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

Deadline

I am on deadline for Currawong Manor and so this October post written on All Hallows will be brief.

Life has been frenetic, frantic – days and weeks a blur of my daughter’s activities, her dramatic and colourful life entwined with the darker mysterious world of my characters in their Blue Mountains home in the 1940s. I juggle the two worlds, attempting to keep my attention equally on both, a task which seems impossible at times.

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I have to mention this anthology, Award Winning Australian Writing 2012, which my short story, Shadows, which won last year’s Scarlet Stiletto Awards appears in. I’m proud to be included with so many skilled writers. You can read more about it HERE
And also this beautiful cover of Currawong Manor (called Daughters of the Storm) in Germany published by Ullstein. On Twitter I posted I saw a beautiful butterfly nearly as large as my hand fluttering outside my garden writing shed , enjoying the bougainvillea and yellow roses. I wondered what he was a sign of and a couple of days later, he turned up on my book.

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A highlight of the month was:

We saw A Murder is Announced at Sydney Theatre at Walsh Bay. I really enjoyed all the cast and Judi Farr made a perfect Miss Marple.

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A reminder that on Sunday the 10th of November, I’m appearing with Kate Forsyth in the Writers’ Tent at the Newtown Festival. Details here.

I am trying to focus, to turn inwards. The deadline like the witching hour draws nearer.

Thank you for visiting me. xx

1am in Melbourne

Kerry Greenwood, Josephine Pennicott and Marion Boyce

When I stop flying in the sky I shall write a proper report on the night it’s been thirteen years of me entering the Scarlet Stiletto. Now that I’ve won the two shoes I am no longer eligible. It’s an end of an era for Tale Peddler. But I am incredibly honoured to be one of the five women in Australia who have won two shoes. In 2001 I won for Birthing The Demons and on Friday night I won for Shadows, a short story inspired when my daughter ran off from a park and decided to walk home by herself.
Thank you for visiting me. There’s a lot I’d love to blog about – so much to share – but I’m right into the world of Currawong Manor at the moment. This book is intense to say the least. I don’t want to lose the beat and heart of it too much by spending time away from it.

Sisters in Crime – Melanie Myers, Josephine Pennicott, Liz Filleul and Mandy Wrangles

Deadline is now the end of December. I have my characters and my crumbling world of Currawong Manor for a short time yet.

Colour mood board for Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

I love this book so much that it hurts. I am happy to report my husband also loves it and hopefully other readers will as well. It’s been the hardest book I’ve ever written but it’s bones have emerged in exactly the way I always envisaged it.

With Carmel Shute fellow Sister in Crime

Thanks again to all the Sisters in Crime and to Kerry Greenwood for her kind words to me. I really needed to hear what she had to say to me. I love Kerry and she’s been such a big inspiration to me over the years for her wonderful books set in Australia and for her style. In my opinion, she’s got even more style than her sassy creation, Phryne Fisher.

The always fab Kerry Greenwood

She is a survivor and it’s writers like Kerry who keep me going. The talk and powerpoint presentation by Kerry and costume designer Marion Boyce was fascinating and the outfits drew many gasps from the audience. I could have listened to them both all night.

Mandy Wrangles, Josephne Pennicott and Lindy Cameron.

Well-frocked guests. I had delightful dinner companions.

A Killer Wine

Marion’s research sheets for Phryne Fisher

Phyllis, Mandy, Lindy, Carmel, Liz and all the other Sisters of Crime, I love you all.

You can read the official press release HERE from Sisters in Crime and see the full list of winners. Congratulations again to all fellow Sisters in Crime who picked up awards this year. If you didn’t make the short list then submit next year!
Thanks to HARPERCOLLINS for their continued support of this award. 
xx

A SWAN FLIES

A very busy time.

image by Carla Coulson

My deadline for Currawong Manor has been extended until the end of December which is wonderful as it gives me more time to spend a last month with my characters before they leave the writing shed.

Carla Coulson

I was very excited to speak to Carla Coulson on Friday night in Paris, whose photography/books and blog I’ve long been a fan of. In a couple of weeks she will be taking some photographs of yours truly in the most AMAZING Sydney location. I’ll be fascinated to see how she works for research purposes for Currawong Manor. Hopefully in the midst of editing, I shall be able to organise something to wear.

image by Carla Coulson

David leaves tomorrow to spend a night in a koala hospital for work.
And on Friday I’m flying to Melbourne as I have shortlisted for the annual Scarlet Stiletto Awards with Sisters in Crime for their crime short-story competition. Wish me good fortune, and best wishes to all the other nominated writers. It is an honour to have made the short-list again.

