The Light Between Oceans – Review

I nearly didn’t read this book. It received so much acclaim and hoopla that I didn’t think I’d find it interesting. If a book or film is very hyped, I have a bad habit of losing interest. I’m an inverted snob in such matters.

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I sent it to my mother-in-law and after reading it, she returned it saying she thought I should reconsider as she knew I’d love it.

Thankfully, I obeyed her instructions. I found this a terrific read, which left me longing for as many people as possible I knew to read it, so we could discuss it. Luckily it was one of my Magic Hat Book Club choices this year.

The cover tag line is: ‘This is a story of right and wrong and how sometimes they look the same.’

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We enter the world of a young lighthouse keeper, Tom Sherbourne and his wife, Isabel, on a remote island off the Western Australian coast. They decide to keep a baby found alive on ‘The Day of the Miracle’ with its dead father in a boat. Isabel has suffered three miscarriages and the baby appears to be a gift from God: there can be no harm in keeping her…

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This is the clever and intriguing set-up of an engrossing story which weaves between the ‘The Day of the Miracle’ (27 April, 1926) to the emotional final scene in 1950. The book describes the consequences of the decisions of keeping the ‘miracle’ baby.

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Throughout the narrative we are introduced to some vivid characters:

Tom Sherbourne the lighthouse keeper, with his measured outlook on life and his beautiful handwriting. His sense of decency and his moral code. An ex-army man with experience in Egypt and working in Morse and international code. Tom is suffering the trauma of his war experiences from one of the most grisliest of wars: a lighthouse posting seems the perfect change to escape his  memories. By steamer boat on his way to the lighthouse from Sydney to Perth, he rescues a young woman from a lecherous ex-soldier, a chance meeting pivotal later in the book:

 

Being over there changes a man. Right and wrong don’t look so different anymore to some.” – Tom Sherbourne.

 

In Port Partageuse, a small coastal community where a fresh granite obelisk lists the men and boys who will not be returning to the community. The town’s scars are raw. In this community, Tom meets and falls in love with defiant, sparkling Isabel Graysmark, the only daughter of the headmaster Bill, and his wife, Violet, who lost both sons to the war.

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The nature cycles of the island and Port Partageuse, are hauntingly portrayed. And the real life ghosts of the living, still mourning so many lost, are also wonderfully captured. The Australian phrases, increasingly also lost to American slang, are resurrected in bold splashes which contrast well against the more lyrical descriptions. You ache for all the characters. Even very minor characters who barely appear such as Frank, the baby’s father, become important. Septimus, the grandfather, is also beautifully sketched and an entire book could be devoted on his story.

The character’s roles are superimposed against the lighthouse itself, the great light illuminating to protect the sailors, but also revealing the deeper shadows that are lurking within every member of Port Partageuse. People are getting on with life – but the war has taken so much.

M.L. Stedman

 

The Light Between Oceans is a book that should give inspiration to all writers who think they may have left their run to late to start. It is Stedman’s debut full-length novel, written in her mid-sixties. I was most fascinated by her writing process which is very similar to my own using visual imagery and a method of ‘free falling’ into the story, allowing the visual images to guide you. She worked a lot from original material in the British Library, reading war-time diaries and journals which she said ‘brought her to sobbing many times’. This first-person research shines through. The two images of the ocean used above were both taken by Stedman when she was working on the book.

I feel that with a different cover design, it might have reached more of a male audience. My partner began reading the book after hearing my enthusiastic appraisal of it and is really enjoying it. He would never have picked it up on its cover normally.

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Thankfully, many people did. Nine international publishing houses bid on the rights for the book. In Australia The Light Between Oceans was:

Winner of three ABIA awards for Best Newcomer, Best Literary Novel and Book of the Year Winner of two Indie Awards for Best Debut and Book of the Year Winner of the Nielsen BookData Bookseller’s Choice Award for 2013 Recently voted Historical Novel of 2012 by GoodReads’ reading community

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The names of the miracle child in the story, Lucy, means Light and she represents the Hope of the story. I also took the Light Between Oceans to represent the break between the two World Wars. Ultimately, I saw this as a book about the ripple effects of war. A story of right and wrong and the different shades of grey in between – a tale of forgiveness and redemption. Janus Rock, where Lucy washes up, represents the Ancient God of Doorways – transitions and beginnings. Janus presided over beginnings and endings of peace and conflict. As a transitional god, he had a role in birth and exchange as well. Janus also represents a middle ground between barbarism and civilisation.

