Name: Neen Cohen
From: Brisvegas (Brisbane, QLD Australia)
Writes: Lesfic speculative fiction (dark fantasy and horror)
This blog is a way for me to journey my adventures in writing and reading, and other random things that catch my thoughts and twirl in the mind. As a fiction writer I tell the stories that I could never find when I was growing up, and I write them because my characters need their stories told. If you enjoy them, or any of my posts, let me know.
I recently finished a Young Adult book centered around the four days of a ‘geek convention’. If I had found this book while I was a young adult. I would have read it to spine breaking, pages falling out addiction. As an adult, in a world more open then it had been when I was an adolescent, I want more of the second subplot which is the one I needed and the one I can and would have related to. But it was enough to send my thoughts back.
Yesterday, while still at home with a not quite healthy enough for Kindy 4 year old I felt myself slip into nostalgia.
Naturally for me, this presented itself through music. I have very limited (read: none whatsoever) musical skills myself, but oh how it saved me time and time again throughout my adolescence.
Some things I’m being reminded of once again about younger me (there have been some laughing eye rolls and facepalms)
1. I was not a subtle teenager. I really never did see the point of subtly. Definitely not when it came to my own thoughts and feelings. I look back and think well dah! Did you really think no one knew? Which makes it so understandable the ease of my coming out – maybe not so much the acceptance later but definitely the coming out – which may or may not be a story for another time.
2. It never dawned on me during this whole unsubtle expression of myself that it was brave. I just never thought about the option of hiding myself, even to the point of my own detriment.
3. I was always in love with the story teller and the worlds they weaved. Others may know the instruments and the keys. Heck, my partner could listen to instrumentals all day and be happy. Me, I always needed the story, the words to help define the whirlwind of contradictions swirling inside my chest and my head.
So of course, in true 90’s adolescent fashion, I’ve begun a playlist of some of the most important songs that I listened to until I stretched out the tapes and scratched the CDs.
What do you most think about when you listen to music? Do you have other things that send you tumbling back in time? I’d love to know.
You may or may not know this, but writer’s, predominantly, are introverts. It might be hard to believe if you’ve ever walked past a group of writers who are chatting excitedly, laughing, and beaming like different versions of the joker. You might even have seen online versions of these gatherings (usually written in comments where the banter comes out). Or perhaps you know some of the more extroverted authors … they aren’t myths, I know right!? But I promise you, I have friends who fit this category. When I first met them, it took awhile to lift my jaw from the floor and stop staring wondering if everyone else saw them. Was it true, they actually got recharged from other people? But as time moved on, I came to realise they are just as awesome.
I however, am NOT one of those extroverted authors. It’s true, I can be loud and chatty and even outgoing, usually around other authors. We tend to bring it out in each other, as we talk about shared passions and projects with people who just get it. But this does not automatically equate to introvert or extrovert. I learnt very young how to mingle and do the small talk thing. BUT, do I like it? No. Does it recharge me? No. Do I need a plethora of alone time to recharge after a social engagement? Oh yes indeed.
For an author, this can be troublesome, to say the least. Not everything may relate to every author, or even every introverted author, but here are my latest struggles with being an introverted author:
Being extroverted does tend to be the more accepted way of being in the overall society I live in. It is the skill set that people are expected to work toward, to attain. Example: Being quiet at a gathering you may have heard or even said something like this in the hopes of making someone feel more comfortable. It’s a really sweet sentiment … ‘It’s ok, you don’t have to be shy, we won’t bite.’ … the problem is, I am often happy just watching. I’m not being shy, I’m just being me. (creepy undertones of people watching may or may not be present). This does also implies that there is something wrong with being shy, and perhaps even that I might be the one to bite … 😉 ok, that last bit might just be me enjoying the quirk a little (horror and dark fantasy author after all). This is not to say that extroverts aren’t great to have around, or quite wonderful people. Without many of the extroverts, it might end up being quite the quiet party (secretly hopes I can pull my book out of my bag and read without weird looks). But it is something I overthink and worry about when I leave a gathering. Was I being too quiet again? Was I enjoying people watching just a little too much? Or worse, was I awkwardly trying to add to conversations that ended up killing them.
