Winter Solstice

Hello,
 In Australia we have just passed the Winter Solstice. On the weekend my family joined the many thousands cramming Katoomba’s main street to witness the annual Magic Winter Festival.
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One of the joys of life above the clouds is being part of such a vibrant, creative, colourful community.
The silence and spectacular vistas in the Blue Mountains act as a magnet and muse for a diverse range of creative people.
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Since moving up here, I’ve finished two books. Fingers crossed they will both find publishing homes.
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Thank you to Yours Magazine for the feature of the five books on my bedside table. If you’re in Australia, this edition is available for the next fortnight.
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For those curious about what I was currently reading months ago at the time of the interview here is the longer version of what appears in the magazine. Thank you Yours for having me talk about books.
Women who run with the wolves
Women who Run with the Wolves by Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes. – I was delighted Emma Watson chose this book as her Feminist bookclub read, for Our Shared Shelf, ( March/ April 2017 ) as for  years I’ve returned to it. Dr Estes, a Jungian analyst and cantadora storyteller’s Women who Run with the Woves, is rich in myth, fairytale and folk stories, which Dr Estes uses to illustrate her ideas about the female unconscious. With each re-reading, I’ve come to appreciate its rich characters and symbols such as La Loba – The Wolf Woman, Skeleton Woman and Vasalisa the Wise. It’s an excellent book to read just before sleep, as your dreams are always richer and you awake feeling inspired.  Dr Estes says stories are soul vitamins and medicine, and so Women who Run with the Wolves is a heady tonic for the soul.
In the Woods – Tana French. I recently re-read In the Woods, Irish writer Tana French’s debut book set in the invented Dublin Murder Squad, which spawned a series of bestselling books.
IN THE WOODS
In the 1980s in a Dublin suburb, three children enter the woods. Only one of the children ever returns – his shoes filled with blood, in a catatonic state, unable to remember what happened to his friends. Twenty years later, Katy Devlin’s body is found raped and murdered on an archaeological dig site – on the sacrifice stone. The investigating detective is Rob Ryan – the 1980’s child who was originally found in the woods, disguising his true identity as he takes on the case with his partner, Cassie Maddox. In the Woods, is beautifully written and crafted. Even though I already knew the denouement, it still kept me turning pages until past 2am. It is fantastically creepy, but also tender, filled with sadness and a yearning for childhood, lost friends, and a way of life long left behind with modern development. As with all of Tana French’s books, the ancient shadows of the Irish landscape, tinge the present in chilling ways that will haunt you.
 The Virgin Suicides
The Virgin Suicides – by Jeffrey Eugenides, this novel is disturbing for its bleak subject matter, where five sisters kill themselves, narrated through the eyes of the neighbourhood boys in their American town. I loved the writing in this novel, but some of the characters left me cold. This is one of those books where I’m going to have to re-read it in a few years to see if I have a different interpretation. I loved the Sofia Coppola movie version, but the novel is even more confronting and although it’s dreamlike, there is a detachment to the text. But despite its coldness the prose is beautiful and the story bizarre enough to linger.
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn – I prefer Dark Places to her more commercially successful, Gone Girl. Flynn’s second book, is gripping, disturbing and poignant. The story of the Day Family massacre is narrated in multiple viewpoints, who were axed to death in 1985. Only two family members survive, seven-year old Libby and her older brother, Ben, who both relate their accounts of the days leading to the murders. Ben, was a moody, deeply dysfunctional teenager, and it is Libby’s testimony that puts him in gaol. Libby, in the present day thread, is contacted by the macabre Kill Club, who are obsessed with high profile crimes, trying to role-play and solve them. As Libby begins to revisit her memories of the deaths of her family, she begins to doubt her own testimony.
DARK PLACES
This is not just a book about a grisly murder, it is a book about poverty and how it bankrupts you on all levels. You won’t be able to put it down, or sleep with the light off.
The Naughtiest Girl in the School
The Naughtiest Girl – Enid Blyton – I’ve been enjoying reading these with my tween daughter in bed together. I was never a huge fan of the Naughtiest Girl series growing up, as I loved the Famous Five mysteries and the Mallory and St Clare boarding school stories more, but with age, I’ve come to appreciate, spoilt, wilful Elizabeth Allen and her efforts to get herself expelled from Whyteleafe School when her fed-up parents decide to board her out. Whyteleafe, permits the pupils to govern each other and the children are expected to help out around the school and display responsibility. Miss Belle and Miss Best (The Beauty and the Beast) headmistresses are very progressive for a 1940s school. The Naughtiest Girl is loads of fun and Elizabeth allows for plenty of laugh out loud moments with her rebel, naughty ways as she tries hard not to fall in love with Whyteleafe.
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Wherever you are in the world – Solstice Blessings. I have more photos of the Winter Magic Parade on my Facebook and Instagram if you are interested. Above the clouds, I am longing for snow.
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 I posted this poem The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer to my Facebook Author page for Solstice. It’s one that seems to resonate and touch a lot of people so I hope it inspires you in this Solstice/New Moon time.
DUSK
‘It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of future pain. I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it. I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy. I want to know if you can see Beauty, even when it is not pretty every day, and if you can source your own life from its presence. I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes.”
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away. I want to know if you can be alone with yourself, and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.’ – The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

