Friday, May 30, 2008


[Fiction] Friday comes to you this week from a new home. This week's prompt:

"Drunk on _________.
Fill in the blank, then write a quick description of your character in that state."

I sit down before my legs give way, the magazine clutched in my hand as I half fall, half attempt to sit into the big leather chair. Ahhh … I can’t help but spin around in the chair that hugs me like a large and expensive glove. My head is dizzy, light – wafer thin echoes through my head, in correct Monty Python fashion. Yes, my head is wafer thin. I force myself to focus on the magazine cover. It brings me back to my faculties again. I stare down and two faces grin back at me.

I want to giggle because it seems so absurd, even as I sit here, in this huge office with a river view. We’re on the front cover of the Time Magazine … and we’re laughing, Tony and I, because we couldn’t take the photo shoot seriously. We would have been better off taking ourselves down the road to find a photo-booth. Yeah, a strip of three goofing off photos on the front cover of Time – that’s us, keeping it grassroots - simple.

Neither of us really took the ‘business’ too seriously – we just wanted a place to get ourselves published. Then this happened ….

“Time Magazine!” I exclaim out loud to myself, “I’m on the front cover of Time magazine’ and don’t think it sounds boastful or full of ego. I’m probably deluded though. Honestly, I needed the front cover of Time - to make this success real to me.

And I love the headline “Are these the most dangerous people in publishing?” You bet, I agree, if only to myself. We came, we saw, we conquered. Yeah baby!

I’m tempted to be vain, to look closely to see where Photoshop has touched me up. It reminds me of the days, eons ago, when I would get up close in a nightclub toilet mirror and attempt to touch up smeared or missing lipstick. At least Photoshop got my lipstick right. As for Tony he didn’t need to worry about a good hair day or a good lippy day. I should ask him what he was looking for in the front cover – wrinkles, a grey hair?

I grab my mobile and I send a rapid, slightly illogical SMS to ask Tony. There’s plenty of words that make no sense, but I don’t waste time fixing them. I want to get up and dance on the leather couch over the other side of my office, with a bottle of expensive French champagne in hand, swigging from it.

“MUM! Share the glue.”
“Share the glue. Co-oper-ation,” he exaggerates, looking at me seriously from underneath his long golden brown fringe.
“Sure love,” I mumble and pass the glue stick over.

I look down at the magazine cover on the table.
“What’s this called again?”
“Collage?” I reply and stick the head down.
“Why is there a clock?”
“The magazine is called Time Magazine.”
“That’s a silly name for a magazine.”
“You think so?”

I run my finger over the cover, neatly torn off an old magazine. The date has been changed, now neatly handwritten as July 2008. My head is glued to one body and Tony’s to the other. I have Mike from Monsters Inc on repeat loop in my head .. “I’m on the cover of a magazine!” Next I pick up the first of two words, publishing, cut ransom note style from the newspaper, and stick it down. As I stick down the second word, I begin to hum.

“What’s that song?”
“From little things big things grow,” I reply absently.
“That’s a silly name for a song.”
“No sweetheart it’s not a silly name for a song,”

And I stare at the second word …. revolution!

Mercurial Observations 2

It's been a few days since I've blogged anything about this current cycle of Mercury Rx. In the past few days the following things have happened:
  • Dylan's kindy got a new assistant which meant Wednesday I needed to stay back at kindy for an hour to help Dylan with the transition (it was also kindy open day and it was organised, blissful chaos - and didn't want to make life any more difficult than it was for the kindy Director). This meant I was an hour late getting to the cafe for my cup of tea, my morning pages and meeting Annie, before taking in our weekly movie.

  • The Babes in Arms screening was switched times - from 10:30 to 10:10 - so I'd missed Annie at the cafe and she'd given up on the movie because I hadn't shown. Thankfully I'd double checked at the desk the day before as to which movie was the Babes in Arms session. The girl at the ticket booth didn't seem to know what was going on - gave me the movie for the $8.50 the babes in arms session is (bonus!) and off I went. Saw '21' - awesome movie!!

  • In all of the above, my mobile was flat so wasn't able to ring Annie - she deduced that I'd been abucted by Ninjas.

  • Yesterday Dylan sprayed stay in conditioner onto the TV screen and into the control buttons below the screen and seized the TV. Thankfully after a day of sitting there doing not a lot, the moisture seems to be dissapated and we're back to TV as usual. I should also add - that Dylan has NEVER done anything crazy like this before - and looked at me blankly when I asked him what possessed him to think spraying the conditioner into the control buttones was a good idea.

I've also given up trying to get through The Magician and picked up The Time Travellers Wife from the library today. 17 pages into it ... and I'm hooked. Mercury Rx seems to be a good time to me, to be reading about time travel.

And finally, in regards to the 'writers block' that I had been warned of - well it's transpiring more to be an apathy towards writing, rather than a actual block. I need to sit down and just write. Those famous words again.

And everyone else - how are you faring?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Advertising and Ethics

Tonight was the first episode of the ABC new programme The Gruen Transfer- pitched on it's website as looking at 'advertising, how it works, and how it works on us.' Hosted by comedian Wil Anderson, it's a hit in my world just for that (which would come as no surprise to anyone who lives in our household)

The following two ads from Dove were dicussed in the the ethics section of their show.

I had never seen either of these ads - we don't watch commerical TV. I'm posting these this evening to open a a discourse about them. At the moment I'm too tired to string together enough words to make either a logical or coherent sentence.

Is there such a thing as ethics in beauty advertising?

Firstly evolution ...

And the follow up onslaught

Are we being sold a new beauty myth ... is this just a wolf in sheep's clothing?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mercurial Observations

Mercury went retrograde yesterday. 'What's that?' you ask. Mystic Medusa sums it up brilliantly in her most recent Mercurial Musings "Mercurial Bats: Blithe Spirit":

Mercury is the mythological Messenger of the Gods and the planet that rules such phenomena as e-mails, couriers, gadgets, computers, phones, letters. In short, communications and intellect. Three times a year it goes ‘retro’ and can produce complete utter chaos. Mercury Retrograde rules missed calls, delayed flights, lost data and stupid vile misunderstandings.

Activities to be avoided include:

  • signing contracts (or singing them as I've just typed three times!)

  • Buying big items - especially electrical equipment, phones and computers

  • making significant moves or life altering decisions

  • beginning a book, a marriage or a business

  • gossiping

For us writers it's a great time to enjoy our favourite old novels (especially if writer's block is biting!)

With all the communication and travel bungles, combined with what Mystic has intuited for this period, to be 'trouble with locks' ... there's always some great stories going around about what's happening with this energy. For example:

  1. Dylan somehow converted the language setting on my mobile phone to German (while he was playing Sonic in Spanish!) and I have no idea where the language setting is ... oh and I can't read German to be able to find it.

  2. In addition to changing the language (if that was not bad enough!) he has also replaced the text writing setting so now I've got predictive text back (and whoever thought that was a time saving device was sorely deluded!) so my phone for texting is useless. And again - can't fix it because everything is in GERMAN!

  3. Leaving Annie's house this morning ... I decided to take Annie's advice and do the Indianna Jones under the electric garage door trick ... got under only to discover the door had bounced back up. Then worried that I'd trip the alarm ... only to reset the alarm and then trip it ... all at the same time I was trying to get the electric door to go all the way down and yell to Dylan that I'd be in the car in a moment. In the end I gave the alarm the middle finger, as well as the electric door (when it did finally go all the way down!) and left via the front door.

  4. My spam has amped up - and now I'm not just getting the Nigerian bank transfer scam (in all its shapes and sources), but emails about pills, computer programs that I've never had.

  5. My MSN messenger continues to turn itself off for no reasons

  6. If my cat could talk - he'd mention the fact that when we stayed over at Annie's house last night ... he got locked out of the house and had to sleep outside for the first time in his 16 years!! Poor puddy tat.

But on the other hand ... Annie's internet woes were fixed (it alway seems a fortuitious time to fix existing issues ... my burner suddenly started working for the first time in 18months Mercury Rx in January!) and I finally got on their wireless network. So it's not all bad.

As I mentioned a few days ago ... I'm back reading Magician again - but in true Mercury Rx mode ... I decided today that I wished I'd chosen to re-read Dean Koontz's Lightning, which I've never had a chance to read again. Ahh ... the wisdom of hindsight ... and that's what Mercury Rx is all about!

What interesting computer, telecommunication, electrical, locking or travel issues have you had in the past few days? (Honestly - in hindsight they're always hillarious!)

Conspinkey revisited

The Friday Fiction prompt last week was to use the word conspinkey in our writing.

