Your Magical Family (2022 release)

Run and won: The Stars in the Night giveaway

Book

Thank you to everyone

Almost 100 people entered the draw for  The Stars in the Night  book giveaway earlier this month. Awesome! It’s nice to be wanted.

I’m happy to tell you that a signed copy of the book, plus the little rosemary sprig badge, went to country Victoria and received a glowing welcome!

Here’s some ideas for anyone who missed out:

  • ask your local library to order a copy for you to read. Getting the book into more libraries means that it reaches more readers, which is wonderful. And a trickle of Public Lending Rights cents go to the author, which is a lovely thing … yes, if you see my book on the shelf, please borrow it 😉
  • keep an eye out for a special price on the eBook version coming next month – for most of December, The Stars in the Night will be on special
  • see if your book club would consider adding The Stars in the Night to their 2022 reading list. I guarantee that it would make fabulous reading for the month of April, when Anzac Day shines renewed interest on war service and its aftermath

Some reflections on social media for authors:

I decided that The Stars in the Night book giveaway would do two jobs: send my work to another reader, and give me feedback on my communication channels.

I’ve listed the effectiveness of each channel, in descending order:

  1. My newsletter received the bulk of responses (76%)
  2. Personal Facebook page (8%)
  3. Author Facebook page (6%)
  4. Author Instagram (5%)
  5. Personal instagram (3%)
  6. Word of mouth (neighbours) (1%)
  7. Word of mouth (family) (1%)
  8. Twitter (0)*
  9. Pinterest (0)

Of course, this is my experience with one giveaway, and most of the numbers reflect my pattern of usage. I’m not on Twitter much (*someone did enter from Twitter, but ineligible as it was for Australia only), and rarely on Pinterest (though I have an absolutely AWESOME collection of pins related to my books).

HOWEVER

I don’t send newsletters very regularly. The strong response surprised and gladdened me! With this mini-experiment, I have a new direction for communication in 2022.

Oh – and keep an eye out for my December newsletter. Coming soon!

Book and brooch
The Stars in the Night November giveaway

The Good Child: exploring how power is shaped

Historically, men have power over the lives of both nations and women. Commerce and politics are traditional realms of masculine influence in cultures worldwide. The latest Australian historical fiction by S.C. Karakaltsas (see my review here), The Good Child explores the public and private aspects of how the behaviour of some influential men affects their loved ones as well as the rest of the community.

Author S.C. Karakaltsas answered some of my questions about writing this fascinating novel. And congratulations on Release Day!

What inspired you to write The Good Child?

Sylvia: There are good powerful men and there are bad ones. And I’ve always wondered what the mothers of bad powerful men must think and feel. What sort of relationship do they have with their child? That led to the characters of Lucille and her son Tom. Lucille’s reflections about her life and what part she played in shaping her son drives the narrative — one I really wanted to explore.
The excesses of the eighties and the consequent fall out for ordinary hardworking people drew inspiration for Quin. She’s an ambitious and hardworking young woman who falls into the trap Tom sets for her.
I also wondered what would happen when Lucille and Quin met. And indeed they do, on a train, which makes for an interesting trip.

It certainly does!  A gripping Australian historical fiction, The Good Child spans a number of decades, charting the everyday existence of ordinary Australian women across the 20th century.

How important is it to you that the stories of ordinary Australian women are told?

I think there’s more appetite to hear women’s stories: their voices, what they endured, how they lived, their aspirations and challenges. And that is largely coming from the number of wonderful women writers and the huge audience of women readers.

In the case of Lucille, born in 1920, she lived her life under the control of males. That was largely how life worked for women of her generation. Women’s aspirations centred on the need for financial security by being married and being a home maker.

For example, the challenges of having children during war time and the medical care at the time had an enormous impact on women whose husbands were away at war. What women wanted was never particularly given any attention.

The plot revolves around Tom, the man at the centre of the action, a man we always see through the eyes of others. Was this a deliberate story-telling decision, or

Did the women demand to tell the story from their perspective?

It wasn’t important to give Tom a voice as I wanted his character to be slowly revealed from the perspective of the two women he had affected the most. I thought they deserved to tell their side, to explain the choices they made and how they lived with the consequences. In Lucille’s case her love for her son is severely tested. In Quin’s case it’s her loyalty.

 

The financial excesses and frauds of the 1980s – mostly not uncovered until much later – lie at the heart of The Good Child.

How much research went into developing this story? Was it easy to find out how the fraud schemes operated?

As with all historical fiction there is always lots of research. It’s hard not to wander down rabbit holes.

But backing that research was my own experience and having worked in the financial industry at the time. I could draw on my own recollections of what was an extraordinary, tumultuous time.

I saw first hand what happened to everyday people whose fortunes changed suddenly through no fault of their own. That had an enormous impact on me.

