Roots

I love our new life in the Blue Mountains. Waking to a heavy veil of silence, the air so crispy-fresh that I can feel my lungs celebrate when I inhale, desperate after years of inner-city living to consume the sparkling prana. I love the school run where strangers smile hello and artistic-looking parents in paint-smeared jeans drop artistic-looking children.
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Birdsong permeates the village and in one day several seasons can pass and I love them all. I walk everywhere marvelling over big kookaburras and the sound of lawn mowers instead of aeroplanes overhead. The smell of freshly cut grass.
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After so many years of talking about moving to the country, we fled Sydney. Developers taking over our street and the towering apartment blocks were squashing us. I felt sadness watching a lot of the working artists’ studios closing as the apartments mushroomed. An ongoing bullying case at my daughter’s school – too many toxic environmental pollutants in the air and toxic situations. Life is too fragile to keep trying to make the intolerable work. We fled hurriedly, like characters in a fairytale, leaving behind my roses, writing shed, our good friends, but knowing it was time.
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I wanted my daughter to enjoy the childhood I had been privileged to have: a small village with chimney smoke fire and ethereal mist. A village where the trees stand guard and healthy-looking children  are surrounded by the changing seasons and a caring community. I wanted her to run free in the woods and not become part of the concrete dragon we had escaped. Without my Tasmanian midlands childhood, I could never have written Poet’s Cottage.
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I wanted Daisy at ten to have that depth of life experience. I was weary of smog and bringing in washing streaked black from plane fuel. The air felt as if it was choking our family and our life.
On the Taurus Scorpio Full Moon, we settled the sale of our house. The date was my birthday, 27 October, which was a mystical synchronicity to my family and rounded our city time perfectly, for the day we settled the purchase, all those years ago, was also 27 October. I see our current home in the mountains as a gift from the universe.
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I know this velvet silence will bring my current book to life. I delight in sitting on my new deck, listening to the sound of birds and watching ladybirds and butterflies as I write.
Blackheath Rhododendron Festival Queen for 2015 Eleni Vergotis

Blackheath Rhododendron Festival Queen for 2015 Eleni Vergotis

Being among the trees and gazing upon the panoramic mountain views feels like returning home. We now live in a village I have been escaping to for years and which I used as inspiration for my mystery novel, Currawong Manor.
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On my last visit here, I literally felt roots from my feet grow deep into the soil and spread outwards. I knew the time must be approaching that we would find our mountain home . Shortly afterwards, we did find her. She is a grand old mountains lady, a 1920s character weatherboard and I feel a deep joy every day to have finally, after so many years of yearning, to have become a part of this village and country life.

La Casa del Poeta and the Summer Blue

Normally never a summer lover, I hanker for misty mornings, gloomy rainy days and snow. But this year I cast aside my Scorpionic affinities for winter and embraced Summer. Throughout the holiday break we didn’t leave Sydney and although I sighed wistfully when viewing friends’ social media accounts of their holidays abroad, I enjoyed the hush in the streets surrounding our inner-city home – a break from the constant jackhammering on the building site next door. Instead we embraced more peaceful  streets that looked like they belonged in the 1950s, and a half-empty shopping mall. Throughout the lethargic summer days there was time to plan the year ahead and explore Sydney’s breathtaking beaches. A new favourite this year was Bundeena and also Cronulla. I loved this area where a vibrant mix of cultures gathered to escape the heat wave and enjoy the spectacular views of the popular surfing beaches.

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The school year is now well under way and my life is filled with notices, appointments, homework and in the midst of the whirl – writing my new book. I’m really enjoying crafting this mystery which once again examines the ripple effect of murder across three different time periods in a Tasmanian village. My agent is happy with the early chapters she has read.

 

Daisy writing at Cronulla

Daisy writing at Cronulla

 

Mercury Retrograde has ended and with its departure heralded welcome news from Spain. I adore Poet’s Cottage’s poetic and Cocteau sounding Spanish translation – La Casa del Poeta. The cover is one of my favourite interpretations –  so atmospheric and really conveys the story. I hope La Casa del Poeta is enjoyed in Spain. It’s always a joy to think of my Tasmanian murder mystery being read in different countries.

