The Lady Novelist Contemplates the Bard

Will DuckspeareStratford Upon Avon. Birthplace of the Bard. The village where William Shakespeare’s relatively humble origins lead some to believe (rather snobbily, I think) that a fellow with a fairly ordinary education could not possibly have written plays which still resonated with audiences 400 years later (as though all, or even the best, education happens in schoolrooms).

After several trips to the UK I finally made it to this English town, wanting to pay my respects to a writer who has lasted so long in our minds and imaginations, and whose explorations of the complex state of being human still have us talking today.

My concerns that Stratford would turn out to be a kind of DisneyShakespeareland were mostly unfounded – Stratford Upon Avon is not wall-to-wall Elizabethan Fun Park, although the township is obviously proud of their famous son and their heritage. The houses that are related to Shakespeare’s life – the house in which he was born; the one in which his daughter and her husband, a doctor, lived, and more – are well preserved, well signed and have guides in period costume to explain elements of everyday Tudor life.

On one window of the upstairs bedroom of Shakespeare’s birthplace, names have been scratched into glass (that wouldn’t even have been there in Shakespeare’s time) – including that of Henry Irving, the great Shakespearean actor of the 19th century.  A picture of the panel in question is in the gallery below.

At Shakespeare’s birthplace, a roving performer even did soliloquies on request. He first delivered Richard III’s opening speech, but then he said he remembered Margaret’s speech, having once done the role, and he let me film it.

Of course shops abound, filled with Shakespearean tat (say hello to William Duckspeare, above) as well as higher quality souvenirs. But the architecure is genuinely interesting – especially to an Australian. All the Tudor-style stuff we see here is obviously fake, from the 1960s and 70s I think.

IMG_0770Among other things, I learned that the expression ‘sleep tight’ relates to the way mattresses once rested on a kind of rope sling, and that the ropes would have to be regularly tightened to make sure sleepers didn’t eventually sag onto the floor!

The Shakespeare Centre next to the house is wonderful too, full of art and audio and souvenirs-through-the-ages, including a display copy of a first folio open at the first page of The Tragedy of Richard III!

IMG_0823Naturally I took the opportunity to see the Royal Shakespeare Company in action! Their Henry V was excellent, with some new takes on familiar scenes. Henry addressing the troops was also addressing us, and when he pleads for assistance with his French in wooing the princess, I couldn’t help feeling that a Globe Theatre audience would have thrown some suggestions his way.

Visiting Shakespeare’s grave was a fascinating moment. Buried in Trinity Church, a pretty little place near the river, dear old Will continues to attract pilgrims. I’m not necessarily a keen tourist of Places Famous People Have Been, but there was something about sitting in a pew a little way down from his grave and the plea to leave his bones undisturbed that is carved into the stone that was quietly moving.


I suppose that we all want to be remembered somehow – and Will has managed that more effectively than most. The thing is, I don’t believe in an afterlife. I believe that any immortality we have, such as it is, is in our deeds. Our names may not be remembered at all, in fact, but the things we do, how we treated people, how we engaged with our world – those are things that have ripple effects, in ways large and small. Perhaps a word I speak today, or a sentence I write, will mean something to someone one day. Perhaps something in my actions or words will prompt someone to think in a new direction (hopefully a more positive one) and that slight change now will mean something to someone else down the line. I get feedback on my work sometimes that leads me to hope this is so, even in small ways.

And here lies a man whose wit, compassion, subtlety and poetry, expressed through his words, has meant a huge amount to generations of readers and audiences. His characters and stories have opened up minds to many different facets of being human – that villains can have their better moments; that heroes can be flawed. That we are all made up of multiple motivations, and perhaps that ‘nothing is either good nor bad, but thinking makes it so’.

So Vale, Mr Shakespeare. You taught me a lot about writing, about humanity, and theatre and even myself.

Thank you.


