Why I Haven’t Slept Since February (AKA Latest Writing Wrap)

Ok, so perhaps I have slept a few hours here and there, but with all that’s been going on, let’s just say my relationship with coffee has moved to the next level. While the past few months have been fast and furious, I’m pleased to say they’ve also been fruitful and fun. Amid the work-life-family balance there’s been a few literary landmarks to keep my creative compass pointed in the right direction.

Firstly, one of my short stories The AVM Initiative was chosen for the 2021 Microflix Film Awards, where filmmakers are invited to select from a number of texts to adapt into a short film. I would love to see The AVM Initiative (a story written years ago, but now unsettlingly topical), so if you’re a filmmaker up for a cool competition, you can read my entry, along with the other selected texts here.

I was pleased to have my poem Sonnet for a Scarecrow included in the inaugural issue of Curiouser Magazine, a new bi-annual literary journal specialising in speculative prose and poetry.

If you love the fantastical, the horrific, the experimental, and the incantatory, I dare say you’d enjoy Curiouser Magazine. It’s a gorgeous production, and a welcome new addition to the literary landscape.

With the recent release and launch of my short story collection Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract, I’ve been having some fun with the promotional side of writing life.

It was awesome to chat with Colorado-based Jason Henderson for an episode of his Castle of Horror Podcast. You can listen here.

I’ve also been enjoying a blitz of blog touring and was fortunate to be hosted by the lovely Nikky Lee. You can read her “10 Questions With Rebecca Fraser” post here.

Thanks also go to the lovely Maureen Flynn who welcomed me to her blog with an interview that covers everything from story inspiration, writing styles, to what’s next on the writing horizon. you can read it here.

I also featured on Don Anelli’s totally awesome series showcasing Women in Horror for Don’s World of Exploitation and Horror. You’ll find that interview here.

Thanks to all for your time and great questions!

It was a pleasure to attend the Launch of ‘Stories at the End of the Line’, a project driven by Frankston Arts Centre during Melbourne’s ‘pandemic lockdown year’. This community anthology is a little piece of history! Contributions range from raw accounts of ‘life in lockdown’, to wry observations, fictional fantasies, lyrical laments, and narratives filled with heart, humanity, hope, and humour. I was pleased my poem The Butterfly Effect made the cut. I thought it might have been a little too dark…but hey, they were dark times! 🙂

With some of the members of Peninsula Writers’ Club who also contributed to the anthology.

‘Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies’ is now officially launched!

This anthology published by IFWG Publishing Australia, and edited by the multi-award-winning Deb Sheldon, contains some of the darkest Australian fiction from a superb line-up of authors.

I’m very proud to have my gothic psychological horror story Beneath the Cliffs of Darknoon Bay included in the table of contents. If you like your reads visceral, frightening, and unforgettable….this anthology is for you!

As part of the promotions, I contributed to a series of author interviews exploring the inspiration behind each story for Ginger Nuts of Horror. You can read all about the story behind my story here.

The next Little Stories, Big Ideas competition is now in full swing!

Secondary school students across Australia are invited to interpret this term’s theme ‘Acceptance’ in any literary style they like….in under 100-words! Entry is free, and there are some terrific prizes to be won!

Little Stories, Big Ideas is a collaborative project between me and founder and fellow friend and author, Joe Novella. It is our shared vision the competition will become a popular platform for today’s youth to express their literary voices, using contemporary issues and themes as a springboard to allow their imagination to leap in any direction it chooses. We believe kids have a lot to say about the world they live in, and we aim to celebrate, share and support the voice of Generation Next through micro fiction.

If you have a budding young writer in high school, why not encourage them to enter? You’ll find all the details here.

And last, but not least, my debut short story collection Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract (IWG Publishing Australia) is now officially lurking in your favourite physical and online bookstores!

I’ve been genuinely overwhelmed by the positive reviews that have been coming in from respected genre publications and peers. I couldn’t be happier my stories are disturbing and distracting people in the best possible way. Here’s a little snapshot:

Darkness invades the everyday in a stunning set of short stories. Clare Rhoden, Aurealis Magazine.

What Fraser’s writing does brilliantly is pull you right into memories and experiences that are not your own, with scenes so richly detailed that you can almost feel the sand between your toes, the pull of the tide at your heels. Ben Walker, Kendall Reviews.

This collection has so many good stories in its pages. I want to write this review about all of them. Lizzy Walker, The Monster Librarian.

A good author can write twenty five completely different stories and yet keep their style impact. Rebecca Fraser has done just that in Coralesque. This is my first time reading her work and I am honestly in love. Chelsea Pittman, Horrorbound.

All in all, a fine collection by a talented writer. Mario Guslandi, SF Book Reviews.

I’ve also recently completed a middle grade novel, Sea Glass. Amazingly, for me, there’s not a speculative element in sight. Sea Glass is a contemporary, emotionally-rewarding Australian story that explores the relationship between cricket-mad Cailin and her estranged grandfather and how, despite difference and disaster, they reconnect over a shared enthusiasm for sea glass. I’m hopeful it will find a good home in the near future.

That’s all from me for now. Pass the coffee!

Happy writing, happy reading, and happy days…

Rebecca 🙂

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Huzzah! Two Books Are Launched…

Last Saturday at Frankston Library my short story collection Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract was officially launched alongside friend and fellow IFWG Publishing Australia author, Kathryn Hore’s suspense thriller, The Wildcard.

It was such a fun afternoon, filled with family, friends, and well wishers. There were themed cupcakes, plenty of bubbles, book sales and signings. We kicked off with an ‘in conversation’ FRANKTalk, followed by speeches, a reading, and general merriment.

There’s a lot of people to thank when you bring a book baby into the world, so I’m posting a copy of my speech here to leave a cyber footprint of my gratitude 🙂

I ’d like to give special thanks to Marnie and the team at Frankston Library. Marnie has one of the best jobs in the world, I reckon – interviewing authors for her FRANKTalk series of interviews and she has the versatility to make everyone feel comfortable – from writers like Kate and myself to the likes of  Sir General Peter Cosgrove.

While I write across several genres, this collection represents what I love best: dark, speculative fiction that unsettles and unnerves. The stories in Coralesque have been distilled from a period spanning approximately a decade, and represent a range of styles and sub genres. I feel most ‘myself’ writing the types of stories I love to read, so I hope you enjoy reading them too.

It takes a village to raise a child, and it certainly takes a good team to bring a book baby into the world. To this end, I extend my heartfelt thanks to Gerry Huntman for adding Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract to IFWG Publishing’s distinguished list of titles. While IFWG publish speculative and children’s literature for wide-ranging readerships, Gerry is one of the industry’s champions when it comes to supporting and representing Antipodean women in horror.

Naturally, my thanks and gratitude extend to the whole production team at IFWG Publishing, including my copy editor, Noel Osualdini (a talented author of dark fiction in his own right) whose thoughtful suggestions and eagle-eyed professionalism tightened screws to deliver an extra layer of polish to Coralesque. If you like your tales dark and weird – and I hope you do – you simply must check out Noel’s collection Train Wreck and other Stories, a superbly-crafted volume released by another fabulous Australian press, Things in the Well.

And to Steven Paulsen—that gifted gentleman of horror—thank you from the bottom of my heart for your generous introduction to this collection. I am so incredibly humbled and honoured by your gracious and perceptive words. When I first read Steven’s introduction, I had mixed emotions: overwhelming gratitude closely followed by the realisation that Steve’s intro may well be the best writing in the book! No seriously, it actually is! Steve is also published through IFWG, and his Shadows Award winning collection “Shadows on the Wall” deserves a special place on every discerning bookcase.

To my friends and family, and my various dear writing communities – many of you are here today, who encourage and support me, I thank you too. Your contributions are as varied as they are valued.

To Kate, who I am so honoured to stand beside. You’re a great friend and such a talented author. Congratulations! I’m loving The Wildcard, and I can’t wait to read your next one…and your next one. Watch this girl, everyone! She’s destined for literary greatness. And she’s worked damned hard for it.

To Thomas and Steve. The unsung heroes of my writing life. Always there in so many ways – giving me time to write, even when I disappear for days at a time to focus on projects. Bringing me coffee…and wine. Cheering me on for the smallest of successes, and casting darkest aspersion on the countless rejection letters. Not just following my dreams, but believing in them. Believing in me. Steve actually asked me the other week. “When are you going to dedicate a book to me?” (Curtis Creed was dedicated to Thomas, and this one to my parents). The next one is for you, Steve. It needs to be a robust and multi-layered book to be worthy of your dedication, and I truly believe my current project can live up. I don’t want to do a David Rose and Patrick on you, but “you’re simply the best.”

