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.

IMG_0127

 

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!

IMG_0705

 

 

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

IMG_0265

Love and Light,

Josephine

Anna Romer and The Eye of the Rhino

Hello, Happy New Year Greetings. With all the traumatic events happening globally I’ve felt in need of creative and soul inspiration, and so I’ve begun a new series on Tale Peddler called The Eye of the Rhino. It’s from Stella Adler, who said success in the arts requires ‘the skin of a rhinoceros but the soul of a rose’. IMG_1671   One observation I’ve made with my creative friends is they are tenacious. Creative success seems to involve a synthesis of Talent, Timing, Tenacity and Luck and it’s the tenacity aspect that interests me. What inspires some individuals to pursue their dreams despite inevitable disappointments along their path? I say inevitable as I’ve observed that even among my more successful creative friends, they have still had to overcome obstacles that you would never hear about on their social media accounts. I hope you enjoy this series and get as much inspiration from it as I do. First up is Anna Romer. ANNA ROMER   I’ve known Anna for many years. I thought she’d be an interesting artist to begin with as she had a long apprenticeship until her success with her book Thornwood House, an Australian Gothic mystery published by Simon and Shuster in September 2013. Thornwood House broke though Anna’s years of writing in oblivion and was a bestseller. Anna was a graphic artist and has travelled widely. In an alternative career path she’d have made a powerful energetic healer as she does unforgettable massages (personally experienced). Anna’s a highly individual person and one of the more interesting authors I’ve met. Shunning a lot of technology, she prefers the rhythm of her own imagination and the pulse of the bush that permeates her writing. Lyrebird Hill (her second novel, also an Australian Gothic mystery) was released in September 2014.  Anna and I share a love of communicating by letters, Spirituality, Joseph Campbell. I’m delighted Anna accepted my invitation to discuss her creative inspirations for Eye of the Rhino.

J – I know your writing path wasn’t a smooth trajectory. You spent many years working on another project which hasn’t yet been published. Can you talk about how it felt to work on that project and what it was like to cross over to the new genre you are working in with Thornwood House and Lyrebird Hill?

You’re quite right, my writing path was long and winding – and there were times I was convinced it was leading nowhere. Luckily for me, I’m utterly addicted to the writing process, and that’s what kept me going.   One of my great passions along the way was a historical novel I worked on for many years. It was an adventure story set in a time when people were restrained by archaic traditions and strict social laws. My favourite thing about writing this story was developing characters who were feisty and strong-willed, who flouted those laws and went their own way.   The research for this project was intensive. I spent years losing myself in books and pictures and movies, drawing maps and diagrams and timelines and, even dreaming about my characters until they felt like dear old friends. I was totally obsessed!   Sadly, the plot was very flawed. In my mind’s eye I could see a beautiful, richly-layered adventure story, but I didn’t have the skills back then to pull it into shape. My agent suggested I set the story aside for a while and work on something with less demanding research. So I dumped my beloved project in the bottom drawer with all my other rejects, and went back to the drawing board.   I decided my next novel would be set in Australia – a simple mystery story about a woman who inherits an abandoned house. I would throw in all the elements I loved: forgotten old letters, a buried diary, an overgrown garden, and a star-crossed love story. Most importantly, I’d keep my research minimal.   Famous last words. Before I knew it, my story had grown convoluted roots that reached back to the 1940s. Suddenly I had a mountain of memoirs and war diaries and biographies to read!   I wasn’t really fazed about tackling a completely new genre. Early on I’d attempted to write a horror-thriller (while I was under the thrall of Stephen King), and when that bombed I tried my hand at romance, crime, fantasy. Each of the seven novels in my reject drawer is a different genre!   But thanks to the lessons I learned from all my failed projects, I developed a much better grasp on how to structure a novel. I learned that each genre has its own specific requirements; romance focuses on the relationship, while a thriller constantly threatens the hero’s life.

Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell

  And yet the core of any story is the same. I’m a huge fan of Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” which explores the idea that all stories – myths, fairytales, and legends – share the same basic components. A troubled character embarks on a quest to solve her problem; she undergoes a series of tests that ultimately transform her; by sacrificing what she wants, she achieves what it is she most needs – and in the process, she becomes whole. THE HERO'S JOURNEY   This theory sounds formulaic, but I found it wonderfully freeing. Once I started working with it, all other elements specific to genre fell into place. Suddenly my plot was holding together. The characters were making sense. The story had purpose, and because I now knew where I was going, the process became much more fun. JOSEPH CAMPBELL BOOK J – What has kept you going throughout all the years you have worked away in solitude on your books? What helped to foster your own self-belief in your talent and enabled you to have a rhinoceros skin?