Jeff wrote: "No sooner is a word written about and it has meaning. Like some virus this new word is going to be spread all over the Internet. With everyone writing about "Conspinkey" it won't be long now and this new word will have a lot of other meanings,"

Now conspinkey has many. Here is how the Friday Fictioners breathed life into a jumble of letters!

And thus Dale conceived conspinkey ... and the rest of us spawned it to go forth into cyberspace and multiple. Google it ... it's great to see us all on a page of Google together ... though I'm wondering about the conspinkey cigar?

Musical Musings #2

Musical Musings is a weekly music based writing meme to inspire and support writers of short fiction. Each Tuesday a prompt will be posted and you will have a week to create something (see the guidelines below).

Reading others' work and commenting in a critical but constructive manner is part of the writing process and our growth as writers. All participants are encouraged to actively be a part of this each week.


Pink Floyd's 'Another Brick in The Wall' is this week's song. Use it in any way you see fit to create your piece of fiction.

How to be part of the writing adventure:

1. Check each Tuesday for a new musical prompt – a link to the post will appear at the top right hand of the blog to help you navigate.
2. Write between 1000-2000 words of short fiction in any genre.
3. Editing is welcome and encouraged.
4. On Monday, post your story to your blog.
5. Return here to link your post and leave a comment.
6. Visit other’s posts and leave constructive comments.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Write anywhere

Over the past six months I have had to get over my preciousnss about where I write. As a Mum, the perfect time, space and atmosphere is rare ... and not suprisingly, when it is perfect I cant write.

Learning to be flexible is what has got me writing. And that's a good thing because today I wrote for two hours in the indoor playground that I take Dylan and Lilly to each Monday. This is the first attempt at writing there - in the past I have read, done advertising copy or layout, typed up list of books ... but never gone the whole distance to attempt creative writing there.

I set myself up in what I thought was a 'far away' table ... far away from everyone else but far enough away also from the toilet (I made that mistake last week) By the time I was well into my writing, there was a baby crying at the table right next to me, along with two small girls who seemed to be taking great pleasure in upsetting each other. So be it - after all its a place for parents and kids.

Through the baby crying, the multitude of interuptions, toilet breaks, food stops, encouragement on the Play Station, conversations and gleeful squeals of kids ... I got the first two thirds of my musical musings entry written. Who said you can't wave a magic wand!

Then this evening, with Annie out on a date with her hubby, I cooked pasta for three kids and got them to eat it, bathed, mediated and dressed three kids ... and in between wrote snippets of my story. Refining the story, fleshing out the characters... creating even more twisted endings.

I remember my Dad's second wife Gloria telling me one afternoon, that she had got through university as a mature aged student, with two kids, by utilisin every moment she had .... reading a text book as she cooked most evening. I get what she means now ... and it heartens me to know that I can do it. Just plug that lap top into the power point on the other kitchen bench. Voila!

I wont have my story finished tonight - for once it hasn't quite come out in one big gush, the twists and the turns keep taking me away from where I thought I wanted to go. Plus, I am still unsure of the ending ... even if Paul has given me the out by suggesting I write several endings and see which one people warm to the most (though I doubt anyone is going to warm to any ending that comes with this story!) Something will be up there on the musical musings page tomorrow ... along with the prompt for next week.

Today was the perfect pancea for any of those thoughts that begin with 'but I can't write here ...' Oh yes I can- andso can you. Have lap top ... will travel!

Where is the most unlikely place you have written? Where do you regularly find yourself writing?

Musical Musings #1 Monday 26th May

Musical Musings is a weekly music based writing meme to inspire and support writers of short fiction. Each Tuesday a prompt will be posted and you will have a week to create something (see the guidelines below).

Reading others' work and commenting in a critical but constructive manner is part of the writing process and our growth as writers. All participants are encouraged to actively be a part of this each week.


Use these lyrics to build your piece of fiction around.

"Remember me
Well honestly I don't remember who you are”
Liam Finn: Second chance

How to be part of the writing adventure:

1. Check each Tuesday for a new musical prompt – a link to the post will appear at the top right hand of the blog to help you navigate.
2. Write between 1000-2000 words of short fiction in any genre.
3. Editing is welcome and encouraged.
4. On Monday, post your story to your blog.
5. Return here to link your post and leave a comment.
6. Visit other’s posts and leave constructive comments.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Love Lost on Joyce

As we were going through the lists of best books etc a few weeks back, I started making note of the books that I really would like to get around to reading. Since writing and reading go hand in hand, I decided that I would read one book a month for pleasure, and another book that pushed me beyond my comfort zone, both as a reader and a writer.

Dave asked if I would read Joyce's "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" (or whichever way around the words go - I never get it right). I slipped "The Handmaids Tale" in ahead of it - on the premise that my writing group had suggested it to me as 'research' in formulating the world in which 'Adam and Eve' will live. Then I couldn't buy or borrow a copy of 'The Time Travellers Wife" so reluctantly I went to Joyce.

I struggled for around 30 odd pages with 'The Name of the Rose' before I could no longer stand the verbose, and somewhat pointless descriptives, nor all the other stuff that seemed to be intellctual showmanship, rater than penmanship of an author. I'm not quite sure how far I've suffered Joyce, as I've lost the book.

That says a lot!

I remember having it in my hand last night on the way to bed, but where it ended up ... Goddess only knows (and she's does - she's the one who has taken it from me so I can go back to enjoying reading again) I don't consider myself dumb - but I just didn't get what he was writing about. I was continually lost as to what as going on - what the conversations were about. Perhaps it's a historical, religious and cultural issue - I'm know very little of Irish history or politics from the era in which he was writing and even less about Catholicism in that era (but does it ever really chance?) I expect as a common courtesy (and this is well remembered as a writer) that the writer give me, the reader, a small hint or insight as to what is going on ... I don't need to be treated like an imbecile and spoon fed it - like TV, but just the smallest iota .... you know a little goes a long way.

So Joyce is lost ... and I'm not sad in the least! It's quite serendipidous!

I got my Mercurial Bats: Blithe Spirit from Mystic Medusa yesterday about how best to channel the energy of Mercury going retrograde this cycle - which begins tomorrow (keep an eye out on technology going balls up!) One of the suggestions for Saggittarians was to go back and read the books that you really love. With my night stand clear of reading drudgery - I looked immediately up to the book shelf in our bedroom, where my copy of 'Magician' awaits is next reading. It was January last year that I last read it ... so it's definitely time. 'Magician' is one of those books that I try and read every year. And it never loses its brilliance.

Thinking on books that I really love and would like to read again, 'Charlotte's Web' was the second to spring to mind, followed by 'Mists of Avalon' and 'The Forest House' by Marion Zimmer Bradley. We were near the library this afternoon and I couldn't help but see if there was a copy of either of MZB's books - even though I had decided that it was 'Magician' that I really wanted to read next. Knowing also that it will probably take me three weeks to get through 'Magician' which will basically coast me through the Merc Retro period.

Neither titles were on the shelves, but there was a slim paperback called 'Witch Hill' sitting alone. I couldn't help myself ... and after Joyce it's a joy to comsume ... and consume I am ... it probably will be finished before I lay my head down tonight. It has none of the literary vigour of either 'Mists of Avalon' nor 'The Forest House' but its an easy read. Too bad that witchcraft is cast as evil, dark and full of scarey sex.

So it's an official farewell to Joyce (and do I dare say good riddance!) and tomorrow, hello Feist ... as always, I'm ready to go around for another trip around the block with you!

Who is your least favourite writer, and why? Which writer can you simply not live without?

Musical Musings #1

Musical Musings is a weekly music based writing meme to inspire and support writers of short fiction. Each Tuesday a prompt will be posted and you will have a week to create something (see the guidelines below).

Reading others' work and commenting in a critical but constructive manner is part of the writing process and our growth as writers. All participants are encouraged to actively be a part of this each week.


Use these lyrics to build your piece of fiction around.

"Remember me
Well honestly I don't remember who you are”
Liam Finn: Second chance

How to be part of the writing adventure:

1. Check each Tuesday for a new musical prompt – a link to the post will appear at the top right hand of the blog to help you navigate.
2. Write between 1000-2000 words of short fiction in any genre.
3. Editing is welcome and encouraged.
4. On Monday, post your story to your blog.
5. Return here to link your post and leave a comment.
6. Visit other’s posts and leave constructive comments.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Evie: Parts one, two and three

This Week’s Theme: Conspinkey. Don't look that word up, because it doesn't exist. But you're going to use it in your entry.

The apartment is quiet save for the gentle hum of the fridge in the kitchen, white noise in an otherwise noiseless space. I search for traces, the reminders that are uniquely his. I avoid the photographs, the happy smiles of man, woman and child on the walls and the build-at-home shelves. On a small pre-loved table by the front door is his gym card –casually tossed there last night. He’ll need to charm his way in for his lunch time laps today.