I want people to read my writing. I want to be a known author, even in the smallest of spheres. Why is this a problem? Because to become known, most of the time you have to put yourself out there. And I tell you, I have been putting myself out there a lot lately. And while I’m going slow, enjoying small groups, and baby steps that don’t freak me out too much. Any growth, any spike in attention both excites and downright terrifies me. Conundrum.
Can’t I just let my writing speak for itself? … It would seem not. And as an anxiety ridden introverted creative, this comes with a plethora of issues. The market is filled with books, and authors. (Thankfully – I’m a very appreciative reader). To get out there you must seek out a readership, cultivate reader/writer relationships with strangers and be seen. And try your best not to fan girl when one of your favourite authors starts following your friend, or comments/replies on one of your interactions. I epically fail, often, at this last one.
Learning to pivot (from my previous post) is a skill I am continually trying to rework my brain to accept. It’s not easy, but it’s not beat me yet. When something unexpected happens (and it will, that is life and the nature of the writing career), it takes me a bit longer than other people I know to process and move on, to pivot and side step around the problem and move forward. Recently, when a huge unexpected step back happened (the need to pull/change the publication of my first Novella) every bad thought raced through my mind. Will anyone else pick it up? Will I be seen as a flaky author? Should I divulge more for the reasoning? How do I stray professional and reassure potential readers that this was unexpected and also, for myself, unavoidable? I was very lucky, I have had many friends in the writing world and community reach out and help me find my way through. But it was very draining, and the time I used to recover is not something I always have.
Note: My Novella WILL see the light of day, it is currently with two potential publishers and if it does not suit them for genre/themes/timeframe I will look at getting it out there in other ways. I am in love with this story, and it’s evolution of both story and writing with the help of incredible feedback and editing.
But here is the good news – Being a writer (actually doing the writing) is such a brilliant career for an introvert:
Alone time. Writing is a solitary activity. The main part of being a writer, is writing … shocking I know. Oh, I know all too well it’s not always easy, but being allowed, being expected even, to do it alone is a wonderful freedom. It allows one to create without having your energy drained by the need to socialise as well. I personally thrive on my alone time, and I have it on good authority from many writers I know, that they do as well.
Thinking. Writing is a deeply thoughtful process. Yes, it’s true there are times where it feels like the words are flowing without much conscious thought. Ah, but the subconscious never stops. And introverts are quite well known to be deep thinkers. Here is a study I found about the way introverts and extroverts think. It’s a little heavy and technical in parts, but well worth the read. While I would hazard it is not complete and focuses on old studies, I did come away with this: The researchers believed that this finding showed introverts to be more sensitive to incoming information, and also to expend more mental effort by analyzing those stimuli more deeply and carefully. We also take a while to respond as we thinking a whole train station full of thoughts before we settle on a response.
Being online. This can be a bit of a two sided coin. But in the current state of the world, where more things are turning to online interactions, introverted writers (and introverts as a whole) may find themselves far more visible, without the uncomfortable expectation to appear at conventions and speak on panels, to engage in real time. Not that these things aren’t also happening online, but there is more flexibility to be present without being as drained. For me, this is a win most of the time. Yes, a social activity online can leave me drained, but I’m already home, I’m already comfortable and, I’m still allowing readers to get to know me. An added bonus of the rising need of online presence is suddenly I’m not limited to the readership of my fellow Aussies. Don’t get me wrong, I love being an Australian, and much of my writing is set and influenced by this country and my experiences in it. However, I have had one on one conversations with authors who had previously seemed in a completely different universe, not just in a country far far away.
People Watching. All those times I sit back and observe the crowd, I am observing more than just the people’s words and body language, I am observing the sounds and smells that envelope us, the way the light lays around, the sway in the nearby trees. All this observing helps to create richer worlds and writing. At least, I feel it does, I mean it must, mustn’t it?
If you are an introverted author, and struggle with any of the above, just know you are not alone.
Pivoting … I had never heard it in relation to writing until quite recently. A lot of writers and podcasts I listen to, The Creative Penn, Lesbians Who Write, and Writing excuses are the top three, often discuss this need to be able to pivot.
