From the beautiful and talented Maple Bee a song for all my Mamma friends for Mothers Day. xx
From the beautiful and talented Maple Bee a song for all my Mamma friends for Mothers Day. xx
The Autumn sunshine in Sydney has been glorious but I was in the writing shed watching the dappled mellow light in my backyard. I’m happy to say Currawong Manor has now been cut from a massive 170 000 to a much trimmer word length. The process wasn’t as horrendous as I had feared; I could feel sparks begin to fly in the manuscript as I worked. I lost several characters but I already know they will re-appear in later books. Two of them were most insistent they had to go together, which was creepy because of who those characters are – but I can’t say too much about them without creating spoilers.
The hardest part was only having a month for the edit with my daughter home on school holidays for half that time. Thankfully, I had wonderful friends who took my daughter to the cinema, on excursions, and – being a Unique Enfant (only child) – she enjoys holiday care at her school.
On completion I felt as if a brass band should be playing and an auditorium of people screaming their praises to a soundtrack of Gladiator. In reality I had the school-run, lunches and everyday life to contend with. I did steal one precious day from the edit to take Daisy to the mountains so we could enjoy the Autumn light together.
I’ve been reading some fab books lately. Katherine Howell’s Silent Fear, Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens, Thea Astley’s An Item on the Late News, Jo Wood’s autobiography of her life with the Rolling Stones and the terrifying Poppet by Mo Hayder. When I get a chance, I shall write some reviews for them and post here. I am longing to read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and UK’s Louise Millar’s psychological suspense books. I’ve also just started Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell which I’m loving. A great read for cosy Autumn afternoons.
My book club, The Magic Hat read Thea Astley’s An Item from the Late News in our last meeting. I have to admit I had never read any of Thea Astley’s books before and I was surprised by what a page-turner and how darkly powerful this literary novel is. My full review is on Good Reads if you are a member.
This is a photo from my friend Mary’s wonderful Facebook page, My Love Affair With Newtown. It’s a new coffee shop opening down the south end of King Street near the Union Hotel. It looks like a little dolls’ house and with the small space, chandelier and books, it reminds me of my own lounge-room in Little Brick. I feel tempted to paint my lounge hot pink. I think that’s going to be my winter project. Our lounge room is very small like this, crammed with books and a chandelier. Hot pink might make it more cosy than the Antique White it is now.
We were fortunate to see John Bell’s wonderful Henry 4 at the Opera House recently. I just loved it as the words are brought to beautifully to life by the excellent actors. It was such a fab interpretation with more hip to it than a boxed set of Mad Men. From the moment it began with electric guitars being thrashed as the stage set was trashed, it was a wild, eloquent ride though age-old issues regarding power, self-responsibility and family. Issues as relevant today as when Shakespeare wrote it. Here’s a brief promo clip from YouTube where you can get a sense of the majestic power of the words. A most inspiring night of theatre. If you feel blocked with your writing; this two-minute clip will help you get your groove back.
If you are on my Facebook you will have seen I was deeply saddened by the news story that broke in Sydney this week when Madeleine Milne, a 13-year-old schoolgirl who loved drawing dragons, being creative and helping others became the youngest ever recorded suicide in NSW due to a bullying incident at her school. Her grieving father went public with the story in an appeal to everyone – parents and schools – to communicate more and take the time to listen to your children. The pressures on our young people are enormous these days. When I was growing up there was always bullying but somehow we had the resilience to endure it. This was however before the media began to promote the mean-girl attitudes that are so prominent today. We live in a society that cushions children so much from all hardships (and even not-so-hardships – I was shocked to discover everyone now gets a prize in pass-the-parcel!) We leave young children on technology that contains messages and images their undeveloped brains may not be able to compute. I don’t have any answers as I’m only on my L-plates with parenting, but I feel we are letting our young people down terribly when children this young are taking their own lives unable to see any light in winter’s dark embrace. And Madeleine is far from the only child who has suicided over bullying. A quick Google search will show you other horror stories.