Finally, you may have noticed this book is dedicated to my parents, who are here today as well, from Tasmania. To Mum and Dad, I could write a whole other book celebrating my gratitude for you, and the many ways you’ve helped me succeed in life. Instead, I’ll simply say my biggest thanks go to you – as I say in my dedication –  for absolutely everything.

Big thanks also go to Kathryn’s husband Mark for photographing the launch. I’ve included some highlights in this blog.

And of course, a big thank you to everyone who came to the launch, has purchased Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract, helped spread the word, or taken the time to leave a review. I greatly appreciate your support!

You can now find ‘Coralesque’ in a bookstore near you, sitting between Raymond A Feist and Neil Gaiman, if you don’t hardly mind!
Also available through your favourite online bookstores and retailers.

Until next time,

Happy writing, happy reading, and happy days…
Rebecca 🙂

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The Latest Dirt from the Writing Trenches…

This post is a little delayed due to the ‘Great Aussie Facebook Ban Kerfuffle’, but In Melbourne, Stage 4 Lockdown 3.0 is done and dusted. This time it didn’t feel too bad, I mean five days is nothing when you’re the undisputed lockdown champions of the world. Victoria has trained hard for this!

In between the home school shuffle, I had time to focus on the business side of #writinglife and took stock of where I’d been, and where I was going over the next few months.

Here’s a little overview of where I’ve been, with the latest publication news:

  • My short story Floor was picked up by Pendulum Papers for their February issue. It’s short and it’s brutal, and you can read it here.
  • I was interviewed by Lee Murray, guest editor of Midnight Echo Issue #15. Lee asks the coolest questions about my included poem Keep Walking, among other topics such as the Reader’s Marie Kondo Challenge (Nooooo!) You can read my answers here.
  • Speaking of interviews (and Lockdown), my friend and fellow author, Andrea Rowe put together a fabulous blog series called Coronatude: Chats with Strong Folk Doing Good Things while Melbourne was in the depths of its Stage 4 Lockdown 2.0 in 2020. It’s nice to think I may have contributed to the collective wellbeing of the community in some small way. If you’d like to know a little more about my life in lockdown (including the surprising thing that made me cry), you can read it here.
  • Publication-wise, I was happy to have my short story Don’t Hate Me ‘Cause I’m Beautiful reprinted in The Were-Traveler’s themed issue: Women Destroy (Retro) Science Fiction. You can read my dark little tale about a robotic femme fatale for free here.
  • My poem Serpentine appeared in Issue 4/Spring 2021 of Canadian speculative fiction journal Hexagon. The cover art for this issue is gorgeous! You’ll be able to read Serpentine for free here, from March 1.
  • I also received my first review for my forthcoming short story collection Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract…and I couldn’t have been happier. Sending your work out for review can be daunting (okay, downright terrifying), so I was thrilled when Lizzy Walker at Monster Librarian closed her review, saying: “This collection makes me want to pick up more work by Fraser. There are so many stories that are short, yet provide some spine tingling, thought-provoking horror. Highly recommended for anyone wanting to read international horror.” <cut to me screaming>     You can read Lizzy’s full review here.
  • If that makes you want to pick up more of my work, pre-orders for Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract are still open until March 2015, with an official release date of April 15. You can pre-order here. Launch details coming soon!

Well, that’s all from the writing trenches for now. I’m concentrating on bigger projects this year, with a goal of two novel-length works completed to first draft stage. Unless the muse really bosses me around, my focus will be off short stories for a little while, but I do have a few contracted tales slated for publication later this year, so watch this space.

Happy writing, happy reading, and happy days.

Rebecca 😊

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Exciting News! A LITTLE STORY about a BIG IDEA for a new creative writing competition for Australia’s youth…

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a staunch advocate for inspiring and elevating the literary voices of young writers. When my friend, Joe Novella (the ultimate ‘ideas man’), approached me with an awesome new concept he was eager to evolve, I enthusiastically accepted his invitation to be involved.

The result, Little Stories, Big Ideas, a creative writing competition for aspiring young authors, is something we’re both incredibly excited about, and proud of!

Entries are open NOW for Term 1, with the theme of ‘2050’. you’ll find all the details on the website or check out the copy from the press release below.

Please share with your networks, schools, and libraries….and of course any kids who might like to flex their creative muscles with the opportunity to win some cool prizes!

A new writing competition is set to stir the imagination of budding young writers between the ages of 12-18 years, with the launch of Little Stories, Big Ideas, a quarterly micro fiction challenge where entrants write stories in 100-words or less, against themes topical and relevant to today’s youth.

Little Stories, Big Ideas is the brainchild of local author, Joe Novella, a keen advocate for the creative expression of young adults. As founder of the international Write From the Heart microfiction competition, Joe knows the formula for Little Stories, Big Ideas will be well received by kids, parents, and the secondary school community. “Australia has a wealth of talented kids of every ability, background, and demographic, who have strong opinions on the things that matter to them,” says Joe. “Little Stories, Big Ideas is the ideal platform for them to creatively explore and interpret important issues.”

Joe has partnered with local author and StoryCraft Creative Writing Workshop facilitator, Rebecca Fraser, to help deliver Little Stories, Big Ideas to the Mornington Peninsula and beyond. “I was thrilled when Joe approached me with his vision,” says Rebecca. “I work with many aspiring authors in this age range, and I’m continually impressed by their enthusiasm for new ways to approach writing. Little Stories, Big Ideas gives them the opportunity to flex their writing muscles and have their say, along with the chance to win some terrific prizes.”

Little Stories…big prizes!

To encourage participation and add to the competitive spirit, there are some terrific prizes on offer for winners and runners-up, donated by local businesses and organisations. “We’ve been blown away by their generosity,” says Joe. “Already, we’re able to offer $100 as part of the first prize, along with a fantastic prize pool offering memberships, gift vouchers, products, and services. We’re so appreciative of the community’s support of Little Stories, Big Ideas.”

Joe and Rebecca have officially launched Little Stories, Big Ideas for Term 1, with free submission and complete guidelines via their website. The competition will run four times per year to coincide with the school calendar. “Rebecca and I both believe kids have a lot to say about the world in which they live,” says Joe. “With Little Stories, Big Ideas we hope to inspire and encourage the next generation of storytellers.”

For more information about Little Stories, Big Ideas, visit www.littlestoriesbigideas.com.au

Thanks for your support, everyone.
Happy writing, happy reading, and happy days
Rebecca 🙂

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‘Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract’ now available for preorders

Hello friends

I’m delighted to announce that my publisher IFWG Publishing Australia has pulled the trigger on preorders for my forthcoming collection of dark and weird tales, Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract.

Coraelsque is being officially released worldwide on 15th April, 2021, but preorders are open for paperback copies here,

eBook preorders will be facilitated by the various and usual online ebook stores, so if that’s your preferred format, simply head to your favourite digital bookseller.

While I write across several genres, this collection represents what I love best: dark, speculative fiction that unsettles and unnerves. The stories (and a smattering of poetry) in Coralesque have been distilled from a period spanning approximately a decade, and represent a range of styles and sub genres. I feel most ‘myself’ writing the types of stories I love to read, so I hope you enjoy reading them too.

Here’s what you can expect…

A surfer who becomes horrifyingly one with the sea. A new mother’s devastating search for belonging.  A stone gargoyle with a violent history.  A fisher boy who discovers the real cost of forbidden love. A farmer whose delight at drought-breaking rain quickly turns to terror. A hedonistic rock star who manifests double trouble. A young girls’ chilling quest for justice. A dirty ex-cop with a dirtier secret. An unscrupulous mayor’s solution to rid her city of the homeless …

These are just some of the characters you’ll meet in Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract, a collection of dark offerings comprising short stories alongside a smattering of flash and poetry.

Introduced by multi-award-winning author, Steven Paulsen, Rebecca Fraser’s collection brings together an eclectic mix of new work, along with previously published, award-nominated, and prize-winning fiction, embracing a diversity of styles from gothic to cyberpunk, to contemporary horror, fantasy, dystopia…and every dark cranny in between.

From the harsh terrain of the Outback, to the depths of the Pacific Ocean, the wilds of Tasmania,  dystopian futures, enchanted lands, and the familiarity of suburbia, Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract takes readers on a journey into unsettling, unforgiving, and unforgettable territory.

Thank you for your support. I hope the tales in Coralesque distract you in the best possible way!

Happy writing, happy reading and, as always, happy days.


