Thursday, September 18, 2008

Terms of Endearment

“I read your book
And I find it strange
The I know that girl and I know her world
A little too well
By giving my hand
That I would be written down, sliced around
Passed around among strangers hands….

…You carry a pen and a paper
And no time and no words you waste
You’re a voyeur
The worst kind of thief
To take down what happened to us
To write down everything then went on
Between you and me”

"The Book"
Sheryl Crow

The Fiction Friday prompt for this week is to recall a not-so-endearing trait from a current or past love and to then make it an endearing quality in your character.

To say that I’m challenged by this is an understatement.

The last boyfriend I had was full of weird and wonderful quirks – that began as charming idiosyncrasies but became over time less endearing and in retrospect down right annoying and some offensive. So I’m not short on ideas for the trait … but turning them into something appealing – you’ve got to be kidding. As a writer I can take endearing qualities and make them less appealing – perhaps that’s some sick part of human nature that we can easily twist the positive into something negative – but take the unpalatable and try make it something appetising and well, I’m stuck (even if I am generally an optimist, glass half full kind of girl)

So as I sit in my cosy corner of my favourite café in New Farm, trying to keep up my commitment to write three pages a day – here are a list of not-so-endearing traits from my short lived love affair with 'The Princess.'

I feel a little bit like a tattle tale for writing all of this down – thus the lyrics at the start, but if I want to solidify any of this in my head, I think I need to retell some of this skew-wiff romance, which I find humour in a twisted way now. And reminded that Mercury is retrograde again next Wednesday, I might go and dig out the story that I wrote about going to meet The Princess for the first time and serialise it through one week of the Mercury Rx phase. I still remember the delight of writing about offending the guide in the train seat beside me by eating a tuna sandwich at midnight!

“The Princess” was so named by my girl friends – because they believed he didn’t need to find a princess to ride off into the sunset with, he was enough of one himself. This softened the blow a little and made me look at him in a whole new light. The Princess brought into my life the following into my life:

A man who regularly and openly used lip balm and hand cream.
On the first morning we met, in the time it took to have breakfast together, he’d already applied lip balm at least three times and rubbed hand cream in once! He carried them around in his briefcase for just such an occasion. At that stage I am sure that I didn't own either - much less use them openly and often in public.

On the topic of personal hygiene/beauty products..
He had more hair care (even though he was going bald) and skin care products than I could ever imagine wanting, let alone needing. I know for sure that he spent more money that I did on named brand moisturisers etc.

And taking personal hygiene to a whole new level for me ..
He had a tongue scraper. Not even knowing what one was, I asked why he carried around teaspoon in his toiletries bag … only to discover that it was for scraping the creepy crawly stuff of your tongue – yuk!

Jeff Buckley
The Princess was obsessed with playing the late Jeff Buckley which was nice in the beginning, but since Buckley only released one album while he was alive, and another posthumously it didn’t give a wide variety of music. It was always playing. Even on at odd times when I would drop by his place – it would be on the stereo or he would have a live concert DVD playing. Thankfully I didn’t live next door to him (though about six months later I did move into the townhouses directly across the road from his. For both our sakes he’d moved on to a different location by then.)

Co-orindating outfits
Yes you did read correctly. The Princess would dress to coordinate with my outfit when we went out … which meant I would need to be dressed first and then he would fuss over a shirt that matched. Had we stayed together longer I would have gone out of my way to stop dressing in black and started finding clothes that were orange or bright green! Or we would have ended up looking like those middle aged tour group couples who wear matching coloured shirts and shorts. Urgh.

Apollo 13
Like Buckley – there is only so many times you can watch Hanks and his crew stuck out in space saving the day in the 11th hour. Granted The Princess was a pilot and maybe had secret dreams of wishing he was an astronaut (after all the first astronauts were pilots!) but even I don’t flog my favourite movie (Dirty Dancing) like a dead horse, nor inflict it on those who really would prefer to watch a new release.

Tight $$
I was a poor waitress when we first met – then an even poorer uni student. But making this man part with him money was like squeezing blood from a stone. As a pilot in Papua New Guinea (where he lived for a good slab of the week all expenses paid) and on what I thought was a really good wage, you’d think a little cash splashing would have been in order – but no.
I remember him sending me off to the airport carrying two huge suitcases, and an assortment of other small bags because he didn’t want to pay the fare on the private line out to the airport (I think it cost about $10 to get out there). I was without change for a trolley and had to drag 50kg of luggage from the bus stop (the train had been cancelled due to a storm) up into the terminal which was set a way back from the road. I was in such a bad way when I stumbled into the wonderfully air conditioned lounge at the Virgin terminal at Mascot, that a lovely bloke from behind the counter came to my assistance and carried one of the heavy suitcases in for me. I should have known after he did this TWICE to me that it was never going to work between us.
On this same train of thought – I remember him coming over to ‘visit’ me with a couple of Cascade Lights one night after we broke up. I think we must have drunk one each. When he left the next morning he took the left over beers with him! Goddess forbid he actually leave anything for me.

While we were closeted away in his parents A-Frame holiday house (which really was charming!) at Copacabana on the Central Coast of NSW he told me how I was his soul mate. It’s the sort of thing that sets all the right bells and whistles off when things are going great in those early days of falling in love. I realised all too soon that it was a toss away line, and have never liked the use of that word ever again. He destroyed that whole concept for me.

Just one more time
When we broke up I told him that was it – and I didn’t want to see him again. I was devastated by his admission that it wasn’t working – and the whole spiel about how it wasn’t me it was him (isn’t that always they way!) I was so caught up in the fantasy world we’d created that I didn’t even see that it wasn’t working – though I did want to be with someone who didn’t spend the majority of the week overseas. So devastated by what seemed to have come out of the blue, I told him I was walking out his bedroom door and he was never going to see me again. Was that what he wanted? Yes! So be it. I went and drowned my sorrows with my best friend and a few too many rounds of blue marguiritas -as you do.
That lasted a few weeks I guess – when the first of the phone calls came through. What was I up to? Was I busy tonight? Could he come over? After months of these out of the blue phone calls and invites, I finally put my foot down – no more lunches, dinners, movies, getting together when it was convenient for him – when he was lonely. Thankfully Dave came into my life not long after this and the yo-yo relationship ended.

