News 2007

December 27

Hope your Christmas was rich and filled with celebration.

We had a very pleasant Christmas. It was a joy to witness Daisy’s face when she first spotted her new dolls’ house – the sort I would’ve loved when I was a little girl and could happily spend hours playing with it myself. It’s a pink (of course) two-storey Victorian house, and takes up half our tiny loungeroom. I spent months fitting it out with all the furniture I’d love for myself: clawfoot bath, Louis XIV sette, Grandfather clock and classical paintings.

We had a lovely day and the night was a weird mish-mash of old burlesque films, Wicker Man documentary and Jean Cocteau.

As the year spirals to a close, I’m beginning to ponder the fact that my ego has spiralled out of control. I have a perfectly beautiful website with more information than anybody could possibly want to know about me. I have a Facebook which I’m addicted to and in 2008 will have to begin cutting back on if I ever want to finish my fifth book.

So why did I sign up to MySpace? It seems like the ugly cousin of Facebook. It’s so cluttered, so awkward to navigate but it’s sooo great for contacting people around the world. That’s my rationale for spending way too much time on the computer talking about myself. I’m a lurker, an observer by nature and MySpace is great for lurking.

You can read the blogs of the famous and not so famous. You can check out all the friends of your friends. You can pretend that the likes of such luminaries as the Waterboys, Kate Bush and Neil Gaiman really are your friends.

All these things I chant as I try vainly to work out the control panel, the uploading photos and ponder what videos I can add that will create the image I want on my new toy. It’s really just a 3D business card, I tell myself. A little voice keeps whispering that my ego is just way out of control.

Wishing you all good, creative, abundant, joyful changes with the Solstice.

December 14

Still remain addicted to Facebook but I’ve thrown myself into writing a new book, working title Poets’ Cottage. I was holding off writing as I had a couple of months research still to do, but finally succumbed to the pressure to spin a web. This is a different way of working for me; normally I like to do the bulk of research and allow the plot to evolve from this.

I was becoming quite narky without writing and already I feel so much better, although exhausted from all the early morning starts. It’s moving along slowly but the characters are there and very different to how I had planned them – that’s always a good sign! It means they’ve been brewing away forming themselves.

I went to a talk by Belinda Alexandra that my agent hosted this week and she said the same thing – she’ll research until the pressure becomes too great and then write, and research as she goes.

Last Saturday was my agent’s annual shindig of awards night and day of author talks. I was enormously proud of David who delivered a cracking good talk on his book, Tour to Hell. There was a lot of positive feedback immediately afterwards and ABC radio are interested in interviewing him. A couple of Writers’ Festivals have already expressed interest for him to be on panels next year as well.

It all seems like a lovely surreal dream. I can’t describe what a dream come true this is for us. After seven years of us believing in TTH and watching him having to put down his own fiction work to draft, redraft and draft and redraft… it was its own tour to hell for us at times. However, I always believed in this book as there is original material in there. As he himself said in his talk, ‘This is a story that deserves to be told.’ He also received an award for his efforts from Selwa.

Actually, there were quite a few of the ‘ratbags’ as we term ourselves: Selwa’s authors who are predominately SF writers. Over the years we’ve formed our own little writing support group online. Quite a few ‘ratbags’ won awards. I’ve added the photos to my writing section so you can see what a top looking crew of scribes they are! It was such an exciting night that I couldn’t settle when I got home and I was up way past 3am. The Selwa Sassy awards are always like that, so much buzzy, fabbo people are in the room, you OD on all the energy. It’s like a big helium fix for us all every day of inspiration. And of course, every writer needs a fix of inspiration to keep going at times!

We are still renovating our terrace. Stained glass window arrived (divine). When the carpets were pulled up the floorboards were in perfect condition – just as the magazines often state. Kauri wood. Still pumping the air over that one.

We had the most magical experience at the Nutcracker ballet. Dancing rats, magicians, Columbines, snowflakes: all too divine for words!

I have been yearning for Venetian liaisons, Parisian graveyards, English moors and fairytale winter woodlands. But with the cost of the renovations I will have to satisfy myself with living in a Tasmanian sea-fishing village for awhile, which really suits me just fine!

November 17

This week I finally succumbed and joined Facebook. I have always avoided both Myspace and Facebook because I have a huge website so thought I didn’t actually need to take up any more space on the internet. I originally signed up to help find Madeleine McCann as that’s what a lot of the members are doing. I had no idea that Facebook was so much fun and so addictive! So far, I’ve located one friend that I hadn’t seen for awhile and also made friends with a cat! The cat was then turned into a zombie and I get sent gifts from people! Yes, I do need to get out more, it’s true.

