Interview with Australian Visual Storyteller, Nicola Tierney

I’m delighted to have Australian Visual Storyteller, Nicola Tierney, drop by the Writing and Moonlighting couch today for a chat about everything from her new book The Gribble’s Gift to her creative influences, to her miniature fantasy models, and her ability to channel her subconscious to help her stories unfold.

Nicola and I first met back in 2009 when we, along with a dozen other local writers, were recipients of a Regional Arts Development Fund grant from the Gold Coast City Council to undertake a series of workshops mentored by award-winning fantasy author, Louise Cusack.  Nicola and I have been following each other’s creative journey for years, and it gives me great pleasure to put Nicola under the spotlight for a few quick questions to learn more about her latest achievement.

Nicola Tierney with The Gribble's Gift Books

Nicola, congratulations on the publication of your first novel, The Gribble’s Gift, a fantasy adventure for the young, and young-at-heart. I understand it’s recently undergone a second print run. It must be very gratifying to read the reviews coming in from readers around the world! What has been your proudest author moment since releasing The Gribble’s Gift?

Thank you, Rebecca, for inviting me along to talk about my book The Gribble’s Gift. It has been almost fourteen years in the making, and there were many times I thought about giving up, but I am so pleased I did not. My proudest moment was when I received the proof copy my book. To actually hold in my hands the culmination of all the tears, hopes, dreams, and hard work over such a long time was heartwarming.

I completely understand, Nicola. There’s no feeling quite like holding your book baby in your hands for the first time! Now, The Gribble’s Gift was a labour of love, years in the making, which I’m sure many writers can relate to. What do you think were the biggest challenges in transitioning your characters and world to the page?

The biggest challenge for me was twofold. One was getting to know my characters. In the beginning I seemed to be able to relate to the Gribbles and Scruffy the dog much better than I could Ebony, the main protagonist. I am not sure when it was that I actually started to understand her. I think it was when my grandmother died, which was quite late in the writing of the book, and I had to go back and redo some sections.

My grandmother Agnes (the cook in the book) was almost 102 when she passed on, and fortunately I’d had the opportunity to travel to the UK and read her the first chapter of my book when she was 99. I found the loss of my grandmother ended up in Ebony’s story. It wasn’t planned, it just happened, but it turned out to be the link I was looking for, without knowing it. I needed to know why Ebony’s parents sent her away to a boarding school for girls with a delicate disposition, rather than keeping her at home.  I had no understanding as to why they did. The loss of her grandmother gave me the answer. It was also a way of coping with my grief.

The second challenge was learning how I wrote. In the beginning I didn’t even know if I could write a story. I listened to so many different authors on how they wrote, and I was nothing like them. Then one day I found an author who wrote like me. Up until that point I thought there was something wrong with me, it actually stopped me from writing. But now I know how I write, and there is relief and an ease in my mind in this knowledge.

I allow my subconscious to write for me. I give it questions, and it gives me the answers. It might sound like a simple thing, logical, but I am amazed at what I get back. I do feel as if my conscious mind and my hand are just a tool to be used for the words to be put onto the page. I also ask the universal energy to give me answers to something I might want in my story, and low and behold a thunder storm turns up that pushes me to the ground, a stray dog, frightened by the fireworks exploding in the sky, sits on my lap shaking right down to his paws. Many, many things that are written in the book are there because they have appeared in my life so I can add them to the story, just like adding spice to a stew.

Thanks for those fascinating insights into your writing process, Nicola. I find your world building fascinating too – it’s delightfully complex, which is satisfying for lovers of fantasy. When I enter Tanglemire Forest, the dramatic setting of The Gribble’s Gift, I’m instantly transported to my youth where some of my favourite fantasy worlds such as The Magic Faraway Tree and The Dark Crystal give me a nostalgic wink. What have been some of your greatest influences (if any) when it came to creating Tanglemire Forest?

Ever since I was young, even though I didn’t realise it, I’ve been interested in the minute things that make this world tick. I have also made lots and lots of things, too many things Nicola Tierney 1really, which spilt up my energies and concentration, which meant everything took too long or never got finished. So on one hand I love writing about the minute things of this world—the things that cannot be seen with the naked eye, but are there non-the-less—and on the other hand, I love building miniature fantasy worlds. These two things have never left me. One day my dream is to build a world so big I can actually walk around in it, and maybe other people might like to come and join me.