So you my readers – what quality would you like woven into an alluring light:
Lip balm and hand cream
Personal hygiene and beauty products galore
scrapers (please don’t to this to me!)
Jeff Buckley
Apollo 13
Being tight with money
Just one more time

I leave it in your capable (cough …sorry that was a coughing fit – really!) hands. And I will try and do justice to your choice.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Disconnecting to reconnect

The irony of posting blog articles while I am in an internet ‘black out’ is not lost on me. But that’s not going to stop me.I’m finding the time away from the internet productive, rewarding and interesting. It’s not until you step away that you discover just what a time thief the internet can be if you let it … especially if you are like me, where you slot internet time between other things (like internet while the dinner is cooking).

For me the scariest thing about this black out is that I’m not missing it and certainly not feeling left out of the loop. Rather than having a detrimental effect ie. Not being plugged in, it’s having a rejuvenating effect and I’m connected in other areas of life that have been neglected.

There are blogs that I’m missing reading, but I’ve come to realise that the majority of my online time is spent just aimlessly doing crap. The sort of time that is neither informative or creative and certainly not productive.

I did spend a little time on the internet Saturday morning to enable me to read everyone’s [Fiction] Friday entries and I came away feeling drained, with a sense of violation. Had I violated my own boundaries and that was why I was feeling so odd or was it something else? Part of me felt as though an energy sap, in the shape of a power cord snaking out of the screen had come an implanted itself in my stomach, draining me – weird but true. As an aside, coincidence – perhaps .. Saturday has been the only day since the black out began where I haven’t committed to and completed three pages of writing in a day.

With the resurgence in my creativity (I think I’ve been gifted with a new set of characters or scenarios every morning) I’m wondering if I can stretch the black out beyond Thursday to the end of the month … or at least limit the time to absolutely essentials, considering that there are two collaborative creative writing I’m part of that requires me to log in and check out what is happening.

So what have I been doing rather than hanging out online? Here’s a short list of what I’ve been up to:

* Writing
* Baking muffins with Dylan (banana and lemon, then maple and apple)
* Reading – my own books and the omnipotent PB Bear
* Being beaten at Uno (yes that’s by my 4 year old son who can’t hide his cards and I still can’t beat him with insider knowledge!)
* Going for an afternoon walk with Dylan
* Weeding, mowing the lawn and transplanting flowers from pots into the
* Cleaning (sorely neglected bathroom and toilet – and the rest of the house is on the list for the rest of September)
* Washing
* Worrying less
* Trusting more
* Rode on a 13 storey high Ferris wheel at South Bank (I’m terrified of heights so this was a big achievement)
* Got out of the house for weekend brunch before 2pm
* Playing with the characters in my head

The clarity of mind I currently have is something that I’m not going to forget in a hurry. This time away will make me far savvier about how I utilise the internet and whether I use it, or allow it to use me.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Musical Musings #14: My Generation

This week's prompt is My Generation by The Who

Using the theme of being misunderstood or wanting to be understood, follow your muse through the thrashing sounds of My Generation to find your story.

Shet took a moment to let her breakfast settle in her stomach and to savour the last drops of her tea. The prospect of her supply of precious tea leaves running dry was her newest worry. A transport ship from earth was due within the month with supplies for her, but the transports were often delayed. Intergalactic trade and exploration was where nautical shipping was at almost eight centuries earlier. It was more hit and miss than pure science and reliable time tables. So she was daily making her tea weaker and weaker in anticipation that the ship wouldn’t arrive as scheduled.

Ka’Ru looked over at her and smiled. They were heading out onto the Th’urnian tundra together to map and see how the geophysical equipment worked on the alien planet for the first time. He was excited to be out of the mine, away from his father and the expectations that Ra’Keen held for his son. While Ka’Ru was the son of the Principal Mine Engineer he had been appointed Shet’s guide on his own merits. What surprised Shet the most was there was no stirring or whispers of nephatism as there would be on Earth – as there was when she was appointed for this missive, when Kyle was the Chairman of the Clandestine Government organisation that had devised the exchange. She’d wanted to scream that he’d never given her a single break in her life, that he was probably arguing behind closed doors with the others on the board to block her appointment.

“You are worried about going out – no?”

Ka’Ru had turned off the wireless translator and put it back into the small storage space in the wall. They were back to think-speak again.
“I was just thinking about Earth.”
“Think of the tundra instead. Earth makes your face wrinkle.”

Ka’Ru’s point blank honesty had come as both a challenge and a joy to her. She liked the Th’Urns manner of straight talking.
“Your face wrinkles when you think too. Have you never looked in a mirror?
“A mirror. This is something from earth – no?
“I’ll explain on the ride out.”

Ka’Ru lowered the table, making it once again part of the flooring, in an act that would have appalled Shet’s mother’s sensibilities - the lack of forethought for hygiene. Never one to worry for dirt or germs, Shet loved the functionality of everything in the living pod. It seemed that it was only her small personal quarters, nothing more than a bed, a cupboard and a tiny space in which to set up her computer and communication equipment for her broadcasts back to Earth, that lacked no other purpose than to house her.

She went into her ‘room’ and took out a tiny disc – her Fuck ‘Em music. When they’d been working on her suit, she’d insisted the engineer create an alternate route in her communication equipment in which to play music. It was only music on the long lonely days that saved her sanity and while she wavered between sinking and swimming, she needed the music. The engineer had been challenged, more by the doggedness of her request than the technicalities to create a tiny processor to play her disc.

Shet held up the tiny disc with a grin on her face, meeting Ka’Ru in the small area outside the living pod where the Surface Suits were stored.

“Have music will travel.”
“Have music will travel,”
Ka’Ru repeated without any sense of what it meant, but he got the sense of adventure in her words.

