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:http://www.davidlevell.com/
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