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Releasing Wild Books on the Camino

6 Jun

“A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold.”
— Henry Miller
The Books In My Life (1969)

bookcrossings pic

I first walked the Camino about two years ago with my husband and two sons. It was an intense experience. We averaged twenty-five kilometres a day for thirty days – no rest days. There were blisters, bed bugs and tears. It wasn’t the most enjoyable walk of my life, but it was memorable. In a large part, the pleasure was about meeting people and the shared experience of doing a walk with such a long history.

This week, I’m going back. We’ll start walking on Sunday. The main reason I’m returning is that I’m writing a novel set on the Camino and I want to refresh my memory, get some new colour and smells for the book.  I’m not doing the whole Camino again, just the section from Leon to Sarria. And I plan to take it a bit easier than last time.

Last week I did a radio interview about my two new books, ‘Paris Syndrome’ and ‘Melt’. The interviewer pointed out that in both books, a book is left behind for someone else to read. She asked me if I had ever done that and, well, I have.

I like the idea of leaving books around for others to pick up as they wish. I helped to set up a street library in my home town, which is a similar principle. It’s interesting to see how often the shelves turn over and what books people leave behind.

This week I came across Book Crossings. It is a community of almost two million people who have released over twelve million books into the wild. Each book is given a special identification number and its journey across the world can then be tracked. I love the image of wild books crisscrossing the globe, making friends wherever they go.

I thought to myself, what better place to release books than on the Camino? You have a multi-national tribe of people, who hopefully have time to read, going past every day. I’ve decided to take some of my books and set them free along on the path. They say that the Camino gives you what you need, so I hope they will find their perfect readers.

 You can follow my Camino book releases on Facebook  Instagram or Twitter.

boots and books

 

Romantic comedy with a twist – my review of ‘The Rosie Project’ by Graeme Simsion

14 Mar

‘The Rosie Project’ is Graeme Simsion’s first novel and it has taken off with a bang, already selling into thirty countries. Simsion has previously written two non-fiction books as well as short stories, plays and screenplays. ‘The Rosie Project’, which won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award in 2012, was originally a screenplay, written as part of Simsion’s studies at RMIT.

Don Tillman is a professor of genetics. He has some unusual habits – his life is timed to the last minute, he eats exactly the same meals at the same time every week, he is a master of Aikido but has trouble with social situations. While the author never says as much, the reader deduces that Don may have Asperger’s syndrome. Don himself doesn’t recognise this, however. When he gives a lecture on Asperger’s, a friend asks him if the symptoms remind him of anyone he knows and they do – one of the other professors.

When Don decides that he needs a wife, he approaches this task as he does the rest of his life, with efficiency. A questthe-rosie-projectionnaire is what he needs, he decides, ‘to filter out the time wasters, the disorganised, the ice-cream discriminators, the visual-harassment complainers…’ Don’s questionnaire for ‘The Wife Project’ is both extensive and discriminating. But then along comes Rosie – a smoker, a barmaid, a vegetarian. She is totally unsuitable, but yet Don can’t seem to stop himself from spending time with her.

Don is a wonderful character, who maintains his consistently original persona throughout. There are many delightful one-liners and a couple of laugh out loud moments due to the gap between Don’s view of the world and that of others. When a woman who is clearly interested in him asks him out for a chat he quizzes her on how he should prepare, ‘What specific topics are you interested in?’ When Rosie says, ‘You want to share a taxi?’ Don reflects that it seemed a sensible use of fossil fuel. And when asked if he has ever had sex, Don confirms that he has, on his doctor’s orders, but then ponders that it might become more complicated when there are two people involved.

Simsion acknowledges the inspiration he has gained from classic romantic comedy movies. ‘Cary Grant would have made a perfect Don,’ he says. This book is funny, witty and intelligent – I finished it with a smile on my face.

 

Boomerang Books are currently giving away copies of ‘The Rosie Project’ and ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’, enter here

If you happen to be in the vicinity of the Snowy Mountains over Easter, and it is a lovely time in the mountains, do come along and see me talking about romantic comedy and landscapes at the Snowy Mountains Writers Festival. 

And, don’t forget that if your book group would like to do ‘Liar Bird’, I have a special offer for book groups

 

 

 

Lights, camera, um… (coming out in Byron Bay)

6 Aug

Well, I’m starting to recover from the excitement of the Byron Bay Writers Festival. Highlights for me:

–   Rubbing ink off Isobel Carmody’s face in the book signing tent.

