Troublesome Child

This one was for the NQW Podcast competition too, as if I remember right you could throw in as many entries as you wished. About two hours from the deadline I banged this one out too. At least I think it was anyway. I can’t honestly remember, but I know it had the usual list of restrictions and prompts you had to hit.

I doubt I nailed it, but it was fun enough to write.


I knew the kid was trouble when he bamfed into our basement, but I had no idea how Miki knew that the way the wall shrunk above our bar meant that we’d unlocked a portal in our new house. I’m sure Miki’s casual demeanour while watching black ash spill out and a kid apparate from it should have tipped me off to something as well, but too much weird at once can really distract a guy.

Shivering, clad in a tailored black suit and bright red tie like a miniature mob hitman, the boy’s first glance around the basement games room, then at me, was cold and angry, as if he plotting his next evil empire. His eyebrows knitted underneath the part in his black hair before lifting into a bewildered pitiable countenance as Miki came in with a blanket and a hammer.

Despite my insistence that I get to be out in front of any and all threats to our home and possessions, my new wife insists that one half of her biracial genes have magically gifted her with a level of badassery to outdo anything a yuppie dude like me could come up with. When I see the way she wields the hammer like a Nordic God, it occurs to me that I hate that she’s right.

Hiding my sulk as best I can, I wrap the child in the blanket and start to carry him up the stairs.

“Wait,” Miki’s eyes bore into mine, “Where are you going? Honey, we… have to look after him.”

I nod as if I understand anything going on, “I’m just taking him away from the… basement, and holing up in the back shed for now.”

“Okay,” she’s still tense, “Not off the property though. Please.”

I shrug. “Whatever babe.”

We’re inside the doorway to the shed before I realised all the back lights were out. Shit. I wasn’t even surprised there were darkened figures in robes moving about our yard, and as one glided past the open door to the shed I thought about punching him in the head and then bolting.

Miki rarely makes demands though, so I stayed put, laying the boy down against the far wall. There was no way I could know that the property lines had been wrong for centuries and the boy was now technically across them.

The robed figures were suddenly surrounding us, darkness coming with them, and an armour-covered arm shot out to grab the boy up and, once outside, raise him by one leg and wave him like a prize.

I would have fought them, of course, but the kid was back to his resting conqueror face and he began to growl in a way that I felt through my entire torso.

Miki came up the stairs and stood in front of me, facing the half-circle of robed bulks while protectively raising the hammer.

“Shit, we’re too late…” she whispered as the child’s eyes glowed red, “But watch this shit.”


Her Biggest Secret

The Not Quite Write podcast puts on a pretty cool competition every few months. Good folks, and the best part is that they fire up an old-school forum for people to chat and get to know each other, then eventually post their pieces and have others critique them. I even made a new friend on one, trading critiques and now trading emails every now and again.

I didn’t even come close to placing with this one, but I also knew that I didn’t nail the prompts as well as I could have. They even have a quite fun feature in an “anti-prompt” where you have to deliberately do something that goes against “conventional standards of writing.” I believe mine was I had to break the rule to “avoid cliches” so I made sure my teenage protagonist described her looks by seeing herself in the mirror. Something I think probably EVERY YA BOOK EVER has. Girl Next Door with a messy bun and ponytail, green eyes, every trope I could fit in there.

The other stuff was something about a secret and aliens, or some shit. Can’t remember. I had fun though, that’s what I took away. So at least there’s that.


If even the aliens in my school want to go to Prom the least I can do is go with Nick Hadley, but I’d have to fly some serious saucers to get his sister as my date too. Nick thought his only competition was Roger Martindale. Nobody knew about my crush on Janny Hadley.

I finished my list and shoved it into my backpack. As I went to shut the lights off I caught my reflection in the mirror on my bureau. Average white girl in every way, I stared into green eyes that were sometimes called ‘hazel’ and tucked away a loose strand of my messy bun of chestnut brown hair.

I skipped out the front door to the last stop on my list. Tasha Masterson was still acting miffed, but she’d get over my gaffe by now. It was an honest mistake after all. I was soon knocking on the door but receiving no answer.

“Tasha,” I banged, “It’s me. Open up.”

Muffled thumps and a widened slit in the blinds before the door opened a crack. “Oh. It is you.”