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If you are interested to read more about M.L Stedman’s writing process, there is an interview HERE

This review is for my Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2014.

Australian Women Writers Challenge

 

Modernists and Muses

Hello,

Currawong Manor has been receiving some very positive early reviews:

Academic, columnist and author, Karen Brooks’s review you can read in full HERE:

The settings are richly and beautifully drawn. You can smell the flowers, feel the cold press of the snow or the dewy warmth of a humid summer. Likewise, as the mystery unravels, you can feel the whispers of the past and the weight of guilt that hangs upon those who carry their secrets, determined to protect themselves and others. Like the birds that occasionally darken the eaves of the house, doom walks through the pages and reading Currawong Manor becomes a visceral experience – at once exciting and dramatic. A Gothic treat for lovers of mystery, family dramas, history and suspense.

Shelleyrae at Book’d Out says:

An impressively crafted literary story, Currawong Manor is an absorbing and dramatic tale. Full review HERE

Kathleen Easson at Aussie Mum Network:

There is more than one mystery to be solved within these pages. The book contains hints of Agatha Christie, the kitchen and garden of Sunday Reed and subtle references to various famous artists including Norman Lindsay. I could not put this book down, it was an enjoyable and easy read. I look forward to further works by this author. Full review HERE

A  reminder that on Tuesday 24th June, I’m talking at Newtown Library with Gayle Donaldson and so hope to see you there if you live locally. You can book tickets for this event. HERE.

And I made a video where I’m talking about some of the inspirations behind Currawong Manor including my brief meeting with Pearl Goldman, Norman Lindsay’s life model and muse. I hope you enjoy. Please feel free to share with any people you think might be interested in the book.

 

Keep yourself creative.

In Love and Light

Josephine xx

Pins

Hello,

Being a visual person, I love
Pinterest for collecting images to help me when I’m working on a book. The
Scorpionic side of me also relishes the fact you can have secret boards as well.

Used for Shalimar character inspiration

Used for Shalimar character inspiration


With Currawong Manor nearly due to hit the shelves, I thought I’d share a few of
my inspiration images for Currawong Manor. They’re not meant to be literal, but
they help me with the palette of the work.

 

The Memory Birds

The Memory Birds

 

Image used for Elizabeth inspiration

Image used for Elizabeth inspiration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ghost on a swing

Ghost on a swing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll unlock my Currawong
Manor board on Pinterest when the book has been out for awhile, but for now
here’s a bit of a sneak preview. I also use my own personal photographs a lot
from the location I’m working with and I’ll share some of those very
soon.

 

Albert Tucker with son Sweeney

Albert Tucker with son Sweeney

 

 

 

 

 

'Psycho' Albert Tucker illustration

‘Psycho’ Albert Tucker illustration

Bird Man

Bird Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still from Don't Look Now

Still from Don’t Look Now

From Don't Look Now by Daphne Du Maurier

From Don’t Look Now by Daphne Du Maurier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stay tuned for an updated website and a giveaway to celebrate Currawong Manor’s publication.  Love and Light,
Josephine

Characters manifesting on secret beaches

A busy month filled with activity. In Australia we bid farewell to Summer and welcomed Autumn.

In Germany my Currawong Manor was released. It’s German title is Sturmtochter which translates most poetically to Daughters of the Storm. I hope that my world of Currawong Manor is enjoyed as much as Poet’s Cottage was received there.
In the mail I not only had the delightful pleasure of my receiving my beautiful copies of Sturmtochter, but also Poet’s Cottage (Dornen Tochter) in another edition with its SPIEGEL Bestseller tag.
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We spent quite a lot of time at the beach this summer as we discovered a secret beach which is not as frequented.
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Just yesterday at the seaside after my daughter’s netball, I spotted a gentleman who sparked a character and an entire addition to a book I have been mulling over for years came to me. Luckily I had my notebook and I began sketching and writing ideas that came to me as I studied him. My husband walking past this unsuspecting man engaged in a brief conversation which was reported back. Strangely enough, notes I had taken regarding his culture, his appearance etc were proven accurate. Plus, he said a most intriguing sentence to David which I can definitely use in the book. I was surprised by the speed of the information triggered by this gentleman that came to me. You must always carry a notebook! More on notebooks in another post.