–   Sitting next to Tom Keneally in the book signing tent. I was able to reminisce briefly about the fact that I taught him cross-country skiing back in the late ‘80s. He says he can ski properly now and just got back from Vaile. Tom Keneally is like Peter Pan – he never ages.

–  Participating in the debut author’s panel with Amanda Webster, Shamus Sillar and Jessie Cole. Such a lovely and receptive crowd and a varied group of authors. Amanda Webster made me cry, Shamus Sillar made me laugh and Jessie Cole had me in awe at the quality and impact of her writing. A special thanks to those two lovely ladies who couldn’t decide whose books to buy afterwards and so bought them all – we love you!

–          Panel-wise, I especially enjoyed seeing climate change campaigner Anna Rose and chatting briefly afterwards. Anna was excited to learn that I’m currently writing a romantic comedy about climate change. I was excited to learn that her book Madlands, is practically a romantic comedy itself – it ends in a wedding!

What else? John Marsden drinks Coke Zero, Hannie Rayson can put on lipstick without a mirror, Andy Griffiths has the biggest book signing queue, Leanne Hall gets into character by crawling around on soccer fields at night, and I still haven’t met Martin Chatterton, even though he lives in the same small town as me.

And I think that might be about it for my brushes (and lack of brushes) with literary fame and glamour. Now I can retire with relief back to my cave.

Photo: Debut authors before the panel

Chopsticks, what chopsticks? Why you need to stay on good terms with your editor.

28 Jun

 

Picking up continuity gaps in movies is great fun – life jackets disappearing and reappearing as the Titanic goes down, swords changing from hand to hand in Lord of the Rings, eyes opening and closing on dead bodies… But what about continuity gaps in novels?

 

I have just finished the copy edits for my next book, ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsais’ – about five days work. It is as good as I can make it. No doubt when I read it again I will see mistakes I should have fixed, but for now it is the best I can do.

 

Editing is a very humbling process. In the interests of full and frank disclosure, I can now reveal that, yes, I had completely forgotten that they were eating with chopsticks at the moment when the father started banging his plate with his fork. And yes, I had also forgotten that the main character had thrown her phone into a fishpond in the chapter before she miraculously pulled it out of her pocket again.  In my previous book, ‘Liar Bird’ I had somehow managed to forget that Cassie had just chucked a hissy fit about having no television in the chapter before she started happily watching the news on TV.

 

The trouble with writing is that it doesn’t happen in real time. When it takes over a year to get from beginning to end it is very easy to forget these trivial matters of continuity. In my next book, which my agent is currently reading, I lost a dog for a good ten chapters.

 

Editing a book always reminds me of that cartoon of a pondering fifties style woman – ‘I can’t believe I forgot to have children.’ Easily done, I would say.

 

So when you read a book which hangs together, where the main character keeps the same name, she doesn’t lose her dog, she doesn’t magically change car brands and she remembers that she’s a vegetarian – you can be sure that an editor has been there before you.

 

Have you ever noticed any continuity gaps in novels?

Finding my Mojo (and other serendipitous events)

28 Feb

I think every writer has them – moments when life imitates art in a way which raises hairs on the back of your neck. Coincidences multiply until you start to feel that the act of writing is almost magical – a prediction of events to come.

I have been struggling away for over a year now, on a novel about a woman who loses her mojo. I feel like it has been the hardest of my novels to write (I have written five previously), but perhaps I always feel like that. Perhaps the act of finishing a novel is like childbirth and you instantly forget the pain that came before.

Yesterday, to clear my head, I went down to the beach for a swim. I threw down my bag and noticed next to it an abandoned dog collar. The tag on the collar read – you guessed it – mojo. I FOUND MY MOJO. Perhaps I have been on the north coast too long, but I find this, like, totally amazing.

This is not the first time I have had this type of rather woo woo experience. Another scene in this novel requires my mojo-less heroine to visit the Big Redback in Brisbane. I wrote this scene before I went there, adding a garden gnome, which I described in some detail, to serve the needs of the story.

I got to the Big Redback, had a bit of a look around, and was just about to drive off when I saw it – hiding shyly among the ferns – the gnome just as I had already described it.

And wait, there’s more! Those of you who have read Liar Bird – check out this link. If you haven’t, hold off so you don’t spoil the story.

Have you had any similar bizarre cases of life imitating art?

 

I am running a workshop called ‘Beyond Sex and Shopping: Writing fiction that sells’ on the 17th of March in Byron Bay. If you are interested, contact the Northern Rivers Writers Centre.

