WHEN THE WORLD VANISHES

I’ve had the most incredibly stressful and frustrating week but I’m pleased to say that my talk at Newtown Library for Tuesday the 31st of July has sold out weeks ago. If you did want to attend you can still reserve a seat HERE for any no-shows on the night.
Don’t forget to bring your books for me to sign. I have a rather ordinary looking marker pen that contains a magic spell to bestow creativity and riches aplenty to all whose books I mark.
if you want to pick-up a few early Christmas gifts Better Read than Dead will have books available to purchase. It may seem premature to think of Christmas gifts in July but my motto is Be Prepared. You can’t give a more special gift than a  book.
I had rather a long blog post planned for this week but it disappeared and so not having the energy to type it all again I think it can vanish forever into space. So much disappears into the Machine, alas.
After the talk on Tuesday we will be going to the BANK hotel for a few drinks and you are most welcome to join us if you’re attending my Talking Heads session. The Bank is where I first met my husband, David Levell and so it’s rather lovely to be celebrating Poet’s Cottage there.   I don’t often come out of the writing shed and I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones. Thank you to all who reserved tickets.
 
Kookaburras have been waking me every morning and my husband is away digging up dinosaur bones. I am loving the chilly winter mornings. This is the misty view from my little Brick this morning. Daisy exclaimed in great excitement that the world had disappeared.
A world disappeared for me when I read the final page of the wonderful The Locust and the Bird by Hanan Al-Shaykh.
This very moving book about the author’s mother, Kamila  was my book club choice. As always The Magic Hatters brought different views to the work. I saw it as a wonderful testimony to storytelling and culture carriers. I hope to do a more lengthy review on this book as my original musings were eaten by the Machine. A highly recommended read.
Even in the bleakest of times I still need to believe in magic, the power of love, family, ancient bones and story.
Thank you for visiting me. xx

WHEN BONES CRY

Poet’s Cottage has been attracting some lovely reviews this week. Thank you very much to Auckland Library for their review HERE. It was most interesting to see how the reader picked up the Enid Blyton influence in the book.

I should say, however, that Pearl Tatlow in Poet’s Cottage is NOT Enid Blyton in any way shape or form. I was always fascinated by how Enid Blyton’s two daughters, Gillian and Imogen, had totally opposing views of their mother. I knew one day I would write about this theme and it simmered away for years.

It interested me greatly because I knew of other families besides Enid’s – including my own – where children with identical upbringings have totally different accounts of events. It really made me contemplate truth, memory and history. How do we know what the bones are really singing?

Whether Enid Blyton was a good mother or not never affected how I feel about Blyton. I know she made my childhood magical and I still love curling up with a Famous Five or one of her boarding school stories. But I was fascinated by the family set-up where you have to try to uncover whether the bones are lying or being truthful – or both at the same time.

My writing friend, Jen Storer posted a lovely blog on Enid Blyton and Johnny Cash HERE.

And my other writing friend Kate Forsyth was in the Spectrum this weekend with a beautiful photo of her reading to her daughter HERE. I was thrilled to see Kate also loves to collect the vintage editions of Enid Blyton rather than the sanitised versions. I agree that writers should be read as products of their time and not have their words reshaped to fit the mindset of later generations.

The images of Enid Blyton in this post I found HERE. They are from an interview that Enid gave shortly before her death and I find them moving and poignant. They capture the fragility of the woman behind the words.

I’m so grateful for all the lovely reviews of Poet’s Cottage and that so many people have taken the time to discuss their thoughts on the characters and the set-up. It has been fascinating to see how the book has really delighted people from a range of backgrounds and ages.

Fellow Sydney writer Elisabeth Storrs posted a lovely and thoughtful piece on Poet’s Cottage HERE. I love the final paragraph because Pearl’s gramophone also haunted me for quite a long time.

Poet’s Cottage is an accomplished, engrossing novel with fine language and powerful descriptions of the small town inhabitants of Pencubbit in both past and modern times. Most of all, in creating the damaged and damaging Pearl, the author has created a character so compelling and complex that the image of her lingers just as surely as the strains of music from her gramophone drifted through Poet’s Cottage both before and after her death.

