Thursday, 17 January 2013

Stuff that happened over Christmas

* Received books for Christmas – I must have been good.  In fact, I must have been very good – I received books recommended for me by Leanne Hall, one of my favourite YA authors.  Yep, my partner went into Readings Carlton, where Leanne works, and asked her for some recs for me.  For me!  I am full of squee just thinking about it.  She recced me Friday Brown by Vikki Wakefield and a collection of short stories from The Paris Review, as chosen by a selection of amazing authors.  Thanks Leanne!  (And thank you for the pressie, love)
* Drove eight hours on my birthday (Boxing Day) to get to our campsite – beach!!
* Listened to I’m Sexy and I Know it on continuous repeat.  For a long time.  In the car.
   Wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle, yeah.
* Had my toenails painted sparkly red by a friend’s daughter.  You rock, Tahlia!
* Drank wine by a campfire.  Aah..!
* Wrote a YA story about a trapeze artist and a strongman escaping a terrible crime in their past. (see prev post ‘All the little bones’)
I researched a lot about travelling show people before I wrote it.  It’s pretty cool stuff – did you know that traditional travelling show people in the UK/US have their own language?  It’s called ‘parlari’ or ‘parlyari’, and it’s a mix of Irish tinker’s cant (‘jib’ or ‘gammon’), and European and Mediterranean language groups.  It’s part of a long heritage of private language used by sailors, travellers, performers, and circus and fairground folk, who require a language unintelligible to outsiders.
* Saw a pod of dolphins come right into the bay where we camped.  Some of them were jumping metres into the air.
* Shared good food and rich conversation with old friends.
* Congratulated a friend who peed into a cup, to treat a girl who got stung by a blue bottle at the beach.  It’s kind of disgusting, but it really works!
* Splashed into the surf to call people back when a huge seal started diving through the waves right next to them.  Maybe the seal wanted to boogy board too, but apparently seals can do a bit of damage if they bump you off by accident.
* Ate fresh grilled fish, caught by my son during his first spear-fishing expedition ever.
* Discovered, when I got home, that some of my jade plants have died.  That’s bad.  I’m afraid I am a bit superstitious about jade plants – they bring you money – so I will be cultivating new ones, maybe even buying a new one or two, as an investment for 2013.
* Rode my bike out along the back ways, as far as the rusty old windmill.
* Began the redrafts of my second book.
* Read Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell – I loved it – and Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari and Misery by Stephen King.  I have made a promise that this year I will read at least one book a month that features adults as main characters – my son has said he will read one classic book a month, so we are matching each other.  Misery counts for December.  So far in 2013, I’ve read The Recruit by Robert Muchamore (great fun, but doesn’t count), and Elementals: Storm by Brigid Kemmerer (YA supernatural romance, doesn’t count) and I’m a quarter of the way into Friday Brown by Vikki Wakefield (fantastic so far, but also doesn’t count).  If you have any good recs (YA or adult), hit me up.

That's it.  Hope your Christmas was an awesome one.