My ‘real life’ friends think that I’m a bit of a sad old sack for joining. When I ask them to come on board, I get told to sod off. However, it’s amazing how much fun it is (and of course distracting from writing) to surf away checking out people’s friends. I’m such a sticky beak by nature that I could happily spend hours checking out all the little faces. David caught me the other night, past the witching hour, glassy-eyed and emotional that I had been sent a growing gift online. Yes, I have a problem. But who knew such an alternative life existed?

Saw the wonderful Sigrid Thornton and Brenda Bleythn in Talking Heads this week which was marvellous. The writing is so skilful and deadly. The way Alan Bennett manages to weave an entire world into a few sentences is just a joy to witness. It’s inspiring when you watch an actor on a stage construct an entire story for you with minimal action.

This has not been a very productive writing week which is unusual for me. Ahem, there’s that Facebook word again. Hopefully next week, I’ll be able to throw myself back into my book with renewed vigour. David is going away for a few days on a writing job, he’s travelling on the Ghan train from Adelaide to Darwin which sounds just lovely.

And, I’m very annoyed with myself tonight because I should be seeing the Ian Rankin talk tonight except somehow I forgot to book the tickets and they sold out probably in the first two hours. I guess that gives me more time to play around on Facebook, sad old sod that I am!

November 1

David has sold Tour To Hell to University of Queensland Press. I’m thrilled for him because his book is one of the best non-fiction history books I’ve read on early Australian history. He really bought the past alive for me. His research is so exciting and in the years he has been working on Tour to Hell he has uncovered original material that has never been published before. The book has been seven years in the researching, writing, redrafts, redrafts and redrafts. I have believed in it from day one and so I’m so proud of him.

The publication date is August, 2008. I really cannot wait until I see his name on it. You would swear it was my own book at how excited I am. That’s the best thing about living with a writer. You experience all the disappointments, the drafts, the struggles and then the joy of acceptance. It’s like having two of you out there.

I also attended the launch for Belinda Alexandra’s wonderful new book, Silver Wattle. Toni Lamond launched the book. She looks incredible for 75. If I looked like her at 75, I’d be pretty happy. I can still see Belinda in her stunning hot fuchsia pink dress. It was a lovely night and good to catch up with a couple of dear friends I haven’t seen for awhile.

Our bathroom renovation is nearly complete; we have a stained glass window to add, a termite inspection, old carpets ripped up, replastering and then we’re through. We stayed at Brighton-le-Sands for the last five weeks. It was difficult to return to the inner-city! felt as if I was in Italia again. Taking Daisy to the beach every day was a joy. Having a big backyard – heavenly. There were bats in the trees outside. Although it is only ten minutes drive from us I cannot believe how peaceful and serene it was.

I’ve begun work on Book 5. I’m researching and preparing my least favourite task – the timeline. I’m never fond of chronological time! The research is always a joy for me. Selwa is very enthusiastic about my latest idea. The Witches of Paris is still being read. To avoid thinking about it, I’m throwing myself into the world of my current book. It also helps me with my sadness about having to move back to my renovated house. If I can’t live where I want to be – I can at least live there in imagination.

We went to a children’s party on Saturday which was a typical Newtown party. It was held in the hall of historic St Stephen’s church, next to the famous graveyard. Musicians played songs like ‘Incy Wincy Spider’ and ‘Bananas in Pyjamas’. It was lovely to see Daisy dancing and twirling in her tutu and wings to a double bass and piano act. My favourite memory is David changing her nappy in the poetical surroundings of the atmospheric gravestones with a white rose bush around them. Speaking of poetry, I’ve been reading this one a lot lately for consolation:

Ode on Melancholy

No no, go not to Lethe, neither twist
Wolf’s-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss’d
By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be
Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow’s mysteries;
For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.

But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.

She dwells with Beauty–Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;
His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.

– John Keats (1795–1821)

This is my favourite time of year. Not only is it my birthday but the veils between the world are at their thinnest. (I’ve never celebrated it as Beltane as to me it’s always been All Hallows.) It was gorgeous to see all the little children dressed up in their trick and treat costumes. Even Daisy got in on the act and made a cute witch. However, my favourite Halloween image is of Madeleine McCann which I have posted here from the Proboards Forum. Lizabethmouse, the PB moderator has this montage below which I think is truly beautiful and powerful.

Our Helping to Find Madeleine Team has received a positive boost with the McCanns linking to our website, an affirmation that they think the work we have been doing is worthy. We are coming up to six months now and I remain hopeful that Madeleine will be found. Then I can return with full focus back to my writing until we pick up the next abducted child and work for them.

I think the poems below are appropriate for this time of year. In Mexico deceased children and infants are remembered on November 1. They are known as angelitos (little angels). The Aztecs believed angelitos went to Paradise where there were trees made of human breasts and they sat beneath them to drink the flowing milk with open mouths. My Daisy would definitely think that was paradise!

I think it’s highly possible that if Madeleine was abducted to order then she could still have a chance of being alive and not be among the angelitos. However, it’s lovely to remember other children who have passed into spirit at this time of year, along with my own ancestors.