I’d always loved romantic adventure stories that changed the way I thought or felt – and that’s what I wanted to write. But my early attempts made it clear how much I needed to learn! The thing that kept me going all those years, was the challenge of somehow achieving my vision. It was like a carrot dangling just ahead of me, always out of reach – but soooo delicious-looking. I wanted to do justice to the stories I could see in my head, and the only way to do that was to develop my storytelling skills.   I embarked on a mission, reading every how-to book I could lay my hands on, trying every technique. More importantly, I wrote and wrote. And whenever I looked back over my work and found even the tiniest improvement, a fresh rush of excitement would spur me on.   I was never under the illusion that I was a particularly good writer. My self-belief fought a constant battle with my self-doubt. But I really loved learning about plot and structure and character development … I still do! Concepts such as Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey were endlessly fascinating to me. I was like a drug addict, continually seeking my next fix of story know-how. Even if I’d wanted to stop, I couldn’t have.  

J – Love of the Australian bush permeates Thornwood House. To me, the book really  throbs with nature cycles. How important is it to you as an artist to live in the bush in the solitude you obviously enjoy? Could you have written Thornwood House in a city? 465       I’m a huge fan of Diana Gabaldon who wrote the immensely popular Outlander series. Her first book is set in Scotland in the 1600s, and it grippingly evokes the life and culture of that time.

Diana Gabaldon

Diana Gabaldon

  I was fascinated to learn that Diana wrote her first book in the series without ever having visited Scotland. I read about how she listened to folk song recordings to hone her ear to Scottish accents. She quizzed experts, and no doubt used her own formidable researching skills to make her story world so believable.   This taught me that it’s possible to write convincingly about any location or historical period or life experience – if you do enough research.   But for me, as with most writers, immersing myself in a location brings additional insight and depth to that research. I love to sit and observe. I love to drink in the smell of wildflowers, or walk through the bush at night without a torch, or fire off a few rounds from a double-action revolver, or pick up an eastern brown snake so I can confidently describe the fine velvety nap of its skin. EASTERN BROWN SNAKE   Besides all that, I’m the sort of person who thrives in a natural environment. If I spend a lot of time in town I get frazzled; there’s too much sensory input. My brain likes wide open spaces, and the sound of wind in the trees, and the pebbly smell of the river. I need to be among those nature cycles to understand them and allow them to permeate me. I know I sometimes get carried away with my descriptions, waffling on about leaves and flowers – but that’s how I write. Without the energy of the natural world flowing through my stories, I would quickly lose my excitement for them. IMG_3192   J – Do you have any advice or insight for anybody who is contemplating changing their career and embracing a more creative path? Go for it! For me, the best advice regarding creativity comes from Joseph Campbell: “Follow your bliss.” FOLLOW YOUR BLISS     If you hanker to paint, then paint; if you yearn to tell stories, then do that. If you want to knit, or cook, or lose yourself in the garden – then embrace your creative yearnings with a full heart. Invest a lot of love into what you do, and don’t worry if you have to spend years working other jobs to support it. Walking a creative path is not always easy, but it’s a worthy challenge. Your life will be all the richer for it. And if it makes your soul sing, what is there to lose?

Anna Romer, Josephine Pennicott and Anna's sister Sarah who looks after her social media presence. Lucky Anna!

Anna Romer, Josephine Pennicott and Anna’s sister Sarah who looks after her social media presence. Lucky Anna!

  J – I know you don’t have a very active online presence; although you’re blessed with a sister who maintains your Facebook page. What is your take on social media for artists?     I’m certainly blessed with a wonderful sister! In fact I have two wonderful sisters who rave about my books to everyone they meet – lucky me! Sarah saves my poor old brain cells by managing our social media page, which allows me to focus more on my writing. I find the energy of the Internet disrupts my creative flow. I get jittery when I’m online, and afterwards my thoughts feel quite scattered. For inspiration to flow, I need to be relaxed and centred.   As an artist, you have to weigh up the benefits of spending time promoting your work on social media, against the advantages of using that time to develop and layer your work. For me, my stories are simply more important. I don’t consider myself a natural-born talent at writing. I have to work ridiculously long hours, drafting and re-drafting and editing my stories into shape before I’m satisfied that they’re ready to present to my readers.   I’m always acutely aware that for a reader, a book is an investment. Not just of money, but of many hours of their time. I want to give my readers my very best, and this requires that I sacrifice nonessentials such as social media. I’m also a strong believer in word-of-mouth – if you hone your craft and put your heart and soul into creating an entertaining story, then there’ll be readers who will utterly love your books … and that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? THORNWOOD HOUSE   J – Thornwood House has a dark mystery at its foundations. How tightly do you plot your books? Are you somebody who likes to free-fall into the story and allow it to come through you; or do you prefer a more tightly-plotted book? How did writing Lyrebird Hill differ from the first book? I start any project with an enormous amount of brainstorming, researching, and planning where I want the story to go. By the time I’m ready to begin, I have a tightly plotted outline. But when I’m writing I tend to lose myself in the story. I forget all my well laid plans and get carried off by the adventure. Sooner or later I hit a brick wall, which sends me scurrying back to my outline. I replot, work out how to tie up the new loose ends I’ve created, and then freefall back into my characters’ lives. LYREBIRD HILL   Lyrebird Hill was a very different writing experience to my first book; with Thornwood House I had the luxury of time. Years, in fact. The tight deadlines on Lyrebird Hill gave me no choice but to knuckle down and get the story written as quickly as possible. I didn’t have time to stop and agonise over the plot, or waffle off on tangents. I wrote only what I believed was necessary, and as a result went through a huge learning curve. It was crazy, daunting, obsessive … and bucket-loads of fun! And I think the story is better because of it. ANNA SIGNING BOOKS     J – Are you a notebook person, or a writing online type of person? Do you prefer to draft on paper or computer?

