Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Writers on Wednesday: M. R. Crosby

Welcome to Writers on Wednesday. This week I have with me M. R. Crosby a fellow Aussie and author of the recently released Dying Embers ...

Tell me a bit about yourself …

I write short, dark fiction – mostly interpreting my own experience, and from my dreams. I try to find the strangeness in the everyday, and to expose the gaps that people unwittingly find themselves slipping through.

I started writing in order to capture something of myself, to set it down and to make it permanent. My father died when I was young, and I know almost nothing about him. I don’t even have an example of his handwriting, and I often wonder at how so little of him lives on. I didn’t want to risk the same thing happening with my own children, hence an attempt to write my memoirs. From this effort came some rather autobiographical tales which, collectively, became Dying Embers.

Tell us about your most recently published book ...

Dying Embers is a collection of ten short stories, published by Satalyte Publishing. These are tales of Aickmanesque urban strangeness, exploring what is heard around the dying embers of the fire, once the heat has almost gone:

An historic building holds the key to a terrible secret from Letherby's youth. A passenger on an international flight finds out that he is not master of his own destiny – finding out who is, though, is quite another matter. Rural Australia proves less welcoming than Preston had hoped, forcing him to confront the guilt from his past. Pocock witnesses something calamitous on the river bank which changes the course of his life. The alien landscape of a network of warehouses provides the background to a remarkable transformation. An ill-fated property search leads first to admission, then to a strange form of retribution, and ultimately to a terrifying reunion.

“A fascinating and eclectic collection of strange adventures…” James Everington, author of Falling Over.

“These are powerful, energetically written tales that are some of the finest I’ve read in the genre of dark fiction. The language is wonderfully imaginative and instantly thrusts the reader into the realms of slowly revealed decay. A must-read!” Paul Hodge, Freaky Folk Tales

Tell us about the first time you were published ...

Jessica Grace Coleman was kind enough to include some of my early short stories in her Darker Times anthologies. I think I was in the first one, back in 2012, and also the third one. It was an important moment for me, seeing my work in print for the first time. It suggested there might be an audience for my stories beyond interested friends and family members!

As writer, what has been your proudest achievement so far?

Without doubt the publication of Dying Embers. I feel very proud to have my first collection of short stories “out there”. Ever since I read my first copy of the Pan horror collections (number 7 I seem to remember) back when I was ten years old, I’ve wanted to write short stories. It’s been a long journey but I’ve got there in the end!

What books or writing projects are you currently working on, if anything?

I’m trying to finish a short story for inclusion in an upcoming anthology of “psychological” horror stories, and I’m some way through what may end up being a novel. Or perhaps a collection of short stories, all linked together to form a whole… I’m not sure yet.

Which do you prefer? eBooks or Paper Books? Why?

Both. I love collecting books (I have thousands, including all of Robert Aickman’s first editions, some of them signed) but I also love my Kindle. Being able to have hundreds of books instantly available, especially when travelling, has changed my life. Interestingly, I don’t find I buy fewer “real” books despite reading so many e-books. In the long term, there’s room for both.

Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

Once again, there’s room for both. Some of the best books I have read recently were self-published (The Other Room, by James Everington, for example, or The Side Effects of the Medication by Lauren James). Of course there are more hits than misses with traditionally published books, but that’s only to be expected. I think indie publishing is very important and should be encouraged. Some form of it must surely be the way of the future.

Aside from your own books, of course, what is one book that you feel everybody should read?

The Collected Strange Stories by Robert Aickman. Or indeed, any of his short story collections, such as Dark Entries or Cold Hand in Mine. Quite superb, and nothing else like them anywhere.

Finally … is there anything you would like to say to your readers in Adelaide, Australia?

Well, I would like to say thanks very much for buying Dying Embers and I hope you enjoyed reading it!


Here are the links to buy Dying Embers;

Amazon AU;

Amazon UK;

Amazon US;

Please visit my website;
Follow me on Twitter;

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Review: Lyrebird Hill by Anna Romer

Australian author Anna Romer's second novel Lyrebird Hill is a fascinating tale of amnesia, family secrets and loss. On the surface, Ruby Cardel would appear to have a happy life. She runs a successful business and a loving and supportive boyfriend. Soon, her life begins to unravel--first by the discovery of lingerie in her boyfriend's pocket and then by the discover that the death of her older sister was far from accidental. Ruby returns to her childhood home, where she discovers more than she thought possible--including the diary of Brenna, a woman imprisoned for murder in the late nineteenth century. Running parallel to Ruby's own story is that of Brenna--a young woman also brought up at Lyrebird Hill and eventually trapped in an unhappy marriage. 