If you do have children – please take on board this plea from Madeleine’s father:
“We all let our busy lives get in the way. The school was busy and didn’t get back to us, we were busy. I’d just say make the time.”
Fight back against the sexualisation of children and the mean culture in the media. Ensure your school has a zero tolerance to bullying and cliques. Help your child develop resilience rather than cushioning them against the inevitable crap and hard times of life. This little girl’s story touched so many people as it could have been any one of us with children. As one of my Facebook friends, Dianne eloquently said:
‘13 is such a violable age. They are full of promise and act tough, but they are fragile like a butterfly emerging from the cocoon. Handle them with care.’
Enjoy your week. As I wait for the next stage of the edit to return, I’m planning and researching my next book and also writing my Young Adult book that I’ve been having fun with for years in-between my bigger books.
And a gentle reminder that I shall be appearing in Melbourne in June 14 along with Livia Day and Poppy Gee for Sisters in Crime on a panel called Something Rotten in the Apple Isle. You can find more details of the event HERE.
Thank you for visiting me.
Love Josephine xx
Exciting news today that Poet’s Cottage continues its European tour with the rights being sold to Spain. So happy to know my Tasmanian mystery will now be available to Spanish readers.
And for regular readers, you may recall that I had a photo shoot last year with the very talented Carla Coulson, of which I posted about HERE in the post Life’s so Light.
Carla has released some of the images from that shoot on her beautiful blog which I’ve followed for years CARLA LOVES PHOTOGRAPHY
I am still pinching myself that not only did I get to meet Carla but I also had the honour of being photographed by her. We worked with a vision/mood board that must have raised Carla’s eyebrow when she first saw it. It included Agatha Christie/the Rolling Stones and a few other slightly different inspirations. Carla, bless her, had an image of Kate Moss with her daughter that she wanted to reproduce the look of.
I am delighted with how she represented our family as I wanted to show our creative and laid-back style. If you enjoy the photos please leave feedback for Carla. And Carla does do workshops and shoots in Sydney if you are interested. All the details can be found on her website.
Finally some advance notice that I will be appearing in the following talk, Something Rotten in the Apple Isle in Melbourne in June for Sisters in Crime. It should be enormous fun and I’m thrilled it has a Tasmanian theme. You can read all about it on this link HERE. I know I have the fab Carmel Shute to thank for that title. Would love to see you there if you can make it. I am sure it will be a hoot.
I am planning and dreaming new books into existence this week. I have loads of ideas. I’m never short of a great idea it’s just making time to write them all out. And this year I have joined the Australian Women Writers Challenge HERE which I think is a great idea. I did join it in 2012 but was flat out with research reading. However I do think it’s a worthy cause and a wonderful idea to support other Australian Women writers across genres. I have committed myself to the Miles level and so no excuses for not tackling the tower of books in my bedroom now!
David and I made the Irish Echo last week to see Mike Scott and the Waterboys, one of our rare nights out. I’ve loved the Waterboys forever and so thrilled to have the moment immortalised.
Thanks for visiting me. Keep Creative and Inspired. xx
It takes me ages to adjust back to the different rhythm of Sydney and I am always glum at having to return from Tasmania.
We enjoyed our time in Bicheno, a sea-fishing village on the east coast of Tasmania. A highlight was the fairy penguin tour where the penguins are so accustomed to their human audience they cross between legs to reach their burrows. It had to be the best fairy penguin tour we’ve done.
I had ideas for a future book set in Tasmania and yes, I fell in love with another house, this time in Cygnet.
We ate too much from Mures Lower Deck. Screamed at Swansea over a huntsman loose in the car (except of course for David who doesn’t share my spider phobia). Saw Neil Gaiman produce ‘old magic in the air’ at the glamorous State Theatre in Hobart and David Byrne perform his brand of hip magic to an enthusiastic 5000-plus crowd at the too-cool-for-school Mona Foma.
