A Perverse Sort of Liberty

Kinky died. You have to die to become a superhero, so Kinky dies, pukes herself inside out. She’s been sick for years, but now she’s throwing up razor blades in a meaty jelly, snakes, old weak lovers. Heaving them up at two in the morning – waking with a howl because she thinks there’s someone in her room again, but there’s no -one. Just Kinky and her vomit. She went to the doctor but he pulled the waistline of her pants down too far when he felt her stomach and she knew he was one of them.


The captain of the Passant was reclusive to say the least. I only saw him once, when I was more or less forced to visit him in his cabin on the second day of the voyage. I was bidden by the first mate who sneered a cryptic warning about ‘his better ’alf’.

Born Under Punches

Tuesday, November 30, 1999

There’s a glass tumbler in my hand. Then, there isn’t. It’s in a hundred broken shards, scattered across the floor. Everything is in pieces.

Breathing Backwards

She dreams herself awake a couple of times with the gentle scrape of stubble across the back of her neck. When Ink opens her eyes there’s nothing there. It had happened before when she thought he was tickling her feet, but woke to find the strange cat from next door stroking its tail along her instep. It must have gotten in the back door. In her half-sleep she wondered if he had just left her.

Fire Sign

Excerpt 1:

He falls to his knees at the heart of the frozen lake, his arms sweeping snow aside, revealing arcs of uneven ice. The water is a dark void beneath its icy skin, trapped bubbles of air roll aimlessly. He searches for her, sweeping and sweeping, the jagged surface shredding his numb fingers, leaving streaks of red and staining the snowdrift pink. His breath is rapid now, bursting out in tattered white clouds – each of his breaths is one that she has been without.

Gunfire Lullabies

Jakarta, Indonesia, late 1998

The balcony at the rear of Ava’s house was her sometimes refuge. There she sought sanctuary from her husband Pete, the prying eyes of her domestic staff and the dank air conditioning in which she spent most of her days and nights. She was nearly done reading her pile of East Timor cables. She wasn’t supposed to take them out of the embassy, but everyone did. Otherwise you would spend even less time at home.

Littoral Meanings

He’s denying it, of course, just as he always does, but I’m aware that a part of Charlie has already packed his suitcase and gone, even though his pressed shirts and neatly pleated trousers are still hanging in their colour-coded order in the cupboard. As has been his pattern so many times before, he’s about to leave me stranded, high and dry, our marriage on the rocks, marooned with three young daughters and a mortgage, and this rage that roars and crashes like the waves on the beach at midnight.

No Mercy

I heard the scuff of feet and the muffled commands before I had fully woken. These sounds dragged me from my sleep and propelled me into my mother's bedroom as I hurriedly pulled my jacket over my nightdress. My brother was not there that night. It was his turn to stand by the roadblocks in case of a surprise attack.

Perfect Catch

She left the stage with a new pair of fashion heels and a prospective husband. His palm was sweaty against hers. She’d made her decision in only seven minutes, but she felt strongly that he was the one. In ten years – she could already picture it – they would be telling their children how they met: on a game show. It had been love at first sight.


‘Where are the files I asked for, Melanie?’
The tone of her voice matched the sharp and highly polished nails tapping on Melanie’s desk. There were just two days before the firm’s biggest case and everyone was tense. For Melanie and the other researchers, this meant more abuse. Melanie pulled the relevant files from the cabinet next to her, never leaving her chair or looking at her aggressor. She knew what face would bear down at her and thought the day could only improve with the absence of the sight of that face.

The Beginning and The End

Let’s start at the beginning.
That’s what you want, right? That’s why we’re here?
Damn. I’ll be honest, that still hurts. Got a nice swing to that left, haha.
Okay, you’re right. You ask the questions, I’m the one in the chair with the broken nose. Pretty sure it’s broken anyway. You been practicing?
Hey, all I’m saying is, it’s been a while. Hasn’t it? It’s been a while.
The beginning.

The Crease and The Learner

The Crease

A young boy steps up to the crease,
the unforgiving sun reflected
off brand new

The Deep Shallow

– Halls End –
Everything begins with a body. Salima Khan was just 21 the day of her wedding at St Jude's Catholic Church in the New South Wales village of Halls End. Population 310. It was still winter but the sun was out and after the ceremony, she insisted on going for a walk across the Common with her bridesmaid, Nazreen. Salima was found the following morning face down in a shallow pool of water, and although Abel Wiley had no medical training to speak of, he knew a murder when he saw one.

