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News!

Stefan Raicu's novel When Pigeons Fly to Nowhere was critically assessed at Manuscripts Online; the author used the feedback to improve the novel, which went on to be published by Brolga Publishing in 2011. Stefan has written a new novel (copyedited at Manuscripts Online), called The Things Men Do, which has just been published (October 2013), also by Brolga (http://www.brolgapublishing.com.au). This new novel is humorous and energetic. Congratulations, Stefan!

Penny Tangey's novel, Loving Richard Feynman, was positively assessed at Manuscripts Online and has gone on to be published by UQP Press and shortlisted for the 2010 Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Older Readers and the 2009 Western Australian Premier's Book Awards, and longlisted for a 2010 Gold Inky Award. To find out more, visit Penny's website http://www.pennytangey.com.au/

The Manuscripts Online assessor remarked of the novel: There is much to like in 'Loving Richard Feynman', especially the many instances of humour in the observations of the main character, Catherine, who writes (in diary form) letters to a dead Nobel Prize winning physicist and cultural icon whom she admires. The style of writing is often pleasing and the author demonstrates excellent language skills. The voice of Catherine is strong, as is her characterization. The inclusion of the many sardonic, amusing asides is most enjoyable.

Jill Henderson's manuscript The Celtic Dagger came runner-up in the NSW Writers Centre/New Holland Publishers Genre Fiction Award and was published by New Holland Publishers in October 2010, under the name Jill Paterson. For details see below.

Tracy Crisp's manuscript Small Smiles and Fingernails has been published by Wakefield Press, under the title Black Dust Dancing. For details see below.

Rod Reeve's manuscript Hot-Spotting is published. For details see below.

Manuscripts

Author
Olivia Nelson
Contact
Olivianelson[at]aapt[dot]net[dot]au
Manuscript title
'Dancing with Zorba'
Genre
Travel novel/'misery memoir'
Author's description of the work
An upmarket English Travel Agency, based in central London employs a number of young women to host their holiday villa in Greece. Most of the selected girls are graduates of a leading cooking school for well-bred young ladies. By word of mouth, two Australian women in their late thirties are also recruited to host elegant London tourists enjoying their annual holidays. Both Australians are hiding painful pasts. The story unfolds from May to September, one summer season during the sexually permissive early eighties. Daily events at the villa include cordon bleu cooking with gas bottles, comical mishaps, plumbing problems, language misinterpretations, impossible love affairs, endless social mistakes and inevitable cultural clashes with the locals. High and lowlights include a village wedding, an honour killing, a doomed romance and a harrowing drama of Greek proportions. The story descends into horror and farce as the dark underbelly of Greek life is exposed and the women flee home in distress. Haunted by nightmares and unable to forget this incredible summer, the Australian narrator is driven to return.
Brief comment from the assessor
The standout feature of 'Dancing with Zorba' is the author's ability to flavour the pages with keen observations that reveal the minutiae of life in a Greek village. The reader is invited to eavesdrop on delicious cous-cous - gossip - where curses are constantly hurled or warded off with kissed thumbs, food and wine are relished and lives are dissected, examined, interpreted. In its ability to evoke a sense of place, it is reminiscent of Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex. Many of the characters are engaging and the manuscript shows plenty of strong writing and excellent descriptions, especially in the central drama.