I bought a ton of books from the always wonderful Imperial Bookshop in the city. I love browsing for hours in this secondhand shop where many treasures lurk. It’s the only bookshop I’ve encountered where the owner says a couple of the selected books were over-priced and he would have to reduce them.
I signed copies of the B-format of Poet’s Cottage in Dymocks and Fullers. Both stores were packed and the registers were constantly in action, I’m delighted to report. It’s always lovely to meet the staff in these stores and get to know faces behind names. If you are in Hobart and would like a signed copy both stores now have ample stock. It really was so great to hear how enthusiastic the staff were not only over how beautiful the cover is but also how pleased they were to see it was set in a Tasmanian sea-fishing village.
It was also a thrill to see the airport in Sydney is also well stocked with the B-format of Poet’s Cottage. I always feel a rush of excitement when I see it on the shelf.
I loved hearing shop assistants in Tasmania call me darling, and was enthralled as always by pink-eye potatoes, fresh fish, the silver-grey light, and the spectacular scenery. It was a wrench to leave the land of my ancestors.
But for now I have to shake off our too-brief Tasmanian break. My daughter has an operation due. I have a new book to plan and the school year is about to resume.
Returning was made a little easier by seeing Mike Scott and The Waterboys play at the beautiful art-deco State Theatre in Sydney. It was a great concert with a mix of their new darkly poetical material paying tribute to Yeats and some of their old classics. which bought the audience to their feet.
But for me, all roads always lead to Tasmanian seas.
Halloa Below There and Happy New Year!
I have to be one of the few people in the world who doesn’t enjoy going out on New Year’s Eve. I’m not a fan of fireworks and not being a believer of chronological time, New Year’s Eve doesn’t mean a lot. My idea of a terrific New Year’s Eve is to drink champagne and watch a good BBC ghost story, which is what I did this year – Charles Dickens’ The Signal Man, which I can highly recommend. That’s where the ‘Halloa Below There!’ come from. The Signal Man is the highlight of a BBC Ghost Stories For Christmas DVD. The remaining two are weaker 70s ghosties that contain all the worst elements of that particular era.
I have recently joined Instagram. Not sure if I’ll be posting on there a lot. I am not the world’s biggest techo when it comes to mobiles (I hid my last antique one deliberately and lost it). I’ve only ever had one mobile which was the size of a brick and all the letters had worn away. But I shall give the new spaceship I-phone a rather dubious go as I do love Instagram. You can find me HERE. I have yet to figure out how to attach the badge to this page. One day I might master my computer but it doesn’t seem likely at the moment.
At the time of writing this we are facing heat-wave conditions. Tasmania, my home state, has been battling bushfires for days. So many stories of courage coming out of the state. They do breed them tough in Tasmania but this one in particular really caught at my heart. You can see the video HERE of the amazing Walker family in Dunalley who really embody fortitude and pluck. Grandparents Tim and Tammy Holmes really inspired me as did all the Walker children. I can’t imagine how agonising it must have been for the mother of the small children, Bonnie, who was trapped on the other side of the flames not knowing her children’s and parents’ fate. All the firemen and volunteers who selflessly put their lives on the line every summer to protect the homes and lives of total strangers are heroes. I’ve been involved in bushfires years ago in the Blue Mountains and I remember how terrifying it was and how everyone would cheer when they saw the fire trucks for quite awhile afterwards.
And another of my personal heroines is the Pakinstani young girl, Malala Yousafzai who was shot in the head by the Taliban when she campaigned for girls’ education. Malala is the manifestation of strength, grace and power for women around the world.
I have so much news but no time at the present and so I’m heading back to the humid, garden writing shed as my deadline is next Tuesday.
Where have all the lovely garden orb spiders gone this year? Last year the graceful orbs were everywhere in our garden. This year they have been replaced by larger huntsman spiders.