With quick efficiency Ka’Ru helped Shet into the suit that was remarkably lightweight and easy to move in despite its bulk. The weight came from the oxygen tanks, not the suit that protected her from the gamma radiation. She put her tinted helmet on and Ka’Ru attached and checked the connections for the two hoses that kept the oxygen mix right for Shet in her helmet.Unlike the Th’Urn, who were masters of oxygen adaptation, Shet needed the same amount of oxygen to keep conscious and functioning. Th Th’Urn were able to breathe both the low oxygen atmosphere natural to the surface of their planet, but also the high oxygen environment of the living pod, as created for her comfort. She tried not to watch with fascination the subtle flutter of the gills in the sides of the Th’urn men’s necks, but like a child drawn to the weird and unusual she was often caught, her eyes transfixed on Ka’Ru or Ra’Keen’s neck.

Ka’Ru donned his own suit and the gills were gone. Shet made the safety checks on Ka’Ru’s suit, forcing herself to slow down and do the job properly, when all she wanted to do was get outside.
“Your music,” Ka’Ru reminded picking up the disc and pushing it into the little control panel on her arm.

Ka’Ru opened an exterior door out into a long and complex set of connection tunnels, eventually terminated in a garage area on the outside of the camp. The whole camp, the living and work pods seemed to be constructed like a spider web, with covered tunnels connecting each pod in an ever increasingly broader, and more complex configuration. As Mine Manager, Ra’Keen’s living pod was almost at the centre of the spider web.

Ka’Ru pointed over to an open topped buggy, with large all terrain wheels, reminiscent of a Jeep back on earth. Shet strapped herself in snugly, and pressed a yellow button to flood her helmet with music, as the large door rolled to the side to allow them to leave and Ka’Ru started the loud engine.

“People try to put us d-d-down
Talkin ‘bout my generation”

The buggy leapt forward, throwing Shet against the harness.

“Just because we get around
Talkin ‘bout my generation”

Shet tried to turn around to see what the complex of pods and tunnels looked like, but the terrain was rough, and Ka’Ru’s pace lethal, keeping her focused on the vista in front of her, that would briefly appear out of the dust eddies.

“Things they do look awful c-c-cool
Talkin ‘bout my generation
Hope I die before I get old
Talkin ‘bout my generation
My generation
This is my generation baby”

As they hurtled over the uneven terrain in the open topped buggy, her body flung violently forwards and sideways in the harness, The Who blasting in her ears, Shet was free – for the first time in years. Free from the unachievable expectations of others, free from the sarcasm of Kyle … and free from all the dark void of her memories. It was the same thrill that she’d had the first time she climbed on the back of a motorbike with Harm all those years ago, her arms clasped about him as they’d sped down the open highway, leaving home far behind her. Not only did she feel free, unencumbered, but young, as though the emotional burdens of the years were stripping off her, displaced by the air that tore past her and turning them to dust.

Was she reclaiming the radical, daredevil spirit she’d had as a young woman? Would she be able to give up her addiction to worrying and debilitating circular thinking - move forward? She'd made it this far hadn't she? She was going forward ....

“Talking ’bout my generation,” she sang enthusiastically and out of tune, as she did in the shower.
“Fuck Kyle,”she thought, she was going to show him this time. She didn’t care if Ka’Ru heard her, even though he was focused on navigating them safely through the rough landscape at breakneck speed.

Ka’Ru had promised not to listen in on her thoughts, when they’d discovered that he had a natural affinity for taping into her thoughts, something the other Th’Urn seemed unable to do without her expressed permission. Still she knew Ka’Ru did, felt him as a presence creeping gently around in the back of her mind and hadn’t worked out yet if he meant to, or if there was simply a connection between the two of them that once established could not be broken.

Friday, September 12, 2008

[Fiction] Friday: Culture Shock

[Fiction] Friday prompt for this week: Stranger in a Strange Land
Pick a small, inexpensive toy from your childhood. Now give it to someone from a foreign (or alien) culture. What do they do with it?

This comes from a bizarre new world, species and story that appeared from no where yesterday....

Culture Shock

Ka’Ru looked perplexed by the coil of light metal in his hand. He moved the two ends apart, and the spring collapsed, falling into a deep U in front of him. He began swing it around, revelling at the sound that it mades as it cut the air infront of him.

“Careful! You’ll get it tangled,” Shet said outloud, before she remembered that the young Th’Urn wouldn’t understand what she had said.

She took it off him with a little more urgency than she realised and began to untangle the coil, her fingers trembling as she unwound the kinks and returned it to it's original compact cylinder state.

A normally rational and level headed woman, being on the Th’Urn’s planet had given Shet a dose of culture shock that had rocked her emotional stability. Shet feared she’d dissolve in a flood of tears if the slinky broke, if it could never again move under its own steam. It seemed too much an omen – she wouldn’t be able to function here if the slinky broke. Now she had a dose of magical thinking as well as emotional instability. What was wrong with her?

The psychologist and anthropoligist’s reports had declared Shet a very low risk of developing a debilitating form of culture shock. A little was normal and to be expected, she'd been told as she prepared to leave. How did she know though – the difference between a little and a lot?

“What is this? It is important – no?” His voice asked in her head.

Shet looked at him, still disturbed by this brand new form of communication. She wished that the Th’Urnian scientists would hurry up and create a working translator from their conceptual mental models, so that they could all speak out loud to each other and be understood.

“This - is - a - slinky,” she said in her head, focusing on each word to make certain her mental dialogue as clear as possible and distracting her from the unsettling melee of emotions.

“You don’t need to speak slowly. I’m not dumb,” Ra’Ku commented haughtily. Shet flushed scarlet and Ka’Ru reached out a bluish finger to touch her burning cheek.

“I’m embarrassed.”
“What is this emotion?”