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Author
Sarah Salmon
Contact
sarah [at] sharpsalmon [dot] com
Manuscript title
'The Whole Nine Yards'
Genre
Travel memoir
Author's description of the work
Landing in India for the first time with her husband for his two-year work posting, Sarah Salmon, an Australian in her late twenties, is thrown into a new life of uncharted territory in the fast developing city of Bangalore. In awe of the colourful culture of a weird and wonderful country Sarah welcomes the adventure with open arms, finding humour in the nation's idiosyncrasies, and fascination with its eunuchs and other mind-boggling traditions. At the same time, Sarah grapples with despair at the ever present poverty and the many troubling issues of the down-trodden Indian woman, age-old prejudices prevailing in stark contrast to the modernised IT city she now calls home. Frustrated with cultural double standards and the challenges of setting up her own business, Sarah juggles awe and acceptance with cynicism and pessimism, wondering if she'll ever become suitably Indianised.
Brief comment from the assessor
The author starts up a business, clashing with the very different and challenging ways that India goes about life. The author's writing strength is observation: "A man puts out his hand to offer the elephant a handful of nuts, which are promptly scooped up, and as a sign of gratitude the animal raises his trunk to lightly touch the man on his forehead". There are sharp, rich, original descriptions on every page, and flashes of humour and sensitivity, naturally reminiscent of Sarah MacDonald's Holy Cow. The author is obviously fascinated by India and has a questioning mind, and doesn't hold back on her critical views of the culture: "There is criminally little sex education in Indian schools, the Minister for primary and secondary education in Bangalore strongly against introduction of the subject in schools. Quoted in the newspaper saying school-going children are too young to contract AIDS and therefore sex education is not necessary, 'It will unnecessarily affect their tender minds', he is not the only one to hold this view, the proposal to impart sex education seen by others in India as a conspiracy by Western countries against Indian culture and tradition to spoil Indian children. When Indian tennis star Sania Mirza dares to speak out about safe sex publicly she is attacked by political organisations. It's another issue altogether when she is berated for immodestly showing too much leg on the court, a purportedly corrupting influence on young women." The memoir also charts the author's moods like a diary as she becomes increasingly frustrated by India's challenges and differences: "It is both daunting and overwhelming, yet thrilling and astonishing, and although I am often irritated by its unpredictable exhausting freneticism, characteristics so opposite from my own organised and structured ways, I am also fascinated by its differences and anomalies, forcing me to question everyone and everything around me, re-evaluate my priorities, change my outlook, and adapt. I am cynical, while India lives on superstitions and traditions. I am predictable, and India is full of the unexpected. I am straightforward, but India deals constant setbacks and obstructions. I am private; India offers no seclusion, peace or quiet. India is chaos in my otherwise ordered life."
From the manuscript...
     But most fascinating are a couple of men dressed in saris with garish make-up and long hair. I have read about eunuchs, but I have never seen one in the flesh. Also known as hijras, the term means neither male nor female. These two are approaching shopkeepers for money, a form of extortion. They are known to attend celebrations such as births, deaths and marriages, demanding money with the threat of creating a shocking scene if not paid, lifting their skirts to show their castrated genitals. People simply pay to appease, to get rid of them and their curse, although I have heard that the poor and backward classes actually welcome them as a sign of good luck.
     I'm not sure how many legitimate eunuchs there are these days compared to transvestites or zenanas, men dressing as women to make a living. I can only assume there is a mix of both, along with a proportion of hermaphrodites, one in a thousand infants born with deformed or no genitals. The other question that remains is how many eunuchs become so voluntarily. A UN commission report alleges that close to half a million children in India and Pakistan have been kidnapped and castrated against their wills, inducted into the eunuch society, kept by threats and fear, too young and too scared and socially shamed after castration to return to a normal life.
     No doubt other circumstances are less foreboding, pre-pubescent boys with underdeveloped sexual organs joining the hijras with little persuasion required, as they would have no place in normal society, the eunuchs staking claim to any child whose gender is ambiguous. Perhaps this is the same case for homosexuals who are easily lured into a community that is more accepting, but I can only conclude this would be the case for those from very low class backgrounds, hijras the lowest in terms of social acceptance. There are harrowing reports of people out of absolute hunger selling their sons to the eunuchs.
     The history and culture of hijras is fascinating. Originally employed as servants of the Mogul rulers, they posed no intimidation because of their unique gender, entrusted to royal households and their harems, but these days they are treated with contempt and abhorrence, outcasts who operate in territories using their intelligence system to track down weddings or births. People give them information out of fear. They turn up uninvited. They dance seductively. They sing in their out-of-tune husky voices. They shriek obscenities. They make lewd gestures, and when they are paid a satisfying amount they leave. Others adopt the fitting profession of debt collection agents.
     Eunuchs excluded, Ben and I share first impressions of our new city over dinner at an Indian restaurant. Ben likens it to Wagga Wagga in Australia.