The duel narratives of Lyrebird Hill work well, and I found Brenna and Ruby's stories to be quite interesting. With Brenna I knew, (or at least thought that I knew,) what would happen, though the questions of how she went from a young and unhappy bride to a woman jailed for murder, kept me reading. (Along with the hope that her husband would get what was coming to him.) Ruby's story was a little more complex, as it relied upon a number of flashbacks as she regained her memories of the terrible day that her sister died. There are a couple of plot twists toward the end of the novel that I felt did not make quite the impact that may have been intended and credibility was stretched quite a bit. I felt Rob and Pete were perhaps not developed as fully as they had the potential to be.

There is much within this book to be enjoyed--Australian history, family secrets and a real sense of place. I loved the beautiful descriptions of the Australian landscape. (And if I ever find myself living on a property like Lyrebird Hill, I want a heated, outdoor bath just like the one that Esther had installed.) 

A uniquely Australian tale. 

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for my review copy. 

Monday, 1 September 2014

Around Adelaide: Street Art

Bus shelter, Christies Beach
I love the unique and original design on the side of this bus shelter--given that it is located just a few metres back from the Esplanade, the seahorse theme is quite appropriate. 

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Review: True by Erin McCarthy

True is the first novel in New York Times best selling author Erin McCarthy's NA True Believers series, which has been available in Australia for a little while now. It is also a book that stayed on my to-read pile for a very long time and was almost culled without being read. The cull would have been for a good reason--the blurb simply did not appeal and I believe that life is too short to waste reading and reviewing books that I cannot feel some level of enthusiasm for.  A book where a naive young woman's best friends feel the urge to rescue her socially by paying a bad boy to take her virginity did not appeal to me and think the world will survive without hearing an emotional response from me on the topic, thinly disguised as an online book review. 

But for one reason or another, while I was recovering from a severe bout of the flu, I decided to pick my copy of the novel up. And, honestly, it really was not that bad. The novel itself is a sweet romance about a socially awkward (but kind) girl who meets an boy who may be from the wrong side of the tracks but still has a good heart. The pair overcome some obstacles and fall in love. The whole virginity thing plays out more like a misunderstanding from a poorly written sitcom and it plays out in a few pages and all it really does is detract from an otherwise sweet, simple and occasionally sexy plot. It is difficult for me to give this one much analysis, as there isn't much to work with, but if you want an escapist romance with young characters and lots of 'firsts' this one may be worth giving a chance. 

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Review: Golden Boys by Sonya Harnett

Sonya Harnett's latest release is a quietly menacing tale, telling the story of a group of working class kids and one very charismatic, but not-quite-nice adult. Set in an unnamed Australian suburb during the 1970s, we meet the Kiley's, a large, working class Catholic family and the Jenson's--a new family in town with a dad who comes across as slippery, but quite charismatic. Rounding out the Kiley and Jenson kids--Freya, Declan and Syd Kiley (and their younger siblings,) and Colt and Bastin Jenson is Garrick and Avery. Garrick is the bully among the kids, while Avery is a bit of a victim. A neglected child who has been sent to live with his grandparents, no one seems to look out for him. Until he is befriended by Rex Jenson.

Colt and Bastin 'Bas' Jenson are spoiled, 'golden boys' who are lavished with every kind of toy and trinket imaginable from their father, including a BMX bike. The novels opening, with Colt and Bas being presented with the next bike from their father, who teases them quite a bit with a game that is more for his amusement than theirs (making them guess the colour and telling them that they had it wrong on a technicality,) and thus subtly proving that Rex is not a man who should be trusted and who appears to enjoy, to some extent, the suffering of others. I found that the author nailed the character of Rex Jenson quite subtly, yet quite brilliantly in this chapter, as well as Colt's disappointment in his father and a gift that was more for Rex and his amusement than presenting his sons with a much wanted or needed gift. (The boys already each have an almost new bicycle.)