The Lady Novelist Enjoys an Outre Museum

IMG_0716Bury St Edmunds is a lovely little market town in Suffolk. Well, that’s one thing it is. It’s also a lot of other things. It’s the place where an Anglo Saxon hamlet stood, and where a monastery was established, and where, in the early 10th century, the remains of Edmund, King of East Anglia (martyred and sainted in the 9th century) were reinterred.

The monastery became and abbey, and the abbey became the excuse for the barons to make a pilgrimage to visit the sainted bones of Edmund, but really to nut out the basics of the Magna Carta (a treasonous act).

The town and the abbey did booming business until Henry VIII was having all that marriage trouble and did that whole reformation/tearing down abbeys thing. His daughter Mary went about burning Protestants here as well. And then things trundled on a bit, the way they do, and some murders were committed, and trials and executions had, some with odd footnotes, and then a science fiction convention was held.

IMG_0624So, our lovely little market town of Bury St Edmunds (the ‘Bury’ is a corruption of ‘borough’ – the town name is not a command) has a long and fascinating history – and nearly all of it is represented in some fashion or other in its marvellous (and sometimes very gruesome) Moyse’s Hall Museum.

IMG_0628To begin with, ground floor of this Norman-era building (so even the stones of this museum are soaked through with history) has remnant stonework and artefacts from the old abbey. They’re also displaying some art from the Wolf Trail (the miracles of Edmund that lead to the sainthood include a very helpful wolf) and a wolf skull.

Among its historical treasures is a broken sword from the nearby battle of Fornham in 1173. The silver inlaid inscription translates as ‘Be thou blessed’ on one side and ‘In the name of the Lord’ on the other.


IMG_0662Naturally, human nature being what it is, not all the mayhem and bloodshed is confined to the field of battle. Two displays from notorious murders are in the Hall’s Justice and Punishment section. The hall was for a time a police station, and among the displays are the mid-19th century truncheons issued to contstables for the exercise of their duties. The truncheons are decorated with arms and the crown demonstrating the officer’s authority – hence, one assumes (and certainly the signage does), the use of the verb ‘to crown’ meaning ‘to hit on the head’.

IMG_0711Rob Murrell, the knowledgable front of house person on the day, also showed me (once we’d fallen into animated conversation) grooves in the stonework that early policeman had worn in through sharpening their cutlasses (as the earliest river police carried) before a busy night of policing.

IMG_0639Most notoriously, the museum has on display a gibbet – that is, an iron cage, in which the bodies of the executed were displayed to dissuade more unsociable behaviour. The very gibbet was used for this purpose n 1794. One John Nichols and his son Nathan murdered Sarah Nichols – daughter and sister to the pair. Nathan’s fate was execution and dissection. John’s was execution and display in the gibbet. The gibbet was found in 1938, buried near the site of the murder, with his skeleton intact inside it.

And there it hangs at Moyse’s Hall Museum, looking like  a prop from a theatre restaurant. But it really, really isn’t.

But that’s not the most gruesome artefact. The other relates to the Red Barn Murder of 1827. William Corder was tried and hanged for the murder of Maria Marten, and his body was used for anatomical research: his skeleton was used to teach anatomy, his skull to advance research on that dodgy science of phrenology. But also, for reasons best known to himself, the dissecting doctor also tanned part of Corder’s scalp and skin, using the latter to bind a copy of the trial records. And these are also on display. (To tell the truth, this is the first thing I’d ever learned about this museum, from The Morbid Anatomy Anthology essay collection, and my prurient curiosity was the main reason I’d wanted to visit.) I’m not going to display pictures of body parts all unexpected here, but click the link to see the image here.

IMG_0645And thus we move trippingly along to displays of items of witchcraft, or to protect oneself from witchcraft (the region notoriosly burned a lot of ‘witches’.) Old shoes were buried inside walls a lot (sadly, along with cats, from time to time) to ward off evil spells. Most of the collection here was found inside one chimney. Along with many shoes, it includes a few mummified cats, some wands and a witch pot.

