Tag Archives: humour

Location, location, location – why Byron Bay is a perfect crime setting

19 Mar

Setting is important in crime novels. Where would Sherlock Holmes be, without the fog-bound London streets? And wouldn’t Scandi-noir be way too cheerful without those long, cold snowy nights?

Byron Bay might not be quite so noir, but it is still a fascinating location. In my new young adult comedy/crime novel, the beauty and the weirdness of the bay become almost another character in the book.

My protagonist, Olivia Grace, is a Gold Coast girl – They could have scrawled ‘here be dragons’ on the map south of Coolangatta as far as I was concerned.

The first time she went to Byron, she thought it was paradise:

Byron Bay, I soon discovered, was a place to conjure dreams. The sweep of the bay to the base of the mountains; the dolphins leaping from water so clear it was barely there. For us, it was nirvana.

But nirvana had a dark side and things didn’t turn out so well back then. Now, Olivia is back. A freshly hatched Private Investigator, she is hot on the trail of a yoga guru who’s a bit of a creep.

Here’s a whistle-stop tour of the mean streets of Byron as trodden by Olivia in ‘The Girl with the Gold Bikini.’

A Byron Bay Yoga Studio

I read recently that Byron has the highest percentage of yoga instructors outside India. Even if that’s not true, it’s believable. Things heat up for Olivia when she heads out to a fictional yoga studio, Lighthouse Bliss:

I park among the bangalow palms and make my way past the flowering lily pond to reception. The usual South American panpipes are playing and lavender wafts from an aromatherapy burner.

Despite this auspicious welcome, Oliva soon discovers that Byron Bay yoga is not for the fainthearted:

Ajay’s Bikini Beach Body Boot Camp Speed Yoga is powerful stuff. Each two-hour class covers all the moves other yoga teachers would take two weeks to fit in. He learnt this form of yoga from an Indian guru, who granted him sole worldwide rights. I guess gurus aren’t what they used to be.

Unfortunately for Olivia, things only go downhill from here…

Ah, Wategos…

Olivia trails the creepy yoga instructor to a large house with an infinity pool, overlooking Wategos Beach.

As I wind past the cabbage tree palms to Wategos, Abbey’s voice is in my head. ‘How good is this place, Ol? Surf and rainforest. It’s paradise.’ Byron Bay is still paradise. Seems like the whole world thinks so too, though.

Despite the crowds, I still think Wategos is possibly the most beautiful beach in the world. Surfing beneath the lighthouse as the sun sets over the mountains is one of life’s magical moments. Which brings me to…

Surf’s up…

One thing you can almost guarantee about Byron is… crowded surf breaks. Olivia used to surf, but she gave it up after a bad experience. Now she’s trying to get back into it again.

I’d forgotten how cutthroat it is out here. One of the men in the line-up is a kind of man-fish thing. His hands are the size of flippers and he gets onto the waves with about two strokes.

The pack takes my measure quickly. Every time I paddle for a wave someone else comes in from in front or behind or materialises out of nowhere.

Hot tip, Olivia – if you want to avoid the crowds, you need to surf in the dark. Which, in due course, she does. And after a surf, where would you head, but…

The Pass Café

For a post surf snack, this has to be the best spot in town.

A bush turkey roams around underfoot while the magpie cocks its greedy eye at a muffin. In Byron, the rainforest, with all its wildlife, comes right to the beach. Jacq and I claim a table with a view of that show-off, the sea.

Mm, and after a coffee, it’s time to move on to…

Jonson Street

At the risk of sounding like our Prime Minister, how good is Jonson Street? You could watch the world go by all day and never get bored.

The pavement is teeming with the usual frenzied mix: hippies down from the hills, European backpackers, spiky-haired Japanese surfers and gold-sandalled blondes in white linen beach wear.

And when you’re ready for some entertainment, there’s always…

Byron RSL

Several years ago, I did Mandy Nolan’s stand-up comedy course, culminating in a performance at the Byron RSL. The experience was so nerve-wracking, I had to get Olivia to re-live it for me…

Sipping a beer, I perch at a table down the back where I can take photos without being noticed. It’s open mike comedy night and she’s just taken the stage. The crowd is a mixture –young hip surfies mingled with your typical middle-aged RSL drinkers.

And of course, a novel set in Byron Bay wouldn’t be complete without a trip to…

The Lighthouse

A northerly wind whips at our hair and flattens the surf to whitecaps. Panting, we look over the cliff edge and see two dolphins, a mother and a calf, below us. I imagine them as the slackers of the dolphin world. ‘I can’t be bothered catching fish. Let’s get takeaways tonight.’ If I was a dolphin, that would be me.