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What I Read in 2020…

Do you keep a list of the books you’ve read each year? I started recording my thoughts on my annual reads some years ago, and at the start of every January I give a wrap of books I read in the previous year. Some years the list is extensive; other years embarrassingly short.

2020’s reading list of twenty-two books falls way short of what I would have liked to have read, especially as I spent so many months in Stage 4 lockdown in Melbourne. You’d think that would give me all the time in the world to kick back with unlimited books, but it simply wasn’t the case for this iso-bookworm. My reading mojo actually abandoned me for a while (I know, right?!), and I frequently found myself reading a page or two, then simply staring off into space, before re-reading the same page again.

Coronavirus aside, I still managed to do some kick ass reading. Earlier in the year I served on the judging panel for the Rocky Wood Award for Non Fiction and Criticism for the Australian Shadows Awards, and was privileged to read many outstanding essays, articles, and creative non-fiction showcasing horror and dark fiction from the finest writers in the Antipodes. You can view the results of the 2019 Shadows Awards here.

2020’s fiction list is made up of 73% female writers / 27% male (in the case of anthologies I have used the editor/s), with fourteen of the twenty-six penned by Australian authors.

Naturally, some titles gripped me more than others. My standout reads for the year were: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, and The Little Wave by Pip Harry. I don’t call myself a reviewer, as I can’t bring myself to say something negative about another’s work in a public domain, whether it is deserved critique or not. Besides, there are plenty more qualified than me to offer balanced reviews, so the following thoughts are merely my indulgent observations.  

The Institute by Stephen King

I adore Stephen King. I’ve adored him since my early teens, when I first picked up a copy of Graveyard Shift. Since then I’ve read pretty much everything he’s written. When you spend so long as King’s ‘constant reader’, you get to know his style intimately. I have to say, The Institute felt like a bit of a lazy offering. The layered shades of ‘vintage King’ characterisation were lacking, and  we’re asked to cheer and fear for a bunch of kids who…well…just don’t act like kids! That (and plot holes galore) aside, it was still a page turner with an interesting setup, and I’m glad The Institute was the book to kickstart my 2020.  (You will never hear me speak ill of The King!)

George’s Marvelous Medicine by Roald Dahl

My son has severe dyslexia. For him, reading and comprehension of what he’s read is a real chore, so we do it together. Our ‘go to’ guy is Roald Dahl. We laugh at the silly characters, and outlandish plots, and particularly enjoy Quentin Blake’s illustrations. In George’s Marvelous Medicinewe both loved the hilarious Grandma – she is one fabulously  nasty pastie!

Evil Eye by Joyce Carol Oates

Four novellas depicting love gone wrong. Each story presents deeply flawed characters navigating deeply flawed relationships…mostly culminating in terrible consequences. JCO really is masterful when it comes to nailing the ills of contemporary society. These stories reflect her diversity of style, and ability to say so much in so few words. Some carry more of a punch than others, as is the case with collections.

Begin. End. Begin – A #LoveOzYA Anthology

Edited by Danielle Binks, this is a great collection of stories showcasing some of the ‘names’ of contemporary Australian young adult fiction. I was pleasantly surprised the bulk of stories fell under the mantle of speculative fiction—just another reason to love YA, it cheerfully plays well across genre. Some terrific examples of strong voices to be found in Begin. End. Begin. I particularly enjoyed Alice Pung’s In a Heartbeat, and Danielle Binks’ own offering Last Night at the Mount Solemn Observatory had me smiling with the inclusion of the Tree of Life sculpture, a well-known landmark to anyone who travels the Peninsula Link regularly.

Theodora’s Gift by Ursula Dubosarsky

I love Ursula Dubosarsky’s beautiful prose and storytelling. If you’re a writer of literature for children, put her on your list. Her elegant prose, imagery, and symbolism is a welcome change of pace for kids seeking thoughtful stories underpinned by complex and diverse characters. Theodora’s Gift is a pretty weird offering though, and I was left a little confused as to what happened and why. It’s a sequel to The First Book of Samuel, which I haven’t read, so perhaps that’s what’s lacking for me contextually. Even so, a quick read, worth picking up for Dubosarsky’s beautiful way with words.

Burning Love and Bleeding Hearts – Anthology (Things in the Well Publications, Edited by Louise Zedda-Sampson and Chris Mason)

This robust collection of sixty ‘dark and dangerous tales’ ranges from hard hitting works of flash fiction, through to well-crafted story length works, complemented by a smattering of poetry.  With a lineup of authors as diverse as the contents, you’ll find genre heavyweights mixing it up with new and emerging authors, resulting in a pleasing mix of diversity, style, and interpretation of the theme. Editors, Louise Zedda-Sampson and Chris Mason, demonstrate their agility and proficiency in Burning Love and Bleeding Hearts – the anthology was produced as a fundraiser for victims of Australia’s bushfire crisis, and with a tight production schedule, they’ve managed to  produce a quality antho that’s raised over $2,000 and counting. (Disclaimer: I have a story Hermit 2.0 included in this anthology).

Drive, She Said by Tracie McBride(IFWG Publishing Australia)

Tracie is one heck of a polished writer, and Drive, She Said showcases her ability to direct that into dark fiction that explores the human condition admirably. This collection of eighteen short stories feature females as protagonists, in every shape and form, and every shade of grey. Among other strengths, what I liked most about this collection is Tracie’s fearless approach to writing about sex and sexuality—how it can weaken or empower—and the impact of desire upon character motivations. Favourites for me were ‘The Changing Tree’ and ‘Father Figure’.

One of Us is lying by Karen McManus(Delacorte Press)

What fun this turned out to be in the middle of coronavirus. I totally binge-read this book! Described as The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, I was expecting to be underwhelmed – not because of the description, just, well, there’s many ways it could go wrong. McManus takes the reader on a high school thriller, murder mystery, high drama, high stakes romp. The suspects being four high school kids (you know these kids. You’ve got your princess, nerd, junior crim, jock, and misfit), the setting, a detention room (right?), the victim, an unlikeable fellow student. Look, it’s tropey as all get out, I picked two of the plot twists earlier than I would have liked, and a little cutesy-cheesy in the romance stakes, but it’s good contemporary fun with well-rounded character arcs, and a teenage dirtbag or two on top. 😊

In the Clearing by J P Pomare (Hachette)

It’s no secret I love psychological thrillers. And unreliable female protagonists. And dark little corners of regional Australia – both in history and setting.  And then there’s my fascination with cults. In the Clearing delivers everything I love in spades! Freya and Amy share a past burdened with secrets that are about to catch up to them, and the reader is along for every page-turning, tightly-written, well-crafted element of the fallout.  Don’t pick it up if you’ve got something else to do…take Pomare’s bait on page one, and you’re his – hook, line, and sinker! This is the second book from J P Pomare, and I’m eagerly awaiting his next.

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Corsair)

While I’d heard high praise for this book, along with a smattering of negative reviews (some people really disliked it, yet include some valid points as to why in their reviews),  I came to Where The Crawdads Sing with no expectations, and little knowledge of the plot. I believe my reading experience was enriched because of this. I think it’s a book you have to read for yourself and decide whether the style is to your taste. Owens is a nature writer and her descriptions of the refreshingly unique marsh setting are, for some readers, overdrawn.  Me, I loved every magic word, and Kya’s surrounds take on a character of their own. I admit I may not have been so enamoured if the setting was somewhere that didn’t hold high fascination for me. Another thing that struck me was the editorial choice to retain a minor amount of head hopping. We are exposed to protag Kya’s POV carrying the weight of the novel, yet we are also privy to what’s going on in the head of several minor characters. While it may be construed as “breaking the rules” of contemporary craft, it didn’t bother me, and I was glad of the insights. All in all – five stars from me. The best way to describe this book, I’m going to throw to the Daily Mail: ‘Part murder-mystery, part coming of-age novel, its evocation of the marshland and its inhabitants is as unforgettable as Kya herself. A story of loneliness, survival, and love that’s as engrossing as it is moving.’