And here is a shot of my Currawong Manor edit for the Australian version.

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And my stunningly beautiful Australian cover for Currawong Manor has now been revealed. I love it so much as it really conveys the darkness and mystery in the books. So happy with my Australian covers for both my mysteries from Pan Macmillan.

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Currawong Manor will be released in Australia in June. You can read a synopsis HERE.

In July on the 26th at 3pm, I am going to be at Better Read than Dead in Newtown for a High Tea to discuss murder, mystery, and creativity over cupcakes and tea. If you live locally I would love to see you there.

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Don’t forget if you wish to follow my adventures, I am on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Please share this post with friends if you feel they would enjoy my work.
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In Love and Light
Josephine xx

Facing Fears – Into the desert with Robyn Davidson

You are as powerful and strong as you allow yourself to be.’ Robyn Davidson

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Sometimes I play that game where I’m asked the five books that changed my life. Although my choices might change (and really every book has left a small thumbprint on my soul) one work did have an influence on my life when I first read it as a young girl in Tasmania – Robyn Davidson’s Tracks. The descriptions of the Australian outback were so powerful and beautiful. I’d never thought of my own country in quite the same way.

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I felt fearful of so many things and it was perfectly obvious that here was some sort of Athena warrior goddess who feared very little, a young woman who in 1977 trekked 1700 miles across the desert from Alice Springs to Western Australia. Of course there are all sorts of symbolic meanings attached to entering a vast, seemingly empty wilderness. The old prophets entered them for clarification and transcendence. Jesus went to fast in a desert. A desert cuts out all the sensory overload. The vastness of the landscape encourages meditation.

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But it wasn’t just Robyn’s ballsy guts/madness in choosing to enter the desert with only her camels, her dog, the intermittent visits of National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan and the indigenous Australians she met along her way. It was the authentic raw power of her writing that inspired me.

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I was fortunate to see Robyn Davidson speak at the Sydney Writers’ Festival last year on a panel interviewed by Michaela Kalowski with Emile Sherman, the producer of the movie Tracks. Actress Mia Wasikowska, who plays Robyn in the movie, was also in the audience. I intended to write this post shortly after the festival I was so inspired and fired up by the three speakers I saw that year, but I was editing my own book at the time and the deadline was forever looming.

from the movie Tracks

from the movie Tracks

I’ve been thinking again about Robyn Davidson as the movie Tracks is shortly to hit the big screen. Robyn in person, decades after I read her book is every bit as striking as her younger self in the flesh. Elegant, warm and charming,she described herself as an ‘odd-ball’. And I sensed a kindred spirit when she spoke about how she hated being too connected and never carries her mobile phone and hates answering it. It’s always a relief to find someone as odd-ball as yourself. She talked about how she had offers before for Tracks to be made into a move, but she wanted it to be an Australian film. Could I love this woman any more? She spoke about how the journey she took would be impossible these days as social media would be covering every step. She also expressed her concerns for young people these days as the pressure from social media is so intense. And related a very touching story to do with a reunion with her camels in Western Australia many years later. I had no idea that camels were so intelligent, emotional and had memories like elephants.

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Robyn Davidson’s early life is gothic involving her mother’s suicide at 46. Robyn is currently writing a memoir about this period of her life. In a recent interview in the Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend magazine with journalist Amanda Hooton, she spoke about her mother’s death and her struggles over writing the period of her life to avoid the ‘poor pitiful me’ tone.

I now think of her as something incorporated into me. I’m very interested in neuroscience: the idea that we have these maps in the brain. I think she’s sort of mapped into me.’

Tracks is a book I would urge every mother to buy their young daughters (or sons) to read as it will hopefully give them a warrior shield in navigating their own desert. It is certainly one I will be encouraging my daughter to read. One aspect of Robyn’s desert trek I loved was that she didn’t do it for fame, or to become some sort of feminist symbol, she did it for the journey itself.

