Monday, 16 November 2015


It's been a while since we did a round-up of clever and interesting projects by clever and interesting people, so let's get this week rolling with...


Sophie Rose Raymond is launching her new EP Sunflowers at the PA Hotel on December 10.  Get the details here.

ABC Openeer and life coach to the stars Brad Marsellos caught up with Bundaberg business stalwart Kent, face of the Busy Bee for 47 years and counting.

This Thursday (19/11) get to The Workshop in Rockhampton for ROCK paper scissors, a Spicks and Specks style music quiz show from 7:30pm.

Still in Rocky, 4RO has awesome local musicans playing live in the studio every Friday at 8am.  Coming up are Vegas to Vancouver this Friday (20/11) and next week Chenai Boucher (27/11).

Sproutlings, an Aussie anthology of creepy short fiction, was successful on Kickstarter and is now taking pre-orders.  I contributed a short piece to this book, and it's fantastic to see it come to life.

Monday, 28 September 2015

An arts and culture magazine for Central Queensland?

The idea of starting a literary journal has been burning a hole in my mind for quite a while now, despite my attempts to talk myself out of it.

The internet makes it startlingly easy to bring a new publication to life - whatever you can imagine, you can have it up and running in basic form in an afternoon, without spending a cent.  But creating something people want to read, contribute to and be part of is another matter altogether.

That's why I'm doing a little market research, to gauge interest in a CQ-based arts/culture/literary magazine and see what our potential readers would like to read about, how they'd like to read it, and what they'd be willing to pay for it.

There's a survey below where you can share your thoughts.  I'm keen to hear from as many people as possible with as many different points of view, interests and areas of expertise.  Even if you think it's a rubbish idea and will never work, that's useful feedback.

If the embedded form below isn't working for you or is borked on your device, you can also access the survey here.

Create your own user feedback survey

Friday, 25 September 2015

Free Friday Fiction: Matilda Clamp and the Unfair Race

This week's free Friday fiction is a strange little story that started life as a dry run for an unwritten novel, set in a vague land that could be an alternative past, or a distant post-oil, climate-changed future.  The novel's on hold while I work on other projects - and figure out how to fix a few rather awkward holes in the logic of the story world - so here's the only outing dear Matilda is likely to have for a while:

Matilda Clamp and the Unfair Race

It was a sorry beast.

It stood outside the workshop like a quadrupedal collection of scrap iron draped in a grey blanket.  It nosed lethargically at the clumps of speargrass along the fenceline, hipbones jutting out awkwardly as its soft mouth chased the grass.  Ivan clucked and cooed at the disinterested animal, eventually persuading it to lift its head with a tug on the reins.

“Is that... a horse?”  Matilda stood in the workshop doorway in her thick leather apron and gauntlets, welding mask balanced precariously on her forehead.  “It is.  It's an actual horse.  Where did you get that thing?”
“Is that any way to talk to your long-lost brother?”  Ivan ruffled her dark curls affectionately.
“It's only been six weeks.”  Matilda pushed his hand away in mock irritation before pulling him into an untidy soot-stained hug.  The horse at the end of Ivan's rope snorted disdainfully.  Matilda sighed, and turned back towards the workshop.
“Bring it in.  Before someone sees it and thinks you stole it.”

The workshop was a bowerbird's lair of ironmongery; a tin and timber lean-to filled with engines in various states of disembowelment.  The dirt floor was strewn with tools and machine parts black with years of grease and smoke, and in the shadows odd shapes loomed beneath tarpaulins.  Hanging crookedly from a nail, half hidden by a cracked cylinder cover, was a certificate from the Trade School of Newer Sydney made out to one Matilda Clamp, steam engineer second class.  That same Clamp tramped heavily into the workshop, Ivan and his newly acquired steed loping behind.  She stripped off her apron and gloves and dumped them on the narrow stretcher bed jammed behind the boiler.

“You're still sleeping out here?”  Ivan gave his sister a worried look.  He was trying to encourage the horse out of the workshop into the house paddock beyond, but the animal preferred to stand in the doorway, the front end cropping grass while the hindquarters took up far more space than the cluttered workshop could rightly spare.