I’m very much a notebook person. I usually have several notebooks per novel, which I refer to constantly. I love the tactile feeling of writing on paper – scribbling over words and rewriting, cutting out bits and moving them somewhere else, gluing in photos, drawing maps and diagrams and charts… bliss! Being a visual person, I love the chaos and colours of my notebooks and find working in them a very relaxing way to let the ideas flow.   I seem to be sensitive to electronic equipment, and because I spend so much time staring at a computer screen – drafting or transcribing my handwritten notes or editing – by the end of the day I end up feeling very drained. Breaking up my computer time with other activities such as drawing maps or filling out charts in my notebook helps to keep my mind fresh. GHOST MUSE J – How do you feed your Muse? And what does your Muse look like? I know we share an interest in spiritual matters and so do you use that element of yourself in your writing process?  I imagine my muse to be a sort of wild ghost-like creature in photo-negative form. I feed her on a varied diet of books: biographies, history, how-to manuals, as well as  fiction – classic, popular, and sometimes downright trashy. She regularly feasts on films and a smorgasbord of music. She responds well to a hot bath, a walk in the bush, a river swim, or some therapeutic opp-shopping! She’s also fond of conflicting emotions, arguments, love gone wrong, betrayal and disappointment – so occasionally I let her binge on one of these as well.   I believe that our creative selves are very much grounded in the spirit. For me, writing a book is a magical sort of experience. It requires a lot of trust in yourself to embark upon such a huge task and commit to finishing. And it also requires that you set aside your fears and expectations, and surrender to the process.  I spend a lot of time reading books about how to improve the craft of writing, how to strengthen my weaknesses and hone my skills. But I think the success of any creative project really relies on less tangible elements. Instinct, impulse, intuition. It’s exhilarating to connect with your spiritual self and allow it to guide you; to follow those improbable threads of thought that you know will eventually weave something special into the story.   I find that when I let go of all the writerly rules that I’ve learned in my how-to books, and instead focus on the pleasure my writing brings me, I can relax and enjoy the process. I trust my muse to guide me, and that’s when the magic really begins to happen. 

J – If you need to have the hide of a rhinoceros and the soul of a rose to succeed in the arts: how do you see your rhino hide as being? What are the qualities that have kept you going and where do you think you have gained those qualities from? And also ? how would you see yourself as the soul of a rose? What are your more sensitive qualities? THE HERMIT   I’m probably the opposite – with the hide of a rose, and the heart of a rhino! I seem to absorb everything around me, as if there’s no filter between me and the outside world. Sights, sounds, smells … are all vibrant and mesmerising, and all too often overwhelming. I pick up other people’s moods, and I’m sensitive to vibes between others. That’s why I’m such a hermit – I need to remove myself from the fast pace of the world so I can reflect and channel my energies into my work. If I don’t, I burn out very quickly.  I suppose my rhino hide is really a cloak of determination. It’s the one quality that’s kept me going. Whenever the cold winds of doubt or disappointment begin to blow, I draw my cloak more tightly around me and march on. Determination is a quality I’ve learned from the women in my family – my granny, my grandma, my mum. Incredibly resilient women, who forged on no matter what. I’m blessed to have been close to all three, and the qualities they passed along to me are among my most treasured possessions. STRINGYBARK BLOSSOMHAKEA FLOWER   Jo, I love your image of an artist’s soul resembling a rose … but mine doesn’t feel very rose-like. I’d say it’s closer to a stringybark blossom or hakea flower – thrives in the bush, is quietly productive, and mostly drought-hardy!

Thank you, Anna Romer for sharing your inspiration with us.   Thank you Jo, it was my pleasure.

And so I hope you enjoyed the inspiration from this post. Thanks again Anna for your generous sharing and if you did enjoy, please share with your social media friends who may also benefit. Look out for my next Eye of the Rhino post with another special guest. Anna Romer’s  website is HERE Love, Light and Peace, Josephine xx

This interview with Anna is part of my Australian Women Writers Challenge for  2015.2015 AWW badge

quote joseph campbell

Meet my Character

Thank you to Sandi Wallace for inviting me to play Meet my Character for a blog hop. MEET THE CHARACTER Answer these questions about your main character from a finished work or work in progress:   1.) What is the name of your character?   Ginger Lawson. In the 1940s thread of the book, she’s a sixteen-year-old feisty and naive redhead who goes to the Blue Mountains to pose for a notorious artist, Rupert Partridge. In the year Ginger is at his home, Currawong Manor, Rupert’s family suffers a triple tragedy: his wife, Doris is killed by a train, his daughter, Shalimar drowns and Rupert vanishes. Ginger knows the real truth of what happened to the family. In the present day thread when she’s in her seventies, she’s finally ready to reveal her secrets.