IMG_0668On the second floor is a display of the region’s proud military history, and the third has a beautiful clock room, filled with timepieces that tick-tock-tick, all on slightly different times, partly due to aging mechanisms affecting accuracy, and partly so that you get a chance to hear each particular tick and chime. It was a surprisingly soothing place to sit, feeling time measuring itself on in delicate ticks, chunky tocks, sudden chirpy songs of the quarter hours – providing a sense that time does not simply march on. Sometimes it skips and dances, sometimes it limps, but it sings to celebrate too. Time moves, and we with it, and it doesn’t have to be a dreadful thing.

There’s the added attraction that it feels like the Doctor is going to show up with his TARDIS at any moment!


IMG_0678One or two more random things appear as well – musical instruments among them. The strangest, and therefore my favourite, was called the Horse Head Violin, named for the shape of the scroll, but it is in fact made mainly of a cow skull, elements of it stoppered up to obtain the appropriate resonance.

IMG_0675I spoke with Ron Murrell about this extraordinary violin later – I would love to hear it played – and he told me of a conversation with a visitor who had been doing up her Georgian era house and its period music room. They’d taken up the flooring to deal with a water leak, and found the base floor spaces between the joists filled with cow skulls. It turns out this was quite a thing for getting good accoustics in those rooms. Ron mentioned that in the Tudor period, nuts and nutshells were used in flooring to deaden echoes from wooden floors as well.

Wandering past old pub signs, some portraits and various other elements of town history, I passed a video playing on a loop – narrated by a very familiar voice! No credits appeared, however, so before leaving I spoke to Ron (and this is how we ended up having our very long conversation) and asked – “Is that Paul Darrow doing the narration of your video for the Hall?”

“Why, yes!” said Ron (or something very like it but less like a character from a not-very-good play, “He was here one year for our regular science fiction convention. What a lovely man!”

(Darrow, for those who don’t know or don’t remember, played Kerr Avon in the British SF show, Blake’s Seven, 35-odd years ago).

It turns out that, along with poetry readings (Ron does some of those), ghost walks and history walks, Bury St Edmunds has a regular SF and action film exhibition and convention, for which they encourage cosplay! Past guests have included Dave Prowse (the man in the Darth Vader suit).

This year, the event – which goes from 24th October to 15th November 2015 – will include  a few Star Wars villains and some props from Star Trek, including a costume once worn by Leonard Nimoy.

It seems that Bury St Edmunds isn’t contented to be part of the past. It’s angling to be part of the future as well!


The Lady Novelist and Surprising London

IMG_0515One of the great joys for me being in London is not checking off things from a ‘must-do, must-see’ list: it’s simply wandering around the streets of this great city, preferably in the company of good friends who love this place as much as I do.

Yesterday was one such joyful day. London gave us one of it’s warm, sunny days – blue sky, a little humid but generally perfect for a meander. Fellow Improbable Presser, Wendy, and I met a delightful friend of hers at the National Theatre cafe for breakfast. (Here’s a London secret for you – the NT does a terrific breakfast and the coffee is pretty good). After a long chinwag with Alexina about feminism, rage, swearing and theatre, our friend Sara joined our table. Alexina had to be on her way, but the NT continued to be a happy meeting place and Wendy, Sara and I stayed on.

Eventually, having spent hours in happy, boisterous, passionate, ridiculous and earnest conversation in turn, the three of us left to walk through London.

London, like any great city, is full of the unexpected. Sometimes the surprises are small and subtle. Sometimes they’re grand and gobsmacking. Sometimes they’re just a fabulous melange of what-the-hellery that both puzzles and engages.

Well, that’s how the Dancing Bubble Sherlock Holmes struck us, anyway.

IMG_0492As we left the NT, one of us spotted a familiar figure in travelling coat and deerstalker hat at the embankment by the Thames. We also noticed glistening bubbles floating in profusion through the air. The three of us being enthusiastic Sherlockians, we naturally went closer to find the meaning of this Strange Affair.

We found a rather zen-like Holmes, impassive of expression yet graceful of motion, using a rope contraption to send cascades of bubbles into the air while he danced, a simple, elegant curve of motion. It was like he was trying to be as graceful as those huge rainbow-gilt bubbles he was sending to the sky.

