June 19, 2009
This week I began a blog TALE PEDDLER which I’ve added to my links .
I’ll still continue to update this site seasonally with news but for more frequent content and for all things that inspire my writing and life please pop over to Tale Peddler. I’ll update the blog there three times a week.
Autumn was glorious in the inner-city this year. Golden leaves lay on the streets and for once I was more conscious than ever of how fortunate we are to live in this urban heartland surrounded by parks. Now we’ve reached June and heading towards the Winter Solstice it must be time for an update.
Poets Cottage is nearly complete. I’m nearly 120 000 words but it’s difficult to get too excited about this as I’m talking A VERY ROUGH FIRST DRAFT here. However my agent has seen the first six chapters and is very happy with the rewrites, so that’s promising. I’ve really enjoyed working on this mystery and thought I had it pretty nailed who the killer was, but as I came near the end I realised that all along it was someone else entirely.
Yes, that’s the way I like to work. I’m always happiest when the material comes through me like that. I know Minette Walters and Stephen King work in the same way and if it’s good enough for them…
I believe whatever gets you in that chair and the book completed is the best way. I like surprises and the anticipation of what’s going to happen next. I couldn’t write if I had it plotted completely. That might work for some but it’s not the way I can create.
David’s wonderful and very clever Tour To Hell has picked up two awards, an Honourable Mention in the Manning Clark House National Cultural Award and a Commended in the Melbourne University National Publishing Award, one of the Fellowship of Australian Writers National Literary Awards.
I’m very proud of him and his book deserves all the glory it receives. When he went to Melbourne his award was presented by a Joan Collins drag queen which was funny if not odd.
This week saw the death of Brian Walpole, the Australian World War 2 veteran who completed his memoir, My War: Life Is For Living (ABC Books, 2004) with David’s help.
Brian was a character and he exited this world in a way that you would wish for, peacefully and quickly. He died achieving his dream of putting his incredible true story into a book which is something that I know David feels honoured to have been a part of.
The renovations continue! We are staying put for now in our Liittle Brick Cottage (which Daisy is attempting to rename Daisy Cottage) and we are building an outdoor office shed.
Today a Tree Doctor came to investigate the yard to see if the massive palm trees that we love can be moved safely and I’m happy to report they can. Then we will do the floorboards, plastering and painting. So we still live in a world of chaos but the house is slowly coming together.
I attended another of Tara Moss’s Literary Salons. The featured books were Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Both excellent reads and the Salon was extremely stimulating and intense. They really are the only social things I get to do these days! Apart from my cinema nights with my girlfriend Annie.
And I must report that the wonderful Mo Hayder’s new book Skin is out and my Daisy is actually a character in her book! Mo did tell me that Daisy was going to be in the book (well she was going to name a character after Daisy).
I was so thrilled and of course I couldn’t wait to find out what grisly situation Mo would put Daisy into! I am happy to report that Daisy got off very lightly for a Mo book and Mo was kind enough to mention Daisy in her acknowledgments which really made my year. So if you want a cracking crime novel which you can’t put down, then go for a Mo!
My girlfriend Rhondda had a very incredible miracle happen recently when her much loved cat Harry went missing. Harry was gone for six nights and Rhondda was distraught as she searched for him and put posters up etc. Finally in desperation she contacted a medium in American who claims to see animals in trance and talk to them to recover them.
I was a bit skeptical when Rhondda told me what was happening. Well, the medium went into trance and to cut a long story short, spoke to Harry and found him a few doors away from Rhondda trapped under a neighbour’s house! Rhondda had already searched this neighbour’s house but they hadn’t looked behind the trapdoor!
The medium described the house and garden perfectly and there was Harry, starving and frightened behind the trapdoor! It was a story with a very happy ending that could have been different if Rhondda didn’t love Harry so much she was prepared to do what most people would scoff at. I am now a believer!
About a month ago there was a massive factory fire down the road from us. On the morning of the fire it was pouring with rain and I was walking Daisy to her preschool. She was carrying a bright red ladybug umbrella, wearing her new fairy gumboots and was splashing over the puddles.
It struck me how gritty and urban our surroundings were; factories, heavy traffic, graffiti, old brick cottages and yet… there was Daisy getting so much innocent joy and magic out of splashing in her puddles. It really means a lot to me, how a drab scene like that can be transformed by a child’s delight in such a simple action.