My resolution or my word for the year is Serenity. I’m going to be working with Serenity all year in different aspects of my life. In my serenity pursuits this year I plan to curtail some of my internet activities as much as I can. I crave for things such as:
hand-written letters, stamps and cord-cursive writing,
the smell of book shops
the glossy sheen to a new fashion magazine,
silence, mystery, absence
the weight of paper and pens scratching on paper
ink, pencil, paints
Happy New Year to you all. xx
Regular readers may recall I was fortunate enough to win a photo shoot in Sydney with one of my long-time favourite photographers, Cara Coulson, who ran a competition for a private shoot with her in either Sydney or Paris. I was excited to win the Sydney shoot because I’ve followed Carla’s blog from the beginning, and also a major character in my forthcoming mystery novel Currawong Manor is a photographer.
This week the much anticipated meeting took place and I can finally reveal the location – Woollahra House, a magical, shabby, bohemian terrace which you can read more about HERE and HERE and where the interior shots for this post came from. It was a perfect location for me. And described as ‘Alice in Wonderland meets the Addams family.’
Not only could I easily visualise Tim Burton and Johnny Depp sitting together working out a scene for their next movie, or Helena Bonham Carter lying back on the sofa; but I’d fallen in love with this striking old lady terrace a couple of years ago when she was featured in a newspaper. I had never imagined I would one day be photographed within her glorious shabby walls by Carla. Life really does work in some twisty beautiful ways sometimes!
It was a real delight to meet Carla, and an honour to be photographed by her. Thanks to the power of the internet I felt I already knew her as her blog posts are so warm and engaging. She is a rock star with a camera. A funky, tender magician. There is a certain sensuality, an intimacy to working with her but it’s not a soft energy. Despite Carla’s tenderness and caring she has a strength and power which comes from a long apprenticeship of her work, and a spiritual perception and insight of people.
Despite my initial wariness, Carla with her box of magical techniques helped me to move into the moment and to lose my ego and ‘shrinking Josephine’ outside the door. It was a very inspiring creative collaboration for me and a perfect chance to research for my book. I realised how much you have to relinquish control and surrender sometimes which isn’t easy for writers to do as we are used to being in total control of our creative projects. You have to be able to trust and to allow the muses to merge between two people when being photographed. I love the still above from my favourite movie The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
Woollahra house wove its patina spell through all of my veins. Debra Cronin is the genius behind this magical house which she rents out for photo shoots and dinner parties. I wish somebody would commission this talented lady to do a book on her interior talents.
Everything about the shoot was dreamlike. The pastel greys and apricot colours of the walls. The taxidermy, antique books, the young girl from Western Australia who was also having her portrait taken. A beautiful, willowy model, dressed in Vivienne Westwood with a bird on her head like an elegant Helena Bonham Carter. She matched the house perfectly.
The make-up artist looked a combination of Jane Birkin and Lou Doillon and was every bit as rock star as Carla and Jane and her daughter. She put less make up on me that I’d normally wear to the school pick up but I loved her work and her false eyelashes. She won my heart as soon as I walked in when she said that I looked great without make up. (Normally people ask me if I’m feeling okay). It was a joy to work along side her and also Carla’s beautiful friend, Athalee, who spent more time ironing my red dress than any normal mortal woman should have to undergo and looked after me so well.
We did a shot which was inspired from this photograph of Agatha Christie where we set up a vintage typewriter and books.
I am hoping to use some of the photos for publicity for Currawong Manor.
When my husband (dressed in his everyday wear of waistcoat vest, shirt and Akubra hat) came to collect me with Daisy, Carla was kind enough to shoot a few family shots. Not knowing Daisy she asked her to ‘act like a rock star’. My daughter who had been cautioned beforehand to do EVERYTHING Carla says immediately went into overdrive snarling at the camera, making wild moves and getting totally hyped as she lived the part. I was only relieved she stopped short at trashing the room.
It was an enchanting day. One particular moment stands out for me when Carla directed me to look away from her and when I looked into the big mirror I could see a wall of stuffed birds and a blue butterfly (the blue butterfly is always a special symbol to me since my father died) and also Carla shooting me in the reflection). It was one of those times that you wonder if you really are dreaming.