After Australia by Edited by Michael Mohammed Ahmad (Affirm Press)

I loved the concept of this anthology: “After empire, after colony, after white supremacy…twelve diverse writers imagine an alternative Australia” – and the contents certainly didn’t disappoint. Featuring stories from skilled Indigenous writers and writers of colour, the reader is invited into a world of speculation and a journey towards the year 2050. Each writer has approached the central theme through their unique ideas and lens. The result – every story stand solidly on its own, while contributing holistically to the antho’s weight. While many of the stories left (and hit) their mark, if I had to choose a favourite, I’d run with ‘White Flu’ by Omar Sakr – skillful execution indeed! Australia, indeed the world, would benefit from more anthologies that showcase and celebrate diverse voices.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (Scribner)

I finally got round to reading Sai King’s sequel to The Shining, and it felt a bit like coming home.  Doctor Sleep is a worthy exploration of what happened to Danny Torrance after The Outlook wreaked havoc on his family’s life…and it’s fair to say when we meet up with Torrance as an adult, he’s about as rock bottom as they come, which makes the ensuing arc satisfying. We’re not talking vintage King here – I don’t think those days can be replicated – but we’re talking classic King storytelling, first class character building, and a ripping good yarn. What’s not to like?

I always love King’s Author Notes, and in his comments on the writing process of Doctor Sleep, he states “…nothing can live up to the memory of a good scare, and I mean nothing, especially if administered to one who is young and impressionable.” Damn straight, Mr King! I came – like many horror lovers my age – to Stephen King’s works in my early teens. My mind was blown, and, although I’d been consuming horror for several years,  I vividly recall my first real ‘scare’. Doctor Sleep isn’t a scare-fest—I’ll argue that many of King’s greatest works aren’t, but there’s plenty of thrilling moments and signature stomach-clenching humanitarian dilemmas King’s characters find themselves faced to keep you turning pages.

The Wife and The Widow  by Christian White (Affirm Press)

Do you ever want to throw a book at a wall (then retrieve it, dust it off, and beg its forgiveness), because you know you’ll never be that clever a writer? This was me reading The Wife and The Widow. One of the fastest rising stars of contemporary Aussie crime thrillers has done it again. While I enjoyed The Nowhere Child, White’s first novel, immensely, The Wife and The Widow has outsmarted, outwitted, and outplayed with its cunning execution and sophisticated twists (one that made me audibly gasp at the craft White displayed to successfully pull it off. For more on this execution, stick around for White’s Author Notes at the end). I binge read The Wife and The Widow…and you will too.

Her Bitch Dress by Eugen Bacon (Picaro Poets/Ginninderra Press)

In her introduction to Eugen Bacon’s collection of literary micro fiction, Dr Dominique Hecq encapsulates the essence of Her Bitch Dress, stating “This strangely compelling collection of prose poetry or microlit shivers on the edges of intuition, where the mysteries of love and the contours of desire intersect with what, out of sheer habit, we call relationships, often shying away from more subtle definitions involving intimacy.” I don’t think I could describe it better myself. What I will say is Her Bitch Dress is an ‘experience’ read. One that, like with all good prose poetry and vignettes, should be dipped in and out of, and read slowly, letting each offering roll around your palate to be savoured for its distinctive taste. You’ll find observations of the comfortable-familiar that contrast starkly with oft-brutal daily realities sharing pages comfortably with dreamlike introspections weighted with imagery. I’ve only come to know Eugen’s writing in the past two years, and I’m glad I did. If you enjoy fresh, fearless, fierce, and thought-provoking voices, you will too. Put Eugen Bacon on your ‘one to read’ list.

The Macabre Modern and Other Morbidities by Kyla Ward (Prea Press)

I adore dark, multifaceted, poetry and prose. In this collection Kyla Lee Ward taps into the full range of her considerable talent to deliver an exploration of the human condition in a collection as intelligent as it is diverse. Showcasing her ability to examine complex themes and subjects carried artfully through a variety of styles: free verse and more traditional poetic forms underpinned by lyrical rhyme, rhythm, and meter, you’ll find each section of the book flows like a journey. A well-researched essay The Danse Macabre, acts as a captivating mid-way ‘breather’. I’d read this non-fiction piece previously as a member of the judging panel for the 2019 Australian Shadows Awards, when it took home The Rocky Wood Award for Non-Fiction and Criticism—it’s a terrific read! Another Shadows-winning work is included: Revenants of the Antipodes, a personal favourite of mine, along with Mourning Rites (if you haven’t seen Kyla’s live performance of Mourning Rites, you’re in for a captivating treat. You can find it here). All in all, a timeless collection for lovers of dark literary verse.

Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic (Echo)

I can’t get enough of Aussie crime at the moment—our ‘new wave’ of genre writers are setting some incredibly high standards. Resurrection Bay, the author’s 2015 debut novel, certainly didn’t disappoint. There’s much to like about this fast-paced mystery thriller. We’re dropped with a blood splat into private investigator Caleb Zelic’s immediate dilemma, shown the backdrop of Melbourne, meet his professional partner, Frankie, and then – hey ho, let’s go! It’s game on as Zelic travels from city to coastal hometown following the trail of the murderous, mysterious Scott, responsible for the execution of his close friend (and various others). It’s soon apparent Zelic is the one being followed though, and tension and stakes are raised further. One thing about our hero: he’s profoundly deaf. This was a refreshingly original character trait and it was pleasing to see this diversity showcased in a main character…a detective at that! I’ll look out for more of Viskic’s work.

Oleanders Are Poisonous by A J Collins  (AJC Publishing)

I inhaled this book! It’s a relatively short read, but that doesn’t negate its impact. In fact, I would argue it heightens it. In Oleanders Are Poisonous, Collins tackles some challenging issues and themes, with teen protag Lauren not only navigating the usual universal teenage dilemmas, but also the terrible weight of  burdens beyond her years: dementia, distorted family dynamics, grief, abuse, and betrayal. Well-paced, and well-written, and set against the backdrop of small town regional Victoria, Collins’ debut novel demonstrates she understands her readership, and has adeptly portrayed how setting and circumstance influences and shapes characters’ decisions. I also thought it was a great touch including helplines to various support resources at the end of the book.  Bravo, AJ – I’m looking forward to the sequel, Magnolias Don’t Die.

The Safe Place by Anna Downes  (Affirm Press)

Holiday Read! Ok, so technically not a holiday read, as I’ve been in lockdown since March. I don’t think anyone’s been on holiday in 2020…but if I were to be on holiday, this is exactly the type of book I’d have with me. I love contemporary thrillers, especially those featuring flawed female characters with secrets, secrets, secrets! Take the most amazing setting, introduce Emily Proudman, our ‘hit rock bottom’ protag, and put her in company and a scenario where nothing is quite what it seems. Page turning predicaments (with a little predicatability) ensue! A debut novel I recommend to anyone who loves some twists and turns, and unsettling atmospherics, and wants to escape with a good commercially-driven (fine by me when I’m on holiday, thank you very much) read.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite  (Atlantic books)

Korede is a nurse. Her sister, Ayoola is a serial killer. Korede cleans up her sister’s mess and keeps her secret. This simple premise paves the way for a rollicking read. Dark humour bounces off dark realities that provide motivation for the actions of both sisters.  This book is short, punchy and original, with a writing style to match. I really enjoyed the Nigerian setting and characters, and the clever way the story delivers layers more complex than its surface appeal initially implies.

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams  (Affirm Press)

This book seemed to take me the longest time to read, but it was a welcome journey. Based on true events, it covers the timespan between 1882-1989. With a plot surrounding the compilation of the Oxford English Dictionary by a team of lexicographers, it also covers themes of women’s equality and the Suffrage movement. An interesting read not only for its quiet, but captivating, plot, but also for its impressive research and historical importance, especially with regards to suffrage and the power and evolution of language over the years, especially those words deemed irrelevant by gender.

The Little Wave by Pip Harry  (UQP)

I inhaled this middle grade verse novel. It’s full of heart, hurdles, and hope. The entwined stories of Noah, Lottie and Jack are told with incredible perception, dealing with issues impacting today’s youth in a contemporary setting. I cried more than once, and the entire Page 66 destroyed my heart! A superb example of middle grade respecting its readership and handling heavy themes sensitively without sugar coating.  Highly recommended.

Limerence by Liz Hicklin  (MMH Press)

Limerence takes the reader on multiple journeys in an exploration of location, love, loss, and longing all intertwined in the incredible true account of Frenchman Hubert’s lifelong obsession with ‘English Rose’ Audrey, a girl he met and romanced briefly at London’s 1948 Olympic Games. The multi-viewpoint structure serves Limerence well, with readers gleaning an understanding of the impact Hubert’s obsessive love has on those closest to him—ripples that span generations. I am continually fascinated by the human condition, and Hubert’s unwavering pursuit of Audrey, spanning decades and oceans, for a love unreciprocated is both troubled and troubling…yet who could not be moved by those afflicted by the debilitating condition of limerence?
I’ve come to know the author’s style well over the past few years, and what I most enjoy is her ability to seamlessly meld research with recall to deliver narrative steeped in fact without sacrificing story. The details interwoven throughout Limerence bring various eras and locations to life with attention to detail, setting and a sense of place. A highlight for me was the rich description of the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games—a real treat, and such historical merit! A most rewarding read, best enjoyed over several sittings with a fine sherry!