As I walk to the bedroom I see the Scrabble board and I look down to see what’s on it. Just two words today. The first is qwigybo - the word that always starts it off. Connecting through the ‘i’, running vertically, is conspinkey. It is so long since we’ve talked, that I wouldn’t even know what conspinkey might mean in his world. A conspiratorial ring of key cutters? I pick another seven letters and place them down in no particular order, utlising the ‘y’. It’s been so long since I played.

We once laughed like teenagers when we read the made up words in the New York Times and we both agreed that we’d need an ‘innoculatte’ each morning – the coffee you take intravenously when you’re running late for work. And we were always running late. So busy – always. Too busy to have a child, but Sarah-Jane came along to prove us wrong. Just the one, he’d said, then along came Daniel … and now Evie.

As I stand at the bedroom door, I convince myself that this is his fault. I’m not, and I won’t be to blame for my actions. If he’s above feeling guilt, so will I. He’s pushed and pushed me and now I’m shoving back. He forced me to build the walls, I built around myself.

I think of Newton for a moment – that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Well this is it.

I tip toe into the bedroom and see her lying asleep on the huge bed. I don’t think of the bed, of what went on here – I only think of her, of Evie, of the baby that finally completes my family.

Her tiny pink hands are squeezed into miniature fists on either side of her head, her delicate arms thrown backwards in a sleeping version of the moro reflex. The cupid bow lips, begin to suck and I know exactly what she is dreaming.

Gently I slide my hands under her tiny sleeping body, cradling her head and carefully place her against my chest. I fear the thundering of my heart will wake her and I need her to stay blissfully asleep.

At the front door I take the lime green baby sling from a hook and put it over my shoulder like a hand bag. She stirs ever so slightly.
“Oh Evie,” I croon, so only she and I can hear. “Oh darling little Evie.”

She sleeps on against my chest as I close the front door and take out the single brass key left temporarily abandoned in the lock.
“Sleep little Evie sleep,” I whisper in a sing song voice, as we go out through the front gate and out into the street.

And we walk, Evie and I, one block, then two and three, until we are far away. The hollow ache in my womb lessens; the feeling of flesh consuming flesh is retreating, the coldness, the barrenness receding like the ebb tide and being replaced with a subtle warm glow. I have Evie and everything will be OK now, my family is complete.

- - - - - - - - - -
The bedroom is cold, but it’s not the drop in temperature that brings me out of my dead sleep. I’ve had a let down and the constriction in my breasts, as the milk gushes down the ducts is painful, still. The milk begins to leak and soak, warm and sticky into my t-shirt. I pull my shirt up and reach out to draw her to me. She’s not there. I absently sweep my hand across the sheets searching for where she’s wiggled to but there is only cold cotton sheet beneath my outstretched palm.

There’s a jolt of dread and I sit up. I’m the only one on the bed.

Where is Evie – oh fuck what have I done?

She’s not on the bed and I have horrific images of her lying twisted and mangled on the floor beside the bed, but there’s just my slippers, kicked off earlier on when I relented and laid down for an afternoon sleep with her.

Where can she be?

I’m so sleep deprived I’m not certain of anything anymore. Did I put her to sleep somewhere else? Did I just think that I laid her on the bed to sleep?

I stumbled out into the lounge room, with fear rapidly twisting close my airways. Her quilt, made by Sarah-Jane is lying on the floor. Evie was happy to lie on her back there this morning, her arms haphazardly flapping about, as I tried to read a magazine for five minutes. And then she’d started to cry … again.

The crying seems to be never ending. Colic they say – whatever that means. She’s unsettled a lot of the time, but so am I. I thought I was ready for motherhood, but this isn’t what a bargained on. Everything has changed and I want it back like it used to be. Love doesn’t conquer all.

Could I have done something to Evie? Have I done something to my difficult and darling daughter?

Like a woman possessed I run from room to room, the bathroom, the laundry, the spare room with the bed piled high with nappies and baby clothes. She’s not anywhere … she’s just disappeared. I check the garbage bin, the fruit and vegetable crisper, the freezer … the oven.

I pinch myself so hard a bruise immediately rushes to the surface and I begin to cry.

Next thing, I’m still sitting, staring at the Scrabble board and Michael’s nonsense word. Conspinkey – what the hell does that mean? What does any of this mean? Everything is distorted, staring out through the tears.

My t-shirt is soaked and my breasts are throbbing – they are going to explode. I’m going to explode. I need Evie … Evie needs me. I’m crying tears of salt and breast milk. And I can’t think straight. I can’t breathe. My head is spinning and I’m hyperventilating.

I look at the Scrabble board again. There’s a third word on the board. I scramble for the phone and ring Michael. His call is routed through to his secretary and she tells me in her haughty voice that he’s unavailable. I yell hysterically at her to get him for me, it’s urgent .. it’s about Evie.

After a time he comes to the phone, and I can tell from the tone of his breathing he’s pissed at me.
“Evie is gone,” I wail. “Someone’s taken Evie.”

- - - - - - - - -

“Yo Sarah-Jane.”

I ignore him, I’m not interested. The bus is crowded and it’s easy for me to pretend that I don’t hear him.
“He’s cute,” Sally giggles into my ear, as we hang like chimps from the commuter bars, lurching backwards and forwards into each other as the bus driver kamikazes his way from the city out into the suburbs.
“Not my type.”
“Sure he is.”
“I’ve got enough happening at the moment with out boy stuff.”

My phone starts ringing. It’s in my bag and I have to let go of the bar, squeeze down between Sarah and some other girl, tug the zipper on open and it’s gone to message bank by the time I’ve got it in my hand.

“Just my Dad,” I comment up to Sally, looking at his number on the screen.
“You gonna ring him back.”

I stand up and shrug my shoulders.
“It’s complicated.”
“How’s your Mum taking it all?”
I shrug my shoulders again.
“Like I said it’s complicated. I’d prefer not to know.”
“You’ve got Her on Facebook.”
“Only because Mum doesn’t do Facebook.”
“Do you like Her.”
“I don’t hate Her.”
“Do you hate your Dad.”
“Not really. He says love conquers all. It’s just a cop out, sugar coating his own selfishness.”

The bus is nearing my stop.
“You want to come and hang out for a bit.”
Sally shakes her head.

She gives me a hug and then I clamber over the top of school bags and leather clad feet towards the back door, dragging my too heavy school bag behind me. Free of the bus and the smell of Impulse and boys sweat, I pull out my iPod and walk home with music blasting into my ears. It’s almost as if I believe that the music will chase out all the thoughts I don’t want to have.

Mum’s car is in the driveway when I get home. It’s been years since she had Friday’s off, since we were little and at primary school. I turn off the iPod as I open the door and immediately hear the screaming of a baby. The sound is coming from the guest room, the room that is now Mum’s. It’s like she’s martyred herself, a guest in her own home just because Dad doesn’t live here any more.

I see Mum sitting on the bed and immediately recognise the pink pig, jumpsuit feet as Evie’s. Mum’s bawling too and there’s something both desperate and primal in their collective wailing.

“Mum,” I say as I sit down on the bed next to her, putting my hand on her arm. “Mum.”

After a while she realises that I’m there and looks at me with swollen, bloodshot eyes. Evie continues to wail, her face blood red and tightly bunched.

“I wanted another one and your father said no,” she sobbed, holding Evie closer to her. “I wanted another baby …. he said no …. I froze him out … I was so angry and hurt …. I did it for so long he left …. And now there’s Evie … one two three … one two three … one….”

She begins to cry again and her words become sobs.

I stroke her arm.
“Mum. How about you give me Evie,” I suggest. “I’ll go and change her nappy for you” even though there hasn’t been a nappy in our house for 12 years.
“Yes ... yes … Sarah-Jane. You’re such a big girl. Such a big help to Mummy.”

I’m standing out the front of our house, with Evie wrapped up in an old towel, my little finger in her soft pert mouth, when Dad and Her arrive.

“Leave Mum alone,” I say with venom that scares me, as I hand Evie over and my key to their apartment that Mum used to get in. “You’ve both put her through hell. I’d say you were even now.”

And I turn my back on them both before they can say anything.

If the police were involved they didn’t find us at home, nor come looking for us. I put the L Plates on the car and drove Mum, Daniel and I to the beach. Neither Daniel nor I could replace the baby Dad denied and then taunted Mum with, but we could be gentle with her and love her as best we could.

Postscript: there's a classic Australian rock song entitled 'Evie - parts one, two and three' it only occured to me as I was finishing writing it.

