What I Read in 2019

Better late than never! 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. 2019’s reading list of twenty-six books falls short of what I would have liked to have read *side-eyes teetering ‘to be read’ pile*, but I haven’t managed to find the pause button on life yet.

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2019’s list is made up of a fifty-fifty split between male and female writers, with seventeen of the twenty-six penned by Antipodean authors.

As I mentioned last year, I read more forensically now than ever before, and some titles gripped me more than others. Enjoyment from reading will always be a matter of taste though (as it should be), so these aren’t reviews as such, more a few indulgent observations.

  1. Fellside by M R Carey.  A cool holiday read by the author of one of my standout fell.jpgreads of 2017, The Girl with All the Gifts. Fellside didn’t have the same refreshingly original premise as The Girl With All The Gifts (and it’s unfair of me to compare apples with oranges), but Carey’s sparse, yet emotionally-charged writing style is as good as ever. I’ve seen Fellside described as Orange is the New Black with a supernatural twist, which is pretty on point. I did find myself glazing over a little when protag, Jess, travelled to the ‘nightworld’, but pick it up if you want an entertaining read where you don’t have to labour mentally.
  2. The Fast 800 by Dr Michael Mosely. The good doctor is back with some updated science on the 5:2 plan of intermittent fasting – and just in time! I had read the 5:2 Diet at the end of 2018 with a view to starting it in Jan this year, so The Fast 800 came at an opportune time. Easy to read, backed by science and studies … onward with my over-bloated self!Books 3 – 12 were read as entrants in the 2018 Australian Shadows Awards. Because I served on the judging panel for the Collected Works category, I have refrained from making individual comments on each of these collections of short horror / dark fantasy fiction. What I will say is it was an absolute pleasure to read each and every collection. They represent some of the best in contemporary Australian short horror fiction, so if you’re a lover of the genre or looking for homegrown voices, put these collections on your ‘to be read’ list. You can read the results of the Australian Shadows Awards here.
  3. Train Wreck and Other Stories by Noel Osualdini.
  4. The Beard and Other Weirdness by Steve Dillon.
  5. The Dalziel Files by Brian Craddock
  6. Shadows on the Wall by Steven Paulsen
  7. Beneath the Ferny Tree by David Schembri
  8. Deceptive Cadence by Anna Ryan
  9. Exploring Dark Short Fiction #2 A Primer to Kaaron Warren by Kaaron Warren
  10. Bones by Andrew Cull
  11. A Little Ray of Obsidian Black by Bee Nielsen
  12. After Dark by Liz Butcher 
  13. The Enchanted wood / The Magic Faraway Tree / Folk of the Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton  Technically three books, but short enough to smash them out one after the other. Favourite childhood reads I hadn’t visited since, well, childhood. I revisited them in as a refresher for the ‘enchanted Lands’ workshops I had structured for StoryCraft Creative Writing Workshops. As with much childhood nostalgia, some things are best not revisited. I didn’t get the same thrill I vividly recall in my re-reading, but why would I? While I adore fantasy, I am no longer Blyton’s target audience. Interestingly, my workshop participants (8 – 12 years) speak with the same affection for the tales, despite their lack of contemporary vernacular, as I did at their age. Way to go, Enid Blyton for constructing such endearing – and enduring – characters and adventures!
  14. The Dry by Jane Harper I’d been meaning to read The Dry all of last year, so was drydelighted to find a copy left in the ‘book depository’ at one of the resorts I stayed at while holidaying in Vietnam.  How good are book depositories, by the way?! I love reading crime mysteries. Firstly because I feel like I’m part of an interactive experience as I run the literary gauntlet of red herrings, foreshadowing, and false clues to try to work out whodunnit. Secondly, because I’m not clever enough to write one myself, I find myself studying the art and craft that goes into layering a good crime novel. The Dry is one slick read.
  15. The Rip by Mark Brandi I loved Brandi’s debut novel Wimmera, so dived headlong into The Rip and headed straight past the shallows. This urban crime drama shines a spotlight on Melbourne’s homeless situation while setting up a nail biting scenario for the protagonist. The reader can guess why there’s a lock on Steve’s door … but the stress kicks in when it appears our hero, who we’ve come to care about, can’t. This is a short, sharp, economical page turner I inhaled in two days. Good holiday read.
  16. A Wizard of Eathsea by Ursula Le Guin I have a confession to make. This is the first Le Guin I’ve ever read. (I know, right)?! I’m so glad I remedied that this year with A Wizard of Earthsea. What a master class in worldbuilding. This book was a bit of a creeper for me, though – as if I was also under enchantment. While reading, I felt removed from the story, however certain scenes keep coming back to me. The Kargish raid on Sparrowhawk’s village and the deployment of fog protection is/was particularly emotive.
