Conflux Horror Slam

On Saturday, I found the most perfect award statues for the ‘horror slam’ the Australian Horror Writers’ Association is running at Conflux.

From the announcement at Sinister Reads: “The Australian Horror Writers Association is hosting an open mic short story competition at Conflux 2014. The comp will be held at 7pm on Friday 3 October following the opening ceremony.

We’re looking for horror stories up to 500 words or a maximum of two minutes in length. Entry is by gold coin and all funds raised will go to the AHWA.

Winners will be chosen by Kaaron Warren, Rob Hood and the discerning audience.”

So yep, the horrifying Rob Hood and I will be judging this competition. We want nasty, horrible, creepy, disturbing. Some great prizes, and here’s a sneak peek at the statues I found:

nasty statue 1

nasty statue 5nasty statue 3

Nasty! So come along on the Friday night with your flash fiction. We wanna hear as many as possible!

Death's Door Cafe

Today is the official release day of the anthology Shadows & Tall Trees, edited by Michael Kelly.

My story is "Death's Door Cafe", inspired by a museum visit. One of the exhibitions was a door full of bullet holes. We were told that one of Ben Hall's gang was shot dead in front of it, and I began to wonder; how many doors are there like this one, telling the story of a death? How many doors kept a death hidden? And why would anyone gather these doors together?

There are also stories by Rob Shearman and Ray Clueley, writers I admire greatly.

I was talking with a writerly friend the other day about the thrill of selling a story, and of seeing it in print. My most recent sale means I have made 190 sales of fiction (including reprints, novels, stories that never appeared, stories is small newsletters etc). I can remember every single one, and every one was a thrill.


Napier is an Art Deco town. It was flattened by an earthquake in 1931, and this seems to have defined the place both in architecture and in spirit.

I adored it.

We checked in to the Art Deco Masonic Hotel, right on the water. We'd booked a suite, deciding we needed to spoil ourselves at the end of the trip (and knowing we had the horrible airport hotel the next night).

I actually had tears in my eyes as we were lead into the suite. These pictures don't do the sun-dappled, beautifully designed apartment justice:

Napier 5

That's the welcoming entrance.

Napier 1

This is the lounge room.


Our first mission was to find fish and chips, for comparison's sake. We found them at Sharky's. Sharky wasn't there when we walked in, so we had a great chat to his mate, who told us lots about the town, and about when he lived in Perth, and all sorts. When Sharky came back, we heard more about the town and the pubs and the best places to drink and the places that had shut down. Meanwhile, Sharky (I don't actually know if that is his name, but so he remains) dipped, fried, re-dipped and re-fried our fish and potato cakes. Oh, my, they were delicious. Crunchy and perfect. It reminded me of the fish and chips we used to get as kids, from a place we called Kerrimuir. At the end of that meal, you'd have a plate full of delicious 'crunchy munchables', all the leftover bits of batter. On Facebook we've been discussing 'lost foods'. The nostalgia you feel for a food you'll never eat again. I have it for those Kerrimuir fish and chips, so thanks, Sharky, for giving me another taste.

This is our own private foyer. Husband in the background there, heading out for the fish and chips.

napier 3

Actually that must be when we were leaving, because he has the suitcases. Pretty sure we didn't take our suitcases to buy fish and chips.

We ate dinner that night at an Italian restaurant, Trattoria alla Toscana, run by an old-school restauranteur. Delicious, fresh-made pasta, incredible desserts. My son couldn't finish his meal and the owner came out to see why!

In the morning, bleary eyed and without my glasses on, I thought I saw a creepy man dancing on the rooftop.

Napier 2

How creepy is that! It's there to scare off the birds, but it gave me a jolt, the way it danced and pranced and seemed to mock me.

We went out shopping, leaving our son at the library to read Graphic Novels. Look what was on the shelf!


Love that skull!

I'd love to run a writing workshop here. I wonder if people would be interested? There are lots of op shops in town for a Kaaron-led expedition.


One of my rules of travel (I don't have many) is to find the small towns for lunch breaks. So we stopped at Eketahuna on our way to Napier.

They have an Antique Organ Museum there (human or musical instrument? The sign wasn't clear) but we didn't go there. We did stop a the cafe. It was only called Cafe, otherwise I'd name it, because it was marvellous. Excellent coffees (they offer you cinnamon on top in NZ) and tasty homecooked muffins. I had the pumpkin soup which was pure home-made goodness.

As we walked to the car, we were hailed by two older people selling raffle tickets for their local radio station. "Used to be plenty of us, now it's just me and her," Joe said, cocking a thumb at his companion. She smiled and nodded and wrote my name down next to the lucky number 25. "You can win $40!" she told us. They slung insults back and forth at each other for a bit, then he asked where we were headed.

I told him, "Napier," and for conversation's sake, asked if he knew the best fish and chip shop there. He said, "Well, you're 14 years too late for that."

He used to run one, in Eketahuna. But that was 14 years ago. He said, "Just tell em I said don't cook the chips to buggery."

We did tune into the radio station as we left town. Joe (recorded earlier?) was saying, "Here I am, another day deep in boredom".

Then he played some Mozart dedicated to a couple "Who despise Mozart, so this is for you."

Interestingly, the tiny library had lots of rules. No muddy boots, no hoodies, no sunglasses, no cameras.


Before Wellington

The drive from Lake Taupo to Wellington includes a long, long stretch through volcanic wastelands that contrast vividly with the lush, green lands elsewhere. You can see Ruapehu in the distance, snow topped, enormous. The ground is black with residue and all that grows is scrub. There are signs everywhere warning you not to stop. Do not step off the road. Because this is army training area. It really was like something out of a disaster movie, but somehow beautiful, too.