If you would like to join me in that wonderful dream experience and book a portrait shoot with Carla then all the details are on her website for shoots in both Sydney and Paris. I can highly recommend it for the experience alone. If even this introverted writer enjoyed it as much as I did you most certainly will too.
And if you don’t already, follow Carla’s blog for beautiful inspiration in both words and images. You will find her HERE.
In other exciting writing news, Poet’s Cottage will now be published in Holland as well. And so I am thrilled my Tasmanian sea-fishing murder mystery will be enjoyed by people in mysterious far away Holland. That is a lovely early Christmas gift for me. Thank you, Holland for buying my Tasmanian mystery. I would love to visit such an exotic fairy tale destination one day.
Christmas is just around the corner. If you wish to buy a signed copy of Poet’s Cottage then if you order through Better Read than Dead my local bookstore HERE, I can sign it for them if you request when you order.They do online ordering as well. The B-Format of Poet’s Cottage (the smaller size) comes out in Australia on December 29th so if you have been waiting for that format you can pick it up then. I can assure you the smaller version is just as beautiful as her big sister. Pan Macmillan Australia have done such a stunning job on Poet’s Cottage in all her versions and formats.
I am still working on Currawong Manor to reach the deadline. I have my Christmas tree up but with no decorations apart from one home made Christmas angel by my Daisy as everything has been so frantic. But this Christmas I have simplified it as much as I can. Although I still do my cards by snail mail, make a trek to the David Jones window and Santa Cave, Carols etc the more commercial side I have cut back on. I hope your Christmas is filled with blessings and the magic of this holy and joyous season.
Thank you to all who have lurked, commented, and given me your energy this year. Below is a video by Tara June Winch on a worthy cause to donate to. I’m off to give some money now. Please watch if you have a couple of minutes spare. The magic of books and words gave me such a template for life when I was little and any cause that promotes that miracle to children is worth our efforts.
Keep Creative, and look for the everyday miracles. May this season be a rebirth for you in your life and art
Currawong Manor is in its final stages but I’m still working through several strands and twists of the book. This is a larger baby than Poet’s Cottage and I’m loving escaping into my 1940s world in the Blue Mountains. The days have been drizzly and grey – perfect writing or reading weather for me.
It’s my birthday this weekend and although I shall be spending it in my writing shed I can’t think of a better way to spend my day. That’s really the best thing about writing – crafting words and storytelling is breath and life to me.
And on the subject of breath and life, last weekend we met up with my beautiful friend Belinda Alexandra and her family to see this exhibition Lost Paris by Eugene Atget at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. It’s on until November 4th and well worth a look if you’re in Sydney. Eugene Atget inspired the Surrealists, Man Ray amongst others. His images document a city before Haussmann’s modernisation of Parisian streets in the 19th century. His images are haunting and every so often you see figures within them that look like ghosts.
If you enjoy reading Kate Mosse you will really appreciate this show.I’ve just read Mosse’s Winter Ghosts and it contains the spirit of these evocative images. I loved Atget’s work because he captures the everyday in a magical sense. Whilst there I ran into more friends of mine and Tim joined us in the cafe together discussing art, magic, writing and lots of stimulating topics
Afterwards we wandered through the botanical gardens and saw cockatoos drinking from water fountains, scarecrows and plump kookaburras. No melancholic, haunted streets of Paris, but dazzling blue Sydney sky. The light was perfect.
Thank you for visiting me. Keep creative. And here is some pretty music below from the very pretty Mediaeval Baebes with Veni Veni Bella. xx
We’ve just passed the Spring Equinox in Sydney. You can feel the garden hum when I walk out in the morning to go to the writing shed with all the new colourful floral growth.
I celebrated the Equinox with my women’s spiritual group. As much as I dread the coming summer, even I have to admit this is a lovely time of year with such a celebratory feeling and a whiff of hope in the warmer air. Look at the amazing full moon that I photographed over my garden this week.
