Monday, April 29, 2013

The View From The Tier - Conversations With Tania Elizabeth.

The wealth of talented emerging Australian voices in writing is something that I am consistently encouraged by. Australia remains a somewhat fickle market for the embrace of new authors so it is great to see that, with the shifts taking place across publishing, new voices are able to find an audience and likewise connect with that audience. From within those ranks, have emerged exquisite people who I have had the pleasure of getting to know and who, I believe, deserve to be shared. 

Queensland based author Tania Elizabeth is one such writer and person whose journey has captivated me and is well worth sharing.

I first met Tania Elizabeth over a couple of extended Twitter conversations which we exchanged dialogue about our mutual love of words and creativity and it has since blossomed into a friendship that I count among my most important. Tania has a serendipitous outlook on life. She exudes positivity and encouragement and often shares insights that come from a place of harmony within herself. And yet Tania's journey has been one of full experience, filled with its share of trials, challenges and setbacks alongside the triumphs and successes. She is, perhaps, one of the most complete human beings I've yet encountered.  

Tania was born in a little mining town called Dysart in Central Queensland, though she spent much of her childhood in Cairns that flanks the Great Barrier Reef in Northern Queensland. She recalls fostering a burgeoning imaginative streak very early on - helped in no small part by her father - and she counts this as one of the key touchstones that defined her and the person she would become.

I spent many weekends in the sprawling countryside and the lush Rainforests of the Atherton Tablelands where I would loose myself in my imagination. My siblings and cousins in were equally imaginative beings and together we revelled in childhood adventures of our own design. My father, Lionel was instrumental in enlightening me on how to meditate and understand the sagacity of energy - how it was possible to manipulate energy for the simple fact that we are entirely energy entities.

That focus on energy and the encouragement to explore expression through performance, the childhood Tania discovered dance at age 5 and initially, she revelled in the artform. The innocence of youth however, gave way to the harsher realities of growing up. Through the exploration of herself through dance Tania developed a competitive streak, a focus on achievement that was, at times, unforgiving and this had unanticipated consequences for her.

Somewhere around age 11, the competitive side of me began to take over and it wasn't too long before I allowed aspects of my ego to overwhelm. This drive to achieve, to succeed was uncompromising and it led me to some pretty dark places. I struggled with anorexia and bulimia for several years - along with all the psychological challenges those two entities hand you. There was an overwhelming sense of self loathing and hatred, guilt and depression that became all consuming. The path that I found myself on was one that was incredibly hard to get off and it became incredibly damaging.

As Tania emerged from adolescence, she came to the attention of a modelling agency, who saw potential in the natural beauty of the young Queenslander.

I was actually approached by the agency and, for a girl who had come to believe that looks were such a big part of who I was, I saw it as a very big compliment. 

Her career in modelling saw Tania's image reach a global audience and for several years she enjoyed significant success in her new career. But underneath the beauty and the glamour, Tania admits she remained lost and that for the longest time she wasn't happy in the profession. However, there was one bright spark that remained her companion right throughout these years. 

My writing truly was my catharsis and it was often what got me through the days. My pen and notebooks had been my only true companion, going right back to those early childhood days. It was a creative outlet that I secretly nurtured - perhaps without realizing it. For so long, all those who knew me, knew a version of me based upon who I thought they required me to be. I found it easier to function by keeping a mask on, rather than have others see the pain within.

The paradigm shift for Tania, came through experiencing something of an awakening which, in turn, lead her to take a pro-active role in redefining herself and in fact rediscovering her true self.

It was just after my 30th birthday, when I felt this need for a wholesale shift. I felt a need to open myself to the possibility of a higher self concept. This was something that had tried to peep through the cracks on several occasions throughout my adulthood, although it was challenged many time by my somewhat stubborn ego. Yet - during this particular year, I was not going to ignore it - the desire to seek out a more divine concept of self - any longer. By chance, my sister in law loaned me a book and really encouraged me to read it. The book became a doorway to the life-altering awakening I had been seeking. By the end of 2011, I was able to say for the first time in my life - and actually mean it - “I LOVE ME!”