Recently a lot has been happening. A lot of changes, both good and bad, and a lot of things moving forward in my writing Career. I’m sitting here smiling with a happy shiver just thinking that. My Writing Career. It’s exciting, and thrilling. It’s a surreal feeling but I know that I really am on the path I want to be on. So, why am I also feeling that heat in my chest, that first sign of my anxiety sneaking over that wall, with a too happy and cheeky smile?
Am I ungrateful for wanting to stop the runaway train? Am I not cut out for the long road? No.
It’s quite a normal response, so I’m told. And the more I examine my own thoughts and reasonings the more I know that no, I am extremely grateful and I am always learning and still have that yearning to keep going, in my own time and pace. I am cut out for the long road, because I say so, and I am doing so with my actions.
What I’m learning is how to prioritise, breathe, and discover the benefits of that pesky little virtue called patience. I know I am feeling overwhelmed, I am beginning to recognise the early signs and not wait until I have a melt down. It’s still a juggling act, balancing pushing myself out of my comfort zones, while also making sure that everything is doable.
For me, the long road means I don’t need to do everything all at once. I can slow down on anything moving too fast, I can put things on hold, and when opportunities arise, I don’t have to always or automatically say yes. No has a power all of it’s own. And while I remember feeling that sense of fear, that if I said no, that would be it. No more chances or opportunities. It’s not true.
If you are having doubts, feeling rushed, pushed, or on a runaway freight train it is OK to stop. It is ok to take a step back, and there is a great power in learning to pivot. If you are gnawing on your fingernails, worried about having to say yes to every opportunity remember, not all opportunities are the right thing for every person. Give yourself the permission to run your own path, and go at your own pace.
A huge post here. January has been a big reading month. Which is a great start for the reading challenges I’ve given myself this year. Fair warning, there are some spoilers in some of the reviews, so *SOME SMALL SPOILERS BELOW*
The Queen’s Blade by Natasja Rose – An assassin, a poisoner, a Queen, her inner circle of hand maidens, demi-gods, and a constant presence of those wanting the Queen off of her throne. What more can one ask for? Oh, also a great many Women loving Women characters which always makes this little reader very happy. I finished The Queen’s Blade with a desire for more. Rose’s mastery of setting up the oomph impact of the ending was brilliant and the vulnerability she explores not just in her main characters, Sayfiya and Alexandra, but in many minor characters is beautifully human. I would love to see stories of the minor characters lives. A good read, with some beautiful prose. My favourite part of this book is how Rose sets up power and rips it away with heartbreaking strength. I also enjoyed the unexpected humour that rose it’s head a few times throughout. ‘If she has nothing else, she has the audacity.’ There were a few large chunks of telling that made me beg for just a little more showing, or at least broken up between action a bit more. At times there were A LOT of characters and I struggled to keep up with who everyone was but this tends to be a struggle for this reader when it comes to fantasy. The Queen’s Blade is a short easy read that taps into the emotions of those who love but are often limited. ‘Her voice was calm, in the way of the still air that came before a hurricane.’ (Note: I did a video chat with Natasja Rose on the facebook Les Fiction Book Club page, and will be up soon on my YouTube channel.)
The Funeral Birds by Paula R.C. Readman – I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this read. The murder! Mystery! Mayhem! gave me a very different idea of what this would be. But after the first few pages the humour and tone of the book became obvious. The relationship with the main character and his wife is great. The dialogue is realistic and the dynamics quite cute. The description is spotted throughout the book and seems to reflect the main characters personality, which is a huge tick for me as the book is written in first person. I loved the humour and there was a bit of a Pratchett feel, whether it was an intentional hat tilt or not, I really enjoyed that element. I kept waiting for a bigger reveal, a twist, or a bigger complication to the story line but there just really wasn’t one. I knew how it would end beforehand, the red herrings not entirely convincing for me. It’s a quick easy read, that is enjoyable and fun. While there was no big twist, the pace was perfect.
