Tag Archives: Geoff Brown

Writers, Retreats, and Insane Asylums

It’s been just over a week since I returned from a Writer’s Retreat held at Mayday Hills Lunatic Asylum at Beechworth. Yep, you read right – a writer’s retreat held at an old insane asylum. It was as awesome as it sounds. Five days sequestered with other writers in a hauntingly (and quite possibly haunted) beautiful asylum is the stuff of inspiration. And personing. I did a whole lot of personing.

What made this doubly excellent was the other writers in attendance, all but one of whom were very close friends, so it was a catch-up of epic proportions. This also meant that we were all comfortable throwing around ideas and points of view, and engaging in general shenanigans. But we were there to write, to have that uninterrupted time some of us seldom get when at home. And it was glorious.

Writing is often a solitary endeavour where you live in your created worlds among created people. But put a bunch of writers together, and it’s a whirlwind of book discussions, plot summaries, story ideas, and why synopsis writing is the tenth circle of Hell. There’s joy in this cacophony; the rise and fall of voices, the quirks and strange paths conversations take that would make no sense to non-writerly folk but which feeds the soul and the muse of those who bleed ink. They will tell you why your story necessitates the killing of a character (beloved or otherwise) then offer a plethora of options on how to do so that would land them on any federal watchlist.

Just being among fellow scribes is enough to invigorate, enough to drown out that writer-imposteritis but we were also fortunate enough to have the wonderful pocket-rocket Kylie Chan providing workshops all through Saturday, which were fantastic, but always there was time to write. There’s not a lot better than sitting in a nicely heated room listening to the clack of keys in the silence as worlds and people are created – individual galaxies within a shared universe. It’s kinda cool.

But when we weren’t writing, there were historical tours of the asylum, and one very late night there was also a paranormal investigation. As much as I would have liked to go on the paranormal investigation, when it’s -4˚ outside… well, I’m staying where the heat is. Those that took up the challenge had a great time despite the sub-zero temps.

We ate, slept and created together… wait, let me rephrase. Look, we bunked down in the same room, wore pretty much all the clothes we’d brought with us when it was time to venture outside – hell, I even wore my slippers out to dinner because damn it was cold. We took the piss out of each other, we laughed, and we revelled in our own and each other’s weirdness.

And the location was everything. The asylum has a melancholic beauty about it.  The history is both shocking and sad, with desolate and worn-down buildings that hold memories that are like scars. For my mind, pain and suffering has a tendency to linger, to echo long after people are gone, and I don’t doubt there is fear and horror etched into some of the walls, the cells of the asylum.


Too soon the time was over, and I had to take a tiny plane home, but those five days were like manna from heaven. I came away with so much more than just a honed story premise and structural architecture (and glow-in-the-dark skeletal gloves), but a renewed vigour for writing. I can’t wait to go again next year. And I can’t thank all the people involved enough, but let me try.

To Geoff and Dawn for organising and running the reatreat – you two work immensely hard not only on Asylum Ghost Tours but Cohesion Press as well. You two rock. (Special shout out to Mandy and Leah for all they did over the five days as well.)

Now I’m going to list the writers at the retreat – they are an amazing bunch and you really should be reading their work. They’re incredible and diverse storytellers, and there should be something in here for everyone.

Kylie Chan

Devin Madson

Marty Young

Andrew McKiernan

David Schembri

Fiona Shearer.

And for all those writers out there, find a retreat, a place that evokes inspiration and puts you around others who not only share your passion to create, but will encourage and badger you to do so.

All of the Yays!

Finalists for the Australian Shadows Awards for horror fiction were announced today, and I’m absolutely chuffed that the comic, The Road to Golgotha, has made the shortlist in the Comic/Graphic Novel category. Woo and hoo! Huzzah! Woot!

The Road to Golgotha

The brilliant thing about this nod is that as The Road to Golgotha is effectively two stories (His Own Personal Golgotha and The Road) within the one tome, I get to share this nomination with GN Braun, who was with me every step of the way as I strove to get the script just right. A huge shout-out has to go to our artist, Monty Borror, whose horrifically beautiful illustrations brought the comics to life.

road page 19 a    road page 28

The incarnation from published short story to comic, The Road was two years in the making, and this nod is the icing on a very cool cake that involved the launch at Melbourne ComicCon last year (you can read an awesome review of it here). As my first foray into comics, I can’t tell you how damn awesome the validation is – you always want your babies to do well. It kicks that writerimposteritis in the guts, too.

But it doesn’t stop there. On the editing side, Alan Baxter’s In Vaulted Halls Entombed, from SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest, is a finalist in the Paul Haines Award for Long Fiction category. From the moment I read this story, I loved it. So seeing it nominated as well, is a huge buzz.