 

SMALLER SPANISH POETS COTTAGE

 

Tomorrow we will spend five days on the Great Barrier Reef. With no technology for distraction I’m taking only a notebook, books to embrace the endless blue sky and sea. I can’t wait to feel sand beneath my feet and see some baby turtles being born. I’m packing here a massive amount of flowers for my hair, tarot and Angel cards – all the essentials!

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Thank you for visiting and I wish you creative and magical days.

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Love and Light,

Josephine

WHEN BONES CRY

Poet’s Cottage has been attracting some lovely reviews this week. Thank you very much to Auckland Library for their review HERE. It was most interesting to see how the reader picked up the Enid Blyton influence in the book.

I should say, however, that Pearl Tatlow in Poet’s Cottage is NOT Enid Blyton in any way shape or form. I was always fascinated by how Enid Blyton’s two daughters, Gillian and Imogen, had totally opposing views of their mother. I knew one day I would write about this theme and it simmered away for years.

It interested me greatly because I knew of other families besides Enid’s – including my own – where children with identical upbringings have totally different accounts of events. It really made me contemplate truth, memory and history. How do we know what the bones are really singing?

Whether Enid Blyton was a good mother or not never affected how I feel about Blyton. I know she made my childhood magical and I still love curling up with a Famous Five or one of her boarding school stories. But I was fascinated by the family set-up where you have to try to uncover whether the bones are lying or being truthful – or both at the same time.

My writing friend, Jen Storer posted a lovely blog on Enid Blyton and Johnny Cash HERE.

And my other writing friend Kate Forsyth was in the Spectrum this weekend with a beautiful photo of her reading to her daughter HERE. I was thrilled to see Kate also loves to collect the vintage editions of Enid Blyton rather than the sanitised versions. I agree that writers should be read as products of their time and not have their words reshaped to fit the mindset of later generations.

The images of Enid Blyton in this post I found HERE. They are from an interview that Enid gave shortly before her death and I find them moving and poignant. They capture the fragility of the woman behind the words.

I’m so grateful for all the lovely reviews of Poet’s Cottage and that so many people have taken the time to discuss their thoughts on the characters and the set-up. It has been fascinating to see how the book has really delighted people from a range of backgrounds and ages.

Fellow Sydney writer Elisabeth Storrs posted a lovely and thoughtful piece on Poet’s Cottage HERE. I love the final paragraph because Pearl’s gramophone also haunted me for quite a long time.

Poet’s Cottage is an accomplished, engrossing novel with fine language and powerful descriptions of the small town inhabitants of Pencubbit in both past and modern times. Most of all, in creating the damaged and damaging Pearl, the author has created a character so compelling and complex that the image of her lingers just as surely as the strains of music from her gramophone drifted through Poet’s Cottage both before and after her death.

I shall post links to some other reviews as soon as I get a chance.

Life has been hectic here in the Little Brick with my daughter home on holidays. She is writing more than I am able to at the moment. I do love seeing her happy and creative and able to stay in her pyjamas all day if she wishes.

We went to see the movie Brave, which was a wonderful film showing the power plays between mother and daughters. I shamed myself by weeping over the final scenes and my daughter had nightmares that night over the bear but still, a glorious couple of hours in the cinema. The writer based the character Merida on her own feisty-daughter and it’s easy to see why so many mother/daughters are enjoying this holiday movie. An added bonus for me was the whimsical and beautiful trailer before Brave, La Luna.

I really enjoyed this charming short film.

Sydney Cast onstage for The Mousetrap

David and I saw The Mousetrap, which is now touring as part of its 60th Diamond Anniversary year. I had been looking forward to seeing for ages. It’s my third viewing of this iconic play (I originally saw it in The West End). Although nothing can compare to the romance of seeing Agatha Christie’s play in London, the Sydney cast did a really terrific job. I was pleased they kept it in a very traditional style and didn’t camp it up too much. Although a couple of times the accents were a bit forced, I still felt as if I was really at Monkswell Manor.

cast rehearsal image via Mousetrap Sydney website.