Kerry Greenwood (by Harjono Djoyobisono

Kerry Greenwood is presenting the awards along with Marion Boyce, from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries who is responsible for the totally stunning outfits Essie Davis wore in the ABC series. Marion has an impressive body of work including Salem’s Lot and so I’m really looking forward to her talk on Friday night.
Speaking of sassy authors – how fab to see fellow Selwa Anthony author, lovely Kate Morton achieve such incredible heights with her latest book The Secret Keeper.

Kate photo by Brigit Solhoug

We are all thrilled for her in Little Brick as we’ve watched Kate navigate her writing career way back when she was first submitting her early work. And it proves that there are readers out there who still love a well-told story presented in a beautiful book. I bought The Secret Keeper the other day and had to cull seven paperback books to fit it on my shelves, but it is a glorious presentation. And I’m very excited that Clint Eastwood has bought the film rights to her second book, The Forgotten Garden.

Sandra’s Birdie and Pearl

I may not have Clint Eastwood but the beautiful chickens above belong to lovely Sandra who hosted a book club meeting for Poet’s Cottage. Her chickens are named after my characters Birdie and Pearl. Such an honour to have not only a television commercial and bag made for my Tasmanian mystery but to have chickens named after your characters fills me with joy. I would love to have some chickens!  
The weekend was a blur of editing and fact checking. A highlight was the smell of freshly cut grass in my park on a twilight run whilst an enormous black swan launched himself into flight in front of me.

Full Moon Rising

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

A Scorpion in the Corner and Publicity for Poet’s Cottage

February has been a blur as publicity for Poet’s Cottage begins, ahead of its release in Australia.

My garden writing shed

I’m sitting in my courtyard garden now and the weather is so sunny for a change in Sydney.

I had plenty of chances to use my Mary Poppins umbrella this rainy summer. Of course, I’ve loved the rain.

This week I had the pleasure of being interviewed at home by Mr Steve Meacham for the Sun Herald newspaper. I say it was a pleasure because this gentleman wrote one of my favourite pieces recently,Writer’s Craft is now a Ghost in the Machine. You can find a link to this article here.

I find the whole interview process very daunting as I often get so tongue-tied and a shambling, rambling mess when talking about myself. I take heart from Arthur Boyd who was reputed to be woeful for the journalist to follow in interviews. I found that one of the most endearing traits of Arthur’s.

I was delighted to start off the publicity for Poet’s Cottage with a phone interview for the Tasmanian papers. I shall let you know when they are coming out.

I cannot wait for the Kerry Greenwood TV series, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, starring my favourite, Essie Davis. You may recall I have bragged often about Essie and I being at the same College of Creative Arts in Hobart. I think she’s perfect casting for Phryne and I love Kerry Greenwood. I’ve won The Malice Domestic Award twice (okay, that’s a little brag again, but forgive me, another thing that I could have said to Steve and forgot). And because Essie is a Tasmanian girl (go Tasmanian girls!) I had her in mind for my character of Pearl Tatlow when I was writing Pearl.

Except now she looks just like my Pearl from Poet’s Cottage (I love her with the dark bob) but she’s Phryne. This show looks wonderful and I can’t wait to see it.

A million times better than the ghastly Underbelly offering which I wrote about here. A small slice of Underbelly Razor.

Tonight I went to the movies with Art School Annie and saw The Artist which is as wonderful and lovely as the reviews said it was. How magnificent is the dog Uggie?

And the two leads, Berenice Bejo as Peppy and Jean Dujardin, are perfectly cast. Not to mention all those fabulous 20’s frocks and shoes…

And a favourite book I read in February: Alice Hoffman’s The Dovekeepers.

I‘m in awe of this book. I prostrate before it. So beautiful, powerful and inspiring. Alice Hoffman brings the bones to life so eloquently in her account of four women at Masada in 70AD. I take my hat off to Hoffman for her reminder of how powerful words and tales can be. This is a book that will give you strength. It’s raw and graphic and some of the passages will nearly destroy you with how inhumane people can be – but then the doves are always there as a symbol of goodness and hope. And Hoffman is writing at the top of her powers. She creates a spell just as powerful as Shirah does in the story. A wonderful novel about women, women’s mysteries and women’s stories.

