Category Archives: Write regardless!

A ‘gay dude’ defends his sandcastle

I ALMOST threw my mobile phone into the long grass last week, after a complete stranger dealt me an unexpected 10-minute takedown about a piece of journalism I wrote, while I was weeding the garden.

“I’m not having a go at you,” they kept insisting, before doing exactly that. The crux of their diatribe was that “gay dudes like you” don’t have the right to speak for anyone else in the rainbow community who isn’t a gay, cisgender male.

They asserted there was no thought or process in my article, that it was “throwaway”.

I explained it was one of the most considered pieces I’ve ever written.

They got upset, trying to articulate their pain at me referencing two lesbians included in my article, asserting that to write what I did I couldn’t know any.

Even though that’s very far from the truth, I stepped back a little and tried to guide them to a channel of complaint, or write a rebuttal to my piece.

They countered that there was no point in doing that, because I had an unfair media platform.

That got me upset. Any platform I have is extremely hard-won, since I have always battled the media and publishing world’s reticence to facilitate queer content; yet I have always written our stories and sought publication for them. Where none was offered, I did it myself.

With both of us hurting we were getting nowhere, yet decades of creative rejection means I understand what it feels like to have no voice.

But would I ever have made the effort to seek someone out who managed to get something published about the LGBTIQA+ community, and try tearing strips off them?


Whenever I have been in that state, I have always just kept writing.

Taking my own advice

I’d taken my time with this recent piece. It relates my direct experience, backed up by years of quiet research.

But being ready for a blindsiding naysayer is something I should have been better prepared for. The subject of enduring critics is one I have written about often.

So I took my own advice, and got through the angst in a few hours. Far better than the years I spent in a state of confusion about former friends who chipped away at my writing confidence.

The real gem in what I wrote then was about going back to source, to be sure that what we write is correct. Not all criticism is unjustified, after all.

So I did just that.

When I realised I wasn’t appropriating or misrepresenting anything, I went back to the weeding.

BUILD IT and they might try to knock it down

Small sandcastles

But I wondered why another member of the rainbow community would seek to push me off a platform it has taken me decades to build, particularly when it’s just a little sandcastle on a very crowded beach?

Judging by the the upset tone in this caller’s voice, the answer may be pain and trauma. I’ve been there, I know how it throws everything in our lives into a much sharper perspective.

Such a moment is what ignited my writing career in the first place, when I embarked on putting my perspective into the mainstream because it did not exist widely in books or media. I have been doing so ever since, and if a platform has formed beneath me, good.

Yet after this phone call, I needed perspective too, in this era when writers are increasingly expected to stick to our lane. Accusations of appropriation lie around every corner and they can really hurt.

I see this issue through an equal opportunity lens: until the traditional publishing industry is replete with cisgender gay authors telling our own stories, it’s not a great look for authors who are not us to be doing so.

But I am also not so anti-imagination that I believe authors cannot use empathy to create stories about lives other than our own. When we do, we must play very fair: inclusion without stereotyping, consultation, and an abundance of sensitivity.

So I am glad I asserted the right of this critic to pen their reply, no matter how small they believe their sandcastle to be.

Not just because we are both from the LGBTIQA+ community, but because writing outside our lanes is a sure fire way of making bigger sandcastles for all queer writers.

There’s plenty of sand. Get building.

The pudding’s in the proof: Tank Water spills onto the page

I RECENTLY EXPERIENCED a series of very sweet ‘just desserts’ while working on the final stages of releasing my first novel, Tank Water.

Proofreading is an art. It’s best done as part of a team, and a team is what I was treated to with the polishing of Tank Water, recruited by Anna Solding of MidnightSun Publishing .

The interior of our book was formatted by Zena Shapter. Like the cover designer Kim Lock, Zena is an author in her own right. So is MidnightSun’s editor Anna Solding. There is something rather wonderful about being part of a team of writers who know how to nurture a new book into life.

When I independently published my other books in 2015, I had plenty of assistance for the proofreading stage. Other writers, mainly, but I also learned to rely on my first readers. When you don’t need to print hundreds of copies due to the luxury of Print On Demand (POD) services, you can afford to capitalise on the first eyes that experience a limited run of your paperbacks.