“The house feels strange without Mum and Dad.  Besides, I like to be out near my work.  I get my best work done in the middle of the – oh, don't do that!”
The horse deposited a vast pile of manure on the workshop floor.
“Can't you get that thing outside?”
“I think its brakes are on.” Ivan pushed ineffectively at the horse's backside.  The animal stepped backwards absently, treading heavily on Ivan's foot.  He yelped in pain and stumbled backwards through the mountainous turd, his other foot tangling in a discarded piston rod.  He sprawled across the floor, cursing the horse and all its heavy-hooved ancestors.  Oblivious to his pain, the horse decided this would be a good moment for a leisurely amble out of the workshop, following its nibbling mouth into the overgrown house paddock beyond.

Matilda rolled her eyes.  “Didn't you ask how to drive it when you bought it?”
“Oh, it's not mine.”
Her gaze drilled holes in her brother.
“There's a guy from Sapphire coming to collect it tomorrow.  I'm just the middleman.”
“If you're hiding a stolen horse in my workshop...”
“No!  Seriously, it's not like that.  I don't do that any more.  Really.  I swear.”
Matilda's tense shoulders relaxed a fraction.  “If you are going to steal something, how about something less valuable than a horse?  Like the crown jewels?”  She smiled.  “Or the remains of the old Coathanger out in the sea?  Or Harrison Sinclair's firstborn?”
“That creep who thought you were going to marry him just because you fixed his plough?”
“That creep owns half the land from here to the coast.  Turns out he's not used to getting no for an answer.  And -” there was the unmistakeable hiss of a sulky pulling up outside, “that creep is at the door.”

Sinclair's sulky was a gleaming affair of brass and bottle green, a cloud of steam billowing from the boiler.
Matilda slipped on her apron and plastered her least sincere smile across her face, the one she used for halfwits who thought they could fix their engines themselves and then brought the smoking ruins to her for repair.
“My cultivator needs servicing.  I'll have my man bring it round in the morning.”
“I'm sorry, Mr Sinclair.  I'm working on a commission for Cobbin at the moment, and am not taking any other work.  Next month's the earliest I'll be able to fit you in.  Er, Mr Sinclair?”
Sinclair was staring over Matilda's shoulder, through the workshop into the yard beyond.  She followed his gaze, and saw the horse rubbing itself languidly against the rickety rail.
“Ivan!” Matilda called into the workshop.  “Should that thing be doing that?”
Ivan approached the horse gingerly and gave it a tentative scratch behind the ears, and was rewarded with a surprisingly enthusiastic whinny.
“Well,” Sinclair found his tongue at last.  “A horse owner!  Aren't you coming up in the world!”  He eyed Ivan narrowly.  “And the return of your bastard brother.  You're just full of surprises, Miss Clamp.”  Sinclair stepped up into the sulky and released the brakes with a well-oiled clunk and a hiss as the machine moved off.  He called back over his shoulder as he disappeared up the track in a cloud of steam and dust.
“My man will bring the cultivator around in the morning.”

“Are you really working for Cobbin?”  Ivan sat beside his sister on the rail, nursing a cup of bitter tea and watching the horse snooze in the afternoon sun.
“It's a special project.  They want a fast engine for their passenger service so they can get posh sorts to the coast and back in a day.”
“And you can build one?”
“Have done.”  Matilda nodded proudly towards the workshop.  “Takes off like nothing you've seen, and can hit a hundred on the straight.  But it's just a prototype.  It's still a bit hungry.”
“How hungry?  How many miles to a load?”
Matilda laughed.  “More like how many loads to a mile!  Want to have a look?”
“Wouldn't miss it!”  Ivan swung his long-legged frame down from the rail, then hoisted Matilda easily to the ground.  It was good to hear her laugh again.