It also surprised me that the most unlikely people commit fraud which just goes to show that if they can get away with it, then people will do it.

 

The ending of The Good Child carries a strong note of hope for women to (learn to) manage their own finances.

Do you have any examples of whether the financial aspect of life has improved for women? And is there still work to be done?

Legislation as well as banking codes of conduct were put into place in the nineties in order for consumers to be better prepared about what they were getting into. Yet the recent Banking Royal commission in Australia has disappointingly highlighted issues where consumers have been adversely affected by the wrong doings of some financial institutions. I guess like many other people, I’m tired of the lack of accountability and the power imbalance.

I know of women today who are financially controlled. Interestingly, since I started this book three years ago, there’s more focus on improving financial literacy and understanding.

But I think there’s a long way to go. I suspect that we may see history repeat in the next few years.

Money jars
Money management the old way

 

 

The emotions in this Australian historical fiction complement and expand on the action, helping us to see the personal impact of business-as-usual.

What strategies did you use to keep the story on a personal level?

I think when a story is told from a personal perspective the reader should feel every part of it. Dealing with the everyday challenges of love, loss and survival are more relatable if told from the character’s point of view.

I hope readers will feel that they know Lucille and Quin, that they can relate to them, feel for them, be hopeful and yearn for them to find their way through.

 

You write about things and events that are relatively unknown. Your first two novels were quite different – one set on a phosphate island and the other about the Greek Civil War.

What are you working on now?

I’m half way through another split timeline novel set in a small town in Northern Queensland. It’s historical crime mystery with two main characters, a missing man and environmental damage in the sixties causing long term generational health problems.

The working title is The Palace Hotel. I’m very excited about this project.

 

So am I! I can’t wait to see it. Thanks again for sharing so much interesting background to The Good Child.

S C Karakaltsas, author
S C Karakaltsas, author

See more great fiction from SC Karakaltsas

Website: https://sckarakaltsas.com

LINK:

The Good Child is released on November 15th 2021.

https://www.amazon.com.au/Good-Child-S-C-Karakaltsas-ebook/dp/B09FJ818D6/

 

The Good Child: a review of upcoming Australian historical fiction

THE GOOD CHILD

Do you ever wish you could go back in time and warn your younger self? Get ready to have that feeling as you follow the adventures of Lucille and Quin in the forthcoming Australian historical fiction:

The Good Child by SC Karakaltsas

An enthralling read, The Good Child tells the story of two women whose lives are linked – and damaged – by the one man.

Unfolding through a series of flashbacks interspersed with current happenings of the 1990s, the story introduces us first to Lucille and Quin. They’ve both lost everything. The two women meet on a country train headed to Melbourne. They’re on their way to attend a trial. Although they don’t know it for a while, they both have their lives invested in the man in the dock.

Lucille, like many of our mothers or grandmothers, was born between the wars. She lived through the hungry 1930s and blossomed in the 1940s. She suffered some awful tragedies, the sort that rip the heart out of women. Then WWII stamped all over her life.

Maybe her grandmother’s warning was right:

“Marry the wrong man and your life will be nothing but misery.”

When at last Lucille raises Tom, a golden boy, everything seems better. Perhaps life will be kind after all. Maybe the mistakes and heartaches will disappear into the mists of time.

A well-loved child, Tom leaps on the ‘greed is good’ train of the 1980s, spreading his charm and his captivating energy with a generous hand.

How could anything go wrong with his ambitious financial scheming? Well, what about shady dealings? Or the mates’ rates he shares glibly? And what about his greedy, grabby habits?

Ah well, if you lived through the 80s you’ll know what can go wrong.

Quin was one of Tom’s star workers, writing up loans, sealing deals, helping as he schmoozed up customers.

She knows that some of what she did enabled Tom’s rapacious dealings, but she wasn’t prepared for the double cross that sacrificed her to the wolves when the going got tough.

Quin would love to right her own wrongs and see Tom pay for his crimes. Her budding relationship with Lucille promises to heal some of the wounds of the past.

Finally, the compassionate insight of women bypasses the slick and deadly traps of masculine over-confidence.

This story is very generous in detail

The Good Child recreates its diverse time periods with such a keen attention to everyday life that readers are immediately immersed in the settings.

It’s almost possible to smell the kitchen of the 1940s, touch the dresses of the 1950s, hear the hubbub of the 1960s six-o’clock swill, and taste the extravagance of the 1980s.

Author S.C. Karakaltsas has a thorough understanding of the periods covered in this wide-ranging novel, as well as a keen eye and a happy gift with dialogue. Perhaps most remarkable is her ability to bring out the green shoots of hope in a story that charts so many tragedies.