Hotel Queens by Lee Winter – An ice Queen and a Fire Queen with Lee Winter’s brilliant style and in-need-of-a-cold-shower sex scenes, Hotel Queens more than delivered. The humour and sarcasm, the layers to characters, the effects of caustic family, the emotive language that makes you gasp or laugh or cringe (sometimes all within seconds of each other) are just the tip of the iceberg (pun intended) on the brilliance of Hotel Queens. Secondary characters Quinn and Millie are truly fantastic, sometimes a little too perfect at being the main characters right hands? Or perhaps I’m just dying to see more of them as the main characters, and find the nitty gritty behind their awesomeness. As in true Lee Winter fashion I found myself laughing out loud, both in humour and a little facepalming at times. Some of my favourite lines (it was hard to cut it down from the thirty I highlighted during reading). * Kai wasn’t called The Closer because she sold zippers. * Milly didn’t say a word. But the “we’re screwed” was loud and clear. * Finally Quinn cleared her throat and said. “I’ll leave you two to your eye-sex. I’m going to find Milly.” (Note: This was the second book for the Les Fiction Book Club January. I got to chat with Lee Winter and ask questions about this book and her writing. She’s a fantastic author well worth look up)
Whispers in the Dark by K. B. Elijah – A brilliant short read that had my internal (and sometimes external) dialogue ranting and trying to keep up.
I adore the writing of Whispers in the Dark. The dialogue is smooth and natural and the description is often beautiful even in it’s horrific subject matter. * No spark meant no extinguishment. No hope meant no disappointment. * defanging the vicious bite of time. * It was curious that the complete absence of light invented its own vision.
Speaking Out: A 21st Century Handbook for Women and girls by Tara Moss – My first ever Audio Book and I’m hooked. Tara Moss eloquently discusses cultural and systemic silencing of women and how that is not only in our past but continues to happen today. She gives some incredible and practical advise at how to combat the pressure females still received to shhhh and remain silent. She has used her own voice in calm and intelligent ways, with facts and research to back up her words. With her own experience mixed in with others (who have given her permission to disclose) she helps connect to readers and help them understand, they are not alone. Tara Moss does this without sugar coating the backlash we all might face should we choose to speak out.
Stone Cold Bastards by Jake Bible – I have such a love for Gargoyles. I have been obsessed with them since I was a child so my own experience in reading Stone Cold Bastards might be slightly biased. That being said, this is an incredibly well written story, the world building is phenomenal and the characters are brilliant. It has such a large cast of characters, and yet Jake Bible manages to make them all wonderfully unique enough that I never found myself asking who was who. The description of this apocalyptic second world is breath taking at times. The humour and sarcasm he uses is totally my jam, from the nasty demons to the gargoyle fairies with the sailor mouths.
A Woman Lost by T.B. Markinson – Oh my hell. The urge to smack Lizzie is so strong in this novel, while also giving her a cuddle and hair tussle at the same time. She seems so oblivious to just about everything around her, and yet I am eager to read more of her misadventures in the future. T.B. Markinson is really good at writing characters that make me shake my head at their actions, and yet I love them for their lack of perfection and crazy troubles they usually put themselves in to. I think it captures perfectly, human beings nature to self-sabotage. The writing is wonderful and by the end I really did like Lizzie, no longer in spite of her self centered views but with an understanding of this being the beginning of her growing up. From her bizarre and dysfunctional friendship with Ethan, to her inability to see anything but perfection as worth it, to her family, oh her family … * Ethan giggled as he stirred his coffee. “Talking to you about your family always makes me feel better about my own messed-up family.” * How was that possible? How could two people do something together and have two completely different experiences? * Maddie’s face paled and my stomach flipped. Enter The Scotch-Lady. * I had a hairline fracture. Not even a real break—a wimpy hairline fracture. Just like my wimpy illness.