Now that I’ve scoped the town, I can confirm that Byron Bay is the perfect setting for a fictional crime. Particularly if you’re into that of the yoga and surfing variety.

‘The Girl with the Gold Bikini’ is available from your friendly local bookshop, or: Readings, Booktopia, Amazon Australia, US, UK

Ah, those Gold Coast days…

1 Feb

Well, this book has been a loo-ong time coming (what’s fifteen years or so, between friends?). It’s been so long, in fact, that I’ve published five other books, while I’ve been working on it. Some books take longer than others to find their perfect form.

So here it is – release day! It’s been worth the wait. Thanks so much to Wakefield Press for steering this book to publication and to my son, Tim Eddy, for the little video.

I thought I’d post a short extract here to whet your appetite. There is so much of my teenage self in this book – ah, those Gold Coast days…

***

‘The Girl with the Gold Bikini’

Chapter One:

Whenever I see a girl in a gold bikini, I think of Princess Leia. Here on the Gold Coast, gold bikinis are common, so I think of Princess Leia a lot.

Princess Leia doesn’t stand for any nonsense. When the giant slug made her wear that ridiculous bikini, she whipped out her chain and gave it a thrashing. Then she changed quick smart into something more sensible.

Dance with the hottest crowd in town, our stunning waitresses will ensure …

Punching the radio ‘off’ button, I squeeze my car into a metered spot near Cavill Avenue and glance at my watch. Late again. The good thing about working in Surfers Paradise is that the meter maids will be along soon to stick money in the meter. That’s if they don’t recognise my parents’ bombed-out Daihatsu, in which case they’ll know I’m no tourist, but a shameless leech on the system.

I jog up the street, jumping sideways to avoid getting wiped out by a guy with a nine-foot surfboard on his head. A tout calls out from a doorway, gesturing towards his shop. Get your stuffed koalas, didgeridoos and Akubra hats here, folks. Or that’s what I imagine he’s saying. As I don’t speak Japanese it’s hard to be sure.

I nod at the tout. He nods back. Seiji’s All Australian Souvenir Shop and Outback Bar is my regular lunchtime haunt. I don’t buy much but it’s always quiet in there, compared to the hustle bustle of the street. Seiji is nice. He never seems to mind if my ice-cream drips. He’s a good salesman, too.

As I push through the door of Gold Star Investigations I pause to savour the thrill it gives me. Here I am. Straight out of school and already a private investigator in training. It’s funny, though, how when dreams come true they’re never quite what you expect.

I hadn’t thought it would be so hard to work with Rosco. He and I are no strangers. We grew up on the same street in Southport. He was one year ahead of me in school, but we hung out together after hours. Rosco was Luke Skywalker and Han Solo to my Leia. We took turns to play Yoda, and very accomplished in Yoda-speak we were. The force was with us. I misheard this phrase the first time he said it, before I watched the movies, and the horse is with you became our little in-joke.

***

‘The Girl with the Gold Bikini’ is available in all good bookshops and online at retailers such as Booktopia and Readings.

You can read more about the book here.

I’m doing a few events around the place to celebrate the book’s release. You can check them out here. I’ll post more as they come up.

YAY!

Sex, Lies and Bonsai – writing the outsider

12 Jun

have you everMy writing desk has a view of the sea. From here, at any time of day, I can see surfers skimming across the waves.  What would it be like, I thought, to live in this town and be scared of the water? To have skin that burns instantly in the sun? To have a rich and imaginative inner life but be so shy that no-one ever gets to know that part of you?

Darling Head, where ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ is set, is a serious surf town – one where the wetsuit is the look on the street and the clothes shops stock only surf wear. The town even has its own lingo – been gettin’ any? is the usual greeting. It is, in fact, very much like my own home town. While I am a keen surfer myself, my kids are not really into it. In a town with such a strong surfing culture, whether you do or don’t surf becomes an important part of who you are.

Into this town I threw Edie – a shy redhead whose father is a former surf champion, a girl who hasn’t been in the water since she was twelve. Edie’s father is the town celebrity, but Edie has spent her whole life feeling like she doesn’t belong. While she escaped to the city for a few years, a failed relationship finds her washed back up in her childhood home.

In search of more money, Edie takes up erotic writing. And of course, there is something much worse than being the water-shy daughter of a surf champion – being outed as an erotic writer in a small town. I’m sure we all know the terror that comes with exposing an intimate part of ourselves to the cruel light of day…

While ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ is a comedy, it is a tender one. It’s about the joy of finding someone who makes you feel like it’s okay to be the crazy mixed up person that you are.  Edie has spent most of her life trying to hide what she sees as her peculiarities. I wanted to see what would happen if she was brave enough to let them all come out.

‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ has become the little book that could. It’s now out with HarperCollins in the UK and HarperCollins in the US . Go little book. This book trailer for ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’, set in my home town, sets the scene.

Some links to buy…

‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ in the US: 

HarperCollins

Barnes and Noble

‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ in the UK :

Foyles

Amazon

‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ in Australia:

Booktopia

Angus and Robertson 

tile sex lies

 

‘Melt’ release day – write what you know…

2 May

I came to writing after a varied career. I worked as a wilderness and backcountry ski guide for many years, then in environmental education and then in community relations for the national parks and wildlife service.

My life has seeped into my work. My first novel, ‘Liar Bird’ was about a woman working in community relations for national parks – so, yes, somewhat autobiographical… In ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’, my protagonist Edie works at a university dissecting and drawing crab larvae – a position I held myself while I was doing my first degree in Zoology. My third novel, ‘Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing’ features a woman doing a pilgrimage around the ‘Big Things’ of coastal Australia. And I have visited more than a few Big Things in my time…

‘Paris Syndrome’, my first Young Adult novel, is about a young girl in Brisbane who yearns for Paris. I grew up in Brisbane and spent a fair amount of time wishing I was somewhere more exotic.

I think authors often find that the more they write, the further from autobiography they go. Basically you just have to start making things up! Which brings me to ‘Melt’…

I’ve never been to Antarctica and nor have I presented a TV show and yet, this is what my protagonist Summer does. I did research it extensively though. If you’ve never survived an Antarctic storm in the Antarctic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, I can highly recommend it. It helped that I’ve spent a lot of time in snowy environments. I could visualise the hardships and the beauty of living in that environment. I loved being in my protagonist, Summer’s head as she saw Antarctica for the first time…

The sea edge is rimmed with turquoise cliffs of ice. They are brilliant, luminous. I hadn’t dreamed they’d be that colour. My mouth is hanging open again. I shut it. We drop lower and I see black dots on the white. ‘Penguins,’ I squeal.

Rory jabs me hard this time.

‘Ow. Penguins,’ I repeat in a more subdued manner. ‘As you’d expect.’

‘Melt’ is a fish-out-of-water comedy about a young woman impersonating a TV science superstar. She is learning glaciology and climate science on the fly, building a secret igloo, improvising scripts based on Dynasty, and above all trying not to be revealed as an impostor. I had a lot of fun writing it.

‘Melt’ is freshly hatched today and widely available in ebook and paperback worldwide, including through the links below.

Lacuna (paperback) Amazon Australia (paperback and kindle) Booktopia (paperback and ebook) Amazon US  Amazon UK 

It will be launched in Byron Bay on May 31st by author Sarah Armstrong. More details here.

I am also doing an author talk about ‘Melt’ and ‘Paris Syndrome’ at the Lismore Book Warehouse on May 17, 6pm. RSVP to: 66214204

‘Melt’ is on Goodreads here.

LISA WITH MELT 2

 

9 Apr

Sharing this post from the lovely Kim Kelly’s website. Looking forward to being part of the Millthorpe pop-up in May!

Laughing about Climate Change – ‘Solar’ by Ian McEwan

25 May

A new Ian McEwan novel is always an event, although I must confess that this one is not very new – it was published in 2010. The world (well, me anyway) has been waiting for a long time for the great climate change novel and if anyone can do it, McEwan can.

Ian McEwan is known for his grasp of science and novels that interweave rational argument and emotion. Enduring Love features a science writer, Saturday a neurosurgeon and now, with Solar, we meet Michael Beard, a Nobel prize-winning physicist. So how does McEwan tackle this most complex and rather boring subject? Dystopian futures and eco-thrillers have been the main weapons of choice for climate change novelists, but McEwan does something different – he makes us laugh.

Michael Beard is a fat, randy has-been who has done nothing significant since his prize winning Beard-Einstein Conflation many years ago. Offered a place on an artist’s trip to the Arctic to examine the effects of climate change, Beard jumps on a jet to Norway (carbon off-set of course). Soon he is getting his delicate parts caught in a zip while urinating at minus forty degrees and fleeing a hungry polar bear on his skidoo.

Getting on board the solar bandwagon, Beard reassures his business partner; ‘Here’s the good news.  The UN estimates that already a third of a million people a year are dying from climate change. Bangladesh is going down because the oceans are warming and expanding and rising. There’s drought in the Amazonian rainforest. Methane is pouring out of the Siberian permafrost… Now the eastern Antarctic is going.’

