This week I began a blog TALE PEDDLER which I’ve added to my links .
I’ll still continue to update this site seasonally with news but for more frequent content and for all things that inspire my writing and life please pop over to Tale Peddler. I’ll update the blog there three times a week.
Autumn was glorious in the inner-city this year. Golden leaves lay on the streets and for once I was more conscious than ever of how fortunate we are to live in this urban heartland surrounded by parks. Now we’ve reached June and heading towards the Winter Solstice it must be time for an update.
Poets Cottage is nearly complete. I’m nearly 120 000 words but it’s difficult to get too excited about this as I’m talking A VERY ROUGH FIRST DRAFT here. However my agent has seen the first six chapters and is very happy with the rewrites, so that’s promising. I’ve really enjoyed working on this mystery and thought I had it pretty nailed who the killer was, but as I came near the end I realised that all along it was someone else entirely.
Yes, that’s the way I like to work. I’m always happiest when the material comes through me like that. I know Minette Walters and Stephen King work in the same way and if it’s good enough for them…
I believe whatever gets you in that chair and the book completed is the best way. I like surprises and the anticipation of what’s going to happen next. I couldn’t write if I had it plotted completely. That might work for some but it’s not the way I can create.
David’s wonderful and very clever Tour To Hell has picked up two awards, an Honourable Mention in the Manning Clark House National Cultural Award and a Commended in the Melbourne University National Publishing Award, one of the Fellowship of Australian Writers National Literary Awards.
I’m very proud of him and his book deserves all the glory it receives. When he went to Melbourne his award was presented by a Joan Collins drag queen which was funny if not odd.
This week saw the death of Brian Walpole, the Australian World War 2 veteran who completed his memoir, My War: Life Is For Living (ABC Books, 2004) with David’s help.
Brian was a character and he exited this world in a way that you would wish for, peacefully and quickly. He died achieving his dream of putting his incredible true story into a book which is something that I know David feels honoured to have been a part of.
The renovations continue! We are staying put for now in our Liittle Brick Cottage (which Daisy is attempting to rename Daisy Cottage) and we are building an outdoor office shed.
Today a Tree Doctor came to investigate the yard to see if the massive palm trees that we love can be moved safely and I’m happy to report they can. Then we will do the floorboards, plastering and painting. So we still live in a world of chaos but the house is slowly coming together.
I attended another of Tara Moss’s Literary Salons. The featured books were Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Both excellent reads and the Salon was extremely stimulating and intense. They really are the only social things I get to do these days! Apart from my cinema nights with my girlfriend Annie.
And I must report that the wonderful Mo Hayder’s new book Skin is out and my Daisy is actually a character in her book! Mo did tell me that Daisy was going to be in the book (well she was going to name a character after Daisy).
I was so thrilled and of course I couldn’t wait to find out what grisly situation Mo would put Daisy into! I am happy to report that Daisy got off very lightly for a Mo book and Mo was kind enough to mention Daisy in her acknowledgments which really made my year. So if you want a cracking crime novel which you can’t put down, then go for a Mo!
My girlfriend Rhondda had a very incredible miracle happen recently when her much loved cat Harry went missing. Harry was gone for six nights and Rhondda was distraught as she searched for him and put posters up etc. Finally in desperation she contacted a medium in American who claims to see animals in trance and talk to them to recover them.
I was a bit skeptical when Rhondda told me what was happening. Well, the medium went into trance and to cut a long story short, spoke to Harry and found him a few doors away from Rhondda trapped under a neighbour’s house! Rhondda had already searched this neighbour’s house but they hadn’t looked behind the trapdoor!
The medium described the house and garden perfectly and there was Harry, starving and frightened behind the trapdoor! It was a story with a very happy ending that could have been different if Rhondda didn’t love Harry so much she was prepared to do what most people would scoff at. I am now a believer!
About a month ago there was a massive factory fire down the road from us. On the morning of the fire it was pouring with rain and I was walking Daisy to her preschool. She was carrying a bright red ladybug umbrella, wearing her new fairy gumboots and was splashing over the puddles.
It struck me how gritty and urban our surroundings were; factories, heavy traffic, graffiti, old brick cottages and yet… there was Daisy getting so much innocent joy and magic out of splashing in her puddles. It really means a lot to me, how a drab scene like that can be transformed by a child’s delight in such a simple action.
Sometimes it doesn’t matter what the external surroundings of our lives look like. You can still find the joy in jumping into the puddles.
Keep creative. Be Happy.
It’s the Autumn Equinox, for me a time of reflection and taking stock.
I’m now up to 60 000 words with Poets Cottage after having to go back and rewrite the first few chapters. It’s amazing to watch the story unfold and follow along behind as I tend to do.
With Daisy in preschool, having three uninterrupted writing days has helped to get the rhythm of the book. How can my daughter already be in preschool? Where did those years go? We just celebrated her fourth birthday in a massive combined Mothers Group party. 75 children were present which made for the biggest pass-the-parcel ring I’ve ever seen.
I’ve had a very stimulating start to 2009 artistically. One of the highlights had to be seeing Juliette Binoche and Akram Khan dance at Sydney Opera House the duet In-I. Afterwards Caroline Baum interviewed the pair and they had some profound thoughts on creativity. Just to see Juliette embrace dance in her mid-forties and perform it in the way she has done is inspiring in itself.I’ve loved her since I first saw her in The Unbearable Lightness Of Being and so it was a treat to see her interviewed.
I’ve also attended a couple of literary salons hosted by crime writer Tara Moss, featuring readers such as Lee Tulloch and Emma Tom. These nights are always stimulating and fun and a good excuse to catch up with writerly friends such as Amanda Holohan and Kate Forsyth. The last one was particularly good as it featured Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley.
We are still midway through renovating The Little House. Work had to halt when our builder became ill. Somedays it feels as if we’ll be renovating forever.
David has won an Honourable Commendation in the Manning Clark House Cultural Awards for his history book Tour To Hell, about the mythical places early convicts in Australia believed in and often attempted escape to. In my unbiased opinion, the book deserves all the accolades it receives.
So lots of change and stimulation this year. I am relieved to see the nights begin to darken earlier and know cooler weather will soon be here. I’m never a big fan of summer in the city.
This summer has had many lovely moments of lying around with Daisy, reading to her. We have been working our way through the works of Enid Blyton. It’s been a total joy to revisit all the magic and marvel of such places as The Far Away Tree, The Land of Enchantments, Toffee Shocks, Dame Slap – there is no better way to pass the days.
AN OVERSUPPLY OF BIRDS
One of the problems I’m often wrestling with in my writing is not just the lack of time, but what I think of as an oversupply of birds.
Remedios Varo is one of my favourite painters and inspirations. Her painting Creation Of The Birds (above) is how I visualise my writing process. Except, instead of an organized stream of patient birds waiting to be created by the artist, I have a entire nest of anxious, pecking, chirping, caroling birds impatient to be set free.
The ‘birds’ are my stories, my songs that are eager to take flight into the mysterious universe.
I am working diligently on Poets Cottage. The Witches of Paris bird, all dressed in her somber mourning gown and veil, is packed away sleeping an enchanted fairytale sleep in a box with red satin I keep near my heart. Her hands are folded, one eye upon me, waiting for a redraft. She is my prized bird.
Poets Cottage bird is my current work in progress. As usual, I am amazed by my creation which is taking a different shape to what I expected. Her beak is sharper, her eye is blacker. I am moulding her quickly, amazed at how much seems to be already formed . Wings unfolding without me. Characters appear who I did not plan for. She is not the bird I thought she was when I started but I have fallen in love with her unexpected twists and turns.
The trouble is – I have so many ideas of stories and books wanting to be set free that I cannot keep up with them.
I thought I had sworn off Fantasy for at least seven years but an idea came to me for a fantasy book the other day that keeps pushing its beak in. This bird is a hybrid mixture of phoenix and scarecrow, sparrow, owl and preacher man.
Then there is an entire series of crime novels that I’ve been mulling over for years. These birds are very sharp and astute magpies. I flap at them but they never do fly away. They wait more patiently than others do. Steely-eyed, revolvers strapped to their tiny waists, they know their time will come.
I keep trying to push all the birds away, their flapping wings, their screeching cries, trying desperately to focus on finishing Poets Cottage.
Everything else is a distraction. To get my word count down I have to focus on the project at hand.
But the birds keep singing day and night, pushing inside my chest with claws and beak demanding to be free.
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
– T. S. Eliot
December 29 2008?
It’s early morning. David and Daisy are still sleeping. I’m sitting in my peaceful courtyard garden in the morning sunshine (okay, with the odd plane flying overhead); Smuchie is proudly showing off attacking leaves and climbing trees.
Selwa now has the first four chapters of Poets Cottage to read on her summer break. The book is moving along well. I don’t need to add slowly at this point. Yes, I’m slow, but it’s moving. I’m enjoying life in my Tasmanian sea-fishing village and both threads of the book – 1930s and present day are working well.
The characters are evolving and surprising me. I think I know who the killer of the past thread is – not quite sure but the same person keeps coming up!
When I finish the first draft of Poets Cottage, I’ll return to The Witches of Paris, as that book always haunts me. It’s been an extremely busy and times very frustrating year. My output was extremely restricted by Daisy, house renovations and health problems. However, being at home with Daisy throughout the glorious golden days compensated. I will miss her greatly when she starts her two day preschool next year.
We had the joy of seeing David’s book Tour To Hell published and receive favourable reviews in such varying publications as The Australian Literary Review and Fortean Times.
I hope your Christmas was full of riches and the magic of the season. Some of my favourite gifts I received was Jane Eyre in the Folio edition, Paris Tango by the incredibly talented Carla Coulson, an old nudie magazine David found me featuring the work of Bunny Yeager. Yes, rest in peace Bettie Page.
The best gift I gave was water bottles from Swiss company Sigg (www.mysigg.com). Daisy loves hers and drinks non-stop from it. It’s my contribution to helping Mother Earth this year. I am tired of the waste of plastic drinking bottles. I can’t believe it took me so long to get my act together on this one.
Renovating the ‘Little House’ was a joy as we discovered the secrets she had been keeping for so long – the brickwork underneath decades of paint, now exposed and cleaned up; original hand-carved wooden doorframes and doors; perfect kauri floorboards underneath the grotty old carpet; the kidney beneath the kitchen floor. Not in an ER-style kidney, but a kidney rubbish disposal from when ‘The Little House’ was an old farm back in the convict era. We also found bones and old china which we shall display in a museum-style case after we get them dated.
I’ve seen the renovation as a metaphor for my writing and life – simplifying, discarding any unnecessary frou-frou or cover ups to reveal the story, the treasure within. Being true to your own style, your own structure.
Bees buzz around a flowerpot. Smuchie does a terrific jump from roof to fence to ground. I hear Daisy waking up. Time to go. See you in the New Year.
Stay Safe. Be Kind. Lock your doors…
It’s Spring in Sydney and although I’m very sad to see Winter go, the warmer days are gorgeously balmy. Soon of course, it will become stinking hot and everybody will be complaining.
One great thing about living in an old terrace is that it’s very cool in Summer. Sydney is really best if you’re lucky enough to live by the ocean in summer. We don’t but we’re fortunate enough to be in residence at Brighton-le-Sands whilst David’s parents are on their annual jaunt to England.
Brighton-le-Sands has a terrific family beach, where we’ll be staying for the next eight weeks or so as our kitchen is being renovated. Very exciting to think of returning to a completely new kitchen and a stove that will actually work.
I’ m trying to find as much time as I can in the midst of renovations and all the usual dramas of everyday life such as dental appointments etc to write. I’ve done 28 000 words of Poets Cottage and also completed two short stories for the annual Scarlet Stiletto Awards. This is very slow moving for me but I’m really treasuring the pleasant Spring weather with my daughter before she begins Pre-school next year. Every day is precious that I spend with her and so my small output is easier for me to take.
I’m also still studying French at the Alliance Française which I love despite being so pants at languages! I have a beautiful teacher and wonderful class. It’s a real challenge to me to stick at it as over the years despite all my good intentions, I always dropped out of French. This time, I have the bull well and firmly by his horns.
The new Black magazine is now on the shelf. My Criminal Noir column features John Suter Linton, true crime writer and friend.
Also in Black is a story on Paul Haines, the Australian writer who is battling cancer at the moment. You can follow his courageous journey on his website and through his Blog at Live Journal. It is truly humbling to witness how the speculative fiction community in Australia has gathered around this young writer, donating large sums of money to assist with his treatment. He has everything to live for (his two year old daughter is totally adorable.) Check out his Blog – fascinating, painful,enlightening reading.
I managed to make the Sisters In Crime annual Scarlet Stiletto awards deadline by the skin of my teeth. I managed two stories this year.
When David read the first one he said, “I don’t think it’s as strong as your other entries.”
Hmph!!! I have to admit that it really is a gift (despite my initial bruised ego) to have somebody unafraid to deliver some straight shooting. However, whatever his opinion it had to be entered as there was no time for any other story.
The other entry David loved, but I always felt it was my riskier story. I knew they would either love or hate it. But you have to write what compels you and not try to second-guess the judges.
I received my reader’s report on The Witches of Paris from the publishing company. Despite the fact they knocked it back, they actually gave it a very strong report. I was quite cheered to read that they loved the scenes set at Versailles and that the standard of research was excellent.
They also gave me a couple of tips for reworking the beginning and building up the characters more when they are children. My agent is very keen for me to move along with Poets Cottage and then return to The Witches of Paris when I get this story out of my system, as she feels I’m in danger of losing myself between two books. It’s very difficult to put my Witches away for now, but I must or I’ll bust.
A writer friend suggested I do a ritual for The Witches so I can let go for a little while, so that’s the game plan. I do find my characters from The Witches of Paris pop in at unexpected times and then I long to go back to them, but Poets Cottage is also swirling around in me and so I’m sure I can be happy in that world for awhile.
I saw Leigh Giarratano talk at Better Read Than Dead recently and she was a fascinating, chilling speaker. Knowing that she really has worked and faced the monsters made her talk even more compelling. I picked up her books which I haven’t had a chance to even open yet – but I’ll get there. That woman would make a great television series!
Apart from that, I’ve been in the midst of renovation plans for our kitchen in ‘The Little House’. That’s Daisy’s name for our terrace. There has been lots of sandpit, park and playgroup play, too. And I’m learning French at Alliance Francaise, which I’m determined to master. I have to admit, I’m pants at languages and have felt like giving up several tiimes. I’ve been inspired by a woman at playgroup who said her 85-year-old father has just taken up studying Hebrew to keep his brain active. No excuse for me, then!
David’s book has been selling well and he certainly got a lot of media. If you’re looking for a good Father’s Day present…
I am slightly bleak about Winter drawing to an end. I really loathe Sydney summers.
Keep Creative and Chilling x
Can you believe it’s June (!!!) already? Time is bending and melting like a Dali spoon. I’m now four chapters into Poets’ Cottage and although I’m moving quite slowly I’m working every day. This book is quite different from anything I’ve done before. The Witches Of Paris is now with a different reader, the original reader deciding after a year that she had too much editorial work on.
I had another trip to Tasmania and my parent’s hamlet was gorgeous in Autumn. The hawthorn trees were ripe with berries and the air had that icy chill to it that I love.
Every day is glorious because I spend it with Daisy and I wish at times I could hold this bendy time and freeze how happy we are.
I attended the Sydney Writers’ Festival and did a workshop with Mo Hayder. What can I say about that woman except I love her to bits! She really is the most gracious, kind, intelligent, totally gorgeous woman and writer I’ve ever met. She gave me some killer advice and a much needed buck-up with my writing. I received so much from Mo and will be forever grateful.
After all these years of feeling slightly isolated by how my mind works, I feel I found a kindred spirit in Mo. I was more than a little nervous about meeting Mo as I’ve met so many writers over the years and sometimes they don’t always match their books. They can have inflated egos and be quite shabby, dysfunctional people. It’s always ruined their books for me if they don’t match their words. But Mo was one of those rare people who actually exceeded my expectations.
Daisy and I attended a Wiggles concert and it was slightly weird to find myself reacting as excitedly as any of the two- year-olds in the audience. In fact, when Wags, Dorothy, and company ran out, I had tears in my eyes at all the hysterical, innocent excitement.
I’m in the anthology What Is Mother Love? (Penguin), available now from bookshops. Quite a few of the pieces moved me to tears. A range of women contribute pieces, from the famous to the not-so famous as the publicity says. It makes a perfect gift for your Mother – or any Mother. If you’re a Mother yourself, you’re sure to find some words that make you nod, smile, or shed a tear. We attended the launch and it was certainly different, as children were invited. Daisy is still talking about the ‘night party’ she went to when the ‘moon was out’. I’m not sure if night parties and book launches are as much fun with a crowd of two- and three-year-olds along! I seem to have spent most of the night feeling like Gulliver with over-excited Lilliputians surrounding me.
I’ve begun a record of the writing process of Poets’ Cottage on my MySpace Blog, so if you’re interested in the trials and tribulations of a book in progress, please come and read. Maybe you can relate and we can suffer and celebrate together. As I mentioned in this Blog entry, sometimes it’s a case of one word at a time. One page at a time to keep your focus and get there.
Keep your eyes out for a new magazine called Black, an Angela Challis production. It will be in newsagencies from July 14th. I have a crime fiction column in it called Criminal Noir, and my first piece is about Ritual, Mo Hayder’s new book – and my lunch date with the goddess herself. Yes, she may look like a European supermodel but don’t judge books by their covers. They don’t come darker than Mo. Great title and presentation. Black sounds like it will be a lush feast for all lovers of dark culture. The website: www.brimstonepress.com.au/black.htm
if you want to read more and they take overseas subs and buyers.
This is the time of year when my thoughts turn to crime. It’s approaching the due date for the Sisters In Crime annual Scarlet Stiletto story. I do have one story (very rough draft) written and I’m about to write another. Hopefully, I’ll make the deadline.
And one of the sweetest news of the year – we have the advance copy of David’s book Tour To Hell. Great cover presentation, and very overwhelming to finally hold the result of seven years of toil. David is a total inspiration to me as he had to undergo numerous rewrites of his book but he never gave up. Also the fact that he managed to uncover information that’s never been written about before concerning the early convict days in Australia. And to make it such an exciting and pacy read is impressive.
David is in the process of building a website so if you want to see his work under construction go here:www.davidlevellcom
He’ll also be a part of the Byron Bay Writers Festival, talking about Tour to Hell so if you’re in that part of the world…
Busy, Busy, Busy.
We work in the dark-we do what we can – we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art – Henry James
Here we are in the New Year and it’s halfway through February and I’m only just updating the New Year entry. I’ve been so busy playing with MySpace and Facebook, not to mention writing! I had planned to do a summary of 2007 to begin but my memory is pretty vague on it all.
It wasn’t one of my favourite years on a writing level but I did learn a lot from the craft. Sometimes what appears to be the dead ends contain the most information as frustrating as they can be. Loads of rewriting and reworking The Witches of Paris, when I was all eager to scamper off and plunder new territory with Poets’ Cottage.
I had my father’s cancer to deal with (he’s still doing very well, thank you, Goddess!) and all the everyday joy and miracles watching Daisy achieve her milestones. Then the heartache of Madeleine McCann as the online forum, Helping to Find Madeleine, still continue to keep Madeleine’s profile high in countries like Morocco. Kate and Gerry McCann have publicly acknowledged our group by putting a link up to us from their official website and we made the papers in the UK for our efforts. All very nice but freaking frustrating that so far we are nine months down the track and no Madeleine…
Learning about the plight of trafficked children was one of the grimmer things of 2007.
My favourite books of 2007: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and The Shifting Fog/House at Riverton by my writing buddy and fellow Selwa author, Kate Morton. My favourite movies were Pan’s Labyrinth and Volver (although I rarely ever had time to get to the cinema).
I’m writing this at Lammas, sitting in my favourite hair-salon. It’s a rainy, cold Saturday. My favourite kind of Saturday! I’d really like to just go home and lie on the bed all day and read but as usual my dance card is full. I’ve been working with the above quote as I’ve begun the journey of Poets’ Cottage my fifth and current book.
I began with bold strokes and shortly afterwards began tip-toeing through it like a frightened mouse. The characters emerged easily, some as always very different to how I envisaged them. The block that struck me midway through January that caused my old-lady tip-toeing and gentle watercolour dabbles was due to the fact I was still very involved on a heart level with book 4, The Witches of Paris. My constant fretting over its fate made it much harder to enter fully into the world of a Tasmanian sea-fishing village when I was still in the 17th century at Versailles.
It was a depressing time. I felt like Master Tubby Bear when he ventures with Noddy into the Dark Woods and the evil trees reach out to entrap him. Yes, I have been reading rather a lot of Enid Blyton lately. That is one great thing about having an almost three-year-old. You spend a lot of the day reading old favourites and discovering new children’s authors, playing with barbie dolls and dolls houses.
I have to somehow detach from lovely toy diversions and The Witches of Paris to fully immerse myself in my latest book. I can feel it all solid sliding between my ribs. I can almost smell the fragrance wafting from it. An old-fashioned scent of gardenias, strawberry, rose and violets. Miscellanous images keep floating through my head. Rain on roof, art deco, red lipstick, kookaburras, Louise Brooks. Pansies pressed in a book, Agatha Christie’s Five Little Pigs. I have three chapters down but I’m working so slowly! I just have to relax and breathe into it and allow the birth process to happen.
All I really want to do is write, write, write – but life keeps elbowing its way in. This week I saw Carmen at the Sydney Opera House. Doomed Tarot Cards, gypsy skirts, plaintive songs about love, lust, passion and death. And Carmen herself, what a wild bohemian soul! But the most memorable part of the show was the live horses on stage. The audience went berserk every time they appeared. I’m just sorry I missed the chickens on opening night. I read they misbehaved themselves disgracefully and were never to set claw on stage again at the Opera House. What a bunch of bad hats!
I also caught the Sidney Nolan show at the Art Gallery of NSW. Such an important artist for Australia. So unafraid and ballsy – like Carmen – which is what I have to now push back into my writing. That ballsiness and courage Nolan had in spades. The Ned Kelly series had huge crowds in reverent positions making it difficult to see them. It reminded me of the crowds in front of the Mona Lisa or David in Italy. My favourite painting was Italian Crucifix 1955. I loved that work with its pagan-Christian meshing. When I see gutsy painting it makes me long for my old art studio, the smell of turps, paint splattered aprons and the excitement of starting a new world on canvas. Lucky for art lovers everywhere, Poets’ Cottage is mewing to be born and I’m painting with words these days.
I’m reading research books at the moment. One fascinating one is The Rare & The Beautiful and A Child’s Life In The 1920s. I love this book as it describes life in an inner-city terrace very similar to our tiny terrace from the perspective of an only child.
The image that I’ve added to this update is one I’m working with. I’ll be adding a photo section soon to show you some Tasmanian photographs I’m using for the story. I covet the coat but her expression and the door behind her is part of the web I’m weaving. Yes, it is the totally fabbo Louise Brooks and she’s not in my book of course – but one of my leading characters has her sassiness.
If you are on MySpace then feel free to add me to your friends and check out my Blog. I have met so many fascinating people around the world on MySpace. I’m seriously becoming a geek. I have to confess to becoming Facebook-fatigued. The novelty has worn off and I really can’t see why anybody wants to read my status updates. It’s all a bit Big Brother for me.
Thank you very much to the people still picking up my books and sending me letters. You know who you are. They really do keep me going through many a writing day. It can be very difficult to write when you only have an hour a day. My daughter has recently abandoned her day sleep so that means I spend more time in the doll’s house than in Poets’ Cottage.
One of my very favourite writers in the crime genre is Mo Hayder. I’ve often gushed over her throughout the years. I’ve been waiting a few years now for her latest but it’s out in March – Ritual. She writes very intelligent, very dark, twisty books that really play with your mind for ages. To my great excitement, she’s coming to Sydney for the Sydney Writers Festival. Can’t wait for her talk!
Hope the first harvest of the year was a rich one for you and your creativity is waxing. Keep shining – be ballsy and unafraid with your life and creativity. Stay passionate, wild and true x
Hope your Christmas was rich and filled with celebration.
We had a very pleasant Christmas. It was a joy to witness Daisy’s face when she first spotted her new dolls’ house – the sort I would’ve loved when I was a little girl and could happily spend hours playing with it myself. It’s a pink (of course) two-storey Victorian house, and takes up half our tiny loungeroom. I spent months fitting it out with all the furniture I’d love for myself: clawfoot bath, Louis XIV sette, Grandfather clock and classical paintings.
We had a lovely day and the night was a weird mish-mash of old burlesque films, Wicker Man documentary and Jean Cocteau.
As the year spirals to a close, I’m beginning to ponder the fact that my ego has spiralled out of control. I have a perfectly beautiful website with more information than anybody could possibly want to know about me. I have a Facebook which I’m addicted to and in 2008 will have to begin cutting back on if I ever want to finish my fifth book.
So why did I sign up to MySpace? It seems like the ugly cousin of Facebook. It’s so cluttered, so awkward to navigate but it’s sooo great for contacting people around the world. That’s my rationale for spending way too much time on the computer talking about myself. I’m a lurker, an observer by nature and MySpace is great for lurking.