Sometimes it doesn’t matter what the external surroundings of our lives look like. You can still find the joy in jumping into the puddles.
Keep creative. Be Happy.
It’s the Autumn Equinox, for me a time of reflection and taking stock.
I’m now up to 60 000 words with Poets Cottage after having to go back and rewrite the first few chapters. It’s amazing to watch the story unfold and follow along behind as I tend to do.
With Daisy in preschool, having three uninterrupted writing days has helped to get the rhythm of the book. How can my daughter already be in preschool? Where did those years go? We just celebrated her fourth birthday in a massive combined Mothers Group party. 75 children were present which made for the biggest pass-the-parcel ring I’ve ever seen.
I’ve had a very stimulating start to 2009 artistically. One of the highlights had to be seeing Juliette Binoche and Akram Khan dance at Sydney Opera House the duet In-I. Afterwards Caroline Baum interviewed the pair and they had some profound thoughts on creativity. Just to see Juliette embrace dance in her mid-forties and perform it in the way she has done is inspiring in itself.I’ve loved her since I first saw her in The Unbearable Lightness Of Being and so it was a treat to see her interviewed.
I’ve also attended a couple of literary salons hosted by crime writer Tara Moss, featuring readers such as Lee Tulloch and Emma Tom. These nights are always stimulating and fun and a good excuse to catch up with writerly friends such as Amanda Holohan and Kate Forsyth. The last one was particularly good as it featured Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley.
We are still midway through renovating The Little House. Work had to halt when our builder became ill. Somedays it feels as if we’ll be renovating forever.
David has won an Honourable Commendation in the Manning Clark House Cultural Awards for his history book Tour To Hell, about the mythical places early convicts in Australia believed in and often attempted escape to. In my unbiased opinion, the book deserves all the accolades it receives.
So lots of change and stimulation this year. I am relieved to see the nights begin to darken earlier and know cooler weather will soon be here. I’m never a big fan of summer in the city.
This summer has had many lovely moments of lying around with Daisy, reading to her. We have been working our way through the works of Enid Blyton. It’s been a total joy to revisit all the magic and marvel of such places as The Far Away Tree, The Land of Enchantments, Toffee Shocks, Dame Slap – there is no better way to pass the days.
AN OVERSUPPLY OF BIRDS
One of the problems I’m often wrestling with in my writing is not just the lack of time, but what I think of as an oversupply of birds.
Remedios Varo is one of my favourite painters and inspirations. Her painting Creation Of The Birds (above) is how I visualise my writing process. Except, instead of an organized stream of patient birds waiting to be created by the artist, I have a entire nest of anxious, pecking, chirping, caroling birds impatient to be set free.
The ‘birds’ are my stories, my songs that are eager to take flight into the mysterious universe.
I am working diligently on Poets Cottage. The Witches of Paris bird, all dressed in her somber mourning gown and veil, is packed away sleeping an enchanted fairytale sleep in a box with red satin I keep near my heart. Her hands are folded, one eye upon me, waiting for a redraft. She is my prized bird.
Poets Cottage bird is my current work in progress. As usual, I am amazed by my creation which is taking a different shape to what I expected. Her beak is sharper, her eye is blacker. I am moulding her quickly, amazed at how much seems to be already formed . Wings unfolding without me. Characters appear who I did not plan for. She is not the bird I thought she was when I started but I have fallen in love with her unexpected twists and turns.
The trouble is – I have so many ideas of stories and books wanting to be set free that I cannot keep up with them.
I thought I had sworn off Fantasy for at least seven years but an idea came to me for a fantasy book the other day that keeps pushing its beak in. This bird is a hybrid mixture of phoenix and scarecrow, sparrow, owl and preacher man.
Then there is an entire series of crime novels that I’ve been mulling over for years. These birds are very sharp and astute magpies. I flap at them but they never do fly away. They wait more patiently than others do. Steely-eyed, revolvers strapped to their tiny waists, they know their time will come.
I keep trying to push all the birds away, their flapping wings, their screeching cries, trying desperately to focus on finishing Poets Cottage.
Everything else is a distraction. To get my word count down I have to focus on the project at hand.
But the birds keep singing day and night, pushing inside my chest with claws and beak demanding to be free.
January 2nd 2009
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
– T. S. Eliot