  17. The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble When I grow up I want to be Bren dogMacDibble!  That is to say, I greatly admire Bren’s/Cally Black’s style and voice – wonderfully written stories for MG and YA readerships, tackling important issues using unique and creative plots, premises and characters. The Dog Runner’s dystopian scenario plonks the reader into siblings, Ella and Emery’s, starving Australia, where they must escape their dying city in a race for survival across treacherous landscape, seeking refuge from desperate people. Their method of transport? A dry-land dogsled. Brilliant! As with How to Bee, Bren knows how to present a slap-in-the-face sense of realism to her eco-fiction, carried by characters that won’t let you go. She also understands that – especially for her audience – while darkness and inhumanity feature prominently, hope always prevails.
  18. How to Bee by Bren MacDibble Simply magic stuff. Worthy winner of a swag of awards. One of my favourite reads of 2018. Probably my favourite MG book. This was a re-read to prepare for a series of workshops I presented on climate and eco-fiction ‘Our World at Tipping Point’. If you haven’t read How To Bee and met Peony, put it on your list…and prepare to have your heart squeezed.
  19. The Black Death (1347-1350) by Cath Senker The plague that swept Europe killing one-third of the population fascinates me. This book breaks The Black Death down into easy-to-digest chapters from the outbreak from China to Europe, the horror and hysteria as it spread, the persecution, the causality, the body count, the rebellion, the madness, and the survivors. Not a cheerful read, but a very interesting one (and a hive of story inspiration).
  20. Cold in July by Joe Lansdale I love Lansdale’s style. This wasn’t my favourite of his books (so far that’s The Bottoms), but it was an effortless read, with twisty plot points and some larger than life characters – good guys, bad guys, tough guys, dumb guys, evil guys, wise guys, dead guys, fall guys –  all the guys! What’s not to like? 😊
  21. The Fisherman by John Langan Oh yes, this was great! There’s not many writers fishermanwho can pull off a story within a story within a story successfully, but Langan’s deft handling of this multi-layered tale will reel you in hook, line, and sinker. If you like beautiful prose, and a literary leaning to your horror, then this story that turns a seemingly normal fishing trip in upstate New York on its head is for you.
  22. Through Splintered Walls by Kaaron Warren One of Twelve Planet Press’s superb Twelve Planet Collection series. Kaaron Warren is truly gifted. Her quietly deceptive way of sneaking up on readers when they think they are in familiar territory is reminiscent of Shirley Jackson, one of my literary heroes. There are four offerings in this collection: Mountain. Creek. Road. Sky. They are all well-crafted and memorable, but I couldn’t tear myself away from (out of?) Sky.
  23. Caution: Contains Small Parts by Kirstyn McDermott Another Twelve Planet collection. Another Aussie female horror writer who always impresses with her intelligent versatility. Beautiful writing, deeply interesting characters, contemporary Australia but not as you know it. My favourite story in this was “The Home for Broken Dolls”, a bold and thought-provoking tale with much going on under the surface.
  24. Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay Not my favourite of Tremblay’s books (so far, that’s A Headful of Ghosts), but a page turner, nevertheless. I love psychological suspense/thriller/mystery and unreliable narrators, and Tremblay does this so well. Tommy goes missing while hanging with his buddies at Devil’s Rock. His mother and sister are (understandably) demented. The cops have no solid leads. There’s a strange older dude who could be a clue…throw in some folklore, urban mythology, inexplicable sightings of people and diary pages, and you gotta whole lotta mystery on your hands. Yay!
  25. The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay I’m happy to read anything cabin.jpgTremblay writes, and had been looking forward to this one – mostly because Tremblay, and I was also  intrigued by the reviews I’d read about the ending which seemed to polarize many. No spoilers here though! Tapping into the tropes we know and love from the genre, Tremblay presents an interesting premise. As a reader I found myself pondering what was real, what wasn’t, and what would I do in that same situation. Give it a crack and let me know what you thought of the ending.
  26. Monkey Grip by Helen Garner Ah, Helen Garner, how I admire and respect you, my queen of creative non-fiction. I am sorry to say your fictional Monkey Grip didn’t grip me in the way I had hoped.  It’s not you; it’s me. Perhaps Monkey Grip hasn’t aged well. Or perhaps I haven’t! Gorgeous writing, as expected, but a repetitive chain of Javo leaving, Nora mooning, Javo returning…wash, rinse, repeat, didn’t set my world on fire. It appears I’m in the minority though, as many glowing reviews think otherwise. That’s the beauty of reading – we all have such subjective tastes.