There are so many amazing writers nominated this year, a lot of whom are close friends, so this has been an amazing day of congratulating peeps I couldn’t be happier for, and being super-chuffed to have the comic given the nod.

So, if you’re looking for some amazing Aussie writers to read, the finalists of the Australian Shadows Award is a great place to start.  Congratulations to all the finalists!

The Paul Haines Award for Long Fiction

In Vaulted Halls Entombed – Alan Baxter

The Haunting of Gillespie House – Darcy Coates

Night Shift – Dirk Flinthart

The Whimper – Robert Hood

Edited Works

Bloodlines – Amanda Pillar

Lighthouses – Cameron Trost

Midnight Echo 11 – Kaaron Warren

Blurring the Line – Marty Young

Collected Works

The Abandonment of Grace and Everything After – Shane Jiraiya Cummings

Peripheral Visions: The Collected Ghost Stories – Robert Hood

Cherry Crow Children – Deborah Kalin

Short Fiction

The Bone Maiden – Greg Chapman

Eight Seconds – Pandora Hope

El Caballo Muerte – Martin Livings

Perfect Little Stitches – Deborah Sheldon

Mine Intercom – Kaaron Warren

Comics/Graphic Novels

The Road to Golgotha – GN Braun and Amanda J Spedding

Troll – Michael Michalandos

The Monster – Ben Rosenthal

Undad – Shane W Smith

The Rocky Wood Award for Non-fiction and Criticism

Winner to be announced


The Catacombs – Jeremy Bates

The Haunting of Blackwood House – Darcy Coates

The Transgressions Cycle: The Mothers – Mike Jones

The Transgressions Cycle: The Reparation – Mike Jones

The Big Smoke – Jason Nahrung


Watch this space…

Festivus Book Pimping – SNAFU series

For your military horror dining delight, I bring you a big, fat course of SNAFU for your Festivus feast. Sit down, strap on (easy) your kevlar, and lock’n’load – it’s about to get messy. SNAFU (Situation Normal All Fucked Up) is the series put out through Cohesion Press that covers different takes on the military horror theme.

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved from the start as one of the co-editors of the series (with Geoff Brown), and having the pleasure of working with some truly amazing storytellers, both established and up-and-coming, and from here and overseas.  But more than that is the calibre of stories on offer.

Cohesion has four SNAFU anthologies currently on the market – two print/ebook and two ebook-only offerings. All of the anthologies have brilliant Dean Samed cover art, with internal art supplied by the wonderfully-talented Monty Borror. This is seriously good monster art – you won’t want to miss it.


Let’s begin with the first in the series, the entre: SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror. War is hell, and this offering was Cohesion’s first foray into the military horror theme, and garnered a Bram Stoker Recommended Read and finalist for the Australian Shadows Award (edited publication), thanks to the talented writers.

Next up for tasting in the series is SNAFU: Heroes, which offers novellas and short stories from Jonathan Mayberry, James A Moore, Weston Ochse and Joseph Nassise. As the blurb says: ‘From demons to horrors from the deep, the battles keep on coming. Fight or die…’

SNAFU Heroes

SNAFU: Wolves at the Door, is the next to the table, where you will share your meal with… my, what big teeth you have! This ebook tells the tales of soldiers fighting against all manner of were-animals – wolves take precedence in this instalment, but the diversity is staggeringly good. Stories with bite! (How could I not say it?)

And check out the cover art…

SNAFU Wolves

But wait, there’s more! The next in the print series is SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest, which was released in August this year. This is survival horror where every bullet counts. Low on ammo, this is about soldiers trying to make it out alive against nightmares made real. And damn, if these authors don’t know how to wrangle some nasty enemies for their squads.

SNAFU Survival

There are two more in the series on the horizon; I’m currently working on SNAFU: Hunters (think Grimm, Van Helsing, ‘Supernatural’s’ Sam and Dean), which will be published early next year. This SNAFU is all about the hunt, the thrill of the chase, and the uncertainty of outcome. Then there’s SNAFU: Future Warfare – military horror with a sci-fi bent (yeah, you know you want that!), which is due around mid-year. So keep your eyes and ears open for these, kiddies… well not literally kids, ‘cause unless you’re willing to shell out cash for some serious therapy, these books aren’t for them.

The beauty of the SNAFU series is that stories cover the gamut of historical to modern warfare; from Viking raids, the World Wars, Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan… and all time periods and locales. And if you think you’ve read of every monster out there? Think again, my friend, oh yes, think again. There’s a diversity here that will keep you (or those you’ve gifted these treasures to) turning the pages.

Recommended for anyone who loves military stories, military horror, supernatural horror, straight messed-up horror… you get the picture. They’re brutal, they’re bloody, they’re awesome.