So, that’s it for 2020. I was aiming to complete The Year the Maps Changed by Danielle Binks, along with others over the Christmas break, but didn’t quite get there. My 2021 ‘to be read’ pile is already teetering. Heading towards the top of the pile are: Lucid by Muriel cooper, Thirteen and Underwater by Michelle Weitering, White Heart by Heather Rose, Honeybee by Craig Silvey, The Survivors by Jane Harper, Black Moon by Eugen Bacon and Guardian of the Sky Realms by Gerry Huntman.

Happy New Year, everybody! And, of course, happy writing, happy reading, and happy days,


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Breaking News! Cover Reveal For My Short Story Collection…

I’m ridiculously excited to reveal the cover of my forthcoming short story collection to the world.

Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract is scheduled for worldwide release on 15th April 2021 through IFWG Publishing Australia. The book has been going through the production process over the last few months, and the cover art has just been finalised.

I couldn’t be happier with artist Greg Chapman’s design and execution of the cover, which ties in well with not only the title story, but provides a fitting sense of foreboding for the other tales contained within its dark and weird pages.

Ta da! Here it is:

Isn’t she a ripper? 🙂

I’m also thrilled to have multi-award-winning writer, Steven Paulsen (author of Shadows on the Wall) contribute the introduction to my collection. I was honoured and humbled by Steven’s generous words, and hope I live up to them!

Pre Orders for Coralesque and other Tales to Disturb and Distract will be available early 2021, but here’s a little teaser of what you can expect:

A surfer who becomes horrifyingly one with the sea. A new mother’s devastating search for belonging.  A stone gargoyle with a violent history.  A fisher boy who discovers the real cost of forbidden love. A farmer whose delight at drought-breaking rain quickly turns to terror. A hedonistic rock star who manifests double trouble. A young girls’ chilling quest for justice. A dirty ex-cop with a dirtier secret. An unscrupulous mayor’s solution to rid her city of the homeless …

These are just some of the characters you’ll meet in Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract, a collection of dark offerings comprising short stories alongside a smattering of flash and poetry.

Introduced by multi-award-winning author, Steven Paulsen, Rebecca Fraser’s collection brings together an eclectic mix of new work, along with previously published, award-nominated, and prize-winning fiction, embracing a diversity of styles from gothic to cyberpunk, to contemporary horror, fantasy, dystopia…and every dark cranny in between.

From the harsh terrain of the Outback, to the depths of the Pacific Ocean, the wilds of Tasmania,  dystopian futures, enchanted lands, and the familiarity of suburbia, Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract takes readers on a journey into unsettling, unforgiving, and unforgettable territory.

For more information, visit IFWG’s Cover Reveal announcement here. You’ll also find details about their other exciting titles due for release in the coming months. This is my second publication with IFWG, and I couldn’t be happier to be part of their ever-expanding international stable of talented authors.

My first release was Curtis Creed and the Lore of the Ocean, a middle grade fantasy adventure that’s garnered wonderful reviews from readers of every age – one for the young, and young at heart.

Thanks for your ongoing interest and support in my work, dear readers. x

Happy writing, happy reading, and happy days.
Rebecca 🙂

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September turned out to be a Horror-bly good month!

I’ll admit I’ve been feeling a little down on myself of late. Despite seemingly having all the time in the world due to Stage Four restrictions in Melbourne, I haven’t written any new words for weeks now. Covid and me…let’s just say we’re not creatively compatible!

This month, however, I had three pieces of wonderful genre-related writing news land in my inbox, and it’s been a terrific boost to morale.

My poem ‘Keep Walking’ was accepted for publication in Issue 15 of Midnight Echo (released by AHWA). This issue, due for release in November, is guest-edited by multi-award-winning Lee Murray, and I’m sharing the table of contents with some wonderfully talented dark scribes from Australia and New Zealand.

I also learned I’d been awarded a 2020 Ladies of Horror Fiction Writers Grant. My heartfelt thanks and gratitude to the generous sponsors and donors who have contributed to funding this year’s grants. Thank you for helping to celebrate and elevate women in horror. This was the second year LOHF have been running their international grant program, and they were able to offer ten grants this year, which demonstrates how well received and supported the initiative has been.

And finally, my story ‘Beneath the Cliffs of Darknoon Bay’ was selected to appear in Spawn: Weird Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies. My ambiguously unsettling gothic tale is set in 1836 in the Furneaux Island group at the height of Australia’s sealing industry. It will share pages with an amazing line-up of authors I’ve admired and respected for years. There was much Kermit arm flailing attached to this acceptance!  Look out for this anthology next year from IFWG Publishing (Australia). Edited by award-winning Australian author, Deborah Sheldon, it’s going to be quite the read!

I hope you’ve all had some good news come your way recently too, no matter what shape or form it takes. It’s the little rays of light that help chase away shadows.  Take care, everyone.

Happy writing, happy reading, and happy days.

Rebecca 🙂

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Writers’ Wellbeing: Yoga for Writers with Eloise Greene

Today, I’m incredibly pleased to welcome Eloise Greene to the Writing and Moonlighting couch as part of my ‘Wellbeing for Writers’ series. Eloise is a practicing Mornington Peninsula-based yoga teacher and student who believes in “celebrating the body through movement”. As the daughter of contemporary and historical fiction author, Lou Greene, Eloise understands the unique physical and physiological benefits yoga can deliver to writers of every discipline, developing routines tailored towards writers’ wellbeing as popular additions to her YouTube channel.

Eloise, welcome! It’s so great to have you on the blog as this week’s special guest. Let’s start off with the fundamentals. The benefits of yoga have been known and studied for centuries, and the correlation between yoga and the arts is widely celebrated. What are some of the benefits yoga can deliver to writers when it comes to their creative practice or productivity?

Hi Rebecca, and thanks for having me. It’s widely known that the ancient art of yoga promotes health and wellbeing, but a great side benefit of practising yoga is its ability to expand and support creativity. Yoga is instrumental for those in any creative field as it allows us to bring about stillness in the mind and focus on the present moment, our breath and our body. It quietens distractions, and from this place of clarity and peace, deeper thinking and inspiration can arise. 

To be creative it is beneficial to have free-flowing energy through our bodies and minds. Yoga works to move the prana (the life force energy that pulses through the body along a network of subtle body channels) through our bodies and direct it to specific areas. Writers’ block could potentially be a build-up of this stagnant energy which needs to be released elsewhere and yoga helps us to do this, potentially facilitating creativity and inspiration to flow.

Thanks for those insights, Eloise. I know for myself whenever I have scattered thoughts or a distracted mind, my creativity is hampered. Moments of stillness are vital for unlocking my creative focus and flow.  So, what about the benefits of yoga in relation to the physical act of writing itself? I imagine yoga would be wonderful for relieving some of a writer’s biggest physical complaints: back and shoulder pain and soothing tense muscles?

Yes, absolutely! Yoga and its asanas (poses) help to loosen up all the areas of tension and tightness that are especially prevalent in writers who spend much of their time sitting bent over a desk.  When the body is unrestricted by pain, it becomes free to create. As we open ourselves up physically, we become receptive to creative inspiration.

Unfortunately, modern life promotes bad posture as the general population spend the majority of their time in chairs (looking at you writers!). Posture is super important if we want to maintain the health and mobility (which supports you for your whole life) of our bodies. It’s amazing how every part of our body is interconnected with connective tissue much like a spider’s web. When one thing is out of balance it can easily affect another part of our body due to the connective tissue which exists between and around almost everything in the body. Yoga can improve your posture as we build strength and flexibility from the asanas. 

Most standing and sitting poses develop core strength, since you need your core muscles to support and maintain each pose. With a stronger core, you’re more likely to sit and stand tall. Yoga also helps you to gain body awareness, so you become more conscious of how you are standing and sitting, and which muscles you are using throughout the day. When you stop slouching and stand up straight, you’ll look better and feel more confident and most importantly you’ll feel more positive too! A positive and focused mind is important for creativity.

Yoga can also help deliver more energy to your day. Yoga has eight limbs and the poses (what most of us think of as yoga) is only one of those eight elements. Pranayama (breathing techniques) is an amazing way to re-energise the body and mind. Kapalbhati Breathing, also known as ’Shining Skull’ breath, is one of my favourite yogic breathing techniques that cleanses, charges, and invigorates the frontal region of the brain. 