That’s all folks! My first read for 2020 is Stephen King’s The institute. So far, so good #longlivetheking 😊

Happy writing, happy reading, and happy days,

Rebecca

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Ever feel like a duck on a pond? 2019 was my ‘Duck on a Pond’ year…

This year I feel like I’ve been the proverbial duck on the pond. On the surface everything has looked pretty calm, but beneath the water my feet have been churning a mile a minute. Like many people, as another a year draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on my output and achievements and weighing up if they match the vision I held at the start of the year.

While at times I’ve felt I haven’t been doing much in the way of personal or professional development, perhaps the surface-level static belies the legwork beneath. 2019 might not have been the greatest when it comes to tangible ‘writerly wins’, but success comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s the time you invest back into yourself, your craft, and your networks that can pay dividends downstream. That’s why I’m calling 2019 my ‘Duck on a Pond’ year.

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‘Beautiful Pond’ by Ayla Bouvette

I went through my diary this week and it seems, in spite of my inner critic telling me otherwise, I’ve actually been up to duckloads! If you’re reflecting on your 2019 and feel you haven’t met your own standards, chances are you’ve possibly (if you’re anything like

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Jasper and Darcy (aka The Damn Cats)

me) set yourself a nigh impossible target of productivity and achievement while trying to juggle a semblance of work-life-family balance … and feed the damn cats!

Keep on ducking, and don’t be so hard on yourself. Writing can already be an emotionally tough gig, without the stress of meeting your own high standards. Whatever you’ve done this year, it is enough. And so are you 😊

Here’s a dip into my 2019 duck pond with a look back at  the last twelve months of writing and moonlighting:

I kick-started my reading for the year by serving on the judging panel for the Australian Shadows Awards in the ‘Collections’ category. The Australian Shadows Awards are administered by the Australasian Horror Writers Association and celebrate the finest in horror and dark fiction published by an Australasian within the calendar year. Works are judged on the overall effect of a work—skill, delivery, and lasting resonance. If you’re looking for the latest and greatest in Aus/NZ horror, the Australian Shadows Awards is a great place to start. I take judging very seriously, so I haven’t delivered full reviews of the books that were entered in the ‘Collections’ category, but you’ll find further comment on the wonderfully talented and diverse entries on my next blog post What I Read in 2019.

I was thrilled to be shortlisted for an Australian Shadows Award myself in the ‘Poetry’ category for my poem ‘The Middle of the Night’, which was originally published in Issue 9 of Breach Magazine.

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I had six original fiction pieces published, including a poem ‘StormSong’ in a BEAUTIFUL+STORM+BOOK+COVER+03gorgeous coffee table book Beautiful Storm, and a poem ‘Local Knowledge’ in Midnight Echo Issue 14 (you can read about the inspiration for that creepy poem here). For a full list of my published work in 2019, click here).

I recorded my short story ‘Once Upon a Moonlit Clearing’ which appeared in AntipodeanSF Anniversary Issue 250 for their radio program. (Do you cringe at the sound of your own voice? I do!)

I attended Continuum 15 “New Worlds” / NatCon – the Australian National SF Convention held this year in Melbourne. Guests of honour were the fabulous Kate Elliott and Ken Liu. Lots of fun catching up with old friends, and meeting new ones. Love me a Con!

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Catching up with some of the Australian Spec Fic community at Continuum #goodtimes

I attended KidLitVIc, Australia’s annual conference that aims to connect children’s literary creators with Australia’s leading children’s book publishers. Highly recommended if you have an interest in contemporary children/junior fiction publishing trends and love networking. Some great panels and opportunities for assessments and pitches … but get in quick, tickets for KidLit are more sought after than a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory!

I threw my hat in the ring at the Australian Society of Authors Literary Speed Dating … it’s fast and furious and not for the faint hearted, but also lots of fun. Polish your pitch, research your publishers, put on your invisible cape of bravery, then try and sell your story in three minutes before the bell rings. Next!

I attended one of the ASA’s digital workshops presented by Aleesah Darlison focussing on Author Presentations at Schools.

7 sins coverI was grateful to be one of the sub-editor’s for Trickster’s Treats 3 – The Seven Deadly Sins from Things in the Well, which was a really rewarding experience.

I attended a regional Writers VIC workshop on structure presented by Anna George, which was made possible by the Peninsula Writers’ Club receiving funds through the Grace Marion Wilson Trust.