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In this fifteen minute interview below with Caroline Baum, Robyn expresses her concern about how the desert has been taken over by the buffel grass introduced from Africa has been drastically altering the herbage for native animals and changing the rich palette of the desert itself.

I never did have the courage to go into the desert alone. But Robyn Davidson’s book Tracks gave me the courage to travel to India on my own.

Travelling with an Australian girl I met in India. Here we are on the Holy Ganges.

Travelling with an Australian girl I met in India. Here we are on the Holy Ganges.

Prior to reading her book, I wouldn’t have been able to travel to Melbourne solo. My life became richer as a result of her own journey and her ability to express her desert walk with such eloquence. I became a writer – a different type of writer to Robyn Davidson, but one just as inspired by the tone and palette of my own country. It takes courage to embrace a creative life with all of its dips and heights.

with a Sadhu in India.

with a Sadhu in India.

I was most grateful I had the chance to say this personally to Robyn Davidson at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. In the next couple of months, I shall post my panels that I experienced with UK writer Kate Mosse and Spanish writer Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Both of these panels were excellent and filled with inspiration so I hope to share them with you.

With another friend I met in India. We are still in touch.

With another friend I met in India. We are still in touch.

Here is a link to Robyn’s panel from Sydney Writers’ Festival. My interaction with her comes towards the end.

http://www.swf.org.au/2013-video-podcasts/making-tracks.html

Having my karma washed away in the Holy Ganges

Having my karma washed away in the Holy Ganges

Yes, Robyn Davidson, you made me feel that I could do anything.

robyn quote

‘Camel trips do not begin or end, they merely change form.’ Robyn Davidson

If you enjoyed this article and found some inspiration, please share with your online friends. Or leave me a comment to know if you’ve read Tracks. Is there a particular book that sparked some courage within you? I would love to hear from you.

Some links to articles on Robyn Davidson of interest:

http://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2012/october/1349327288/robyn-davidson/leaving-tracks-behind

http://www.sbs.com.au/films/movie-news/911113/tracks-mia-wasikowska-and-robyn-davidson-interview

http://www.smh.com.au/national/one-hell-of-a-life-born-of-claypan-and-coolabah-20120928-26qng.html

http://www.abc.net.au/tv/talkingheads/txt/s2345772.htm

Tasmania My Muse.

Author Neil Gaiman called Hobart one of ‘the fine secret places of the earth’.
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Back in the 1920’s Agatha Christie on her world tour similarly declared Hobart to be incredibly beautiful with its deep blue sea and harbour and expressed her hopes she would return to live there one day.

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It always takes me ages to recover from my trips home to Tasmania as predictably, I always want to stay. This January I visited to research material for my next mystery novel which is once again set in Tasmania.

It’s early days. But I have a title, opening and closing scenes, an idea that has been brewing away for a few years, and a palette of colours I want to work with. A few characters are stirring and introducing themselves. Once again, I find myself scribbling notes furiously in a notebook in a charming Tasmanian cottage. Here I am at the front of the aptly named Bridge Cottage at Richmond, where we spent a few days recently as I soaked up the atmosphere of this pretty, historic village. The light and shadows in Richmond were perfect for my book.

Josephine Pennicott at Bridge Cottage Richmond

Josephine Pennicott at Bridge Cottage Richmond

When I wasn’t at Bridge Cottage, I was lying in the shade of a tree by the river, sharing the shade with the river geese, ducks and Tasmanian native hens. (Tasmania was in a heatwave which was fortunate as this book is set in a sizzling Tasmanian summer). I spent pleasurable hours staring up at this perfect blue and canopy of greenery as scenes unravelled themselves.

And the characters appear

And the characters appear

Another photo of Bridge Cottage

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I was reminded of our last visit to Richmond, when we were thrilled to spot author Christopher Koch in a local cafe. Koch, as you are probably aware, died September 2013.

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Richmond is perfect for a writer with its peaceful atmosphere and plethora of Georgian buildings. It reminds me a lot of Oatlands, the midlands village where I spent a lot of my childhood. Oatlands has more Georgian buildings, but Richmond is nearer to Hobart, only a 20 minute drive from the city centre. You can read more on Richmond Village HERE.

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We toured Richmond Gaol, always a poignant experience. You have to spend some time alone in a darkened cell to imagine the hellish conditions the prisoners were subject to.