You can read the blogs of the famous and not so famous. You can check out all the friends of your friends. You can pretend that the likes of such luminaries as the Waterboys, Kate Bush and Neil Gaiman really are your friends.
All these things I chant as I try vainly to work out the control panel, the uploading photos and ponder what videos I can add that will create the image I want on my new toy. It’s really just a 3D business card, I tell myself. A little voice keeps whispering that my ego is just way out of control.
Wishing you all good, creative, abundant, joyful changes with the Solstice.
Still remain addicted to Facebook but I’ve thrown myself into writing a new book, working title Poets’ Cottage. I was holding off writing as I had a couple of months research still to do, but finally succumbed to the pressure to spin a web. This is a different way of working for me; normally I like to do the bulk of research and allow the plot to evolve from this.
I was becoming quite narky without writing and already I feel so much better, although exhausted from all the early morning starts. It’s moving along slowly but the characters are there and very different to how I had planned them – that’s always a good sign! It means they’ve been brewing away forming themselves.
I went to a talk by Belinda Alexandra that my agent hosted this week and she said the same thing – she’ll research until the pressure becomes too great and then write, and research as she goes.
Last Saturday was my agent’s annual shindig of awards night and day of author talks. I was enormously proud of David who delivered a cracking good talk on his book, Tour to Hell. There was a lot of positive feedback immediately afterwards and ABC radio are interested in interviewing him. A couple of Writers’ Festivals have already expressed interest for him to be on panels next year as well.
It all seems like a lovely surreal dream. I can’t describe what a dream come true this is for us. After seven years of us believing in TTH and watching him having to put down his own fiction work to draft, redraft and draft and redraft… it was its own tour to hell for us at times. However, I always believed in this book as there is original material in there. As he himself said in his talk, ‘This is a story that deserves to be told.’ He also received an award for his efforts from Selwa.
Actually, there were quite a few of the ‘ratbags’ as we term ourselves: Selwa’s authors who are predominately SF writers. Over the years we’ve formed our own little writing support group online. Quite a few ‘ratbags’ won awards. I’ve added the photos to my writing section so you can see what a top looking crew of scribes they are! It was such an exciting night that I couldn’t settle when I got home and I was up way past 3am. The Selwa Sassy awards are always like that, so much buzzy, fabbo people are in the room, you OD on all the energy. It’s like a big helium fix for us all every day of inspiration. And of course, every writer needs a fix of inspiration to keep going at times!
We are still renovating our terrace. Stained glass window arrived (divine). When the carpets were pulled up the floorboards were in perfect condition – just as the magazines often state. Kauri wood. Still pumping the air over that one.
We had the most magical experience at the Nutcracker ballet. Dancing rats, magicians, Columbines, snowflakes: all too divine for words!
I have been yearning for Venetian liaisons, Parisian graveyards, English moors and fairytale winter woodlands. But with the cost of the renovations I will have to satisfy myself with living in a Tasmanian sea-fishing village for awhile, which really suits me just fine!
This week I finally succumbed and joined Facebook. I have always avoided both Myspace and Facebook because I have a huge website so thought I didn’t actually need to take up any more space on the internet. I originally signed up to help find Madeleine McCann as that’s what a lot of the members are doing. I had no idea that Facebook was so much fun and so addictive! So far, I’ve located one friend that I hadn’t seen for awhile and also made friends with a cat! The cat was then turned into a zombie and I get sent gifts from people! Yes, I do need to get out more, it’s true.
My ‘real life’ friends think that I’m a bit of a sad old sack for joining. When I ask them to come on board, I get told to sod off. However, it’s amazing how much fun it is (and of course distracting from writing) to surf away checking out people’s friends. I’m such a sticky beak by nature that I could happily spend hours checking out all the little faces. David caught me the other night, past the witching hour, glassy-eyed and emotional that I had been sent a growing gift online. Yes, I have a problem. But who knew such an alternative life existed?
Saw the wonderful Sigrid Thornton and Brenda Bleythn in Talking Heads this week which was marvellous. The writing is so skilful and deadly. The way Alan Bennett manages to weave an entire world into a few sentences is just a joy to witness. It’s inspiring when you watch an actor on a stage construct an entire story for you with minimal action.
This has not been a very productive writing week which is unusual for me. Ahem, there’s that Facebook word again. Hopefully next week, I’ll be able to throw myself back into my book with renewed vigour. David is going away for a few days on a writing job, he’s travelling on the Ghan train from Adelaide to Darwin which sounds just lovely.
And, I’m very annoyed with myself tonight because I should be seeing the Ian Rankin talk tonight except somehow I forgot to book the tickets and they sold out probably in the first two hours. I guess that gives me more time to play around on Facebook, sad old sod that I am!
David has sold Tour To Hell to University of Queensland Press. I’m thrilled for him because his book is one of the best non-fiction history books I’ve read on early Australian history. He really bought the past alive for me. His research is so exciting and in the years he has been working on Tour to Hell he has uncovered original material that has never been published before. The book has been seven years in the researching, writing, redrafts, redrafts and redrafts. I have believed in it from day one and so I’m so proud of him.
The publication date is August, 2008. I really cannot wait until I see his name on it. You would swear it was my own book at how excited I am. That’s the best thing about living with a writer. You experience all the disappointments, the drafts, the struggles and then the joy of acceptance. It’s like having two of you out there.
I also attended the launch for Belinda Alexandra’s wonderful new book, Silver Wattle. Toni Lamond launched the book. She looks incredible for 75. If I looked like her at 75, I’d be pretty happy. I can still see Belinda in her stunning hot fuchsia pink dress. It was a lovely night and good to catch up with a couple of dear friends I haven’t seen for awhile.
Our bathroom renovation is nearly complete; we have a stained glass window to add, a termite inspection, old carpets ripped up, replastering and then we’re through. We stayed at Brighton-le-Sands for the last five weeks. It was difficult to return to the inner-city! felt as if I was in Italia again. Taking Daisy to the beach every day was a joy. Having a big backyard – heavenly. There were bats in the trees outside. Although it is only ten minutes drive from us I cannot believe how peaceful and serene it was.
I’ve begun work on Book 5. I’m researching and preparing my least favourite task – the timeline. I’m never fond of chronological time! The research is always a joy for me. Selwa is very enthusiastic about my latest idea. The Witches of Paris is still being read. To avoid thinking about it, I’m throwing myself into the world of my current book. It also helps me with my sadness about having to move back to my renovated house. If I can’t live where I want to be – I can at least live there in imagination.
We went to a children’s party on Saturday which was a typical Newtown party. It was held in the hall of historic St Stephen’s church, next to the famous graveyard. Musicians played songs like ‘Incy Wincy Spider’ and ‘Bananas in Pyjamas’. It was lovely to see Daisy dancing and twirling in her tutu and wings to a double bass and piano act. My favourite memory is David changing her nappy in the poetical surroundings of the atmospheric gravestones with a white rose bush around them. Speaking of poetry, I’ve been reading this one a lot lately for consolation:
Ode on Melancholy
No no, go not to Lethe, neither twist
Wolf’s-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss’d
By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be
Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow’s mysteries;
For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.
But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.
She dwells with Beauty–Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;
His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.
– John Keats (1795–1821)
This is my favourite time of year. Not only is it my birthday but the veils between the world are at their thinnest. (I’ve never celebrated it as Beltane as to me it’s always been All Hallows.) It was gorgeous to see all the little children dressed up in their trick and treat costumes. Even Daisy got in on the act and made a cute witch. However, my favourite Halloween image is of Madeleine McCann which I have posted here from the Proboards Forum. Lizabethmouse, the PB moderator has this montage below which I think is truly beautiful and powerful.
Our Helping to Find Madeleine Team has received a positive boost with the McCanns linking to our website, an affirmation that they think the work we have been doing is worthy. We are coming up to six months now and I remain hopeful that Madeleine will be found. Then I can return with full focus back to my writing until we pick up the next abducted child and work for them.
I think the poems below are appropriate for this time of year. In Mexico deceased children and infants are remembered on November 1. They are known as angelitos (little angels). The Aztecs believed angelitos went to Paradise where there were trees made of human breasts and they sat beneath them to drink the flowing milk with open mouths. My Daisy would definitely think that was paradise!
I think it’s highly possible that if Madeleine was abducted to order then she could still have a chance of being alive and not be among the angelitos. However, it’s lovely to remember other children who have passed into spirit at this time of year, along with my own ancestors.
“Today could be the day that Madeleine comes home”
~Daily affirmation of Kate and Gerry McCann
Traditional Angel Blessing
Angels bless and angels keep
Angels guard me while I sleep
Bless my heart and bless my home
Bless my spirit as I roam
Guide and guard me through the night
and wake me with the morning’s light.
Miracles are the subtle wisps and whispers
that God and Goddess are
at play in the fields of your
reality and that your Spirit
breathes and your Soul
stirs within your creations
Miracles are the wisps
and whispers of
Out of the blue…
as if by magic…
Be open, recieve.
A Prayer Of Responsibility For Children
We pray for children
Who put chocolate fingers everywhere,
Who like to be tickled,
Who stomp in puddles and ruin their new pants,
Who sneak Popsicles before supper,
Who erase holes in math workbooks,
Who can never find their shoes.
And We pray for those
Who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,
Who can’t bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers,
Who never “counted potatoes,”
Who are born in places we wouldn’t be caught dead,
Who never go to the circus,
Who live in a X-rated world.
We pray for children
Who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
Who sleep with the dog and bury goldfish,
Who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money,
Who cover themselves with Band-aids and sing off key,
Who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink,
Who slurp their soup.
And We pray for those
Who never get dessert,
Who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
Who watch their parents watch them die,
Who can’t find any bread to steal,
Who don’t have any rooms to clean up,
Whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dresser,
Whose monsters are real.
We pray for children
Who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,
Who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,
Who like ghost stories,
Who shove dirty clothes under the bed and never rinse out the tub,
Who get visits from the tooth fairy,
Who don’t like to be kissed in front of the carpool,
Who squirm in church or temple and scream in the phone,
Whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry.
And We pray for those
Whose nightmares come in the daytime,
Who will eat anything,
Who have never seen a dentist,
Who aren’t spoiled by anybody,
Who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
Who live and move, but have no being.
We pray for children
Who want to be carried and for those who must,
For those we never give up on
And for those who don’t get a second chance.
For those we smoother…
And for those
who will grab the hand of anybody kind enough to offer it.
– Ina J. Hughs (Children’s Defense Fund)
Back from Stanley, which was terrific. It was like an Enid Blyton book come to life and really reminded me of Cornwall. Of course, I wanted to stay forever. I really do love fishing villages and this was a goodie. The Captain’s Cottage, where we stayed, was about as adorable as it gets. At night, David would light the fire and we would read. I am devouring The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova; I saw her give a talk at the Sydney Writers’ Festival awhile back. The book is so creepy! I had nightmares twice in Stanley about vampires and walking through the Captain’s Cottage at night with a torch was pretty nerve racking.
I fell in love in Stanley with a house. I don’t want to talk about it too much as it has given me loads of ideas for my next book, but this house really helped me to formulate my ideas. I love Georgian houses and I love fishing villages. When the two come together, it’s alchemy. I ache just thinking about it!
We also visited my parents in their little Midlands hamlet (their town has an incredible number of Georgian houses btw). My father is still fighting his cancer and is blooming although he has lost a little weight.
We saw the blood red moon at my parents and it was incredible in that country sky over Lake Dulverton. At the moment the eclipse occurred, the dogs of the town howled. It was extraordinary.
We have returned to Sydney to a half-renovated house. The walls are back to the original brick which is divine and looks almost like a city Captain’s Cottage! With all the upheaval, writing has been on pause. I’ve been invited to submit to an anthology on Mother Love – a topic after my own heart – for the Deaf, Dumb & Blind Society. I’m hoping to find time amongst the chaos to plan and research for my next book, as I’m bursting with ideas.
I cannot believe the madness coming out of Prai da Luz in Portugal at the moment. It’s beginning to smell like the Lindy Chamberlain case all over again. Poor wee Madeleine McCann. A number of friends have contacted me wondering about my reaction to the latest DNA findings. I refuse to believe that Kate and Gerry had anything to do with her abduction. If they did, they should rethink their career paths as they would be brilliant on the stage.
I’ve said it many times but if they had anything to do with Madeleine’s abduction, I’ll eat my cat. I normally always tend to suspect the parents first in these cases but both the McCanns have displayed all the reactions I’d expect in such conditions. It’s not the first time that there has been corruption in Portugal. You only have to read about the Casa Pia orphanage scandals to see that something rotten lurks there.
I think Kate and Gerry have upset too many powerful people in Portugal and they have been set up. I am still very involved with the Madeleine groups around the world and will continue to fight for that dear, little scrap of a girl until justice is served.
Every crime expert I’ve read on the case says the McCanns being under suspicion is ludicrous. In 2004, a little girl disappeared just a few miles from Prai da Luz. Her mother was tortured into confessing by the very same senior officer now in charge of Madeleine’s case. This is a lead they should be following and the case re-opened. As I have said many times; something dark is slithering through Portugal. If you are interested in joining the quest to locate Madeleine, then here is a link: http://www.helpingtofindmadeleine.com
The launch for The First Cut was a success. Melbourne was freezing – brilliant! I walked the beach at St Kilda, had my hair blowwaved and best of all – got to nap all day at the Cabana Court. The Cabana has become a part of my Sisters in Crime experience over the years. I can smell that motel room as I write this. I love it there; it’s so Sisters in Crime to me.
Sigrid Thornton was a perfect choice to launch The First Cut. She is incredibly warm, elegant and ageless. Every person I have spoken to seems to love Sigrid and she has a personality to match her lovely face. A big crowd turned up -I suspect more for Sigrid than the writers of The First Cut. It was loads of fun as always. When I have some photos, I’ll post them.
Another First Cut writer told me at the launch that she ‘liked my story the best in the book, but she would never want to read it again.’ I took it as a great compliment!
The Witches of Paris is with a reader for some final tweaks. I’m busy with my annual entry for the Sisters in Crime. I also have ideas for two very different books competing in my mind. After I finish my short stories, I’ll be able to focus more on where I should go next. I was always planning on doing the ‘Scottish’ story, but another book has crept into my mind and I’m quite excited about this new one as well.
David and I saw a very enjoyable opera recently, Abduction From The Seraglio. It was bright and fun, but didn’t really get my mind off Madeleine McCann as it was all about abduction.
I am still working every day in the email quest to get Madeleine’s image and details to as many people as possible. Tomorrow it will be 100 days since this little girl was abducted. I’ve met many wonderful people from around the world who have joined together out of a common urge to fight the predators who prey on innocent children. I’ve been reading a lot about abducted children – it is harrowing and tormenting but I feel driven not to turn away. As much as I’d like not to know some of these details, I feel that these children should never have suffered and died and the world stayed apathetic to their pain. Some judges at Sisters in Crime say my writing is too bleak; one said after she had finished one of mine she almost felt like killing herself. But to me crime is bleak and to represent it otherwise would be false. If I’m writing about paedophiles or murder, I feel I have to show it as it is.
My little family is heading to Tasmania in a week to see my family and spend some time relaxing at Stanley, a fishing village on the north coast. I can’t wait to just relax and experience the chill of a Tasmanian winter by the sea. Red wine, good books and hopefully loads and loads of sleep.
Happy Bastille Day!
When I’m not spamming Morocco in my relentless quest for Madeleine McCann’s safe return, I’m actually now writing my annual crime short story entry for the Sisters in Crime. It’s the latest I’ve ever started so the pressure is truly on this year.
Earlier in the Madeleine campaign I wrote to one of my heroes, John Douglas of the FBI, who pioneered investigative profiling. I’ve used his books as research many times over the years. I’m a big fan of his techniques and his writing so I was delighted to receive a personal reply in my inbox. I’ve added this very talented and wonderful man to my links.
David and I attended the Paris Opera Ballet (I get a thrill even typing that!) at the Capitol Theatre in late June. The theatre is truly magnificent and Swan Lake was just unbelievably good. The power of the male dancers was dynamic. The costumes were so beautiful it will ruin me for any other ballet. Vintage materials with exquisite detail. I read an interview where one of the members said, “Even the jewels that can’t be seen are authentic – because we know”. That to me is soooo French and is why I love the French, for their love of the details.
Speaking of French, I found the most beautiful black dress in one of the vintage stores in King Street today – made in Paris and perfect in every way imaginable. Now I have no excuse for missing the launch of The First Cut anthology in Melbourne on August 3rd. I even have my little black dress! Sigrid Thornton is guest of honour and I’ll be taking part in a panel discussion about writing.
Thanks to the media frenzied hype of Harry Potter I’ll now have to rush out and buy it – and read it as quickly as I can before the ending is splashed all over the media. I love Harry Potter but I’m glad there are no more after this one. I do hope she kills him off.
I am truly disgusted that $30,000 apiece should be handed out to 16 of the disgraced Patrick Power’s friends in compensation for being named publicly as his character referees. If they truly believe in his innate decency and goodness then why must their support be kept secret?
I hope they donate their generous settlements to the Madeleine McCann Fund. As I’ve said before, children like Madeleine are stolen from their families to satisfy the viewing habits of people like Power. Consuming videos of children being raped is not a victimless crime, as Power’s defence maintained, nor is it merely a ‘lapse from grace’ as former Supreme Court Judge Roderick Meagher says.
Madeleine and the millions of other abducted children subjected to rape and abuse are the only victims here, not Power’s spineless friends with their hands out for money.
Seeing as one of those 16 friends is Tim Pethick, founder of Nudie Juice bars, I know where I’ll never spend money again.
Writing business first. Selwa is now reading The Witches of Paris, so it’s rather a nail-biting time waiting for her comments.
I’m in a new anthology, Scarlet Stiletto: The First Cut (Mira, $29.95) edited by Lindy Cameron. It’s a collection of the award-winning Scarlet Stiletto stories. I’m very happy with the presentation and to be a part of such a varied and talented group of my crime sisters. Speaking of crime sisters, my friend Katherine Howell has been getting some smoking reviews for her first novel, Frantic, based on her experience as an ambo.
David is off to Cooper Pedy for a few days on a writing assignment. I will miss him enormously. I hope he will return with a large opal for me! I visited Cooper Pedy about 700 years ago and remember well the stripper in the underground pub. It was a pretty dreary affair for the poor old stripper; I don’t think any of the men gathered there gave her a second glance – they were too busy talking and staring into their beers.
The weather has been truly superb with the torrential rain. I’ve been almost beside myself and if I was a cat I’d purr with pleasure all day.
Our wonderful renovating builder had a heart-attack but thankfully is now well and ready to resume. I mention him because any Sydneysider understands if you find a builder who is honest, likeable and well-respected you have found gold. He becomes part of the family.
I have become increasingly occupied with the Madeleine McCann case and the wider issues of child trafficking for internet porn. Most of my computer time is now spent in emails to Morocco and people as varied as Tony Blair, Queen Rania of Jordon, Prince Charles and so forth. Yes, I’ve become a total crank, but I really do feel passionately about this. For me to give up any writing time is proof of how strongly I feel.
Sometimes life must come before art. I’ve met many wonderful people around the world in my internet campaign. It’s a cliché but true that when the darkness falls, lightbearers appear.
I did a recent mail-out to my mailing list and a number of people have changed emails. if you are reading and you would like to be put back onto my mailing list please send your new address. I know this is my fault as I don’t send a lot of mail. Here below is part of what I sent out:
As you know, my writing contains some themes concerning lost/abducted/abused children. Some of you also know I’ve become involved in the internet campaign to locate missing British 4 year old, Madeleine McCann, abducted from her hotel room in Portugal over four weeks ago.
The internet has seen a rapid spike in paedophiles viewing child rape films and created a very sinister abduction trail throughout several countries. A growing number of us around the world are using the internet to help in our own small way to locate one missing child by emailing Madeleine’s image and description to various countries. I am in the Morocco group.
I am writing to ask if anybody has ideas we can utilise for Morocco. If you have any contacts there please reply to me urgently.
A woman named Marilyn Baker has started an online petition to have the McCanns persecuted for leaving Madeleine in a hotel room they believed to be safe. It has attracted 1700 signatures. I feel that the McCanns have already suffered enough. The online petition to counteract Baker’s petition is here: www.ipetitions.com/petition/mccann/index.html
More information about Madeleine’s abduction can be found at www.findmadeleine.com
If you feel as passionately as me about this issue please contact this email address and you will be directed to our forum. email@example.com
Thank you all. My heart has been touched very deeply by this little girl’s plight. What we are doing may seem impossible but I believe in the impossible.
For those on my writing mailing list – I hope to update soon with more regular postings to you.
May the Lady in her myriad of forms bless you and your families and bring Madeleine home to her mother’s arms and help us to fight the monsters who prey on our innocents.
It’s been weeks and I haven’t been able to write anything. I’m not blocked. I just don’t feel like starting yet. I’m beginning to enjoy this space.
The Madeleine McCann abduction knocked me as well. It’s made me vow to do everything in my power to fight the monsters out there who prey on our children. I’ve seen them here in children’s playgrounds, watching the kids with ‘that’ look. Once there was a young guy lying on a slide trying to look up little girls’ dresses. He was totally brazen; he knew we were watching and didn’t care.
We reported him to the local council, who rebuffed the complaint by saying they had no intention of preventing paedophiles from entering council playgrounds.
Just as bad are creeps who get off on kiddie porn, thus fuelling the continuing abduction and sexual abuse of children. Patrick Power SC, a prominent Sydney lawyer, received just 8 to 15 months’ gaol for possessing videos of children (some only 5 years old) being raped by other paedophiles. Then he was released on bail pending his appeal against his sentence, to be heard in June. According to Power’s legal mates – 59 lawyers offered character references for this evil toad – he only enjoyed having children raped for his viewing pleasure because he was depressed. To see supposedly respectable people like Crown Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi QC stick up for such vermin is vomit inducing.
I have a candle burning for Madeleine and I’m donating money to help the McCanns continue their quest to get their little girl back. If you can spare anything, no matter how small please donate. They are now taking Paypal donations. Unused funds will go to help the abducted children of Portugal.
Having a rich/over-sensitive imagination is both a blessing and a curse. In times like this, it’s a curse. I’ve hardly been able to eat and I think of this little girl day and night. A lot of my writing concerns itself with abducted/vanished children; I thought I was hardened to the realities of the monsters who stalk children. I’ve read all the profiling books as research. But Madeleine’s fate is haunting me. When I think of that child weeping and calling for her mother it makes me determined to fight sexual predators. Even if I just have to act like a total crank writing letters, I will. I’ll make it harder for the monsters any way I can and I urge everybody to do the same.
We saw the New Romantics ballet at Sydney Opera House but it wasn’t really my cup of tea. I like extravagant costumes, fairytale sets, plot, feathers, glamour, tutus, castanets, lace and opulent silliness! New Romantics had none of this. I like Alannah Hill and it was Morandi. Very zen, quiet, disciplined, simplistic and some fabulous bodies. It was lovely, but too minimalist for moi.
I will start writing again soon. It’s time for my annual strike at the Scarlet Stiletto. No, I’m determined to keep away from child abuse issues this time.
The weather is disappointing. Far too warm and sunny for winter. Bah!
I’m looking out of the office window through potted geraniums and the tree outside to a lovely grey sky, and feeling quite bereft. The edit of The Witches of Paris is finished; the manuscript is with Selwa and Selena. Now there’s a hole in the day which is the strangest sensation. Prior to this moment, as soon as Daisy went down for her nap I’d run to the computer. I’m unused to space. Of course I could always do housework! I feel too drained to begin research for ‘the Scottish book’, as I call it.
It’s so strange to have this emptiness. Not that I’m missing my characters, after four years it feels odd without them. For the first time I had the experience of a work being circular as I wrote it. To me it felt like a complete circle and I’d never felt that energy before.
Last week Daisy and I flew to Tasmania. It was only four days but felt like a lifetime as it’s such a different world to my normal life. I’m already homesick for biting cold weather, stone cottages, the smell of smoke chimneys and people nodding hello to me in the street who have known me forever.
My father is still fighting the cancer. His hair grew back from the chemotherapy long and curly! To celebrate our return, he cut his long curly locks. Mum gave me two boxes with the curls to keep – very Victorian!
I finally got to sleep a lot. We ate fresh Tasmanian food – the food is always better in Tasmania – and my mother made lots of comfort food like baked dinners and crumble. Everybody was impressed by Daisy’s vocabulary and my daughter even got to lay a wreath at Anzac Day for Colonel Brown (a relative).
We saw fat wombats sneaking under houses and a dead snake in the graveyard – at this time of year! The seasons are well and truly out. I enjoyed the sight of my daughter screaming with joy as she kicked her way through yellow and red Autumn leaves. At night, we cuddled together, nose to nose, her soft perfect breath on my face.
I’ve just finished Letters from Menabilly, a collection of correspondence between the wonderful Daphne du Maurier and her younger writing friend Oriel Malet. Very sad to read how Daphne became lost in her own mind at the end and wasn’t sure whether she had written Gone With The Wind. I’m also reading a lot of children’s books every day with Daisy, which is lovely. There’s nothing as cosy as picking up an Enid Blyton or a Dr Seuss.