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

Sparkles and Jungle Drums

 

The last week is a sparkle-blasted blur as after all these years Poet’s Cottage finally made it way into bookstores around Australia. It’s been overwhelming (to say the least) to see the reaction already from folk who have not only bought it but are kind enough to post photos of their animals reading it. This lovely photo of charming
Sambhu Canine with his copy is via one of my Facebook friends, Lynn Priestley.
I’ve had quite a few queries from people on where to buy – hopefully this post will cover the selling side. I’m having flashbacks now to my years as a sales assistant on cosmetic floors where I had to stop people cold and try to convince them that ‘Yes, sir, your wife would love this fragrance’ moisturiser, toner, etc). Not the best job for a natural introvert but it provided me with ample people study.
Hopefully if you’re reading this you’re already interested in my book and so I’m not doing the hard sell.
It is most helpful for a writer if their book is bought as quickly as possible. This helps create a buzz around the book and helps ensure that stores re-order rather than return unsold copies to the publishers. It also means that sales are counted on Book Scan. (I’m not very up to date on this thing, but I know it’s crucial.)
And so if you have been even half-way thinking of picking up a copy – it would be appreciated if you get it now and not wait a few years in the hope it will be marked down.

Poet's Cottage next to Kate Forsyth's Bitter Greens

All good bookshops should have copies in stock. I know my local Better Read Than Dead (inner Sydney) should still have signed copies, but after my friends have rushed them they could be running low. Better Read Than Dead do online ordering and if you would like a signed copy, if you request one when you order I’m happy to head into their store and sign it for you. Their link is HERE. Just state at the time who you would like it made out to.