NEW MEME: I'm starting a new writing meme ... see post below for more information. Everyone welcome to join in Musical Musings.

get the Fiction Friday codeabout Fiction Friday
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Liam Finn Second Chance

Musical Musings: a monday writing meme

Musical Musings - where music and writing collide

For me, music and writing are inseperable. I simply can't write unless I have music on. Unlike others, who need instrumental music, or music without obvious lyrics, I go for music that sets the scene or creates an ambience for where I (think) the stories needs to go.

When I wrote 'Hail Mary' (a story I hopefully will be able to retrieve from a broken USB drive) I took out my 'In the name of the Father' sound track and got the whole story down by the end of the CD. One of those moments where it felt like downloading a story from somewhere - I had the soundtrack I was just creating new images to go with it.

Consequently, I've decided to create a musical writing meme ... with the prompt to go up mid week, for posting the following Monday. Between now and then I will work out how to insert a Mr Linky widget (c'mon how hard can that be - probably famous last words!).

The inaugral prompt comes from Aussie singer and songwriter writer Liam Finn (yes - son and nephew of the famous Finn brothers of Split Endz and Crowded house notoriety). Here goes ....

"Remember me
Well honestly I don't remember who you are
The memory has never been the best, you want a second chance"
From Liam Finn's song 'Second Chance'

If you would like to hear the song or get a feel for the music - the video clip is posted above. It seems to beyond my technophobe abilities to get the youtube window into this post!! And please pass among your writer friends to spread the word.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Honesty and Criticism

I find it hard to offer up criticism … possibly because it requires the type of honesty that I feel uncomfortable with. I also feel it's because I struggle to appreciate the criticism offered to me.

I am not naturally inclined to point out someone’s weaknesses or mistakes. As an editor I never rejected any of the work that was submitted to me. I was in a difficult position whereby, the contributors to my magazine were Mums, often new Mums who were short on time, energy and space. I felt an obligation to publish everything that came through my inbox. I often spent lots of time editing articles to get them ship shape, rather than send them back, or reject them out right.

Things are different now.

As I grow as a writer honest feed back is what I yearn for - the comments and criticisms that are not sugar coated. I understand now that a weakness can only become a strength if you know about it.

I belong to a writing circle, and one of the ladies there pointed out that I lessen the impact of my writing with the overuse of adverbs. Apparently this is a common criticism of writers in general. I was immediately taken aback and jumped to my own defence (in my head of course) saying ‘I do not!’ Then I read the same general criticism in King’s ‘On Writing’ and began to looking at my writing, with the rose coloured glasses off.

I started to scrutinise my work - did I really need to say ‘hungrily’, ‘sadly’ or any of the plethora of other adverbs I was calling upon? When I was ruthless and honest with myself … the answer was no! I realised that in overusing adverbs I was restating the bleeding obvious to the reader and in doing so I was treating the reader like they were stupid. Less is definitely more when it comes to the use of adverbs.

I’m looking forward to going through my back catalogue of short stories next month and seeing how my use of adverbs has changed over time. It has been a lesson well learnt and I am grateful for my friend’s honesty in pointing this out to me.

We’re often reluctant to be honest, when we're asked to critique another's work, especially if we ask a friend. Yet, criticism, when offered up appropriately gives the writer (or any other artist or professional for that matter) the opportunity to grow and develop. It hurts, it makes us question our ability but it’s a necessary part of moving out of our comfort zones and onto bigger and better things.

A few simple tips for offering balanced and constructive critiques.

1. make sure that the person welcomes criticism - don’t simply assume. If you are uncertain ask.

2. be specific – is the weakness in dialogue, characterisation, the length of the story or pace, the language, grammar, spelling … does the opening paragraph fail to hook you in, is it missing a twist, do you fail to believe any of it. This gives the writer a direction, something to work with. General comments are pointless as tools for growth and development.

3. give some thought to the manner in which you word your criticism

4. give some explanation if you think it is needed, that will empower the writer ie. “When you overuse adverbs you loose the power of your writing.”

5. do not make disparaging personal comments - any comment you make has to be about the writing at hand and has to be specific.

6. share something that you like about the story – we all love to hear something positive..

When we learn to accept the invitation to critique I believe that we, in turn, better able to accept, understand and utilise the critiques we receive.

What other tips for critiquing work do you have? Are you comfortable about critiquing the work of others?

(This was what I had intended to write last night. It was the exchange of blog comments with Paul just before going to bed that reminded me of my original intention.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What to write?

I signed a contract that said I would blog for 90 days after finishing the Artist's Way. I've missed two days in the last two weeks ... nights when I fell asleep before I could crawl to the computer.

After all these years, I think I have to finally resign myself to the conclusion that I am NOT productive late at night. Beyond about 9:30ish it tends to slide into a very bad downhill spiral of non-productivity. Instead, I siddle into mind numbing internet surfing that rarely turns up anything interesting. The next morning I kick myself for missing the opporunity to go and read one of the multitude of blogs I try and make an appearance at.

Which in reality, makes this post just a waste of cyber space ... an attempt to do something because I said I would, but for it to be rather worthless. I need to keep better track of my blogging ideas (a habit that I really need to get into) and sit down to write earlier.

As a luxury I've got the first Series of Sex and the City out on DVD. I have 14 nights so may as well get out all the DVDs that I long to watch and never get a chance to. I was well behind the eight ball in writing by the time that I got here.

Best thing now is to say good-night, turn off the lights and perhaps finish 'The Handmaids Tale' so I can begin my next book ... keeping my two books a month target well and truly alive.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Writing for a living

From Asoboo - Japan Fiction Writer's Forum

Barbara asked me over the weekend: "How is the writing as a way of making money going for you? I am always curious about that."

It's probably one of those things that writers don't talk about to each other - the money that they make (or more to the point, that they don't). It's estimated that the average Australian writer makes $10,000 a year. I'm guessing though that the average Australian writer doesn't receive $10,000 a year. I expect (having done university standard statistics!) that there are a few writers at the top making some money and it's averaged across the rest of us. In reality, I would be stoked if I made $10,000 this year from writing, but its unlikely?

To date this year I've been paid $45.00 - from the sale of 'Demon Lover'! Don't spend it all at once, my mother would have said once upon a time, in jest. The cheque is still pinned to my noticeboard ... I really must remember to put it in the bank. Obviously I'm not spending it all at once! I have numerous articles either published or about to be in a variety of newsletters and magazines, but like so many of us - its for the love of it, no money will exchange hands for these. It's all about getting published, getting the exposure - we've all told that to ourselves and to those close to us.

For me I find it hard to value myself as a writer, to value the time that's put into writing (and thus make time for it), when there is no monetary return. Don't get me wrong, I'm not interested in making lots of money, I'm not in it purely for the money - it's simply that I'm finally learning that everything has a price, everything has a monetary value and at the moment my writing has very little. We equate something with little value as being worthless - and that's the irony. I don't believe that my writing is worthless. I know that I have the ability to move people, push them in places that they may not want to go ... make them laugh, cry, applaude, hate! I believe my work is most definitley worthy - though my bank balance makes a liar out of me. I'm certain that I am not the only one who feels this way.

Recently I was asked to do some editorial consulting - and I had no idea what to charge. The three years I was at the helm of Down to Birth, it was as a volunteer, it was for the love of it. My friend Catherine, who I was having lunch with, told me that once I began to feel uncomfortable with the dollar amount in my head, I was getting close to my true worth.

But there is very little chance for us as writers to set our price, to feel the discomfort of getting close to our monetary worth. We feel grateful for whatever money gets tossed our way - it's like feeding scraps to stray dogs. Our currency is the glowing comments that we receive ... but it's not dollars in the bank at the end of the day - a collection of wonderful comments wont allow you to give up your day job.

Even if you do strike a big publishing deal - it will be the publishing house that makes all the money - and again, they'll just throw you the scraps ... I don't think as writers we should feel thankful about 10% and 15%s ... after all WE WERE THE ONES THE CREATED IT, in the first place. It is our blood, sweat and tears, the time we've spent away from family and friends. Is that really all we're worth? And like my cheque for Demon Lover - I was ecstatic about $45.00 because it meant something. But is my story only worth $45.00 fee (the standard fee for the short stories they publish.) It's like letting off fire works only to discover they're pissweak, made in China, firelights that go bang really loudly but that's it.

In doing some internet research, I discovered that of the short fiction that is available on the internet - it is no surprise that 99.9% of it is FREE! On blogs, on dedicated fiction sites, as adjuncts to other websites ... I guess that I should feel rather priviledged that Getting Hitched, the site that published my Demon Lover, actually offered to pay for it and followed throug with a cheque!