Tania, also counts this as the touchstone moment that gave rise to what has become her debut novel "The Tier Of Eternal Grace - The Moon Clearing". It has been a project that is as much about "unpacking the box" of her life to date but doing it by channelling her creative forces into a magical piece of fiction that draws upon elements of fantasy, metaphysics, eroticism and rich world creation. The result is a luminescent novel that bristles with Tania's signature imagination and unique writing style.

The guff on the "Tier Of Eternal Grace" is thus;

"She Lives of Heart through Battles of Mind"

“I have existed always! Where I began I do not know, for all I know is just as I am today!”

As Queen of Eterna Fadas, Tatiana was thought to have lived a life of opulence, her faith and beliefs her endearing essence. Why then was it so, that beneath the picture of perfection laid torments and terrors even she dare not explain. Being She came with its prices paid. Being She came with a deal; a contract in which she was to relinquish herself to a rogue of unmerciful fury. Would this be the end of all she ever know? Would this be the end of her existence?"

Tania Elizabeth has woven a tapestry that draws together classic elements of fantasy and adventure and has infused her tome with an electricity, a sensuality and hints of eroticism that make for an intoxicating blend of story telling. This is a book to savour with richly drawn characters who occupy a lush, dream like world, vivid in its description and accessible in its execution. The world of Eterna Fadas works on all five sensory levels and Tania's ability to tap into the reader's imagination and draw from it a tableaux that reflects that world before you is a considerable achievement. Equally, Tania's cast, lead by the enigmatic and sensual Tatiana rise from the page - living and breathing vividly as the story progresses. They intoxicate and stimulate as their respective arcs play out. Tatiana, herself is compelling in that she is, in many ways, an avatar of the author herself - resplendent in all of the accumulated experience of Tania's journey through life thus far.

The Tier of Eternal Grace as a literary piece, works on a number of levels and it is an beautiful achievement for an author who has strived to operate on another level with respect to her story telling. There are classic elements with the tome along with similarly fashioned archetypes but Tania takes these to new and exciting places that are thought provoking and refreshing. To say that this book is genre bending is, perhaps, selling it short. "The Tier of Eternal Grace - The Moon Clearing" is a unique work that will stand with subsequent instalments of what will be an eventual three book cycle as magical literary achievement.

As part of the release of the book, Tania has married it to a cause that is very close to her heart. 

The Starlight Children’s Foundation transforms the experience of hospitalisation and treatment for seriously ill children and their families - Starlight is the only children’s charity with a permanent , physical presence in very major paediatric hospital in the country.

Tania is a passionate advocate for the Starlight Children’s Foundation. Being a mother herself and having seen first-hand what these children experience on a day to day basis, with such strength and courage, Tania felt the need to not only donate her time, but to also help raise much needed funds.

Every minute of every day a child is admitted to hospital in Australia. For thousands of these children what happens next is the diagnosis of a serious or chronic illness that changes their life, and the lives of their families, forever.

This is where Starlight steps in – delivering a range of innovative programs, built on the World Health Organisation’s social model of health, to support the well-being and resilience of these seriously ill children and their families.

Starlight programs are integral to the total care of seriously ill children – while the health professionals focus on treating the illness, Starlight is there to lift the spirits of the child – giving them the opportunity to laugh and play and be a child again.

Tania has made it her mission to donate to the cause via the marketing efforts surrounding her novel and as such, her feature here will contribute to that. 

Tania Elizabeth as an author, writes with a dedication to her style and her imagination that yields rich literary content that transcends audiences and crosses genres. It is artistic and she deserves to be defined as an artist. As a human being, Tania is a rare diamond. Her life experiences, her challenges and her triumphs have all contributed to her discovering her true self and she faces her future serene, peaceful and open to all possibilities.

