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Exiles of the Bhel Sea

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Entries in Clarion South 2009 (8)


Drive-by interview

A belated link back to an interview of me over at Angela Slatter's very informative blog: http://www.angelaslatter.com/the-runes-of-odin-drive-by-ben-julien/ .

Angela is a fellow Brisbaneite, a fellow inmate at Clarion South 2009, and the author of several anthologies and more published short stories than I care to count.


The Bhel Sea - coming soon!

My next novel is very close to being released, with edits almost in and an artist commissioned to produce the book covers.

This is a novel that is a good four years in the making, from conception at the end of 2006 and the first chapters written soon after the birth of my first daughter, then sporadic progress through the following three years until it was finally finished, feeling like something of a Frankenstein monster given the total project occurred both before and after becoming a father (twice), and before and after attending Clarion South 2009 (a particularly intense 6 weeks writers’ workshop).

I’m very much looking forward to holding the print version in my hands. That is the final moment when the fruits of all that dispersed labour is realised and the project feels ‘finished’.

More updates to follow, including blurbs and preliminary designs for the maps and cover.

Here is an excerpt of the book, the prologue (still subject to change):


The Bhel Sea once smelled of ruin, of wealth and of places I’ll never go. It’s different now but it’s hard to hold onto memories of distant events as anything more than stories. They don’t seem to hold much truth compared to the every day. Memories fade too quickly and details are forgotten. I don’t want to forget. It seems impossible that I could, but in ten years time, this will all seem as distant. 

I live on Ash’s Reef, on a little island in the Bhel Sea, where the wind is always blowing in the sails of passing ships. I was born here, and have some memories of a time before the Korsar, but not many because I was only a boy when they arrived, ten years ago. They came with hands and arms tattooed black. Like any thief, murderer or freebooter, they took what they wanted, but they didn’t leave. I remember the flames coming out of windows, and the smell of burning flesh, but not much more.  

From Ash Island, the Korsar brought the sword to the Bhel Sea,  to the ports, to the villages and towns on the coasts. When the killing stopped, the plundering began. Everyone paid the black tax they demanded. My father paid it. Every trader and every ship’s captain paid it. The Korsar strung up anyone who didn’t; dangled them from hawsers flung over a yard-arm to moan in tandem with the creaking of the rope that cut into their necks. Any boat or ship they had would burn to the waterline before them as they choked.  

The Korsar ran the Bhel Sea  and left wrecked ships and skeletons in their passing to calcify and join the coral. None of it was enough to stop the demand for trade. I know all this because of the stories from sea-hands and merchants, stories about spices and timber and ambhel powders. Stories about towns and ports hungry for commerce: Skarpa, Newport, Kells, Rigon, and the Free Towns. Everyone  learning to bend to the Korsar, a violent change that rippled beyond the Bhel Sea, down the Straits and into the city-states of the warm South. 

All of it coming from here, from the Bhel Sea, a sea of many names: the white sea, the sea of bones, the sea of storms, the sea of old times, the sea of ambhel, the sea of last gasps. The sea of change seems closest to the truth. And the Korsar were a stone dropped in the waters of the world, bring disorder to places and people who had never seen deep water. 

I knew none of this at first. How could I know that the Korsar would touch the life of a noble’s daughter in the southern city-state of Tir? She a girl when her parents were murdered, and condemned to a cold heart, following the orders of their killer. 

And I knew nothing of the change the Korsar brought to the East, beyond the Spine Ranges to the warriors of the Elaan Sept and their leader, Jhared Elaan.            

But I learned of it all soon enough, because the change came to me, too, in the Bhel Sea where I worked as a scriv, and later a symbolist. 

This is their story. And mine. This is my written memory.


Extinct anthology

Amanda le Bas de Plumetot has her first Clarion South 2009 short story in the Extinct anthology:

Jase was her ghost in the machine, a shaded memory captured in synthesized pixels. Near enough to see, too distant to touch. Could they still connect? - LAST SEEN by Amanda le Bas de Plumetot





Stolen from Aidan Doyle)

Some more Clarion people get a mention in the Ditmar awards.


Best Novel
* Death Most Definite, Trent Jamieson (Hachette)
* Madigan Mine, Kirstyn McDermott (Pan Macmillan)
* Power and Majesty, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Voyager)
* Stormlord Rising, Glenda Larke (Voyager)
* Walking the Tree, Kaaron Warren (Angry Robot Books)

Best Short Story
* “All the Love in the World”, Cat Sparks (Sprawl, Twelfth Planet Press)
* “Bread and Circuses”, Felicity Dowker (Scary Kisses, Ticonderoga
* “One Saturday Night With Angel”, Peter M. Ball (Sprawl, Twelfth Planet
* “She Said”, Kirstyn McDermott (Scenes From the Second Storey, Morrigan
* “The House of the Nameless”, Jason Fischer (Writers of the Future
* “The February Dragon”, Angela Slatter and Lisa L. Hannett (Scary
Kisses, Ticonderoga Publications)