It’s easy to get lost in the world of The Good Child, riding the emotional lows and brief highs as the story inevitably unfolds to its very satisfying end. If you love Australian historical fiction with a feminist slant, this one is for you.

A story that rings true in every scene, and

one that will make you glad that you read it.

See more great fiction from SC Karakaltsas

Website: https://sckarakaltsas.com

Pre-order link:

https://www.amazon.com.au/Good-Child-S-C-Karakaltsas-ebook/dp/B09FJ818D6/

 

Australia Reads!

Kitten and question

Do you love cats? Do you love reading?

Yes of course!

Do you like hearing yourself read? Hmm, not so sure 🙂

This happened to me this week:

I recorded a reading for Australia Reads

And I read … the first chapter of my forthcoming book HOW TO SURVIVE YOUR MAGICAL FAMILY

Kitten
If you love kittens, you’ll love How to Survive Your Magical Family

You can hear this sneak peek in Episode One of Australia Reads from Australian Book Lovers

For the celebration of Australia Reads this month, our friends at Australian Book Lovers (ABL) gathered together over 4 HOURS of free stories from Australian authors.

I’m thrilled to take part and even more excited at the opportunity to promote reading.

With thanks to all the fabulous Australia Reads Ambassadors in every state, and especially to ABL for including me 🙂

Check out the fabulous titles! I’m very pleased to see fellow Odyssey Books authors Phil Hore and Lachlan Walter among the list.

Here’s the all-important link:

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1718602/9185906

And here are the

Show Notes:

From ABL: To celebrate Australia Reads and the Australian Reading Hour, we’ve put together an audio extravaganza of truly spectacular Aussie authors reading from one of their amazing stories! So tune up the ears and ready the imagination for the following wonderful audio treasures –

The Link in case you missed It:

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1718602/9185906

 

Keep an eye out for more news about

How to Survive Your Magical Family

Love is in the … anthology

Crown Affairs

Do you like romance?

If you’re keen on a little HEA (happily ever after) in these locked down times, maybe a peek into this romantic anthology is just what you need.

Crown Affairs: royal entanglements of steamy proportions , from US publisher Paramour Ink, is now available in both Kindle and paperback editions in Australia:

 

Scandal, love affairs, tales of relationships that go against the odds and more can be found between the sheets…pages…of Crown Affairs, steamy tales of love among royals.

From olden time romances to modern royalty trying to escape the paparazzi, there’s something for all romantic types in this anthology from Paramour Ink.

Keep a fan handy, because things can get a little hot…

 

Watch out for my story “An Unexpected Arrival”. Poor Crown Prince Felix didn’t plan for his mistress and his betrothed to visit him at exactly the same time…

Stories in this anthology are from Lynn Yorke  (Author), Chisto Healy (Author), Clare Rhoden (Author), Lana Trick (Author), Alice Mollihan (Author), S.O. Green (Author), Dorian J. Sinnott (Author), Jodie Francis (Author), and Matt McGee (Author)

Calling Australian Book Lovers

Logo of Australian Book Lovers website

Calling Australian Book Lovers

Cooee!

Today I’m excited to host Veronica Strachan and Darren Kasenkow as they tell us all about their inspiring project. Veronica and Darren are the co-founders of Australian Book Lovers and the co-hosts of the popular podcast of the same name.  They’ve created a site that’s brilliant for readers and writers.

Love Australian books? Go straight to their site, sign up for the newsletter, subscribe to the fabulous chatty, engaging, informative podcast. I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.

What is Australian Book Lovers?

Australian Book Lovers is a platform for Australian and Indigenous authors to list their books, and for readers from across the globe to find them.

About the ABL team:

In between listing books, promoting authors, and recording podcasts, Veronica and Darren are editing their collaborative novel Family Secrets. Book 1 of a new series, ‘Beneath a Burning Heart’, Family Secrets features adventure, romance, and a supernatural twist.

Veronica spent most of her life in the health industry as a nurse, midwife, project manager, CEO, coach, and facilitator. Once she switched her attention to creative writing, she published six books in five years. A memoir, a workbook/journal, and two books in a children’s picture book series, illustrated by her daughter, Cassi. As V.E. Patton, she’s written Book 1 of a fantasy series and a novelette. Soul Staff: Book 2 of her ‘Opal Dreaming Chronicles’, and Chickabella Shapes Up: Book 3 of The Adventures of Chickabella are due for release later in 2021.

Darren appeared on Last Word of the Week earlier this month. He’s an author whose work dances across the boundaries of literary fiction, with thematic elements from dystopian horror, apocalyptic science fiction and existential suspense. His books include The Apocalypse Show, Dust and Devils, See the City Red and The Hallucigenia Project Book One. He’s currently working on the highly anticipated sequel titled Godless, with an expected release date of late 2021.

