Tag Archives: writing

Finding magic in the everyday

12 Feb

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This post originally appeared at 1 girl… 2 many books as part of my blog tour which is still continuing.  Why not hop on board? 

I come from a scientific background, so I’m basically a pragmatist. But on the other hand, I tend to think that there’s more going on in the world than meets the eye. I think every writer has 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.

I had a couple of funny experiences when writing ‘Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing’. I wrote the scene at the Big Redback where Arkie and Haruko find a garden gnome that looks like one of the Seven Lucky Gods early on, before I’d been to any of the Big Things. Eventually I decided I’d better go to the Big Redback and check it out. And lo and behold when I got there I saw this gnome nestled among the bushes exactly as I had already described it in the story.

Another strange thing happened one day when I was struggling with the story and decided to go down to the beach for a swim. I threw down my towel and noticed an abandoned dog collar next to it. The rusty old tag on the collar read ‘mojo.’ Just like Arkie, I had found my mojo! The mojo dog tag immediately joined my little shrine of lucky objects next to my computer.

I don’t really think that there’s anything magical about these events, but it is so interesting the way that once you tune in to something you start to see it everywhere. I expect that’s because you’re so hyper-alert to your story you start to feel like you’re inside it.

I do enjoy this hyper-alert state that I get when I am writing because it makes every day an adventure. It’s like living inside a novel. At the moment I am writing a novel whose protagonist is totally obsessed with all things Parisian, especially the movie Amelie. The other day I went down to our local market and was delighted to find an accordion player there, playing what sounded like a French tune. I was even more delighted when a girl next to me, who would have been about the same age as my protagonist, exclaimed, ‘Oh, that’s the theme song from Amelie. That makes me so happy.’ Life imitates art! I bought a baguette and went home feeling revitalised for my story.

I suppose one of the things that characterises my writing is the idea that we don’t need to look elsewhere to find what we seek. As Haruku says in my book, ‘Everything you need, you already have.’

 

I have been out and about talking about ‘Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing’ and still have a couple of events to go on the Gold Coast and Brisbane (see below) so if you’d like to come along I’d love to see you there.

Thursday 26 February 2015

10:30 AM             Event – Elanora Library, The Pines Shopping Centre Guineas Creek Road, Elanora QLD

This is a free event but bookings are recommended by phoning the library on (07) 5581 1671.

Friday 27 February 2015

10:00am                 Victoria Point Library, 7/15 Bunker Road, Victoria Point QLD 4165

This is a free event but booking are recommended on (07) 3884 4000

 

Very superstitious? (Australia Day Blog Hop)

24 Jan

???????????????????????????????     I don’t think of myself as a superstitious person, but I do have a tendency to see meaning in things that may be meaningless to others. Often the world seems deeply mysterious to me. Perhaps that comes with being a writer. Perhaps I’ve spent too much time in Byron Bay.

I have recently returned from a month in Japan. It was my fourth trip there, so clearly I like it. One of the things I particularly enjoy is seeing the Shinto shrines dotted all over the country. Everywhere you go there is a Tori gate that welcomes you to the spirit world. The Shinto religion has many gods and even objects like trees or rocks are revered for their kami or spirit.

On one of my previous trips to Japan I discovered the Seven Lucky Shinto Gods. Soon I started seeing them everywhere. They seemed to be calling me, so I bought a little model of the gods and took them home. My Seven Lucky Gods look a little like the seven dwarfs. They are all plump and smiling. Each one is about the size of a thimble and dressed in brightly coloured robes.

I am a bit of a collector of objects of significance. When I start a new writing project, I am often scanning for a touchstone that will symbolise the story. The object sits next to my computer while I write and it seems to give me courage. I suppose that’s superstitious, but writing is a leap of faith and you take help where you can.

I am currently working on my next novel, which is to be published by Random House in early 2015. The protagonist is a trendspotter who has always been able to predict the next big thing. Until one day she finds she can’t. She needs some help and this is where the Seven Lucky Gods come in.

It wasn’t until I had those gods sitting on my desk that this story really started to take shape for me. It’s been the same for my previous two novels. While I’m a pretty rational person usually, when it comes to writing I need my lucky object.

Do you have a superstitious habit or ‘lucky’ object that you rely on?

Comment on this blog to go into the draw to win a signed print copy of my current novel ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ (or if you’ve already read that one I can send you ‘Liar Bird’).