“Today could be the day that Madeleine comes home”
~Daily affirmation of Kate and Gerry McCann

Traditional Angel Blessing

Angels bless and angels keep
Angels guard me while I sleep
Bless my heart and bless my home
Bless my spirit as I roam
Guide and guard me through the night
and wake me with the morning’s light.
– anonymous

Miracles are the subtle wisps and whispers
that God and Goddess are
at play in the fields of your
reality and that your Spirit
breathes and your Soul
stirs within your creations
and manifestations
Miracles are the wisps
and whispers of
your empowerment.
Out of the blue…
as if by magic…
Be open, recieve.
– anonymous

A Prayer Of Responsibility For Children

We pray for children

Who put chocolate fingers everywhere,
Who like to be tickled,
Who stomp in puddles and ruin their new pants,
Who sneak Popsicles before supper,
Who erase holes in math workbooks,
Who can never find their shoes.

And We pray for those

Who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,
Who can’t bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers,
Who never “counted potatoes,”
Who are born in places we wouldn’t be caught dead,
Who never go to the circus,
Who live in a X-rated world.

We pray for children

Who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
Who sleep with the dog and bury goldfish,
Who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money,
Who cover themselves with Band-aids and sing off key,
Who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink,
Who slurp their soup.

And We pray for those

Who never get dessert,
Who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
Who watch their parents watch them die,
Who can’t find any bread to steal,
Who don’t have any rooms to clean up,
Whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dresser,
Whose monsters are real.

We pray for children

Who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,
Who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,
Who like ghost stories,
Who shove dirty clothes under the bed and never rinse out the tub,
Who get visits from the tooth fairy,
Who don’t like to be kissed in front of the carpool,
Who squirm in church or temple and scream in the phone,
Whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry.

And We pray for those

Whose nightmares come in the daytime,
Who will eat anything,
Who have never seen a dentist,
Who aren’t spoiled by anybody,
Who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
Who live and move, but have no being.

We pray for children

Who want to be carried and for those who must,
For those we never give up on
And for those who don’t get a second chance.
For those we smoother…
And for those
who will grab the hand of anybody kind enough to offer it.

– Ina J. Hughs (Children’s Defense Fund)

September 14th

Back from Stanley, which was terrific. It was like an Enid Blyton book come to life and really reminded me of Cornwall. Of course, I wanted to stay forever. I really do love fishing villages and this was a goodie. The Captain’s Cottage, where we stayed, was about as adorable as it gets. At night, David would light the fire and we would read. I am devouring The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova; I saw her give a talk at the Sydney Writers’ Festival awhile back. The book is so creepy! I had nightmares twice in Stanley about vampires and walking through the Captain’s Cottage at night with a torch was pretty nerve racking.

I fell in love in Stanley with a house. I don’t want to talk about it too much as it has given me loads of ideas for my next book, but this house really helped me to formulate my ideas. I love Georgian houses and I love fishing villages. When the two come together, it’s alchemy. I ache just thinking about it!

We also visited my parents in their little Midlands hamlet (their town has an incredible number of Georgian houses btw). My father is still fighting his cancer and is blooming although he has lost a little weight.

We saw the blood red moon at my parents and it was incredible in that country sky over Lake Dulverton. At the moment the eclipse occurred, the dogs of the town howled. It was extraordinary.

We have returned to Sydney to a half-renovated house. The walls are back to the original brick which is divine and looks almost like a city Captain’s Cottage! With all the upheaval, writing has been on pause. I’ve been invited to submit to an anthology on Mother Love – a topic after my own heart – for the Deaf, Dumb & Blind Society. I’m hoping to find time amongst the chaos to plan and research for my next book, as I’m bursting with ideas.

I cannot believe the madness coming out of Prai da Luz in Portugal at the moment. It’s beginning to smell like the Lindy Chamberlain case all over again. Poor wee Madeleine McCann. A number of friends have contacted me wondering about my reaction to the latest DNA findings. I refuse to believe that Kate and Gerry had anything to do with her abduction. If they did, they should rethink their career paths as they would be brilliant on the stage.

I’ve said it many times but if they had anything to do with Madeleine’s abduction, I’ll eat my cat. I normally always tend to suspect the parents first in these cases but both the McCanns have displayed all the reactions I’d expect in such conditions. It’s not the first time that there has been corruption in Portugal. You only have to read about the Casa Pia orphanage scandals to see that something rotten lurks there.

I think Kate and Gerry have upset too many powerful people in Portugal and they have been set up. I am still very involved with the Madeleine groups around the world and will continue to fight for that dear, little scrap of a girl until justice is served.

