THE BRIDE MARRIED TO AMAZEMENT

Happy Spirit birthday Clare aka Mo Hayder. Shine brightly, beauty. I hope you’re writing up a storm✨Never ✨forgotten.🌹

‘When it’s over, I want to say all my life
‘I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
Mary Oliver
(When Death Comes)’

 

 

A BLUE YEAR FAREWELL

2023 was a year the colour of blue for me. The muted silver blue of a Tasmanian sky and sea. I loved being home in July, inhaling Hobart’s salty air, walking familiar streets, knowing I’m close to Antarctica. After years of mountain life it was a week of blue bliss.

It was also a big transitional year for my daughter who started at Sydney University. I wrote (nearly every day). Read (over 62 books). Reading was once again my haven, comfort, my joy this year. If you’re interested in the books I’ve posted them on my Goodreads, Instagram and Author Facebook Page.

I didn’t achieve my personal target of reading more classics but that’s something to aim for in 2024. So grateful for authors, bookstores, libraries including street libraries.

As the world continues to seem more fragmented and volatile I found stability and grace through books.

I continued to write and I am now querying agents. I completed the Curtis Brown Creative Course in Writing a Psychological Thriller with Erin Kelly which I loved and would recommend.

I facilitated Moon Circles for my Mystic Rose Clinic, continued building my Reiki business and did evening care for an elderly lady in the village. We finally staged David’s Ghost Hunting play in January. It wasn’t the best year of my life (hard not to be overwhelmed with the fragmented state of the world) but it was still a year filled with blue. There was much to be grateful for. And I am.

 May 2024 bring you unexpected blessings.

MIDNIGHT COWBOY

Sally Buck: ‘You look real nice, lover boy, real nice. Make your old grandma proud. You’re gonna be the best-looking cowboy in the whole parade.’

From the opening scenes with Jon Voight in his cowboy suit and Stetson leaving his small town to become a male prostitute in New York, Midnight Cowboy is simultaneously sad and beautiful. The atmospheric soundtrack, Harry Nilsson’s Everybody’s Talkin’ transported me back to the ‘70’s. Bob Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay was considered at one time. The opening took me back to coach tours I did around Australia when younger and the disorientating feeling of being on coaches for days with different people coming and going.

Both Voight and the brilliant Dustin Hoffman are perfectly cast as Joe Buck, the Super stud cowboy and Dustin as Ratso – Enrico Salvatore Rizzo,  a cripple who lives like a rat in New York City and who yearns for a better life in Florida.

 

Dustin was fresh from The Graduate (another of my favourite films) and was nearly passed over as being too pretty and short for street-wise Ratso, but thankfully, Dustin won the part by meeting with director, John Schlesinger in a seedy New York bar to prove he could fit in and showed him a waiter working in a diner who was his image of what Ratso would look like if he had been successful. Dustin wasn’t interested in being a film star, he wanted to portray real people and was willing to take risks with his creative choices.

 

Voight is also excellent in his debut role as the damaged, naïve handsome, gum-chewing cowboy who wants to make his fortune by having sex with older New York women (although things don’t run to plan and he eventually has to perform sexual favours for men). It’s in the thankfully brief shocking montages that we understand the trauma in Joe’s past that turned him into the Midnight Cowboy. He’s painful to watch as he struggles to survive in the harsh world he once strutted so fearlessly into.

It’s a film of male friendship, survival, loneliness, desperation, a strange love letter to New York city and the eccentric, flamboyant,  shadowy damaged inhabitants inhabiting her bars and streets. It’s about poverty and people made homeless by development.

Midnight Cowboy came out in 1969 when America was at war with Vietnam and demonstrations were rife. The Manson family had just shocked Hollywood and the world with its sadistic murders. Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon watched by 650 million people around the world. The times were definitely changing.

It was adapted for screen by Waldo Salt (Truman Capote was one of the writers to turn it down.)

James Leo Herlihy wrote the 1965 novel.

The film won Oscars for Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It was the first X-rated movie to win an Oscar.  It  also won five BAFTA awards. Both Voight and Hoffman lost out on the Best Actor to John Wayne for his role in True Grit.