Best Collected Work
* Baggage, edited by Gillian Polack (Eneit Press)
* Macabre: A Journey through Australia’s Darkest Fears, edited by Angela
Challis and Marty Young (Brimstone Press)
* Scenes from the Second Storey, edited by Amanda Pillar and Pete
Kempshall (Morrigan Books)
* Sprawl, edited by Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
* Worlds Next Door, edited by Tehani Wessely (FableCroft Publishing)

Best New Talent
* Thoraiya Dyer
* Lisa L. Hannett
* Patty Jansen
* Kathleen Jennings
* Pete Kempshall


Aurealis Awards 2011

More Clarion South 2009 success:



Inksucker, Aidan Doyle, Worlds Next Door, Fablecroft Publishing

One Story, No Refunds, Dirk Flinthart, Shiny #6, Twelfth Planet Press

A Thousand Flowers, Margo Lanagan, Zombies Vs Unicorns, Allen & Unwin

Nine Times, Kaia Landelius & Tansy Rayner Roberts, Worlds Next Door,

Fablecroft Publishing

An Ordinary Boy, Jen White, The Tangled Bank, Tangled Bank Press



The Library of Forgotten Books, Rjurik Davidson, PS Publishing

Under Stones, Bob Franklin, Affirm Press

Sourdough and Other Stories, Angela Slatter, Tartarus Press

The Girl With No Hands, Angela Slatter, Ticonderoga Publications

Dead Sea Fruit, Kaaron Warren, Ticonderoga Publications


FANTASY Short Story

The Duke of Vertumn’s Fingerling, Elizabeth Carroll, Strange Horizons

Yowie, Thoraiya Dyer, Sprawl, Twelfth Planet Press

The February Dragon, LL Hannett & Angela Slatter, Scary Kisses,

Ticonderoga Publications

All the Clowns in Clowntown, Andrew McKiernan, Macabre: A Journey

Through Australia’s Darkest Fears, Brimstone Press

Sister, Sister, Angela Slatter, Strange Tales III, Tartarus Press



The Silence of Medair, Andrea K Höst, self-published

Death Most Definite, Trent Jamieson, Orbit (Hachette)

Stormlord Rising, Glenda Larke, HarperVoyager (HarperCollins)

Heart’s Blood, Juliet Marillier, Pan Macmillan

Power and Majesty, Tansy Rayner Roberts, HarperVoyager (HarperCollins)


Locus 2010 

Somewhat late news, but relevant in the context of Clarion South 2009 achievements.

Locus 2010 Recommended Reading List http://www.locusmag.com/Magazine/2011/Issue02_RecommendedReading.html :

"The Third Bear", Jeff VanderMeer - Collections

"A Glimpse of the Marvellous Structure (And the Threat it Entails)", Sean Williams (Godlike Machines) - Novellas

"A Thousand Flowers", Margo Lanagan (Zombies vs Unicorns) - Novelettes

"The Miracle Aquilina", Margo Lanagan (Wings of Fire) - Short Stories


"The Duke of Vertumn's Fingerling", Elizabeth Carroll (Strange Horizons 4/5/10) - Short Stories

"Brisneyland by Night", Angela Slatter (Sprawl) - Short Stories

"Lost Things", Angela Slatter (Sourdough and Other Stories) - Short Stories


Clarion South stocktake

It's been two years since the last Clarion South writers' bootcamp took place in Brisbane. It was about this time (February to be exact) that we finished the 6 week slog.

Essentially, it is a writing 'camp' that is arranged weekly with a live-in tutor who guides the group through daily critiquing sessions of each others' work. Each participant produces a new story per week and it is picked apart systematically in an attempt to improve it, celebrate it and give it and the writer the best chance at producing publishable work.

It is a confronting process for those new to it all and those who lack skin the thickness of leather. My writing definitely came out of it stronger, though I'm not sure I did.

The next Clarion South was likely to happen next year in 2012, but the issue of an affordable venue has been a problem for some time and has not yet been resolved, despite the best and selfless efforts of the convenors – this message on the clarion south site:

Thanks for your patience with us.

As you may know Clarion South had to change venues at short notice in 2009 following the sale of the Griffith University accommodation facilities to a private provider. The new venue was out of our price range, but with some fundraising help from the community we were able to deliver the 2009 workshop as originally planned.

Since then we’ve been looking to find a new permanent home for the workshop. The workshop is important to us and we know there are lots of writers keen to hear about its future.

While we had been hoping to be in a position to run Clarion South again in 2012, we’ve been unable to find a suitable venue for the workshop. It’s important to us that the cost of any workshop we run remains within financial reach of most writers.

Unfortunately we’ve been unable to lock in a viable venue option that would allow us to run the workshop at an acceptable cost to writers. The cheapest option would still more than double tuition fees.

So, with regret, we must tell you that at this stage the workshop is on hold indefinitely.

We know many of you will be disappointed, and so are we. Clarion South has been a great experience for us and we’re proud of the great writers in Australia and overseas that the workshop has helped.

In the meantime we will continue to look for a venue that enables to run the workshop in the format for which it has become famous. We will alsoinvestigate other configurations and opportunities that might give the workshop a future in Australia.

