Category Archives: Thrillers and Crime

Meet Dirk Flinthart…

I first met Dirk around 15 years ago when he turned up at a Vision Writers’ meeting bare foot talking about ley lines. I soon discovered he was a wonderfully insightful critiquer and came to value his input to our writing craft discussions. When Marianne and I formed the ROR writing group to polish our novel length work we asked Dirk to join. He lives in northern Tasmania with his GP wife and three children, and he is a genius when it comes to food!

His new book Path of Night has just been released through Fablecroft.

flinthart publicity colour small


Q: First of all, why ‘Dirk Flinthart’? Your pseudonym reminds me of an episode of the Elizabethan Black Adder series when Lord Flashheart appeared. Were you a fan of Black Adder? What prompted you to use Dirk Flinthart as your writing name?


Long, complicated tale. It started – as many things have – at university. For the student newspaper, I wrote a column parodying the US ‘survivalist’ movement, with a friend. The putative writers were Dirk “Some Refuse To Die” Flinthart and Rambo Rockharde. We had a lot of fun, got paid, got drunk, and apparently developed a fanbase. A few years later, after John Birmingham’s He Died With A Felafel In His Hand made so much money that the publisher had to find a tax sink, I got invited to write gutter-level pulp crime fiction. (Brotherly Love, under Autopsy Press, later Duffy and Snellgrove.) All of us involved in that project used pseudonyms, and Birmo suggested I use Flinthart. Then of course that swine Birmingham actually caricatured me under the name of Dirk Flinthart in his sequel to Felafel (The Tasmanian Babes Fiasco). And I wrote a backpacker’s guide to the east coast of Oz in which I was quite rude to the city where my mother lived… so Flinthart took the blame there, too. And I’ve never quite shaken the bastard off.


I don’t mind, really. Flinthart has become more of an alternative identity. People who know me will know exactly what I mean, and people who know Flinthart… well, they know Mister Flinthart.


Oh! And yes, I’m a big Blackadder fan. Who isn’t?

PathofNightCoverSMQ: According to the back cover blurb for Path of Night: ‘Medical student Michael Devlin is in trouble. With his flatmates murdered and an international cabal of legendary man-monsters on his trail, Devlin’s got nowhere to hide. His only allies are a hot-tempered Sydney cop and a mysterious monster-hunter who may be setting Devlin up for the kill. If he’s going to survive, Devlin will have to embrace his new powers and confront his hunters. But can he hold onto his humanity when he walks the Path of Night?’ I get the feeling this could be a mix of the Jim Butcher novels and Simon R Green’s Nightside series. What did you draw your inspiration from and do you envision a series for Michael Devlin?

I can’t say where the exact ‘inspiration’ came from, but I can say this is intended as a series. Look, currently I’m most of the way through a Masters’ degree in creative writing, and I’ve been studying genre fiction. (Why not?) In doing the reading, I realised something very important.

All of us here in speculative fiction – we want an audience. We want to be published. And as writers, we are conditioned to think that the only effective tool we have is our prose, so we struggle and we strive and we polish and we edit and we critique… and then Dan Brown publishes something that is truly painful to read, and draws millions of readers. (Sorry, Dan. Your writing is awful, and your storytelling makes me cringe. But you’re entertaining a lot of people, so best of luck to you.)

The quality of our prose is important, but only to a certain degree. More important is having work out there, and entertaining an audience. Big publishers are constantly looking for the book that repeats yesterday’s bestseller. Writers want to be original. But audiences? They want to enjoy their reading, and there’s a lot of scope in that.

That was the real inspiration for Path of Night, right there. Realising that I’d reached a place where I could construct a novel and that it could be enjoyed by readers, I felt that I didn’t want to struggle and strive and  have the MS looked at for the next two years by big publishers who wouldn’t take it in the end because it didn’t look like a commercial prospect. I thought I’d write a book that was fun, and interesting, and a bit different, and that I’d approach a small, agile publisher and jump straight into the e-book realms.

Hey: we all started writing because it was fun, right? We tell stories because we enjoy it. But the more we have to compromise our ideas and chase after the here-today, gone-tomorrow will-o-wisp vision of the big publishers, the less storytelling and the less FUN we have.

You want to know something cool? Writing Path of Night was a hoot. I like the main character. I like the main support character so much that I didn’t wind up killing her, and she’s going to be at least as important in the next book, or two, or three. I got a kick out of the villains. I enjoyed adding a distinctly Australian humour to it. I enjoyed the plot and the ideas, and once the ball got rolling, I had the first draft done in less than six months and it didn’t feel like work at all.

Now it’s out there, and the folks who have read it are getting back to me and saying: hey, yeah! This thing is fun! It’s interesting and entertaining!

That right there – that is the alpha and the omega of why and how I became a writer.

No, I haven’t written off the big publishers. That would be silly. But rather than chase them with ever more elegant works, I’m simply going to spend some time enjoying my writing. The challenge of writing elegant, arresting prose remains, and I’ll keep working on projects of that nature, but after the sheer pleasure I got from creating Path of Night, there’s no way I’m making the elegant, poetic stuff my only approach.