Every crime expert I’ve read on the case says the McCanns being under suspicion is ludicrous. In 2004, a little girl disappeared just a few miles from Prai da Luz. Her mother was tortured into confessing by the very same senior officer now in charge of Madeleine’s case. This is a lead they should be following and the case re-opened. As I have said many times; something dark is slithering through Portugal. If you are interested in joining the quest to locate Madeleine, then here is a link:

August 10th

The launch for The First Cut was a success. Melbourne was freezing – brilliant! I walked the beach at St Kilda, had my hair blowwaved and best of all – got to nap all day at the Cabana Court. The Cabana has become a part of my Sisters in Crime experience over the years. I can smell that motel room as I write this. I love it there; it’s so Sisters in Crime to me.

Sigrid Thornton was a perfect choice to launch The First Cut. She is incredibly warm, elegant and ageless. Every person I have spoken to seems to love Sigrid and she has a personality to match her lovely face. A big crowd turned up -I suspect more for Sigrid than the writers of The First Cut. It was loads of fun as always. When I have some photos, I’ll post them.

Another First Cut writer told me at the launch that she ‘liked my story the best in the book, but she would never want to read it again.’ I took it as a great compliment!

The Witches of Paris is with a reader for some final tweaks. I’m busy with my annual entry for the Sisters in Crime. I also have ideas for two very different books competing in my mind. After I finish my short stories, I’ll be able to focus more on where I should go next. I was always planning on doing the ‘Scottish’ story, but another book has crept into my mind and I’m quite excited about this new one as well.

David and I saw a very enjoyable opera recently, Abduction From The Seraglio. It was bright and fun, but didn’t really get my mind off Madeleine McCann as it was all about abduction.

I am still working every day in the email quest to get Madeleine’s image and details to as many people as possible. Tomorrow it will be 100 days since this little girl was abducted. I’ve met many wonderful people from around the world who have joined together out of a common urge to fight the predators who prey on innocent children. I’ve been reading a lot about abducted children – it is harrowing and tormenting but I feel driven not to turn away. As much as I’d like not to know some of these details, I feel that these children should never have suffered and died and the world stayed apathetic to their pain. Some judges at Sisters in Crime say my writing is too bleak; one said after she had finished one of mine she almost felt like killing herself. But to me crime is bleak and to represent it otherwise would be false. If I’m writing about paedophiles or murder, I feel I have to show it as it is.

My little family is heading to Tasmania in a week to see my family and spend some time relaxing at Stanley, a fishing village on the north coast. I can’t wait to just relax and experience the chill of a Tasmanian winter by the sea. Red wine, good books and hopefully loads and loads of sleep.

July 14th

Happy Bastille Day!

When I’m not spamming Morocco in my relentless quest for Madeleine McCann’s safe return, I’m actually now writing my annual crime short story entry for the Sisters in Crime. It’s the latest I’ve ever started so the pressure is truly on this year.

Earlier in the Madeleine campaign I wrote to one of my heroes, John Douglas of the FBI, who pioneered investigative profiling. I’ve used his books as research many times over the years. I’m a big fan of his techniques and his writing so I was delighted to receive a personal reply in my inbox. I’ve added this very talented and wonderful man to my links.

David and I attended the Paris Opera Ballet (I get a thrill even typing that!) at the Capitol Theatre in late June. The theatre is truly magnificent and Swan Lake was just unbelievably good. The power of the male dancers was dynamic. The costumes were so beautiful it will ruin me for any other ballet. Vintage materials with exquisite detail. I read an interview where one of the members said, “Even the jewels that can’t be seen are authentic – because we know”. That to me is soooo French and is why I love the French, for their love of the details.

Speaking of French, I found the most beautiful black dress in one of the vintage stores in King Street today – made in Paris and perfect in every way imaginable. Now I have no excuse for missing the launch of The First Cut anthology in Melbourne on August 3rd. I even have my little black dress! Sigrid Thornton is guest of honour and I’ll be taking part in a panel discussion about writing.

Thanks to the media frenzied hype of Harry Potter I’ll now have to rush out and buy it – and read it as quickly as I can before the ending is splashed all over the media. I love Harry Potter but I’m glad there are no more after this one. I do hope she kills him off.

I am truly disgusted that $30,000 apiece should be handed out to 16 of the disgraced Patrick Power’s friends in compensation for being named publicly as his character referees. If they truly believe in his innate decency and goodness then why must their support be kept secret?

I hope they donate their generous settlements to the Madeleine McCann Fund. As I’ve said before, children like Madeleine are stolen from their families to satisfy the viewing habits of people like Power. Consuming videos of children being raped is not a victimless crime, as Power’s defence maintained, nor is it merely a ‘lapse from grace’ as former Supreme Court Judge Roderick Meagher says.

Madeleine and the millions of other abducted children subjected to rape and abuse are the only victims here, not Power’s spineless friends with their hands out for money.
Seeing as one of those 16 friends is Tim Pethick, founder of Nudie Juice bars, I know where I’ll never spend money again.