 

 

DANGEROUS DEVOTIONS

It was a joy and privilege to be in conversation onstage with local author Ann aka A D Penhall in Katoomba today for the launch of her very clever, gripping crime novel, Dangerous Devotions. 🔪🖤👠Ann and I met many years ago at a Sisters in Crime launch in Melbourne and it was terrific to grill her on stage about the journey of her book and her writing process. We spoke about her writing journey and the bonus of bottom drawer manuscripts.  There was a large engaged audience who even asked questions.
Dangerous Devotions is published through Clan Destine Press 👠👠🔪🖤

DONKEY SKIN

The exquisite 1970s film DONKEY SKIN based on Donkeyskin Charles Perrault’s 1695 french fairytale and directed by Jacques Demy has everything I love in a movie. French fairytales, a very dark underbelly and Jean Cocteau inspired effects with 1970’s surreal touches. Plus, the casting of Jean Marais as the father who wishes to marry his daughter to fufill his dead wife’s wish and beautiful Catherine Deneuve as la Princesse makes it even more of a delight. A perfect Family Movie Night experience. 🌹🌹🌹

Ghost Hunting

Tonight was meant to be opening night for Ghost Hunting, a beautifully written one-act play and one of four making up Blackheath Theatre Company’s Out of the Blue.
I played Clarissa Peacock (‘a clairvoyant of no society whatsoever; I’m a free spirit’). My daughter Daisy was Beatrice, a novice ghost hunter, and Elizabeth de Koster-Wyszecki was the abrasive Adelaide (a sceptic, but ‘friend to all genuine mediums’).
Pandemic lockdowns meant the show was play postponed three times previously, having been scheduled for May 2020, May 2021 and October 2021. It was incredibly frustrating returning to scripts after months away and re-learning lines and blocking.
Just ten days before our 28 July 2022 premiere, the newly elected (three weeks before) BTC Committee very suddenly and unexpectedly – without any prior consultation with Out of the Blue directors or actors – cancelled all performances, claiming the show was too risky because of the pandemic. The BTC President and Secretary, elected four weeks ago, have already resigned over fallout from the controversial decision.
Blackheath Theatre Company is the only performing arts company in Australia currently pulling plays off instead of staging them. All over Australia, every other theatre is open, with audiences in masks. In the same our show was declared too dangerous for theatre-goers to attend, the local Blackheath History Forum and Phoenix Choir both went ahead to full houses, completely sold out, relished by exactly the same demographic of locals who were denied the opportunity to enjoy some live theatre.
David Levell’s other ghost play, A Bush Haunting, in 2019 was a big hit with audiences. An expansion of the story recently won the international Twisting a Tale Dickens Museum competition. Ghost Hunting was possibly even stronger and would have transported theatre-goers into a haunted house. It’s distressing people have been denied this experience thanks to a management committee with far more impressive mediumistic powers than Clarissa Peacock, pinpointing that July 28-July 31 was an absolute peak of Covid danger but surrounding days were nowhere near as risky.
Tonight, I’ll store away Clarissa and Beatrice’s antique blouses, cameo brooches and rosemary sprigs. There are no rehearsal photos, as the shock news was delivered last Monday about an hour before the rehearsal publicity photos were to be shot. I’m sharing a few inspiration photos for Clarissa Peacock and Ghost Hunting from my Pinterest board for those who might be interested in a snippet of the behind the scenes work that goes into creating a character.
Thank you to my fellow cast members Daisy Levell and Olive for sacrificing precious HSC/school study time. I’d like to apologise to the marketing people and the many volunteers who were on standby ready to go to do the hard work behind the scenes in letterbox drops, catering, front of house. I see you all.
Finally, thanks to David for your incredible words, for the inestimable hours in freezing cold halls throughout several very long winters as writer/director. I truly loved every moment of those rehearsals. Thank you to the other Out of the Blue writers – Brian Twomey, Iain Fraser and John Shand. I’m thinking of you all on this sad night of what should have been the culmination of years of hard work. I hope at some stage in the future your plays will be performed. You all deserved better.
Writer images courtesy of Kylie Blakemore

THE BOOK OF SAND REVIEW

 

I know I am deathless… 

Walt Whitman, ‘Song of Myself, 20 – from The Book of Sand 

This was never going to be an unbiased review as I was friends with the author of The Book of Sand. Even though I rushed to preorder, I was tentative about reading it when it arrived. Would it be too distressing because of Clare’s recent death in 2021? As a huge fan of her Jack Caffery gritty crimes and standalone novels under her pseudonym Mo Hayder, would I be able to enter the world of her fantastical fiction? 

I needn’t have worried. The Book of Sand is a joyful reading experience. I devoured it over a few nights and truly didn’t want it to end. It can’t be compared to any of Clare’s previous work as it stands on its own unique legs and roars. Clare could have continued writing her Jack Caffery dark crimes – she was top of her game – but this series demanded to be birthed and it’s obvious by its exuberant tone that she loved creating it.  