Saw the ballet Don Quixote at Sydney Opera House. I had to be dragged along as I was still editing but was so glad I went. The costumes were fabbo. The gypsies and the Spanish look was just mouthwatering. It’s such a vibrant, uplifting ballet. I’m normally drawn to more Gothic, melancholy romantic ballets but this was one of my favourites. I’d been feeling so swamped with my editing and it really lifted my spirits to see such an exuberant work. I defy anybody to feel depressed on Sydney Harbour with a glass of champagne at interval time at the ballet!
The full moon in Scorpio was about as magical as it gets this week. She was a beauty. Powerful, iridescent and haunting.
Still editing. David and I are both trying to reverse our pattern of working until late at night and are we’re trying to start at 4am to do our writing. Not so easy when you have a toddler and a geriatric dog to keep you awake all night.
Tomorrow night – March 31st – is Earth Hour in Sydney, when the city lights go out for an hour to raise awareness of the problem of emissions linked to global warming. Don’t forget to turn out your lights!
Here’s a link for more info: http://earthhour.smh.com.au
Still working my way through Selena’s edit. I have to admit, I prefer writing draft. It’s the most exciting part of the creative process to me; the blank page, the construction of another world. I just hope to finish by 24th April when I’m off to Tasmania to see my parents.
Hamilton Island was divine, far more beautiful than I’d been expecting, with only one garish skyscraper on the beach. Our hotel had an ocean view and every night I’d lie on the banana lounge listening to the waves break.
I could weep right now thinking about it, as I listen to the traffic and drunks outside. We were going to bed at about 9.00pm every night just to listen to the surf. It reminded me of New Guinea and took me back to my childhood (especially with Daisy running around in her little vintage sundresses).
Daisy, I’m afraid, wasn’t a big a fan of the island as we were – “Sand, yuck! Sea, yuck! Mummy, yuck!”
My Sydney girl was afraid of the fresh air and birds. She liked the kookaburras, however, and spent a lot of time blowing them kisses. With admirable timing, she chose Hamilton to have her first series of tantrums. I have some classic photos of her throwing tantrums on the sand which she will hate me for one day. Tantrums aside, she attracted a lot of attention wherever she went and one woman even interrupted her mobile call to describe her to friend on the phone right down to what she was wearing. (Proud mother moment) She also loved the koala park and we had breakfast every morning with Phoebe, Willy and Franklin koalas. A crew filming for American TV filmed Daisy waving at the camera and smiling like a miniature Bindi Irwin whilst the glamorous presenter purred, “Have you ever had breakfast with a koahlah bear? It’s really cool!”
It was really cool and I miss Hamilton so much. David kayaked, snorkelled and went scuba-diving whilst I read a couple of books, had a massage and lay on the banana lounge surf-listening. Daisy enjoyed swimming in the pool in her floatie car. Oh, and I had endless fantasies about moving to Byron Bay or somewhere tropical. We had a couple of cyclone warnings but it all came to nothing. After one day of spectacular public tantrums by Daisy, we returned to our hotel room to find we had been birdled! The cockatoos had pecked their way through the wire screen, opened the bar fridge, extracted the Pringles and eaten every last one! I’m still amazed by their skill and coordination. Not to mention their psychology in surmising we were the idiots that wouldn’t observe the signs everywhere and lock the glass door. I’ve since found out on returning to Sydney that everybody who’s been to Hamilton was birdled by the cockatoos! How amazingly bright are those birds!
Another lovely place we went to was One Tree Hill, a to-die-for view of the Whitsunday Passage. A powerful spot, and it was easy to imagine Captain Cook sailing into that beautiful, endless blue space.
On my last night at Hamilton I went for a walk along the beach. In the sky appeared the most enormous blood-red full moon. I cried aloud like a fool at her splendour. Several impressions went through my head in the brief time she hung bloody red over the sea. I nearly went down on my knees in worship but there was a group of people thinking I was odd enough as it was. She was glorious, an unforgettable mother moon! The papers the next day said it was a special eclipse of the moon, which I was lucky enough to have seen for the brief period of time she was red. It was a blessing.
Daisy also fell in love with the moon. In Sydney she had never seen the moon or stars. She told me she cries when she thinks of the moon and she saw the ‘moon’s ears’.
There have been constant festivities this month. Daisy turned two and loads of her little friends did too. It’s all a bit of a blur of babycakes, present wrapping and photos.
We saw the opera Rusalka at Sydney Opera House – the first opera I’ve ever seen and it was brilliant. The critics since have described it as ‘the must-see opera of the year’ so I’m glad my first opera was a ‘must see’! It was similar to Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, one of my favourite ever fairy stories. Cheryl Barker was sublime in the soprano role.
Another good night out and highly recommended if you’re in Sydney is the Bell Shakespeare Company’s Macbeth. Very grim, incredibly moving and the scene when Macduff is informed of the slaughter of his wife and children is worth the ticket price alone. Fantastic! Jackie Weaver (one of my favourite Australian actors) was in the audience, looking fabulous.
We’re off to Hamilton Island in the morning. If I wasn’t so exhausted, I’d be excited. I had to do a few all-nighters to get The Witches of Paris to my literary agent Selwa Anthony. However, it’s now on its way to her. David was a huge help as usual, forsaking his own precious writing time to read through and offer his insightful comments. Such a luxury living with another writer.
As soon as I’m back from Hamilton I’m throwing myself into Selena’s edit of the earlier chapters. I have no idea of how long that will take but I’m hoping weeks rather than months.
It’s a blessing to have the book edited by two people already and I know it’s all the stronger for it. But all-night writing sessions are difficult with a toddler. Not even Clarins Beauty Balm can disguise the huge sacks under my eyes!
I haven’t had a rant in quite awhile, so back to one of my favourite topics. What’s with Greenpeace lately, travelling to Japan to eat whale meat? Apparently it’s meant to appease Japan over objections to Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary. Even Greenpeace’s founder’s daughter has slammed them. I’m so glad I don’t give any money to them anymore. I’d far prefer to give to Paul Watson, who at least has the guts to go out and ram Japanese whaling boats if necessary to stop them. May Paul continue his honourable efforts to stop the barbaric whaling. His Sea Shepherd group seems to be the only one willing to do anything for the whales.
I tuned into Sixty Minutes last night (I admit, to watch the flight attendent who shagged Ralph Fiennes story!). It was very funny, but quite sad how she didn’t get how it was only going to be a fling and how she seemed to be still in awe of him being a big ‘star’.
Helen Mirren (interviewed on the same show) wouldn’t have been in awe. She’d have had him in the loo and got rid of him first. I think she’s wonderful, so beautiful and talented. I’m so glad she won an Oscar for The Queen and that Al Gore won for best documentary for An Inconvenient Truth.
I was interested in Dame Helen’s response to the interviewer about her character of Queen Elizabeth I. How she saw her as vulnerable and scatty, very different to how the interviewer had perceived her to be. I was terrified of writing Louis XIV. In fact, I wasn’t going to attempt it. I had always planned for him to be in the background but he pushed his way right to the front. I found him easier to capture and write after I read what he said when hurt by courtiers who pretended friendship with him to get ahead: “I had looked for friends and found none”. He actually ended up being far easier to write than I had imagined. Such a complex, fascinating, dangerous beautiful man – Louis, not Ralph Fiennes.
It’s 4am on a Saturday morning and I haven’t slept all night. My mind won’t let go of the book now that I’ve reached the near final stages.
I lie awake thinking about it until I may as well be at the computer. I’m working on the little tale right at the end which may or may not stay. I’m not sure if I’m overstating the obvious by having it there. I like ambiguity! Then, I have a few more historical facts to put in at the end. A sort of story behind the story. The final five chapters of editing completed and it’s off to Selwa.
I saw the ‘City of Shadows’ exhibition at Sydney’s Justice & Police & Museum, which was a lot more interesting than I expected. The 20s and 30s are such a fascinating time in Australia and the mug shots of the criminals were eyepopping. Australia was the only country in the world taking these kind of mug shots, which look more like movie star studio portraits, with subjects in full-length poses – even laughing with a group of friends.
It was amazing to see the streets of inner-city Sydney in these lovely old photos. They look like stills from a Hitchcock movie. The narrator, Peter Doyle, described them as ‘Studies of Bad Luck’ – a great title.
There was a lovely quote in one of the museum’s convict rooms:
“The Darkness was not an ordinary darkness. It carried the seeds of madness.”
– James Francis Dwyer, 1949
Also saw the movie Pan’s Labyrinth which was depressing but incredibly beautiful. As David said, it’s the sort of film Jean Cocteau would be doing today if he was around. Very inspiring to see how you can work with fairytale imagery in a dark, lush, original way. I did have my eyes shut for a lot of the violent scenes, but I’m very glad I saw it (even with half-shut eyes).
I really liked the ambiguous quality; you weren’t quite sure which scenes really happened. Don’t want to talk about it too much here, in case I ruin it for somebody.
A quote from the director:
“I think adults need fairytales more than ever right now. I say the dream of the imagination produces creatures and the dreams of politicians produces wars.”
I’m so looking forward to Hamilton Island. Pre-Daisy my idea of a good holiday was Paris or Venice. Now family-orientated Hamilton sounds just as good. I don’t care if it rains all the time, as long as I can sleep.
February 9th 2007
I’ve been flat out writing and editing in the small space of time I have to write with Miss Daisy. Although at times it does feel never-ending, The Witches of Paris is close to being an edited manuscript. I’m presently editing Chapters 25-35. Once they’re done, I’ll send it to Selwa and I can begin Selena’s edit and it’s OVER. I cannot wait to celebrate that night with a good bottle of Champagne.
Plus, I’ve worked on three other projects that I’ll write about later if they get off the ground. (I make the horned sign again, so I don’t jinx myself).
I had a very pleasant Christmas. Daisy made it special for us with her passion and excitement – not for her presents but for simply being able to run around her Ma and Pa’s backyard. I love the way that my daughter embraces the simple pleasures.
I did manage to see a few movies. I loved Marie Antoinette at the time but it didn’t stay with me. Hated, hated the American accents! But it was superb to see Versailles again, particularly the shots in the early dawn. Just gorgeous. Also, the linen, and Manolo Blahnik shoes (divine). It could have been so much better! But Sofia Coppola is such a great director, so feminine in her touch, that she’s still better than a lot of others even when it doesn’t work.
The Queen was brilliant. Helen Mirren is divine. That was really a perfect film for me. Plus Volver, which was excellent. Loved the opening shot in the graveyard. The price of the ticket alone is worth that pan. Loved Penelope Cruz and the women in the film. David and I are going to see Pan’s Labyrinth – yes, we have a babysitter! Can’t wait to see it.
The wonderful Goddess: Divine Energy exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW brought back many powerful memories for me of my time in India. It was a sublime meditation moving between the exhibits.
My life moves between the computer and 17th century France and toddler activities such as Playgroup and parks. I really want to get this book home now as we are having a family week on Hamilton Island in a couple of weeks. How children change you! All I want to do is NOTHING. Laze around, read junky addictive books, have a massage.
If you’re waiting on an email from me, I’m sorry. I have an inbox that is bulging. I do reply. I always reply to people. It can just take me months. My writing time is so limited, I guard it jealously.
It’s very late. I’m exhausted and I have to be up early to see the exhibition at the Justice and Police Museum, ‘City of Shadows’.
I hope your creativity is flowing and the Goddess is holding you tightly.
Summer Solstice/ Yule to Northern Hemisphere Blessing
May your coming year be of bountiful harvest
May her grace extirpate all obstacles blocking your true path
God to Goddess – Sol to Gaia
Moon to Goddess – Moon to Earth
Blessings from Josephine, David and Daisy
Today was a perfect day, one of my favourite days this year. December 9th is a significant date as David and I are both 9s. We saw the ballet Raymonda – I’m still floating. It was like a glorious, delicate dream, so ethereal and pastel haunting. The music was divine. The costumes – I could have just looked at the costumes on stage with no bodies in them.
Raymonda was my favourite ballet this year. I always get a thrill out of going to Sydney Opera House. I love to mingle with the tourists, see the colourful cheerful ferries, the fierce Disney-blue sky spiked by the sails of the glorious Opera House. we had great seats and sipped wine at interval watching the harbour. And best of all, caught a train home with a minute to spare!
Had a brilliant time in Melbourne at the Scarlet Stiletto Awards. I didn’t win any major awards but I did get two Highly Commendeds. The ceremony was in a beautiful, historic RSL club in St Kilda. It was a truly hilarious night; Kerry Greenwood is a jolly, entertaining speaker.
A strange experience while travelling to Melbourne; I found myself sitting opposite Joanne Lees. I say strange because I had just finished her book and there she was! Stranger still was the encounter my friend & webmistress Rhondda had in a hospital waiting room. Reading a book set in medieval times, she looked up to see two knights in armour, brought in injured from a jousting re-enactment!
I had to be up at 4am to fly back to Sydney for my agent’s seminar & awards day. This year it really knocked me! After nearly two years of no sleep you’d think I’d be used to it but I was knackered. Luckily the talks were brilliant, one of the best years for author talks I can recall. The night was a grand affair but all I can say is thank Goddess for Clarins Beauty Flash Balm – I should have shares in that product!
The edit of the first 20 chapters of The Witches of Paris has returned from Selwa’s assistant Selena. Very exciting to see it sporting Selena’s post-it notes with their insightful comments. It makes me feel as if it’s really going to happen, that all these years of tapping into a computer and letting the characters work through me is finally going to produce a real book.
I’m still busy editing. I’ve now hit chapter 24, plus I’ve been getting stronger images and ideas for the next book, and beyond. I’m so happy. I have that beautiful ballet tulle and music flowing through me. I can’t wait for Yule and Daisy can’t wait for Sucker (her baby word for Santa) to come!
This year has had few happy moments, so to have an entire day of happiness was so special we took a photo to commemorate it. I’ll post more photos soon, including our happy family day shot.
Life is glorious. Life is good.
A Belated happy Beltane/All Hallows Eve.
Despite the beginning of deplorable daylight savings, I love October as it’s my birthday month and All Hallows always feels dark and special. I went out to celebrate All Hallows with Tim Hartridge’s coven. I’m becoming a regular at their little soirees. I drew the line at travelling on public transport dressed as a ghost or ghoul, however. It was amusing to see one of the coven arrive in her street clothes, run to the bathroom and emerge as a cute little witch. She told me she hadn’t wanted to walk through Redfern dressed like that. Quite.
It was a fun night; for me the highlight was the coven forming a big circle in front of the jazz band, joining hands to chant the Witches’ Rune. A couple of innocent drinkers at the bar who had just wandered in for a quiet cocktail were suddenly in a witches’ circle and totally cool and happy about it!
I also attended the last cocktail evening for the coven featuring an inspiring talk by Carole Chapman, an Alexandrian High Priestess who studied with Alex and Maxine Sanders in England. We were all quite enthralled by the talk she gave on those very exciting times in the UK. I could have listened to her all night. I adore Maxine Sanders!
This week I’ve sent my agent Selwa chapters 1-20 of The Witches of Paris. Only 15 chapters to edit and I’m done! The tale will be told. I really can’t believe that after four years I’m close to finishing. Selwa is really pleased with it and excited which is great. I’ll have to start doing more regular updates as I get nearer the finish mark.
This week I heard the welcome news I’ve shortlisted for the seventh year running in the annual Sisters in Crime writing competition. I didn’t expect to place – not that I ever really do – so I’m extremely chuffed to have made the final cut. It’s a nice year to be in the shortlist as Kerry Greenwood is giving a talk at the awards ceremony. We have a heap of bills at the moment, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed I can attend.
I’m extremely proud that both my stories – The Childrens’ Hour and Love me Tender – made the shortlist. One reason I didn’t expect to place was that the stories were both so dark AGAIN, and involve violence against children. The awards are on the day before my agent’s annual writing awards and talk day (the Sassy Day I call it). It will be a tight squeeze for me if I go.
We’ve finally decided not to do a major renovation on our house (as in add a storey). It will be totally overcapitalising for this street. Instead, we’ll do a smaller renovation and wait until the market improves and then sell. I’m a bit sad about that as I’m quite fond of our house despite its tiny size.
My father’s chemotherapy is now drawing to a close. He’s looking marvellous despite feeling terribly sick and losing all his hair. The good news is that he has managed to shrink the tumour and the doctors are hinting he could have years instead of the initial grim prognosis of months.
My sisters and I had to be tested for the H-Pylori bacteria that might be a link to this form of aggressive stomach cancer. A positive result of the H-Pylori is 200 and I had something like 9000, which required very strong antibiotics to kill them and I need another test in about a month. I dreamed I was holding a snake, and I said to a healer I knew many years ago, “I am now resigned to the fact that my father might die.” I truly don’t think that I am, however. Such a possibility is too awful to contemplate and I have to cross myself and make a little horned sign as I write this to ensure my words don’t make it true.
David spent a lovely few days on the Murray River in a luxury houseboat for a journalism job. I was incredibly envious of his descriptions of kayaking on the river at dawn, with only swans, hawks, cormorants and pelicans for company.
I had some lovely gifts for my birthday but my favourite things were two cards. One was from David with a photo of Daisy and me in the Botanical Gardens at the Spring Equinox. I’m showing her the lovely Diana statue and the look of wonder on her face is magic. In the other one my dad writes about how proud he is of my writing (I make the horned sign and the cross again).
I’m currently reading The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. It’s a joy to read such an engrossing, classic tale. Very Daphne (my highest praise).
Did I mention we’re seeing The Wiggles in December? We read the distressing news this week that the ‘Yellow Wiggle’ has fallen ill and is fainting everywhere. Hopefully he will be up and wiggling again by December. I can hardly wait!
Fifteen chapters to go. The countdown begins…
The rain we’ve enjoyed in Sydney recently has been bliss. However this week was shadowed by the death of Steve Irwin. Only last weekend we were watching his TV show, laughing as he wore sunglasses to protect himself from a spitting cobra.
He was such an original soul – what a loss for the planet and wildlife, not to mention his family. I’ve felt terrible for Bindi, Bob and Terri. Since hearing of his death I’ve had an image in my head of a large stingray, gracefully gliding through a peaceful eternity. Steve just seemed too alive to die. Safe journey, Steve.
Last Tuesday night I went to a witches’ cocktail evening at L’adore in Darlinghurst (Sydney). Nuit’s Veil is a coven run by Tim Hartridge, a well-known Sydney witch, and the night is a get-together they organise for folk interested in witchy topics. They were a pretty interesting bunch – I always love hearing about people’s experiences of witchcraft. Speaking of witchy things, the full moon Friday night was divine. I did a ritual for my two Pisces and danced my little heart out in our courtyard under her.
Daisy and I travelled to Tasmania to visit Dad again. We were sent home after one night as he was too sick from the more intense chemotherapy he’s now on. His last scan results were good; the tumour was beginning to break up although the doctor was quick to point out it is not a cure. I haven’t given up on a miracle.
My editing is moving along; I’m roughly half way. Through all the upheaval of this year I still managed to send off my annual short story entries for the Scarlet Stiletto.
July 14 (Happy Bastille Day)
I’ve completed the first draft of The Witches of Paris. I’m already a third of the way through the edit, so it’s not too daunting. A little bit more research, then – voila! I’m very proud of myself for getting this far with so much happening.
Tasmania was beautiful. We stayed with my parents in Oatlands, which is at its best in winter. Frosty mornings; the village looking like the Bronte’s Haworth with its stone cottages and street-lamps; the lake superb with abundant birdlife. Very, very hard to see my father suffering from chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Awful. To watch somebody you love wasting in front of you… he has never looked more handsome, however – like an immaculate, loved old teddy bear as my sister described him.
I visited my grandmother’s grave at night – a bit spooky with mist around the old, isolated cemetery. There were sheep and lambs everywhere amidst the tombstones. Not exactly the most peaceful place with all the baaing! I could feel a presence – not malevolent, but I didn’t linger. I walked quickly back to lights and David. We read and ate heaps. My grandfather is the best cook in the world and loves to make delicious Skippy patties and Skippy stew (kangaroo).
It was very difficult to say goodbye to my father. Both of us wept and even my mother cried. My father and I are both very emotional people but it’s rare for my mother to show her emotions in public.
Daisy’s godmother returned from a trip to China with a life-size baby doll called ‘Bobbie’. It is the creepiest thing with this giggly cackle that goes off by itself. We took its batteries out because it was beginning to freak us out (not Daisy, who seems to regard it as her baby brother!).
Saw The Woman in Black at Sydney’s Theatre Royal. Didn’t expect it to match the long-running West End version but the acting was terrific. John Waters was excellent (and very handsome). The staging was a little better in the UK but still, very haunting. I couldn’t sleep that night for thinking about it.
David and I attended the Sydney launch of Kate Morton’s novel The Shifting Fog, braving a sea of grey-clad peak hour city workers with me resplendent in a mauve flapper dress and chook feather erect on head.
Upon arriving at the Maritime Museum, the first people we bumped into were Ian Irvine and his wife Anne. Kate Forsyth soon joined us, and Anna Romer and her brother-in-law. There was a little streak in a suit darting everywhere, too fast for me to get a good look, but I was told it was Kate’s adorable son, Oliver.
The venue was awash with serious glamour, 20s style. Kate’s publicist was stunning in white. Selena – Selwa’s assistant and fellow writer – was a glam flapper. Bessie Bardot looked divinely slinky. One woman from Allen & Unwin dressed in a man’s suit – loved her outfit. Belinda Alexandra looked very ’20s in a cute pink hat and outfit (but Belinda IS the 20s!). She can’t go wrong. Selwa – what can you say? She’s always chic (tonight in a long red tunic).
Kate looked feminine and beautiful in a black halter-necked Spanish-looking outfit. Tara Moss launched the book, saying it was great to see such classic stories written in Australia and sold overseas.
Kate spoke next, sharing her road to publication and the pressure she was under to finish the manuscript quickly.
Leigh Redhead showed up as I was in the signing queue clasping my new audio CD of The Shifting Fog. Happy timing – the launch was beginning to wind down and we decided to keep drinking. An expedition journeyed to a nearby winebar: me, David, Kate Forsyth, Leigh, Kate Morton, Davin and four of their friends from Brisbane. Everyone else wisely bailed out.
Looking at my two favourite Kates, I made a mental note to rub their bellies to get some luck. But I forgot – damn! Instead David and Kate F became engrossed in a philosophical rave about writing whilst Leigh and I became similiarly engrossed in a conversation about stiptease, burlusque, lap-dancing, Bunny’s Honeys, etc. I dimly remember mixing red wine and champagne in the same glass, thinking what a lovely colour it made.
In the morning I woke in my bed still in full evening dress and make-up. “Did you take off your shoes?” David asked. I had. I’d also carefully removed my feather and forgotten the rest.
To sum up, it was the most fun launch I’ve ever been to. Great people and atmosphere. You really felt you got to talk rather than just all that air-kiss stuff that can go on. As usual I took photos and we all looked fabbo and hot. I’ll post some in the website photo section soon.
After my usual hangover cure (lime-green milkshake – it never fails) I went back to the Maritime Museum for the Popular Writers Festival. Tara Moss and Leigh Redhead gave a hilarious talk. Highlights included Leigh’s assurance that after 300 Brazilian waxes, they no longer hurt. When researching characters, Leigh does a star sign analysis for them. Her baddies are always Geminis and Leos.
To get her minor characters, Tara does a Google Image search so she has a picture of them. Both work in a similar way to me in that they plot but then work organically.
Also saw Belinda Alexandra – always an inspiration. She spoke about keeping research focused (she uses a kitchen timer), and rewarding herself by pottering in the garden. Other advice: don’t discuss the work in progress too much or you will talk it totally away. When you finish writing for the day, spend 5-10 mins cleaning your office desk so you erect a barrier between the world of your imagination and your ‘real world’.
There’s nothing better than writing, reading or listening to other writers talk!
I’m 100 800 words in, so it’s in striking distance. I’ll post when I type “THE END”. It’s so near, I’m tasting it. Writing is a blessing in my life with everything happening. Solace. Communion.
We went to see the ballet Giselle at the opera house. It was so romantic, although sad.
I didn’t make it to some of the events I’d planned to see at The Sydney Writers’ Festival. With the shock of my dad’s cancer, some days I’m better than others. Neil Gaimain was witty, charming and very smooth. He said the cover of American Gods was designed before he’d written the book. It depicted a lightning bolt, so he thought he’d best stick one in the text! I also caught Elizabeth Kostova discussing The Historian and Naomi Wolf being interviewed by Caroline Baum.
In a lovely tweed mini, Elizabeth was slim, with good legs, and softer than she comes across in photos. She was very poised (I would be too if my first book sold for two million dollars!) and very eager to explain that The Historian was not a (gasp!) genre book but a serious literary work on the nature of historians rather than vampires. She doesn’t believe in the supernatural. It irks her when she turns up to signings and the bookstores are handing out fake fangs. One had a display of hundreds of garlic bulbs. She told an amusing story of a publisher who kept wanting to know if she believed in vampires despite her continued protests that she didn’t. When she went to the bathroom, she developed a nosebleed and it dripped on her collar. She had to spend the entire night trying to hide it from the publisher. EK did a beautiful reading of her first chapter. A very melodious voice. The Historian is in my must-read tower of books.