June 17th

Writing business first. Selwa is now reading The Witches of Paris, so it’s rather a nail-biting time waiting for her comments.

I’m in a new anthology, Scarlet Stiletto: The First Cut (Mira, $29.95) edited by Lindy Cameron. It’s a collection of the award-winning Scarlet Stiletto stories. I’m very happy with the presentation and to be a part of such a varied and talented group of my crime sisters. Speaking of crime sisters, my friend Katherine Howell has been getting some smoking reviews for her first novel, Frantic, based on her experience as an ambo.

David is off to Cooper Pedy for a few days on a writing assignment. I will miss him enormously. I hope he will return with a large opal for me! I visited Cooper Pedy about 700 years ago and remember well the stripper in the underground pub. It was a pretty dreary affair for the poor old stripper; I don’t think any of the men gathered there gave her a second glance – they were too busy talking and staring into their beers.

The weather has been truly superb with the torrential rain. I’ve been almost beside myself and if I was a cat I’d purr with pleasure all day.

Our wonderful renovating builder had a heart-attack but thankfully is now well and ready to resume. I mention him because any Sydneysider understands if you find a builder who is honest, likeable and well-respected you have found gold. He becomes part of the family.

I have become increasingly occupied with the Madeleine McCann case and the wider issues of child trafficking for internet porn. Most of my computer time is now spent in emails to Morocco and people as varied as Tony Blair, Queen Rania of Jordon, Prince Charles and so forth. Yes, I’ve become a total crank, but I really do feel passionately about this. For me to give up any writing time is proof of how strongly I feel.

Sometimes life must come before art. I’ve met many wonderful people around the world in my internet campaign. It’s a cliché but true that when the darkness falls, lightbearers appear.

I did a recent mail-out to my mailing list and a number of people have changed emails. if you are reading and you would like to be put back onto my mailing list please send your new address. I know this is my fault as I don’t send a lot of mail. Here below is part of what I sent out:

As you know, my writing contains some themes concerning lost/abducted/abused children. Some of you also know I’ve become involved in the internet campaign to locate missing British 4 year old, Madeleine McCann, abducted from her hotel room in Portugal over four weeks ago.

The internet has seen a rapid spike in paedophiles viewing child rape films and created a very sinister abduction trail throughout several countries. A growing number of us around the world are using the internet to help in our own small way to locate one missing child by emailing Madeleine’s image and description to various countries. I am in the Morocco group.

I am writing to ask if anybody has ideas we can utilise for Morocco. If you have any contacts there please reply to me urgently.

A woman named Marilyn Baker has started an online petition to have the McCanns persecuted for leaving Madeleine in a hotel room they believed to be safe. It has attracted 1700 signatures. I feel that the McCanns have already suffered enough. The online petition to counteract Baker’s petition is here:

More information about Madeleine’s abduction can be found at

If you feel as passionately as me about this issue please contact this email address and you will be directed to our forum.

Thank you all. My heart has been touched very deeply by this little girl’s plight. What we are doing may seem impossible but I believe in the impossible.

For those on my writing mailing list – I hope to update soon with more regular postings to you.

May the Lady in her myriad of forms bless you and your families and bring Madeleine home to her mother’s arms and help us to fight the monsters who prey on our innocents.

May 24th

It’s been weeks and I haven’t been able to write anything. I’m not blocked. I just don’t feel like starting yet. I’m beginning to enjoy this space.

The Madeleine McCann abduction knocked me as well. It’s made me vow to do everything in my power to fight the monsters out there who prey on our children. I’ve seen them here in children’s playgrounds, watching the kids with ‘that’ look. Once there was a young guy lying on a slide trying to look up little girls’ dresses. He was totally brazen; he knew we were watching and didn’t care.

We reported him to the local council, who rebuffed the complaint by saying they had no intention of preventing paedophiles from entering council playgrounds.

Just as bad are creeps who get off on kiddie porn, thus fuelling the continuing abduction and sexual abuse of children. Patrick Power SC, a prominent Sydney lawyer, received just 8 to 15 months’ gaol for possessing videos of children (some only 5 years old) being raped by other paedophiles. Then he was released on bail pending his appeal against his sentence, to be heard in June. According to Power’s legal mates – 59 lawyers offered character references for this evil toad – he only enjoyed having children raped for his viewing pleasure because he was depressed. To see supposedly respectable people like Crown Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi QC stick up for such vermin is vomit inducing.

I have a candle burning for Madeleine and I’m donating money to help the McCanns continue their quest to get their little girl back. If you can spare anything, no matter how small please donate. They are now taking Paypal donations. Unused funds will go to help the abducted children of Portugal.

Having a rich/over-sensitive imagination is both a blessing and a curse. In times like this, it’s a curse. I’ve hardly been able to eat and I think of this little girl day and night. A lot of my writing concerns itself with abducted/vanished children; I thought I was hardened to the realities of the monsters who stalk children. I’ve read all the profiling books as research. But Madeleine’s fate is haunting me. When I think of that child weeping and calling for her mother it makes me determined to fight sexual predators. Even if I just have to act like a total crank writing letters, I will. I’ll make it harder for the monsters any way I can and I urge everybody to do the same.