Charmingly, he was surrounded by children, all squealing and running and trying to catch the bubbles. One baby boy smiled and laughed so hard he seemed about to float up into the air himself with the simple joy of it. Dancing Bubble Sherlock was sweet with the kids, making sure he let loose bubbles they could chase, without ever losing that self-contained serenity of his persona.

It was all very strange, and very beautiful, and very perfect.

IMG_0499We eventually dragged ourselves away from that seen of happiness, only to come across a small group of Morris Dancers, jingling away and inciting an audience member to kiss a prostrate dancer, for only the kiss of a virgin would save his life. A volunteer was handily found, and one he was revived, the rest of the troupe came over with a small case of Death, and had to be revived each in turn, so she gave each man a little peck and they jingled to their feet.

As we moved on, we kept encountering more and more Morris Dancers crossing the Millennium Bridge and converging on the embankment in front of the Thames. Some were in almost warlike face paint, though it was hard to feel threatened when they jingled merrily with every step. Of course, that didn’t stop me from hoping they were going to clash in a giant Morris Dancing Rumble, a fight to the finish to see who had the best bells and hankies.

We moved on, however, to cross the Millennium Bridge with the Tate at one end and St Paul’s at the other. But London had tiny wonders yet to reveal, and Wendy pointed down and said, ‘Look at these little pictures! I’ve seen the guy who does them lying on his stomach up here, painting them!’

So down we looked, and there they were, painted between the metal grooves of the bridge, these cartoony little pictures. Scattered all across the bridge – little buildings, odd machines, people, an insouciant frog reclining on the grooves, a yellow cat. Names and dates and bright, bright colours.

And it turns out, they’re all painted on the squished remains of discarded chewing gum by a man named Ben Wilson.

It’s really every bit as strange and wonderful as Dancing Bubble Sherlock or the Morris Dancer Thameside Dance-off.

So it seems that even when you are not that interested in the Changing of the Guard, you’ve already seen Hampton Court and the National Portrait Gallery holds no sway over you – London will give you unexpected history, wonders, strangeness and delight, even when you’re just taking the time to walk her streets and look.

The Lady Novelist Gets Bugs in Her Teeth

bug ice creamWhen I was a kid and my brothers and I were pestering Mum about what was for tea, she used to tell us: “Stewed bugs and onions!” to annoy us in turn.

Today in London, the bugs may not have been stewed, and came with ice cream instead of onions, but the fact remains. I ate bugs today. To be more specific, I ate mealworms, and bits of crickets, grasshoppers and buffalo worms.

What’s more, I did it on purpose.

IMG_0173I was walking to Blackfriars tube station, you see, and I a sign saying ‘free ice cream’ with the picture to the above right, and I remembered a show I’d seen (Time for Dinner, I think) and read a few articles about the future of feeding protein to a hungry planet might be found in edible insects. Fascinated. I went up the cart and had a chat with the guys who were encouraging people to take up subscriptions with The Economist, which had run a story about edible bugs in the past.

In fact, I learn that this isn’t the first time The Economist has pulled this stunt, enticing Londoners to eat ice cream chock full of protein and crickets.

Filled with the spirit of inquiry, I thought I’d try both flavours on offer today: Scurry  Berry (blueberry, raspberry and insect bits) and the Strawberries and Swirls (strawberry with cream and mealworm swirl).

bug ice cream 1

The hardest part of the exercise was the mental recoil – but I reminded myself that insects have been part of diets around the world for hundreds of years, and that the French eat snails, and that the insects used in this dish were doubtless grown especially for the purpose, and then I put a spoon of ice cream and mealworms in my mouth and had my reactions captured by the nice lady at the stall.

eating bugs

For starters, the ice cream was very nice – the berry one was particularly good – and the insects did not impart any flavour that I could detect at all.