ComicCon Wrap-up

Where to start? Probably 5am Friday morning when I dragged myself out of bed then dragged an equally unwilling child from her bed to catch a too-damn-early flight to Melbourne. After copious amounts of coffee (for me, not my daughter), wakefulness hit then excitement – COMIC CON!!!

We were bunking down at a my friends Chris and Tracy’s place (read her work – read it!), so Saturday morning we were again up at sparrow-fart and off to Melbourne-proper. It’s a pretty city, Melbourne, and damn if they don’t make a great cup of java (yes, this is a vital part of me liking any place I visit). As my daughter and I strolled along Southbank, it wasn’t long before we were in the midst of cosplayers – excitement level-up.

Me and Cloe

While I’ve been to Supanovas, this was my first ComicCon, and what made this all the more special was that this was the launch of my comic ‘The Road’ – part of a two-in-one comic ‘The Road to Golgotha’ with GN Braun and brought to spectacular life by the artist, Monty Borror. And when I walked up to the Cohesion Press table, there she was, pride of place and absolutely beautiful. That I was sharing this with my daughter made this even more special.

Our table was beside that of IFWG Publishing, manned by the lovely Gerry Huntman, the effervescent Stephen McCracken, and one of my favourite people in the world, Robert Hood. We were in some mighty fine company.


Now, I’m not a salesperson by any stretch of the imagination (kinda a design flaw in the whole being-a-writer thing), and pimping my work to strangers is hard, but the thing with ComicCon attendees is their desire to engage. There’s complete and utter acceptance of everything and everyone at cons such as these; it’s a celebration of the arts in all their mediums, and a celebration of those who love their movies, tv shows, authors, artists and all that goes with it.

The cosplayers were just brilliant – always happy and obliging for photos; and some of the costumes just blew my mind. It was happy, happy place that nurtures creativity, and you really can’t ask for more than that.

Chatting with people about the comic, explaining the idea behind the story and having people ask me questions then buy the comic was such a buzz – signing it for them as an author is a real joy. To have someone come up and buy your work because another con member recommended it? That’s the stuff of snoopy-dances.


If all of this wasn’t enough, I got to finally meet some peeps I’d been waiting to for a long time, and my mate James O’Keefe (who was also working ComicCon) was first to the table. I’ve known James for… must be five or six years now, but with both of us living in different states… it was great to finally catch up in person.

I knew artist and writer Jason Franks would be at the con, and that was a meet I was looking forward to, especially after reading his amazing novel Bloody Waters (get on it – it’s a killer piece! Reviewed here). While I would have liked to have spent more time chatting and to sit in on his panel – time was a hungry beast for us both.

Same with Aaron Sterns – it was wonderful to finally meet and chat with the softly-spoken writer of the Wolf Creek fame. I missed his panel as well, but that’s the thing with being an exhibitor at cons, you’re there to engage with potential readers and you can’t do that effectively when visiting people you’ve been hanging to meet for a long while. But cons are also the places that allow you to have those meets with friends from other states; with the people who love what they do as much as you do.


Being amongst it all brings home how much this really is the best gig in the world, and how lucky I am to be doing something that feeds my soul. None of which could have happened without the likes of Geoff Brown of Cohesion Press who believed in me and how much ‘The Road’ would be a kick-arse comic. I can’t thank him enough.road page 29

I really wish Monty could have made the con, but living in the US makes it a tad more difficult to get here – he’s a very busy lad! But without him, ‘The Road to Golgotha’ wouldn’t be the stunning piece of art that it is. And to top it all off, there were two pieces of original artwork waiting for me. Two of my favourite pages from the comic that will soon be framed and up on my wall where I will love them and stroke them and love them.

It was all over far too soon. Exhausting though those days were, it really lit a fire under my bum to create bigger and better, and to make sure I attend more cons to not only connect with my mates but to readers as well, ‘cause there ain’t nothin’ better than seeing someone walk away holding your book with a smile on their face.

 signing 1

Awards and Such Things

I meant to write this post before I left for my holiday but having two kids who’d rather video game than pack meant all my days blurred. But now it’s time to have a little chat about awards and such things most writers say they care little about but secretly (and sometimes not-so secretly) want. Sure, we write because we love it, because we’re driven to create words and worlds, because we’d go crazy if we didn’t, but recognition, be it via a sale, a kick-arse review, an award or recommended read is something every writer craves – that external validation that tells us we’re better than that little voice inside telling us we’re shit.

The first six months of the year are filled with awards (too many to list here), and the Australian Shadows Awards are the latest to hit my shores. Run through the Australian Horror Writers Association, it’s the premier awards for Australian and New Zealand horror that always presents really cool trophies – a different one each year, so you never know what you’re going to get.


I had a pony in this race under the ‘edited works’ banner as co-editor (with Geoff Brown) for SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror. It was a strong field, up against Simon Dewar’s Suspended in Dusk anthology, and SQ Mag (issue 14) edited by Sophie Yorkston, and with just a week to wait from finalist announcements to the reveal of the winner, it was Sophie Yorkston and SQ Mag who took out the win.

