Something different: cold soup recipes to fuel writing in hot weather :-)

Today I thought I’d do something really different and share a couple of recipes for cold soup which I’ve been making quite a bit in the recent heatwave we’ve been having and which have helped to fuel my writing!  They’re made quickly using the pressure cooker(thus not heating up the house too much) and they are so refreshing, nutritious and delicious well-chilled, either for a main for lunch or for a dinner entree.

The first one is of course gazpacho, probably my favourite cold soup and one my mother used to make to perfection. This is my version, super quick and easy, with a Basque touch to it in honour of my ancestry, and which never seems to fail 🙂 Make it the day before to eat the following day.

Ingredients for 2 or 4(if for 2, it gives two helpings; if for 4, 1 helping each): Three largeish ripe tomatoes or seven small ones; 1 good-sized capiscum, either green or red(the green one adds a subtle kick, the red a mild sweetness); 1 large cucumber or 2 smaller ones; 5 garlic cloves; one medium sized onion; handful basil, parsley, and garlic chives(or other mix of herbs as you like–though not rosemary as overwhelms other things too much); olive oil; salt, pepper, one and a half tablespoons vinegar, one tablespoon brown sugar, teaspoon piment d’Espelette(beautiful fruity and slightly spicy Basque pepper powder which you can get from specialist online stores like The Essential Ingredient–if unavailable you can use paprika instead, with a tiny bit of chilli added); and finally, tomato juice.

Chop all ingredients. In pressure cooker, heat some olive oil. Add all the ingredients except the tomato juice, stir for about a minute or so. Add the tomato juice so that it covers everything(but no more than that) and close the pressure cooker. Cook for 15 minutes at full pressure, then let cool till you can open the cooker(or run cold water over it to hasten the process). Then either blend the contents of the cooker, or crush with a potato masher and put through a sieve, crushing well to get every last bit of goodness out! Let cool, then put in fridge overnight.

Serve decorated with chopped basil and/or slices of cucumber.

In contrast to the deep red of gazpacho, the second cold soup recipe I want to share is for a green soup. This versatile soup can have many variations, depending on the ingredients, and you can experiment as you wish. Here are a couple of variations I’ve tried.

Version 1:  Ingredients: 1 large cucumber, 1 large potato, garlic, onions, handful herbs-I used mint, thyme and tarragon—salt, pepper, stock(vegetable or chicken, depending on your preference), butter or sunflower oil.

Chop all ingredients. Heat butter/oil in pressure cooker, add all ingredients except stock, stir. After a couple of minutes, add stock. Close up pressure cooker, cook for 15 mins, and then do the same as for gazpacho, including leaving in fridge overnight. Serve with a dab of sour cream and chopped mint.

Version 2: Ingredients: 1 large cucumber, 3 or 4 zucchini (green or yellow), 1 stick cucumber, salt, pepper, garlic, onions, chopped herbs(a mix of of three or four leaves of sorrel, plus some thyme, is good, or your preferred mix), stock, butter or sunflower oil.

To prepare and cook, proceed exactly as for the other soups!

Bon appétit–and happy writing!


My paper on the liminal world in young adult afterlife fiction

For those of you who are interested, my paper on the settings of young adult afterlife fiction, No Traveller Returns: The Liminal World as Ordeal and Quest in Contemporary Young Adult Afterlife Fiction, which is based in part on one of the chapters in my exegesis, is now accessible at the journal Papers, where it was published. You can read it here. 

Results of the 2018 New England Thunderbolt Prize for Crime Writing

This year, I’ve had the honour of being the co-ordinator for the New England Thunderbolt Prize for Crime Writing, which in just six years has become one of Australia’s most prestigious awards in the genre, and has launched the careers of several writers, most notably Emma Viskic, multiple award winning author, who was the first winner of the Fiction category in the inaugural(2013) Thunderbolt Prize.

The results of the 2018 Prize have been announced today(Nov 30) and I’m delighted to also be able to publish that announcement here. A full list of winners, highly commended and commended citations, as well as judges’ comments and reports, is available on the New England Writers’ Centre website.

Congratulations to all, and thank you to our wonderful judges and sponsors!

The New England Writers’ Centre is delighted to announce the results of the 2018 New England Thunderbolt Prize for Crime Writing.

The New England Thunderbolt Prize for Crime Writing is a national award for unpublished short-form crime writing in three main categories: Fiction, sponsored by the Faculty of Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences and Education, University of New England; Non-Fiction, sponsored by Moin and Associates, Lawyers; and Poetry, sponsored by the New England Writers’ Centre. There are also three special awards: the New England Award for a writer resident in New England, sponsored by Readers’ Companion Bookshop; the Emerging Author Award, for an unpublished writer over 18, and the Youth Award, for writers under 18, sponsored by Christmas Press and Little Pink Dog Books, children’s publishers based in Armidale.

In its sixth year in 2018, the Prize attracted a strong field of entries from all over Australia, by writers both published and unpublished. New England writers also made a strong showing this year, with several receiving high commendations and commendations, including the winner of the New England Award, Phillipa Trelford, who received a Highly Commended citation in the Poetry category. Other New England writers represented include Linda Brandon, who received a Highly Commended citation in Fiction, Lynne Newberry, who received a Commended citation in Fiction, and Annie Worthing, who received a Highly Commended citation in the Youth Award.