We stopped at the town of Levin. We had info (from a place called The Licorice Cafe, so reliable) that there was a licorice factory here, and with the help of a very kind real estate agent, we found it.

The woman was a bit bemused by just how excited we all were. But, oh my! So many samples! And she said, "Have as many as you like!" So we did. We bought more licorice than we can eat in a decade. If you're ever near Levin, drop in to RJs.

We stopped in at the local facilities before the drive to Wellington. There was a large and rather fabulous playground here, though with the weather as nasty as it was, no kid played there. There was a coffee van, and if we hadn't had three coffees already that day would have taken pity and bought one. One car pulled up, but he sat in his car and beeped! He expected the girl in the van to get out, take his order, make it, then get out into the rain again to deliver it to him! As we pulled out into the street, he was still sitting there, waiting for service. We wondered how long he'd be willing to wait before getting out of his car or driving off without coffee.


We arrived in Wellington in pouring rain and peak hour traffic. Sadly the hotel hadn't given us info about parking, so we stopped two car lengths past the entry on a one way street. Two of us waited on the side of the road in sleeting rain (part of the key collection process) and two of us drove up one way streets, up hills, and through more traffic to get to the darn parking garage.

Four floors, with luggage, crossing the busy road, with luggage. Trying to remain slightly cheerful, in fact laughing hysterically.

Luckily, the apartment was amazing. Huge, clean, bright. Lots of little signs saying "Don't stand on the toilet" and "Don't put rice down the insinkerator". A heavy golden bling chain left behind (we hung it on the chair when we left) which has us wondering who'd been there before. Son took a photo of the knife block with missing knife.

We headed out for dinner with friends from Fiji, following the signs and finding the place up on the hills, in the suburbs. Did I mention that we were too scabby to pay an extra $200 for GPS, so had to navigate our way using actual maps?? I know. I feel like I've achieved a level of brilliance.

The next day; exploring the shops. I had a quick coffee with Ross Temple. He's full of knowledge and gave me lots of tips. Was great to catch up.

We also went to the Weta Cave, continuing our exploration of things Lord of the Rings. Fantastic stuff. Excellent tour of the workshop, though I would have liked to see some people actually at work. Amazing models, lots of info. We resisted buying anything, somehow, although of course we did buy the Hobbit movie and are on the lookout for the second. I forgot to mention that the Huka Falls is where they all escaped in barrels!

Then meeting friends at the Museum and out for dinner on the waterfront. Bloody freezing, let me tell you, but inside was warm. I ate chowder; I seem to be eating chowder around NZ. My son had a burger, because he's doing the same with burgers.

In all, Wellington was rushed and wet. We saw good friends, big trolls and some boats. The place is very beautiful, with the hills and the water. Those amazing houses on the hills!

Lake Taupo

Here steam rose from the ground alongside our motel. We followed the hot stream down to the Lake, where water bubbled up and out to merge with cold. The water was too hot to leave your hand in for long; good washing up water. Beautiful lakeside, views all around.

This is from the Craters of the Moon walk.


Our motel, The Karaka Tree Motel, is run by excellent people. Informative, friendly and fun, they helped us settle in well and booked our tickets to the water jet ride the next day. Our room had a thermal spa! Seriously. In our own room, we turned on the tap and steaming hot water from underground poured out. It was so hot we had to leave it for over an hour to cool, but the sense of well-being I experienced once I sank into the water was worth it. Body aches gone, tiredness gone (although I could easily have napped in the spa), and rose feeling full of energy.

The next day we went on our jet ride. This was a lot of fun, with the driver, Jeremy, full of tease and stirring. A larrikan, which suits the job well. He had a go at everyone on board, in the nicest possible way, and spun us around, soaked us, took us under the glorious Huka Falls and spun us around again.

This is a pic of the waters being released. Quite a sight. It is edited because I keep getting my thumb in the pic.

2014-05-16 21.52.20
Out to dinner at a Thai restaurant. We had quite a lot of odd comments as we travelled and I'm not sure why. Perhaps people don't see families with teenagers together much? I really don't know. But a lot of comments of "Are you all together?" when the four of us had walked in together, were talking together, clustered together, clearly together. At the Thai restaurant, the decidedly odd woman looked at our daughter (actually stared). She said, "I'm sorry, but she is so lovely. So striking. Congratulations." That said to my husband; apparently I had nothing to do with it. Then she tried to match our son up with her waitress. As we were leaving, she said to my husband, "You should move here. And your lovely daughter." If she'd asked where we were staying, we would have lied. The food was good, and the experience odd enough to be worthwhile.


We drove two hours to the town of Matamata, to visit Hobbiton. On the way we stopped at The Pink Pig for breakfast. I do love the random roadside stop. The logo is a slavering pink pig holding a cleaver, so yes, we are a very brave family. Food was fine, decor bizarre in the extreme, with dusty prints, copper pressings, and lots of pigs. Then to Hobbiton. This was really fabulous. Quite expensive, but amazing to see the world of the Hobbits. You understand what a perfectionist Peter Jackson is when you see a particular tree, and hear about the worn path to the washing line, and others. Pictures when I can! It really was worthwhile. Our bus driver was Big John. James was late to the bus (visiting facilities) and Big John says, "Good chance to get rid of him!" When he heard we were from Canberra, he says, "What, are you the Prime Minister's wife?" Once I'd stopped gagging, we climbed on the bus, where he told us about horse poo and other such things. Then he said, "You can all talk amongst yourselves in your own language now." So even if Hobbiton was a dud, we got our money's worth there.