From the eerie opening of the play where the child’s rhyme, ‘Three Blind Mice’ is sung to the shock denouement at the end where a lot of the audience gasped at the twist – to the actor requesting we keep the secret (and of course we all will) – I thought the spirit of Agatha Christie’s play (which she did not expect to run for a few months) was honoured.

the original 1952 production

It’s proof of how people love a good cosy mystery and Agatha is top of her game in this sly and haunting play. You can read about the horrible true story HERE that inspired Agatha Christie to write her dark and elegant play. Terence O’Neill and his brother, Dennis in 1945 were fostered out to a pair on a farm in Shropshire, England. The brothers were beaten and abused by the foster parents and sadly, Dennis died. Agatha followed the case which made headlines in the UK and helped to change laws to protect children and used the case for a short radio play, Three Blind Mice (which later became The Mousetrap). Terence O’Neill has since written his own book of the events, Someone To Love Us.

the devious mind behind The Mousetrap. Hats off to Agatha.

Enjoy your week and stay creative. xx

Winter Solstice in Sydney

A most frustrating week.

On the weekend I travelled again to the mountains, obeying the bush call to research and write. That was the high point.

My computer ate a bad frog and had to be rushed to the machine doctor AGAIN.

We had teacher’s day at my daughter’s school, athletics carnival and all the life interruptions that make it difficult for mothers who work from home.

We approached the Winter Solstice and I became overwhelmed with finding it difficult to live in the small brick house and became convinced I had to move right now and ran around househunting before facing the grim reality that the gentrification around us has left us stranded.

But I will plant a little offering in the garden and watch it grow. As Thomasina from Poet’s Cottage would snap at me, ‘Make Lemonade! ’

And in a most surreal night I attended a book club that was not my own and the book of course was Poet’s Cottage. It was a lovely night and the hostess not only lived in almost my dream family home (she had grown her own pumpkins and had proper sized rooms!) but she had named her chickens after characters from Poet’s Cottage!!  Here is an  atmospheric avante garde shot of the chickens.

And I was saddened to read about Johnny Depp’s split from his wife, Vanessa Paradis. Just at the Winter Solstice touched us.

It was a good week to remind myself of the following quotation which I posted on my Facebook Author page

The reward doesn’t necessarily go to the biggest, the brightest, or the best. It goes to the one who has the courage to keep trying until success is inevitably achieved.” —Dr. Robyn Silverman

, and here is a lovely photo that I took from the Facebook Vivien Leigh page of Vivien and Larry in 1940’s London. So much glamour and cool amongst the debris and chaos. So unflappable and as stylish as ever.

I loved the following quote taken from the same source that Noel Coward said about his friend Vivien. So tender and poignant really.

“Vivien, with deep sadness in her heart and for one fleeting moment tears in her eyes, behaved gaily and charmingly and never for one instant allowed her unhappiness to spill over. This quite remarkable exhibition of good manners touched me… very much. I have always been fond of her in spite of her former exigence and frequent tiresomeness but last night my fondness was fortified by profound admiration and respect for her strength of character. There is always hope for people with that amount of courage and consideration for others.” — Noel Coward

Thank you for visiting me. And in one final surreal moment of this Winter’s Solstice week, on a chilly and grey Friday I was contacted by the gardener of the real Poet’s Cottage in Stanley and he also helps out with Marguerite’s garden (who I partly based some of Birdie Pinkerton in the book). I was most impressed by Marguerite’s garden in real-life and so it was a thrill to meet the gardener behind that work of art. xx

Queens, Talking Books and Women in Black

Hello,

We’ve now entered winter in Australia which is my favourite season.

And we’re cycling into a long weekend for the Queen’s Birthday. I have taken the image below from the wonderful Rachel Van Asch’s blog HERE,

which I was browsing around today falling in love with all sorts of treasures that she makes. I’m a bit in love also with her skull and flower cushions and her Clara Bow cushion below.