A Heart this Big by Cheyenne Blue – I laughed so much during this book. A lot of my chuckles came from Nina’s internal dialogue and humour, as she runs Banksia farm. And then, wow we get Leigh Willoughby … the powerhouse lawyer. I am a complete sucker for a good slow burn, and this was brilliant. The interactions are sweet and often amusing … there is a lot of chicken shit involved, and the reasons they can’t be together right away make sense. While there were times it was frustrating, there was always a small glimmer of hope and light at the end of the tunnel which avoided the doom and gloom so many slow burns revel in too long for my liking. I also loved the way everyday things were beautiful and interesting in the way they were written. I wrote an entire blog about my love for this book. The story line was great, and the writing spot on. But what sold me was the landscape and the love of Australia that seeps through every page and wedges itself firmly in my heart. I can’t wait to read more of Cheyenne Blue’s books.
The Love Factor by Quinn Ivins – OH WOW! There is so much about this book I want to go on a raving spree about. I found myself smiling in a whirl of nostalgia while giggling at the late nineties and all that entails. I also found the pressure sit on my chest and make it hard to breath as the characters own trials were so relatable. I remember battling my own sexuality and place in the world at the same time as the characters (slightly different age). The writing is brilliant and the characters are entirely delightful. Molly’s enthusiasm is adorable. She’s a bouncy, energetic, and passionate person who finds common ground with the ice queen herself. Oh, how I crushed on so many lecturers at uni who were so similar to the powerful Carmen. The biggest shock was realising just how long ago 1997 was … surely I’m not really THAT old?!. Brilliant debut novel from Quinn Ivins. I can’t wait to see more of her work.
Winter’s Vindication (An Anthology edited by Abigail Linhardt) – Overall this anthology was good to read, not the best I’ve read but a long way from the worst. Here is my breakdown of the 9 stories: The Silent Tower by Abigail Linhardt – 3.5 Stars – A good story, with some lovely writing. The pace was great, the tension built beautifully. There were a few points where I was confused about who was speaking, but for me I felt like the end didn’t quite tie everything up as well as I would have liked. Still an enjoyable story to read. For I Hear you Calling by C. Murray Hultman – 3 Stars – This story was my least favourite in the collection. The writing was quite beautiful at times, but I felt as though the story itself was more a chapter instead of a short story that stood on it’s own. I got frustrated very quickly with the main character ‘talking to her son’. For Humanity by Christine Watts– 4.5 stars – A great piece, beautiful in story, pace, language use, and character. I was swept up in Lynne’s plight and could not devour it fast enough. The Snow Warrior by Erin Fanning – 4.5 Stars – Such a brilliant spine chilling story. I had goosebumps over my flesh, and absolutely adored the authors way of describing the snowman. Iced by Thaddeus Rutkowski– 3.5 stars – There was nothing wrong with the writing as such, but it read more like a series of journal entries. It felt like nothing ended up happening and while it reminded me a little of 19th literature, I didn’t expect to find a piece like this in this anthology. The Warden’s Game by John M. Floyd – 5 Stars – Brilliant. Everything about this was great. The writing, the characters, the story. Everything pulled me toward the end, which was wonderfully satisfying. The Saviors by David Green – 5 Stars – Another truly brilliant piece of writing. Right from the very first paragraph I wanted to know what was going on. Everything is done with skilled purpose and the pace is entirely spot on. A brilliant futuristic piece with gasps of shock to add to the fun. The descriptions are so perfect for the barren landscape. Freezings Greetings by Derek Power – 5 Stars – This is the most fun and quirky piece. I laughed out loud many times reading this story. I enjoyed the descriptions and Filthy Henry is a fantastic character. I’d love to see more of his adventures in this world that the author has created so brilliantly. Fractured Thinking by Louise Pierce – 3.5 stars – An interesting piece of writing. I wanted to know more though, as though this were merely a preview or trailer to the real story itself. A few questions unanswered and at times unsure who was actually speaking.
Mount Terror by E.L Giles – A brilliant short read to end out the month. Set in the mid 1930’s, Henry Chapelton embarks on a mission to rescue Captain Ernst Land after hearing the man’s last distressed communication. This story is beautifully written and the pace gets your heart racing right along side Henry’s. Several descriptions made me shiver alongside the characters and reading this was, to use Giles’ word from this book, an ‘orgy of madness.’ * It’s strange that sometimes only the most awful and gruesome things have the power to ignite out motivation and push us to work our hardest.