The pub was a rambling lash-up of leaning timber, perched on a sharp bend in the road at the edge of town.  Inside conversation rumbled under the light of the fat-lamps as deals were done and news passed around.  Ivan stared into his drink, thick and black as molasses, eavesdropping on endless bland chatter about whether to plant wheat or corn or quinoa and who was sleeping with the Paterson girls.
“Well, if it isn't the bastard horse owner!”  Sinclair's bulky form came swaggering through the bar, curious eyes swivelling in his wake.
“Evening, Sinclair,” said Ivan, coolly.
“I'm a horse owner myself, you know,” Sinclair said loudly, for the benefit of anyone in the bar who didn't already know.  “Sinclair's Elegant Revenge.  Bay stallion, seventeen hands.”
Ivan made a non-committal noise, burning under the scrutiny of many pairs of eyes.  Sinclair swung onto the stool beside him.
“What say we have a race, young man?”  Sinclair draped a friendly arm around Ivan's shoulder.  “Your fine steed against mine.  With a little wager on the side, perhaps?”
Ivan shrugged off Sinclair's arm and stood.  He started towards the door.
“Only if you're up to it, of course.  If you don't think you could cope with the challenge of Elegant Revenge...”
Ivan turned.  “Your horse against my challenger?”
“And a bottle of the bar's finest to the winner.”
“Let's put this in writing.”  Ivan motioned to the barman for charcoal and paper.  “Five o'clock tomorrow afternoon, your – what's it called?  Irrelevant Bookend?”  The watching crowd laughed.
“Elegant Revenge.  Sinclair's Elegant Revenge.”
“Sinclair's Elegant Revenge against Clamp's Sunset Glory, over a quarter mile in the main street.  A bottle to the winner, from the loser's tab.”

By quarter to five the sunlight was already turning golden and shadows stalked down the main street, stretching the assortment of bicycles, sulkies and steam-traps parked along the road into long, weird shapes against the dirt.  On the road itself a straight quarter-mile length had been marked out, with a hat by the starting point and another at the finish line.  A small crowd was already gathering for a rare glimpse of live horses when Sinclair's sulky puffed into view, towing a large closed-in trailer.  He was driving more cautiously than usual, taking the sharp bend down by the pub with unaccustomed gentleness.  He came to a stop in the street and flicked the lever to close the air vents to the sulky's boiler, smothering the fire.

“Stand back!  This animal is a thoroughbred champion, and can be very dangerous!”  He flung open the trailer's doors and flipped down a ramp, while the crowd craned for a look at the creature inside.  One dark, glossy leg stepped onto the ramp, then another.  A titter ran through the crowd.  Elegant Revenge flared its nostrils and snorted at its unfamiliar surroundings, eyes wide and wild.  It stamped down the ramp, skittish and light on its feet, tossing its head against Sinclair's rough grip on the reins.

“Is that the Clamps?”

A gaily painted steamer heaved itself around the corner, a bright yellow cab darkening to a scarlet smokestack.  It was little more than a firebox on wheels, a collection of finely-honed mechanical parts with not a scrap of excess weight or creature comfort.  Matilda stood in the tiny cab, gently guiding the machine to a halt in the street.  Ivan, perched at the back, leapt off while the engine was still moving and sauntered towards Sinclair with a grin.
“What in the name of wonder do you call that contraption, Clamp?  And where's your fine steed?  We're here for a horse race, not a display of scrap metal.”
“What horse?  I don't own a horse.”
“Don't be smart with me, boy.  The miserable grey nag I saw by your filthy shack yesterday.”
Ivan gave an innocent laugh.  “There's no horse there.  You can search the place from top to bottom.  What would Matilda and I want with a horse?”  The crowd tittered.  Sinclair fumed.  Ivan's contact in Sapphire had arrived at first light and collected his horse as promised, while Matilda was applying a hurried coat of paint to her prototype engine.

“The race you agreed to was between Eggbound Raven,” Ivan went on, gesturing towards the stallion still shifting uneasily by Sinclair's side, “and Sunset Glory.  Fantastic piece of work, isn't she?”  Ivan looked pointedly at their engine.  Bright red against the yellow paint, Sunset Glory was emblazoned on the side in a flowing script more enthusiastic than practised.
“This is ridiculous!”
“It's the race you agreed to.”
“Let me see that paper!”
The barman, acting as race starter, was standing on the sidelines.  He fished the folded paper from his pocket.  “Nothing here 'bout 'orses.  Just says Elegant Revenge against Sunset Glory.  Looks like we got that.  Let's get on with it.”
“You heard this wastrel agree to a horse race!”
“I heard you shooting your mouth off about him having a horse.  Now is there going to be a race, or have we all wasted an afternoon?”
There were dark murmurs from the crowd.  The awe of Elegant Revenge's entrance was wearing off, and Sinclair could feel the mood turning against him.
“So Sinclair,” Ivan gave a cheeky grin.  “Race?”
Sinclair spat in the dust.  “Race.”