Inspiration shot from my Pinterest board I used for the young Ginger

Inspiration shot from my Pinterest board I used for the young Ginger

2.) Is he/she fictional or a historic person?   Fictional, but I was inspired by Pearl Goldman, who was one of painter Norman Lindsay’s favourite muses and models between 1938-1945. I was fortunate to hear Pearl  speak at the Norman Lindsay House in Springwood just after starting the book and was really impressed by Pearl’s vivacity, glamorous flamboyance and being so active in her 90s. She added a lot of spark to Ginger.

Josephine Pennicott with Pearl Goldman at Springwood Blue Mountains

Josephine Pennicott with Pearl Goldman at Springwood Blue Mountains

3.) When and where is the story set?  In the Blue Mountains in the fictional upper mountain village of Mt Bellwood between the 1940s and present day and the surrounding bushland of Owlbone Woods. The Blue Mountains is an area I’ve lived in and I’m constantly drawn back to. I love its mysterious valleys, misty landscapes, creative people, gothic atmosphere and changing seasons. 425   4.) What should we know about him/her?  Beneath the seeming confident and self-obsessed facade of Ginger is a young girl willing to do anything to escape her mother’s fate of being one of the ‘Surry Hills rats’ of the 1940s. And not to believe Ginger’s version of events too closely…

Rose and Norman Lindsay inspiration shot for Ginger

Rose and Norman Lindsay inspiration shot for Ginger

5.) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?  By not revealing what really happened to the Partridge family in the Blue Mountains. Ginger’s had to live with a lot of guilt and anguish over the years. She made two choices back in 1945 that affected many people and she has the burden of the consequences of her silence. swingagain     6.) What is the personal goal of the character?  The goal of Ginger in the 1940s thread is to escape the drudgery of Molly (her mother’s life) and to become an independent earner. She represents women in Australia in the forties who entered the workforce with the male population away in World War II – and the impact of that transition upon the women of Ginger’s generation. In the present day thread, her goal is to reveal to Rupert’s surviving relatives the truth of what happened to Rupert and his family on the 9th November 1945.

Ginger inspiration from Pinterest board for Currawong Manor

Ginger inspiration from Pinterest board for Currawong Manor

7.) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it? The working title and the title are one and the same – Currawong Manor.

Albert Tucker photo used as inspiration for Currawong Manor

Albert Tucker photo used as inspiration for Currawong Manor

8.) When can we expect the book to be published or when was it published? Currawong Manor was published by Pan Macmillan Australia in June 2014. efffe4bf441a146a40bc48da3f1a06e2 I hope you enjoyed this brief instruction to my character and now it is my turn to tag two writers. I have tagged: Kim Wilkins who also writes commercial women’s fiction novels under the pseudonym of Kimberley Freeman. Kim’s an award-winning writer in children’s, historical and speculative fiction. She has an Honours degree, a Masters degree and a PhD from The University of Queensland where she is also a senior lecturer. You can read more about Kim HERE KIMBERLEY FREEMAN And I’ve also tagged Karen Brooks who is the author of nine books, an academic of more than twenty-years experience, a newspaper columnist and social commentator, and has appeared regularly on national TV and radio. Before turning to academia, she was an army officer for five years and prior to that, dabbled in acting. You can read more about Karen on her website HERE KAREN BROOKS If these writers choose to accept their tags, you’ll be able to read about their chosen charcters on their websites the following Thursday 27th November. Love and Light, Josephine

Secret Gardens, Mantras and Monsters

Leura is one of the prettiest Blue Mountain villages and Spring is the perfect time to visit, when the mountain air feels enchanted from the cherry blossom and jacarandas trees. As I said in my previous post, we’ve recently introduced our daughter to The Secret Garden book and film and so we enjoyed a family day out at the Leura Garden festival. A few photos below.

IMG_9230

We came away with plenty of ideas for our Secret Garden journal. Definitely a must in my Secret Garden is gatepost rabbits.

IMG_9198

A wishing well, sacred bells, Madonna figures and a drystone wall.

 

IMG_9220

 

I’ve been working on my current book, another mystery novel set in Tasmania. So far the characters are materialising beautifully and all the twists and main plot seem strong. I’m at the stage where I want to find out what happens and how it evolves which is the best place for me to be in. When I haven’t been writing, I’ve been catching up on reading. I’m working my way through the large pile of books in my TBR pile. I’ll do a separate post on a few I enjoyed over the holiday break.