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Some of the inmate’s stories are most Dickensian. Isaac (Ikey) Solomon, a Javelin Man in Richmond Gaol 1831-1834, was believed to have inspired the character of Fagin in Charles Dicken’s Oliver Twist. Ikey came from Bell Lane, Spitafields, where along with his wife Ann, he set up a jewellers’ shop, receiving stolen goods. He was known as The Prince of Thieves. Ann was sentenced to transportation to Australia for 14 years and became the mistress of ex-convict George Madden. Ann was never reconciled with Ikey. You can read more about Ikey’s flamboyant life HERE.

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There is also the amusing story of gaoler Randal Young who was once locked up in his own gaol as a debtor!
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Convict-built beautiful sandstone Richmond Bridge built between 1823-1825 also has a wonderfully Gothic tale. George Grover was an extremely cruel overseer and flagellator of the convict road crew working on the bridge. He was known for his harsh punishments and numerous floggings. Grover met his destiny in March 1832 when he had been drinking hard and passed out on the bridge. When some prisoners came upon him, they took the opportunity to heave him over. His ghost is said to walk the bridge and on dark nights if you glimpse only a shadow behind you, you would be well-pressed to leave the bridge quickly. Sometimes it’s only the cruel Flagellator’s footsteps that are heard in the silent village as you cross the bridge.

Ghost Child

Ghost Child

Grover’s dog is also said to haunt the bridge, although why the dog has been linked with Grover remains unclear. But several witnesses have claimed to see the spirit dog described as a big black dog, also prowling the bridge. Interestingly enough, mainly women and children see the spirit dog. Richmond Bridge was originally called Bigge’s Bridge and is Australia’s oldest bridge.
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I am slightly saddened to admit I did not see any ghosts apart from one Daisy photo ghost, but I did fill a notebook with loads of ideas, I took close to 400 photos for inspiration to refer to when I’m spending the next few years working on the book. Of course there’s always plenty of charming historic houses to fall in love with in the village streets.

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And I could see myself quite happily retiring to live in Grannie Rhode’s exquisite cottage where I could have my chickens, grow herbs and make friends with the garden fairies.

Granny Rhodes's Cottage

Grannie Rhodes’s Cottage

But it’s not all about the historic houses, Gothic ghost stories, and convict tales in the state. Culturally the State is really smoking with MONA which is always worth a mind-expanding trip. The Red Queen was the current show, but I’m always happy to simply wander around MONA and take in the stimulation of this amazing eclectic surreal wonderland. Here are a few photos from MONA of pieces I particularly liked on this visit.
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I really love the way David Walsh has installed his temple in the suburbs and his car parking space made me smile. His car was parked in the space allocated to God and there is another space for God’s Mistress (as David pointed out the God’s Mistress space was empty).

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Aside from MONA, you can be visually stimulated by the fabulous Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery near the picturesque wharf. I loved several of the displays here.

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The Wild Colonial Boy

The Wild Colonial Boy

We also had time to take in the Cygnet Folk Festival which is a wonderful day out.
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And enjoy a punnet of my favourite Tasmanian snack (with the exception of the Tasmanian pink-eye potato)

The scenery wherever you go is spectacular. Hobart seemed to shimmer and sparkle more than ever on this trip.

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Thank you for visiting me. There are more photographs on my personal and Author Facebook pages. Also on Instagram.

May 2014 bring to you all the creative joy and blessings you could wish for. It’s going to be a big year for me. My mystery novel Currawong Manor will be released here in June and earlier in Germany.

I am currently doing another draft on a historical crime manuscript I’ve been working on for years. Then I shall begin some more intensive character development for my Tasmanian mystery.

One final glimpse of the wild Tasmanian sea.

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Tasmania my Muse. Home. And if 2014 hasn’t got off to the start you, take heart and strength from the wonderful Gregory Peck. ‘Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.’

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BIG DREAMS, BRUSHES WITH FAME AND MIRACLES FOR CHRISTMAS

‘Though a great deal is too strange to be believed, nothing is too strange to have happened.’