Matilda gently eased off the brakes, and let the engine roll forward to the starting line.  Sinclair mounted his twitchy horse and tried to coax it into place alongside, an effort hampered by the horse shying at the crowd, stepping high over shadows, and regarding the hat on the ground with utmost suspicion.  The hiss bright yellow engine issuing clouds of steam and smoke it ignored completely.  The excitable crowd grew silent as the barman raised his hat.

And dropped it.

Matilda hauled the throttle back in a smooth, swift motion.  The horse sprang forwards at the urging of its master's spurs.  The engine took off with a jolt, lurching forwards and finding a swift rhythm as Matilda worked the levers.  The horse was faster, ahead of the engine by a bob of its long, dark head.  The engine pulled forwards, gaining speed.  Sinclair brought down his whip and the horse opened up its lead.  Matilda changed gear and the engine shot forwards.  The horse was faster.  The engine.  The horse.  The engine.  The horse.

The hat at the finishing line.

The prototype engine hissed across the line scratched in the dirt a handspan ahead of the foam-speckled horse.  A cursing Sinclair hauled on the reins, trying to bring his horse to a halt as the crowd erupted into noise.  From somewhere a large bottle of something amber-coloured appeared, passed to a jubilant Ivan as he embraced Sunset Glory's smokestack, heedless of the yellow smears it left on his jacket.  He caught Matilda's eye and waved the bottle at her cheekily.

Matilda rolled her eyes.  “Yes, very good.  Do you think we could swap it for a load of fuel to get home?”

Friday, 18 September 2015


Time for a look in the latest and greatest in arts, culture, and cool people doing nifty things...

You can now find Emma Ward's artwork at Holly & Hudson in East St, Rockhampton, or check out her new website for more delicately feminine arty goodness.  I still need to acquire one of her bird pieces one of these days...

Sweetest Vintage is the brainchild of fashion fiend Carol, where she'll be sharing her vast collection of eclectic threads - visit the Facebook group for pictures and info, or see them in person at the pop-up shop at The Workshop.

Joel Tann has released the track listing for his immanent EP Tombs.  Joel opened our last Allsorts show, and his work is well worth looking up.

Speaking of great local music, Sophie Rose has an EP out called A Taste... - here's the first track, I Don't Know You:


Monday, 14 September 2015

A poem and some poetry updates

For the last few months most of my arty efforts have been on the comedy and performing front, but things have been ticking over nicely in the poetry department as well.

Earlier this year I contributed a very silly poem to the Bimblebox 153 Birds project, which I rambled about here.  It's a collaborative exhibition of artwork, writing and music inspired by the birds found in CQ's Bimblebox Nature Refuge, and has since had several outings including a spot in this year's Brisbane Writers' Festival.

Bimblebox Art-Science-Nature - a different but closely related project to 153 Birds - is on show at the Rockhampton Art Gallery til October 15.  To celebrate the exhibition there's a poetry reading coming up at the gallery on Sunday from 11am.  It's free, so get the goss and RSVP here.  Several contributing poets will share their work, including me with my ridiculous Notes from a Bar Shouldered Dove.

In completely unrelated news, I recently had a poem included in issue five of Crab Fat Magazine, free online here. It's called If I Didn't Care, and very different from most of the stuff I've had published in the past.  I'm not sure it's a style I'll stick with, but it's always worth trying out new things even if the results are somewhat creepy. Before you click though, be warned this one has salty language and adult themes, and is well and truly NSFW.  Unless you work in literary publishing and are looking for the next poetic genius, in which case what are you waiting for?

I'm also going through my mass of poems, semi-poems, and notes-that-might-become-poems, sorting stuff out for competitions and journal submissions for the next few months.  During those adventures, I came across this one, which I can't really enter anywhere worthwhile because it's already published it on another site, but I'm very fond of it so would like to share it again:


You read playing cards and tea leaves, and always saved the fat
when you cooked in the old kitchen out the back, Nanna

You washed your smalls by hand, kept your Wash Blu in a jar
and cursed the sky when dark clouds turned it black, Nanna

You knitted woollen booties, crocheted doilies, sewed our clothes,
and never realised nothing you made matched, Nanna

When I look into your photograph, I do not see myself
I don't recognise the woman looking back, Nanna

You left our lives when I was small, too young to really know you
all my days I've quietly regretted that, Nanna

Now I read playing cards and tea leaves, but I never save the fat
and I hope you can look down and smile at that, Nanna.