Thank you again for waiting patiently for this update. We have greatly appreciated the support of the speculative fiction community around the

This is a very real shame. In the context of awards, achievements and recognition, it is not small feat that CS09 has produced multiple award nominees for such prestigious events as the Aurealis Awards and the Ditmars.

Without Clarion South, I would not have the connection to the writing community that I have now. I would not be as good a writer as I am now. I would not believe in my writing as much as I do now. I’m not sure how to put a price on such awareness, and I’ll always remember Clarion South 2009 as my crucible.

More posts about Clarion South 2009, my experiences, and its alumni to follow.


Interview with Trent Jamieson

Trent Jamieson, Brisbane short story demi-god, local luminary of the writing scene, University teacher, Aurealis Award winner and Clarion South tutor, has written his first novel: an urban fantasy “Death Most Definite”, and soon to be the first in a trilogy.

How did you get your start in writing fiction?

I’ve always written fiction, well, since I could hold a pen and write. And I’ve always written Speculative Fiction. It’s what I grew up reading. Everything from the Magic Pudding, Lord of the Rings, and Lud in the Mist, to Dan Simmon’s Hyperion Cantos. Spec Fic has marked the important moments of my life: it’s been a comfort through some pretty horrible things, and an accompaniment to some wonderful stuff as well. So it’s natural, I guess, that I’d want to write it too. Not that I don’t read other literature as well, but Spec Fic will always be at the heart of my reading and writing.

You have an impressive number of short stories publications. Was it a big leap to moving from short stories to the long form of novels?

Not so much a big leap, just a different direction. They’re two very different modes of writing. But I’ve been writing both for a very long time: it’s just that the short stories started selling earlier.

How did you get your break with the Death books?

Persistence. Seriously. Orbit opening their offices in Australia certainly helped. It’s a bit easier to get your foot in the door, if there’s a door to put your foot in. I found Orbit to be very approachable and fortunately they liked the idea of this series and loved the first book. Hard work, lots and lots of hard work, luck, and good timing all played their part too. And my biggest break was marrying Diana. My wife has always supported my writerly aspirations. That kind of belief is incredibly important. Without her I may have given up a long time ago. And Diana is the reason I fell in love with Brisbane and ended up writing a novel(series) set there. Diana is the keystone to all my fiction.

Your trilogy is essentially being published back-to-back over the next 2 years. Has it been difficult writing each novel in such a short period?

I’ll let you know when I finish the third book. Like any long project it has its ups and downs, but, in the main, I’ve loved writing the books. I think novels suit my temperament.

Have you had any issues with maintaining consistency between the novels?

Not consistency, my stories are very much about voice, and I think I’ve got a very clear idea who my protagonist is and how he sounds. Steven de Selby is the glue that holds those books together and, while he changes, and grows up a bit, he has very peculiar world view.

Can you tell us about the process of deciding the style of covers?

I’ve not had that much of a say in it – though I love my cover. Of course, I’ve been shown it at various stages of its development, and my opinion’s been sought, but the decision hasn’t really been mine. And, to be honest, I really don’t think it should be. I’m not really about having a cover that I love and everyone else hates.

You were a tutor for the first time at Clarion South in 2009 and we have often heard of Clarion experiences from its students. What was it like from the other side of the desk?

It was wonderful, exhausting, and exciting. I’m quite sure I learnt much more than I taught. The worst bit for me was that I had caught some sort of virus and I had to push through the fatigue – you don’t get a lot of sleep when you’re tutoring. The best was seeing all that potential in the room, listening to all those insightful critiques. You really start to feel invested in the student’s future. I’m always so excited to hear of a sale or some other milestone reached. Oh, and jealousy, definitely jealousy. I forgot about that, you’re all so much more talented than me, damn it.

Is Clarion South comparable to the QUT short story writing course you teach?

Well, this year I haven’t been doing much teaching, so many deadlines! Though I’m back in a month or so. But not really, they’re two very different things. At Clarion you are living and breathing short stories, meeting tight deadlines, and getting in each other’s faces 24/7. The short story course is one of many units a student will be doing that semester, it’s part of an integrated whole. I think either would compliment the other.

You have been writing to various deadlines for the Death books in the past months. How do you motivate yourself each day / how do you ensure you achieve the progress you need to meet those required submission dates?

It’s just a matter of breaking it down into achievable targets, knowing there’s a bigger picture, but not thinking about it too much. I’ve still got a couple of deadlines to meet yet on this series so I don’t want to be too smug about it.

What is your opinion on the recent debate over e-book pricing? Are there plans to release your Death books for e-book readers as well as print?

I must say I don’t have an opinion, but I guess it comes down to content, and what the-book contains that the paper-version may not. E-books certainly allow for a richer environment – though that makes them somewhat different to books, more book as app, then book as book. Regardless of format the e and hardcopy books go through the same editorial process, and that `ain’t cheap. So, hey, I do have an opinion. Yes, my books will be available as e-books.


Trent’s own site can be found here and a review by Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus here .