Author
Jamie Doyle
Contact
kay23os [at] hotmail [dot] com
Manuscript title
'End of Time'
Genre
Sci-fi/adventure
Author's description of the work
End of Time is a science-fiction / adventure story set in Jerusalem and Southern Oman, following Atreus, his wife and his identical twin brother as they uncover the Biblical union of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba and their mysterious link to an ancient, alien civilisation. The plot and characters are all fictional, but the geographical and historical settings are factual. Many of the plot-linking elements are also considered to be currently accepted theories. My reasons for writing End of Time are a relentless love for adventure stories and a keen interest in both Biblical archaeology and the Middle East region in general. Living here has further fuelled these fascinations and provided added impetus to get in and write this manuscript.
Brief comment from the assessor
The manuscript features a brash, highly intelligent, wealthy, adventure-prone hero, Atreus Knight, who is buttonholed by a one-million-year-old alien named Griffin who persuades him to embark on a quest to rediscover the 'two keys to time' and thereby prevent the Earth being destroyed by Griffin's enemy, a 'psychopathic alien commander'. The quest pits Atreus against his arch enemy, Lord Amherst, and the ancient order of the Freemasons, who want the keys for themselves. It turns out that Griffin too has evil designs to reclaim the keys to time for himself, travel backwards to prehistory and wipe out humanity's evolutionary ancestors and prevent us from becoming a threat to his alien race's presumed superiority. On the brink of defeat, Atreus fights back to disarm Lord Amherst and his cronies and eventually plunges himself head-long into a direct confrontation with Griffin to save humanity. The sci-fi/Indiana Jones mix might be a long shot for publishers, but at its best the manuscript is energetic, fun-filled, and nicely satirical and its descriptions of places are plausible and satisfying.
From the manuscript...
     Atreus lowered his gaze to his folded hands. The proposition no longer sounded like a request; it sounded like a plea for help, and for good reason. This psychopathic commander had to be thwarted. Primal genocide! What a nasty concept. Atreus had to admit though, despite the obvious danger of being hunted by an alien megalomaniac, the request greatly appealed to him.
     How could he refuse an opportunity to recover ancient artefacts from beneath an equally ancient land and then unlock one of the universe's greatest mysteries — time travel? He could then use this power to transgress the boundaries of time and personally witness the history of humankind and life on Earth in general. The opportunity overwhelmed him. It was incredible! It was unthinkable! It was surely impossible? — What the hell was he thinking? Aliens? Time travel? Get a grip, Atreus! Shaking his head, he cleared his mind and readdressed the vague figure seated in the chair across the table.
     'Look, Griffin. You can spin one hell of a yarn, I'll give you that and you'd make a great science-fiction novelist, but there's no way I can buy what you're telling me. First, you say a black hole consumed your planet? Fine. That's within the realms of scientific possibility. Second, you say you're a one-million-year-old, immortal alien? Thin, but I'll give it to you, only because of your invisible evening wear. Third, you claim you can travel through time, or at least you could before you lost your keys? Starting to get a bit shaky now, but again it's scientifically possible so I'll let you off. Fourth, Utopian cities of pure energy? Really starting to struggle now. Not even Ron L. Hubbard clued into this one. It's a ripper, don't get me wrong, but I'm not going for it. And then last of all, you need me to find two magical keys to time travel so you can save the human race from premature extinction? Well, that's pushing it just a bit too far. That one's so far out there you'd need some good drugs and a hard-core Star Wars convention to dream it up.'
     'I can appreciate your doubts in this matter,' Griffin replied, 'considering your race's relatively primitive stage of technological advancement. All of my claims must seem too incredible to be true. So, in deference to your incomprehension, what can I possibly offer to convince you of the validity of my claims?'
     Atreus mulled over the challenge, wondering what form of evidence could possibly swing his thoughts to belief. What on earth could force him to accept that aliens and time travel were real and that he now stood on the verge of unimaginable knowledge? What on earth could Griffin show him? What on earth indeed? And then he had it. Atreus produced a wide grin. 'There is one thing you can show me,' he said.
     'And what would that be?' Griffin asked.
     Atreus leaned forward and peered through the low lamp-light towards his extraterrestrial intruder, his eyes glimmering. 'Show me your spaceship.'

Author
Paul Wood
Contact
woodp [at] dodo [dot] com [dot] au
Manuscript title
'Braybrook'
Genre
Crime novel
Author's description of the work
Braybrook is a work of adult crime fiction, and I have drawn on my experiences as a former member of both the Australian Federal Police and the Victoria Police in the writing of it, and have endeavoured to capture both the humorous and tragic sides of policing Australian streets. Set in Melbourne, the story is told in the first person through the main character, a young trainee constable, Chris Denning. Constable Denning finds himself under the supervision of the legendary Sergeant Brian 'Bull' Murray. An epidemic of armed robberies has beset the Braybrook district. As the pair proceed to investigate the crimes, Denning finds himself increasingly drawn into the mire of police corruption, and suspects Bull Murray is the master behind both it and the robberies.
Brief comment from the assessor
I would describe Braybrook as a novel about police corruption, rather than a crime novel. The author's first-hand knowledge of the daily workings of a suburban police station, the tasks of a young trainee constable, and the scope that exists for policemen and women to become corrupt could make Braybrook a very interesting read. There are number of entertaining scenes, including the one where Chris Denning gets into a muddle with the switchboard. The section beginning 'My first crisis. "Please hold the line sir," I said as calmly as I could' down to Denning not realising that he has cut in on his boss's call is amusingly written. The naked traffic controller is very funny too! —

