“Drive, She Said” released globally this week, and I was excited to receive the first review on Goodreads. Reviewer Rebecca Fraser says, amongst other things, that she likes my “fearless approach to writing about sex and sexuality”. I’ve been writing these stories-behind-the-stories in order of their appearance in the collection, so the timing of this review couldn’t have been more apt; “The Accession of Stinky” is all about sexuality.

It began as a play on the idea of “something” following a young woman home from school. The “something” in real life would customarily be a cat or dog; in “The Accession of Stinky”, it is a repulsive creature that defies a cursory definition. It also began as an exploration of the phenomenon whereby mothers of daughters can struggle with the waning of their own sexual appeal coinciding with the emergence of their teenage daughters’ adult beauty and sexual desires. It’s not something I’ve had to face personally; yes, I have two teenage daughters, but they were born when I was in my late thirties, so I processed my slide into the sexual invisibility of middle age while they were still in primary school. But when other women talk about their relationships – with their partners, their children, and with their own bodies and psyches – I pay attention.

I also remember what it was like to be a teenager. It’s a tumultuous time, when the changes in your body make it all but impossible to banish the beast. The best you can hope for is that you can tame it, and know it for what it truly is.

Mysticsartdesign / CC0

 

 


It feels self-indulgent to be still promoting my collection “Drive, She Said” in these times of global crisis; I have this mental picture of myself as a violinist on the deck of a sinking Titanic, except even that is self-indulgent, because I am neither about to drown nor able to play a violin. The irony is that I now have plenty of time on my hands in which to write these posts. And I’m hoping there are some speculative fiction fans out there with their heads still above water who might have plenty of time to read.

So. “Q is for Quackery”. The story behind this could end up being longer than the original published piece, so I will try to dial back on the self-indulgence a little. This was one of three stories commissioned by editor Dean Drinkel for a series of anthologies in which 26 authors take a letter of the alphabet and write to a theme using their assigned letter as inspiration (the other two stories are also in “Drive, She Said” – more on them on another day). The theme for this one was magic. And the letter I was given, as you have no doubt inferred, was Q. Do you how many types of magic there are that start with Q? To quote the great New Zealand hip-hop artist Scribe – not many, if any. So I had to cheat a bit…I mean, think laterally.

The composition of the story was born out of anger and grief relating to the death of my father from cancer. He had always been strong, fit and healthy, and he approached his diagnosis the same way he met any other challenge in life – by fighting it with everything he had. My sister and I travelled – me interstate, her from overseas – to visit him in hospital a couple of weeks before he died. He was sleeping a lot by then, and one day while he slept, we took ourselves off for a diversion to visit a Psychic Fair.

It was my first Psychic Fair – and my last. Healing crystals, aura photos, dream catchers and the like for sale from stalls around the perimeter, and in the middle, dozens of psychics seated at individual tables, either speaking to or waiting for clients. We selected a psychic each based on the profiles posted on the walls and the availability of appointments. My choice was laughably bad, and every time she made a prediction that was way off base (for example, I was not, as she suggested, looking for a new relationship, and one look at my wedding ring should have given her a clue), she would respond to my look of bewilderment with, “If it doesn’t make sense to you now, it will soon.” (Dear reader – it never did.)

My sister chose a young man, I suspect because he was pretty, and he did a superlative job of radiating empathy, drawing out information and saying stuff that sounded profound but didn’t really mean anything. Except for this one thing. He said, “If your father really wants to get better, he will.” To which I replied, “Nobody wants to live more than he does.” Then I shut up, because it wasn’t my consultation, and because I function most efficiently when I stuff that rage way, way down and put a lid on it, until it comes seeping out onto the page years later.

That encounter is not in “Q is for Quackery”. But the sentiments are.


I interrupt my semi-regular “Drive, She Said” promotional posts to bring tidings of another new release.

Back in September 2019, when the world was a very different place, I posted about a Kickstarter campaign for a pair of steampunk-themed anthologies.

Those anthologies have now been released into the wild – or at least, the e-books have. Paperbacks are forthcoming, Amazon willing (which they are currently not, with good reason). My story “The Mechanist’s Daughter” is the first in the Gears, Ghouls, and Gauges volume. It is my first overtly steampunk story (“The Witch’s Library”, whilst containing steampunk elements for extra flavour, was primarily a Lovecraft/fairy tale mash up), and tells the tale of a young inventor whose life is upturned by the arrival on her doorstep of a little girl and an illegal, dangerously malfunctioning machine.

If you have an e-reader, you can download it now. If not – stay tuned.