Happy Australia Day and a big thank you to Shellyrae from Book’d out for organising this Australia Day Blog Hop! australiadaybloghop2014

What’s that Freud guy doing in my book?

29 Aug

 

freudI’ve been asked quite a few times about the quotes from Sigmund Freud which start each chapter in ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ so finally, at the urging of the lovely Kate Belle I have decided to share.

 

‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ is all about sex, love and intimacy. For me, the process of writing it was not only one of telling a story, but of meditating on these themes and what they mean. I wanted to explain in psychological terms, but in a subtle and humorous way, why Edie acts the way she does. Why does she feel so heartbroken at the beginning? Why does she feel like a failure? Why does she fall so deeply in lust with Professor Brownlow? And why, when she eventually falls in love, is it so obviously right for her?

 

Giving Edie her best friend Sally who is a psychologist of sorts was a way for me to explore these themes in a fictional way. And when I researched (Googled) sex, love and intimacy all roads led to Freud. Although he was sometimes a bit of a crackpot, the impact of his radical theories on childhood, sexuality and relationships are still with us today.

 

Initially I put my research into the story in the form of university essays on Freud from Sally. Sadly, in the editing process it became obvious that this wasn’t working. So, in order to keep this theme going I introduced the little Freud quotes.

 

It soon became apparent that Freud and I were on a similar wavelength. For every chapter in the book, he had something totally appropriate to say. I never had to try too hard to find a relevant quotation. Take ‘One is very crazy when in love’ (chapter 2); Love and work…work and love, that’s all there is (chapter 4) and ‘Everywhere I go; I find a poet has been there before me’ (chapter 11). Absolutely perfect!

 

I’m sure many readers just skim over the quotes and that’s totally fine, but for me they are the frame for the story and an extra little layer to ponder. For those who are so inclined.  You can check out ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ in this preview.

 

 

Do I really need to ditch the tracksuit?

31 Jul

This year I decided to take a year off my community relations job in order to focus on my writing. Being a full-time writer sounds kind of glamorous. To me it evokes an image of a sultry looking woman in black beret, a cigarette holder hanging out of her mouth as she bangs away at her keyboard in a funky cafe. That woman may be out there, but she isn’t me.

As I write this I am wearing tracksuit pants that seem to have the remains of last night’s dinner on them, I haven’t washed my hair for at least a week, I am drinking Coles brand green tea and I haven’t shaved my legs since, um…  Too much information? Sorry.

I suspect that many writers are like me – we sink into total slobdom when not required to make appearances in the world. Which brings me to the Byron Writers Festival.  I have attended at least ten years of the festival, and this year for the first time I will be on the other side of the platform looking out. Yay!

I’m looking forward to it, but it also strikes me as being a strange thing – to herd a group of people who are more used to conversing with imaginary friends than real people onto a stage. While writing requires inappropriate thoughts to be shared – it’s called honesty – other forms of communication don’t always call for this. Perhaps this is what makes writers’ festivals good entertainment. Often you are watching someone who is totally unpractised saying whatever comes into their head. It can be refreshing.

So anyway, I’m planning to wash my hair in a couple of days and shake the dust off a nice frock. I think I might have some lipstick stashed away somewhere. And as for what comes out of my mouth? We shall see…

 

Catch me looking well groomed (or at least clean) at the Byron Writers Festival 1.15 Friday and 10.45 Sunday. 

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?

Writing about sex is hard – but not as hard as stand-up comedy

14 Jun

Well…

Monday night was the big night. After six weeks of baby steps we comedy virgins took the stage at the Byron Services Club. It was pretty packed, especially considering that it was raining torrentially. I must admit that for a while there I was hoping a flash flood might cut Byron off, or a tornado rip through the town, or at least a tree bring down a power pole leading to the event being cancelled.

But no, there we were. And there they were. Ready to be entertained.

                Learning comedy has been enlightening. A good comedian looks like they’ve just popped in to share their thoughts with you. But in fact, developing  a routine is a rigorous process from ideas to writing to rehearsal to learning to performance.

I have learnt about the importance of the premise, the illusion of spontaneity and finding a comic persona which is a reflection of your authentic self. And then, having found your authentic self, you need to lay it all bare to a room full of strangers and hope to hell they have the same sense of humour as you. Because comedy is not a monologue, it is a conversation. It is something that happens between the performer and the audience. It takes two to tango.