What becomes less subtle as the narrative wears on is that Rex Jenson is quite eager to appeal to the neighbourhood kids, particularly the boys, using gifts of ice creams and the promise of being allowed to share in the family pool and Colt and Bas' many toys, as well as offering a surprising amount of medical attention to Avery's injured knee. As a reader I knew what was probably going to happen, but the when and how, and the length that Rex would go to in order to cover his actions or to make them see okay, was what kept me reading. Harnett is never graphic in her descriptions, rather the story is about the charisma of a predatory adult, juxtaposed against those who feel that they have no right to speak back. I wonder if readers may struggle to come to terms with the novels ending, though it is realistic and there is a funny sense of retribution--or eye for an eye perhaps. The ones who suffer most after the kids caught in the crossfire and we get a real sense that life is not going to be easy for Colt, who knows that what his father is doing is wrong, but is powerless to stop it. 

It's difficult to say I enjoyed a novel with such a heart wrenching plot, but I did enjoy the writing which told the story from the perspective of the kids and never strayed into the adult world, and felt that Hartnett very cleverly developed her characters and the sense of unease. Highly recommended. 

Finally, a big shout out to The Reading Room and Penguin Books for my review copy. Thanks. 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Writers on Wednesday: Ann Grech

Welcome back to Writers on Wednesday. This week I am chatting with Australian romance writer, Ann Grech ...

Tell us a bit about yourself …

Well, I’m an early-30’s (ok, ok let’s just pretend I’m in my early 30’s), a former solicitor (I know, don’t hold it against me!), a teacher, a mum of two beautiful, if slightly rambunctious, boys, a wife, an avid erotic romance reader and a new writer.  I’ve lived on the Gold Coast for over half my life and love it.  

Tell us about your most recently published book?

I have most recently self-published a box set of my trilogy, Adversaries’ Lust, Adversaries’ Pain and Adversaries’ Love.  The story is based on a slightly neurotic, beautiful and damaged but brilliant solicitor, Emma Wilson.  She has had her heart broken in the past so shied away from any relationships for years.  When she meets Nicholas Daniels, her opponent in a court case that she’s travelled to Brisbane, Queensland for, she thinks he’s gorgeous but arrogant.  When he kisses her she melts and yet, wants to punch him.  Their love affair is fast, passionate, erotic, filled with speed bumps and some not so small hurdles that they work their way though.   

Tell us about the first time you were published?

I may have some exciting news on that front so sign up to my newsletter or follow me on Facebook to find out more.

As writer, what has been your proudest achievement so far?

Apart from my not so cryptic answer to the last question, it would have been when I had my first book reviewed for the first time by a blogger.  She loved it and left the most fantastic feedback.  It was a great feeling getting feedback that someone enjoyed all the hard work I’d put into writing the books.

What books or writing projects are you currently working on, if anything?

I’m currently working on a four-book erotic romance series.  The first book is called “Delectable” and follows the story of Katy, Levi and Connor.   

Which do you prefer? eBooks or Paper Books? Why?

I used to be one of those people who would troll book stores for hours and despised e-books.  And then I had a second baby and couldn’t juggle feeding him, helping his brother do whatever it is he needed help with, flipping pages and maintaining my sanity.  So now, I love my e-book reader and the ease of one-clicking any and all titles that grab my fancy (I intentionally don’t look at the breakdown of my credit card statements because I know I’d be horrified at how much I actually spend buying books each month!).

Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?

I’m all for a good book.  I don’t care whether its indie published or traditionally published.  The quality 
of some indie published work is so good now that unless you look for publisher’s names, you don’t realise they are indie published. 

Aside from your own books, of course, what is one book that you feel everybody should read?

I should probably say something deep and meaningful here but apart from one title I won’t!  To Kill a Mockingbird motivated me to become a lawyer.  It is and always will be one of my favourite books.  Anything by Matthew Riley always grabs my attention and I don’t even hesitate to buy anything by Jayne Rylon.  I’ve loved every one of her books so far.  Her co-authored books with Mari Carr are amazing too.

Finally … is there anything you would like to say to your readers in Adelaide, Australia?

Save me a bottle of your amazing wine!  Your farmer’s markets rock and I just want to give those pandas of yours a squeeze.  Oh, and Haigh’s Chocolate: to die for.  I love Adelaide (unfortunately I haven’t seen much of SA apart from Adelaide) and I’d love to get down there again soon to look around.   


Adversaries’ lust

Adversaries’ Pain

Adversaries’ love

Box set: Adversaries’ Lust, Adversaries’ Pain, Adversaries’ Love