This reads like a channelled book that contains the prayers and devotions of a real group of four women who would have been lost to time. But it really does contain messages and symbols for modern women as well.

Hats off again to Alice Hoffman for opening a portal where I could glimpse a world where fortunes were divined by scattering dove bones, Lilith was feared for snatching babies at night, girls were given in arranged marriages at thirteen and a Scorpion in the corner is a sure sign a witch is present.

As for my current book, Currawong Manor, I’ve finally reached the 100 000 mark of my first draft. There’s still a bit to go and for reaching that important mark I treated myself to this lovely black telephone.

I feel as if Hercule Poirot is exercising his little grey cells as he chats to me on the other end

And of course, I can’t leave this post without one little peep at Johnny.

Thank you for visiting me. xx

 

AFTER THE WINTER SOLSTICE

This is my favourite time of year as we enter into the dark cave, the belly of winter in Australia.

Garden Angel

 Except it’s never quite cold enough in Sydney. I’ve had a headache for two weeks now which I know is because I’m trying to juggle too many things alongside family illness.\

Smuchie outside the writing shedOur writing shed

 

 

My publishers and agent Selwa Anthony have started to discuss covers and author photos which is exciting, scary and very distracting!

I’m juggling two books and one short crime story. Yes, I’ve entered again for the annual Sisters In Crime Scarlet Stiletto Awards. This is the shortest space of time in which I’ve written a story for and I feel it probably doesn’t stand a chance as it has a very nasty bite in it. Ever hopeful, I shall submit this dark little tale because you just never know where your luck will flow.

On Saturday I spent a ridiculous amount of money to have my hair dyed to its natural state and I bought a most beautiful vintage-style dress (black with floral print) from a retro shop in King Street, which I have christened my Poets Cottage frock. 

Vivien Leigh

At night all I want to do is retire to bed early with a hot water bottle and pile of books.

More Vivien

At day, I’m often in my writing shed which you can see above. We’ve just ordered some lovely bird wallpaper for the shed. I shall post photos when it’s up. And yes, we are going to take down the Hills Hoist in front of it. I do like a Hills Hoist but I’ve yearned for a Granny line for years. 

June is coming to an end which is sad. June to me is the month of roses and love. It’s the anniversary of when I first met my writer partner, David Levell. I’m in love with everything rosy, including Jurliques Rose handcream which I’ve been slathering on my dry crocodile hands. That’s my June beauty tip.

And this morning whilst the city was waking, Daisy and I on our way to her natural therapist, Dr Peter Bablis, were peering through the windows of Channel 7’s Sunrise show to see live television at Martin Place and Daisy received a lovely smile and wave from the presenter, Mel.

What a pretty and personable person she comes across as.

J’adore winter. I wish it lasted for longer. 

images of vivien leigh source 

 

      

 

Winning the Shoe

Hello,

I’ve shortlisted for the annual Sisters in Crime Scarlet Stiletto Award for short story writing. It’s a great honour to shortlist again as I’ve placed in this competition so many times (including winning the coveted Scarlet Stiletto First Place). 

Here is a picture of a blonder me delighted with my shoe in St Kilda, 2001.

For many years I’ve been after that longed-for second shoe to make a double-set, but despite coming near (and picking up the Kerry Greenwood Award twice for Malice Domestic), the second shoe still eludes me. I suspect I am the most shortlisted entrant ever, which goes to show how stubborn and pig-headed I can be when I want something!Apart from the second shoe, I do enjoy the challenge of writing for the Scarlet Stiletto every year. I’m so used to writing longer novels that I enjoy creating a smaller world at around 5000 words.

I’m head down in research for my current book, Currawong House. This is one of my favourite parts of the process: the shift, the meditative state as you feel the story start to move from the deepest parts of your being.

To me it is a sacred journey, the craft of story. This weekend I am taking time off to go on a spiritual retreat where I can contemplate lots of different things and gaze at a moon and stars that aren’t hidden by the smog of the city.

Thanks for visiting me. Keep Creative. xx