Occassionally I would like an easy and simple avenue for my work to be published - somewhere my value as a writer is honoured. It's one of those double bind situations, most editors want to see that you've already been published, want some type of guarantee as to your saleability before they take you on board. What if you're still unpublished? What if you haven't manage to find that niche for your writing? And there's the time factor. When you're already hard pressed to find the time to write ... there's editing and then the whole process of submitting work and waiting.

I'm a full time Mum and in days gone by, I would have called myself lazy for the fact that I dont go after the publishing opportunities that may exist out there. The fact is, that after I have written something, I simply file it away. I am busy, not lazy ... all these steps in writing take time and now perhaps I'm overtly focused on the creation side. There is a sizeable back catalogue of work accumulating there, waiting for me to remember that it's there and to do something with it. Perhaps finally I've worked out what to do with it.

There is a saying 'When the going get's tough, the tough getting going' ... but I'm pretty sure it should actually read 'When the going get's touch, the tough get creative'. Watch this space for more ... but until then, what are your thoughts on being paid for your writing?

  • Do you believe that short fiction should be available free on the internet or do you believe this undermines the true value of it?
  • How would you feel about being PAID to have your writing on the internet rather than offering it up for free?
  • Who pays to publish short fiction online?
  • Does the mere suggestion of being paid for your writing amp up the cringe factor in your mind? Or is being paid the first milestone to feeling like you are a 'real' writer?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bird Watching

Our birth photographer Gemma-Rose Turnball has an album on her website called 'Bird Watching.' I remembered that it had pictures that made the ordinary look extraordinary (there's even a photo from my birth in this album!)

I got to thinking about 'bird watching' and what the same type of thing might mean for me as a writer. The inspiration was going along to Dylan's kindy disco on Friday night. It's was a weird juxtaposition - flashing lights and music, the closeness created in a room by the heat of too many bodies and not enough fresh air ... that drag you back to times and places long ago, memories that surface without bidding. Memories that are interupted by a tug on your hand, a strain of the chicken dance music or the mad squeals of a group of kids chasing each other over a grassy knoll. All quite strange.

But the aspect of the whole night that got me, and got me thinking about Gemma's take on 'bird watching' was coming across one particular Dad on the sidelines. He was much taller than me, well over six foot tall, with dark brown hair, messily curling (the way hair does when its outgrown its original cut). He had a good three day growth on his face. He looked rugged, but this wasn't the first thing that caught my eye, in fact it was the last. What originally caught my eye was the black patent leather bag under one arm and the bright pink my little pony being held in the other. The three aspects, rugged looking man, black hand bag and pink stuffed pony should not have been in the same sentence, let along the same space in time, it should not have worked would not have worked in any other place other than a kindy disco.

The last thing that amazed me was how at ease he was, it was if he was oblivious to the fact of what he was actually holding. He could well have been holding a beer, he was that comfortable.

It was the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Yet it almost became my biggest fauxpas. I immediately had to go out and tell someone what I had seen - Dave wasn't with us. The first person I found was another Mum from Dylan's class that I sort of know. I started to gush it out, and then put a disclaimer on it, "Oh I had better be careful, it may have been your husand,' before I embarked once more upon my description. And you betcha .. it was this lady's huband (of the 50 or so families that were there!) But she took it in her stride, she probably took it as a compliment - not to mention that I'm sure she would have been happy to have offloaded her two kids, her hand bag and the my little pony onto him. I know I would have been.

Looking for the extraordinary in the ordinary keeps life exciting, it throws up all manner of possibilities that we're closed to if we wandered through life blinkered by any sense of monotony. The challenge - to go out and bird watch, to scrutinse "for subtle detail in size, shape, plummage and behaviour" and tell us all what you see.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Giant Falls

This Week’s Theme: Pick a favorite fairy tale or legend. Now briefly describe how you could update it to the modern day.

It’s been staged for maximum impact. It’s all in slow motion and I hear Freddy Mercury belting out ‘We are the champions”- like a choose-your-own-adventure music clip. They stride in as the clock strikes the quarter hour, just before the majority of employees leave their work stations for lunch. I look up and see him appear at the end of the corridor, hands cuffed tightly behind him, towering half a foot over each officer that walks beside him. The two officers look comic holding onto one his arms. A plethora of other officers ring him - looking more like munkins than Special Branch officers. There’s absolutely no ambiguity in any of this though, Joseph Fenton is a criminal, but I’ve known that for years. This moment has been ten years in the making.

He glares at me as he is escorted past me. I mouth one word to him, ‘Karma’ and there’s no ambiguity in that either. He knows exactly what I mean. It’s only now that he realises, too late, exactly who I am – the son of the man he crucified as a paedophile ten years ago, and then stole his business. It’s not really karma – this is sweet, sweet revenge.

I was fifteen when they handcuffed my father at the dinner table and took him away. He never came home again. They allowed him to be beaten to death in the remand centre, before he could even stand trial, to defend himself against the charges, to address the allegations wrongly levelled at him. I know those he shared a cell with would have charged him with being a rockspider. They would have felt justified in removing his type of filth from the face of the earth. But my father was not a paedophile. He was the most gentle and generous man, a businessman with heart, integrity, vision and compassion. Had he been a share trader they would have trumped up charges of insider trading against him. His only crime was that he owned the largest chain of childcare centres and had thwarted the hostile take over bid from Joseph Fenton’s company.

The share price plummeted after Dad’s arrest. The plunge wiped out the life investments of thousands of ordinary working families. The centres were bought out by Fenton. He discharged the parent management committees and paid bean counters to increase the profit margins where possible. Dedicated and loving centre staff, who had been part of my father’s company for years, were sacked and replaced with young girls who would work for the minimum wage. They put the fees up and then lobbied the Government, along with parent groups, to increase the amount of Government. Teddy Brown Learning and Development was born when the two companies, what was left of Dad’s and Fenton’s, merged. What had been my father’s vision of creating choice and equality for mothers and families, became a vision for huge share holder profits and enviable Director’s salaries.

A year ago Louise Major turned up on my door step. I was packing to move, behind in rent again, unemployed again and about to be evicted – again. A few hours later and she may have lost all trace of me. I knew who she was, with her shock of auburn curls barely contained beneath the head scarf, looking as though she’d stepped straight out of a film co-starring Carey Grant. She was an investigative journalist with a penchant for conspiracy theories, but she wrote well enough, was thorough enough in her research that her articles rarely went unpublished. I also knew that her family had been one of those … who had lost thousands of dollars of hard earned savings, investing in the service that kept their families afloat week to week.

Major could talk under wet concrete and didn’t register the word ‘no’. Within half an hour she’d packed me and my meagre belonging into her ancient hatch back and driven us all to her favourite café for coffee – on her!

I had nothing and then she gave me something.

I still clearly see her taking the manila folder, dog eared and coffee stained from her back pack and sliding it across the table to me. She offered me a few nights on her couch, shared with her long haired, bipolar cat, while I thought about her offer. I was homeless and jobless – there was only one thing I had to loose.

I took the folder to Mum – I needed her blessing. She had taken it all harder than she allowed anyone to believe – most of all me. The mask she wore was impervious to the stares, or the snide utterances under peoples’ breath. She belonged to a generation who remembered, even though she tried desperately to forget. It always got around that she was Ben Beanscovich’s widow – and she was forced to Brown his dirty legacy. After a time she stopped changing her name and went back to the name she’d assumed for better or worse. Mrs Beanscovich only acted the martyr now. I knew she was heart broken - not by what Dad had supposedly done, but because she doubted him - still.

She took her time in reading the evidence that Major had come up with … and the proposition. An hour later she got up, filled the kettle and put it on the gas.
“This is frivolous,” she finally said, after the tea had steeped for the proper amount of time and she’d poured us both a cup. “What’s done is done. You can move your stuff back in here until you get up on your feet again.”

The next morning I retrieved the folder from her plastic step bin and went to sleep on Major’s hairy, manic depressive lounge. And I became Jack Smith, newly arrived personal assistant from New York City. I perfected the accent in two weeks, while the real Jack Smith lay two suburbs over in a coma. Major swore it wasn’t identity theft – she sweet talked me and my conscious with promises that we were merely borrowing. It was a necessary means to an end.

Major set me up with a motel room in the city. With all the necessary paperwork organised, I walked into Jack Smith’s job in Teddy Brown Development and Learning. Sooner than I expected I began the climb up the corporate ladder. I knew that it could be nothing less than Fenton’s own personal assistant for Major’s plan and my own teenage yearnings to see the light of day. I made my self indispensable to Fenton, even though I wasn’t officially assigned to him. But that was just one part of it.