Shet struggled to put her thoughts into a coherent form. She’d never been good with people - that’s why she’d chosen to be a geologist. Rocks didn’t require you to be magnanimous or articulate, and engineers she worked with back on earth were known to be downright anti-social. She’d fitted in perfectly. How was she to explain emotions when she didn't totally understand them. Shet had been told that Th’Urn were a solitary race, but she’d found that the head mining engineer’s eldest son was curious and full of questions, much to the chagrin of his father.

“This slinky,” she said outloud, taking the uncoiled toy from Ka’Ru’s hands. “It is a toy … I mean it’s a toy. A slinky”

She organised a set of temporary steps on the table and set the slinky off downwards.
“It moves by itself .. this slin-kee.”

Ka’Ru picked it up and set it off again, a smile spreading across his thin lips.
“But what does it do? It has a purpose – no?”
“It’s just a toy. You use it for fun.”

Ka'Ru’s face became solemn as he thought.

Shet was unsettled more by the humanness of Ka'Ru than his otherness. She had been prepared for the bluish tinge of Th’Urnian skin and the sensual, lidless almond eyes that were so deeply embedded in the human psych as being ‘alien’ they seemed familiar. What she hadn’t been prepared for was the high cheekbones, the strong square jaw and open forehead, nor the curling dark hair that the young Th’Urn wore long.

“This is what you do when you have … day off.” Weekends, holidays, time off .. even sleeping in were human activities, institutions, that Shet had tried to explain when she had first arrived and discovered that the myth about the Th’Urn were correct. They worked, worked and worked some more. The Protestant Work Ethic had nothing on these guys.

Shet laughed, her cheeks cooling slowly in the artificial environment of the living pod.
“We play with them when we are kids. It’s fun. Do you not play as children?”
“We don’t remember our time with the Empress and her nurses. There is only work.”

Ka'Ru watched the slinky ‘walk’ down again and then handed it back to Shet.
“Why did bring it with you - you are grown, matured - no?”
“My brother gave it to me. It was my favourite toy when I was a kid. He thought it would help me remember home.”

Shet looked down at the table feeling the tears well up in her eyes. How was it possible that she even missed her brother? Perhaps she was losing it – she did have a serious case of culture shock. Maybe Kyle gave her the slinky purposely to unnerve her? Unhinge her – undermine her? If she couldn’t get it together they’d send her home and she would have failed on her first assignment as a Scientific and Cultural Envoy.

“Your brother Kyle…” Ka’Ru’s voice filled her head.

She looked up startled, feeling the deepest kind of violation. “Keep out of my head!” she screamed and fled to her sleeping cubicle, trying to slam the door behind her.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Happy Writing Anniversary To Me

Officially yes I am in an internet blackout for the next week ... but I will still be posting blog articles as they come to me, along with [Fiction] Friday, Musical Musings and a new installment of Captain Juan.

I wont be replying, commenting or answering emails until Thursday next week though. Thanks for supporting me in his much needed space of nurturing and reconnecting. Jodi xxxx

It’s a year today since I decided that I would “Just Write.” This was the culmination of three and a bit years (since becoming a Mum) of trying to decide what came next. I had tossed around the idea of returning to uni, as I was half way through a psychology degree when I fell pregnant with Dylan and we moved to Brisbane. At the time I went through a lengthy and stressful process to ensure that I kept my almost perfect Grade Point Average to gain me entrance into one of the prestigious unis in Brisbane.

I found that after the baptism of birth and early mothering, that my attitudes and my beliefs had shifted, that returning to study psychology wasn’t doable from either a practical position (I wasn’t going to put Dylan into care so I could study) or an intellectual position. I had moved on as a woman. I spent time considering different courses that I could study, but none of them rung true. Throughout this time I edited a magazine, did the layout and watched its distribution grow.

When I was having a big clean up at the start of the year I came across some exercise books from 2005. Inspired by an article I had read called ‘The Mother and The Muse’ I was trying to get back in touch with the part of me that loved to write. These were the books to capture my thoughts and story ideas ... not suprisingly other than a few pages that include my goals for the year - they are empty. While I was writing an editorial each quarter (which grew and became more controversial the more confidence I had in my writing ability) and aiming to have an article published ‘somewhere’ I wasn’t committed on any level to writing fiction.

In 2006 I came across the One Book, One Brisbane short story competition, a few days before the competition closed. I sat up late a few nights in a row pumping out a story that seemed to go no where. I never submitted it, but it was a taster … I could write fiction again, as well as my non fiction stuff. But I didn't.

2007 saw me join the ranks of those with a MySpace page. I did it while I was having a bit of an identity crisis. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to create there - who my online personnae would be. It was also my introduction to the blog phenomenon and the excitement of having others read your work. When I decided to just be myself on MySpace (what a shocking revelation that was) I slowly began to take baby steps into blogging. After a while, I began to set aside Friday nights to enjoy the process of writing. I was particularly productive during the Mercury Retrograde phases, spurred on by the Woolie’s soundtrack to my life that always seemed to be playing as I went in to buy groceries.

In August we took a week’s trip to the mountains. I took my journal and spent long hours, while Dylan and Dave were hiking trying to sort through how I felt about life. I came to the conclusion my life was out of balance and I tried to work out a way to get a balance between mind, body and spirit. Not long after we returned, on the Virgo solar eclipse, a year ago today, the conclusion to my dilemma came like a lovely afternoon breeze …. I could just write. How simple.

From what I remember it was a slower process between making the decision and beginning The Artists’ Way but it seems from reading back of journals from the time it happened far quicker than I remember. The 13th will be the anniversary of me beginning The Artist Way for the first time. And it was a fast and furious unfurling and discarding of all the things around me that did not support and nurture my creativity. Not only did I sign up with some new friends to do The Artists Way, I also discovered Write Stuff (now Write Anything) and began venturing into the realm of fiction, and away from the autobiographical essays I’d been writing.

Then came the moment of reckoning – did I have it in me to do NaNo? The two friends in my creative cluster were going to do it – why shouldn’t I. They each had five kids, one with a small baby. I only had one child. But when I looked at what I did each day, I wasn’t sure where I would find time to write 1667 words each day. It proved to be a pivotal moment. I decided that I would do NaNo and as a consequence I would cut back on all my volunteer work. I would start saying no to others, and start saying yes to me. A routine began to grow around me.