IMG_9403

Along with my family I completed a course at the Transcendental Meditation Centre in Sydney. The TM centre is located in the striking AWA building in the CBD in York street. The communications tower was designed in 1937-1939 by architects Morrow and Gordon. It has a geometric art-deco design and also features symbols of communication such as a winged Pegarsus. The tower has been featured in the movie The Matrix.

 

BIGFISHONETOUSE

 

I’ve been meditating regularly for many years now but have always been intrigued by TM and the effects on the creative brain after reading David Lynch’s Catching The Big Fish (highly recommended book on creativity and abstract thought).

 

I’ve only been practising for a couple of weeks, but it has exceeded my expectations on how deeply you can transcend in twenty minutes. I was surprised by how effortless and easy the process is. I’ll write more on meditation and the effects on my creativity when I’ve been practising TM for a few months.

 

In Australia, we have celebrated the seasonal Beltane, but being Scorpio and fascinated by death and transfiguration, I view the 31st of October as the Day of the Dead – we enjoyed All Hallows at a friends in the inner-west suburb of Tempe.

IMG_9492

I volunteered to walk the children around the streets for a couple of hours which was surreal and dreamlike. In the darkened streets I passed witches, zombies, a live python, and excited children claiming the streets on the night the veils are thin and mayhem rules.

 

IMG_9488

 

IMG_9506

 

 

Thank you for visiting me. Please share this post if you know of anyone who would be interested.

In Love and Light,

Josephine

Art, Death and Secret Gardens

Hello, October is my birthday month, and in Australia, Spring is carolling the senses. I love the transitional times of nature seasons and Spring always feels optimistic and burgeoning with new possibilities and change.   My family spent a garden-filled school holidays exploring not-so Secret Gardens in Sydney and the Blue Mountains. A SECRET GARDEN     SEcret garden   We have just introduced our daughter to the book and film of The Secret Garden, and we were looking for inspiration for our own Secret Garden.

Art-deco building at Lavender Bay

Art-deco building at Lavender Bay

 

image of Wendy by Graham Jepson

image of Wendy by Graham Jepson

We finally had a family day out at Wendy Whiteley’s magical garden at Lavender Bay. Wendy, grieving the tragic death of her only daughter Arkie, began landscaping the neglected plot of land in front of her Lavender Bay terrace.

Arkie Whiteley with her grandmother

Arkie Whiteley with her grandmother

TheAge_2001Dec21_p4 In the process of working through her grief, Wendy created a tranquil sanctuary enjoyed by many today. IMG_8857 The land which ran alongside the railway track and owned by the NSW Railway Corporation had been overlooked despite its jawdropping harbour views and proximity to Sydney’s Luna Park. IMG_8849   In an early and inspiring example of guerrilla gardening, Wendy began the transformative process of creating an oasis where office-workers and families could recharge. IMG_8885 IMG_8854 A place with so much green energy that the screams from Luna Park doesn’t diminish its nurturing effect. New birdlife now visits the area thanks to the garden. Palm and fig trees jut out from a steep cliff which has been landscaped beautifully with rocks. IMG_8838 There’s a special energy to this garden where it’s easy to imagine nature devas and fairies frolicking. IMG_8883 IMG_8851   IMG_8804 With its superb views, and magical touches in the form of bells, hidden bird-feeders and Asian statues, it’s a serene spot to contemplate life, enjoy loved ones  and soak up the best of Sydney. IMG_8877 IMG_8839   The ashes of Wendy’s husband, well-known artist Brett Whiteley, who died of a heroin overdose in 1992 and also the ashes of their daughter Arkie, are buried in the garden in a secret spot.

Brett Whiteley

Brett Whiteley

PAINTING BRETT WHITELEY The garden has come to mean a lot to Sydneysiders. Wendy was a promising art student who later became famous as her husband’s muse, but her creativity and vision with her garden will make a lasting difference to the city of Sydney.

Arkie under the shower painting by Brett Whiteley

Arkie under the shower painting by Brett Whiteley

ARKIE I’ve long been fascinated by Arkie Whiteley, who was beautiful, talented and spoken of very highly by everyone who connected with her. Only recently David and I watched her in Gallowglass, a Barbara Vine psychological thriller and thought how strong her performance was. GALLOWGLASS

The Whiteley Family

The Whiteley Family

ART QUOTE BRETT WHITELEY   The other gardens I enjoyed visiting were at Leura in the Blue Mountains for the town’s annual garden festival. Which I shall continue in Part Two of this post.Thank you for visiting me. If you would like to keep up with me on social media, I am on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. And please share this post if you know of anyone would enjoy it or my writing. Love and Light, Josephine xx

The garden, the studio, friendships, somebody’s life, are all those things that keep you going. I don’t feel any great urge to actually paint again. I want to just go and be the mad old bag lady in the garden. I love the fact that Arkie participated in it a bit and loved it. Sometimes I suddenly realise I’m talking about her or Brett or anybody else in my life as though they’re still alive. And in a way they still are. And then you realise that they’re not there anymore, except in your memory. Or in your bones. In Arkie’s case, she’ll always be there. And in Brett’s case, he’ll always be there in part of me. You know? But in her case particularly.’ Wendy Whiteley on Australia Story IMG_8806

You can read more about Wendy Whiteley’s Lavender Bay garden on the following links below:

Wendy Whiteley transcript from Australia Story HERE

Interview with Peter Wilmot – Bohemian Rhapsody HERE

Arkie Whiteley’s obituary notice from the Sydney Herald HERE

Mr Potter’s Museum of Curiosities and Kate Mosse

Hello, I’m a big Kate Mosse fan and love gothic literary thrillers, so I was thrilled to see her current book The Taxidermist’s Daughter was inspired by her childhood visits to The Walter Potter Museum.