Speaking of Peninsula Writers’ Club, the little club that could this year received Not For Profit status, which opens up doors for a whole swag of exciting writerly opportunities for our Mornington Peninsula scribe tribe. I’m very proud to serve on PWC’s inaugural committee as Vice President.

I called time out from the day job and headed to Phillip Island for another of Louise from Novel Solutions awesome writing retreats. If you’ve put ‘time out for your writing goals’ on your wish list for 2020, check out Louise’s website, and book yourself in. This was the third retreat I’ve done through Novel Retreats, and I’m looking forward to my fourth in March next year.

StoryCraft Creative Writing Workshops, my passion project, has had another busy year SCof delivering creative writing workshops to aspiring authors of every age and ability across the Mornington Peninsula and beyond. This year I also teamed up with G.A.T.E.Ways to deliver exclusive workshops for the ‘gifted and talented’ education sector, which was a lot of fun.

I’ve made a lot of submissions this year, and gotten a lot of rejections (don’t sweat those rejections, folks! They just serve as reminders that you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing – putting your work out there). On the way, I’ve also had quite a few acceptances for short fiction. As I type this my middle grade fantasy series is currently under consideration with a publisher I’m very excited about, so keep your fingers crossed for me)!

And the best news to end the year: I was thrilled to sign a contract with my kermitpublisher IFWG Publishing Australia for a collection of my dark fiction and poetry. Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract will be ready for release sometime toward the end of next year. Thank you to Gerry Huntman at IFWG for having me back! More information about my collection can be found here.

 

 

So, there you have it. My ‘Duck on a Pond’ year that was. My feathers might be a little ruffled, and my legs are sore from all that paddling, but I’ve learned a lot, and laughed a lot on the way, and the tears I’ve cried have mostly been happy ones! 😊

santaMerry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone. Thank you all very much for your support this year.

May you all make a splash in your own pond in 2020 … whatever that may look like for you.

Happy writing, happy reading and happy days,

Rebecca 😊

 

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New Book Contract Signed with IFWG Publishing Australia

Apart from reading short fiction, writing it is one of my greatest joys. For the most part, I write the sort of stories I love to read: Twisty speculative tales that leave the reader feeling enchanted or unsettled. Weird fiction that transcends and overlaps genre. Darkly fantastic tales that explore ‘what if’ scenarios, and stories forged from disturbia, that make you want to look over your shoulder or under your bed.

It therefore gives me great delight to announce I’ve signed a contract with IFWG Publishing Australia to publish a collection of my short fiction and poetry. Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract will be hitting all good physical and digital bookstores in late 2020.Coralesqu signe

IFWG Publishing Australia specialises in speculative fiction (sci fi, fantasy, horror, and all the glorious sub genres in between) along with children’s titles through to young adult novels. IFWG published my junior teen fantasy adventure Curtis Creed and the Lore of the Ocean last year, and I’m very happy to be back among their wonderful catalogue of award-winning titles and authors.

One of those award-winning authors, Steven Paulsen, whose fabulous Shadows on the Wall won the Australian Shadows Award for best horror collection last year, will be introducing my collection, and I’m very grateful for his generous support.

I’ll keep you all posted on news about Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract as the production process unfolds. In the meantime, here’s the blurb to give you a taste of what’s inside:

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 robotic housemaid with a sinister agenda. A dirty ex-cop with a dirtier secret. An unscrupulous mayor’s solution to rid his 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 her original and 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

 

I’ll keep you all posted! In the meantime: Happy writing, happy reading, and happy days.

Rebecca 😊

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‘Beautiful Storm’ is beautifully launched…

On Sunday I had the real pleasure of attending the launch of ‘Beautiful Storm’, a coffee table book capturing the art in nature’s fury, by celebrated Mornington Peninsula-based photographer, Yanni Dellaportas.

‘Beautiful Storm’ is filled with an exclusive collection of breathtaking weather photography; the mesmerising images bringing the viewer directly into the eye of the storm.

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Some time ago, Yanni put the call out to the Mornington Peninsula literary community to submit poems to compliment the stunning images.  I was thrilled to have one of my poems Storm Song selected to share the glossy pages with other evocative works from emerging and established poets and authors. The result is a beautifully-produced coffee table-style book, and a triumph of visual storytelling.

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Yanni Dellaportas signing my copy of ‘Beautiful Storm’

My heartiest congratulations to Yanni – the man behind the lens, and the passion behind the idea – ‘Beautiful Storm’ is a real gift to the world, and I’m very proud to be a part of it. It’s not every day you get to see your work appear in a coffee table book!