"You are more powerful than you could possibly ever imagine. Though if you can imagine it and then truly believe in it with not one ounce of a doubt in your mind, then it shall be." 

~ Tania Elizabeth.

Connect with Tania Elizabeth here.

Tweet with Tania Elizabeth here.

Purchase the Tier of Eternal Grace here


Monday, April 22, 2013

Glimpsing Gemma - Conversations with Gemma Blackwell.

Around three years ago, I had the pleasure of working with a young woman who expressed a love for writing and we chatted a number of times about our mutual love for the craft. 

Gemma Blackwell describes herself as a nurse first - having cut her teeth in Paediatrics, with a particular focus on cardiology, but she also describes herself as a writer. And she is a talented one at that, having produced a number of shorter pieces over the years that show a lyrical flair, that are personal in many ways, reflective. But they are also very charming and are guaranteed to bring a smile. 

Gemma ultimately returned to her home state of Queensland but, despite this, we've kept in touch and I've followed her continuing adventures since. 

Not long ago, Gemma revealed to me, a personal struggle that I was not previously aware of and it has been only recently that she has begun to reveal more about it via her blog. In my mind, it opens up a whole other side to this woman that is quite courageous and, with her blessing, I want to share a little of this remarkable young woman.

"For all intents and purposes, I enjoyed a fairly normal upbringing. I enjoyed an active childhood that was filled with gymnastics, softball, hockey, swimming cricket, rowing, piano, violin, percussion, drama lessons and singing at school. My family and I have always fished, camped, done shooting, hiked, canoed. However, in my late teens, I developed an intolerance to a number of foodstuffs and it seemed that, whenever I had anything to eat or drink from certain food groups, I would become violently ill. I became increasingly sick, lethargic and anxious and before too long, I knew something was seriously amiss. Despite countless doctor visits and dizzying array of tests, I was repeatedly told by my doctor that nothing was wrong with me.

"The symptoms, however, were worsening every day and I felt like I was going crazy but, after a period of time, there was a break through when I was finally diagnosed with something called fructose malabsorption".

Fructose malabsorption is a digestive disorder in which absorption of fructose is impaired by deficient fructose carriers in the small intestine. This results in an increased concentration of fructose in the entire intestine.

The condition is common in patients identified to be suffering symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, although occurrence in these patients is not higher than occurrence in the normal population. Conversely, patients with fructose malabsorption often fit the profile of those with irritable bowel syndrome. A small proportion of patients with both fructose malabsorption and lactose intolerance also suffer from celiac disease.

For Gemma, the diagnosis was bad enough. However, as it turned out, this was only the beginning for her. 

"It was certainly overwhelming, but following further testing, more and more foodstuffs were being added to the list of severe food intolerances I was experiencing (wheat, dairy, egg, and grains to name the main ones!). In order to isolate the foods that I could consume safely, my diet became very strict - to be almost non-existent!, and I underwent months of gruelling elimination diets to test my tolerance levels."

During the course of this gruelling experience, Gemma suffered significant health effects, partly because of the early mis-diagnosis but also because of the many hits and misses that accumulated in the effort to weed out the bad from the good in terms of what she could actually eat. It was inevitable that other problems would emerge.

Last year I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, and alongside that chronic fatigue syndrome. These combined significantly affect my energy levels and I routinely experience severe fatigue, lack of stamina, anxiety, and poor concentration (brain fog). I also suffer from major light headedness and dizziness due to chronic orthostatic hypo-tension. All of this currently means driving and working is a distant memory." 

Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease in which the thyroid gland is attacked by a variety of cell and antibody mediated immune processes. It was the first disease to be recognized as an autoimmune disease. It was first described by the Japanese specialist Hakaru Hashimoto in Germany in 1912. Aside from the symptoms that Gemma recounts, the addition of orthostatic hypo-tension presents particular challenges for Gemma in that it can bring on fainting and dizzy spells which can render her unconscious. 