11 books done – 5 that can go toward Jae’s Sapphic reading challenge .. not too shabby 🙂
Last night an incredible woman won her last battle against pain and the mortal realm. My dear friend and mentor, Aiki Flinthart flew to Valhalla for a beer and a song.
I met Aiki three years ago when I showed up to my local writing group with no idea what the next three years would look like. With her friendship, guidance, encouragement, and overall belief in me, I find myself doing things I thought only others did. Braver, smarter, more incredible people. She would scoff to read that, I can almost see her shaking her head and telling me emphatically that I am these things, that I can be braver. And I have been so much braver.
I feel extremely lucky, and incredibly honored to have gotten to know this incredible writer and woman. As a writer, Aiki was phenomenal. As a human being, she was so much more.
No words seem to be able to portray just how much I adored her, and how much light she cast, but in her honor I will write, I will be brave, and I will continue to do the things she always believed I could.
My heart goes out to her beautiful husband, who opened his arms to me, and her amazing son, who I can’t even imagine his pain.
Vale Aiki, your light will be missed. Save me a seat in Valhalla.
EDIT: THIS IS NO LONGER HAPPENING AS THIS POST DESCRIBES – DUE TO PRIVATE AND PROFESSIONAL REASONS I HAVE PULLED THIS BOOK FROM THE PUBLISHER – IT HAS A NEW PUBLISHER AND NEW RELEASE DATE … AND THINGS ARE ALL GOOD.
Last year I pushed myself beyond all comfort zones and wrote my first Novella. Cold As Hell is about Adie, a young woman who lives in OpenFields. But OpenFields is not your ordinary town. Magic exists here, and while Adie is the odd one out, things are all about to change.
I’ve only just discovered the beauty of audio books. I take my time in getting acquainted with change. Usually denouncing the change stubbornly until I finally experience it and become they biggest spokes person.
Yesterday I spent a good chunk of my day listening to my latest audiobook, A Heart This Big by Cheyenne Blue. I’m still only three quarters of the way through, so I can’t really give a full review as yet, but oh how this book has effected me already. It’s one of the first books I’ve read that has made me feel nostalgic in the most beautiful way to the landscape of my childhood.
I’ve read emotional books before, where they tear your heart out. But this book is a new level of emotion for me. It’s so beautiful and refreshing to read about Australia and fall back in love with my homeland. There’s no lying about the dusty landscape or the chicken shit, but the way Cheyenne has captured all the things I love about this beautiful country has me smiling and breathing deeper.
Much of what I myself write I have set in QLD, Australia. Because I love this country. Since I began writing I’ve had the discouragements and the downright statements that setting my writing anywhere in Australia will have me fail. I gave in a few time and took out specific town names, and obvious descriptors, and I have to say I’ve not liked the stories nearly as much. So after awhile I flipped the bird to the nay sayers and have continued to set my worlds obviously in this country. That doesn’t mean I haven’t worried at my bottom lip when I’ve sent a manuscript off with the tell tale names and places. But I’ve fallen in love with many overseas places through the words of others, I would love to one day make a reader want to see this country, or to fall in love with their own country.
A Heart This Big also sent me skittering to the kitchen. There is something so inherent in my childhood about cooking. My mum isn’t a big cooker, but my grandma was – possibly the only positive thing I could say about the woman. I danced around the kitchen with my son while I cooked and cleaned, baked, and chopped apples. The apples were to dry, but the smell sent me back to days where I would be at the farm and wander into the house to smell my Gran’s apple pies baking.
I feel like I’ve always appreciated this country, but perhaps the struggles of my childhood have made me forget how much I loved Australia even back then, and the country girl in me is still alive and well.
Thank you Cheyenne for reminding me that this country is beautiful, and always has been.
In a previous post I mention the awesome WLW author Jae and the Sapphic Reading Challenge 2021 she is running. It’s the most amazing challenge, and the work Jae has done for this is incredible. It shows her generosity not only to her own readers, but for other authors as well.
