Story behind the story 8: And Then authors and their contribution

Today Dan Rabarts (story in vol 1) is sharing the fascinating Maori background behind his And Then contribution.

dan-rabartsDan Rabarts and Tipana Tapu

Tipuna Tapu is a post-apocalyptic adventure story, set in a dieselpunk world where every conceivable monster of myth and legend walks the earth, and where humanity struggles to exist in the shadow of dragons, giants, and kaiju. In a far corner of this world, misty Aotearoa, people crowd into places made tapu, sacred, by events of the deep past, or by the sacredness of bones that protect them and keep the hungering taniwha at bay. Our heroes, or perhaps anti-heroes, search for forgotten bones to sell to those who can afford them, and want to keep themselves safe from the taniwha. Which is all good and well, until things turn against them. Suddenly, the bones are more than just profit and loss. They’re a map to a past that just might save Aotearoa from the hell it has fallen into, but can our heroes change their ways in time?

My iwi is Ngati Porou, and my father maintains our histories, our whakapapa, going back many generations. Over the years, he has been sharing these stories with me, among them the narratives that connect our family to our ancestral lands in the Coromandel. This has included discussions of how the remains of our ancestors were handled and stored, of the tapu, or respect, associated with the bones of the dead, and the sacredness of those places, and those remains. So this story has been brewing for a while, and it was only a matter of time before it came out, mashed up with taniwha and motorbikes and nailguns.

Story behind the story 7: And Then authors and their contribution

Today, Kelly Gardiner talks about her story(published in Vol 1)

kellyg1Boots and the Bushranger is set in the early days of the Victorian Gold Rush in the booming town of Castlemaine, where every square foot was dug up and turned over, where people made and drank and lost fortunes or pennies, and where (as we now know, thanks to Clare Wright’s ‘Forgotten Rebels of Eureka’) women were a important part of the goldfields communities.
But what happens when some of those women decide to take the law into their own hands?
It’s the first in what will become a series of stories paying homage to the early sisters of Sherlock, those feisty young women like Hilda Wade and Miss Cayley, who were enormously popular amateur detectives created around the same time as Conan Doyle’s Holmes. I love how so many of those early detective stories were short stories: how much character and humour, how many clues and mysteries, were crammed into a few thousand words.
‘Boots and the Bushranger’ sets our two young heroines at odds with the law and their families, and is (I hope) their first of many brushes with danger, disguise, derring-do … and wombats.

Story behind the story 6: And Then authors and their contributions

Today it’s the turn of Jack Dann and Steven Paulsen(who collaborated on a story in Vol 2 ) and James Hopwood(story in Vol 2 ) to tell us about their And Then contributions.

jack-dann-and-steven-paulsenHarold the Hero and the Talking Sword, Jack Dann and Steven Paulsen

Jack and I have been talking for a while about doing a project together when the opportunity to write a story for Clan Destine’s ‘And Then…’ anthology came up. Jack had showed his story ‘The Talking Sword’ to Lindy Cameron. She loved it, but suggested it be expanded because the brief for the anthology was for stories with two equal protagonists; and in Jack’s original story the demon sword held sway over his ‘sidekick.

So…we started talking; and before long we were not only brainstorming the further adventures of the time-travelling sword, but we were working out how we might bring its unlikely wielder, Harold the Hero, to the fore. We took our inspiration from Homer’s Odyssey and asked ourselves what would happen if the sword somehow lost all its powers. The result is ‘Harold the Hero and the Talking Sword’. It was certainly great fun to write, and we hope it will be just as much fun to read.

hopwood-bioThe Lost Loot of Lima, James Hopwood
I have always wanted to write a ‘treasure hunt’ adventure story, and while trying to come up with an idea, I can across this old newspaper clipping(below) which suggested that a fantastic treasure trove known as the ‘lost loot of Lima’ was buried in Queenscliff. I immediately wanted to know more, and hit the research trail.
My story, a globetrotting adventure, which is set in 1955, follows archaeologists Mark and Sarah Page (known as The Pages of History) as they follow the clues, and race to beat a cadre of neo-Nazis to the treasure.