Yes, this is black comedy at its best. The boot room on the frozen-in boat where the artists are staying becomes a metaphor for the planet as it descends day by day into further chaos. ‘How were they to save the earth,’ Beard wonders, ‘when it was so much larger than the boot room?’ There is also a laugh out loud moment when Beard helps himself to a stranger’s chips. This in turn becomes a metaphor for our need to re-examine known facts in light of new evidence.

While Solar might not be the hallelujah moment in fiction that climate change activists would hope for, it has does carry an important message – a flawed scientist does not mean that the science is wrong.

You can also just read it for laughs.

For people in the Ballina area, I’ll be talking about my writing at Ballina Library at 10am on the 4th of June. Do pop along if you can!

On the dangers of running (how I found myself enrolled in a stand-up comedy course)

2 May

There’s something about running. It’s the endorphins, I suppose – they’re supposed to be like morphine, aren’t they? Obviously one should never make important decisions while under the influence of mind altering drugs, and yet my morning run on the beach is the time when all my brightest ideas strike me. Well, they seem bright at the time…

The other week on my beach run, it occurred to me that I should enrol in a stand-up comedy course. I’m not sure what brought this to mind, and even less sure why it seemed like a good thing.

I’ve known people who have done stand-up comedy before and it has always seemed like bungy jumping to me (which I’ve never done). Why would you do that to yourself?

But last week, on my beach run, somehow it seemed like an excellent idea. I needed to challenge myself. I’d been in the comfort zone for too long. I’ll just have a look on the web when I get home, I thought to myself. There probably won’t be a course on, or it will be on when I’m away. And I’ll be off the hook – another brilliant idea that I just couldn’t get around to. Drats!

But no, when I looked it up – horrors – there was a course starting in two weeks, it had vacancies and, incredibly, it didn’t clash with anything else I was doing. I had no excuses. The combination of endorphins and internet shopping was too much for me to handle. Within five minutes, I had whipped out my credit card and enrolled. You know what they say, enrol in haste, repent at leisure…

Every Wednesday night for six weeks, I will be facing my fears with my tutor, the amazingly talented Mandy Nolan. Hopefully I’ll get some laughs out of it. Whether anyone else will, remains to be seen.

Has anyone else done this, or been tempted to do something else really scary? Any sage words of advice or condolences to offer?

 

I will be talking about chick lit at the Gloucester Writers Festival this weekend with the lovely Lisa Heidke. This is the ‘before’ case study. By the time I get to the Byron Writers Festival in August, I will be much, much funnier, I promise!

Hanging on for the knicker sale – ‘The Fine Colour of Rust’ by PA O’Reilly

29 Apr

‘The Fine Colour of Rust’ is a departure from literary fiction for Paddy O’Reilly, who has previously written a novel and a short story collection. Hence she is writing as P.A., rather than Paddy.

The book is the story of Loretta Boskovic, who lives in Gunapan, a dusty town in north-west Victoria. Loretta describes herself as an ‘old scrag standing with her hands on her hips, pursing her thin lips, squinting into the sun. You could make a statue of that. It would look like half the women in this town.’

Gunapan is full of single mothers. As Loretta says; ‘It’s been so long for most of the single mothers in this town we’ve forgotten what it was that husbands do to make us mothers in the first place.’  Loretta fantasises about leaving her children in an orphanage and riding off into the sunset with a man on a Harley. The highlight of her year is the annual K-mart underwear sale in nearby Halstead. This is a finely judged affair as ‘the elastic only lasts ten to eleven months, which makes these last few weeks before the sale pretty dicey.’

‘The Fine Colour of Rust’ reads a little like a TV series, there are episodes rather than plot. The prodigal son returns after doing time in jail, the local councillor is a dodgy operator, a refugee family from ‘Bosnia Herzegobble’ appears, creating conflict in the community.

There are also a host of charming, idiosyncratic characters. Loretta’s closest friend is Norm, who runs the local junkyard. The new mechanic, Merv Bull, a single and passably attractive man is flooded by business as women desert the old eighty year old mechanic in search of a ‘tune up’.  Loretta’s two kids and her family in Melbourne add to the drama. One of Loretta’s former babysitters returns to the town to set up business as a witch.

This is my sixth review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge. I’ve got a feeling I said I’d only do six, but what the hell, I’m going on!

A woman with strong sense of injustice, Loretta tries to rally the town behind her to save the school, which is slated for closure. This leads to one of the funniest scenes in the book, when the Minister for Education comes to town. Treated to a butchering demonstration, he is left shocked and ‘festooned with a morsel of raw steak glued to his upper lip.’

I enjoyed the Australian character and light-hearted appeal of this book. If you liked ‘The Castle’ you’ll love Loretta.