Q: In a blog post on Ebon Shores you say: ‘I’ve been writing stories since I was a kid. I figure most writers would say the same thing. I started getting paid in University, writing articles for this and that. Being paid was cool, but the point was much more about having fun. I convinced magazines to let me go to Maleny-Woodford to interview feral babes. I got myself paid to attend the National Festival of Beer. I got paid to ride around in a 4WD-converted Rolls Royce. I made money, but more: I had a lot of fun.’ Sounds like your early twenties were a hoot but it is a long way from this kind of writing to speculative fiction. Where and when did the fantasy and SF element come in?

First and foremost, of course. What do you think I read when I was growing up? Smart, isolated kid with a funny accent in Far North Queensland – yeah, I read science fiction and fantasy. I got hold of the Ancient Greek and Norse myths when I was about six. I got the Myths And Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and a huge volume of Robin Hood in faux-Elizabethan English when I was about eight. I stumbled onto the Robert Howard Conan books before I was ten, and vaulted from there to Moorcock in all his hallucinogenic glory. After that? I read anything I could find that had a speculative element. Horror. Fantasy. Lots and lots of SF, gleaned from school fetes and library sales and everywhere, anywhere at all. I read the Gormenghast books and The Master and Margharita when I was thirteen, at the same time (and from the same private library) as I found Tove Jansson’s marvellous Moomintroll stories.

Yes. I’ve written for magazines. And newspapers. I’ve written radio scripts and interviews and plays, and adapted stories for short films. I’ve published at least one peer-reviewed paper on the topic of online education in an international education journal, and I did that as Dirk Flinthart which I think is pretty funny. I’ve written a backpacker’s guide, and stuff on lifestyle and humour, and I expect I’ll write a lot more of all sorts of things before I drop dead…

…but I love telling stories. Imaginative, speculative stories. And that’s what I’m doing with Path of Night.


Q: Your Red Priest stories have been very successful with The Red Priest’s Homecoming appearing in The Year’s Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy Volume 2.  I know at one point you were working on a Red Priest book. Can we look forward to seeing a novel length story about the Red Priest?

Yep. Actually, I’d intended to break out with a Red Priest novel, but about halfway in I realised I was writing about more or less the end of the character’s career, and that seemed a damn’ fool way to introduce him in a big way. So I put that one on the back burner. My goal is to work through a few more quick, enjoyable books about Mick Devlin and the Night Beasts, and hopefully acquire enough of an audience that I can then turn around and introduce the Red Priest properly.

That’s the plan, anyhow. Who knows how it will go? I also have to finish that Queen of Bedlam novel pretty soon… and the Masters Degree with it. And more short stories. And… well, hell. Is there a writer that isn’t busy?

I love the Red Priest, though. I’m definitely not done with Tomaso Dellaforte. (Currently working on a story placing him in Iceland, as a matter of interest.)


9781875989935Q: Going way back you co-wrote How to be a Man with John Birmingham and I see you had a book called Brotherly Love published in 1995. What genre was this and why can’t I find an image of the cover? Is it out of print?

Brotherly Love is indeed out of print. As I mentioned before, Birmingham’s “Felafel” opus kind of scared the publisher, and he needed a new project to balance his books. Michael Duffy was a man ahead of his time. He figured there was a market for novella-length crime done quick and dirty… and of course, today he’s right. The novella is emerging as a real sweet-spot length for e-publishing. But back in ’95, the cost of printing a 30,000 word book was significant, and you couldn’t really deliver a throwaway price on the things. Meanwhile, the trend was towards doorstop sized airport novels, so after a half-dozen or so books in the collection (Birmo wrote another. So did Peter Robb. I can’t recall who else was involved.) they shelved the concept.

I really enjoyed writing it, though. Thirty thousand words in two weeks, followed by a revision. I can’t believe I made it work. We all did it, though. And yeah: it was fun. A lot of fun.


Canterbury-2100-coverQ: A few years ago you compiled and edited a shared world anthology called Canterbury Tales 2100. In an interview on the ROR site you say: ‘Canterbury was a major challenge. It was an homage to the Canterbury Tales: a collection of oral stories by travellers on a stranded train in the year 2109, on their way to Canterbury in an England trying to recover from a century of climate change, ecodisaster, economic catastrophe, plague – a collapse of the worldwide civilisation we have today.’ This sounds fascinating. Do you have any plans to do another shared world anthology?

I adored the Canterbury idea, and I loved working on this project. I picked up very early pieces from writers including Lisa Hannett, Laura Goodin and Thoraiya Dyer, all of whom have gone from strength to strength. Cat Sparks backed me to put it together to suit myself and I remain inexpressibly grateful to her for that.

This is a book that should have gone through a big publishing firm. The idea was not so much a shared world anthology as a collection of stories from the people of a shared fictional world. As a reader, you don’t get a straightforward depiction of “the future” from this book. You get the stories that the people of that future tell each other, and you have to piece together your own image of the future that created those stories. To me, that’s the essence of good storytelling: giving readers enough that they want to create more for themselves.

Canterbury 2100 is unique. Nobody’s done anything quite like it before, or since, and come what may, the writers and I own a little piece of science fiction history for that. I am extremely proud of this collection, and it was indeed a real challenge. However, storytelling is my first love. Editing is second-best, no matter how much fun you’re having with it. If I do another shared world anthology, it will be because I’m being paid for it!


Q: Your Young Adult stories have been shortlisted several times for Aurealis awards and This is not my Story appeared in the Year’s Best Australian Science fiction and Fantasy Volume 5. Are you particularly drawn to YA stories and if so, why?