I’m very excited to talk to Veronica and Darren today about their work and their mission to promote Australian books.

Welcome to 2021 Inspirations

Veronica: Thank you for the chance to post our inspirations to your blog.

Veronica is also a life coach and motivator
Veronica is also a life coach and motivator

What inspired me to get Australian Book Lovers going? Well, if you chat with Darren Kasenkow for more than a few minutes, you are guaranteed to be inspired by his enthusiasm and imagination. We’re co-authoring a book and have chatted regularly over Zoom over the last couple of years. I was getting to know lots of Aussie writers through the Twitter #AusWrites hashtag started by Rebecca Langham (and now assisted by Kevin Klehr) and the Australian Women’s Writers Challenge (Reading more works by Australian women writers).

Both DK and I were doing everything we could as Indie authors to promote our books in the crowded marketplace, and in the midst of COVID-19!!! I can’t help coaching – looking for potential and nurturing it forth, it’s in the blood – and wanting to support other people in reaching for their dreams, in this case Aussie authors! The conversation got around to … wouldn’t it be good if all the Australian authors were in one place… and easy to find and promote. I’m pretty sure it was DK who said,

“We should start a website”

and he came up with the name Australian Book Lovers. As a serial small business entrepreneur, it was the green light to get started.

The continuing inspiration comes from the authors themselves. The podcast is my favourite. It is an absolute honour to chat with so many creative imaginative people and to hear about what inspires them. And then to spend time chatting with my friend Darren about anything and everything writing and reading that takes our fancy. If one of us is feeling a bit flat, it only takes a minute or two to be uplifted by the other person’s energy and enthusiasm.

COVER Dust and Devils
Dust and Devils by Darren Kasenkow

Darren: Thanks so much for the opportunity to be a part of your amazing blog!! And an extra huge thank you for shining a light on great people and artists of all passions – in a world that’s continuously turning upside down it’s a beautiful thing to know beautiful conversations are happening 🙂

As for inspirations behind the Australian Book Lovers website and podcast, my writing, and of course my insatiable appetite for all things that ignite the imagination, I guess I have to say it probably has to do with those truly magical moments of discovery as a kid that held a recipe for transcending time.

The promise of wonder in a new book

is just the same today as it was when my bedtime was out of my hands and a new tale to read was a whole new world to discover and learn from. I love all art and forms of expression, yet books continue to be portals that I just don’t think other mediums can beat (and I say that as someone who loves to explore the technology of virtual reality!).

I write with the hope my story might inspire the same love of literary portals that I’ve been lucky enough to carry with me throughout life’s trials and tribulations, and I love working on Australian Book Lovers with Veronica because it represents the chance of sharing great works with readers who also hold the soul of an inner child filled with wonder and the desire to push their imaginations to the limit! Oh, and I love to peek behind the curtains in life, so interviewing authors and industry specialists is an absolute blast!!!!!

Tell us more about Australian Book Lovers, please!

Australian Book Lovers is a website where Australian authors can list their books for free.

Logo for the Historical genre
Logo for the Historical genre

Each listing allows a cover, blurb, bio, and author pic as well as a buy link of the author’s choice. We have hundreds of books from hundreds of authors listed under 12 separate genres/ages. Each page has its mascot – an Australian animal or bird, usually wearing a quirky piece of clothing or a prop instantly recognisable to lovers of those books. You can see two of our favourites in this blog. We’ve just commenced competitions to name all the mascots. The hundreds of people who subscribe to our newsletter get updates on the latest additions to the website, special features and access to author giveaways. Authors get their books shared with our subscribers and all the website visitors. The website changes almost daily, both in terms of books added and functionality. Very soon we’ll have to add multiple pages for our most popular genres. We’ll be offering listings for short fiction in the near future.

We also co-host a podcast

which currently has seventeen episodes and over 25 hours of writing news, reading news, author interviews, cameos, book readings, chats with industry experts and expert panels.

Logo for Middle Grade books
ABL logo for Middle Grade books

It is so inspiring to chat with authors and industry people about their love for writing and publishing. We were blown away by the support of authors for the podcast and amazed at having 1000+ downloads by our listeners in only three months.

There are times when it’s hard to keep up with demand, as we both have our own creative work and careers, but it is a gift to be connecting Australian and Indigenous authors to new readers, and we love it.

Thank you so much to Veronica and Darren for bringing together Australian Book Lovers through their energy and passion for reading, writing, readers and writers. If you are an Australian author yet to take advantage of the free listing service for your book, do it now! If you love reading books by Australian authors, wherever you happen to be in the world, go straight to ABL for a feast of books!