I got through NaNo, and learnt a lot about myself as a writer and where I wanted to go in life. A week later I had a huge break through – I was addicted to busy-ness. I realised that it was time to stop doing volunteer work and focus on my passion as a writer. After four years it felt as though I was cleaving off a limb … but I did it.

It hasn’t been all peaches and cream. I’ve written some good stuff, written some bad stuff, got myself caught up in great projects and difficult projects. Most recently I’ve been suffering a crisis … a crisis that went without a name until today. I’d been having a crisis of connection. It wasn’t doubt or a lack of confidence … I’d pulled the plug on my connection to the creative stream that had been nurturing me since those early days last year of The Artist Way last year.

I’m not sure when it happened, or how it happened, but it did. And it explains a lot. It explains my frustration with writing and the futility that I’ve found in trying to find new characters, new scenarios, new ways of looking for things. Rather than just open up and be a conduit for whatever was out there, I was searching through trying to find something. I’d closed down.

Now I’m trying to open back up again. Reading Julia Cameron’s biography has reminded me of some fundamental things that I either didn’t get in the first place, or that I had forgotten.

Trust in the Universe … if I take care of the quantity the Universe will take care of the quality. Basically it’s asking the ego to take a seat. So now, I’m committing to writing three pages a day (in preparation not only for NaNo but for the rest of my life as a writer) … and whatever comes out comes out. Today I discovered not just two brand new characters, a whole brand new sci-fi world .. complete with social systems, geography, beliefs .. just coming in from out there.

ASK and you shall receive ... It’s something that I’ve always had trouble with. I will never ask for help when I’m struggling. In my morning pages I’ve bitched, moaned, complain, wailed … and then beat myself up because I can’t find a solution to my problem, that seemed unsolvable. What I never considered was surrender … and to offer my problem up to the Universe and ask for help. To ask for guidance, wisdom … help! I have now, this morning and already I’m starting to see things a little more clearly.

Disconnect from distractions and toxic situations. For me it means taking time away from the internet and from life in general, to spend more time with my family, revisit some old friendships that have slipped through my fingers this year, get my old routines back on board. In disconnecting there is a natural affinity then to connect with the things that love, nuture and nourish you. Today I found that once my three pages of writing were done, and without the internet, I realised did a load of washing, put away the dishes, considered dinner. In the last few months these have all been areas of my domestic life that just wait for crisis point to be reached before anything is done about them. I also feel I’ve shrugged off the heavy shroud I’ve been wearing – weighed down by my connections to worry and anger.

Watch for synchronicity. The Universe has asked me, or told me to do some pretty bizarre things in the last year – one day I’ll share my business card story. The Universe had stopped speaking to me, or I had stopped listening. When I started to loosen up yesterday, a thought came to me about a problem I’ve had with getting a script up and running for my Demon Lover story. The worst thing about the whole thing – it was so bloody obvious the answer … and I imagined the fun and adventure that could be gained by having another person write this with me. Now I’m waiting to see the moments of synchronicity open up all around me. I feel as though I am connected and riding the river of creativity.

Get out and walk. Walking has always been a meditation for me. I’ve been having trouble getting out of bed and have been beating myself up for my slackness. How can I get my life back on track if I can’t even get out of bed? Answer: find a creative solution.Instead of trying for a 5am or 6am walk, I decided earlier on this week that Dylan and I could take a walk in late afternoon. Granted it’s not quiet, but it is leisurely and it’s something special for just the two of us – sticks, dogs, flowers, clouds etc. It’s a way of slowing the world down and getting back in contact with not just the natural world around with me, but with Dylan as well.

It’s good to reflect but it feels good to be reinventing myself over, reconnecting, reviving and renewing my resolve as a woman, as a mother, a partner and as a writer. Spring most definitely is in the air!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Where 100 Years of Solitude Leads

Paul concluded his Sunday column for Write Anything this week with:

"We don’t have an excuse to not look at good writing across all genres, just because it is unfamiliar to us or unappealing as a reader. Sometimes our best writing comes when we move out of our comfort zone. Perhaps we should move beyond our reading comfort zone once in a while too."
Part of the decision to write seriously this year, was to read seriously also. I began the year with the goal of reading one book a month. Wild Swans had been beckoning me from the book shelf, where it had been adopted from an old friend of ours so I chose to begin the year with that. I didn't get it finished before the end of January and realised it was a really bad omen not to get through my first book for the year in the alotted time. What January taught me (other than some amazing things about China and mostly awful things about Mao's version of communism) was that to read a book a month, I had to make time to read a book a month. This meant cutting back on the time I was spending at the computer at night (being not much of a TV freak)

In April I upped the anty to two books a month. This would give me a chance to read something I really wanted to read (and something I was likely to really enjoy) and something from my list of 'literature' - mainly books that I would never get around to reading given the option. The books I've read since taking on the two a month challenge have been East of Eden, 100 Years of Solitude and The Great Gatsby. Again last month, I almost didn't finish 100 Years of Solitude and I was up until midnight on the 31 August trying to get it done - reminded me of burning the midnight oil to get an assignment done!

100 Years of Solitude by Gabrielle Garcia Marquez (Nobel Prize winner for Literature in1992) isn't I would normally read, but was a book that Dave had read and spoken about, along with Love in the Time of Cholera (also now on my list to read!) I'd read Chronicle of a Death Foretold when I was pregnant and knew that I didn't hate Marquz's writing style - but I got such a delight when I finally got into the rhythm and style of his writing ... when I was able to suspend my rational mind and enjoy the banquet of magical delights (the moment when I realised that the gypsy's were really flying carpets past the window). I'm very glad that I did push out of my comfort zone to read this. You can see the legacy of having read it in my latest [Fiction] Friday.

After discussing with Dave how much I enjoyed 100 Years (and sadly he read it that long ago he doesn't remember much of it), he suggested that I give Midnight's Children by Rushdie a go ... so I have the second half of September slated for that. I'm certainly intriged to know more about magical realism and how other writers weave it through their narrative.