Naomi Wolf was ballsy, gutsy, articulate, high energy and dismissive of criticism. You get the impression she really believes totally in herself and her books and doesn’t care if other people don’t get her. She wore excellent shoes (man, great shoes) and had one of those curvy figures men love. Lovely eyes and skin. A great talk and interview about her various books and what has changed since she wrote them. For example, The Beauty Myth – things are worse now, she says, because the technology is worse and cosmetic treatments more available. Several women my age I’ve talked to recently have had botox and think nothing of it – and if they haven’t had it, they want it.
I love Naomi because she’s unafraid to say what is politically incorrect, eg her vision of Jesus. She had a great moment when she told the audience of mainly educated, well-heeled women that the work has been done, to stop whining and get on with it. The groundwork has been covered by the early feminists and it’s up to women themselves to just do it. It’s the Third World we need to concentrate on, where women are dying for lack of water. She’s just returned from India.
I attended another Drinklings event. A lot of fun. Kate Forsyth is a good drinking buddy and it was great to catch up with the other Drinklings like Stephanie and Richard. We met at Gertrude and Alive in Oxford Street, a lovely book-lined cellar/cafe. Great atmosphere.
My father’s chemotherapy went well; he’s now on radiotherapy. It’s a horrid time for all. My grandfather shows his caring by making him stews and taking them across for him. My mother continues to be the solid brick wall of support she always is.
If only five per cent of people survive this cancer, then he could be in that five per cent. Although he goes through enormous sadness at the thought of leaving us, he never feels sorry for himself. The ones he feels sorry for are the children who have cancer, the teenagers and the young mothers who fight this battle. I’ve been doing a lot of healing work, getting up at 4am etc. It’s very hard on him as he suffers from bipolar depression and has to combat that at the same time.
Suffering brings its own gifts. I’ve come to appreciate the small things that bring comfort. Rain. A warm drink. A good book. More intensely than ever before, I know how important the act of creation is to me. You find out who are your friends are and who are your good-time pals. Your eyes tear at the kindness from virtual strangers. Most of all, you are pushed violently into a more spiritual seeking. I had a very powerful Tarot reading by Kala Trobe in England which helped me enormously. I’ve spent a lot of time meditating. I know there will be enormous changes and growth for me on the spiritual planes soon.
So much has happened since I began The Witches of Paris. Hecate has been such a heavy presence in my life. I could never have predicted she would be so close to me. I’ve always loved Hecate, she’s one of my favourites but this year she has really put me through it. A priest said to me recently, ‘Don’t attempt to carry the cross. Carry a splinter of the cross.” Now, I break the cross into small pieces, and the days, the nights, the winter is more bearable.
I’m nearing the end of The Witches of Paris. All was good with my world. Social events lined up, a trip to Hamilton Island looming, my book almost wrapped up. Then an angel with a flaming sword walked into my house, stabbing me through the heart. No warning. No hello. Blazing everything from under me.
I knew when my sister phoned my mobile she wasn’t calling to tell me the miners were out. I knew it would be bad news, and it was indeed about as bad as it could be. My father was diagnosed, on a routine check-up, with a very aggressive stomach cancer. They have given him anything from months to a year.
Time has lost all meaning. There is no solace to be found in life anymore. The angel followed me all week, stabbing and burning and the pain and sadness is beyond anything I could have believed. I’m doing healing and prayer work till late at night, asking everybody I know to include my father in their magical rituals or in their prayers. I believe a miracle can happen if enough people pray. I sent my father vihbuti ash from India that I had here at home. David sent him tapes and books from the Ian Gawler Foundation.
Life has become miserable beyond words. I had no idea grief could be as painful and shattering. It’s like birth. Until you experience it, you can’t contemplate it. Nothing matters any more. Even if The Witches of Paris was the biggest seller in the world, it means sod all if my father is not there to witness it. It’s little consolation that the angel waits for us all, because I want my father to stay with us now. I want him to see Daisy grow up into the beautiful girl and woman she will become.
Before the fiery angel, David and I went on a rare night out to see the French singer Francoiz Breut at Newtown RSL. Francoiz was very cute in the way the French are. Petite, black mini skirt, charming broken English and big dark eyes. The audience loved her.
Warning: rant coming up! Gig pigs are alive and thriving. There has been some internet and radio debate about what happened at Francoiz’s show and whether a handful of selfish pigs were right to stand up in front of a seated audience and block their view. Well I don’t care how cool they clearly thought they were, they prevented a lot of people seeing and enjoying the show with their rudeness. I’ve been to many gigs where everybody gets up and bops to the music, but Francoiz’s music is soooo laid back, it’s turtle time, and 99% of the audience chose to enjoy it seated. None of the pigs were there to dance, anyway. They could have stood at the back, as many people politely pleaded with them to do. I was delighted when a giant guy (my hero) grabbed two pigs as if to bang their heads together, but unfortunately security stopped him.
I am really over the rudeness of people. At the same gig, a lass on crutches asked to sit down and was turned away by another species of pig hogging lounge chairs. I offered her a seat next to us. Crutches! If we can’t help our wounded birds, what sort of society are we? We’ve become a city of rats gnawing at each other. These nasty rat-pigs are everywhere. Talking on their mobiles in cinemas, not giving pregnant women a seat on the bus. I could rant on and on.
At least the gig pigs gave us a good laugh later. They were so comically pathetic, bleating loudly about their right to be pigs and cowering when understandably frustrated people abused them. Some people fight to stand at a concert and ruin other people’s view. Other people fight to live.
Happy Eostre to all.
This week I attended a book launch for my friend Lyn. I went with my agent which was brilliant as it’s always good to see her and have a chat about what’s happening in the publishing world. You can become quite isolated when you’re at home everyday working on your book.
Lyn’s launch was at Balmoral – a harbourside suburb of Sydney I’d never been to before. It’s very beautiful and serene with grand historic houses by the water. The moon was nearly full. I was shocked to see most of the mansions didn’t have security windows and doors. After years of inner-city living you tend to forget some people don’t need to live in fortresses to protect themselves from junkies.
I know I keep saying this but I’ll be revamping my photos gallery soon and I’ll post a couple of pics of the launch. If you’re a mother, or need a gift for a mother, the book is Intuitive Mothering by Lyn McPherson. It’s a very spiritual book and an interesting read.
I had another research-intensive week, heading back to my notebooks to complete a scene. I’m just beginning to start wrapping up the characters; it’s tempting to race to get to the end. I’m trying to pace myself and feel the rhythm of the book. I’ll be working on it as much as I can this Eostre.
A gorgeous full moon tonight. I think I’ll definitely get off this computer and do one of my little rituals to her.
March was hectic with Daisy and David’s birthdays. I swear Louis XIV wouldn’t have had as much fuss as Daisy turning one! We had three celebrations for her, the highlight a combined party-barbecue for my two Ds on Shark Island. There were approx 25 adults plus small people; the planning for this bonanza equalled the Commonwealth Games. The night before I was up virtually all night making salads. Potato salad, cous-cous salad, carrot/peanut salad, Asian salad, Greek salad, rice salad, raw salad… I can’t bear to look a lettuce leaf in its face for awhile.
Some days exceed your hopes, dreams and visons – Shark Island was one of those days. If you live in Sydney, I beg you to visit this harbour island (20 minute ferry ride). Very atmospheric with million-dollar views of mansions and the spectacular city skyline. A massive bonus – we had the island to ourselves for most of the day. It was really lovely to watch the people we care about enthuse over a part of Sydney that nearly all of us had never been to. Glorious! I felt as if I was a character in an Enid Blyton book. Shark Island! It’s such an exciting image.
Daisy received so many presents that our terrace resembles a toyshop. However some of her favourite things are the label on a Disney toy, any fluff or dirt on the floor, the cat’s tail – and books. Any books or reading material, she’s not fussy. She will read a New Idea as happily as her baby books, or a newspaper or phone directory.
We’ve been trying to organise our cluttered terrace lately before the renovators arrive. One job we’ve put off for years is putting the prints up from our overseas trips. We just had a print of Dickens’ Dream framed and hung in the office, which is from the Charles Dickens house in London. (Just typing that makes me long to be back there.) You might know it: Dickens sits in a chair contemplating/dozing, while around him half-finished are a myriad of characters from his writings. I’ve always loved it. You could do worse than Dickens as your muse. He hangs between two prints of Jean Cocteau from Menton, France. Cocteau is one of my great loves, introduced to me by David. One of our earliest dates was to see the Cocteau film La Belle Et La Bete. As I sat watching that old black-and-white magical version of Beauty and the Beast which I’ve seen many times over the years now, I knew David and I had to be soulmates.
The last week has been a quieter writing week than usual. I spent some of it looking at my plot for the last section of the book, and re-read my notebooks to study 17th-century medical techniques. David was reworking Tour To Hell, his convict escape mythology book. I re-read a few chapters for him. I also started reading the proof copy of fellow Selwa author Kate Morton’s new book, The Shifting Fog, which is wonderful. If you like evocative, elegant storytelling (think Brideshead Revisted crossed with Daphne du Maurier), I recommend Kate’s book. I’m loving it. I have several books wailing to be read but I’m saving them up for our holidays. Treasure Islands by Pamela Stephenson is for Hamilton Island, along with letters of Daphne du Maurier . I seem to be mad about islands at the moment! Pig Island by Mo Hayder and an Ian Rankin will be later in the year on another break. One of the great joys of holidays to me is planning my books. I always have to take two in case I finish the first one or it disappoints. I’m such a bookworm.
It’s now 6am and the birds are singing on a Saturday morning. I was up at 5am to try to get some writing done before Miss Daisy awoke but have become distracted with my journal. Wishing you all many happy reading and writng hours. Happy April. A pinch and a punch to you all.
Sitting here with sopping wet hair before going out to look at yet another house we can’t afford. At least I know I’m not alone in my housing woes. The part of Sydney where I live has recently been declared as having the most depressed people in Australia!
The Tate Gallery in London has the most brilliant exhibition on until 1 May – Gothic Nightmares: Fuseli, Blake and the Romantic Imagination. Oh, it would be so wonderful to catch this! We saw a lovely Pre-Raphaelite show there years ago which was lush, but this one is gorgeous. The Tate website has the details and Fortean Times published a feature article about it in their March Issue. We are planning a trip to Hamilton Island but I’d love to divert to London to catch these works!
We saw the Pissarro show last week. I’m a fool to forget what last days are like at the AGNSW. Imagine a sardine in a can complete with pram and squealing baby and and that was me. Some lovely paintings, mostly obscured by backs of heads. The rural scenes took me back to France. I miss France so much – at least I get to revisit her through The Witches of Paris.
Everything is different with this book. I’ve decided books are like births. You have your birth plan but in the finish you just to go with the flow of the labour. I used to work very fast, belting out the first draft in a few months then editing for about a year. This time I work very slowly, editing as I go. I’m nibbling my way through this book with such finesse compared to my lusty feasting on my other books. I interrogate my characters more. I used to trust them to know what they were doing. Now I need to know that anything they do or say has a purpose, a meaning. I’m more strict as mother/creator. This is a different labour; a very different child. Once again, though, like all books, it’s about surrender. Once the process starts, you can’t go back. You have to trust.
I’m so exhausted but relieved to an indecent degree. FINALLY I have got my edit off to Selwa. I was only editing seven chapters but it seemed like the most mammoth edit I’ve ever done. Those seven teeny chapters took one month exactly. Editing with an eleven-month-old baby is a bit more of a challenge than BD days. I was lucky to get to bed before 1am most nights and Daisy has recently decided 3am is a good time to party.
Editing is an intense journey; you have to click your brain into a different space than when you’re creating. I find it difficult to discipline myself to wringing out every word, examining it, trying to spot lazy writing. I tend to get so excited with all my ideas I just want to get them down and move onto the next book. David has quite a good image which helped me a lot and that’s to imagine each piece I’m editing as brushstrokes and what mood/overall canvas I’m trying to create.
Selwa now holds that part of my life known as Chapters Six to Twelve in her hands. I now have to throw myself back into the rest of the book. I’m coming up to the 100,000 mark. This is one of the hardest places for me when writing – the end is near, but not quite near enough. I just have to keep myself as focused as I can through all the chaos of doctor appointments, party-planning, house-hunting, builders.
I’m looking forward to the weekend. I love Saturdays when we have some family time together. We are taking Daisy to the Pissarro exhabition at the AGNSW. David is going to see Paul Watson from the Sea Shepherd talk tomorrow night which should be exciting.
Rhondda the clever girl has done a few little changes to the website. You’ll probably be able to spot them. In the next couple of weeks I will be putting up a new photo gallery for those interested.
Finally saw The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. I think my expectations were too high as I loved the book so much. The witch was good. Lucy was cute as a button. Aslan was my problem. He was too effeminate for me – I couldn’t handle Liam’s voice in that lion!
We buried my grandmother on Monday. It was like being at Princess Diana’s funeral. There had never been a funeral as big for any woman in the midlands Tasmanian town I grew up in. The church was full and there were speakers for all the people standing outside to listen, which was incredibly touching. She had so many flowers that her coffin looked like something from an ancient Queen’s fairytale wedding. She is buried in the old Catholic cemetery where I spent many a happy hour playing over the years. I met loads of relatives I didn’t know I had and some of them had even bought and read my books! I can remember Nanny tried to read my books before my mother took them off her because of the angel anal sex scenes. We had to look out for old Nanny, she was a true lady. Not like her grandchildren obviously.
I was hit with a double whammy this week as my long time friend didn’t have his heart transplant after all. He died, making a conscious choice to remove himself from his life support. This was a very sobering death for me. He was only 46 and left behind 4 beautiful children and an incredible wife. I’ve had the privilege of knowing this family for over 20 years and the last 16 were a battle for them with my friend’s illness. He fought the good fight but got sick of fighting in the end. Health is everything. It’s scary when you see terrible things happen to really good people and you can’t make sense of the movie.
I’m currently editing earlier chapters of The Witches of Paris. Selwa, my agent, phoned yesterday and loves what I’ve done! She was really enthusiastic about the first five chapters and wants to see more.
We’re househunting at the moment, so things are hectic as always. The Sydney real-estate prices are so expensive I could weep. We have found a possible with an office space that would probably enclose our entire house.
To my lovely reader who wrote from Austria. The deaths this week put me behind, but I haven’t forgotten you. It’s just the greatest to get letters from overseas when I’m not published overseas. It’s nice to know the books have made it abroad on their own steam.
The HorrorScope website has an interview up with me if you’re interested. They’ve been running weekly interviews with dark fiction writers and there’s been some fascinating reading.
Take Care. Appreciate your health and loved ones and keep writing x
I’m so behind with my wordcount for TWOP. I am now doing in a week what I used to be able to do in a day! Frustration all the way.
I flew to Tasmania with Daisy to visit my grandmother on her deathbed. I still can’t believe she has gone. Life seems quite different without my pretty Nanny. She was a fighter and defied the doctors by refusing to go into that dark night. It gave me great solace that she got to see my cheeky daughter again. A large photo of Daisy was on her hospital wall and my aunts were kind enough to put it into her coffin. It helps me a lot to know Daisy is with her as she makes that final journey.
Another old friend is very sick and may have to have a heart transplant. It’s been a mad start to the year.
Trying to put all this aside and re-enter the skins of my characters is difficult. I’m writing very stilted dialogue and because I’m roughly three-quarters of the way through my book it’s a bit like being stuck in the birth canal. Writing can be so painful. Time is my constant enemy.
David and I saw the JB Priestley play An Inspector Calls last night which was pretty stunning. A great set and some very eerie, funny, poignant moments.
I’ll probably fly back to Tasmania this week for my Nanny’s funeral and then throw myself into the book and househunting. Writing, although painful at times, is also my great healer.
I cannot wait for the first draft to be down. Then I’ll relax.
How I love Tasmania. I miss her light, her historic houses. The food always tastes so yummy there. I found myself breathing from my diaphragm instead of the shallow breathing you automatically do in Sydney. The weather was gorgeously cold. They even had gale force winds one day and I just sat inside watching the winds whip the lake outside my parents’ house. I’m so glad I escaped the Sunday that was 46 degrees in Sydney.
Happy Friday the 13th. May the full moon tomorrow night bring you peace, good health and balance.
24 December 2005
Happy Yule to all. Hope the Solstice brought new energy and healing to your lives. The last couple of weeks have been a total blur of celebrations, preparing for Christmas and wrapping up the year.
One highlight was seeing the Sydney Ballet Company at the Opera House, performing Sleeping Beauty. So magical.
I am incredibly frustrated at the moment because I haven’t been able to write for a couple of weeks. I get very ratty when I can’t write for more than a couple of days. The madness of this time of year has well and truly taken over. I’m exhausted, weeping over everything. I read the papers and I sit and cry. I describe a story to David and I’m crying before I finish it. My own tears are annoying me. I’ve been fleshing my book out in my head but I’m longing to have the space and the time to merge with it fully. Longing for it.
David had some unexpected good news right at the end of the year. He has sold a book to New Holland Publishers about escaped convicts and so we’ll be celebrating that when we get a chance.
I’m flying to Tasmania next week to visit my sick grandmother. I’ll take my research books down and keep the story moving in my mind.
I’ve updated my photo section if you’re interested in having a look at our Sassy night.
May this special season bring you new light, new joy and creativity. May she touch your life and give you strength to deal with the trivial. May this year be the year you follow your bliss.
Happy Yule. Happy New Year.
Catherine, who vanished into the night like a character from a fairy tale, please get in touch with us if you’re reading this. We want you back in our lives. We long for you to come home to us. Life is far too precious to not reconcile.
06 December 2005
On Saturday 03 December 1894, Robert Louis Stevenson died.
Here he lies where he longed to be.
Home is the sailor, home from sea.
And the hunter home from the hill
– from Requiem by RLS
Melbourne was fun. I came third for my story Butterfly Crusher – not the shoe alas, but I was very glad I went as I was the only interstate person present to collect their prize. Seeing as the majority of the awards were won by interstate writers, it made for a very speedy ceremony.
Leigh Redhead the crime writer/stripper was a bonzer mistress of ceremonies. A very sassy lady. It’s always great to catch up with my Sisters in Crime. l’ll post some pics soon.
I was most amused to learn that my other story entered earned the wrath of one of the judges, who said that whoever wrote it had severe mental problems and should seek help !!! This judge went on to say that if it was based in any way on my own life (!!!) then I should see a psychiatrist! I admit it was the darkest story I’ve ever written, but it was based on a couple of true stories from the papers.
It’s funny how people can’t seem to separate the writer from the material. The judges are trying to talk me into writing a comedic piece for next year, as police procedural, comedy and verse are the categories I haven’t won. They said my writing was just too dark and gruelling. But I cannot write the chick crime lit or chick dick lit, or whatever the hell those things are. Murder to me is intense and has ripple effects and it’s the ripples that I’m interested in. I’m a true Scorpion when it comes to crime writing.
I had to be up at 3.30am to fly back to Sydney for the Sassy Seminar, which is my agent’s annual motivational day and night for her stable of writers. I was babysitting for the day, although Daisy did make a guest appearance at lunchtime along with Selwa’s granddaughter, Charli.
That night at the Sassy Awards I was overjoyed that David won a Sassy for being a “Quiet Achiever”. It was really well deserved as he has worked so hard, not only on his own writing, but on the books he edited and co-wrote for Brian Walpole and Ron Stevenson. Just that week I had thanked him for taking so much time off his own work to read through Witches of Paris and give his comments, so it was really lovely to see Selwa publicly give him a pat on the back. As I have said many times, I couldn’t write without David’s support and energy.
Everybody looked very glam for the awards. I wore a black vintage dress with a tiara from the Medieval Babes in the UK. It’s a gorgeous thing with red pressed flowers in it. I’ll keep it for Daisy to wear and I’ll wear it on special writing days. There were all the usual celebs that Selwa’s agency attracts and writers whom I don’t get to see a lot of, but it’s always brilliant to catch up. This year I made a new friend, who has written a book on Intuitive Parenting. Daisy just fell in love with her and that’s how we started talking! I’ll post some pics of the Sassy do when I get a chance.
Apart from that, I’m plodding on with the book. I’m up to the fairy tales segment still. I’m enjoying writing nasty fairy stories.
It’s been a slow process this week as there have been a few upsets. My much beloved grandmother is very sick in hospital and Austin Steele (David’s colleague from his television production days) died this week. Austin wrote and produced comedy in the 60s and 70s, including a lot of scripts for Dave Allen. A far from complete list of his credits is on this BBC Comedy website. We will miss Austin’s Christmas card. He had a wonderful tradition of recycling cards by adding his name to a card he received and sending it on to someone else! I also loved his tradition of reading The Wind in the Willows every Christmas. A brilliantly funny, fascinating man.
Wren, the founder of the Witches Voice site, lost her beautiful daughter to brain cancer. Then of course, Van Nguyen was hanged in Singapore. What can you say? It was deeply sad. I found it impossible to concentrate that day.
I still remember my depression over the Barlow and Chambers execution. It’s the mother’s pain I cannot bear.
It was just a sad, senseless, heavy week.
20 November 2005
Today is declared National Needles day. Or Pain Monday. I had a visit to my lovely dentist and had a cavity so he had to drill. To cheer myself up I went and got another tattoo done.
It’s a girly one – a daisy (of course) with her birth date swirling around it. David designed it. I’m pretty happy with it but I had forgotten how much those things hurt. Still, a good pain. I quite enjoy the pain of flesh being cut for a ritual marking. I don’t enjoy a drill in the mouth.
I already know the tattoo I’m going to get when The Witches of Paris gets picked up. I hope when I’m 100 I’ll still treat myself to the occasional tattoo.
18 November 2005
Happy Belated Birthday to Mr Robert Louis Stevenson. What a gorgeous man: writer, explorer and kindred spirit.
Yesterday I sent sample chapters from The Witches of Paris to my agent. It was thrilling when I dropped the manila folder into the postbox. I was far more excited than normal – you’d think I was posting a finished MS to her.
I spent the remainder of the day alternating between two vivid fantasies.
# In the first one she rings up screaming, “It’s gone to auction! Prepare for blast off!”
# In the alternate version she hisses, ‘Are you serious, Pennicott? I wouldn’t let my cat piss on that!”
Both scenarios seem equally real.
I cannot bear it that the Japanese are going into our waters to kill whales. They’ve upped their target slaughter to 900-plus. This includes 10 of the highly endangered Fin whales.
Paul Watson and his Sea Shepherd crew seem to be the only people on earth prepared to do something about it. What are Greenpeace doing apart from petitions and fact sheets on their website? I salute the Captain and his work. Go Paul Watson and ram those boats! May the gods and goddess sail with you! If you’re in Melbourne, you can even welcome his ship ‘Farley Mowat’ into harbour. Shame on Hobart for allowing the Japanese ships to dock and refuel so they can continue their killing spree. The Japanese are not only violating the International Whaling Commission moratorium on whaling, they are violating Australian laws protecting the whale sanctuary within Australian Antarctic territorial waters.
On the Sea Shepherd website they have sample letters you can use to write to the Australian and Japanese governments. I urge the people reading who care about the whales to write and also donate to Sea Shepherd. Captain Watson has stated their objective in the ‘Farley Mowat’ is to harass, block, and intervene the Japanese whalers. I wish I could go to sea with them and hunt down the killing ships.
I spent all week writing two grisly fairy stories that are part of my book – a much harder task than it might seem.
12 November 2005
Hope your All Hallows Eve was rich in beauty, darkness and you connected to your dead. I love Mischief Night. Due to baby exhaustion I did a very simple meditation, reflecting on my dead ancestors and friends. Simple’s often best and I was very surprised by who did pop up in my visions that night.
It’s such a sweet, melancholy time of year and my thoughts always turn to Boscastle in Cornwall where we celebrated one of our more memorable All Hallows. I can see the white stone cottages against the dramatic Cornish sea and the lit pumpkins in the tiny cottages. What a lush memory.
Good news. I have made the Sisters in Crime Scarlet Stiletto shortlist for the sixth year. I’m very proud to shortlist again as they had over 100 entries, all anonymous, with different judges every year.
The book David edited for the late Ron Stephenson is on the shelf. Called Murder Of A Hero, it’s about the police investigation of the killing of Victor Chang, the famous Sydney heart surgeon.
I went out with the Drinklings writers group recently. Kate Forsyth found a very cool cafe in Oxford Street (Sydney) called ‘Gertrude and Alice’. We were in a basement filled with secondhand books and candles. It was like a scene from Dead Poets Society. It was great to catch up with folk like Kate, Cat Sparks and Richard & Aileen Harland.
A reminder to me recently to take everything I read in the media with a crater of salt. The very talented Caroline Tully who writes so profoundly on the Craft was shockingly misinterpreted in a newspaper interview. Anybody familiar with Caroline’s writings would know how perceptive she is and how well researched her pieces are. The article was heavily edited and sounded nothing like her.
A frustrating couple of weeks with The Witches of Paris. I’m getting a segment of the book ready for my agent to look over and spent a week researching Versailles, checking dates of rooms built, when and where statues were placed etc. A pagan inspired book set in modern Sydney would have been easier, but I firmly believe you have to write the book you’re obsessed with. Otherwise you become a hack.