– Thomas Hardy

As I write this on a sunny day in Sydney with dappled light showering our inner-city street, cicadas competing with the traffic noise and overhead planes, gum trees a wash of green against a brilliant blue sky, Angelina Jolie has just finished directing a scene near our house for her new movie Unbroken.
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Regular readers will know my fascination with comparative religions. The reason I’m so excited that Hollywood has come to our area is that Angelina is directing a scene in my local church. This church is a big part of our family and has formed the fabric of our lives here for the last decade. My daughter was baptised there and before my father died, he flew over to give me away in my Alice in Wonderland meets Carnaby Street wedding.

Unbroken being filmed at our local church

Unbroken being filmed at our local church

In an area bursting with the politically correct/hipster crowd, the church has been a sanctuary to me for years. I’ve seen it go through many changes and several priests, but the current priest has been my favourite for many reasons. The reason I mention Angelina is that it’s proof of how life can bring unexpected twists and miracles in ways you can’t imagine. And how ‘real life’ can be stranger than fiction and any movie. For years we’ve battled with church costs (the roof fell in a few years ago) and in one swoop – thanks to Angelina – those costs have been considerably bumped down. But I could never have expected that’s who would have fixed our church roof. Not even my imagination would have dreamt that scenario.

Extras in period costume cross the street for Unbroken

Extras in period costume cross the street for Unbroken

My daughter went to school yesterday morning with a little piece of paper in her pocket, for an autograph in the unlikely event she bumped into Angelina. She walked past crowds of extras dressed in period costume and the big movie lights trying to spot one person. (She loves her because she has tattoos.) We are relieved that this small brush of celebrity is with a person as inspiring as Angelina. It is heartening to point out photographs of Angelina and Brad dressed up for movie premieres, but then also be able to talk about her humanitarian work and how she has used celebrity and her beauty and talent as a force of good in the world. Everyone that had contact with her raved about how unpretentious, down-to-earth and friendly she was. I was also very delighted to see on the weekend in Sydney she went shopping with her children and bought books from local bookshops – a reminder to all to buy BOOKS this Christmas. As Christopher Marley said: ‘When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink and glue. You give him the possibility of a whole new life.’

And so Angelina Jolie is our little Christmas miracle and if you see Unbroken, know that the church in it has been my oasis of quiet contemplation for the last decade of my inner-city life.

The beautiful and inspiring Angelina Jolie

The beautiful and inspiring Angelina Jolie

I have finished my edit of Currawong Manor.
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On Monday, 2nd December at 12.30 am I pressed the send button and Currawong Manor went across the city back to Pan Macmillan. I felt enormously depleted, emotional and empty. I’ve loved working with my artists for so long and it’ s always hard to let go of my characters. I’ve spent years in their company. I feel so empty without them all and wonder if anyone will care for them. Where do these characters come from? They come. Sometimes quickly, but sometimes they are furtive and hide themselves behind other characters. Or they are too coy to appear at once, and you know they will come another time and book.

You spend years with the ones that do appear. You grow to know them more intimately than you do most of your neighbours, and friends.

And then they are gone. Released with the SEND button to a waiting editor and publisher in an office across the city and you are left alone, crying with exhaustion and wondering why you push yourself through so much for so many years to meet a being who is as real as a dream.

Divine madness has descended for years – if you are lucky – and then it moves on and you are left feeling abandoned by your own creation.

You sit and wait and hope the muse will bring you another story. You wait and ache and start to spin the web.

I’ve now begun work on my new web. and loving feeling the new characters appear.

Poet’s Cottage continues its tour around Europe and here is the beautiful cover from Dutch publishers HERE Fingers crossed that the Dutch will enjoy my Tasmanian sea-fishing murder mystery. It never fails to excite me to think that our family holiday inspired a book that is now selling internationally.
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In November I appeared at the Newtown Festival for Better Read than Dead in the Writer’s Tent with the always inspiring and dynamic Kate Forsyth.

Josephine Pennicott and Kate Forsyth

Josephine Pennicott and Kate Forsyth

I also attended the New South Wales SWITCH Library Awards dinner at the Star Room in Darling Harbour, sponsored by Bolinda Audio alongside some of my agent’s authors. Here is a photo of writing friends Belinda Alexandra and Karen Davis.