When I was young I devoured the Narnia Stories by C.S. Lewis, The Borrowers stories by Mary Norton, the many stories of Marry Poppins by P.L. Travers, all the way through to Hothouse by Brian W. Aldiss and in-between, and I am still reading every night someone’s creative writings.

On the model making side, Jim Henson was (and still is) a great influence in my life. His creativity was outstanding. Roye England of Pendon Museum (in Oxfordshire, UK) was also a great influence in my life when I was young. His exactness of the work he achieved, his dedication to the models he built was a real inspiration, and I have had the good fortune to see Pendon twice in my life.

All through my life I have absorbed everything that goes on around me, the things I see, hear, smell, feel and sense, and all of it ends up in my miniature fantasy models and my stories in one way or another.

I daresay that being such a sensory and sensitive person underpins all your creative outlets, Nicola. You describe yourself as an Australian Visual Storyteller, which is a great way to define your multifaceted talents as a writer, illustrator, and miniature fantasy model maker. Do you have a preference to what creative medium you work in when it comes to brining Tanglemire Forest to life?

I think I’m torn between the two: writing and building models. I found the more I built, the more stories would trudge through my mind about the characters living within them. But the more I wrote, the more I wanted to build the new things I had just imagined. The idea had always been to build what was in the stories so that the two were combined, so when people visited the models, book in hand, they could physically see what was written in the book right there in front of them (well, as best as it could be shown).

The Gribble’s Gift is a gift in itself when it comes to the myriad details you’ve thought about for your book. From the beautiful illustrations contained in its pages, down to the amazing presentation readers are surprised with upon delivery, through to sourcing an Australian-based printer, you have compromised on nothing. Did these benchmarks always tie in with your vision for your book series?

Yes, it was always very important to me to have an Australian illustrator, printer, and a company near me, who would allow me to sit down over coffee, and actually talk to a person to help get my book published.

gribble prettyI chose Andrew MacIntosh, from Melbourne, as the illustrator of the front cover, and he has done an outstanding job as most people who have purchased the book have never asked what it is about. (And the blurb on the back tells you just a smidgen about the story).

The company here on the Gold Coast, Publicious (Andy McDermont), has done an outstanding job as well, and I have been an exacting customer that no doubt drove him a bit nuts, but Andy listened to everything I had to say and made suggestions where they were needed. He also enabled my book to go out into this world where I would never have been able to get it to by myself.

Also I like (need, I should say) to be in control, and the thought of sending my book off where I didn’t know what was happening to it, was more than I could bare, especially as this was my first book. I have spent so much time, effort, and heartache to get this story to where it is now; I had to have control of it.

 That’s wonderful you’ve had such a positive experience with Publicious and your cover illustrator, Nicola. Now, ever since we first met, I’ve admired your philosophy of eco-sustainability, and quiet commitment to nature and the environment, both in your creative work and your professional work in pond making. I know these themes tie heavily with your vision for Tanglemire. What is one piece of advice you’d give to upcoming visual storytellers/model makers in this regard?

Goodness – Advice? Um…well, I think the most important thing would be to trust yourself. DO NOT listen or believe what other people say IF it is negative. Those people are only projecting onto you their inability to see your vision and want to control what you do because they, themselves, have probably never achieved what they wanted to achieve in their life, so they attempt to stop others for achieving their dreams, (this has been my reality). Constructive advice is a different matter.

Most people, I find, do not even think of breaking out of the envelope that our tiny, puny lives (compared with the enormity and complexity of our world, let alone the universe) are modeled into by our upbringing, the media, tradition, our own doubts, fears, the negativity of other people, anything that stops you from being you. I have fought all my life to become who I am. I have fought everyone just to get this book published the way I wanted it to be. I fought even against myself to get what I really wanted. Trust yourself. You know what you want, you just have to get out of your own way, don’t hurt other people in the process, and believe you can do it, no matter what.