Saw an interesting discussion on a writing message board about labels and the perception of horror and genre writers. All labels, whether to do with spirituality, or creativity make me uncomfortable. Because I write in a variety of areas, I hate to be pinned down to a label. I think it becomes harder to hear, follow and obey the muse if you feel hemmed in by your own boundaries. Stephen King says in Bare Bones how he doesn’t believe anybody can write just one type of fiction all the time and when you live in your imagination constantly, it can take you anywhere. I want to go everywhere!
Creativity to me is fluid and filled with shadows, not black and white. My current project would fit crime, supernatural or historical labels. How do you harness and name the force that drives and inspires our imaginations? I know publishers and marketing people need to, so they can get books placed in bookstores. But in a perfect world, it would be nice if I could simply call myself a writer and be done with the little tags.
18 October 2005
October is my fave month of the year. Not only do Smuchie and I share a birthday, it’s also nearing the night of All Hallows; Mischief night.
I’ve been involved in the Fourteen Days Of Halloween, a California-based writing project. They’ve recorded several Australian horror and dark fantasy writers reading from their work (via phone) and they’re broadcasting one writer a day leading up to Halloween.
The following link below takes you to the programme at The Writing Show website. I’m reading third, so my piece is scheduled for Thursday October 20, Californian time (a day behind Australian time).
I’m pretty flat out at the moment editing the first chapters of TWOP, making it as tight as I possibly can before my agent sees it.
7th October 2005
Finished the battle scene finally!! Yes, oh yes! Actually it’s rough and I still have to put in town and river names, but it is down. I have a battle scene. As usually happens with me, there was a death I wasn’t expecting. Bit sad about that character actually, as I thought they were going to be useful later on.
Gorgeous rainy, windy Saturday in Sydney. Would love to work on WOP, but have to meet a girlfriend to go house hunting. She’s the best, so I don’t mind and it will be great to have her near me.
I’m doing my big sex scene at the moment which is fun, but proving a challenge. Normally I find s.s easy, but a steamy scene against the court of Versailles has its own challenge, if you don’t want it to sound like an Angelique book: bosoms heaving beneath the bodice whilst the randy King perves type of thing. My book is starting to come together more, and I can see it really isn’t about some of the things I thought it was about.
Time for a gush – Kate Bush has her new double CD album Aerial, out in November and I can’t wait. I still remember the first time I saw her dancing Wuthering Heights in her red dress on the moors, looking so fey, witchy and beautiful. The CDs are called A Sky of Honey and A Sea of Honey. As much as I like Tori Amos, I could never hear her without feeling a melancholy longing for my first love, Kate. Now she’s back. The Observer describes it as ‘vintage Bush. A melodic, organic sprawl of wind, sea, seasons, time passing, dreams, secrecy and revelation. She’s still seething with strangeness and brilliance.’
Can’t wait for that one. I love the fact she loves her son Bertie so much that she used his drawing for the cover. And the quote from the Observer: that since becoming a mother, nothing much has changed in Kate’s world, except everything. Can really relate to that one.
30th September 2005
I’m roughly halfway through the battle scene. Had to take a few days off this week to look at my timeline again, which looks as if I’ve done the entire history of France. This chapter, this entire book is a big stretch for me as a writer but I think it’s important I challenge myself with each work.
This week I listened to an audio interview with Anne Rice where she said every book she wrote was different, but it was the book she had to tell at the time, even if her legion of fans didn’t want that book. It would have been so easy for me to have done another pagan inspired Circle of Nine series. But I can only listen for the Muse and obey. If I don’t do that, every word is a hollow word.
Speaking of Anne Rice and the horrible events in New Orleans, on her website there is the address of a Catholic priest she is involved with if you care to donate money for the New Orleans Relief Appeal.
Last Saturday I did a reading from A Fire in the Shell to an American writers’ website via phone. It was organised through the Australian Horror Writers Association. Several Australian writers did ten-minute readings, which will be broadcast leading up to Halloween.
I’ll post when I have more information closer to the time. I read the scene where my dead child Rachel is hovering over the members of Light Vision, longing for incarnation. Charmonzhla, the angoli, is attempting to keep her in the realm of the dead. This piece was chosen because although there were a lot more graphic pieces in my work, I like the dialogue between the pair. I also wrote it prior to conceiving my daughter, so it makes it more special for me.
Back to the battle scene. I’ve actually, believe it or not, finally reached the battle.
2nd September 2005
The sodding battle scene I’m working on is taking forever. From the earliest planning stages of this book, I knew I wanted a battle scene. I had my heart set on trenches, cannonballs, drummers and bloody war. It’s actually quite difficult to write historical battles – all the checking and cross-checking can really disrupt the flow. I’ve been researching for a month now on one short chapter. I have filled an entire thick notebook full of facts which I will never use, but at the time seemed endlessly fascinating. In 17th Century France you could be literally pulled out of your bed and sent to war if needed. There’s something incredibly fascinating about reading journal accounts of combat in a time that didn’t involve pushing a button or walking into a crowded area with a bomb strapped to you. I really, really, really want to do this scene, but I’m finding it so hard. I have the opening for it now. I can see the scene and I have the taste of the battle in my mouth, but I’m so held back by dates, by research, by facts. How I hate facts when my imagination just wants to go wild. Once I get through this block, I know the book is more under control. I always knew this chapter would be the challenge. I should be writing it now, instead of talking about writing it.
Also I sent my two entries off for Scarlet Stiletto. I ended up doing three stories this year and had to hold one back. I had written my two, and then I began to get the idea for a third including the opening words, so I had to write it. It came out quickly, a nice strapping 5000 word story and the words were dictated. That’s always a gift when it happens.
Hope it happens with the battle scene.
I’ve lit a candle and I’m praying for the mothers and fathers of Beslan. Hard to believe it’s been a year. Evil cannot expel with a more ferocious breath than it did at Beslan.
17 July 2005
‘WHERE’S THE REST OF ME?’
– Ronald Reagan, King’s Row
This has to be one of the most horrible lines I’ve heard in a film. We saw King’s Row on a wet, cold Sunday afternoon; it’s a really great rainy day film. Ronald Reagan is pretty good, and it’s quite a surreal movie for its day (1942). Think black-and-white Blue Velvet. The scene where Ronald utters this line is pure horror. I don’t want to say any more in case I ruin it for anyone. Apparently Reagan’s autobiography (written before he was US president) was called “Where’s the Rest of Me?”
Hurrah! I’m beginning to find more time to write. I can’t tell you how brilliant it feels. I’m now 50,000 words in The Witches of Paris, plus I’ve done heaps of editing. I’ve also written two short crime stories. This is my annual attempt at winning a second shoe with the Sisters in Crime. I really enjoy the challenge each year of coming up with stories that don’t cover themes I’ve already done, and that the judges can’t pick as mine! The Scarlet Stiletto Award has been very good to me. Since I’ve been entering, I’ve won First Prize, Second Prize, A Highly Commended and two Kerry Greenwood Malice Domestic Awards. If I win another shoe, I am no longer eligible to enter. I’m sure all my Sisters are praying I hurry up and bloody win it so they can see the back of me! It does get harder every year to write the short stories as I go through a lot of themes that are important to me. I also really try to write from a space of true passion, rather than it being just a calculated exercise in attempting the shoe again. But how I would love a pair of shoes! (The trophy is a red stiletto shoe with a dagger in it). I love writing crime; The Witches of Paris has a crime thread running through it.
The news is so, so, depressing with the recent bombings in London. I love London, and have stayed in the area where one of the bombs was detonated. I feel so much for the innocent people going about their business who got caught up in the actions of these subhuman morons. And what’s with Japan wanting to kill and eat critically endangered whale species? On Friday morning David interviewed Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Since I first saw a documentary on this courageous ‘good pirate’ of the sea, I’ve been fascinated by his life and work. He was a founder of Greenpeace, but left them because he was dissatisfied with their ‘Avon Lady techniques’. Captain Watson is a true pirate of the ocean and has literally sunk many whaling ships. They are making a movie about his life at the moment with Christian Bale tipped to play him. If you want to learn more about this incredible guy I’ve linked to his website.
David also interviewed Tania Zaetta, the Australian actress/TV presenter who has now become a huge Bollywood star in India. She reminded David of moi, as her impressions of India were exactly mine (the women are beautiful, the spirituality, the craziness of it all etc…) She’s also Scorpio, like me. She wouldn’t have reminded him of me in appearance. She’s a doe-eyed beauty with very long legs. I’ve still got a stone to lose in weight after giving birth. I’m beginning to think it’s a myth that breastfeeding helps you to lose the weight. The boob nazis have spread this lie; despite 90-minute walks with screaming baby in pram, the weight is still not shifting!
We went to Tasmania for a week to introduce Daisy to her Tasmanian relatives. We travelled by the Spirit of Tasmania ship which was beautiful. It was like stepping back in time to a more refined, less hectic world, and made us long to do a cruise. David wants to go to Antarctica, but I want to do some tropical islands. I felt as if we were in an Agatha Christie novel.
Speaking of Agatha, since my school days when I discovered Ms Christie and the world of crime writing, I’ve been a fan of the English women crime writers. If you want to read a haunting, brilliantly written book with a dark tale that will rip you to pieces, you can’t go past Tokyo by Mo Hayder. It is one of those books you cannot put down and I sobbed for ages after reading it. Mind you, I cry when I read Greyfriars Bobby, so I am a big softie.
I’ll try to find time very soon to put some new photos up.
16 May 2005
Slowly, slowly, the world I’ve created progresses. The characters of The Witches of Paris are becoming more real, forming themselves. In my mind I see them, standing impatiently at a court ball, stalking the great wolf on a hunt; their desires, greed and nightmares trapping them to my mind. The spider and the web. In urgent cries they utter their next line. I see their expression, smell the fragrance they wear, the texture of their clothes, their hands resting on mine as they attempt to pull me to the computer. We dance a slow tango, each needing the other to complete the work, to tell the tale. But, alas! My world is on the pause button for great stretches of time whilst I tend to my other creation. A crying child has to be placated and put to sleep, nappies have to be changed. With one loud, lusty cry from my baby daughter, my characters can slip through my mind like mist.
I’m constantly frustrated by not being able to work on this canvas when I want to. My world seems so near, so far. Thank the goddess for imagination. When I hold my baby in my arms, heart to heart, skin to skin. My characters come tiptoeing, whispering their story…
On my writer’s messageboard this week we were discussing the topic of why we write. I thought I would share my reply:
I write because it’s easier and more portable than painting. It’s not like drama, you can do it on your own. It’s my little handprint on the cave wall of humanity. In the future, there will always be a book of mine in the Fisher library, or floating around in someone’s attic or a secondhand book shop. It’s my way of expressing: I was here. I thought. Dreamt. Felt. Feared. This is my print. Perhaps not outstanding, perhaps easily overlooked. But it’s there.
I was here.
01 April 2005
As I mentioned in my previous post, my waters broke a fortnight early, exactly one hour after I had left work on Mardi Gras night. I had been looking forward to a fortnight off to rest and try to get 50,000 words up on The Witches of Paris. But suddenly, there I was: a very pregnant, panicking woman, surrounded by lesbians and gays all dressed to party.
I was kept in RPA Hospital overnight and when I didn’t labour, they sent me home to wait. And wait. And wait. After three days, doctors were saying the risk to the baby was increasing and they wanted to induce. I was really upset because an inducement means a lot more painful labour and when I bought this up, they said most women asked for the epidural early on so not to worry. There went my natural birth plan of a water birth, with minimal pain relief.
One of the most awful moments was when we were waiting at labour ward and we heard the most ghastly screaming from some woman and we just looked at each other. Oh Jesus, I was so terrified. I had three midwives looking after me that day, and they were all brilliant.
I was applying my make-up at one stage when one came in and said, “Have you started contractions yet?” They have you on a drip to induce contractions. I replied, “Yes, I think so.” She laughed and said, “I don’t think so, darling.” The next time she entered I was mooing like a cow and she knew I had hit them. I endured seven hours of the contractions. The mooing was fascinating; the midwives said mooing is the best because it helps to push the baby whereas screaming just wastes energy. I can proudly say I never screamed, my make-up stayed on and I refrained from crying out to my mother (just).
David talked me through every contraction. He refused to rest and the midwives all loved him. Finally Enid Midwife said “This is ridiculous. My advice from someone who has had five children, two of which were inducements, is get an epidural and bypass the gas and pethidine.” I couldn’t wait. When the youthful looking Asian girl entered the room I proposed marriage to her and I was serious. That epidural entering my spine was like heaven.
It was horrible having the inducement. I wasn’t allowed to get into the bath. I had to have a catheter. All those tedious pre-natal classes where I had practised standing and squatting positions and suddenly I was confined to bed to deliver.
I still didn’t go into labour enough, despite them putting the drip up. My body just wasn’t ready to deliver. They started talking about doing a caesar which really broke my heart. Luckily Dr Antonia was called, and she said, “No, leave her awhile.”
The last bit was the worst. I hated everybody on earth who hadn’t warned me how bad the last bit when you have to push the baby out was. It was like a bulldozer was driving out of my anus. I know that’s gross, but it’s true!
A tiny part of me was thinking, I can use this for scenes for my book. But I have to admit it was a very tiny part. All I really wanted to do was die. At one stage I saw myself, one leg held up by David, one by Belinda Midwife, pulled apart like a wishbone whilst they tried to encourage me to push. Blood everywhere, me mooing like a whole herd of bulls and I thought what the hell happened to my natural nice birth plan? After two hours of pushing, I gave up. I said they were trying to kill me, I didn’t care and I was going to sleep. They sent for the Head Sister who started playing tough cop, telling me I was a naughty girl, didn’t I want to see my baby?
“No,” was my answer. ” I don’t care if I don’t.” Then I got crafty. In between the contractions I said if they gave me another epidural, I would have a caesar. Even better, if they helped me to stand up I would push her out. My plan was to make a bolt for the door.
Finally they called another doctor to vacuum her out. My poor mind at this time was totally shattered. I thought the baby had died inside me, because I refused to push. Everybody seemed so angry and serious and her heartbeat had stopped on the monitor. Then a whole team of crash trolleys entered the room and started setting up. I was trying to figure out whether I would be sued when a great gush came out of me. I believed my insides had fallen out. The staff threw something at me. It was dark and cold and had no movement. Everybody was yelling, “It’s your baby!” I was yelling “Baby! Baby!” But I really didn’t have a clue, I just thought they had thrown a dead baby on me. I looked over and David had become a doctor, he was cutting the cord of a baby and posing for photos with RPA staff.
Everybody said that when the baby is put on you, you forget the pain. When Daisy was bought back to me, I thought how pretty she was, and then I started asking for pain relief.
Enid Midwife had said to stop trying to control the birth, to let the birth control me, nobody controls birth and to go with the flow and take what happens whether it was a caesar or whatever…
David tells me my memories of that last stage are a bit distorted, and I was a lot calmer and more in control than I believed and he’s never seen me crack more jokes and be so calm even when I was mooing.
I know how very deeply Daisy has entered our hearts and not only ours, everybody around us. She must have a spirit that affects people. I’ve had friends who ring up crying about how they can’t stop thinking about her. The staff at RPA would come and get her all the time to give report and take her around the ward to show everybody. Patients came from other wards to see the beautiful little baby they were talking about.
I was quite an unmaternal girl. One of my friends said, “Jo, I thought you might be a shit mother, I was so worried.” It was an enormous shock to me how intensely I love her. I can spend hours crying, mourning the fact she’s not still inside me. The French have this great saying about the days after birth:”After birth everything comes out, milk, blood, tears. Let it flow.”
Breastfeeding her is an immense privilege – even if she does suck like a little vampire. She has bought such joy and fulfillment to my soul. She has inherited David’s mouth, eyes, hair. She has my nose.
I was talking to a midwife about how I hated everbody who hadn’t told me the truth about the final stage. She said the reason they hadn’t is they had forgotten. They can recall it was painful, but it’s a romantic, hazy pain. I said to David that I was glad I hadn’t had the caesar and I had experienced such a primal battle state of being. He said, “Don’t you see you’re already romanticising it?”
Mother Nature is a bitch.
I did send photos and card out to my mailing list. If you’re on the list and didn’t get one, you may have changed address, as I had a few that bounced. If you want one, give me a holler.
Here’s a link, anyway.
08 March 2005
We don’t have to follow the politicians, we can take over the world! Yeah! Let’s drive to the desert. Pick up some pretty chicks, take all our clothes off. Smoke some peyote man and Ride The Snake!!
Okay, we went to the Doors concert and I’ve been driving everyone mad since, telling total strangers to ride the snake. I loved the show and thought Ian Astbury was superbrilliant. He has great stage charisma and echoes my own sentiments totally that the pop and rock stars of today don’t have anything in their trousers.
We also had a good night at a Lebanese restaurant with the Drinklings in honour of Sean Williams coming to town.
Big news. Tomorrow I go into hospital to be induced for Daisy. My water broke in King Street on Mardi Gras night one hour after I left work. There I was surrounded by half-naked revellers – a pregnant woman, waters bursting, hands up in the air panicking. It’s a scene I should be able to use for my writing one day.
I should have expected it, as everybody said expect the unexpected. But I never dreamt that Daisy would arrive early. I still haven’t gone into labour, despite trying everything to bring her on and so tomorrow I have to be induced. There goes my lovely natural birthplan. There goes my fortnight’s break to get up to 50,000 words on The Witches of Paris before she arrived.
Amazing, but true – she is being born on David’s birthday. They are both Pisces and she will also share our numerology sign 9. I’ll post a photo of her on the web, and if you’re on my mailing list, I’ll email one to you.
Until my next post sweet children of the twilight, stay hard, be cool and hold fast to your dreams…
11 February 2005
David’s had some pretty exciting interviews lately for magazines. Last Thursday he interviewed Suzi Quatro by phone in London. Then on Saturday Robby Krieger from The Doors phoned him to be interviewed prior to their big concert. David and I are both big old Doors fans, so it was a buzz to have a Door phoning our house.
Robby wrote some of the Doors’ biggest hits – Light My Fire, Touch Me, Love Her Madly, Love Me Two Times. David said he was a really cool guy to talk to, very friendly and happy to share stories about Jim Morrison. I’m really looking forward to seeing them in concert when they get to Sydney.
Working on Chapter Six of Witches of Paris; wrote an abortion scene which I had been dreading, but it was a lot easier to get into than I thought it would be, seeing as I’m now 33 weeks pregnant.
One thing that did get to me recently was seeing a crime scene photo of the actress Sharon Tate, who was butchered by the Manson gang on a killing rampage. She had been two weeks away from giving birth. I’ve read a lot about Manson and his gang of killers over the years, but I’ve never seen a crime scene photo before. Susan Atkins, one of the worst killers, is up for parole on 1 June 2005. If you feel to write to the parole board to urge them not to release her, the address is:
Board of Prison Terms
Ms. Margarita E. Perez, Chairperson
1515 K Street, Suite 600
Sacramento, CA 95814
You also need to quote her full name (Susan Atkins-Whitehouse) and her prisoner ID (W08304). Don’t delay if you intend writing because submissions won’t be read at the last minute.
Most of the Manson murderers became born-again Christians after they were arrested and are now virtual celebrities in the USA. I’m a believer of an eye for an eye and I find it hard to fathom the entire concept of a Christian forgiveness. They can all rot in jail as far as I’m concerned.
After I had accidentally seen the photo of a very pregnant slain Sharon, I was upset for days and I finally forced myself to look at it again. I’m glad that I was morbid enough to do so, because I could see that her poor body was really a shell and she had gone. I had that experience many times when I was nursing. Recently I was talking to a woman who works in the Forensic Department of the Police Force, dealing with firearms. She goes to murders a lot and I asked her how she coped with seeing young children murdered. She said they don’t seem like bodies to her, they’re the shells and what was there is gone. To her it was far worse to cope with the grieving families.
Call me an unforgiving Scorpio, but any small thing I can do to keep the killer Susan Atkins inside, I’ll do. Let her study her Bible within prison walls, this woman who can ignore a pregnant woman’s desperate pleas to stay alive – at least long enough to deliver her baby – and laugh at her and taunt her as she kills her in cold blood. A bitch like that does not deserve a second chance. I despise the people who are attracted to the feeble creep Manson and his cult. That includes musicians like Marilyn Manson and the local Sydney bands who call themselves after him and his ‘family’.
Had the most brilliant time in Brisbane at the Aurealis Awards. I hadn’t been to Brisbane for quite a few years and it was so different to how I remembered it. The amount of goths and punks – I now know where all the goths have disappeared to from inner city Sydney! With its mangroves along the rivers, paddle boat steamers and large mansions,
I thought it was a lot like New Orleans. David, who has been to New Orleans, said it was nothing like it.
The Award ceremony was impressive. A very glam affair, with everybody taking it seriously which was nice to see. My book didn’t win – Mr Harland scooped all the awards on the night. I had predicted to him that this year would be the Year of the Harland and I was proved right. I was nearly beside myself with excitement for him. Sean Williams, accepting his award for Best Fantasy Novel, gave a very nice speech on the sense of community and how important it is for SF writers. Ditto to that.
The following day I went to the Ellen Datlow seminar. This is like an informal talk between writers and important folk in publishing which is apparently common in the States. The whole session was great, very inspiring and helpful. In the afternoon David and I went to a massive book sale of secondhand books, which is for us like going to heaven. You never know what gems are going to turn up. I had a strange dream where Daisy poked a little nail out of my stomach. I read her an Emily Bronte poem before I went to bed and she kicked. Hopefully that meant she liked it, and not begging me to stop.
On our last day, we went to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary which was peaceful. We did all the touristy stuff, like feed the kangaroos by hand and have our photo taken with a koala named David! There were photos in the Hall of Fame Gallery of Marilyn Manson and the Pope with a koala (not together!), so we were in exalted company.
Last night I had another creepy type dream which involved two ghosts in a Victorian style mansion. One was a nursemaid, and one was a little girl. I was pregnant in the mansion, and the ghosts eventually got rid of me.
I’ve added some more recent photos to the site. Also a heap of links and took down the Book Club section. I never had time to update it.
How I hate this humidity.
15 January 2005
I’ve finally got around to putting up some more recent photos on my site. They’re of the Sassy awards, an annual event my agent Selwa Anthony holds for authors to come together and be inspired. If you want to have a look at some very cute flappers check out the Sassy Awards 2004 in the photo gallery. I plan to make this part of the gallery rotating, so there will be more frequent updates. Please don’t forget: I’m not fat, I’m six months preggers.
There’s also a more recent photo of David and myself in the General Photo section.
A very busy week. David my daredevil lover went scuba diving on Tuesday with sharks at Manly aquarium. I had to be up at the crack of dawn to go and watch him, but it was worth it to be on the Harbour in the very early pre-peak time. It’s something he’s wanted to do for ages, and it was actually quite emotional for me seeing him come swimming out surrounded by eight very large sharks. He did want me to go in with him, but I didn’t think they’d have a suit to fit me, plus I’d shit myself with fear if a shark came towards me.
On Sunday we went to the Drinklings soiree in honour of Charles Brown, the Locus editor, who is visiting Australia. This was a lot of fun. I’ve missed a few Drinklings through pregnancy sickness, but I always love catching up with good folk like Kate Forsyth, Richard & Aileen Harland and also making new friends.
I’m still reading through Tour to Hell for David, so I haven’t had a lot of time for my own writing. But he’s given up his writing for me so many times over the years, so it’s a real joy to reciprocate for him.
Tomorrow night we’re going to see the fab Wendy Rule. Monday night, we’re off to see Black Rider. Really looking forward to that one. On Saturday we fly to Brisbane for the Aurealis Awards. Oh, I did want to get a haircut, I’m so shaggy, but no time, no time. I’ll keep you posted!
1 January 2005
Happy Yule and New Year to all!
I had a pleasant, quiet Christmas. David gave me a surprise by having cover flats of the Circle of Nine series framed, along with a heap of other great presents such as a Joy Division CD, all of which are still under the tree. My parents gave me a gorgeous Chinese calligraphy set which is a work of art in itself. I bought David tickets to The Doors concert, and sponsored a turtle for him at Taronga Zoo, so he is an official Turtle parent.
My day job to support my writing is in retail so you can appreciate that this is the busiest time of year for me. I’ve been working 12-hour shifts, working my days off, seven days straight etc. Last night I had trouble staying awake until midnight. If you would like to experience a fingertouch from hell, try working the Boxing Day sale in a Sydney department store. Let me not go there…
Although I have had no time to do any writing, I have had some good news regarding my work which has given me a boost at a time I needed it. A crime short story called “Tadpole” has won the Kerry Greenwood Malice Domestic Award at the annual Scarlet Stiletto Awards with Sisters in Crime. You may recall I won this award last year as well, so I was thrilled to claim it again.
A Fire in the Shell (my favourite book of the series), has been shortlisted for the Aurealis Award in Horror along with my Sassy writing friends Kim and Richard. It’s just great to be up there alongside them, even if I do think I’m the longshot of the three. David and I are going to Brisbane for the awards, as the very respected Ellen Datlow, yep, that Ellen Datlow, is flying out from America to present the awards and to give a talk to all the nominees on the Sunday. It doesn’t get much better than that.