For Gemma, the definitive diagnosis was a relief however being restricted from driving and working was hugely difficult for someone who previously had thrived on activity. In the absence of these, Gemma instead turned her attention back to her blog.

A couple of years ago, I began a blog; a chronicle of glimpses into my life that I created with the intention to briefly explain a photograph that summed up my day. This blog developed into sharing my experiences and struggles on the journey that my health has taken me.

I also love food and cooking, so I am determined to not let my restricted diet keep me from delicious tastes and fun in the kitchen. I enjoy creating new food ideas, and so also plan to develop a database of recipes on my blog, so that other people with food intolerances, allergies and clean eating lifestyles can see that living life with a strict diet does not have to mean tasteless, boring food.

This sea-change in attitude is an inspiring one given that, one could easily be thwarted by the huge challenges faced by the diagnoses Gemma has been handed. As such, she has emerged with quite a unique story to tell and the potential to offer a great gift. Her blog, as it grows, is becoming a fantastic repository of experiences and dietary tips and philosophies that Gemma has accumulated in her quest to understand her diagnosis and to live with it.

I have learnt so much and I now blog to share some insights and, hopefully, help other people on their path. I have always enjoyed writing and reading, and my blog also enables me to get my thoughts and experiences out on (electronic) paper, while also improving my writing chops. I do feel lucky though, to finally have been diagnosed, and am turning my life around and slowly beginning to feel a little better.

I want to show others that when life gets rocky, there is always something that we can do, that we can all find something to keep fighting for, and that we can all help each other through hard times.

“Nothing is impossible; the word itself says,  I'm possible.”  - Audrey Hepburn.

Connect with Gemma via "Glimpsing Gembles" here.

Tweet with Gemma here

Visit Thyroid Australia here.


Monday, April 15, 2013

The Regenesis Cluster - Releases Worldwide April 19th 2013.

The Regenesis Cluster - the luminous science fiction short story by Australian author Dean Mayes officially launches this coming Friday, April 19th 2013.

This is Deans' first published foray into the genre and marks his first release in short form story telling. He has described the process as an exciting one in taking a small concept and expanding it into a highly original and visual piece of story telling.

On a still, moonlit night under the stars of the southern sky, something is about to happen beneath the ocean depths. A life that was cruelly snatched away will be suddenly returned by a phenomenon known only as The Regenesis Cluster. 

The Regenesis Cluster explores the nature of death and life and provides a visually stunning depiction of reincarnation.


Conceived and created at Banister's Mind Studios in Adelaide, Australia - the official international release trailer provides a stunning visual glimpse into the world of intensity and brevity that Dean Mayes has created for his current release.

It will be available this coming Friday - April 19th, 2013 from Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble and Dean from Australia.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Coming Soon - The Regensis Cluster by Dean Mayes.

Central Avenue Publishing in association with Hambledown Road Imprints is pleased to present the official teaser trailer for an exciting new project by Australian author Dean Mayes (The Hambledown Dream/Gifts of the Peramangk). 

The Regenesis Cluster is an exciting, new short story by Dean that explores the nature of death and life provides a visually stunning depiction of reincarnation.

On a still, moonlit night under the stars of the southern sky, something is about to happen beneath the ocean depths. A life that was cruelly snatched away will be suddenly returned by a phenomenon known only as the Regenesis Cluster. 

This imaginative science fiction short story is Dean Mayes' first foray into the genre and will be available for Kindle, iPad, Nook and e-readers this April 2013.

Check out the official trailer now. 


Friday, April 5, 2013

Rediscovering Marcella.

For years, I had a song in my head that I could visualize, hear the chorus of and kind of hum the tune to, but I could not for the life of me work out who it was who sang it.

Do you ever have that happen? It totally sticks in your brain doesn't it, like a needle that irritates you, driving you nuts. 