In Death there can be Beauty

In Death there can be Beauty

On an overseas trip to the UK many years ago, David and I visited Jamaica Inn in Cornwall. Not only did we get lost on the moors (another blog post altogether) but we were fortunate to discover Mr Potter’s Museum of Curiosities before it was dismantled. I found the museum incredibly fascinating and longed for another chance to examine it, so I was saddened to hear in 2003 that such a fine collection of Victorian-Edwardian whimsy was lost forever when it was dismantled and sold at auction. IMG_8255   Some might find the taxidermy displays macabre, but I loved the surreal cuteness of the animals in dioramas such as The Death and Burial of Cock Robin (which took Mr Potter seven years to complete and included 98 species of British birds along with a weeping robin widow and a grave-digging owl); his rabbit school with rabbits writing on slates; and kitten tea parties. Who Killed Cock Robin   Intricate details featured on all of his work – including frilly knickers on kittens. There were also many other interesting and strange curios, enough to spend hours browsing. kittens getting married kittens   Mr Potter’s Museum of Curiosities began life in Bramber, Sussex, England. mr-potters-museum   As a teenager, Walter Potter’s fascination with taxidermy started when he attempted to preserve the life of his pet canary. The Death and Burial of Cock Robin was a massive success. Walter Walter and book   So many people were keen to witness his tableaus that a special platform had to be built at Bramber train station to accommodate the hordes of tourists arriving to view it. Squirrels in room   After Mr Potter’s death at 82, his daughter and grandson took over the business. Public taste in taxidermy had now waned and the displays were considered in poor taste.

Kitten with two faces

Kitten with two faces

 

Rabbit School

Rabbit School

The collection, numbering 10, 000 specimens, was moved around to Brighton, Ardundel and then to the owners of the famous Jamaica Inn in Cornwall where visitors come from around the world to experience Daphne du Maurier territory first hand. Jamaica Inn   Sadly, when the museum finally went to auction, a one-million pound bid by Damien Hirst to keep the collection intact was rejected, which meant various pieces were sold separately. Hirst wrote a piece for the Guardian HERE called, Mr Potter, Stuffed Rats and Me.

Kate Mosse and Crow

Kate Mosse and Crow

There is also another interesting link HERE to a Taxidermy article about Walter Potter. The Taxidermist's Daughter Kate   And a link HERE with Kate Mosse talking about her fascination with Walter Potter and his museum.

Another link HERE is a website to a book about Walter Potter which contains lots of fascinating articles.

And a recent interview with Kate Mosse from the Independent where she discusses the Landscape of her Imagination HERE

Kate at Booth Museum of Natural History

Kate at Booth Museum of Natural History

With all the excitement of a new Kate Mosse book, I thought it was a good chance to publish the notes I took when she spoke at Sydney Writers Festival in 2013. I’d had the best of intentions to put them on my blog at the time, but became so busy with writing Currawong Manor that I never got a chance. I shall post that blog later in the week so I do hope you return. Please share this post with your social online friends if you feel they would be interested. Thank you for popping in. Love and Light, Josephine xx

A short film on Potter’s collection that may be of interest.

Fifties Fair

Designed by Harry Seidler for his parents, Rose and Max, Rose Seidler house in the 1950s must have looked as if it came from outer space. Positioned at the edge of the bush, its cube-like form was a sensation to a Sydney emerging from the depression and two world wars. But the decade’s optimism was impacting all the arts – including  the housing industry. Harry Seidler was like all the modernists, looking to the future in his design. His vision excited the public as he overthrew all previous conventions concerning Australian architecture.

IMG_8120

Even finding a builder prepared to work on such an innovative house was a challenge, not to mention that building materials were in short supply after World War II. But following a lengthy construction; the Seidlers moved into their new home in late 1950.

Over 17 years, Rose built rockeries, stone walls and she added plants and flowers, fruit trees and vegetable gardens. The vegetable garden produced copious amounts of vegetables which she pressed generously upon friends including Max Dupain, who would go home with great boxes full of fresh vegetables.

Today, Rose Seidler House is owned by the Historic Houses Trust and annually hosts the Fifties Fair which my family attended today with a friend.

IMG_8223

 

We travelled to the fair in true vintage style via a genuine 1950s bus.