The ever-suffering David has read my first six chapters of The Witches of Paris and declared it to be better than Circle of Nine. I’ve been reading his book which he’s just finished. Tour To Hell is a non-fiction about an escape myth of the early convicts in Australia. It’s such a blessing to have a writer as a partner.
Here’s my very big news for the New Year, and I’ve just told my work so I can post it. I’m pregnant, actually six months pregnant. The little ragamuffin was unplanned, but very welcome now the initial shock has passed. Her name is Daisy, yes she is a girl and she is due on March 23. I had a pregnancy filled with nausea and vomiting which was sheer misery for me, and a few complications, there were many times where we didn’t think Daisy was going to make it.
She’s proven already to be as determined as her mother. David thinks I’m a bit like a cockroach, I survive anything.
I never considered myself a maternal girl. Animals have always been my passion. My agent Selwa, gave us some great advice and that is to not change our life to fit Daisy, to ensure instead Daisy fits into our lifestyle. In our cramped little terrace I cannot imagine how we are going to fit another little being. We will eventually have to renovate onto the f the house, build an attic and office upstairs.
Smuchie, I declare, has to be the most intelligent cat in the world. She has learnt how to open windows. Talk about a true cat burglar. She either busts out of them, by pushing the screen out with her head, or she lifts the heavy window up with her paws. We are in awe of her brilliance.
Finally, the Tsunami fills me with horror. I missed the breaking of the story because my long shifts meant I never saw the news. I cannot even begin to contemplate the scale of the tragedy. I can’t watch it on the news or read about it. Being pregnant doesn’t help; I’m way too emotional. David and I are sending money and I urge you all to send as little or much as you can spare. Didn’t I write about a similar event happening in New Baffin in A Fire in the Shell? Pablo Picasso, a fellow Scorpion, often predicted events through his art. Shambzhla, sending her wrath out onto the earth dwellers. Damn you bitch warrior Sea-Hag!
Also sad was to read about astrologer Athena Starwoman’s death from breast cancer. Fifty is too young. R.I.P. Starwoman.
3 December 2004
How hot has it been? It’s raining today, but when the temperatures in Sydney went up to 40 a few days ago, I thought I would melt. I spent most of the day lying on the bed trying to write longhand, the cat next to me. The fan on, and a lavender dipped frozen chux on my head – not a good look! I’ve always found it difficult to write in the heat. My best writing weather is rain, storms, winter. The chapter I was working on today was a difficult, fiddly one as I had to keep going back to my research books.
The annual Sassy Seminar has been and gone. It was a great day and night. Some very interesting speakers. Belinda Alexandra gave an inspiring talk on visualising success and the work she is doing rescuing wild possums. A polygraph expert gave a fascinating talk on how criminals give themselves away. It was the best Sassy for talks I could remember.
I always love the night with everybody glammed up. Selwa looked super stunning as always. If my photos turn out okay, I’ll put them up on my website. It’s always lovely to catch up with all the Sassy authors; we normally only talk by email as everybody lives in different states.
Found out this week I’ve shortlisted again for the Scarlet Stiletto Award which is a real honour. The short story I wrote is called “Tadpole.” I don’t think I’ll be able to make the awards ceremony this year which is a shame as it’s always a good night to see my sisters in crime and have a weekend in Melbourne. I’ll let you know how the story goes.
I’ve been swimming a lot lately, now up to 20 laps. We also went to the beach on that blistering Sunday; it was just heavenly to be in the water, even with the jellyfish. I even got sunburnt walking to my yoga class the other morning. I really don’t know how I’m going to survive Summer!
14 November 2004
Today we had a nice Sunday lunch, compliments of Brian Walpole. He invited David and myself, Selwa and her partner Brian, and Steve (who taught Brian how to use a computer) as a celebration for his book. It was a beautiful sunny day and the restaurant was great with the most spectacular harbour views. I think Sydney Harbour is so beautiful and I just don’t get to see it enough. It was really lovely to have time with Selwa. Having her as my agent was a dream come true and throughout the years I become more and more impressed by her as a strong woman and businesswoman. She’s been a great rock for David and myself.
Next weekend is the annual Sassy weekend and I shall put a post up about that. I’m really looking forward to catching up with the Sassy authors and making new friends there.
I’m moving slowly through chapter six at the moment on a hunting scene. It’s amazing how this chapter altered dramatically from my original plot, which I think was through the filter of my views on hunting rather than those of my characters. It’s been another slow week for writing due to some health problems. I have to go for an operation at RPA tomorrow morning at 6am. I’m trying not to be hard on myself however. As long as the book is moving forward.
This week I also had a great idea for a non-fiction book which I am going to co-write with a good friend of mine. Yes folks, I have plenty of ideas, it’s just time. I’m meant to be fasting from now in preparation for the knife, so to bed.
31 October 2004
Happy All Hallows Eve. This has to be my favourite festival of them all.
Witchcraft magazine (November-December issue, out now) has a feature article with yours truly. I was quite excited when they approached me about doing the article as I’ve collected every copy of the mag for the last decade bar issue 1. It’s surreal to suddenly find myself in the pages. In the article I talk about my latest book, my views on Witchcraft, my love of Paris and other topics. Plus you get to see my new dark hair!
The panel talk at UTS (Sydney) went very well. I always enjoy catching up with Kate Forsyth and listening to her passionate talks. Christian Read (our other panel member) was also interesting. It was gratifying to see the amount of people that turned up. We were also given bottles of wine and chocolates from the organisers which was a nice touch.
David is reading through Witches of Paris for me at the moment to give his opinion before I send it to Selwa. This is a difficult time when other eyes first see the work and I cringe in anticipation of their judgement!
We were invited to the launch for Wild Lavender, Belinda Alexandra’s latest book. I had been very excited about going, had my outfit ready (a 20s French Flapper outfit). Then I was rushed to hospital with a dramatic illness and missed the whole event. Damn! I heard Belinda even danced a tango so I was very disappointed to miss that!
I finally managed to get out in the garden and plant some herbs. I didn’t do any ritual such as a creativity ritual, which I normally like to do when I’m sowing seeds. Just plonked them in.
I had the creepiest dream the other night. It has haunted me all week. I was in this child’s dormitory, which looked like something from Dickens. There was the presence of a spirit very strongly in the room. I could hear a child giggling, and from behind a curtain the sound of someone urinating. When I threw back the curtain there was no-one there. Then I saw the spirit, a little boy with wild hair. I asked him what kept him anchored to this plane, and he replied CHAOS. It was a very scary moment. I began shouting at him, “You’ve done something, you killed your mother or your brother, you’ve stolen, lied, or cheated. I’m not real and neither are you. But you’re the past and I’m the future and we’ve connected. ” Then he began biting my arm with sharp little teeth and the pain woke me up. I’m sure there’s a book or story idea in this dream.
Brian Walpole, the undercover WWII commando who wrote his life story with David, was interviewed on A Current Affair the other night. They flew him back to Malaysia to revisit where he fought the Japanese all those years ago. He’s such a great character, and we were so proud that he even managed to get a plug in for My War!
Happy Mischief Night, whatever you are doing. May your ancestors stir quietly through your bones and dreams and the Feast of the Dead bring you splendid visions.
22 September 2004
I’ll be appearing this Saturday afternoon 4pm at the UTS (Sydney) Writers’ Festival, on the fantasy panel. Full details in the appearances section.
The book that David edited for Brian is now on the shelf – My War by Brian Walpole. Fingers crossed it will do well. If you know anyone who would like a fast-paced, action-filled story about an Australian soldier living with and fighting alongside the headhunters of Borneo behind Japanese lines in World War 2, please pick it up. It was totally unlike anything I’ve ever read before and I have to say I really enjoyed it. Brian is a real character, think James Bond crossed with Paul Hogan and more than a touch of Russell Crowe and you get the picture.
Saw the movie The Village the other day which I loved, much more than The Sixth Sense. There’s so much garbage at the films these days such as Catwoman that a subtle movie like The Village was a welcome relief.
I’m still sick which is driving me nuts. It is very hard to write when all I want to do is lie in bed and die. I have managed to do five chapters of The Witches of Paris which I’m polishing at the moment to send to Selwa to look over. With all this gorgeous balmy weather I just want to get out in the garden and plant some herbs but I have no energy. I’ll update the website soon and put some more recent photos up.
18 August 2004
By now you probably know about the horrific flooding in Boscastle, Cornwall. I wept watching the news this morning because it was less than two years ago that David and I enjoyed one of the best holidays of our life in this atmospheric, friendly village. We’ve been frantically trying to find out what state our dear friends are in who live in Cornwall. Also gutting is the fact that the Museum of Witchcraft has been flooded and has lost many priceless artefacts. Thankfully nobody in the Museum lost their life, and the research material on the top floor is okay. The Children of Artemis website has set up an emergency donation fund through Paypal and 100 per cent of the money goes to the Museum. Please if you can donate anything, however small. The more we all as a community help, the quicker it will be to get this vital museum up and running. I’ll keep more updates as I hear things. Please remember Boscastle and its people in your prayers and magickal workings. It is a very special town with the most friendly people I have ever met. Boscastle brings out a sense of community in your spirit. It was devastating to see some familar faces on the news this morning talking about their losses. Here is a link to the Children of Artemis site if you would like to help.
10 August 2004
It seems centuries since I last updated this site. I’m going to have to make a list of everything I’ve been up to:
1. Fighting off the flu and the gastric bug going around. It seems all of Sydney is fighting the flu.
2. Discovered a new band I love called The Pubert Brown Fridge Occurrence. They are a really fun band who play punky/heavy covers of Downtown, Solitary Man and others. Their original stuff is great too. It’s now often you see an entire pub singing and dancing along to bands, but this has happened on the two occasions I’ve seen Pubert play. They play at the KB hotel in Surry Hills. Check ’em out if you’re in Sydney.
3. Finally, miles behind everyone as usual, I caught up with the latest Harry Potter film which I loved. Boy, could I relate to those Dementors.
4. A musical documentary called European Experience which I did the voiceover for several years ago was shown on Ovation. If it’s repeated again and you’re interested, I’m reading the script!
5. Saw the most brilliant theatre show, Vanishing Point by the French illusionist Philippe Genty. It is a total mind spin, very surreal. Mind-achingly beautiful, creepy and haunting.
6. Also caught up with the exhibition of Australian Surrealists at the SH Ervin Gallery. We saw it on closing day and were treated to a wonderful performance poetry piece where poets gave their impressions of their favourite paintings. It was a very inspiring day and I began getting ideas for another book (after this series I’m working on).
7. Have discovered the sensory bliss of gelati! There seems to be a few gelati places opening up in my area. Passionfruit and coconut remains my favourite so far.
14 June 2004
Today was a pretty exciting day for me. Helped along with half a bottle of Scotch, I got my first tattoo. Those of you with tattoos will no doubt be rolling your eyes, but it felt like a very important ritual marking for me. Steve, who performed the act in Skin Deep Tattoo, Newtown, said he loved to do a virgin. I haven’t been called that for many years, so there’s another first. Over the years I’ve often talked about getting one, but I have a horror of needles and thought I might not appreciate having them when I’m 100. However, I’ve had some very significant life changes recently. I’ve changed day jobs, I now have black hair and my attitude to life has changed. It felt right to celebrate that with a tattoo. For those of you who are curious, I had a Caduceus on my left shoulder. This ancient symbol of the white and black serpents entwined around a staff and wings represents a whole heap of things: literature which is immortal (hah!), healing, the dual nature of good and black witchcraft, male and female energies combined, kundalini energy, and also the messenger leading people to the underworld. It’s a very powerful symbol. I knew that I wanted snakes, but the Caduceus was the only symbol that spoke to me. Spookily enough, Steve was actually Gemini and knew the symbol very well.
If you are thinking of getting a tattoo, I would say do it. Yes, it is painful, but bearable pain. Believe me, I’ve had much worse pain at the dentist. It was actually a lot of fun and the pain was part of the experience. I’m sure I will be back for another one. Steve said to send people to him, so if you want a tattoo and you’re in Sydney, Steve is your man. He was very gentle and talked me through it all the way.
David is also setting himself a little challenge and that is to go diving with sharks. I’m trying to talk him into getting a shark tattoo to celebrate that event, but he’s not interested. This week on A Current Affair, they are going to have Brian Walpole’s story. I shall update my website when he comes on.
Writing-wise, it’s been a slow but steady progress. I have really felt that I need to balance myself lately by having a bit of fun in the “real world” not just sitting at a computer. I’ve been going to see some bands and letting off a bit of steam. I’m about 22,000 words into a very rough first draft, but the story is there. I really don’t want to be cranking out books like a tired old sausage machine. I like to write about places and scenes I know. So this, is really a time of experience and fun for me. We all need fun.
25 May 2004
Yesterday was a brilliant effort for my writing – I did over 4,000 words, which bumped my word count up a bit! I’ve got nearly three chapters now of a very rough first draft. Today was frustrating – I did 1,000 words, felt very fired up and fully immersed in the world I was creating… and then I had to stop to go to yet another work training day.
This week we finally got to see the cover art of the book David worked on for Brian Walpole called My War: Life is for Living. It comes out in August, which is very exciting. The cover is great, a nice portrait of a younger Brian and some Sea Dyak headhunters. Brian is returning to Sarawak this week with A Current Affair filming him, so hopefully he will mention his book!
There was a depressing article in the weekend papers about Australian publishing companies closing their doors to new talent and relying on imported American and British titles. Some publishers are only taking on authors they believe will sell 7000 copies. Harper Collins is publishing 40 per cent fewer books.
It’s a pretty precarious, fragile web we spin when we write. You really have to love the work, the process of shutting yourself away from the world, taking the risk it may or may not sell. If I didn’t write, I could always paint. But writing is easier.
11 May 2004
The good news is I’ve finally started the draft for The Witches of Paris and it’s flowing extremely well. I did
over 5,000 words in two days, which is good going for
me. I think because I’ve been thinking about this book and researching for nearly a year, I’ve come to really know the characters. They have emerged very quickly, I love them already and there’s some interesting conflicts emerging.
I’m really enjoying the process of this book and it’s a nice feeling not to have to work to a deadline.
To help with the mood of the book, I’ve been looking at some art books that feature some great early witchcraft paintings and a beautiful book of photographs mainly portrait shots from the carnival in Venice.
Saw a couple of very good films since I last wrote. Secret Window with Johnny Depp – that man just gets better and better! Today I finally caught up with The Passion of the Christ. This has to be the most gruelling, emotional, terrible, beautiful film I have ever sat through. As an old Catholic
I thought I knew the story, but I was shocked by how much I had forgotten, and also by how Gibson made me see very familiar events in a totally different way.
There were so many great moments. Satan was fantastic. The scene where Mary the Mother runs to Jesus when he falls is one of the most beautiful I have seen. I thought my heart would break when she finally got him down from the cross. Mary Magdalene when she crawls to him like a dog after he prevents them stoning her; I could go on and on.
Yes, the violence is graphic. The scourging scene is awful.
I had my eyes shut, as I did when they hammer him to the cross. However, personally I find directors like Tarantino more offensive. Mel Gibson made The Passion from the very depth of his beliefs and passion. He didn’t make it for effect, or to be smart or cynical. There are no scenes of intestines being hosed out from cars and so forth.
When you create from the heart, you touch the heart. I know of some pretty tough guys who have seen the film
and ended up going to Mass to find out what it’s all about. There’s been stories in the media of murderers confessing after watching the film to murders they got away with in the past. I didn’t feel like racing off to Mass; the movie made me feel in places as if I hated humanity. When you look at the mess the Middle East is in today, it doesn’t seem that much different from the events in the first century. It’s almost as if we’ve learnt nothing. The question I was asking myself was – did Jesus die for nothing? Are we really worth his sacrifice? It did make me feel like re-reading the Testaments and some Biblical history. It’s really worth seeing for the cinematography alone. You feel as if you’re entering into a Caravaggio painting. Even if you’re not Catholic or interested in the message, it’s a brilliant piece
of historical cinema.
If you’re waiting on an email from me, I apologise. Life has been very frantic lately with all the training for my new job, but I am slowly beginning to clear my very full in-tray.
Tomorrow is the birthday of one of my favourite artists, Gabriel Rossetti. So to pay him tribute, here are a few lines from one of his poems. When I visited his grave in England
I took him flowers and wept as if I had known him. My mother thought I was quite mad to go miles out of my
way to visit the grave of a long dead poet and cry! Happy Birthday Gabriel.
From The Kiss
I was a child beneath her touch, – a man
When breast to breast we clung, even I and she, –
A spirit when her spirit looked through me, –
A god when all our life-breath met to fan
Our life-blood, till love’s emulous ardours ran,
Fire within fire, desire in deity.
03 May 2004
Strange days. As usual, the peace of Sunday morning was disturbed by the very elderly Greek couple next door fighting. This time they were more passionate than ever; I heard a thwack followed by screaming. Then the old man, who can barely speak English, knocked on our door and asked us to phone the police. His wife had physically attacked him and thrown him out of their house. I have to add, he is very frail and can hardly stand, let alone walk. The police arrived to find David and very old man sitting together and naturally assumed David was the villain of the domestic violence. When David explained the old man had been attacked by his wife, the policeman did a total double take. His expression was, ‘Now I’ve seen everything!’
Much to the disappointment of both Smuchie and myself (we were glued to the drama from the door), they didn’t arrest the old lady, just gave her a warning. Language difficulties made it hard to work out what happened. From what we could gather she thought her husband had stolen something. She also thinks David and I are thieves who sneak into her house to steal things. Aah, the joys of neighbours. At least it explains all her filthy stares and curses muttered at us over the years!
Spent the day working on a short story. I’m nearly ready to begin writing draft for The Witches of Paris. Still organizing my notes. The research period for this book seems to have gone on forever, but I can feel the story forming inside me and becoming part of my bones and blood.
Watched a very good film last night, The Brotherhood of the Wolf. David thought it was silly but I loved it. It was the most bizarre mix of 18th Century Pre-Revolutionary France, martial arts, and American Indians, with stunning shots of the French countryside.
This week I had the most beautiful letter from a reader which really touched my heart. Without going into details, she had been going through a rough patch in her life and said my books had helped her. I cannot tell you how much that letter meant to me. It’s an incredible boost to hear from readers who have enjoyed the books, but to hear that your words have made such an impact on another human beings life under stress is a true honour.
Hope you enjoy your Beltane/Samhain celebrations.
18 April 2004
Change – you either thrive on it or you hate it. I’m one of those people who like to hang onto the known. At heart I’m Bilbo Baggins. I enjoy my routine and the familiar. So this last fortnight has been a pretty intense rollercoaster ride for me. After eight years of working for my “day job” I’ve transferred to another company, which is a great French (yay!) company and a promotion for me. However with all this upheaval my writing routine has really suffered, but once I settle in I’ll be able to push myself harder. I can see my characters now when I’m going about my daily business. Courtiers, wolves, witches, ghosts and French salon fairy tale tellers keep me company as I immerse myself in a corporate world.
I’ve also had a dramatic change and dyed my hair dark which I’m very happy with. When I get a more recent photo, I’ll put it on the website so you can have a look.
There is a short interview with me on the Antipodean SF site at http://www.antisf.com/feature.htm.
Finally caught up with the Man Ray exhibition today. It was hellish crowds as the Archibald was also on, but an interesting show. I really liked his nudes and his mannequin photos. Speaking of Man Ray, last night I rewatched one of my favourite videos, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which has definite Man Ray influences. That film is such a beautiful melancholy piece on love and life. I love the casting of the three leads, Juliette Binoche, Lena Olin and Daniel Day Lewis. It’s such a powerful film with stunning shots of Prague.
04 April 2004
I finally managed to see The Return of the King this week. I’ve left it for ages because I have a thing about crowded cinemas. I actually preferred the second film, but that’s okay. I still had a huge pain in my chest and was emotional at how beautiful some of the scenes were. I loved Sam, he was the true hero as far as I was concerned.
April Fool’s has come and gone and I played a pretty silly jape on David, but it was nowhere near as silly as the fuckers in England who painted the Rollright Stones with bright yellow gloss paint. It makes me really angry that some moron thinks it’s amusing to deface ancient stones which, apart from their incredible atmosphere, have important lichen samples on them. The cretins painted more than 70 of the stones and the damage is meant to be irreparable.
A few years back I was fortunate enough to stand in the witchy circle and it was an inspiration for Circle of Nine. It really breaks my heart that there are people out there who think that it’s clever or funny to deface ancient stone circles.
I guess I should really try to work up some sympathy for them seeing as they are obviously of very limited intelligence, and beauty of spirit. In my Scorpionic way however, I hope somewhere in their dreaming, they will pay, and pay heavily for the damage they’ve done to the Rollright Stones.
Mr Ian Tonkin, if you’re reading this, I’ve been trying to reply to your email and it keeps bouncing back to me. Could you contact me with an alternate address, or I’ll try to get your snail mail address from S&S. Many thanks.
28 March 2004
As a writer who is not a big name, I never really expect too much from book signings so it was brilliant to get a good reception at the Infinitas bookshop signing on Saturday. Some lovely people made the effort to travel there and I sold a lot of books. I had half-expected to arrive to an empty shop, so it was a nice way to end the week.
The ever-smiling, interesting Lyndy Super Spanger was there to give her much valued support. The only thing that ruined the illusion of the successful writer lolling on a couch at her signing was when I suddenly looked at my watch and yelled, “shit, is that the time. I have to get back to work, my managers will kill me!” Yes folks, the sad truth is I am a working writer and have to spend part of my time working to support my craft. I should really have said I had to leave to go to my publicity shoot on the harbour or something.
I’ve just finished reading Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub and enjoyed it. It’s been ages since I read a book set in this century. It was dark and horrid, but also so funny in places.
Alfie went to the vet this week for his check up and he has a lump. He has to go and have a $600 operation which is a bit of a blow. On the positive side, his heart is in good shape. Every time I look at him I see dollar bills with a tail.
Have been getting up at the crack of dawn to do my research for The Witches of Paris. I’m really ripping through it now. Nearly time to start writing draft. It’s near, I can smell those opening scenes.
For those who may have been concerned, I did manage to track down a CD of Johnny Cash’s with Ring of Fire and I have been bopping to it constantly, driving neighbours mad!
21 March 2004
Why is returning from holidays so hard? I’ve been very flat and depressed since coming back from Port Fairy. It was such a lovely break and the most beautiful little fishing village. I’m a sucker for a lighthouse, historic houses and deserted beaches. The public transport worked and came on time. There was no graffiti, rubbish or syringes everywhere; instead I saw hundreds of birds, wallabies, delicate shells and stars so clear they almost hurt your eyes.
There were also hundreds of old people everywhere, which was a bit strange until we got used to it. It felt as if the town had swallowed all the young people, but we gradually saw a few.
The cottage we stayed in was called Tara – here’s a link http://www.port-fairy.com/taracottage/ if you’re interested. She was as cute as a button and had loads of personality. There is meant to be a ghost in Tara; a visitor had recorded that they saw an old fisherman come in with his catch, grumbling about the poor spoils for the day. On my first night there I was a bit creeped out. It was dark and quiet, but if there were ghosts they could only be friendly.
We spent every sunny day doing nothing, which is a luxury for me. I spent hours collecting shells at the beach and wading in the water. We explored the graveyard (not bad, but seen better). Went out on a boat, as I am quite a sea dog at heart. Ogled the historic houses, working out which one we would buy and agreeing on Talara, a gothic stone mansion which is for sale at over a million dollars. It also has ghosts which are meant to look out the windows. I bought a pair of pinstriped trousers at the op shop and a lovely French print from 1835 at the antique shop. The lady there told me a very sad story connected to the print which had been owned by an elderly Frenchman who had lived in Wagga Wagga. There could be a book in that some day… at least his print went to a good home.
I would really recommend Port Fairy as a holiday destination, especially if you’re sick of Byron Bay. There are loads of interesting walks and beautiful cottage gardens. The peace is unbelievable. If you were going through a lot,
it would be a great place to sort yourself out for a few days.
I also love the Norfolk pines through the town. It reminded me at first of Copenhagen, a bit Nordic, but it really has its own energy and character. A very delicate, pretty energy, despite its earthy sea-fishing grounding side.
Every day we just pottered. David would sit on the beach and play his harmonica to appreciative seagulls, whilst I waded and wrote the first draft of a poem. We saw the mutton birds come into their nests. Stuffed ourselves with fish and chips (I vomited!) I read Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub, which I’ve been enjoying and David read The Lamplighter by Anthony O’Neill, another book I’ve been longing to read. On our last walk we said goodbye to all my favourite beaches and houses and a curious little wallaby came and said goodbye.
I was in a very bad mood at having to return. Alfie didn’t improve things by his treacherous action of ignoring us totally and focusing on his carer. Smuchie, who is more dog than Alfie, was very pleased to see us, however. I’ll just have to throw myself back into my writing and try to shake Port Fairy off me.
Just a reminder: I’ll be at Infinitas Bookshop next Saturday. If you’re near, come along and say hi. The details are in the Appearances.