Well, I achieved something of a major break through earlier today when I woke up from a dream in which I was hearing that very song in my head. I wasn't gonna let this one go.

I had little to go on, other than a hunch that whoever sang this particular song was a part of the early 90's duo Shakespear's Sister, who were notable for their No. 1 hit "Stay".

This is "Stay" by the way...

Very much the 90's song for sure but there is definitely something about this lead vocalist's voice that has enchanted me for years. During my senior year in high school, I was a little obsessed with this duo but could never admit to it among my group of friends, most of whom were embedded in the post hair metal grunge scene - as I was to be clear - where Pearl Jam, Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins ruled our Walkmans.

Anyhoo...I've worked out that the one half of Shakespear's Sister is the very talented and very beautiful Marcella Detroit who has been around the music scene since the early 70's and has worked with everyone from the likes of Bob Seger, Eric Clapton, Aretha Franklin through to Elton John. Her voice definitely had an uniqueness to it that transcended the usual crop of cookie cutter divas from that era. 

It is to her that I can safely attribute the vocals I have been hearing in this mystery song for the past decade and a half. But as to the title, that was a little bit more of a challenge. All I could remember of it was the chorus lyrics which went something along the lines of "With a little bit of love we can get it back" and so, I erroneously figured that "With A Little Bit Of Love" was the actual title of the song.

Not so...

"I Believe" was the second single off Detroit's 1994 solo album, titled "Jewel", released in March 1994. "I Believe" reached #11 in the UK and the album itself reached #15 and was certified silver by the BPI. It is quite a breezy ballad that doesn't quite reach the level of power ballad, but at the time of it's release in the mid 90's, the power ballad was perhaps a less popular phenomenon than a more organic, emotional ballad of which "I Believe" can be classified as. It's a beautiful song that has a timeless quality to it I really like. 

So, in the space of an afternoon, I've reconnected with the beautiful Marcella Detroit and am now going to immerse myself into her back catalog to see what other gems reside there.

Check out Marcella Detroit here.

Facebook Marcella Detroit here. 

Check out Marcella Detroit's YouTube Channel here.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Writing Blue - aka Creating Fuckshia.

Have you ever had one of those writing days where you are patently unsure of how to spell a particular word, however you cannot get Google to cooperate in determining the correct spelling of said word nor can you find the bloody word in the good old fashioned dictionary?

I have.

I'm currently involved in a collaborative writing project (which I'll be talking more about in the coming months) and am working hard, putting together a reflective short story piece - which I am finding quite a challenge, given that I am not used to working to a required word limit, nor do I consider short story writing one of my strengths.

The project has, however, piqued my enthusiasm and I am really enjoying the challenge. The piece is close to completion and the early feedback I have had is really encouraging.

Writing in the bowels of the night, as I often do, I tend to make rods for my own back - hash-tag: unnecessary sleep deprivation leading to cabin fever - and I'll invariably get myself twisted up in knots.

In the course of writing this piece, one word emerged out of the mists that has  totally maddened me, causing me into a sort of David and Goliath battled where neither of us I have given each other any quarter.

I could not, for the life of me, nail the correct spelling of this particular word.

The word is fuchsia.

Now, I can confirm that is the correct spelling of the word, having just read an article in which that word appears. But whilst writing, I could not nail it down - and, honestly, I don't know why. My Open Office spell check wasn't happy with the word - nor was Scrivener for that matter. Google - for some lunatic reason wasn't playing ball with it ...

It drove me, fricken crazy.

In the absence of verifiable etymology (roughly translated - I was too pissed off to find the correct spelling), I did what all good authors do when challenged to the point of having a tantrum.

I snarkily made up my own spelling.


So pissed off was I, in fact, that I forced spell check to add my creation to the dictionary with only the barely rational part of my mind thinking that "we'll fix it in post".

I am quite proud of my little bastard child of a creation.