Take me to your internet connection and other writing bloopers

11 Jan

While Liar Bird is the first novel of mine to be published, it is not the first I have written. Before I turned my hand to romantic comedy, I tried out a few different types of writing – young adult fantasy, crime, the bonkbuster… In retrospect, it’s obvious why some of these gems from my writing annals never made it to the shelves:

Young adult fantasy:

“Why don’t we see if we can find out about these places? Where’s your internet connection?”

      “There isn’t one. Myrna and Arthur don’t believe in it.”

            Kate’s mouth opened in astonishment. “How do you survive?”

Does anyone ever say ‘Where’s your internet connection?’ Well, it was 2002, maybe they did at the time.

Fantasy:

Origod looked down the hill. A cloud of dust was rising from the valley. Every time the Mustrogorns stampeded across the Gnarlverge its soft banks collapsed, damming the river. It would not take long for the waters to reach the village.

            ‘Quick.’ Origod grasped Bethwyn’s hand. Even now, at this urgent moment, her touch sent a quiver through his body. This spring, surely, he would defeat Mentron and prove to Budvegan that he was a worthy suitor for her hand.

            Bethwyn looked him in the eye then slowly lifted his hand and pressed it against her breast.

            Origod’s legs turned to water as he felt the soft swell of her skin.

            Her blue eyes blinked. ‘How long must we wait, Origod? I think only of your touch.’

            She moved closer and Origod felt her slender body pressed against his. He wrapped his arms around her and-

Hm, that’s actually kind of sexy. I think I might have had a future as a fantasy writer if I could only have kept track of all the names.  So, what have I learnt from all this? If you keep those fingers to the keyboard, you can only improve! (Keep watching and my attempts at the bonkbuster and crime novel may make an appearance at a later date…)

Liar Bird will be launched at the Northern Rivers Writers Centre in Byron Bay on January 14th. Contact siboney@nrwc.org.au for details.

Happy feral pig awareness day.

20 Dec

In a bookshop somewhere, they are turning up in boxes. Boxes full of ‘Liar Bird.’ Supposedly not to be opened until January 1st (although sightings have been confirmed in bookshops in Sydney, Lismore, Alstonville and Byron Bay). It’s a strange feeling to know that words that I first started to put on paper way back in 2006 will soon be read by hundreds or – hopefully – thousands of people. Or, hundreds of thousands, even. Why not think big?

I just had a look at my old computer file from August 2006 when I first jotted down a few thoughts about this book. It contains important questions to myself such as:

  • City PR girl reinvents herself?
  • ‘Sea Change’ meets James Herriott? (does anyone remember all creatures Great and Small?)

And there were also a few immortal lines such as: ‘If it wasn’t for the long-footed potoroo, I might never have heard of Beechville.’  That line is now the first sentence in ‘Liar Bird’.

It is said that you should write what you know. Unfortunately, I’m sometimes not too good at taking advice. I’ve been working for national parks for a long time but it had never occurred to me that I was sitting on a mine of inspiration. It didn’t hit me until one day a friend saw a news release I’d written and started cackling with laughter. The title of the news release was ‘Feral Pig Awareness Day.’ When I stopped to think about it, it was very, very funny.

And it didn’t stop at pigs. Foxes were funny too, and chickens and cane toads. In fact, the original title of this book was ‘Toading – a story of love, lust and feral pests’. I don’t think it would have gone too far with that title.

So, this year, for me is not really about Christmas, I’m hanging on for January 1st – Happy Feral Pig Awareness Day!

 

Come January, I will be doing a few events around the Northern Rivers. If you are in the area, please drop in and say hi at:

Lennox Bookmark, Lennox Head – 7th January 10am – 12.00 (reading at 11.00)

Collins Bookshop, Byron Bay – 7th January 1.30pm – 3.00

Mary Ryans Bookshop Byron Bay – 8th January 10.30 – 12.00

PR queen takes a dive

15 Dec

 With only two weeks until Liar Bird is published, I thought I’d share another short extract. If you missed the last one, it is here. City PR Queen, Cassandra, has taken a dive and is considering her options…

I needed to get away for a while; act like it was my choice, return refreshed, revitalised and triumphant. What I needed was another job – some place they’d never heard of Cassandra Daley and her astroturf. Somewhere Sydney people would never find me.

Ant was still sitting on the end of the bed, doggy eyes following my every move.