That’s such an empowering and thought-provoking response, Nicola. One thing I know about you is you have—despite all obstacles—remained committed to the strength of your vision.  I’m proud of you and admire your tenacity and passion. So  now that The Gribble’s Gift is out in the hands of readers, when can we expect the next book in the Tanglemire trilogy, The Swanling Child? And—without giving too much away—can you tell us a little bit about what this next instalment is about?

Luckily for me, I started writing snippets of The Swanling Child in 2008, which means I have 18 chapters written, but not polished.

It is difficult for me to say what the story is about because, for the most part, I do not know. In saying that, I do believe all my stories are already written in my subconscious, they are just waiting until I, the conscious part of me, is ready to write them down. What I do know is that little Veeleeta is stolen, kidnapped. (I can tell you I was stunned when that happened! I thought, ‘What have I just done?’ It took two years for her to appear again and she was underwater! I couldn’t believe it. Luckily she didn’t stay there for long but what she saw when she emerged was frightening.)

I also know that seven seeds of the Silver Lunaira trees have to be planted in another part of Tanglemire Forest before they die. Also Ebony, and her cousin Charlie (named after a cat of ours), ends up in the forest, and I know that Veeleeta and the Swanling Child have to stop a war. There is also the uncle of the Swanling Child who has gone a bit mad, but why? I think I have a solution to that, but how to fix everything else together, I do not know yet. It is all like a jigsaw puzzle—another thing I devoured when young, which is now turning out to be very useful! I have little bits of a story that have to be placed in just the right spot to make a complete picture (a novel). I need to find the strands to weave them together. I do at least now how it ends.

Hats off to you, Nicola – you’re the ultimate ‘pantser’, honouring your subconscious! Thanks so much for your time on the couch today. One final question—just for fun—what’s something about you people might be surprised to know?

Crumbs! Um… Well, I’m a private person at times and shut up shop and refuse to say anything, and then other times I will tell you anything you want to know.

When I was very young, living in England, in a time when children were seen and not heard, my mother took me along every time she visited an old lady. Neither of us can remember who she was. To keep me quiet and amused I was given a peg board that was painted green with a stone path through it, and paper walls around three sides. I was then given tiny plastic plants which I would use to spend my time making different miniature garden designs.

What is it that I do today? I earn my bread and butter by doing waterlily ponds (gardening) and I make miniature fantasy houses out of gourds and recycled objects that are covered in flowers and plants.

Who would ever have thought that when I was so young I knew nothing about this world, that this simple game was the start of a journey that would end up on the other side of the world writing stories, building words of fantasy, making my dreams come true?

Nicola, I love that your dreams are coming true, and all your hard work is paying off. I’m reminded of Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” I’m certain your future projects are going to showcase those dreams as your characters adventure further into Tanglemire Forest…No Ordinary World!

More information about Nicola, and where you can purchase The Gribble’s Gift, and learn more about Tanglemire Forest.

The Gribble's Gift cover image

Nicola J. Tierney lives on the Gold Coast, Australia, far away from where she was born in England, 1960. Her two children have flown the nest a long time ago and her long suffering partner, Garry, supports her is ways she thought no man would.

Her interest in the tiny, minute, detailed way this world works was sparked when she was very young and the world thought children should be seen and not hear. She had been given a toy garden to play with to keep her quiet. It is the main reason she builds, miniature fantasy houses out of gourds and recycled objects now. Her aim is to build a world big enough for her, and others, to walk around in.

Her love of fantasy worlds (sparked by devouring the Narnia Chronicles by C. S. Lewis when she was young) have been with her longer than she can remember. Her determination to make her dreams a reality has been a driving force in her life – this is just one of the many things she wants to achieve to bring some magic into people’s lives. These two aspects of her life have calumniated in the publishing of her first illustrated fantasy fiction novel, The Gribble’s Gift.’sGift/


gribble signed

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

Rebecca x

Posted in Author Interviews, Children's Fiction: Picture Books, Junior, Middle Grade, and YA, Speculative Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Isolation Narrations: Thirty 30-word tales from me to you…(and why I love micro fiction).

I love playing around with micro fiction. I’ve been dabbling (and drabbling) in it for years. I enjoy the challenge of telling a story, portraying an emotion, or revealing the briefest snapshot in time, within the tight parameters micro stories demand.