14 March 2004
I’m very excited. Tomorrow we are going away for a short break. As usual, I’ve left everything to the last minute and now I’m frantically sending emails, trying to pack and avoid Alfie’s eyes. He has been giving me “filthies” all day, sensing that we are going on an adventure without him. Even though we have good carers coming to live with him, he’s not a happy chap. I spent most of the day bopping around the house to some ancient records and CDs. I’ve had a Johnny Cash song in my head all day, (Ring of Fire) and do you think I can find it?
At Port Fairy we are going to look for birds, pirates, ghosts and relax. I am loaded up with poetry books, Victorian ghost books and fiction that is based in the 20th century, not 17th century France. I’ll take my notebook, but I’m not planning on writing. However, you never know…
If you write to me this week, I won’t be able to reply until I get back, but then I promise, I will.
I can’t wait to see the stars, and hear the night breathe, to feel sand beneath my feet, and hold the sea in my hands.
I fell into a burning ring of fire, I went down, down, down and the flame… damn. I’m going to have to buy that song.
I’ll tell you all about Port Fairy when I return. Must go and pack.
07 March 2004
Another Magic Casements is over and I think it was a huge success. Irina Dunn from the Writers’ Centre said the turnout for the panel sessions had increased from last year. I would really love for Magic Casements to become a permanent fixture like the Popular Writers’ Festival.
I’m not great at the social chit-chat and always feel a bit shy and awkward in these public events, but I’m getting better. For example, this was the first time I was public speaking when I didn’t dose myself up with Rescue Remedy beforehand.
I sat in on the Future Histories panel where Ian Irvine had graciously taken my place. Although I didn’t agree with the generalisations that were being freely taken about fantasy, it was an interesting panel. Not the least being the audience seemed to spookily know so much about the bloody Roman stirrup, or lack thereof. I was beginning to feel that David and I were the only two people in the room that were ignorant of stirrup development. It was like being in the midst of the Roman army appreciation society! Ian was a very dignified panel member and certainly gave far more than I could have done to that topic.
My panel went smoothly and I had some lovely audience feedback that they appreciated the work I had put into the talk and got a lot from it. As I said, I will be putting the transcript of the talk up on my site soon, so if you missed the books I mentioned you’ll be able to get it then. What can I say about the ever gracious, gorgeous Kate Forsyth? Her eloquence, her passion, her sincerity for the craft and for her fellow writers makes her a total joy to be on a panel with. I admire all mothers who write. Kate, very pregnant at the moment and with two small children plus a heavy workload, has my total respect.
The Artists panel was also very interesting. I feel very much for the artists at the moment with the heavy demand for photoshopped covers lowering their job opportunities. I don’t feel that photoshop can ever replace an artist of flesh and blood and the whole tactile experience of working as a collaborative team. I’ve had very good feedback from folk who love my covers, so there is a demand and appreciation for artists.
The most fun I had all day was judging the Flash Fiction which was a totally new experience for me, both the judging and the FF side of things. I felt powerful sitting up next to Van Ikin and Robert Stephenson determining the winner! From a field of mainly male entrants, it was interesting to see the three standouts were all women. The winner was Susan Wardle with a haunting, elegant short piece called Insomnia which involved a dwarf. Excellent to see what can be achieved in three minutes. However, all the contestants were great to just get up and have a go.
I signed and sold books, talked to some lovely people. One of those lovely people was none other than Lyndy SuperSpanger! Yes, I have met Lyndy in the flesh and she is gorgeous and sweet. What a little darling, and such a surprise because I was sitting right next to her and asked her name. Thank you Lyndy as always for all your support of my work. It’s great when you meet someone you’ve been communicating with for awhile and they turn out to be as nice as they come across on email.
So, if you’re a writer and you’re invited to Magic Casements III, I would urge you to go. If you’re a fan of the genre, please continue to support it next year. Even for introverts like myself, it’s a fun, stimulating day. You don’t have to agree with all the panelist comments to find it stimulating to hear different points of view.
The only thing I thought was missing was a panel on horror and Dark Fantasy, and I would have liked a publishing/marketing panel, so we could have heard their point of view. Hopefully next year.
03 March 2004
For the last ten days I’ve been on a detox for Autumn which was nowhere near as easy as I expected it to be. The first few days which were hell, were mainly fruit and vegetable juices. Not only have I began to resemble a carrot, I was incredibly weary and kept falling asleep when I was trying to research. Thank the goddess it’s over from tonight. Bring on the carbohydrates!
I’ve been getting some good feedback to A Fire in the Shell, thank you to the kind people who have written. Just a reminder, Lyndy has set up a message board for people who like the books to go and discuss them. The link is http://s4.invisionfree.com/Spangerpage
We saw some very interesting, funny films at the Art Gallery on Sunday. One in particular by Dali and Bunuel was a classic: L’Age d’ Or. The Surrealists can be so childish, with dogs being kicked, bugs being squashed, popes thrown out of windows, but it was hysterical in places.
If you live in Sydney and like theatre, I would also recommend the Jackie Weaver play The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead. She is an amazing actress.
A reminder that if you would like a signed bookplate, just contact me and I’ll send you one out in the next post.
Hope to catch up with some of you at Magic Casements II on Saturday. For those who can’t make it, I’ll post a report.
Wasn’t it wonderful that fantasy was so acknowledged at the Academy Awards? I loved Peter Jackson’s speech when he thanked the academy for looking past the trolls and elves and recognising what the movie is really about.
Belle of the night had to be Mr Johnny Depp in his Armani tux. The women all looked boring and the same. They honestly look a bit cloned in Hollywood – tall, thin, blonde, plucked and waxed. Also, why is it the women always come across as irritating blubbering messes in their acceptance speeches, whilst the men like Sean Penn maintain some dignity and humility?
20 February 2004
My book is in the shop! This was a very big surprise as I discovered it while walking through a city bookstore today. I haven’t even seen an advance copy yet, and so to suddenly come across my book when I wasn’t expecting it was the strangest feeling. Like catching your Grandmother naked.
I felt like picking it up and screaming to the store,”I wrote this! This is mine!” Except, of course I had to restrain myself and pick it up as casually as if it was any other book, and not my darling, new and exposed to the cruel world. Very coolly I flicked through a few pages, dreading to see a dedication spelt wrong, an acknowledgment unacknowledged. But so far, it seems perfect. My only regret is I didn’t buy it so I could examine it all weekend. Hopefully my advance copies will arrive next week.
There has been a slight change to the Magic Casements II programme. Ian Irvine has graciously agreed to stand in for me on the Future Histories panel. I’m not a futuristic writer and my source of inspiration and interest is in the past. I think Ian will be great on that panel. However, I’m definitely still on in the afternoon with Kate Forsyth and Robert Stephenson. Hope to see you there. Fingers crossed, my new book will be at the festival.
I’ll be signing a few books at Infinitas bookshop in Parramatta on March 27. More details in the Appearances section.
Must go and walk Alfie. He’s panting to get out. Then I’ll do some more French, which I’ve been studying as part of my prepatory work for my new book. I’m pathetically bad at languages, but determined to master it!
If you live in Sydney, hasn’t the public transport been unbelievably awful? David has been walking home from work which takes an hour or so from the city, but is still quicker than training it.
We were walking home together last night and some girl got molested by a guy who has been stalking her. She ended up running after us screaming, in tears and we had to walk her part of the way home. It was a curious incident.
Last week we saw Sylvia, the movie about Sylvia Plath.
It was beautiful, but so sad that she lost herself to him so much and not to the words more. He wasn’t a muse surely, she produced more when he left her and she didn’t have to worry about him all the time. What a waste. I remember about two hundred years ago when I was studying acting,
I chose to perform her poems. She is a dangerous writer.
The horror news of the week has to be the cancellation of Angel. Why they’ve taken this incredible show off is beyond human understanding. Does that leave us with only vacuous reality and lifestyle ‘improvement’ shows? I cannot bear the thought.
I’m so happy. My darling is out.
09 February 2004
There was a fascinating article in the Sydney Morning Herald recently on Aboriginal lore and the weather. An Aboriginal woman employed at the Mount Annan Botanical Gardens is a knowledge holder about weather and time. Her mother was from the D’harawal tribe. According to local Aboriginal lore, the weather is now in a dangerous collision. Any rain that will come will only be a result of storms. The hot dry season of the small annual cycle is matching up with the hot, dry season of the 12 year “Life” cycle and even worse, these are matching up with the hot, dry season of the longer 10,000 year “Dreaming” cycle.
The article went on to say that the concept of four seasons from the northern hemisphere doesn’t fit the Sydney experience at all. The original people of Sydney had a different way of viewing seasonal change. They saw six seasons in a cycle based on blossoming of plants and behaviour of insects and animals.
The article also describes rituals that would be celebrated. For example, the D’harawal calendar year begins with the flowering of waratah. The new year is celebrated with ceremonies and a drink made from its nectar.
That makes planning for seasonal rituals even more confusing when you’re in Australia. I hope that a lot of the old traditional ways are maintained and we don’t lose them totally.
Speaking of weather, I’m loathing it at the moment. The humidity of Sydney is turning me to slush. Where is the rain? Not these brief, violent storms, but days of concentrated rain to break this heat spell. Looks like the D’harawal tribe are spot on.
Counting the days now to see A Fire in the Shell. She’s nearly here. We have a special bottle of wine waiting to christen her.
Hope your harvest will be plentiful, wishing you all patience whilst your dreams manifest.
Big public thanks to Rhondda for the new website. You’re a genius Rhondda! FurryPurry is this talented girl’s new company, so if you need a website designed, give Rhondda a yell.
There are loads of new things for you to enjoy. Interviews, articles, a tribute site to Brownie plus a preview of the cover and synopsis of A Fire in the Shell in the Books section.
I’ve been so busy researching; spent a fortune on books on Amazon today. Books! How we are ever going to cram more books into this house I don’t know! We are surrounded by mountains of books now.
Keep writing, creating. Never give up. Never lose hope.
Here’s a little tune we can hum for Lammas:
Corn rigs, an’ barley rigs,
An’ corn rigs are bonnie;
I’ll ne’er forget that happy night,
Amang the rigs wi’ Annie
– It Was Upon a Lammas Night, Robert Burns
19 January 2004
From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were – I have not seen
As others saw – I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I lov’d, I lov’d alone.
– From Alone by Edgar Allan Poe. Happy Birthday Mr Poe!
Been very busy researching for my historical supernatural. So far I’ve filled four notebooks, developed severe eye strain AGAIN, and have an ominous pain in my left arm from writing. Today was a breakthrough when I sat down to plot and it came pouring out in a coherent fashion. Now, I’ll go back and re-work the plot, make it more detailed. Then I’ll start writing and change the entire thing.
Saw Peter Pan at the cinema. I really enjoyed it, especially the scene where everybody was crying, “I do believe in fairies, I do! I do!” I had to restrain myself from jumping up in the middle of Hoyts and yelling along. Bit of a shame about Pan’s American accent however. I dragged David along to it, and he came out of it with a couple of very good short story ideas influenced by the film. So no experience is ever wasted. But my favourite film so far this year has to be Master and Commander. I loved that film so much and I thought Russell Crowe was superb. It was a brilliant piece of art from Peter Weir. I also saw Lost in Translation which was also great – Sofia Coppola is one of my favourite directors. Like Peter Weir, she brings such style to her work.
We are planning a short break away in the next couple of months. We’re renting a historic cottage at Port Fairy in Victoria and I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to this. I’m going to take a swag of books, look for shipwrecks, pretend I’m a pirate (I’m a really bad egg, yo ho!), bird-watch and just relax.
Well, it’s nearly the witching hour and I have to be up early tomorrow. Hope your muses are visiting you.
28 December 2003
Merry Christmas/Happy Litha/Yule or whatever you choose to celebrate. I’m quite happy to combine them all. I went to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, but ended up at a Portuguese language Mass (I don’t speak a word of Portuguese!) The best thing about it was the priest, who was incredibly animated. One of life’s little adventures.
I got some very nice presents. David bought me a huge deer antler and a lovely old bell for my altar. I also got some fantastic research books for my latest book, a great witch calendar, Decleor skincare, heaps of money (I feel quite loaded now). It was a great Christmas, but it was stinking hot in Sydney. I could hardly eat Christmas dinner. I sure have made up for that! This time of year I treat myself with the foods I normally ban all year which means bring on the cheese, butter and carbohydrates. I made heaps of magic chocolate crackles for my friends to bring out the inner child in us all.
We’ve watched some excellent movies over the break –
I Married a Witch with Veronica Lake is a great old classic and heaps of fun; Gothic with Julian Sands playing Shelley. We had both watched this film in the past, but it was better the second time around. Who can forget the scene when the tits sprout eyes? My very favourite, however, was a movie by Neil Jordan and written by Angela Carter called The Company of Wolves, based on the Red Riding Hood story, from two short stories of Angela Carter. If, like me, you love dark fairy tale films I implore you to do anything you can to get your hands on this film. It is brilliant. The imagery, the fairy tale setting. It’s so bloody creepy and sensual and oh, just about my favourite film ever! It’s filled with great lines like, “Never go off the path”, “The sweetest mouths have the sharpest teeth” and “the most dangerous wolves are hairy on the inside”. God, it’s so great. Along with Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast it is my favourite film.
I’ve just found out that I’m going to be appearing at the next speculative fiction day at the NSW Writers’ Centre at Rozelle (Sydney). They’ve moved it forward this year. I’m going to be on two panels and help judge the flash fiction competition. Hope loads of you will come along and support it. I’ll give more details when it’s nearer the date.
There’s been a few updates to the site. Finally! My Book Club has some new books I’ve enjoyed and I’ve added my Research notes for Bride of the Stone to the Books section, for your pleasure.
Thanks for visiting me. May the moon and the night bring you creative passion and joy.
10 December 2003
I’m back from Melbourne and happy to report that my short story Hail Mary won two awards, The Kerry Greenwood Prize and third prize in the Scarlet Stiletto. This means I’ve entered the Scarlet Stiletto for four years and won 1st, 2nd, third, a highly commended and the Kerry Greenwood. The competition is intense with some very strong writers, so to even short list every year is amazing. I already have my ideas for three stories next year.
I had a great day and night in Melbourne, although I had to spend the day in my motel doing the edit for A Fire in the Shell. I stay at the Cabana Court Motel in St Kilda which I can recommend as a very cozy and clean apartment, in walking distance to the beach and reasonably priced. The woman in charge knows me by now and she is a crime reader and I always enjoy seeing her. She actually told me an incredible story which happened to her sister which she thought would make a good book. I get told stories like this a lot, but this story was truly amazing and I would really like to do something with it.
The awards themselves are held at Leo’s Spaghetti Bar in St Kilda. I had a great night with my Sisters in Crime. My edit is now complete. I finished it at 3am on Monday night and I felt very melancholy as I was doing the final checks. So much of my life went into the books, and I felt as if I really wanted to return to Eronth in the future. I am sure there are many more stories I could tell set in my invented worlds and I would really like to find out what happened next…however, I know now is not the time. The next book is definitely the French supernatural; it’s obsessing me!
Can you believe Yule is fourteen days away?
01 December 2003
It’s been a very busy time lately. Saturday was the annual Sassy Awards, which is an event all Selwa’s writers look forward to if they’re able to attend. Not only is it a good chance to meet up with fellow writers, there are many inspiring talks by a wide variety of interesting people. A few times during the day I had to pinch myself when I looked around the room at some of the faces.
The day is taken up with talks. Some of the stand-out ones: Gail Bell describing her experience when she was shot – I can’t wait to read that book. Sue Williams spoke about her her time with Father Chris Riley and her forthcoming book about Peter Falconio and Johanna Lees. Bunty Avieson talked about her time in Bhutan with a new baby. Frank Coates, who has written a novel set in Africa, showed us his cooking pot full of hyena tooth-holes. Kim Wilkins had me, Traci Harding and Mo in tears describing the effect motherhood had on her writing.
Later that night everybody gets glammed up and we have the dinner and awards. I was very excited to receive a Sassy award. I had no idea that I was a possibility and when I heard my name called out nearly fainted. My award was for having a Positive Attitude and uplifting people around me and enduring through hardship. It’s a beautiful trophy and I’m very thrilled to have won a Sassy. It means an awful lot to have that recognition from Selwa. The author/actress Judy Nunn presented it to me. I took loads of photos of the night and when I get them back, I’ll put them on the website.
In other news, David’s book he is working on with Brian is going to be released in September next year, in time for Father’s Day. So keep your eye out for it, if you’re looking for a present!
I found out today, I’ve been shortlisted for the annual Scarlet Stiletto Award for crime writing. This is the fourth consecutive year I’ve been shortlisted, an incredible honour. I’ll be flying to Melbourne on Friday to attend the award ceremony, so keep your fingers crossed for me! Unlike other Australian awards, the Scarlet Stiletto is judged anonymously, and so isn’t contaminated by prejudice or favouritism. It will be nice to see my sisters in crime again, they are a very cool bunch.
My father is planting a peony rose bush over Brownie, as that is her favourite flower. We still miss her dreadfully. I’ve set up my altar to her and I’m doing a 40 day mourning period as the Greeks do.
Busy, busy with a very tight deadline for my final edit for A Fire in the Shell. This is an exciting edit because you get to see it all typeset and you realise it’s going to be a book. I can honestly say that this is my very favourite out of all the books. Back to the edit now…
23 November 2003
I received some very sad news last night. David and I have just returned from three days in Tasmania. We had gone there to see my old dog Brownie, who had recently gone blind, also to see my much loved grandfather who had just had his leg amputated and to visit my sister Catherine, whose eyesight has been affected with the condition Retinitis Pigmentosa. Our trip was quite good. It was sad to see Brownie who was having difficulty walking, but she was as sweet and good natured as ever. My sister was in great shape and spirits and my grandfather also coping well. We managed to fit in a walk around the lake of Oatlands which has filled up with water, visited a couple of my favourite cemeteries, and the new automated mill which has a sinister/cheesy automated voicebox complete with the sound of children skipping. My parents are living on a peaceful farm whilst they are househunting, with views of sheep grazing as you shower and what seems to be hundreds of echnidas.
It’s always hard to return to Sydney after Tasmania. I’m a country girl at heart and could easily live in an isolated part of Tasmania writing. The countryside in the midlands reminds me in parts of Bronte territory with gum trees. David, however, is Sydney born and bred and a lot of his work is here. We came back to Sydney on Wednesday, and last night Saturday we had our usual curry and old film. After the movie, David told me he had some news and he didn’t know how to say it. Brownie was dead.
Although I knew when I saw her, she didn’t have a lot of time left, and I’ve been preparing myself for her death for years, it was an enormous shock. She was my most loyal, faithful friend. I don’t have a lot of friends; many acquaintances, but very few friends, and I always classed my lady as one. I do believe she waited for me to go and see her before she left us. After I left, she took to her basket and her legs gave out and my parents took her to the vet yesterday and they gave her the needle to put her to sleep. I haven’t stopped crying. I share so many memories with her. It was a privilege to have known her. I had a dream once that she was a very advanced soul, who incarnated to help me through my lonely times. All I know is she was a pure spirit who was always true. My father buried her on Burbery’s Hill where she had many splendid walks, and where we all shared a magic walk together one day when Alfie saw and chased his first flock of sheep. Some people might think she was just an old dog and it’s silly to work myself up so much. They’re not people I’m likely to have much in common with. I do have some other writing news, but I’ll probably put that up in the next couple of days.
Here’s a few lines from Edna St Vincent Millay: Dirge Without Music that sums up how I feel.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave,
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
11 November 2003
I was awake to the wee hours finishing off my edit for A Fire in the Shell and the courier collected it today. The ms looked very pretty with all its coloured stick-ons with my comments attached. I feel like collapsing now. David had the excellent news that the book he worked on with Brian Wadpole sold to the ABC. This will be his first published book and it’s just great to think Brian’s story is going to be out next year. He didn’t have too long to celebrate because he’s been sick with the flu, which I’m fighting off as well.
A good day today. I could finally relax a bit after the last fortnight pressure of editing. I took myself off to the movies and saw Pirates of the Caribbean today, which was excellent. So much fun! I adored the little monkey and I thought Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush were fantastic in their parts. I really want to run off to sea and become a pirate now. Then two books I had ordered from Amazon arrived, one on Charlotte Bronte and the other was Mirror, Mirror: Women Writers’ Discuss their Favourite Fairytales.
Next week we are flying to Tasmania for a few days to see my family and catch up with my old dog Brownie before Christmas. Cough, cough, I cannot get sick. I will not get sick. If you’ve been waiting on an email from me, now is the time you will probably hear back.
03 November 2003
If you live in Sydney and you got the Sun Herald, David had an article published in the travel section about our trip to Venice, complete with photographs from our trip. Aaah Venezia…
31 October 2003
All Hallow’s Eve –
Happy Sahmain/Beltane (or whichever festival you choose to celebrate).
This is my favourite month and time of the year. This time last year I was in magical Cornwall with all the pumpkins glowing in the whitewashed cottages. What a lovely memory. Smuchie and I share a birthday this month. She is sporting a snazzy purple collar and I’m a bit heavier from gorging on all my favourite food. My presents included a t-shirt from one of my favourite shops, Faster Pussycat, an Anne Rice book, an echidna figurine and an old copy of Terror Australis. I spent the day researching for my new supernatural series, doing a birthday ritual, and then a courier arrived from Simon & Schuster with the edit for A Fire in the Shell. Brilliant news this week. I found out that Circle of Nine had been listed in The Year’s Best Horror and Fantasy edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling (the fifteenth edition, 2001). Circle was listed as one of the impressive debut novels. I cannot tell you how excited this news made me feel as Terri Windling is a goddess to me and has been a total inspiration over the years. To think she held my book in her hands filled with incredible awe and joy. It’s quite an achievement to make this list because it includes US and UK markets. So I was on cloud nine all week. They mentioned the high quality of books coming out of Australia which is great for all of us Aussie genre writers. Finding out I had made that list was a terrific birthday present.
The wonderful folk at the UK site The Eternal Night did a couple of lovely reviews of my books which I shall post in the reviews section if you’re interested.
In the next few weeks, I’m off to Tasmania for a few days to catch up with Brownie and my family before Christmas.
My bloody eyes are aching again. I’ve just been reading so many research books. I read about seven in three weeks. Scenes for the book are sliding into my mind at the oddest times. My agent has asked for three chapters as quickly as I can get them to her.
David’s landed a casual job subediting a car magazine. Yay! Just in time for the bills, and now we can afford to go to the annual Sassy Night.
Life is good.
Our animals remain as cheeky as ever. This week at 5am there was a cat fight outside my window. I woke up to Smuchie perched at the window, like the village gossip following the action and Alfie got himself a grandstand view by perching on top of my head.
I’m off to walk the dog. Read both mine and David’s tarot cards, do a ritual to honour my ancestors. Will probably end up watching The Wicker Man for the millionth time. Yes, I know that most Southern folk are celebrating Beltane, but for a number of reasons I celebrate Samhain tonight.
One of the dead I will honour tonight is the late Cassandra Carter. She wrote a quirky wise book called Everyday Magic. I always meant to write and tell her how much I loved her book, but never got around to it. Tonight when the veils are thinnest, I will have to communicate my message to her spirit. Regret and the dead are always intertwined.
May your ancestors sleep peacefully.
6 October 2003
Today is the day Alfred, Lord Tennyson died. To pay him homage here is one of his poems. May the great one sleep peacefully.
THE SLEEPING HOUSE
I heard no sound where I stood
But the rivulet on from the lawn
Running down to my own dark wood;
Or the voice of the long sea-wave as it swell’d
Now and then in the dim-grey dawn;
But I look’d and around, all round the house I beheld
The death-white curtains drawn;
Felt a horror over me creep,
Prickle my skin and catch my breath,
Knew that the death-white curtain meant but sleep,
Yet I shudder’d and thought like a fool of the sleep of death.
5 October 2003
The last few days I’ve been busy reading David’s book which will be sent off to our agent tomorrow. It is a luxury having a partner who is also a writer as we are handy editors for each other. Both of us are happy to drop our own work to read for the other. It’s actually a book he edited for a veteran and is the most thrilling story you could imagine. I can really see Russell Crowe and Mel Gibson slugging it out to play the lead. Can’t really say too much about it at the moment, except it is the true life experiences of an amazing man amongst the Headhunters of Borneo in WWII. I’ll keep you posted on updates. David spent this rainy Sunday afternoon cracking up in front of a movie on killer rabbits on the pay channel. Big fluffy bunnies with blood dripping from their mouth just aint menacing I’m afraid. I’ve also been flat out researching for my new book. I did run my ideas past my agent and she seemed to like them, so that’s the first step. I have become so caught up in the world I’m researching (17th century France) that when I’m walking down the street I sometimes panic because I think I might have forgotten to dress myself! Titles for all three books I have planned just slid into my mind the other day which is the first time that has happened to me with my novels. Normally I have to work for titles of my books. Short story titles seem to come to me a lot easier.
23 September 2003
How I love Spring! There really is something magical about the smell of spring – all those cliches come to life. Growth, fertility, promise of better things. We’ve really embraced the season this year. Had a massive spring clean, thrown out heaps of books, records, old magazines. We’ve been busy planting heaps of seedlings in our courtyard garden and turning that into a ritual for creativity.