“I just said it was me,” I started pushing my way in, “I need your help, Tash. Official Prom Decorations Committee Business.”

She held the door on me, I always forget how strong she is, but then let me in. “This is for the attention of some girl is it not? For her you will paper-mache UFOs and join a committee?”

“I am the Committee! Now, you can be too.”

“Please hurry inside. I am in the process of becoming human again and do not wish to be seen.”

I shook my head at her, beautiful as always, but I could see what she meant. Smooth, mocha skin and shiny black hair with full lips, she was wrapped in a bathrobe and was clearly in her natural state underneath.

“Great,” I smoothed her eyebrows and watched her eyes shift from ocean blue to a milk chocolate, “I can help.”

“Yes, but I am unhappy with you.” Her brow knitted, revealing twin sets of gills.

I smoothed them shut again. “It was an accident, Tasha. I am so sorry I told but there was no way I could have known the school PA system was on and I figured it would be okay if Janny knew.”

“Yes, logically you would try to impress her in such a way,” the gills along her cheeks opened now meaning she really was unhappy, “But now the entire school knows. I am embarrassed.”

I smoothed the gills on her cheeks. “So everybody knows that you like Roger Martindale. Tash, this is a good thing. Your first crush!”

Her gills stayed shut. She was getting over it. “I suppose. I am still feeling vulnerable though.”

“Relax, Tash. It’s the only secret I’ll ever share, I promise.”

“Yes, you said that before. If you drop the beans about me I am allowed to punch you in the dick hole.”

“Yeah, um… close enough.”

Sweet, but I am Dead

This was another Furious Fiction, February I think? Yep, found it, here’s the prompts:

  • Each story’s first sentence had to include something being POPPED.
  • Each story had to include a character referencing a FILM title.
  • Each story had to include the words LEAP, BOTTLE and SHADOW. (Longer variations were okay if original spelling was retained.)

Not sure I nailed the prompts In fact, when I would send some of my entries to my friend Robert Fairhead of Tall and True, he’d sometimes point that out. Meh, oh well. Again, it was fun just doing it.

Though, time to admit that I secretly burn inside when I don’t win, haha.


It might be romantic but it’s completely surreal the way he’s down on one knee, ring in hand, and I have recently died.

And Michael, Mick to his mates, is here in front of me despite his FIFO schedule having him rostered for another week of 12-hour night shifts driving one of those giant fucking earth-movers. If he’s here it either means he’s quit or they don’t know he’s gone. Either way, the job is lost. Yet he’s still fronted up with a ring, cheeky thing.

I’d told him I didn’t want a ring.

I’d told him to think about all the things we could get instead. A better crib than the second-hand monster his mother insisted on. One of those shit-hot prams that you see the mum-fits behind along the beach paths. Even one of those milking machines he’s so excited about. He hates that I call them that but he’s adamant that he get up in the night and feed too, even though he’s never held a bottle in his life.

Well, not a bottle like that.

Mick’s dad was a drunk and his dad’s dad was a drunk, and he likes to joke that he comes from a long line of alcos and his more-functional self is the product of evolution. I’ve never found it particularly funny but he’s never hit me, never even looked like he would, so all I really had to put up with is the snoring. On the nights I stayed over anyway.

I’d only just signed my lease for another year when Mick and I collided that first night, him too drunk to remember a condom and me too broken to think of such things, but I only remember the timeline because he keeps talking about when I can finally move in.

It doesn’t matter now though, I am dead. Mick doesn’t know I’ve died. His expectant blue eyes gazing at me while the gift baskets of nappies and onesies attempt to taunt me from the end of the hospital bed. I might feel better setting fire to them, the end of their existence a blazing, death-shaped shadow up the shit-yellow walls. I could tear down this room, this building, as I fall, taking everything in reach with me as I spiral downward.

But even that attempts to be romantic in the surreality of this moment. He’s waiting. He believes he’s taking a leap of faith, giving it all up for me. For us. I’m the one that was giving up everything. My body, my freedom, my future. I was ready to give my life to find life’s greatest treasures, but now there nothing to give.

In the early days, before I was showing, we watched that Seth Rogen rom-com and joked that he was Ben and I was Alison. It kept us sane, for a bit. But now I am dead.

