Art My World

I’m a writer, a creative. And while it’s words I weave it’s also a very visual process – most writers will tell you the same. In our mind’s eye, we can see our characters manoeuvring through our created landscape, we envisage them interacting with each other and with their surrounds. Clear as day we see them walking down the street, being chased through the wilds by a monster, piloting a spaceship or riding a train.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve wanted my worlds brought to life, and while I love to draw, I don’t have anywhere near the talent of some of my contemporaries. Talent is a bit of an understatement, though, as you’ll soon see.

In my last post, I spoke about Montgomery Borror’s, art, and how much of a damn fine artist he is. As his Kickstarter is so close to being realised, I’m going to show you why the man’s work needs to be out in the world.


First, a little background…

A few years ago, I wrote a steampunk horror short – Shovel-Man Joe – that won the Australian Shadows Award for short fiction. It was my first stab at steampunk, and I fell in love with the genre. The story is set on a train, but it’s a train like no other. I could see it clearly in all its sinister glory, but with a very limited word count I had to write tight. I’m not a poet, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I have a love of Coleridge and his words, so I took a chance to tell part of the backstory of the tale with… yep, you guessed it, a poem… of sorts.

The poem is regaled by one destined to tell and retell the story of the train and those who choose to ride it (think Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner). It’s told within the workings of the story, and while penning it, I saw the train screaming down the tracks toward the exiled depot, and I hoped the poem would work well enough to pass that visual on to the reader.

It wasn’t until last year that I saw ‘my train’ brought to life. Only it wasn’t for ‘Shovel-Man Joe’, but rather ‘Black Train Blues’ by James A Moore (I’m a huge fan – check out his stuff) for Midnight Echo Issue 9. The illustration is phenomenal, and perfectly captured both James’ train, and the vision I had of Shovel-Man Joe’s train. When I first saw it, I said: “That’s my train!”

This was my introduction to Monty, the master-illustrator and it wouldn’t be long until we were working together on a comic based on one of my stories. That project is a while away yet, and Monty being the workaholic he is, has another project on the go – one where he’s both writer and illustrator, and where he tackles two of the masters of horror: HP Lovecraft vs Aleister Crowley.

With just five days to go and just $140 to get to fund the project, he’s so close to getting his dream comic off the ground. So, for those who are a little unsure as to whether they’d like to kick in, just take a look at Monty’s work, and trust me when I say you won’t find a harder-working, more dedicated illustrator.

I now own a copy of ‘Train in Vain’, and though it was drawn for another’s story, take a look at it below and read the poem I’ve pulled from ‘Shovel-Man Joe’, and if you can, think of backing Monty so he can get his artwork out in the world.

train in vain 1

Crack! The whip struck Shovel-Man Joe!

Back slashed red, blood and sweat flowed.

Piled high at his feet were limbs and entrails.

The shovel scraped loudly; the fire inhaled!


The throttle released with a hiss and a groan;

The engine chugged forward on pistons of bone.

First class hurrah’d and raised glasses high;

The whore settled back, spread wide with a sigh.


All aboard! All aboard!

Fresh meat, the fire roared!

Ride the train it was writ; be the first to The Pit!

But who has returned and spoken of it?


He comes, can you hear?

Who’s the first to disappear?

Whispers in the halls; scratching in the walls.

One by one you will surely fall.


Beware the Shovel Man’s ire!

Feed the fire! Feed the fire!

Ride the train if you dare…

You must all pay the fare.


Paying Art Forward

Those who know me know how much I love books. My bookcases are overflowing, my bedside table is stacked high, and my desk is a library of novels and comics and reference books. And let’s be honest, the book and comic-buying isn’t going to stop.

My other love is art; be it paintings, illustrations, sculptures, carvings… anything that ‘speaks’ to me (and by speaks, I mean screams: buy me! Now!).

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been slowly buying more art, a lot of which is associated with my love of the darker stuff, and my writing. I’ve been gifted a short story illustration from Andrew J McKiernan, and have artwork from Greg Chapman and David Schembri (I also have one of Dave’s designs inked on my skin, but that’s a post for another day).

Today I want to talk about the beauty of comic art; more specifically, the art of Montgomery Borror. Not only is Monty one helluva nice guy, his artwork is amazing. I know this is fact as he’s illustrating my comic ‘The Road’, and I’ve been blown away by his interpretations, which far exceed anything I imagined (check out one of the pages below).

road page 17(page from comic ‘The Road’)

Monty, from what I’ve seen, is a workaholic—I’m not sure he sleeps at all—and is working on his own pet project (as writer/illustrator) of HP Lovecraft vs Aleister Crowley. Now artists (like writers) aren’t paid anywhere near enough for what they do, and Monty is no exception. So to get his project off the ground, he’s enlisted Kickstarter to help fund his comic. Check it out here.

There are some great pledge tiers available — starting at just $1! My favourite, though, is the chance to be drawn into the comic – yes, you read that right. There are two different tiers for this: a more prominent character, or a background character. I, of course, have taken Monty up on the first tier, then coupled that with a copy of one of the internal pages (I get to see comic-me!).