Practice: (rapid breathing with passive inhalations and active exhalations) do 2 or 3 rounds of 20 breaths.

  1. Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
  2. Inhale through both nostrils, expanding the abdomen.
  3. Exhale with a forceful contraction of the abdomen.

Thanks for sharing this fabulous breathing technique, Eloise. Your observations about posture certainly resonate with me. I really need to be more mindful of my posture. I often find myself hunched in my chair, or suffering from a painful build-up of tension in my shoulders and neck.  It looks like the benefits of yoga are multifaceted indeed. So, if you were a writer looking for a way to ease into yoga as a complete beginner (or perhaps seeking a path back to practicing yoga), what would you recommend?

First of all, don’t be put off by all the crazy poses you may see on Instagram, or classes that seem unachievable. Something I feel so strongly about and want to promote is that yoga is for everybody and every body (no matter your age, size, colour, flexibility, strength etc.) You should never compare yourself to others in yoga classes because not every body looks, flows or bends in the same way. An excuse I often hear is, “I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible enough.” But that is the same as saying “I can’t have a shower because I’m too dirty.” We come to yoga to get more flexible, more in tune with our bodies and to celebrate what our bodies can do for us! 

Ideally, the best way to start your yoga journey is to go to a real class not a virtual one, but that is quite challenging at present! If you are able to, find a local yoga teacher and see if you like the way they teach and the vibe of the class. Hopefully I will be teaching some in-person classes in and around Mount Martha as soon as lockdown is over, so please keep an eye out on my social media if you would like to come and join in (I hope to create a super supportive and safe environment to practise and grow)! If attending in-person classes isn’t for you another great way to ease into yoga is from the confines of your own home. I have some super quick and easy videos on my own YouTube (Eloise Greene Yoga) that you could try out if you click on this link

There’s even a writer’s yoga video up if you are in need of a little break from your creative endeavours. There are heaps of other videos you can follow on YouTube too.

That’s great to know! I’m a local girl myself, so I’ll certainly be looking forward to your classes! In the meantime, it’s terrific to have your online resources available while we’re all experiencing the impact of COVID-19’s restrictions.

Eloise, I understand there are many different types of yoga. Is there one (or more) that would particularly suit writers and creatives? Or is it more about finding the right fit for your lifestyle/personal preference?

Yes, there are so many different types of yoga to explore. Personally, I practise Vinyasa which is flowy and includes poses synchronised with the breath, and Yin which is floor-based poses that are held for minutes to work into the deep connective tissues, like your fascia, ligaments, joints, and bones. It’s slower and more meditative, giving you space to turn inward and tune into both your mind and the physical sensations of your body.

I think it’s definitely best to find the style which best suits your own needs and personal preferences. Some people may prefer more sweaty, physical practices such as power yoga, Vinyasa, Ashtanga or Bikram. Some people might like a more balanced practice such as Hatha or Iyengar. And some people might enjoy a slower-paced and de-stressing practice like Yin or Restorative yoga.

I think for writers it’s important to focus on poses that work your back, shoulders, and neck as most likely that is where pain can arise from sitting for prolonged periods. A few poses I recommend are:

Seated neck rolls: Inhale gently bring your R ear to R shoulder. Exhale come down through centre. Inhale gently roll your L ear to L shoulder. Then reverse and repeat.

Cat cows: Come to an all fours position with your wrists under your shoulderns and knees under hips. Spread wide through the fingers. As you inhale, lower your belly, lift the chest, look up. As you exhale round your back, chin to chest and push the ground away from you.

Child’s pose: From all fours position sit back on your heels with your knees together. Extend your arms forward with palms down and then melt your body into the ground. You can do this pose with your arms down beside your body. You can also do this pose with your knees separated and your toes touching and breath into the space you create.

Sphinx pose: Lie on your belly and bring your elbows under your shoulders with your forearms on the floor and your palms facing down. Press your forearms into the floor and lift your chest up and forwards, drawing your shoulder blades together and down your spine. Push the tops of your feet, your thighs, pelvis and forearms into the ground whilst lengthening through the spine.

Ah, yes—back, shoulders, and neck! Every writer’s pain points…these poses will be very beneficial! But what about meditation? Is this a natural extension of yoga practice, or would you recommend meditation as a separate ritual…maybe part of a daily writing routine? Can you suggest an easy meditation that can be performed at any time?

Yes, meditation is another of the eight limbs of yoga. In fact, the yoga poses the majority of us know as yoga are practised so people can maintain sitting in meditation for long periods of time. I love adding a short meditation at the end of my yoga asana practice to set my intentions for the day and connect inwards. This is great if you are a writer as it gives you a clear focus. I also like to set aside about 20-30 minutes in the morning to simply sit with myself and be in the present moment.

Here is a super easy meditation technique that can be performed at any time: Come to a comfortable seated position. Maybe place a pillow or folded blanket under your sit bones to help keep you upright. Place your hands on your knees, palms open and receiving. Close down your eyes. Tune into your body, noticing how it feels today. Notice if there’s anything your body is trying to tell you. Notice any places of tension or tightness and give those areas permission to relax. And just observe the breath here. Feeling your chest expand as you inhale and fall as you exhale. Allow your mind to become one with your breath. If your mind wanders, just notice it and bring your attention back to your body, using your breath as an anchor. And continue for as long as you want.

I guess it just goes to show how the simplest changes, habits, and practices can lead to the most profound changes. Eloise, I want to thank you again for your time and expertise. You’re inspired and inspiring! I know many writers will gain much value from your comprehensive answers—I know you’ve certainly sparked my interest in learning more about (and practising) the benefits of yoga.

Just one last question before you leave to spread your beautiful energy elsewhere:  What has been your favourite read (so far) for 2020, or what is your next book on your “to be read” pile?

I finished high school last year and never found much motivation or time to read on top of schoolbooks. This year I have found my love for reading again! It’s super hard to just pick one, but I think probably All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I’m a bit late to the party to read it but I absolutely loved it and it was so beautifully written. It is one of those books that really touch your heart and one I think I will be thinking about for years to come.

About Eloise Greene

Eloise Greene is a practicing Mornington Peninsula-based yoga teacher and student (Vinyasa/Yin) who believes in celebrating the body through movement, and that yoga is for everybody and every body.

You can follow Eloise’s yoga journey and join her classes on YouTube and Instagram @eloisegreeneyoga or email her at eloisegreeneyoga (at) gmail dot com
Eloise welcomes your message and questions, even if it’s just for a chat!

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Writers’ Wellbeing: Marianne Ellis from Soul Reflection Coaching: Cultivating & Maintaining Creative Resilience

Last week in the ‘Wellbeing for Writers’ series I described writing as a sedentary pursuit. The fact is, writing is also such a solitary pursuit. For many it can be hard to define their creative goals, let alone hone a strategy to achieve them. This week, I’m delighted to welcome Soul Reflection’s Marianne Ellis, Life Coach and Creative Arts Counsellor, to the Writing and Moonlighting couch to share her expertise on cultivating enduring strategies for maintaining focus, making friends with our creativity…and how visualisation can keep our dreams at the forefront of our minds.

Marianne Ellis

Marianne Ellis, Soul Reflection Coaching

Marianne, thanks so much for your time and energy, and welcome to Writing and Moonlighting. Firstly, what are your top tips for those who might be struggling to apply some focus to their writing goals.

I’m so excited to share some tips with fellow creatives…thanks so much for the invitation. I really understand the courage and vulnerability it takes to follow your own creative path and pursue your passion.  It can often feel like a lonely journey with many twists and turns….it truly takes a special kind of person to fully step into their creativity and own it. It’s a privilege to offer some words of support and assistance.  

Get Support: It’s essential to get support which could be in the form of a friend, Facebook group, or joining a writers’ membership. When we have someone cheering us on and also keeping us accountable it helps to stay on track. The simple act of affirming what you’re going to do out loud, and it be witnessed, is powerful.  

What is your motivation? Your Why? What is really behind your goal? Leaving a legacy? To share your story with others to inspire people? Perhaps it’s about how you feel? Your work brings you joy, purpose, and fulfilment. Getting clear on your ‘why’ can really help you stay motivated and focused on what’s really important and the reason you do what you do.

Journal on your ‘why’ to get clear on the bigger picture. When you lose focus, come back to your ‘why’….having it in writing is so helpful when motivation is low.

Dream big! Think outside the box and dream…what do you really want? Feeling excited and motivated will pull you closer to it. 