The winners of the 2018 New England Thunderbolt Prize are as follows:

Poetry: Ivy Ireland (NSW), for Grey is not your colour.

Fiction: Nic Lesley (NSW) for Bottom of the harbour scheme.

Non-Fiction: Christopher Ryan(NSW) for Sins of the Fathers.

New England Award: Philippa Trelford(Armidale)for Chiaroscuro, Madgwick. Also Highly Commended, Poetry category.

Emerging Author Award: Nic Lesley(NSW) for Bottom of the harbour scheme. Also Winner, Fiction category.

Youth Award: Eva Mustapic, age 14 (WA) for Laundry Day.

The New England Writers’ Centre warmly congratulates all the winners, as well as all those who received Highly Commended and Commended citations. A full list of winners, as well as those highly commended and commended, plus judges’ comments, is attached.

All entries were blind-read by the judges, with all identifying marks removed, other than title and an assigned number. Judges this year were Jean Kent, Poetry; Sulari Gentill, Fiction; Pip Cummings, Non-Fiction; and Beattie Alvarez. The New England Award and Emerging Author Award were chosen based on judges’ recommendations.  The winning entries will be published on the New England Writers’ Centre website in December.

The New England Writers’ Centre wishes to thank the hard-working and thoughtful judges and all the generous sponsors of the New England Thunderbolt Prize for Crime Writing for helping to make 2018 another successful year for the Prize. And a big thank you to all entrants!

Publication week for Black Wings

This week sees the publication of Black Wings, coming out in the UK with the fabulous Greystones Press. On Tuesday I’m meeting my publishers and celebrating the book’s release. It will be wonderful to hold a copy of the book in my hands!

Copies of the book, which is available in both paperback and ebook format, can be ordered from Booktopia, Book Depository, Amazon etc.

Black Wings available for pre-order from online bookshops now

I’m very pleased to say that my adult historical novel Black Wings, which comes out in early October with the Greystones Press in the UK, is now available for pre-order from several online book retailers, including Booktopia, Book Depository, and on Amazon both in paperback and e-book formats (Australia, UK, US).

I will be in the UK when it comes out–can’t wait to celebrate it in person with my publishers Mary Hoffman and Stephen Barber of The Greystones Press, and fellow author Gill Vickery whose novel Tell Me No Truths comes out at the same time with The Greystones Press!

Nice review for See Monkey in Buzz Words

A very nice review for See Monkey has appeared in Buzz Words.

Here’s a short extract:

What a day! Follow Toddler and his favourite toy through their busy day and all the fun adventures and mischief they get up to. Parents with toddlers will relate to some of these amusing situations of these energetic adventures and after-fun clean-ups.

See Monkey is a children’s picture book for children of ages 3 – 7 years. The themes are universal, and it is a good read for families with babies and young children. The lively and colourful illustrations will capture the minds of a young audience.

You can read the whole review here.


Frosty School Morning

Simone Hale’s prize-winning interpretation of Frosty School Morning

It’s winter in New England, and a classic winter it is too, with hard cold nights and frosty mornings shading into crisp bright blue crystalline days. This morning it was minus 8.6 degrees, yesterday morning minus 7 degrees, and frost shines everywhere. The poem below poem is inspired by those frosty mornings, and by the experience of New England children who live out of town and have to catch  the bus to school. (The school bus stop is just down the road from our place.) I wrote the poem four years ago on commission from the New England Conservatorium of Music, who wanted three poems about children’s experiences of New England to set to music for the tenth anniversary of the major choral event, New England Sings. It was fantastic to hear it as a song–and then two years later, in 2016, I had the honour of having it chosen as the centrepiece for the inaugural New England Illustration Prize, which was won by the wonderful local artist Simone Hale(it’s her interpretation of her poem you can see above).

Frosty School Morning

by Sophie Masson


Walking to the bus stop on a frosty morning,

Crackles of grass like toffee crunches.

Kangaroo joey hops with her mother,

Maybe it’s a school day for them too.


Waiting for the bus on an icy morning,

Blowing in my hands to keep them warm,

Here come my friends, running late as usual,

Kookaburra laughs to see them go.


Riding on the bus on a winter morning,

Bumping along on the road to town.

Sitting with my friends on the slippery seats,

We write our names in the mist on the glass.



Angel time in the undiscovered country…

Intriguing title, right? 🙂 It is actually part of the title of the paper I gave in Kobe(Japan) in March, at the 2018 Asian Conference of Ethics, Philosophy and Religion. Based on aspects of my PHD research, it profiles the philosophical and cultural context of contemporary young adult afterlife fiction, and looks at several works of fiction, including a little about the creation of my own novel, The Ghost Squad, which I’ve written as part of the PHD. For any interested readers, the paper is now available to read online, as part of the published conference proceedings. The link takes you to the abstract, and from there, you can view or download the full paper itself.