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Author
Patrick Fletcher
Contact
submissions [at] manuscriptsonline [dot] com [dot] au
Manuscript title
'Shadow on the Sun'
Genre
literary novel
Author's description of the work
The story begins with the childhood of Greta Kidman. Greta grows up on small farm in the Monaro region of New South Wales. Her childhood is recounted in a spare, episodic, impressionistic style — the death of her mother, the withdrawal of her father, her relationship with her grandparents, the move to a country town, allusions to the Aboriginals and the presence of the Chinese. Greta begins to encounter and understand adult ways, the things done, the things left unsaid. The story then moves to the present. Greta is a woman in her early forties. She's just back from London where she fled following the failure of her marriage. Greta is slowly reconciling her inner compulsions with a more outgoing approach to life. This is evident when she's back in Canberra and contending with her former sister-in-law Prue Arnold, a diplomat, and Prue's son, Angus. In the main part of the novel, Greta and Angus travel to the Kimberley region of northern Western Australia to join Prue who is attending an Aboriginal seminar at Fitzroy Crossing. Things go wrong when Prue's colleague Hal McNair goes missing. Greta joins forces with Teddy Kaiser, an Aboriginal powerbroker, in the search to find Hal. The landscape features strongly as Greta encounters life in an Aboriginal community and the zealotry of American missionaries. She becomes involved in helping an Iraqi asylum seeker escape the authorities. This adventure illustrates Greta's quest for wholeness and at the same time touches on recurring motifs in the novel: the power of landscape, the settlement of Australia, who belongs and who doesn't, the journey towards personal understanding and maturity.
Brief comment from the assessor
This richly textured biographical novel showcases the author's descriptive skills, character depiction, dialogue writing and use of figurative language. In places the writing is of a very high quality and the shifting layers of time are nicely interwoven. The story moves along at a rapid pace, helped by a procession of colourful characters and exotic settings. The themes and subject matter are clearly expressed through the interaction of the characters and the clean, economical dialogue. Some of the figurative language and descriptive passages in this MS, particularly character descriptions, are wonderful. They are concise, original, rich and colourful, such as the following —
From the manuscript...
     Greta remembered how in London she recognised a shade of green found in Australian country towns in the south-east corner of the continent. A green which had unsettled her as a child, even as she loved it. The colour belonged in the blood soaked northern hemisphere, dark from feeding on the dead of centuries. People brought it with them and planted it along stretches of river, dusty roads to farmhouses and around churches and schools. Sighing old wrecks of pines watched over cemeteries. In a land of vast transparency and the dryness of a thousand parched colours, the green cushioned the impact of the country's direct gaze. It did not belong and yet it saved.

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Author
Tracy Crisp
Contact
tcrisp [at] senet [dot] com [dot] au
Manuscript title
'Small Smiles and Fingernails'
Genre
literary novel
Author's description of the work
Heidi knows that there is something wrong with her son, but she is young and inexperienced and doesn't know where to get help. Caro, a doctor whose husband has just died, wants to make the world right. Together they discover that the town they love is making their children sick.
      'Small Smiles and Fingernails' is a contemporary story set in a South Australian industrial town. It is a fictional account of events at the time that environmental lead levels in the town were found to be excessively high and having a serious impact on the blood lead levels of the town's children. These events, this town and this region have not been described in fiction before. News stories and academic accounts of the time focus on the industry managers, the scientists and the politicians. This story is unique because it gives voice to the women at the heart of the issue — women who were so concerned about their children that they agitated for change against significant opposition. This is the story of how we live during turbulent times. It is about the effect of these times on ourselves and our relationships. It is about the love that we have for the place that we live.
Brief comment from the assessor
'Small Smiles and Fingernails' is a contemporary novel-manuscript set in Port Pirie, a mid-size (pop 16,000) town 223kms north of Adelaide. Pasminco operates one of the largest smelters in the world from Port Pirie, exporting large quantities of zinc concentrates and lead, and the story revolves around one of the inhabitants, Heidi Oswald, who finds her young son has a large concentration of lead in his blood, which seems to be affecting his growth, making him very pale, slightly hyperactive, and slower to develop than his contemporaries. The story itself is topical, and picks up on a series of reports featured on the ABC about increased blood lead levels in children in the Port Pirie area. A young single mother, Heidi makes an unlikely heroine, and her Erin Brockovich styled story which includes reluctant support from Caro, a newly arrived Adelaide doctor who is also a recently widowed mother of two teenage girls, is full of interesting parallels. The setting is an evocative one, which features the heat, isolation, and history of this remote but important South Australia town. The relationships between Heidi, her son Alex and her father and partner, Caro and her two daughters Sophie and Jess, and the relationships between Heidi and Caro and the local community are well conveyed and allow the story to develop beyond the political messages which underpin it.
    The manuscript (under the title 'Black Dust Dancing') went on to be shortlisted for the 2006 South Australian Festival Awards for Literature: award for an unpublished manuscript by a South Australian emerging writer (http://www.arts.sa.gov.au/site/page.cfm). The novel has since been published by Wakefield Press (http://www.wakefieldpress.com.au/books/blackdustdancing.html).