I’ve been frantically busy editing for Currawong Manor and forgot to mention that these beautiful audio books compliments of Bolinda publishing arrived in the post a few weeks ago.

It’s a very surreal experience to hear Poet’s Cottage being read. The actress is the very fab Jennifer Vuletic and I’m so thrilled to have the lovely audio. Bolinda really do such a quality product and it’s even more special to me as my middle sister has retinitis pigmentosa and is battling blindness. My sister loved Poet’s Cottage which was a relief as she’s very plain-speaking (her favourite character was Thomasina, which was no surprise ). My youngest sister’s favourite character was Birdie. The week the book came out, my sister had her eyes scraped for cataracts and so was able to read the paper version. I was thrilled I was able to create a shadow play that she believed and a story she could fall into, as nobody knows you like your sister, but she allowed me to lead her down the streets of the sea-fishing village of Pencubitt and into Poet’s Cottage. She called it ‘my Tasmanian House of the Spirits’ which was so lovely as she’s a HUGE Isabel Allende fan and now my Poet’s Cottage is actually resting in her house against The House of the Spirits. Hopefully Isabel’s book will merge magical cells into Poet’s Cottage to help its sales!

My sister even rushed out and bought the perfume Shalimar after reading it and wanted to decorate her house in a 1930s style. I was very moved she loved the book to that extent.

I also went to see The Woman in Black this week on a very grim and rainy night. I was meant to be going with Artschool Annie but she pulled out at the last minute due to the weather and I was in the unfortunate position of being about to see a VERY scary movie on my own. Luckily, I ran into another friend who was with her husband on their date night and they let me tag along!

The movie was good, visually very beautiful but lacked the true creepiness of either the book by Susan Hill or the two stage versions I’ve seen in the West End and in Sydney. I can still remember years later the audience screaming in the West End at ‘that’ scene in the nursery.

Still it was an enjoyable movie for a rainy night in Sydney.

Wishing you a magical, wonderful, creative weekend and Happy Birthday to Queen Elizabeth. Thank you for visiting me. xx

Dark Shadows

Hello,

On Tuesday, 31st July 6-7pm at Newtown Library I shall be talking with the lovely Gayle Donaldson. The event is called Talking Heads and is a combined Better Read Than Dead bookshop and Newtown Library event.

If you would like to come along please reserve a seat HERE.

Some topics I imagine we’ll be covering: mysteries, Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier, fantasy writing, crime writing, publishing, Tasmania, sea-fishing villages, families, bohemians, secrets, Johnny Depp. If you’re interested in any of these – or you feel like a free chat and a warm place to sit – don’t make yourself a stranger.

There are limited seats so please reserve as early as you can. Would love to meet you!

Here’s my reply to a question the Hoopla asked me regarding a heated discussion at the Sydney Writers Festival on literary awards going to books that readers can’t or don’t read due to inaccessible content. This came about as a comment from a panel Stella Rimington hosted where literary critics became worked up when she said literary awards should be given to books which are readable.

I’m paraphrasing the debate as I didn’t go to the Sydney Writer’s Festival because I was too busy writing. But I did add my piece to the Hoopla which you can find HERE.

Last night Art School Annie dragged me away from my edit to see Dark Shadows. Wow!! This move was so much better than I expected. Let’s not mention the last 15 minutes which really sort of sucked huge-time. But the rest of it was Tim Burton in fine form. The scene with Johnny and the hippies is sooo good and worth the price of the movie. I love that combination of horror and comedy and it really brought to mind the Manson family with the innocence of the late 60s, early 70s era when you could break bread with a vampire in the woods and not realise that of course he’s going to kill you. And I’m so in love with Michelle Pfeiffer (who gets better with age) in her 70s gear and jewellery. Michelle said in an interview that her sister-in-law made the jewellery for the movie.

I’ve never really come out of the 70s. It’s one of my favourite eras and so this movie was heaven for me. Tim Burton, 70s fashion, hippies, vampires, sea-fishing villages, Helena Bonham Carter, Alice Cooper and of course, Johnny Depp.