Magic Casements was a lot of fun. Kate is always inspirational and Gillian was fascinating and a delight to meet. A Fire in the Shell is still with the editors at S&S and I’ve been busy writing a couple of short stories and working on some old poems and articles. I’ve also started some pretty heavy duty research for my new historical book. I’ve been reading lots of letters from the 17th century. It’s always a sobering experience to read the private correspondence of someone who lived centuries ago. To touch minds across time, and see how similar we are – and how different. Research is always one of my favourite parts of writing. All that potential and possibility. Just like spring.
Hope your reading or writing is taking you into enchanted worlds.
Thanks for visiting.
Talking about my writing at Leichhardt Library (with Kate Forsyth).
Tuesday 9th September 6.30pm.
Address – The Forum, Norton Street, Leichhardt (Sydney).
Magic Casements: A Festival Of Speculative Fiction
Panel topic Magic, Sorcery, Wizardry and the Spirit World. With writers Kate Forsyth & Gillian Polack.
Saturday 13 September (my panel 1.30-2.45pm)
NSW Writers’ Centre, Rozelle (Sydney) Full info, program at their website.
31 August 2003
Wow, for the hermit crab that I am, I seem to be making the media a bit lately. A feature on politician Amanda Vanstone in this Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend supplement has with a photo of a student holding a burning placard of Amanda, protesting rising university fees. I am that student! My friend Annie is to my right. We laughed when we saw it this weekend. That shot was taken about 7 years ago and I am so skinny! I can remember trying to light the effigy and the lighter wouldn’t work. As soon as I started burning her, photographers sprang from everywhere. I’m going to try to order copies for us as it’s a classic shot and good memory of when we were rebel art students. Those were the days…
Hasn’t Mars been incredible this week? We’ve had the telescope out in the backyard everynight watching her. It’s thrilling to see a planet so close that we can view it even in the inner city with our naked eye. My poor Smuchi got Mars madness however and kept us all awake by climbing a tree, refusing to come down and yowling to the moon half the night. Smuchi has worked out how to get me up of a morning to feed her. One claw hooked out and placed in my cheek is guaranteed to produce a reaction. She inflicts pain so daintily.
Thanks for visiting me,
26 August 2003
We survived the wild tempest on Sunday. 12 hours of gale force winds, 30 000 houses in Sydney left with no power and over 1000 trees uprooted. Now it’s all sunshine, lollipops and lazy blue skies.
Sunday was also the day David’s article on our monster hunting expedition to Loch Ness appeared in the Sun Herald travel section. They did a very nice job of the layout, and used David’s headline Weird Ness.
Drumroll – I’m nearly through this edit. Up to page 400 today and the end is in sight. By the end of this week A Fire in the Shell will be back with the publishers so their editors can go through it.
I met one of my heroes this week and made the news. The ex-Mayor of New York Rudolph Giuliani was in town promoting his book Leadership. I stood in a line with hundreds of people and a tv crew asked me why I liked him. If you saw the segment on the news I was the blonde who said she wouldn’t bother coming out for a sports person or a cricket star or a celebrity blah blah. I was amazed at the amount of people who saw that item. I had emails and phone calls from around Australia including people I haven’t worked with for years. The security as you can imagine was pretty tight. You couldn’t carry your handbag up to him. He really is an amazing human being. If I had to describe him in one word it would be “steely.” He shook my hand and I went around rubbing peoples’ hands all day to give them good Giuliani energy. Don’t mean to rave so much but I really like the man!
My friend and website designer Rhondda now has her own website up and running. Check it out if you’re interested or would like her to design a site for you. Rhondda is one of the most interesting, talented women I know. I met her through David when they both worked at SBS-TV. We share an unhealthy interest in ghoulies, Buffy and graveyards.
The new Witchcraft magazine is out, with a lovely review of Bride of the Stone, which I’ve added to my website review section. I love that magazine, they have so many interesting articles. This issue has an interview with Toshba Learner who wrote The Witch of Cologne.
When I have a spare minute I’ve been reading The Cutting by Lee Tulloch which I’m really enjoying. I think she suits this genre, she has developed some very eccentric characters.
We caught up with the Charles Conder exhibition on its final day which was great. Disappointed the Pre Raphaelite show is not coming to Sydney but very nice for WA people that they will see these great works. I have seen them all before in England but when it comes to the Raphs I’m insatiable!
We had a lovely day out a couple of weeks ago and treated ourselves to a day at Waverley Cemetery which is near Bronte beach. This cemetery has a spectacular coastal location with some interesting graves. Two enormous crows followed us around and posed for photographs. Somehow it lacks atmosphere to me; beaches and blue skies just don’t do it. Every minute a toned man or woman would jog past, or do push-ups or tai chai. We took heaps of photos. If you came from overseas you would love it. Have you seen my new Graveyard photos section? There are many more cemeteries I’ve been to, but I don’t have the space to put them up.
If you’re writing, I hope your muse is with you. As Kipling said about his muse – watch, wait and obey.
Thanks for dropping in.
Bright Blessings – Josephine
12 August 2003
Just to let you know I’m appearing with Kate Forsyth at Leichhardt Library Tuesday 9th September 6.30pm to talk about our work. It’s located at the Forum on Norton Street, Leichhardt (Sydney). I’m sure more details are available from the library.
I got my programme for the Magic Casements Festival today and there are some really interesting talks happening. If you’re a reader or writer of speculative fiction please come along and support it on 13 September. It will become an annual event if it’s a success.
How good was Buffy? Can’t help myself, I have to mention it. I felt as if I could do anything after watching the final show. Just fabulous television. I was on the edge of my seat cheering, clapping and crying. So happy that Andrew survived, but sad about those who didn’t. Thank you Joss, writers, actors, editors, extras, janitors. Thank you Buffy for saving the world a lot.
Bright Blessings, Josephine
8 August 2003
An interview I did for the UK website Eternal Night is now online. Just click on the link if you’d like to read it. My photo section is updated with a new picture of my Smuchi girl, and also two shots from the Buffy Convention I spoke at recently. I met Danny Strong and Tom Lenk who play Super Villains Jonathan and Andrew, and couldn’t resist putting their pictures up! I cannot believe Monday night is the final night of Buffy (in Australia anyway). We’re having a big night in to watch it. I’ve loved that show so much over the years. I’m going to be inconsolable!
Thanks for coming to visit.
3 August 2003
Hope you had a great Candlemas/Imbolc. I prefer to call it Candlemas as it’s a pretty name and I don’t have a problem with the church connotation. I performed a good little joyful ritual for creativity in which a lot of spontaneous things happened.
This week I was invited to give a talk at Magic Casements: A Festival Of Speculative Fiction on 13 September. I’m on a panel with Gillian Polack and Kate Forsyth. The topic is Magic, Sorcery, Wizardry and the Spirit World. More details closer to the date. Hope to see you there.
Date: Saturday 13 September 2003
Place: New South Wales Writers’ Centre, Sydney (in the grounds of Rozelle Hospital off Balmain Rd, Rozelle – for more detailed directions and info check their website).
22 June 2003
Happy Winter Solstice. I was thinking last night about the significance of the solstice after I completed my ritual and how even from the most bitter, darkest night the light and joy will return. So to any of you who may be suffering from the slings, arrows and disappointments of this world, then hang in there. The light at the end of the tunnel may not be a train, but the dawn of the sun.
I wish it was colder. I want snow, winds, a tempest! The Buffy talk is now behind me. It was a lot of fun and I’ve had some great feedback from the day. Very gradually I’m overcoming my horror of public speaking, helped along by vials of Bergamot essential oil and Rescue Remedy. The highlight of the day had to be meeting Danny and Tom who play Jonathon and Andrew on the show. It was brilliant to meet the two actors who have made me laugh so much every time they’re on screen They certainly didn’t match my stereotypical thoughts of how two American actors from a top rating show would be. They were both witty, sweet and intelligent. I loved the fact they both gave full credit to the show’s success to the amazing team of writers. They signed my poster of Circle of Nine, posed for photographs, took my business card and promised if they ever run into Joss Whedon they would mention me if he was looking for new writers. You never know… extraordinary things can happen when you least expect it. That’s what I love about my script of life, how quickly life can change.
David and I had a research trip to the Blue Mountains to ensure all the details for A Fire in the Shell were accurate. So strange to see the mountains again and walk the same trails I walked for a year. The bush was as sinister and beautiful as I remembered and we’ve always enjoyed browsing the bookshops and antique shops in Katoomba.
I’ve spent a small fortune on Amazon recently for research books for an upcoming book which is a historical dark fantasy. This is still very much in the early dreaming stages.
I’ve finally sent A Fire in the Shell to the publishers. Felt quite empty when I posted her and walked away. It’s difficult to let go of them sometimes. I spent an agonising four hours printing her out as the printer wasn’t working properly and page by page had to be fed through by hand. All 500 of them. I felt melancholy and sad for weeks afterwards after she went to the publishers. I had no energy for housework, small talk, or dreams.
Have begun getting ideas for some short stories and articles. I’m also working on a combined YA book with David. Characters are evolving very quickly and introducing themselves loudly. One told us she was Chinese, which was news to us both. I find that side of the writing process enormously exciting.
Hope your Winter Solstice was fun. Thanks again to the kind folk who have kept my spirits high with their feedback on the books. Your words mean everything. I was given a great spread by the Examiner newspaper. Full page and no misquotes. It can be very hard for a woman working in dark fantasy to get any recognition in this country. That’s why despite the nauseating hype from the suits around J.K Rowling I dip my head in gratitude to her. Hopefully it will mean change for all genre writers.
If you’re writing, don’t give up on your craft. I know how elements of it can be alienating, and wounding. Endure the disappointments and rejections and never lose your hope in the endless cold night. There is always light.
12 May 2003
Big news for me – I have been asked by the Friends of Science Fiction to present a talk on my books at the FSF Convention on Saturday 17th May. My talk is at 11am. Special guests for the day are Danny Strong and Tom Lenk from Buffy The Vampire Slayer – they play the ‘geeks’ Jonathan and Andrew. As a long-time fan of Buffy and Angel I am thrilled to be a part of the event. If you’re interested in attending you had best move quick as tickets are selling fast. More details can be found at the FSF website http://www.fsf.com.au.
I also did an interview with the Examiner newspaper (Tasmania) which should appear over the same weekend. So if you live down south please keep an eye out!
In response to the readers who have written to me asking if I send signed bookplates, I certainly do. Please don’t send the books to me; just email or post me your postal details and I’ll send one out to you. There will be some updates on the website soon. I’ll change the book review section and put some research notes up for Bride of the Stone. Thanks for dropping in to visit me. Bright Blessings, Josephine.
FSF Convention: 17 May 2003. Lidcombe Catholic Workmen’s Club, 24 John St Lidcombe (Sydney) NSW, just opposite Lidcombe railway station.
24 March 2003
I will be at Infinitas Science Fiction & Fantasy Bookshop in Parramatta, joining in a discussion on Fantasy and Witchcraft on Thursday April 3rd, starting between 7.00 – 7.30 pm. So if you have an interest in either of these topics, it would be great to meet you. I shall be signing copies of Bride of the Stone. Infinitas is at Shop 5 No 1 Horwood Place, Parramatta. It’s very near the train station. For more details phone (02) 9633 5682 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. See you there!
18 February 2003
The advance copy of Bride of the Stone arrived today! I was just as emotional on first seeing it as I was when Circle of Nine arrived. Very hard to concentrate on editing A Fire in the Shell today. I just kept picking up Bride, leafing through it (and smelling it – I just love the smell of new books!). Bride of the Stone should be in the shops by early March. I’ll send a note to you folks on my mailing list when it’s out. Saw One Hour Photo this morning, a remarkable study of loneliness and alienation. Robin Williams’ performance is outstanding. Oh well…back to the edit.
We’ve just returned from the best overseas trip of my life!I got heaps of research notes and I am filled with ideas, enough for at least 73 books! We went to Cornwall, which was magical. Heaps of stone circles, many of which could only be reached by trekking through miles of deserted countryside. You would walk for miles along deserted tiny lanes and then come across a perfect stone circle with the most incredible energy!
We stayed in Boscastle, which has the amazing Museum of Witchcraft. As I’m typing this, one of the chant CDs I got there is playing in the background. This museum is a must if you go to Boscastle; they have the biggest collection of witchcraft artefacts in Europe. I spent four hours there and my wrist was aching from taking notes. I loved all the kitchen witchery collection. I will definitely return to this museum!
Also in Cornwall we visited Jamaica Inn which was fun, because I love Daphne du Maurier. Then we travelled to the Lakes District (very scenic in Autumn). I was fortunate enough to spend an afternoon with one of my all time favourite writers, Storm Constantine, her husband and also her friend Lou (Eloise Coquio) who co-wrote Bast and Sekhmet: Eyes of Ra and is another dark fantasy writer. As you can imagine I was on a bit of a high from this!
Scotland was next, and I fell in love with both the Highlands and Edinburgh. We visited the cafe where J.K Rowling wrote Harry and spent a lot of time in Edinburgh’s Greyfriars Kirkyard. In fact, Edinburgh has quickly become one of my all time favourite cities. The city looks as if Tim Burton drew it. It is loaded with ghost stories and there is so much fascinating history. We were lucky enough to see several books made out of human skin from the notorious body snatcher Burke. They have his skeleton at the surgeons’ museum holding a book made out of his own bum! I admit to also loving little Greyfriars Bobby, and I now have every Greyfriars Bobby souvenir ever made. Another highlight was meeting Barbara Erskine at her Edinburgh booksigning.
After Scotland we spent a rushed week in London – you can never fit everything in there! We did take a trip out to Rosslyn Chapel. I swear hand on heart, this is a true story; we met a Knights Templar in the chapel who was using his pendulum to look for hot spots. I had a couple of strange experiences in this chapel. My camera battery went haywire, which apparently happens a lot. Plus I had a very strong psychic impression in the oldest part of the chapel, which, I found out later, was correct. Back in London I really enjoyed the Dickens House and saw the scariest play ever – The Woman in Black. I cannot recommend this play enough. It is the creepiest thing I have ever seen.
Paris was next. I love Paris and always will. It stinks of piss, we stayed in a very sleazy area filled with pimps and pros, but somehow Paris is always magic. I had some serious research to do in Paris. We revisted my favourite cemetery Pere Lachaise. A fascinating tour we did was the underground Catacombes where the skulls and bones of millions of Parisians are stacked along the winding underground tunnels. It is quite a sober meditation on life to walk along this dimly lit tunnels. We did a day trip to Chartres Cathedral, an incredibly holy place to witness. I fell in love with a black Mary in the church and must have bought every souvenir on her. Then we travelled on to the South of France and revisited my darling Villefranche-sur-Mer.
The climax of the trip was Venice. She is the original grand old Shabby Chic city. Magnificent! I wept when I first saw her and I wept when we left her. She is totally unique. I can’t even begin to describe her because she is so beautiful. Because it was off season, the hotel owner very kindly gave us the best room, a room with a stunning view over the Grand Canal. It was flooding and one morning water came into the dining room as we having breakfast! The locals just stick on a pair of gumboots and go about their business. It was very hard to leave Venice and she still haunts me. Photos coming soon of the trip.
As you can imagine it has been horrid trying to settle down after a trip like that. Writing has helped me. I’m flat out editing the third book A Fire in the Shell before handing it to the publishers. Bride of the Stone will be released in March.
I’ve just read Tanith Lee’s first book in the Secret Books of Venus series, Faces Under Water. It is excellent. I also read Barbara Erskine’s Hiding From The Light, also very enjoyable. I’m currently reading Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde by the great Robert Louis Stevenson. I shall shortly be re-doing my book section, and adding a few more bits and pieces, so please keep visiting me. I love hearing from you.
For those of you who are writing – never give up. Keep going no matter how painful it gets at times.
We have passed from Autumn into Winter and it saddens me that I hardly noticed the transition. Living in the city can dull you to the changes of nature. Seasons are marked by fashion and dietary changes rather than by nature itself. Still, grey rainy days, hot soup and curries. Mugs of hot chocolate. Watching Smuchi stretched out in front of the radiator, and Alfie handsome in his winter woolly coat. I love Winter and I welcome the chill in the air that inspires my writing so much. To me, there is no better way to spend my days than snug inside our cozy terrace, the rooms perfumed with essential oils and scented candles and experiencing the Muse’s kiss as I return to Eronth, the Web-Kondoell and Earth. I am on the first draft of the third book A Fire in the Shell. In another couple of weeks, I shall reach the 100,000 word mark. A little bit behind schedule, but that’s okay.
It seems no matter how meticulously I plan the book it still becomes an organic process, developing its own life and rhythms. Some days I can’t wait to find out what is going to happen next! Writing like this can be scary at times, but also tremendously exciting because it is as fresh to me as the reader.
I’ve also been trying to catch up on the enormous tower of books waiting patiently for me to read. Some favourites I have read recently are Billy by Pamela Stephenson, Adam and Eve and Pinch Me by Ruth Rendell, Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey, Everything’s Eventual by Stephen King and re-reading The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. I’m just about to start on A Child’s Book of True Crime by Chloe Hooper.
Haven’t been going out, or going to the cinema due to my writing schedule. However, I did manage to sneak in to see The Mothman Prophecies, which was fabulous. The movie is quite different to the true accounts that I have read about the sightings at Mt Pleasant, but it is still food for thought and beautifully filmed. I shall be giving my first ever writers talk on July 6th at the Popular Writer’s Centre, Rozelle. The website with all the details is www.nswwriterscentre.org.au. You can find a full programme there with details of all the speakers. If you are in Sydney and interested in writing, please come along and say hello. My talk is on Sunday at 10 am. I am talking with Traci Harding and Caiseal Mor.
Hope wherever you are reading this, the winter season brings you valuable reflection and prolific creative pursuits. Bright Blessings, Josephine
I am enormously overjoyed to report I won the 2001 Scarlet Stiletto Award for Crime Writing. Yes, that much coveted sexy red stiletto trophy is mine, plus a cheque from Harpers and Collins! The check-in and security staff at the airport were understandably pretty nervous about letting me on a flight with a huge dagger trophy in my sweaty hand. Not to mention the poor guy who sat next to us! I’ve put some photos up of the night to share with you. I had an excellent time in Melbourne, and spent a day signing copies of Circle of Nine for the bookstores. I’ve never won a trophy before! I was a bit of a shocker at sport at school, and they tended to be the only thing that they gave trophies for. It was a surreal experience to hear my name called out as the winner. I floated all night and nobody could get a coherent word out of me. It was fun to catch up again with my Melbourne Sisters in Crime at Leo’s, the famous St Kilda spaghetti bar. My winning entry was called Birthing the Demons. Be warned, it is very dark!
My other big news is that there has been a new addition to the tribe, a tiny black kitten. She is adorable with the sweetest disposition. Her full name is Smuchi Trim Pennicatt Levell, otherwise fondly known as Demon Mouse. Smuchi, because she loves a smooch and kisses and Demon Mouse because she’s a tiny fluff of mayhem. She loves to demolish everything in the house and garden! As I’m writing this, she’s sleeping in a clothes drawer which has become a favourite spot. You can see by her photo how gorgeous the Demon Mouse is.
I have now finished Bride of the Stone, the second book in the Circle of Nine trilogy. As it wings its way to the publisher I’m beginning research for book three, A Fire in the Shell, and I’m really looking forward to writing this journey. Hecate is a fascinating goddess, and I can feel this book “singing” to me already. I’m already getting ideas for at least three more books after my trilogy; it seems as if the more I write, the more energy and inspiration I receive!
It has been a wonderful time for me. Some of the feedback I have got from emails has been very uplifting. I’ve greatly enjoyed sharing ideas with kindred spirits and hearing your comments on the book. Thank you very much for those concerned for taking the time to share your thoughts. It’s lovely to get such enthusiastic writers and makes my job even more fun than it already is.
Until next time – May Your Dreamers Hold You Tightly, Josephine
26 November 2001
Attended my first ever Sassy Awards which was a lot of fun and very inspirational. It was great to catch up with writing friends like Ian Irvine, Graeme Hague, Traci Harding, Kim Wilkins, Kate Morton. It’s always wonderful to see my publisher Jody Lee! There were some fabulous talks from authors such as Gail Bell, (The Poison Principle) Diane Armstrong (The Voyage of their Lives) Belinda Alexandra (The White Gardenia). Father Chris Riley also delivered a moving talk. The only thing I love more than reading and writing, is listening to authors talk about writing. The night was beautiful. The gowns were glamorous, the men looked sharp and the wine was complimentary. I was thrilled to be the lucky receiver of the entire set of autographed Traci Harding books. I finally got to meet my writing tutor, Marg McAlister who started the ball rolling for me. Took a heap of photos which I’ll put up on my site soon. When I got home I had the excitement of a message on my answering machine telling me I have been shortlisted for the Scarlet Stiletto Award again. So I’ll be flying to Melbourne in the next couple of weeks for the ceremony. Oh dear, somewhere in all this I have to get Circle of Nine finished. Wish me luck!
18 November 2001
Last night we held the Unofficial Launch of Circle of Nine. “Unofficial” because I couldn’t get an official launch anywhere. Galaxy were too busy at this time of year, Dymocks wanted to charge an exorbitant rate to hold it, Grace Bros made their book buyer redundant and so they hadn’t ordered it…and so on…So we celebrated Circle at a private residence at Redfern. Lots of musicians, sausages for the carnivores and alcohol. Cover designer Nick Stathopoulos made an appearance. Also, there was Zoe, his model for the cover art. Bit of a surreal experience to see your cover in living flesh. Richard Harland added to the night with his delightful, exuberant presence. It was a great night and mix of people. I got home about 4am and collapsed happily feeling that Circle of Nine was now well and truly Unofficially Launched.
This coming weekend is also a big social event for my diary. It’s my first Sassy awards. This is a day when Selwa Anthony brings all her authors together to eat, drink and be merry. Looks like I’ll have to overdose on the rose essential oil again (very good for hangovers). Work-wise, I’m putting every spare moment into Circle of Nine as that deadline looms nearer. The story continues on from Book One, and introduces Maya, Fenn and The Tremite Scribes as well as continuing characters from Circle. The story moves from Australia to India, to the Web-Kondoell and Eronth. Phew! I’m exhausted thinking about it! Aphrodite is my featured goddess in this book. My vision of Aphrodite is quite different to the love spell books that are around everywhere. She is the Tomb Goddess, and this goddess is not known as the Man Slayer for nothing. After all, she was born from severed bloody genitals…how mind boggling is that! I’ll shortly be posting some very brief notes on Circle of Nine in the book section. Until next time, may YOUR dreamers hold you tightly.
12th November 2001
Yep, I’m long overdue for an update. Big new is, my baby has arrived! Hurrah! I had been stressing as to when I would get my hands on it. I even had a dream my agent was screaming at me to pull it off the shelves from all the bookstores because the pages were laced with Anthrax! I had to go into hospital for a minor op, and when I came around from the anesthetic, the very first thing I said to the nurse was, “my book is due out this week.” When I returned home – there it was. I love the map that Ian and Simon Irvine did for me. Quite an extraordinary feeling to hold the book in my hand and see my name on the cover. It really hasn’t sunk in yet. Whatever happens now with regards to sales, etc nobody can take this moment away from me. It really is an incredible achievement ! Hopefully I’ll begin to appreciate it a bit more but I’m just flat out working on Circle of Nine, which is Book Two. Deadline is December, so I haven’t got a lot of time to sit and gaze at my book lovingly.
I have now finished two edits for Circle of Nine. The restructural edit was by far the hairiest. A lot of the characters names were changed by request of the publishers, and there was major rewriting needed of the first chapters. I finished on the morning I was booked to fly to Tasmania for a week’s break, so I was cutting it fine, but I did make my deadline. My parents have retired to the midlands of Tasmania and they live near a beautiful lake and an old cemetery. It was freezing cold, and I had an idyllic week, reading in front of my parents’ open fire, walking my dog Brownie (who has totally rejuvenated herself and cured herself of arthritis) and just relaxing. I read Birdman by Mo Hayder on a stormy, windy night and scared myself witless. Other books that I have really enjoyed recently are the Harry Potter books, the Lemony Snicket books, the Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop and The Secret History by Donna Tartt, Passage by Connie Willis and The Ill-Made Mute by Cecilia Dart-Thornton.
I have already started to get ideas for my fourth book (after the Trilogy) and I am hoping to go to Scotland as part of a research trip. I saw a couple of great art exhibitions recently including Frida Kahlo and the Mexican painters in Canberra, but my favourite was When Elephants Paint at the MCA in Sydney. It was just a great reminder of the joy of art and creativity. Those elephants were amazing!
14 May 2001
Finally the title for the first book in my trilogy has been decided. We have decided to drop the original title of Persephone Rising, and it has been renamed Circle of Nine. I’m happy with the change, because Nine is a number sacred to the Muses, and it also happens to be my number in numerology. Not that I’m a great believer of such things, but hey, why take any chances?
Hoping to take a short holiday soon. In the last couple of years, I’ve written two books, continued to work part time, and continued to study for my Aromatherapy Diploma. However it has definitely been worthwhile – I can’t wait to see Circle of Nine be delivered in November!