Sunday, 13 January 2013


Okay, I’ve done it now.  I’ve started this.  There’s no going back, even if I could afford to return the advance (which I can’t, because we spent it on helping pay off the mortgage already).
I’m really writing books.
Not ‘book’, as in a singular Australian masterwork.  ‘Books’, as in a three-part series.  Wow.  I can’t quite believe I’m so productive.  Or that the fruits of my labours are really going out there, into the world.  I get all teary just thinking about it.  My babies, in long pants.
So I’ve put off the blog-writing thing as long as possible, mainly because I just couldn’t believe that people out there would be actually interested in what I do.  As a writer, I mean, because nobody sits to read through the daily exploits of plumbers, or dentists, or teachers (I know, because I am also a teacher, and believe me, nobody is really that interested in what teachers do.  Woe.)
But apparently people really are interested in what writers do.  Which I get, because I write, so I’m always fascinated by what other writers do.  Professionally – how do you live on such low wages?  Is it better to send your agent a card at Christmas or a gift?  Where do you get those lovely headshot promo pics done?  And personally – how do you cope with lower back pain from all the sitting?  Is your garden/housework/family as neglected as mine?
But I couldn’t fathom why non-writers would be that interested in all that stuff.  What do writers do?  We sit.  We sit in front of a computer, mainly, for hours at a time, gazing into the screen or into space, while our brains churn.  We drink lots of caffeine (I know, not everyone drinks caffeine, but a lot do).  We just…think about stuff, and then type it into being.
It just sounds too tedious to be interesting to other people.  But it’s a pretty good description of what I do, so I’m guessing it applies to other writers too.  And if you really want the blow-by-blow of what happens every day, then read on:
I get up at 4.45 am.  That’s when my alarm goes off, anyway.  Sometimes I lie in bed, wondering how I can get up, and other times I jump out keen to get started.  I shamble into the kitchen and make a thermos of tea in the saucepan.  While the tea’s boiling, I change out of my pajamas and into my ‘writer’s clothes’ – ie, the daggiest pair of corduroy trousers the world has never seen, and layers of long-sleeved t-shirts, plus a downie and then a beanie, to keep my head warm.  You get cold sitting still in one place for a long time.
I leave my ugg boots on, and take the thermos with me to the study outside.  We have an outside study which is big enough for two desks and a bookshelf.  There are lots of tangled cords and wires from computers and printers and wireless internet modems etc.  There is no heating, and the doors and windows don’t close properly, hence the downie.
It is still black outside.  It is very quiet, very peaceful.  None of my family is awake.
I deliberately avoid hooking my computer to the internet, and get my current work file open on my laptop.  God, I love my laptop.  If the house was burning down, my laptop would be the thing I would grab.  Considering most of the family photos are on it, this is not as selfish as it first appears.
So there I am, with my laptop, my thermos of strong sweet tea, my fingerless gloves, my lap blanket…and that’s it.  I sit there.  I read through stuff I wrote yesterday, and then I start typing.  Most of the first few things I type are complete arse, but I type anyway.  That’s what it’s like.  You don’t wait for ‘The Muse’ to waft softly and generously into your presence, and then commune with your Muse.  You bash away until that lazy fucker shows up to work.  (I didn’t make that up.  Stephen King said that first).
About two hours later, as my muse is slowly rubbing the sleep out of his/her eyes and asking for another wake-me-up cigarette, my partner comes in.  He spends some time on the throat-clearing/stubble-scratching routines that men have when they get up, and then we negotiate whether I have to come in and help make scrambled eggs on toast for four hungry boys, while packing lunches into bags and getting ready for the school run…or whether I have a few more blessed minutes/another hour before I have to stop (now that I’m actually on a roll).
Eventually the time comes and I have to leave the study, and make myself presentable to the world, and get the kids off to school.  So I close everything down and save it (double save it!) and come out of my burrow for another day.  And then I repeat the whole routine the next morning.  And the next.  And the next… and so on.  Until a book is written, or until I start to despair of every living a normal life or getting a chance to sleep in ever again.
But I hardly ever sleep in.  Because, just for those two hours a day, I’m totally immersed.   I’m snagging a memory, or I’m remembering a sound, or I’m having a conversation, or I’m getting angry, or I’m falling in love.   I’m reaching for something intangible, and I’m so close.  I almost get there…  And then it’s time to move.
But maybe I’ll get there tomorrow.  Or the day after that.  Or sometime next week, or next month, or next year.  It’s what keeps me getting up at 4.45am every day of the goddamn week – the stretch for that next word, that next phrase, that will make it just perfect
So who’s crazier?  Me, for doing it, or you guys, for thinking you can understand it?  I don’t understand it.  It’s un-understandable.

New fiction: All the little bones

Here's a sneak peek at something I've been working on over my summer holidays...

This started as an idea about carnival/travelling show people, and evolved into a 5000 word short story that I submitted to the Scarlet Stiletto Awards last year.  No banana.  But it still just didn't feel quite right...

Now I've recreated it as a new story, using the same characters and a smattering of material from the old story.  It still needs work, and I'm not sure what to do with it yet, but I thought I'd chuck a bit of it up.

This is the intro.  Let me know what you think.  If you like it, I'll put a bit more up.


       All the little bones


‘Hey birdy babe…  You got nice feathers, birdy…’
A warm calloused hand pushes my shoulder and I flinch, snort.
‘Sorsha, wake up.  We’re coming into town.’
I come out of the dark dream with a jerk, my head pulls off the window.  I’ve been drooling.  My cheek feels deformed from where the door edge pressed in.  I scrub my face with both hands and push back my hair.
‘There’s coffee in the thermos,’ Colm says.
I can see white-walled houses and open space.  Neat weathered gardens and salty red sand on the road shoulder.
‘Coast?’ I say.  My throat is still muddy.
Colm nods.  Both his hands are back on the wheel.
‘Coast.  Okay.’  I fumble the pannikins, get the thermos lid unscrewed.  ‘How far have we come?’
Colm waits until we’re past the corner before taking his mug.  Steam condenses on his upper lip as he blows on the coffee.  It looks just like nervous sweat.
‘Not far enough,’ he says.

Many thanks to Sandy, Justine and Jill, who all had a look at the whole story and pronounced it good.