We began the process of acquiring small lots of shares in the company, until our combined slush fund ran out. I suggested Jillian, Fenton’s daughter. As a chip off the old block, she’d fallen as far from the block as possible. Where Fenton was bombastic and over bearinging, Jillian had a quiet groundedness about her. I got the impression that she was just biding her time and that she could hold her own, even in the old man’s shadow. It was a risk that I was willing to make.

I invited her to dinner and I laid out the contents of Major’s folder for a second time. She could have done many things, but I didn’t expect her to bury her head in her hands and sob. I’d expected a wild backlash, an apology … I fantasised about her hugging me wildly and immediately throwing her support behind me.
“I tried to pretend that I didn’t know,” she said, from somewhere within her hands. “I wanted to be glad that it was them and not me.”
“He never touched you?”
She shook her head and looked across the table to where I sat, the guilt of knowing flowing down her cheeks.
“He only likes little boys, but still ….”

With Jillian’s recently matured trust fund, we set about buying up small lots of shares again, until we almost reached critical mass … a controlling share in Teddy Brown Development and Learning. By then I had ingratiated myself into one Fenton’s personal assistant roles.

Jillian downloaded everything she’d found over the years, some from Fenton’s ghost drives, as ripples started to spread outwards through the share market that there was a new player for Teddy Brown. We’d been discrete … a shelf company in the Cayman Islands. And that in itself must have put the wind up Fenton. You can’t bribe, or undermine on moral grounds a faceless entity. As I bought up his long black that morning, I’d assured him that it was nothing to worry about and he’d smiled, as if my word meant anything.
“Thank you Jack,” he’d said and taken a long sip from the steaming hot Gloria Jean’s cup. “I think today will be a good day.”

He always swore that he could literally ‘smell out’ a competitor; he prided himself on this ability. ‘That’s how I got rich’, he’d joked to me one afternoon when he’d invited me to share single malt with him after the posting of record quarterly results. ‘That and knowing every man’s weakness. That way you can grind their bones to make your bread.’ That afternoon, with the warm whisky coursing through my veins I’d been tempted to add ‘like Ben Beanscovich’s’ but I didn’t trust my nerve.

How the police got involved I’m not sure. With the controlling interest in our hands, the photographic and internet tracking proof of Fenton’s online activities, the stage was set.

I mouth one word to him, ‘Karma’ and there’s no ambiguity. Jillian squeezes me hand. Fenton knows exactly what I mean. It’s only now that he realises, too late, exactly who I am – the son of Ben Beanscovich who he murdered ten years ago, with his own secret network of paedophiles … and I have his daughter Jillian beside me. She’s singing the same tune as me. Jillian pushes through and spits in her fathers eye. She is ready to be resurrected, as her father falls on his own sword.

The press miss all of this. They’re downstairs baying like hunting hounds … seeking blood. Fenton is escorted out through the front doors. There are no short cuts to protect him. The interpersonal play is left to Major to report – this alone is hers. We’ve promised her that.

As we sit down, over curry and beer that night Major smiles at me.
“You never suspected,” she says.
“It’s the perfect cover. Special branch and all of that.”
“But surely …”
“Louise,” I say, using her first name because I know she will shut up and pay me the attention I’m due. “Did you never ask yourself, just how you came by all that information in the first place, all those pictures in that manila folder?”
And she just stares back at me.

If you can pick the fairy tale and the matching elements ... please comment! I'm fearing I've taken obtusement (If that's even a word) to a whole new level!

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Charlie the Wonder Dog

Who is Charlie the Wonder Dog - well here you go. And just so you get what its all about ...

From Wikipedia:

"Charlie the Wonderdog was a series of short episodes which first aired during The Late Show's second series. Charlie was a parody of fictitious animal shows, such as Lassie and Skippy the Bush Kangaroo in which the animal regularly ends up saving the day. Charlie was a dog owned by Gleisner.

The sketch featured purposely bad overacting from the children and usually involved an unimposing villain or disaster (such as a "poacher" stealing "native fauna" - sticks and twigs - from the bush) that had to be prevented. The actors would constantly praise Charlie as a highly intelligent "wonder dog", in contradiction of the behaviour of Charlie himself, who regularly had to be dragged around by a rope to perform stunts. When the dog was required to bark to alert the others of danger, obvious overdubbing was used over footage of Charlie with his mouth closed or looking distracted.

As the series went on, the problems and situations that Charlie faced became more and more over the top. Charlie was eventually assassinated in one of the sketches, only to come back in the Charlie the Wonderdog Christmas Episode.

Charlie the Wonder Dog ... along with Shit Scared were two of my favourite segments on the iconic The Late Show.

When did you know you were a writer?

Janie over at Write Stuff proposed the following questions to us this week:

"When did you know you were a writer? Was there a moment or period in your life when you realized that you were meant to write? Did a specific event or occurrence compel you to write? Or, like me, have you just always considered yourself a writer?"

My answer is both simple and complex. I remember when I first felt the love for writing. It was 1984, the year of the Los Angeles Olympics. The year that Willy was our Australian Olympic mascot. I was in my second last year of primary school and I must have been 10. We were writing small stories about the exploits of Willy in LA. I wrote one, then another and still another. From there I began writing at home, on one of my mothers cheap lined note pads (used predominately for writing the weekly shopping list) a story about a dog, a golden labrador that lived on a farm. He wasn't like Charlie the Wonder Dog (for those Aussies old enough to remember the D Gen's The Late Show from the early 90's) he was just a dog and it was just a farm. I must have written 10 or 11 pages before I stopped writing.

I found an alternate escape from the world - an escape where I could play God ... which I never really got over (he reminds me of the scene in Overboard where Goldie Hawn's husband says 'At Sea I am a God' and the psychiatrist who happens to be aboard offers to give him a couple of his own valium!) Writing is the ultimate escape hatch - you create the world, the characters and the scenarios that are played out - you choose who wins and who loses (which was big for me as a serial victim of bullying at high school), who is the hero, the heroine, the evil mastemind.

In the summer of 1985 I was staying with my cousin and read my first (and only) Sweet Valley high novel (and I use that term exceedingly loosely). I was appalled at how pathetically it was written and how it really wasn't what life was like. I went back to my Nanna and Pa's and began writing what would be my first novel ... about life and loves of a 13 year old. Over that summer I wrote about 130 A4 pages. I loved every minutes of it and in 1988 when we moved to Queensland I rewrote the novel. I would take the dog and my writing folder down to the beac and we'd hang out there writing (Oakey chewing on coconut husks) until it was time to go home for dinner. In that novel was my safe space while I went about creating a new social space among new friends in a new high school. I still have both handwritten manuscripts downstairs.

Even though I have always known that I loved writing, and have wanted to have it as a 'career' - it took 15 years after finishing highschool to make the big decision to 'just write.' It was last year on the full solar eclipse of the Virgo moon (my natal moon) when it occurred to me that I didn't need to decide whether to return to paid work or not, if I wanted to study and what I wanted to study, plus how all of that would fit around having a child ... I could write. It made such sense for the first time ever. So I did ... and I haven't stopped since.

Finding Write Stuff in late September last year and Fiction Friday opened up creative avenues that bypassed all the hurdles I regularly threw up for myself, so I wouldn't write - lack of ideas, inspiration - blah blah blah. I discovered a great love for short stories that was probably lost through creating them in high school english class for marking. I stopped trying to write the best selling novel, or finding the perfect plot ... I just sat down to write each Friday night and waited to see what magic flew from my fingers ... good magic and crap magic alike. One short story at a a time.

I spent 15 years making up excuses why I couldn't write - and after a certain amount of time you either give up totally, buying into the delusion that you have created for yourself or you stop making excuses and create a writing reality for yourself. The end of the excuses came in December last year - when I made the decision to give up my editorship of Down to Birth magazine - the end of my shadow artist. I would now only invest in me, my writing and whatever the future held for both of us. I stopped running, I looked myself square in the eye and believed that I had the tenacity and the talent to suceed.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The tool box

Sadly, as I'm writing this, I have the backpack song from Dora the Explorer playing away in my head ... but I digress (sorry to anyone who knows this song and now has it stuck in their heads!)

Steven King refers to the writers 'toolbox' in his book 'On Writing'. For months I wrote in my morning pages about finding the 'right' satchel to carry everything around in, as I didn't have a proper bag. Thus I never had a novel with me to capitalise on those few spare moment when waiting in line. My note book was always in a different bag, so I lost countless ideas and snippets and my ecosilk shopping bags were always hung up at home meaning their plastic comrades were planning to mount an offensive from their position in their pantry (given their superior numbers!)

In the weeks leading up to our holiday in Tasmania and Victoria I started dreaming about getting this perfect satchel. There would be room for my novel and my notebook, my recently purchased SLR camera, my eco silk bags, a bottle of water, my lip balm ... you get the idea. My idea was to go to the Queen Victoria Markets in Melbourne and find 'this perfect bag.'