I shall post links to some other reviews as soon as I get a chance.

Life has been hectic here in the Little Brick with my daughter home on holidays. She is writing more than I am able to at the moment. I do love seeing her happy and creative and able to stay in her pyjamas all day if she wishes.

We went to see the movie Brave, which was a wonderful film showing the power plays between mother and daughters. I shamed myself by weeping over the final scenes and my daughter had nightmares that night over the bear but still, a glorious couple of hours in the cinema. The writer based the character Merida on her own feisty-daughter and it’s easy to see why so many mother/daughters are enjoying this holiday movie. An added bonus for me was the whimsical and beautiful trailer before Brave, La Luna.

I really enjoyed this charming short film.

Sydney Cast onstage for The Mousetrap

David and I saw The Mousetrap, which is now touring as part of its 60th Diamond Anniversary year. I had been looking forward to seeing for ages. It’s my third viewing of this iconic play (I originally saw it in The West End). Although nothing can compare to the romance of seeing Agatha Christie’s play in London, the Sydney cast did a really terrific job. I was pleased they kept it in a very traditional style and didn’t camp it up too much. Although a couple of times the accents were a bit forced, I still felt as if I was really at Monkswell Manor.

cast rehearsal image via Mousetrap Sydney website.

From the eerie opening of the play where the child’s rhyme, ‘Three Blind Mice’ is sung to the shock denouement at the end where a lot of the audience gasped at the twist – to the actor requesting we keep the secret (and of course we all will) – I thought the spirit of Agatha Christie’s play (which she did not expect to run for a few months) was honoured.

the original 1952 production

It’s proof of how people love a good cosy mystery and Agatha is top of her game in this sly and haunting play. You can read about the horrible true story HERE that inspired Agatha Christie to write her dark and elegant play. Terence O’Neill and his brother, Dennis in 1945 were fostered out to a pair on a farm in Shropshire, England. The brothers were beaten and abused by the foster parents and sadly, Dennis died. Agatha followed the case which made headlines in the UK and helped to change laws to protect children and used the case for a short radio play, Three Blind Mice (which later became The Mousetrap). Terence O’Neill has since written his own book of the events, Someone To Love Us.

the devious mind behind The Mousetrap. Hats off to Agatha.

Enjoy your week and stay creative. xx

Winter Solstice in Sydney

A most frustrating week.

On the weekend I travelled again to the mountains, obeying the bush call to research and write. That was the high point.

My computer ate a bad frog and had to be rushed to the machine doctor AGAIN.

We had teacher’s day at my daughter’s school, athletics carnival and all the life interruptions that make it difficult for mothers who work from home.

We approached the Winter Solstice and I became overwhelmed with finding it difficult to live in the small brick house and became convinced I had to move right now and ran around househunting before facing the grim reality that the gentrification around us has left us stranded.

But I will plant a little offering in the garden and watch it grow. As Thomasina from Poet’s Cottage would snap at me, ‘Make Lemonade! ’

And in a most surreal night I attended a book club that was not my own and the book of course was Poet’s Cottage. It was a lovely night and the hostess not only lived in almost my dream family home (she had grown her own pumpkins and had proper sized rooms!) but she had named her chickens after characters from Poet’s Cottage!!  Here is an  atmospheric avante garde shot of the chickens.

And I was saddened to read about Johnny Depp’s split from his wife, Vanessa Paradis. Just at the Winter Solstice touched us.

It was a good week to remind myself of the following quotation which I posted on my Facebook Author page

The reward doesn’t necessarily go to the biggest, the brightest, or the best. It goes to the one who has the courage to keep trying until success is inevitably achieved.” —Dr. Robyn Silverman

, and here is a lovely photo that I took from the Facebook Vivien Leigh page of Vivien and Larry in 1940’s London. So much glamour and cool amongst the debris and chaos. So unflappable and as stylish as ever.

I loved the following quote taken from the same source that Noel Coward said about his friend Vivien. So tender and poignant really.