Confronted with a series of gradually improving proofs of Tank Water to check over, I did what I always do when it comes to checking my own work: I read the whole thing a few times. No-one will ever read Tank Water more than me, which is as it should be. Over the years since the full manuscript was completed, I’ve consumed the whole thing so many times I have forgotten the number.

It had been around a year since I’d experienced my coming-of-age Outback Noir tale, a hiatus I took from the work in order to make the proofreading all the sweeter.

Finally, I did what I advise all authors to do at this stage: put the dogs out, turn the phone off, shut down social media, make copious cups of tea and read my work as though it’s the last time I’ll ever do so.

FONT FAVES: The opening page of Tank Water ready for readers

Proofreading surprises

How thrilling it was to see that Zena chose two of my favourite fonts: Garamond for the body copy, and Bradley Hand for the chapter headings.

Garamond is one of those classic serif typefaces borne of the invention of the printing press, more ‘open’ and rounded than Times and designed to suggest hand-written penmanship.

Bradley Hand emerged in the mid 1990s and is a font I have often chosen for publishing projects of my own. In Tank Water, it’s used to suggest protagonists James’s handwriting, since he’s a journalist attached to his notebook and unable to switch off from the task of recording his thoughts and reactions.

Seeing my chapters and the narrative arc that binds them together so beautifully laid out took my breath away. It feel surreal. Suddenly, internal processes that have taken a lifetime are set to burst into the consciousness of many other people.

I also came face-to-face with exactly what I’d created: a story that takes place in two time zones, with multiple inner thoughts from different characters. These required differentiation in the formatting, and Zena worked extremely quickly, efficiently and creatively to format these ideas on the page.

It rained all week, and I spent the whole time inside my very own tale.

TESTING THE WATER: My husband Richard and our newest pack member putting Tank Water through its paces

The husband test

Uncorrected proofs of Tank Water arrived by post soon after. In three dimensions, the publication has a wonderful, moody style to it which I immediately fell in love with. There’s plenty of Outback Noir out there right now, and we’re hitting a phase of this genre that deals reaches further into diverse territory than ever.

I always wanted the novel to be the type of book I would be drawn to on the shelf of a bookshop, to appeal to me visually. Having a stack of fully-fledged proofs in the house inspired by husband Richard to pick up a copy and begin reading; while I had the luxury of doing my final proofread with a paperback version to rest in my hand, not a computer screen.

All the hard work has paid off. Thanks to a team that includes professional proofreaders (who picked up several typos ans literals), Richard (who picked up two) and a good friend Jo (who picked up one that no-one else noticed), plenty of eyes have been on this publication, and it’s gone to press.

Richard’s biased, of course, but he couldn’t put Tank Water down!

Please preorder yours today, it’ll be out on October 1.

Surface ripples: Tank Water cover reveal

THE COVER OF my debut novel Tank Water is ready to share with the world!

Created by Kim Lock, lead designer of MidnightSun Publishing since 2013, this cover stood out from the group of samples I was sent, and didn’t need much tweaking at all.

Life-giving water captured in tanks comes from rainfall, so the approaching storm in Kim’s design is apt, but it’s also prescient. Facing it is a young person, who could be any one of several characters.

The railway causeway says everything about the rural decrepitude of the novel’s country setting. The person on it is walking into the storm, whereas flocks of birds are escaping in the other direction.

Yet there is hope in the light at the horizon… and the neon-strong pink should flag to those who know me that this work is like just about everything I write: bursting with messages of equality.

Tank Water will be published in October 2021 and is available for pre-order on Booktopia and Amazon.

Pre-ordering assists a book’s launch because pre-ordered purchases are counted in a title’s first week of sales, the strength of which can generate positive buzz about a book… so if you feel like buying your copies ahead of Tank Water’s release, you’ll be helping us!

My novel will also be available in bookshops nationally. Stockists will be able to order it in for you, if you’d like to support your local.

Soon, I’ll be releasing dates on a year-long book tour, with dates in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and more!

See you out there on the road. Meanwhile, thanks Kim (an author in her own right with a new book out this month), you really ‘got’ my story!