Those Important LINKS

Australian Book Lovers Website https://www.australianbooklovers.com

Follow ABL on Twitter https://twitter.com/AustralianBooks

Find ABL on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AustralianBookLovers

Death and Adventure: WWI through the eyes of Australians

Australian headstones at Tyne Cot cemetery

Recently, I reviewed Golgotha, a WWI trench murder mystery by Australian author Phil Hore. You can read my review here.

Born in 1969, Phil was one of the last children born before man walked on the moon. Working at Australia’s National Dinosaur Museum since 2000 and as an educator at the Australian War Memorial since 2006, he has previously worked at Questacon Science centre and could be seen haunting the halls of London’s Natural History Museum and The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Here he even played famed palaeontologist O. C. Marsh during the Smithsonian’s centenary celebrations. When asked why the 19th century palaeontologist was speaking with an Australian accent, Phil blithely stated that everyone on the 19th century spoke with an Australian accent.

Published in newspapers and magazines across the globe, Phil is the paleo-author for the world’s longest running dinosaur magazine, The Prehistoric Times. He has also been a comic shop manager, a cinema projectionist, a theatre technician and gutted chickens for a deli. All of these influences seem to make an appearance in his writing, especially the chicken guts bit.

Congratulations on the publication of Golgotha.

What inspired you to write this story?

PHIL: Thanks, I’m so pleased how this story came out. I have worked for museums all over the world for the last three decades and was lucky enough to work as an educator at the Australian War Memorial for a decade. I was always looking for interesting stories to pass on to the AWM visitors. During my research I found several stories, and further research led me to even more oddities. Many of these I used in my tours, but some I filed away for later use.

The story of a crucified soldier was the first of these, but I do have a few more that will hopefully make an appearance with my international team of investigators in the near future.

Golgotha is set during the First World War.

Why are you interested in the war, over a hundred years later?

The War Memorial in the Victorian country town of Stawell
The War Memorial in the Victorian country town of Stawell
Photo by Clare Rhoden

PHIL: OK, this may get deep. Working in places like the London Natural History Museum made me confront the lack of history I feel connected to. Not only am I am Australian – so part of one of the youngest nations on the planet – but I’m also from Canberra – arguably the world’s youngest city/capital. Certainly, our country is old, and the indigenous have some serious history, but in many ways, I feel that’s not my story to tell.

I collect stories, and many of these I find in strange locations, meaning they are often unreported. This has led me to creating a new history for Australia for a podcast I’m about to release … and it will all be bizarre Australian history that I’m certain many have never heard about, and all real. A samurai invasion of Australia decades before Cook arrived, the Fall of the Roman Empire leading to the Dutch landing in Western AustraliaNapoleon sending an invasion fleet to Botany Bay … all true.

All of this has led me to understand – as many of us do – that our identity as Australians really did begin with Gallipoli. It’s when we first started to think of US and not THEM. The First World War is our American and French Revolution, our Civil War – it’s the conflict that forged us into the nation we know today, I mean, even the word ANZAC has become something for more than its original meaning, its something sacred.

VC Corner on the Western Front
VC Corner on the Western Front
Photo by Clare Rhoden

Do you think that WWI still has lessons for us today?

PHIL: HELL yes. I believe statics show that, by population, no Allied nation lost more in the Great War than Australia. Similarly, no nation (that wasn’t physically part of the battle – like France) is still as affected by these losses as Australia.

Drive through many rural towns today in Australia and you’ll see a large monument in the town square noting their losses. The monument is often full of men with the same last name. Entire generations from these towns joined up and were often buried together in some field overseas.

 

These towns never truly recovered from their losses and rural Australia still feels underpopulated.

I feel this has all left something of an emotional national scar. One way we have been dealing with the great loss is the way we reverently look on those who served.

I feel what other nations can learn by this is perhaps the way we use the past, but we are not tied to it. Mateship is part of our national identity, but rather than let us restrict who we include into this circle, we try tp be inclusive.

Plaque at Villers Brettoneux
This plaque at Villers Bretonneux commemorates the actions of Australian soldiers in re-taking the village from the Germans on Anzac Day, 1918 (photo by Clare Rhoden)

 

I think our natural outlook towards others, which is usually friendly, is why Australians worldwide are beloved.

Very interesting reflections, thanks Phil.

Now a bit about you! If you were stuck on a desert island

– or maybe in lockdown LOL –

what five books would you want with you?

PHIL: Ouch … only five … actually, challenge accepted.