I hear my voice from somewhere inside the hospital pillow. “Thanks mate, but this isn’t Knocked Up. Not any more.”


On Writing in Australia

Types of Communities

There are all kinds of communities for writers in Australia, I’d reckon, but mostly what I’ve found is either Facebook Groups or actual organisations. My experiences with both are hit-and-miss.


Hits happen when I’m on a FB group that does more than just post memes about how writing makes you crazy or how writers procrastinate. I do like those, and will sometimes even share them on, but it’s not like that advances my writing career in any way.

Some groups will share writing opportunities, short story competitions and whatnot, but it seems rare. Mostly they seem to be about advice or events, really. And by “advice” I mean really, really simple shit. Writer Noobs, for lack of a less-snobby-sounding term. Events can be anything from Meetups to Author Talks at libraries and such.

Which is all pretty good, but I have yet to find one that encompasses all these things. Mostly they tend to be one or the other.


Writer’s organisations can, for the most part, fuck right off. I know that sounds rather surly but I can’t remember the last time one of them sent me an email offering me something of value for free. Sure, they dribble tidbits of “advice” (again, for noobs) in there, but they only community they’re interested in building seems to be the ones that will pay to attend their workshops or online classes.

Which is fine, I suppose, in lieu of Creative Writing Courses at a community college or something, and if you can afford it. But what about those of us that can’t? They’re all easily in the three-figure range for just about anything you’re wanting to do, including being a member. There’s not many options for a tiered scheme.

I was lucky enough to find a Perth-based group called “Out Of The Asylum” and they were only about $40 per year. I can’t remember the competition, but I was entering a short story piece for something and it required that I was a paying member of an official writer’s group in Australia, so I went with the cheapest I could find in OOTA. Awesomely enough, I got to enter their Spilt Ink Competition and I actually took second place!

But the other organisations, especially the big ones, all want too damn much. There’s one here in Perth, the KSP Writer’s Centre, that is always putting out competitions and such, always with a cost for entry, but always limited to members. I can get the Concession rate of $70, but all that really gets me is access to their meetings and whatnot, and the ability to enter (and pay of course) their contests.

The seemingly most-popular national body, the Australian Society of Authors, wants $160/year for an “Associate” membership (and one-off $25 fee) and $215 if you’ve published a book (same sign-up fee). When I initially asked them about a concession rate, they ignored my question and pointed out that I could pay them in monthly instalments if I wanted.

Then, when they published an article about how sad it is that Australian writers don’t make very much money, I wrote them another email that pointed out the hypocrisy of crying about authors not getting paid enough, then not even offering a Pensioner’s rate on their membership page.

It was about six months later that I saw another push for joining up and lo and behold there’s now a message at the bottom of their Membership Page that says to get concession rates you have to ring them. So I rang them and it ended up being only about $15 cheaper.

Why did I have to ring them to find out their concession rates? Why gatekeep that information from concessioners? Odd. Still haven’t figured out how it’s worth it either. Other than saving on competitions, there’s no real benefit unless it’s the thing that they all do: Offer discounts on their stuff. If I’m not going to pay for your workshop or writing class, then I’m not going to pay you for membership.

Australian Writer’s Guild seems to be more about screenwriters and such than anybody else, but that’s alright because they’re still $185 joining fee, plus whatever it is per year for various levels, coming to about $350 a year. Best for pros, is my guess.

The Australian Writer’s Centre is pretty good for their contribution to the community as they hold monthly writing competitions that are free to enter and offer you recognition from around the globe. The prompts are usually highly-entertaining and they give you a weekend to write 500 words, and it’s a heap of fun. Plus a great way to engage with the community. I’ve longlisted a few times, but never made it to the shortlist, though I will keep trying.

Aside from the big ones that focus heavily on pimping their own courses, there’s a few book/author/library-centric newsletters that I’ve found that I just love. The Writing WA newsletter is where I get most of my competition/event news as well as neat articles about local authors. They seem more community-minded than just about anything else I’ve seen out there and will happily pimp big authors or the space opera romance author who’s just self-published her thirteenth book. I’m a huge fan of this group.