The Shortest Day of the Year

We left Lorne late, forgetting how bad the coastal road was, and it took us hours to get back to the highway. When we were almost back in Melbourne, driving late down one of the lightless roads, Noah and I traded places and I took over the driving. White poles blinked up at us as we passed them and there was plenty of road kill to dodge at the edges. Chloe rode shotgun. The others were passed out across the back seat: Jess and Noah cuddled under a sleeping bag with their seatbelts off; Mel propped against the window like a rag doll.

The Tumbler

Peter was a tumbler. He’d been a juggler too until his hands started to shake. Had a circuit that covered all the market towns roundabout. Made a living of sorts. Now he was largely reduced to market days in his own town. The shakes had started a few years ago. When they were bad he could hardly hold a ball let alone keep it in the air with a few others. Now the coloured balls sat on a shelf in the cubbyhole the widow gave him in exchange for odd jobs round her house.

The Vodka Cure

Deep green, dark shade, a rich profusion of growth along the river. It brought Liz to a halt.She had never experienced the beauty of a northern European river in summer before. The rushes as thick as those in a Rousseau painting, archetypal,the tree trunks smoother, more velvety than she hadever known; like a dream, a child’s book illustration. From the walker’s bridge, she saw below her, in the rushes, human legs, drunks lolling, cradled by the gloom. Uncle was wrong for once. Yurek couldn’t possibly be among them. These men had descended too far into alcoholism.

Beth Amos

Beth is an active member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and the ACT Writers Centre. In 2013 Beth received an award for Fire Sign in the aspiring YA book section of the Children’s and Young Adult Writers and Illustrators Conference (CYA) competition.

In 2014 Beth was selected to attend the HARDCOPY2014 program; a professional development program for Australian writers funded by the Australia Council for the Arts. Beth was also one of ten writers the Varuna 2015 Residential Fellowship judging panel commended on their final shortlist.

Lesley Boland

Author photo Lesley Boland

Lesley has a Bachelor of Communications in Creative Writing from the University of Canberra. Her poetry, short stories and articles have been published in journals and anthologies, including Quadrant, Block, First, Burley, Winds of Change, and lip magazine. She is also an editor for Blemish Books, a Canberra-based small press. With Blemish Books she has edited three collections of poetry, three novellas and an anthology of fictocriticism. Her unpublished manuscript, The Lesser, was selected for the HARDCOPY2014 professional development program.

Jenni Curry

Author photo Jenni Curry
In her first year out of university, Jenni discovered she had spare time, which was usually spent writing (and was nothing to do with my psychology and nutrition qualifications). She went back to uni and completed a Masters of Creative Writing.

She has since been published in the Time to Write Anthology with the piece, ‘The Amazing the Magnificent and the Mundane’, and in Mud and Blood, September-October 2013, with her article, ‘In the Footsteps of Giants’. Her poem, I Take a Breath, will be published in the How Higher Education Feels annotated anthology in 2016.

Mary Lynn Mather

Author photo Mary Lynn Mather
Mary Lynn Mather has worked as a journalist, lectured in a newsroom, taught English as a second language, publicised festivals and overseen an art gallery. She began writing a PhD novel through the University of Adelaide in 2011. The process has entailed getting into the heads of a quartet of different people.

Mary Lynn loves to experiment with voices and play with narrative perspectives. When not trying to reconcile multiple points of view, she reads plenty of literary fiction. She was born in South Africa and now lives in Canberra with three men, two malamutes and a cat.

Steve Maloney

Author photo Steve Maloney
Steve Maloney has dabbled in short prose and poetry most of his life and started to write more sustained fiction in the last few years. Currently he’s writing the third in a historical fiction series set in Australia in the latter half of the 19th Century. Another in the series was shortlisted for the UK 2012 Impress Prize. He’s also grappling with a contemporary verse novella. Steve was a keen participant in the HARDCOPY2014 program.

Maura Pierlot

Author photo Maura Pierot
Maura is an author, playwright, part-time philosopher, former journalist, and full-time cynic. She is a Fulbright Scholar and has a PhD in philosophy, which sounds impressive at cocktail parties. Raised in the Bronx, Maura spent her Wonder Bread years in New Jersey. She is the author of several short stories, two plays and a young adult novel, some of which have been published/produced and garnered awards. She enjoys writing about identity, self, perception and memory. Lately, she has been thinking about her sliding doors moment in LA nearly 30 years ago when she ditched a possible career in comedy writing to come to Australia. In short, she’s confused. Writing helps.

Nore Hoogstad

Author photo Nore Hoogstad
Nore has a passion for words, stories and languages, and has always written. She is a former diplomat, political advisor, press secretary and strategic communications consultant.

At university, she studied creative writing with Gail Jones and afterwards published several short stories.