The full moon brought me good fortune as I am happy to say I’ve made the shortlist again for the annual Sisters in Crime Scarlet Stiletto Awards to be held in Melbourne in November.
I’m thrilled to have shortlisted as every year the bar gets higher for me to compete. The competition is intense. I have been fortunate enough to previously win many categories including two Kerry Greenwood Malice Domestic awards and also the coveted shoe itself for first prize in the Scarlet Stilettos. I am hoping one year I will join the few authors who have won a pair of shoes (once you win a pair you are no longer eligible to compete).
This year my good writing friend Liz Filluel is also on the shortlist and so fingers crossed for both of us. I was told by my tarot reader earlier in the year there would be a trip to Melbourne and so this looks as if she was accurate again. I keep meaning to update the blog I did earlier on my reading with her as I’ve had several people interested in exactly what she said but I’ve been so busy with writing. Watch this space.
I’m pushing very long hours on Currawong Manor at the moment as my deadline is October and there’s still a few plot strands to be woven together. I’m really enjoying my time at Currawong Manor and not looking forward to when I have to bid my characters adieu again. There’s been lots of 4am starts and lovely mother friends taking my daughter into their homes during the holidays so I can put the hours in which I’m eternally grateful for.
It would be lovely to take a family holiday and relax. l keep having fantasies of balmy tropical islands or long cruises where I don’t have to do anything except read, write and watch the water go by. Such as this image which I’m drooling over.
I enjoyed Jennifer Byrne’s interview with JK Rowling recently on ABC promoting Rowling’s new book, The Casual Vacancy. I thought Rowling seemed very down to earth for the surreal world she now occupies.
Daisy has just discovered Harry Potter and is totally smitten with Rowling’s creation. She can’t go anywhere without her invisibility cloak and wand.
Along with many last week, I was shocked and deeply saddened by the rape and murder of Jill Meagher, a beautiful young girl who harboured a dream to be a writer but was taken far too early to fulfil her ambitions in a cruel and savage manner. And this death needn’t have occurred – our prison system obviously needs an overhaul.
All women of this country are never safe when they walk the streets alone. We know that there could be lurking predators at any hour, waiting their chance. But when you have a system that releases multiple offenders – the judge had said the man had no hope of rehabilitation – then what hope have we got when the monsters are allowed to walk free?
Out of respect for Jill’s family I won’t say any more but the very least we can do for this young woman’s memory is work to GET THE LAWS CHANGED.
Here’s one of my power spots to share with you near the Spring Equinox. I love to visit here and soak up the energy. No, it’s not my back garden but I feel that I have a connection to this enchanted place. I’ve been blessed with many story and book ideas in this magical garden.
Wishing you joy, beauty and balance in your life and creativity this coming week.
image of garden source HERE
Turnbull, also a national co-convenor of Sisters in Crime and the Sydney Morning Herald’s crime columnist) said that Sisters in Crime had been delighted (and amazed), to see women scooping the pools at this year’s Ned Kelly Awards (29 August).
“Four of the 6 awards on offer went to women including the Life Time Achievement Award which went to Gabrielle Lord. To cap it off, all presenters were women so it was far from the blokey affair of previous years,” she said.
“The sisters are doing it for themselves right across the crime board. This year, we’ve had the pleasure of the TV series, Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries,based on the 1920s flapper detective series by Kerry Greenwood, a founding member of Sisters in Crime.
“You open the Australian Women’s Weekly and you read a feature on Warragul member and author, Honey Brown. You open the Saturday Weekend magazine of the Herald Sun) and you read features about Sydney members Kathryn Fox and Josephine Pennicott – or Honey Brown. You walk into the airport and there is a giant illuminated poster promoting the latest novel by Cairns memberHelene Young.”’
And a few photos of my week and inspirations to share some of the Sydney sunshine.
Thank you for visiting me. Stay creative. xx