“Vivien, with deep sadness in her heart and for one fleeting moment tears in her eyes, behaved gaily and charmingly and never for one instant allowed her unhappiness to spill over. This quite remarkable exhibition of good manners touched me… very much. I have always been fond of her in spite of her former exigence and frequent tiresomeness but last night my fondness was fortified by profound admiration and respect for her strength of character. There is always hope for people with that amount of courage and consideration for others.” — Noel Coward

Thank you for visiting me. And in one final surreal moment of this Winter’s Solstice week, on a chilly and grey Friday I was contacted by the gardener of the real Poet’s Cottage in Stanley and he also helps out with Marguerite’s garden (who I partly based some of Birdie Pinkerton in the book). I was most impressed by Marguerite’s garden in real-life and so it was a thrill to meet the gardener behind that work of art. xx

Queens, Talking Books and Women in Black

Hello,

We’ve now entered winter in Australia which is my favourite season.

And we’re cycling into a long weekend for the Queen’s Birthday. I have taken the image below from the wonderful Rachel Van Asch’s blog HERE,

which I was browsing around today falling in love with all sorts of treasures that she makes. I’m a bit in love also with her skull and flower cushions and her Clara Bow cushion below.

I’ve been frantically busy editing for Currawong Manor and forgot to mention that these beautiful audio books compliments of Bolinda publishing arrived in the post a few weeks ago.

It’s a very surreal experience to hear Poet’s Cottage being read. The actress is the very fab Jennifer Vuletic and I’m so thrilled to have the lovely audio. Bolinda really do such a quality product and it’s even more special to me as my middle sister has retinitis pigmentosa and is battling blindness. My sister loved Poet’s Cottage which was a relief as she’s very plain-speaking (her favourite character was Thomasina, which was no surprise ). My youngest sister’s favourite character was Birdie. The week the book came out, my sister had her eyes scraped for cataracts and so was able to read the paper version. I was thrilled I was able to create a shadow play that she believed and a story she could fall into, as nobody knows you like your sister, but she allowed me to lead her down the streets of the sea-fishing village of Pencubitt and into Poet’s Cottage. She called it ‘my Tasmanian House of the Spirits’ which was so lovely as she’s a HUGE Isabel Allende fan and now my Poet’s Cottage is actually resting in her house against The House of the Spirits. Hopefully Isabel’s book will merge magical cells into Poet’s Cottage to help its sales!

My sister even rushed out and bought the perfume Shalimar after reading it and wanted to decorate her house in a 1930s style. I was very moved she loved the book to that extent.

I also went to see The Woman in Black this week on a very grim and rainy night. I was meant to be going with Artschool Annie but she pulled out at the last minute due to the weather and I was in the unfortunate position of being about to see a VERY scary movie on my own. Luckily, I ran into another friend who was with her husband on their date night and they let me tag along!

The movie was good, visually very beautiful but lacked the true creepiness of either the book by Susan Hill or the two stage versions I’ve seen in the West End and in Sydney. I can still remember years later the audience screaming in the West End at ‘that’ scene in the nursery.

Still it was an enjoyable movie for a rainy night in Sydney.

Wishing you a magical, wonderful, creative weekend and Happy Birthday to Queen Elizabeth. Thank you for visiting me. xx

Angels Walking with Swans

Some cheering news this week: Poet’s Cottage is now being reprinted – extremely gratifying to know it’s kicking its legs up out there. Thank you to all who have bought a copy, asked your bookseller to get in copies – or have been kind enough to drop me a line to say you enjoyed it. You are all appreciated so much every day.

 

Here’s my daughter on her way to NIDA for Drama on the weekend. She loves her fake furs and swiping my vintage bags to walk around the streets pretending she’s a big girl.

And the postman delivered two special letters this week. One from an English teacher from Oatlands District High who was delighted to see my book and bought a copy. She was lovely enough to enclose in her letter a photograph from when I was at school. The world seemed such a different place then. No computers, endless time and a million paths to decide upon.

 

The other beautifully wrapped gift is from Tasmanian artist Jacqueline Rodemann, who sent me the loveliest necklace and brooch from her fabulous Etsy store, Under the Shade of a Bonsai Tree which you can find HERE as a thank you for me sending a copy of Poet’s Cottage to her artist mother for Mother’s Day when the stores had run out. I feel I am wearing a very special blue rose part of Tasmania now.

