Author Archive

Friday, October 11th, 2013 | Author:


I enjoyed a wonderful new sensation today — the feeling of holding in my trembling hand a hardcover book with one of my stories in it! It’s the first time I’ve had a hardcover publication and it’s a great looking book, if I may say so myself: 488 pages long, with 34 stories and poems selected from amongst the hundreds of fantasy and horror stories published in Australia and New Zealand last year, so I feel very honoured to have a story of mine included. That story, as I mentioned in a previous post, is ‘Anvil of the Sun’, a dark fantasy tale inspired by a documentary I watched about Tito and the Naked Island in the Adriatic to which he exiled dissidents. 

The Year’s Best begins with a Year in Review section written by the editors Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene, in which they give a very detailed round-up of The Year in Fantasy (Grzyb) and The Year in Horror (Helene), covering novels, anthologies, collections, magazines, e-zines, podcasts, graphic novels, illustrated works and other media such as film. They conclude with a round-up of The Year in the Industry. And then it’s onto the stories. I haven’t had a chance to read them yet, but the names of the authors on the contents page is super-impressive: Kaaron Warren (who I once saw give a truly fantastic reading of her short story ‘His Lipstick Minx’); Jason Nahrung and Anna Tambour (I have well-thumbed autographed novels by both authors residing in my lounge room bookcase); plus Angela Slatter, Lee Battersby, Terry Dowling, Joanne Anderton and many more. I can’t wait to read them all!

The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2012 is available to buy here.




Monday, July 15th, 2013 | Author:


I’ve been feeling a tad worried lately about the publication status of a 7600-word novella of mine, “The Weight of His Wings,” the tale of a winged man struggling to salvage his life in the aftermath of a great war. A US magazine, Aoife’s Kiss, accepted the story more than a year ago now and scheduled it for publication in the magazine’s 10th anniversary issue in June this year. But the publication date came and went with no word from the publishers. Anyway, I’ve finally heard from them — the magazine and a bunch of others owned by the same company have changed hands, delaying many of the upcoming publications. So my story is still going ahead and should be out around August.


Monday, April 22nd, 2013 | Author:


Exciting news! My story ‘Anvil of the Sun’, published last year in Aurealis, has made it into The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2012! ‘Anvil’ is a personal favourite: it’s dark, distressing, but ends, I think, on a note of hope, and I’m thrilled that it will be reprinted amongst such fine company. This year’s Year’s Best should be an awesome one – 34 short stories and poems from “New Zealand and Australia’s finest writers” (the publisher’s words, not mine!), including talents such as Joanne Anderton, Richard Harland, Margo Lanagan, Jason Nahrung, and Kaaron Warren, to name just a few.

The book will be available as a hardcover, paperback and e-book sometime in July 2013. And with 34 stories, it should make for a nice, fat read. You can see the full line-up of stories on the Ticonderoga Publications website and pre-order copies here.

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013 | Author:


Last week I had the honour of meeting one of Australia’s greatest writers, Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler’s List. Mr Keneally was launching a non-fiction book by Kevin Windle, entitled Undesirable: Captain Zuzenko and the Workers of Australia and the World, the biography of the fascinating Russian fellow who inspired Keneally’s novel, The People’s Train, and my husband’s Russian teacher invited us along to the launch.

Funnily enough, both Lazar and I had just finished reading Schindler’s List — again — a couple of weeks previously. I’m writing about the wars in the former Yugoslavia and Oskar Schindler is such a wonderful, flawed and compelling wartime hero that I wanted to read his story again. So I went along to the book launch with my ancient, dog-eared copy of Schindler’s List (it’s now 30 years since TK wrote it, and about 18 years since I bought my copy) and was incredibly thrilled when Mr Keneally signed it for me. I just wish I’d been a little less overawed and tongue-tied so that I could have told him so!

Friday, April 12th, 2013 | Author:


I am now 30 000+ words into the second draft of my new novel, set in the former Yugoslavia and present-day Australia. It’s early 1993, and my main character is about to leave Sarajevo and head to Belgrade, and from there the vagaries of life and war will conspire to draw him back to Bosnia at the worst possible time, in mid-1995.

I’ve found the perfect soundtrack for this novel: the heart-wrenchingly beautiful music of Slobodan Trkjula, a flautist who gives traditional Serbian music a modern twist. Check out his gorgeous song ‘Andjele’ (Angel) and the amazing singing of his group of Orthodox monks here.

Interestingly enough, some of the YouTube footage indicates that Slobodan Trkjula’s music is also huge in China!

Thursday, April 04th, 2013 | Author:


Some exciting news – Bloodstones, which features my short story ‘Embracing the Invisible’, is on the shortlist for Best Anthology in the 2012 Aurealis Awards!

Now I just have to wait till the awards night in May for a good excuse to pop a bottle of bubbly!