What they did impart was texture. A slightly crunchy texture, in the case of the mealworms, a slightly gritty texture in the case of the bug bits. The latter made me think of the kind of bran/lecithin sprinkles Mum used to put on her cereal. Sort of like bran husks but with less flavour. I made me cough a bit, though whether that was from the bits that felt like they were sticking to my palate and tongue or just from the idea they they were getting stuck there, I don’t know.

The whole thing was weird – everything tasted fine, though the texture of the bits was odd, so the idea of it was more troublesome than the fact of it. I ate most of the samples I’d been given, trying to get used to the notion, and didn’t really succeed – but as a protein solution for a world with so many people and ever-decreasing food production space, it may be something people will have to get used to.

Good on The Economist for trying something new, challenging and interactive to promote its product.

I’ve bitten the bullet (or bull-ant) for you, so you don’t have to, so I guess if it makes you want to subscribe you can do that.

If it makes you want to go out and eat a bug for science and the future of human nourishment, do that too, and let me know how you go.

And the thing that struck me as funniest about the whole experience?

The realisation, after I’d eaten the bug ice cream, that I’m a vegetarian now and shouldn’t have been eating it at all.

Melbourne Literary: Word and Way

Melbourne’s City Council has been promoting laneway art projects for many years. In 2002, artist Evangelos Sakaris created Word and Way in Heffernan Lane, a small street linking the ‘Little Greece’ of Lonsdale Street to Little Bourke Street’s Chinatown.

Word and Way features quotes from Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu and Greek philosopher Heraclitus depicted as street signs.

The signs, affixed to bricks or jutting out from the walls, have become battered over the years but remain a fascinating excuse to pause and consider their meaning. Sayings like “I have searched myself” sit at the same height as shop signs and an advertisement for beer, while others sit side by side with real road signs.

Every time I walk past this little lane, I see the signs there. Some of them have weathered, and some have been spray-painted over, and therefore become part of the wider and more populist approach to street art and self-expression.

The koans and phrases still resonate for me though. It’s still a good excuse to stop in the middle of the busy city to ponder and contemplate aspects of life and how we approach it.

Sakaris has also created another text-based piece of art at the Speakers Corner in Birrarung Marr, the park beside the Yarra River.

A few years ago, I created the Melbourne Literary and Melbourne Peculiar apps in celebration of Melbourne’s standing as a UNESCO City of Literature, as well as some of the daggy, weird and downright peculiar things I love about my city. I thought I’d share the occasional entry from the apps. They are still available on both iTunes and Android, though they are no longer updated.

The Books of Love: Smoothie by Jane Elliot

Reviewed by Narrelle M Harris

The blurb…

smoothie-200-200x300Nothing much ever happens to Heather, until the day she’s innocently minding her own business when a bomb goes off – and she’s swept up into the kind of adventure that only happens to people on TV!

Thankfully she’s about as prepared and resourceful as a girl can be, because all of a sudden she’s in the middle of a road movie along with an extraordinary woman named Natalie and the two of them find themselves running for their lives into and out of a mess of complicated situations in which nobody is ever quite what he or she might appear to be.

The review…

Jane Elliot’s Heather George is a heroine I can relate to, at least on some levels. I’m not the only one, it seems, who has spent idle minutes (or hours) wondering how I’d cobble together weapons from household goods during the zombie apocalypse or, marginally more likely, how I would hide/arm myself/survive an assault from a disgruntled customer or employee while working at the bank or the public service. (Shut up.)

Heather is clever, funny and imaginative, though riven with social anxiety and plagued with doubt about her attractiveness. She is inexperienced in both love and sex, but she knows a hot gal when she sees one: and she sees one in Natalie, the woman who has kind-of car-napped her after a car bomb in Miami nearly kills them both.

Once caught in Natalie’s orbit, Heather is forced along for the ride, given that the people trying to kill Natalie are happy to take pot shots at both of them. Natalie does her best to protect the innocent-ish bystander, but Heather’s resourcefulness saves them just as often as Natalie’s street sense.