From the manuscript...
     If Heidi thought about it, she could remember she'd had her rags, one at sports day and that's why she didn't win the 800 metres or the hurdles or any of the sprints. And there was one in Charities Week, because that was the day the blood had shown on her skirt, and she had to pretend she had sat on a chocolate ice cream, and she'd gone home at lunch time and she hadn't gone to school for two days until the school rang Dad, and he said I thought those days were over, love so she went back, because she hated to make him sad.
     Had there been another one since then? Yeah, another one, or maybe two. Enough. There was no need to feel scared.
     Heidi started to count. From now. Because it didn't really matter, because nothing would go wrong. It was just for something to do.
     She checked. Four days, a week, three weeks, a month. Over a month. Two. Shit. Shit and fuck.
     She went to the toilet when she woke up, after breakfast, after her shower, when she got to school, at the end of lessons, at the beginning of lunch, halfway through lunch, at the end of the lunch, after school at school, after school at home. With no sign of blood on her knickers or on the paper, she stuck her fingers up there. She stuck them up, and she wriggled them back and forth a bit until it almost hurt. They came out again without a sign of blood. Shit. Shit and fuck.
     She said to Jeremy 'my rags haven't come.'
     He looked scared and he said shit and that was the moment when she knew he wouldn't stay.
     She tried to pretend there was nothing wrong, she told herself it couldn't be true, she prayed to God. She filled her prayers with promises and bargains she told herself she'd keep. But why would He listen? He never had before.
     She burnt the tea and she burst into tears.
     'What's wrong, love?' Dad said. 'Is it exams? Are you worried you won't know enough?'
     She thought of a million different things to say, of different ways to get the words out, but in the end, she just said 'I'm pregnant. I'm having a baby.'


Author
V.G. Harry
Contact
submissions [at] manuscriptsonline [dot] com [dot] au
Manuscript title
'Squash Rackets'
Genre
crime, detective, whydunnit
Author's comment on the work
Dr Pip Carey, a professional anthropologist based in Tonga, arrives in Vava`u, Tonga's northern group, for a luxurious hotel holiday. She wants nothing more than to relax; but is plunged into details of a squash pumpkin pirating racket being practised by one New Zealand agent at the expense of another. The next morning, the young squash pirate is found dead in the water floating against the pylons of the hotel jetty and clutching a mysterious carved figurine. Detective Inspector Kuli Finau of the Tonga CID appears on the scene. He asks for Pip's help because she is his sister's friend, understands palangi better than he does and is staying in the hotel. She refuses, until her feckless friend, Selina, lands square in the Kuli's time frame for the murder. The only way Pip believes she can help Selina is to work out who killed the squash pirate and remove her from Kuli's suspicions. Pip's quest reveals the dark side as well as the delicate respect relations in a small face-to-face community, and eventually puts her life in danger.
Brief comment from the assessor
A crime fiction that falls somewhere between Alexander McCall Smith and Tony Hillerman and which draws on local knowledge very effectively. The ms shows a lot of talent and originality, and the promise of a series which could be very successful. It is entertaining to read, without being superficial, and will introduce readers interested in mysteries to delightful characters and a novel setting. The author has an excellent grasp of character and plot, and the Tongan setting is fascinating. Overall a very polished performance indeed!

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Author
Michael Roberts
Contact
mr [at] vrlaw [dot] com [dot] au
Manuscript title
'Turtle Dreams'
Genre
Mystery-literary
Author's comment on the work
The tale of a young legal worker from Melbourne discovering far North Queensland, entwined with James Cook's journey through this region. This scenery drama delves into themes of spiritual awakening and the resolution of deep and ancient wrongs.
Brief comment from the assessor
Turtle Dreams is a shamanic experience, a deceptively simple tale that leads the reader through what shapes up to be a common 'seachange' story of a young and cynical Melbourne legal worker stumbling into a lifestyle change in far North Queensland counterpointed against a narrative of Cook's first landing in Australia but which slips, with deft sleight of hand, into a 'spirit walk'. Its form and substance collude with breathtaking brevity to transform the reader's experience in the same manner as that of the unwitting protagonist. 'Turtle Dreams' is a sophisticated literary work capable of holding its own in any company.
    The manuscript has since received very positive responses from a number of Australian literary agents and publishers.