Types of Opportunities


If you’re down for entering short stories or are a poet, there’s actually quite a lot. I’m happy to write short stories of any length or genre and submit them just about anywhere I can. While I still don’t quite grok why we had to call it “Flash Fiction” for yet another category, I’m happy to write that one too.

In fact, there were so many comps that I started keeping track of them in a Calendar Plugin here on my own site.


Aside from the short stories that you could write and comps you could take part in just about every month, there are the occasional call-outs for manuscript submissions from publishers as well as a couple of big awards.

The ones I’m keen on entering are usually centred around emerging authors, some of them even marginalised voices, and they often have a hefty cash prize.

The Hungerford is done by Fremantle Press and is $15k I think, as well as the Richell too. Both give an opportunity for those of us that have never gotten anywhere with our manuscripts to get a chance to not only get noticed, but to get published too.

Of course, once you’re published there’s the Miles Franklin and the Ned Kelly’s to enter your book in, but that’s a whole next-level thing and I’m looking forward to having to figure all that out someday.

Types of Writers


Okay, here’s where I start to spout unpopular opinions about the industry. I am never, ever, going to have a cry about how someone else has more opportunity than me because of inclusivity and I refuse to use the word “woke” unless it’s to make fun of people that say it as if it’s a bad thing.

BUT… I’m a white, Western-culture, cis-het, educated, middle-aged male. I’ve got privilege running out my ass, and I have no room to complain, but I’m a decent writer and I’ve written some decent books, and I can’t help but wonder if I’d have been offered a contract by now if I were a BIPOC woman/non-male.

The vast majority of the authors I interact with and/or see being spruiked by both publishers and organisations alike are women, nearly 99% of the agents I’ve found on QueryTracker are women and nearly the entirety of the local writer’s groups here in Perth are women. This seems to be the way of the industry.

And you know what? I’m okay with that. If my writing needs to work just a bit harder to get recognised while people that have bore the brunt of my privilege for thousands of years get a solid crack, then that is as it should be.

BUT… it also means I’ve got slightly fewer opportunities for friends and engagement. Not that I’m actively searching for friendships, but I know that the writers I reach out to or engage with on social media treat me differently because I’m the demographic I am, and I kind of wish that weren’t so.

Class Divide

There’s also the fact that I am poor. We live on Disability/Carer’s Pensions and can’t work, so it becomes a matter of not being able to afford things like editing and cover design for the books I’ve written, or memberships for competitions I wish to enter.

Plus there’s the matter of finding the freedom to actually write!

Not being able to work doesn’t mean life isn’t work enough. With two kids at home and one of them severely Autistic, there’s not a lot of room to find that headspace to crank out novel after novel. If I’m not looking after wife’s issues, she’s looking after mine, and just helping run a household when you’re disabled is already a sizeable portion of your day.

Couple that with the fact that pain is a constant distraction and suddenly you’ve had nearly all your motivation sapped. This shit is hard.

While I wouldn’t swap lives with anyone for anything ever, a part of me does wonder what life would be like if I were the semi-retired, empty-nester wife of a dentist or lawyer or something, where my only “duties” during the day would be to organise the housekeeping service and walk Chester, our Labradoodle and the rest of my day could be spent sipping Chardonnay and writing whatever the blue fuck I wanted.

I try not to be bitter, but I just see too much of this, and I’m envious as fuck. I occasionally see these Fellowships or Mentorships where somebody can get some cash for their writing projects, maybe something to make the load a bit lighter. I even qualify for one as I’m technically disabled, but I just can’t imagine taking away the opportunity from somebody truly deserving.

Yeah, I know. Don’t I think that I’M “truly deserving”? Yeah, I do. But I’ll get up that hill on my own, I reckon. Until somebody comes along and says, “Hey, you’re precisely who I’ve set out to help, so here, have some money, and I’ll sit back and await your brilliant work.”

I mean hell, aren’t we all out for that kind of thing? Like painters and artists-in-residence and such way back in the old days in Italy and shit. Somebody rich benefits from your creativity, so they pay you just to be around and being creative. What a life, what a dream.

Where I Fit In

Right now, I’m pumping out short stories for nearly every competition I can. Wifeage and I figure our already-tight budget can withstand the minor hits it takes every time I enter a comp, so I’m going to spend this year hitting as many as I can.