I recently received an email from Jae advising that my first novella ‘Cold as Hell’ was added to her upcoming recommended reads for the butch/butch category of the Sapphic Reading Challenge. It suits a few other categories as well, but so touched and humbled that she has added it, seeing as it’s not yet released until April.
It’s going to be a crazy wild ride for both reading and writing this year, but I’m looking forward to each book I get to experience, both sapphic and non-sapphic, as well as my own books stepping out into the big wide world.
I have the great pleasure of knowing Aiki Flinthart, who has been kind enough to agree to an interview about her upcoming anthology Relics, Wrecks, and Ruins.
Aiki is an incredibly talented writer and editor. She has published 14 sci-fi/fantasy novels, 2 non-fiction books, a collection of fantasy and sci-fi short stories, and a collection (with Pamela Jeffs) of sci-fi short stories not to mention the plethora of short stories she has published in Anthologies through a multitude of Publishers. She has also edited several anthologies with her writing group The Springfield Writer’s Group.
So on to the questions:
How did you first come up with the idea to do Relics, Wrecks, and Ruins? Funnily enough, I was sitting around with a couple of writer friends chatting about our upcoming projects. I really wanted to do the sequel to Blackbirds Sing: which is meant to be Blackbirds Return. But the painkillers and anti-cancer drugs make it really difficult to concentrate and a mosaic novel like that is hugely complex to plot and write. So I jokingly said I should do a ‘last hurrah’ anthology and reach out to the biggest possible of my favourite authors who would answer my emails. The others encouraged me and I went ‘what the heck’ and sent emails out that night – starting with the hugest names on my favourite authors list that I could find contact information for. One of the marks of a great writer is their willingness to help lift up other writers. They remember what it was like. So many, if they possibly can, will help someone who asks politely. A lot of writers didn’t answer, a few regretfully and politely declined due to time and work constraints – which is understandable. But so many agreed that I actually got a bit worried I’d end up with a brick-sized book in the end.
Can you tell us a little about some of the stories readers can expect to find in Relics, Wrecks, and Ruins? I deliberately left the theme fairly open to interpretation (Relics, Wrecks and Ruins – things left behind, or rediscovered etc). And requested stories from sci-fi, fantasy, and horror writers. It was fascinating to see the differences and the similarities in the stories that came back. I didn’t want the book to be too dark, so I’d asked for mostly hopeful endings. There are a smattering of darker ones, but generally the tone is hopeful rather than depressing. So many resilient heroes/heroines. Many stories about people and relationships, too – which was wonderful and perfect.
You’ve edited a few anthologies now, can you talk about the differences and/or similarities in this experience? My first few anthologies were mostly working with newer and emerging authors. So they involved a lot more story development – where you’re working closely with the author on bigger structural issues and plot and character development. Every one of those authors was extremely professional in accepting editorial input, too. And I must say that the end results of most of those stories are works that each author can be extremely proud of. Those stories are strong and well-written. Relics was great because most of the stories didn’t require much beyond pointing out a few continuity errors or typos. Which is not surprising, given the excellence of the authors involved. They, too were (unsurprisingly) wonderfully professional to work with. And the resulting stories are fabulous, interesting, fresh, and highly varied in tone and content.
The profits for this anthology are going toward The Flinthart, can you tell us a little about this? The Flinthart is a writer residency and mentoring program set up by the Qld Writers Centre. Each year, applicants will be assessed and a writer will be chosen for the Flinthart program. They will be funded to help them focus on writing for a short amount of time. They’ll go into the Qld Writers Centre regularly, sit down, and just write. No distractions, no work, no phone ringing, no kids complaining. Just time to write and a mentor to help them through. I’m thrilled that the How to get a Blackbelt in Writing online workshop will also help to fund this program. Hopefully, between these, we can keep enough funding coming in to keep the residency going for years.
You are both a writer and an editor. Where’s the best place people can find your work? All my novels, and short story collections and anthologies are available at the usual places online. You can start at www.aikiflinthart.com – browse through the Books menus, read the blurbs, see what you fancy. Click the Buy ebook link (and maybe refresh it because it can be a bit dodgy). Then choose the retailer you prefer to buy from and grab a copy. If you’d prefer a paperback, just either send an email through the website, or order one through your online bookstore or local bookstore. And don’t forget to leave reviews on Goodreads etc if you enjoy the stories. Good reviews help other readers find good stories – and help authors not die of starvation.