Her first novel, Gunfire Lullabies, tells the story of East Timor’s independence ballot. It is inspired by her experiences working there for the Australian Government and United Nations. Nore has begun two other novels.

Her qualifications include a Bachelor of Asian Studies and Master’s Degree in International Relations. She is fluent in Indonesian and speaks reasonable French. She lives in Sydney by the sea.

Sean Macgillicuddy

Sean Macgillicuddy lives in rural New South Wales with his family and other animals. He is an alumnus of the ACT Writers Centre HARDCOPY2014 program, and the excerpt is from his novel The Deep Shallow.

Tanya Davies

Tanya Davies is a Canberra-based writer. Her short stories have been published in various anthologies. Sarah’s Song, her self-published children’s novel, won the ACT Writing and Publishing Award 2013 (children’s category).

Christine McPaul

Author photo Christine McPaul
Christine McPaul is a Canberra writer whose crime fiction manuscript was selected for the ACT Writers Centre HARDCOPY2014 professional development program. She has been twice shortlisted for the ANUTECH Prize, has published academic articles about literature and women’s writing, and more recently, book reviews, and a biographical piece for the Australian Dictionary of Biography. Christine was awarded a PhD from the Literature and Theatre Studies Department of the Australian National University in 2009. She is a founding editor of the e-journal, Softcopy.

Christine tweets @christinemcpaul. She muses about writing, reading, and finding that illusive inspiration on her blog, Capable of Anything.

Ken Ward

Author photo Ken Ward looking like a lazy rock god
A writer. Fiction and music, mostly. A guitarist. “Hidden inside music are these beautiful patterns that manifest as triumphant noise.” A one-time band manager.

A gig promoter who’s always looking for something Neu. His second novel, Born Under Punches, was accepted into the HARDCOPY2014 professional development program. Tweets as @jofixi

Conan Elphicke

Author photo Conan Elphicke
Conan is a former freelance journalist and travel writer whose work has appeared in most major newspapers and magazines in Australia, and several overseas. His fiction has appeared in the University of New England magazine Social Alternatives and his appalling short play, Australian Faust, was produced at the Newtown Theatre, Sydney, in 2007.

His alter ego Sir Partridge Gormley currently contributes a valuable advice column to the blogazine, The Cringe. Conan is working on a diverting spy thriller called Hi Jack, and a series of children’s books. You can worship him on Twitter @ConanElphicke.

Elise Janes

Author photo Elise Janes
Elise won a place in HARDCOPY2014 with her novel, Vision, an adult dystopian thriller. She currently lives on an island in the Whitsundays, which she finds rather distracting. With a background in music and theatre she’s performed as a contemporary singer, classical violinist and band musician, and worked behind the scenes as a writer, director, conductor and teacher. Elise is a managing editor of The Cringe, an online literary journal to which she contributes regularly. Now completing the Vision trilogy she balances writing with eclectic pursuits, piña coladas, and long walks on the beach. Online at elisejanes.com & thecringeblog.com

Frances Chapman

Author photo Frances ChapmanFrances Chapman is a freelance writer and editor from Sydney. Her short fiction and essays have been published through the Rag and Bone Man Salon, Lip, Famous Reporter, Island, Ampersand, and Bread, Wine & Thou. She was a staff writer for Lip Magazine from 2011 to 2013 and has been an editor, features writer and reviewer for the online theatre magazine, Theatre People, since 2010. She has lived in London, Munich, Melbourne, and Hobart, and now lives in Sydney with her partner and one-year-old daughter.

Lynne DePeras

Author photo Lynn DePerasWhen Lynne, as a 14 year old, met a Polish refugee on a Perth train, she began to champion Poland. But it wasn’t till she obtained a BA in Literature and History, a Polish fiancé and later, a Polish husband, that she finally visited their country. There, in 2008, during the breakup of her marriage and in a shocked, vodka haze, she learned the reality of Polish loss and annihilation. Afterwards, she re-created her Polish myth in The Vodka Cure, her first novel. Apart from that she has been short-listed in four short story competitions. Her favourite authors are Margaret Atwood, Dostoyevsky and Patrick White.

George Dunford

Author photo George Dunford
George Dunford has written extensively for Lonely Planet including guidebooks and trade titles including Micronations and The Big Trip. His fiction has appeared in The Big Issue, Sleepers Almanac, Cordite and others. He has written essays for Meanjin, a regular column on language for The Big Issue as well as articles and interviews for The Age, Wanderlust and others.

His novel Breathing Backwards was part of the HARDCOPY2014 professional development program and he is an editor of Softcopy. Currently he is Director of Digital Engagement at the National Library of Australia and can be found on Twitter @hack_packer and through his website.