Wednesday, April 03rd, 2013 | Author:


We are settling into our new life in beautiful Canberra and I am thrilled to report that the family’s Chinese lessons are continuing ‘down under’. We have enrolled the girls in Sunday morning Mandarin classes at the Australian School of Contemporary Chinese and joined the Australia China Friendship Society. The ACFS held a lantern making workshop where we all made paper lanterns prior to the Lantern Festival. And ― big thanks here to the lecturers in Mandarin at the Australian National University ― we have met three lovely international students with the English names of Sandy, Bob and Emma who have very kindly volunteered to tutor the girls in Chinese. So while we’ve accepted the fact that the kids will lose some of their Mandarin now they’re out of their 24/7 Chinese environment, at least they will keep their toes in the water of bilingualism here!


The girls with their wonderful lanterns after the workshop

Friday, November 30th, 2012 | Author:


Last weekend we went to the wedding reception of one of our favourite former students, Butterfly.

As we neared the groom’s house, we passed an excited crowd on the road and spotted the beautiful bride in their centre: a man in flip-flops and with his slacks rolled up to his knees was dragging a small wooden cart in which Butterfly knelt, clad in her scarlet wedding dress and veil. 

Three motorcycles were weaving across the road in front of the bridal cart. While one man rode each bike, another straddled it backwards, using a cigarette to light firecrackers he’d then toss in front of the wedding procession.

The wedding lunch was served in the courtyard of the groom’s family’s house. Another hundred or more guests sat under temporary awnings erected in the laneway beside the house. A small army of caterers prepared all the food on the spot, using massive steamers and portable gas bottles to cook everything right there in the courtyard.

As is usual on special occasions in China, no rice or vegetables were served — just masses of meat and seafood. We ate pig’s ears, crocodile, lobster, crab, lamb, whole steamed duck, some dish involving huge slabs of fatty, steamed pig skin, and several different soups. There was one featuring dried mushrooms and some type of offal; another with bamboo shoots and pork; also a sort of egg custard with dried prawns and dried mushrooms sprinkled on top and finally, very sweet peanut soup. We scarcely had time to taste each dish, much less finish it, before it was whisked away to be replaced by the next.

Once we were all well and truly full, the kids spent a while playing in the marital bedchamber with Butterfly and Ifan’s nieces and nephews. No one seemed to mind a bunch of kids jumping about on the bride and groom’s new bed! Everything in the bedroom was new and either pink or red: new red sheets and pink pillows, floral arrangements of pink and red roses on a red plastic stool beside the bed, a swathe of pink fabric decorating the mirror. Looking down on all this from the wall was an enormous, airbrushed wedding picture of the gorgeous bride and groom. 

It was wonderful to see Butterfly looking so happy, and so beautiful in her traditional scarlet and gold qipao.

Thursday, November 29th, 2012 | Author:


Bloodstones, the dark fantasy anthology featuring my story ‘Embracing the Invisible’, is now available on Amazon. Click here to buy it.

It also has a page on Goodreads. Visit the page to rate it.

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012 | Author:


My parents, my sister and her husband and kids are currently holidaying here. Last weekend we all visited some of the earth houses, or tulous, of one of southeastern China’s minority groups, the Hakka people. The trip put me way out of my comfort zone: we hired a van and a Chinese driver for 3 days, and so my family was forced to rely on my awful Mandarin to communicate with our driver. I’m still in awe of Mr Jiang’s patience in deciphering my mangled instructions. In a language where using the wrong tone can mean the difference between saying ‘four’ and saying ‘death’, I made mistakes I’m even now shuddering to recall.

Anyway, the tulous are enormous, incredibly impressive structures with outer walls made from a mixture of mud, bamboo strips, glutinous rice and straw. They’re usually circular or square, and feature a single entrance and an interior courtyard equipped with wells — perfect for enduring a long siege! Originally, an entire clan lived inside each tulou. Nowadays many of them are in ruins. Others have been converted into hotels; still others house tea shops, souvenir stalls and little eateries. 

With more than 400 rooms, Chengqi Lou, the ‘king’ of the tulous, is the most awe-inspiring. But my personal favourite is Yuchang Lou, which is kind of like the tulou version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa — all its vertical supports lean in different directions. It looks like it’s been frozen in mid-collapse.

On the last day of our trip, we met a local man in the restaurant of the hotel where we were staying. When he discovered that we teach English at Xiamen University of Technology, he very proudly told us that his daughter was studying there. Then he pulled out his phone, called her and ordered her to speak English to us (I could just imagine his daughter saying ‘Oh Dad, no, please!’). So I started chatting with her and it turned out she’s one of my students! Small world, huh? Once we discovered that, her father invited us to have a couple of drinks with him, Chinese-style. That involves cries of “Ganbei, ganbei!” (‘Cheers’ or literally, ‘empty glass!’), followed by gulping a whole glass of baijiu, followed by holding out your dry glass to show everyone you’ve polished it all off. It was all a lot of fun and, for my family, a great introduction to Chinese hospitality.