There were discussions about genre at the Byron Bay Writers Festival ... and how some writers just write without any real regard for WHAT genre they in. After all getting the words on the page are more important than getting the 'right' words on the page. I never gave much thought to what genre I wrote it ... though I was always drawn to some darker elements of humanity, particularly to terrorism (and this was before 9/11) and the twists of the mind. Since picking up writing again after a long absence I feel that rather than being drawn to one genre over another, I'm drawn to themes, and the exploration of the human experience through those themes. Perhaps that's what allows a good writer to write in any genre or across genres?

Writing outside of your genre is another example of dangerous writing, and as I have discovered with a number of my fellow writers this year pushing boundaries and finding those places of discomfort are when we produce some of our greatest work. For that reason I believe we should regularly choose to write something outside of our comfort genre. I would never have believed this time last year that I would be writing:

  • adventure stories (I CAN'T do adventure) ... though I love it (#1 guilty secret of mine!)
  • a pirate story (I WOULD NEVER write that - I only write literature with a feminist bent)
  • write science fiction (I most certainly DON't write that)
It's a good thing I've become a little more open minded this year. As a writer, as soon as you say you 'can't', 'don't', 'won't, 'shouldn't' (you get the gist) accept it as an invitation to give it a go. You never know where the path less travelled may take you.

As professional development - what stories/books would you read to push you out of your comfort zone?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Radio Show Freak Out

Later on today (seeings it is now 1:33am here in Brisbane) Annie and I will be interviewed by best selling author Armin Brott (Mr Dad) from on his weekly podcast radio show. The reality of it has just hit ... argh! I imagine he has a large audience.

Annie and I will be discussing with Armin our new eBook Reclaiming Sex After Childbirth:a survival guide for couples and parents experiences of sex after birth. I'll be back later on to debrief - hopefully a great interview, and not one that makes me sound like an idiot!

Friday, September 5, 2008

[fiction] Friday: Naphta's Mountain

This week's prompt: Quick Change
Pick a book of fiction you’d never read (e.g., if you read sci-fi, pick a romance). Open to a random page and read the last couple paragraphs of the page. DO NOT TURN THE PAGE. Now continue writing the story. Feel free to change the genre as you write.
I took Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain which I definitely do not intend to read, it''s one of Dave' high brow literature books. Having just finished reading 100 Years of Solitude I was inspired to tinkle with some magical realism, then decided to combine it with speculative fiction in a post apocalyptic landscape. Shaken not stirred ... hope you don't choke on the olive!

Naphta's Mountain
“He has taken much pains to influence me for my good. But never, summer or winter, have I seen him wear anything but those checkered trousers and that threadbare double breasted coat. He wears the old things with great dignity, there is something gallant about him, I agree with you there. The way he does it is a triumph over poverty – I like better to see it than little Naphta’s elegance, that always seems suspicious – a work of darkness, as it were, and he gets the money for it in some hole-and-corner way, I understand.”

Naph looked over to the impossibly old man, who never aged, sitting in the corner of what had been the kitchen when the house stood. The old man seemed oblivious to the fact that he was dead and now, that the house was all but gone.

He hated it when the old man talked to someone as if Naph wasn’t there. Ever since he was a child Naph had been able to see Hans Castrop, his Great-Great-Grandfather. His mother clipped him around the ears, making them throb for hours when Naph insisted that he saw an old man sitting there, talking to him. So Naph shut up and kept old man Hans as his own personal secret. He knew it was Hans, identified from the old brown photos had mother kept in a shoe box in her wardrobe.

“If you’re trying to warn me against selling the visas old man, I’m not listening.” The diatribe on dignity in poverty pushed Naph’s buttons.

But Naph’s words were false bravado. The man foretold the future in his cryptic one sided conversations. That was how Naph avoided the fall out from the water crisis. Stocked up on water, food and reading material Naph had forced himself into the old crypt on Ann Street under the cover of dark, rolled out his father’s tattered swag and lay with an ancient copy of Mad as the cataclysm broke above the next morning. Naph was patient - and he’d waited it out, enjoying the solitude. It was the equivalent of a luxury holiday, Castrop style, except the smell of his own shit got to him in the end. But by then it was over.

When he’d gone back out into a world, squinting in the light and choking on the smoke, he no longer recognised the city he’d been born and raised in. Nothing had been left untouched and decomposing bodies lay every where. He’d vomited at first at the sight and the stench, but then he’d got used to it. The dead often had treasure on them, no good to them in death. The police were shooting dogs to stop them feasting on the bloated carnage. That was the closest they got to law and order.

The lines to the Embassy compound were long, and grew each day with little movement forward, as the people became refugees in their own city, waiting for Government permission to be moved to a safe location. Naph’s generation had never owned a car, never gone beyond the enclave of their own city and now they were totally reliant on the Government to facilitate their escape. Those old enough to remember the freedom of a car, rankled against the Government’s inactivity.

Naph heard that some with money or jewellery, or young children to offer up as bribes got into the Embassy. But then stories began to circulate, that even getting into the Embassy didn’t ensure a visa, and rumours that there was actually no one left in the Embassy. The realisation dawned on those trapped in Brisbane. The Government wasn’t going to help them find a safe location – people stopped believing that one existed.

It was pure chance that Naph had come on the visas … found them in the pocket of a dead dude around the corner from his house. He decided he’d take his chance.

Naph jabbed the smouldering butt of the cigarette onto the floor.
“Dignity in poverty, that’s what he gifted me. Little Naphta should have learnt that, but he was deaf and blind to the lessons given to him and found his own end – peace in the darkness when the SS got him and shot him in the head. All that money, it had found its way into his hands but it couldn’t buy his way out of the ghetto as a Jew. They said that he looked stylish even with half his head missing and that was the audacity of it all, the little Naphta could.”