Story behind the story 5: And Then authors on their contribution

Today, we’ll hear from Evelyn Tsitas(story in vol 1) and Lindy Cameron(story in Vol 2–and also the  fabulous publisher of And Then!)

evelyn-tsitas-photo-copyStealing Back the Relics, Evelyn Tsitas

 Stealing Back the Relics is a Dan Brown style art theft thriller, stealing wilfully from my intimate knowledge of the art world and academia. My day job is working in a university art gallery, so I know a thing or two about that rarefied scene. And as a speculative fiction writer, playing around with the supernatural is what comes as second nature.

 Inspiration for Relics came from a frenetic three-week trip to Europe, immersing myself in art galleries, presenting at academic conferences and catching up with an art historian friend in Germany and a journalist friend in Paris. I was up cathedrals, down catacombs, and sketching in museums where I was drawn to the grotesque and beguiling reliquaries – ornate vessels that hold sacred pieces of saints.

 The David Lodge style ‘campus novel’ twist in Relics came after a chance conversation with a friend’s husband. It turned out he was doing his third PhD. Now, still in recovery from finishing my own (first) doctorate (and not contemplating a second) this was struck me as so outrageous a passion that overnight it somehow merged in my writing subconscious with my European trip, and my newfound obsession with reliquaries. Relics and its characters emerged overnight. Of course, the female protagonist, the sassy Greek Australian journalist, may (or may not) be a self-portrait…or wish fulfilment!

lindy-cameron-3The Medusa Stone, Lindy Cameron

The idea behind what became The Medusa Stone is what prompted the idea for the whole anthology.

I love cliff-hanging page-turning Indiana Jones types adventures and wanted to write one myself. But as my original idea is part of a series of novellas I’m writing that will ultimately form a mosaic novel, I wanted to write a shorter one for And Then…

The overarching story is:

A tale of Amazons and the Great Library of Alexandria in which a time-travelling archaeologist and a writer from the 21st century meet the great-great granddaughter of Alexander the Great and Queen Thalestris.

The Medusa Stone episode, which begins in Istanbul in 1928, follows the adventures of two women, an Australian aviator and a English traveller, who battle both ancient Romans and Nazis – with the help of the Amazons of Amsara.

Story behind the story 4: And Then authors on their contribution

Today’s it’s the turn of Amanda Pillar (story in Vol 2)  Sulari Gentill(story in Vol 1) and Kat Clay (story in vol 1) to tell us something about their And Then stories.

profile3It, Amanda Pillar

‘It’ is a science fiction tale set on a planet that is plagued by a giant kraken-like monster.

And, believe it or not, it was inspired by a dream I had years ago. In fact, there are a couple of scenes that are direct reproductions of the dream!





sulari-gentillCatch A Fallen Star, Sulari Gentill

My contribution to the And Then… anthology is quite a departure from the historical crime, and mythic fiction I usually write.   Set in the near future, it imagines an Australia that has swung hard to the right, where nationalism is used to quell any resistance.  It is a storification of my own fears about the direction the world is heading.  Sadly, in the short time since I finished the writing it, Catch a Fallen Star has become a lot less speculative than I hoped it would remain.



web-portrait-kat-clayIn the company of Rogues, Kat Clay

In the Company of Rogues was born out of my love of fantasy video games, and my general amusement playing with genre tropes. You know the ones: the guy in a dark cloak chasing our heroes, giant spiders, and of course, the loveable rogue. I love rogues, but they sure do get away with a lot. I thought about what the consequences would be of this lifestyle, and so we chance upon our hero Randall the Rogue, who has developed an STD from too much ‘rogueing’. Together with his sidekick, Dennis the Budgerigar of Doom, they have to go on a quest to cure his illness, with the help of a lady rogue… and as they say in the land of Sidarth: “Never quest with another rogue, they’ll steal your heart then steal your clothes.”