The story is set between two seemingly disparate worlds. The Cirque is a sand world where the Dormilones, a group of individuals of varying ages, incomes and faiths from different places on Earth (Sri Lanka, Stockholm, Paris, Jaisalmer, Great Britain) connect with the disconcerting feeling they already know each other. The Family aren’t biologically linked but have been summoned to the Cirque on a quest to discover the Sarkpont under the guidance of the mysterious Mardy. Mardy informs them they have twelve chances and twelve Regyres without revealing much more information. The group face all the challenges of a sand desert as well as the sinister and dangerous Djinni who hunt on the second night (known as the Grey Night) when the family have to ensure they are safely enclosed. Other family groups are also competing for the Sarkpont and are prepared to fight to the death to win. Failure to locate the Sarkpont after twelve tries will result in a consequence so horrible the Dormilones team leaders cry when Mardy reveals it to them. Time is different in the Cirque. Days pass there as years pass on Earth. Travellers known as Scouts are sent out to different time periods back to Earth. No Scout knows what country or year they will arrive in when they transition to Earth. The only constant they have is that they will always die there and will return to the Cirque. Scouts can pass each other on the street in Earth and not recognise each other. Balzac is mentioned as naming the Virgule in the Cirque. When he was in Earth, he was driven mad, possibly by his vague memories and connection with the Cirque.     

The second world is set in contemporary America in Fairfax County, Virginia, the home of teenager Mckenzie Strathie, a high achiever who feels alienated from her family and peers and is haunted by longings for the desert. A lizard appears in her bedroom, a woman in a sari talks to her from a tree, and a high school science fair experiment involving the lizard goes disastrously wrong. Then a stranger texts her that he too can see the lizard when nobody else can. Mckenzie is taken to a therapist but begins to suspect the motives of the people closest to her. The dual worlds begin to snake together in a surprising twist.  

I love the visual images shimmering through the book. Spider, head back screeching in triumph into the hot desert air, his petticoat blowing around him as he rides his Sandwalker. Mardy, in her bobbly pink cardigan covered in cats. Desert sunsets and sunrises with their brilliant colours ranging from the grey-pink of a dead rose petal into clear shocking blue.  

The sand world, an eerie distorted mirror world of Earth, has McDonalds, deserted petrol stations, a can of Sprite Zero suddenly appearing. Meals of kangaroo haunches, mutton, ears of corn, sheep cheeseburgers, date wine and a bong filled with ganja. It’s a strange and terrifying visual weave of dreams and consciousness.   

The Djinni, or as Amasha calls them – the hungry ghosts – are malevolent and mysterious. Their faces are described as small, fat and pink, like a white human baby; they are stick-thin, white and much taller than human beings. They rip bodies to pieces in seconds when they encounter them in the Grey Night. Some of the Dormilones believe even uttering their name summons trouble. They are the fallen angels of this world. “God ye shall know, yet falleth the Angels so fast.” 

Cross Alice in Wonderland with a Tarantino movie and The Hunger Games and you still can’t come close to describing The Book of Sand. 

Clare first told me she was writing a book vastly different to her dark crimes in 2017, when we met up Avebury, UK. I excitedly wanted to know what it was about and she laughed in her mischievous way. ‘It’s weird,’ she said. It is indeed wonderfully weird – and wonderfully clever. 

Like all the best fantasy, The Book of Sand examines major life questions – faith and religion, who we are and where we go when we die, the inner knowing that the world we inhabit is not our true home and the blood tribe we are born to may not be our true family. Death is not an end but a transition that happens repeatedly.  

At the time of writing, Clare had no idea her own death was so tragically near but there are so many references to transitions and other states of consciousness throughout the book that it’s impossible not to think a part of her being knew.    

Readers of her graphic crime books won’t be disappointed with the energy and heat of her fight scenes. There are severed ears, scalpings, unexpected shocking deaths, mutilations and one of the characters (no spoilers) dies a very sad death. I actually had to skip those paragraphs as I couldn’t cope with it.     

When I reached the end, I had expected to be emotional. The tissues were ready but instead I felt a deep peace. I couldn’t stop smiling. I was – and will always be – awed by her vision, courage and talent. I’m so relieved to hear Clare finished other books in this dynamic series and I can’t wait to rejoin the Dormilones as they continue their quest. 

 

The Book of Sand is dazzling, lyrical, surreal and a beautiful legacy to Clare’s legion of fans by a brilliant, totally original gutsy woman.