We saw the New Romantics ballet at Sydney Opera House but it wasn’t really my cup of tea. I like extravagant costumes, fairytale sets, plot, feathers, glamour, tutus, castanets, lace and opulent silliness! New Romantics had none of this. I like Alannah Hill and it was Morandi. Very zen, quiet, disciplined, simplistic and some fabulous bodies. It was lovely, but too minimalist for moi.

I will start writing again soon. It’s time for my annual strike at the Scarlet Stiletto. No, I’m determined to keep away from child abuse issues this time.

The weather is disappointing. Far too warm and sunny for winter. Bah!

May 4th

I’m looking out of the office window through potted geraniums and the tree outside to a lovely grey sky, and feeling quite bereft. The edit of The Witches of Paris is finished; the manuscript is with Selwa and Selena. Now there’s a hole in the day which is the strangest sensation. Prior to this moment, as soon as Daisy went down for her nap I’d run to the computer. I’m unused to space. Of course I could always do housework! I feel too drained to begin research for ‘the Scottish book’, as I call it.

It’s so strange to have this emptiness. Not that I’m missing my characters, after four years it feels odd without them. For the first time I had the experience of a work being circular as I wrote it. To me it felt like a complete circle and I’d never felt that energy before.

Last week Daisy and I flew to Tasmania. It was only four days but felt like a lifetime as it’s such a different world to my normal life. I’m already homesick for biting cold weather, stone cottages, the smell of smoke chimneys and people nodding hello to me in the street who have known me forever.

My father is still fighting the cancer. His hair grew back from the chemotherapy long and curly! To celebrate our return, he cut his long curly locks. Mum gave me two boxes with the curls to keep – very Victorian!

I finally got to sleep a lot. We ate fresh Tasmanian food – the food is always better in Tasmania – and my mother made lots of comfort food like baked dinners and crumble. Everybody was impressed by Daisy’s vocabulary and my daughter even got to lay a wreath at Anzac Day for Colonel Brown (a relative).

We saw fat wombats sneaking under houses and a dead snake in the graveyard – at this time of year! The seasons are well and truly out. I enjoyed the sight of my daughter screaming with joy as she kicked her way through yellow and red Autumn leaves. At night, we cuddled together, nose to nose, her soft perfect breath on my face.

I’ve just finished Letters from Menabilly, a collection of correspondence between the wonderful Daphne du Maurier and her younger writing friend Oriel Malet. Very sad to read how Daphne became lost in her own mind at the end and wasn’t sure whether she had written Gone With The Wind. I’m also reading a lot of children’s books every day with Daisy, which is lovely. There’s nothing as cosy as picking up an Enid Blyton or a Dr Seuss.

Saw the ballet Don Quixote at Sydney Opera House. I had to be dragged along as I was still editing but was so glad I went. The costumes were fabbo. The gypsies and the Spanish look was just mouthwatering. It’s such a vibrant, uplifting ballet. I’m normally drawn to more Gothic, melancholy romantic ballets but this was one of my favourites. I’d been feeling so swamped with my editing and it really lifted my spirits to see such an exuberant work. I defy anybody to feel depressed on Sydney Harbour with a glass of champagne at interval time at the ballet!

The full moon in Scorpio was about as magical as it gets this week. She was a beauty. Powerful, iridescent and haunting.

March 30th

Still editing. David and I are both trying to reverse our pattern of working until late at night and are we’re trying to start at 4am to do our writing. Not so easy when you have a toddler and a geriatric dog to keep you awake all night.

Tomorrow night – March 31st – is Earth Hour in Sydney, when the city lights go out for an hour to raise awareness of the problem of emissions linked to global warming. Don’t forget to turn out your lights!

Here’s a link for more info:

March 24th

Still working my way through Selena’s edit. I have to admit, I prefer writing draft. It’s the most exciting part of the creative process to me; the blank page, the construction of another world. I just hope to finish by 24th April when I’m off to Tasmania to see my parents.

Hamilton Island was divine, far more beautiful than I’d been expecting, with only one garish skyscraper on the beach. Our hotel had an ocean view and every night I’d lie on the banana lounge listening to the waves break.

I could weep right now thinking about it, as I listen to the traffic and drunks outside. We were going to bed at about 9.00pm every night just to listen to the surf. It reminded me of New Guinea and took me back to my childhood (especially with Daisy running around in her little vintage sundresses).

Daisy, I’m afraid, wasn’t a big a fan of the island as we were – “Sand, yuck! Sea, yuck! Mummy, yuck!”