It's sad to say that I wrote quite a few lines in my morning pages about this perfect page ... no images of what the perfect bag looked like, just what the perfect bag would hold and what it would do for me as a writer!

Amazingly enough, we walked into the markets the day before we flew out of Victoria. Leanne, my Dad's wife took me straight to the bag seller - the Italian House of Leather, and I started to have a look around. Within a couple of minutes I'd found a leather backpack, did a spot of bargaining, and got it for just under the budgeted price. Voila! I was the proud owner of 'the perfect satchel.'

Since then - I haven't been caught out without my shopping bags and our collection of plastic shopping bags is slowly diminishing - I think we're safe from the revolution they were planning. I always have my novel with me (I make a habit of putting it in my bad before I leave the house) which meant on Saturday while I was waiting in the extra long BBQ line at a school fete, I could whip out my book and read three or four pages until it was my turn to collect our lunch. My lips are much happier (especially coming into winter) for the ever ready supply of rose scented lip balm from Perfect Potions ... and well I do have to admit that I lost my little purple book for all my writing ideas at the grocers last week, but it has been replaced and used. While I'm probably not as vigilant as I should be at writing down ideas (its been a life long habit to store them in my head), I am getting much better at it. And there is both room for my camera (meaning I've snapped a few shots I would never have got) and a water bottle. It's taken a little getting used to the extra weight on my back - but its well worth it.

The right equipment as a writer may be, as in my case, the right bag to carry the tools around in ... because the world of a writer does exist beyond the keyboard.

What is the one writers tool, other than your computer, that you simply could not do without?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Led Zepplin Disco Ninja

Yes you read correctly ... Led Zeppling Disco Ninja was how Ross Noble came out on stage tonight describing himself. His long curly brown, going-to-dreadlocks, hair makes him a dead ringer for a 70's rocker. Then there was the shirt - the black flared at the wrists shirt with groovy electric blue, flame like embellishments at the sleeve ... and then there was the black pants and the electric blue shoes.

The man is a dynamo of a comic. He comes to the gig with three jokes and that's it. All the rest is ad lib ... through audience participation and his own brand of split personality acting/laughfest, impersonation, mime, a bit of singing in there.

And he goes ... and goes and goes and goes. There seriously has to be energiser batteries in the man. He did just over an hour set in the beginning, the there was intermission, another hour or more ... plus questions at the end.

The stalker lady from Spicks and Specks was there - she saw 32 of the Spicks and Specks live shows (now that's creepy) last year. She's only going to see Ross twice - probably lucky for him.

I thought I would laugh more, or laugh harder ... it was just one constant laugh. Dave had tears streaming out his eyes. It was either the comedy or the pain in his back (possibly a combination of the two)

I'd love to reminisce more about the Algerian national anthem, of bum dancing in taxi, Hippogimps, Nanna Jelly Sex and other suck delights from the show - but its well past midnight and I need more beautiful sleep.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mothers Birthday

Happy Mothers Day to those beautiful and hardworking Mums who may be reading this today. I know that not every country is celebrating/honouring motherhood ... but hey, as a mothers we should be celebrated and honoured every day.

This was the first mothers day in four years that I have actually enjoyed. I spent my first mothers day in bed sick with a cold, then the second one in Cairns with Dave elsewhere, last year was great until the point of a family meltdown around dinner time ... so this year I went in without any preconceived ideas.

The morning began in Dylan's bed, where I had staggered to as some time after dawn ... having been muscled collectively out of the big bed by Dylan and Dave. Dylan came in with a huge smile on his face, gave me a big hug and good morning kiss. He told me that the time was 9:20 (a combination of him telling me what hands were on what numbers) - and thus I began the day thinking I had enjoyed a big sleep in (an hour later I realised that it had been 8:00am and thus had missed out on an hours sleep, but gained an hour of cooking time.)

As I wrote my morning pages there was the rustling of wrapping paper and the chattered that accompanies card making ... Dave getting Dylan to dictate what he wanted to write in my card. I had already been honoured with this beautiful piece of artwork (above on Friday) ... which answered all the questions that had gone unanswered the previous day, as to where his artwork was (as he was covered from head to tow in red paint!).

A while later down came Dave and Dylan. Dylan bouncing onto the bed and chanting 'Happy Mothers Birthday Mum" ... he didn't quite understand that it wasn't a birthday ... so it became all Mums birthdays today, as far as he was concerned.

I got this wonderful card (sadly photographed after the sun went down) ... with the following wording ...

Dear Mummy,

Mummy realls loves this card because its sweet! Happy Mothers Birthday.

Love Dylan

It's now pride of place on my night stand. Dylan doesn't produce a whole heap of craft or artwork, so the little that he does is really special.

Dave hurt his back playing with Dylan yesterday, meaning it was up to me to be a whizz in the kitchen to make dessert. We'd planned to enjoy a joint mothers day lunch with Annie and family, and our contribution was dessert. I'd procrastinated yesterday over what to make - cheesecake, brownies, portugese custard tarts, chocolate ripple log (with lashing of creme de menthe in it!), caramel peanut butter tarts ... decisions decisions decisions. In the end I decided to think about it tomorrow.

I wasn't that upset to be in the kitchen on mothers day - especially considering I was making a new recipe ... a mars bar cheesecake. I had to walk up to the corner shop (grateful for having one now!) and got three Mars Bars ... not a good look at 9:00am. Dylan helped to do some rather vigorous stirring, and drop in the chopped up pieces of mars bar ... then transfer the filling from the bowl into the crust ... before he got interested in something else and left me to finish everything off. In the course of doing this I discovered that my brown sugar didn't want to melt to make a butterscotch sauce and thus had to resort to a can of pre-made caramel. Sounds all very naughty and unhealthy really.

We called all our family, caught up on what's been going on, shared mothers day goodwill and then started getting ready to go out for lunch ... which always seems to take longer than it actually should (I'm blaming it on having a new hair style that requires blow drying.)

The kids played happily at Annie and Adrian's ... the energy at the moment between them is more about cooperation and much less about fighting, which is nice. We had a lovely pork roast cooked by Adrian, along with some champagne liquere cocktails. After lunch the menfolk and children disappeared off to the park and we enjoyed a foot spa, a mini facial and I never buffed my finger nails. Yes - unbelievable I know (perhaps I'll give up biting them now?)

Coffee/tea and more cheese cake later on in the afternoon, more silly jokes (even though the worse of the champagne had worn off) and we ventured into discussions on politics and religion ... mostly about whether Phillip Adams is agnostic or atheist ... so guess we were talking about someone else's religion and politics.

The kids sat down to watch Surfs Up and Dave lying on the loungeroom floor with a hot pack on his back got suckered into it as well. Around 5:00pm Dylan asked when we were going home ... and it was time to go.

Such a relaxing, enjoyable EASY day ... and tomorrow we're off to see comedian Ross Noble (Dave's favourite stand up comedian) We've got front row seats - which is quite possibly quite dangerous seeings Noble bases at least the first half of his shows on just interplay with the audience. Sure that there will be more tales to tell this time tomorrow night.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Fairy Floss

I got to do one of my most favourite things from childhood today ... eat fairy floss (hopefully I'll be able to put the photo up tomorrow). It has to easily have been 25 years since I last ate fairy floss on a stick, more recently in its tri-colour bag version. We were at a school fete and I bought it for Dylan (forgetting that its all sugar and food colouring ... nothing died in the making of it!) He took one mouthful and wasn't impressed with it and handed it over to me. To say I was delighted is the understatement of the year.

Fairy floss, not suprisingly reminds me of going to the carnivale. When I was small, there was a foreshore carnivale over the summer at Rosebud on the Mornington Peninsular, where my grandparents had a holiday house. It was a magical place - flashing lights, crazy music and the smell of hot oil. I'd put the ping pong balls into the mouths of the clowns, never win anything other than a small keyring or some bubbles and on the way home we'd get a bag of fairy floss. With great delight I would tease small tufts from the bag and savour the feeling of the sugarly fluff turning into syrup in my mouth, then a hard ball of sugar. Then fairy floss belonged to The Show - the Melbourne Show one year, but more likely our local country show.

I have only had it on a stick on other time - at a family fun day run by my Dad's work. I must have been no older than eight ... and there was a fairy floss machine. I was transfixed watching the lady weave the cobweb confection onto the stick - prior to this I'd only ever had it from a bag. Best bit was - it was free! And I ate stick after stick until I had a stomach ache.