YA? No special appeal. But think how much speculative fiction has been more or less YA. Look at Frank Herbert’s Dune: Paul Atreides is 14 years old at the outset. And Ged, in Ursula LeGuin’s wonderful Wizard of Earthsea – a boy who becomes a very young adult over the course of the tale. Think how much YA stuff Robert Heinlein did – and Diana Wynne Jones, and oh, how many others?

There’s a reason for that, you know.

This world we’ve created does a terrible thing to children as they grow up. When you’re small, the world is full of ghosts and fairies, witches and magic, Jedi masters and superheroes and all manner of marvels and wonders. But as you get older, they take these things away from you one at a time. They kill off the Tooth Fairy, and Santa. The fairy tales become… just stories. The witches become sad, misinterpreted and persecuted women from difficult historical times. The speed of light keeps the alien invasion fleets away from Earth forever, and keeps every space-ranger and free-trader planetbound.

All this they take, and they give back nothing but wreckage. Consumerism. Climate change. Mass extinctions. Trade wars. Terrorism. It’s not an equitable exchange at all: it’s vicious, and it’s cruel.

But there’s that one last joyful period in the life of a growing, thinking person: that time when you’re old enough to comprehend and enjoy complex storytelling, yet not so beaten and defeated that all the magic has gone from the world. That, right there: that’s why so much YA fiction is also speculative fiction. The audience is still young enough and strong enough to suspend disbelief, but they’re also old enough and smart enough to handle a good, strong, twisty story with teeth.

What’s that quote from Ursula leGuin? Oh, I remember: “The creative adult is the child who has survived.” Well, that’s what good YA fiction is for – helping keep alive the child that so very much of this appalling world seems intent on killing. And speculative fiction of all sorts is for people who can suspend disbelief and play along, so of course it frequently reaches out to a younger audience.

And who knows? If we do a good enough job as writers, maybe we’ll convince some of that audience to devise truths of our myths, and the world can become a better place.


dirks-cover1Q: Angel Rising was published by Twelfth Planet Press. You say: ‘Gordon gets to fall in love, fight lots of bad guys, discuss Zen and ethics, and maybe save his world. Oh – and he also gets to take sides in a pitched battle between ninjas and Zen Buddhist nuns. What else could you ask for?’ Sounds like fun. Proctor General Gordon has appeared in several stories tied into the New Ceres shared world. Will you be revisiting New Ceres and Gordon?

I’d quite like to, but… it’s complicated. I’m not really sure where all the rights are, or how it all works. There were a lot of people involved with New Ceres. Still, I’ve got several thousand words in which a typically sardonic and cunning George Gordon more or less single-handedly attacks an invasion fleet… It might see the light of day at some point!


Q: Not long ago you were writing a libretto as part of your Masters. It was turned into an operetta called Bedlam where Mab, the Queen of the Fey, and Lord Byron collided. ‘Bedlam is a legendary place of madness, and of course, there’s a long history of association between madness and the Faery folk. To be ‘elf-shot’, for example, is an old term for being mad. And then there’s the term ‘fey’, which is often used interchangeably with faery or fairy or elf – but also means eccentric, mad, ‘doomed’, ‘fated’, and so forth. I want to say it was an easy leap from there to trap an elf-queen in Bedlam, and to put the famous Lord Byron into the role of rescuer. And why not? Club-footed Byron (obviously marked by the faery at birth!) is as fine a role-model for the elf-shot, mad, romantic hero as ever you could want.’

(See a clip here)

This takes collaboration to a whole new height, working with a songwriter, director, dancers and actors. Is it an experience you would revisit?

As it stands, the piece is designed to be an opera. The company in Brisbane – Outcast Opera – are still intent on bringing it to life, but they have to grind their way through the funding process. I really, really hope they manage it: the trailer they put together for presentation to Queensland Arts was absolutely jaw-dropping, as you can see from that clip.

Now, my part in all that visual and auditory glory was small. I just wrote some words! But oh – to see and hear those words as they come back with all that music, those voices, those phenomenal dancers! How much more could a writer ever ask for?

I’ve done this kind of thing a couple of times. There’s a short movie from Dragonwood Studios based on a story of mine, and then there’s this opera. And I honestly cannot convey just how much I have enjoyed this. Writing and storytelling – that’s one process, one dimension, one interpretation of ideas and characters. As soon as you bring in other creative people to add imagery, movement, light and colour and sound… yes, you give away ownership of the words. But you get so much back! Seeing your own dreams come back at you, reshaped and re-coloured by the imagination and creativity of others – that’s a special kind of magic.

I’d do this again in a heartbeat. Any time at all. You know what would be a real dream? Writing for animation. That would be just too damned cool.

Still. I’ll be happy if the opera gets to the stage. I’ve promised I’ll attend the premiere in a proper tuxedo… although I think I’ll have to Steampunk it up in honour of the story itself.


Q: Your writing background is very eclectic. Was this a deliberate choice or did the stories drive you in their own directions?

There wasn’t a choice. I’m afraid that’s just me. I have an odd kind of mind. I have an unusually retentive memory (far from photographic; I just keep oddments and facts and trivia) and an odd propensity for forming connections and patterns. I have no idea how other people create stories, and even less on how they can keep creating in a single niche. Stories are everywhere! Just… join the dots, right?

I’m not explaining this very well, am I? Probably because I cannot. I think most of us are blind to the strange wellsprings of our own creativity, and I think that’s probably a necessary thing. If we understood where it all came from, it seems likely it would vanish.