  • The Black Company by Glen Cook.
    I love this series and it’s been a massive influence on me. The way Cook uses a bare-bones way of writing his stories is something I really have taken form heart. Don’t waste your time getting your characters from A to B – just get them there and move on with your story. I also just love his characters and the entire story line … this leads me to
  • Old Tin Sorrows by Glen Cook.
    This book and this entire series is da’ bomb. It’s also part of the inspiration for my first novel, Brotherhood of the Dragon. The books are about a fantasy hard-boiled detective called Garrett. I recall reading ‘Old Tin Sorrows’ when it suddenly struck me that many of the plot points were from Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. In fact, the entire series is also heavily influenced by Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe books, so I decided I wanted to join in the fun and also use these mechanics in Brotherhood.See if you can spot them? Golgotha also has similar influences – most notably the Third Man with Orson Welles.
  • Cetaganda/A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold
    Ok, I may be cheating here, but let me explain. The Vorkosigan saga is one of the greatest novel series ever put to paper (and not just Sci-fi, but all series). Each one takes on a different theme. Cetaganda is pure political/detective thriller. There are plots within plots and action and intrigue and red herrings and Mile Vorkosigan mentally pulling it all apart and finding the truth. Great stuff. The next book though is a romance/political thriller with plots within plots and intrigue and red herrings and Miles fumbling his way to asking the lady he loves to marry him. It’s the funniest book I have ever read and pure genius. I’ll also cheat here and suggest you get the audiobooks. Both of these I listen to at least once a year.
  • Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis    Possibly the most influential book on this list. Moneyball is about baseball statistics…and yet it’s so much more. The lesson it teaches is anything can be interesting if you find the right angle. Moneyball is about how to win when you’re losing, how to change tac when you realise you are going in the wrong direction, how to create something from nothing, how to make a weakness a strength and how to tell just a great freakin story. You can watch the movie – its great too – but honestly, read the book – especially if you are interested in facts more than fiction – you simply won’t regret it!
  • The Gilded Dinosaur by Mark Jaffe   The history of palaeontology bookended by the greatest battle in science – the intellectual war between ED Cope and O C Marsh. Dinosaurs, palaeontology, cowboys, train robberies, explorers, nation building, the Smithsonian, political intrigue … and did I mention dinosaurs? What’s not to love?

 

You write across genres and have a wide range of amazing interests.

How do you juggle all of these with work and writing?

Do you have some time management or focus tips for us?

PHIL: Well, for one thing you will never suffer from writer’s block … you can always move onto another subject for a while and get refreshed/re-inspired.

That’s the cheat answer. To be helpful, I guess I would say work smart.

Research is fun but can create a serious freeze on your brain as you find yourself swamped by too much info. You will take notes – so many notes – well put them in Word! DO NOT USE A NOTEBOOK! Trust me, I’m a researcher and I love carrying around a notebook. The problem is, you end up with lots of notebooks – but do you ever look in them? And do you find what you’re looking for? So, work smart – put them in Word and then you can word search later for what you’re looking for.

Keep folders. You will be astonished how often you will be looking for some info, and you’ll find something that links into something you are working on. Don’t stop what you’re doing, cut/paste/save– take a screen shot or a photo – but save that info in the folder you have for that project and then get on with what you’re doing.

And this brings me to my most important point.

Finish your projects. Don’t get distracted, and I mean distracted by outside as well as internal influences. If you are working on a crime story, don’t start watching documentaries about the First World War, even if that’s something you are also going to work on. You’ll get distracted/inspired and lose your train of thought.

Stay on point – stay on theme – and you’ll get an astounding amount of work done.

 

Wow, Phil, thank you so much for your insightful answers. Wonderful!

And thanks in advance for sharing a chapter from Golgotha, which I know is wonderful.

 

Golgotha by Phil Hore Extract:

Chapter Seven

Just one more to join our happy band of adventurers, Fitzhugh thought as they entered the Australian lines. They were immediately joined by several large men wearing the quintessential slouch hats the antipodean troopers favoured.

These men referred to themselves as ‘six-bob-a-day tourists’, referencing their daily wage, and their service meant the Australian government and senior commanders treated them with more respect than other nations treated their own men. The most obvious example was that no Digger could face a firing squad for any offence without the permission of the Australian government, and that permission was never forthcoming, despite the pleas of generals like Douglas Haig.

Golgotha by Phil Hore
Golgotha by Phil Hore: a WWI trench murder mystery

Soldiers being soldiers, the Australian servicemen took full advantage of this leniency by rarely saluting their officers and hardly ever answering with the proper use of rank. Instead, the Aussies called their commanders by their first name, never wore their uniforms in the ‘correct’ by-the-book-way, nor took part in much of the silliness that soldiers from other nations had to endure.

Fitzhugh knew full well the reputation of these men, both on and — in this case — importantly off the battlefield.

At one point, the unruly Diggers had found themselves located in the lines near the 10th Royal Fusiliers, and here they became concerned for their fellow soldiers when the Fusiliers commander ordered them to parade every morning. The very English and newly minted colonel had decided he would have his men march a full-dress parade, with spit-and-polish uniforms, during their morning mounting of the guard. This was all done as the unit’s brass band played a merry ditty for the Fusiliers to march back and forth under the braying vigilance of Sergeant-Major Thomas Rowbotham. A lifelong military NCO, Rowbotham agreed with his colonel that strict discipline within the ranks was the only way to go.