My Sydney girl was afraid of the fresh air and birds. She liked the kookaburras, however, and spent a lot of time blowing them kisses. With admirable timing, she chose Hamilton to have her first series of tantrums. I have some classic photos of her throwing tantrums on the sand which she will hate me for one day. Tantrums aside, she attracted a lot of attention wherever she went and one woman even interrupted her mobile call to describe her to friend on the phone right down to what she was wearing. (Proud mother moment) She also loved the koala park and we had breakfast every morning with Phoebe, Willy and Franklin koalas. A crew filming for American TV filmed Daisy waving at the camera and smiling like a miniature Bindi Irwin whilst the glamorous presenter purred, “Have you ever had breakfast with a koahlah bear? It’s really cool!”

It was really cool and I miss Hamilton so much. David kayaked, snorkelled and went scuba-diving whilst I read a couple of books, had a massage and lay on the banana lounge surf-listening. Daisy enjoyed swimming in the pool in her floatie car. Oh, and I had endless fantasies about moving to Byron Bay or somewhere tropical. We had a couple of cyclone warnings but it all came to nothing. After one day of spectacular public tantrums by Daisy, we returned to our hotel room to find we had been birdled! The cockatoos had pecked their way through the wire screen, opened the bar fridge, extracted the Pringles and eaten every last one! I’m still amazed by their skill and coordination. Not to mention their psychology in surmising we were the idiots that wouldn’t observe the signs everywhere and lock the glass door. I’ve since found out on returning to Sydney that everybody who’s been to Hamilton was birdled by the cockatoos! How amazingly bright are those birds!

Another lovely place we went to was One Tree Hill, a to-die-for view of the Whitsunday Passage. A powerful spot, and it was easy to imagine Captain Cook sailing into that beautiful, endless blue space.

On my last night at Hamilton I went for a walk along the beach. In the sky appeared the most enormous blood-red full moon. I cried aloud like a fool at her splendour. Several impressions went through my head in the brief time she hung bloody red over the sea. I nearly went down on my knees in worship but there was a group of people thinking I was odd enough as it was. She was glorious, an unforgettable mother moon! The papers the next day said it was a special eclipse of the moon, which I was lucky enough to have seen for the brief period of time she was red. It was a blessing.

Daisy also fell in love with the moon. In Sydney she had never seen the moon or stars. She told me she cries when she thinks of the moon and she saw the ‘moon’s ears’.

There have been constant festivities this month. Daisy turned two and loads of her little friends did too. It’s all a bit of a blur of babycakes, present wrapping and photos.

We saw the opera Rusalka at Sydney Opera House – the first opera I’ve ever seen and it was brilliant. The critics since have described it as ‘the must-see opera of the year’ so I’m glad my first opera was a ‘must see’! It was similar to Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, one of my favourite ever fairy stories. Cheryl Barker was sublime in the soprano role.

Another good night out and highly recommended if you’re in Sydney is the Bell Shakespeare Company’s Macbeth. Very grim, incredibly moving and the scene when Macduff is informed of the slaughter of his wife and children is worth the ticket price alone. Fantastic! Jackie Weaver (one of my favourite Australian actors) was in the audience, looking fabulous.

February 25th

We’re off to Hamilton Island in the morning. If I wasn’t so exhausted, I’d be excited. I had to do a few all-nighters to get The Witches of Paris to my literary agent Selwa Anthony. However, it’s now on its way to her. David was a huge help as usual, forsaking his own precious writing time to read through and offer his insightful comments. Such a luxury living with another writer.

As soon as I’m back from Hamilton I’m throwing myself into Selena’s edit of the earlier chapters. I have no idea of how long that will take but I’m hoping weeks rather than months.

It’s a blessing to have the book edited by two people already and I know it’s all the stronger for it. But all-night writing sessions are difficult with a toddler. Not even Clarins Beauty Balm can disguise the huge sacks under my eyes!

I haven’t had a rant in quite awhile, so back to one of my favourite topics. What’s with Greenpeace lately, travelling to Japan to eat whale meat? Apparently it’s meant to appease Japan over objections to Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary. Even Greenpeace’s founder’s daughter has slammed them. I’m so glad I don’t give any money to them anymore. I’d far prefer to give to Paul Watson, who at least has the guts to go out and ram Japanese whaling boats if necessary to stop them. May Paul continue his honourable efforts to stop the barbaric whaling. His Sea Shepherd group seems to be the only one willing to do anything for the whales.

I tuned into Sixty Minutes last night (I admit, to watch the flight attendent who shagged Ralph Fiennes story!). It was very funny, but quite sad how she didn’t get how it was only going to be a fling and how she seemed to be still in awe of him being a big ‘star’.

Helen Mirren (interviewed on the same show) wouldn’t have been in awe. She’d have had him in the loo and got rid of him first. I think she’s wonderful, so beautiful and talented. I’m so glad she won an Oscar for The Queen and that Al Gore won for best documentary for An Inconvenient Truth.