Q: I understand you teach Ju Jitsu, are learning Iaido, and have been known to take your bow out and shoot a wallaby to cook for dinner, as well as write. How did your degree in Entomology prepare you for this? Seriously, what advice would you give aspiring writers?

Okay, this is getting silly. Ummm… yes, to all the above. (Except bow-hunting wallabies. That’s illegal. But I own a duly licensed firearm, and occasionally I use it to reduce the plague-proportion numbers of wallabies here, and yes – they’re delicious. But I only ever shoot targets with the bow.) I also take photographs, and play the Irish whistle and flute. Doesn’t everyone?

Advice for aspiring writers is simple, though: write.

Don’t expect to publish. Just write. Write because you need to, because it’s your joy, because it gets you through the day. Write what you like writing, and enjoy the writing that you do.

Yes, your prose has to work. But there are enough highly popular, thoroughly execrable books out there to prove beyond all doubt that deathless prose isn’t the secret.

What is? Well, if I knew that I’d be parked next to Dan Brown’s yacht, wouldn’t I? But I know this: if you’re not having fun, you’re wasting your life. So write, and take pleasure in the stories you tell, and once you’ve placed a few stories and maybe won a competition or two, just take the plunge.

Let the readers decide. They’re the ones you want to reach, after all.


Catch up with Dirk:




1 Comment

Filed under Australian Writers, Characterisation, creativity, Fantasy books, Fun Stuff, Genre, Movies & TV Shows, Readers, Script Writing, Thrillers and Crime, Tips for Developing Writers, Writing craft, Young Adult Books

Whoohoo for Narrelle!

It always give me a buzz to see a friend’s book doing well so I was particularly pleased to see Walking Shadows on the shortlist for the Davitt Award!

WS for SN


Nice cover, did I hear you say? Why thank you, Daryl did it.


And I was doubly pleased because Narrelle’s book was released by ClanDestine Press, my Indie Australian crime publisher. Narrelle is tickled pink but she’s currently in Canada with her travel writer partner so she can’t race back for the Gala Awards Dinner.  I imagine Lindy Cameron, her editor, will be sitting at a table, fingers crossed, hoping she will have to accept on Narrelle’s behalf.

I interviewed Narrelle here about her writing life and creativity. She has a very dry sense of humour and a wonderful turn of phrase, which comes through in her books about ‘Gary, the daggy vampire‘.


Filed under Australian Writers, Awards, Dark Urban Fantasy, Thrillers and Crime, Thrillers and Mysteries

Melbourne Event

Anyone living in the Melbourne area might be interested in this.

St Kilda: Scene of the Crime

A Sisters in in Crime Event as part of StripFest ‘an all-new arts festival connecting community, arts and businesses in the St Kilda Village around Acland Street, being held from 23-30 August’

When:  2pm Sunday 25 August –

Where: Bank of Melbourne, 161/163 Acland St., St Kilda


My old stomping ground! I used to have a bookstore around the corner in Barkly Street.
What is it about St Kilda that makes it such a favourite locale for murders most foul – at least of the fictional kind? A scheme of crime authors with books set in St Kilda will be exploring the question in an afternoon of fun and felony with crime buffs organisation, Sisters in Crime: Australia – Leigh Redhead, Simmone Howell, Rowena C Daniells and Lindy Cameron.

Rubdown Leigh Redhead is the creator of the award-winning Simone Kirsch stripper-turned-private eye series, set in St Kilda and East Kilda: Peepshow, Rubdown, Cherry Pie and Thrill City (Allen & Unwin).
“St Kilda has always been the scene of the crime for me, because that’s where I lived when I started writing the Simone Kirsch private eye books. Simone lives in Elwood, jogs along the foreshore, and goes to pretty much every pub in the area in the course of solving her cases.
“My first book, Peepshow, starts with the body of a King Street strip club boss washing up on St Kilda beach, and ends at the Greyhound Hotel with Simone flirting with the bass player from a country band. They do say write what you know…”
Redhead now lives in Highett and is currently working on the fifth book in the series, Repentance Creek.


Simmone Howell’s ‘new adult’ crime novel, Girl Defective(Pan Macmillan), was published earlier this year and features 15-year-old sleuth Sky, a body found in the Elwood Canal and lots of St Kilda colour.
“I grew up in the outer east and St Kilda was always this mythical dreamland to me. It is a place that’s already full of stories and I wanted to add to the layers. It has a reputation of being a place of edges and art and criminal activity and because its mood is always shifting. It seems to me to be like a place where people come to rather than from,” Howell said.
“I love all the metaphors of it beginning as a swamp, then becoming a rich persons’ playground, then falling into disrepair and then becoming gentrified. Back when I lived there, I was in a duplex that had a Sai Baba devotee on one side and madman living in the shed out the back. Plus it’s physically beautiful – the sea and the wide streets, the Spanish houses and the eerie canal!”
Howell is also the author of Notes from the Teenage Underground and Everything Beautiful and now lives in Castlemaine, where she writes and runs creative workshops for adults and young people