“For Chrissakes Ant, stop watching me. Get me a coffee…and a fresh muffin from the bakery. Will you, snooks?” That would keep him out of my hair for a bit.

As he left the room I grabbed Alice from my bedside table. ‘You look a little shy, let me introduce you to that leg of mutton,’ said the Red Queen.

Ha.  I would be lucky to be introduced even to a leg of mutton if I stuck around here. A pathetic, friendless loser, that’s what I’d be.

I opened the jobs section. There were lots of PR jobs, but all in Sydney. I kept flicking, there at the end was a small box – Public Relations specialist for wildlife agency, north coast – Beechville.

Beechville? I shuddered. There were good parts to the north coast. Come to think of it, one good part – Byron Bay. Byron was tres chic – most of Balmain was there in summer. You had no trouble getting any sort of latte in Byron. Somehow I suspected Beechville wasn’t like that. It sounded like the kind of place where Instant Roast and teabags were the order of the day.

Getting out of bed, I pulled my road atlas from the shelf. There it was; Beechville – a small dot near the Queensland border. Why on earth would they need a public relations specialist there? What could happen in a country town like that? Something about that appealed though. I’d had enough action for the time being.

I pictured myself in a rocking chair on a wide verandah – maybe strolling in to work to have my photo taken with a koala or on a rainforest walkway…

At least it wasn’t too far from civilisation – if you could call Surfers Paradise and Brisbane civilised. Anything north of Hornsby was the wilderness as far as I was concerned, but, given the circumstances, you take what you can get. It would be quiet, boring maybe, but quiet. I’d have time to plan my comeback; recuperate my energies for a big re-entry.

Wazza would take me back; he’d never find anyone else as good as me. No, stuff Wazza, I’d set up in opposition to him. I might find my reputation to be an asset; in fact I’m sure I would – once people had the chance to reflect on it. It showed I’d go the extra mile. Clients liked that.

The good part was, Beechville was north coast and Rainforest Runaway was south coast. Separation of these two places could only be beneficial.

The door clicked as Anthony let himself back in. Ripping out the ad, I placed it in my top drawer.

Beechville. I felt half-asleep at the thought of it…

Hope you enjoyed that. And for anyone who happens to find that too much ‘Liar Bird’ is never enough – here’s a link to the Varuna Blog where I read a couple of pages.

Down the plughole

2 Nov

It being November, there are now only eight weeks to go until Liar Bird hits the shelves. In celebration, I thought I would share a short extract.

Chapter One: Down the Plughole

If it wasn’t for the long-footed potoroo, I might never have heard of Beechville. But I suppose I can’t entirely lay the blame at the potoroo’s door – Warren Corbett must also take his share.

There have been many influential figures in my life, people who have opened doors at the right time, given words of advice, turned me on a path I might not have taken. Of all of these, Warren Corbett looms largest.

Wazza, as he’s widely known in PR circles, was my first boss. More than that, he was my mentor. Do what it takes, girl, but don’t let them catch you, was his favourite saying. Second was, When in doubt, deny, deny, deny.

He’s old school, Wazza. PR Ethics hadn’t been invented when he made his first million. It was my luck – some would say karma – that I ended up at Winning Edge Public Relations still wet from my communications degree. That was when the learning really started.

Wazza taught me everything I knew – how to set up ‘grassroots’ front groups which look and act just like the real thing; how to infiltrate real groups if need be and, most importantly, how not to let your conscience stand in the way of your career. He said it was important to look ethical; actually being ethical was optional and probably unwise.

He was the learned master and I the eager student. I sucked up his wisdom as thirstily as any magician’s apprentice. Good old Wazza, he’s still there, doing his thing. God knows there’s no shortage of clients ready to fork out for his golden touch.

Out of all the graduates who applied to his company; fifty or so, he picked me. Why?

“I trust my instincts, Cassandra.” He’d leant over his massive glass table, a whiff of cinnamon aftershave drifting towards me from his shiny cheeks. “In this game, you have to. And you… I can sense something. You’re smart, but they’re all smart. You look good, but they all look good. You’ve got something different though.” He’d placed his hand-rolled cigar in an ashtray and pointed his immaculately groomed, gold-ringed, finger at my chest. “You are hungry.”

He was right.

He told me later – only half joking – that he’d been worried I’d leap over the desk and sink my teeth into his jugular if he’d knocked me back. I’d laughed politely, showing just a hint of fang to keep him on his toes.

To be continued…

Is there anyone who doesn’t love to see a PR girl take a dive?