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Author
W John Hackwell
Contact
trackless [at] southernphone [dot] com [dot] au
Manuscript title
'Dingo Dreaming'
Genre
Novel that uses the adventure-thriller genre to explore deeper themes
Author's comment on the work
At one level, my novel is a simple adventure story whose tone is both optimistic and prophetic. However, at a deeper level it is a mythic journey signposted and inspired by a gallery of paintings that serve as chapter headings. The manuscript is largely driven by my passion for art, archaeology and mythology and for Aboriginal culture and the spirituality of the land.
Manuscript summary from the assessor
Joseph Schmoot, an unassuming Chicago-based art appraiser, is engaged to investigate the provenance of a collection of Aboriginal artworks which adorn the sterile walls of the US corporation Syntec. The job involves going on site to the remotest Aboriginal settlement in Australia. Joe, deeply dissatisfied with his inability to realise his own artistic ambitions and intrigued by the Aboriginal paintings, sees the job as a chance to find some inspiration. Arriving in the Outback, he encounters the unexpected realities of squalor, power abuse, and cultural decimation. His investigation into the paintings and the artists exposes Joe to both mystery and danger. As he begins to understand the deeper significance and riddle of the paintings, he comes face to face with Aboriginal spirituality and identity and the forces that are threatening them, including the local authorities and Syntec itself, which is pursuing its own sinister agenda in the desert. Joe is faced with the moral and personal challenge of siding with the local tribal people, whose art and 'Dreaming' appears to have far more importance to the survival of the world than Joe ever imagined.
    The author's screenplay version of 'Dingo Dreaming' is currently being made into a feature film by RLC Motion Picture Entertainment at Fox Studios, Sydney. Updates about the film can be found at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0477617/.

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Author
Jill Henderson
Contact
jill.henderson [at] bigpond [dot] com
Manuscript title
'The Celtic Dagger'
Genre
Murder mystery
Author's description of the work
University professor Alex Wearing has been murdered in his study, and the weapon is a valuable museum artefact. His brother, James, is a key suspect in Inspector Fitzjohn's investigations. James and Fitzjohn follow different paths in their own search for the killer -- uncovering family secrets, workplace politics and hidden connections before the answers are revealed.
Brief comment from the assessor
'The Celtic Dagger' is a murder mystery, written in a spare style by an author who has an innate understanding of structure and of the importance of using action and dialogue to move the plot forward. A number of story strands are in place, and the characters are interesting and clearly delineated. The plot unfolds steadily, with several surprises and twists, and by the end of the MS most aspects of the narrative have been resolved satisfactorily. The best writing in the MS is almost faultless. Sentences and paragraphs are well balanced, there is little or no unnecessary repetition, and dialogue is punchy and pertinent and entertaining.

Jill Henderson's manuscript 'The Celtic Dagger' came runner-up in the NSW Writers Centre/New Holland Publishers Genre Fiction Award and was published by New Holland Publishers/Gibbes Street in 2010, under the name Jill Paterson.



Author
Lyn Loreck
Contact
lynloreck [at] hotmail [dot] com
Manuscript title
'Dancing in Moonlit Tide Pools'
Genre
Literary novel
Author's description of the work
The work, still in process, explores the uncertain identity of Dee, a woman who leaves her comfortable home in Perth to live in a mining town on Western Australia's Pilbara coast. Having arrived in the north, though, Dee's family narratives (and her narratives of 'family'), on which she is so dependant, to which she has clung for so long, are challenged.
    Initially, Dee is enthusiastic about the move: she looks forward to spending more time with her husband, a mine manager whose work requires that he commute between Perth and the Pilbara (spending more time at work in the north than at home); and she is keen to stimulate her considerable tapestry-weaving skills with new subjects and new vistas. Dee also views the move as something of a symbolic return, because her ancestors were pioneers of the area. Soon after her arrival, though, events undermine Dee's optimism.
    First, her husband rarely returns to their rented house in the coastal town, seeming to need to spend his time on-site at a new mine some two hundred kilometres inland. Second, Fergie a local journalist writes that her deceased Great Uncle Charles — a man whom Dee was too young to know, but of whom she is proud — led an Aboriginal massacre one hundred years before. And, finally, Dee sees some paintings, depicting dismembered arms reaching into a pool, that are signed "Daisy" — the name, apparently, of an unknown Aboriginal artist. The dancing figures also depicted in the paintings bear an uncanny resemblance to some ancient rock engravings that Dee has discovered near a pool on Charles' once-owned pastoral property.
Brief comment from the assessor
One great strength of the MS is the original way it combines artistic and metaphorical ways of comprehending events with a search for factual truth. Another is its depiction of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. In a fiercely competitive market, there is scope for novels which contrast isolated regions of Australia with more thoroughly urban, 'safer' settings. Another theme of the MS which has clear market potential is the protagonist's search for identity, and knowledge about the past and herself. The writing is powerful at times and there are some fine descriptive passages.