And yes, there have been times that we have been too broke for me to afford the $15 “reading fee” that most comps have. But if it means an opportunity, a chance at recognition and another feather in my writer’s cap, then it’s got to be worth it, right?

I’m never going to be able to drop the $450 they want for a Writing Class, nor do I really want one right now. Memberships to things are out because of lack of perceived value and most editors want way too much money to do what me and Wifeage can handle 95% of. I have a hard time finding the value there, no matter what the standard advice is.

As with most things, it seems you have to pay to play, and I’m stuck on the outside trying to find a way to DIY my own setup. Most folks wouldn’t bother, I suppose. But then again, as Wife and Offspring keep reminding me, I’m not most folks.


First Day

Another Furious Fiction entry. This one was for January and had to do with First Day on the Job.

  • Each story had to take place on a character’s FIRST DAY OF A NEW JOB.
  • Each story had to include something being stolen.
  • Each story had to include the words TRIP, TRIANGLE and TSUNAMI.

All in 500 words or under. Always a challenge, but I frequently love the shit out of it. This one was no exception, and was inspired by watching the new PWHL over in North America. I’ve always been a fan of the inclusivity of sport and there are notable examples of how the women’s version of the game is as good as, or better, than the men’s. Basketball, for one, is WAY better when watching the women vs the men. For starters, they actually play defense

Hockey though, was usually something I’d compare the women’s Olympic/Professional to the men’s NCAA or minor league like AHL or ECHL or so. Still… I was happily surprised when watching that they’re every bit as good as the college-level men’s game, and it was highly-enjoyable. Everybody always talks about the fights when they talk about watching professional hockey, and since this is basically everything BUT those stupid fights, this is hockey at its purest.

But yeah, I was inspired, and I hope someday something like this actually does happen here in Oz. That would fkn rock.


Twenty-six years after her mum first took the ice for Toronto on New Year’s Day 2024, Abby was lacing up her skates for her home city of Brisbane, and her chest swelled with pride. Then she threw up. They’d all think it was goalie’s nerves, and that was fine with Abby. No one needed to know anything else, not yet.

As her teammates bounced nervously around her, she waited to step into the announcer’s spotlight. Brisbane’s GM had kept it secret who had goaltending duties until the last minute, so when Abby was called as the starter the fifteen-thousand strong crowd gave a collective roar that washed over her like a tsunami.

It continued through warm-ups and it solidified Abby’s nerves, and her guts too. Until she saw him skate out to the opening face-off, that is. Melbourne’s best player, sure, but he was more than that. Mick’s mums were close friends with Abby’s mums after the two North Americans celebrated their first pro season by a trip to fall in love with the Gold Coast, and two Aussies.

Her nausea passed the moment the puck dropped even though Melbourne’s famous speed showed and she faced early shots. Mick wouldn’t treat her differently, never had. She’d face the best of the misogynists though. They didn’t believe she belonged, thought she was a publicity stunt. Two and a half periods and 33 saves proved different.

Melbourne capitalised on their extra man advantages but Brisbane had answered to make it 2-2. The final minutes ticked down and her guts tightened again. Abby had earned her spot here but more important to her was earning the win. And not throwing up in her mask.

Then a chance for Brisbane and they pounded it home. The crowd went insane as the home team took the lead 3-2. One minute left and Melbourne’s goalie left as Mick jumped out as the extra attacker. Brisbane’s defense sat back in a cautious triangle but the puck hit a bump in the ice and bounced right to Mick’s stick. He burst out and was all alone, just he and Abby staring each other down.

It was too fast for her to think. His best move to fake her out worked but when he’d pulled the puck back to his forehand to fire it high into the corner, she’d recovered and her glove snatched it from the air. Mick’s arms were raised in celebration but his gorgeous smile faded as he realised he’d been robbed.

The resulting cheer nearly burst the arena open, and it lasted until the final seconds ticked away and Abby raised her stick in triumph. Her first day on the job had gone pretty damn well even through the nausea. Despite that it wasn’t the morning, she knew what it meant too. For her life, her body, her career.

It also meant that she and Mick had a lot more to talk about than her save on his breakaway. Together they’d face a tough decision.