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.
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.
Fab Christmas read of chirpy teacher in English village in WWII
dusk in our street
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.
Scooter the sun Daisy
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,
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.
Josephine Pennicott and Carla Coulson
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.
A perfect Christmas gift for a mystery lover
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
I had the most beautiful birthday weekend. I spent most of the time working on Currawong Manor whilst wonderful David ran Daisy around to all her weekend activities. Saturday evening I just had a quiet celebration at home with my little family. This time last year I remembered thinking it seemed to be the worst birthday of my life. Dad was dying and so many things were not flowing. Life is far from perfect at the moment but when it comes to family, despite our humble little house, I feel very blessed with family and close friends.
And a very cool birthday surprise was tickets to see Neil Gaiman talk at the MONA festival at the beautiful Theatre Royal in Hobart over our Christmas break.
This glorious theatre which Noel Coward described as a ‘dream of a theatre’ can boast a long list of famous personalities treading its boards including Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh
Theatre Royal in Hobart
(and also yours truly, playing the part of Jan in The One Day of the Year).
You can read more about the fascinating history of this beautiful theatre HERE.
And this morning David also surprised me with tickets to see Mike Scott and the Waterboys in their first ever Sydney gig at the amazing art-deco style State Theatre. We saw Sharon Shannon play their years ago. January 2013 looks set to be a pretty cool, fab and inspiring month with Gaiman and Waterboys. The State Theatre was created as ‘the palace of dreams’. You can read about it HERE
State Theatre Sydney
State theatre Sydney
And thank you to all the beautiful Facebook friends who took time out of their busy weekends to post messages for me on my personal page on Facebook.. I’m very joyous to be blessed with another year to create and spend time with the people I love.
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.
A great year to celebrate for women crime and mystery writers in Australia. This is an extract from a recent media release from Melbourne Sister in Crime, Carmel Shute.
Gabrielle Lord and a very blonde Josephine Pennicott
‘Award-winning Swedish crime writer Ǻsa Larsson presented the 12th Davitt Awards at a gala dinner of over 100 crime buffs at the Celtic Club in Melbourne where she also talked to Professor Sue Turnbull about her ‘life in crime’. Turnbull coined the term ‘Arctic Noir’ to describe Larsson’s novels which are set in the icy wilderness of northern Sweden.
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.
Kerry greenwood and Wizard Dafydd image by Pat Scala
Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries
“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.
shoes that crackle with summer anticipation and gypsy love
Last Friday I volunteered to be a helper parent at my daughter’s cross-country run. My job was to stand on Flag Number 5 for the morning and ensure no children ran into the wetlands. I’m not sporty and if my daughter hadn’t told me I wouldn’t have known the Olympics was on, being half submerged in the 1940s for my current novel.
The view from Flag Number 5
I’ve a lot of memories of my own school days, always near the end or the middle of the pack at cross-country running, swimming or any sport really.
My Daisy came 16th which didn’t impress her but I was very proud as throughout her race she continued to jog determinedly, didn’t slow her pace or give up as many children behind her did. A few even walked the entire way and didn’t give it a shot at all, despite my screaming encouragement from Flag Number 5.
But I did empathise with my daughter’s disappointment. I know how it feels to be in the middle of the pack, rarely the victor with your arm pumping the air, the band playing Waltzing Matilda. I’m no stranger to the pain of giving the race your best shot, heart bursting – and yet you’re still in the middle of the pack.
My roses bloom
At least my daughter’s class showed a bit more restraint than some of the Australian Olympic athletes in tears nearly every day on the cover of papers. Their coaches were blaming social media for the athletes losing focus as they twittered and Facebooked, believing their cyber-space fans that they would win. There’s a lesson there for all of us about the internet’s ability to suck energy and deceive.Oh, that sly, time-wasting, silver-tongued, crocodile-eyes, lying Internet.
Inspiring Dawn Fraser
Helping my daughter with her homework, we researched Dawn Fraser (Australian swimmer who won eight Olympic medals) and I was amazed to discover that just before the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, Dawn was involved in a car-accident at nearby Brighton-le-sands in which her mother was killed. In the same year, Dawn came out of hospital, competed at Tokyo and won gold. That’s the sort of sportsperson I take my hat off to.
Josephine Pennicott’s writing shed
When I wasn’t on Flag Number 5 contemplating stamina, determination and what makes a champion, I have been in my writing shed working on Currawong Manor. The light is returning to Sydney and we’ve seen some blue skies. It’s a joyful time of year seeing the roses bloom and feeling the promise of Spring.
Time to cull in Daisy’s room
We’ve been baking, watching loads of Nigella DVDs (Daisy’s new favourite as she wants to raid the fridge of a night Nigella style), reading Harry Potter and culling our house in preparation for Spring.
Josephine Pennicott bakes with Daisy and Gemma
For all of us who are jogging along in the middle of the pack these words are a great inspiration to me :
‘Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill
My daughter and I have been enjoying snuggling together on these chilly winter nights watching the Sophie Dahl cooking series. I wish I had the very pretty house used to film The Delicious Miss Dahl. I love the literary thread Sophie weaves into her cooking. The references to Dorothy Parker, Christina Rossetti, Evelyn Waugh amongst others as she dices and chops. It’s a gluttonous bookworm’s porn.
I only wish that all ads were as good as this recent shoot that Sophie did. Whole stories in every moody, romantic shot.
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.