To this end, I was rapt when Writers Victoria announced they’d be running their 30-word Twitter Flash Fiction challenge again this April. The brief is simple:  30 words. 30 prompts. 30 days. Write a micro tale in exactly thirty words, and Tweet it using the hashtag #WVFlashFic20, with a winner chosen every day from the hundreds of entrants.

do something creative everyday text

Micro Fiction is the perfect way to do something creative every day. I’ve found maintaining creative expression especially important for my emotional wellbeing during lockdown.

I’d had a lot of fun with Writers Victoria’s challenge the previous year, even chalking up a win with the prompt word ‘Blunder’

April 16, 2019: BLUNDER
“Behold, the Seven Blunders of the World!”
The students stared at the swirling holographic images: oceans of plastic, extinct animals, parched earth, bee decolonisation, deforestation, pandemic disease, oil spills.
“Class dismissed.” — @BecksMuse

2020’s theme for the daily prompt words was ‘focus’.  No wins for me this year, but I did jag three honourable mentions.

If you like short, sharp, quick reads, you’ll find my responses to the Writers Victoria daily 30-word challenges below.

#EYEBALL  (Honourable Mention)

“Wanna play marbles?” The new kid said, shaking out his sack.

“Sure,” Lachlan replied, then gasped and recoiled. Amid the cluster of small round glass balls, an eyeball slyly winked.


“Concentrate all your thoughts into a single stream of focus. Here, like this.” The Energy Master closed his eyes and whispered the incantation. The skyscraper collapsed. “Your turn,” he commanded.


“Did you hear about the fire at the campground?” Dad asked.

“No!” I replied, aghast. “What happened?”

“It was really intense. Get it “in-tents”

I groaned. “Not another Dad joke!”

#BLUR (Honourable Mention)

Edrick focused on the parchment, but his words skewed through a blur of tears. His beloved Gilda, guilty of witchcraft. He picked up his quill and signed her death warrant.


‘Hocus-Pocus’ they called themselves. Glam metal, long hair, tight pants and makeup. But when they played, dark magic happened. Their voodoo beat held the crowd in sway—hypnotised, compliant…powerless.


The Three Blind Mice resolved no mouse would ever again suffer tail amputation by the farmer’s wife. They threw her carving knife in the river, then tossed her in too.


I took the pill, my mind grew hazy

I dirty danced with Patrick Swayze

I floated down a purple stream

A spider served me scones with cream…

…Haze-days phase.


Peek in mirror, a subtle trace

Where eyes once blue—is that a brownish hue

That stares back at my purloined face?

Now, is that me, or is that you?


Ever had a crisp sandwich? It’s real easy. Two slices o’ bread, butter, handful o’ crisps—plain work best. Smoosh it all together, and crunch! Trust me, it’s the dog’s bollocks.


Little germ in petrie dish,

You seethe and breed. My ardent wish?

My microscope’s zoomtastic lens

Finds a cure to thereby cleanse

Our world of you, and all your friends.


You sold snake oil, never disguising what it was. Trapped in my own myopia, I bought it—a recurring subscription. My heart drank deeply; wondered why it never stopped aching.


Head south, you’ll find Old Goat Road converge with Highway One. Stand at them crossroads on a full moon and you’ll be changed. Not transformed, mind. Transported. You’ve been warned.


A single sharp note from the piano turns Chelsea’s head. She peers down the shadow-filled hall. The piano. Draped in dust and cobwebs—unplayed for some fifty years. Until now.


“Call me Bullseye. Ain’t nobody seen a better shot round these parts.”

“I’ll stick with Bullshit,” his wife retorted. “Lobbing an empty tinny into the bin’s hardly a bankable skill.”


“’Are you sure you want to exist? Click Yes or No.’ What the hell kind of question is that? Evil computer!”

“Here, put on my glasses.”

“Oh, ‘exit’. Phew!”



Hayley keeps her pincushion dolls in her locker. Drawn-on eyes, realistic tufts of hair. Shuddersome.

My peripheral catches her newest addition.

“This one’s named after you, Molly.” Hayley smiles sweetly.


Dearest Jane

I have the vague notion something isn’t right with Percy. He has become pale and withdrawn since returning from 2020. I may have to adjust the time machine.


It’s my weekend.  Too long between. I introduce her to Star Wars.