IMG_8112

 

I loved marvelling over all the vintage frocks. Here are some photos from the parade. 

collage Fair

Daisy and I entered the family group section.

IMG_8225

But as soon as we spotted our competition – this amazing looking family – we knew we had lost this year. Hats off the mother of this family who spent weeks hand sewing their outfits.

IMG_8186

Some of the frocks being judged.

IMG_8164

Here’s the beautiful winner of the Ladies section.

 

IMG_8218

Of course the Fifties Fair wouldn’t be complete without some great music. Here are the lads from Rusty Pinto’s Shotdown from Sugartown.

IMG_8219

And some swing and jive cats and kittens.

IMG_8226

And there’s always the cars too ooh and aah over.

IMG_8216

Too soon, the Fifties Fair was over for another year.

Sorry Daisy, that’s not our car.

IMG_8224

But here comes the bus to take us home.

IMG_8217

And so we departed Rose Seidler House leaving that unique house in its isolated spectacular setting of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

When they occupied Rose Seidler House, the Seidlers had to endure uninvited visitors who would queue outside to peer through the glass walls, awed by the house. It’s hard to imagine what they would have thought if they had a time capsule and could have seen what would be the destiny of their son’s design.

IMG_8198

You can read more about Rose Seidler House and the Fifties Fair HERE.

Fog

An early morning walk through our local park. My partner, David has gone diving with platypuses in Queensland – a most magical sounding pursuit.

IMG_8039

 

I walk down the early morning city streets where fog has gifted an enchanted hush to the area.

My daughter has been taken by a friend to her netball game for the day. I have an entire day to write. But first, I have to see the fog.

IMG_8018

 

In our local park, familiar paths fork into mysterious avenues.

IMG_8040

 

Other walkers, cameras ready, are awed into silence as we encounter each other on the bush tracks. Sydney Park holds us in a spell.

IMG_8029

 

The simple moments often bring the most joy.

IMG_8026

 

I have time to contemplate the new book I am beginning.

 

It’s always a disconcerting feeling when starting a new project and you’re stepping into the unknown.

IMG_8027

 

Characters have already formed; the book hovers, as haunting as as the early-morning city fog. An idea that has simmered for years, now beginning to evolve.

IMG_8030

 

Life – a matter of focus: on my right side, swans and ducks glide with knowing beauty through the serene atmosphere.

 

And on my left side, the rubbish bins amongst the mud.

IMG_8031

 

On Sunday, my daughter goes to her NIDA class and I write in my notebook. Yes, the old-school way of pen to paper and photographs for visual inspiration.

IMG_8062

 

I am now in the 1950s in Tasmania and a doorway to a new world has opened for me. Characters are introducing themselves. The book has the working title of Sweetwater.

IMG_8042

 

One step in front of the other. You never where the path will take you, but it is the act itself, the process that is the enchantment. One step towards the book and more is revealed. Another step and it’s waiting for me, calling me through the fog. One more step.

 

Spring is coming to Sydney. I can smell the jasmine on the city streets.

 

Call for Grace

The school holidays have just finished in Sydney.
So disruptive to writing time, but my daughter and I embraced Winter days relaxed in Little Brick, enjoying the luxury of not having to concern ourselves with lunchboxes, uniforms and school newsletters.
IMG_7596
Thank you to WHO magazine for the following mention of Currawong Manor.
IMG_7711
And more thanks to all the online reviewers who are helping to spread my book to potential readers: such as this beautiful review from Monique at Write Note Reviews, who said:

Currawong Manor has everything I love in a novel – a decaying house creating a dark and oppressive setting (enhanced by the mountain location), a heightened sense of suspense, a slowly-unfolding mystery, and some sinister characters (including the house and the nearby woods). There are also secondary romantic elements, which add to the tension. The standout feature for me was the sense of place; because it was captured so well, it made me want to plan a holiday to the Blue Mountains sooner rather than later.

For those who love a good gothic-style mystery, add Currawong Creek to your to-read list – I highly recommend it. I’ve added Pennicott’s 2013 novel, Poet’s Corner, to my to-read list.

fredrickmccubbin_thelostchild_1886

Thank you, Monique. The rest of the review can be read on her review site HERE. I was most taken with the fact she used a painting from Frederick McCubbin, The Lost Child  as I was working with that image on an early draft of Currawong Manor. It also means a lot to me when I can make people long to revisit a place through my prose.