Story behind the story 3: And Then authors on their contribution

Today in the And Then series we’re hearing from Alan Baxter (story in Vol 1),  Narrelle M. Harris, (story in Vol 1) and Michael Pryor (story in Vol 2)

alan-by-nicole-web-crop-smallGolden Fortune Dragon Jade, Alan Baxter

My story was a chance to finally write something in the style of the wuxia and kung fu epics I’ve always loved so much. And being a kung fu instructor, with the majority of my life embedded in that culture and all it entails, it seemed I ought to write something related. The two protagonists are cousins, he a Shaolin monk, her an accomplished geomancer. The Shaolin monk, Yong Fa, is named after my teacher in a subtle homage to him, and the character shares some of my teacher’s irreverence and cheekiness, but is otherwise an entirely made up person. The geomancer, Zi Yi, is altogether more serious and focussed, but an accomplished mage in her own right. Together their skills are complimentary and that’s just as well when they realise the scale of their task, the distance they have to go to track down their missing jade dragon, and the kind of unforgiving country they’ll be led to. It was a hell of a lot of fun to write and I hope people have a lot of fun reading it too.

narrelle-m-harris-midVirgin Soil, Narrelle M Harris
The germ of my story came from an old building in Fitzroy, and the name, Moran and Cato, high above the streets. They were once a well known grocery chain. The building now houses the excellent Naked for Satan bar. I just liked the juxtaposition of the names, and the characters grew from there. Cato – clearly a man/rat shapeshifter. Moran, clearly a magically inclined offsider. But they were murky. Not necessarily good guys, though not necessarily bad guys. The grey guys, really. That’s how the story grew – I wanted them to do be doing dark magic but not for dark reasons. I also love writing stories set in Melbourne, whatever the era, and I’d been researching the 19th Century goldrush and Melbourne for another story, so that was a logical extension of where to set their adventure, especially since the goldrush was such a time of contrasting fortunes and full blooded adventure on its own.
(Note: You can also read an excerpt from the story here)

pryor2-lo-resCross Purposes, Michael Pryor

I’d been doing some unrelated research on the 1930s, and got side-tracked into reading about Errol Flynn. I started imagining what this rambunctious, charismatic ne’er do well would have got up to if he’d stayed in Australia. Adventures, I suspect, of the slightly rakish kind, all with that charming grin as his final defence. When the opportunity to contribute to ‘And Then’ came up, with a few tweaks, I had a character based on Flynn ready to go. Add to that a timely visit to Cooktown in Far North Queensland, an introduction to the Railway That Goes Nowhere, and the elements for a rip-roaring tale started to fall into place.

Story behind the story 2: And Then authors on their contribution

Today, we’ll hear from And Then contributors Tansy Rayner-Roberts(story in vol 1) Sarah Evans, (story in vol 2)  and Jason Franks (story in vol 1).

tansybwDeath at the Dragon Club, Tansy Rayner-Roberts
My story is one I had been toying with for a while — about a pair of retired assassins and siblings-of-choice who run away from their violent profession and end up joining a circus full of dragons… only to have their old and new worlds collide all over again. This book was a great excuse to write that story, and I’m so glad I did. I hold Kurt and Inga Frostad, and their beloved dragons and their snarky dialogue, very close to my heart, to the point that I got all soppy and nostalgic while proofing. And then I promptly started planning the sequel…


profile-photo-1Plumbing the Depths, Sarah Evans

Plumbing the Depths began life as an experimental entry in RWA’s First Kiss competition. I loved the idea of a vegetarian-turned-reluctant vampire canoodling (against her better judgement) with a gorgeous avenging angel. But the judges didn’t. Ho hum. The story was all but dead in the water.

Luckily vampires don’t die that easily. When CDP publisher Lindy Cameron asked for submissions for the And Then… I decided to revamp the vampire-angel story and give it a fresh twist.

Sure, the vampire, Matty Peters, was still reluctant to embrace the dark side, but the angel took on a totally new persona. From a dark and brooding love interest with a hip name, he morphed into Ted, an over-weight, retired cop caught in purgatory with his salvation relying heavily on the number of souls he can collect, including Matty’s.

Consequently, there’s no romance and definitely no canoodling. Instead, the unlikely couple end up joining forces to become very dodgy vampire slayers.

The result is a fast-paced, tongue-in-cheek adventure romp.


jf_c_300pxExli and the Dragon, Jason Franks
When Lindy approached me about contributing to And Then… one of the things I liked best about it was that the brief was so wide open. I decided to take that as a challenge when I came up with “Exli and the Dragon”.
I haven’t written science fiction for a few years, so that was my first challenge: to reacquaint myself with the genre. I went at it like a glutton, helping myself to all the best bits: high performance space ships, grumpy robots, pew pew lasers and some actual, proper science. I had been wanting to write a story from the point of view of a creature that is completely non-human, so that gave me one of the two protagonists. The second protagonist is a human–something rare and strange in the galactic society in which this story takes place.
I also challenged myself to write an action story without violence. So, while our two roguish heroes face plenty of danger as they attempt to escape from space prison, neither of them are equipped for combat and they must find other ways to reach their goals. Mainly, though, I just tried to keep it twisty and fun. I hope you fine readers enjoy it.