 

image from Under the Shade of a Bonsai Tree

Thank you very much to both ladies. It is heaven to receive gifts in the mail rather than bills. The penny in my rather blurred photograph is a 1940s penny I have near me in my writing shed. Anything that helps me to channel a different time period I’ll use.

And I am editing away on Currawong Manor as the air in my courtyard garden slowly grows chillier. This morning in the park, the mist clung over the wetlands.

It was a beautiful way to start the day. Just before dawn the angels are walking with swans.

Possum in Autumn Light

Amongst all the beauty of the Sydney Autumn light, Daisy and I found a very large dead possum in the street outside her school.
Belinda Alexandra, my writer friend and best-selling author, tells me I should have turned the possum over and inspected her tummy as she may have had babies inside the pouch. That’s a tip for you if you ever find a dead possum in your street.
 
Belinda is a goldmine of information on such issues as what to do with your constipated goldfish. I’m in awe of not only her scribe skills but her knowledge of and affinity for our native wildlife. Belinda works with WIRES (Wildlife Information Rescue & Education Service).
 If you see a dead possum and she has babies, you will know because her pouch will be swollen and you will see them moving around. Wrap the whole body in a towel and take the possum to your local vet as soon as possible.
I’m reading Belinda’s beautiful book Golden Earrings at the moment (along with a host of other research books for my current mystery). Ghosts, flamenco, ballet, civil war, gypsies. As with all of Belinda’s books, you learn a lot about life you may not have known before.
I’ve written about Belinda before on my old Tale Peddler blog and you can read that post HERE.
I love Autumn – feeling winter beginning to slink towards Sydney. There’s something so magical about walking the streets and seeing all the old lady terraces glow and shimmer in the light.
These photographs were taken as I went to collect my daughter from school today.
It’s comforting to know that at night, possums are dancing on my roof.
Thanks to this week’s WHO magazine, who described Poet’s Cottage as ‘a perfect fireside read’.
My favourite kinds of books are cosy fireside reads.
But just as Pearl’s beauty masked darkness and rage, Poet’s Cottage harbours horror beneath its elegant facade.’ – From WHO
Enjoy your weekend, keep creative. Thank you for visiting me.
And my beautiful friend Liz ran into someone special in Sydney this week or so she tells me…
 xx

WHEN SILENCE SPEAKS

Everyone’s experience is different but in my case when giving birth I really wanted to die about half-way through and by the end I was amazed that more women didn’t die in labour. Well, a lot of women around the world do still die in childbirth. I’m not a fashionista by any means but if I had to pick a favourite model it would be Christy Turlington Burns – more for her interest in comparative religions and her good works than her catwalk skills.
This Mother’s Day, Christy is trying to get the dreadful statistics out about maternal mortality. A woman dies every 90 seconds through complications of pregnancy and 90 per cent of the deaths are avoidable. They are really sobering and scary figures. Christy also experienced a difficult birth when things started to go wrong. Through rejecting all the normal trappings of Mother’s Day, Christy helps to advance this cause through silence. As you can imagine, she has been heavily criticised for suggesting mothers disappear on Mother’s Day and reject their normal celebratory activities. Find out more about this cause at her site, EVERY MOTHER COUNTS HERE.
And if that’s not to your interest – you can find a really snappy and snazzy interview with funky mum, Helena Bonham Carter HERE.
If funky Helena doesn’t make you swoon (I LOVE Helena) then perhaps all the incredibly hip, stylish and too-cool-for-school mums at THE GLOW might inspire you. These mothers are not my reality of motherhood at all, I have to add. How I wish…
In my fantasies my loving child bestows kisses upon my brow in my incredibly boho styled home, whilst I lounge around in my designer jeans.
My reality is heart palpitations whilst trying to juggle school-runs, playdates, lunches, notices, homework, domestic artistry and writing a book sandwiches in between it all.
Whatever type of mother you have or are – Happy Mother’s Day for Sunday 13th. Motherhood – the most important and hardest job of them all. And if all else fails – you can
always dress as a swan like Helena.
‘BONHAM CARTER: Yeah. You do go back. I think if you’ve got a child, you’ve got to show them how to love life and what the goods things to do are—you know, the perfect mouthful. That’s what I’m really into showing them. How do you make the perfect mouthful? Different textures, different temperatures—ice cream and hot chocolate. So we like making potions and so you mix it all up. I love that. And I love what I get back from them, which is imagination and play.’ – taken from Interview magazine

A Story in my head buzzing hard

I spent a day lost in the magical light of Norman Lindsay’s home at Springwood.