Josephine Pennicott signing at Better Read than Dead

The award-winning and innovative Booktopia also does online ordering and so if you live in an area where there’s no bookshop then they can also send you one. The lovely people at Booktopia put me through my paces this week with Ten Terrifying Questions. If you want to discover why I originally wanted to stake vampires and be a man, then head to this very revealing and fun quiz.HERE
Other outlets like Big W and Target should also have copies in stock. 
If you are broke (don’t worry I’ve been there many times so I understand) but you would still love to support me – please head to your library and request they order you a copy. Library sales are also very welcome to writers in Australia as once a year we receive a cheque for every book loaned out. It’s not huge money for me ( it would be for some authors) but it’s good lipstick money.
And most importantly – please spread the vibes and good word. It is word of mouth that really helps to move books. If you know anyone who enjoys Midsummer Murders, mystery novels, Agatha Christies, the 1930s, Australian Fiction, Daphne du Maurier, Enid Blyton – then please tell them about Poet’s Cottage. If you are in a book-club then suggest it as a possible read if you think it suits their reading agenda. The more the jungle drums beat out there – the more the energy is passed along.
Whether it’s been my daughter’s school principal putting my Sydney Herald newspaper up in the school with WHAT AN ACHIEVEMENT and requesting parents to buy the book from their local bookstore, or
mothers doing the school run who have ran up to me clutching copies for me to sign; countless emails from friends on the internet who have rushed the stores and shown such genuine enthusiasm for the story.
I’m gobsmacked by your vibes and love this week. Thank you also to LOVETHATBOOK on the Gold Coast for making Poet’s Cottage their book of the month. And to the Tasmanian Mercury for doing their lovely spread and for giving me the cover page of the books section.
The early reviews have been wonderful. I’m so happy that people love the fact it’s set in Tasmania and are enjoying the characters so much and becoming creeped out. I take my hat off to the wonderful
Karen Brooks who wrote the most beautiful review I could have imagined on her Good Reads. I shall post this with her permission in my reviews section as it was so insightful and thrilled me so much.
This week I start my radio interviews. I’ve never spoken on the radio in my life so looking forward to a new adventure.
My beautiful Magic Hat Bookglams organised a little party for me at Better Read than Dead. The Great Gatsby was slightly ignored that night as we celebrated Poet ’s Cottage and my friend, Manisha Jolie Amin’s book, Dancing to the Flute which also hit the bookshelves this week. More on that later. And there may possibly – thanks to my Hatters – be an event/launch book for Poet’s Cottage so watch this space if you are in Sydney and would like to attend. Being the no-fuss, no-frills person I am I wasn’t planning on having a launch but the Hatters are insistent. There’s no arguing with my Bookglams.
If I could thank you all with as much beauty and style as Elizabeth Taylor does in this clip following then I would.
Thank you for making a week so sparkly, joy-filled and celebratory.
And thank you also, if you managed to make it through this post. One last thing – Mother’s Day is approaching and Poet’s Cottage would make a beautiful gift for the important woman in your life. Receiving a book wrapped in brown paper and tied with string is a magical thing. Here’s one of the important early complimentary copies I sent out to an important woman to Poet’s Cottage.
If you don’t want to buy my book then I urge you to buy ANY book and wrap it to give at Mother’s Day. As my agent Selwa Anthony loves to say, ‘Let us never forget the joy of turning the printed page.’
x x

Aussie Book Review: Poet’s Cottage by Josephine Pennicott

Early reviews so far have all been wonderful for Poet’s Cottage. I’m so thrilled to see other readers enjoying my characters and my Tasmanian mystery! This weekend I’m definitely going to create a review section on my Blog! Thank you to Aussie Book Review for this review. I’m so chuffed to read the following :

 

Poet’s Cottage is a ghostly mystery which spans three generations and covers themes of mental illness, infidelity, childhood abuse and the dramas of a small town in the 1930’s.

 

In the author’s note, Josephine says she set out to create an English-style mystery but with an Australian setting and I think she captured this perfectly. When I read this, I felt as captivated as I did when I read Sara Foster’s ghostly mystery Beneath the Shadows- which I also loved.

 

Highly recommended!

Aussie Book Review: Poet’s Cottage by Josephine Pennicott.

MR TUMPY’S CARAVAN

How exciting to read that a manuscript of Enid Blyton’s has popped up in a children’s book centre. Although Mr Tumpy’s Caravan doesn’t sound my ideal Blyton (I prefer Famous Five or the boarding school stories), there’s something so Blytonish about this lost manuscript suddenly appearing.

It’s grim to think in the future that, thanks to our technology, lost manuscripts languishing in dusty, spider-filled attics suddenly materializing may well be a romantic happening of the past. Computer files seem so impermanent, don’t they

And so I’m celebrating this historical moment along with other Blyton fans around the world with a toast of ginger-beer and keeping my fingers crossed the powers-that-be don’t decide to ‘modernise’ Mr Tumpy’s Caravan before publication.

In our house we read a lot of Blyton. My daughter adores the Faraway Tree and Wishing Chair books and never tires of them. She also loves Blyton’s books which are about children – rather than the modern trend of using animals in place of children. And I’ve been slowly collecting all my old Blytons that my mother sent to op-shops when my back was turned. Tony Summerfield of the Enid Blyton Society was quoted in the London Telegraph as certain there are no other Enid Blyton manuscripts sitting around. It’s still lovely to imagine that somewhere out there are early drafts of Famous Five or a mystery never seen. 

And so, if you are interested in a fantasy of a caravan with a mind of its own, a dog-headed dragon and a princess, then cheer along with me that Mr Tumpy’s Caravan has been discovered.  

You can read more on Mr Tumpy here