Rowena C Daniells gives crime a paranormal twist in The Price of Fame (Clan Destine Press) which features documentary maker Antonia Carlyle who uncovers dark secrets in St Kilda when she researches a cult
PoF Cover2_72dpi ’80s band.
“Quite by chance I ended up living in St Kilda when I first came to Melbourne. This was 1978 and back then St Kilda was a slice of Europe. I loved the cake shops on Acland Street, the markets overlooking the bay and the St Kilda Botanical Gardens,” Daniels said.
“I lived in Melbourne for fourteen years, most of that time in St Kilda, Elwood and Elsternwick. It was only natural that I’d set my book in the area I knew. I even make a cameo appearance in the narrative as a bookshop owner. (I used to have a bookshop in Barkly Street). Many of the events described in the book were based on fact with the names and details changed to disguise those involved…”
Daniels now lives in Brisbane where she studies martial arts in her spare time.
Lindy Cameron, who is also a co-convenor of Sisters in Crime, said that Kit O’Malley, her lesbian P I, sees a lot of action in St Kilda in her novels Blood Guilt, Bleeding Hearts  and Thicker Blood GuiltThan Water.
“When I decided to create a private eye who lives in a flat above her office in Richmond, it was a given that many of her cases and adventures would happen around inner-city Melbourne,” Cameron said.
“I actually wanted our city to become a character in the series, so that locals could identify with my human characters as they roamed the streets; and anyone else would think it a great place to visit.
“St Kilda features quite prominently in the three O’Malley mysteries, particularly Blood Guilt, because I needed a suburb with colour and movement, with history in terms of buildings and local culture, with standout areas and landmarks like Luna Park, the Esplanade, St Kilda beach, and especially with great eating places – because being a fairly typical P I, Kit O’Malley does a lot of ‘eating out’.”
Cameron is also the author of the museum mystery, Golden Relic, the Kit O’Malley P I series and most recently the espionage thriller, Redback. She has edited and written a number of true crime books and now runs Australia’s only genre-specialist publishing house, Clan Destine Press.
St Kilda has been the ‘scene of the crime’ since at least 1886 when Fergus Hume published The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, the first crime novel anywhere to sell more than half a million copies.
Phryne Fisher, the twenties’ sleuth featured in Kerry Greenwood’s best-selling series, lives at 221B the Esplanade, St Kilda. There’s no such address, of course, but the 221B is in homage to Sherlock Holmes who famously lived at 221 B Baker St, London. The ABC drama, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, unfortunately has Phryne living elsewhere.
Sisters in Crime Australia has been celebrating women’s crime writing on the page and screen for the past 22 years.
Venue: Bank of Melbourne, 161/163 Acland St., St Kilda
Cost: $10 (members/concession)/$15 (non-members). No bookings necessary. Men or ‘brothers-in-law’ welcome. Books on sale.
Info: StripFest ; Carmel Shute, Sisters in Crime National Co-convenor: 0412 569 356.




Leave a Comment

Filed under Australian Writers, creativity, Thrillers and Crime, Thrillers and Mysteries

Congrats all ’round!

So here I am madly scrambling to get through the day with work, family commitments and writing then I come home from a course and find good news on the Twitterverse.

A big congratulations to Marianne Delacourt (de Pierres), Narrelle Harris, Rhonda Roberts and me, we’re on the Long List for the Davitt Award. The Davitt Awards are run by Sisters In Crime. The award is named in honour of Ellen Davitt (1812-1879) who wrote Australia’s first mystery novel, Force and Fraud in 1865.

And another big Whoohoo because ‘The Price of Fame’ has made it onto the Long List for the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction (since this is my first foray into crime!). The Ned Kelly Awards are run by the Australian Crime Writers Association. The awards began in 1995 and they say ‘When it came to deciding on a name, co-opting the nation’s most infamous villain seemed a natural fit.’ The awards are known affectionately as the ‘Neds’. Lovely to see so many fellow female authors in the running for a Ned.

72_PoF Wraparound


So this has been a good week, with the Long Listing of all three books from The Outcast Chronicles on the Gemmell Awards for their covers (thanks to Clint Langley!) and for the books themselves. And now the Long Listing of ‘The Price of Fame’. With 5 books published last year, (the 5th book was ‘The King’s Man’, an e-book exclusive), last year is all a bit of a blur for me, but it does feel nice now to come home to find four of the books are Long Listed for awards.

Now, if only I didn’t have to work to earn a living or sleep. I could get much more writing done!



Filed under Australian Writers, Awards, Fantasy books, Inspiring Art, Paranormal_Crime, Thrillers and Crime, Thrillers and Mysteries

From Fantasy to Felony and Fangs…

I’ll be dashing straight from work to the airport to fly off to Melbourne on Friday the 12th of April for a Sisters in Crime Event, where I’ll catch up with Alison Goodman and Narrelle Harris (aka the Daggy Vamp). We’ll be talking about writing across genres. After all, as readers we don’t stick to one genre, why should our creativity be restricted to one genre?

And we even got a nice write up in the print media! (The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald)


Narrelle M Harris will interrogate two fellow authors – and herself! – about why they’ve turned from fantasy to crime to explore Melbourne’s underworld and other-worldly…


WS-Rough-front-207x300Narrelle M Harris writes both crime and fantasy. She is the author of two frequently hilarious crime vampire novels set in Melbourne: The Opposite of Life and its sequel, Walking Shadows, published last year by Clan Destine Press. Both feature daggy Glen Waverly resident, Gary Hooper, who might be Melbourne’s (or maybe the world’s) least impressive vampire and his geekgirl librarian friend Lissa.

