Words Out Loud in Ballarat – February edition

Words Out Loud BallaratAfter a brilliant Sunday afternoon launch in January, Words Out Loud returns to Babushka lounge in Ballarat on Thursday, February 18, 6-8pm for its next session of spoken word.

Writers, readers, poets — all word lovin’ folks with a hankering to share the love are invited along, with five-minute open mic spots on offer. Babushka has excellent sound and backing tracks can be accommodated. You won’t find a friendlier venue.

February’s event has a nominal theme of “state of the heart” (cue music). Entry is free, though a gold coin donation would be appreciated for this non-profit, community event.

Keep up to date at the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/wordsoutloud/

Spoken word in Ballarat

rat reads

A new literary event is coming to Ballarat. The first of the spoken word events, Mr Barnaby’s Sunday Reads, is on Sunday January 17, from 2pm, at Babushka bar — one of my favourite watering holes in the city.

The idea is for readers and writers to gather and share some of their favourite works, or works in progress. Kick back and talk writing and literature. A salon for writers and readers, and a way to help local writers get to know each other. A literary soiree, in the words of the local paper!

There will be a few “headline” readers at the session to get the ball rolling — locals Simon Carroll, Kirstyn McDermott, Amber Wilson, myself, as well as Melbourne’s Talie Helene, will be sharing some “spooky” reads — and an open mic section where anyone can get up and read/perform a passage, to 5 minutes (about 500 words).

Cost is $5, with all proceeds going to Babushka’s gofundme fundraising campaign to help give the bar a kickalong. There’ll be a lucky door prize and raffles, too.

After this, the event is to shift to a monthly Thursday night, with the first slated for February 18, 6-8pm, also at Babushka. More details on that once we’ve had the Sunday Reads.

PS: if you’re a writer in the Ballarat region looking to connect with your community, you might like to check out the Ballarat Writers group.

In Your Face … and then some

in your face anthology campaignThis anthology will not be an easy read, but it will be a rewarding one.

FableCroft Publishing is putting out the book, entitled In Your Face. The stories, publisher Tehani Wessely says, “will be provocative and/or confronting but with a firm purpose – they are pieces that will perhaps make readers uncomfortable because they are a bit too hard-hitting or close to the bone, but which interrogate these themes and ideas, and make a point about the world we live in”.

Writers in the anthology include Sean Williams, Cat Sparks, Kaaron Warren, Kirstyn McDermott and another dozen or so who are bound to get under readers’ skin — for good effect.

My story, ‘A House in the Blue’, is one of the current selection. It’s a fairly blunt response to the hideous health policy pursued by the soulless Abbott Government, since rejected, but sadly one that seems to still lurk in the shadows of government budgets. It is set in my climate-changed Brisbane, which is really where the speculative element kicks in. I suspect American readers wouldn’t find the rest of it that far fetched, and sadly, the climate element probably isn’t either, given the way our federal government continues to shy away from taking action. It’s possibly the angriest story I’ve written.

The reason for this blog post is to point you in the direction of FableCroft’s Pozible campaign, being conducted through January to take the anthology further.

Says Tehani, “This campaign is designed to expand the number of excellent stories we are able to include in the book from 12-15 to at least 20. As our goal is always to pay our contributors what their efforts deserve, our stretch goal once we reach our target will be to increase the amount we are able to pay per story.”

Check out the Pozible, which essentially allows preorders with other goodies besides. As Tehani has noted, the book is coming, it’s just how many writers get to be involved that hinges on the Pozible.

In which Lady Helen leads us on a merry dance

Lady Helen and the Dark Days ClubLady Helen and the Dark Days Club (Angus & Robertson, 2016), the first volume in a new series by Alison Goodman, is due for publication next year*, but the author kindly threw a launch party in time for Christmas. For those eager for her next work following the New York Times best-sellers Eon and Eona, it was a fine present indeed.

Having covered science fiction, crime (with a slight SFnal twist) and fantasy with equal aplomb in previous works, Goodman now turns to the paranormal with her Dark Days Club.

There is perhaps slightly more explanatory text here – summaries of events, an almost telepathy to show the meaning behind the body language – than I remember from previous outings, but the story, more than 400 pages of it, speeds by at an easy pace, driven by the spark of quick-witted Lady Heroine and the deepening dilemmas in which she finds herself.

How clever to set it in the Regency, for this story is all about veneer and the monsters behind the facade, duty and passion, control and denial. The painting of this period of English history is sensationally wrought, the minutiae of daily life for the Quality (and their window on the lesser classes) effectively grounding the world without dominating it, referencing historical events, people and places, then braiding in the supernatural story.

Australian women writers challenge 2015Lady Helen, our titular heroine, is 18, her parents lost under despairing circumstances, the ward of her uncle and aunt who are devoted to her social climb, that is, marriage. She has some of her mother’s infamous adventurous streak, however, sneaking into the library to read books, so very unladylike. Of course, she has more than that in common with her mother, and soon her fabulous nature as a potential member of the mysterious Dark Days Club is uncovered.

The tension between her attraction to adventure, both romantic and physical, and the pressure to conform to social propriety is deft, perhaps best mirrored in the two suitors for her attention, if not affection, in a socially respectable duke and a lord of some infamy.

This presents the most obvious theme of the story, that “sometimes there is no good choice”. And Lady Helen has some serious choices to make as a demonic world is revealed to her, that and her special place in the fight to contain it. Dark days indeed!

I’m particularly taken with the humour of sidekick and maid Darby, who had me chuckling with an almost Pink Panther scene in which she tests her mistress’s reflexes with thrown objects.

Another element I especially appreciate is the slow reveal, allowing us to know Helen and her Regency world, the privilege and the constraints, as mysteries are bled into the opening chapters and then revealed in line with her growing understanding of the secret war of the Dark Days Club.

This is a world where every choice, every benefit, comes at a cost, and it is this grim reality that helps makes Lady Helen’s story such an enjoyable read.

* addendum: December 14 in Australia, January 16 UK and January 26 US.

  • This review completes my four-book commitment to the 2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Others were Cherry Crow Children by Deborah Kalin, The Dagger’s Path by Glenda Larke, and The Dangerous Bride by Lee Kofman.
  • 2016 Calendar of Australian Literary Events

    calendarThere are still plenty of literary events on this month, but the calendar for next year is already getting pretty darn busy — check out the 2016 calendar of literary events. Plan ahead!

    And if you’re still at a loose end this month, there’s still time to check out the November events on this year’s calendar.

    As always, updates, notifications and corrections are appreciated!