Amid the mud, carnage, and death on the Western Front, the Diggers watched these parades with growing incredulity. Stationed next to each other, the two units inevitably began mixing and the Aussies eventually had to ask their British comrades if they enjoyed all that marching and dressing up.

‘Not on your life!’ replied one of the Fusiliers.

Another jumped in. ‘We have to do the parade during our downtime. Even at rest, we’re busy polishing buttons and boots, all so our bloody officers can feel like they’re leading proper soldiers.’

One burly Australian grinned an evil grin at his new friends and, slapping the much smaller man on the back warmly, said, ‘Right-o, cobber, we’ll fix that for you.’

The next day, Sergeant-Major Rowbotham called his men into parade. The Fusiliers all dutifully filed in and the regimental band lifted their instruments, awaiting the Sergeant-Major’s signal. As Rowbotham lifted then dropped his arm to signal them to play, he was greeted by a cacophony of what some would later recount fondly as noise.

Marching up and down behind Rowbotham were the Australians, playing what could be kindly described as instruments. Most were rusty and showed the signs of a hard life, but none of this mattered as the Aussies couldn’t play them anyway. Instead, they just blew and banged as hard and loud as they could, to drown out Rowbotham’s orders. Each time the makeshift orchestra began to wane, and the Sergeant-Major tried to regain control of the situation, the Australians began playing again with even greater vigour. After nearly half an hour of this, the Sergeant-Major, in utter defeat, finally strode away in a huff and the Fusiliers were never called to parade again. The Australian trench band was always watching and ready to start up their battlefield symphony if they did.

‘Can I help you, gentlemen?’ one of the Australian soldiers asked.

‘No, thank you, just passing through,’ Fitzhugh answered as Andrews manoeuvred to place himself between the two men.

‘What have we here? It seems the officer is taking his dog out for a walk,’ another Aussie said. ‘Down there, Fido. Sit!’

Another of the soldiers asked, ‘Does your dog do any tricks?’

‘Sergeant,’ Fitzhugh cautioned, as Andrews took a threatening step toward the jokester.

‘Nice leash, puppy,’ the Australian said, indicating Fitzhugh with a nod of his hat.

‘Actually, perhaps you men can help me?’ the captain asked, his tone remaining warm.

‘What’re you after? A German flag? A helmet? We got lots of souvenirs to impress the folks at home. You can even say you collected them yourself, you big brave British soldier you.’

‘Even have an officer’s uniform. It’s still a little bloody from where Barney here gutted the bloke.’

Ignoring the clear threat, and taking the statement as a joke, thus passing the test the Australians had laid out, Fitzhugh replied sincerely, ‘No, no, do not offer me any of your baubles. I was hoping for some information. Do any of you men know Sergeant Hank Ash?’

‘Now what would a proper British officer like you want with Mr Ash?’ the soldier called Barney asked with a heavy Irish accent.

Both Fitzhugh and Andrews caught the sudden change in attitude. All had gone from casual, fun-loving jokesters to rigid and aggressively hard.

‘I’m here to try to save his neck!’

***

The newly demoted Private Hank Ash sat in his cell, his sleeves sporting discoloured sections where his sergeant chevrons used to be. Two armed English guards stood directly outside his cell, situated in a small outbuilding of the farm that was being used as a temporary prison behind the Australian lines. Outside stood more guards, while the farmhouse itself had been converted into a makeshift barracks.

Through a small field that should have been full of feeding chickens and a garden, but now housed a small latrine on one side and a smouldering fire on the other, Fitzhugh, Andrews, and their Australian retinue marched. Approaching the farmhouse door, Fitzhugh took off his cap and stepped inside, returning the salute of the guards as he did. His retinue moved on to the barn, calling out to their mates inside.

Walking into the prison’s makeshift office, Fitzhugh found an English major with a Douglas Fairbanks moustache taking a cup of tea from a brawny NCO.

‘No milk in mine, Corporal,’ he said, inviting himself to sit down at the major’s desk.

The corporal looked from one officer to the other, not sure if he should be turfing the intruder out and hoping for a cue from his commander as to what to do. The major flicked a look at the door and the man left.

‘Perhaps a little sugar if you have it, Corporal,’ Fitzhugh called after the departing man, ‘and a bikkie.’

‘How can I help you, Captain…?’

‘Fitzhugh, Major Preston.’

‘It would seem you have me at a disadvantage, Captain Fitzhugh.’

‘So it would seem, Major,’ Fitzhugh replied, mirroring the senior officer’s reference to his rank to let the man know he knew that trick and wasn’t about to be cowed by an officer just because he had a little more brass on his shoulders.