Elliot manages the sometimes difficult task of giving us Heather’s first person narrative, full of self doubt, while also making it clear that Natalie thinks Heather is pretty hot stuff – even if Heather mostly misses those signals.

Perhaps it’s inevitable that narrator Heather ends up a more fully realised personality than Natalie. Later characters are also colourful without really having Heather’s depth and the villains are lacking much detail at all – but these are issues mostly noticed after you’ve finished reading, because Smoothie keeps you tumbling along the fast-paced story too quickly to notice the lack.

It’s not a huge lack, though. Heather is great, the supporting cast are mostly huge fun, and Smoothie is a rollicking good adventure of a love story.

Buy Smoothie

Read the Quintette of Questions with Jane Elliot about Smoothie

The Books of Love are romance book reviews of both new releases and old favourites.

Review: The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death

nutshellI first saw Corinne May Botz’s book, The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in New York.  It is a collection of art photos taken of Frances Glessner Lee’s dollhouse recreations of murder scenes.

The dioramas were not merely macabre toys put together by a fan of true crime. Lee painstakingly created  the scenarios in the 1940s and 50s for a very serious purpose: training investigating police on the correct scientific methods of approaching crime scenes, observing all details which may bear on the case.

At the time, medical law was still very much a work in progress – murders often passed undetected or badly investigated. Frances Glessner Lee, a Chicago heiress, founded Harvard’s Department of Legal Medicine and built these gruesome displays of domestic murder, mishap and accidental death to train police in observation. The models are still in use today by the Baltimore Police.

IMG_9741An astonishing level of detail went into their creation. Lee sometimes wore clothes for a year past their effective use-by date so they’d have the correct wear for the tiny figures in their boxes. She ordered parts, she disassembled and reworked and reconstructed them. She had pieces made from scratch. There are tiny calendars and books (including The Sign of the Four), miniature tools and household implements, medically accurate colouring (bright red skin for victims of carbon monoxide poisoning) and domestic details recreated to scale. Many of the scenarios were based on real cases, altered and expanded slightly to fit their purpose as training materials.

IMG_9747The Studies taught generations of investigative officers how to keep their eyes open, to look for corroborating evidence and to seek out contradictory clues.

The Nutshell Studies – so named for the old saying that the role of forensics is to “convict the guilty, clear the innocent, and find the truth in a nutshell” – have multiple aspects to them.

IMG_9749There is the story of an intelligent, strong-willed woman who was denied a university education because that was not appropriate for women (according to her father) but forged a valuable role for herself anyway. There is the story of policing and detective work. There is a wealthy woman’s philanthropic role in promoting the ways in which the law and medicine interacted (in early years, coroners didn’t have to have medical expertise at all – some were elected to the position and were pretty much useless for the purpose of autopsies and crime solving). There is one photographer’s growing obsession with the dollhouses not only as social and investigative artefacts, but as artistic ones too.

Botz’s book is an artistic interpretation of the training tableaus, beginning with observations on Lee’s life and how it influenced her work in an artistic and social rather than strictly crime-solving sense. A biography of Lee criss-crosses the social, feminist, investigative and artisan elements of the work before the rest of the book highlights some of the studies.

IMG_9745The point of this book is not a whodunnit for the reader to solve – most of the scenarios remain unexplained because they’re still in use – but the biography and the photographs together provide an insight for the crime writer, as well as the reader who is fascinated by the strange and macabre and by the history of detective work.

They are also strangely, brutally beautiful in the way they capture the hard lives and everyday tragedy of death, and the remarkable detail that went into making them.

I can’t help thinking that Sherlock Holmes would approve of them.

Buy The Nutshell Studies from

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Quintette of Questions: Jane Elliot

Quintette asks writers five quick questions. This week’s interview is with:

Jane Elliot

smoothie-200-200x3001. What’s the name of your latest story – and how hard was it to pick a title?

My latest book is called Smoothie, and it was actually my easiest title ever!  Usually I worry and fret about titles, but one of my favorite parts about Smoothie was the idea that something small — like going out for a frozen treat — could have life-changing consequences.  I wanted my title to reflect that idea.