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Author
Peter Gill
Contact
minder [at] bigpond [dot] net [dot] au
Manuscript title
'Finding George'
Genre
Provenance document, history
Author's description of the work
The MS is a provenance document relating to some antiquities belonging to a family (the Melvilles) who died out in 1898 in Brisbane. The research trail led to three continents and events and members of this family spanning three hundred years. Underlying the detail are issues about the way we treat the aged and the way we treat our children, the way we care for anecdotal history and written records, the way we protect and foster the role of family heirlooms and our attention to ensuring intrinsic 'legacies'. These are issues about the family unit, often neglected and sometimes under siege.
Brief comment from the assessor
This manuscript is the result of a great deal of good research and thoughtful observation, and deserves to be made available to others, if only future generations of your family. After all, as you yourself point out, when we are gone, we are gone, and we take what we know with us. You will be failing to do your own work justice if you do not make your findings more explicit.
From the manuscript...
     The press coverage entailed only one minor reference in the Courier Mail of the 21st of September 1898 - "A body of a man named George Melville was found in the river yesterday morning" - and it is most likely that the letters found on George Melville pointed back to my great grandmother. . .
     This simple man, the last of his line, lost in the hopelessness of his destiny, had gone away to die. Seen as a vagrant and a drunk he was summarily dealt with by those who assumed but who did not know. George Melville knew. He had made his private arrangements and trusted in the friendships and bonds of his sisters. Standing on a river bank on my last evening at Kangaroo Point and in possession of the lives of his family one could sense the crushing circumstance he must have felt and which ended with his life on the evening of the 19th of September 1898. Time removes all traces as it did with Wilson Street in Kangaroo Point. Buildings are demolished, locations and streets are disguised with name changes and even the old Police Court and Watch-house that deliberated the circumstance of George Melville was disestablished in October 1915, converted to a VD clinic by the Department of Health in 1927 and demolished in 1973.
     I headed back to Sydney after lunch on Tuesday the 29th seriously pestered by the matter.


Author
Philippa O'Neil
Contact
stylenet [at] optusnet [dot] com [dot] au
Manuscript title
'Auckland Undead'
Genre
Light Gothic romance/comic horror
Author's description of the work
...Crazed attacks by people supposedly dead arise all over Auckland. Enter Detective Sergeant Sleepless who has a chance to get out of New Zealand by winning a place on a police exchange program to the States, but if he doesn't solve the Undead cases his grumpy boss won't let him go...
Brief comment from the assessor
'Auckland Undead' is a comical horror story further lightened by at least two overlapping love stories (there are a range of minor ones, some serious and some less so) and a host of unhinged and interesting characters. It is a potentially engaging read with a nice mixture of black humour, satisfying come-uppance, chase scenes, love scenes, and evocative description. The subtle underlying theme of what it really means to be alive makes this more than simply a lighthearted genre fiction.
From the manuscript...
'It's very difficult to concentrate on this problem of undead people when the underlying theory of their very existence is impossible as far as we know,' Mayor Willis said. 'They are against the natural cycle of living things in the usual order.'
    Doug folded his arms. 'Go on.'
    'So I've been using Schrodinger's Cat Theorem.'
    Doug raised a curious eyebrow. Mayor Willis continued:
    'A theoretical entity, such as a cat, is put in a box with a vial of cyanide. When the door is shut, the creature could be alive and it could also be dead if it has broken the vial. For a time, until the box is opened, the two possibilities can coexist.'
    Doug nodded. 'I can see that, sort of.'
    The Mayor sat on the sofa by the window. 'At the moment we have these people who could be dead or alive, one or the other. The box being opened - I'd say that's the press getting hold of the story. At that point, I think we better be sure that the undead are recognised as alive. There's the panic faction of the electorate. The ones who want bans on fizzy drinks and plastic pants on dogs etcetera. They'll go into orbit when they read about cadavers coming out of the ground. And these undead people, how long are they going to stick around? Do they have any rights as people?'
    'We don't have any rights. That's the Americans.'
    'They're New Zealand citizens,' said the Mayor, 'but if they're dead, will anyone want to employ them? Do they pay tax or get benefits? Could they make an ACC claim? Could they sue? Can they vote?'