IMG_7607

I enjoy the inner-city when its hub is momentarily hushed as the exodus begins from Sydney on holidays. But I admit, to some envy as I watched friends heading off for overseas holidays.  I reminded myself that sometimes the most cherished holidays are when you discover your own city anew and that having unstructured days is of great benefit to children.
IMG_7702
I remember holiday breaks when I was a child, that seemed to last forever – no playdates,sleep overs, activity centres, and extra tuition in everything imaginable booked in. Instead we explored our own backyards, became terribly bored and began to create with the material we had at hand. I wrote books I never finished on an old typewriter, formed clubs with imaginary friends and read books I longed to read and wasn’t interested in, but I’d already read everything in our house and library. Boring your children is so important and undervalued in this overstimulated time if you want to help your child’s imagination to flourish.
IMG_7562
Captain Josephine Pennicott and her pirate crew on the harbour

Captain Josephine Pennicott and her pirate crew on the harbour

With harbour side trips and unstructured days behind me, I’m now busy working on my present book which I’m very excited about. I’m back in Tasmania for this one and it’s 1950. After all the recent events in the news, it’s a relief to immerse myself into a more optimistic decade.
The New House - John Brack 1953

The New House – John Brack 1953

Thank you to all the support for Currawong Manor on my Facebook pages and on Good Reads. I do value your comments and cyber-word of mouth.
Keeping good company. Thanks to Amelia for the support on Instagram.

Keeping good company. Thanks to Amelia for the support on Instagram.

In early June, I announced a Giveaway to celebrate Currawong Manor’s release. I have put all the names into a hat and selected a winner from the large amount of entries received.
IMG_7803
Congratulations to Vivienne Martyn, you  will be receiving a signed copies of both Poet’s Cottage and Currawong Manor, a set of Daily Guidance Angel Cards and a Russian Red Mac Lipstick all to the value of $120.93. Thanks so much to everyone who entered, signed up for my newsletter, shared the post and helped to spread the word. Your support is always so appreciated!
A few more photos of my recent High Tea via Better Read than Dead’s Facebook page:
Guests at the High Tea examine my notebook

Guests at the High Tea examine my notebook

annie at high tea

Josephine Pennicott signing Currawong Manor

Josephine Pennicott signing Currawong Manor

The world seems such a grim place at the moment. As Neil Gaiman tweeted:
·

Feeling absolutely helpless in the face of the madness and violence of the world. I’m making things up to keep sane. I’m in control there.

I share his despair. So many sadistic and cruel things have been occurring to so many:  but in the darkest of times, artists and storytellers are even more vital.
So feel the pain, but keep working, blaze your fire, call for grace.
If you have enjoyed this journal post, please share with your online friends if you think they would be interested.
Love and Light,
Josephine xx

Community

     One of the surreal moments of  writing is just as you submerge yourself into the world of your present project and you’re flipping between states of exhilaration and despair – you’re suddenly having to do publicity for your previous book.   I enjoyed two author events in Newtown in June, presented by my local bookstore Better Read than Dead.

IMG_7298

     First a glamorous High Tea which which I was gratified to have sell out very quickly.  Thank you to all who bought tickets.

High Tea scones

      I was  interviewed by Mischa from BRTD and it was a joyful moment to see so many faces from this local area that I’ve connected with over the years. When you don’t have family living near, these connections become so valued.  Parents and teachers from Daisy’s baby years – to friends I’ve remained steadfast through all of life’s changes: also many unfamiliar faces, who came to discuss books and creativity. It was a delight to have such an enthusiastic, interactive audience.

Josephine Pennicott in deep discussion at Better Read than Dead's High Tea

Josephine Pennicott in deep discussion at Better Read than Dead’s High Tea

     The following Tuesday night I spoke at Newtown Library with my favourite librarian and book club member, Gayle Donaldson, about the influences and stories behind Currawong Manor.

screen

Thank you to everyone who braved the winter chill to watch my slide show and have a peep at my working notebook. I’m planning a future post on my notebooks. And thank you to Better Read than Dead for the image via their Instagram feed above.

Josephine Pennicott with Gayle Donaldson at Newtown Library for Talking Heads

Josephine Pennicott with Gayle Donaldson at Newtown Library for Talking Heads

     Better Read than Dead provides a valuable link in the inner-city with its focus on building ties in the community between authors and books. I consider myself fortunate to live in an area where a bookstore is such a buzzy place. If you live in the inner west – check out what’s happening from their website; attend some events or join one of their book clubs. I was inspired by a friend who came to my High Tea solo; saying if she had brought a friend, she’d clutch onto her and not mingle. It’s a good practise to take yourself out of your comfortable zone and make new connections: it’s  stimulating and keeps you young.

With Mischa and Steph from Better Read than Dead

With Mischa and Steph from Better Read than Dead

      If you would like a signed copy of either of my mystery novels Poet’s Cottage or Currawong Manor, if you contact Better Read than Dead HERE, I’m happy to pop into the store and sign a copy for you which they could post out. If you already have bought books, if you contact me through my website or Facebook Author Page, I’m happy to send you signed bookplates.

     When you are writing, imaginary people become so close that sometimes you forget you do need to mingle in the ‘real’ world with 3D people. It’s been a pleasure to connect and be inspired by community.

     And I was totally exhilarated to see that as a result of my events, Currawong Manor shared the No 1 spot that week with the Legend Herself in Better Read than Dead – so many thanks to all who supported my book.

Donna!

     Don’t forget to check back to see the results of my Giveaway.

     Keep yourself creative.  In Love and Light,  Josephine