2. If you could choose anyone from any time period, who would you cast as the leads in your latest story?

Melissa McCarthy for Heather, no question.  Natalie’s a bit tougher — I can’t decide between Zoie Palmer of today or Linda Hamilton post-Terminator 1 and pre-Terminator 2.  Maybe a combination of the two?

3. What five words best describe your story?

Adventure, personal growth, comedy, romance

4. Who is your favourite fictional couple?

At the moment it’s Phryne Fisher and Jack Robinson from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.  I love the respect between them, despite their different backgrounds and social class, and I love the slow build of their romance as Jack adjusts to the idea that he’s in love with a “modern woman” of the 1920s.  (Fingers crossed that there will be a season 4 – I want to see how Phryne deals with the concept of *shudder* monogamy!)

 5. What song has had the most impact on your life?

I’ve never been particularly musically inclined, and didn’t own a single piece of music until I was nearly in high school.  Then I heard R.E.M.’s Losing My Religion and my entire understanding of music changed.  I’ve built a very eclectic music collection since then and listen to a wide variety of bands, but I still get a thrill every time I hear Losing My Religion.

About Smoothie

Nothing much ever happens to Heather, until the day she’s innocently minding her own business when a bomb goes off – and she’s swept up into the kind of adventure that only happens to people on TV!

Thankfully she’s about as prepared and resourceful as a girl can be, because all of a sudden she’s in the middle of a road movie along with an extraordinary woman named Natalie and the two of them find themselves running for their lives into and out of a mess of complicated situations in which nobody is ever quite what he or she might appear to be.

About Jane Elliot

avatarJane Elliot has been writing novels, short stories, and screenplays for over twenty years. She believes that fiction can help promote understanding and acceptance of alternative and marginalized societal groups and most of her writing is focused on relationships, be they platonic or romantic, between individuals from all walks of life.

Buy Smoothie

Smoothie (

Melbourne Literary: Secret Message in Centreway Arcade

IMG_0919The Centreway Building was built in 1911-1912 and refurbished in the 1980s. During the latter work, a designer with a keen sense of irony installed a feature wall in the middle of the arcade.

A grid pattern on the wall is affixed with numerous letters (if you climb up to the first floor you can see them more clearly). Although hard to read, the letters spell out the following message:

“We live in a society that sets an inordinate value on consumer goods and services.”

It’s an intriguingly non-consumerist message for a shopping arcade. Nice work from the refurbishment architects, Cocks Carmichael and Whitford! (The original buildings architects, from the 1911-12 construction, were HW + FB Tompkins.)

For the font nerds among us, the message is in uppercase Helvetica.

A few years ago, I created the Melbourne Literary and Melbourne Peculiar apps in celebration of Melbourne’s standing as a UNESCO City of Literature, as well as some of the daggy, weird and downright peculiar things I love about my city. I thought I’d share the occasional entry from the apps. They are still available on both iTunes and Android, though they are no longer updated.

Quintette of Questions: AB Gayle

Quintette asks writers five quick questions. This week’s interview is with:

AB Gayle

TKJFF_Composite_1000x15951. What’s the name of your latest story – and how hard was it to pick a title?

Tyler Knoll:  Originally it was titled Just for Fun as that’s why it was written, but no one wanted to read it because they’d never heard of an author by that name.

A.B. Gayle: For good reason! You didn’t exist before then!

Tyler Knoll: See what I have to put up with?!?! And she uses nearly as many exclamation marks as I do! Well, anyway, this nice lady, Lily Velden, from Wayward Ink Publishing read it and decided it was funny and worth sharing with the world — or with Ms A.B. Gayle’s friends at least.

A.B. Gayle: You have to admit that’s at least more than your circle of friends. How many have you got now? Rupert isn’t talking to you. Robert is convinced you’re after his job, and Gareth…

Tyler Knoll: Shhh. Please don’t use the G word. It’s banned at our place.