What is it that you would do with your creativity if there were no barriers? Nothing was in your way…no fear, financial worries. Even if it seems out of reach, allow yourself to keep that bigger vision close to you. 

Remember that no-one ever achieved their dream by playing it safe. We don’t know what is possible until we try, and often we talk ourselves out of things before even attempting them. When you are thinking of reasons not to do something, challenge yourself to come up with reasons why you should. 

Embrace your dreams, know that people who have made their vision come true have dedicated time, effort and commitment into achieving it. What may appear like a pathway to easy success could have been many years in the making. We have to start somewhere and just get clear on your dream and take some small steps forward. You are saying ‘yes’ to yourself and in believing you are getting closer to achieving. Stop overthinking and just do it!

Inspiration: Research and spend some time reflecting on people that inspire you and whose work you love. When you think about the most inspiring people you follow, what qualities do they have? What stands out to you as different? How could you implement those qualities into your life? Make a list of the top ten most inspiring people in your life.

Visualisation: As creatives we need to feel inspired, motivated, and excited by our work. Imagine what you want to create…if it’s a published book then close your eyes and imagine you are at your book launch, holding your book and signing copies.  

Bring your vision to life in your mind…bring it to life.

If we can see it in our mind as a reality and feel in the body what our goal will look like if we achieve it….we really embody it. Ask yourself these questions: How will you feel when you achieve it? What are the positives if you achieve your goal?

Try practising visualisation every day to keep that image of your dream at the forefront of your mind. As you practice this you will notice that the vision expands and becomes clearer.

Actions: The only way we get results is by taking action and the easiest way to get started is follow the path of least resistance.  

What is the one thing you can get started on right now that you’re feeling a ‘pull towards’? 

Start with that and you will gain momentum. Taking small steps is less overwhelming. Yet it’s still progress taking you forward. As long as you’re moving slowly towards your goal then you’re in action and you will achieve results.

Structure: Look at your schedule and get clear on where you are spending your time. Often we can lose chunks of time in the day due to not being organised such as food preparation, housework, running errands for other people. 

When you review your week and determine if it’s possible to carve out time where you will be uninterrupted you’ll start to work out a new structure that is more productive.

Prioritise: Determine what is really important and create a list each day of smaller tasks you would like to accomplish that are achievable by breaking down larger projects into small actions.  This could mean setting aside a block of time that is solely for creativity and that you will not compromise on unless there is an absolute emergency. Being consistent and committed will achieve results even if the amount of free time you have is only an hour a day. 

white and pink flowers beside a canister

Wow, Marianne, these are great tips! I especially love the practice of coming back to your “why” when lacking motivation, if the going gets tough, or carving out time to write becomes a challenge It’s such a great leveller to return to the bedrock of what drives your passion.

We all live such fast-paced and stressful lives, it’s easy to get caught up in our own thoughts and lose focus and motivation. Now, with COVID-19 unsettling our lives even further, there seems to be another enemy to steal our focus! Many of my writing friends are reporting ‘brain fog’ is impacting their creativity. Do you have some suggestions to bring back some clarity to creative projects?

Unfortunately, COVID-19 is increasing stress and anxiety, and while many people work from home as creatives, their motivation and focus can be compromised. There can be a sense of ‘what’s the point?’ and deep levels of exhaustion are common.  It’s particularly important to practice great self care at this time.

Be your own best friend: What advice would you give your best friend? Often we are inclined to be much gentler, softer on our friends and much harsher on ourselves. Right now if you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed go gently on yourself. These are unusual circumstances and there is no right or wrong response. Just be kind to yourself and protect your mental health and wellbeing above all else.

Listen to your intuition: Trust yourself and listen to what feedback your body is giving you. If you feel tired, pay attention and rest. Don’t keep pushing if your body and mind are wanting to work…in taking time out you will come back more productive. When we push ourselves, we don’t produce quality work under stress or exhaustion.  Ask yourself what is the best thing I can do to honour myself in this moment? 

Switch off social media: Set aside time where you are offline so you can be present in the moment and enjoy time at home with no distractions. It may feel like you are always ‘on’ from morning to night if you have your smartphone on. In setting a structure that works for you—such as switching off your phone after 7pm—you can have a clear separation and time out.

Music and movement: Sitting for long periods creates brain fog so remember to move around. Switch on some energising music and move your body. The quickest way to shift your energy is a powerful piece of music. Choose something uplifting that makes you feel amazing.

person using macbook pro on table

Environment: If your work space is cluttered and you can’t see your desk anymore this could be causing brain fog. It’s hard to concentrate when things are disorganised so set aside some time to create a beautiful working space.

To create an inspiring environment, perhaps try: Fresh flowers, beautiful essential oil in a burner, placing inspirational quotes in your office, ensuring the temperature is not too hot or cold. Open a window to allow fresh air which we are all lacking at the moment.

Create a vision board:  Use old magazines to cut up and create an inspiring vision board. Use a large sheet of paper or card and choose images that represent your dreams for the future. The life that you want to design and create for yourself. Place this in your home office or studio so you can see it while you work to have a visual of something positive that you want for yourself.

Don’t stress:  Remember that brain fog is temporary and a normal part of being a creative person.  In accepting that it’s part of the creative journey and not resisting or pushing yourself, it will likely pass much faster.  The more we struggle and force ourselves to create, the more we push our creativity away.  

Make friends with your creativity: Imagine your creativity as part of you that needs nurturing, love and understanding. The more respectful and kinder you are the more you can reconnect to that creative energy again. Remember when we are in flow, we will be really productive, and often make up for time away for being creative. 

Nourish your wellbeing: The happier and more relaxed you feel, the more you will create so when you relax, watch Netflix, go for a walk, chat with a friend, etc, you are opening up a space for more peace and joy in your life.

Meditation and gratitude: Mediation and creating a calmer presence will help increase concentration and focus. Often we can find the answers we need in moments of stillness, when our minds are silent.

Try sitting quietly with your eyes closed and tune into your breathing for a really simple starting point. Remember mediation is not an easy process for those with busy minds but stick with it and you will see results. Some great resources on mindfulness can be found here.

Gratitude: Practicing gratitude can give us a positive focus and starting each day with three things you are grateful for can be a fantastic way to begin your day. If you want to go deeper apply the same exercise before bed. Reflecting on your day and the positive moments…they can be small. For example: Nice weather, Beautiful coffee, A chat with a friend.

Follow your own path: The creative path is never a straight line and it’s not for the faint hearted! Celebrate your success…no matter how small. Be your own cheerleader and acknowledge that the work you are doing will always be a roller coaster. That being creative means you set your own rules, you don’t conform, you follow your own path and that alone is something to be proud of.

Thanks, Marianne – so many of your suggestions resonate with me! Particularly taking breaks from social media – I must admit to being a bit of a social media slave at times, and a lot of it is filled with negativity, anger, and delusion. It’s no wonder it’s a creativity-crusher!

Marianne, what about for those whose creativity might have stalled altogether? What are the main killers of creativity, and do you have any exercises to help unlock/unblock creative souls and get writers back to writing?

One of the biggest challenges for creatives can be their own mindset—getting caught up in their own thoughts. This can be in the form of their inner critic affecting their motivation or mindset.  This can lead to feelings of frustration, anxiety and depression…it can drain the joy out of what we love to do.  If you’re caught up in your thoughts it can be impossible to focus and concentrate.

This may present as:

Perfectionism – Trying to reach impossibly high standards and inability to tolerate mistakes which can hold people back from getting started.
Reframe – Allow yourself to make mistakes, remember that mistakes are great learning, give yourself permission to enjoy the process and be kinder to yourself.

Feeling not good enough – Often comparing themselves to other creatives and feeling  inferior.  Particularly at the start of a creative journey and comparing themselves to someone else’s end game who’s perhaps spent years in a creative profession. We can get caught up in social media and perceived success…which may not be the reality.
Reframe – Remember this creative journey is about you, and is as individual as you. When you realise you can design your own life, and it’s only your fulfillment that matters, you let go of comparing yourself. You are good enough right now, you are unique and no one else can do what you can do.

Fear of Rejection – Often as creatives we are putting ourselves in a space of vulnerability. We open our hearts and share with courage. The fear of rejection can be a creative block as we never know how our words will be received. Every time we are rejected it can be a setback that can leave you feeling unmotivated to try again.  
Reframe – View each rejection a step closer to your goal and celebrate yourself for trying. The more you share of yourself, the easier it will become.  Move towards the fear and you will lessen its power.