Author
Rod Reeve
Contact
RodR [at] sagric [dot] com [dot] au
Manuscript title
'Hot-Spotting'
Genre
Non-fiction: travel, adventure
Author's description of the work
"Hot-spotting" traces the twenty-year journey of an Australian scientist throughout Asia, Africa, the Indian sub-continent, the Middle East and the Pacific, where he works on aid programs with local people to facilitate improvements in health, agriculture, water supply, education and peace.
     Improving livelihoods in foreign cultures is a slow and measured process that requires a lot of listening, before growth occurs in the development programs. He finds certain patterns that are common to all societies: that just as much joy and laughter exists in less privileged societies as it does in Western affluent cultures; that local customs exist for very important reasons and should not be discarded; but most outstanding of all: the universal vulnerability of the poor.
     He draws upon experiences throughout real-life events including the Indian Ocean Tsunami, the Bali bombing, the Iraqi wars, the emergence of democracy in Indonesia, East Timor's independence, the Gulf War, opium cultivation in Pakistan, the Asian financial crisis, the erosion of communism in Asia, environmental threats to the pristine jungles of Papua New Guinea and post-war Vietnam. He also describes how the mulit-billion dollar global aid program works. One highlight is his role in rehabilitating Iraq - twenty years after having lived there as a scientist under Saddam Hussein during the Iran Iraq war.     
Brief comment from the assessor
This manuscript has excellent potential. The subject matter is topical and relevant, much of it is fascinating and there are many thoughtful and interesting observations. The author's long experience of delivering aid to developing countries places him in an authoritative position to answer for readers the question of how our donor dollars are spent (and what our government means by 'foreign aid'). There is the opportunity for readers to look past disturbing news footage, to connect with the people living in some of the world's most troubled locations and to learn about how they continue to hope and plan for the future for themselves and their families.

If you would like to see an excerpt from this work, click here (if the file does not download automatically, right-click the link and select 'Save Link As...').

Rod Reeve's manuscript has been published by Wakefield Press. See Wakefield's website: http://www.wakefieldpress.com.au/.html and for more information, see Rod's blog: http://rodreeve.blogspot.com/


Author
John Gooley
Contact
jgooley [at] tpg [dot] com [dot] au
Manuscript title
'Mushroom'
Genre
'Realist, crime, speculative, humour'
Author's description of the work
'Mushroom' is a collection of thirty stories. The stories are a mix of plots, themes, genres and styles. My primary aim when writing a story is to entertain, to engage the reader from the first sentence to the last. I have my political, social and philosophical agendas, but if there's a common core to each of these stories, it's an exploration of place, of my experience of living in Australia for over forty years, of both loving and hating this country — its people, its institutions, its politics, its ethos.
Brief comment from the assessor
The excerpted story is a disturbing and gripping futuristic portrayal of down-town Sydney where harbour-side complacency is ruptured by civil unrest. The protagonist, both an everyman and enigma, stumbles into a violent scene and ends up in moral chaos. The assessor praised the story's excellent control, style and narrative force, and recommended it for publication.

If you would like to see the story, click here (if the file does not download automatically, right-click the link and select 'Save Link As...').



Author
Nicki Bradshaw
Contact
nickibrad [at] tpg [dot] com [dot] au
Manuscript title
'Overture'
Genre
'Historical fantasy, humour, magic realist and baroque elements'
Author's description of the work
Explores the lives of a group of convict children serving time in what appears to be the penal settlement that was early Brisbane. The story's narrator is a figure of ambiguous gender; she/he acts as a kind of 'fairy godmother' who looks lovingly down on the children from a swing on a hilltop above the penal camp, and who also plays a role in the action, which centres on the children's treatment and mistreatment in the camp by a brutal commandant and his underlings, and their eventual escape into the world beyond.
    The fate of children in our convict past has been well treated in non-fiction but less so in fiction, save for the classic His Natural Life. I wanted to explore these lives, and technically I wanted to push the boundaries of genre. Fantasy, magic realism, the baroque and humour have been little used to 'rewrite' local history. Basically I wanted an 'adventure' immersed in imagination and style, something that would take those historical facts and issues and bring them into the present in a fast-moving, funny yet relevant and moving way.
Brief comment from the assessor
Only the opening of the MS was submitted: the author wanting just to feel out an audience at this stage rather than engage with a deeper reading. The response from the assessor was excitement and a desire for more. Out of interest the MS was then sent to a second assessor for an opinion. This assessor enjoyed the writing and made some insightful technical criticism, but withheld final judgement until they could see the entire manuscript.

If you would like to see an excerpt from this work, click here (if the file does not download automatically, right-click the link and select 'Save Link As...').


   
         
         
         
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