Can you beat a drystone wall? I grew up loving them and they still have the power to charm.

Wandering into the bush with notebook in hand, it’s easy to believe Norman’s statues are luring you into another world.

A smaller magic outside my writing shed where my David Austin Prince rose proudly displayed its first bloom.

 

The  magical perfume so divine to savour. Hopefully a good omen for my current mystery novel.

 

And I must let you know of an event I will be taking place in for Better Read than Dead bookshop and Newtown  Library Tuesday 31st July . It’s Talking Heads with Josephine Pennicott. I know this is very advance notice and will update nearer to the time. Places will be limited but you can book through the library online or on  8512 4250. Would love to see all who could make it come along so we can chat murder, mystery, families, bohemians, secrets, Tasmanian sea-fishing villages, writing tips and a host of other fascinating topics. Here is the beautiful Newtown library I  shall be chatting in.
I’m really looking forward to seeing The Mousetrap in Sydney with the Sydney Theatre company performing Agatha Christie’s classic.
 I first saw The Mousetrap in St Martin’s Theatre with David in London’s West End and it remains one of my favourite theatre experiences. (Followed closely by The Woman in Black).
This week I also went to my bookclub at Better Read than Dead to discuss Craig Silvey’s feisty and wonderful mystery novel, Jasper Jones.

My daughter has just told me she has a story in her head and it’s buzzing hard. I know the feeling.
This weekend I am going to try to find some time to sit in the autumn sunshine with these two pink magazines I picked up today. I love the beautiful Christy Turlington’s feature in the gentlewoman (one of my favourite magazines).

This photograph of Johnny Depp was doing the rounds on Facebook and of course I cant’ resist ending this post with his sage and beautiful words. Thank you for visiting me. Stay creative. xx
Remember, murder lurks around every corner…

In Lockdown

Hello, I am away for a week in my mountain bolt-hole to finish the first draft of my current mystery book.

I will be taking my laptop but there’s no internet access so anything urgent will have to wait until I return.

David will be staying at home so we will be writing in different towns.

Last night I saw The Best Exotic Hotel Marigold with Artschool Annie. Critics mightn’t have warmed to this one but I loved it as it reminded me so much of my time in India.

When I am old (and beautiful) I want to stay at the Best Exotic Hotel Marigold for the old and beautiful. A very charming movie with some great depth to the characters.

And for those who missed it, here is the file of my interview with Blanche Clark which ran in the Melbourne Sunday Herald.

I shall add that to my slowly getting there media section. I am very slow with updating my website, But as the character Sonny, says in The Best Exotic Hotel Marigold, ‘ everything will be alright in the end. And so if it’s not all right. It’s not the end.’ Enjoy your week. Keep creative. Thank you for visiting me. xx

Rainbow on a rainy night

Hello,
the beautiful Belinda Alexandra is not only a wonderful storyteller but also happens to be an angel when it comes to helping out wildlife and animals. And so when she requested I help to try to place this very pretty rescue cat, Rainbow I couldn’t resist.
 I’d take her myself except my Smuchie cat would never speak to me again. If you live in Sydney and could provide a loving home for Rainbow, then all the information you need for her is HERE
I was sent this beautiful photo today of Poet’s Cottage at the airport. And friends have been kindly sending me photos of when they see my book out in the wild making her way.
Here’s a link also to a recent radio interview that I did with Penny Terry of ABC Tasmania if you would care to listen HERE.
And apart from that – it is school holidays. I have been busy with playdates, cinema and trying to finish the first draft of my latest mystery.
Tonight it is raining in Sydney. The weather has suddenly become crisp and cold and I’m heading to bed with Agatha Christie. xx
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. – from The Lorax by Dr Seuss