Narrelle also writes in the business sector. She created the Melbourne Literary iPhone app in association with Sutro Media.


a_new_kind_of_death_ebook_cover_finalAlison Goodman has received world-wide recognition for her fantasy books Eon and Eona which have been sold into 18 countries, and translated into 11 languages. Her first crime novel, A New Kind of Death, previously published in the USA as Killing the Rabbit, is now available to an Australian audience, thanks to Clan Destine Press. It’s a dark and wickedly adult comic thriller with just a touch of speculative intrigue and was highly recommended in Sisters in Crime’s Davitt Awards.

Alison was a D.J. O’Hearn Memorial Fellow at Melbourne University, holds a Master of Arts, and has taught creative writing at postgraduate level. She is currently working on a new fiction series.


Fantasy writer R C Daniells has also turned her hand to crime – with a paranormal twist in The PoF Wraparound ResizedPrice of Fame (Clan Destine Press). At its centre is documentary maker Antonia Carlyle who uncovers dark secrets in St Kilda when she researches the cult ’80s band, The Tough Romantics, and its doomed singer Genevieve James. The iconic band’s rise to international fame, she discovers, had as much to do with its cutting edge sound as its history of tragedy, betrayal and murder…

In her spare time, Rowena has devoted five years to studying each of these martial arts – Tae Kwon Do, Aikido and Iaido, the art of the Samurai Sword.


If you’d like to attend, here’s the info:

The Rising Sun Hotel, cnr Raglan St & Eastern Rd, South Melbourne (no lift). Mel Ref: 57, H2.Try 1, 55, 112 or St Kilda Road trams. Free on-street parking after 6pm.

$10 (members/concession )/$15 (non-members). Dinner upstairs from 6.30pm. Men or ‘brothers-in-law’ welcome. No bookings necessary. 10% for members from the Sun Bookshop bookstall.

Info: Carmel Shute on 0412 569 356 or go to


Filed under Australian Artists, Conferences and Conventions, Dark Urban Fantasy, Paranormal_Crime, Promoting Friend's Books, Thrillers and Crime, Thrillers and Mysteries

Typing in the Rhythm Section

Narrelle Harris tells us about her love of writing to music.




I like listening to music when I write. Not all the time, of course. Sometimes you need the sounds of silence so that the difficult words have somewhere to line up and make their own rhythm.  But generally, and especially during first drafts, I like building up a soundtrack to the world I’m building.

I have eclectic tastes in music: my collection contains classical, light opera and new age albums right next to alternative rock, pop punk, folk punk and the occasional heavy metal band. I like to discover new bands and new styles, though not everything is to my taste. I’m open to persuasion, though. I’m always chasing after the corollary to Sturgeons Law.

(Sturgeon’s Law being that 95% of everything is crap: the corollary therefore being that the other 5% is worth looking out for. One day I’ll find the 5% of yodelling that works for me.)

Music has been a long love of mine. I learned piano as a child, played the recorder at school and on and off over the years I’ve attempted songwriting. I co-created a Blake’s 7 filktape back in the 80s (writing lyrics mainly, though also one piece of music, and I even sang on one track.)  I’m better at lyrics than melodies, though, and sadly my vocal range is limited and kind of nasal – but the call of music is always near.


In fact, for me, music and writing are never far apart. My crime novellas, Fly by Night and Sacrifice, are about two musicians. I’ve written lyrics for some of my stories, and music is often referenced in my books. It seems perfectly natural to me to develop a soundtrack for each book I write.

By ‘soundtrack’ I don’t mean ‘playlist’. I’ve compiled a playlist or two to accompany books I’m working on, but often once I’ve done so, I don’t listen to it. I tend to pick songs that reflect aspects of the plot or


character development, but then I find that in the writing, things move and change; they subtly change or veer off, and songs I might have liked while I was working on the first draft of chapter five are no longer right by the time I’m at chapter 25. By the second or third rewrite they may not be relevant at all. Worse, the song might be subconsciously pushing me in a particular direction which lacks subtlety or that truthfulness which is so important and getting to the heart of the character or their story.

I suppose a playlist focuses too much on the lyrics, which can be detrimental. Soundtracks are more about the general rhythm and atmosphere of the aural landscape that contributes to the mood and setting.

So playlists don’t usually work for me – but I do definitely have soundtracks that go with my writing. When I wrote Fly By Night and Sacrifice, I spent a lot of time listening to REM and About Six Feet (my brother in law’s band – he allowed me to use the lyrics to some of the songs in the book). When I wrote Witch Honour and Witch Faith, Loreena McKennitt, Clannad and Enya got a lot of air time.


The Opposite of Life had a more eclectic soundtrack of alternative rock, but by the time I got to Walking Shadows, I was steeped in pop punk and the likes of Fall Out Boy, though more recently the soundscape WS-Rough-front-207x300consisted of Shinedown,, The Matches and Florence and the Machine.

The artists listed for each book are of course not the only ones I listen to while working. My choices can be fairly wide-ranging and include quirky lounge music (like The Real Tuesday Weld), show tunes from Cole Porter as well as music selected for its ambience.

It’s not completely random, though. The choice of the right bands, the right kinds of songs, the right mood and tempo, can be important in getting my head into the right space.  I work full time in day jobs to pay the bills, with only ten or so hours a week to write, so choosing the right background sound can act like a mnemonic  trigger (or Pavlovian response) and switch my brain from corporate-writer-mode to creative-writer-mode faster than I can sometimes achieve on my own after a day in the office.

