January 1

Books I read in 2016

  1. Tea with the Black Dragon by RA Asher
  2. Kaleidoscope (short story collection) edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios
  3. These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
  4. This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
  5. Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
  6. Tea: The drink that changed the world by Laura C Martin
  7. Mind Games by Teri Terry
  8. All the Tea in China by Wang Jian
  9. The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Amberlin Kwaymullina
  10. Captive Prince by CS PacatCaptive Prince by CS Pacat
  11. Prince’s Gambit by CS Pacat
  12. Kings Rising by CS Pacat
  13. Captive Prince by CS Pacat (reread)
  14. Prince’s Gambit by CS Pacat (reread)
  15. Kings Rising by CS Pacat (reread)
  16. A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty (reread)
  17. Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty (reread)
  18. A Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty
  19. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  20. Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
  21. Welcome to Orphancorp by Marlee Jane Ward
  22. Enamoured by Shannon Curtis
  23. Framed and Hung by Alexis Fleming
  24. The Paper House by Anna Spargo-Ryan
  25. Secret Reflection by Jennifer Brassel
  26. White Tiger by Kylie Chan
  27. Red Phoenix by Kylie Chan
  28. Blue Dragon by Kylie Chan
  29. Earth to Hell by Kylie Chan
  30. Hell to Heaven by Kylie Chan
  31. Heaven to Wudang by Kylie Chan
  32. Dark Serpent by Kylie Chan
  33. Demon Child by Kylie Chan
  34. Black Jade by Kylie Chan
  35. The Beach by Alex Garland (reread)
  36. Formaldehyde by Jane Rawson
  37. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
  38. A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists by Jane Rawson
  39. The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
  40. Freedom Swimmer by Wai Chim
  41. The Feel-Good Hit of the Year by Liam Pieper
  42. The Toymaker by Liam Pieper
  43. The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke
  44. Sabriel by Garth Nix (reread)
  45. Lirael by Garth Nix (reread)
  46. Abhorsen by Garth Nix (reread)
  47. Goldenhand by Garth Nix
  48. The Island will Sink by Briohny Doyle
  49. Portable Curiosities (short story collection) by Julie Koh
  50. The Last Unicorn + Two Hearts by Peter S Beagle
  51. Smalls Acts of Disappearance by Fiona Wright
  52. Dress, Memory by Lorelei Vashti
  53. The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery
  54. Delta of Venus by Anais Nin

Once again series dominated my reading, particularly fantasy, and my non-fiction reading was largely confined to memoir and tea books. I noticed a lot more sexy reading than previous years (though a conscious effort to read outside my usual genres did result in finishing three not-great romance novellas) but also an increase in offbeat fiction by Jane Rawson, Marlee Jane Ward, Julie Koh and Briohny Doyle.

A surprise hit for me was CS Pacat’s Captive Prince trilogy, which was not just a page-turning queer action/adventure/romance series but written with precision and panache, an artfully constructed plot without sacrificing character development. Yes, you read my list correctly: I read it twice in a row.

This year I have a mixed genre pile I aim to get through in the next few months (comprising authors from Kate Tempest and Cory Doctorow to Matthew Reilly and Annabel Crabb) before starting a rereading project of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. I’m heading to Finland for the World Science Fiction Convention in Helsinki this August too, so no doubt there’ll be a Hugo list to tackle in the weeks leading up to the ballot.

If you want my take on any of the above, hit me up in the comments or on Twitter (@witmol).

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August 10

You never lose it

A long time ago in another life I was a finalist for a fairly prestigious writing award, the Sydney Morning Herald Young Writer of the Year. It was 1997 and I had already had a good year, having come second in a Baulkham Hills Shire poetry competition.

Fancying myself a wordsmith, I had entered the SMH comp before but that year was determined to try for an encouragement award (one step up from a ‘participation’ award, I was assured). I submitted a piece I had written for class, though I’d worked on it a little more to refine it and promptly forgot about it in the buzz of year 11 exams.

I don’t remember how I was notified, exactly. I’m assuming my diary at the time captured the moment, but suddenly I was one of 15 finalists in the state invited to lunch for the announcement of the award. You would have figured out by now that I didn’t win but it truly didn’t matter as I had already overshot my objective to achieve an encouragement award.

(Incidentally, I met the winner Mark Bolotin several years later at a private creative open mic night called Magical Theatre held in a garage in Glebe, in Sydney’s inner west. It was the same platform that launched the indie band Richard in Your Mind. The world works in mysterious ways.)

Later that year I also took out my school’s inaugural senior creative writing award and the next year, won the senior poetry competition.

It was a couple of years later, in second year uni, when I realised that I hadn’t finished anything of quality for some time. I had a conversation with my friend, a fellow student called Justin Green (who I thought I was in love with at the time and who was the subject of much average poetry). He knew how I felt – he had been a finalist for the SMH comp in the year before I’d been – but he told me something important: “You never lose it.”

I had my annual review at work today. Four years I’ve been employed at this company. Four years in which I haven’t finished anything of quality. But I went to writing group this evening armed with a few hundred words that I’d bashed out between 5.30 and 6pm and those words were accepted. They could be worked, they could be teased into shape, according to my fellow writers (one is a Varuna scholar, she would know!). So I have faith that I will never lose it, but it’s almost like I have to set it free, let it run rampant.

On the way home I considered how many words I have typed, how many words I have had published in the years since 1997. I’m a decent magazine journo and freelancer and I’ve carved a small niche for myself in the business and project management space. All this serves someone else.

I blog and I tweet (and every night I write a longhand debrief of my day). All this has taught me is to become accustomed to writing what I feel. I want to stop this. I want to stop writing what I feel and restart writing what I imagine. Only then will I know that I haven’t lost it.

(P.S: I wrote this blog post instead of working on the second draft of my novel or the new 3,000 short story I have in the works. I do recognise the irony.)

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March 8

The Zuman Race

I went to Taronga Zoo today. I don’t generally make a habit of going when it’s a) a weekend; or b) sunny because then there are likely to be people around and I wouldn’t want that, would I? However, as I’d bought a yearly pass (which expires at the end of this month) and hadn’t used it at all, I thought I’d go at least once so I didn’t feel as if I’d wasted $80 (or whatever it is now… I forget). I may even be able to squeeze in another visit during the Easter break. I found out that the entrance fee has gone up to a phenomenal $37 for an adult, which is $10 more than it was five years ago so I may only need to visit one more time to get close to what I paid.

Anyway, part of the reason I went is because I have writer’s block. I have so many ideas running around in my head on things to write that not only am I not writing any of them, I’m not furthering the most important project ie my novel. Going to the zoo, I believed, would be a great idea because sitting on the lawn in front of the aviary of my South American friends, the Andean condors, has yielded quite a lot in the past. Besides, I thought the concept of captivity would rub off nicely to aid my novel.

Instead, I managed to think of two solid plots for short stories and an ephemeral one for a novel. Sigh. And I took lots of photos. Here are a few of my favourites:

Zebra

Meerkat acting as a sentinel

Giraffes in a row

Dingo contemplating a nap

As you can see, I like when animals look pensive. I would also like to note that it is the first time I’ve ever seen the Clouded Leopard at Taronga. Every time prior to this, the enclosure has either been empty or I couldn’t find the beast. It’s a lot smaller than I thought (no pics, sorry), about the size of a medium dog, but very prettily patterned.

On the way home I remembered to buy laundry liquid but forgot to buy myself a Creme Egg.

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