“Pew pew! I’m Princess Leia!” Gemma’s finger gun shoots a laser beam. It cuts right through my heart.


Memories loop. Their pain-cycles torment the washing machine of my mind, scrubbing raw the hazescape hours before dawn’s pale. I drift on a tide of grief—no anchor, no compass.

#SPOTLIGHT  (Honourable Mention)

My only aspiration, despite my opaque lies

Is the chance to prove my worth to you­—

Shine brightly in your eyes.

You’re a spotlight in my darkness
—luminance my prize


Cobra, in your basket round,

Hear my tale, it’s quite profound.

This snake charmer has lost her way

In exploiting your hypnotic sway

Abused your rights­—

You bit.
I pay.


You thought me a Russian doll, peeling away my layers until you reached my centre—face crumpling in wounded surprise to discover my wooden heart didn’t match my vibrant exterior.


‘Marry him, and you’re no son of mine.’ I read the sincerity in my father’s words. I tore up his letter, along with his wedding invitation, and binned them both.


“There y’are,” Melinda patted the car’s bonnet. “Good as new.” As her husband backed out the driveway, she slipped the rivet into her pocket with a murderous grin. Cheating bastard.


My name’s Clarity. It was supposed to be Katie, but Dad said when I was born the clouds fogging his mind parted for the first time since my brother died.


Screwed up again, loser. I punch the mirror, my fist a gavel of self-loathing. The glass shatters and fractures. There, that’s the real me. That distorted face in the shards.


Home is a sliver of light hidden among ancient constellations that glitter like raindrops on a spiderweb. I gather my thoughts. Earth is safe…but I must return to fight.


You say I am hooked


Smoke, snort, hit­—


Credit-ruined, self-destruction

Alienated all with my dysfunction

You say my obsession can be beaten

That I’m just fixated,

Nah…I’m fix-eaten.


We assemble, the others silently begging to be picked. Pathetic, this tradition. Your eyes slide over me again. I’m always in your line of sight, forever out of focus. Good.


I’ve also recently enjoyed facilitating April’s Confinement Assignment, an new and ongoing initiative for members of Peninsula Writers’ Club, devised to keep inspiration and motivation high during self-isolation. Confinement Assignment delivers a daily writing prompt word and challenges members to produce a micro tale of exactly 50 words that incorporates the prompt word. Member response has been rewardingly enthusiastic, and it’s been a pleasure to read everyone’s varied interpretations of the prompt word, and the different ways they’ve chosen to use their 50 words.

rewrite edit text on a typewriter

Apart from the fun factor, there are many benefits to be gleaned from writing micro fiction:

  • Writing to a prompt allows you to explore, experiment, and push boundaries with your creativity.
  • Writing to an exact (and limited) word count hones your editorial skills. You’ll become more adept at cutting out superfluous words, while choosing others carefully. When you only have a specific number of words to tell your tale, every word matters.
  • To rise to a challenge that doesn’t come with the stress of the other daily challenges we’re all currently experiencing in this time of COVID-19.
  • To share your work, and enjoy the work of others.
  • To  inspire or motivate productivity and imagination – you never know where your words will take you! Many a story or novel has been inspired by a writing prompt!

There you have it. Micro Fiction! It’s a lot of fun. Give it a go 😊

Happy writing, happy reading, and happy days


PS  You can find me on Twitter


Posted in Writing Life: Wellbeing, Resources, Support (and Occasional Screaming Into the Void), Writing News, Updates, and New Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Get ‘Infected’ with some great reads for a great cause…

When the going gets tough, the tough get writing…and reading…and rallying to help in a crisis.

The literary community—especially horror writers—are renowned for their generous spirit (see what I did there?) when it comes to charity anthologies by respected publishers supporting worthwhile causes.

Infected Volume 1 ‘Tales to Read at Home’ and Infected Volume 2 ‘Tales to Read Alone’ were borne from the early onset of the coronavirus pandemic, with Steve Dillon from Things in The Well Publishing putting out a call for topical tales that throw readers into the bone-chilling centre of disease, plague, infection, and quarantine.

All proceeds from Infected 1 and 2 go to the Save the Children Coronavirus Response and will be fund-matched by Microsoft as part of their ‘Giving’ program.