I was interested in Dame Helen’s response to the interviewer about her character of Queen Elizabeth I. How she saw her as vulnerable and scatty, very different to how the interviewer had perceived her to be. I was terrified of writing Louis XIV. In fact, I wasn’t going to attempt it. I had always planned for him to be in the background but he pushed his way right to the front. I found him easier to capture and write after I read what he said when hurt by courtiers who pretended friendship with him to get ahead: “I had looked for friends and found none”. He actually ended up being far easier to write than I had imagined. Such a complex, fascinating, dangerous beautiful man – Louis, not Ralph Fiennes.

February 18th

It’s 4am on a Saturday morning and I haven’t slept all night. My mind won’t let go of the book now that I’ve reached the near final stages.

I lie awake thinking about it until I may as well be at the computer. I’m working on the little tale right at the end which may or may not stay. I’m not sure if I’m overstating the obvious by having it there. I like ambiguity! Then, I have a few more historical facts to put in at the end. A sort of story behind the story. The final five chapters of editing completed and it’s off to Selwa.

I saw the ‘City of Shadows’ exhibition at Sydney’s Justice & Police & Museum, which was a lot more interesting than I expected. The 20s and 30s are such a fascinating time in Australia and the mug shots of the criminals were eyepopping. Australia was the only country in the world taking these kind of mug shots, which look more like movie star studio portraits, with subjects in full-length poses – even laughing with a group of friends.

It was amazing to see the streets of inner-city Sydney in these lovely old photos. They look like stills from a Hitchcock movie. The narrator, Peter Doyle, described them as ‘Studies of Bad Luck’ – a great title.

There was a lovely quote in one of the museum’s convict rooms:

“The Darkness was not an ordinary darkness. It carried the seeds of madness.”
– James Francis Dwyer, 1949

Also saw the movie Pan’s Labyrinth which was depressing but incredibly beautiful. As David said, it’s the sort of film Jean Cocteau would be doing today if he was around. Very inspiring to see how you can work with fairytale imagery in a dark, lush, original way. I did have my eyes shut for a lot of the violent scenes, but I’m very glad I saw it (even with half-shut eyes).

I really liked the ambiguous quality; you weren’t quite sure which scenes really happened. Don’t want to talk about it too much here, in case I ruin it for somebody.

A quote from the director:

“I think adults need fairytales more than ever right now. I say the dream of the imagination produces creatures and the dreams of politicians produces wars.”

I’m so looking forward to Hamilton Island. Pre-Daisy my idea of a good holiday was Paris or Venice. Now family-orientated Hamilton sounds just as good. I don’t care if it rains all the time, as long as I can sleep.

February 9th 2007

I’ve been flat out writing and editing in the small space of time I have to write with Miss Daisy. Although at times it does feel never-ending, The Witches of Paris is close to being an edited manuscript. I’m presently editing Chapters 25-35. Once they’re done, I’ll send it to Selwa and I can begin Selena’s edit and it’s OVER. I cannot wait to celebrate that night with a good bottle of Champagne.

Plus, I’ve worked on three other projects that I’ll write about later if they get off the ground. (I make the horned sign again, so I don’t jinx myself).

I had a very pleasant Christmas. Daisy made it special for us with her passion and excitement – not for her presents but for simply being able to run around her Ma and Pa’s backyard. I love the way that my daughter embraces the simple pleasures.

I did manage to see a few movies. I loved Marie Antoinette at the time but it didn’t stay with me. Hated, hated the American accents! But it was superb to see Versailles again, particularly the shots in the early dawn. Just gorgeous. Also, the linen, and Manolo Blahnik shoes (divine). It could have been so much better! But Sofia Coppola is such a great director, so feminine in her touch, that she’s still better than a lot of others even when it doesn’t work.

The Queen
was brilliant. Helen Mirren is divine. That was really a perfect film for me. Plus Volver, which was excellent. Loved the opening shot in the graveyard. The price of the ticket alone is worth that pan. Loved Penelope Cruz and the women in the film. David and I are going to see Pan’s Labyrinth – yes, we have a babysitter! Can’t wait to see it.

The wonderful Goddess: Divine Energy exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW brought back many powerful memories for me of my time in India. It was a sublime meditation moving between the exhibits.

My life moves between the computer and 17th century France and toddler activities such as Playgroup and parks. I really want to get this book home now as we are having a family week on Hamilton Island in a couple of weeks. How children change you! All I want to do is NOTHING. Laze around, read junky addictive books, have a massage.

If you’re waiting on an email from me, I’m sorry. I have an inbox that is bulging. I do reply. I always reply to people. It can just take me months. My writing time is so limited, I guard it jealously.

It’s very late. I’m exhausted and I have to be up early to see the exhibition at the Justice and Police Museum, ‘City of Shadows’.

I hope your creativity is flowing and the Goddess is holding you tightly.