Where did fairy floss come from? It is unclear who actually invented fairy floss (or cotton candy). What is known is that Thomas Patton first patented the first fairy floss machine in 1900, the same year that it is recoreded as appearing at the Ringling Brothers circus. It was confectioners Morrisson and Wharburton from Tennessee who took fairy floss in 1904 to the St Louis World Fair. They sold 68,655 boxes (at 25c box - which was not cheap at the time!) It was later renamed 'Cotton Candy.'

I got some knowing smiles and nods of heads from adults as we walked out of the school groups, me teasing the fairy floss from the stick with my fingers and angling the sticky bundle into my mouth. I had forgotten how quickly it goes and just how terribly sweet it is. Without a doubt, it is something that I will NEVER grow out of.

What, from childhood, have you never grown out of enjoying? What are your memories of eating fairy floss?

Friday, May 9, 2008


This Week’s Theme: Using first person narration, logically describe something that is crazy.

The blonde behind the counter at Kingsford Smith International smiles at me as I hand over my tickets and passport.
“To Paris today sir.”
I nod. I’m afraid if I verbalise my exact destination, agree with her that this is where I am headed, my resolve will fail. I’ve made it this far but it would still be too easy to turn back, get the AirRail and go home – I’m not courageous, just crazy if I believe what others are saying.

As I lift my backpack onto the conveyor I can still hear my wife screaming at me – her eyes wild with loathing and fear.
“Why Paris? What's going on with you? Why the bloody hell do you need to go all the way to France?”
“I need to get away. I need time ….. I need space. It’s just for two weeks.”

I had wanted to tell her the truth, that had been my intention all along, but I’d taken too long to tell her, always trying to find the right time – but there never is a right time. I was just trying to avoid the fight that I knew would ensue and in the end I waited too long and all I could offer was a half hearted lie when she caught me leaving.

“What am I meant to tell the children?” she hurled at me next.

I wanted to yell back, really yell for the first time, that I didn’t care. But I do care, always have done - too much perhaps, and especially about the kids. This wasn’t about them after all. How could I explain it all to them – I wanted to protect them for all of this. I wanted them to still look at me with the pure innocence of a child’s love for their father - I wanted to continue to be a hero in my sons' eyes. How could I make them understand it wasn’t them … it was me. So I left while they were out with mates.

“Come back,” she screamed, as the taxi tooted from the front. I swung my old backpack over my shoulder and closed the front door behind me, blanking our her sobbing.

My bags are tagged and disappear and I feel as though my heart is being torn in two directions … the love of my children and the love of her. The deceit that I swore that I would not play, I’m drowning in. The excitement that courses through me, the thoughts of finally touching her, looking into her eyes, laughing with her, holding her to me is over shadowed at this moment knowing I’m bastard. I’ve let everyone down. I tried to hard to keep everyone happy, to be nice, but I'm ended up just being a coward.

I tell myself that I could have done it better – been honest and said that I was in love with another woman … a woman on the other side of the world. A woman who understood me, made my heart sing … looked into my soul, made me ‘me’ again. A woman who sat on the other end of yahoo messenger – patient and without judgement. But there hadn’t been time. There would have been days of fighting instead of the few minutes when she’d come home earlier than planned from dropping the boys off. I’d left a letter telling her I’d gone away – I never intended to just disappeared. I hadn't sent an SMS from the airport to tell her where I was, or told the answering machine. I'd made the effort to hand write a letter.

I remind myself that I was never looking to fall in love, to be unfaithful to my wife, to walk out on my kids. It was serendipity that bought us together - a chat room that I went to for the first time, surfing during my lunch break. And she was there, talking to me of London. I’d given her my email address just to learn a little more about England – curious as I was, with relatives living there. And she’d written the next day – a short email about going out in the snow to watch kids from her school play soccer – on a Saturday morning. She didn’t have to be there but she was and we began to trade stories from opposite sides of the world.

Love was the furthest thing from my mind that day. It was the thrill of meeting and getting to know someone new, seeing a part of the world I had never been to through the eyes of an intelligent and articulate woman … the love came later.

We were both dying in our relationships. I didn’t realise that until she showed me another way of being. I came to understand that I was going through the motions with my wife, partly because of the kids but moreso because I didn’t know anything else. I’d forgotten that I wanted to be loved – to be adored and cherished by another. She made me remember … and I couldn’t shut the door once I’d walked through.

She’d been traumatised leaving London. She had told her live in boyfriend about me, that she was in love with me and not him. He'd found my number in her mobile, threatened to ring and tell my wife what had been going on. Later he’d threatened to kill her and them himself when she refused to continue on with him. But she’d got out – made it home to France, to safety. I’d been there, on the other end of the internet connection, loving and encouraging her, feeling the impotence of the intercontinental distance. Sending her cards when she got a new flat, a new job and then ringing with news that we'd both been waiting for.

I had to go and see her - I had booked my ticket. I was coming to Paris.

Entering Customs there is no turning back and I hum ‘All you need is love’, try to look relaxed and stop rationalising to myself what others think it crazy. This is what I want – what I need. Otherwise I will start to die the slow death of ambivalence in suburbia again. It’s no longer selfish to want to be with the woman who is my soul mate, my life line … the details I will work out later.

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Brain Drain and Gain

There are always stories about how birth rates rise around the times of events like major black outs. Dave's best mate is a point in question. He believes that he was conceived around the time of a major flood that had his parents cut off on their farm, probably without power. While the jury is out as to whether this can be statistically and accurately shown ... it remains one of those urban myths ... when the TV goes off the act of creation goes up.

I can't help but think, after reading Clay Shirkyon's article Gin, Television, and Social Surplus (graciously forwarded to me by the ever roaming Catherine) that as writers and artists ... a big step towards being creative is turning the TV off. Or perhaps it's the first big move in becoming creative. Not only is it a displacement activity, it's a drain of time, energy, creativity and what Shirkyon calls our 'cognitive surplus.' He estimates that Wikipedia represents 100 million human hours of thought and that is the equivalent of what American's waste watching television ads in one weekend.

In Australia the tide is turning. The Australian newspaper reported in March this year that for the first time the average hours spent on the internet exceeded that spend infront of the box (13.7 hours a week online and 13.3 hours in front of the box, compared with 12.5 hours a week online and 13.8 hours watching TV in 2006.)

Shirkyon writes:

"And this is the other thing about the size of the cognitive surplus we're talking about. It's so large that even a small change could have huge ramifications. Let's say that everything stays 99 percent the same, that people watch 99 percent as much television as they used to, but 1 percent of that is carved out for producing and for sharing. The Internet-connected population watches roughly a trillion hours of TV a year. That's about five times the size of the annual U.S. consumption. One per cent of that is 100 Wikipedia projects per year worth of participation." On the most current Australian data - we're already there ... shifting just over 2.5% in one year.

He goes on to comment:

"However lousy it is to sit in your basement and pretend to be an elf, I can tell you from personal experience it's worse to sit in your basement and try to figure if Ginger or Mary Ann is cuter ... It's better to do something than to do nothing."

And that's what happened when I turned off the TV. I started to do 'stuff'. There would have been no time to run a magazine solo for three years, care for a rapidly growing and insatiably curious little boy, and keep my sanity if I had have been sitting ogling the box for hours at night. If I had have been cavorting with the TV last year and not on line participating, I would never have begun writing again ... and here I am, 'producing, sharing and consuming.'

I'm not an avid TV buff - I never really have been, but I used to waste my nights infront of the TV because it was on ... even when there was nothing showing that interested me. The TV has that kind of hypnotic effect on you.

I dont watch commerical TV at all and haven't for around three years now (after tiring of putting up with the rolling of eyes and groans from Dave as I watched CSI - my last bastion of commercial TV) The TV only goes on when we want to watch something specific. I am lucky to watch three hours of TV a week now. There's my Wednesday stable of favourites on the ABC - Spicks and Specks + two British comedy shows (currently the IT Crowd and Armstrong & Miller). I used to watch Life on Mars on a Thursday night (which finished the first week in April) and Robin Hood on a Sunday evening, which has also just finished. Which means it's down to Wednesday night TV ... just 90 minutes of TV a week. For the first time ever I'm proud be well below average!

Instead of frying my brain, I'm online or writing - or in the case of blogging, both! I dont suggest that I'm doing anything as big as Wikipedia (yet?) or writing the next Puliter Prize winner ... but I'm doing something. I'm glad that my cognitive surplus is being used in more industrious ways and will hopefully continue to do so in bigger ways in the near future ... after all Shirkyon says it was the industrial revolution, which spawned the five day working week that created free time and a cognitive surplus - may as well put it to good use.

How much TV do you consume a week? Is TV the evil enemy of your muse or do you have another brain drain (gin perhaps - for those who read the full article)?