The international horror community heeded the call so enthusiastically, two volumes of quality stories were able to be produced, and they’re both available for pre-order now!

Infected – Volume 1 ‘Tales to Read at Home’

Infected – Volume 2 ‘ Tales to Read Alone’

I have a story The A.V.M Initiative included in Volume 2, a dark little speculation awarded an Honourable Mention in the AHWA’s 2014 Flash Fiction competition. Infected is the perfect home for it, and I’m stoked it’s rubbing shoulders with some very esteemed company.  Here’s a bit of a teaser:


If you’re feeling your reality has crossed paths with horror, why not escape into some fictional horror instead? You’ll be helping a great cause while  having a great read!

banner for FB_Infected
I hope everyone is keeping safe and well (physically and emotionally) during these challenging and unprecedented times. ‘We’re all in this together’ has been thrown around and hash-tagged so frequently it’s started to feel a little hollow, but it’s true – we really are all in this together. Be kind always, but especially now.

Happy writing, happy reading, and happy days (even these ones)

Rebecca 🙂

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My Interview With ‘Voices From the Well’

I was recently interviewed by the lovely Tabatha Wood for ‘Voices From the Well’, a series of author interviews from the good folk at Things in the Well Publishing.


Tabatha asked some great questions. She got me thinking about the first stories I ever penned, why I think “writerly advice” can sometimes be unhelpful, and the reason why you should always check your spam folder regularly.

If you’d like to know my thoughts on these and other cool questions, you can read the full interview here.

Thanks for having me ‘Voices in the Well.’

Have a great weekend, everyone.


Happy writing, happy reading, and happy days,

Rebecca 🙂

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‘Burning Love and Bleeding Hearts’ – Charity anthology for Australia’s bushfire relief turning love tropes on their heads.

Australia’s bushfire crisis has seen people from all over the world rally to the cause in the most generous and creative ways. Whether it’s donating money, time, or resources, people have stepped up, stepped out, doubled down, and dug deep…none more so than Australia’s arts community (fancy that, and government tells us we’re not important enough to warrant a federal department anymore).

The Authors for Fireys (#authorsforfireys) initiative highlighted what a willing community can do to raise funds in a very short period of time. The online Twitter auction of signed books, illustrations, unique experiences, one-off opportunities and writers’ services was supported by over 500 writers and illustrators. Donations from over 1,300 auctions raised over half a million dollars!

At the same time, publishers, editors, and authors came together, creating and heeding various submission calls for charity anthologies, reflecting different themes and genres, but all striving towards the same benevolent objective.

One of these charity anthologies, ‘Burning Love and Bleeding Hearts’ was appropriately released on Valentine’s Day by Things in the Well publications, who have earned a reputation for producing, among their other publications, high quality anthologies in support of amazing causes.

Burning Love

Co-edited by the winning combination of Louise Zedda-Sampson and Chris Mason, Burning Love and Bleeding Hearts brings together a collection of dark, suspenseful, menacing, and memorable tales of human love gone wrong, or monster love gone right! Here’s the official blurb:

“The title says it all. Who would think love could be so… dangerous? A mix of poetry and short fiction – love found, love lost, love experienced in ways you never imagined. Weird and macabre, sometimes humorous, often terrifying, these tales – presented by an international line up of authors – will make your heart skip a beat. Each story is a dance with love, sometimes with death as its partner.”

The submission window was tight, as was the turnaround time for production. The editors put in a Herculean effort to bring this book baby to life in time for it’s Valentine Day release. You can read Louise’s terrific wrap up of the editorial process here.

I’m very pleased to have one of my stories, Hermit 2.0 included in Burning Love and Bleeding Hearts. It’s sharing the pages with some amazing tales from a talented bunch of writers who donated stories from all around the world. Hermit 2.0 is fundamentally a love story, albeit a tragic tale set in a bleak, dystopian future.

There’s much beauty and love to be found in Burning Love and Bleeding Hearts, both within the pages, and from the energy that went into creating it. If you want to experience some of that for yourself, while supporting the Australian Red Cross, get your Kindle of paperback copy here.

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

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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.


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,


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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.


‘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


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.


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!

con crew

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.


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.


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!


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. 🙂



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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.


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 🙂

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