Fear of Success – It is not uncommon to fear being successful, particularly if you’re an introvert, as many creatives are. We prefer to avoid the spotlight, and whilst we may want to be a successful author, there may be an inner conflict in doing so. There may be fears around being ‘seen and heard’ that create a block as subconsciously we are afraid of the outcome.
Reframe – Affirm to yourself that you are always in control, and go at your own pace. Sometimes you may feel very uncomfortable, yet this can be a great opportunity for growth and expansion. The confidence will come from ‘doing’, so the more you step forward the easier it will become. Keep on challenging yourself to be out of your comfort zone and set challenges each week to share your work or speak up. 

Fear of judgement – We can’t control what others think of us no matter how hard we want our work to be accepted. Remember you are only in control of your own thoughts and staying focused on what feels right to you and remaining authentic will help you push through resistance that arises.
Reframe – Ask yourself does it even matter if people don’t like my work? Are the people that criticize people who you respect? Do they put themselves in positions of vulnerability?  It often says more about the person judging you and their own mindset than the work you have created. 

Identify your thoughts – Bringing awareness to unhelpful thoughts by journaling on how you’re feeling. Once you understand what is sending you off track you can catch the trail of thought before it takes off in a negative direction.

We can get caught up in stories we tell ourselves that are unhelpful and not true. We can re-frame a negative thought pattern into a positive one.

Attachment to the outcome – When you create with an expectation for the end result, often we feel pressure. Sometimes the best work comes from being totally unattached to the outcome. If you are struggling to write then allow yourself to indulge in writing from the heart. Let go of expectations and let the words flow without there being a reason to write or create with any intention. Often the resistance is actually just getting started, and once we do, things proceed and you regain the flow of creativity.

Get curious – Unlock your creative block by getting curious…sit quietly with a notebook and pen. Close your eyes and ask yourself without judgement what is blocking your creativity?  The answer is always within you.  Often acknowledging what is going on will shift the block…perhaps it’s an external distraction or stresses that you need to address. What do you need to do so you can move through this block? Ask yourself the questions as you would ask a friend. This will help bring a fresh perspective to your thinking.

Consider collaboration – Working alongside another creative on a project can be a fantastic way to incorporate new ideas and inspire new creative pathways. It also provides fantastic support from someone who will understand what you are feeling.

Do Different….Try something new.

Experimenting with an unfamiliar creative medium can stimulate your creativity. Sometimes we can get stuck in a routine that has become unchallenging and we just need to break it with something new to find a new spark.

These reframing tools are brilliant, Marianne! Mindset truly does help or hinder a creative’s life force. I know many writers reading this will be nodding their heads at your observations of how our mindset presents itself.

As a Life Coach, you’re trained to help people bring out the best in themselves, facilitate change, and support people in making meaningful decisions in their lives. Do you have any advice for writers who might be struggling to strike the right balance between the responsibilities and obligations of their daily life and nurturing their creative souls/finding time to write?

Boundaries:  Right now many people are feeling pulled in many directions especially if you have children at home. There has never been a more important time to set clear boundaries with people at home. 

Don’t be afraid to say no. We can get sidetracked by tasks that could be done by someone other than yourself. In saying ‘no’ you are both honouring yourself and the other person if you say ‘no’ to something that is not in alignment with what you want to do . Often saying no can inspire the person to find their own solution. 

Communicate:  Get clear on what you need from people around you, often we can be afraid to ask for help and support. This creates resentment and frustration leading to strained relationships.

Find a compromise. If you are able to get your writing task completed then you can be fully present and able to assist with family roles. People in your family learn from your behaviour. If they see you are much happier when you have had alone time to work on projects they will begin to think twice before disturbing you. Let people know what you’re working on and why it’s important. We can sometimes assume people are not interested when in fact by openly talking to them about your goals they will feel included and part of your support team.

colorful cutouts of the word purpose

Passion and purpose:  There is nothing more inspiring for children to see their parents working towards their dreams and with a passion for life. In putting yourself first you are being a fantastic role model and one that will inspire your children to grow up as passionate creatives. 

Communicate clearly and lovingly that you would appreciate their support. This might mean giving you space for uninterrupted time.

Wise words indeed. One of the biggest things I’ve had to work on—both in my personal and professional life, is saying “No.” I still struggle with it, but I’m happy to say I’ve come a long way!

Marianne, as well as being a Life Coach, you’re also a Creative Arts Counsellor… How important is creative writing when used as a therapy for emotional wellbeing, rehabilitation, or self-expression?

Using writing to explore your inner world and express yourself will require you to be in a stream of consciousness which allows you to be in total flow and let your logical brain rest. There is no right or wrong. There is no concern over grammar or punctuation, which may feel counter-intuitive, but writing for therapeutic benefits is about the process and not the outcome. 

Unravel your thoughts and feelings: Writing is a powerful tool to better understand yourself, unravel your thoughts, and gain some clarity on what is really going on in your head. Journaling is a daily activity that is a wonderful form of therapy. 

Express how you feel: There are so many ways you can explore writing to express how you feel. If you’re angry with someone, write them a letter with the intention that they will never see it. Let the words you really want to say to the person fall out onto the page…don’t hold back. Once you have written the letter, destroy it.  It’s the unprocessed emotions we don’t express that impact us negatively. 

Reflective Writing: Reflective writing is also very helpful. If there is a situation that has caused you stress or upset you, write about it from a fresh perspective. The harder the situation, the more opportunity for growth and understanding of yourself. Express in writing what the situation taught you and how you can use that knowledge to move forward in a positive way.

photo of person holding book

Narrative Therapy: If you have a negative experience that is replaying in your head, try writing about it as a story, but change the perspective of how it is written. Write about yourself as if you were the character in the story to lessen the emotional charge. How can you rewrite your story in a positive, powerful way that leaves you feeling inspired by the challenges you have overcome?

Every challenge you have faced in life has taught you valuable lessons and often the hardest times will teach us the most. Try rewriting your story and seeing yourself as the hero not the victim. How has your story allowed you to grow and gain strength from being tested? This can allow you to externalise the original problem and shift your thinking into a more positive thought process.

Share your Writing: There is such power in sharing your words with others, particularly if you read them out loud. Although this may be challenging, it can be a wonderful form of therapy, with the added benefit of your story helping someone. When we are vulnerable and share with others, we give people permission to do the same. In sharing your words you never know the impact you may have on someone else. If you can focus on being of service by sharing with others you can get out of your own way and anxiety around sharing.

And, finally, just for fun! What has been your favourite read (so far) for 2020, or what is your next book on your “to be read” pile?

I have a passion for self-development books, so I am always reading something new.

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown—I wholeheartedly believe that being vulnerable is Brene Browncourageous and it’s where we experience transformation.

Sarah Wilson ‘First We make the Beast Beautiful – I can’t wait to read this one as I have heard it’s an incredibly honest account of living with anxiety.

Marianne, you really have gone above and beyond with your insights and advice today. Thank you for your wisdom, your time, your nurturing energy, and your expertise. I’ve gained so much from our conversation, and I know other creatives will as well.


About Marianne Ellis – Soul Reflection Coaching

soul refelctiMarianne Ellis is a Photographer and Creative Arts Coach. Marianne developed a passion for photography after emigrating from England to Australia in 2004. This led to further studies in art therapy, counselling, life coaching, photography, and other healing modalities. Combining her love of therapeutic photography, creativity and psychology, Marianne promotes self-discovery and healing through creative expression. 

Life and Creativity Coaching: As a Life and Creativity Coach through creative-centred life coaching, Marianne supports her clients to find and express their unique voice and truth so they can design and live a life they love. Marianne understands the struggles of the creative pathway and utilises creative tools to help her clients better understand their thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Creative Arts Counselling: Marianne uses art therapy techniques to help clients better understand their inner world. Combining other modalities such as holistic counselling, reiki, mindfulness and meditation to support clients through times of transition and self-discovery.

Therapeutic Photography: Marianne is also devoted to sharing the power of photography as a form of self-expression. Utilising this accessible medium through the lens, she empowers others to promote wellbeing and healing in the world. Mindful photography is a wonderful way to explore your environment, be fully present, ease anxiety, and shift your perspective.

Creativity coaching is currently provided via Zoom.

Project 55: Project 55 is a closed Facebook group that has been running for eight years. It’s a wonderful space for people to connect through images and share their lives. We have seen many friendships form in the group, and it provides a safe supportive space where everyone is welcome. It can be particularly helpful for those that are isolated from people, homebound, or  lacking interaction. Feel free to join the group here

Find Soul Reflection Coaching on Facebook and Instagram

Publications. Read more about my journey with Therapeutic photography here, and here.


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