What can I say ... I am a child.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Fighting The Shadows - Arabelle's Shadows & Fleur Gaskin

A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by author Fleur Gaskin to review her debut novel "Arabelle's Shadows". 

Now, I don't usually take on books in this fashion, however there was something about this title that hooked me. The ingredients alone didn't necessarily leap out at me - New Zealander, international model, successful career in Asia and Europe. These aren't the sorts of topics that would draw a fairly blokey sort of bloke ... i.e. me -  to a title in and of themselves. But, there were the hints of a darker side, suggested by both the cover and the blurb that drew me in, and I'm glad I stayed to wander through the environment presented by this story.

The guff on Arabelle's Shadows is thus:

Everything in Arabelle's life is coming together. She has confidence, great friends, she's even dating Naak, a wealthy Thai socialite. But there are too many models in Bangkok. Arabelle’s broke, she can’t find an agent in New York, and Naak isn't as wonderful as he first appears. 

Slowly the Shadows creep back into Arabelle’s mind, bringing with them thoughts of hopelessness and despair. The vile Shadows know something Arabelle’s refusing to remember and, if she’s not careful, they’ll use it to destroy her. Based on a true story, Arabelle’s Shadows takes us on a journey through the struggles of growing up, not quite making it as an international model, and attempting to overcome a crushing depression...

Told in a style that is part diary, part biographical reminisces "Arabelle's Shadows" is an accessible reading experience that brings to life the Asian cities of Bangkok and Hong Kong in such a way that I was reminded a little of Graeme Greene's "The Quiet American" and his own vivid depiction of pre-Vietnam war Saigon. Gaskin paints a convincing portrait of the steamy and exotic within Thailand with its kinetic culture and sexuality. Its adoption of the excesses of the West and their recasting into something quite Eastern is a paradox that Gaskin brings to the page very well and, having visited Thailand myself, I found myself easily transported by her style.

Gaskin juxtaposes these scenes with a complex, reflective tableaux harkening back to her formative years in New Zealand, her beginnings in the modelling industry and her early travelling experiences, all of which inform the main story in a way that has you thinking about the ramifications before they have been revealed.

But it is Gaskin's depiction of depression, that she characterizes as The Shadows, which proves to be the most effective and central success of the book. It is easy to dismiss the hyper-glamour of international modelling, where self obsession, indulgence and excess at all costs are considered something of a job requirement. However, Gaskin reminds us, through her auto-biographical protagonist Arabelle, that behind the glamour there resides people who bring with them a Pandora's box of their human experiences which have shaped them and influence them continually - even though they may not realize it.

Having suffered from depression myself, I found the journey of Arabelle at once confronting, powerful and identifiable. Much of her experience resonated with me and the deeper I got into the book, the more involved I became with it. Her heart rending back story skilfully informs and illuminates the main story in a way that inspires sympathy for Arabelle but more importantly, it encourages empathy and understanding. Arabelle's battle is a courageous one. The path towards self reflection and illumination is intelligently layered and emotionally satisfying. Resolution is implied but it is not wrapped up in a neat bow. Rather, the lesson is that the journey is ongoing.

Arabelle's Shadows is one of those books that should be required reading for any young woman coming of age - in fact anybody coming of age. It is a luminous literary achievement. 

Author and model, Fleur Gaskin hails from New Zealand. She was an international model for six years, working in over ten countries, mainly in Asia and Europe. She has been in TV commercials, walked on runways and appeared in many magazines including Elle, Marie Claire and Vogue.
She presently lives in Shanghai, China with her fiancĂ©e.

To complement "Arabelle's Shadows", Fleur Gaskin has launched a web portal called "Fighting The Shadows" which serves as guide to the underlying themes of depression as portrayed in the novel. 

Purchase Arabelle's Shadows here.

Connect with author Fleur Gaskin here.

Visit Fleur Gaskin here.


Catch the debut webisode of Liz Miele's "Damaged" today.

(Read the DFA feature on "Damaged" here)