‘How can I help you?’

‘Well, sir, I’m here to take Sergeant Ash off your hands.’

‘Very funny, Captain. Now, why are you really here?’

Rather than repeat himself, Fitzhugh removed a letter from his breast pocket, unfolded it, then slowly and deliberately smoothed its creases before handing the paper over. As the officer read the letter, Fitzhugh could tell when he read the name scrawled on the bottom of the page, as his eyes suddenly grew very wide.

‘This is signed by Haig.’

‘General Haig.’ Fitzhugh smiled warmly, continuing their game a little longer.

‘Are you sure it’s Ash you want?’

‘I have been hearing that question a lot recently. Absolutely it is Ash I want.’

‘And you know what he did?’

‘Let me see, he was wounded at Gallipoli after showing enormous courage, and has been serving very bravely here since….’

‘Since he broke a lieutenant’s jaw–’

‘From what I heard, the lieutenant deserved a broken jaw.’

‘He was still a superior officer,’ Preston said.

Senior officer, Major. I’m not too sure how “superior” the man was. Let’s not be conjuring facts we have no actual evidence. Personally, I refuse to condemn a man standing against a practice more in tune with the brutality of the inquisition. Now, I believe Sergeant Ash is yet to be convicted of this crime?’

‘That’s true.’

‘May I ask why it’s taken so long to court-martial a man who struck an officer? The official report is frustratingly vague on why he has missed his last three court appearances. For that matter, how are you still in charge, having failed to get your prisoner to his hearing…if I may be so bold as to ask?’

‘Very simple.’ The major opened his hands, as though displaying something on the table before them. ‘My predecessor was a total and utter moron.’

Biting off a laugh from the unexpected comment, Fitzhugh regained control of himself. ‘Care to elaborate, sir?’

‘The buffoon arrested Ash and placed him in this stockade, a stockade, I’d like to point out, that is surrounded by the entire 1st Australian Division.’

‘Gotcha,’ Fitzhugh said, realisation striking.

‘Every time we have tried to move ‘Private’ Ash, those bloody Australians have intercepted us. It seems they are determined to make sure he never sees the inside of a courtroom, and their own officers are uninterested in doing anything to help clear our path.’

‘How are they stopping you?’

‘Well, you may have noticed the Aussies have men posted along every route into and out of this place, and they seem to be ready to move on a moment’s notice if they sense we are up to something. The first time we tried to take Ash to his court appearance, we found nearly a thousand men choking the road, doing the finest parade drill I have ever seen. Every time we tried to cut through them, some unseen voice would order a platoon to move into our way, and they would begin vigorously marching.’

No longer interested in hiding his mirth, Fitzhugh asked, ‘And the next time?’

‘We tried to sneak him out after making sure the time of his hearing was never announced. Somehow, when we went to move him, we suddenly had hundreds of Australian soldiers pushing into the little courtyard out there. They managed to never disobey an order, as the ones who could hear us became hopelessly trapped by the men at the rear continuously pushing forward. It took hours to disentangle everyone, and by then the court had dispersed for the day.’

‘So, I assume you next tried to bring the court here?’

‘We did, and here’s why I really hate those fucking antipodeans.’ The major almost spat. ‘Clearly, they have either befriended or bribed some of my guards, as no sooner did I have it planned for the court to visit us, the Australians struck again.’

‘Struck?’

‘Well, of course, I have no proof of this, but I find it suspicious that the horses the court were going to use to get here disappeared, and of course, they refused to walk all the way, and vehicles would never have made the journey through the trenches.’

‘The Australians stole the horses?’ Fitzhugh asked, grinning.

‘They steal everything not tied down, bloody convicts.’ Sensing he may have said too much, the warden backpedalled. ‘Well, as I said, there’s no proof. Though the Aussies did seem to eat well for the next few days. They had themselves a grand barbeque. They even invited us for a meal.’

Fitzhugh gasped and looked toward the heavens. ‘Thank God!’

‘Captain?’ the major asked, a little confused.

‘Sorry, sir, I was just thanking the Almighty that they’re on our side, because I wouldn’t want to be facing the bastards if they ever got really angry at us.’

‘I hadn’t thought about that,’ the warden said. ‘Thank God!’

 

This is a great read. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Phil’s Links:

Phil Hore website

Phil on Facebook

Phil on Twitter: @Phil_Hore

 

Also, don’t forget that as a special for July, Golgotha is included in the Fromelles Anniversary Book Bundle from Odyssey Books – along with my novel The Stars in the Night, and Jim Ditchfield’s Nursing Fox. Something for everyone!

Fromelles Anniversary Book Bundle
Fromelles Anniversary Book Bundle from Odyssey Books: three fascinating WWI stories from Australian authors