Sometimes it’s too much. If I have a tricky scene, or something

intense, I need silence. Then the music goes off and it’s just me and the tyranny of the blank page. Often, though, the aural queue helps slot me into the imagined world I’m writing, unlocks the imagined people, and off I can go.



I may not have pursued music through the piano (and a short lived attempt at the guitar, abandoned when I broke both bones in my forearm a month later); I may only attempt to write songs in a haphazard fashion; I may be half-hearted and fickle about the use of playlists; but music is an essential part of how I write and the worlds I create.

And I’m open to suggestions. Does anyone have any bands to recommend? After all, I do have a new book to write.

What’s your favourite vampire-related song and why?

Catch up with Narrelle on GoodReads.

Catch up with Narrelle on Twitter  @daggyvamp

Narrelle’s Web Page.


Filed under Australian Writers, creativity, Dark Urban Fantasy, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Fun Stuff, Music and Writers, Nourish the Writer, Thrillers and Crime, Thrillers and Mysteries

Sisters in Crime event: Killers, Crims & Cops

If you like a good thriller, if you like getting your teeth into a mystery, if you enjoy your crime with a touch of the X Files… then you might like to come along to this event.

Killers, Crims & Cops, Ceylon Inn, Thursday 28th, 2013. It’s being hosted by ClanDestine Press and Sisters in Crime (but Brother in Law are welcome, too!)

I’ve found that readers often read across several genres and writers often write across several, so here I am in my RC Daniells incarnation. (My book The Price of Fame is the only one with a touch of paranormal. The others are straight thriller and crime). It’s an evening of good food, wine and talk about killers, crims and cops! Meet Katherine Howell, Sandy Curtis, Lindy Cameron and me.  (Click on poster to see larger image).




Filed under Australian Writers, Dark Urban Fantasy, Paranormal_Crime, Publishing Industry, Readers, The Writing Fraternity, Thrillers and Crime, Thrillers and Mysteries

My Next Big Thing…

Last week Cheryse Durant tagged me on her blog, as part of a chain of author recommendations called The Next Big Thing. Today it’s my turn to reciprocate and to pass on the torch. I’m going to answer questions about my new project King Rolen’s Kin Book Four . Then I’m going to tag some wonderful authors who will tell you about their Next Big Thing on Wednesday 12th of December. (Here are the other authors who are blogging today on their Next Big Thing: LJ Smith, Kallee BuchananChris McMahon and Keren K)

PS. Regarding my Next Big Thing.  I really had trouble deciding between the book that will be released tomorrow, The King’s Man and the book I’m currently writing. In the end I decided to talk about how writing The King’s Man influenced writing KRK4.

PPS. This blog post contains spoilers if you haven’t read the first KRK trilogy.

Q: What is the working title of your next book?

At this point Solaris Press want to call KRK4 King Breaker (or maybe King-breaker). I wanted to use words associated with kings and royalty, since this was the title theme of the King Rolen’s Kin trilogy.

Q: Where did the idea for the book come from?

I always knew there was going to be more KRK because when book three of the trilogy ended Byren had dealt with one of the Big Bads (as they’d say on Buffy) but the other villain still lived and sat on his father’s throne.

The problem was, I didn’t know how any of this was going to unfold. Then a friend* who had read KRK said to me, ‘Garzik can’t be dead. He just can’t.’ And I realised he wasn’t. And just like that I had the premise for The King’s Man ebook, released 6th December.

*The King’s Man is dedicated to: Leanne, who refused to believe that Garzik was dead.

Q: How did writing a book about Garzik help you write KRK4?

In the writing of The King’s Man I explored the larger world and having a richer world opened up more narrative possibilities. I am a voracious reader, which helps with world building.

I’ve always been fascinated by how societies evolve. What seems perfectly normal to us would be unthinkable to people at some other time, in some other place.

For instance, in Tibet they practice a much more varied form of marriage than we do. Two or more brothers* will marry one woman. All the children the woman has will be regarded as the children of the marriage. Because of the harsh conditions people need a certain amount of land to survive. If each of the brothers took a wife for themselves and had children, the family land would be broken up in the following generation and become non-viable. This would cause rivalry within the extended family. Their society evolved these customs over time to survive and it all seems perfectly normal to them because, for them, it is.

*This is a simple example. For more detail read Stratification, Polyandry, and Family Structure in Central Tibet by Melvin Goldstien.

Q: Speaking of world building, you explored a very differently structured society in The Outcast Chronicles and in KRK one of the central characters is gay. Were you worried that people would be offended? And why write about sexuality?

Some people were offended. There was one reviewer who said they refused to read KRK book one once they realized Orrade was gay. So far the reviews of OC have been positive, but I’m sure some people will find the way the mystics live in sisterhoods and brotherhoods confronting but just like the people of Tibet, the mystics’ society is logical for them.

And I write about sexuality (among other things) because I write about the human condition. I believe that fantasy can take a mirror and hold it to the world to make us question our assumptions.

Our world is a lot larger and more amazing than people realize, and I do my research. Things are never as simple as they first appear. For instance there are straight men go in search of gay sex* for various reasons. For one thing it is much easier than chatting up a woman, as there are no complications since both parties know what they want. For another, some men rationalize it as not cheating on their wife or girlfriend.

