Indie Side cover 4Last year, a succession of stars aligned. I met a warm and enthusiastic author and reviewer, Susan May, who had kindly attended one of my speaking events. As we began chatting it became clear we were both very interested in the changing nature of the industry, and a friendship blossomed. When I mentioned my admiration for Hugh Howey and the way he had taken control of his writing career, Susan decided to investigate. A few months later, after interviewing Hugh, she told me she’d had an idea. An indie anthology of short stories in the thriller/speculative/sci-fi genres. Hugh was on board. Would I like to be involved?

You bet I would! What a wonderful opportunity for me to stretch my writing direction and try to write a short form thriller. This one little project snuck into the maternity leave I’d vowed I would take, and so I wrote my story, Cipher, with my newborn sleeping (and sometimes not sleeping!) in the background.

Cipher is the story of Beatrice, who leaves her family behind to visit her father. She never imagines she might not see them again, but then a bomb goes off close to home. Beatrice has to rely on a stranger’s help to find out what’s happened – and whether or not her husband and children have survived. When I’d finished writing I had the pleasure of reading the other stories in the anthology, and they are wonderful without exception.  Here’s a rundown of what you’ll find in From the Indie Side:

The Winter Lands (Jason Gurley)

Jonathan Froestt lives alone in a retirement home. His family is gone. His friends are all dead. For over sixty years, he has been writing a novel, the pages collecting in his apartment in stacks. Nobody has ever read it. Until today.

Going Gray (Brian Spangler)

When their community is engulfed by a deadly, caustic fog, sixteen-year-old Emily and her family decide to escape to the one building they can think of that might be able to withstand the fog’s corrosive force: the shopping mall. But a trip to the mall has never been so desperate, or so terrifying.

Queen Joanna (Kate Danley)

Thrust into a loveless marriage of state, Queen Joanna soon discovers her new palace is home to many dark secrets. And when a face in the mirror confronts her with a dire warning, she realizes her life is at risk. Has she awakened a curse—or been struck by madness? “Queen Joanna” presents a haunting twist on the legend of Bloody Mary.

Mouth Breathers (Hugh Howey)

Moving to a new town, starting off at a new school, meeting new kids… it’s never easy. And it only gets harder when the new town and the new school and the new kids are on a different planet. But sometimes, something happens that makes it worth all the trouble.

The Man With Two Legs (Ernie Lindsey)

Many winters ago, the man with two legs managed to escape the oppressive maiming rituals of Tritan’s government. Now he stands on a hillside overlooking the city, a bomb in his rucksack, determined to bring about two impossible results: his mother’s rescue and freedom for his people.

Made of Stars (Anne Frasier)

A genius vampire named Sinclair creates an alternate world where vampires can experience a traditional human life of love, marriage, and children. Sixteen-year-old Gabriel is Sinclair’s beta tester and volunteers to fall in love with a coffee-shop girl. But when the pain of love becomes overwhelming, Gabriel questions his decision. “It’s too real,” he tells Sinclair. “You made it too real.”

Gyre-Witchery (Kev Heritage)

All Tam wanted was to be loved. Was that so hard? Made outcast because of her green eyes—the sign of witchery—Tamina, a well-meaning simpleton, is shunned by a superstitious people who blame her for the ills that have overtaken their small island. It was not her fault that she put on weight while the others starved, or that wild animals slunk at her side, or that men and women both desired and despised her. But change was coming, brought upon the back of a terrifying squall…

The War Veteran (Susan May)

For seventy years, World War II veteran Jack Baker has endured vivid flashbacks to that horrific June day on Omaha Beach. But tonight, the flashback will be terrifyingly different. Tonight it becomes real. Tonight, Jack’s seventy-year-old secret will come back to claim him.

The Greater Good (Mel Hearse)

When Lanie wakes up in a hospital bed with no idea how she got there, she tries desperately to work out why she was on the old loop road that’s been all but abandoned by the locals. Thinking there must be an obvious answer, Lanie leaves no stone unturned in her quest for an explanation. But when all is revealed, she is left with only one question—and no good answers.

REDOUBT (Michael Bunker)

Phillip is a militia commander who has planned for a decade to defend the pacifist Vallenses of Central Texas with his army if ever the world tips over and goes to hell. He never thought he’d be on a skiing trip to New Mexico when the end comes.

The Man Who Remembered Today (Peter Cawdron)

Kareem wakes with a headache. A bloody bandage wrapped around his head tells him this isn’t just another day in the Big Apple. The problem is, he can’t remember what happened to him. He can’t recall anything from yesterday. The only memories he has are from events that are about to unfold today, and today is no ordinary day.

You can’t go wrong with this collection, and what’s more for a short time it’s on sale at 99 cents on Kindle! In day one it has hit the No. 1 spot in the Science Fiction anthologies section and is heading up the charts! You can also find it on Kobo and NOOK. And if you would rather win one of those old-fashioned copies you can hold in your hands, then all you need to do is sign up to my newsletter, and leave a comment below, telling me whether you prefer paper or e-books… easy!col-md-2

At the beginning of last year I signed up for the 2013 Australian Women Writers Challenge. This fantastic challenge began in 2012, and was devised by Elizabeth Lhuede to focus attention on literary works by Australian women. You can read all about the background here. I entered at the middle level – Miles – which asks you to read 6 titles, and I was aware that, considering the year ahead, even this might prove a challenge. Nevertheless, I made a strong start, and I had read three titles by February – Kate Grenville’s The Secret River and Searching for the Secret River, and Kate Morton’s The Secret Keeper.

In February I entered an intense researching and drafting period for my new book, which is set in the Lake District, and so my reading veered away from Australian literature for a few months as I focused on Northern England. However, during this time I also read and enjoyed The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. I stopped writing in July, and I had a lovely period of reading, adding The Good Wife by Emma Chapman, and Elemental by Amanda Curtin to my tally. I was absolutely engrossed in both these books. Emma’s novel is a hugely impressive debut which absolutely deserves the praise it received in the New York Times recently! Elemental was the second Amanda Curtin novel I had read (The Sinkings was the first), and I was swept up in the story of Scottish Meggie. If you’re looking for beautiful, poised and poignant writing, and unique stories, go no further than Amanda.

So, by the end of July I had read all the titles I needed to complete the challenge. Surely I would read lots more by the end of the year.

Then, this happened:

Sara Final Edit-22



Yep, since August reading has been very restricted. My two girls have kept me extremely busy in the latter half of 2013. If I had the chance to sit down with a book the chances were that I’d be asleep within five minutes.

However… I also work occasionally as a freelance book editor, and I have been on Bronwyn Parry’s editorial team for a while now. During 2013 I worked with her on Darkening Skies, and editing Bronwyn’s books is always a pleasure. I also worked on Jenny Bond’s Perfect North (Hachette), a beautifully written epic tale about a doomed hot-air balloon expedition to the North Pole, and Jenny Valentish’s fabulous and hilarious debut My Life in Reviews, which will be published by Allen & Unwin in 2014.

So that takes my final tally to 9. Hurray!

My reading wish list for this year includes anything I haven’t read that’s on the AWW wrap-up list or the impressive inaugural 2013 Stella Prize long list. That’s before I even look at the new releases. So it’s a no-brainer to sign up again for the AWW challenge in 2014. Care to join me? col-md-2