Very exciting news, there is also a LIVE Pictionary event with the amazing Annie Bucknall as she has special guests Aiki Flinthart, Garth Nix, Juliet Marillier, and Alison Goodman, just a few of the exceptional authors from Relics, Wrecks, and Ruins joining her on the 28th January 2021. To sign up for reminders of the event, just click here
A huge thank you to Aiki Flinthart for taking the time to do this. To pre-order your very own copy of Relics, Wrecks, and Ruins you can go here https://books2read.com/Relics and help support The Flinthart.
I originally posted this March 28 2019, a lot has happened since then but many of the sentiments remain the same.
Because it feels like the universe is not so subtly nudging me in to addressing my own issue of being an impostor, I have feel the need to write about this. As a side note: I don’t believe in the concept of fate. I prefer to channel Kyle Reese/Sarah Connor ‘There is no fate, but what we make ourselves’. So I’m taking the hints and deciding to do something about it. There things have happened within the last week or so that have made me pay more attention. So I’m trying to address it so I can move forward. 1. I read about perfection and it’s perils I read a post called ‘The Perils of Perfectionism’ by Sam Brown and for the first time a big loud pompous gong went off inside of me. It’s a fantastic post about how striving for perfect creates fear. If highly recommend having a little looksie here. I have carried fear around a lot in my life, and far too often the mean little bitch has taken the wheel. It will be a work in progress, I have no illusions about that, but I figure I have to start saying no, and take that wheel back. 2. Talking about my doubts. Recently I was talking to a fellow writer from one of my writing groups about my own impostor syndrome. What I explained to her is that I find myself putting those thoughts in to the drivers seat (yep, liking this analogy) without always realising I am doing it. I quite often catch myself humming or singing The Platters song ‘The Great Pretender’ (Queen’s version) to myself because I am constantly feeling like a fraud. Strutting sometimes occurs as well, as it should when one sings Queen.
3. Reading I’m reading this book called ‘What Would Boudicca Do?’. I’ve had to take off my own self critical hat of ‘I’m stupid, I know nothing about so many of these women from history’ to saying ‘look at all this amazing history I am learning from this book.’ For me, books are all about learning. Even if that lesson is something as beautiful as learning to turn off, stop, breath and enjoy another person’s craft. But, books that I adore can both intimidate and inspire the writer within. ‘What would Boudicca do?’, while not what I thought it would be, has really made me stop and think about so many things. The chapters are small little bite size nuggets of women from history and what lessons we can learn from them. When I came across the chapter ‘the impostor syndrome.’ I swear I could feel my body trying desperately to shrink into herself, hide inside her shell and take refuge in becoming the furniture. That evil little voice inside started piping up ‘yep, they are talking about you. You’re about to get busted!’ I had been devouring the book, when suddenly for two days I found every reason to be too busy to pick it up. I finally gave in. It is an interesting chapter, that took a bit of a different angle with the inspired female from history then I would have expected. And even though it is encouraging in it’s not entirely unique take on the idea that those that have the syndrome are more likely to actually be good at what they are doing as opposed to those overly cocky, I still feel as though at any minute I’m going to be found out. Ah the impostor syndrome even rears her head when reading about the impostor syndrome. She’s a strong little bugger. So, it really is time to stop letting it stop me, it’s time to start fighting back. I am not a pretender, but a learner. I’m learning to overcome it and I’m learning more about my craft. It’s not a small thing to simply overcome but I am taking steps in exposing my writing and getting feedback, real feedback. Because as they say, you are your own worst critic.
Well that was an interesting read. I have come so much further than I dared to hope when I orignally wrote that.
The impostor syndrome still raises her insidious head, but I have an amazing tribe of friends and writers and I talk about the snarky little bitch and she goes and scurries into the back seat, like most bullies.
In these crazy times, be extra kind to yourself and reach out if that doubting voice tries to yell over you.