Was I bummed? Sure – who doesn’t want to win an award for the work they’ve put in? Did I edit the anthology with the hopes of winning an award? No. I edited the antho because I got to work with some amazing authors with equally amazing stories. Of that I’m proud. An award win would have been a nice shiny cherry atop a kick-arse cake.

SNAFU cover art

There were four other categories: short fiction, long fiction, novel, and collected works – all with diverse and strong entries, and I was crossing my fingers and toes that two of my buddies (and fellow Sydney SHADOWS boozers) would take out a win.

Huzzahs happened when Andrew J McKeirnan won for his amazing collection Last Year When We Were Young. This is a fantastic collection of shorts that I reviewed here. If you haven’t read it, get off your bum and seek it out – you won’t be disappointed. Andrew’s been a Shadows Award finalist… well, heaps, so it was about time he took out the win. I’m sure he felt the same.

True to form, Alan Baxter took out the win for the short story category with Shadows of the Lonely Dead. He had two nominated works in this category, so that just shows you how much of a damn fine writer he is. Head over to his website and check out his work then buy it. Go on. What are you waiting for?

The novel category was taken out by Aaron Sterns and Greg McLean for Wolf Creek Origins (yes, of the Wolf Creek cinematic fame). Nightmare-inducing fun this! Fun? Okay, so maybe my idea of fun is a little different from yours…

Shane Jiraiya Cummings won the recently renamed Paul Haines Award for Long Fiction with Dreams of Destruction. While I haven’t read this story, I’ve read Shane’s work and I’m not at all surprised he took out this category.

So I didn’t win an award this year – that’s okay. I’ve been a finalist for the Australian Shadows Award, had SNAFU listed as a recommended read on the Bram Stokers’ ballot list, and the reviews for SNAFU have been incredible. I call that a win. I’d be lying if I said it was the ‘win’ I was looking for; you see, I’ve won a Shadows Award for my short fiction, and that’s an addictive high. I want to win another. Hell, I want a win a slew of awards. When I get hit with that writer-imposteritis, the trophy that sits atop my desk tells me I can do this writing thing; that I’m good enough to win an award, no matter what that inner voice says.


The big winner here, though, is Aussie horror fiction, which is going from strength to strength, with recognition and appreciation for the power of Australian storytelling making those around the world sit up and take notice. And well they should.


Situation Normal, All F**ked Up

SNAFU: An anthology of Military Horror is out in the world! This massive tome, put out by independent Australian publisher, Cohesion Press, is the first in an annual military-themed antho. When owner and editor in chief, Geoff Brown, got in touch and asked if I’d like to be involved, I responded with a hearty HELL YES.

It’s been a good couple of years since I’d worked on an anthology (the last being Midnight Echo Issue 8) and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed working with a slew of authors to weave a theme through their stories. And what a kick-arse bunch of stories they are. While I was only involved on the editing side of SNAFU, with over a thousand submissions, Geoff Brown has done a remarkable job in his choices for the anthology, and the stories within are a testament to the writers themselves. There are some cracker tales in this book, covering all manner of conflicts, time periods, and monsters. Ooh, we can’t forget the monsters! There’s a plethora of ghosties and ghoulies, born right out of your nightmares.

SNAFU cover art

With a veritable who’s who of the genre, there are stories from best-selling authors Greig Beck and Wes Ochse, plus a gritty Joe Ledger story from the master Jonathan Mayberry, and if you’re a fan of James A Moore (that’d be me), there’s a new Jonathan Crowley novella inside. But it’s not just about the big names, the stories from all the authors in this anthology are fantastic and I had a great time working with them and their tales – it was real pleasure, and if this is the mark of authors moving through the ranks, then the publishing and reading worlds are the real winners here.

The ToC is below, and if you’re looking for a great read, you really can’t go past SNAFU:

Blackwater – Neal F Litherland
Little Johnny Jump-Up – Christine Morgan
Covert Genesis – Brian W Taylor
Bug Hunt – Jonathan Maberry
Special Operations Interview PTO‑14 – Wayland Smith
Cold War Gothic – Weston Ochse
Making Waves – Curtis C Chen
The Fossil – Greig Beck
A Tide of Flesh – Jeff Hewitt
Death at 900 Meters – Tyson Mauermann
Holding the Line – Eric S Brown
Thela Hun Gingeet – WD Gagliani and David Benton
The Shrine – David Amendola
Ptearing All Before Us – Steve Ruthenbeck
A Time of Blood – Kirsten Cross
Blank White Page – James A Moore

And for those of you wanting to write some military-based horror? Keep your eyes on Cohesion Press for the next call for submissions.