A.B. Gayle: Exactly! You need me even if you don’t want to admit it.

2. If you could choose anyone from any time period, who would you cast as the leads in your latest story?

Tyler Knoll: I think you can tell from the video that I’m perfect for the part. As for the plethora of G… (Oops, nearly used the G word myself)

A.B. Gayle: Guys you fuck?

Tyler Knoll: Please, that’s just tacky. I prefer to think of them as stepping stones on my path to discovering my one true love.

A.B. Gayle: Ooh, you used the “L” word!

Tyler Knoll: Hey, you’re the one who said no one would read it, if it didn’t have a happy monogamous ending!

A.B. Gayle: I said that was one of the reasons no one would like it. Big difference.

Tyler Knoll: Now, who’s being snarky? But to answer this nice lady’s question. There are three photos of one of the actors who would be perfect in the video trailer, and another is mentioned explicitly in the book, but you have to read the book and look at the trailer to work out who is who. Doing otherwise would be a massive SPOILER. Here, check out the Just for Fun trailer.

As for the guy I end up with? That I will leave to your imagination. He’s shy.

3. What five words best describe your story?

Tyler Knoll: Fun! Happy! Amusing! Witty! Entertaining!

A.B. Gayle: Humph. I would have used Unlikely porn. Preposterous plot. Far-fetched fantasy. Poorly written BDSM and corny romance

Tyler Knoll: Whose fault is that?

A.B. Gayle: Good point. Doesn’t mean I’m wrong

Tyler Knoll: Anyway you used thirteen words, or does a hyphenated word count as one?

A.B. Gayle: Sigh. Have I mentioned lately that you give me a headache?

Tyler Knoll: Ha, ha. To quote a character who shall remain nameless. I am what you take for a headache!

4. Who is your favourite fictional couple? 

A.B. Gayle: Ben and Nik from John Wiltshire’s “More Heat than the Sun” series

Tyler Knoll: (Silence)

A.B. Gayle: What? Is that a pout I see? Read the question, she said “favourite Fictional” character. I can’t use you two!

 5. What song always makes you cry?

A.B. Gayle: Take Me to Church by Hozier makes me cry, particularly if accompanied by the original video.

Once I realised what was going to happen, I had to stop watching. I prefer watching this one.

Tyler Knoll: For once we are in agreement! Thankfully, now in the United States we can get the gold ring, picket fence and two and a half dogs statistically speaking (otherwise known as the GRPFATAAHDSS!)

About Tyler Knoll’s Just For Fun 

Tyler Knoll was born one wild, stormy night in April 2013.

Of course, Tyler might tell you he was born twenty years earlier, but should we believe anything he says? That’s for you to decide.

In Tyler’s first adventure—like many a gay man before him—he was SNARED by gay porn, wallowing in tales of bigger, stronger, harder….

Then his fickle mind was seduced and SHREDDED by the prospect of BDSM and slavery.

When a Big Misunderstanding SLASHED at Tyler’s sanity, almost costing him his life, he turned to another genre for his salvation. But even this encounter proved potentially hazardous—not from freezing temperatures, but at the hands of irate fans.

Finally, tired and SCREWED by all his trials and tribulations, he discovers—like many storybook heroes before him—that sometimes Mr. Right is closer than we think.

About AB Gayle

2006-10-01 20.11.55-3Unlike many authors, A.B. Gayle hasn’t been writing stories all her life. Instead she’s been living life.

Her travels have taken her from the fjords of Norway to the southern tip of New Zealand. In between, she’s worked in so many different towns she’s lost count. A.B. has shoveled shit in cow yards, mustered sheep, been polite to customers, traded insults with politicians. Sometimes she needs to be forgiven as she get confused as to who needs what where. 

Now living in Sydney, Australia, A.B. finally has time to allow her real life experiences to morph with her fertile imagination in order to create fiction that she hopes her readers will enjoy. 

Best known for her Opposites Attract series, A.B. values feedback on her writing, both negative and positive.

Buy Tyler Knoll’s Just For Fun


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