This is a project I’m backing as best I can – I’ve taken on two pledges to help get this project off the ground. So here’s where you, dear reader, come in. Check out Monty’s Kickstarter, and if you can, pledge – as little as $1 will help toward Monty reaching his goal. If you can’t pledge, then please take the time to share this on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram… any of the social media places you like to hang your hat. With only $500 left to reach his goal, the more people who know about this project, the closer we can get to having this fantastic comic funded.

Over the next week or so, I’ll be posting a bit more about art and my love of the medium, and the interconnectivity between illustrations and writing, but for now, if you can help spread the word and the love for Monty’s project, that’d be awesome!

Review: Carnies by Martin Livings

After the controversy of my last post (yeah, I poked that bear), it’s review time again! And yes, that sentence deserved a ‘screamer’. I’ve read eight novels so far this year, and while that might not be a lot for others, compared to last year, I’m killing it. As an editor, I read a lot — flash fiction, shorts, novellas, novels (in all genres) — but that’s a different kind of reading; approached in an entirely different way. Reading for pleasure, where I can disengage the editor in me and just immerse myself in a story and sidle up to characters, is something I’ve really missed.

So I’ve dived back into my mammoth ‘to read’ pile, and Carnies by Martin Livings (published through Cohesion Press) was at the top of said pile. As with the last couple of reviews, this one also comes with a disclaimer. The Australian spec-fic community is a small and close-knit one – if you don’t know someone, you know of them. Martin is a friend of mine (and all ‘round nice guy – he loves cats), and we’ve also had short stories appear in the same publications. I soon became a fan of his short works, so I was very much looking forward to reading a longer piece. But before we go any further, it’s spoiler alert time:





The title alone tells you we’re heading into carnival territory, and I was hoping this was going to be an old-school carnival with all its oddities and ‘freaks’ that had a more… otherworldly feel to it than the almost antiseptic feel of what passes as a carnival today. I wasn’t disappointed.

Carnies follows the story of brothers David and Paul Hampden. David, a journalist in a spiralling career, has gotten wind of a creepy carnival in country Australia that might just revitalise his career. He enlists younger brother Paul, a sometimes photographer, to join him. David and Paul are somewhat estranged; it’s not just the large age gap, but the ultra-religious (read: fire and brimstone) upbringing at their father’s hand after their mother’s disappearance. Both men want to bridge the gap that’s developed between them over the years.

The minute the brothers drive into Tillbrook, they know (as does the reader) that something’s not quite right. It doesn’t take long for that ‘not quite right’ to show itself. A close-call that almost results in a car accident reignites the animosity between the brothers, but it’s put aside when the men head to the carnival that night.

This is the start of the brothers taking different path to the somewhat same destination. The carnies have been in Tillbrook for … well, forever, really, and the townsfolk grudgingly live alongside them. Later in the book we discover that this is due to a pact made a hundred years ago with the town and the carnies’ forebears. The arrival of David, and more specifically Paul, tears the final threads of that fraying pact apart.

At its heart, this is a story of familial bonds, of blood ties that are, in essence, impossible to deny but also as tenuous as a spider’s web. Both Paul and David sit at opposite sides of this blood – both drawn from the same vial but poles apart.

The carnies are werewolves, and while Paul is enamoured with the Alpha female, Rachel, he comes into his own via a bite from a ‘bitch’ further down the totem pole. His fate (destiny?) is sealed, and he finds a sense of belonging he’s been wanting.

werewolf 1

When Paul goes missing, David goes in search, and with the help of a secretive town “council” hell bent on destroying the carnies, manages to step in so much dog doo-doo, you know it’s not going to end well.

After an attempted extraction that fails in spectacular fashion, Paul, giving into his animal instincts, bites his brother in the throat, believing he’s killed him. He doesn’t, of course, and this sets up a finale that pits brother against brother.

It’s during David’s turning we discover the bloodline runs through both men via their mother. David doesn’t turn well; he hears the fundamentalist voice of his father, directing him to his own personal jihad. He does this well, pretty much taking out the Alpha male, Amos, in a very bloody fashion, but his plans unravel in the final confrontation with Paul.

I’m not going to spoil the ending of the book – read it, it’s a hell of a finale.

This is a great read, and it’s been a long time since I’ve read a werewolf story (and the turn from human to wolf is done remarkably well by Livings), let alone one that engaged me so well. It’s a well-written story, with threads tangling all the players – none of which is ever really as it seems.

It’s not a perfect story (what story ever really is?). When David is bitten, his body isn’t collected with all the others in the clean-up – makes no sense. But my main gripe would be what I call the ‘missing scene’. When David kidnaps the Alpha male, Amos, we only see the aftermath of that confrontation. Amos has been tortured and maimed – it would have been a great to see the dichotomy between the two enemies. What information did David get from Amos? Did he get any at all? It was an opportunity missed, in my mind.

Overall, Carnies is great read, and I was happily immersed in the world Livings had created, and I’d have happily spent more time there. There are no happy endings with this story, but it is open for a sequel (which I would definitely read), but I’m told this won’t be happening. It’s a shame, as it’s a very cool world Livings has created.

Four and half stars