                Five minutes is not a long time. But it is way long enough for a lot of things to go wrong. As our esteemed leader Mandy Nolan said on the night, ‘Tonight we’re going to find out whose chutes aren’t going to open.’ Five minutes can be an eternity if you’re in free fall.

We started with a group of fifteen, but as we came closer and closer to the day, several of my classmates discovered other pressing commitments. On the big night only ten remained. In the interests of getting it over with quickly, I went up first. And what else would I talk about, but writing.

It was a fun night. What struck me was the diversity of the performances. It seems obvious, but people really are so different! There is something very warming about seeing others share their struggles in a comic way.

I don’t think I’ll be back for more, but I’m pleased that I pushed my boundaries and gave it a go. And, did my parachute open? You can be the judge because here it is…

Lusting after the TV weather man – ‘Yearn’ by Tobsha Learner

9 May

I loved the cover of Yearn so much I just had to pick it up. The voluptuous, tattooed woman floating with a crimson parasol had the allure of the off-beat. She promised a lot, but could she deliver?

Erotic fiction is difficult. Badly written, it is smutty, embarrassing or just plain boring. Too much sex and it becomes the opposite of erotic. I am reminded of the over-achieving couple who doggedly set out to have sex every day for a year. Ho hum, I bet the champagne corks were popping at the end of that year. Anais Nin, anyone? Let’s face it, if you can do this genre well you’d be mad not to build a career around it. Tobsha Learner, a part-time Australian, is the bestselling author of four novels and two previous collections of short stories, Quiver and Tremble. She’s good with titles too.

Not only erotic, many of the stories in Yearn play with magic and fantasy. Ink is the story of a young biographer using ancient sex magic to get revenge on an older and more famous rival. In Fur, a girl is transformed by the visits of a fantasy lover with some connection to her cat. In The Alchemy of Coincidence a sculptor conjures up her dream lover while preparing for her new collection.

Other stories are more romantic. In Barrow Boy a self-made man has an epiphany after reuniting briefly with his childhood sweetheart. Pussy and Mouse is a surprisingly moving account of a lonely call centre worker finding love online and in Flower, an older woman learns to appreciate her body’s beauty. There is sensuality as well as sexuality; ‘The woman didn’t walk so much as flow… an assemblage of fluid molecules seamlessly gliding through space.’

I enjoyed the way Learner plays with sensuality – fur, porcelain, weather… Who hasn’t been stirred by a warm breeze or a sudden storm? In Weather, a woman fantasises about the TV weatherman. ‘Fog was interesting – a short push with both hands… suggesting that … he might be capable of a little rough play…’ There is also humour; ‘…don’t forget the patches of fog in the north-east… oh yes, oh yes, sweeping rain, and yes! The breaks of sunshine!’ Weather has never been so sizzling.

Learner’s writing is good enough to avoid the perils of purple prose. Plenty of variety, no ho hum. Read this one in private.

 

This is my seventh review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge.

I’m sorry, Madam, but your novel is picaresque

12 Mar

A few months ago I received a rather long report from my publisher in regard to my next novel. I can now share with you that it will be called ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsais’. Probably. Titles are funny things, but that’s another story…

The length of the report was scary enough, but there was one section in particular that had me worried. ‘Your novel is picaresque.’

Picaresque! Oh no. I must have looked like that painting ‘The Scream’ by Munch. It can’t be. Please tell me it isn’t true. Eventually I calmed down enough to Google the word. Here is what I found.

‘of or relating to an episodic style of fiction dealing with the adventures of a rough and dishonest but appealing hero. Usually satirical.’

    I’d never thought of my heroine as being like that. Appealing, yes (hopefully), but rough and dishonest, no. Well, maybe just a little. I Googled more and found examples such as Don Quixote and Huckleberry Finn described as picaresque. At least I was in good company.

As I looked into it further, I realised that a lot of chick-lit could actually be described as picaresque. Rather than following a traditional three act – beginning, middle and end structure, it relies on the charm of the    protagonist to carry the reader through their rough and tumble life. Bridget Jones’s Diary is a classic example.

It’s funny how once your mind is open to a word it starts appearing everywhere. Almost every novelist I read now seems to be described as picaresque.

Who have you heard described as picaresque lately?

 

If you would like to learn more about picaresque fiction (among other things) I am running a workshop called ‘Beyond Sex and Shopping: Writing fiction that sells’ this Saturday – the 17th of March in Byron Bay. Contact the Northern Rivers Writers Centre.

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.