Naph stood up, swung his heavy black market military boot into the decrepit milk crate and watched the brittle plastic shattered against the bricks that made up half a wall. So old Naphta didn’t get out – so what.

“There aint no dignity in having nothing – of dying like a dog here. Better a bullet in the head trying and then fucking off to whatever comes after this shit life. You could learn a few things from him Pops.”

The old man sat, dusting the eternal and non existent dirt from his shabby cap, ignoring Naph. Then Hans began to hum a discordant tune that was long forgotten, as he readjusted the cap over his sparse grey head and sat back, waiting for something to happen. Sometimes Naph thought he was more an annoyance to Hans than the other way around.

Naph snaked his hands through the pile of bricks that had once been a chimney and pulled the relocation visas from within. The choking sense of betrayal welled up in Naph throat. He coughed, then gagged but it remained lodged in his throat. He was leaving the old man behind, leaving without saying good bye, or inviting him to come with him – to venture out of the house for the first time in a century. It wasn’t as if the old man needed a visa to make the check point, just slip out along with him.

But he couldn’t and without a word Naph crawled out the side of one of the partially collapsed walls. He walked with a relaxed grace, incongruous with the post apolytic moonscape of the once trendy New Farm area. He was heading down into The Valley and the façade of China Town. As the sun rose to it’s zenith he quickly walked down a steep set of stairs, ensuring no one was watching him, to the thriving illegal coffee house below.

“Dignity in poverty comrade,” the man greeted without looking up to him, as he sat down. He stuffed the green beanie into his pocket.
Naph jerked his head in a nod and sat down opposite, withdrew a cigarette and puffed away without offering one to the man, who inhaled deeply the second hand smoke.

“Have you got the money?”
The man placed a roll of notes on the table.“My entire life savings comrade.”
Naph picked up the roll and sat slowly and deliberately counting the notes - he’d never held so much cash. He was glad that money had never gone out of fashion – that unlike cars, it was something that people simply refused to give up. Reaching down inside the front of his dirty jeans he took out two visas, saving the third for himself.

The man snatched them off Naph before they had even hit the table, frantically checked that the stamps were official and had valid dates for travel. Without another word he got up, pulled the beanie back on and left the coffee house. Naph lingered, finishing off the last of the man’s coffee and ignoring everyone else. Peeling off two notes as he stood, Naph pushed them into the owner’s hands and walked out.

Back out in the daylight Naph felt a rush of freedom and he set off towards the crypt to collect his travelling gear.
The voice came from behind and Naph immediately recognised the cadence and the tone, the unmistakeable feeling of a muzzle of a gun jammed into his back. He was directed back towards the stairs, to where the man in the green beanie stood.

“Is this him?”
The man nodded.
“Scooby Doo.”
The gun jabbed into his back, bringing tears to his eyes.
“Naphta Castrop.”

“Naphta Castrop you are charged with theft, possession and sale of prohibited documents.”
“Hold on, I didn’t steal them.”
“Naphta Castrop you are charged with possession and sale of prohibited documents.”
“Shouldn’t you be out shooting dogs?” Naph said, feeling the last of his bravado ebb away replaced with the overwhelming sensation of wanting to pee himself.
“That’s exactly what I’m doing.”

The pressure of the gun forced Naph to his knees.
“Naphta Castrop you have been found guilty on both counts.”
“Let me …,” begged Naph, as the bullet tore through his cranium.

“Times are a-changing boy,” Hans said, reaching down to help his Great-Great-Grandson up, as the policeman walked away, stuffing all three visas into his pocket.
Naph looked down at the blood soaked green beanie of the other man and felt unsteady on his feet.
“It’s OK.” the old man assured him. “I’ve been waiting for you. It takes a bit to get your grounding, but you’ll be fine,” as he clapped him good humouredly on the back and they walked in silence together out of The Valley, and in the opposite direction to home.

Monday, September 1, 2008

[Fiction] Friday Repatriation

Dialogue Bits
This prompt requires a small bit of prep work.
Step 1. Go to a busy locale—a cafe or coffee shop would be easiest. Sit down with a notebook, and make sure you look busy, so people don’t know you’re listening. Now write down random snips of their conversations. Don’t take whole lines or even sentences—just a few words here and there. Try to get 10 bits.
Step 2. Now use all 10 in a cohesive scene of dialogue.

A very belated [Fiction]Friday from me - better late than never huh? Having spent last week collecting up snippets of conversations it seemed criminal to not attempt to weave them together. It was a bad week for me last week, suffering from issues with my ears, which made it really hard to harvest the conversations. So I owed it to myself to create something from it. And yes - I felt paranoid taking down people's conversations .. I was certain that they knew what I was doing. No wonder paranoia ended up as a component of my story.

And yes - Kingsley was the name of the fifth member, of the table of people having a business lunch. It was too good a name to pass up.

My conversation snippets ...
Does your’s taste OK?
The Tipperary job is under new management.
Anything that comes out of Thailand is a lie.
Along the bay from Bangkok.
It’s a case of guilty until proven innocent.
Five years was enough for me. Time to get out.
I don’t know what the situation is.
In August everyone leaves the USA.
I know people look at me.
You don’t want banana and sausage, no egg.


It had been a year since Audrey was last there. Little had changed. Still the same frenzy of tourists, backpacks and policemen with sniffer dogs. She felt the same charge of adrenalin and the same anticipation of the unknown. This was the longest she’d been away and part of her was caught in wanting to stay forever, to leave the worries and the professional jostling behind. The other part, anchored in reality knew that everything came to an end. Audrey could not stay forever. There was no happily ever after in her line of business. The only forever that she understood was death. If she stayed in Thailand with Kingsley then they would just send someone else and they would both be repatriated. Whatever she had felt for Kingsley in the balmy evenings on his verandah, in the passionate nights under the mosquito nets …. they were false. It was part of her job and she’d accomplished what they thought was impossible. Kingsley was coming home.

“The Tipperary job is under new management,” Dawes said bluntly, sidestepping social pleasantries as he always did. He ignored the view over the Champs-Élysées, to the Arc de Triomphe, busying himself with something in his brief case.