Belinda Alexandra and Karen Davis

Belinda Alexandra and Karen Davis

I travelled to Melbourne for the Sisters in Crime annual Scarlet Stiletto Awards. I can’t enter anymore as I’ve won two shoes (the legal limit!) so this was my first year as a judge. Congratulations to all shortlisted entries and to the winners. You can find a full list of winners HERE.

This evening was the 20th Anniversary of Sisters in Crime at the boho glam Thornbury Theatre and so I was delighted to be a part of the celebrations. Angela Savage wrote a lovely article on the history of the red shoe, A Dagger With A Difference, which you can read HERE.

image via Sisters in Crime

image via Sisters in Crime

The beautiful and talented Essie Davis was the host and guest speaker. You may know her as Phryne Fisher in Kerry Greenwood’s Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, or from many other wonderful parts she has played. I remember Essie from our Hobart days at Rosny College together and so it was a joy to be able to connect with her again. In the photo below you can see her hugging me.

Sisters in Crime with Essie Davis on far right

Sisters in Crime with Essie Davis on far right

When Tasmanian girls reunite

When Tasmanian girls reunite

Essie was always a person you knew would be Someone. She claims she was a dag at Rosny but I can vouch she was always super-cool and super-talented. I was also pleased to have the chance to hand her a copy of Poet’s Cottage as when Pearl Tatlow came to me, I often daydreamed over the years if Poet’s Cottage was ever made into a movie, Essie would be perfect to play Pearl. Yes, I know that seems like big dreams, but if Angelina Jolie can pay for our church roof, I can believe in big dreams and miracles. And on that note – I wish for you all the big dreams, miracles and surprising twists in your life that you could NEVER have imagined in the season of light ahead.
And it wouldn’t be a Christmas blog post on Tale Peddler without a gratuitous Johnny Depp photograph.
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Thank you for visiting me. Here is the divine Mediaeval Baebes with the glorious We Three Kings.

Love, Light and Peace. May you find the best of the Holy Season within your own heart.

Josephine xx

Houses Whispering Stories And Davitt Awards

Hello,

image Chester Partnership

image Chester Partnership

I was delighted, astounded and totally gobsmacked to discover yesterday that Poet’s Cottage has made the shortlist for the annual Sisters in Crime Davitt Awards.
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I wasn’t expecting to make the cut because the formidable 61-book longlist was filled with some amazing talent. But I’m so happy to see Poet’s Cottage shortlisted along with serial-Davitt winner/writing pal Katherine Howell, Sulari Gentill, Caroline Overington, Kathryn Fox, Norelle M Harris, Maggie Groff and Malla Nunn. I’m very thrilled to see my Tasmanian sea-fishing murder mystery alongside such talented Sisters in Crime. Including my old mate, Jen Storer with her Truly Tan book in the Young Adult/Children’s section. My eight year old, Daisy when I told her Truly Tan was nominated, said with a sympathetic expression, ‘Your book will NEVER beat her.’ You can always count on your tribe to cut you down to size. You can see the full shortlist HERE
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When I first heard the news, I had to go for a run to calm down. A day later I’m still sitting with a grin wider than Luna Park.
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I was transported back to Stanley, Tasmania, where the wild sea wind and spectacular scenery inspired the story of Poet’s Cottage. I still hear the faint sounds of Pearl’s gramophone playing, feel the cold sea breeze blow Birdie’s hair, and hear the stomp of the Bindi-Eye Man as he treads through Thomasina’s memory trailing damp, rotten seaweed in his wake.

I’m always happy that people have enjoyed reading the tale that whispered itself to me and has clung like the Tasmanian sea-mist for so many years. They were lovely characters to explore and I’m delighted they have made it to the Davitts.

I have included an image I love of Daphne du Maurier outside Menabilly, her sea-fishing ‘cottage’ that inspired Manderley from Rebecca (it’s from the book Daphne du Maurier At Home by Hilary Macaskill) and photos of my own trip to Stanley near the Tasmanian sea. It brings me such joy that local book clubs have gone to Stanley to discover the inspirations that inspired Poet’s Cottage.
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Thank you for visiting me and may your story find you. xx

Autumn

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.

Somehow it all came together and I’m very happy with the end result. Fingers crossed my agent and publishers will be too.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

And a lovely photo of Johnny to end with. This one is via the Johnny C. Depp Facebook page
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Thank you for visiting me.

Love Josephine xx