Sexuality and the search for love is one of our primal drives. If I avoided it, I would not be writing honestly. I would be skimming over the surface and the act of writing would feel unsatisfying for me. Besides, sometimes it is good for us to be confronted.

*For more information on this see Dr Joe Kort’s articles here.

Q: There are some confronting things in The King’s Man. How has this book been received?

The book will be officially released tomorrow but the first review is already up. I have a beta reader in one of my adult sons. He is a keen fantasy reader and he’s my target audience. If he doesn’t understand something or he wants to know more about it, I will elaborate. He reads most of my books before I send them to my publisher.


Q: After all that serious stuff, here’s a fun question. If you found yourself in a lift with a movie director you admire and had the chance to pitch your book to them, what would you say and who would that director be?

I’d say: I write rollicking fantasy that keeps readers up all night. But underneath all that adventure and fun King Breaker is about the price we are willing to pay to achieve our ambition and asks is it worth it?

And my dream director would be Allan Ball because of his wicked sense of humour in True Blood and Six Feet Under, or Peter Jackson because he is a consummate story teller, or Guillermo de Toro because of his lyrical vision in Pan’s Labyrinth.

Q: It’s been a busy year for you with four books coming out. How do you find the time to write?

Actually, it’s been five books this year – The Outcast Chronicles trilogy and The King’s Man, (both fantasy) and my paranormal crime, The Price of Fame. Plus I’ve been cleaning up my original trilogy, (new title The Fall of Fair Isle) to re-release it some time next year. (When I get the chance).

I’m an Associate Lecturer, we’ve been madly renovating, we have six children (the last one just finished high school) so it has been a really hectic couple of years. But the thing that keeps me sane is writing. This is what fascinates me, exploring worlds via character. If you took this person and put them in this situation what would they do? What would they learn about themselves? That is the core of why I write.

Q: When will we see King Breaker? And what will be your Next Big Thing?

I’ll hand the book into Solaris in May and it is scheduled for release late in 2013.

As to my Next Big Thing… there have been a lot of comments on my blog asking for more Outcast Chronicles and I find this series compulsive, so I will probably dive back into the OC.


And here are the authors I’d like to introduce. They will be blogging next Wednesday (12th December), when they talk about their Next Big Thing:

Lee Battersby, author of The Corpse-Rat King and its sequel Marching Dead, lives in Western Australia. He has had over 70 short stories published and won numerous awards.




AA Bell, author of the Diamond Eyes trilogy of SF & Fantasy thrillers. Twice winner of the prestigious Hemming Award for Excellence… Website and blog.




Glenda Larke is an Australian living in Malaysia, an rainforest environmentalist who has worked in avifaunal conservation. She’s also author of three fantasy trilogies and a standalone fantasy novel, seven of which have been shortlisted for the Aurealis Best Fantasy Novel of the Year.



Gail Z. Martin is the author of Ice Forged in her new The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books), plus The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven & Dark Lady’s Chosen ) and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn  and The Dread).  Gail blogs at, and her web site in


Filed under Australian Writers, creativity, Nourish the Writer, Paranormal_Crime, Promoting Friend's Books, Readers, Reviewers, The Writing Fraternity, Thrillers and Crime, Thrillers and Mysteries, Tips for Developing Writers, Writers and Redearch, Writing craft

Fan-girl Squeee

This weekend I’m going to Genre Con, which is a wonderful excuse to catch up with my writing friend and talk about the craft of writing.

There’s Pitching Opportunities. And here’s a link with info about the program. But the reason I’m doing a Fan-girl Squee is because I’m chairing a panel with Special Guests Anna Campbell, PM Newton and Joe Abercrombie. And Joe Abercrombie just emailed me!

Somehow I must maintain my cool, be very professional and chair a great panel on World Building. To prepare for the panel in the last few weeks I’ve read  Anna Campbell’s My Reckless Surrender (historical romance), PM Newton’s The Old School (crime) and I’ve just downloaded Joe Abercombie’s Red Country (dark fantasy meets western).



Filed under Australian Writers, Conferences and Conventions, Conventions, Currently Reading, Fantasy books, Readers, The Writing Fraternity, Thrillers and Crime, Thrillers and Mysteries, Writing craft

Off to the Gold Coast Writers Festival Tomorrow…

The Gold Coast is a beautiful place, beaches, sunshine and the hinterland of subtropical rain forest. Tomorrow I’ll be doing what I love almost as much as writing, I’ll be talking about writing at the Gold Coast Writers Festival. Saturday’s events are being held at the Robina Community Centre.

Here’s the program. They ran workshops today.

I get to hang out with a bunch of fellow writers and talk shop. I’ll be looking out for Anita Bell, Sandy Curtis and Louise Cusack, all old friends. And I’ll get to meet Jill Smith and Tony Cavanaugh who will be on panels with me. And I’ll see Meg Vann who is now CEO of the QLD Writers Centre.

Of course I’ve been doing my homework. I’ve read Tony’s very intense thriller, Promise.

And this is after several weeks of teaching, painting bedrooms for my in-laws who are coming to visit and a week of marking.  A day on the coast with a bunch or writers and readers sound like just what I need!

That’s me… Have to mark one more assessment…


Filed under Australian Writers, Conferences and Conventions, creativity, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Genre, Readers, Thrillers and Crime, Thrillers and Mysteries, Tips for Developing Writers