It hurt Audrey to know that her pet project had been given to someone else, but she had to be realistic. Her identity had been compromised. Tipperary was an important project, but bigger than just one agent. There was always someone else to take over, the next up and coming.

“I’ve got a good grasp of the obvious Sir. Did you come to see the freak show?”
“In part … you look good Audrey,” but he didn’t look up at her. He’d avoided looking at her since he’d walked through the hotel door.
Audrey knelt down on the opposite side of the coffee table, waiting to hear what he’d really come to tell her.
“I have a new assignment. We need to repatriate Kingsley.”
“Kingsley? You’ll never get him back on US soil.”
“He’s living along the bay from Bangkok and I don’t know what the situation is. Everything that comes out of Bangkok is a lie or second hand intelligence being sold on. I need someone on the ground to find out the truth.”
“Maybe he just retired, like he said he was going to.”
“As far as the agency is concerned you don’t retire.”
“You could give him the benefit of the doubt.”

Dawes lifted an eyebrow.
“Becoming a blonde really has dropped your IQ.”

Audrey chose to ignore the snipe and the official prejudice against blondes.
“We want you in deep cover, here is your new identity and papers,” he passed across and envelope. She checked the passport photo and grimaced to find she was a blonde. “If he’s compromised the Agency, it’s your job to find out to what extent. We’ll monitor the airports for your return. You are to have no contact with anyone.”
“How long?”

Audrey knew that Thailand was the arse end of the world as far as her career was concerned. She was being cut loose, not given a new assignment. The Agency was hoping she’d been swallowed up in the backwaters of Asia, perhaps die of malaria.
“Complete this assignment and we’ll put you back into active service.”

“Does your’s taste OK?”
Audrey looked up from her plate, giving herself a moment to re-orientate herself away from the Paris hotel room that afternoon.
“You don’t want banana and sausage … no egg?”
“I’m feeling off - anxious about flying.” It was a complete lie. She pushed the plate away. “I still don’t get the whole banana, egg and sausage thing.”
“Give it another four years and you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it!”

The restaurant protected them from the hurdy-gurdy of the departures lounge. A couple walked past their table, on the opposite side of the glass. Audrey felt their eyes burning into her.

For the first time in her life Audrey suffered from paranoia of no longer being invisible. She had become obsessed … “I know people look at me.” Understanding that the Thai stared openly at her, envious of her alabaster skin did little to ameliorate her thought patterns. Audrey was certain they stared because of the fraud of her plastic surgery. She knew they stared also because she looked young enough to be Kingsley’s daughter. More than once she’d heard someone mutter ‘Sugar Daddy’ just loud enough so she could hear. Audrey was shocked to find that it bothered her.

It was if the heat and constant damp of the humidity had decomposed her harsh exterior, softened her in a way that life had never been able to. No wonder she was contemplating just staying, fearful that she couldn’t make in the cesspit of the Agency after a years absence.

“Are you sure you want to go home?” she asked, giving Kingsley one final chance to opt out of his fate.
“Five years was enough for me. Time to get out, go home for a little while.”
Audrey lowered her eyes, to stop Kingsley from seeing the indecision in her eyes, even if he’d misread it as her being demure. It was apparently one of the things that he found attractive in her.

Five years in Thailand had changed Kingsley from the Agency’s top man, a legend in his own time to a geriatric beach bum. The Agency had never got over the fact that Kingsley had got out at the top of his game, nor understood that any would want a life beyond the Agency. Dawes had assumed Kingsley left to pursue personal gain from the intelligence, networks and experience his years with the Agency had provided him with.

And yes, Kingsley had used it to his advantage. He had remained active, collecting and selling information to the highest bidder, which was rarely the USA. Kingsley had done it to relieve the boredom of retirement, before Audrey had arrived. He’d never intended to profit from it and he’d give it away when he’d fallen in love with Audrey. But history proved Kingsley was a risk to security.

“It’s a case of guilty until proven innocent” was the Agency’s credo. It left agents no room to manoeuvre or moralise, to make personal judgements or ask questions.

“Mum’s 90 and her health is failing. I want to see her before she dies. And I want her to meet you.” He squeezed her hand and played with the enormous diamond engagement ring on her finger. “She’s going to be thrilled to discover that you’re a writer. She’s been an avid reader all her life.”

“This is the first boarding call for all passengers on United flight 487 to New York.”

Kingsley emptied his wallet of (?) paying not only for the meal, but a very generous tip.
“Let’s go,” he said, his face beaming and making him look much younger than 50. There was no turning back.

Kingsley’s face haunted her whole flight. It was the warning she was too intimately involved, too close to Kingsley. As Audrey dropped in and out of a fitful sleep she realised, that there was no active duty at the end of this. Dawes had decided she was disposal. Even with a new face she was a liability. She would be repatriated alongside Kingsley.

As they approached the doors steeling themselves for the subzero blast of the New York winter Audrey made her resolve, stopped and placed a hand on Kingsley’s arm.

“I just need to go to the Ladies Room.”
“I’ll go find us a cab love,”
“Good luck,” and they kissed good bye.

In the toilets Audrey changed into a worn pair of jeans and a heavy black turtleneck. She pulled the short auburn wig over the recently bleached hair, put her passport into the sanitary disposal unit and retrieved a new passport from a side pocket with a roll of cash. She took off the engagement ring and put it in the hidden pocket where the passport had come from.

The Agency had turned Kingsley’s estate over and it was only with intimate knowledge of Kingsley’s idiosyncrasies that Audrey knew where to look. She found a micro disc and that Dawes had killed the one man who had been protecting him for the past five years. She sold the information to the highest bidder and waited for Dawes’ fall from grace.

In the dead of night, Kingsley would visit her. He’d tell her that he wished he had have done the exact same thing. In August everyone leaves the USA. The Government is in damage control, the Agency dismantled. That was when Audrey knew it was safe to go back to New York. She put the engagement ring back on, lay flowers on Kingsley’s grave and said good-bye forever.