A perfect movie. Here’s a track from Dark Shadows to glide up all feeling groovy into the weekend. Thank you for visiting me. xx

Angels Walking with Swans

Some cheering news this week: Poet’s Cottage is now being reprinted – extremely gratifying to know it’s kicking its legs up out there. Thank you to all who have bought a copy, asked your bookseller to get in copies – or have been kind enough to drop me a line to say you enjoyed it. You are all appreciated so much every day.

 

Here’s my daughter on her way to NIDA for Drama on the weekend. She loves her fake furs and swiping my vintage bags to walk around the streets pretending she’s a big girl.

And the postman delivered two special letters this week. One from an English teacher from Oatlands District High who was delighted to see my book and bought a copy. She was lovely enough to enclose in her letter a photograph from when I was at school. The world seemed such a different place then. No computers, endless time and a million paths to decide upon.

 

The other beautifully wrapped gift is from Tasmanian artist Jacqueline Rodemann, who sent me the loveliest necklace and brooch from her fabulous Etsy store, Under the Shade of a Bonsai Tree which you can find HERE as a thank you for me sending a copy of Poet’s Cottage to her artist mother for Mother’s Day when the stores had run out. I feel I am wearing a very special blue rose part of Tasmania now.

 

image from Under the Shade of a Bonsai Tree

Thank you very much to both ladies. It is heaven to receive gifts in the mail rather than bills. The penny in my rather blurred photograph is a 1940s penny I have near me in my writing shed. Anything that helps me to channel a different time period I’ll use.

And I am editing away on Currawong Manor as the air in my courtyard garden slowly grows chillier. This morning in the park, the mist clung over the wetlands.

It was a beautiful way to start the day. Just before dawn the angels are walking with swans.

Better Read than Dead

A quick post before my daughter and I catch the train up the mountain. Thank you to both Gayle and the lovely Better Read Than Dead bookstore in Newtown for sending me the following images of Poet’s Cottage in their window display.

Poet's Cottage in the window of Better Read than Dead Newtown

If you would like a signed copy of Poet’s Cottage (with Mother’s Day approaching it would make a fab gift) from Better Read Than Dead, I will pop into their store and sign one for you – just ask them when you place the order.
xx

 

Rainbow on a rainy night

Hello,
the beautiful Belinda Alexandra is not only a wonderful storyteller but also happens to be an angel when it comes to helping out wildlife and animals. And so when she requested I help to try to place this very pretty rescue cat, Rainbow I couldn’t resist.
 I’d take her myself except my Smuchie cat would never speak to me again. If you live in Sydney and could provide a loving home for Rainbow, then all the information you need for her is HERE
I was sent this beautiful photo today of Poet’s Cottage at the airport. And friends have been kindly sending me photos of when they see my book out in the wild making her way.
Here’s a link also to a recent radio interview that I did with Penny Terry of ABC Tasmania if you would care to listen HERE.
And apart from that – it is school holidays. I have been busy with playdates, cinema and trying to finish the first draft of my latest mystery.
Tonight it is raining in Sydney. The weather has suddenly become crisp and cold and I’m heading to bed with Agatha Christie. xx
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. – from The Lorax by Dr Seuss

Poet’s Cottage in Good Reading

Hello,
The current edition of Good Reading magazine (April 2012) in Australia features an extract from my Reader’s Letter in Poet’s Cottage. It’s a two-page spread and features personal photographs taken at Stanley when I was first inspired by the sea-fishing village. It also has photos of some of the books I used for research.
Here is a link to the Good Reading magazine website HERE where you can purchase a copy online. It is a very lovely layout so thank you, Good Reading Magazine!
I’ve done another couple of radio interviews this week. On Thursday I’ll be speaking with Penny Terry from ABC Tasmania for the Statewide Afternoon programme. I’ll let you know when it will be aired.
On Monday I spoke with David Woods from ULTRA 106.5 – this one is meant to go to air this Saturday in Hobart at 9.20am, all going to plan.
And that is all for now my birds as I am very weary and going to curl up with my book. Thank you for visiting me. xx