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With good friend and President of Peninsula Writers’ Club, Andrea Rowe.

You can get your own copy of ‘Beautiful Storm’ from Farrell’s Bookshop and Antipodes Bookstore and Gallery. With Christmas just around the corner, they make beautiful gifts, and all profits are being donated to ongoing cancer research.

Happy writing, happy reading, and happy days. 🙂

Rebecca

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My poem ‘Local Knowledge’ selected for Midnight Echo Issue 14

Last month I was thrilled to learn my poem Local Knowledge had been selected by multi award-winning guest editor, Deb Sheldon, to appear in Issue 14 of Midnight Echo.

The theme for Issue 14 is “things are not as they seem.” Deb interviewed me about the  the inspirational bedrock for Local Knowledge, so I’ll post the link to the interview once it’s released.

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I’m very pleased my poem has found such a respectable home, and I’m sharing the table of contents with authors I admire and respect. The full lineup is here:

– The Grey Witch by Chris Mason (short story)
– Local Knowledge by Rebecca Fraser (poem)
– Heartbeat by Liz Simrajh (short story)
– Death is an Empty Mirror by Erol Engin (short story)
– Alive! by Gregory Long (flash)
– Sea of Blood by Brian M. Quinn (artwork)
– Keep Them Close by Renee De Visser (AHWA Short Story Competition winner 2018)
– The Nymph by Hari Navarro (AHWA Flash Fiction Competition winner 2018)
– Cymon by Denny E. Marshall (artwork)
– The Wind Chimes by Ian J. Middleton (flash)
– A Tale of the Ainu by Robyn O’Sullivan (short story)
– Red-Eye by Tabatha Wood (short story)
– The Netherwhere Line by Matthew Morrison (novelette)

The awesome cover art and design is by Greg Chapman

Midnight Echo Issue 14, the magazine of the Australasian Horror Writers Association,  will be published later this year, so brace yourself for some of the best in genre from writers from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and the Pacific Islands.

Happy writing, happy reading, and happy days 🙂
Rebecca

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Drabble Dabbles – Micro Words, Macro Fun!

I’ve had a lot of fun dabbling in drabbles recently. For those unfamiliar with the term, a drabble  is a story told in exactly 100 words.  No more, no less! Sounds simple in theory, but producing a high impact tale within a very tight word count can be a challenge … but also a lot of fun.

With the rise in popularity of very short fiction (step aside flash, I’m talking micro), markets for drabbles are currently plentiful. If you want to try your hand at penning your own drabbles, the opportunities are out there embracing fun themes that provide plenty of scope for creative freedom.

My drabble dabbling has lead to publication in several anthologies this year already, with Family Secret appearing in Curses and Cauldrons – An Anthology of Witchcraft Microfiction by Blood Song Books (you can grab a copy of this bumper book of bite-sized beauties here).

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Due for release later this year is Guilty Pleasures and Other Dark Delights, another terrific anthology from Things in The Well Publications celebrating the erotic side of horror with drabbles and double-drabbles contributed by some truly fabulous authors (including a reprint by none other than Ramsey Campbell)!  You’ll find two of my drabbles:  The Scent of Roses, and The Bus Ride included within its silken sheets! I’ll share the cover and link to this darkly saucy anthology when it’s available.

If you’re looking for a break from longer fiction, why not try your hand at drabbles? They’re a great way to flex your creative muscle, work on your brevity, challenge yourself, and – most importantly – they’re great fun!

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

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Issue 250 of AntipodeanSF is live! You’ll find one of my stories in it too…

AntipodeanSF, helmed by Ion (Nuke) Newcombe, is an Australian speculative fiction institution. Fueled by Ion’s commitment and devotion to showcase the many diverse voices of the antipodean speculative fiction community, AntiSF, Australia’s longest running speculative fiction magazine, has acted as a publishing platform for so many since 1998.

When Nuke put the call out for contributions for his landmark 250th Issue, I heeded it with enthusiasm. Having been published in AntiSF as far back as 2009, and again in 2014, I know I’m one of many who are grateful for Ion’s tireless efforts.

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Issue 250 celebrates AntiSF’s massive milestone with a huge issue containing over fifty flash and short stories from previous contributors. You’ll find my fantasy piece, ‘Once Upon a Moonlit Clearing’ in there as well.

The issue will be live online for three months, and a print anthology is also forthcoming.

Take a bow, Nuke. And congratulations on this landmark achievement.

Your upside-down spec fic community salutes you!

Happy writing, happy reading, and happy days.

Beck 🙂

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