Story behind the story 1: And Then authors on their contributions

As part of the celebrations around the publication of the fabulous And Then adventure story anthologies, published by Clan Destine Press, I thought I’d ask my fellow contributors to write a few words for readers about the ‘story behind the story’ to tell a little about their individual creation. So I’ll be publishing these in a few instalments, starting today with words from Lucy Sussex, Jason Nahrung, and Emilie Collyer. Oh, and a word or two from me! All of these authors’ stories(including mine) appear in Volume 1.

To recap: each one of us contributing And Then authors was invited by Clan Destine’s Lindy Cameron to create an adventure story which would feature a ‘dynamic duo’, but otherwise we were left pretty much to our own devices as to the rest, and the result is a sparkling and wonderful diversity in two fantastic fat volumes! My own story, The Romanov Opal, was inspired by a conjunction of things: a visit I made to the extraordinary opal mining town of Lightning Ridge some time ago; a fascination with Russian culture and history; a love of classic Agatha Christie half-mystery, half-adventure stories like The Man in the Brown Suit, and an even greater love of Tintin-style adventures. Mix that in with the elegant and turbulent 1950’s, a pair of feisty twins and a legendary jewel, and I had the perfect ingredients for a story that was simply huge fun to write.

So what was the story behind the story for other authors? Read on!

Lucy(left) and Meredith Sussex in Borneo

Lucy(left) and Meredith Sussex in Borneo


Batgirl in Borneo, Lucy Sussex

In 2015 I went to a wedding in Sabah, Borneo. After the ceremony, assorted guests went on a bus ride across north-east Borneo. We saw orangutans and sun-bears, and narrowly avoided a meeting with terrorists. Two days after we ate at a beachside restaurant in Sandakan, Abu Sayyef came raiding across the straits from the Muslim Phillippines, in a rubber dinghy. They kidnapped the manageress, Thien Nyuk Fun and a customer, Bernard Then.  She was released months later, after a ransom, Then got beheaded.

I heard another interpretation of that story only after ‘Batgirl in Borneo’ was copyedited.  In that reading, by a Sabah expat, our visit to the restaurant was the catalyst for events.

If I write that, it would be a very different tale.

jason_bw-webMermaid Club, Jason Nahrung
This is the second of my short stories starring detective Shane Hall and her accidental partner Manasa Chalmers as they negotiate a paranormal Brisbane. This one draws on a memory of how one of my favourite venues in the city was gentrified, as well as looking for an idea of mermaids different to the fairy tale. The story also builds on a larger plot involving my dynamic duo — I really must finish that, one day!
tansybwDeath at the Dragon Club, Tansy Rayner Roberts
My story is one I had been toying with for a while — about a pair of retired assassins and siblings-of-choice who run away from their violent profession and end up joining a circus full of dragons… only to have their old and new worlds collide all over again. This book was a great excuse to write that story, and I’m so glad I did. I hold Kurt and Inga Frostad, and their beloved dragons and their snarky dialogue, very close to my heart, to the point that I got all soppy and nostalgic while proofing. And then I promptly started planning the sequel…

ecollyer_photopiajohnson_051The Panther’s Paw, Emilie Collyer

With so much dystopian fiction around – and feeling increasingly like we are living in a dystopic world of our own creation – I really wanted to write a piece set in a future where we’ve started to get a few things right. I was inspired by what I’d read of the genres solar punk and eco punk so that was my starting point. One of the wonderful things about writing is getting to play god. I had a LOT of fun constructing the social, environmental and cultural norms of this world to reflect what I think would be a fair, sustainable and enlightened way to live. In regards to the characters I wanted to explore a mismatch. Two people who would normally never spend time together but who have complementary attributes. I really love the world I have created in this story and feel there is room to expand the adventures of Eliza Wild and Dash Besen. So look out for more …